27 December 2009

The year in review, sort of: faves from spring

Okay, we're probably all sated with turkey and other holiday delights, have had a day or so of slothdom to recuperate, nap, read and relax. Time to return to conversing about plants, at least for me. Since it's the end of the year and there are plenty of retrospectives happening just about anywhere you read, I thought I'd add my own retrospective, with a twist.

It's no secret that I'm very fond of plants. Most of them, anyway. Don't get me started on aegopodium (goutweed), but for the most part, I'm plant crazy. It doesn't matter if they're heritage or heirloom plants, or newfangled hybrids. Not everything grows real well for me, but I experiment, adapt conditions where possible, and when something doesn't work after several tries, it's on to others, either tried and true, or more new experiments. It's like that amusing sign that hangs in my (soon to be renovated) greenhouse: "There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments." I offer up to you some of my favourites from the past gardening year, favourites old and new. We'll start with spring, of course, although my spring garden experiences were truncated by that temporary employment experiment away from home that was not-so-much a good one. Onward and upward.

I have chattered on in the past about Hamamelis or witch hazels, and really encourage others to embrace these wonderful shrubs. Above, catching some spring light, is Hamamelis 'Diane', one of my favourites for her flower colour, but also for her vigourous, no-problem growth habit. I love these shrubs/small trees for their ease of growing, their oh-so-early flowering, their fall foliage.

Thanks to the help and encouragement of Frances, who provided some great advice on getting hellebores through late winter/early spring, I can now claim pride of place in a well established clump of 'Ivory Prince' hellebore, actually planted UNDER 'Diane' hamamelis. Hellebores are just so cool; the flowers may fade, but the bracts stay intact for a long time. This is a plant I need to get to know much more about, so I'm glad to have found the website Hellebores.org. Next year, hopefully, I will add a couple more species or cultivars to my hellebore-friendly area.

Oh, my katsura tree. I love my Cercidiphyllum so much, and this photo is a good explanation for that love. Look at those new leaves, that colour, the heart shape of the foliage. The fall colour is equally exquisite, with brilliant shades of carmine, gold and pink. My tree is going on four years here in our garden, and has had no problems establishing and growing on. Since it likes moist soil and falters in dry conditions, it's in the perfect situation in the soggy clay of my back garden.

If I have a favourite colour of flower, it would have to be true-blue, though there's a place for almost every colour in my garden-scheme of colours. Scilla erupt in mid-spring with this outburst of blue, and gradually spread themselves into larger and larger clumps. Some plant them with daffodils for a nice yellow/blue contrast, but I just let them go where they will.

You gotta love the enthusiasm of pulmonarias. At least in my garden, they are barely out of the ground before their flowers open. But even if they didn't flower in their various shades of blue, rose, 'red' or white, I'd have them for their foliage, which is generally splashed, spangled, spotted or painted entirely with silver or paler green accents. Pulmonarias light up a shady area, take sun with good composure so long as there's moisture for them, and are well behaved, clump formers. Some do self-seed, which is fun because you never know what the seedlings are going to look like.The bees are very glad to see pulmonaria start to bloom, which is probably why one of its nicknames is 'bee bread'. Borage is also sometimes referred to as bee bread. This is why we learn botanical names, even if we can't always spell or say them correctly (that would be me. Am okay with that.)

I love corydalis. Everyone should grow these amazing plants, which are relatives of poppies and bleeding hearts. Somewhere, I read a description of their flowers as being guppy-like in shape, and that amused me but is also true. The plants are fabulous, with lacy, fern-like foliage, and in some cases, such as with this 'Blackberry Wine', the flowers are fragrant. The longest-blooming perennial in my garden, hands down, is the unassuming little C. lutea, which begins blooming in May and goes until snow or a real heavy frost does it in. Then there's the amazing blue beauty of C. elata, but we'll get to that another time.

Viburnums are just awesome, although there's such an array of them that it sometimes gets confusing as to which one is which unless you have a good number and have them labeled. I have a mixture of native and non-native planted around here, and this is one of the best of the fragrant viburnums, 'Juddii.' It likes well drained soil, so it won't fare well in some parts of our property, but we do have areas where I put the plants that don't tolerate long periods of wet wet wet cold clay.

