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THE JOY OF SPRING FLOWERS
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The weather has finally cleared up, and the earth is blooming. Iris, peonies, and poppies are among my favorite Spring Flowers. They take so little effort since they keep coming back every year. And after shoveling snow for months, I appreciate every bloom. A big armful of fresh flowers beats house plants any day.
IRIS AND “CINNAMON PINKS”
The Miniature “Baby” Iris that blooms early in the season are almost too precious to pick. Be sure to plant lots of the dainty plants, because it takes several to make a statement in the garden. Situate them to the front of your flower border.
Dutch Iris are the kinds sold in flower shops for exorbitant prices. It is so simple to plant as many as you need for yourself, although they are easier to freeze out in the Winter. Always check the hardiness zone before you plant Dutch Iris.
Then comes the Bearded Iris, which is most of what you see in gardens. The Dwarf Bearded Iris is probably going to be much shorter than you think. Always read carefully before you order your plant, unless you don’t mind getting down on all fours to smell them. The standard-sized Bearded Iris is very popular, and sometimes you’ll see a variety rebloom in the Fall. Reblooming Bearded Iris are few and far between, and depending on your climate and the weather you’ve had that season, they may not rebloom at all.
Yellow Iris is my favorite, but who am I to refuse purple, blue, pink, orange, bronze, or white? They get pollen all over you if you get too close. Irises have a strong scent of grapes that is irresistible, so I must be careful that I don’t get yellow pollen on my face.
Keep an eye on the Iris for the first year after you plant them. If you have a lot of rain that washes the soil away from the roots, or if you just didn’t plant them deep enough, that spells trouble. You might find the rhizome standing out of the ground on little “legs” (roots), and you’ll have to dig them up and re-plant them. On occasion you find a variety of Iris that will grow right at the edge of ponds and water features.
When planted together with pink or purple Dianthus, they are a sight to behold! Better known as “Cinnamon Pinks,” they have a spicy, Carnation-like fragrance that remains when you cut them and bring them into the house for a bouquet.
Oriental Poppies are usually grown from plants, not from seed. The best ones are kind of expensive, but well worth it because they’ll multiply. Wonderful, tall plants with wavy petals that are sometimes full and double, and come in more colors than you ever thought possible. I have even seen some varieties with a “fringe” on the petal edges. They’re bound to make the neighbors ogle.
The vintage poppy variety that my Mother used to grow is still my favorite. They are a wonderful, pure shade of orange, and have ruffles that resemble fancy ladies’ hats. Poppies do not like having their roots messed with and it took me three tries (three years in a row) to transplant them. I finally got two plants to take hold, and now, years later, they are colonizing to fill in my flower border, and even growing in the cracks in the sidewalk.
Poppies are hard to keep as cut flowers. However, I did find a trick that keeps them in the vase a bit longer than usual. Line the bottom of the cut stems up so they are all even with each other. Light a match and singe the bottoms for a few seconds. No one seems to understand why this works, but it does.
Wonderful, cup-shaped yellow California Poppies are a different species. They are usually grown from seed.
The foliage of Perennial Geraniums stays green all Winter here in Iowa. I appreciate being able to look out the window in January and see them, along with the Grape Hyacinths and Poppies, which also remain a beautiful green.
My “New England Purple” Perennial Geraniums are blooming now. They really pump out the flowers, which is a welcome sight after the kind of Winter we had. Some Perennial Geraniums bloom early in the season, and some bloom over an extended period until frost. This plant is beautiful enough that I would grow it even if it didn’t bloom at all. The foliage is very frilly, which is unusual. This plant can aggressively seed off, and spread throughout your flower border, but who am I to complain about abundance?
LILY OF THE VALLEY
Lily of the Valley is a big favorite of mine due to their memorable fragrance. I wish I could keep their scent in a bottle so I could enjoy it anytime I want. I have never smelled a perfume as fine as this. Most varieties are white, although there is a hybrid Lily of the Valley that comes in pink. White is by far the most popular for the scent seems to be stronger.
Lily of the Valley is often added to wedding bouquets, including those of Princess Grace and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. These easygoing plants are perennial, so they come back year after year. And they colonize, so you can expect them to really infiltrate your flower border. You’ll have plenty of plants to dig up and share with friends. Those that grow on the north side of the house are mowed off after they bloom. They don’t seem to mind a bit.
Follow this link to my recent article on GROWING GLORIOUS PEONIES. The massive blooms make me think of big band music. (Don’t ask me why!) There is just nothing subtle about them. The Tree Peony is the most coveted for some varieties can get much taller than you are. They can easily take the place of a small tree or large shrub in the landscape. Tree Peonies are much too pretty to cut and bring into the house, at least I think so. I just have to enjoy the perfume when I wander past them.
Columbines are the flowers that have “spurs.” Yes, spurs! The shape of the blossom is so unusual it reminds me of paper lanterns that people hang out in the patio during parties. They are usually grown from plants because starting them from seed is so difficult. This is something I found out first hand.
I envied the red and yellow Columbines that grow wild out in the country along the roadside. I located them in a catalog and purchased two packages of seed. In the end, I got just one plant! But, it is very vigorous growing, and I know in time, it will colonize and I will have loads of them. The modern varieties come in single or double blooms and a variety of colors, including purple.
Nepeta, better known as Catmint, is a low, mound-shaped plant. It covers itself in beautiful, lavender-blue flowers and very soft foliage. I have three of them planted out at the road surrounding my mailbox. My favorite is “Walker’s Low,” which is the only variety that I’ve found that can withstand Iowa’s harsh winters. They make wonderful “filler” in bouquets.
Once the blooms start to fade (probably sometime in mid to late June) if you shear the plant way back, it will begin to cover itself in new foliage and you will get a second bloom period later in the season. This is much to look forward to. They look very similar to Catnip (only better), but the fragrance of Nepeta’s blooms and foliage is so much nicer. Honeybees and hummingbirds love it!
HAPPY PLANTING! Susan