Category Archives: peonies

The long, cool spring of horrors

The horrors, of course, are the many manifestations of Covid-19, aka the coronavirus, aka the pandemic, the global pandemic, the quarantine, etc.  Starting around March 13, when everything shut down with only a few hours’ notice, we have been living a different life from anything we were imagining before.  No socializing, library and schools closed, businesses shut down, restaurants only providing takeout (and several with groceries available, too), curbside pickup at stores, no going out to eat, listening to music, having meetings. Don’t even think about traveling, not an hour up the road to Washington or across the ocean to Vienna, as was our plan for September.  It’s not so bad for people like me who have money and access to food and supplies, but it still wears a person down, especially given the criminal negligence of the government.  But that rant will remain unwritten here.

On the other hand, it’s been a lovely spring.  The cool weather has persisted with none of the 80+ degree days in April that cook the tulips.  Instead, long stretches of cool, sunny weather with even frost warnings a couple times in the last week.  We’re down for the year, but for the month our rainfall is right on track.  I can’t complain!

Narcissus ‘Sunlight Sensation’ and ‘Baby Boomer’ not only bloomed prolifically but lasted and lasted.  This is ‘Sunlight Sensation.’  Would definitely buy more next year to strew under the maple tree.

The tulips were a bit meager this year, with a few exceptions.  The ‘Happy Generation’ tulip that was supposed to bloom with this ‘Pink Charm’ narcissus barely grew a leaf or two. Tulips in pots seemed to be particularly weak or non-existent.  Voles??

On the other hand,  these dark pink tulips seem to be perennial (so far) and dutifully bloomed at the same time as the viburnum (just out of the frame).

The unfortunately named tulip ‘Bud Light’ was particuarly beautiful, though I don’t have a good picture from my garden.  Here’s one from Jackson & Perkins, and it’s just about how it looked for me, too.

Another one I’d buy again.

The oak tree garden, as always, was an absolute delight, starting with the winter aconites in January.  Here they are on February 9th, interspersed with snow drops. 

And a wider view, on April 11,

when the aconites are gone except for their foliage, and the bluebells, star of Bethlehem, columbine, Japanese roof iris and bleeding heart have taken over.

A closeup of the bluebells in late March: 

Not to forget the hellebores!  They bloom so early, last so long in bouquets, and are so incredibly lovely that I don’t mind that they breed like rabbits and self-seed everywhere.  This one was blooming on February 9th. 

So many beauties that I had to make a slide show for you.

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But wait, don’t forget the peonies and roses!  This was a hand-me-down from my friend Susan Hepler, known to me always as the Hepler peony.  The ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ has tons of buds but no blooms yet.

‘Zepherine Drouhin’ is one of my favorites, though it seems to have a fainter scent this year.  Maybe because of the cooler weather?

The ‘souvenir de Ste. Anne’ is an Earthkind rose, the very palest of pale pinks.

Then there is this neglected part of the garden:

The oakleaf hydrangeas that were supposed to grow six feet tall and help to obliterate my view of the neighbor’s shed never did grow very tall.  Then last year we had lots of rain at one point, and this corner of the garden tends to get soggy.  I think they have given up the ghost, and a great culling will happen here soon.  Edging, obliterating the hydrangeas and forsythia (at least some of it) and cutting down the maple saplings that have taken root.  What a mess!  Welcome to spring in Virginia!

Not again!

It has been raining almost every day for about a month, and we are sick of it, as you can see from this extremely witty Facebook post.just-walking-my-fish

 

Even someone like me, who welcomes a rainy day as an excuse to quilt and read, is getting weary.  We had one sunny day last week, and the air was ringing with the sounds of lawn mowers.  I was able to edge the sunny border, fighting with the witch grass all the way, and started to replenish the soil in the newly installed raised bed.  Rainy today, Sunday, and predicted to go on until some time on Tuesday.  And to top it off, we are still in a rain deficit for the year!

On another note, garden bloggers’ Bloom Day has come and gone yet again without a post from me.  Here is a reconstruction, and a list from 2014 (another of those pieces of paper that floats around the kitchen counter until needed).

Early May 2014

  • Cherokee phlox
  • False Solomon’s seal
  • Ghostly bulb in white garden
  • small white allium
  • hellebores
  • mazus reptans
  • bluebells
  • tulips (going by)
  • columbine and wild columbine
  • sweet woodruff
  • Topolino (I think) daffodil in sunny bordertopolino
  • tiarella
  • euphorbia
  • vinca
  • sorrel
  • Star of Bethlehem
  • dandelions
  • Viburnum ‘Shasta’ and neighbor’s pink dogwood
  • bleeding hearts (white and red)
  • white azalea
  • garlic mustard
  • geranium macrorrhizum ‘Ingwersen’s variety’
  • bugleweed
  • lily of the valley
  • pink azalea
  • coral bells
  • Sun Dial narcissus
  • pansies

This year is much the same, except that mid-May this year found nary a trace of the mazus and wild columbine, both lamented.  I think the hellebores might have crowded out the columbine.  The Topolino daffodil again was the last to bloom and is most welcome.

‘Sarah Bernhardt’ is in bloom, as gorgeous and over the top as ever.

2016 peony

Equally magnificent in a very different way is the Jack in the pulpit that either Becky or Judy passed along to me.  It seems to be very happy in this cool, wet spring. Jack in the pulpit

Thanks to advice from Adrian Higgins, I sowed my Shirley poppy seeds in February and hoped for the best.  They were just lying around, so why not give it a go? Lo and behold, it worked!  poppy

This gorgeous red is a good contrast with the blue columbines that have taken over the garden (their days are numbered if it ever dries out a bit).

Peony Lust

Adrian Higgins in this week’s column in the Washington Post refers to the ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ peony as “pink and blowzy.”  Despite his dissing one of my favorites, I found it an interesting piece on growing peonies in our area.  He discusses the problem of peonies weighed down and falling to the ground but barely discusses staking, which I have found keeps Miss Bernhardt from misbehaving too badly.  Here are a handful of ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ blooms gathered on a rainy day and brought inside to grace the dining room table.

I  also have two unknown peonies given to me by Susan Hepler, so they are known to me as Heplers.  One didn’t bloom this year – I’m sure because it is so crowded out by the irises -but the other had one flower that makes me understand why single peonies are also glorious. 

I had never heard of the new ‘Itoh’ varieties Higgins mentions.  Here’s a post about them.  Seeing the prices, I may need to hold off a few years until they’re more affordable.  In the meantime, I can long for ‘Bartzella’ with its buttery yellow blooms.  Or just go to the American Peony Society site, with its cascading slideshow of delectable flowers.

This is the time of year when some of us dream of beds of peonies of all descriptions.  Mom always said to include them in the border rather than displaying them alone, since they are gorgeous briefly and then all that’s left is the foliage.  Maybe the new bed has room for a few peonies, too?