Now it is Summer

After a remarkably cool, pleasant week, we are now in heat of summer.  Recent rains keep the lawns and fields green and many newly planted seedlings and perennials settled down in their new locations within a few days.  I had hoped to write about yuccas, some with ivory flowers on stalks five feet high.  They came and brightened the corners of the beds but most are over now and so we have cut them down.  Sometimes we can just bend the entire stalk bearing leaves and flowers, all the way to the ground and it will break off at the base; however, most of the time we have to saw the base of the blooming division to remove it and stimulate the growth of a new rosette. 

 Masses of larkspur with flowers in shades of blue, white, lavender, and pink continue to bloom while most of the other spring annuals are going to seed.  Poppies have lured goldfinches into the garden and they sing all day as they go from plant to plant.  Our challenge is to collect the ripe seeds we have marked as special—bright shades of red, purple, burgundy, raspberry as well as pure white.  Goldfinches aren’t the only creatures that like poppy seeds. Mice quickly discover the gathered seed if we leave it where can be found in the potting room or law office. This year, we have them in open bags in the laundry room in the house in hopes that the mice won’t find them there, and so far, they haven’t.  Nigella is another annual from which we collect seed. We can pop off the seed heads and shake the ripe seeds into sacks, ready to be packed up for sale during our fall open day.  While the annuals fade, recent rains have given us the best show of hydrangeas ever and both sterile (mop head) and fertile (lace cap) forms brighten the shady gardens. Where the spring annuals once thrived, lilies and gladiolas now add splashes of color throughout the gardens.

 Lilies bloom in the May garden.

Lilies bloom in the May garden.

 A soft yellow gladiolus in the color gardens.

A soft yellow gladiolus in the color gardens.

Montrose Garden
Garden Open Day and Beyond

We celebrated the garden on May 12 with an open day and record-breaking heat, which followed weeks of intense weeding, pruning, and weather worries.  The poppies were not in bloom, but roses stole the show.  Not only were they covered with flowers, but they perfumed the garden in a delightful way.  There were sections where the flowers were not very showy but the fragrance made us stop to “smell the roses”, which seemed a trite statement until we actually did it.  The star of the day was Rosa ‘Hippolyte’, a shrub Gallica that had grown out into the path and was covered with double, dark mauve flowers.  Although this rose blooms but once a year, we are always thrilled to see it.  Other roses covered the fences and lath house and we were amazed at the sight of R. ‘Dr. W. Van Fleet’ climbing through a large Chamaecyparis.  Three plants of this rose grew along the cedar post and wire fence at the north end of the kitchen garden when we moved to Montrose in 1977. We left them there, replaced the fence, and they have never failed to please us with their profusion of double flowers, fragrance, and delicate pink color once a year.  Their more famous sport, ‘New Dawn’ is similar but a little less exuberant possibly because it blooms throughout the summer.   Several days of wonderful rains brought forth flowers on nigella, larkspur, and poppies and transformed the sunny gardens into fields of color.  We emptied the greenhouses and set many agaves into their usual urns and rain that evening began to change them from anemic-looking specimens to healthier looking plants.  We began cutting back asters, chrysanthemums, and teucriums in the hope of controlling their naturally lax habit and welcomed the first flowers on Yucca rostrata, at the entrance to the circle garden.  Seeds are rapidly ripening so we collected cyclamen, Delphinium tricorne, and Enemion biternatum and planted them right away.   We said goodbye to spring and welcome to summer.

 

  R.  ‘Dr. W. Van Fleet’ climbing through a large Chamaecyparis

R. ‘Dr. W. Van Fleet’ climbing through a large Chamaecyparis

 Poppies in full bloom with a backdrop of roses.

Poppies in full bloom with a backdrop of roses.

Montrose Garden
Irises and more

As the flowers on the tree peonies here at Montrose fade and fall, they leave behind many promises in the form of seed capsules, some of which are colorful, all of which won’t ripen until mid-summer.  Our focus is on preparing Montrose Garden for open day in two weeks. We pruned the woody salvias by cutting away woody stems without buds or leaves and then removing some overgrown branches to let in light and air to plants nearby. This will help stimulate new growth. Hydrangeas get similar treatment, but sometimes I wonder how appropriate these shrubs are for our climate.  Year after year the tip buds expand too far before the last freeze and flowers never develop.  This year we cut lower on the stalk in the hope that we will see swelling buds and flowers by June.  The Trillium Slope lures us down every day for Primula sieboldii and the Trilliums cuneatumluteumlancifolium, and a few grandiflorum continue to bloom and are accompanied by my mother’s yellow ladyslipper orchids, Cypripedium calceolus.  Irises bloom throughout the garden—in sun and in shade.  Iris tectorum and cristata grow best in the woods, rock garden, and shady areas in the perennial borders while I. sibirica and I. germanica prefer the sunny borders.  Aquilegias in almost every color brighten the gardens in both sun and shade.  We enjoy the subtle, soft green and brown of A. viridiflora and the yellow form of A. canadensis but our main show consists of self-sown A. vulgaris, most of which are purple/blue, or pink.  

