Category Archives: Spring flowers

‘Bowl of Beauty’ (Peony) In The Garden

Peonies are a favorite plant for me. I’ve even dreamed of owning a Peony farm before… and I’m not alone as I see many garden bloggers with peony-centric posts this time of year!

What’s not to love when considering rich color, luscious blooms and easy care? Yes, the glorious blooms are short-lived (maybe sort of like favorite days or favorite life moments) but the plant has a long lifespan and a reputation of health (what we all aspire to, yes?).

Peony ‘Bowl of Beauty’ is my only single-flowered variety and is the last to bloom in my garden. The creamy tones of yellow and pink that come together make it not only an eye-catcher but also unique.




So unique I haven’t found the perfect companion just yet…

I  have located it near my bowl fountain which adds a pop of turquoise and a contrasting shape but I’m thinking about adding a Siberian Iris close by for another contrasting shape. Any suggestions of varieties that may go well?




That brings me to garden design…I have a longstanding love/hate relationship with it.  Sometimes I am so pleased, and feel I am really figuring out how to design with plant life. Other times, I am sorely disappointed and ponder all season about how I am going to fix or change the design. I like to peruse magazines, Pinterest and other garden blogs for inspiration but a great way to get ideas for garden design is visiting other gardens, especially in the local area.  

The Boise Garden Tour is coming up this June 22 and there will be several gardens I can visit for inspiration. (Yay!) For local readers, the Boise Garden Tour is in its 28th year and always offers a great selection of private gardens that can only be toured on this one special day.  It is very enjoyable and the garden keepers are always present so you can visit with them and learn about their experience growing/gardening in the Boise valley.  For more info go to:

The May Garden Means Bodacious Blooms, Tasty Greens And So Much More…

I really can’t figure out which is my favorite month of the garden.   I Iove April because of all the wonderful plant awakenings (beautiful foliage everywhere) and the TULIPS! But now that it is May, I love the BIG blooms of peonies and irises, the constant supply of greens and the happy promises of so much more to come…

I have a few Peonies (Paeonia) in my garden.  The two that bloom first are coral-colored.   I think the name of this one is ‘Coral Charm’ but the tag was not completely readable when I purchased it, so it is a bit of a guess. (Pretty sure I am right though.)




The big blooms are gorgeous although a bit fleeting.  However, this year it has produced well over 25 blooms and it was just planted four years ago!  A few of these are being cut to enjoy in the house, most definitely!

Here is a shot of the other coral peony.  It is called ‘Coral Sunset’ and is getting ready to bloom.  There are just two blooms, but it was only planted last fall, so pretty good…


Another boozy bloom that I enjoy in May is the bearded iris (I. germanica).  This deep purple iris occupies a few spots in my main perennial border. Unfortunately, I don’t know it’s name either.  It was a start from my Mom’s garden, but I love the deep, rich, purpley/blue color so that is enough for me. :)

May37 Last year I planted Salvia ‘Madeline’ behind the purple iris to  see what the effect would be.  I like it!



A full-sun shot of the main perennial border…darn that light is bright!

The greens have been fabulous this year as we have had a truly “moderate” Spring in our area.    Spring is a bit of a wild ride here in the Intermountain West  with temps all over the place, lots of wind and many years very little moisture.  Fortunately, all of those things have been downplayed this year and we’ve enjoyed rains and many days in the 60′s.

The greens have responded and there have been many leafy dinners over the last few weeks!  Here’s a few shots of what I’ve been growing and my family has been eating.


Flashy trout back lettuce – purchased as a small plant start and planted in early April.


‘Paris Island’ lettuce – purchased as a small plant start.


Rows of Hudson Valley Seed Library’s ‘Ultimate Salad Bowl’ – planted as seed in early April.


SeedBallz Lettuce (Red & Green) – planted in late March

I went a little crazy with greens this Spring since we are on our 6th night of ‘salad night’ at our house.  ‘Salad night’ means our main course is some type of salad that is considered a full meal – taco salad, caesar salad, chicken mediterranean salad, etc..  My family is a little over the fresh greens thing, so tonight we will just have a small side salad with a completely different entrée.  I don’t want to completely burn them out!

Here’s a few more fun shots of what is happening in the May garden and the promise of more nutritious food to come…


Deliciously fresh and fragrant self-seeded cilantro!



Apple trees look like they will be offering up a tasty crop!


Pretty Verbascum that does so well in the Boise Valley…


Many, many blooms on the Boysenberry!  Yum!

How about you?  What big blooms do you enjoy in May and are you stuffing home-grown greens in your body every day?  What sorts of promises is the garden making to you in May? :)





Above Average Spring Brings Beautiful Blooms to Boise

Oh my, Spring is here in the Intermountain West! The lovely – and more than typical rain in March has lead to some lovely April blooms.  The absence of heavy frosts and daily wind has been heavenly!  In fact, I’ll venture to say it has been an above average Spring for gardeners!


It is easy to tell that tulips are one of my favorite spring flowers.  I have a couple of different types and several varieties around my garden.  I like to combine tulips with interesting plant textures.  The idea being the “texture” plant will still be around after the tulip is gone and in some cases will help hide the dying tulip foliage.

Here is a shot of mixed purples in a front garden.  Darwin hybrid tulip ‘Purple Prince’ is combined with aubretia and moss phlox (phlox subulata) along with the foliage of hardy geranium maculatum ‘Espresso.’


Pulsatilla patens (above) is another “purple” residing nearby,


Aubretia is a great low-growing spring bloomer that does very well in our local (Boise valley) area.  It is not picky about the pH of the soil it grows in and can take a low moisture environment.  It accommodates full sun or part sun, but the best thing is the gorgeous color that lasts 3-5 weeks in the spring.  Look at it up close and personal… now how can you resist this plant?


Another combination is Tulip ‘Hakuun’ with Calamagrostis x acutiflora  ‘Overdam.’  This grass starts with variegated foliage in the spring when it begins to grow.  I like the white tulip with the variegated foliage.


My favorite tulips are these that I picked up on a whim at a Target when I first started this garden.Pt3

They are bigger and better every year.  Odd for hybrid tulips, eh?  My theory is they must love this spot where the soil is mounded 2-3 feet above street level. I have combined them with a dwarf globe blue spruce (Picea pungent ‘Globosa’) 


A different angle with a gold-leafed barberry behind them.

SB07Moving to the back garden, I have tulip ‘Orange Queen’ in bloom with cushion spurge (euphorbia polychroma) and creeping veronica speedwell ‘Georgia Blue’  (veronica penduncularis and Calamagrostis x acutiflora  ‘Overdam’ nearby.


I have repeated this vignette throughout my main perennial border as I love the bright colors.  Living under a big, bright sky, you must have bold colors!


Here is a shot of a tangerine Geum (Avens) blooming near the ‘Orange Queen.’


I also like the ‘Orange Queens’ beside the Himalayan birch (betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’) with the golden foliage of an unknown Aquilegia.

SB13Now for a different type of tulip, this is tulip greigii ‘Fur Elise.’  It blooms quite early and I love the soft colors and also that it naturalizes providing more blooms as years go by.  I have this combined with Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ for a sort-of soft earth-tone combination.

fl1 SB14My last combination is another Darwin hybrid tulip that I do not know the name of due to bad record keeping…  The gray/green foliage of cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-summer) is directly behind the tulips.

SB16 SB17

And just for fun, a couple of other pretty bloomers  - hellebore ‘Blue Lady’ and Euphorbia polychroma ‘Bonfire.’

hb1 SB15

How about you? Have the Spring growing conditions been above average, average or below average?  If you grow tulips, how do you use them in the garden?

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!