No matter how long Winter seems to last, Spring always eventually arrives. Some of the earliest signs of Spring are already here in Tennessee and beginning to show their color. Yesterday I walked past the Mahonias in my front yard landscape and I realized they were in bloom. Mahonia belei, commonly known as Leatherleaf Mahonia, has a fragrant yellow cluster of blossoms. Later the fruits resemble tiny grapes. Another one of my favorite harbingers of Spring is Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose. This evergreen perennial is lovely when it blooms the pretty creamy flowers during, you guessed it, Lent.
Early bloomers are a real treat in a landscape that has been relatively brown or evergreen all winter. I value Cornelian Cherry Dogwood because it blooms so early and so prolifically. It’s loaded with tiny yellow flowers that can stop traffic. Many people are surprised to find out it is a dogwood because the flowers lack the showy white or pink bracts that are the well-known and easily recognizable dogwood flowers.
The early Spring flowering bulbs really let us know that Spring is here. I have looked in the garden and found a few crocus in bloom. The daffodils are getting tall and the flowers are noticeable inside their protective green casings. It won’t be long until they fill the garden with color and fragrance.
Mother’s Day Garden Peonies
I feel as though I crossed a rite of passage. A few days ago, I cut and placed in a bud vase my first peony blossom of the spring. It will be the first of many flowers from my cutting garden this year, but I am so thrilled with this peony I feel like sharing.
It took me many years to realize the value of the old fashioned peonies as the perennial garden work horse. Once I recognized this value, it took a few more years for them to produce flowers from my “Irish Cuttings”. “Irish Cuttings” are the bits and pieces that I collect from my work. I thought they were easy, ordinary, and old fashioned. I could not understand why gardeners took up so much time and energy and space with these fleeting blossoms that are always covered with ants.
Then something really special happened to me. I became a mother. I celebrated Mother’s Day in a different fashion. Peonies, tall bearded iris, roses, lilies of the valley, and lilacs make the most lovely bouquets on the dinner table that second Sunday in May. Suddenly it made sense to me why my grandmother always complimented my mother’s peonies. Grandma always took a bouquet home to enjoy. I am a member of that Mother’s club now. I look forward to that season in May when My children say,”I love you, Mom.” and honor me with the flowers from my garden.
The peony on the kitchen window sill is still a lovely white and looks more like feathers than petals even after almost a week in the vase. They smell so sweet. I am overwhelmed with memories awakened in me today.
The pleasures of gardening are many. Most of them in the fleeting scents, sights, and sounds of a moment. Moments so vivid they keep memories alive to recreate for another generation.
Five More Of Teacup’s Best 100 Perennials
I have 5 more Teacup Gardener’s favorite perennials to blog on. This being an ongoing series, there will normally be blogs on different subjects in between, but I have been wandering through my gardens and have five more must have perennials for your garden to share today.
1. Bearded Iris -Iris germanica Spring would not be complete without the lovely and versatile iris in the garden.. I am extremely fond of tall bearded iris, also known as German iris from back when I tended the Wills Garden at Cheekwood years ago. These wonderful cut flowers come in so many color combinations that some of the cultivars are absolutely unbelievable. They are the state flower of Tennessee for good reason. Many species of iris bloom and thrive here. The foliage is gray-green and evergreen–two valuable assets in the garden.. blooming on or about Mother’s Day, they are real show stoppers. They like full sun and are tolerant of very poor soil conditions. Iris like to be planted shallow and reward the gardener who treats them kindly.
2. Coral Bells - Heuchera spp. An old fashioned lover of the shade garden are the many types of Coral Bells. Heuchera sanguinea has mounding, mottled leaves that are showy all summer long. The plant is tolerant of dry shade and hold its own in the garden all season long. This time of year it offers tiny fairy-like blossoms on tall scapes in all shades of red, pink, coral, and white. There is a native Coral Bells called Heuchera american that has absolutely beautiful red foliage that is practically “evergreen”. No shade garden would be complete without it. It’s easy to grow too. The flowers are golden yellow and are a welcome sight in the garden .
