Garden Tour: April

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Garden Tour - April

If March was about seeing the garden beds begin to wake up from a long sleep, then April is the month when the blankets of winter are tossed aside and life springs forward! This month’s garden tour is packed with gorgeous blooms and sunshine!

But before we dive in, I have to say that I learned a little something since last month’s garden tour.

In March, I was so excited to see things starting to happen around here. It had been months since we planted our spring cutting garden, and I was more than ready to see the fruits of our labor.

At the time, I figured I would document two tours per month to track the progress. However, after sharing the March Garden Tour in the first half of the month, there was basically nothing else to report for several weeks. Yes, things continued to grow and gain height, but the overall state of things was essentially the same on March 15th (the date I posted the first tour) as it was on March 31st.

Blossoms on our plum tree
I wish this was a scratch-n-sniff because I would love to share the fragrance of the plum trees with you!

The only significant change was that the plum trees burst into bloom on March 16th…some timing, huh? Just one day after publishing the March tour.

Our two magnolia trees also did a strange and unexpected early bloom about a week later…a full month earlier than we’d ever had them bloom before…and then the late-March snow wiped out almost all of those blossoms. Quite sad. More on that in a bit.

So, I made a new decision: I’ll share a garden tour once a month, and I’ll give all of the highlights from that month. That will help you to see the progress in a bit more of a succinct way…I think…I hope.

Now, without further ado…let’s get on with the April Garden Tour!

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Welcome to our April Garden Tour!

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Aspen stands guard over the daffodils and crocus
Aspen loves to keep guard over the blooms…he takes this job very seriously. 😂

Finally…We Have Crocus!

Last month, I was really disappointed to report that the crocus we planted last fall still weren’t open. Since that’s a flower that is often first to appear, I had high hopes that we’d have blooms to enjoy in late winter. No such luck.

I later read reviews from others saying that this particular variety, Jeanne d’Arc Giant Crocus, tended to bloom later in the season than other varieties.

The crocus finally bloomed in the first week of April, and they were quite darling. They were not, however, as “giant” as I had hoped. And, they were advertised to reach the height of short tulips. But, no. At most, they reached 5-6″. Maybe they’ll perform differently next year when they’re more settled? Time will tell!

Jeanne d'Arc Giant Crocus are in bloom
Jeanne d’Arc Giant Crocus

That said, I really loved the light purple streaking on the white petals–stunning!

And they certainly add visual interest to the garden when paired with taller plants. I planted them in between groupings of daffodils, so it helped to break up the height and just make things a bit more captivating. Having those low-growing petals to take up some of the space that would otherwise be solid green from the daffodil stems was really nice.

Obdam Double-Flowering Daffodils
Obdam Double Flowering Daffodils

Give Me All of the Daffodils!

If there is a star in our spring garden, it has to be the daffodils. They are incredible!

The gorgeous double-flowering blooms stand upon extremely tall and sturdy stems. And the fragrance! Oh, the fragrance!

Last fall, we planted a mixture of bulbs throughout the garden so that we would have early, mid, and late-spring blooms. The mix was supposed to be:

Here’s the thing about ordering bulbs from large importers: Things are not always what they’re supposed to be. If you’ve been gardening for very long, you already know this, so we weren’t surprised that it happened, per se…but it was certainly a surprise when things started blooming.

What we actually have blooming in the garden this month are all double flowering varieties in shades of creamy white:

  • Obdam (spicy-sweet fragrance; started blooming April 7th)
  • Ice King (mildly cherry-scented; started blooming April 23rd)
  • Sir Winston Churchill (only one single bloom, also on April 23rd)

As far as mistakes go, I have zero complaints because these are all stunning. In fact, I prefer this mix of blooms to what we actually ordered! While the classic trumpet style blooms are very pretty, the double-flowering varieties are, hands down, my favorites.

Now…let’s talk details…

Comparing early and mid-season daffodils
Double-flowering beauties: Ice King Daffodils (on left) and Obdam Daffodils (on right)

The Ice King look very, very much like the Obdam variety. This almost makes it seem like the bloom season is twice as long since they started flowering about two weeks later than Obdam.

Side by side, you can see that they do, in fact, look different. Ice King opens with a pale yellow color, but it quickly fades to creamy white, just like Obdam. The scent is a little different…where Obdam has a spicy undertone to its sweetness, Ice King smells like cherries to us. Both are unbelievable…I could not possibly pick a favorite!

I already have both of these on the list to plant more this fall!

