May Garden Activity

It was unseasonably cold during the last few nights of May here in southern Michigan, just a few degrees above freezing. Absolutely perfect for sitting on my purple porch swing in the not-so-early morning (eight-ish) with a cup of hot coffee. Yes it is a bit nippy but my porch faces east so I am bathed in the warmth of the morning sun. And above is what I see as I look through the railing to my garden.

And I smile and sigh. I love the combination of the chocolate and apricot irises in front of the red barberry bush. But my garden is somewhat out of order this year due to the out-of-order spring weather. Usually the apricot iris doen’t bloom until the chocolate are almost finished. This year the apricot was out about a week before the first chocolate unfurled a couple of days ago.

My daughter gave me a couple of tubers of the chocolate iris that a neighbor gave her as a good-bye gift when my daughter left Little Rock, Arkansas. It seems so exotic, so special. The buds are so very dark and the newly unfurled blossom is a lush silky golden brown, growing lighter and more golden in the two or three days before it withers away. In certain lights there are purple under currents to the petals.

My peony is also blooming on the lower terrace. I wish I had more flowers that bloomed during late spring. Maybe I will look for some yellow irises to plant next to this peony. Any other suggestions? I like the idea of yellow because it would be a nice complimentary color to the deep pink peony and would be positioned just below the apricot and chocolate that grow on the upper terrace.

The Evening Primrose is spreading aggressively at the end of the upper bed and this worries me a bit but it is so beautiful that I don’t think I’ll attack it aggressively – at least not yet. Maybe I’ll be sorry. I love how it poked its way up in the catmint, totally uninvited but welcomed.

See why I think I’ll wait another year before I decide to take action. Has anyone had a problem with this primrose weakening or taking over other plants? How can anything so delicate looking be so strong willed and naughty?

When we moved in over 10 years ago I planted what I hoped would be a tall (but not too tall) and slender (not too big around for a small space) evergreen in the corner, where the porch juts out a couple of feet, on the terrace that is 4 feet below. Beside it I planted a President clematis, given to me by a friend, and trained it up the section of fencing I placed there. You know what happened, right? The tree is much bigger around that I envisioned and the clematis ended up behind the tree, with roots fighting for moisture and nutrients. This year I transplanted it away from the shrub and did lots of amending of the heavy clay with peat, manure and nutrients to help with root regrowth. I have read that clematis don’t like to be moved so I’m hoping it will hang in there with a little pampering. It is blooming so that’s a good sign, I think. Or maybe a last frantic effort to reseed itself before it dies. Ugh.

This spring I was super diligent with weeding – starting earlier and with more energy than normal. It really worked as I’m almost weed free except for some grass in the middle of plants that I can’t get out until it rains again and of course those small pesky weed roots that break off and are left to torment me at a later time.

I have been thinking a lot about adding plants to my garden as I am gently swinging and looking out over the sea of fresh green spring growth. I printed photographs of my garden taken at different times of the growing season of previous years. I studied them and thought and studied them some more and then made a trip to the garden center. Then I would think some more and finally plant my new purchases where I think they need to be. Repeat. Plant. Repeat. Plant. I think I am at the point where I need to find out how the new plants are going to get along in their new homes and with their neighbors before I buy any more. Except…

Except my love of sedums has reignited and I still have some bare spots in my dry, difficult places – plus I found a new garden website that only sells online, has a wonderful selection, ships plants in pots, are reasonably priced, and are located two hours down the Interstate in Grand Haven, on the shore of Lake Michigan. They have a wonderful selection of sedums so I ordered some new hens & chicks to add to the ones that are established…

And ones I bought earlier this year.

The new ones are named “Cosmic Candy”. Now doesn’t that excite your cosmic energy, but you, too, will have to wait to see them until they arrive and are planted. I also ordered a couple of the larger stonecrop sedums to give some late summer color and fill in with low maintenance plants with beautiful texture and color all through the growing season.

And in the fall I’ll be relocating a hen & chicks to Florida. One that I bought this year is only hardy in zone 11 (not even close to zone 5). In the meantime I’m enjoying it every morning and evening as I sit on my porch swing and think about my garden.

Serenity for a Sunday: A Basket of Pansies and a Toad

This critter loves my garden as much as I do, but he hasn’t been very good at pitching in with the weeding. I keep him around anyway because he makes me smile and has taught me to be happy wherever I am planted by looking for the beauty around me. It works most of the time.

I hope you are enjoying our holiday week-end here in the U.S. and can find some serenity on this Sunday wherever you are.

Changing of the Orchids

This past week we were walking into the Naples Botanical Garden, past the Orchid Garden, when a work truck filled with orchids grabbed my attention. I asked if they were taking orchids out of the garden or bringing new ones in – they said they were taking them out but would be bring new ones in soon. As they drove away I raised my camera and took some shots – thinking that this is a story. Jim chuckled about my taking this photo and I asked him when he had last seen a truck going down a sidewalk filled with orchids. He understood.

The orchid garden is outdoors, in a protected area enclosed by three single-story buildings. The Garden has a collection of over 1,600 species and hybrid orchids that are displayed depending on blooming season but also researched for conservation purposes. There are more orchid species (28,000) than any other flowering plant and there are species found from the artic tundra to the hot and arid deserts of the Arabian Peninsula – a temperature span from -4 F (-20 C) to 100 F (38 C). The Garden is invested in studying them because they are very are extremely susceptible to habitat changes and loss, an increasing concern with climate warming. That explains why people who live in cooler climates have to work hard to create inside environments to grow the tropical species while I have about 10 different ones that bloom outside on trees (with very little care) around my home. The only rule I have to follow is to make sure they don’t get too much sun.

Some of the orchids have been attached to trees so the orchid roots attach to and grow on the trunk, taking in moisture and nutrients when it rains while other orchids are growing in pots and wooden hanging baskets. All are strategically placed, like in the photo above at the entrance to the orchid garden. I think there are around seven different colors but all quite common. They make a splash when first seen and make a great backdrop for a quick selfie, but people don’t stop long to admire them blocking others from entering. Those attached to the trees aren’t blooming continuously, but because so many are in movable pots, there are orchids continuously blooming. The orchids in the trees around my home are either fall or winter/early spring blooming when I am here to enjoy them.

As visitors move into the garden they can find orchids to delight any taste, from very small (not much bigger than a finger nail) to big ones, and in multiple colors. Here is a sampling from a recent visits.

I have another orchid post brewing on lady slippers (or is it lady’s slipper, or ladies slippers???) Anyway, stay tuned.

Life in Colour: “Green” Orchid

I have been working on a post on orchids and stopped at this photo taken in February to study it once again. Not because of the brilliant composition or any other photographic skill. I always stop when I reach this one in my files because of the beautiful color and form. I think it will be in a very narrow category with the Jade plant (another post is coming on that one soon).

And of course it fits into Jude’s theme of “green” for her Life in Color challenge very nicely, I think.

Sunshine For All My Northern Friends

A Florida Sunflower Radiating Sunshine

I lived in the north long enough to know that as March nears, nerves begin to get prickly and souls are yearning for signs of spring. It could be guilt that I am in a sub-tropical local with flowers everywhere, but more likely just compassion that motivated me to search for just the perfect yellows for all of you who are currently color deprived in your environments.

What a beautiful yellow bouquet with a touch of red and deep blue on a ground of green. Makes my heart sing.
A sure sign of spring.

I was also motivated by Jude’s posting of beautiful lemons for this month’s Life in Colour: Yellow.