The blossoming of the azaleas in my Blue and White garden is one of the highlights of spring here in Seekonk. This year the long awaited event miraculously coincided with the flowering of the dogwoods, my white redbud tree (Cercis Canadensis Alba) and my white tree peony (Paeonia Suffruticosa).
Redbuds usually have pinkish purple flowers, but I am particularly fond of the white cultivar pictured in the upper left corner of the photo above. Redbuds are medium sized understory trees that thrive in partial shade and don't object to be being planted beneath larger hardwoods. As with our native dogwoods, their flowers emerge along graceful branches before the leaves unfurl. The tree peony (pictured in the lower left corner) is a relative of the more frequently grown herbaceous, garden peony. Despite it's exotic beauty this small shrub is of relatively easy culture. There are a host of different varieties available today, many with breathtaking, enormous double blooms that come in almost any color imaginable.Tree peonies may be grown in light shade or full sun in fertile soil. Although they're pricey they are quite long-lived, producing more blooms each year. Sadly, the delicate blossoms last only briefly in the spring garden and are easily ruined by heavy rain. To hedge my bets I usually cut a few of the flowers and enjoy them indoors.
The two splashes of white in the center of the photo above are produced by the foliage of Salix Integra Hakuro Nishiki. A member of the willow family, this fast growing almost indestructible shrub has become quite popular and is often bought as either a bush or a small topiaried tree. I keep mine in bounds with a hard pruning in the spring and at least one additional shearing in mid-summer. The white leaves take on a pinkish cast as the weather warms and may brown in hot dry weather, but for a consistent burst of white, they're hard to beat.
The charming, small vine pictured above is Clematis Maidwell Hall. Its sky-blue flowers open in mid-spring and last for a few weeks. I'm training this one up one of the arches in my cottage garden. This cultivar is rather hard to find and I wish I had bought a few more when I stumbled across it at a garden center a couple years ago. Sadly, after many years my beloved Clematis Montana Rubens has succumbed to some blight or other.
I sorely miss its cascade of pink flowers tumbling across my roof.
Last year I planted it again on the steel gazebo behind my farm pond, but the blight seems to have followed it there. A few weeks ago I watched the bud-laden stems wither just as the flowers were about to open. I must confess that it's heartbreaking when long-time favorites unexpectedly die or a new pest or disease strikes out of the blue.
Still, as I'm fond of saying, gardening isn't for the faint of heart. It's best to roll with punches and focus on the big picture.