Thursday, May 21, 2009

Showcasing two old fasioned bloomers

These two shrubs were in my parent's and my grandparent's gardens. Old fashioned, carefree and as dependable as great grandpa's pocket watch. Both are out of style now, replaced by newer hybrids with more color and longer bloom time. Still, I wouldn't be without these old faithful garden friends.

Bridal wreath spirea (Rosaceae spireae prunfolia) is lovely in bloom. The bush is fountain shaped with arching branches accented by thousands of clumps of tiny white flowers. I have a preference for gracefully arching branches so it is very appealing to me.

Other big advantages: In my garden this spirea has no pests and no disease. It is tolerant of poor rocky soil, extreme temperatures, light shade and drought.

Everybody just calls the second shrub "the snowball bush". Viburnum opulus has a short window of display time before it becomes another featureless upright shrub. For the brief period when it is covered in big balls of white it is a traffic stopper. I wish this viburnum produced colorful berries to give us another season of interest but alas it does not.

The snowball bush is another no problem bloomer that requires little maintenance and is forgiving of cold, heat and drought. I've heard people complain about aphids but on my farm the lady bug population far outnumbers the aphids.

Unfortunately this is not one of the wonderfully fragrant viburnums but you seldom get all the best options in one package.

Pruning about one third every other year works well for me and results in more blooms and better shape the following spring. I prune both shrubs in late spring soon after bloom.

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Wildlife Rumors by Miss B

Late breaking news has set this community on its ear. Red Headed Woodpecker was seen at the Maple Tree Restaurant eating a suet and sunflower dinner. Red has never visited us before but his reputation proceeds him. It seems this bad boy has a not-so-stellar-reputation. Claims from other communities describe him as a thug, vandalizing homes, breaking eggs, and worse.

Red told our reporter Miss B that these allegations were scurrilous lies and that he was simply a peace loving woodpecker doing good deeds by removing insects from the environment.

The morning after Miss B interviewed Red, he left the area and the bird population breathed a sigh of relief.

Crime is on the rise in the community since the arrival of the Raccoon family. Described as bandits, these renegades allegedly prowl the area at night holding up restaurants and eating everything in sight. It is even believed the Raccoons are responsible for Mr and Mrs Towhee leaving the area. So far police have not been able to catch them in the act.

Miss B will have more news as it breaks.

Onions and grape-ade

The delicately beautiful blooms of the iris are deceptive. There are few plants in my garden as tough as the tall bearded iris. The white iris Immortality is the first to bloom. Last year the black iris Superstition bloomed at almost the same time for a wonderful color contrast.

I can count on iris to do their thing every year with no help or coddling from the gardener. In fact they are so self sufficient I force them to endure conditions they shouldn't have to put up with. In some areas of my garden they are rediculously overcrowded. They get no supplemental water even in times of drought nor are they fertilized or fed. They do well in a naturalized area and hold their own against the grasses and tree roots. They are never harmed by late spring freezes but severe rain storms occasionally make the bloom stalks tilt at crazy angles. The downside is a very short bloom time but the spiky foliage alone is not unattractive. Most of my iris have a delicious grape-ade fragrance.

This year allium (a member of the onion family) "Purple Sensation" is blooming at the same time as the Immortality iris. I find these tall purple orbs on the end of a slender stick a little difficult to incorporate with other plants. The color is nice on these alliums but they would look much better at half the height. "Purple Sensation" does reseed and many clumps of grass like young folliage are scattered through my garden. It will probably take these seedlings three or four years to reach maturity and bloom. Purple Sensation blooms for about two weeks but I allow the interesting seed headto remain for months.

(The sun just rising behind the a group of iris and allium.)

Another allium planted in my garden for the first time in the fall of 2008. This is Allium karataviense a very low growing plant for the front of the border. The leaves are interesting and attractive in the early spring. Later three inch oval blooms nestle down low in the leaf cup. I hadn't seen karataviense widely available and reasonably priced until last fall. There is also a wine and pale lavender colored variation that make an interesting addition to the garden. See Tina's "IN THE GARDEN" post for more info and photos on alliums.

Above white blooms and below pale lavender. My plants were purchased as "Ivory Queen" but obviously are not.

After doing some additional research I learned these allium do reseed freely. Since it takes several years for seed to produce a flowering bulb most people will probably want to just purchase mature bulbs and not expect much from seedlings.

Wildlife Rumors by Miss B

This breaking headline just in from our reporter Miss B.

Trouble in the local monarchy. Monday one of the young princess bees, tired of waiting for the Queen to die, gathered her loyal followers and left the hive. The old queen was sorry to see her subjects leave but made no attempt to stop them. This is not the first uprising in this hive. Over more than 20-years many such defections have occurred.

Hundreds of servants gathered round the new queen on a flimsy tree limb while scouts were sent outside the realm to seek a suitable location for a new hive.

Best of luck your majesty as you and your followers under take this perilous journey.
May you find your Camelot.

Long live the Queen.