  Primula sieboldii  blooming on the Trillium Slope.

Primula sieboldii blooming on the Trillium Slope.

  Cypripedium calceolus  blooming on the Trillium Slope.

Cypripedium calceolus blooming on the Trillium Slope.

  Aquilegia vulgaris

Aquilegia vulgaris

Besides weeding, which is our main occupation during this season, we also pot on seedlings, divide plants, and fill in the gaps in the borders.  We revised a large section of the Blue and Yellow garden last week, and replaced the aggressive Salvia guaranitica with chartreuse-leaved hostas, Carex morrowii, Irises and a few blue grasses. The Dianthus Walk has never been prettier.  A cooler than normal April kept the phloxes in bloom and now the many varieties of Dianthus have joined them with their fragrant flowers in white or shades of pink.

  Dianthus  in bloom on the Dianthus Walk.

Dianthus in bloom on the Dianthus Walk.

Montrose Garden
Peony Season is Here

By the end of last week, many of our tree peonies were in full bloom.  We have many forms of Paeonia ostii with flowers in shades of pink or white.  Most flowers are about 5 inches in diameter with slightly ruffled leaves and all are fragrant.  We love seeing them early in the morning when, in order to protect their sexual parts, their outer leaves are gently laid across the pistil and pollen bearing anthers.  We stand in the center of the circle garden and breathe in the heavenly scent. Yesterday we discovered a splendid second generation seedling, which we suspect was pollinated by another species.  Trilliums fill the gardens along the mother-in-law walk and the entire garden is overlaid with Enemion biternatum’s delicate white flowers. The enemion began to bloom at Christmas!   A large planting of Arisaema sikokianumin full bloom lures us down to the new woods path every day and once there we continue to see the spring cyclamen, which continue to delight us.  Both Cyclamen pseudibericum and C. repandum have flowers in shades of pink. As for C. hederifolium, it’s all leaves now—big beautiful leaves, which are green overlaid with delicate patterns of lighter shades and some that are all silver/gray.

  Paeonia ostii

Paeonia ostii

 A few more of the many  Paeonia ostii  in bloom in the garden

A few more of the many Paeonia ostii in bloom in the garden

Montrose Garden
Preparing for Warmer Weather

Last weekend Montrose had what we hope is our last little snow storm for this winter.  Large, fluffy flakes began to fall in late afternoon, quickly covered the lawn, and continued throughout the night but by morning, we had a snow-covered lawn and uncovered paths.  Clumps of the smaller daffodils, Narcissus bulbocodium and fernandesii, never even bent with the snow and the day was warm enough for hand weeding in the rock garden and dianthus walk. The large planting of Arisaema sikokianum remained half open and those plants are only now showing their pure white knobs (spadix) below unfurling chocolate striped spathes. We spent much of this week weeding out a tiny blue-flowered annual veronica, which was growing vigorously in the sunny garden, and crowding out the poppies we seeded in November. We hope that more poppies will germinate and grow now that the beds are weeded. By week’s end we saw promises of warmer weather and above freezing nights here at Montrose so we transplanted calendulas and eschscholzias at the edges of the beds.  Every evening we walk along the new primrose path now filled with plants just beginning to bloom.  We walk over the next ridge to see Cyclamen repandum with flowers in shades of pink and visit our largest planting of C. pseudibericum blooming with deep magenta flowers along the road to the pond.  The large planting of mid-season narcissus at the edge of the field has begun to fade and the next group are in full bloom.  N. ‘Thalia’ grows south of the cyclamen walk and remains one of our favorites with twin white flowers.  Let’s hope April is not the cruelest month this year! 

 

 A newly planted bed of Calendula and Eschscholzia in the sunny gardens at Montrose. The pots are left alongside the plants as a reminder,  once the planting has been thoroughly watered, fertilized and mulched we pick them up. 

A newly planted bed of Calendula and Eschscholzia in the sunny gardens at Montrose. The pots are left alongside the plants as a reminder,  once the planting has been thoroughly watered, fertilized and mulched we pick them up. 

Montrose Garden
Winter hints at spring

February at Montrose Garden left us feeling as if we were in the midst of spring.  Blooming magnolias, narcissus, primroses, and bloodroot gave us color and worry.  March roared in at the end of last week bringing with it “normal” temperatures, rain, and wind.   It's the time of year to prune the shrub roses in the sunny gardens so we removed dead wood and excess growth in the center of each plant.  We cut back the longer healthy stalks just above an outward facing bud to direct its growth outward, leaving the center with plenty of air flow. Lastly, we fertilized with Rose Tone.  A cold but gentle rain gave us the perfect conditions for planting primroses.  These plants were grown from seeds set by us in the spring of 2016 and sown in early fall of that year.  The seeds germinated quickly and when transplanted into individual pots, grew into vigorous plants by the spring of 2017.  Ideally, we would have planted them in the fall of that year but because we were in the midst of a serious drought, we left them in a shallow cold frame until last week when we selected the best colors and forms for sale and for our garden.  Now we have a real primrose path with masses of flowers.  With luck, this cool weather will remain with us for an extended period and the new planting will lead us to visit this section of the garden daily so that we will begin the process all over and pollinate the best of each type.  We also pollinated several narcissus species as well as the delightfully fragrant roman hyacinth, Hyacinthus orientalis.  We started working in the sunny gardens and began to clear off each garden while also thinning the spring blooming annuals so the remainingseedlings can grow into better, stronger plants. We have also been working on repotting and dividing potted plants in the cold frames to get them ready for sale or to be planted in the garden. We divided many species of the terrestrial orchid, Bletilla. Some bulbs were potted for sale while others were saved for stock and some were planted in the garden. Trillium seed that had been sown in 2013 had finally made many tiny, healthy looking plants that were also potted to grow on and sell.


