Spring, finally!

Spring 2014 has been slow in coming.  As I write it is the middle of April, and we are just now enjoying some of the earliest floral harbingers…no less than a month late.  In fact, there has been so little news, I have held off writing this month’s post until now.  A couple of days in the mid to high sixties have done wonders for our spirits and our grounds!!

Perhaps, more fitting than words from me this month, would be pictures from various Village gardens, to prove that spring has come, finally.  Enjoy the tour!

Our first stop is the perennial border along the south side of the Museum Gift Shop.  For years we tried to grow crocus in that spot, but rodent pressure finally made me give up and try another spring bulb.  I am so glad I did!  Checkered lilies, which come most normally in a maroon-brown color, are on the dark side, but the interesting checkered pattern on the nodding blossoms is so unique they always capture the attention of passers-by.  Fritillaria meleagris also has the common names of guinea flower and snake’s-head fritillary.  It is as easy to grow as more common bulbs but, as implied, is unappetizing to rodents and deer too!

The shrub that you see blooming alongside the far end of the Museum Gift Shop is one of my absolute favorite spring flowering plants.  It goes by the name Korean or Manchurian Azalea (Rhododendron mucronulatum).  It is unique in that it blooms long before leaves unfurl, usually in early to mid-April.  Like other members of this genus, the Korean Azalea prefers acidic soil, and looks best when paired with other members of its kind in a shrub border or naturalized planting.  Because of its relatively low height (4-8’), rounded shape and clean growth habit, it is a candidate for use in foundation plantings as well.   Either way, locate the Korean Azalea in a protected spot in full sun to part shade.  If the color purple isn’t your thing, try the cultivar ‘Cornell Pink’ for bubble gum pink flowers.  Whether purple or pink, the flowers are incredible, so delicate they look as if they are constructed of tissue paper; definitely something to behold, especially without the backdrop of foliage to detract from their beauty.

A quick stop to the lower level of the herb garden to the asparagus bed proved further that the soil is finally warming up!  Yippee!  In order to thrive asparagus plants require full sun, fertile soil, a neutral pH, and a weed-free bed.  This can be achieved quite easily with a topdressing of compost and a sprinkling of lime each spring.

Growing alongside the stone retaining wall of the second tier of the herb garden, lungwort is just starting to come into its own.  Trumpet shaped flowers start out pink and change quickly to purple before fading out to white and withering away.  Pulmonaria officinalis is happy growing in the shade of the apple tree, and will thrive in fertile soil that is on the moist side.  As both its common and Latin name suggest, lungwort has a long history of use as a medicinal plant to treat a variety of lung and bronchial conditions.

A walk to the Salem Towne House patterned beds yielding a great photo opportunity!  I wish the image could convey the heady fragrance of hyacinths, but you’ll just have to trek over there and smell them yourself.  These bulbs are great “forced” in vases for a scented uplift in February or March.  Simply chill the bulbs for 10-12 weeks then pop them into a vase in a cool room with only the base of the bulb touching the water.  When roots form, place them in your living space and flowers will be next!

Our mini pictorial tour concludes with a gardener working in the cutting beds at the Towne House, loosening the soil in preparation for seed sowing and transplanting.  To see gardeners hard a work is a sure sign that spring is here, finally.