Category Archives: Spring flowers

Free Contentment Offered at Public Gardens Today

Go on, cancel your morning….bag your lunch meeting….or change your afternoon plans and get to a public garden. Today is the one day this year you can stroll amongst a treasured public garden of your liking for FREE! Today is National Public Gardens day!

A beautiful Spring day is made into a GREAT Spring day when you grab a friend, lover or family mate and spend a short while in your community’s garden. Or, if traveling, a different community’s garden.

Fresh shades of green every which way, the smell of worked earth and spring blooms and the grandeur of mature plants and trees that have been around much longer than yourself are

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh… RELAXING. Peaceful too.

And it feels good to find some contentment on a beautiful Spring day. To just be in a spot that somehow makes one feel grounded and optimistic about the world, when so many things can make us feel overwhelmed, dull and discouraged about the world.

So today, go find yourself a little slice of contentment with a visit to a favorite public garden.

For local readers, here are some Spring photos of the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise that is celebrating National Public Gardens day.

You could be sitting here...

You could be sitting here…


…and gazing at this…


…or this…

...or go for a stroll on a lovely path

…or go for a stroll on a lovely path

...and have this centaurea catch your eye

…and have this centaurea catch your eye thing you know your at the fabulous new (installed this week) entrance to the Children's garden...

…next thing you know you’re at the fabulous new (installed this week) entrance to the Children’s garden…

A Difficult Start, But Plants & Gardeners Don’t Give in Easily

April has come and gone and this means we are at mid-Spring. For a quick recap of early Spring I’ll write one word – ‘difficult‘. Difficult for gardeners anyway, (farmers too I’m betting) and who’s been waiting longer or more anxiously for its arrival!

The primary problem with this early Spring (around Boise, ID ) has been the wind, the drought and the freezing. Oh, I said problem?  I meant problems – in plural form!

Well sure, it’s not unusual to have some wind and intermittent freezing during early spring but combining these challengers with almost no moisture takes a toll on a garden and of course the garden keeper.

In this part of the Intermountain West we only get an average of 11.5-12 inches of rain per year. So when a month skips its normal rainfall, we notice! That month was March and we missed about an inch of precipitation leaving us with very dry conditions. Statistically, we are 1.66 inches below normal precipitation since the beginning of 2013. It might not sound like a lot, but remember we are talking about a maximum of 12 inches per year. Nothing like the 36 inches of rain our neighbors in the Pacific Northwest experience.

Enough of the stats, just think about this…if you were outside trying to grow beautiful it would be difficult with wind blowing you in every direction every other day. Then the night cold arrives and it is so deep that you are left with no resort but to bow down and try to make it thru till morning. And remember there’s no water as a refresher – just more wind.

Now, that is what it’s been like for all the plants in my garden. Difficult.

Thinking about it from another perspective, it is amazing how many plants don’t give in and survive the challenges day after day. (The same can be said for the motivation of die-hard gardeners I suppose.)  So even though the garden has gone through most unfavorable conditions this Spring I have a few highlights to share.

First, korean spice viburnum. A little shrub that I keep in a pot went from this to this in just a couple of days sharing its wonderful fragrance whenever I would pass by.

ES01ES02The one and only ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud (cercis canadensis) tree that survived the winter is surviving spring with its beautiful tiny blooms going from this to this.


ES1The one shower we received in April did make for some very happy tulips! My bright ‘Orange Queens’ really loved the rain and seemed so happy that day!


I was also impressed with tulip ‘Hakuun’, planted in February in a pot and the raised beds. ‘Hakuun’ turned out to be quite a sturdy performer even in difficult conditions. I cut some from the raised bed to enjoy them inside as well.



Tulip ‘Purple Prince’ was happier under the crabapple tree rather than in pots. Here is a shot of its fleeting appearance.

A little wind burn around the edges but still pretty.

New lily flowering tulips ‘Purple Dream’ in the garden.  Too cold for them to fully open but I love their elegant shape.


