Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day (GBBD) – May 15

The blogger from May Dreams Garden blog started the tradition of “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day” on the 15th of every month.  I like the idea of recording what’s in bloom in my garden on a regular basis, but have somehow always missed the 15th.  This time, I managed to get outside, camera in hand!

Hover over any photo to see what it is.  Click on a photo to view them in slideshow mode.

Winter’s Elegant Survivors

After the snow melts, before spring plants emerge, what’s left?  We’ve been thinking about choices for small evergreen shrubs or ground cover for the border of Cambridge Cohousing’s front lawn, so I took a look at my gardens to see what looks good at this time of year.  (Photos were all taken on March 17, 2011.)

First choice: Cliff Green (Paxistima canbyi).  This looks completely untouched by winter! My only complaint about this plant is that it is only slightly larger than when I first planted it, in September, 2007.  I wish it would spread a little faster. [Follow up note: online search suggests that this plant thrives in alkaline soils, while my gardens are mostly acidic, which may contribute to its slow growth.]

Next up: Dog Hobble (Leocothoe fontanesiana). The commercial landscaper working on our fence border said he’d seen problems with disease with this plant, but it’s done well for me ever since August, 2009. It hasn’t yet covered our foundation, and I look forward to it doing so.  What a great alternative to big box evergreen shrubs.

Two low ground cover plants look surprisingly good for this time of year:

This is Parlin’s Pussytoes (Antennaria parlinii ssp. fallax).  It is not supposed to be evergreen, but it seems to have come through this winter with hardly any leaf loss.  I first bought this as an erosion-control ground cover to replace the invasive Creeping Jenny I found when I got this.  I wasn’t crazy about its looks, but the longer I have it, the more I like it.  Its relatively large leaves cover the ground in green, and it spreads nicely, yet is well behaved, moving around other plants and easy to dig up when necessary. As you can see, I have it in among irises (a family request), that would otherwise leave this area bare this time of year.

Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides) is advertised as an evergreen and its leaves do stay green and glossy through the New England winter.  You can see that they also sustain some winter damage.  On the other hand, the debris you can see on these leaves is from sanded snow shoveled on top of this bed over the winter – in these circumstances, perhaps we should be impressed by how little damage it sustained.

One other plant worth mentioning: Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). This one turned such a deep bronze red over the winter it doesn’t jump out, but it is nonetheless an elegant survivor.  I have this in a tough place, on a sloping corner where it is often stepped on or run over by trash barrels.  I am going to try another plant in a more hospitable spot in this area.

Reconnecting after the Drought

It’s been a rough few weeks for gardens in this part of the world…no rain, heat, no rain, heat. So many bugs…so many plants that haven’t flowered, or haven’t flowered much.  I’m discouraged, and not spending much time in my garden – an unusual pattern for me!

I spent some time cleaning up the driveway bed and weeded the d*mn Creeping  Bellfowers (again).  I think the Butterfly Weed I was waiting for emerged, but without flowers, it’s hard for me to be sure. Aargh.

While working in this area, I realized that the shade patterns have evolved again.  It used to get full afternoon sun, but now more and more of this area is covered by the Dawn Redwood, and the spruce keeps growing wider…so now the sun-loving plants in this bed aren’t doing very well, and I need to think about doing some rearranging – again.

Creeping Bellflowers, Not LadyBells

I’ve been waging a slow steady battle against these plants, and after finally identifying them, I ran across a post at Cold Climate Gardening that made it clear I had mis-identified them.   They are not Ladybells, but Creeping Bellflowers.

You can tell from the title “Campanula rapunculoides, The Evil Twin” that I am not the only person who is struggling to eradicate them from my garden!

Battling Ladybells

Last fall I decided it was time to rid my garden of Ladybells (Adenophora Liliifolia).  You can see my post about my first clearing out here.  They are lovely flowers, praised on many websites, but they are also invasive, spreading by both roots and seeds.  I pulled up all the ones I could find, dragging up the roots as much as possible.  But look what’s back this spring!

I knew I’d have a long fight to clear these out, but I am still discouraged by the number of new plants appearing.  I will wait until they get a bit bigger, and easier to pull out, and then will head out for another round of clearing.

