Soon the shrubs and trees in the long western border burst into bloom. A standard purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena) is decked with light pink flowers—surprising, considering its history. “A hurricane came through a few years ago,” says Michael, “and the tree was so top-heavy, it bent right down. So I trimmed and staked it, and now it’s standing on its own again.”
Early June finds Michael and Martin tucking coleuses into bare spots in the borders where the early bulbs have since disappeared. In the filtered light at the back of the garden, two ‘Roseum Elegans’ rhododendrons begin to flower, their huge purple blooms in sumptuous contrast to the brilliant yellow of a nearby laburnum (Laburnum x watereri ‘Vossii’). The blowsy blossoms of tree peonies, including the luxurious apricot gold ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’ (Paeonia x lemoinei ‘Souvenir de Maxime Cornu’ a.k.a. ‘Kinkaku’), emerge. Divas of the border, they put the neighbouring dwarf ‘Palibin’ lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’) to shame. Also making their appearance are Virginia bluebells (Mertensia pulmonarioides), pink ‘Queen of the Pinks’ Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Queen of the Pinks’) and slender blue camassia (Camassia cusickii).
Peonies and irises give notice that summer is on its way. And in a final spring hurrah, shimmering white flowers line the layered branches of the kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) and light up the shadows at the back of the garden.
“We love the ever-changing palette of colour and texture in this garden from late winter through late fall,” says Michael. “But the back corner with the dogwood and Norway spruce tree (Picea abies) is my favourite because it’s so private, and on a windy day, the sound of the breeze through the large spruce boughs is wonderful.”
When summer finally arrives, the long procession of spring blossoms comes to an end. But, like all fine parades, it’s sheer delight watching it pass by.
Bulb picks by Anne Marie Van Nest
Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) Zone 3
Crocus (like Crocus vernus 'Purpureus Grandiflorus') Zone 3
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) Zone 4
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) Zone 3
Dwarf iris (Iris danfordiae or I. reticulata) Zone 3
Daffodils (Narcissus spp.) Zone 4
Early-blooming Tulips Zone 3
Snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) Zone 4
Grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) Zone 2
Daffodils Zone 4
Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica) Zone 3
Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) Zone 2
Mid-blooming Tulips Zone 3
Late-blooming Tulips Zone 3
Star of Persia (Allium cristophii) Zone 3
Giant allium (A. giganteum) Zone 4
Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) Zone 4