Weekend Notes from the Front Garden
Does a late spring mean shorter plants? For example, consider my golden Alexander (Zizia aurea). Normally I have to cut this perennial back in mid-May and even then it requires some staking. Supposedly it grows to only 3′ but in my garden borders it easily surpasses 4′.
This year, however, Alex seems to be topping out at about 30 inches at bloom time (which hasn’t been delayed) – no cutting back or staking needed. Could it be shorter because it was racing to make its normal bloom dates?
By the way, in case you don’t already know, golden Alexander is a very low maintenance and adaptable wildflower that is native to the Midwest – grows in sun or shade. Though once it gets fully established, it takes a little effort to dig it out should you want to
Or maybe not. My Allium ‘Globemaster’ seems to be about its normal height and bloom time, so maybe my theory is invalid. I planted these bulbs in an act of random horticulture in a place that doesn’t make much sense – in front of a raised bed in the parkway. It works out, though. The ‘Globemaster’ has expanded into a neat little patch that blooms after the tulips and before the perennials in the raised bed. And ‘Globemaster’ is always a good conversation starter with people walking by on the sidewalk.
Like red and yellow chandeliers. There is something magical about wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). The plant as a whole looks like a chandelier, with each flower dangling like a crystal pendant. And each flower individually looks like a miniature version of something that could be hanging in a great hall. It’s a plant for pollinators with long tongues (like hummingbirds), as the nectar is in the back of those spurs.
This is a plant that is easy to grow in my area, in fact it has a habit of popping up all over, though this is never a problem. Even here it can be rather capricious, though. In my front garden it grows to impressive proportions and seeds itself with abandon. In my back garden it always seems to disappear over tine. Go figure.
For whom the bluebell tolls. Last fall I planted Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) for the first time, and they have just started blooming. I’ve heard that this plant can be invasive in places like the UK and the Pacific Northwest. However, the instructor for the hardy bulbs class I took at the Chicago Botanic Garden assured me they are not overly aggressive in this area. Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are still my favorite, but I do like the look of these. They go well with bleeding heart and ferns.
You broke my heart, woodland phlox. I have planted a lot of woodland phlox (Phlox divaritica) over the years, and overall I have been disappointed. For one thing, the rabbits are constantly chewing it down to the ground. And for another, it tends to go dormant by August. So I have vowed not to plant any more woodland phlox. But then I see it blooming in the late afternoon light on the west side of the house (which the rabbits tend to avoid), and I think: maybe we can make it work.
Blue kitty. Nepeta x faassenii ‘Kit Kat’ is blooming. It makes a nice edging plant, is much loved by bees, and the foliage looks good after the flowers are finished. ‘Kit Kat’ likes a hot afternoon sun. You can sort of see that there are only a few tulips still blooming – mostly ‘World Impression’ and ‘West Point’. Soon it will be time to switch the containers to summer annuals.
Odds and Ends
I admire the irises in other people’s gardens, but roof iris (Iris tectorum) is the only iris I grow. People in Japan actually would grow it in the thatch of their roofs. The foliage makes a good ground cover.
The cool spring means that the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) flowers are lasting a good long time. But isn’t “bleeding heart” kind of a gruesome common name? Apparently other common names include lady-in-a-bath and lyre flower. Maybe there should be a campaign to promote one of these alternative common names.
There’s so much happening in the garden at this time of year, it’s hard not to get carried away. Everything seems exciting to me, so I hope this post wasn’t repetitive. In any case, has the late spring meant shorter plants in your garden?