Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Garden in May: A Little Light on the Situation

Lots of greens, different shades of green, and lots of other colors too. What makes the spring garden come alive? A little sunlight. 
            I keep waiting for this month to begin. In the Boston area, it has rained at least a measurable amount every day this month. And every day last week the temperature was below average for the month of May. On Friday, a northeaster 
gale blew off the sea, with intimidating sound effects. I kept thinking very loud, low-flying jets buzzing the house for some reason, probably because they know I don't like them. This was the shocking music of a heavy wind day in a winter storm; not of the end of the first week in May.
              No part of which is bothering the plants. They all needed the moisture. And how rugged are, for instance, tulips? The opened their mouths and showed their tonsils, and the cool damp weather keeps the blossoms from drying out. They couldn't be happier. Is that the secret of tulip-growing in Holland? The daffodils fared worse. A number tall skinny stems holding elaborate narcissus variety flower heads have been crimped and loll to one side or another.
             The tiny Labrador violets (third photo down), I'm happy to see, are making a comeback. They fit into spaces unclaimed by larger species. They have dark purple violets, accompanied by dark leaves with purple in them as well, making for aesthetic interest close to the ground. You have to get low to visit them. It's worth it; they reward discovery. But I can never predict where they will from year to year.

The pictures on this page were all taken a week ago on a cool, but bright late Saturday afternoon, before the oppressive run of darker, wetter days began. Since they were actually taken on April 30, what they show is a pre-May moment. I like looking at plants in their youthful, immature state -- it's the change as much as the finished product that intrigues me.
The four last photos on this page, taken from wider angles, interest me just for the range of plant forms, shapes, and varieties of perennials in this half-grown or quarter-grown state.  Some of those reddish plants, Astilbe will launch tall stems with feathery flowers. Other low purplish colonies, called loosestrife, grow stems several feet high and produce yellow flowers. 
         Most of the low groundcovers that are flowering now will stop flowering by the end of the month. Many of them will scarcely be visible when their larger neighbors take up all the air space above them.