My Top Ten May Blooms

I am just in time to join Chloris at The Blooming Garden for her monthly invitation to post our favourite ten flowers. I feel I blinked and missed May, it has flown by so quickly. I have been almost as busy as the bees in my garden this month, and flitting about like a Hummingbird Hawk Moth! Talking of which…

Can you see him? Dead centre. The first day the Valerian/Centranthus ruber opened up, these amazing little creatures appeared! That is the main reason I love this plant so much, although there are other reasons to adore it too. In my rockery it will continue to look good for most of the summer, as long as I keep cutting off the spent flowers. It needs no other care except to be chopped down once it starts collapsing in October/November. It thrives on dry ground, seeds itself profusely into any nooks and crannies and attracts beautiful insects. 🙂

So that was number one: Centranthus ruber

Now number two, a pink Aquilegia, bought from a garden centre (unlabelled) many years ago. This one hasn’t seeded itself yet, unlike all the others. I am pulling out a lot of the dark purple ones in the hope that the paler ones will spread more. Not sure how successful it will be though as some have gone to seed already!

Number three is the peonies. This one is Sarah Bernhardt, which has produced several flowers this year after a slow start. Worth the wait though. 🙂

The other peonies in my garden are the early pink, then the deep pinky red, and of course the steadfast white Festiva maxima – these three all came from my partner’s Mum, and we think of her every year when they start flowering. 🙂

Number four is my surprise Iris which doesn’t show up regularly and appeared from nowhere a few years ago. I think it may be ‘Frequent Flyer’, identified from online photos and descriptions of the scent. If you know better, do let me know!

Number five is the Moon Daisies, otherwise known as Oxeye Daisies and in Germany ‘Margeriten’. There are more than ever in our wild meadow/lawn this year.

Number six is, strictly speaking, not actually a bloom but a seedhead – the Pulsatilla seedheads are one of my favourite things in May and June and I must remember to cut a few to keep for winter arrangements.

My seventh bloom is the glorious Oriental Poppy. I grew these from seed one year, planting them out in late August and since then they have wandered around the rockery. This year a couple of pink ones returned too, but the orange ones are the stunners and it is almost impossible to photograph one without a bee bathing in it!

Yes, there is a bee in there somewhere…

Number eight is the lovely Campanula my friend in the village gave me. She has also given me seed and a white plant, but for some reason only the blue ones come back – everywhere! 🙂

My ninth bloom is also a favourite, and one of the few plants that had survived the neglect when we first took over this garden: pale blue Veronica (which is also my current header).

It was hard to choose between Rosa rugosa and the wild strawberries for my final favourite… the rose won, because it was full of bees again (whereas the mice and slugs nibble on my wild strawberries!) and this year it is smothered in flowers and NO greenfly for once! 🙂

A big thank you to Chloris for encouraging me to document my top ten flowers each month. Do visit her post if you haven’t already!

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: A Summer Breeze

As it is Monday again (how time flies and what happened to May?!) I am joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme, where we gather materials from our gardens to arrange in a vase.

It is hot again today, and a breeze would be welcome… instead I shall have to settle for this vase of breezy, summery, lemony flowers and foliage!

A slice of lemon and some lemon thyme at the foot of my carafe will remind me to chill some water and add a sprig/spritzer of each for later in the day.

The yellow day lily always catches me unawares when it opens… whatever made me buy a yellow lily? But as the pastels of the Aquilegias fade and the grasses, poppies and foliage take centre stage I am relieved to find they do actually fit into the picture. Hemerocallis citrina supposedly smells of lemon, although I personally cannot detect any citrussy scent.

The foliage on the left is the Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus), which I love best before it flowers. It is so elegant and makes a beautiful structural feature in the garden for a few weeks. A shame it tends to get frazzled and needs cutting back by the end of June.

The variegated Vinca is also looking fresh still, although it has drooped a little in the photo above after being cut in the strong sun. The flowers have almost all gone over, but as ground cover it will remain attractive for some time I hope.

At the centre I just had to use another of my lovely white peonies – Festiva maxima – even though the pink tinge to the petals doesn’t really fit in with the colour scheme! They are going over rapidly in our heatwave. (30°C forecast for today)

But it is surrounded by the lime green of the Aruncus leaves, some Alchemilla, ferns, and a pretty Euphorbia seguieriana.

Well, May has come and gone and we have had another very hot month… despite some heavy thundery showers it is still dry. I wonder what June will bring?

For certain some roses… 😉

Have a good week!

In a Vase on Monday: A Meadow in May

I love joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden every Monday as she invites us to pick materials from our gardens for a vase.

This weekend has been spent at our country house, so the flowers are wild flowers from the meadows and land around us. A strong breeze on Sunday made the grasses come alive, and the textures tempt you to reach out your hands and stroke them.

