Growing Crocuses

Try To Get A Natural Effect

We have a few days off for Thanksgiving and have spent most of our time grinding up leaves for mulch, fixing the deer fence to make sure there is no breach and planting crocuses and tulips.  Autumn is the time to put in spring crocus bulbs.  We put a couple of hundred bulbs in a year ago and love the way our lawn looks in spring.  This autumn we put 400 more bulbs in. I don’t really like growing anything ‘bulb’ because most of the time they become squirrel and chipmunk food.  However, taking our honeybees into consideration, I want to provide natural, early spring food for them.  Crocus is one of the flowers that bloom very early and have plenty of pollen and nectar.   They are also quite pretty and come in variety of colors.  They will disappear underground by the time other flowers start to bloom.

Crocuses blooming on the lawn in early April.  Since we mixed the bulbs, the colors are random.

I run out of space to put a lot of bulbs in so our lawn is the only place.  In order to make them look natural, I bought mostly mixed color bulbs.  I also bought individual colors of the larger variety and mixed them with the smaller ones.  Cast them on the lawn then planted them wherever they landed.  Last spring they came up before the lawn grew, creating a lovely natural effect.  Multi colors of crocus bloomed randomly in early April.  Unfortunately we lost all our hives last winter so the native bees had a great time.

Here’s a selection of spring crocus..

Deep yellow with maroon veins underneath
Lovely white
Dark purple
Yellow with a white edge
Lavender with a touch of white

I’m missing a couple of colors, either the bulbs rotted or they became our furry friends food.  We can hardly wait to see what our lawn will look like next spring.

 

 

 

Late Season Flowers

And Good For Pollinators Too

Aside from the beautiful fall foliage colors there’s not much color elsewhere.  Chrysanthemum seems to be abundant in autumn but I’m not a fan of it.  I associate it with mourning.  It’s commonly used in funerals and to arrange on a wreath.  So, I don’t plant chrysanthemum in our garden.  We still have plenty of choices for autumn blooming plants and many of them are good for pollinators as well.

I bought Alyssum seed only the first couple of years, now they just come up every year.  Cute little flowers that hug the ground, tolerate light frost and smell like honey as a plus.

White Alyssum seems to self sow much more commonly than the purple variety

Aster is one of the flowers that can lend a helping hand in autumn.  Both native bees and honey bees love it.

I group different colors of Aster together. The white one is a weed though, White heath aster

I put two Maximillion Sunflowers in the garden two years ago, now I have a growing patch of it.  It blooms when other sunflowers start to fade.  It’s a perennial so I don’t have to seed it every year but I will have to divide it next spring as the patch is getting too large for the space.

Flowers are great for pollinators and the finches love the seeds

Fall crocus is also a great pollinator food source.  I’ve seen some bees attempt to pry open the flowers before they have fully opened.

This crocus flowers in late summer and early autumn instead of spring

Moonflower will bloom from mid summer on.  If the weather is warm enough it will keep going.  Its large, white, fragrant flower blooms in the evening.  And, the flower is edible too.

I have this one trailing over our toolshed door.

Calendula is perfect for sunny spots and it self sows.  Its flower is edible as well.

It comes in shades of yellow and orange.

About weeds.  Many weeds are quite beautiful and provide pollen and nectar as well.  I make sure that they don’t overrun the garden.  Goldenrod, with it’s bright yellow flower is a great source of pollen and nectar in late autumn.  It will grow any place that the seeds drop, even between cracks.  I have to pull a lot of them out each spring, sprouting in the wrong place, and it’s the only work I have to do to keep it around.

Once it’s established in the garden it’s very difficult to get rid off. It’s much easier to confine it to one place by cutting spent flowers off so they won’t sprout all over the garden

I don’t know where the first White Heath Aster came from but it has settled in our garden now.  I don’t mind at all.  I just think of it as an aster that is waiting for humans to see its potential.  I do, especially when I see honeybees, Hover fly, Bumblebee and many other small local bees on it’s flowers.

White Heath Aster is just another aster that hasn’t received very many ‘likes’ yet

There are a few more late summer-autumn flowers that are easy to grow and good for pollinators I would like to mentioned.  Until next time.

 

 

Monarch

More Of Them This Year

The population of Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) has been dwindling down to a point of concern that they may be heading toward extinction.  With a small patch of garden, we try our best to help them by letting the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) grow.  It’s the only plant that Monarch caterpillars eat.

