Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – April 2016

Bearsfoot hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) with Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Bearsfoot hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) with Allegheny pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens) and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)

I was all prepared to bemoan the wild weather extremes we’ve had over the past month, and how the timing of the plants is so far off normal, until I looked back through my previous April Bloom Day posts:  2009, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. They provided a much-needed reminder that the only thing predictable about our weather this time of year is its unpredictability. So, I’ll just accept that everything is as it’s meant to be, plant-wise, and enjoy what looks lovely now.

Even though it’s a busy time of year, I like to trek up to Mom’s woods at least once to see what I can find in flower.

Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Yellow trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana [Anemone americana]); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana [Anemone americana])

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana [Anemone americana]); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana [Anemone americana])

Early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis [Micranthes virginiensis]); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Early saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis [Micranthes virginiensis])

Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides [Thalictrum thalictroides]); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides [Thalictrum thalictroides])

Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

Finding a nice variety of wildflowers was a treat, but I had another motive for hiking up to the woods: to dig some ramps (Allium tricoccum) for Mom and me. I prefer to get them when they’re a bit smaller and more tender, but they were still tasty. It’s good to see the patch thriving–perhaps because the plants are getting more light after the storm damage to some big trees a few years ago.

Ramps (Allium tricoccum); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Ramps (Allium tricoccum)

On the way home, I always stop to visit the vernal pool and check out the critter activity.

Vernal pool - Bucks County, PA; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Vernal pool – Bucks County, PA

There are an amazing number of tadpoles in there this spring, which is a good sign. Now, they need to hurry up and mature before the pool dries out.

Tadpoles in vernal pool; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Tadpoles in vernal pool

Tadpoles in vernal pool; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Tadpoles in vernal pool

Back at home, things don’t look very promising from a distance. This slope, in particular, is slow to green up: not really an issue, since I don’t often see it from this direction. It’s right next to a road, though, and a lot of other people walk and drive by, so I decided last fall to spruce it up with several hundred spring bulbs. All that effort hasn’t made much of an impact this year.

Hayefield mid-April 2016; Nancy J, Ondra

Hayefield – mid-April 2016

‘Thalia’ daffodil consistently does well for me, as do grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum), so I have every hope that it will look very pretty a few years from now.

Naturalized 'Thalia' daffodil (Narcissus) and grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Naturalized ‘Thalia’ daffodil (Narcissus) and grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum)

In the gardens, lots of little gems are coming along, though they too need close inspection.

Fox's grape (Fritillaria uva-vulpis); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Fox’s grape (Fritillaria uva-vulpis)

Spring blues, from left: glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), and Siberian squill (Scilla siberica); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Spring blues, from left: glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides), and Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)

White Siberian squill (Scilla siberica 'Alba'); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

White Siberian squill (Scilla siberica ‘Alba’)

Despite the weather extremes we’ve been having this spring, the hellebores have been fantastic. Many of the first Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus) flowers that opened were damaged inside, I suspect because they were so close to the surface due to the warm weather we had into January, followed by bitter cold. The later flowers have been perfect, though, and I look forward to collecting lots of seed.

Hybrid Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Hybrid Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus)

Even the Helleborus dumetorum appears to be setting seed, which it seldom does for me.

Helleborus dumetorum; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Helleborus dumetorum

Here’s one bloomer that’s right at eye level: ‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana). Even the catkins are somewhat contorted, though not as twisty as the stems.

'Red Majestic' contorted hazel (Corylus avellana); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

‘Red Majestic’ contorted hazel (Corylus avellana)

This is also a wonderful time for fresh foliage. Here are just a few highlights:

'Blue Melody' blue camas (Camassia quamash); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

‘Blue Melody’ blue camas (Camassia quamash)

'Sacajawea' great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) with 'Brookside' hardy geranium (Geranium); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

‘Sacajawea’ great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) with ‘Brookside’ hardy geranium (Geranium)

Fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia)

Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Japanese burnet (Sanguisorba tenuifolia)

Euphorbia nicaeensis; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Euphorbia nicaeensis

Sedum alboroseum 'Mediovariegatum'; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Sedum alboroseum ‘Mediovariegatum’

Variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida 'Variegata'); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’)

White-variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida 'Argentea Variegata'); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

White-variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Argentea Variegata’)

'Gerald Darby' iris (Iris x robusta); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta)

As I’ve been adding more plants for spring interest, I’ve been putting effort into finding companions for them too.

I got bored with 'Chameleon' euphorbia (Euphorbia dulcis) a few years ago and let most of it die out, but I'm glad I left some seedlings, because their new growth makes a really nice echo for the colors and markings of many Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

I got bored with ‘Chameleon’ euphorbia (Euphorbia dulcis) a few years ago and let most of it die out, but I’m glad I left some seedlings, because their new growth makes a really nice echo for the colors and markings of many Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus).

The distinctly pink spring foliage of 'Stairway to Heaven' creeping Jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans) seemed like a good match for a pink Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

The distinctly pink spring foliage of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ creeping Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) seemed like a good match for a pink Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus).

I don't recommend planting 'Variegated Kwanso' ('Kwanso Variegata') tawny daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) with much of anything, really, as it's a vigorous spreader and can quickly crowd out less enthusiastic companions. It's quite prone to reverting to solid green, as well. But when it's good, it's really handsome. I thought this bit made a pleasing partner for one of my few white Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus); Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

I don’t recommend planting ‘Variegated Kwanso’ (‘Kwanso Variegata’) tawny daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) with much of anything, really, as it’s a vigorous spreader and can quickly crowd out less enthusiastic companions. It’s quite prone to reverting to solid green, as well. But when it’s good, it’s really handsome. I thought this bit made a pleasing partner for one of my few white Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus).

Pretty peachy 'Odysseus' hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) with 'Golden Foam' euphorbia (Euphorbia stricta) in the foreground and variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida 'Variegata') in back; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Pretty peachy ‘Odysseus’ hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis) with ‘Golden Foam’ euphorbia (Euphorbia stricta) in the foreground and variegated sweet iris (Iris pallida ‘Variegata’) in back.

I mentioned earlier that 'Thalia' daffodil (Narcissus) has been an excellent performer here. These clumps are five years old and just keep getting better. Here they're with the red stems of 'Henry's Garnet' Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica). You can just see the cut-back stems of the Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) clumps that will fill this space in summer and fall; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

I mentioned earlier that ‘Thalia’ daffodil (Narcissus) has been an excellent performer here. These clumps are five years old and just keep getting better. Here they’re with the red stems of ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica). You can just see the cut-back stems of the Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii) clumps that will fill this space in summer and fall.

My favorite thing so far this spring, however–and I never thought I would say this–is my lawn grass. Converting the paths from bark mulch to “now-mow” grasses has made a huge difference!

Front Garden - April 20, 2015; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Front Garden – April 20, 2015

Front Garden - April 14, 2016; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Front Garden – April 14, 2016

Side Garden - April 13, 2015; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Side Garden – April 13, 2015

Side Garden - April 14, 2016; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Side Garden – April 14, 2016

They still need to fill in a bit, but I’m really impressed with how good they look in just one year, especially since they had a difficult start with the lack of rain last spring.

To finish, a bit of exciting news: my Five-Plant Gardens book has been translated into both French and German!

Five-Plant Gardens in French and German; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

Here’s a question: Can someone explain why U.S. and U.K. publishers print the spine text from top to bottom and European publishers do it the opposite way (so if the book is filed on a shelf, you read the title from the bottom up)? Hmmm.

Grasses and Five-Plant Gardens in English, French, and German; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

I’ll be back on May 1 with Part 2 of Matchmaking with Hardy Bulbs. In the meantime, have fun checking out other April gardens on Carol’s main Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day post at May Dreams Gardens, and don’t forget to stop and enjoy the spring sunshine!

Duncan and Daniel soaking up the sun; Nancy J. Ondra at Hayefield

It’s hard being us.

18 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susan Gilmour on April 15, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Love seeing all that colour! Something for me to look forward to. Great combos as usual, that peach hyacinthe is gorgeous! I have the Chameleon Euphorbia and love it as it doesn’t get hugely tall and looks great from spring to fall with any colour. Congrats on getting your books into Europe! I like the way the Europeans do their spines, its easier to read up than down for me. Send some of that sun my way, its been so rainy and cold. Buds on my hellebores and the tops of the monkshood got zapped with the -10C two weeks ago. Brrrrr. Would like to do what the boys are doing!! Have a great one, TTFN, Sue (NS, Canada)

    I wish I *could* share some our sun with you, Sue. Looks like we’ve nothing but sunny, mild days for the next week, which is a pleasant change, and excellent for the solar panels too. That means it’s time to start shearing, though; yikes. Anyway, I do still like ‘Chameleon’ euphorbia: perhaps I should have said “annoyed” rather than ‘bored,” because of its inclination to get powdery mildew some years.
    -Nan

  2. Your spring blooms are sweet. Thalia is a nice narcissus. I like the grass paths. I have grass paths in my garden. However it isn’t so much grass as it is weeds. My garden is now getting a lot more sun since I have had a couple of trees die. Maybe the grass will have more of a chance now. The other problem it has is that I don’t water it. It has to survive on it’s own powers and resources hence all the weeds.
    Congrats on your new publications. Interesting that the book titles on the spine are reversed. Happy GBBD.

    Hi Lisa! Yes, I bet your paths will be happy with the increased light. I have weeds in mine too, but at least they’re not as obvious in the grass as they were in the bark-mulch paths. Hope you have a spectacular spring!
    -Nan

  3. Posted by ramsayer on April 15, 2016 at 6:24 am

    Love, love, love, starting my day reading one of your posts! Your photos are always beautiful and I’m so glad you include a picture of your boys!

    Aw, thanks for that. Happy Bloom Day to you!
    -Nan

  4. I don’t have an answer about the spine thing, but what wonderful news about your book! I love how you love variegated foliage because I do too. Also, ‘Thalia’ is one of the most reliable daffs I have. I’ll do my GBBD post later today. I’m headed to my favorite nursery with a friend. Hugs Nan. ~~Dee

    How interesting to hear that ‘Thalia’ works as well for you in Oklahoma as it does here in PA. I hope you have fun shopping, Dee. Our nurseries are just starting to get stuff in this week!
    -Nan

  5. I enjoyed your garden tour, especially all the blooming bulbs.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to visit. We ought to be playing outside today!
    -Nan

  6. Love the new paths! Curious to hear more about which seed mix you used, and how it progresses over the summer. (How often you need to mow, etc.) Forgive me if you’ve already written about that… That peony foliage is fabulous, and I’m excited to see your Japanese burnet all filled out, as a start of that has just landed in my garden. Love those leaves and can’t wait for them to get bigger! Happy spring to you!

    And Happy Bloom Day to you! I used Prairie Nursery’s Now Mow Lawn Seed Mix in the front garden and Prairie Moon Nursery’s Eco-Grass on the side paths. Their progress was very similar, and they look much the same now. I trimmed them with a push mower two or three times last year and once so far this year (had to do a “regular” grass path three times already). Good luck with your Japanese burnet. I find it’s often a bit sulky after a move, and the clumps take 3 to 5 years to really fill out, but they are worth the wait!
    -Nan

    • Thanks, Nan! Oh, and I forgot to say, I absolutely adore your boys! I always show your photos of them to my boys, and it always makes them giggle. By now, they are both teens, and they still giggle! :)

      It’s great to hear that! If they saw the boys today, they’d really laugh. I started shearing on Friday and decided to tackle the most difficult areas first this time. Duncan now has one back leg done, and Daniel has both back legs basically done. Result: very fluffy animals with ridiculously skinny legs. Mom says Daniel looks like he’s wearing pantyhose!
      -Nan

  7. the book spines, is like driving on the left, or the right.
    Normal or weird, depending on which side you live on.

    Hah – I did think of that! But there must be some original reason that they were done one way, and some reason that someone decided to do it the other. I imagine I’ll run across that useless bit of knowledge someday.
    -Nan

  8. Posted by Judith on April 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    What type of care does ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta) require. I love the purple leaves. Does it have the same water needs as bearded iris?

    Hi Judith! I grow both ‘Gerald Darby’ and bearded irises in the same beds. In general, though, beardeds seem to prefer good drainage, while ‘Gerald Darby’ thrives in soil that’s on the moist side, or even wet. I have more info about it – and lots more pictures of it – in One Plant, Three Seasons: Iris ‘Gerald Darby’.
    -Nan

  9. Beautiful images, as always; thank you. One that caught my eye was ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta) – wow!

    It *is* a beauty. If you want to see its other beautiful features, check out the link I left in Judith’s comment above yours. Thanks for stopping by!
    -Nan

  10. I sympathize with planting a lot of bulbs and not seeing the impact–been there, done that. I love the combination of Thalia and grape hyacinths, but not sure how well it reads from a distance. You need bright yellow, red, orange . . . Even if you don’t buy from ColorBlends, they have the most informative catalog, including planting densities. I found I got better results when I really tried to plant x bulbs per square foot instead of just winging it.

