Coming Attractions

May is often a time for celebrations. From weddings to graduations to Memorial Day parties, May can feel like a whirlwind. In the gardens, May begins to settle down by mid-month. Tulips kick off the first few weeks with a glorious show of color. When they go by, it can feel like there isn’t as much to see, but I’m here to tell you that there is so much still going on! The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis f. alba ‘Royal White’) in the featured image is in full bloom in the gardens approaching the greenhouse. I have been watching the progression of buds to blooms over the last week. What a lovely tree it is. Even with the redbud vying for my attention, I can appreciate the gardens’ general quiet of mid-May, because it allows me to notice the flowers and buds that I may not have seen otherwise. For instance, this Clematis (Clematis recta ‘Midnight Masquerade’) growing in the Cutting Garden caught my eye the other day.

Clematis recta ‘Midnight Masquerade’

The foliage color is absolutely stunning as is the elegant growth habit. It may not yet be in bloom, but sometimes the anticipation of the coming flowers is even more beautiful.

The North Garden shrubs are currently about to burst into glorious bloom. Azalea ‘Salmon Spray’ is budded and should be open next week. The cooler temperatures this week are slowing down the spring rush of blossoms. When all the warmth hits at once, flowers can open and go by all too quickly. Although it was nice to have 75 degrees all last week, I’ll take the 60 degrees of the past few days if it makes the flowers stay a bit longer. The pubescent lilacs at the entrance to the garden are just beginning to open. Their sweet familiar fragrance wafts on the air. I’ve noticed many visitors appreciating the lilacs this week. I love watching people stop to smell the flowers. The gardens are here to be appreciated and to teach all of us to slow down a bit and notice the beauty around us.

On the path above the North Garden are two of my favorite spring flowering shrubs, Redvein Enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus) and Slender Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’). When the enkianthus is in full bloom it looks as though it is covered in tiny pink bells. Almost too beautiful to be real. The deutzias flanking the back patio have arching sprays of white flowers from top to bottom. They should be very beautiful very soon. I even love the flower buds as they are now – just waiting for their moment. As I’ve written many times in the past, everything has its time.

The geums in the North Garden are having a moment right now. These dwarf geum varieties are beyond cute. They are only about a foot tall, but their darling shades of peach, pink, and yellow have a sweet impact in the garden. You may have to crouch down to truly admire their blooms, but it is totally worth it. While I was crouched in front of these flowers I noticed that ants were feasting on the nectar. I have seen these flowers every spring for years and never noticed the ants before now. It was only one or two ants on a few of the blooms of each plant, but it was noticeable. They were doing no harm. They were probably even protecting the flowers from other predators (something ants are known for in the insect world). It’s all about taking the time to notice these little things.

Another insect to catch my eye this week is this little honey bee enjoying the Spanish Bluebells (Hyancinthoides hispanica) in the Idea Garden. He was buzzing happily from bloom to bloom collecting pollen to take back to the hive. It was so fun to watch him doing his job. Bees are cool. We definitely love our pollinators here at Blithewold. It’s nearly impossible to work in the gardens and not feel intimately connected to these creatures. We plan the gardens for beauty, color, and interest. The bees appreciate the gardens for all the food they provide. It is a win-win situation.

Ornamental onion (Allium ‘Purple Sensation’)

The final “coming attraction” I will mention is the ornamental onions. We have many different varieties throughout the gardens here. The Rose Garden boasts some of the tallest and shortest of our allium collection. Blooming right inside the entrance to the North Garden is one of the newest allium varieties (Allium cowanii) we planted last fall. Throughout the gardens there are 24 different ornamental onions. They bloom from now through the summer (depending on the variety). They come in all shades of purple and pink with a few white and yellow varieties mixed in as well. I love the ornamental onions for their whimsy, color, and longevity (the seed heads of some allium last for years, making lovely fall and winter decorations). These flowers are also a good food source for pollinators. ‘Purple Sensation’ (pictured above) is beginning to bloom in the Idea Gardens. There are many more to follow!

I hope you will visit Blithewold in the coming weeks to see all these beauties as they begin to bloom. In the midst of the May madness, take a moment of quiet for yourself in the gardens here. The flowers will be waiting for you.