Common Milkweed flowers
A male Monarch soaking up morning sunlight in early July

I didn’t grow the first milkweed.  It came to our garden around three or four years ago.  The seeds are airborne but I had not seen any milkweed around our area then, but I may have overlooked it.  Though it falls in the ‘weed’ category, I let the first one grow anyway.  Then I fell in love with its fragrance.  The first lone milkweed has grown into a large patch now and we try to keep them confined to one spot.  They can be pretty invasive; every spring I have to pull out the ones that sprouted in the middle of the lawn or flower plots.  We also let them grow in the spots that are out of the way so as not to over-crowd the other plants.

Aside from enjoying its fragrant and beautiful flowers, it’s also host to a variety of insects both friend and foe of the garden.  This year we are seeing more Monarchs so we have started to monitor them more closely.  It has taken us a few years to be registered on their homing GPS as one of their destinations.  I guess they decided that our garden is a reliable food source for their caterpillars and young adults so they lay eggs.  We were so happy and excited close to the point of obsession.  We checked on them everyday!

Laying egg under the Milkweed leaf
A fresh laid egg
A day or two old caterpillar, just the same size as a grain of rice
Munching on Milkweed leaf
A little bit older, pale green color bands changed to bright yellow
A full grown caterpillar

Only a few of them survived.  I don’t know who might eat them.  Most likely wasps have taken them for the future youngsters in their burrows.  But a few are better than none.  Hopefully the ones that were born in our garden survive the long flight to Sierra Madre, Mexico, and the winter to tell the next generation where our garden is.

A female Monarch enjoy nectar from Maximilion sunflower

View more Monarch photos at Amazingseasons

Rose Companions

Enhanced Beauty

I want our garden to resemble a natural environment as much as possible but the roses don’t seem to quite fit.  I try to incorporate roses in the garden anyway.  I love roses and I think any garden without roses is not a complete garden.  Any readers who don’t like roses and think that they are a pain to take care of, please do not take offense.  It’s just my personal take on it.

There are periods, before the roses bloom in late spring and in between blooming (for the re-bloomers) when there are nothing to see but green leaves.  I need plants to give some color to the trellises and the area adjacent to the rose bushes.  There are a few plants I found that work well for our garden and make the garden look more natural.

The first choice, as recommended by many professional gardeners, is Clematis.  They intertwine with rose branches and flower here and there between them.  For mid-spring, Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ is really lovely.

Clematis ‘Crystal Fountain’ blooming right next to the Rosa Rugosa ‘Foxi’ and Paul’s Himalayan Musk on the trellis, that was still budding
Clematis ‘Betty Corning’ takes the trellis next to the Rose ‘Eden’. It blooms for months if deadhead. It’s also lightly fragrant.
Clematis ‘Belle of Woking’ with Rose ‘Knockout’ and peony
White peony with Rose ‘Knockout’

Peony is another good companion for roses. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the name of the white one above.  But the flowers large and quite fragrant.

This peony came with the house so I don’t know the name. I just divided them and tucked them here and there.
Iris is also a good rose companion. This one is right next to the Rose ‘Jewel Topaz’ which is still budding.

A new wave of rose buds have started to emerge now, not as profuse as in late spring.  I’ll keep seeking rose companions and in the meantime, the echinacea and garden phlox are in full bloom.

 

 

Summer

Roses

I didn’t expect to stay away from posting for almost a month, time flies.  With the weather swinging like a pendulum, I find myself spending more time getting the garden in order.  By the end of the day I was too exhausted to do anything else.  But I can’t let summer passes by with out posting about roses.

The rose bushes in our garden are doing well this year.  With rain early on and cooler than normal temperatures, it’s a perfect combination for roses.  The first round of blossoms are just about to fade and just in time for the arrival of the heat and humidity.  Now it’s time to snip off the spent flowers and feed them again.

They present their representatives, below, to vouch for the caretaker that has kept them well fed and healthy.  That is why she has been MIA for a month.

‘Eden’ bloomed profusely this year and the flowers are big enough to weigh the branches down as well.
Rugosa rose ‘Hansa’ is my favorite. It’s a fast grower, produces plenty of flowers, re-blooms and is extremely fragrant. And, the honeybees love it too.
‘New Dawn’ covers the whole trellis, with red ‘Blaze’ and pink ‘Knockout’ peeking in on the sides
‘Heritage’ is also highly fragrant and re-blooms. I may have to move it to a new spot, away from the invasion of the Summersweet
‘Zephirine drouhin’ has a very interesting pink color and re-blooms throughout the season

 

Tree Peony-Nishiki

Getting More Beautiful Every Year

We weren’t able to enjoy our tree peonies in the last two years as it was either too windy or too much rain which brought down the flowers as soon as they opened up.  This year, though we had a lot of rain, there was a brief period without and it coincided with the tree peony blooming. Not just us enjoying the flowers, the bees were also busy collecting pollen from them.

