Art in the garden and columbines

May is when our garden is probably the most beautiful. New gorgeous flowers open in rapid succession. The pink tree peonies are done, but now our yellow Itoh peony and the first irises are blooming.

However, mid May really belongs to the columbines. They show their graceful flowers all over our garden. Where they grow is their own choice. Columbines self-seed readily. Therefore, they come in many different colors from dark blue to light pink and white. In addition one can find the red-and-yellow flowers of the native Eastern red columbine Aquilegia canadensis.

The gate is now open every day, including on weekday evenings, and we have many visitors. Some people come in to look at the flowers or to enjoy an ice cream on the patio (excellent ice cream parlors are nearby). Other visitors bring the tools of their art: Recently, a musician played the violin under our rose arbor, and a painter brought her water color set to draw a portrait of a pansy on the patio.

Our member Sara also made a fun little piece of art for the garden. Yesterday afternoon, her movable sculpture of a flying duck was installed in the crab apple tree.

There is something new to see every day!

May day

It was the first of May and the tree peonies were blooming. Just a few days ago, the buds were still closed. After two sunny days, all flowers popped open.

Bees love the tree peony flowers. Several pushed at once through the petals to reach the pollen on the inside. Other bees were interested in Barbara’s kale flowers. I wonder how many people know that kale and other cabbages are actually perennials: if one does not pull them out in fall, they grow fresh tender leaves and lovely yellow flowers in spring. These flowers provide much needed sustenance for insects that are just coming out of hibernation. Here, the flowers were visited by honeybees. However, bumblebees and carpenter bees were also out and about (and a bit camera shy) on this beautiful day.

For the enjoyment of us humans (rather than bees), the garden also offered tulips, Japanese lilac and last of the daffodils.

The next day started with a thunderstorm that produced thunderclaps loud enough to wake us up all over the city. The accompanying rain was much needed after a week of dry and very windy weather. Too bad that this was also the end of the tree-peony show. However, soon, the roses will be blooming. Their buds are already swelling mightily. If it warms up, we may see the first flowers as early as next weekend.

April flowers

It is finally April, and the days are definitely much longer already. The birds are in love. The song of our resident cardinal is audible over the din of the city, and the robins are so busy, they hardly pay attention to us humans. Gardeners have cut back the dry stalks of last year’s flowers, pruned the fruit trees and roses and prepared the soil for the new season. Among the plants, daffodils rule in shades of yellow and orange.

However, there are also other colors, like the purplish blue of hyacinths, the bluish pink of the “Glory of the Snow” (Chionodoxa) and the orange-red of quince blossoms. It is worth looking very close to the ground as well. Here the tiny flowers of a creeping Veronica show off in sky blue.

Beginning with next weekend, the garden will be open every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 2PM to 6PM. During the week the gate may be open when the weather is fair and one of us is around. Please come for a visit. There will be something new to see every day.

More on the hellebore

It is March now, and we had a small taste of spring last week when the temperatures reached unbelievable 74ºF. Since then, there was more wind and rain and even snow. The plants are taking it slow. At this time of the year, the stars of our garden are the lentenrose hellebores.

Buds open to show nodding flowers in pink, dark red, purple, greenish white, and cream with beautiful speckles. Those colorful flower parts are actually sepals, not petals. The petals are modified into nectaries, small cup-shape structures arranged in a ring around the base of the flower. Here, a reward for pollinators is produced and stored. The sepals don’t fall off when the flower is pollinated but will stay on the plant, sometimes for months until the seedpods are ripe.

As pretty as a hellebore is, the whole plant is poisonous. Fortunately, it tastes so bad that even hungry animals can’t be tempted. If someone were to consume a lot of it despite that taste, hellebores would cause vomiting and nervous symptoms like tinnitus, stupor and perhaps even depression and death.

As is often the case with poisonous plants, hellebores were used in medicine. In ancient Greece and during medieval times, they were prescribed as a cure for madness. The plants had their role in witchcraft, too, specifically in curses that were meant to cause insanity. Good, that a course of hellebore could have been taken as an antidote.

Antidote or not, who is bewitched by the beauty of the Helleborus flower will be fine. I am sure of it.

A little sign of spring

We have some good news to report: This year, we will be open to the public again almost like before this terrible pandemic. Beginning in April (and a little depending on the weather), we will resume our regular open hours on weekend afternoons. During this time, a gardener will be there to talk with and answer questions. At other times, the gate may be open and visitors are very welcome to walk around or sit down for a little while. We missed our guests from the neighborhood, the rest of New York and all over the world so much!

Also, even though there is again snow in the forecast for tonight, the warm days during the last weeks have coaxed some early spring flowers out of hibernation. Above are the bright yellow winter aconites. And of course, there are snow drops.

The first of the lenten roses are also opening now. These hellebores are hybrids of the species Helleborus orientalis and come in a variety of beautiful colors from cream-white to dark red. There is also a pure white hellebore, the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), but this kind blooms in the dead of winter and is already past its prime in February. The lenten roses that bloom now were welcomed by neighborhood honey bees last week, when it was warm enough for some worker bees to leave their hive and forage for fresh nectar and pollen.
Soon, there will be more flowers to be enjoyed by both insect and human visitors of our garden.