Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - April 2017

I'm writing my April Bloom Day post a day early, as I'll be busy cruising the sales at Hortlandia on the 15th, the official date of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day each month. Luckily, I had a break between showers long enough to take photographs. Even luckier, it was BEFORE the hail fell and further bruised my blooms. The weather has been a little turbulent this spring in the Pacific Northwest, which makes me grateful, in a way, that things have been slow to emerge. 

Though we are a week or two behind this spring (compared to at least two weeks ahead last spring) the floral display is picking up pace. As this is already a long post, I've forgone photographing the Lonicera fragrantissima, numerous hellebores, and several orchids indoors that are still blooming. I wanted to include our native Indian plum, Oemleria cerasiformis, but they opened and faded in between bloom days this year. No great loss, as this post is long enough without them.

We'll start out with a few blooms from the greenhouse. First up is a plant from the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, which is yet to be identified. Intermediate between the closely-related Agapetes and Vaccinium, it goes by the collection number SEH#25066. It's a lovely plant that strongly resembles (to me) Vaccinium nummularia in the textured leaves and hairy stems, but differs in the flowers and origin.

Gasteria glomerata is dangling its bright orange stomachs flowers in an oddly beautiful display. (This genus was named Gasteria because the flowers actually do resemble stomachs.)

Possibly my most exciting flowers at the moment belong to Rhododendron himantodes, belonging to the tender group of rhododendrons known as vireyas. Each bloom is less than an inch wide and, though somewhat exotic, not terribly exciting from the front.

But the back of the flowers are covered in golden scales! What a lovely bonus to this plant with narrow leaves that age from copper, through gold, to metallic blue green (I did buy it mostly for the foliage.). This vireya is known to be one of the more difficult, slower-growing species, and I'm so glad I've kept it happy enough to bloom!

Next door to the greenhouse, the 'PJM' (back left) and 'Bob's Blue' (right foreground) rhododendrons are blooming at the base of Stump St. Helens. The two clumps of bear grass that I created from one large clump are still somewhat yellow from the stress of being divided. I think it would have gone much more smoothly if I had attempted it this year, with our cool, rainy spring, instead of last spring with our unseasonable heat waves. One of the clumps has a distinct divide in the middle that has me considering another attempt.

Moving over to the driveway island, Hutchinsia alpina is thoroughly covered in tiny white blooms. I didn't catch any pollinators in this photo, but the other day it was absolutely abuzz with small native bees and pollinating flies. It blooms just as the crocus fade and help to cover up the crocus leaves, even as a grape hyacinth or two pokes up through the blooms.

Many of the overwintering flower buds on my Euphorbia 'Nothowlee' (aka Blackbird), were fried by the harsh winter, but some made it through and they've started opening this week.

I couldn't skip all the hellebores. I'm still enjoying Helleborus x sternii and argutifolius in the driveway island. I made the happy discovery of finding seeds around several of the older plants, which I plan to transplant to other areas.

I often say I'm not a fan of pink. There are two pink flowers in this photo, the Bergenia 'Winter Glow' in the foreground and a heath in the background. The heath I tolerate because I love the foliage. It's a cultivar that is chartreuse in warmer weather and takes on orange shades in cooler weather. I actually kind of like the dark pink of the bergenia. It almost looks red from a distance, aided by the red stems and sepals surrounding the dark pink petals.

Several weeks ago, when I started my spring clean-up in earnest, I was tempted to cut back the Erica x darleyensis, even though the flowers still looked good. I'm glad I held back, as the bumblebees have been all over these flowers now that the weather has warmed a bit.

The bumbles and smaller native pollinators have been enjoying the grape hyacinths, too. I still don't particularly care for the floppy foliage, but at least it looks better now that it doesn't get shredded by the deer.

I'm not sure what I think of this Erica carnea. I have two like this. They start out white and gradually age to this color. So pink...

I couldn't resist a few bud shots, hinting at what's to come. I really love the buds on Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold', maybe even more than the honey-scented flowers. I now have eight of these shrubs. Do you think that's enough?

Berberis x stenophylla 'Corallina Compacta' is loaded with red buds that will open to bright orange flowers.

And I have two Euphorbia rigida that made it through winter to bloom. The rest are definitely dead. So odd to lose this extremely tough plant.

Heading across the driveway to the rhododendron border (hm, with the expansion last year, I may have to come up with a new name for this area) Bergenia 'Silberlicht' is blooming with its white blooms blushed pink.

