At A Glance: More Spring Plantings

 

Blue in a Michigan garden?  That would be blue pansies and lobelia.  OK, there are some true blue delphiniums, and cornflowers to come later on.   But if you have a big love for blue, express yourself now. 

Bright yellow and dark purple pansies, orange grass, and cream stick stacks-a spring wake up call. 

creme brulee coral bells

Creme brulee heuchera-great in pots.  The habit, the leaf size and shape-and that color-the stuff that spring memories are made of.  I am not crazy about black and silver leaved coral bells, but these enchant me.    The backs of the leaves-a faint version of red violet-echoing the punch of red violet from these dark pansies.

Fresh cut copper willow twigs, and a spring assortment.  I like lots of spring voices looking for a little harmony.  This-a simple pleasure. 

Picoteed and whiskered violas-I love them all.  They look especially at home in small low terra cotta pots-bulb pans, we call them. 

On the right, a trailing viola I have never seen before.  It may be my favorite bicolor viola-what a treat that it trails.  Pale blue and dark purple-stunning.  On the left, clear sky yellow pansies and angelina. Prairie and copper willow provide a little natural vertical interest.

planting for spring

Lemon cypress and dark red dracaena contrast dramatically with each other.  The softening part?  lavender and peach violas with that lime.  Citrus mix pansies and Ogon sedum with that dark spike.

Ornamental kales and cabbages are great for spring pots-they will grow to a decent size before they bolt.  Barely visible in the right pot, a one gallon pot of asparagus. 

Green spikes are common in summer pots-but they handle the cold in the spring and fall very well.  Any ordinary plant used in an unusual season warrants a fresh look.

This tuft of a lime cypress will grow up to a shrub of considerable size, should you baby it over a few winters.  That lime green says spring like no other color.  Other choices?  Bibb and leaf lettuce.  Green oakleaf lettuce.  Lime green hostas.  Lime green hops.  Lime green leaved columbines and bleeding hearts. Green flowered hellebores. Lime green leaved tradescantia.  You get the idea. 

 Any spring pot makes a better show right off the bat with a plant climber in place.  Some seasons ask for a little backup from some structure.  In this case, steel structure.   Given a few weeks of warm weather, these blue pansies and white variegated ivy will grow, and make a better statement.  All of these plantings need to grow on and up.  But today, these freshly planted pots still say welcome to my spring.

Spring Planting

crabapple espalier

I enjoy doing spring plantings for my clients.  It gives me a chance to get into the garden early, and assess how everything fared over the winter.  This winter was a breeze, but for a cruelly early break in the weather in March.  It remains to be seen how Michigan’s fruit and berry crops will be affected.   It was disconcerting to see that this pair of crabapple espaliers had long since bloomed out, and set leaf in mid-April, but I am happy about how they look.     

gingko tree

This garden is graced by a gingko of great size.  The entire layout and landscape of the house was organized around this tree.  The groundcover is finally starting to fill in.  It will not be so much longer before the boxwood completely obscures the wall.  A grand old plant such as this one needs little more than a big open space around it.   

fall planting

It is possible to arrange for a great spring planting months ahead of time.  Clusters of yellow tulips were planted in the fall; the pansies were planted over top.  Fall planting of pansies may seem like an exercise in futility, given that winter is not far off, but newer strains of pansies are proving quite hardy.  The clear sky series of pansies-especially tough.  The pansies came up lush and thick this spring, and were in full flower on April 10.  This garden had quite the jump on spring. 

planting pansies

Planting pansies and violas in ground in the spring is not nearly as prevalent as what it once was-I am sorry for this.  The spring season lasts just as long as any of the others.  Tulips don’t present much in the way of foliage at ground level, so they are a perfect candidate for a little company.  I also find that working with color in the spring is very tough-if I don’t have the names and faces right in front of me.  This mix that features a rose pansy will look great with the red/pink/rose and white pansy mix.  This is the ideal time to blob them in-I don’t plant everywhere.  I plant where I can see dirt. 

