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