Tag Archives: tulip

Friday Floral Feature: When Shy Bloomers Decide the Time is Now


April 19–Moscow Lilac starting to bloom for the first time.


April 19–Harsh winter two years ago killed off a red bud tree, which I replaced with a Magnolia. It is also blooming for the first time this spring.

News this week from the gardens: Several shy flowering plants have decided 2017 is the year to get into gear.

I purchases a tiny “Moscow Lilac” some years ago, about 8, I think, in a fund-raiser by the Art Program at Mount Mercy University. The bush is in a spot a bit too shady for lilacs—but then again, that pretty much just means it’s somewhere on my property. I’m a bit tree crazy, I admit.

Nonetheless, various other lilacs in my yard manage to push out a few flowers despite the copious shade. I was not surprised the first couple of years when the new bush was busy growing and not blooming. But two years ago it had reached about 5 feet, and it started to seem ridiculous—how big does that bush need to get before it can spare some sugar for sex?

About 8 feet, it appears, because that’s how tall the bush is. Two weeks ago, its leaf buds started to show, and I took a close look and decided, darn, another sterile spring.

I was wrong. On Easter Sunday, I noticed that way at the top of the bush, where I could not check the buds easily, Mr. Moscow had a surprise lurking. Flower buds were visible, and three days later, on Wednesday when I shot my second set of pictures for this weekly flower update, the buds were starting to open.

See my weekly Facebook flower gallery for more images. But here are a few of my favorites flower photos of the week:

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As advertised, the Moscow Lilac bush has pretty white blossoms. Now that it has started, let’s hope it can catch enough photons between the tree leaves to continue to flower.

The lilac isn’t all that’s newly bloomed this year. My “new” magnolia tree, planted in 2015, didn’t bloom in spring 2016, but is doing very well with pretty pale lemon yellow flowers this spring.

So far, the apple trees that are adjacent to the white Moscow lilac seems to be following their usual habit of not blooming. But, who knows?

I’m hoping some year soon to see Tulip Tree flowers and Catalpa blooms. Maybe 2017 is the year.

Maybe I’ll even see some apple flowers soon … if not this spring, then maybe next year? After all, crab apples in my shady yard manage to flower.

the weather has been good in Iowa this week. We’ve cooled off a bit, and there has been some rain, but we still have enough warmth and sun to feel like spring. How are your gardens doing?


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In Praise of the Crabby Part of Spring


Crabapple in bloom!

Well, it’s here—one of the main highlights of spring.

Crabapples have burst into bloom. The sour smell of the pear tree is now masked by the sweet apple scent that makes being outside and alive joyful things, even in the hustle time of a busy spring semester.

In my yard, the two apples trees I planted some years ago are still declaring their dislike of larger nearby trees and their shade by failing to develop flowers. Their crabby cousins, however, have erupted in glorious, sweet scent and colors.

I know these little trees like sun, but there must be more to the story. Of the six crabapple trees I’ve planted in my backyard, this spring all six have bloomed. Take that, wimpy apples! But in front, where there are two crabapple trees (I know, diversity is a good thing—these are small trees and I have planted many other species, too) and both trees are in bloom, it’s the one that is in a slightly shadier spot that has grown taller and blooms more vigorously.


I have pink ones, too–but the white ones posed best for photos April 24. This is the shady-spot tree in front that has gone drunk crazy with spring blooms.

Crabapples come on at the same time that redbuds put on their transitory, fancy spring pink lace. All three redbuds in my yard are exuberant with flowers right now.


Daffodils and tulip.



Tulips and daffodils are starting to get past their prime, but are still providing bright splashes of color. In the shady spots of the gardens, one of my favorite flowers—bluebells—are ringing out their joy of spring.

Granted, the crabapple flowers won’t last—but the lilacs are just starting to open, too. And we haven’t heard from the peonies, yet.




Older redbud in back yard. I think the other picture is a younger tree in front.

Spring! I know it’s busy, but if you can, go out and smell a crabapple tree. Just make sure it’s not a pear. The crabapple odor is nature’s cure for any crabby mood. More photos that I shot April 24 in my yard.


Something was hiding in a bachelor’s button plant that has not budded yet.

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Spring Is Busting Out All Over!

Daffodils and tulips

Line of daffodils and tulips along the back wall.

Well, when we returned to Iowa, our front lawn was trying to revert to prairie. Unlike England, Iowa had some rain last week, and the tall grass showed it.

As did the flower-palooza that took over my lawn. Crocuses are all gone, so I could do a quick mow in front, but late daffodils and early tulips are overlapping each other, which made the co planting we did under trees and along the wall in back seem like a good idea.