Another hellebore snuck into this post, because I like the combination of maroon hellebore flowers and blue Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

I got this Epimedium as E. davidii, or I think that's what it was labelled. It doesn't match the pictures, but it's still a lovely dense, evergreen ground cover epimedium. Not a fast spreader, but it is expanding steadily.

This one I received as Epimedium sagittatum. That ID seems a little more accurate.

I just got this one last fall from a friend, and can't remember what it's called. I'm hoping the rabbits stop tasting it.

This peony bud is kind of special. I received a small division of this peony last year from my aunt. It's a family heirloom passed down from my mother's and aunt's great grandparents. I kept it in a pot last year. It didn't get all that big. I planted it in this newly expanded area, but wasn't expecting a bloom for another year, at least. What a special surprise!

Less special are the rain-pummeled primulas. Poor things.

I'm amazed that the slugs don't bother them, but I guess they don't need to. The rain tears them up well enough.

In my recently replanted dry shade border, the Vaccinium ovatum are starting to bloom.

While native Viola sempervirens that have volunteered into the border bloom at their feet.

Luzula sylvatica has proven itself in the harsh conditions of the dry shade border, so I added more this year. I love the foliage as well as the tiny flowers.

 Conditions improve rapidly just a few more feed away from the Douglas firs that drain all the moisture from the dry shade border. Here, I enjoy pieris like 'Valley Valentine'.

And 'Mountain Fire'.

Magnolia stellata had quite a few blooms blown off by a crazy spring windstorm, but there are still plenty left. I love their light fragrance, even if they do have a few brown bruises from rain and hail.

Another preview of things to come. Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' seems to be enjoying its new home, which doesn't have much more moisture than its former location but has a bit more shade and a thick layer of compost. Its rewarding me with flower buds!

Comptonia peregrina flowers are not showy, but I do find them fascinating. The two little red fuzzies in the middle of the photo are the female flowers. The larger buds to the upper left are the male catkins beginning to expand.

The little native pollinators seem to be enjoying the blooms of Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii. I can see four in this photo. Native plant purists often claim that native wildlife doesn't use exotic plants. I don't think the insects are paying attention.

But here's a native anyway: Asarum caudatum. This is one of the pieces I planted after digging up and dividing the patch around the Japanese maple in the driveway island. Most of the divisions lost their leaves this winter, though established plantings are evergreen. Losing their leaves just makes it easier to spot the wonderfully odd flowers, which you can see will soon be covered by new leaves.

Primula veris 'Sunset Shades' did die down a bit this winter, but never went completely deciduous. I'm happy to have these wonderful flowers back. My favorite is still the orange one.

I like this stage on Cornus alternifolia 'W. Stackman', with new leaves just emerging, surrounding tightly-packed flower buds.

Under the dogwood, Pulmonaria 'Diana Clare' (I think) continues to bloom. I've seen bees and hummingbirds alike visit these flowers.

Rhododendron impeditum buds are beginning to expand in the Acer griseum bed.

And this auricula primrose is blooming much better than the primroses I showed earlier. Tougher, thicker petals hold up better in the rain.

The relatively large flowers of the tiny Saxifraga x arendsii are a welcome sight.

I'm trying to decide if this pink Viola odorata is welcome or not. I've been thinking it would be nice to have some viola seeding around, but not pink. I'm not worried about it smothering my other plants anywhere near this area, but it's pink. Hmm...

 I'm eagerly anticipating the deliciously fragrant blooms on the two Viburnum x burkwoodii I've planted this spring.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey' from Annie's Annuals, is blooming this year. I lost one of the two plants I purchased last year, but this one made it to bloom. Hopefully I'll have seedlings from it.

Leucothoe davisiae was a happy find at Joy Creek Nursery this spring. I'm hoping they'll enjoy the conditions along the dry creek bed, where I needed a broadleaf evergreen shrub. This is a native of southern Oregon and California. I love the buds!

The native mahonias are in bloom, too. Pictured below is Mahonia aquifolium, but I also have Mahonia repens in bloom and Mahonia nervosa is blooming in the woods, though the plants I've added to the garden this year are all too small to bloom.