And for my final highlight – glorious greens! Every die-hard gardener knows a few tricks to deal with unfavorable elements and I was able to overcome my challengers and grow a gorgeous bin of greens.

ES14 ES13Arrugula and brocolli rabe went crazy in my steel planter while being protected by floating row cover. Mark one up for the gardenkeeper for not giving in to the difficult early Spring!

How about you? How has your Spring started? A favorable start with many highlights or some difficulties?

To see other gardens and what happened in April join Helen at The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

May Blooms Boom!

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day to Everyone!

Thanks for stopping by and special thanks to Carol at May Dreams for hosting this garden meme where gardeners from around the world post what is blooming in their garden on the 15th of each month.  Thanks Carol!

The bigger blooms in my garden are just starting to boom!  Irises and peonies are beginning to open.

Also, some newer plants, Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’, Lysimachia atropurpurea ‘Burgandy Loosestrife’, and Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ are in bloom.  All of these came from Annie’s Annuals in case you’re interested.  Another quick note, this lysimachia is not an invasive type.

Now after showing all those ‘cool’ tone flowers I must give some time to the hot colors in my garden.  Here is a Geum from mom (so I don’t know the variety) , Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ and Genista lydia, ‘Bangle.’

This garden under my ornamental plum tree has gone from this to this in the last few weeks.  I  think it is interesting to see how gardens change so dramatically in a short time.  I think many times us gardeners don’t fully notice the amount of diversity and change in our outdoor areas because we are always looking at and working in them.  I thought these two photos fun to share and they illustrate how gardens change so quickly.
A gardener can’t show all her “pretties” all at one time though so I’ll close my May GBBD post with one last shot of some simple, sweet strawberries blossoms.  So fresh and eager to be a part of the May blossom boom!
Do you notice the rapid change and evolution of your garden within a single season?  Do you take photos of specific areas and compare them season to season or month to month?  What is your favorite season in the garden from the photos you’ve taken?

‘First Cuts’ From the Garden

Last weekend the weather was beautiful and the weekend was even more beautiful because we enjoyed the ‘first cuts’ from the garden. Fresh greens…tender, light and so delicious.

Some of Johnny Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds arugula came from a small section of a spring pot I planted few weeks ago.  I like to mix edibles with ornamentals in pots and the arugula looks pretty with spring flowers and serves as a nice little flavor booster to the first salads.

The next cut was some Tom Thumb buttercrunch lettuce (lactuca sativa) from the raised bed garden. A few plants of this variety germinated last fall  due to my effort towards planting fall crops.  The little lettuces didn’t really do more than germinate last fall but they held on during the winter and began to grow in early March. They looked absolutely ready for harvest last weekend.

The final cut was the result of my seed planting efforts in early March and is Lettuce Rocky Top Mix from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I made a light-weight hoop house for this raised bed which kept the temperatures just a tiny bit warmer and protected young seedlings from the cold spring winds.  (The strawberries have loved it too!) This lettuce should probably be thinned but this time I just cut figuring I’ll get to it later.

I was pleasantly surprised at being able to harvest enough mixed greens to make a salad for six allowing my family and parents to enjoy the freshness.  I topped the greens with shavings of parmesan cheese, roasted beets and pistachios, then drizzled with an olive oil/balsamic salad dressing.  Delish!

How about you?  What are you harvesting in your garden?  What was or will be your ‘first cut’ this season?

Tulip Times

April is a fabulous time for admiring tulips. Each time a spot of brilliant color or a dab of a creamy pastel catches your eye it could very well be a tulip with its easy sway saying hello to you. Tulips are one of my favorite bulbs and easily my first choice in spring flowers.

Years ago I attended a lecture by the late great Christopher Lloyd who was very entertaining and I remember how he characterized daffodils as nice but “boring” because you get the same thing every year. They were too strict for him returning in their diligent manner with their limited color palette.

Instead, Mr. Lloyd said he preferred tulips because there was risk associated with them….you never know what you’re going to get! He said although the risk could be elevated (compared to daffodils) the rewards could be too. He then showed slides of gorgeous spring vignettes featuring tulips at Great Dixter.

