Definitely spring

Even the most cautious gardener must now be confident that the threat of frost has passed, and now he is free to plant goodies, no matter how tender. Several weeks ago, I could not wait any longer to plant several variegated fatsias (Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’, below), so they were planted with more cold in the forecast. Of course, this was calculated that the fatsias could tolerate frost, if not freezing temperatures, and all has worked for the best. While fatsias are rated cold hardy to zero, I have my doubts, and variegated versions on most plants are typically less cold hardy, so later this year I’ll dig a few to bring in, and leave a few outdoors, probably to die.

Tropicals have been hauled from the basement to the shaded rear patio with mixed results from the long indoor stay. Elephant ears were left outside one night too long in early November as I returned from business travel on a twenty-eight degree night, too weary to bother until morning. Still, they are not bad, considering, and once acclimated to the outdoors I must move them into the sun where they will revive quickly.

Sadly, agaves will not recover so quickly from the winter’s mistreatment, though this is an overdue opportunity to divide the dense clumps. Sharp spines are reason enough not to do this as frequently as needed, but with half the agaves brown from freeze and lack of care, the bloody chore will be more easily managed. I’ve been advised more than once that dividing the agaves is much easier if spines are clipped off, and of course it is, but that is tedious work and also reason not to undertake the dividing.

A recently acquired limestone bench (above) was moved into the garden yesterday with some difficulty, but no crushed body parts, though with several close calls. The heavy base and four foot slab bounced over roots and path stones in the wheelbarrow, endangering toes enroute to the garden’s wooded border. The level of the seating slab is slightly off with a large root beneath one side, but it’s hardly enough to notice, and good enough for the garden.

I don’t know that I’ll do much sitting on the bench, though already my wife has taken a liking to this shaded spot. I don’t do much sitting, except by the koi pond, but it’s an appropriately rustic bench for this garden, even with a polished top which will soon be soiled by droppings from overhanging tulip poplars and varied detritus that wafts through the garden.

Typically for early May, there are many blooms along with a few surprises, and a disappointment or two. Unsurprisingly, there are flowers that I don’t recall planting, and unplanned successes. The native groundcover Gold Star (Chrysogonum virginianum, above) is unremarkable (but green) for much of the year, but it has spread nicely over ground riddled with surface roots and a bare amount of soil. Somehow, in inhospitable conditions, it has hopped the stone path to begin covering ground beneath Oakleaf hydrangeas. Not quickly, but I’m quite pleased that anything grows in this spot.

Iris reticulata has spread nicely in an area I thought might be too damp. Earlier this year I made an effort to cure the slow drainage, and so far, so good. At least the irises seem happy.

While the heavy clean up of early spring was completed weeks ago, there is never a lacking of chores to be accomplished. Leaves from maples and tulip poplars that border the garden are shredded and scattered, so everything, including weeds, grows vigorously. No fertilizer has been applied since the garden’s early days, though visitors repeatedly ask what’s the secret, so it seems clear that none is needed. I would be happy if weeds did not also grow with such vigor, but perhaps there is some good in having something to complain about, even when surrounded by such beauty.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Liz says:

    I have some plants that look like the one with white blooms that you have pictured. They are super invasive so I am spraying them with roundup.

  2. Barbara H. says:

    Yes, I am wondering if the white flower is Star of Bethlehem – if so, dig it out immediately. It is a bulb and will produce lots of tiny bulbs and may also spread by seeds. Not only will it infest that area but it will pop up all over the garden. Good luck getting rid of it if that’s what it truly is.

    1. Dave says:

      I suspect this is Star of Bethlehem, but it is in dry shade and it doesn’t seem to be making much progress against the wood poppies. Wood poppies are easily pulled if they come up too close to something else, but they cover any area of open ground, no matter how dry. Certainly, I’ll watch to be sure Star of Bethlehem doesn’t spread further.

      1. Barbara H. says:

        Well, that may be a fateful decision. Star of Bethlehem seems to suddenly explode and be everywhere. It’s not very visible until spring when it flowers. I had it overrun my small garden in Portland and unfortunately it was already here, just in the back yard, when I moved in. It was so beguiling, blooming in a long swath in the back that I forgot how dangerous it is. Now it is invading other areas in the front and side quite quickly. It’s easiest to dig out when blooming, because then you can see it. Good luck with your experience of it.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    Japanese aralia tolerates more frost than I would expect. It does very well here, but I was surprised to also see it growing outside in Poulsbo in Washington, across Puget sound from Seattle. It was more of a surprise to see how well it tolerates frost than to read that it can get damaged if the weather gets cold enough. Some agaves tolerate serious frost, while some do not even like the very minor frost here. Like yucca, some are from harsh desert climates, and others are tropical.

    1. Dave says:

      In recent years I’ve been surprised by the number of palms I’ve seen in landscapes in the Portland area. A few will barely survive this area, until a colder than average winter.

      In a few weeks I’ll be touring a few public gardens near Seattle before a week touring Oregon nurseries.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        There are actually a few palms that will be quite happy in Portland. The windmill palm, which can be seen in a small grove just off the east side of northbound Highway 5 just before it goes onto the bridge to Washington, can take some serious frost. It lives even in Oklahoma City. I think that they have not been popular there because people did not know that they would survive there. That is why lilac and forsythia are uncommon here. Not many of us realize that they do not need much chill to bloom well.

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