Saturday, March 12, 2016

Ready, Set, Go!

With unusually warm weather through the first half of March (10 to 20 degrees above normal), Spring is bursting out all over!

One of the things that interests me - and one factor for me in plant selection - is the speed with which a perennial, shrub or tree leafs out in the Spring.

Maybe that seems silly, but by the time late February rolls around, I'm desperate for some greenery and signs of life in the garden.

Here are some sights that gladdened my heart:

An expert told me not to count on Agastache rugosa 'Honey Bee Blue' acting as a perennial in Middle Tennessee. But the plant itself begs to differ. All three of the specimens I've planted have been returning reliably for a couple of years.

And this year I even have a few Agastache rugosa seedlings. (Or they could be hybrids, since I'm growing some other Agastache species in the garden. Not sure how easily they hybridize. But this one is growing right next to the other Agastache rugosa plants and its leaves look the same, so I'll call it A. rugosa for now!

Aronia arbutifolia (red chokeberry)

Clematis 'Crystal Fountain'.
I think I've butched the training and pruning of this plant, but it survives and blooms despite me.

'Sugar Tyme' crabapple.
You can see some old, dried apples still hanging on the plant, but the robins and other birds ate quite a bit of the fruit over the winter. That was nice to see.

'Johnny Jump Up' (Viola tricolor) has been self-sowing here and there in the garden ever since I planted it back in 2012.
Philadelphus x virginalis 'Natchez' (mock orange)

The rosy buds on the redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) gleam even on a cloudy day.

Physostegia virginia 'Miss Manners' - an obedient plant that really is supposed to be well-behaved.
I planted this little guy last autumn and the basal foliage stayed evergreen through the winter, although it recently seems to have put on some additional new growth.

Echinacea purpurea (purple coneflower), appearing amid leftover stems and seedheads from last year's purple coneflowers that I broke off, crushed and left to 'compost in place'. 

Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (narrow-leaf mountain mint) - I have high hopes for this guy. It looks capable of spreading and functioning as a groundcover, plus it's supposed to have flowers that are appealing to pollinators. This will be the second full year in the garden for this plant (and the two other specimens of P. tenuifolium that I planted at the same time). I'd say this clump is at least four times bigger than it was when I planted it last Spring.

Eryngium yuccifolium (rattlesnake master). This is another perennial that I added to the garden in 2015. It's supposed to need or prefer good drainage, so I'm relieved to see that it survived a typically wet winter in heavy clay soil in a part of the garden that drains even more poorly than most. Don't these adorable early toothed leaves remind you of a Venus flytrap or some other carnivorous plant?

Another contender in the groundcover sweepstakes, this is Teucrium chamaedrys (creeping germander). It stayed more-or-less evergreen through the winter and has started putting on some new growth. I like how the stems trapped fallen leaves, which hopefully will help built and improve the soil over time.

Strawberries! Helpfully appearing next to its ID tag, this charming tripartite leaf belongs to Fragaria virginiana, our native wild strawberry! I planted several specimens of F. virginiana in the garden last autumn. This will be their first growing season in the Garden of Aaron!