The masterful gardener created a convert that day with his whimsical manner and pretty pictures because ever since I focus most of my fall bulb planting time on tulips. I do have a few daffodils in my garden too (and they are the first to excite me each Spring) but very few.

Last fall I spent some time considering where I could create an eye-catching tulip vignette in my mixed border bed. I remembered one of Mr. Lloyd’s plant combinations from years ago that I liked so much that included orange tulips with myosotsis ‘Forget-Me-Nots’ planted all around it. I was drawn to the combination of blue and orange.

However, ‘Forget-Me-Nots’ would not work in this combination because they are not typically in bloom early Spring in my climate unless they are grown in a greenhouse or purchased from a nursery. Then I realized my creeping speedwell (Veronica umbrosa) ‘Georgia blue’ is an early bloomer along with my Euphorbia polychrome that offers up a bright chartreusey  yellow. A clear orange tulip could work with both of them nicely.

I ordered some Darwin hybrid tulip ‘Orange Queen’ from Brent and Becky’s bulbs and this is the result.

I like it!

Since April really is tulip time in my garden here are a few shots of other tulips in the garden. First the pretty pink ones…



From a distance…

These pink tulips have done very well under this plum tree and each year there are more and they are so nice and big.  The funny thing about these tulips is that I am pretty sure I bought these at Target on a whim.  I don’t know what kind or variety they are but they have been fabulous performers.  Target, go figure!

Lastly, Tulip Greigii ‘Fur Elise’.  These are a new type for me and were also purchased from Brent and Becky’s last fall.  Although I love the colors of the blossom they came up pretty haphazardly.  Some had tiny blooms, some blossoms didn’t form quite right while others were large and beautiful.  The verdict is still out on this tulip, I’ll wait and see what happens next year once they’ve had more time to mature.  I also need to think about a vignette I could create around these tulips.  Ideas are welcome!

How about you?  What are your favorite spring bulbs?  Do you prefer tulips or daffodils?  Do you let the tulip foliage yellow/brown for a couple of months before removing it so that the tulips bulbs have lots of energy for the next season?

From Boise and San Francisco – Happy Almost Spring!

Happy Garden Bloggers Bloom Day to Everyone!

Thanks for stopping by and special thanks to Carol at May Dreams for hosting this garden meme where gardeners from around the world post what is blooming in their garden on the 15th of each month.  Hurray Carol!

Today I’m doing a combined post with my friend that guest posts under the, “From the Soil in San Francisco” section of my blog.  San Francisco garden gal, Karen, has some wonderful flower power and words to share so be sure to read on.

To start out, I’m sharing some early blooms from my garden. However, since I am a Zone 6 gardener in the Intermountain West, (Boise) my blossoms are still ‘a pretty few’.  Think of them as a “little appetizer” for what you will see when you check out Karen’s garden!

Here’s Narcissus ‘Tête à Tête’ and Helleborus ‘Blue Lady’ to wet your appetite!

Helleborus 'Blue Lady'

Now travel a little further West and a bit South to see what Karen has been up to….


From The Soil In San Francisco

by San Francisco garden gal Karen

Mark Twain wrote, “It’s Spring fever…You don’t quite know what it is you DO want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”

If the man were still alive I’d have thought he was talking to me!

Here in the Bay Area the weather has been relatively balmy recently and we’ve had one of the driest winters on record.  It’s the type of weather that beckons you outside and teases you into believing you should be digging, growing and watering. I’ve found myself strolling the paths of nurseries, frustrated by the lack of variety – completely unable to reconcile the reality of winter with my hopes for spring!  These are hopes that have been born of warm temperatures yes, but also in the past couple weeks by glimpses of the beauty that’s still to come.

It’s the greedy side of me – I’ve been treated to a bit of garden beauty and, even though I haven’t even made any spring garden plans yet, it’s not nearly enough!

