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View from the Garden: Late Spring Flowers Bring Surge of Color

Orange is about to dominate my garden. Each day, my anticipation increases as the buds get fatter and the stems elongate. I planted three oriental poppies years ago, and they have self-seeded, forming a legion in one bed and along the stone wall that frames it.

The traditional orange “Brilliant” is my favorite variety of oriental poppy (some catalogs call it red, but it is flaming scarlet-orange.) But there are many other colors, usually much tamer, for those who might be overwhelmed by the intense orange-ness of “Brilliant.” Colors available range from white to pink, purple, mauve, and some with two colors. I saw some white ones at a local garden center. To find most of these colors, (and poppies in general), shopping online is necessary.

After they are established, they are very well behaved. After blooming and a short time during which the foliage matures, they totally disappear, enabling them to be planted with plants that are still just “thinking’ about blooming.

Another spectacular plant with the same habit is bleeding heart (my favorite: dicentra spectablis, pink or white). I don’t see them used often, although they are enchanting in the spring garden at a time when daffodils are almost ended and various types of bluebells are in bloom. The arching stems with dangling heart-shaped flowers, planted alongside blue flowers, are as tender as spring itself.

Another wonderful poppy has also come into bloom—paperver atlanticum. I don’t know its common name and I don’t see it in garden centers very often, but it is worth seeking out. It grows low to the ground with gray-green foliage. Very slender stems rise to about 12 inches and then present pale orange flowers. They bloom profusely, and if deadheaded, bloom all summer. Be sure to let some heads go to seed toward the end of summer and they will self-seed. I bought one plant, I don’t know how along ago, and they have popped up all over the garden. They are especially wonderful growing between the flat stones beside my small fish pond.

Bearded iris.
Bearded iris. Photo credit: bbtomas/iStock/Thinkstock

As I worked in the garden yesterday, I saw that the first bearded iris had bloomed and the others are getting ready. What a unique and beautifully shaped flower! And the fragrance sends me right back to my childhood. My mother collected 32 differently colored ones when I was a girl, but there are many more colors now, from white to black. I see very few offered in the local garden centers but, again, they are worth seeking out online. To ensure health and bloom, they must be planted with the rhizome just above the ground and roots well tucked into the soil below. Their bloom time is relatively short, but the sword-shaped leaves add very attractive sculpture to the garden after the flowers have finished. Be sure to deadhead them to keep the flower stalk looking neat.

There is a “wild” flower patch forming in one area of the yard. I love (some) self-seeding plants, and they are preparing a show. Some rose campion (lychnis coronaria) will bloom this year and there are “millions” more coming for next year, as well as digitalis. Mullen, which is usually considered a weed, is welcome in my yard and will be there also. All three of these plants are biennales. (I am also going to have numerous digitalis throughout the yard and garden beds.) I see this year’s baby holly hocks, which will bloom next year, popped up in other beds.

Peonies that were planted two years ago are going to bloom this year. I am ready.

Mrs. Backhouse, an unusual, rarely seen lily that, in spite of the deer eating its buds every year, has increased in its below ground self so that it now has 15 stems with buds. If the deer keep avoiding my yard, the show will be amazing. Mrs. Backhouse is another plant worth seeking out on the internet, perhaps on a site that specializes in heirloom bulbs.

I’m enjoying the late arriving warm(ish) spring days and eagerly anticipate the coming flowers in my garden.

Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. 631-434-5067

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