Ten Days in May


HERE’S HOW MY LONG ISLAND, N.Y., GARDEN looks now, with the trees nearly all leafed out for the season, following a night and a day of blessed rain.

As recently as two weeks ago, it still felt like very early spring. Now we’re in it. A few warm days, and the rewards start coming.

The irises I thought were planted too deep, or didn’t like the acidic soil, suddenly shot up their flower stalks. The beds around the front deck — now a tad less shady, thanks to the removal of five or six more trees last March — are filling out, though plenty of bare spots remain.

I’ve been planting like a maniac, all in a spirit of experiment. I’m no longer making any attempt at design in the four raised beds in the sunny center of the property, where I’ve variously had dreams of starting flowers from seeds or growing edibles. Now it’s just a fertile place to hold the odd things picked up at nurseries in Philadelphia and Dutchess County, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s annual plant sale, and at community garden sales here and there.

I’m making repeated trips to the local dump for free compost, mulch and wood chips, a scene that never fails to remind me of Monica Vitti in Antonioni’s Red Desert, walking through a post-apocalyptic landscape in a pencil skirt and stilettos.

See nature’s progression below:


Back to front: an ilex ‘sky pencil,’pagoda dogwood, two ninebark ‘Coppertina,’ a couple of lavenders, an acanthus and some annuals in their Brooklyn staging area, awaiting transport.


Variegated Solomon’s seal, planted last October and doing spectacularly well.


Golden bleeding heart and ferns as they looked two weeks ago.


An old azalea, here when I bought this property in 2013, thriving as a result of pruning and Hollytone. 


Stuffing the raised beds with bulbs only worked for a year. My Costco alliums and even the daffs failed to come back. Only the Pheasant Eye daffodils from a catalogue company bloomed this season, weakly. 


Still early times, as of two weeks ago, in the bed above. 


A car full of compost.


A few native dogwoods on the property blooming better now — must be the Hollytone.

Signs of growth abounding this week:


Weeping spruce putting it forth.


Purple violas, gift from a friend, in a gorgeous hunk of driftwood, gift from another friend, in a spot where I had to remove a failing boxwood.


Watch this space…


Silver ferns around three rocks, an attempt at artistry and restraint.


Happy smoke tree.


I have high hopes for my Pagoda dogwood from the BBG. May be 12 feet tall some day.


Mystery plants appropriated from vacant lot nearby, where property was clear-cut for development. Digitalis? Remains to be seen.


Rodgersia — a first for me — and lady’s mantle in front of a rhodie about to burst into bloom.


Irises blooming after all.


My only stab at agriculture this year: a single Sun Gold tomato plant in a whiskey barrel. 





5 thoughts on “Ten Days in May

  1. Really great to see the pictures of your garden. That update was exactly what I was hoping for! And I’m now hoping the next post will have before-and-after shots—like when you say “Watch this space” you’ll show us how it looks two weeks later? Is that what you’re planning? Please do it! Also dying to see that rhododendron in bloom! Love your Solomon’s seal and the Monica Vitti reference also. Though I’m guessing you’re not wearing stilettos while you shovel that compost.

  2. Came by here hoping you would have a “spring on LI post,” and my intuition was right on! I agree with bjpeck; please post same spots in a bit and show us what happened.The area around your deck looks splendid. And the Monica Vitti reference was just awesome. I got a bumper crop of iris this year (still blooming), roses are especially healthy and just starting to bloom, hydrangeas in this area mostly sick this year and a neighbor who is a landscaper says the malaise is fairly widespread into the 5 Towns. Disappointed because I love them. Peonies also did much better; I guess they are starting to mature. Also, I have some huge oriental poppy buds, so hope springs eternal on that score. Everything was late late late here this year too. While everyone roasted inland, it could barely get up to 60 here.

  3. Wow, the garden is looking fabulous! We have those same irises, they are currently in flower. Sadly they only remain in flower for a week or so and then we have to wait another whole year. The violas look great in the driftwood.

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