See what I mean, here’s a few things blooming in my garden and inspiring me to want even more…

At the top of this photo you see Jasmine – I have a love/hate relationship with my jasmine but when it’s in this stage I feel some Spring love!  This makes such a gorgeous backdrop and frames other plants so well.  And the scent is amazing!  It’s only when it tries to escape its area and invasively vines its way into another plant’s territory that I consider replacing it.

Next is Chasmanthe aethiopica (Cobra Lily) – I’ve called this “Lucifer” for years under the mistaken impression it was  Crocusmia “Lucifer”.  It wasn’t until I saw it in a book that I learned what it really is!  Regardless of the name, the hummingbirds and I love it.

Also in view and bloom is Agapanthus africanus ‘Peter Pan.’ I’ll be the first to admit that I never sought out this plant.  They’re very common in my area and I wasn’t impressed.  But, I planted this one because of Andrea and have come to appreciate it’s simple beauty and care-free nature.  Don’t tell Andrea but I even got another one, a white one, just to see how that one fits in with the crowd…:)

Crocus vernus – These are always such a nice surprise to find in my garden.  They’re so unassuming and dependable, yet never fail to “wow” me year after year.

Geranium sanguineum – Another dependable beauty!  I love it’s ability to spread without becoming invasive and to be a bit showy without being needy.

Azalea – Good old dependable azaleas, what more is there to say

Zantedeschia aethiopica (Calla Lily) – These were here when I moved in and seem to be here to stay.  They’re wonderful cut flowers that look so elegant in a simple vase.

Erysimum linifolium ‘Variegatum’  – This plant is a favorite of mine because of its compact size, delicate little flowers, and variegated leaves.  It stays in bloom for quite a long time as the flower stalks continue to grow throughout the season.

Apricot tree blossoms (from a few days ago) – Every year we stress over our apricot and apple trees flowering.  It’s devastating when rains come when they’re in bloom!  This year we think we’ve got that worry licked because it hasn’t rained.  Now to watch the fruit grow and keep the squirrels from eating everything!

Polygala x dalmaisiana (Sweet Pea Shrub) – okay, I’m cheating a bit here.  I’ll come clean and admit that this shrub flowers year-round.  But, it IS blooming and it IS a wonderful, showy shrub so I had to share these pretty blooms.

Truly I have no reason to be “itching” for spring – it’s here and actually putting on a pretty good show!  As of this week there’s some substantial rain here which will hopefully encourage more blooms to come on out and show off for me.  And maybe I’ll be forced to stay inside and jot down some of the garden ideas that have been bouncing around in my head.

I’m ready for the big show any time Mother Nature decides to let loose!  As a wise man (okay, so it was Robin Williams) once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s Party!”

A bit about San Francisco Garden Gal:

I’m Karen, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Summers here can be cool or hot, winters may be rainy or dry…it all depends on the year, or sometimes the week!  The coastal influence contributes to the lack of predictability  but on the other hand keeps things interesting making me appreciate nature’s tenacity and beauty.  I’ve been gardening since buying a house that had a backyard consisting of two sheds and some white rocks. My goal until relatively recently was to have the “perfect” yard and then sit back and enjoy it.  It’s taken many years and even more plants to realize that gardening is an endless endeavor and that many of its most exquisite shows are fleeting.  And this I’ve decided is both its frustration and its allure. I look forward to writing occasionally about whats going on gardening-wise in the Bay Area and sharing my experiences.  I’m one of Andrea’s biggest fans and excited to be contributing to my favorite garden blog!

And First Place Goes To…

Yesterday I was out in the near 60° sun transplanting a rose before it completely comes out of dormancy.  And low and behold I saw my first Spring bloom!  It is a miniature daffodil, narcissus ‘Tête à Tête’, and it wins the first place award for putting out the first beautiful bloom in the garden!

I’ve been envious over the last couple of weeks looking at some of my fellow garden bloggers pretty pictures of snowdrops and crocuses.  I don’t have any of those in my garden and I was wishing that I had some really early bloomers.  As luck would have it, I do!

This small bit of color brightens an area around a tree in the front of my house and I can hardly wait for more ‘Tête à Tête’ to cross the finish line…via that beautiful bloom!

