Category Archives: May in the garden

Of Columbines and Fennel

The garden is in what I call “second spring”—after the crocuses, daffodils, muscari, and tulips, there is the explosion of globe alliums, columbines, and fennel. I never exactly planned this and sometimes in darkest  January all I want is to be able to plan a vegetable garden without having to make allowances for flowering perennials. This year I came close to taking everything out and square-footing it, but I ran out of time. Here are some results of my letting it all stay:

Feathery fennel sets off pink columbine.

Kiwi vine twining around columbine flowerhead.

Aquilegia (columbine) and alliums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May

It’s a rainy, chilly patch of spring and I don’t mind. It reminds me of Irish weather—the bit of it I experienced in person last summer and the rest that I’ve been reading about for most of my life. As a gardener and a gazer-upon-gardens, I’m drawn to the beautiful depth of a moody landscape. The colors of plant life as well as of rocks and water reveal themselves endlessly against the gray skies and mists of a rainy spring. There is so much that is missed in the straight-up light of unfiltered sunshine: so many different shades of green, for instance, and the pinks, purples, and gray-blues of early flowers that have a richness quite apart from the stereotypical candy colors that advertisers would have us accept as emblematic of spring.

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Rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, dianthus… 

This week a friend invited me to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s plant sale. I’d never been but almost turned her down, thinking mainly in terms of crowds and traffic and boring things I had on my to-do list. I went and discovered that what friends had been telling me for years was true. Picture a lawn bordered by BBG’s famous cherry trees, their blossoms floating down on a wealth of non-Home Depot plants: native plants, herbs, small trees, annuals. In a large tent were garden vegetable plants, cacti, succulents, and small potted herbs. It was crowded, bordering on chaotic but somehow in a gentle way. People were pausing to look closely and read detailed descriptions of care and planting instructions. Gardeners from the very old to the very young, from every walk of life and ethnicity wandered about in half-dream states. The lines were long but everyone waited their turn. It rained off and on and nobody cared. I had come thinking I’d just look and came home with a comfortable armload that includes two different kinds of lavender and three different kinds of dianthus from tiny flowers on up.

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The look of May moodiness: Lady’s mantle at BP City Park.