A deutzia that shouldn’t be missed

For a moment, I considered that flowers in the garden were finally beginning to fade, and that I might gain a bit of rest between our visits. As usual, I was mistaken. So, with updates due on late flowering dogwoods and Japanese maples, and the Japanese irises poised to begin flowering in only a few days, I was concerned that I might not fit in a description of the wonderful deutzia ‘Magician’ (Deutzia x hybrida ‘Magicien’, below).Deutzia 'Magicien'

Deutzias are mostly unremarkable after flowering, though the yellow leafed ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ (Deutzia gracilis ‘Duncan’, below) is a possible exception. ‘Magician’ (or ‘Magicien’ to be more correct) contributes only as an ordinary, medium height, green shrub after flowering, but in bloom it is extraordinary. There is no need to go on about this marvelous flower, the photos tell the story, and this small piece of the five foot tall shrub reveals only a small part of its glory. Unfortunately, ‘Magician’ is rarely found in commerce, which is confounding to me. If you’re able to locate one, buy it. Deutzia Chardonnay Pearls

The hardy orchids are referred to as ground orchids because they grow in soil rather than growing with aerial roots that anchor tropical orchids to a tree or shrub. Several years ago I purchased a few small roots (Bletilla striata, below) of several varieties. None have disappointed, and these have grown into a small, but expanding colony. The initial purchase is quite expensive, but with sun and decent ground they grow and spread quickly so that the investment is well worthwhile. There is no arguing that the flowers are extraordinary, though perhaps a grade below flowers of the tropicals.Bletilla striatas.

In the mud and the muck

The spot of damp ground where ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel died a slow death is a work in progress. Beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Duet’), black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), and sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus, below) will fill this void, but today the shrubs still have a few years  to go before I’ll be satisfied with this space. In damp ground, tolerant plants can grow remarkably fast, so there’s some hope it might be sooner.Sweetshrub

Sensitive (Onoclea sensibilis) and Autumn ferns (Dryopteris erythrosora ‘Brilliance’) are  planted between the shrubs and these will spread (I hope) to cover the soupy ground along with Japanese iris (Iris ensata, below) that is flowering today. Yellow leafed Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ ) has begun to spread through the muck, though I question if the purple irises against the yellow ground cover might prove to be a bit too garish.Japanese iris

In any case, I’m curious to see how quickly Creeping Jenny will spread in this wet ground. In other spots, it’s planted in drier soil in part sun, and it spreads moderately fast. In dry ground it has failed, which should be expected, but I figured it was worth a try. If Jenny creeps from one end of this wetland to the other it will not cause a problem, and anyway, it is not as aggressive as the mint planted in the slightly less damp area on the far property line. In fact, I’ve been very pleased with the mint, and since it is mostly shaded it has not gotten out of hand.

Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’,

As soon as spiderworts (Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’, above), hostas, and daylilies emerged, deer found the new growth and began to nibble. Fortunately, I noticed, and quickly sprayed the repellent. I alternate two repellents, one that smells of rotten eggs and the other wintergreen. Since I was spraying in a hurry, and my wife was dragging me off to some event, I sprayed the wintergreen, though if I had stunk of rotten eggs she might have excused me from the gathering.

Diablo ninebark

‘Diablo’ (above) and ‘Little Devil’ ninebarks (Physocarpus opulifolius) are flowering, and after great expectations I’m mildly disappointed with the compact growing ‘Little Devil’. ‘Diablo’ is a large shrub with arching branches, and though its dark foliage and flowers are exceptional, the shrub is suited only to the side and back of the garden. I envisioned ‘Little Devil’ with similar foliage and flowers, though on a smaller scale, but it is has not grown into the full bodied shrub I anticipated.

Black Lace elderberryI’ve buried ‘Black Lace’ elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’, above) between the wide spreading ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’) and a crapemyrtle (and others), so that it can only be seen by pushing through branches while being cautious not to step on snakes and varied wildlife that might lurk beside the large koi pond. I’ve been startled more than once as I carefully step around baptisias (Baptisia australis, below) and blue stars (Amsonia hubrichti) that obscure the ground.Baptisia

After the late cold this spring I was concerned when Chinese indigo (Indigofera kirilowii, above) did not leaf until a few weeks ago. The woody perennials border the wetlands at the rear of the garden, and while they had tolerated this wetness, it can take a few years before a plant finally fails. This area has become increasingly damp in recent years, but I’m happy that they came through it, and today they’re flowering. While the wet ground has resulted in some unfortunate casualties, I’ve learned to enjoy those that thrive in the dampness.

