Working Beauty


May is a very busy month for all plants, to say the least. With so much going on in the garden, it can be overwhelming for people who don’t want to miss anything. While not as in-your-face with flowers that arrive with June’s heat, every plant is hard at work in May. Whether it’s putting on new growth, leafing out, budding up, or flowering, May is a time when rest is not an option for plants. Grow now or forever hold your peace.

May always has a strong floral showing. Surrounded by dozens of tulips reaching their full potential, the Carol Mackie daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii ‘Carol Mackie’) is blooming proudly in the Rose Garden. A low growing shrub no more than 2 feet tall and slightly wider, it is jacketed with hundreds of fragrant star-shaped flowers. Down in the Rock Garden, both the high (above) and low bush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum, V. angustifolium) are flowering, with their small, cylindrical flowers in tight groupings. Great native shrubs with intriguing architecture to boot. Creeping down low under the shade of an old yew in the Rock Garden, bugleweed (Ajuga reptans ‘bronze beauty’) photographs as well as any plant! A carpet of green and bronze foliage accents quaint violet flowers, making it a wonderful ground cover for a shady location.

Carol Mackie daphne.
Low bush blueberry.
High bush blueberry.
‘Bronze beauty’ bugleweed.

Often times a plant leafing out can be as pleasant as a plant in flower. The amur maackia (Maackia amuriensis) on the outskirts of the meadow can convince the doubters. When the leaves emerge, they are frosted with a coating of bright, silver hairs covering brownish-green foliage. The combination tricks the eye into seeing purple underneath the soft fuzz. The effect is an easy I.D. characteristic, and along with the bark, helps land this tree towards the top of my favorites list.

Amur maackia leafing out.
Bark of amur maackia.

There is much to look forward to in the coming days. Greatness awaits both the dwarf fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii ‘Blue Mist’) and the pubescent lilac (Syringa pubescens) bordering the North Garden. The lilac buds are just starting to pop, while the stamens (pollen-producing structures) of the fothergilla are beginning to elongate. Next week they’ll both be well worth a gander!

Dwarf fothergilla flowers.
Buds of pubescent lilac ready to open.