Rolling Into Spring…

I  know these two lines are familiar, probably very familiar…

But have you ever considered them in the context of the arrival of Spring?  As I was huffing and puffing in a workout, listening to these lines, I couldn’t help but think of the beauty of Spring and how excited I am, once again for this season to start.

Images kept popping into my head – tulips, cherry blossoms, magnolias, dogwoods, hellebores, peonies, irises, alliums, windflowers, and on and on and on…

Before I knew it my heavy-breathing time was up! Thoughts of Spring really lift my spirits, so much so that even a tedious workout was debunked!  It’s time to get back into the garden and watch a fresh line of spring ‘pretties’ emerge.

Oh, there will be some anxiety for sure… over getting all of the Spring “work” going in a timely fashion.  Along with some frowning and rambling about why the weather man says be ready for some “breezy weather” when what that really means is wind from morning till night including gusts of 30-50 mph.

No, Spring will not be entirely decadent like a piece of cheesecake with a pansy on top.  But being outdoors every day, feeling the rhythm of the garden (even if it is barely there some days) will be wonderful!

Today I am joining Donna@ Gardens Eye View and her new meme Seasonal Celebrations.  I am celebrating the arrival of Spring by day-dreaming about it for now, especially since March arrived like a Lion yesterday putting down some much-needed snow!

BUT one way I will be truly celebrating Spring is planting my new semi-shade bed.  The rock was removed last year, the soil amended and three ‘Forest Pansy’ Redbud (cercis canadensis) trees planted.  Now I get to fill in the understory beneath the trees with lots of fun plants.  Yay! I’m happy to have one spade-ready project that simply requires fun shopping, beautiful plants and me spending some time together.

I like this quote from Inneractions by Stephen C. Paul and think it is quite fitting as a gardener’s motto for celebrating Spring.

How about you?  How do you celebrate the arrival of Spring?

Last out of the Garden, First in the Garden

November has brought a swift wrap-up to much of the garden.  The cold temperatures made sure all lingering warm-season edibles have bit the dust and the few cool-season edibles are no longer showing much growth. Additionally, the ornamental garden has reached its peak color and is now fading to muted form and color and will soon give way to the all engulfing cold of Winter.

Last Out -

The swift changes mean many tasks for the head gardener, me!  But last week, during one of the rainy-windy afternoons, I decided to prolong my garden shut-down “to-dos” a bit longer and use  the last of my San Marzano tomatoes that have been ripening in the window sill over the last couple of weeks. I made my last batch of marinara sauce with them and used my friend’s recipe that has turned into a favorite of the homemade marinara’s I’ve tried this year.

My San Marzano tomato was very prolific this year and of course there were many, many tomatoes yet to ripen when the frosty night-time lows hit.  I brought many inside, ripened them in a South facing window and into the marinara sauce they went.  In case you are still harvesting or ripening tomatoes inside and are interested in a marinara the recipe is below.

It is quite simple and I really prefer its flavor over other recipes that call for red wine, sausage/bacon fat or other ingredients that are supposed to add extra flavor.

A Friendly Marinara

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 carrots peeled and finely chopped

1 – 2 tablespoons fresh thyme

1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp pepper

32oz fresh tomatoes chopped -  I use San Marzanos

2 dried bay leaves

In large pot, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute’ until the onions are translucent, about 10 min. Add celery, carrots, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute’ another 10 min.  Add tomatoes and bay leaves and simmer uncovered over low heat for about an hour. Remove bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once cooled I purée via the food processor.  Of course you can skip this step if you like a chunkier marinara.

First In -

As last week progressed, the weather stabilized and I progressed into a state of mind of tackling garden shut-down “to-dos” though temps were cool.  I had already received some motivation Tulips from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs

I have never tried this grower before but have read good things about them.  I ordered Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’ and Tulipa ‘Fur Elise’. The first is a Fosteriana tulip and the latter a Greigii tulip.  I’ve not grown either of these types of tulips before and am excited for more interesting foliage (mottled/striped leaves) as well as the luscious blooms.

