May 15, 2015

Everything Happens in May Here


Yes, it's a crazy busy time of year. In addition to weddings, graduations, proms, picnics, and gardening, all the plants in this part of the world seem to bloom and grow with ferocity in May.

There was a time, about a week ago, when some species of Magnolias, Crabapples, Redbuds, and Lilacs, and many spring ephemerals and perennials were all blooming at the same time. The temperatures had warmed, then cooled, and everything was in a holding pattern. Quite the stunning show in the community.

We've had just enough precipitation and sunshine and clouds to make the plants very happy. For this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up, here are a few highlights of what's currently blooming and thriving in my Southern Wisconsin garden:

Trillium erectum
Trillium erectum

The Red Trilliums are stunning, backlit by the dappled sunshine.

Trillium grandiflorum
Trillium grandiflorum

The Great White Trilliums seem to have multiplied this year--in many spots where there was a single last year, there are now multiples. Seems they're just now recovering from the 2012 drought.

Arisaema triphyllum
Arisaema tryphyllum

Same with the Jacks-in-the-Pulpit. I lost count of how many are in the woodland garden this year.

Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis

The Columbines I added to the garden last summer have returned and are just about to bloom.

Cercis canadensis
Cercis canadensis

Redbuds are blooming and starting to add their heart-shaped foliage.

Convallaria majalis
Convallaria majalis

Lilies-of-the-Valley are at peak, and the scent is magnificent.

Dicentra formosa
Dicentra formosa

Our native Bleeding Hearts seem healthier than last year.

Easter Bonnet
Alyssum 'Easter Bonnet Violet'

I added a new cultivar of Alyssum to some of my pots. Love the color and the scent!

Enemion biternatum
Enemion biternatum

False Rue Anemone is still blooming away, and the foliage is as pretty as the flowers.

Gleditsia triacanthos
Gleditsia Triacanthos

The Honey Locusts are opening their unique fans of foliage.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis
Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Tendrils of Bleeding Hearts are glistening everywhere.

Malus spp.

Most of the Crabapples have finished blooming, while a few old fruits remain and new fruits form.

Matteuccia struthiopteris
Matteuccia struthiopteris

Ostrich Ferns are nearly completely unfurled.

Vinca minor
Vinca minor

Vincas have added their periwinkle blue to the landscape.

Paeniaceae 'Sarah Bernhardt'

Ants on the Peonies are preparing them to open.

Podophyllum peltatum
Podophyllum peltatum

Mayapples are in full bloom under their shady foliage.

Syringa vulgaris
Syringa vulgaris

Many Lilacs are in full glory (ah, the scent!).

Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'
Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'

While my favorites, Dwarf Korean Lilacs, are just about to burst.

Nelly Moser
Clematis 'Nelly Moser'

Same with the Clematis flowers.

Viola sororia
Viola sororia

And, finally, the state flower, Wood Violet, is popping up everywhere. The pollinators are loving it!

Happy GBBD. Happy Foliage Follow-Up. Happy May!

May 12, 2015

Coldframes and Windowboxes: Part I of III

survivor lettuce

Have you ever tried overwintering Lettuces and Scallions in a coldframe over a heated pond?

How about growing salad greens in windowbox liners?

These experiments are new to me as of last spring, and they've been pleasantly successful, thus far. I'm breaking this series into three parts:

  • Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners;
  • Part II: Construction of the coldframe; and
  • Part III: Successes, failures, and miscellaneous observations.


So, Part I: Growing salad greens in windowbox liners: you know, those portable, lightweight troughs you can buy and place in your windowboxes for planting ornamentals ... windowboxes that make your windows look extra snazzy and give your house lovely curb appeal ...

Turns out, the liners make great planting mediums for salad greens, too. You can add rich, healthy potting soil and compost to give your seeds a boost. And you can start the seeds early in the season and move the troughs in and out, as needed, as the temperatures fluctuate. It's similar to raised-bed gardening, but with the additional benefit of being portable--an especially great option for those of us with shorter growing seasons and "surprise" spring and fall frosts and freezes.

I planted 'Mesclun Mix' Lettuce seeds last spring, with Scallions (Onion sets) planted around the perimeter to repel critters. I watched them sprout quickly, then harvested many cuttings through the summer, clipped them down to the base in the fall, and overwintered them in coldframes above our heated pond.

coldframe on pond
In Part II, I'll describe how the fishman constructed this mini-coldframe on top of our pond.

(The fishman gets the kudos for coldframe construction!)

lettuce rosettes
Lettuce rosettes, as seen through the plastic and condensation of the coldframe.

They survived! They remained in a state of perpetual rosette through the winter as the temperatures hovered around 32F to 45F.

moss and scallions
A new blog topic? "How to grow moss in a coldframe."

(Turns out, these are excellent conditions for growing moss, as well. In this case, I'm considering it a cover crop for my salad greens.) Once the temperatures warmed in April, I moved the trays into the sun, watched the plants grow, and started clipping greens for salads again.

kale and chard

A couple of weeks ago, I also planted 'Tuscan Baby Leaf' Kale and 'Peppermint' Swiss Chard seeds in additional troughs, placed directly in the garden.


We've already thinned the seedlings, and harvested some baby Kale!

Next in this series: Construction of the coldframe. But first, Garden Bloggers Bloom Day on May 15!

To see what other gardeners are growing this season, check out the Dear Friend and Gardener virtual garden club.

May 04, 2015

A New Perspective on Crabapples in Bloom


In the past, when I've tried to photograph our Crabapple trees, I've been less than thrilled with the results. Somehow shooting up into the blooms just didn't do them justice. I'm still working on capturing this subject, but recently I experimented a bit.

As I walked into one of our second-story rooms, I realized a glorious view: Crabapples blooming just outside the window. (The scent was amazing, too.)

Now, photographing them outside this window would mean focusing through glass, but I thought I'd give it a go. The results were fun. This first one is unimpressive for tons of reasons, but it shows the perspective of the Crabapple tops just outside the window:


It might appear that the blooms are touching the window, which isn't the case, but they do drape over the roof line a bit. And with an open window, one could reach out and touch them. (Did you notice the Blue Jay?)

I'm not sure of the names our cultivars. There are approximately 1,000 varieties of Crabapples (Malus spp.), with about 100 commonly planted in the U.S., according to Colorado State University. One of ours here has peachy/white buds that bloom to bright white; the other has vibrant dark pink buds and blooms, with red/gold-tinged foliage.

crab 2

crab 1

crab 4

crab 3

crab 6

crab 5

waxwing 1

As I was experimenting with the camera through the window glass, I noticed something moving in the distance among the white blooms.

waxwing 2

waxwing 3

waxwing 4

Several Cedar Waxwings, enjoying the sweet flowers.


I experimented with focusing through the screen, which yielded interesting effects.

side view

I noticed sunlight hitting the petals in lovely patterns from a side view.

bouquet flowers

I also picked a few blooms for a bouquet, and included a sprig of Bleeding Hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) and foliage from Ressurection Lilies (Lycoris squamigera). (I'm linking this post to Rambling in the Garden's "In a Vase on Monday" meme.)


In my experience, the vase life of Crabapple blooms is only a few days. Then again, their stunning show on the trees lasts only as long as the next thunderstorm, of which we have several in the forecast during the next few days. So I'll savor the blooms while they last.


April 29, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

Sanguinaria canadensis
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Podophyllum peltatum
Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Enemion biternatum
False Rue Anemone (Enemion biternatum)

Asarum canadense
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)

Claytonia virginica
Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica)

Trillium erectum
Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)