Along the highway and in the garden

Just a  few weeks ago, the threat of frost delayed planting of several small toad lilies that were stashed in the garage for a few nights. Today, friends wonder if spring has been skipped over, and are we heading straight into summer? Of course this is typical, the ups and downs of spring weather, and the reaction to it. Neither is much to be concerned about.Black locust in bloom

Suddenly, the edges of local highways are a lush green, the flowers of redbuds and dogwoods fading with the recent warm days. Black locusts (Robinia pseudoacacia, above), with white, wisteria like blooms are scattered in colonies along roadsides, and these seem to be flowering more heavily than in recent years. The locust is rarely planted in gardens, though it’s flowers are sweetly scented, and it’s foliage attractive.

I once grew the yellow leafed ‘Frisia’, which is nearly thornless by comparison, but it grew too vigorously for its spot. One tree or another had to leave, and it was apparent that if the locust stayed two other neighboring trees (one a Japanese maple)  might also be overwhelmed. The decision was an easy one, though ‘Frisia’ is a splendid tree if allowed enough space.

Paulownia in bloom

Also flowering along the highway is the lovely, though invasive Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa, above). Long ago, I grew this in the garden for its foliage, not its flowers, and so without blooms there was no problem with it seeding itself about the neighborhood. By pollarding the tree its natural vigor went only to its leaves, which grew to monstrous proportions. I suspect that every man who gardens is enthralled by oversized leaves, and so was I, but the maintenance became too great and finally the tree was removed. I was tempted to let the tree flower one spring, to see if the blooms were as impressive as the foliage, but thought better of it.

Finally, we pull off the highway and into the garden, and with only the heat of this May afternoon to be concerned with, we take a leisurely tour. Conveniently, mud from last week’s thunderstorms has dried, though it remains far too wet to mow the lawn in the lower garden. Again, our tour will be interrupted part way through, to be continued in a few days.

The developing flowers of Wolf Eyes dogwood are variegated, with a green center and white edges, just like the leaves. In a week or two the flowers will be completely white.

The developing flowers of Wolf Eyes dogwood are variegated, with a green center and white edges, just like the leaves. In a week or two the flowers will be completely white.

The hybrid Celestial Shadow dogwood has fewer flowers this spring, for whatever reason. I will not be concerned for another year.

The hybrid Celestial Shadow dogwood has fewer flowers this spring, for whatever reason. I will not be concerned for another year.

Though Stellar Pink is a splendid dogwood, I refuse to acknowledge that it is pink since it shows only a bare blush in most years. I have seen it in the lower humidity of Oregon with excellent pink flowers, but only once in fifteen years in my Virginia garden.

Though Stellar Pink is a splendid dogwood, I refuse to acknowledge that it is pink since it shows only a bare blush in most years. I have seen it in the lower humidity of Oregon with excellent pink flowers, but only once in fifteen years in my Virginia garden.

Red Horse chesttnut

Red Horse chestnut is similar in flower and foliage to the Red Buckeye that begins flowering a week or two earlier, but Horse chestnut grows much taller and wider. Both are superb trees (or tall shrub in the buckeye’s case).

The yellow flowered Athens sweetshrub flowers a week later than the red flowered variety. On this warm afternoon it was particularly fragrant.

The yellow flowered Athens sweetshrub flowers a week later than the red flowered variety. On this warm afternoon it was particularly fragrant.

The Chinese Snowball viburnum has grown huge next to the library window to block whatever little light might enter from this shaded part of the garden. My wife persists in demanding that it be cut to a more appropriate size, but each year she becomes less forceful.

The Chinese Snowball viburnum has grown huge next to the library window to block whatever little light might enter from this shaded part of the garden. My wife persists in demanding that it be cut to a more appropriate size, but each year she becomes less forceful.

 

 

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