Indigofera

A lovely spring

For four weeks the garden has been superb. After a late start to spring that left at least this gardener muttering aloud, redbuds, dogwoods, and magnolias that typically flower earlier in March all flowered at once. Since, while one flower or another has been a bit tardy, there have been sufficient blooms to allow me to forget troubles caused by the winter’s cold. Today, as bright yellow, red, and orange Exbury azaleas (below) fade, the garden becomes more green, but still, abundant blooms remain.Klondyke azalea

The Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macarophylla, below) is aptly named with leaves measuring two feet long from tip to tip. Its twelve inch, slightly lemon scented flowers are by far the largest in the garden, and by good fortune there remain a few branches that hang down to eye level on this splendid tree. With its large size and coarse texture, this magnolia is not appropriate for most gardens, and in any case the curious purchaser is likely to have a difficult time finding one for sale.Bigleaf magnolia

While the native dogwoods are past bloom by a few weeks, hybrids are flowering and Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are nearly at their peak. The hybrid ‘Stellar Pink’ (below) is only barely pink, but after flowering weakly when young, in recent years it is covered in blooms. ‘Stellar Pink’ and other hybrids grow more vigorously and more upright in form than the wide spreading native, and hybrids are not bothered by mildews and leaf spotting that disfigure the native. I do not plant the hybrids instead of the native, but to extend flowering from mid April into early June.Stellar Pink dogwoood

The hybrid dogwood ‘Venus’ (below) has such large flowers that young trees appear overwhelmed, but the tree grows quickly and on a twelve foot tree the blooms are perfectly in scale. I’ve planted two, and one in shade has barely budged in several years while the dogwood in part sun flourishes. I suspect that this preference is not far different from the native’s, and while both are considered to be understory trees, they require the partial sun of the forest’s edge to grow and flower vigorously.Venus dogwood

Two weeping Golden Chain trees (Laburnum x watereri ‘Pendula’, below) did not flower a year ago, and whether this was due to the severe winter or their general discontent with the Virginia climate, I’m unsure. Golden Chain is happiest with less heat and humidity, but with a bit of shade a few flowers can be coaxed. Today, there are enough flowers to satisfy the gardener that he is not unduly torturing this tree, and that it could possibly stay around for a while.  Golden Chain tree

What it is

“It is what it is.”

I suspect I say this too frequently when one issue or another pops up in the garden. Most are relatively minor problems that have been years in the making, so why be too bothered about them today? And, show me the gardener who has not erred in planting too closely, or in too much shade or sun. Or, tried to stretch a semi tropical into the garden by planting in a “protected” spot that was not nearly protected enough. It’s going to happen, and if the gardener becomes too upset by an occasional failure I suggest spending more time on a nice, indoor hobby.

I suspect that if fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus, below) flowered just a bit longer there would be one in nearly every garden. While flowering, there are few trees that garner such interest, but fringetree is mostly ordinary through the remainder of the year. It is the gardener’s good fortune if the blooms persist for much longer than a week, and if the days are warm flowers will fade more quickly. This year, parts of recent weeks have alternated between very warm and cool, and as luck would have it the warm days coincided with the start and end of fringetree’s flowering cycle. Still, I could not be disappointed.Fringetree

I am less enthused that two of three fringetrees become hidden more each spring by wide spreading, variegated leaf redbuds (Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’, below). The lovely, mottled foliage of the redbuds is preferable once they have leafed, but as trees grow closer to maturity it is a shame that I did not space trees to accommodate their eventual size. Oh well, this worked splendidly for twenty years. In any case, the fringetrees are not ruined, they’re just not as visible as I’d prefer.Silver Cloud redbud

I recall visiting Jefferson’s home, Monticello, years ago with the family, and mischievously thinking that the low branched copper leafed beech beside the front entry would be splendid to climb. It’s likely I mentioned this to the boys, who probably had the good sense even at a young age to know that this was not appropriate for the setting, and that dad was just trying to stir things up a bit with mom. The tree was magnificent, and now I’m reminded of it by the purple leafed beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’, below) in my front garden.Purple leaf beech

I recently recommended a Tricolor beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Tricolor’, below) to a co-worker, but cautioned that the beech I planted grew imperceptibly through its first eight years. Then, once I was resigned that it was improperly located and would never grow, it grew as quickly as any tree. When I was recalling the purple beech for my recommendation I guessed that it was forty feet tall, but as I look at it today, it’s at least fifty, and maybe sixty. If there is a tree that is suitably described as magnificent, a large purple beech is it, and this one is.Tricolor beech foliage in early May

The purple beech was not substantial enough to climb long ago when the kids were at home and inclined to climbing trees, but today it would be perfect. I suppose that even an old codger could go nearly to the top, with sturdy branches laid out as conveniently as you could ask for. But, it’s likely I’d need a step stool to get started, and what would the neighbors think of an old fool fifty feet up into the beech in the front yard?

