Friday, May 27, 2011

The stars of my May garden

Deciduous Azalea

My garden is a jungle.We had an astonishing amount of rain this spring and I spend all my time hacking away at the exuberant growth. I’m not complaining because the inevitable drought will come and I’m now frantically mulching to keep the moisture in the soil.

May is always a magical month in the Delaware Valley with our profusion of azaleas and rhododendrons. The bloom period is all too brief, but it is spectacular. Among the stars of my May Garden: deciduous Azalea. This is one those multi-season shrubs with gorgeous Spring flowers and purple foliage in the Fall. I’ve got to figure out a way to cram another one of these into my garden.

An ancient Azalea trying to turn into a tree:

This is one of the plantings that came with the house, one of those old-fashioned azaleas with large flowers that are hard to come by in the garden centers these days.

Korean Lilac: Ms. Kim

Considered a more garden worthy plant than the common lilac, Ms. Kim, a variety of Korean Lilac, is a shapely, extremely floriferous shrub with fall color and a powerful fragrance. We have three of them in our garden, but I still prefer the ungainly syringa vulgaris for that fragrance to die for. Ms. Kim cannot compare in fragrance to her ugly cousin Syringa Vulgaris, and despite Ms. Kim’s undeniable virtues, I’ll take that common lilac fragrance any day.

Purple allium

When the late tulips are gone, alliums rule until the iris and peony explosion: Alliums are tough customers needing little attention from the gardener.

Wild Geranium

It maybe considered a weed by some, but Wild Geranium blooms during a lull in the garden and blends beautifully with the purple allium and Korean Lilac.

After a bit of a lull in mid-May, the late May explosion of bloom begins: iris, peonies, early roses.

Bearded Iris
I love iris, especially the disease prone bearded iris. I will put up with a lot for that astonishing bearded iris fragrance.

Siberian iris

Siberian iris are also beautiful-–tough, disease-free, easy care plants, but no fragrance. Why can’t we get it all in one plant? (I guess plants are kind of like people in that regard.)

Herbaceous Peonies

Then the peonies. The flowers last only a few days but the foliage looks good all summer and the fragrance is heavenly. Fortunately, we have some older varieties that came with the house. It’s getting harder and harder to get that old time peony fragrance in the garden centers these days.

The fragrance of the early roses mingle with the peonies to produce something downright intoxicating.

Rose Zepherine and an incredibly vigorous early blooming yellow climber, variety unknown
Blaze Improved.

At this stage in my life, I only introduce tough customers into my garden and Blaze Improved is one of the toughest roses around—a little weak in the fragrance department, but a disease free, repeat bloomer.

At end of May the Mt. Laurel bloom. It’s our state flower. They grow wild all over Pennsylvania and require little care as long as they have reasonably good drainage. ‘Mountain’ in the name of plant is a reliably good indicator of drainage needs. Mt. Laurel, Olympic Fire

At the end of May the large flowered clematis appear. They are finicky plants with thin brittle stems and I’ve lost more clematis than I care to remember, but they’re so beautiful I keep trying. Clematis, Mr. President

And finally, the crown jewel of my late May Garden, Cornus Koura or Korean Dogwood. We planted this beauty 20 years ago. For about ten years there was no bloom. Then we started getting a few more flowers each year and finally this year, it came into its own and is covered with gorgeous large white flowers (actually bracts). Patience has its rewards.
Korean Dogwood


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