We in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area this garden season thus far, are living our usual early May in middle April this year of our Lord, 2016.
We have had a mild and short winter season.
Being a landscape gardener, I have been rooting for a tad of global warming here in our Minnesota for the past sixty years….and my plea was almost answered until a few years ago of rough winter.
The best garden climate of all for those of us who like a winter break, is horticultural zone number 5…..the Japanese, Central Chinese, and English garden paradises….the world of azaleas and rhododendrons of all shapes, sizes and colors, but more, the world where hundreds of varieties of Japanese Maples can be grown without the worry of winter kill.
I estimate my garden’s horticultural zone is 4.6…..slightly colder than a decade ago when I was, with great fever and energy, trying out a number of ‘hardier’ cutleaf Japanese Maples to serve beauty on my grounds. Each trial would last for a handful of years, and then an old fashioned Minnesota winter would arrive either killing or forever scarring my performers. Most woody plants can live half-dead in our northern gardens. Occasionally such half-deads show character, and with a bit of pruning can SHOW OFF with great character…..with pruning to feature both the living and the dead of its parts.
I finally got tired of resurrecting these beauties every year I added on to my time landscape gardening.
When I was a teenager, Pachysandra terminalis was not at all hardy in the Twin Cities…..nor was it available. Easterners then knew something about gardens then. Today’s urban majority in America have no clue how to ‘grow’ a tomato or Swiss Stone Pine. They don’t even know what a fir is for they live and work their lives inside something or another.
Pachysandra is an evergreen* ground cover which prefers areas away from direct sun to remain ‘forever’ healthy. Its leaves are broad and shiny, rich-appearing, so very rich in showing off its proud green no matter what season. If it is treated well in its location, Pachysandra loves life and spreads and spreads beautifully until something or someone defines its borders. I have many, many swarms of Pachysandra terminalis on my beautiful landscape grounds.
They are pleasantly in bloom now and have been since past Thursday in the sunnier areas under deciduous woodies which are not yet in the mood of swelling their buds for this Spring’s display of leaves.
I shall list here a number of non woody perennials covering the 90% of my grounds void of lawn grass which have begun their bloom this past week….
The Dutch Bulbs: Tulips, Hyacinths, and Narcissus are referred to as the major Dutch bulbs…..because their bulbs are larger than the ‘minor’ Dutch bulbs. All of my Red Riding Hood tulips, foliage and flower, have been eaten by rabbits, so that’s a downer. Narcissus, that is the world of daffodils, are immune to animal eatings, and like tulips come in early, mid and late Spring bloom schedules depending on the bulb selection. They come in yellow and white bloom color.
Hyacinths are fragrant, wonderfully, powerfully fragrant, to all humans under age eighty….Most humans of that age have to imagine the beauty of the fragrance. I write from personal experience. Dutch bulbs lose their foliage by mid Summer.
Among the minor bulbs on my grounds, I report the following which are presently in bloom…..Pushkinia which spreads well, Snow Drops…which have been in their white bloom for over a month even surviving the 25 degree temperature we had one evening a few weeks ago, Chionodoxa, Scilla….(Blue Squill) also in bloom for over three weeks in the sunny areas and now opening its most beautiful blue color in Nature in the shadier areas….I think I must have a million now in bloom somewhere or another on my grounds.
My Eranthis did not show up this Spring. Crocus did, but in very small numbers. Rabbits love Crocus. Expect losses of over 50% annually to rabbits where ever Crocus are planted.
Some evergreen groundcovers encouraged by weather and sun, are also beginning their bloom. Common Vinca, or Periwinkle, with its blue flowers, and Arabis caucasica, white rockcress, with white blooms the whitest in Nature, and even the pink flowering Lamiums are enjoying their sun baths earlier this season….and longer, for these perennials perform their best and show much longer than when any 80 degree temperatures arrive to dry them out.
One of my favorite perennials of all in our Northland is Bloodroot. I have about a dozen clumps somewhere on my grounds all arriving from God knows where for I never planted a one of them….bird poop probably. The white of their bloom rivals White Rockcress….but neater, more precise looking rather than mass.
NOTE: To an experienced landscape gardener a WEED has only one definition: A PLANT OUT OF PLACE!
Any bird who needs to poop Bloodroot in my landscaped grounds, is forever welcomed! Although its bloom time is limited to a couple weeks, depending on the heat of the temperature and moisture available….it prefers afternoon shade, Bloodroot also shows off lovely distinct and clean foliage throughout the rest of the growing season.
My grounds are also presently overwhelmed with over a hundred Mertensia…..Virginia Bluebells. I never planted a one of them. Some Mertensia foliage arrives maroon before it turns green. The clumps are beautiful when young but rather scraggly eventually by the time the blue of the bloom appears. Like the Dutch bulbs, whether major or minor, Virginia Bluebells’ foliage disappears by July.
My favorite of these God given beauties of the non-bulb world which have invaded my home’s landscape world is a Corydalis……now in its sixth year of appearance upon my grounds. Each plant rises no taller than five inches with the most beautiful delicate cutleaf foliage eventually carrying dusty pink blooms. When in full bloom, the dusty pink dominates.
If these plants number a few dozen, they would be praised by gal gardeners for being cute. Their seed must be spread by wind, even the slightest, most gentle breeze, for since their first appearance there must now be tens of thousands of these delicate things showing off their exquisite form and color so thickly they appear as a beautiful rug for three weeks……and then retire from view till next year when, if it is indeed their habit, there will be thousands more added where there is no lawn grass to interfere.
*Not all evergreens are conifers…..Not all conifers are evergreen…..a law of vegetative life a ‘budding’ landscape gardener should memorize.