Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tulipmania at the Dallas Arboretum

The first tulips have finally opened up here, in spite of the monsoon that hit us last week, swelling creeks and small rivers, making travel hazardous and often circuitous, as many of us had to be inventive to find our way home.  But my basement has finally dried out, and our neighbors  no longer can claim to have lakefront property.  In between the rain showers I've managed a few hours working in the garden, still pruning and clearing out last year's debris.  But back to those tulips . . .

While my own tulips are just starting to bloom, I was fortunate to enjoy a bonanza of tulips three weeks ago while visiting my daughter and son-in-law in Dallas.  I arrived just in time to catch the end of the annual Bulb Festival at the Dallas Arboretum.  When I purchased my ticket, I asked if the bulbs were located in a specific location within the gardens. Foolish me!  The attendant kindly replied that they were everywhere throughout the garden, which soon became apparent. 

Tulips, tulips everywhere and in every hue imaginable!  The masses of tulips at the entry gate in the first photo were nearly finished, but inside the gates most were still in their prime.

I'm sure there were other spring-flowering bulbs featured in this festival, but it was the tulips that captured my attention on this sunny day.

Pink tulips mixed with purple and white pansies--my favorite spring color combo.

Even a pop of yellow looks good here.

'Blushing Lady' tulip--I didn't bother to write down names of different varieties, but I'm always drawn to tulips with these gradients of pink and yellow.  I've already ordered a similar type at the Chicago Flower Show for this fall.

While my favorite tulips are pastel or even flashy hot colors, there is something pristine and serene about these yellow and white ones . . .

. . . especially in a mass planting.

Covering 66 acres, the Dallas Arboretum is smaller than many such gardens around the country, but its size makes it easy to tour in an afternoon.  It is a family-friendly place, with exhibits and play spaces designed for children and lots of grassy spaces for children to romp.

Indeed, most of the children I saw were enjoying the open spaces as much as any exhibit.  

Older visitors appreciated all the benches strategically placed along the broad walkways.

All visitors are welcome!  (I even saw a few squirrels scampering about.)

Of course, the Arboretum is about more than just tulips--
azaleas were just as prominent and just as spectacular.

I would love to have a mass of these blooms in front of my house!

Trial gardens in one area contained new varieties of different annuals and perennials, 
including this bed of violas.

In another area a planting of columbines caught my eye.

I love the blue, but I'm thinking I'd like some of this color in my garden, too.

Many of us were intrigued by this unusual tree and stopped to get a closer look--
an Empress Tree, Paulownia tomentosa.

A beautiful terraced rock garden.

The Poetry Garden provided some inspiration--I thought of Juliet's balcony when I saw this rose-covered high wall.  Note the stunning blue delphiniums to the left.

An unusual water feature was a popular place, and no doubt is even more popular on a hot day.

One area of the Arboretum features different varieties of Japanese maples, stunning already in early spring.

The Dallas Arboretum has many different garden areas and even an historic home that can be toured, which I didn't have time for on this day.  The tulips were magnificent, but I'm looking forward to seeing what is in bloom at other times of the year as well.  I have my fingers crossed that Daughter and Son-in-law will be staying in Dallas for some time, because I definitely plan a return visit(s) to the Dallas Arboretum!

Monday, April 15, 2013

April Bloom Day: Spring Showers

April showers bring May flowers . . .

...or at least I hope so.  Spring has finally arrived, I think, and the garden is slowly waking up.  But spring rains have also arrived, making it difficult to get much work done in the garden.  Rose's Law has definitely been in effect:  "Warm, sunny days occur only when the gardener is out of town or busy with other commitments."  I keep reminding myself, however, of the drought the past two summers and to be thankful for all this rain, even if it means the daffodils are fighting for attention with last year's dead perennial stalks.

Besides cutting back last year's perennials, there are lots of thick oak leaves to be raked from the garden.  These hyacinth were so happy I finally raked off the leaves that were smothering them--they went from a sickly yellow to full bloom in just a matter of days.

I've also cleaned up most of the shade garden, including cutting back the old foliage of the hellebores, giving them a chance to shine.

The white ones are the same type of hellebore, but only fairies or other creatures scampering below them can fully appreciate their blooms.  Notice more oak leaves underneath--they're great as winter insulation, but they sure are a pain to remove in the spring.

I was out of town last week, visiting my daughter in Dallas. When I left, the daffodils were still buds; when I returned, they were fully opened to give me a very cheery welcome home.

The traditional yellow daffs are always the first to open, but this year the double 'Repletes' have also made an early appearance.  Until a few years ago, I thought that all daffodils were yellow, but a mail-order offer opened my eyes to the wide variety of daffodils available today.  I immediately fell in love with the pictures of double ruffled daffs and ordered several varieties, including some with pink centers.  However, I must say they haven't quite lived up to those glossy images.  Blowing in the wind--which never seems to stop these days--they tend to look rather bedraggled.

Instead of doubles, the last few years I've been planting different varieties of single bloomers, which I much prefer.  These white with orange centers are in Odie's memorial; there are more varieties in "Daffodil Hill," but their photos will have to wait until a day when the wind finally stops blowing.

