"April hath put a spirit of youth in every thing," as Shakespeare once said. After rainy March, we certainly got an early spring, and with the weather increasingly warm and dry, many of my plants woke early.
In early April the backyard looked like this:
And by May, with many of the bare spots filled in, it was like this:
Several clematis were among the first to produce flowers.
'Miss Bateman' bloomed earlier than usual.
These are the young flowers with their green stripes; as they mature, the petals become pure white and the centre becomes a darker purple. It's lovely in both phases.
Clematis 'Willy' on the back fence timed its bloom to coincide with the blue flowers of its rosemary host this year.
A new acquisition to adorn the western fence is the very showy 'Haku Ookan'.
I prefer flowers with more subtlety than this, so I'm not sure whether I'll keep it. It is sharing wall space with later-blooming clematis varieties, and much will depend on how they all perform together.
My favourite tulips demonstrated yet again why they are my favourites. 'Spring Green' is actually whiter than it looks in this photo:
In the front garden 'Ballerina' has such a tall, graceful presence that it wins me over every year. I have some mixed feelings about orange flowers in general, but not about this elegant beauty. I like it best alone in a green setting without competing colours muscling in on its solo performance.
Here, it comes up just as the creeping willow, Salix nakamura var. yezoalpina, leafs out behind it with furry, pale-yellow candles that echo the tulip's upright stance.
On the opposite side of the front path, a few petals of 'Queen of the Night' catch the rays of a late sun as the stems rise through the spreading foliage of Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea', a gift from my friend and gardener extraordinaire, Brenda Peterson.
In the the shadiest bed close to the house, Dicentra 'Valentine Heart' dangles over the old-gold foliage of Heuchera 'Marmalade'.
Meanwhile, as always, more action was going on around the back of the house. Rosa pimpinellifolia, which usually blooms in mid- May, opened three weeks earlier in late April.
Its scent fills the air; so does the buzz of bees drawn to flowers so rich in pollen that it often drips down the petals, as if the flowers are moved to tears by their own beauty.
Not far away, several perennials were either in bud or blooming already. Among them are pale yellow Paeonia mlokosevitchii and the buds of an unnamed pink peony, Geum 'Leonard's Variety', and Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue'.
Another peony, the lovely P. obovata 'Alba' sets its pure white flowers off against soft, dark leaves.
Meanwhile in a shadier bed, hosta and fern foliage was waking from dormancy.
Similar greens and purples have combined where Angelica sylvestris 'Vicar's Mead' has surrounded a young Hydrangea serrata 'Beni'.
A little colour is already sprinkled through this bed, thanks to Astrantia 'Ruby Wedding'
and woodland treasures like Trillium grandiflorum , which opens white and darkens slowly to hot pink.
Epimedium 'Free Spirit Spring Hearts' goes the other way, pink buds giving way to white flowers. Chocolate-fringed leaves add another dimension of interest to this lovely little plant.