Sir Winston Churchill Daffodils
Sir Winston Churchill Daffodils

The Sir Winston Churchill variety was a surprise, and we aren’t even sure how many we have. Only one bloom has opened, so far. Maybe it’s the only one? Perhaps it fell into the bag by mistake?? Only half of our total daffodils have opened, so we should have more answers sometime next month.

Tulips are getting ready to bloom in April
We planted 100 gorgeous white tulips last fall, and the beauty is just beginning!

Tulips Are On Their Way!

The tulips literally just started to bloom this week, and we only have a few so far. We only planted one variety–Ivory Floradale–and they are a tall, statuesque collection on sturdy stems.

For the handful that have come into bloom this week, I can say that they certainly live up to the hype. The blooms are quite large, and the ivory color is gorgeous.

Ivory Floradale white tulips
Ivory Floradale Darwin Hybrid Tulips

While I would love to have many more of these, the work required to keep the deer and bunnies out of them is such a hassle. You will need a reliable deterrent, or you’ll need to plant them behind a fence. Otherwise, you’re just planting tasty treats for the wildlife to enjoy.

I think that the only reason ours have survived is our constant vigilance, as well as the fact that we planted them with the daffodils (which bunnies and deer despise!). I also sprinkle minced garlic and Irish Spring soap throughout the garden once a week (or more often if we get a good rain), and that has kept them away for the most part. But, we definitely did suffer a few losses…about 5 or so, out of the 100 we planted, ended up being munched.

A tomato cage helps to keep peony stems upright
A tomato cage helps keep peonies from falling over with the weight of their blooms.

Peonies Have Set Buds!

Remember those teeny little peony sprouts from last month? What a difference a few weeks makes!

Our Karl Rosenfield peonies have set buds, and they all look very happy.

Peony buds are set in April
Karl Rosenfield peony buds

We also planted 10 more bare root peonies in the new garden beds, but these are Shirley Temple. I think the mix of the raspberry red (Karl Rosenfield) and the delicate white with hints of pink (Shirley Temple) will be beautiful together.

I was shocked, though, that the new plants started breaking ground just 10 days after I planted them, and I’m excited to see what they do.

When planting bare root peonies, you don’t usually get many blooms in the first year. Maybe just a few. But, wait 3-4 years, and they will bloom like crazy! They just need some time to establish their roots before they really perform.

Hostas are a great shade-loving plant
El Niño Hosta

New Hostas in the Shade Garden

At the end of March, I planted four hostas in a heavily shaded area of our garden. I was a little bit undecided about them because hostas die back in the fall and leave a bare spot until the next spring. However, I happened to have just the right spots to fill, so I think they’ll work nicely.

Plus, I’ve fallen in love with the fast-growing foliage. Don’t you just adore the variegated leaves on these babies? These are the El Niño variety, and they’re perennial in zones 3-9.

The variegated leaves of the hosta on display
El Niño Hosta has beautiful variegated leaves!

They are going to grow quite large–about a 3′ spread at maturity–and I swear they’re getting bigger every time I even look at them. If you want something that’s scrappy and will thrive in difficult areas, hostas are the plant for you.

Just make sure to protect them from slugs and snails, if you live in an area where that’s a problem (like we do!). This is the product we use, and it’s approved for organic gardens, as well as a safer alternative to use if you have pets or kiddos who frequent your garden.

Cherry blossoms abound this month
Cherry blossoms so beautiful that I could get lost in them!

Fruit Trees Are In Bloom

I love this time of year because we have a lot of fruit trees that keep everything smelling so lovely all spring. Currently, we have 7 plum trees, 3 cherry, 2 pear, 2 apple, and 2 crabapple.

I already talked about the plum tree blossoms in mid-March, and now the cherry and crabapples are in bloom. The largest cherry tree is right outside the back door, and the crabapples are just outside the front, so we get the added benefit of gorgeous flowers filling our windows for weeks!

The cherry tree outside of our windows puts on a show
I never get tired of seeing these cherry trees outside the window…

The Japanese crabapples (malus floribunda), while not something you would want to eat, make the birds so happy. Technically, you can make jellies from the fruits, but I prefer to let the birds enjoy them.

I love that these trees offer beauty for three seasons–flowers in the spring, shade in the summer, and beautiful little red fruits in the fall.

Crabapple buds are about to explode with colorful blooms
The crabapple trees are just about the burst open with pink blooms!

The flowers open from beautiful pink buds and gradually fade to white as they mature. In autumn, you will have to deal with cleaning up the fallen leaves, but I think it’s worth it for the show of flowers in spring!

