Delights and Disappointments in my Spring Garden

Leucojum and Tulips May 21 2018
One of this year’s delights has been the Leucojum gravateye.  The nodding white flowers kind of take you by surprise when they finally appear.  The bulbs send up more stalks every year and this spring there has been quite a show.

Every gardener realizes, almost from day one, that there are no certainties when it comes to predicting how well things will grow.  You can have, on paper, the perfect soil, perfect amount of sunlight, perfect temperatures, perfect moisture levels and still come up with a hugely disappointing crop yield or flower display.

On the other hand, you can wake up one morning and discover a shrub that has never before bloomed; a vegetable that is huge enough to win a medal at the County Fair, a patch of Tulips that has a colour you want to bathe in.

That’s the wonderful thing about gardening – what makes it an interesting and, for the inquiring mind, never a dull moment activity.  Perhaps more so in climates with distinct growing seasons, you never really know what’s going to pop up year to year.  Here are a few of my delights and disappointments so far in 2018.

Delight: I purchased on a whim three Exochorda – Pearlbush – at a tree and shrub auction a few years ago.  I didn’t have high hopes and thus I wasn’t disappointed when the rabbits found them and, every winter, nibbled back all the tips to the point I pretty much forgot all about them.  This spring, lo and behold, the rabbits left them alone and for the first time I have flowers!

Pearl Bush Exochorda May 28 2018
Exochorda – Pearlbush ‘The Bride’.  A delightful surprise!


Lilac with no flowers May 28 2018
A flowerless lilac….

Disappointment: Although a few on mu lilacs are blooming wonderfully, as usual, the stars of the garden have each produced just a few flower clusters.  Lots of leaves – no flowers.  The usual reasons for this are pruning too late in the year or fertilizing (lilacs generally do not want additional fertilizer, especially something high in nitrogen).  I did neither last year so I’m not sure what’s going on.  One site says very dry summer weather ‘keeps buds from forming properly’ and also suggests a soil test to check the pH.  This I will do.


Two summers ago a friend brought over a bag of reblooming white Iris,  I planted them – no blooms that autumn but the following spring and fall they flowered nicely.  It looks like they’re happy because look at this swath of flower stalks that, any moment now, will burst into a huge wave of white:

white Iris waiting for the right moment to open May 28 2018
Anticipated delight:  reblooming white Iris

Two HUGE disappointments: shrubs that die, or die back.  I planted in a sheltered spot a lovely small Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) a few years ago and it seemed to be doing well.  I’ve written about it before – it really is a favourite because of its lovely exfoliating bark and its deep red fall colours.  This year, after a not particularly harsh winter, the entire top 3/4 is dead.  This tree wannabe is destined to remain a small shrub.

dead Caryopteris May 28 2018
dead Caryopteris…so sad

At least it’s still alive though.  My mini Bluebeard hedge (Caryopteris x clandonensis) – which I loved to sit in front of while listening to bees in August – completely bit the dust.  Three years of luscious violet flowers have come to an end.  This hedge was a late summer focal point of the side micro garden,  attracting pollinators and right in front of the dining room window – I’m not sure what I’ll replace it with.

I had high hopes for Allium karataviense, which I planted and promoted a lot last fall.  True, its foliage did not disappoint (see it again here), but the flower itself is a bit of a let down – somewhat anti climactic, in my opinion.

Allium karataviense flower May 28 2018 small
Allium karataviese flower – not white, not pink…somewhat of a colour muddle

Allium Globemaster, on the other hand, is shaping up to be the showstopper I had hoped.  Not fully open yet, here’s a sneak preview:

Allium Globemaster starting to open May 28 2018 b closeup
reminds me of an anemone under the sea….





  1. That sure is a big herd of iris! I agree about that allium. It does not look like much. I am still years away from trying them. I just look at them in catalogues.


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