Redbud tree in front garden. Old one in back is covered in pink.

And the spring trees! Redbud are in full glory, pink flowers crowded on their grey limbs, with pretty tiny green leaves just starting to unfold.

Crab apple

Crab apple in back has lost of flowers and buds, so it's show should last a little while.

Crab apples are just at their prime, perfuming the air with their sweet scent.

And lilac! The big old ones by the back bedroom aren’t really kicking in yet, but some of the younger lilacs are already in bloom. Tulips, lilac, crab apple, redbud—it’s as if every spring flower were rushing to bloom all at once.

Pollinators must be giddy.

The catalpa in the back, which I had worried was dead, is robusty declaring itself alive and growing.

Peonies are not yet blooming, but are up, and it won’t be long before the early frilly ones go from bud to flower.

Not all is happy in the garden. The 100 irises that I foolishly added to the long parade of failed irises seem nowhere to be found. The sargent crab apple is still stubbornly not blooming, as are the hawthorn and apple trees. Well, they may finally catch the bug next spring, we’ll see.

Pink crab apple

Another crab apple. I have one white and two pink in back, a white and pale pink one in front. All that bloomed last year are blooming this year.

Today I have way too much to do and have foolishly delayed my return to the office by extending spring break another hour or so, just to catch a bit of the glory of spring in my lawn. I loved being in England and will go again as soon as I can, but I also love being in Iowa in this weird, early spring.


Catalpa tree in back, that Mimi gave me. Take that, doubting Joe, I'm alive and I'm gonna grow!

No April Fool’s joke to finish with, just wishes that in this spring month in your corner of the world, things are green and flowering.  Here is a more complete set of my April 2 photos.

Flickr spring slide show



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Sore. Very Sore. The Ducks Shout “Winning!”


Daffodil, tulip and crocus bulbs ready to plant. Sadly, some of the these bags are not very empty yet.

How does it feel to plant 1,000 flower bulbs?

Judging by planting around 500 of them, pretty awful, I would say. As I write this, my throat tickles, some ibuprofin is keeping a very tender back at bay, my arms ache, I’m dead tired—and half the bulbs did not make it into the ground and I may have to store them for a week or so before I have time to finish the job. Although, in all honesty, I didn’t have time to start the job either, but that’s life.

There are some up sides, including the hope for a pretty spring. While I would rate myself as feeling fairly miserable, it’s not from one cause. I have a cold, a minor one, and it appears that the dust from my very dry yard very slowly accumulated in my breathing system, which was already slightly inflamed. The result is a sore throat that makes it painful to talk and significant sneezing and coughing. Yet, the underlying cold is still better than it was—my neck glands are not as painfully swollen as before, for instance.

The back pain is an ancient injury that acts up now and then, particularly if I spent three hours digging with shovel and trowel. Amanda, I think it dates from when you were Tristan’s age and I bent over and picked you up and must have bent wrong or twisted wrong or something—cause that darn muscle in the lower left side of my back has sent me occasional pain-o-grams for more than two decades. It just so happens that when it cramps, it also sometimes attacks the giant nerve running down my left leg. Today, it hurts, but it’s not an immobilizing, shooting pain, nor has it squeezed the giant leg nerve to convert it into a river of lava. My back hurts, but only in a mild, you-probably-overdid-it-Joe, way. Trust me, at points in my life it’s been much, much worse. And carry no guilt, eldest daughter—I’ve never felt in the faintest way that you had any responsibility for my sore back. Memory is a tricky thing, but I don’t think you were even complaining or whining, the fatal moment was a perfectly natural “daddy pick me up” time that went horribly wrong due the technique or lack of it used by the adult in the scenario, who has only himself to blame. But watch it when picking up ZZ. Bend your knees, not your back.

Anyway, on to more old-person whining. I know it’s late October, but despite my ugly gardening Joe hat, I managed to sunburn myself. Sunburns always make me feel generally yucky. On the other hand, since it was late October, not only is only a limited area burned (just my face), but it’s probably not very burned. I’m reasonably certain there’s no peeling in my future—in fact, in the morning my now warm, uncomfortable face will probably be back to normal.

My knees hurt. I noticed it will digging the last few holes—when I hit the shovel with my foot, my knee would whine and send a “hey, what did I ever do to you” twinge of pain up my leg. Then again, my knees have been really sore in the past, and this is pretty mild.

No one complaint has got me down. But I do feel a bit like I’m being pecked to death by ducks, and they are getting annoying. Such is the life of a gardener of advancing age (unless I live to 106, I guess I can’t really claim the moniker “middle aged” anymore, but it’s only when I’m sore like this that I admit it).