Petite white flowers on our spirea
Meadowsweet is a low maintenance shrub with beautiful petite flowers

Meadowsweet is Oh-So-Sweet

I almost missed the opportunity to catch a photo of the meadowsweet’s spring bloom. We’ve had crazy weather…snow, hail, heavy rain…sometimes all in the same day! The blossoms on the meadowsweet (spirea) are so petite that they certainly didn’t last long this year.

This is another plant that is for you if you have trouble growing things. It is SO determined to grow, and it really doesn’t care about the conditions. I think it might be the most low maintenance thing in our garden.

We have 6 of these planted around, in two varieties (white and pink), and they are super easy to propagate. You’ll have an endless supply to give to friends!

What’s great about meadowsweet is that you can prune it, or not…water it, or not…pretty much whenever you like, and it will still grow. And grow, and grow, and grow. I cut ours back pretty hard every year because they have a tendency to get very large.

Nothing says farmhouse like a magnolia tree in springtime
If you look closely, you can see a little creepy crawly friend hanging out inside this sweet bloom!

A Weird Year for Magnolias

Our magnolia trees usually bloom in April, but this year was strange. We had blooms in the third week of March…before the trees even had leaves. That has never happened, and it wasn’t just us. A neighbor friend’s tree did the same thing.

We do have some new buds just beginning to open up within the last week, which is about “normal”. But there are so few compared to what we usually see. I’m assuming that’s because of what happened in March.

We were still getting snow and frigid temperatures into April, so that just wasn’t the ideal environment for those fragile petals. Hopefully next year will be better!

Bleeding Heart is a rapidly growing shade loving plant

A Big Change for the Bleeding Heart

Do you remember the little sprouts of our Bleeding Heart that I showed you last month? Good gracious, it has seriously grown!

Buds on the Bleeding Heart plant this month
Bleeding Heart buds are almost ready to bloom!

Not only is the plant at least 2′ tall, but there are already buds set as well. I’m excited to see it in bloom very soon!

New fern fronds unfurling
Isn’t nature amazing??

The Magical Nature of Ferns

We have so many ferns here in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, our woods are just loaded with them. If I want to plant new ones around our property, I don’t have to go buy a plant from the nursery…I just dig one out of the woods and move it!

I love how whimsical they look when they start to unfurl their new fronds. They almost don’t look real! I’ve actually had people ask after seeing them in past photos on our social media…but yes, they are really real!

Ferns are a spectacular choice for a shade garden
So incredibly…they almost don’t look real!

I love low maintenance plants like ferns. All we do is clean up the spent fronds once a year, and that’s it. They’re so adaptable, so they need really no kind of human interference to live their best life.

Snowball Viburnum buds are about to bloom
Snowball Viburnum will be blooming soon and giving the air a heavenly scent!

My Favorite…the Snowball Viburnum

I intentionally took a picture of the same buds that I captured in our March Garden Tour to highlight the growth over the past month. At the very tippy top of the shrub, there are a few heads that have opened up to show their blooms (because they’re able to reach for some extra sunshine), but the rest still need a bit more time.

This Snowball Viburnum is so incredibly fragrant, and we are always so excited for it to bloom each year. We can sit on the front porch in the evenings and just get lost in the amazing scent!

Lettuce sprouts germinated after 15 days
Feeling like a salad tonight?

And Over In the Veggie Garden…

Lettuce has officially sprouted–the first of the season! We succession plant our lettuce using the square-foot method. I plant one square, every other week.

This year, I planted a raised “kitchen garden” on the back deck so that we have easy access to lettuce for sandwiches, burgers, salads, etc. You can even grow lettuce in pots on a balcony…it’s really so easy!

We also have 4 squares of carrots already planted (that haven’t sprouted yet), and a bunch of tomato starts that are anxious to get into the ground…if only the nighttime temperatures would warm up just a bit. In May, we’ll be sowing beets, herbs, and more squares of lettuce.

Our view over the pasture in springtime
Big fluffy clouds give us some much needed shade to work outside and prepare for planting next month.

What’s coming next?

May is going to be a super busy month for planting the summer garden. We’ve been working so hard to prepare for that, and I can hardly wait. Every day, I check the temperatures waiting to see those magic numbers, and I’m very ready to get things going.

At the same time, we still have a lot left on the to-do list to prepare over the coming two to three weeks. I know it’s going to fly by, and I’ll be wishing the calendar would slow down. Isn’t that just always the way?

We’ve also been filming some of our projects to share with you on our YouTube channel very soon. If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to our channel and sign up for notifications so you know when we upload a new episode!

Happy spring, farm friends!

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