Easter Weekend looks like it is going to be wonderfully spring-like. All of us gardeners are anxious to get our hands in the soil and do some gardening! Despite what some of the media is saying, YES you can start planting this weekend! Please also note that the list of plants to be offered at Powell Gardens’ Spring Plant Sale the first weekend in May is now on our website.
I took this image of blooming Hellebores / Lenten Roses (Helleborus x orientalis) yesterday in the Perennial Garden. Despite being slammed by heavy wet snow and subjected to temperatures as low as 20F, this plant is just fine. It’s an example of a plant you should be headed out to your favorite nursery and buying NOW! They are always best to buy in bloom because you know what flower color and pattern you are for sure going to get. The plants are just fine being planted immediately (as long as they’ve been hardened off outside). Look for beautiful Hellebores in bloom at the entrance to the Island Garden, Rock & Waterfall Garden and in the Woodland section of the Perennial Garden.
Here are or Pansies and Violas outside hardening off. If you are not familiar with that term, it means the beneficial transition time between plants grown in a greenhouse and planted outside. It is especially critical with the spring crops subject to frosts and freezes. These pansies were moved from the greenhouses and placed outside with a frost blanket at hand to cover them during our recent snow and cold. This gives the plants a chance to acclimate to the weather outdoors and reduces planting shock.
Here’s a closer look at some of the pansies out hardening off and backlit by the morning sun.
Here’s a picture of Janet Heter (Senior Gardener in the Rock & Waterfall – Chapel landscape) loading ornamental cabbages and kale for planting in containers today. Cabbages and kale, like pansies and violas are very cold tolerant and ok to plant now. We may throw some frost blankets over them next Monday night as the forecast varies from a low of 19F to 27F for Tuesday morning. A temperature in the upper 20’s will do no harm to these at all.
This weekend is also a great time to plant hardy trees and shrubs. These are some new conifers we received from a local nursery and they are ready to plant as long as your soil isn’t too wet and despite the predicted cold early next week. Just make certain any new plants you purchase for planting now be dormant. That means no new growth is apparent and the plant is at the same stage as those in your own landscape.
Yes, some of our hardy trees and shrubs have broken dormancy and will be in bloom this weekend. This is the Japanese Colonel Dogwood or Oriental Cornelian-Cherry (Cornus officinalis). It blooms VERY early with small warm, yellow flowers. The flowers are extremely hardy and even survived the vicious Easter freeze of 2007. Yes, if you found one of these at your local nursery in bloom now, it would be ok to buy and plant! Look for these plants along the Dogwood walk, Perennial Garden and in the Heartland Harvest Garden at Powell Gardens. They are a dogwood but produce a cherry-like fruit in late summer that is very tart but wonderful for cooking and preserves.
A visit to the garden this weekend will reveal wonderful creatures (in addition to our flora!) that will show you SPRING has SPRUNG! Yesterday, I took this photograph of a Mourning Cloak (butterfly) sunning itself on a plant label in the Rock and Waterfall Garden. Mourning Cloaks are one of 5 species of butterflies that overwinter as adult butterflies in the gardens and are the first to emerge in spring and sometimes during warm spells in the winter. Yes, this butterfly can freeze solid and come back to life!
The Red-winged Blackbirds are back on territory with their red epaulettes showing again! Look for our famous friendly Red-winged Blackbird we named “Fabio” on the Island Garden. This bird was in the Heartland Harvest Garden.
It is the breeding season so you will see the male Red-wings give their display to show off to the ladies. I finally got the shot this morning! They puff up their feathers to show off how fit they are — including their epaulettes which look like they are on fire. Their call is a non-musical “koo-ker-deeee” the females must find pretty special.
The Purple Martins came back to Powell Gardens yesterday. Our Heartland Harvest Garden interpreter, Barbara Fetchenhier saw them too and immediately got the martin houses up in Fun Foods Farm. They spent the night comfy in their homes and I took this picture this morning while they were warming up. This is a pair, the male above. He is actually black with a feather structure that reflects purple — you can see a bit of the purple shine on his wing. The female has some brown feathers and actually blinked when I took this shot so you can see her eye! Martins feed on insects so you know spring is here when they return. Come see these birds in Fun Foods Farm in the Heartland Harvest Garden. Today I also saw my first Blue-winged Teal (duck) on a pond in the parking lot and heard the first Brown Thrashers –both back from wintering farther south. Ahhhh, the sights and sounds of early spring.
Early spring bulbs are still in bloom like this full clump of J.S. Dijt Reticulate Iris (Iris reticulata) — one of the latest flowering cultivars of that group.
Daffodils are continuing to bloom, many opening before the last couple heavy snows and temperatures as cold as 20F. I am always amazed at how resilient this springtime flowers are, something you have to be in our climate!
And yes, the plants for our annual Spring Plant Sale are thriving in the spring sunshine in the greenhouses. (The plant sale will be May 4th & 5th; with a members only sale on Friday evening May 3rd from 5-7 p.m.) The plant lists is now available on our website — alphabetized by either common or botanical name. I will preview some of the plant goodies in a future blog. Meanwhile, Happy Easter to all and may you get outside and enjoy some spring planting and hopefully come visit the sweet sights and sounds of spring at Powell Gardens and its 970 acres of nature. Don’t forget the Living Room with orchids is on display in the Conservatory!