THE ROSES, irises and peonies have begun to bloom and the high point of the gardening year has thus arrived for many a gardener.
I am reminded again how wonderful the snowball bushes are. In theory, it is rather a mistake to have shrubs blooming with the flowers mentioned above, not because they don't look great together, but because the space is better saved for shrubs that bloom either earlier or later.
If you're not careful, you will wind up planting irises, peonies and roses to the exclusion of everything else, and will suffer terribly the other months of the year.
All the same, the old snowball (Viburnum opulus sterile ) is a grand creature, never handsomer than when it leans over the fence into the garden, above irises in many soft colors.
Climbing roses are a fierce temptation, as I well know, and some gardeners are so seduced they plant their fences solid with them. They do not look like much when out of bloom, which is 11 months a year, so the usual gardener does better to save fence space for things like the grape, the Carolina jasmine and a number of shrubs, not forgetting the crape myrtle that blooms when summer has fried everything else.
Another shrub blooming now is the Japanese snowball, which is like an ordinary European snowball except the leaves are heavily veined, giving a pleated look. Like all viburnums, it likes to make numerous stems from the ground, and it is perverse of gardeners to grow it to one stem like a small tree. As I do.
Clematis are coming into bloom; in fact the early ones like C. montana rubens are passing out of bloom. One of the grand varieties coming in now is 'Henryi' with white flowers the sizes of saucers.
I have this variety on an arbor back by the garage where it is never seen except by crows and mockingbirds -- a thing that finally dawned on me, so I layered a few extra ones. One is supposed to grow up a fence on some of that plastic-coated wire nailed to the wood boards, and from there is supposed to spring lithely into the pink rose, 'Mme. Gregoire Staechelin,' which I suppose you are sick of hearing about, since I mention it about six times a year.
Anyway, the rose was badly butchered and has not quite recovered, and the clematis has not yet got enough vigor to grow more than six feet. But next year -- O magic phrase -- they will tumble together in a great bower of rose and white.
Again, the reminder: If you have planted the irises, etc., pretty solidly in the garden, think twice before giving all your space to other things that bloom with them. I rather like the deep purple clematis, 'Lady Betty Balfour,' because it blooms after the irises. For me her ladyship starts about June 10. The books give you the impression she blooms toward Labor Day, but in this favorable sunny climate she does not hold off beyond early June.
Even so, the irises are done with, then, and it's nice to have some major flowers coming along when the great burst of May is done with.
Once when I was not thinking very clearly I got it into my head to plant a fleece vine (Polygonum aubertii ) on one of my black posts that acts as a sort of clairvoyee, vaguely like a screen, only not solid, of course. It was wise of me to think of September and October, which is when the fleece vine blooms, so I do not regret having planted it. But I had not reckoned on the amount of side growth it makes in the spring. It bursts out with trailing stems, waving about in the air.
I expected it to run along about 40 feet once it got up to the wires I have for it eight feet above the ground, but I was not counting on quite so many waving sprouts off the main stem. I have pruned it twice already this year, and it needs it again. This is a nuisance. But no doubt when it blooms in the sultry days of early fall, it will be forgiven everything.
A rose on another of these posts is the much-neglected old white rambler, 'Felicite et Perpetue.' It is white, and comes in smalls clusters, the individual flowers no larger than quarters, or half dollars. I find it very sweet scented, but not very strongly scented. The great thing about it is its habit of growth. Its stems are endlessly supple, compared to the stiff hybrid tea climbers. So it is flawless for wreathing an arch or anything else. It is very delicate and fragile in appearance, but though as nails. Some books hint it is not very hardy, but it is totally hardy and foolproof in Washington. With me it is not any more evergreen than other climbing roses.
Most of the ramblers, the ones with supple stems wreathed in bloom (like 'Dorothy Perkins') are descended from the wild Rosa wichuraiana , but Felicite derives from Rosa sempervirens. All these ramblers have the defect of blooming only a couple of weeks in the spring and not repeating their bloom later.
A scarlet honeysuckle I think well of has had all its flower buds eaten by something, eight feet above the ground. I suspect squirrels, who like to sit in the gutters and on the roof over the front porch, from which it is simplicity itself to lean over and gnaw on the honeysuckle. But it may be birds or even some foul insect new to the place. Instead of spraying, I shall simply water the honeysuckle more lavishly and give it some extra cow manure.
There is no need to go off like a rocket every time some creature eats a bit of honeysuckle. Still, it is annoying.