Sunday, May 15, 2011

Forget-Me-Not Time at Smug Creek

forget-me-nots line the main path

At last the rain has stopped and the sun has begun to shine. When spring arrives she arrives quickly in these parts and the garden has suddenly burst into life and color.

For a couple of weeks at this time of year we have a dense carpet of blue and white forget-me-nots across much of the terrace garden. Many garden visitors and friends alarm and remind us what thugs these plants can be and how willfully they spread. While this might be true, they are easy to pull as soon as they have finished flowering and the provision of so much color early in the season allows us to forgive their rampageous nature. From this sea of forget-me-nots rise volcanoes of iris, hosta, peony and lily foliage that promise much for the future... and islands of hellebore flowers of many hues that are very nearly past their prime.

late daffodils
continue to bloom

Although the irises are late this year the hostas are beginning to unfurl and show their early season pristine beauty. The exposure of so many hosta leaves, although very striking, may yet cause us a problem. The tender new leaves are very susceptible to a late frost now that they have left the safety of the tight emerging shoot. There are too many of them now for us to have any hope of protecting them should a sudden drop in nighttime temperatures be forecast so we just have to keep our fingers crossed.

Over recent years Kathy has collected a large number of pretty and interesting small plants and our terraces have provided the ideal place to both grow and enjoy them. Many of these plants are spring ephemerals and often only bloom for a few days. Having them growing on the terrace walls brings them closer to the eye and gives us the ideal viewing point. Bloodroot, tiny trilliums, spidery epimediums, anemones, tight domes of saxifrage, small pastel hepatica, bright aubrieta, viola and various ranunculus are among those in flower at the moment and they are enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame. Soon the ferns, hosta, daylilies, hydrangeas and iris will grow too big for us to see these small companions properly but for now they very nearly have the place to themselves and they are a joy.

Epimediums are small but fabulous
and shine in the terraces

Monday, April 25, 2011

Come on spring.....

Spring is a long time coming to Smug Creek this year. Although we are closer to Toronto, Canada than to New York City and we get piles of winter snow, by late April our gardens are usually bursting to break their hibernation. This year however nature seems very sleepy.

April is set to be the coldest for many years and at this rate it might also be the wettest. Snowdrops have come and gone but the daffodils and narcissus are very reluctant to nod their heads. During the last few years we have planted nearly 1,500 at the back of our orchard and usually by now the area is a sea of yellow and white. This year only about six have dared to risk exposure.

Hostas are only just beginning to show their pips above ground and the peonies, iris and daylilies have barely sprouted. But the bonus has been the hellebores. They don’t seem to mind the cold temperatures and dull days. As soon as the last patches of snow left us they began to emerge and within a week there was color in the garden. We seem to have a much brighter and bigger display than in past years and have wonderful erect stands of white, pink, chocolate and pale green blossoms dotted across the terraces.

The weather has not been a total disaster. The creek has often been full and exciting. There have been days when we have been able to get out into the terraced gardens and begin to clear up. There is some vole and chipmunk damage but nothing like as bad as we experienced last year. The practice of planting vulnerable plants in a mixture of soil and sharp gravel, of covering the soil surface with a shallow layer of the same gravel and, on occasions, covering that with a sheet of plastic mesh seems to have deterred the critters. We also wrapped the lower 12 inches of the trunks of our ornamental trees with aluminum foil to stop hungry creatures feasting on the bark worked as well.

But today the sun is shining. The sky is blue and the creek is full. Come on daffodils, come on forget-me-nots. We have waited a long time for spring.