A deficit has become a surplus. The month began with rainfall totals a bit below average, but that is a distant, soggy memory.
The garden is a lush jungle of foliage and flowers, the monstrous hostas arching over the paths, rain soaked branches of stewartia heavy with flower buds tumble over the granite bench by the small pond that is almost covered by a weeping green Japanese maple. The oxygenated rainfall brings life to the garden that a sprinkler system can’t match.
This gardener is delighted. May can bring scorching heat, or frost, often only days apart. Only ten days ago two nights fell to the thirties. Summer’s heat will be with us soon enough.
The end is near for the parade of Spring flowering trees. Stewartia and the fragrant blossoms of tree lilac and various late blooming magnolias will open shortly, then we’ll allow a brief interlude before the crape myrtles, the Seven Son tree, and finally the Franklinia flower through early Fall. Tropicals, annuals, perennials, and flowering shrubs will feed our fixation for flowers in the meanwhile.
The procession of dogwoods in bloom, which began the second week of April, will extend several weeks longer. The native dogwoods, flowering before the leaves appear, started a bit later than usual, but with cool temperatures the blossoms held on until a day long storm (a horrible day with driving rain and cold winds) blew them off. The Rutgers crosses, Stellar Pink and Celestial, followed closely. My Stellar Pink is planted in the shade of a large Black Gum so it came into bloom late, but is still at its peak. The Chinese kousa dogwoods are flowering now, and will continue through early June.
There are several (five? We’ll count in a moment) kousa varieties in the garden, all in various stages of bloom. Three are green leafed varieties, one, an unknown cultivar, might be Milky Way with bushy, almost shrublike growth. It is planted in shade far too heavy to have a reasonable expectation that it should bloom. The kousa Galilean (above) is planted in nearly full sun, grows splendidly, but flowers sparsely.
The third of the green leafed kousas is the pink flowered Satomi (above), which has large glossy leaves, blooms nicely, but in the heat and humidity of northern Virginia the flowers are rarely a full pink. I’ve seen Satomi with deep pink blooms in Oregon with its cool days and cooler nights. It rarely is as colorful here, but it’s still a wonderful tree.
Lest I lose count, there are two kousas with variegated leaves (so five it is), Samaritan and the shrublike Wolf Eyes (above). With little contrast due to striking white and green variegation on the leaves, the flowers are hardly evident from a distance. Still, an excellent small tree.
Just off the rear deck, overhanging one of the garden’s ponds is the tree lilac Ivory Silk (above), a delightful fragrant tree quite carefree with resistance to powdery mildew and a compact growth habit. However, be prepared for a tree, not a large shrub. I believe that mine blooms heavier every other year, though I don’t remember if this is the on or off year. The huge clusters of flowers cover only half of the large tree, so I’m guessing that this is the sparse year. Other trees should rejoice if their blooms were half as spectacular.
Last week offered a peek at the Big Leaf magnolia (left, two days ago,above, fully opened today, tomorrow fading fast) with eighteen inch leaves and flower buds the size of my fist. The sweetly scented bloom, similar but more slight than the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), has opened, though it won’t last long. The Big Leaf grows to huge dimensions, with huge leaves, and huge blossoms more than a foot across. My kind of tree, but necessarily to be avoided on smaller properties, or where a rough textured monster is not appreciated.
Sweet Bay magnolia (above) is also a bit rugged, a semi evergreen multitrunked native tree that is most appropriate planted on the margins of a garden. The small fragrant flowers are not particulary showy, but it is a nice tree to fill out your native tree or magnolia collection, and great at the wood’s edge.
The spireas are beginning their month long blooming season. This one is Goldmound (above), an unlikely pairing of yellow foliage and pink flowers. Little Princess is a nice green leafed, pink flowering, compact mound that blooms at the same time.
Last week, the yellowflag iris in the swimming pond were blooming. They’re fading, but the Japanese iris are beginning their short, but delightful, period of bloom. Most of the Japanese iris are planted in in fine gravel in several inches of water (except the one above that is just outside the pond).
Though their blooms are shortlived, by planting several varieties their beauty is extended through several weeks. No doubt there will be photos of the others as they flower later in the week.