Ocho de Mayo

I am usually late for the party, if I arrive at all.

I have been negligent updating what’s blooming in the garden, so today I’ll try to be as brief as possible and cover as much ground as possible. From one end of the garden to the other there are blooms, with some continuing from late April, and helleborus from March. For the sake of organization I’ll begin with trees, move down to shrubs, and follow with perennials in a day or two.

The flowers of the native dogwoods (Cornus florida) finally faded late in April, but the Rutgers hybrids are blooming, and Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) that will often flower late in May are blooming in sunny gardens. Mine are shaded so the kousas are not in color yet, but the flower buds, like small green blooms that turn to white over a week’s time, are abundant. The Rutgers hybrids are crosses between the native and Chinese dogwoods, and have proven to be resistant to the various plagues that effect our natives. In my garden Stellar Pink (above) grows more upright, and more quickly than other dogwoods, and though it was reluctant to bloom for several years after planting, it is now quite floriferous.

If temperatures remain cool the blooms of dogwoods will persist for several weeks, but the lacy blooms of fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus, above) are fleeting, and often last for a few days only. It is easy to see why the delicate white ribbons would perish in warm days we are likely to experience in May, but this year they have looked fresh for nearly a week.

I have often admired the abundant bright yellow blooms of golden chain tree (Laburnum x watereri ‘Pendulum’, above) in photos of English gardens in magazines. I planted two of a weeping variety rather than the tree form because it seemed a bit unusual, and I was reasonably certain that it would remain small. I had no idea that they wouldn’t grow at all, but I believe that golden chain resents the heat and humidity of Virginia, though I have planted them in a cool, partially shady spot next to a small pond and stream. The trees survive, and bloom weakly, not at all like in the magazines, but then I suspect that dogwood and redbud are not so grand in those gardens.  

This spring is the first in several that I have had azaleas covered in blooms, and I am quite pleased to see them again. In past winters the deer have nibbled the branch tips of the evergreen azaleas so that there were few flowers, though the Encore azaleas grew and budded again to bloom in September. I have detailed my success in spraying with deer repellents previously, and now I am enjoying the blooms of the Encore azalea ‘Twist’ (above) that is the latest to flower in my garden.  

The deciduous azaleas (above) have never been bothered by deer, and though I have sung their praises recently, I will say again that there is no better shrub for the partial sun of the forest’s edge or any spot where there is some break from the blazing summer’s afternoon sunlight. In general, deciduous azaleas are more upright in growth than the evergreen types, and their bright yellow, orange, and red blooms are quite spectacular for a few weeks.    

‘Miss Kim’ (above) is the latest of the lilacs to bloom in the garden, and beyond its flowers I should note that this shrub is very mannered and manageable in its growth. While many lilacs grow quite large, and often are troubled by powdery mildew and annually must have dead wood removed, ‘Miss Kim’ is a compact grower, care free, but still splendid in bloom.

Deutzia Nikko (above) began to show color several weeks ago with white peaking from its numerous buds, and now the small white flowers cover the shrub with no sign of fading. This low growing deciduous shrub is under appreciated, and should be used more extensively.

The Snowball (above) and Maresi viburnums remain in bloom, though Maresi is beginning to fade. The huge white globes of Snowball persist for weeks, so that after a while they are taken for granted as so many other blooms emerge in early May. In a day or two I’ll be back to cover the perennials, and anything else that might be happening in the garden.

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