in bloom: gwg #7

OK, I can’t help but share this video. “Spring is here, again.”

close up of columbineI’m writing my first blog post outside, from the hammock in the yard. It’s still very cool, almost the summer solstice and I’m wearing a flannel shirt, but I’ve got the sprinkler on the new sod and the sun is shining through the tree leaves.

I was asked to write about one plant that’s currently in bloom but I just can’t help but write about a few. Because it’s been so cold and rainy all spring pretty much everything else is either waiting for warmer weather or has already given up the ghost. The alliums are done but their spudnik bursts remain on top of long, slender stems. A handful are on their way out. The purple bells of the milkweed, tiny white four-pronged blooms dangling atop woody radish, fresh giant yellow blossoms on the squash coming and going daily, the velvety purple stalks of the sage bush have put on a good show, and the chive blooms are amazing me even though they’re very familiar… these are the few bits of color amid so much green right now.

Remember, I moved into a new place and let most of the old garden grow in on it’s own so these (below) are all great surprises. Together I feel they could tell a story of a ghostly, gothic garden with their unusual colors, precise ornamental shapes, and even in their names. They peek out of the shade and almost glow on rainy days.

First were the white bleeding hearts. Their almost celery-like leaves were a real mystery as they grew in. Eventually I discovered the first branch with dangling ghost hearts, pure white and precious. Once they started to fill in I clipped one branch for the house and it lasted a great while on the window sill. In the past few days their hearts began to shrivel and turn into tiny seed pods. These were some of the first to come alive. Many are still in bloom but I’ll miss them once they’re gone.

2013-06-12 16.10.25-1I love columbine but I’ve had a hard time trying to grow them from seed. I was very excited to find a small one hiding under the rose bush. The first bloom looked so lovely but it fell apart when I touched it. The inner petals are almost clear white, like thin wax paper, and the outer are a slight purple. Very beautiful, unusual, and tiny, especially compared to the native yellow and red that I’ve found growing almost like a bush in a few front yards around the block. I first came to love columbine as I’d spot them in the alpine meadows surrounding Ouray, CO as a teenager. There they grow mostly solid white and blue, but I found in recent years they also grow naturally in Wisconsin. I finally spotted my own wild WI columbine on our anniversary while hiking the southern Kettle Moraine. I hope to introduce more into the garden, I just need to get around their stratification germination, which I have yet to master.

The last of the current blooms come from bittersweet nightshade. The teeny flowers are a bold purple with bee-yellow stingers in the center. They were growing up the chain link fence between myself and the neighbor. All along I thought they were simply a woody vine with pointed, arrow leaves until one day I was surprised by shooting star flowers. The blossoms grow in little hanging clusters, pointing to the dirt, and nicely fill the space between my rosemary shrub and the barren quartz-and-patio of my neighbors plot. A few branches are set off by the deep red leaves of a nearby low growing tree. I hope it will fill in more to hide the gray portion of my view and keep on bloomin’.

Next will be deep red roses, still in bud but just barely ready to burst, and soon after that the lilies. I can’t wait. Now if only growing from seed went along a little faster I would have a yard full of blooms. Wild mixes, little pops of white daisies, bright orange and red poppies, yellow nasturtium, pink cleome, blue zinnias, mammoth and oxblood sunflowers, black hollyhocks… the list goes on. Hopefully these little seedlings, which have waited so patiently through the cold and heavy rain, will suddenly come into their own soon enough.

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