If you can get your hands on 'Vestal' anemone (A. nemorosa 'Vestal') do so as soon as possible, especially if you have a shade garden. Unlike some anemones that tend to go a bit boisterous, 'Vestal' sits politely in her clump, producing these simply-gorgeous, double, white blossoms. I just got my hands on one last spring, and raved about it then, and continue to do so.

Did I mention that I really, really, REALLY love plants? Stay tuned for more favourites.


  1. From one plant lover to another great choices. I love the corydalis. I want some more of them. The blue green foliage is so pretty even when it isn't blooming.

  2. We like the same kinds of plants. My favorite Hamamelis is 'Jelena'. 'Blackberry Wine' is my favorite corydalis. The lutea tends to spread a lot, although I don't mind that and it's easy to remove if it goes hog wild. There is also a lovely katsura out now called "Crimson Spring' that has bright red new growth. So much to look forward to this year.

  3. Oh, dear, I really don't want to click that link to the Hellebore site. I already have too many. Well, maybe not. I wish I could grow Katsura. They are such lovely trees, but my soil is way too dry. Please keep posting photos of yours. I need to find that Anemone. I ripped out all of my A. nemorosa because it turned into a thug. A sterile, well-behaved Anemone is more than welcome in my garden.

  4. I am finding the Anemone I have to be a thug as well. I think I will take a page from your book and remove it this year and look for a sterile hybrid. I am going to try the Corydalis you reccommend, it looks mouthwatering. Here in Alaska, many Viburnums grow well. We even have a native one: V. edule. Wishing I could grow a Katsura...maybe they'll come up with one hardy in zone 3!


  5. Hi, Jodi;
    So impressed you're growing Witch Hazel. I try and try but it just doesn't seem to like me. Pulmonaria, on the other hand, is a big fave who seems to enjoy it up here in the mountains. :)

    Happy New Year!

  6. I love all these except I haven't tried corydalis or plumonaria. I especially love helebores which I discovered a few years ago. I've loved viburnums for a long time and have quite a collection.

  7. It's quite evident that you "really, really, REALLY love plants." ;~)

    I keep seeing those bewitching looking witchhazels and something tells me I'll have one or two in my landscape soon!

    Great post!

  8. I will admire your faves from afar because, except for viburnum, I think none of these will do well here in Austin. They are lovely though.

    Have a happy new year, Jodi!

  9. Lovely to see the witch hazel and the hellebores that I got acquainted with on blogs from cold climes. Pretty photos!

    Wishing you the best for 2010. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!


  10. So...now...how do you feel about plants, Jodi? :) You've featured some real gems here. Pulmonarias are lovely plants, indeed. I was surprised to see how well my 'Reginald Kaye' does in the sun. A beautiful photo of 'Blackberry Wine.' This is my favorite of the Corydalis. I look forward to your next installment.

  11. Love your header pics!

    Hmmmmmm, it seems that we both love the same plants very much. My Hamamelis Diane is already in flower and I think she is wonderful. Glad to read that you finally have had much success with your Hellebores, I know how it vexed you that they kept dying on you, but not anymore it seems. :-)

    May the New Year bring you lots of Health and Happiness and be filled with garden fun!

  12. You speak to my heart with your love of plants. How did you choose? I would have a very hard time with the process of picking favorites but there is now rule that says that favorites cannot change from day to day. Must look for that anemone.

  13. Lovely featured collection Jodi! I love them all as well and especially the hellebores and Viburnums. I wonder if you have ever noticed the gold finches feasting on your v. buds? Beautiful photography! Carol

  14. I've been thinking of doing a best-of post too but now I'll have to add some faves to my already long list! Your pictures though are exquisite and we don't actually have ALL of those plants so I suppose I shouldn't claim them... Thanks for giving me a few to wish for.

  15. This is such a fun discussion, I had to reply to everyone.

    Lisa, I have a few corydalis, with blossoms in yellow, blue, cream & of course this one. My neighbour down the road has many, & I'm going to see about getting some divisions.

    Cindee, I am with you on C. lutea, but it's easy to remove as you note. I find it doesn't go hogwild where it is, but am adding some to a shaded area where I hope it does go yahoo!

