slideshow: perennial stars of early may

hylomecon-swathsH URRY, QUICK, RUSH: Get them before they vanish, and before the next pretty face distracts your gaze. That’s May in the garden here, a mad rush of bulbs and then ephemerals, and the first stick-around-awhile perennials, too, all happening beneath a canopy of blooming trees and shrubs. Have a quick look at some current beauties in the slideshow below, and I’ll be back to the computer to write profiles of the ones you haven’t met before. But for right now, I simply must go out to weed, mow, edge, divide, prune…oh, and freak out!

If you want to read more on the ones I’ve already written about, here they are (or just enjoy the photos and captions):

  • Lathyrus vernus, the spring vetchling, won’t bother anybody, but you’ll be glad it’s around.
  • Hylomecon japonicum, the best spring “poppy” and definitely a signature plant here the last 15 or so years (that’s it all gold and swarming, up top, with the fading hellebores).
  1. Erin says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for that incredibly charming walk around your garden. I’m so happy I was able to enjoy it this morning with a cup of coffee, just as how would imagine myself enjoying it if I had been walking through your garden myself. And your description of Primula kisoana, is perhaps the best plant description I’ve ever read.

  2. Melanie says:

    I would love to do this under my crabapple trees. How do you get the soil in good shape under a tree? I have lots of roots.

  3. Keith says:

    Thank you for these Margaret. Is that Narcissus Actaea? I planted some for the first time last fall and they are my new favorite by far. They are so beautiful. I wrote a note to myself “more, more, more!”

  4. Andrew says:

    Margaret, I’ve just realized something funny — as much as I look forward to photos of your plants, I always end up admiring the compost in your beds around your plants. It just looks so deliciously dark and plant-nutritious!

    Thanks as ever for your photos. Always an inspiration.

  5. Tammy says:

    Beautiful photos. Gorgeous plants. I learn, or certainly see, something new (this time chloranthus – japonica) every time I visit awaytogarden. Thank you for that!

  6. Janet B. Teacher says:

    Thank you! for identifying stylophorum diphyllum, which is threatening to take over one of my perennial beds (and a pretty sunny one at that, though it also abounds in the shade of a big old maple tree). I have been selectively yanking it out for two weeks, but now that I know it is considered a desirable plant, I’ve been relocating some of it and taking the time to admire its fuzzy fruit. I’ve always liked it, but this plant doesn’t know when to quit. When I first moved here seven years ago, it sort of came and went quietly, but now I’m busy trying to rescue other perennials buried beneath its generous leaves and overall bulk.

    1. margaret says:

      Welcome, Janet. There is also a nasty, less-attractive cousin, the Asian version of Stylophorum, that’s a real weed…so let’s be sure you are cultivating the right guy. Someone would have probably needed to plant the good one in the garden you now live in–the weedy alien version would have found its way on its own. I have both; I pull the Asian one.

  7. Janet B. Teacher says:

    Well, thanks again, Margaret. I’ve been sitting here with one of the leaves on my desk, and having googled photos of the Asian variety I am pretty sure that’s what I have. The leaves are more deeply cut than those in your photo, and the plant seems to have a bushier habit than the desirable one. I read on one site that the leaves (of the Asian) are poisonous to chickens. I just brought home a dozen chicks for the first time and hadn’t realized that any plants are dangerous for them. Of course I plan to keep them far, far away from my perennial beds anyway.

    P.S. Frogboys are fun. I always speak to toads in the garden, and thank them for being there.

  8. lena says:

    wow, your garden looks absolutely amazing! it’s so inspiring!!

    i recently had my soil tested in my backyard in fort greene, brooklyn. we’ve lived here 3 years and the last two summers we’ve been clearing out the wild garden and planting perennials. this summer we’re going to do two vegetable beds. i had our soil tested and sadly the results came back as very high in lead. i’ve done some research and it’s probably from coal ash, from when the house was heated with coal over 100 years ago. so…. on to building raised beds! i’m wondering if you have any tips on what to fill the beds with– i’ve been told 75% top soil and 25% compost. does that sound right? i’m planning to get compost from the union square green market, but where to get top soil? we’ve been told home depot/lowes, but is there somewhere better? i want the soil to be the most pure we can find, and i suspect that home depot’s soil has chemicals and other artificial ingredients, but i’m not sure. any advice would be wonderful!!

    1. margaret says:

      @Lena: I always contact the nearest nursery and ask about a delivery, but bagged soil is also ok and sometimes easier in the urban environment, where getting to and fromt he garden from the street isn’t always easy with a truck (and wheelbarrows and tractors are scarce). I think you want a good deep layer of soil and compost, so it is going to be a lot of bags. (Another reason I get it delivered when I need any.) I can’t say what the laws are about bagged topsoil, but frankly I don’t see why anybody would put additives into topsoil…in POTTING soil (for containers) they do indeed, but that’s not soil at all (usually peat and shredded bark and perlite and so on).

      So for me the issue would be where can I get a lot at a decent price so I could build up a deep layer…my raised beds are 10 or 12″ above ground…and I would think the “big box” stores are fine.

      The 75-25 sounds good.

  9. lena says:

    thank you so much for the information. i found a brand called Long Island Compost which sells at Home Depot and is organic with no added chemicals. so i guess i should give the “big box” stores more credit!

  10. Janie says:

    Margaret, as a long time follower of yours, since your Newsday days,
    I love hearing your stories and looking at the photos of your beautiful gardens.

    I am wonder if you might share what camera you use for the photos, or any other special tips you might have to taking such wonderful pictures..

    1. Margaret says:

      Hello, Janie. I have always used Nikons, and when I started the blog I had to shift to digital of course, so I bought a D-40X. This year I decided to treat myself to a “real” digital SLR, so that I could have even bigger files to perhaps use in print in some future work or whatever came up in my new life, and the newer one’s the D-700.

      Disclaimer/confession: It’s much more camera than I know how to use…I am a hobbyist at best over here, and horribly impatient (I never take out the tripod or take my time with anything, I just rush around having fun, which i s kind of how I do everything).

      The D-40X, which is MUCH MUCH lighter and smaller and easier than the 700, served me very well and used to be under $500; now even it has gotten to be more, I fear. But even in my chaotic method I get enough shots to give me a good inventory and fuel the blog and then some.

      I tell myself that I will study up this winter and really learn to properly use the powerful newer camera…stay tuned!

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