 Before pruning, this rose is crowded in the middle and has some deadwood.

Before pruning, this rose is crowded in the middle and has some deadwood.

 After pruning the main stems of the rose have been cut back significantly, the deadwood has been removed and the middle has been opened up to allow for more airflow.

After pruning the main stems of the rose have been cut back significantly, the deadwood has been removed and the middle has been opened up to allow for more airflow.

 A closer picture of the same rose after pruning, some of the cuts made are visible here.

A closer picture of the same rose after pruning, some of the cuts made are visible here.


Below you can find the process of dividing and repotting Bletilla 'Innocence',which we grow here at Montrose Garden. 

 This is Bletilla 'Innocence' before being divided. The pot is overcrowded with bulbs that can be split up and repotted to make individual plants.

This is Bletilla 'Innocence' before being divided. The pot is overcrowded with bulbs that can be split up and repotted to make individual plants.

 This back bulb that has been divided from the group has no shoots but will be replanted and make a flowering plant next year.

This back bulb that has been divided from the group has no shoots but will be replanted and make a flowering plant next year.

 This bulb with a shoot of new growth will flower this year and will be repotted to grow on for sale.

This bulb with a shoot of new growth will flower this year and will be repotted to grow on for sale.

 Here are the freshly potted  Bletilla , about four individual plants came from the original pot shown.

Here are the freshly potted Bletilla, about four individual plants came from the original pot shown.

Montrose Garden
Working in the winter Garden

What happened to our winter?  Where are those cold nights and crisp mornings when we wear so many layers of warm clothes we can barely move?  Those morning when, after moving, pulling little trees, ivy, honeysuckle and other woodland pests, we remove layer after layer?  Hydrangeas have begun to expand their buds, the later flowering narcissus are in bloom, and snowdrops droop ready to return to the slightly cooler earth. We even saw the first bloodroots in flower this past Friday.  The appearance of these long-awaited plants and flowers excites us but we worry about their survival.  Will there be a devastating cold snap to destroy the ever-swelling buds on trees and shrubs?  We don’t know. We work outside almost all day every day, even in the winter. 

This winter at Montrose we concentrated on our collection of hellebore species, and hand pollinated our favorites hoping to offer seedlings in a few years.  We divided many clumps of narcissus, which were growing so tightly together they couldn’t bloom.  We dug them, then divided and replanted each one into the area where we have other spring flowering bulbs at the edge of the field.  We spend many happy days in the woods, where we cleared weeds and saplings and planted another terrace with snowdrops.  This new area is about 100 yards long and Bruce, our fantastic volunteer’s husband, estimated that this ridge now contains about 4600 bulbs all divided from the snowdrop woods this winter.  We will start seeds soon for plants to put into the garden when we believe the warmth is here to stay.  We divide and replant perennials for sale in fresh soil, and we take cuttings of suitable plants that we expect will root at this season.  We don’t stop to smell the roses yet but we do stand near Tony Avent’s great introduction, Edgeworthia chrysantha ‘Snow Cream’, and rejoice that we are able to grow such a treasure.

  Edgeworthia chrysantha  'Snow Cream' in bloom

Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Snow Cream' in bloom

The images below illustrate the process of pollinating the Hellebore, Helleborus purpurascens. This species is pollinated so that we will be able to collect ripe seed in mid March, the seed will then be sown, and grown on.

 Here, you can see the ripe pollen on the stamens of  H. purpurascens . At this stage in the flowers life the stigma is no longer receptive.

Here, you can see the ripe pollen on the stamens of H. purpurascens. At this stage in the flowers life the stigma is no longer receptive.

 Here, you can see the stigma of an  H. purpurascens  flower that are ready to be pollinated, notice that on this flower the stamens are not yet forming pollen.

Here, you can see the stigma of an H. purpurascens flower that are ready to be pollinated, notice that on this flower the stamens are not yet forming pollen.

 Here, the pollen from the first flower shown is being used to pollinate the stigma of the second flower shown. The flower that will produce seed is marked with a red string so that it can be watched for ripe seed.

Here, the pollen from the first flower shown is being used to pollinate the stigma of the second flower shown. The flower that will produce seed is marked with a red string so that it can be watched for ripe seed.

Janet Crowther