3. Peony -Paoenia spp. No discussion of the spring garden could possibly be complete without mentioning the peonies, the traditional favorite of every grandmother. These perennial garden work horses have been in cultivation for more than 2000 years. Many gardeners consider them a shrub but they are susceptible to frost and die back to the ground requiring winter dormancy. They come in many shades of pink, red, purple, yellow, and white. The heavily scented blossoms are excellent as cut flowers.
4. Knockout Rose -Rosa x ‘Radtko’ A relatively new perennial that may even be categorized as a shrub. The knockout Rose is loved by commercial landscapers and homeowners alike. They are wonderful in the foundation planting as well as the perennial garden. They begin to bloom in mid April and continue to bloom with little or no care until Thanksgiving. The roses are pink, red, and new from last year is a nice creamy yellow. Knockout roses are more resistant to black spot, the fungal pathogen blight that the bane of the rose gardener as it defoliates the roses.
5. Columbines -Aquilegia spp. Another old fashioned perennial for the shade is columbine. The botanical name for the columbine is Aquilegia species and it is a perfect compliment for the spring shade garden. It’s another mid spring bloomer that appears in every color of the rainbow. Many are bicolor, and the combination of colors are endless. My personal favorite, although I love them all, is the native columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, which comes in yellow and red and all hues from golden and crimson to cream and pink. The foliage makes a wonderful groundcover and persists long after the flowers have faded. It self sows when happy and is willing to make a nice carpet under azaleas.
5 of Teacup Gardener’s Best 100 Perennials
I have been watching my perennials emerge in the gardens this spring with renewed interest. I appreciate the plants that have evergreen foliage or emerge so early that they really hold their place in the early spring garden when the perennial garden really needs perennials. I am beginning a list of my choices for the top 100 perennials in the garden. Today I have listed five of these 100 plants that have merit and are worthy of a place in any garden.
1. Hellebores -Helleborus orientalis. A common name for the Hellebore is the Lenten rose. Hellebores are an excellent year round foliage plant for the shade perennial beds. The blooms occur in the late winter and may last until Easter. The flowers stay pretty for a long time in the early spring garden. They have evergreen foliage and they are tolerant of dry shade. When Hellebores are happy they tend to prolifically seed around to create an excellent groundcover for large areas. In five years you may be a very popular neighbor when you dig and divide and share with all your garden friends.
2. Husker Red Beardtongue -Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’. The common name for the Penstemons is the beard tongue and was used by North American Indians to cure the toothache. The best cultivar for me is ‘Husker Red’ and is one tough performer in the full sun, it emerges so early that I feel it is practically evergreen. The striking red foliage is showy and strong and rises up over the old foliage. When the blooms emerge it offers a lovely strand of bell shaped white flowers on flowerscapes, the stem of the flower, that cut well to display at your dining room table.
3. Variegated Solomon Seal – Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’. This excellent spring perennial stands tall in the early shade garden and spreads easily. It emerges clean and blooms fresh in early spring yet holds its place in the garden throughout the growing season. The white bells gently hang in pairs from the stem and offer a sweet soft fragrance. The Solomon Seal also has the unique benefit in the world of perennials for its nice yellow fall color.
4. Chinese Fountain Grass -Miscanthus sinensis. It’s an oldy but a goody and has always had a place in the full sun perennial garden. The Victorian garden would not be right without a Fountain Grass adorning the mid-day full blasting sun. It is absolutely gorgeous when it sways in the wind-it is the quintessential amber wave. The only time this plant is not showy is when it’s cut back in late February to make room for the new growth in late April. Combine this with daffodils to maintain the space for maximum use of floral display space and the daffodil foliage can age under cover of the new growth of the Fountain Grass.
5. Stella D’Oro Daylily – Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’. I never liked this favorite of commercial landscapers until I planted one in a container garden. I have grown to love this little solid full sun performer as it has been so pretty emerging with bulb foliage as the chorus for spring color. Soon it will take its turn as a soloist when it produces many, many versatile yellow-orange flowers.