Early May


I have only myself to blame. The garden now covers almost an acre, with only a few small areas of lawn. So, until the perennials grow up to shade the ground there are weeds in abundance, too many to keep up with.

Seedlings from the Golden Rain tree are popping up everywhere, even a hundred yards from the tree. I’m quite certain that birds don’t eat the seed, so I don’t know how it is dispersed so far, but it is a considerable nuisance. Why other gardeners don’t warn of this, I can’t say. They complain and nag about everything else, but the Golden Rain gets only compliments. I’ve said before, I would cut the tree down in a heartbeat if it were not so large, but it would leave bare spot in the Jane magnolia and one of the hornbeams, and it would be a dreadful amount of work. I’ll suffer through, but not quietly.

Along the back slope of the swimming pond the baptisias are stretching out their new growth, but between plants there are many thousands of tiny seedlings. It matters not if they are seedlings from the baptisias or others because I don’t care for thousands of anything. Most weeds in the garden are removed by hand, a few at a time as I wander about, but on occasion it’s necessary to break out the Roundup so that the garden is not totally overrun.

A few marginally hardy salvias have not survived the winter. It is likely that cold is less of a problem with them than the consistent dampness of winter that rots the plant’s crown, but Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ is such a splendid plant that I’ve planted a few more, along with a handful of vigorous heucherellas (x Heucherella ‘Tapestry’ above) and columbines (above).

There is no shortage of columbine seedlings in the garden, but the babies are nearly identical in color to the parents, so I’ve introduced a few new colors (above). A geranium that was initially planted as ‘Espresso’ (Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’, below) also seeds itself about, but over the years it seems the foliage has faded from red-brown to slightly off green. Regardless, it makes a neat mound of foliage that persists admirably through the heat of summer, and the April/ May blooms are delightful.

The Solomon’s Seals (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’, above) have filled in nicely this spring despite the horrid, root filled soil where they’ve been planted. Something must be planted to cover the ground in the area below the maples and poplars, and Solomon’s Seals handle the dry shady conditions as well as anything. Even in the heat of summer, when the soil is bone dry, the white stripped foliage looks fresh. The small white bell-like blooms that dangle from the arching stems in late April are short lived, but quite nice.

The bottlebrush blooms of foamflower (Tiarella, above) last for several weeks as the tiny blooms start at the base of the stem and work slowly to the tops. I have planted this unfortunate soul too close to a big leaf hosta that must have been dormant when I first planted it, so that I wasn’t aware that the hosta would quickly overtake the poor foamflower. Regardless, it survives, though it would be nice to think that some kind gardener would move it out from under the hosta. If you’ve been here before, you know that this is unlikely.

Across the stone path sweetbox (Sarcococca humilis) has grown enthusiastically in recent years, and now the slow growing evergreen must be chopped out or it would overwhelm the path. It grows between stones in the path, and roots reach the far side of the stone slabs. In the years after it was planted I was concerned that the small plants would never fill the area, but now it behaves like bamboo. Not really, but it is surprising that a plant that grows glacially slow could ever be thought to be aggressive.

In another year the sweetbox will overtake an exuberant variegated Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, above) that has no escape with a rock lined stream to the other side. The sweetbox is relatively easy to restrain, but it is persistent, which will require a bit of annual maintenance. The brunnera is worth the effort, and though its blooms last only for a few weeks the foliage stands out in this shady area.

Just across the stream an umbrella plant (Darmera peltata, above) has struggled for several years to gain a foothold. Several times I gave it up for dead, though it is sited in nearly ideal damp and shady conditions. This spring it has turned a corner with growth in every direction and wonderful blooms. One stem has emerged from under a small boulder along the stream, and I figure that if a plant has enough vigor to grow over and around large rocks then it is unlikely to be suffering poor health.

To wrap up the garden’s bloomers we need to venture across the garden, into the full sun by the swimming pond where cypress leafed euphorbia weaves a path between boulders and the large slabs of patio stones. Another euphorbia grows close by, but it is more restrained and does not spread as prolifically. ‘Bonfire’ (Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire’) is a superb perennial with dark colored leaves and bright, long lasting blooms. The plant grows in a perfect mound, and could only be criticized in this garden of unruly neighbors in that it is too symmetrical and behaves too nicely. 

Though its blooms hover several inches above the mound of foliage Geum ‘Tequila Sunrise’ (Geum x ‘Tequila Sunrise’, above) is similarly well behaved, and with marvelous blooms for a month or longer, this is a perennial to be treasured.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Your garden is a treasure! The unusual blooms are art, and your descriptions make me want to rip up the whole front yard and plant interesting things.

    Yay May!

  2. ruth says:

    Loved the e-walk through your garden. We are going to add you to our garden tours with the Great Falls Women’s Club Garden Club. Our calendar is full through June of this year. What does your garden look like in the summer? We have time to tour in the summer or we could wait until May next year.

    1. Dave says:

      I think that the garden looks good in the summer. Obviously, it’s not as colorful, but there’s always something in bloom. Just after July 4th I am usually on the road for two weeks visiting nurseries, so it would need to be very early or late in the month. If you visit immediately following my return you should bring your weeding gloves. I’ll still be here next spring, so that will work if you decide that’s better.

  3. Michael says:

    Looks like my place! Except for the pesky Columbine and Geranium. Good job. How about more pictures that give the overall impression of the garden?

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve found that photos of gardens are often disappointing. The plants flatten out and fade into the background, and in most instances I’m trying to interest people in the plants rather than my garden. Occasionally I take photos of plant groupings and larger areas, and in the next week I’ll be using some in case someone thinks that I just drop by the garden center to take close ups of blooms.

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