Tag Archives: lilac

In The In-Between Springtime

Ants busy on a peony bud. My garden, May 21.

Ants busy on a peony bud. My garden, May 21.

The jury is still out on the sweetgum tree. For some reason, that’s the one tree that didn’t come back yet this spring, and as May enters its third week, the death watch is well underway.

It might still come back. There was an 8-foot tall hibiscus bush in back with three branches—one leafed out already, and the other two had not. I thought of trimming it before I mowed Friday—but then, surprise, surprise, I noted the swelling green of baby leaves on the two “dead” branches.

They weren’t dead at all, they just were in a deeper winter slumber than the rest of the bush.

So maybe May is a bit too early to call things. The early riot of color of spring is over, as all but the last few daffodils have faded, and tulips and crocus are long gone. Lilacs and early peonies have come and gone, while the smaller pink dwarf lilacs are blooming and the “regular” peonies are on the way.

Columbine is in bloom now, too. Photo from May 21.

Columbine is in bloom now, too. Photo from May 21.

I’m not fond of ants in the house, but unlike some people, I don’t eliminate peonies to keeps ants out of my yard. I would consider a campaign against outdoor ants to be pointless and probably dangerous to me—when they come in, I kill them with blunt force and poisons, when they’re outdoors, they’re part of nature’s order and I leave them unmolested.

Which, of course, has to do with peonies. Certain ants love the waxy coating of the buds, and they are having a feast during this in-between time before the many flowers of summer appear and the early flowers of spring have faded.

More ants on buds.

More ants on buds.


Not that nothing is in bloom. There are three pink lilacs perfuming the yard right now. Several other bushes are in bloom, although I don’t recall their names—a pretty red one in a shady corner of the back yard, a variegated one in front that is obviously planted for its leaves—the flowers are not very showy. Lily of the Valley are in full swing.

But the peonies and the iris are still just budding. One iris in back is in bloom. I’m not particularly good with iris—I’ve planted hundreds and have just a handful of plants to show for my efforts—but I do have some that are ready to roll.

Iris getting ready to bloom.

Iris getting ready to bloom.

As usual, my garden is behind the times. I’ve noticed a cascade of irises in town, and even some of the traditional peonies are starting. That’s all foreshadowing for my gardens. A few more of my May 21 photos.

So this Memorial Day weekend, get out and enjoy the world. As we recall those who have gone before, it seems appropriate that our day for memorials falls right as the gardens are on the brink of riotous life.

And maybe there’s still hope for the gumball tree. We’ll see.

Just before I mowed May 22, I see this--one iris in the garden at the bottom of the rock well is in bloom. I also noted a profuse stand of poison ivy, which I pulled (wearing gloves, although luckily I don't seem particularly sensitive to poison ivy).

Just before I mowed May 22, I see this–one iris in the garden at the bottom of the rock well is in bloom. I also noted a profuse stand of poison ivy, which I pulled (wearing gloves, although luckily I don’t seem particularly sensitive to poison ivy).

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Mixed News From the Spring Garden

It was an odd year, last year, with a withering summer drought that tested many things. We’ve been lucky to have a “slow spring” this year, with no post-warmth hard freeze to harm the waking plants.

It got down to 32 last night and frosted, but 32 is not a “hard freeze,” and frost alone won’t damage much.

Most things are coming awake in the garden. The first round of flowers are over, and we’re heavily into tulips now. Peonies are coming on, and the frilly early ones will bloom soon.

The big lilacs are at their peak, perfuming the air and nicely masking the odor of the pear trees. Crab apple, too, are actively in bloom.

Which brings me to mixed news. First, good news—the Sargent Crab Apple finally has a few blossoms on it this year. From the look of this small sample, it will be a pretty white crab apple, which will be nice.

The Moscow Lilac is getting tall, but did not bloom again this spring. Saddest of all, some young trees have not come back. An oak and several maples did not make it through this rather mild winter, and one thinks it must mostly be the drought that did them in.

The sweet gum is coming back, as is the Catalpa, so I’m not really hurting for trees. But the hawthorn in front, while not dead, is having a hard time of it—sprouting new growth from low on its trunk while all its upper branches are barren.

Saddest of all is the butterfly bushes. I had two nice ones in front, and I love butterfly bushes because they live up to their name, attracting nice late summer visitors. It seems neither is coming back this spring, which is too bad.