 

 

This picture was taken from the perspective of a 9 year old-any adult walking by will see the dirt spaces on the edge thickly planted with pansies.  That color at ground level adds a whole other dimension to the idea of spring garden.


Of course we plant the attending pot for spring.  This landscape is very simple.  Its beauty is all about the weather, and the seasons.  This small planting of flowers says all that needs to be said about spring.   

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Bulbeck lead egg cup

I hate to see any pot sit empty-waiting.  In another month, this planting will overflow this big pot.  The sweet peas planted in the center will completely cover the tree of heaven branches in the center.  Stick support?  The English call a flexible stick that props up this or that in the garden a withy, or withe.  Withies-a natural and much less obtrusive version of a galvanized metal peony ring.  Slated to trail over the edge, a lime yellow sedum called Ogon.  The purple kale planted at the base of the sticks will grow considerably in size, before it bolts from the heat. 

tulip mix

 The curving shape of the tulips leads the eye right to this lead pot-imagine the disappointment, were it to be empty.  A pansy mix similar to what rings the pot borders the tulips. The front door seems so much more welcoming.

lead egg cups

 

Once the pots are planted up, and the pansy border added, these tulips make a much stronger statement.  They have a community of like minded spring friendly plants.  I do have another client whose wild flower garden goes right up to her front door.  At this time of year, it it is breathtakingly understated.  That garden would not work for me at home, nor would it work here.  Every property and house with a gardener in charge makes for an entirely individual celebration of the spring.   

spring container planting

The side porch has a sentry pooch.  I have seen him with hats, bandanas, necklaces and sunglasses. Sometimes there is a pumpkin on his head.  You have it right-there are kids who live here.  But for spring, a bucketful of lavender and a few pansies provide just the right touch-welcome, spring.  

spring pansy mix

I saw these at a nursery yesterday.  Irresistable, this.

 

At A Glance: Fresh Faces

clear sky pansy “Primrose”

blue pansies with dill, thyme, chives, and alyssum

viola

mixed whiskered violas

clear sky pansies

clear sky blue pansies

bicolor violas

bicolor violas, yellow pansies and red twig dogwood

spring window box detail

yellow violas

yellow violas

lavender violas

violet and lavender violas

violas, grape hyacinths, black twig dogwood, and lettuce

citrus mix pansies

spring flowers

spring planting with yellow twig, prairie willow, nemesia, pansies, heuchera and phlox

whiskered violas

violas with whiskers

wire plant stand

wire plant stand planted for spring

Sunday Opinion: The Season

Our remarkably cold spring has helped make more than a few things clearer to me.  Every year I encourage gardeners to plant for spring.  In the fall, and again come spring.  It can be one of the lovliest times of year in Michigan.  There are the spring bulbs-literally thousand to choose from.  Some are small and subtle-others are big and showy.  They are easy to plant- little brown orbs that only need to be popped underground.  They are completely programmed for a spring display- the day they go in the ground.  There is no better representative of promise and hope than this;  an early spring blooming bulb you can hold in your hand, and dream of the future.  Part of the party-plant as much as you can, as fast as you can.  That fall dirt will indeed be chilly.  

 The spring flowering bulbs are not the only party going on in the spring.  There are the wildflowers-an equally large group.  The spring flowering bulbs are exotic looking-meaning they are native to countries other than ours.  They look other-worldly.  The wildflowers are native.  Their wild and subtle beauty speaks to the celebration of the natural landscape-wherever you may live.  A nod to the native landscape-this is a pleasure for any gardener.  Phlox divaricata is one of my favorite wildflowers-that blue is unforgettable.  Michigan has more species of native orchids than any other state, save Florida.  Many of them bloom in the spring.  Should you be a gardener who also watched the Royal wedding, I am sure you spotted the long fronds of blooming Solomon’s Seal in the flower arrangements at Westminster.  Were they not beautiful?  There is a spring season.  I would encourage you to celebrate the spring wherever you may garden.

