A HIGHLY REGARDED scarlet azalea, 'Stewartstonian,' has the advantage of being a bit hardier to cold than the usual Kurumes (Hinodegiri' with crimson-magenta flowers may stand as an example) and some of the Glenn Dales.
In ordinary years it makes no difference, but this winter seems to have killed flower buds here and there on azaleas that usually we can count on.This is the year, therefore, that I expect to enjoy my 'Stewartstonians' especially. The White Glenn Dales back of them are evidently not going to bloom. The white Glenn Dales I like best is 'Treasure', which does not have such fine foliage as the white 'Glacier,' but I prefer it.
The early daffodils have finished. My patch of 'February Gold' was in bloom only two weeks this year, opening March 27, which was about two weeks later than I expect it. The hot weather shortened the life of the flowers once they opened. Two weeks is long enough, but I like it to open about March 15.One flower then is worth a dozen later on.
The lavender-blue Chionodoxa gigantea is not so clear a blue as either C. sardensis or C. lucilae. It is equally beautiful, though. This year I have found several seedings of it in bloom 10 to 20 feet away from the main clump. I had not known it seeded about.
A plant that is supposed to spring up from its self-sown leaves is the stinking hellobore, Helleborus foetidus. Ih theory, if you sow the seeds the minute they are ripe, in June, they sprout right away, but otherwise wait a whole year. So I sowed them at just the magic moment two years in a row and nothing happened.
Last year, wearying of my poor results, I just let them fall where they liked, and this spring I have what I am sure is a crop of stinking hellebores. Many plants behave this way- some years no seeds will sprout, while other years a great many will.
A friend of mine has seeds of Gunera manicata in pots. In the past, when I tried them two or three years running, nothing ever sprouted, but I have since learned that some years none sprout, while other years they come up like mustard. I have read they will not sprout in the dark, and do not show any green until July. Maybe I was too impatient. The gunneras have extremely large leaves, as much as 6 or even 10 feet in diameter, like tremendous rhubards. I do not know any commercial for any other) source for the plants, and as you can imagine they take a lot of space.
But they are startling and handsome at the edge of a pond, and I regret they are unknown in gardens aroud Washington. They grow them on the West Coast.
The last freeze of the year occurs in my neighborhood (roughly River Road and the Maryland border) April 12 on the average. If I can hold off, I will not plant slightly tender things outdoors until perhaps April 19, allowing a few days grace. Really tender plants (morning glories, beans, etc.,) to out even later because they refuse to budge until the weather is warm and "settled."
Whenever that is. As you know, we are subject to violent storms, expecially in mid-May when the irises are in bloom. I usually set out tomato plants May 10, or sow seed outdoors May 1.
Dahlia tubers (or rooted cuttings made from sprouted tubers) go outdoors about the time lilacs bloom, say April 20 this year. The date is not critical. Gladiolus corms i usually plant out in late March, and they can be planted for some weeks, through June or even later.
People who planted new rose bushes and mounded them up with earth, to keep the stems plump and moist until the roots settled in, must remember to take the mounds off promptly.Once the leaf buds sprout, they should be open to the sun and air. This mounding up business is only done the first year, when the bushes are planted in March.
The peach, 'Belle,' has relatively unattractive flowers. I thought it did.
The fruit is a great favorite, but the flowers, which ought to be very beautiful, are small and cupped and not a very clear pink. Much lovelier in bloom is 'Dawne,' with large flat blooms opening several days before most other peaches.
Often peaches grown from seed have beautiful flowers, and sometimes splendid fruit. It makes more sense, though, to plant a names variety so that you know that what you'll be getting after waiting several years for the fruit. But those with spare land might amuse themselves planting peaches from seed, just to see what they get.
My 'Stanley' plum has one bloom on it this year, and very sturdy brave little flower it is. It has only been in the garden two years, so I must wait a bit longer for a good crop of plumps.
One of he loveliest plants now is a double-flowered plump, Prunus bliriena, the branches of which are totally solid with rich pink blooms like oversized aspirin pills. It does not fruit at my place, but is grown only for its beauty. The leaves which follow the flowers are reddish coppery colored, turning purplish is summer. It is a nice twiggy creature, growing 12 feet or so, about like the purple-leaf plums, 'Pissardii' and 'Thundercloud,' both of which have darker and more purple leaves.
I cut a bloom of the whie and yelloe trumpet daffodil, 'Ivy League,' on a cool day, before the flower was fully developed (most daffodils require several days after opening to develop fully).
To my suprise, the trumpet turned a buffy mustard color flushed with orange-red, instead of the clear lemon I am accustomed to. Other blooms in the clump, left on the plant, never showed any trace fo orange-red. I suspect that a red-cupped daffodil is in the parentage of 'Ivy League' but in the garden the sun bleaches all trace of it. The red flush is not very attractive, but interesting.
The great reason for growing the pretty vine Akebia quinata is that its evergreen leaves are so good-looking in February and March, just when most things are either dead, ratty or thinking about sprouting forth next month. Imagine my annoyance when this year the akebia dropped all its leaves in January. The new ones are all out now, but as I keep explaining to the Lord, it's the late winter, not the spring, when we are most starved for seeing plants in full beauty and vigor. The little purple flowers, not at all showy, that open in mid-April, are followed by fat sausage-shaped fruits sometimes, especially if hand-pollinated.
I have never seen camellias look worse. Two Arctic winters in a row. We have no choice but to endure such outrages.
Anemone blanda, in soft blue-lavender, is good at seeding itself about, but the seedlings are easily smothered by leaves in a woodland. If a crop of new anemones is desired, keep the leaves off. But I am a great believer in oak leaves all round the azaleas all year ling, so I do not expect many anemones to survive.