I’ll have to replace them, if they continue dead (it’s too early to know for sure) with butterfly bushes. I can’t do without them!

Anyway, the weather is fine now, with some genuine heat coming this week. Maybe we continue to have rains, as we sure do not want to test more of the young trees with another dry summer!

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Big News Coming, But Not Today


The purple Rhododendron in front just started blooming.

Two (count them–TWO!) irises in my gardens have buds. Just as Cate has offered me a few new Irises, a few of my stubborn old ones are finally starting to cooperate.


This mini lilac and two pink ones are still in bloom.

Today, just some random, I mowed and was outside, photos of what’s blooming now.

The rose that never blooms

"The rose that never blooms," a tall climbing thing in the garden by the house, has started to bloom.


Volunteer bush in back appears to be honeysuckle.


Clematis part one--the dominant plants.


Clematis Part 2--the smaller plant on the same trellis.

Lilac again

Lilac again as final image.

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Mid-April, Buds Show How The World Will Change


Fern ready to unfurl, looks like it could be an alien about to bite

Crocus have been in bloom and many are already faded. Daffodils are coming into their own, and all kinds of flowers/plants are starting to show themselves.

It’s mid-April, an in between time in the garden. The early phase, the first signs of life, are ending, and some serious plant sex is ready to kick into gear.

Here I present a few images shot during a quick tour of my backyard in the morning of April 14. Your taxes are due tomorrow, and by this time next week, green and shade will start to dominate my temporarily sunny yard.

In my quick loop this morning, I was struck by how odd the ferns look, which is why “Fernie” gets the main spot. Before their fronds unfurl fully, they look a bit like the evil plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

New lilac


Lilacs will be a mixed bag, which they always are. A fairly young one that we planted 2 years ago and that bloomed last year looks like it’s going to bloom its heart out. As you can see, at least one other bush will be in a reproductive frenzy, too. But looking down at the bud nearer the ground—well, this pretty white lilac doesn’t seem to have any flower buds yet. Next spring, I hope. A few other shy bushes seem like they’ll continue their shy ways. Oh well, I’m going to have plenty of lilacs to see and smell (and chances are, I’ll need them).

Some of the traditional peonies are showing well, but not budded yet. The frilly early ones have formed buds already and should bloom soon.

Lily of the valley and hostas, which always seem like the last flowers to awaken, are just starting to poke their conical first folded leaves above the ground.

Crab apple trees have their tiny early leaves, which means they are getting set to bloom very soon. Redbuds are swollen with pink buds that will be gorgeous tiny flowers in a matter of days.


Pear tree. May be a bit stinky ....

Sadly, the pear tree that bloomed just a little last year looks ready to put on a real show—with pears, that’s sometimes a stinky show, too. I hope the scent of lilac proves more robust than the pear stench.

And a few other early flowers, plants that are part of the end of “wave 1” of spring.

Grass will need mowing soon. New grass is starting to sprout. The larger trees are still fitfully snoozing, but showing signs too, with maples long since flowered and buds swelling on oak and ash.

The in between time is poised to give way to dramatic new flowers shortly! Hooray, spring!


Side view of Fern. Scary looking little monster, but will be pretty plant.


Traditional color lilac near house.

Moscow lilac

Pretty little Moscow lilac, will bloom white. But not this year.


Both redbuds, older one and young pup, are going to be very showy this spring.


Another view of pear buds.

Shady groundcover.

Shady plant in bloom.

Early flower.

Early flower in garden by deck.


Final photo, daffodil in bloom.

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Christmas 2010 Snow Scenes


I didn't get the framing right, but was lucky to catch the focus and I still like this image.

As noted before, there’s no need to dream of a White Christmas in 2010 in Iowa.

While Audrey took a quick nap, I went outside to try to capture some snow photos. This picture post is the result.  I’m not sure it worked all that well–it’s hard to photograph snow and the biggest problem I have with my digital minicam is that it doesn’t let me control the focus.  Still, although it was hard to get it to focus on the head of a coneflower, I think I got some nice snow pictures, but you can comment and let me know if you agree.

Lilac in snow

This is one of the few "inside" shots out the office window in my home--snow on a lilac bush. Background is backyard snow. I like the plain view this photo shows.