I had to wait for the wind to die down to get that last photo, as another shower, with hail, was moving in. Once I got the shot, I headed back in. I still have six orchids blooming indoors, but I'll just share two of them this month. Phalaenopsis schilleriana surprised me this year when I detected a scent like roses one sunny morning. I'd read this species could be fragrant, but didn't notice anything when it bloomed last year. Maybe this young plant needed another year to grow up and add fragrance to its repertoire. I'm glad it did.

And last but not least, my first ever orchid, a nameless white phalaenopsis with 5-6 inch wide flowers. I didn't let it bloom last year because it was struggling with root rot and I wanted it to put more energy into new roots and leaves. It's made a comeback, thankfully.

Be sure to click over to May Dreams Gardens, to see what's blooming in the garden of our host, Carol, as well as blooms from other garden bloggers around the world.


  1. Hail?!! Despite your ugly weather, you've got a wonderful collection of plants, some of which, like the Luzula, I've never even heard of. I really wish I could grow Epimedium - I managed to keep a couple alive in my former garden just 15 miles north of my current one but that garden had the benefit of cool ocean breezes I don't get on the east side of the peninsula here. Still, I'm tempted to try it again here, even if Sunset's guide says I'm way out of range.

    Enjoy Hortlandia!

    1. I don't think I've had as much hail as the Portland area, but I've had a couple small showers. We usually get a few hail showers in spring, just pea-sized or smaller. Not the big stuff they get back east. Good luck with your epimedium experiments. There are so many, and some are tougher than others.

  2. Goodness, everyone is trying out the new layouts, I'm such an old fart who resists change. Maybe some day I'll get around to trying it out. When I finally catch up in the garden. I have lots of Primula veris 'Sunset Shades' seedlings in the garden that I thought were P. bulleyana. It'll be interesting to see what colors they are. I'm glad I'm not the only one who appreciates violets that seed around. I like the Brunnera/Hellebore combo, I'll have to try that. I planted some Euphorbia rigida last fall that turned to mush this winter. Bah! Humbug!

    1. I was never quite satisfied with my original layout. If you like yours, I don't see any reason to change it. I finally decided I wanted to do something about it, though I'm still not quite satisfied so I'm going to see what I can build myself. If you want P. bulleyana, I have plenty to share.

    2. Oh, and almost all of my E. rigida turned to mush, too. It's not just you.

  3. If it wasn't almost 10:00 pm and completely dark I'd be running out to the front garden to check on my Erica arborea. It was just a small thing heading into winter and now I realize I haven't actually stopped to focus on it in quite awhile. Fingers crossed.

    1. The two in my garden that went through this winter came through totally fine, even though the Euphorbia rigida around them turned to mush. Hope yours is ok.

  4. I love Epimediums and everyone has interesting pictures of them. On the RHS web site there are 368 different varieties.

    1. There is quite a wealth of different epimediums.

  5. I take issue with the name of your blog. It must be tongue n cheek. No plant Geek can be Practical. ;) I can see how Geeky you are. Love seeing all of these blooms. Happy GBBD.

    1. You caught me. My tongue is practically stuck to my cheek. While I do try to make practical plant choices (climate-adapted, low-maintenance, etc.) my geekiness inevitably asserts itself.

  6. Beautiful! I especially like the Magnolia, the Orchids, and the volunteer Violas
    Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!
    Happy Easter!

    1. Thanks. Happy bloom day and happy Easter!

  7. Great photos. I love the angle of the Erica - great shot. The greenhouse plants are stunning. Rhododendrons were one of the plants I was excited about growing when moving here. I have only planted one or two and having a dickens of a time deciding which ones to plant as space is limited.

    1. Thanks, Phillip! It's tough picking those select few plants for the garden. Even with all the space I have, I have trouble.

  8. Your garden looks amazing!
    The photos are stunning.The rhododendrons and Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' are so lovely.
    Happy Bloom Day!

    1. Thank you! My garden looks good in close-up flower portraits. The wider view is less impressive, unfortunately.

  9. What an incredible show in April. I agree about that orange primula but those other colors are pretty fine too.

    1. Exactly. They're fine. They're not bad, they're just not orange. ;-) Spring is finally entering the main show up here in the cold north.

  10. Yowsa, Rhododendron himantodes flowers are amazing and your Gasteria blooms are way cool. I hope someday that mine decide to bloom! Happy belated GBBD!

    1. Happy GBBD! I hope your Gasterias decide to bloom soon!

  11. What a stunning garden you have. I really enjoyed looking through all the photographs. Your orchids are gorgeous!


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