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?

In a Vase on Monday: Restraint

I had to exercise restraint when choosing flowers for my vase this week, as I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her Monday meme. 🙂  Despite our continued dry spell (no rain apart from one short shower for about four weeks now!) the plants are flowering earlier than usual responding to the sunshine and warmth.

This early peony is a lovely deep pink and five flowers opened all at once on Sunday.

The iris on the left was a broken one – a bird? a cat? – rescued just in time for the vase this morning. And on the right are two Cammassias – they both opened at the end of last week, but the pale blue one seems to have stood up to the heat better.

 The Aquilegias have also started opening over the last few days, so I picked some of the deep purply blues…

… like silky petticoats!

And the vase itself, which some of you may have noticed making a sideline appearance a few weeks ago, now has centre stage.

It was a rather cheap purchase from a furniture store(!) in winter, and I was waiting for taller stems to pick so I could show it off. It is a simple flimsy wooden frame with three extra large ‘test tubes’ inserted. They hold several stems each, and plenty of water for thicker stems too. The butterfly cut-outs were what attracted me and I must say I am rather pleased with it! 🙂 (Although peonies look great in anything! 😉)

 

 

Thanks as always to Cathy for hosting. I shall spend the next few days enjoying not just my own, but also all the other vases posted from around the globe.

😀

In a Vase on Monday: Gold Dust

The pollen has been dreadful the past week or so. Thank goodness I am not a hayfever sufferer, but even I have felt my eyes itching and nose running. It seems everything flowered at once: the maples and sycamores, oak, lime, beech, all the evergreens, the larch, and the birch. The birch is apparently releasing extra pollen this year too, as it is a ‘mast year’ (see links below). Apparently birches have mast years every other year, while other trees only every 6-8 years. We have had ‘pollen storms’ where the sky has literally been a hazy yellow, and everything is coated with yellow dust – hence the title ‘gold dust’!

And my vase, as you can see, is golden this week. 😉

The Kerria japonica is looking gorgeous, as are (don’t laugh!) the dandelions! I added some more weeds – Lamium (yellow archangel) and some fern leaves as well as a sprig of green Euphorbia (unknown/forgotten) and some of the small Euphorbia polychroma. Then a stem of Epimedium ‘Amber Queen’ went in, and finally this elegant lemony yellow tulip. The Forsythia vase was used again simply to complete the colour scheme, but with the plain back facing.

Why not join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden too? Her addictive meme is such fun, and visiting vases from other parts of the world is always an inspiration!

🙂

 

Information on mast years:

https://www.britannica.com/science/mast-seeding

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mast_(botany)#Mast_seeding

Top Ten Flowers for April

Every month Chloris at The Blooming Garden shares her favourite ten flowers…. and often a few entertaining anecdotes or snippets of information too! We are encouraged to join her and, since I now finally have something flowering in my garden after a very cold March, I am pleased to join in the fun this April and share my top ten!

First off, the Hepatica – usually a March flower, but the ones in my garden didn’t really get going this year until early April.

These magical little blue flowers have such intense luminosity. They show up on nearby roadsides and at the edges of woodland even in poor light. In fact, they really are magical as the violet petal colour is able to transform light into warmth, thus protecting the flower from hard frosts. You can see an older post I wrote on Hepatica here. On occasions I have caught a whiff of their elusive fragrance. Like violets, it seems to disappear as soon as you have smelt it, and I thought I was imagining it until reading about this phenomenon in ‘The Secrets of Wildflowers’ by Jack Sanders:

‘The blossoms may or may not be scented. Naturalist John Burroughs, who called hepatica “the gem of the woods”, wondered about this oddity in several of his essays. “This flower is the earliest, as it is certainly one of the most beautiful, to be found in our woods, and occasionally it is fragrant,” he wrote in A Bunch of Herbs. “Group after group may be inspected, ranging through all shades of purple and blue, with some perfectly white, and no odor to be detected, when presently you will happen upon a little brood of them that have a most delicate and delicious fragrance.” Elsewhere he wrote that more often than not the scent will be found in the white flowers, but that one year after a particularly severe winter almost every blue hepatica he came upon was scented – another of the little unexplained peculiarities of wildflowers that make them so fascinating.’

Another favourite in April is Pulmonaria. I have several in varying shades of pinks and blues. Here are some of the prettiest…

 

Number three is my little ornamental cherry ‘Kojo-no-mai’. It never ceases to produce a gasp when I open the blinds one morning and there it is in full bloom!

Fourth: Geranium phaeum, which often doesn’t flower until May

I love the delicate chocolatey coloured flowers, somewhere between maroon and brown, and the foliage mottled with matching brown markings. This plant seeds itself profusely, loves warm dry spots with poor soil and can cope with heat well. It will go on flowering until it gets too hot, then I shall cut it back and it will come back again. 🙂

Fifth: Pulsatilla pratensis

The blue ones grow on our open chalky hillsides but this pinky red one (possibly ‘Rote Glocke’) lives in my garden and is cherished not only for its gorgeous flowers, but also for the fluffy seedheads which stay looking pretty for many weeks and are perfect as fillers for arrangements in vases. 🙂

Sixth: Violas

Some have self-seeded in the path, and others are thriving in pots planted in March…

 

Seventh: Viburnum ‘Aurora’.

The scent of this is simply gorgeous, but this year the mini heatwave mid April shortened the life of the pretty flowers. My bush has put on lots of growth this year though, so I will no doubt start picking some for vases next spring! 😉

Number 8: Epimediums

Two reliable ones in my front garden are a yellow E. ‘Sulphureum’ and the orange ‘Orangekönigin’, but my favourite is this orange one – ‘Amber Queen’ – with spiky petals making it look quite elf-like, or perhaps UFO-like? Chloris also featured this one as a favourite for April.

 

My last two favourites are from trees…

Number 9: This may sound strange, but these teeny weeny flowers always inspire wonder when I see them – mostly on the ground after a strong wind has knocked them down – the larch flowers. They are only about 1cm in diameter and are usually too high up to see with the naked eye.

 

And finally, my tenth flower for April is the Japanese Maple. As soon as the tiny flowers appear the bees are there! The tree also emits a musty aroma which always reminds me of fried food – not unpleasant, but a bit weird!

Thanks to Chloris for suggesting we share our favourites each month – posting about them is extremely useful as a personal record and reading about other people’s favourites is not only fun but also very informative and inspiring. 🙂