Enough of the complaining. Ask me in spring if it was worth it. I hope so, and actually expect so—the part of the planting I got done today was putting crocuses in the lawn, and it just seems like such a good idea that I’m anxious to see the results of. I also planted tulips and daffodils with crocuses around the base of the front trees. I still have lots of tulips and daffodils to plant—but I put 400 of the 500 crocuses in the ground and a smaller percent of the tulips and daffodils.

The slit.

Fingers poised to keep bulbs in place, Will draw out shovel after snapping photo This is the "slit."

Anyway, with the lawn planting, I used two approaches, first mixing them, but then switching to the one that put the most bulbs in the ground at a time as I grew weary:

  • Method one was the slit. Did a slit with a shovel, poke in 3 crocus bulbs, hold the bulbs in place with fingers as you withdraw shovel. No, did not hurt any fingers, but several near misses were a reason beyond my tiring body to give up the slit.
  • Method two was the lid. Dig a slit, but then push the shovel horizontally and tip over the “lid.” In the resulting hole, put 5 or 6 crocus bulbs and then shut the lid. At the end, I would dig 5 to 10 holes in a set and quickly place the bulbs.

I had wanted to follow the catalog advice for naturalizing, where you toss bulbs in an area and plant them were they fall, but tried that only once—when I couldn’t find all of the bulbs, I decided I can be comfortable with slightly less random clumps.

The plan, of course, is for the crocuses to bloom and fade in the spring before the first mow. I’ve seen others do it, including a house adjacent to Mount Mercy and my own sister Cate in her yard, so I’m confident it should work.

The lid.

The "lid," my more common, and by the end, only, planting method.

Anyway, besides placing crocuses in the lawn, I also ringed three small trees in front with tulips, daffodils and crocuses. Next year, I may have to slightly enlarge the “mulch” area around the trees, since not all of these flowers will fade by first mow, but that was my evil plan all along. I used a variation of “the lid” method, first popping back a lid of soil, then going deep in two places for one tulip bulb and one daffodil bulb. I would cover them with loose soil and put in two crocuses before shutting the lid. I did it in a roughly cross pattern so the crocuses are never on top of the other flowers. I did either 3 or 4 of these “groups” around each tree.

I expected some trouble from the Hawthorne. Thorn is part of its name for a reason. I need not have worried, the tree has grown fairly tall without branching out much, and it was very polite when I planted around it with flowers. The Hawthorne didn’t even try to toss a root in my way.

The crabapples, on the other hand, were crabby, poking me with little branches, sticking out roots in each of my holes, generally taunting me while I worked: “Hey, jerk, just try to plant a freaking flower near me.” I’m bigger than them (even if they are taller) and basically just slapped them around and planted the flowers anyway. So there.

I doubt I’ll have any planting time tomorrow—between schoolwork, family stuff and church, the day is totally booked. It may be a week before the remainder of the bulbs taste dirt, and I hope they don’t mind.

One minor other complaint—and no, this isn’t a scratch or itch or ache that I’ll blow out of proportion. The bulb company did not sent any bluebells or hyacinth, both of which I thought I ordered—and did send 100 iris bulbs which I know for sure I did NOT order.

Oh Iris! Didn’t plant any yet because Audrey will contact the bulb company to see what they want us to do. No, I don’t object to Irises—love them, in fact, but I suck at growing them. It will feel mournful and bittersweet for me to inter 100 iris bulbs, thinking that I’ll never see pretty flowers from the likes of these.



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Columbine Shows June Is On the Way


Blue Columbine in front wall garden--have orangish red ones, too.

June isn’t busting out all over, but the gardens are starting to get a bit of early summer look to them—what survived the winter is growing robustly, the back yard is starting to “shade up” and helicopters are beginning to drift down from the huge maple that will bombard us in June.

Still a few tulips in bloom, and only the early Chinese peonies are flowering yet—but the first shift of lilacs is being taken over by the second shift (pink ones bloom later than blue and violet ones, and the miniature bush isn’t in bloom yet). Bluebells are in their prime, and the subtle sweet perfume of Lily-of-the-Valley is in the air.

And pretty Columbine are starting to bloom.

Foreshadowing of later garden news—the “rose that never blooms” from last year is covered in tiny flower buds! Well, good for Audrey for insisting that I not remove this bush. Roses are several weeks away—and Audrey and I plan to buy a better camera this summer. Maybe I’ll have it by the time roses bloom.

Making wish

"I make wish" she says, and blows the seeds all over the yard.

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