The flowers are so big, they weigh the branches down a little
Each flower is around 7-8″ in diameter

We have only two tree peonies in our garden as they grow very large and don’t like to be moved once established.  The ‘Nishiki’ has been with us for 10 years and is around 3.5 feet tall.  It usually produces around 15 to 20 flowers each spring.  We look forward to seeing how many flowers it will produce each year since it produces more flowers as it gets older.

One on top of the other
Close up
Looks beautiful even when it’s fading

It’s a flower that’s worth growing.  It’s not fussy and doesn’t need much attention, however, it’s a slow grower.  The beauty of the flowers make it worth the wait.

Primrose

Beauty With Low Maintenance

When crocuses and daffodils start to fade, primroses take the baton and continue running, coloring our garden.  I’ve been planting different colors of primrose in our garden for the last few years and continue to look for new colors every year.  There are many types of primrose but not many are hardy enough for our USDA zone so my choice is a little limited.

What I like about primrose is that they are pretty and low maintenance.  Once I put one in the garden they tend to thrive being fed only once a year, in spring, and with a little mulching.  The only potentially deadly problem for primrose, at least in our garden, are the slugs.  Since they are low to the ground and tend to like moist soil, it’s easy to reach for the slugs.  They can make a clump of primrose disappear in a few days.

Our previous neighbor gave us a couple of these primroses a few years ago. Now we have a large clump.
Close up
Tiny & bright yellow
These yellow primroses are large and much closer to the ground
Shocking pink with yellow contrast
White
Multi colored

The orange and purple striped ones were devoured by the slugs.  The green one is still budding, not yet open and we’re hoping the slugs miss it too.  For a couple of weeks or so, we have a very welcome primrose color all over our garden.

Earth Day

With Respect and Gratitude 

The Earth gives us sanctuary and sustains us in all things.  Aside from being a provider, she is also a designer, inventor and teacher among many other things. She is kind but can never be tamed.  That last is quite likely what saves us all from ourselves in the end.

Here’s some of the great beauty she gives us….

Crocus, after hiding below the surface of the earth for most of the year, tells me that spring is finally here
Primrose
Hellebore
Sand cherry blooms much earlier than other cherries in our garden, with a lovely honey fragrance
Columbine catching a rain drop

Thank you, Mother Earth

With Respect and gratitude

Garden And Poetry

April: The Most Poetic Month

I find April to be a very uplifting and romantic month for me.  Leaves sprout and start to unfurl, seedlings are pushing themselves through the soil to the surface and early flowers are blossoming.   Birds sing loudly to make their territory known and start their courtship.  Some birds have already built their nests.  Aside from these life-affirming activities, the Academy of American Poets also designated April as a Poetry Month beginning in 1996.

Many great writers and poets have taken an interest in nature.  Many of them are favorites of mine such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, John Donne and who could forget Shakespeare and Rumi.  There was even a book on Shakespeare’s Gardens published last year that I immediately ran out and bought.

The Poetry month also reminds me of my mother.  We would go out to the market on the weekend in search of plants invoked in poetry to add to our garden.  I still do now but mostly the most fragrant ones.  What flower is more apt for the Poetry month than the Poet’s Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum).

Poet’s Jasmine buds just about to unfurl in the evening
Fully open Poet’s Jasmine that perfumes our garden at night but lasts only a couple of hours after sunrise
I grow them in pots because, as tropicals, I can bring them in the basement during winter

And the ode to it by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)*

Twas midnight-through the lattice, wreath’d

With woodbine, many a perfume breath’d

From plants that wake when others sleep,

From timid jasmine buds, that keep

Their odour to themselves all day,

But, when the sun-light dies away,

Let the delicious secret out

To every breeze that roams about.

Walking through a garden, any garden, relaxes me and raises my sense of marvel and my envy of nature.  Nothing can duplicate what one has seen at that moment even just an hour after.  Nature gives us art, poetry, philosophy and most of all is life sustaining. Those who understand these facts will always try their best to preserve nature, but those who don’t will always try their best to destroy nature for profit.

Ruining the environment doesn’t stop at the border and the effort to slow this self-destruction rests on our shoulders, the ones who love nature and see poetry in every path we take through nature.  As Shakespeare put it ‘One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.’ (Troilus and Cressida, Act 3 scene 3)**

Have a Happy gardening and reading in the garden.

 

*From Ode to Flowers: A celebration of the poetry of flowers by Samuel Carr, 2013

**From Shakespeare’s Gardens by Jackie Bennet, 2016

 

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