I encourage myself by remembering that I have won a battle against another invasive – Creeping Jenny – which was all over this slope when I first started gardening here.  Diligent search and destroy weeding missions, over and over again, finally got it under control!

Gardening for Neighbors

Much of my gardening is really done for my neighbors and passersby.  Don’t get me wrong – I love to garden, to design plantings, see how they’re growing, and tend to them in whatever way they seem to need tending.  But parts of my garden are really not visible to me except when I am actually out working on them – I can’t see them from my patio or windows, and I don’t even  go by them on my way into and out of my house, since I usually go out our “back” door.  So I try to think about these beds from the perspective of my neighbors, and how people walking by or driving by encounter these areas.  I love it when I find out that I’ve been successful, and my little gardens are providing enjoyment and maybe even a little inspiration.

Our front garden bordering the sidewalk is shady and dry most of the year, because of the large maple tree planted by the City of Cambridge in the sidewalk.  (You can see this in my blog’s header photo.) But in the early spring, before the maple tree leafs out,  it gets lots of sun from its south/southwest orientation, and produces flowering bulbs very early.  (The same bulbs, on the north side of the house, don’t come into bloom until several weeks later!)  I love this, and plant bulbs that flower in waves, so that people walking by see something new every few days.  In early April, the crocuses are long past, and the muscari and scilla are coming into bloom, with an occasional wandering daffodil or early tulip.

The west side of my townhouse offers another gardening opportunity/challenge.  There’s a small sloping garden next to the driveway used both by visitors to the condo association next to us, and by my cohousing neighbors, driving in and out of our underground garage.  And then there’s a tiny strip of dirt between the driveway curb and a retaining wall.  My neighbor got this strip going by planting some kind of daisy or perennial white mums (someday I’ll figure out exactly what this plant is) that have managed to find a toehold here. But that only gives us flowers in the fall, what to do for the rest of the year?  A couple years ago, I started planting daffodils in this strip, extending them all the way up along the driveway to the street.  I love the way they seem to greet people driving in and out, and am delighted when neighbors stop and tell me how much they enjoy them!

Replanting Under the Dawn Redwood

We have a beautiful Dawn Redwood in the sloping bed next to the driveway to the parking lot on the west side of our townhouse.  Ever since we got here (2006), a bunch of plants with lovely little purple bells have appeared under the tree, apparently getting enough sun slanting in under the lower branches to keep blooming.

My neighbor, a much more experienced gardener than me, warned me that these plants would spread through their root system throughout my garden.  But they continued to provide a beautiful spot of color in a shady area, and I was reluctant to dig them out.

Another neighbor said she thought they were some kind of Canterbury Bell, but neither could remember their name, and in several internet searches, I couldn’t find an exact match.  In a search about how to divide another perennial, I suddenly saw a picture of exactly this plant: Adenophora Liliifolia, or Ladybells.  Finally, a name for the plant!  A little more research turned up the information that they are, indeed, very aggressive, spreading both by seed and roots.

This year’s blooms were much reduced, perhaps partly because of the long rainy spell in the beginning of the summer, but also, I think, because the Dawn Redwood has spread so much further out, making this space really shady.

So earlier this weekend, I decided to make the big switch, dug up all of the Ladybells (they will go to one of those challenging sidewalk tree boxes, where we will welcome their invasive tendencies), and moved in some of my favorite dry shade perennials: a Leather Wood Fern, a couple Heuchera, and a Foam Flower.  Then I added a beautiful new Barren Strawberry plant (thank you, New England Wildflower Society) up near the top of the slope, where it will, hopefully, start to colonize the area, moving downhill and gradually filling up the space where the Ladybells had been.  I have a few of these around my garden, and they seem to do better in the more shady spots. under Dawn Redwood-new plants

The Heuchera were already in the vicinity, but they were too far down the slope and all sunlight was blocked by the yew (I think) that had grown up in front of them.  They suffered from insect or slug damage this summer, and aren’t looking great, so I’m hoping they survive the transplanting okay.  I’ve put all of them close to the irrigation hose, and have been running it every day to help them get established.

It all looks very sparse now, and I’m sure I’ll be pulling up Ladybells for years to come, but I’m looking forward to seeing it again next spring.