    MMD, I have to rip out my thug anemone too, a challenge I'm not really looking forward to. I have another spot where it can go hogwild to its heart's content. (You need more hellebores! I am an enabler when it comes to plants)

    Christine B, Probably Corydalis lutea would work there; I think the one I show would be a bit too spleeny for Alaskan climate unless potted & overwintered indoors. I could be wrong on this.

    Kate, I don't know much about what does well in mountains like yours (you would laugh at my mountain as being a bump, but it's way older than the rockies, etc) Pulmonarias are like potato chips. You can't have just one. ;-)

    Oh, Phillip, you have to try pulmonaria! They'll work well around your hellebores, even under the taller viburnums as opposed to those with a more balled shape. And corydalis would be great for you, I think, unless the summer heat would take it out. Anyone from near Phillip know? (Alabama)

    TC/write gardener: Witch hazels often don't sell well at nurseries because in containers they bloom soooo early, often before nursery open for season, and then are 'just leaves' by April or early May. I need to add several more to my landscape, probably this spring.

  16. Ooops, I posted without finishing! Pam, it's really neat how radically different some things are in our respective gardens. That's what I love most about blogging.

    Kanak, you are the same as Pam; wildly different plants, most of which I'll never see unless they're used as tropical houseplants here.

    Grace, yeah, it's obvious I don't much like plants, isn't it? Hah. More pulmonarias are always a good thing.

    Yolanda, 'Diane' is in flower already? Wow...March for mine, if she's not sheathed in ice. Today the rain and +10 C temp have all but wiped away the snow.

    Layanee, picking the plants wasn't hard. I went to iPhoto and scrolled through to 'remind' me of what was blooming when. Some are challenges that I've (temporarily) overcome, like the hellebore; others are new plants that please me, others old friends. Partly it's their photogenic tendencies, or just that it was love-at-first sight. Very scientific. ;-)

    Carol, I've never noticed goldfinches on the viburnum buds, but then we feed the birds yearround and there are lots of things for them to nibble on yearround. Glad you like the photos--that's high praise coming from you, whose photos make me sigh with pleasure.

    Kris, so nice to 'see' you here! I'd love to see your best-of post and compare notes (and get the urge for MORE plants, of course. )

  17. I've been trying to figure out where to put a Diane witch hazel - I have a daughter Diane and I thought she might especially enjoy it. I love the color. I've also just been offered some hellebores, so I am ready to experiment! I would love visiting your garden!

  18. Jodi, Beautiful photos...stunning blues and both the katsura and witch hazel are shining brilliantly. Isn't Diane a beautiful witch hazel! My only problem with her is that she holds onto her leaves until after the flowers are gone! The H vernalis ought to be blooming here soon. gail

  19. What a wonderful year in review! I love the hellebores, and in my Mom's garden in Virginia are some beautiful ones that get huge and bloom like crazy - I have one that has lived but never bloomed (except for the first year) and although I'm told that they can grow here, I've never seen anyone with them (telling, isn't it?). Oh, and that baby blue - beautiful!

    As for the yellows - beautiful. But it reminded me of a story. When I was in graduate school, I became friends with a woman who was a research technician in the lab next to me. Ends up her husband was a faculty member - and they both were avid gardeners and well, you can imagine that we became friends. So one day - when my friend's husband was giving a seminar on nutrition and cancer prevention, I went to hear him talk. He was well-known, and there were probably 500 people in attendance at his seminar and I slipped into the back of the large room and sat on the very back row. He was talking and at one point I thought he caught my eye - and then after his talk and the question section he left the podium, walked down the center aisle to where I was sitting, and leaned over and asked 'have you ordered your peas?' and it was January in Michigan. He then told me that his garden was always at it's best in the dark of winter - there were no weeds, no pests, plenty of water and no storms - and that he has a bad habit of planning his gardens at the strangest times, like when he's giving a speaking to an audience of 500 plus people. Winter in the north - the sun is in the memories...and dreams of gardens to be, aren't they?

  20. Visiting here always makes me happy! The blossoms, the advice, the comments all speak to my heart. Lovely post, Jodie...and photos!

  21. Those Corydalis are lovely. The hue is really enticing. Somehow it looks like our angels' trumpet or Datura sp. Does it have many colors also, as Datura? The names of your flowers are alien to me, though you will lough out loud because i have an encyclopedia of temperate ornamental plants but doesn't have one for the tropicals. lol.


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