A Garden Review of 2014: April-June

Cathy, at WordsandHerbs, has encouraged her readers to present a review of their gardens for the past year, focusing on a quarter of the year each week up until Christmas. I am pleased to present this first offering. In putting this initial effort together, I recognized that I have learned a few things. First, I need to be more intentional in observing key events in the garden and recording them for posterity (or at least until the next review). Second, I must visit all areas in my garden regularly; some are attractive spots (at least I am told so) to which I must pay more close attention. Third, I need to keep better records. And last (at least for awhile), I need to keep my camera at the ready at all times…how else to catch a fleeting critter.


Candy Tuft and creeping phlox are wonderful sights to say “hello” to spring:

Candy tuft

Likewise bluebells:

Bluebells...a perennial favorite

‘Sunglow azaleas wake up the senses:


‘Star of Persia’ allium is unique and one of my favorite spring bulbs. It continues to make a statement in the garden, even after it loses its color (until my Arranger tells me it’s time for it to go the compost pile).


I love bearded Iris when they make their appearance in late April. Two of my favorites, both rebloomers, are ‘Immortality’ and ‘Sunny Disposition.’

       Sunny Disposition

2014 is the first year that we have had the new (to me) Itoh peonies bloom. They are expensive, but I love their color so much that I do think it is worth it. So much so, in fact, that I am on the prowl to find another one for this spring. This is ‘Keiko.’


A border area with ‘Keiko’ Itoh peony, ‘Ramona’ clematis, and the white ‘Summer Snowflake’ viburnum in bloom:

Spring border


I am convinced that the most beautiful flower in my garden this year was Itoh peony ‘Bartzella.’ This golden yellow flower was the hit of the garden for our visitors, who were overflowing with their admiration. Several took pictures and immediately made it the wallpaper on the face of their smart phones. To repeat, Itoh peonies are expensive, but I think they are worth it. See my previous Itoh peony comment.

DSCN1490     DSCN1486

I have a number of unidentified heirloom peonies in my garden that at one time resided in my grandmother’s garden. These divisions came to me via my Aunt Martha’s garden and followed me from Chapel Hill. I think they looked especially attractive with Siberian iris ‘Caesar’s Brother.’ It continues to be one of my favorite combinations.


This was an extraordinary year for peonies in my garden. It was the first time I can remember that the secondary buds…almost universally…survived and bloomed. It lengthened the peony season by weeks.

DSCN1488     DSCN1478

DSCN1482     DSCN1498

It was also an exciting year for the Kousa dogwood, which was covered with blossoms.

Clematis added lovely pastel color: ‘General Sikorski’ and ‘Comptesse de Bouchard’

DSCN1568     DSCN1567

By May the hostas were unfurled. This is ‘Frances Williams,’ in its third year in this pot.


The Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ maple holds the center of attention in the back garden.



This unidentified phlox has followed me through three gardens and has been divided/moved at least nine times. I bought it in Northern Virginia some twenty-five years ago, and it continues to be a favorite, however obscure its name. I make sure to deadhead it as the blossoms fade, and it reliably reblooms to extend the season.


Another phlox that found a welcome place in the garden was ‘Flame Lilac.’ When I bought them in early spring to add some color in a border area that needed it, they were in bloom, and they continued to bloom (with deadheading) until the first frost. I liked the striking color so much that I went back and bought six more.


We have three chaste trees (Vitex agnus-castus) in our garden. This is my favorite (in my usual fashion unidentified). It originated from a cutting from my Aunt Martha’s garden in Chatham, VA, survived to maturity in Chapel Hill and then the journey with us to this garden as yet another cutting. It made it and is now mature. It is a magnet for nectar loving creatures, particularly bumble bees. I discovered that, if it is deadheaded, it will put out new growth and rebloom in September-October.


‘Endless Summer’ hydrangeas (and its cousins ‘Blushing Bride’ and ‘Twist and Shout’) have been a ready source of color throughout the season right up to frost.


Hibiscus ‘Midnight Marvel’ has indeed been a “marvel.” I hadn’t any experience with hibiscus before planting this one and have been quite pleased with its performance. It is the brightest red in my garden, for much of the year its foliage tends to pale purple, and it blooms for months.


We only plant annuals in pots around our garden. I find it much less labor to deal with the semi-annual transfer of annuals from winter to spring and back to winter. The one exception is that we plant a pink mandevilla vine each spring to grow up a support. From planting to frost it provides quite a splash of color, particularly welcome during the dog days of late summer. (Notice the ‘Flame Lilac’ phlox to the right of the mandevilla.)


The design of our back garden is essentially a circle within an ellipse within a rectangle. I climbed an eight foot ladder to get this picture. I’m glad to say that my Arranger was diligent in holding it steady for me. This part of our garden has become a great place to entertain.


With it freezing outside tonight, this exercise is helpful in reminding me of wonderful days to come. I am grateful to Cathy for suggesting it. Please visit her at WordsandHerbs.

About johnvic8

John Viccellio retired after 24 years in the U. S. Navy and began to dig into gardening when he could finally land in one place. He completed the Master Gardener course in 1992 and has since designed and constructed two of his own gardens. He wrote a monthly garden column for ten years and was a regular contributor to Carolina Gardener magazine. John published his first book, Guess What's in My Garden!, in 2014. He lives in a retirement community in Matthews, NC.
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17 Responses to A Garden Review of 2014: April-June

  1. Julie says:

    This is a lovely review John of a really lovely garden and I can see why your ‘Bartzella’ Peony was so popular, its gorgeous.


  2. So many wonderful things to admire. It’s easy to see how much care you lavish on the garden. I particularily like your oval lawn; a well-ordered garden always makes me happy.


  3. Linda says:

    Very beautiful.


  4. A great review of a beautiful garden. Do print this into a small pamphlet for Christmas for your family. Suh a lot of work….such a big pay off.


  5. Cathy says:

    This is lovely John! You have a really pretty garden – the shape especially appeals to me. That yellow peony definitely is a real treasure, and I agree that the combination of pink peonies and blue irises is wonderful – it always makes my heart skip a beat when I see them together! Thanks so much for sharing and brightening another short winter’s day!


  6. pbmgarden says:

    John, it’s nice to see your garden this way. I have a better understanding of the layout. You have a wonderful collection of plants–wonderful that so many are passalongs with a story.


    • johnvic8 says:

      Thanks, Susie. The passalongs are very dear to me. I’m hoping I can get my grandkids interested one of these days so I can keep passing along within the family. Imagine having a plant that could be in the family for at least seven generations.


  7. