Posted on 21 Comments

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – May 2020

Epimedium × versicolor 'Sulphureum' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Bicolor barrenwort (Epimedium × versicolor ‘Sulphureum’)
First, it seemed like we would have our last spring frost in March this year–it was so delightfully mild. Then early April brought a quick dip into a frosty night or two before moderating again: okay, still unusually early for a last frost, but not impossible. Then late April: yeah, that’s been the new normal for the last few years. Once again, however, we’ve been humbled by the harsh reality that the old normal of Mother’s Day really is the most reasonable benchmark for the last frost in our part of southeastern Pennsylvania. My apologies to all of the seedlings I started way too early this year. And my congratulations to all of the hardy plants that sailed through the frosty nights, even while in full bloom; once again, you impress me with your resilience.

Claytonia virginica [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica): a super-vigorous clump that seeded itself into a patch of Tatarian aster (Aster tataricus)
Polygonatum odoratum 'Variegatum' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’): so elegant and so vigorous
Lunaria annua 'Pennies in Bronze' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Pennies in Bronze’ honesty (Lunaria annua): prized for its pods, but the particularly purple blooms are beautiful too
Geranium phaeum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Dusky cranesbill (Geranium phaeum): I love how this one seeds around the base of tough-to-weed-under shrubs, like roses
Geranium maculatum 'Espresso' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Espresso’ spotted cranesbill (Geranium maculatum): You wouldn’t think that lavender-pink and coffee brown could look ok together, but this seed strain somehow makes it work.
Corydalis nobilis [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Siberian corydalis (Corydalis nobilis): around for only a short time in spring, but its chunky bloom clusters make a terrific show while they last
Camassia quamash [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Common camas (Camassia quamash): supposedly deer- and rabbit-resistant, but no one has informed the critters around here of that; I’ve seen flowers only 2 or 3 times in the last 10+ years
Chorispora tenella [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Purple mustard, musk mustard, or cross flower (Chorispora tenella): This is the first spring I noticed this little cutie, but it is blooming in several different spots, so it must have been here for a while.
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Golden Fleece' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Golden Fleece’ cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris): perfectly at home with bright pink red campion (Silene dioica), another self-sower
Anthoxanthum odoratum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum): I didn’t realize how much of this grass is growing here, but it’s very evident now that I’m no longer mowing the former pastures.
Stylophorum diphyllum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Wood poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum): Sadly, this one got nipped by our recent late frosts, but I enjoyed seeing it bloom for the first time here from seed.
Silene dioica [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Red campion (Silene dioica): a closeup of the flowers on a male plant of this spring beauty
Symphytum grandiflorum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Dwarf comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum): This sort of inflorescence is known as a scorpioid cyme, because it is curled like a scorpion tail. Isn’t it exquisite?
Borago officinalis 'Bill Archer' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Bill Archer’ borage (Borago officinalis): I grow this one for its variegated foliage, but the blooms are terrific too.
Packera aurea [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Golden groundsel (Packera aurea): These tiny yellow blooms are a cheery sight in the garden and adorable in miniature arrangements.
Xanthorhiza simplicissima [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Yellowroot (Xanthorhiza simplicissima): moving on to the woody plants–a simple silhouette of nearly finished flowers
Sassafras albidum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum): just finished flowering, but it still looks quite festive
Rhododendron 'Arneson Gem' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Arneson Gem’ deciduous azalea (Rhododendron): look at those buds, just ready to burst
Morella pensylvanica [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Northern bayberry (Morella [Myrica] pensylvanica): I’m not sure yet if these are male or female flowers, but they’re neat-looking, whatever they are.
Wild Malus [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Wild crabapple (Malus): One of many self-sown wild crabapples here, thriving despite being surrounded by eastern red cedars (Juniperus virginiana) loaded with cedar-apple rust galls
Malus [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
A closeup of the wild crabapple (Malus) above: All that beauty with no planting, pruning, fertilizing, or spraying involved
Fothergilla gardenii [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii): planted a few years ago and finally big enough to bloom
Fothergilla gardenii 'Jane Platt' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
‘Jane Platt’ dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii): A perfectly half-scale version of an already “dwarf” species
Asimina triloba [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba): After feasting on my first pawpaw harvest last fall, I feel like I’ve had enough of its distinctive flavor for a few years. But I am hand-pollinating the blooms anyway, just in case I change my mind this summer.
Quercus dentata [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Daimyo oak (Quercus dentata): dainty new leaves and chains of male blooms
As usual, some foliage highlights to finish…

Lilium leightlinii [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Leichtlin’s lily (Lilium leichtlinii): I’m hoping these will escape the deer this year, because I’d really like to see their spotted yellow flowers again.
Cardiocrinum cordatum [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Cardiocrinum cordatum: There’s lovely red veining on the new leaves right now
Syneilesis aconitifolia [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Shredded umbrella plant (Syneilesis aconitifolia): so cute at this stage!
Anthriscus sulvestris 'Ravenswing' and Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
Moody foliage in a shady spot: ‘Ravenswing’ cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) with ‘Lilafee’ barrenwort (Epimedium grandiflorum)
Filipendula ulmaria 'Aurea' with Myosotis sylvatica [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
A more eye-catching combo: golden meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria ‘Aurea’) with wood forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica)
Cladonia cristatella [©Nancy J. Ondra/]
British soldier lichen (Cladonia cristatella): neither foliage nor flower, but beautiful in its own way
Well, here’s hoping that the chilly nights are over and we can get on with the growing season. I have a whole lot of seedlings to pot up, once I have empty pots to put them in. Happy planting to you all!

Seedlings [©Nancy J. Ondra/]

Posted on 21 Comments

21 thoughts on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – May 2020

  1. It all looks amazing, as if the horrible killer “frost” doesn’t even exist as a word. I am loving all your macro images, zooming right in there to enjoy the details. Gorgeous.

    Thanks, Clark. Macros are a good option when the “big picture” isn’t so flattering.

  2. Hi Nan, always lovely to see an email from you in my inbox, and a pleasure to see and read your blog. Here in England we have had a cold week, we had frost last night (14th May). Northern Ireland was worse though, -6°C, apparently coldest May night in 40 years. We have hardly had any rain in the last month or so, have had to water the garden several times.

    Ah, sounds like you are now getting our weather from early this week. It is finally getting milder here, so maybe you too will be warmer in a few days. Certainly no lack of rain here; I wish I could send you some of that too, Allan.

  3. Lots of pretty May boomers, Nan. It has, indeed, been a strange spring (on many counts). Stay safe! Thank goodness for our gardens, huh?

    You know it, Ginny. May you stay well and enjoy many wonderful surprises in your garden!

  4. Your photography is magnificent. It’s clear that without your great eye, lighting, and discriminating lenses, so many of this micro moments might not only go unnoticed, but would be visually underwhelming. Thanks for offering us these monthly symphonies!

    You are so kind, Eric–I really appreciate that. I’ve been trying to improve my photography skills and feel like I’m making some progress. There are many wonderful subjects for close-ups this time of year!

  5. Thank you, Nan, for the lovely close-up images. Out of curiosity, what is the topping on your seedling pots? I used to use grit, but could not find it in quantity for reasonable cost.

    Good morning, Michael. Those are organic rice hulls. I couldn’t get grit this year, so I decided to try this material, which I could get by mail order (these are from Organic Mechanics). They didn’t seem to do much to discourage fungus gnats, as I had hoped, and they are so light that they can blow away if the pots are in an exposed spot, but they’re working out pretty well in general.

  6. Lovely flowers. What is it that you have on top of the soil in your seedling pots?

    Thank you, Anne. They are organic rice hulls.

  7. Nan, your photos are stunningly beautiful with each post surpassing the previous one. Especially liked the Xanthorhiza simplicissima. So uplifting to see new life emerging in your garden as we woke to three inches of snow less than a week ago! Interesting to read about your experience with the rice hulls as I had been considering ordering some.

    Yikes, Alice! We too had snow last weekend, but it didn’t accumulate. I kind of wish it had, to protect the plants from the frost a bit. Oh well. It looks like all that is over until October, at least. I think the rice hulls are worth a try. Another possible problem, though: it looks like birds have been scratching through them looking for grains. I suppose using a thicker layer (maybe 1 inch) might be a good idea, so they don’t get down to the growing medium.

  8. Lovely as always. It’s not often that I burst out laughing while reading a garden blog but you got me good at the pawpaw comment.
    As for my own garden joke – was thrilled that amsonia seeded into a milk jug for overwintering finally sprouted…..upon closer inspection and a few days of development, I found myself staring at Phytolacca ‘Silberstein’.
    Happy gardening!

    Yeah, I know people rave about pawpaws, and the first one was yummy, but then the others all ripened at the same time, and eating eight of them over the course of the week was pawpaw overload–for me, anyway.

    That’s funny about the sneaky pokeweed seedlings. At least they are very distinctive!

  9. Your combinations and photography are so stunning. Thank you for the inspiration. I always look forward to your emails.

    Thank you so much, Dee. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit and comment. Happy Bloom Day to you!