I've also begun to plant more diminutive varieties, such as these 'Tazetta' narcissus (I think) in the arbor bed.  They don't show up from a distance like the taller daffs, but their dainty size adds some dimension to the garden.

Another rescue from the oak leaf blanket--the first primrose is blooming.  I'm not sure what caused the hole in the petal--an over-vigorous raking or some creature hiding beneath the leaves.  Another reason to finish the clean-up as soon as possible: if I don't get these leaves removed before the hostas come up, the slug population may explode this summer.

A few scilla have also begun to bloom, and the trees and shrubs are budding up, but the biggest spring show is yet to come--this fat tulip bud holds the promise of a colorful spring very soon.

Today's blooms are brought to you courtesy of our hostess with the mostest, Carol of May Dreams Gardens.  It's interesting that when I was checking last year's posts for a plant i.d., I discovered I had almost the same photos last year--except they were for March's Bloom Day, not April's.  I hope that is a good sign that this will be a more "typical" year, weather-wise, and that all these spring rains will make for a much better summer garden.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Finding Inspiration: The Chicago Flower Show, Part II

 I'm almost afraid to say it--in case I might jinx it--but I do believe that spring is finally arriving here in central Illinois.  The snow from last weekend's winter storm--the first real snowstorm we've had in over two years--has finally melted, and each day I find a few more signs of green growth shooting up in the garden.  Before the daffodils and tulips finally arrive, though, I want to finish up our tour of the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.

I suspect the reason most cities hold a garden show in February or March is because they know winter-weary gardeners like my friend Beckie and myself will gladly make the three-hour trip by train, car, and taxicab just to get a taste of spring, even if it is indoors.  Bloomers like these beautiful irises were a welcome sight and certainly lifted my spirits.  But I suppose the real reason for late-winter garden shows is so that businesses can inspire gardeners and perhaps entice them to buy their products or services before gardening season gets into full swing.  The Chicago show certainly showcased many new ideas for the garden.

Vertical gardening seems to be a popular trend in recent years.  One of the more interesting and practical displays of this type of gardening was in a product called Live Wall.  One side of this structure was decorative, filled with heucheras and trailing plants, but the other side, shown here, was probably the most appealing. Each box was filled with some type of vegetable or herb. The product is rather pricey, but a nearby graphic display illustrated how savings from a vegetable garden would pay for the structure in just a few years.

While saving money is certainly an enticement, I think for most of us the quality and freshness is the biggest reason for growing our own vegetables.  The fresh lettuce growing here definitely looked better than most of what I see in the supermarket these days.  Space is not issue for me, so I won't be growing any of my vegetables vertically, but the display demonstrated that anyone, even with limited space, can grow their own vegetables.

A display of window boxes demonstrated different plant combinations.  Although I don't have any window boxes, I always enjoy this display to get some new ideas for my containers.  I would never have thought of planting lavender in a container, but I like the natural look of the taller lavender in the back of this window box.

I really, really want a raised bed in my vegetable garden, but what caught my eye in this small display of raised beds was this old wooden ladder.  I've seen ladders used for plant displays before, of course, but never with wooden trays across the rungs for added space.  I would think these trays wouldn't be hard to make...hmm, a project to keep my Dad busy this summer, perhaps?

Sometimes it's the little things that inspire.  I know I'm not the only one always looking for a better way to mark plants.  I thought these plant markers were some of the prettiest I've ever seen.  I'm not sure of the materials used here, but I'm sure something suitable could be found at any craft store. These would be a great project for an artistic gardener.

Another idea I liked--old silverware engraved with plant names.

And then, of course, there are the plants that call to me and beg to be added to my plant wish list.  I first saw these purple anemones two years ago at the Chicago show, but then forgot about them when fall bulb ordering rolled around.  This year a note has been made in the garden journal so that they won't be forgotten again.  Don't they look exquisite paired with pale pink azaleas?

Another planting demanded a closer look and a check of the I.D. tag to identify them.

Double Primroses--I've never seen these before!  I'm not sure if these are hardy in my zone 5 garden, but if they are, they will be added to the plant shopping list as well.

One end of the exhibition hall is filled with vendors, and Beckie and I allowed enough time to stroll through this area before we had to leave to catch our train.  Although I vowed I wouldn't spend much money here, unless I found something I really, really wanted, I was excited when Beckie noticed a sign next to the tulip garden that all these bulbs were available for sale by a vendor at the show.  I am a pushover when it comes to double tulips and couldn't resist the huge blooms of these 'Cool Crystal' doubles, which are pink, not the peach of this poor photo.  But what made me really excited was finally finding a source of some tulips I first saw here two years, a bulb that I have been hunting for ever since . . .

These may look like ordinary pink tulips to you, but I think you'll understand that my "namesake" deserves a place in my garden:)  When I mentioned these tulips to my mother two years ago, she told me that she had 'Rosalie' tulips in her garden long ago.  Thinking of her as I filled out the order form, I thought it was only appropriate to honor her, too, so I  purchased some 'Princess Irene' tulips as well. I left the show a very satisfied customer, looking forward to seeing not only this year's spring blooms in my garden, but next year's as well.

The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is held every year at Navy Pier; next year's show runs from March 15-24.  If you're within driving distance of the Windy City, it's definitely worth a visit, especially if you just can't wait for spring to arrive!