I have no idea of the identity of all these wild grasses – a project for a winter evening perhaps! The flowers included are moon daisies, ‘Ragged Robin’ (Silene/Lychnis flos cuculi), white campion (Silene latifolia) and red clover, along with cow parsley of course. There were a few pale mauve campanulas in the meadow too, but I didn’t pick any as most had gone over what with the heat and wind. The Achillea and Scabious will be opening soon as well.

I brought along some peonies from home too, to enjoy their scent indoors – their season is so short this year so I must make the most of them!

 

In fact they started off in the green vase, which I then swapped over and used for the wild flowers…

 

 

 

Have a good week!

🙂

 

Mid May and Karel Čapek’s Gardener’s Prayer

We had the hottest and driest April on record this spring, and the first half of May was just as warm, producing only a few passing showers. This sort of weather is absolutely wonderful… unless you are a gardener! Still, the garden has soldiered on and produced glorious flowers once again. Here are the Moon Daisies in our meadow…

And a view from the top of the rockery shows how my Man of Many Talents has mowed even fewer of them away this spring 🙂

From the bottom of the rockery I can still look across the top of the giant Miscanthus and see the early deep reddish pink peony. Today the first white ones opened too. And the ferns in the foreground have taken off since we got more rain.

Recently my thoughts have often returned to this ‘prayer’ I found some years ago in ‘The Gardener’s Year’ by Karel Čapek. His wit is sometimes charming, but occasionally beyond me! However this prayer says it all perfectly, so I shall share!

“If it were of any use, every day the gardener would fall on his knees and pray somehow like this:

‘O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants – I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like – and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spiraea, or on gentian, plaintain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.’ ”

😀

In a Vase on Monday: Refreshed

We finally had a short rain shower on Thursday night, and when I got back on Sunday night from a weekend away the garden had changed noticeably. And my surprise Iris had flowered!

As you can guess, it had to go in today’s vase, to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her lovely meme. 🙂

The contents of the vase on the left were actually in the taller carafe to begin with, but I started fiddling and fussing and eventually the stems were all too short and I started again! It consists of Irises and Moon Daisies, with the addition of Aquilegias and an early deep red peony.

I had no qualms about cutting another iris, as the hot weather is ensuring short lives for everything this spring. So, on the right is another of the lovely surprise irises which rarely flower. It must have been planted in the former water feature before we came here and for some reason only flowers every few years. I was extremely surprised this year as the ground is so dry. And I was also surprised at its scent. Mmmm! It is accompanied by some Siberian Irises, Moon Daisies, Vinca foliage, white Geranium phaeum, some white Dicentra, a few wild grasses, Hosta leaves (still intact before the slugs and snails discover them!) and a couple of sprigs of Aruncus dioicus flower buds – I love them best at this stage!

The bright sunlight and strong wind outside made photography difficult today, so I resorted to indoors in front of our fireplace…

It has just started to pour with rain as I write, with rumbles of thunder all around us, making my chosen title even more suitable! Rain! At last!

Mast Year 2018

I mentioned in a post recently that we have a lot of pollen this spring. (Understatement of the year!) Well, I have since learned that not only has everything flowered at once due to our warm April – the warmest on record since 1881 in Germany – but it is also a so-called mast year for birches, spruce and firs in our region.

A mast year is basically a year when certain types of tree in a whole region produce much more pollen and thus far more seeds than in a normal year. Birches do this regularly – every second year – while other trees such as oak or spruce only do this every 4-8 years.

Our silver birches, swaying in the wind

Trees generally use their energy for putting on growth in non-mast years. But in a mast year something triggers them to put all their strength into preserving themselves and to produce as much seed (and hence pollen in spring) as possible. This can apparently be seen in the rings when a tree is cut, with intermittent rings of very little growth. The trigger may be a warm spring, drought or other factors such as the North Atlantic oscillation. In other words, climate change affects tree ‘behaviour’. But what fascinates me is that, for example, practically every Spruce tree in the whole of Germany has started pumping out the pollen, whether in the far north, the Alps, the Black Forest or the Bavarian Forest. Clever. 😉

Spruce, only just showing signs of fresh green

Just looking across our valley at the hillsides around us recently it suddenly became clear to me that the Spruce, Firs, and probably many other conifers have joined the birch this year – the trees are gold and brown instead of green, with little fresh growth and millions of flowers and cones forming on their branches. Perhaps you can see what I mean from this photo taken yesterday where the conifers are all much darker than the fresh deciduous trees in full leaf…

In fact, when I walked around the garden and took a closer look I could see our Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Silver Fir, Austrian Pine and other conifers I cannot identify are all going mad this spring!

Douglas Fir, with fresh shoots just beginning to show

One article I read quoted a botanist suggesting the conifers are suffering from several dry years in a row, and this is a self-preservation measure should they die. A grim thought. While looking for more information on this phenomena I found myself engulfed in the technical jargon of meteorologists and botanists. But it was interesting to find out just why we are experiencing so much pollen this spring!

Have you ever heard of mast years or experienced the same where you live?