23 May 2009

The galloping spring garden: Letters Across the Pond

Dear Sylvia:

We had an unusually warm spell of weather for a few days this week, and the gardens went from trotting along to a full exuberant gallop. Everything, from the bulbs to the weeds, shot up in growth and maturity. Not everything is awake yet; a few later things like various asclepias are still slumbering, and a couple of later-blooming gentians that are in shade are just starting to yawn and stretch. Likewise with the later-blooming perennial grasses; they're stirring and starting, but for the most part the garden is bustling.

While others around the continent are having their rhododendrons and azaleas wind down (or are long-finished), my first blooming one is 'PJM', a hardy rhodo with small, scented leaves. Like you, I'm a great believer in shrubs and we have a good many of them, incorporated around the garden.

As you can see, there are quite a few things in bloom now. Of course, we have scads of Myosotis, or forget-me-nots; they're the official flower of the Alzheimers Society and my father died of that horrid disease almost four years ago. They look lovely among the primulas and daffodils that are still doing nicely. 

This is an interesting primula I got the other day from Lloyd Mapplebeck, a nursery owner and horticulture professor in Truro, where I went to Agriculture College years ago. Lloyd always has a huge variety of interesting perennials, and more often than not there's a story behind them. This particular primula came to him through another plant enthusiast, and if I have my stories straight, it originated in an elderly woman's garden, growing alongside the common cowslip. I don't know that it has a name, but it's certainly lovely. 

I really do let the forget me nots seed and flower where-they-will. Here they make a nice sea of lacey blue near a Concorde barberry and my Stellata magnolia. And yes, there are a few dandelions in the mix, too. I haven't gotten them gentled down, but I justify them as being good for bees. 

One of my favourite natives is the amelanchier, variously called shadbush, serviceberry, chuckly pear, Indian pear, chuckleberry...I just call it gorgeous. It's one of the first showy flowers of the native woods, along with pin cherries, and its fabulous new foliage is always this glorious bronze colour. Mine is about 10 days to two weeks behind those in much of the province, but that's the mitigating coolness of the Minas basin at work. 

I didn't plant a lot of new tulips last year because I was heading into surgery, but these fringed tulips all came back quite nicely. I like the counterbalance of the blood red tulips with the pure white daffodils. In the background is Orange Emperor tulip, I think. 

Another plant from Lloyd, this one 'Vestal' anemone. What a unique and lovely plant this is, with its gorgeous double centre, so different from most anemones. Lloyd had a story about this plant and how he came to have it, but I didn't write it down, and I want to get it right. So I'll email him for the details again.

These yellow violets are native to many places, including parts of Nova Scotia up around Truro, but I have never seen them in the woods here. So when Lloyd told me he had collected seed and grown these, of course i had to have them. They'll do wonderfully in my woodland garden under the spruce trees.

When we first moved here, I began planting a garden under the big white spruce on the south-east side of the house; this garden is home to a host of natives as well as other plants. Another anemone (this one the enthusiastic A. nemerosa or wood anemone) is taking up a good deal of space in that garden, but there are also some lovely primula, the different trillium, ostrich ferns, astilbe, shooting stars, hosta, and the charmingly bizarre Mayapple, which look so odd when emerging from the ground. 

Around the front of the house is a small triangular bed I call my bright garden. It catches a lot of sun in the morning, and is right by the front door, so I put in lots of colour. Currently there are still bulbs blooming, but also springflowering perennials such as bellis and Arabis. Then there are the black- and gold-foliaged plants, but they're a story for another day. 

Finally, a treat for you; the hummingbirds arrived around May 11 with the scout-males, who bawled my hubby out til he found the feeders and got them filled and out. Now both sexes are here in full numbers, and we'll be filling feeders once or twice a day for most of the summer. We get a LOT of hummers because we do feed faithfully, both nectar and with plants they love. The feeders are in a sheltered  location so that's where the congregations appear and argue, squeak, chitter and whirl. They're quite fearless of me, who I guess they see as their bringer of foods. The other day, however, one got caught in the barn and was frantically trying to get out through the window, to no avail. I caught him and held him in my hands for a few seconds til I could get him outdoors and free. It was like holding a breath of living wind, his tiny heart beating so fast, yet he was quiescent in my hands til I opened them and set him loose in the wide world again. He zoomed to the birch tree for a bit and then joined the others in feasting. And my heart was happy. 