Why does ice seem so pretty when it’s mixed with dust and puffed with air to form delicate six-sided crystals? I got a bit chilly taking these and worried a bit about keeping my Kodak dry, but all in all, I think it worked out.  Click on an image to see it bigger, and then click “back” to see more, I’ll finish this post with dozens of snow photo, a total of 20 images, just to celebrate the beauty of snow on this fine Christmas day!

Once again, Merry Christmas from snowy Iowa.

Lilac on chimney

One of my favs in this big group. Lilac with chimney stones as background.

Lilac and snow

Again, a nice lilac image. Can't have too many flower photos! Even when the flowers are long gone.


Next series is crabapples--like the contrast of red and white snow. Squirrel has not managed to reach them all yet ...


An even better one, I think. Crabapple in backyard.

Maple bark

Now, a more abstract phase--snow on maple bark


Clothesline in back with snow "waves"


Clothesline again, looking west instead of east


I like the way the aging wood of the fence contrast with snow, and the way the snow overhangs the top of the fence

Plant hook and fence

One of our plant hooks and the top of the fence

Fence again

Final fence post--closeup of snow wave

Plant hook

OK, the fence is still h ere, but I think this is a photo of the hook ...


We meant to take this swing down before winter, did not get done ...

Road Crud

Looks like an interesting mineral--is really just road snow crud crusted in a van wheel well


Woods in snow

Woods and stream bed south of our back fence (looking over fence, actually)


Fern in front in snow

Dogwood leaves

Dogwood leaves with snow--first of a few dogwood photos

Dogwood leaf

Dogwood leaf--took some time to get the camera to focus ...

Dogwood again

Dogwood leaves buried in snow


And the final photo--number 20--again a coneflower, better framing

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First Blooms on a Fine Spring Day

Mystery tree

I think it may be service berry or choke berry, but don't know which--anyway, one of the mystery trees has bloomed. These are all of the flowers, by the way, so it didn't bloom all that much ....

Have a run set with Theresa later, but in the meantime have had too much to do to train much this week. I better get in gear, because an old man cannot afford to not be ready for a long, hot, hilly run.

Anyway, although some plants are being stubborn—no Sargent crab apple blooms this spring, though tree seems robust—there are some new things breaking into bloom for the first time.

Well. The first new one is “new” only because it has never bloomed before—one of the two 12-foot mystery trees near the clothes line has little white flowers. Just a few, and its partner has none—so I don’t know if there will be any fruit to aid in identification this fall or not. At least, it’s nice to know that this blooming tree will, after three or four years, start to bloom.


One of two clusters of flowers on young, 5-foot redbud.

I planted two little redbuds that came in the same Arbor Day Foundation package of 10. The one that died back to the ground and sprouted from the base last year seems good and dead this spring, which makes me wish more fervently that a catalpa survives (four sprouted, two have subsequently keeled over). But the other one, in a shadier corner of the yard actually bloomed, just a little bit. Shown is one of two remote clusters of pink flowers.

The older, taller redbud that is south of this little tree is in full bloom mode, and hopefully will encourage this little one. At least, if it has a few blooms this year, there is hope for more next year.

Most spectacular is a new lilac bush Audrey had me plant under our bedroom windows last year. It is blooming like crazy this spring—nice. It was already 3 feet ball when planted and grew to close to 6 feet last year, so it should have bloomed, but my record with lilacs is a bit mixed, so this one blooming is good to see (and smell).

Finally—on to the front yard. Many of the bulbs purchased last October the day Elizabeth was born and planted in the wall garden are doing well. Red tulips are in bloom, some crocuses have come and gone and a few are still on the way, and daffodils and hyacinth are doing fine. The lacy peonies in the background of one photo are indeed the “Martian” ones from the farm, not yet blooming, but looking like red is the chosen color.

New lilac

New lilac is blooming quite well. Nice spring perfume.

We also dug up an overgrown evergreen that was threatening access to our front steps, and planted two rhododendrons. One of the two is in full bloom. The other looks slightly sick, so we’ll see.

We have more old overgrown evergreens in front that will come out this summer.

Any ideas for shade-tolerant bushes to replace them?

Flowers in wall garden

Hyacinth, daffodils and lacy peonies in "wall" garden.


In Clinton, they brought in an old steamboat, the "Rhododendron," as a museum when we lived there in the 1960s. One of two rhododendron bushes in front is blooming well.


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