Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fun in the Garden, Pt. 2

Isn't this a beauty? This luscious flower is Helleborus x hybridus 'Ballard Strain,' which puts up a veritable fountain of blooms each spring. I always cut all of the old foliage off my hybrid hellebores when the flower stalks start to emerge—the old leaves are often lying on the ground, not looking their best after the winter, anyway. New foliage always emerges after they have been in flower for awhile, fresh and upright.

We have many seedlings around the feet of our hellebores, which I usually pot up and grow on until they are larger (or give away to friends). Because they do not come true from seed, you never know what magical color or bloom type you will get with a seedling, which adds to the fun. Hellebores provide large masses of flowers at a time when not much else is blooming at that scale, and the deer completely ignore them.

Another glorious day here along Puget Sound. As we were driving to the transfer station, we passed a property that had quite a lovely patch of Chionodoxa forbesii, whose common name is Glory-of-the-Snow. It is a small bulb with strappy leaves from which a flower spike bearing up to 10 intense blue star-like flowers with white centers (there are also white and pink cultivars) emerges. Now, just yesterday, we had spotted a bunch of these potted up at one of the island nurseries, but seeing them in the wild, so to speak, sealed the deal. After the transfer station, we headed straight for the nursery and bought nine pots of them, most containing four separate plants. They are now planted in and around the feet of Euphorbia griffithii 'Fireglow,' a Melianthus major,  a red peony, and the red dahlias we planted yesterday. A relative of scilla, these will spread around a bit, which we don't mind as the color is so beautiful. By mid-June, they disappear, just in time for the other things planted near them to be taking off.

While we were at the nursery, we also bought nine pots of Muscari latifolium, a charming grape hyacinth that has only one or two broad leaves and flowers that are a rich, dark blue with white lips. They also sport little top-knots of flowers that are a lovely pale blue, creating a two-toned effect. We have some of these in another location, and they are increasing from seed. We planted the new ones among a bunch of Anemone ranunculoides, with its ferny foliage and bright yellow flowers, around the base of our snakebark maple (Acer davidii). The anemones will spread by underground rhizomes, so we are hoping for a spring carpet of yellow punctuated with the cheery spikes of the blue grape hyacinths.

Finally, here is a photo of the amazing emerging foliage of Rheum palmatum v. tanguticum, an ornamental rhubarb. Each of the alien-like red "eyes" will unfurl into a whorl of enormous leaves, each of which emerges dark red and folded up like origami. These will later grow to nearly three feet across, truly an impressive sight. Rheums like deep, rich soil in partial shade, with plenty of mulch at their feet to keep their roots cool in the summer. Ours is now three years old and has a lot of eyes—it's going to be a monster!

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