April Showers...AND April Flowers!

The old saying is "April showers bring May flowers". Well someone forgot to tell that to my little corner of the planet, because it isn't May yet and my flower garden is in full bloom! We have had a few rainy days this month, but we've also had a lot of sun. We've even hit 80 degrees (F) already this year, something that doesn't usually happen in this area until July or August. While I do find the extra heat to be a bit concerning (if it's 80 dgrees in May, what will July be like?), I can appreciate what it has done for my spring flower garden. So here it is, a photo collection of what is blooming in my garden this week.

Camellia 'April Kiss'

Camellia 'April Kiss'

The camellia produces loads of flowers in the spring. The plant itself is a very attractive evergreen shrub with dark, glossy leaves. After 5 years, mine is about 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Camellias enjoy partial shade. Afternoon sun can be a bit much for young plants, so mulch around the base to keep the roots cool if you plant one that will get sun during the hottest part of the day.

Cherry laurel 'Schipka'

Cherry laurel 'Schipka'

The cherry laurel is another evergreen shrub with dark, glossy leaves. In the spring, it bears hundreds of spires covered in fragrant white flowers. After blooming, the plant will produce round, black berries that are a favorite of some of our local birds. It can be pruned pretty heavily in the fall to keep the size reasonable.

Clematis 'H. F. Young'

Clematis 'H. F. Young'

I have had a clematis climbing over my copper garden gate for years. It was planted on one side, so I bought this one to plant on the other side for balance. The blooms are large and really perk up the yard on a rainy day. This variety is deciduous, but I have found that they do better in our area than the evergreen varieties. They will climb just about any structure, and will grow from 5 to 20 feet long, depending on the variety.

Common bluebells (hyacinthoides)

Common bluebells (hyacinthoides)

Many years ago my sister gave me a handful of bulbs with some greens still attached. I had no idea how lovely they would be when they bloomed the next spring! Bluebells look beautiful along garden borders, or in large clumps. Because they are bulbs, they can easily be divided, relocated, or given away. Here in the Seattle area, they can stay in the ground year-round.

Tree peony 'Snow Lotus'

Tree peony 'Snow Lotus'

This plant is responsible for turning me into a "digger", one of those people that can't just plant something and walk away. If it's not right, I will dig something up and move it a hundred times with little regard to the rules of when to dig or transplant. I was told that if you move a tree peony, that it will certainly die. But this gorgeous bloomer had been planted on the north side of my house, where it was not only out of view, but in the direct path of my neighbor's lawnmower. So despite the warnings, I moved it. The next spring it started to grow! And then children picked off every leaf and flower bud. So I moved it again. The next year It came back again and produced one gigantic flower. This year I have about a dozen blooms! This sort of behavior only encourages diggers...

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

In my experience, the old-fashioned lilac is one of the most underrated shrubs. They should be one of our favorites, simply because they smell absolutely divine. Mine is planted just outside a window, so on a warm spring day I can open it up and let the scent waft inside. They common varieties range in color from a pale pink to very dark purple. Others can be white, pink, or yellow. The plants themselves are deciduous. They will grow to about 12 feet tall, and spread by underground roots that can be pruned in the spring to keep it in bounds.

Azalea 'Golden Lights'

Azalea 'Golden Lights'

This deciduous azalea is very different than the ones more commonly found for sale. First of all, the bloom color is unusual. The buds are a lovely peach, opening up to apricot. Second, the blooms are larger than a typical azalea flower. But the major feature that really sets this variety apart, is that the flowers are actually fragrant. The leaves turn bronze in the fall.

Rhododendron 'Henry's Red'

Rhododendron 'Henry's Red'

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we take the rhododendron for granted. They are so commonly found here, especially in this color, that they have become an afterthought to most. But make no mistake about it, the "rhody" is one of the most beautiful evergreen shrubs you can own. They come in sizes from less than 12 inches tall, up to 40 feet tall and every color imaginable. Years ago I was lucky to have met David Hammond, owner of Hammond's Acres of Rhodys, who bred his own varieties. I was able to tour his property and saw literally thousands of rhododendrons that only existed in that place. Sadly, Mr. Hammond has since passed away. But I was fortunate enough to take home about a dozen rhododendrons that have are made even more special since his passing.

Wiegela 'Courtalor'

Wiegela 'Courtalor'

About a month ago I walked past my wiegela, and I saw the flower buds starting to form. That was my sign that the garden was about to get awesome. This large shrub puts on a spectacular show, with long arching stems just dripping with flowers. The scent is strong, and the pollinators absolutely love it. After blooming, the plant remains attractive all summer long until it loses it's leaves in the fall.

Clematis 'Asao'

Clematis 'Asao'

Another deciduous clematis, 'Asao' is a prolific bloomer. It reaches to about 8 feet, just long enough to climb up and over the top of my garden gate. Planted on a trellis or even potted next to deck railing, this variety won't disappoint.

What's blooming for you right now?

Katy Penwell

of Milk and Honey, Lynnwood, WA 98087, USA