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 cuneatum, luteum, lancifolium, 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.
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.