    Hi Kathy. Yes, that’s a beautiful catalog. I think this combo will work, though, as most people see it from just a few feet away. I’m also pretty much limited to daffodils and grape hyacinths outside the fence because of the deer, which doesn’t allow for many color options.
    -Nan

  11. The “boys” are so cute! It doesn’t look as though the winter relapse experienced in the east has done your garden much harm. I enjoy seeing all your beautiful bulbs but it really does make me feel as though I’m living in a different hemisphere rather than just a few times zones away! My bulbs, even the South African varieties, are mostly done and my roses are already in bloom.

    Wow, Kris – our roses are just starting to break bud now. The below-freezing temps earlier this weed did damage the bleeding hearts and some other things, but it looks like we may be done with frost now, even though we’re still at least 3 weeks from our usual last-frost date.
    -Nan

  12. Thanks for sharing this tour of your garden, great to see the tadpoles.

    Hello there, Steve! Thanks for visiting today. Yes, the tadpoles are neat: some sort of wood frogs.
    -Nan

  13. Posted by Sandy on April 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Nan, your pictures are exquisite, loved Gerald Darby and the two lounging fellows… the best. Thank you for sharing.

    Good to hear from you, Sandy. I hope you’re now outside enjoying this beautiful spring day!
    -Nan

  14. Posted by Jan Haynes on April 17, 2016 at 1:54 pm

    I am very curious how you handle the hellebore seeds. Do you dry and then plant or exactly how do you do this. One of mine is beautiful this year, the others did not bloom.

    Hi Jan. The best route is to collect the ripe seeds as soon as the pods open, in July or August, and sow them then (in the ground or in pots that you leave outside). Depending on where you live, they may start to germinate in early winter or wait until next spring.
    -Nan

  15. Posted by Allan Robinson on April 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Hi Nan, lovely to see your garden waking up, plus the Spring bulbs, it is always a delight when the e mail pops into my in box to say there is a Post from you. The Thalia and Grape Hyacinth will be such a delight once they have bulked up. I have many different types of Narcissi/ daffodil in my garden so have them in bloom from February through May, Thalia is one of my favourites because of its colour, form and scent. I also love the variegated Camassia, Ive already found a Supplier here in the UK. Good news on your book being translated into different languages, regarding the reading of the spine I found this, hope it helps

    http://www.artlebedev.com/mandership/122/

    Happy spring, Allan! A few summer-like days have made my ‘Thalia’ really come along, and the planting is gorgeous now. People are even stopping to take pictures. Sadly, the rabbits ate all but about a dozen flowers of the 200+ grape hyacinths, but well…maybe some will come back next year (the bulbs, obviously; the bunnies are not welcome). I hope the ‘Blue Melody’ camassia does well for you. Though it doesn’t bloom as freely for me as other camassias, the foliage makes a handsome show in spring. And thanks for sharing that link about the text on book spines. I found the same page yesterday, when I finally had some time to do a bit of research. I was hoping for a more definitive answer, but I guess that’ll do!
    -Nan

  16. Posted by Nora on April 18, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    What a rush! Thanks for the lovely, lovely images. I was just in my garden and thinking what a breathtaking time of year. All that promise emerging! So my daughter lived in Germany for 6+ years and is bilingual. I am forwarding your post to her and asking her why the books do that!

    Hey there, Nora. I’m sure your garden is looking quite beautiful by now!
    -Nan

  17. Posted by Barbara Dashwoood on April 22, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Thanks for the romp through the wilder parts of your spring garden. Makes me miss the acreage we had out in Sooke on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Loved the link back to the Gerald Derby iris post. We have just planted a Diabolo ninebark to address a difficult area, wet in winter and dry in summer. Thinking Gerald might also work next to our Diabolo, too. Lovely combo. Thanks for the idea and now….how to find it here in Canada! Happy spring, Barbara. Victoria, BC

    Hey there, Barbara. It’s still challenging to find ‘Gerald Darby’ the the U.S., for some reason. I can’t understand why, because it’s so vigorous and a good increaser. If you can’t find ‘Gerald Darby’, maybe you can locate the similar ‘Dark Aura’.
    -Nan

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