People often refer to them as Lenten Roses and it’s easy to see why. They tend to bloom during Lent, and their flowers look a lot like and old fashioned rose with a single layer of petals. They are also call “hellebores” and belong to a family of evergreen plants, many of which are poisonous. In fact, the name “hellebore” comes from the ancient Greek. “Helle-” which means “to injure” and “-bore” which means “food”. Their seemingly fragile flowers tempt us into thinking Michigan’s fickle springs will break these lovely plants, but even four inches of snow that bends the hellebores to the ground can’t defeat them.
At last! I can walk out my back door without having to bundle up in my red walking sleeping bag of a coat, a heavy scarf, and a warm hat. I can walk a dog (I now have two) without fear of tripping on dangerous little hillocks of melted then refrozen unshoveled sidewalks. And, best of all, I can work in the garden.
But yesterday I walked down the street with a camera. And no dog. The sunshine continues to welcome all kinds of early flowers and awakens foliage.
My walk took me to the woods at the end of my street. It’s weird, really, to have that stand of trees in the middle of an urban area, but it’s part of a municipal park behind my house. It’s called a nature center, but it’s really just a pleasant wooded area with a trail that circles around. In early summer the catalpa trees bloom and give off the most wonderful fragrance. Some don’t like catalpas because they are “messy”, but anything that smells that sweet and produces such lovely flowers has permission to be messy. The leaves, too, are interesting because they are so large. Lots of people walk their dogs in the woods, as do I and I’ve gotten to know so many people and dogs.
The scilla are thriving in yards all throughout the neighborhood. It’s hard to get that true blue in a garden. Or, at least it is hard for me. My soil is is alkaline and acid loving hydrangeas can hardly muster enough gumption to give me a light purple. So, I will appreciate the invasive scilla when it visits.
There are all sorts of daffodils blooming in the neighborhood. Every spring I tell myself that I will plant oodles of daffs in the fall and then I get overwhelmed by the chill and don’t plant anything but my posterior in a warm chair. I did plant the white one below, several years ago, and in multiples, but this is the only one that has bloomed so far. I wonder if I will get around to planting more in the fall.
While I enjoy seeing forsythia in bloom, I’ve never had the urge to plant it in my gardens. I can enjoy it as I walk and then not worry about keeping it tamed or hiding its nondescript presence . I’d rather use the space for perennials or shrubs with more interesting foliage.
Four years ago I hung a bee abode in my old cherry tree hoping to attract native solitary bees, especially mason bees. And they have found it their home. Or, more accurately, the females have found it for their maternity ward. Dozens of them have been buzzing in and out of the cylindrical chambers laying one egg and then sealing it up so they can lay another in the next chamber in line. Later in the summer a young mason bee will emerge from the first chamber followed by its siblings behind it. I think the white dribbles are bits of “cement” that the bees use to seal the chambers. It’s why they are called mason bees. You can thank mason bees when you pop a sweet blueberry in your mouth, or bite into an apple. Honey bees, which are not native to North America, aren’t awake yet, and, they have never been the best pollinators. Solitary bees are far better, though, they do not make honey.
As always, a thank you to May Dreams Gardens for celebrating a monthly accounting of what is blooming in gardens all over the world.
It’s April 15 and Michigan played a trick on us. The skies are oxygen blue and cloudless, but the garden is covered in four to six inches of heavy wet snow. It’s ok. Really. There isn’t much blooming yet, a few daffodils and a cute little weed that became my first garden activity of the year. That is, I started pulling it up.
The hellebores are eager to open. And they are welcome to do so any time they want. Often called Lenten Roses, this year my hellebores will be blooming during this last week of Lent. What I like about them, aside from their lovely flowers and evergreen foliage is that the flowers hang around for a long time. Their color fades over the season into something that looks a bit like a sculptor wrought them from thin sheets of balsa wood. Perhaps I’ll try drying them in the pages of a book. I gathered oodles of leaves last fall and planted them between the pages of favorite books. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but it was comforting over the winter to look at the dried leaves whose colors had deepened and remember that sister leaves would shake free from our bitterly cold winter and start their warming dance again.
In January I adopted another standard poodle, Lucy. I hadn’t intended to double my allotment of poodles, but Lucy needed rescuing. I am sitting in my favorite chair as I write this and on the floor around me I see a teddy bear that has lost his eyes, a chew toy that has pockets for peanut butter and biscuits, a beef bone, a kong that just an hour ago was stuffed with kibble and peanut butter, a winter glove, and a paper towel tube. Bridget doesn’t really require toys. She has a favorite bear and a stuffed hedge hog, but she doesn’t chew them.
Lucy likes to chew. And chew. I’ve lost two Mac power cords, a whole bunch of pencils and pens, and the buttons off a favorite pair of leather gloves. Bridget is a mellow old girl. Lucy? Not so mellow. She loves to run and jump and because I don’t have a fenced in yard, she runs a jumps through the neighborhood. That will change, I hope, this week when a decorative aluminum fence will go in. But the real issue won’t be one of containment. It will be one of waste disposal. How will the promise of dog feces affect my gardens? I don’t know, but I will find out this week, I hope. And, I will be very glad when Lucy is safely behind a fence and away from the neighbors and a busy street.
