Looking good right now

How is it already mid-May? Spring is almost over (by my plant phenological standards) and summer is lurking. Spring has always been my favorite time of year. I love the fresh green growth on everything, seeing new growth push up out of the soil, spring flowers, the return of bird song and gentler weather. It’s all so fleeting, which makes it all the more precious. Summer and winter can drag on for me and fall, well, it just doesn’t have the magic here in the Pacific Northwest that it did back in the Midwest and eastern U.S. This isn’t to say that I don’t like the other seasons, it’s just that they’re not my favorites. So, in the spirit of spring, I’d like to highlight a few plants that are looking particularly good around the garden right now.

Hands down, my favorite Epimedium right now is Epimedium x rubrum. This is its first spring in the garden after being planted last year, and Wow! The new spring growth is a spectacular combination of chartreuse and red. I really like this contrast. Plus, there is something about the cleanliness and shape of the leaves, and the little tiny prickles around each edge. I don’t even miss not having any flowers.

Fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) really shines this time of year. I always wanted this peony as a kid, and now I finally have it. Interesting cut foliage and a deep, dark red flower with yellow stamens. I only wish it stayed this good looking throughout the growing season. Sort of a one hit wonder in my garden, the foliage gets all sprawly after this and the flower only lasts a couple days or hours at most. It can die down in late summer if it gets super dry. I don’t water it enough to keep the foliage vibrant and lush. This is out in the deer garden – a garden I specifically planted with my darling dear little demon-hooved monsters in mind. This is the garden where I plant the things that are poisonous or distasteful to deer and where I trial plants to see how much our local horde of deer will nibble them.

I like this cultivar of Centaurea montana, ‘Amethyst in Snow’. Different than the all blue varieties. This is also out in the deer garden, occasionally nibbled, but mostly left alone. The best part for me is the flower buds.

Liking the chartreuse leaves of the spiderwort (Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’) and columbine (seedlings of Aquilegia ‘Woodside Gold’) combined with the maroon flowers of the latter and the purple flowers of honeywort (Cerinthe major purpurascens). Honeywort flowers remind me a bit of blue shrimp. The bees love this plant. It’s hard to get a good photo of the entire plant – pictures just don’t do it justice.

Our Mexican orange (Choisya ternata ‘Aztec Pearl’) is in full bloom. Not quite as fragrant as I would like, but you can tell it is in the citrus family from the scent of the flowers and the crushed leaves.

It always amazed me that this is an actual flower shape. Bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis). This is an example of paying attention to what is native around here. We’ve got a few native bleeding heart species in Oregon, so it stands to reason that other Dicentra species and related plants (Corydalis) would do well here too.

Leopard’s bane (Doronicum species) along the fence. Apparently leopards don’t like it. I haven’t seen a one since I planted this here a year or two ago. I wish I could find a plant named deer bane.

I think I have a thing for the color chartreuse. Euphorbia characias wulfenii. This is entering its final weeks of color. Has been in bloom for over a month. I have been watching the flowers a lot this spring and noticed that it is visited by a lot of different species of flies as well as a few smaller bees or wasps, but mostly flies. Odd. It made me curious what makes this plant so attractive to flies? Is it the color? Is it an odor? It didn’t have any scent that I could tell, definitely not repulsive.

Oregon has a lot of native plants in the saxifrage family, including coral bells (Heuchera species), so I thought this cultivar ‘Red Lightning’ might do well here. Now I am not so sure, however, after seeing some clumps of these newer cultivars sort of crap out at a friend’s house. I’ve heard rumors about some new cultivars not being terribly long-lived. We’ll see, I guess. Some would say it looks sick already, but I sort of like it.

Lest anyone think all I grow is bedding perennials, we do have a rock garden. I planted this Meadow Muffin (Erigeron pulchellus ‘Meadow Muffin’) last year in the new rock garden I made Here it is blooming for the first time. Sweet! Usually just a flat, round, fuzzy rosette of leaves.

Lastly, I leave you with what I found in one of our Douglas-fir this week.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Janean H Creighton

    I was told that bleeding hearts pollinators need to heavy enough to force the pink petals ( or are they bracts?) open by pulling down on the stamen. Forgive me if I have my plant parts incorrect: it’s been years since my last botany class ?

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Ok, now I am going to go have to -um- tug some stamens and see what happens. No worries on getting the plant parts right. I’m rusty on plant terminology too.

      1. Garden Curmudgeon

        Ok, I tugged on the stamens of an unopened flower and they didn’t open up. I was sort of expecting it to open like a locket, but nothing. Someday I will have to watch to see what pollinators do. Maybe our native bleeding hearts act differently than this one?

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