Keep to the path

On this warm afternoon my wife prowled the garden looking for stray branches to chop, pruners in hand. But, before going further, I must admit that in late winter, in a moment of delirium I purchased these moderately priced, gear assisted bypass pruners to replace overpriced and undersized anvil pruners that often did more harm than good. I fully realize that after continually complaining about my wife’s haphazard pruning, this purchase seemingly borders on madness, but I am confident that we have finally reached an understanding.

The stone path beside the house is barely passable with hostas, nandinas, azaleas, mahonias, and viburnum in the way.

The stone path beside the house is barely passable with hostas, nandinas, azaleas, mahonias, and viburnum in the way.

Through her persistence, I have ceded care of the garden’s paths to my wife. Here, stray branches of mahonias and hollies pose a hazard to the visitor unprepared for sharply needled foliage, and ivies and hostas arch over path stones, providing cover for whatever slithering creatures might lurk in this shaded jungle.Siebold elegans hosta

I am incapable of keeping up with chores to maintain the paths. I am overjoyed to see the stones disappear beneath an ever widening clump of ‘Elegans’ hosta (Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’, above), and I haven’t even a faint interest in manicuring the ivies and periwinkles along the paths’ edges. If a nandina branch sways into the path, now I am resigned that it will be chopped, and this seems a small price to maintain peace in this kingdom.Chinese Snowball viburnun

And now, back to today’s story, and it is clear that my wife has fallen behind in the task to keep the shaded path on the side of the house clear. Even before the hostas were up and over the path, the Chinese Snowball viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum ‘Sterile’, above) made it nearly impassable, particularly when the viburnum first bloomed in a week of off and on rain when the dampened flowers hung low. Today, several branches and large clusters of flowers were cut to bring into the kitchen, but growth of azaleas, nandinas, doghobble (Leucothoe), and leatherleaf mahonia has gotten far ahead of her.

Gold Star has spread to cover the dry shade garden

Gold Star has spread to cover the dry shade garden

This densely planted path is only a few feet from the house, but as the garden stretches fifty feet to the forest’s edge the soil becomes progressively drier and more infested with roots of maples and tulip poplars that tower overhead. Even as the garden matured, this area of dry shade continued to challenge, and here I could claim open spaces to try one thing or another that might have hopes of survival.

With more light after a few trees were lost, Solomon's Seal is spreading

With more light after a few trees were lost, Solomon’s Seal is spreading

For a long while when the roots and shade were not so challenging, hostas were the answer. But, I delayed too long when deer began to plague the garden, and many treasures were lost or diminished. Then, the shade was too deep, and too little soil moisture limited growth once I began to spray a repellent that encouraged deer to nibble elsewhere.Robb's spurge

And so this area was a continuing disappointment, until a redbud that cast shade over a large portion of this garden began to decline. Then, a maple from the forest toppled over the garden in an ice storm, barely brushing the house so that major damage was narrowly avoided, but taking out the struggling redbud and several branches from neighboring maples. The increased light was barely perceptible, but then Robb’s sprurge (Euphorbia robbiae, above) and Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) began to spread with vigor, and Wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum) and Gold Star (Chrysogonum virginianum) seeded themselves and spread through ground with roots so dense a hole could barely be dug.Wood poppies

Hellebores grew here also, with many dozens of seedlings following the path of rain water draining from the house to the nearby creek. Scattered seedlings popped up far from the mother plants, and Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum, below) also began to seed. Finally, this garden is getting somewhere, and I have warned my assistant to steer clear when she takes a break from her pruning to pull a few weeds. These are not weeds, though she insists she will remove spurges that pop through the stones in the path.Jack-in-the-Pulpit

The koi pond in May

Along one side of the koi pond a gravel bog filter (below) is planted with tall, variegated sweetflag (Acorus calamus), yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata), and water lilies (Nymphaea). Pockets between boulders at the pond’s edge are planted with Japanese irises (Iris ensata), though a few clumps have been infiltrated by the invasive yellowflag. I am conscious to monitor the damp overflow of the pond to assure that the vigorous iris does not escape, and so far it has not.

Sweetflag, yellowflag, water lilies, and pickerelweed along the pond's edge

Sweetflag, yellowflag, water lilies, and pickerelweed along the pond’s edge

Yellowflag (below) spread quickly through the shallow bog area, and it has been ideal for filtration. Also, it provides excellent cover for two Northern brown snakes that now prowl about the pond. I suspect their intended prey are small frogs that are abundant in the pond, but occasionally I have found a small fish dragged out of the water.

