By Barbara Polan
May 3, 2012 – While April showers may bring May flowers, an April drought – like the one we just experienced – evidently does not eliminate May flowers. In fact, some of our May flowers even bloomed in April; others, however, patiently waited until their scheduled times and are now ready to burst out in full glory: peonies, sea thrift, late azaleas and lilacs.
Others also waited, and, now that May is here, have stepped forward and are currently in bloom; our bleeding hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) have graceful arches with dangling dark rose and white blossoms, with long-gone grape hyacinths (Muscari) just grassy foliage nestled around their base. White bleeding hearts out in the back shade garden are clumps of medium-green forked leaves, only immature buds in evidence. My garden plans include adding fringed bleeding hearts this summer, along with many other newbies, as happens every year.
Bleeding hearts have prominent places in my beds and borders, mostly because my maternal grandmother grew them. She's the one who taught me how to weed when I was a child, using my little fingers to tweeze out every last young interloper; how to pick sour cherries from the three trees behind her shed, which we turned into the best pies; and how to make ravioli. Yes, she was Italian-American (emphasis on the Italian). She also grew red roses, so those are also in the plan this summer. I have drawn the line, though, at planting warm-red geraniums (Pelargonium) and hanging white allysum in the baskets carried by a painted donkey statue. In fact, the line is on this side of statues, too. Not even the lady on the half-shell, ubiquitous in Italian gardens.
In other areas of my currently blooming garden, leopard's bane (arnica Montana), with its cheery dark yellow daisy-like blooms, is flourishing in clumps under a river birch (Betula nigra). Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) and basket of gold allysum (Aurinia saxatile) are glowing now, their bold white and yellow, respectively, intense and sturdy in the – albeit rare now – sun. Happy flowers, all; and by “happy” I mean just begging to be divided and spread throughout our piece of heaven … my garden.
Current garden tasks
To maintain heaven through the summer, by now, the garden has had its weeds and rogue leaves – mostly oak – removed and mulch spread. For the past few years, we'se used “performance mulch,” which is half compost and half bark mulch; it helps plants thrive by both nourishing the soil and keeping weeds smothered.
Before each lawn-mowing session, we use a dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) puller to remove the beasts, root and all, while still in flower; that approach has two advantages: it is easy to locate the offending dandelion plants and they have not yet gone to seed.