Monday, April 13, 2009

April Showers Bring…

Well, actually, they bring April flowers, with a promise of more to come. It's amazing to see how things shoot out of the ground in the days following a nice rainfall. Of course, longer days and slowly warming air and soil contribute a lot. After our colder-than-usual winter, we are waiting somewhat anxiously for some marginally tender things to emerge, but are, on the whole, pretty patient.

These beauties belong to Mertensia virginica, the Virginia Bluebell, whose buds start out purple and pink before opening to a lovely clear blue. This one is still in its nursery pot waiting being planted at the feet of a white flowering currant. We are hoping that the combination of the drooping clusters of white flowers on the currant, which is now about seven feet tall and perhaps a little wider, and the blue of the bluebell will be a winning combination. Now, all we have to do is weed around the currant and plant these. It's on the rapidly growing list of chores that await us.

Here is a "Pacific Coast Hybrid" trillium, with its large, mottled leaves and luscious red flowers, some of which smell like bubble gum. We have some white versions elsewhere in the garden. These were hybridized and grown by Charles Price and Glenn Withey, renowned Northwest planstmen and garden designers, who are currently curators at Dunn Garden, a lovely old estate garden in Seattle. They are currently undertaking renovations of the huge border at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.

Abies pinsapo 'Glauca' (Blue Spanish Fir) is starting to display its amazingly raspberry-like cones, always a welcome sight in the spring. This fir has extremely stiff, somewhat prickly needles, except for new growth, which is soft and supple. This is definitely not a conifer you want to grab hold of! Fortunately for us, the deer leave it completely alone. A slow grower, we have it in a half-barrel with a cinnamon fern and, soon, a Clematis texensis 'Duchess of Albany,' which we will train up a trellis onto the back porch railing.

Finally, here is a double flower on a seedling of Helleborus x hybridus. Hybrid hellebores are interesting in that they often (but not always) produce seedlings, most of which may not resemble the parent plant when in bloom. Two of ours produce a healthy crop of seedlings, so we pot them up, keeping some for ourselves and giving the rest to friends. This double one is the offspring of a single-flowered dark red parent, so you just never know what you might get! It was grown by Peter Ray of Black Dog Plants on Vashon Island, a great source of cool and desirable plants. We usually see him at the Vashon Island Farmers Market, especially in the spring.

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