Friday, May 25, 2012

The Perfect Fit

Compact Korean Azalea
Last year, I needed a filler plant for a small area in the back garden.  I had extended a planting bed into the adjacent shady area where grass was too challenged to grow.  This bed is backed by a large Rhododendrons.  Since I liked how my native azaleas (Rhododendron viscosum) had grown into another large-leafed evergreen rhododendron nearby, I though adding a deciduous azalea here would work too.  But I also wanted spring color. (My native azaleas bloom in summer.) 

The new space was small.  So when I found a Korean azalea labeled "compact", I thought I'd give it a try.  Its mature size will only be four feet wide and two feet tall.  When I bought this small cultivar (Azalea poukhanense 'Compacta'), it was out of bloom, but the picture on the attached label showed a rosy-purple flower. 

When it bloomed this spring, it looked a bit more purple which I actually prefer.  Combined with a bright green hosta in front, this new addition really adds a bright punch to this once forgotten corner of my garden. 

More purple than pink blooms

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dog Days of Spring

One of my favorite spring flowering trees is the native dogwood (Cornus florida).  In my neck of the woods, flowering dogwoods light up the shady woodlands with their big white blossoms this time of year.  They look so ornamental that most would suspect they were planted as part of a master landscape plan.  I didn't have any of these "wild" trees on my own land when I started gardening so I have added a few over the years.  I didn't treat them like specimen trees, but planted them at the woodland edge like Mother Nature would.

The white dogwood pictured here has bloomed reliably since I first brought it home from Home Depot several years ago.  It has doubled in height and width since planting.  In very dry summers, it does get powdery mildew, but never loses its leaves.

I also have a larger pink dogwood cultivar that I bought from a nursery years before the white one.  I would love to show you pictures of its blooms, but there aren't many and most are on the top of tree, requiring you to get up high to see them.  The tree has grown well, but has never produced an abundance of flowers.  I think this pink cultivar may require more sun than it gets to set blooms.

After seeing so many dogwoods peaking out from the woods on my drive to work this week, I think I may poke a few more into my woodland setting this year.   I'll skip the expensive ones at the nurseries and look for a few more from Home Depot.  I'm sure those are already on sale.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A "Mash-Up" of Seasons

Hyacinthoides hispanica
I think this year in the garden will be filled with many unexpected events and surprises.  Just a few weeks ago, we had unseasonably warm temps in the area nearly reaching 90 degrees.  Now it's blustery and cool.  Some plants look a bit stunted while others are fully leafed out.  If you watch the TV show Glee, you may be familiar with their "mash-up" of songs. A mash-up is when the vocals and instrumentals of two or more songs are seamlessly blended together. Maybe we should use the term mash-up to describe the seamless blending of garden seasons.

Just yesterday, I noticed roses blooming in the back garden while Spanish hyacinths were just hitting their prime along the side of the house. Redbuds trees (Cercis canadensis) have yet to drop their blossoms and the doublefile viburnums (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum) are ready to flower about a month early.

As a seasoned gardener, you learn to take all these changes (good and bad) into stride and realize that while you may be the stage manager, Mother Nature is the director of your garden show. And this year she's experimenting with some new seasonal mash-ups.

Rosa 'Purezza'