As Winter Recedes

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.

Burned boxwoods and Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Burned boxwoods and Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Close-up of Dwarf Alberta Spruce damage
Close-up of Dwarf Alberta Spruce damage
Hellebore buds!
Hellebore buds!

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!

Soon the day lilies will be filling this spot!
Soon the day lilies will be filling this spot!
Winter-killed holly
Winter-killed holly
Crocus volunteer in the Secret Garden
Crocus volunteer in the Secret Garden

Also coming up are the dicentras.  In a few weeks those lovely branches full of pink hearts will arch gracefully.

Bleeding heart popping up in the corner garden.
Bleeding heart popping up in the corner garden.

April 15, Bloom Day

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 old cherry tree hanging onto some blossoms after several frosts

The heather still gets the early bloomer prize.  But the brunnera macrophylla are blooming, too.

Looking Glass Brunner (brunner macrophylla 'Looking Glass') and lots of maple seedlings

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.

White Daffodill
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)

Also  blooming are the Bleeding Heart.  They look like little Christmas ornaments.

Bleeding Heart

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.

New trellis entrance to the Secret Garden

Bloom Day, Sept. 15, 2011

The male yellow finches have begun to shed their brilliant yellow plumage in favor of their winter wear.  Temperatures this morning hovered around 40 F.  A few timid leaves have started to give up their green and the bald cypress in the front yard is trying to decide when it should turn bronze.  Fall is here, if not officially, then spiritually.

Below are today’s bloomin’ stars.

Julia Child Rose
New This Season, Sweet Autumn Clematis and Delphinium Against the West Fence in Lower Garden
Limelight Hydrangea Gets Ready for Winter Bouquets
Honorine Joubert Anemone
A Couple of Volunteer Sun Flowers Left By the Birds, And White Carpet Rose
Rose of Sharon Buds Catch the Morning Sun


Potted Mums and Geraniums in Entrance Garden
The Morning Sun Catches Sweet Autumn Clematis

Soldier Beetles and Hummingbirds

I’m always a little alarmed when I see a lot of the same bug on a plant.  Sawfly larvae, japanese beetles.  It’s like a marauding gang has landed.  So, when I saw dozens of mustard colored beetles on the Tardiva hydrangea, I had a sinking feeling that I once again had uninvited guests.

Soldier Beetle

Thanks to the internet, though, I identified my new visitors as Soldier Beetles.  And, it turns out they are very beneficial bugs.  Soldier Beetles are related to Fireflies (we call them Lightening Bugs). They eat aphids, other insect eggs, and larvae.  They are also excellent pollinators.  Apparently they come in a variety of colors.  In England, they are red and were named after the British army uniforms.

Soldier Beetle





Tardiva is in full bloom right now, and so is Limelight.  This is the bittersweet time in the garden.  The lilies have faded.  The echinacae are beginning to look tattered.  The liatris blooms have reached the tip of their long stalks.

But the hummingbirds are beginning to migrate south and this morning, three of them are feasting on the garden.  They perch on a powerline then flit about the garden, chasing each other, it seems.  I wonder if these are juveniles who hatched earlier this summer.  The only hummingbird native to Michigan is the Ruby Throated Hummingbird.  They have been known to eat insects, sometimes plucking them mid-air.  Forgive the very blurry picture.  This was the best I could get from my kitchen window.  These little guys just won’t stay still long enough for me to focus, adjust light settings, etc.

Ruby Throated Hummingbird

Bloom Day, August 15, 2011

This Bloom Day finds one day lily still blooming.  Good old reliable First Knight continues to deliver.

First Knight Day Lily

But though the day lilies have gone, the Tardiva and Limelight hydrangeas are following nicely.

Tardiva Hydrangea
Limelight Hydrangea

And, the old Rose of Sharon is still blooming.  The butterflies and hummingbirds love it.  The hummingbirds are beginning to migrate, so the tree is a welcomed dining opportunity.

Old Rose of Sharon

The Mac and Cheese echinacea  provides a wonderful warmth to the garden.  And, the Pink Double Delight has really taken off.

The Moonflowers have done their usual vigorous thing.  I had to cut them back because they completely blocked the path.  The moths love them at night.


But also blooming is the white phlox.  And it provides the perfect backdrop for the red carpet rose that seems to love its spot in the Secret Garden.

The caryopteris is just beginning to bloom.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to pull out most of it in the fall.  It is just too big for the space I have.  I hate to see those wonderful blue spires go, but they’ve become too much of a good thing.

One of my favorite hostas is also blooming today.  Stained Glass has lovely fragrant blossoms.  I often cut hosta flower stalks off because I think they look messy.  But I let Stained Glass bloom all it wants.

Stained Glass Hosta
Blue Knight Caryopteris
Pink Double Echinacea
Marigold Bed in the Lower Garden
White Phlox and Red Carpet Rose
Mac and Cheese Echinacea

Of Butterflies and Coneflowers

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on the Fragrant Angel Coneflower

This pretty swallowtail butterfly couldn’t get enough of the Fragrant Angel Coneflowers yesterday.   I was actually hoping I could get pictures of the Cedar Waxwings that have been eating berries in the park.  And while I could hear them, I couldn’t see them.  But Ms. Swallowtail was very compliant.

Swallowtails are common butterflies in Michigan, but their size and lovely colors make them a welcomed visitor, nonetheless.

Something else that was unexpected in the Secret Garden is a pink hibiscus (rose mallow).  I had completely forgotten that I’d planted it.  And, in fact, I dug it up last spring thinking that whatever it was had not survived the winter.   Luckily, I forgot to toss the rootball before I went on vacation.  When I returned, there were green shoots coming out of the rootball, so I replanted it.  I kept thinking that it was some sort of oakleaf hydrangea, but, honestly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it.  Color me surprised when I saw dinner-plated sized pink blossoms.

Rose Mallow

The Tardiva Hydrangea is blooming now, a welcome event just as the daylilies fade.  I hate to see them go.  I’ve been pulling out the flower stalks so that the clumps look tidy. The liatris is doing quite well.  I love how it blooms from the top down.

Liatris, Echinacae, and Catmint (Cool Cat)