In the meantime, the garden naps under a coverlet of rapidly melting snow. Soon it will wake up, stretch, and touch warmer days.
Thank you, May Dreams Garden, for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. It’s nice to feel welcomed back into my own gardens. And it’s nice to hop on over to the GBBD website to get inspired. There are gorgeous gardens to wander through at the click of a mouse.
It’s easy for me to get distracted and I often postpone tasks that should have been done. Like blogging about the garden on days other than Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I took some pictures a couple weeks ago and have been trying to think of ways to write about the garden other than to document what is blooming each month. But here I am on GBBD and pushing against the clock and prepping for a class tomorrow. Plus I have to walk the dog and ignore the clean sheets that are piled on a chair in the living room and get my annuity stuff together. I’m retiring. Things have to happen.
So, first, the love.
This is what is blooming in my garden today.
Last summer I hardly set foot in the garden. My trusty gardener did all the work. Richard has been working in my garden for several years and I love what he does. And the garden loves him back. But last summer the garden belonged more to Richard than me. Yeah, I was dealing with surgery and chemo and radiation. And, I taught two classes, but much of that work took place online. It took me weeks and weeks to recover from surgery. And, about six weeks after surgery I started chemo which knocked me flat. So, no gardening for me.
This year I get into the garden almost every day and do a little weeding, yank out the ever aggressive dutchman’s pipe, deadhead the day lilies. The garden is mine, though, Richard still does his magic. I don’t know what I would do without dear Richard. He rearranges the hostas, curses at the dutchman’s pipe, and keeps a keen eye out for other forms of garden trouble, like the chipmunk that has made a home under some bricks in the Secret Garden.
So, what is this love/hate thing?
I love them. I dream 11 months out of the year about my day lilies. I’m quite fond of the pink ones, especially the dark pink lilies. I know. I said that already.
But the minute they begin to bloom, they begin to fade. The leaves closest to the ground dry out and turn brown. And the flowers bloom for just one day. Everyday I pluck the previous day’s withered flowers and drop them on the bark that keeps moisture in the soil. I’ve tried to plant lilies that are early bloomers, and others that bloom later, but the hate murmurs softly that each day will bring a little bit of death. I know, day lilies don’t die when they give up their spent blooms, but it’s sad to see the scapes that have no more buds on them.
I love hostas, too, and I don’t feel sad at all when their flowers fade. Perhaps I’m being a titch too dramatic.
It’s been a tough winter, the toughest in a couple of decades. More than 100 inches of snow fell on the garden this year. And temps hovered around zero degrees Fahrenheit for too many weeks. Snow can protect perennials and I’m confident that most of the plants in the gardens survived the winter. But the bitter cold has taken a toll. One of the dwarf alberta spruces in the entrance garden is showing winter burn damage. It’s too soon to tell whether the bush will fill in a bit. This will be an issue of disguising damage rather than any hope of regrowth. Dwarf albertas do not “repair” burn damage. The boxwoods got burned, too, but I am less concerned about that. I’ll trim the burnt ends and the hedge will be none the worse.
Also damaged were a couple of holly bushes. These I am even less concerned about. There never thrived where they were planted, and, truth to tell, if they had thrived, they would be a problem. So, I might just use this as an excuse to pull them out. My guess is that I have a friend who will give them a good home. But it isn’t all sad news for the garden. Lots of things are starting to poke their heads above ground. And I even spotted a wayward crocus blooming. This is a volunteer or, perhaps, a remnant from long gone days before my gardens went in. And the day lilies are coming up. So, in a few weeks, everything will have filled in. And, I’ll be able to finish the pathways. How I have been looking forward to that!
Also coming up are the dicentras. In a few weeks those lovely branches full of pink hearts will arch gracefully.
After our unseasonably warm early spring, we returned to some frosty days (and nights). Some early risers got nipped. The Dutchman’s Pipe lost some new foliage, but it will bounce back with a vengeance. I’m not sure about the old cherry tree. It’s too soon to tell whether the frost killed a lot of “cherry hope.” But things are still ahead of schedule, so April’s Bloom Day is bountiful compared to last year’s. A year ago, only the heather and a few brave violets were blooming.
The heather still gets the early bloomer prize. But the brunnera macrophylla are blooming, too.
There are a few white daffodils, planted last fall, that are hanging on, but the early spring woke them up far sooner than I anticipated.
Also blooming are the Bleeding Heart. They look like little Christmas ornaments.
I’m not sure why I don’t have more Esther Staley French lilac blooms, but the three lilacs I planted in that area never seem to do as well as I would like them to. The President Grevy French Lilac only got one bloom last summer. It’s a later bloomer and I can’t tell yet whether it liked the pruning I gave it last summer. The Mme LeMoine French Lilic is doing ok, but I count only about 10 blooms. The James McFarlane lilacs continue to do great, though. And they are just starting to bud out.
The new trellis now stands at the entrance to the Secret Garden. I’m hoping the clematis bounces back and covers it by the end of the summer.