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Yellowflag and water lilies flower earliest, then a variety of Japanese iris (below) surrounding the pond bloom for several weeks. When these finally fade the water lilies and pickerelweed flower through much of the summer, and overhanging shrubs provide color into autumn. With a sun baked stone patio and dozens of colorful koi and goldfish, this is the center point of the garden.  Variegated Japanese iris in early June

As with every other part of the garden, this area is planted with Japanese maples and small flowering trees, though I deviated a few years ago when a treasured Seven Son tree (Heptacodium miconioides) was lost in a storm. The Red Horse chestnut (Aesculus × carnea, below) planted in its stead will perhaps grow too large for this space eventually, but I think that little harm will be done. Red Horse chestnut

The slow growing ‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’, below) that is perched at the pond’s edge is showing a bit more vigor this spring, and today the foliage is mostly cream colored. This will partially turn to green in late spring, and with less green to its foliage it is not surprising that ‘Butterfly’ is slow. Butterfly Japanese maple

While mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) suffered considerably again this winter, Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) suffered no damage at all. A year ago the oakleafs grew with increased vigor, and already I have pruned select branches that overhang Japanese irises to give the irises space to flower. The koi pond

This garden surrounding the koi pond is densely planted, and with trees in leaf no signs of neighboring properties can be seen. There is only the sound of the crashing waterfall, the commotion of koi clamoring for their feed, and flowers. No wonder this is the spot where I settle to nap on every warm spring and summer afternoon.

Flowers in mid May

With a return of cooler temperatures I must take advantage to tidy up before the heat returns. The late crop of winter weeds is now mostly under control, but in this acre and a quarter garden weeding is an endless chore. Which is not to say that I work at it endlessly, but any time that I am motivated there are abundant weeds to be pulled.

Delaware Valley White azaleas flowers early in May this year. Typically, it is a week earlier in late April.

Delaware Valley White azaleas flowers early in May this year. Typically, it is a week earlier in late April.

I recently commented on the brown snake in the koi pond, and my wife corrects me that it is a Northern Brown snake. After so many years I should know better than to question her, so now this is settled. Except, there are now two snakes in the pond, the larger one that has returned after my wife chased it off late last summer, and a smaller newcomer. Though the two were only partially visible beneath a boulder at the pond’s edge, I believe they were engaged in actions that might result in more snakes in the pond.

Encore Twist azalea displays flowers in a variety of patterns of color.

Encore Twist azalea displays flowers in a variety of patterns of color.

My wife has decided that the two, or however many there might be, must go, and she doesn’t care if their eviction requires violence. I’m not certain how I can capture or otherwise discourage them when they simply swim to the far side of the large pond as soon as I come close. I must be cautious where I step and reach knowing there’s a snake around, but now with two I’m tending to side with my wife. I wonder how to accomplish their eviction.

Klondyke azalea flowering in mid May.

Klondyke azalea flowering in mid May.

The Exbury azaleas are completely covered in blooms this afternoon, and in contrast to the faint or nonexistent scent of typical evergreen azaleas, the Exbury azaleas are sweetly scented. While the tall evergreen ‘Delaware Valley White’ is quite splendid, ‘Klondyke’ (I think) is a sight to behold, and other oranges and pinks are quite magnificent. These are tall growing shrubs that are unremarkable after flowering, but there are few shrubs to match this show of color.

Another of the Exbury azaleas

Another of the Exbury azaleas

Exbury azalea in mid May

Exbury azalea in mid May

Chardonnay Pearls deutzia is a mass of white blooms in early May, then it displays chartreuse foliage into early summer.

Chardonnay Pearls deutzia is a mass of white blooms in early May, then it displays chartreuse foliage into early summer.

Nikko deutzia is a low growing deciduous shrub that is not much to look at until late April, but it is quite magnificent through mid spring.

Nikko deutzia is a low growing deciduous shrub that is not much to look at until late April, but it is quite magnificent through mid spring.

Henryi clematis has suffered painful prunign at the hands of my wife, the butcher, but it has rebounded vigorously, climbing through a tall nandina.

Henryi clematis has suffered painful pruning at the hands of my wife, the butcher, but it has rebounded vigorously, climbing through a tall nandina.

Jackmani clematis is not as vigorous as Henryi, but  it is happy to sprawl through the same nandina. It will reach its peak bloom a week later than Henryi.

Jackmani clematis is not as vigorous as Henryi, but it is happy to sprawl through the same nandina. It will reach its peak bloom a week later than Henryi.

Seedlings of Espresso geranium have similar blooms, but the foliage ranges from burgundy to nearly green. The seedlings are abundant, but they are easily controlled and they often pop up in unexpected places that work for the best.

Seedlings of Espresso geranium have similar blooms, but the foliage ranges from burgundy to nearly green. The seedlings are abundant, but they are easily controlled and they often pop up in unexpected places that work for the best.

Amsonia hubrichtii (Blue Star) is a tough perennial with pleasant flowers and  excellent, lacy foliage.

Amsonia hubrichtii (Blue Star) is a tough perennial with pleasant flowers and excellent, lacy foliage.