There's much more going on, but that's enough for today's epistle! I hope you're enjoying the warmth of a late spring garden and getting lots of work done. I'm falling behind here, but whatever gets done gets done. The rest, well, I'll hide the sins with mulch, no doubt!

cheers, jodi


  1. It does look very much like spring is in full bloom there. I love the forget-me-nots too. I didn't have as many return this year, hopefully the ones that are here will do lots of reseeding.
    How lucky to have so many hummingbirds at once! We have them frequently in our garden but usually one or two at a time. They chase each other away.
    I'm glad you could rescue the hummingbird in your barn.

  2. Here in central Ohio we are way past these lovely spring things; it is great to revisit them For years I tried to get forget-me-nots to spread, yet only found them on the woods path. Now they are everywhere, and welcome. I also have shadbush--I love the other names--and just planted two of the shrubby variety. My one tree is pretty shabby now, and I hope it brings the cedar waxwings to the garden again this year.

  3. I loved this post, especially the part about the hummer - a breath of living wind. Now that's poetry!

  4. Oh, Jodi, your gardens look lovely! Thanks for sharing them with us as well as with Sylvia. I love the 'Vestal' anemone; what a wonderful find! And I'm amazed at the number of hummingbirds you're getting. I've never seen nearly so many, even in my friends' gardens (they set out feeders, I just grow hummer-friendly plants, so I usually have just three or so). What fun!

  5. We saw our first hummingbird here yesterday. What a treat!

  6. I want to set up a hummingbird feeder this year. What do I feed them and how often? Just sugar water??

  7. Goodness Jodi, your gardens are gorgeous. You have so many lovely plants and shrubs in bloom right now. We are not that far ahead of you in Colorado if that makes you feel better! I love that double white anemone. It's a knockout ~ I would have brought it home with me for sure. and as a primula addict, of course I'm interested in your newest addition. I am most amazed at how many hummingbirds you have! That's quite astonishing. We only see them in single digits around here and not until the middle to end of summer. I can't imagine filling the feeders every single day. That would turn into work! I have to pour the old sugar water out and refill once a week ~ they haven't ever come close to emptying the feeder. It's great you're so diligent about keeping them fed. They are worth it tho, I'm always so happy to see them in my garden. Hope you're having a good weekend!

  8. Hi Jodi,
    You are so fortunate to have held such a dear little creature in your hands and set it free! What I would give to have one land on my finger. I have picked one up but he wasn't able to fly ever again. It's funny you showed the yellow violets...my mother was just given some from someone in Greenwood and said she found them in the woods. I saw them and they are identical. I believe on the Bay of Fundy coast you are on a flight path for the hummers....my friend lives near Huntington Point and they feed a huge amount and fill 5 or 6 feeders everyday and sometimes twice. Have a great late spring!

  9. You have great looking blooms and foliage. I love forget me nots, but they don't make it through more than one or two winters in my garden.

  10. Beautiful garden. Love that 'Vestal' anemone. And the story of your trapped hummingbird was amazing. Something similar happened to me with a Monarch butterfly. You've inspired me to write about it.

  11. Your letter across the pond, as always, was entertaining, jodi. It's so great to see the hummers again...and you have lots of them! That brightly coloured primula really catches my eye. What a beauty. And one of my favourite "proofs of springtime" are the serviceberry trees as they're gorgeous white blooms dot the countryside...and there really are a lot of them! Some people call those "mulberry trees" around here, though I suspect there really are mulberry trees...and that ain't them. ;-)

  12. Dear Jodi, I had a most interesting conversation with a young man who shared that he had never written a letter to anyone. He had text messaged, emailed or cell phoned all his life! Astonishing. It is good to read your letter, a real letter, sounding exactly like letters we of a certain age would write!

    The forget-me-nots are wonderful little flowers and the blue is so sweet, a perfect companion plant to a few dandelions. I like to leave a few dandelions for the bees, too. PJM is the only rhodie that tolerates C&L! I work hard to keep it healthy and am working to get more evergreen shrubs into the beds.

    Your garden is so lovely and the combination of natives and native friendlies sound delightful.


  13. What a fun visit to your garden! I had no idea there was a rhodie with scented leaves, I'll have to look for that. I'd never seen an amelanchier up close, beautiful. And the hummers are a treat. Plus the yellow violets, the primula (don't always go for them but this one's exceptional) and the anemone, stellar.

  14. I've never seen so many hummingbirds at one time. Absolutely fantastic! I love the little darlings!


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