  10. Thank u Nan, those are wildly gorgeous pics. I thoroughly enjoyed that little tour of your garden.

    A good day for a virtual garden tour, I think. Thanks for stopping by today, Joan!

  11. Plants are looking excellent and the photos are terrific, as always. Thank you for sharing.

    I appreciate that, Ian. Yes, apart from tragic-looking hostas and some other frost-sensitive perennials that are now miserable, the majority of plants here are doing quite nicely. I hope spring is going well for you.

  12. How much sun/shade does the Ravenswing cow parsley get? Is it perennial in your garden? Does it reseed? Thanks.

    The short answer to all three questions is yes. It grows in both sun and shade here. I think it is technically a short-lived perennial, as I do have some clumps of ‘Ravenswing’ that have lasted for several years. And yes, it will definitely self-sow, to the point of being considered invasive in some areas. Anyone who is considering growing it should really do their homework to find out how it behaves in their particular area. Deadheading is also a good idea if you do not have a use for the seeds.

  13. Your garden blogs with such beautiful photos are a real TREAT to read over a morning cup of tea. And my curiosity about tasting a pawpaw is all fired up! I’ve never seen one before. Thank you for sharing your wealth of garden knowledge. Wishing you less erratic weather!

    Hi Esme!The pawpaw…well, to me, it’s like eating an overripe banana mixed with strawberry. Only one of my 3 trees set fruit; it’ll be interesting to compare flavors once the others start fruiting. Hope you can enjoy some time in your garden this weekend!

  14. Beautiful pictures as always. I posted the link on our Mostly Organic Gardening group on in our area so more people can enjoy you photos and learn from you. Thank you for sharing.

    That’s cool, Judith–thank you for that. Happy Bloom Day to you and your garden!

  15. Bonsoir Nan, j’attends toujours avec impatience le 15 du mois pour recevoir de vos nouvelles de votre jardin avec de si jolies photos, et je suis à chaque fois enchantée. Grâce à vous, je découvre de nouvelles plantes que nous n’avons pas ici en France. Vous le savez combien j’apprécie votre blog, et je suis tellement contente de vous retrouver chaque mois. Des dizaines de milliers de kilomètres nous séparent mais je vous apprécie toujours autant, sachez-le ! Nono

    Good to hear from you, Nono. I am pleased to know that I can show you plants you don’t know and share some of my favorites. I wish you a lovely spring!

  16. Hi I’m wondering about the rice hulls. I see them on many if not all Nursery pots these days – and you’re using them on your seedlings. Where do you get them (mail-order?), are they expensive and can they be used as mulch in the actual garden beds?
    Thanks for your beautiful garden and photographs!
    All best

    Hi Ann! Yes, I mail-ordered them from Organic Mechanics ( I imagine the hulls are less expensive if they are not organic. A small bag is reasonable, compared to buying grit, but the cost of a large bag plus shipping would make the rice hulls too expensive for regular mulching, in my opinion. The hulls are very light, so they are also prone to blowing or shifting in windy sites.

  17. Fantastic photos I’m utterly speechless at the your continuous ability to capture the essence of these plants and their divine rapture ! Truly inspiring
    Nan . Bravissimo!
    Priscilla PLA

    What a lovely thing to say, Priscilla; thank you so much. It looks like we’re in for a beautiful weekend in our part of the world. I imagine you’ll be doing a lot of planting too!

  18. Another yummy post. Thanks, Nancy.

    Thank *you*, Jan. Happy Bloom Day to you!

  19. What fun you have! Your photos are so inspiring. All my little seeds are up and waiting for me to get them paper potted when they are big enough to handle. Soon enough, and I have a new flower bed just waiting for them too.

    How exciting, Lynda. You have a lot to look forward to this summer!

  20. Surely there is a specific gene that pushes us to start plants in March and early April when after many years of gardening I/we should know better. But happy to know I am not alone. I just cannot help myself. Seeds hold such promise.
    I did plant my grape poppy seeds from you in early April and they are doing well.

    I am so happy to hear that the poppy seeds did well for you, Rebecca. The thing about starting seeds indoors too early…well, the problem is that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. If it never worked, I think we’d eventually learn to wait!

  21. I just canned some pawpaw seedlings a moment ago. There were five in a can. I separated them and put them in their own cans for a year. They will go into the ground hopefully next autumn. They are not native here.

    Five of them–good for you! I ended up buying or raising seven or eight over the years to get three growing (well, two, plus one that still isn’t sure it wants to be here). I think it’s because I mostly have full sun. The one that’s doing the best gets some afternoon shade from a shed.

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