Perennials that represent beautifully during the spring-there are plenty.  I could list my favorites, but that is not my point.  If you do not have some part of your garden which is devoted to a celebration of spring, you will spend a few months longing for another time, and a different circumstance.  My garden has Magnolias, hellebores, European ginger, crocus, daffodils, crocus, tulips, trout lilies, PJM rhododendrons and sweet peas-I have a whole lot going on in my garden in the spring.  By mid March I can sense change in the air.  But dinner on the deck featuring homegrown tomatoes and basil is a long way off.         

There are those cold tolerant spring container plants-why would anyone do without them?  The pansies, violas, primula denticulata, ranunculus, lobelia, annual phlox, alyssum, and ornamental cabbage-all so beautiful.  My favorite combination this year-Creme Brulee heuchera, dark violet pansies, lavender and peach violas, and cream yellow alyssum.  I have some ideas about what fuels the urge to skip spring gardening.  We have four seasons in Michigan.  Spring, summer, fall, and  winter-each last about 3 months.  Our spring has been terrible really-very cold and very rainy.  But this is what we have now-for better or for worse.  Given the prospect of a really cold spring, there is that idea to skip it, as it might be short and fleeting.  I still plant for it.  The beauty of spring plants is such that the risk is well worth taking.  Some years my Magnolia Stellata blooms but 2 days-I have already had over a week of it this year.    

I have clients who wish to plant their summer annuals May 1.  They wish to follow up with planting vegetables May 10.  As much as I understand the idea to try to lengthen the summer beyond 3 months, nature is remarkably uncooperative in that regard.  Annuals and vegetables planted too early, in really cold soil, with cold night temperatures-they struggle to survive.  Should they survive, they are set back.  They may never recover the entire season.  Tropical plants set out too early in cold soil-it will take a lot of time for them to recover from the insult.  The insult?  Pushing the season.  No matter what any of us long for-the seasons turn when they will.  The turning of the seasons apply to all of us equally.  You gardeners for whom a garden is a sacred way of life-nature  could care less about your passion and committment-you will be on nature’s schedule no matter what you do. Plan ahead for a spring garden.  That garden reigns the better part of three months. Stave off the need to plant for summer too early-plan for a gorgeous spring.

 If you have a mind to skip the spring season, and challenge the opening date of summer-be prepared to plant twice.  Of course I have planted summer flowers too early.  Clients have events that are important.  June is such a tough month to plan for.  An unusually warm spring can mean the spring flowers are looking tired in June.  A cold spring can delay the summer plantings-which in the best of circumstances will not look at all grown up in June.  Summer annuals just get looking good in July.  Some years, the summer annuals never get really good.  Investing in gardening is a risky business-there are no guarantees.  No promises can be made.  Plants can die.  A planting scheme can turn out not at all how I imagined.  When I get too concerned about the prospect of failure, or too worried about the risk, I try to remind myself that act of making the garden is as important as the outcome.  Does any summer flower look anything like a forget me not?  Is there a reasonable substitute for dogtooth violets or violas in June that you know of? Pots of pansies and voilas just get looking good in June.  I have had them go on into July.  A beautiful spring is out there, in one form or another.  I would chance it, given that I cannot substitute one seasonal experience for another.      

The truth of the natural order of things will be told.  Ity is not tough to spot plants that are suffering from cold-they have that look about them.  Those gardeners that do not plan for a spring season can be tempted to plant summer annuals way too early.  They forego the beauty of the pansies, violas, and annual phlox for geraniums or begonias that are not prepared to survive outside a greenhouse at this time of year.  They plant out tomatoes the first of May; they buy their tomato plants a second time, once the summer weather sets in.  The end of May usually brings the beginning of our summer season.  It can be a week early, but it is just as likely to be a week later.  I plant my own summer flowers in June.  Given warm soil, they take off and grow fast-faster than plants that have been planted in cold soil.   Rushing the spring, hanging on to the summer too long,  editing the fall, ignoring the winter-this never works.  A life seriously imagined, and experienced in the present-a life well lived.  The changing of the seasons informs, and guides.   

No doubt it has seemed like our winter went on forever, pushing spring out of the picture.  Last spring-the best I ever remember. By best, I mean cool and surprisingly mild.  This year, miserably cold and wet.  Yet both seasons are well within the parameters of what we can call spring.