So the first “to do” –  get the new tulips in the ground!  I planted the Tulip ‘Orange Emperor’ amidst euphorbia polychroma, calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’ and veronica peduncularis ‘Georgia Blue’.  If all is timed correctly I should have a cheery vignette of bright yellow, bright blue and carrot orange with a variety of green foliage come Spring.

Euphorbia and Reed Grass ‘Overdam’

Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’

When planting tulips, (see Tips for Tulips for more info) I try to always dig at least a 6 inch deep hole (deeper if possible, although that can be hard when planting under a tree) and put a little bone meal and compost/peat moss in the bottom before placing the bulb in the hole.  I amend the unearthed soil with compost and then gently cover the bulbs to the surface level.  Later, I throw a couple of inches of mulch over the top of all of the planted areas.

Getting the first tulips in the ground makes a gardener feel good.  They are symbolic of the next Spring that is sure to come and they promise new-found life and beauty in the days to come. I believe this is what motivates gardeners far and wide to plant once again at the close of a growing season.

Now I need to get the rest of the Spring promises in the ground… And see all these lovely leaves? …Next task is to get the rake out and capture them into the composter.  But that’s another topic for another time…

How about you?  What do you do in the Fall to enhance your Spring-time delight?  How do you motivate yourself to shut-down the garden if living in Zone 7 and colder?  Do you have any tips for growing tulips?

Carol Garden - 48

Friday Favorite: An Inspirational Garden in the Rugged Owyhee Mountains

The Owyhee Mountains are located in high altitude Intermountain desert where sagebrush and lava rock are aplenty.  It is a rugged area and you can tell this by taking a quick visual scan of the landscape. 

The fortitude of the region gives a big clue as to rigor of the climate and the lifestyle.  You have to be tough to live here whether person, animal or plant!

The aura of the western frontiersmen still feels strong here. Horses reign, cattle are abundant and cowboys and cowgirls live a good life.  However, despite all of this rough-hewn scenery there is another type living in these mountains.  A gardening type…in fact a gardener extraordinaire!

Carol, the gardener extraordinaire, has staked her ground at almost five thousand feet of elevation.

She has created a most beautiful garden surrounding her home that serves as a visual oasis for all passers-by.  It is not uncommon for someone to stop in just to comment on her lovely gardens.  And it’s interesting to note that in this rugged, masculine environment, it is usually men that comment on her garden’s beauty.

She works tirelessly year after year creating gorgeous garden beds all the while battling wind, late season frosts, hail storms, ultra-dry air, rodents, cow dogs and rattlesnakes!    Not only does this gardener have to decide which plant will work where but also has to make sure a dog won’t make a bed out of it or that a rattlesnake isn’t under it once it gets growing! Remember,  you gotta be tough!

Carol’s gardening season is a short three months (maximum 100 days)  in a USDA Zone 4, Sunset Zone 1A climate.  These parameters mean the winter lows average 0°-11° and  extremes can range from -25° to -40° not counting wind chill.  When the heat comes on it shoots up quickly and can sometimes stay in the 90′s for a significant part of the growing season.

Carol’s watering system which is very important for those couple of months of hot weather consists of hoses and a few old-style sprinklers.  Nothing automatic in this neck of the woods!

The upside to a high-desert garden?  You  know there always is one…the air is fresh and clear and the water clean with good minerals.  Plus the soil is fertile and if given a chance plants like to grow here!

Take a tour of Carol’s garden with me.  Here are some of my all-time favorite shots with an extended gallery below.

Carol is one of the most inspirational gardeners I’ve had a chance to know.  Her passion combined with admirable traits such as tenacity, dedication, patience, hope, humour and forgiveness have enabled her to create a luscious plot in this untamed, wild west kingdom.  Carol knows what it takes to get something to grow strong in some of the most unpredictable, ever-changing environments.

You may wonder how I know Carol exercised all of these traits to grow her garden…Well, that’s easy… for you see she also exercised them growing her family… Carol is my mom!  Happy Wild Owyhee Mountain Gardening Mom!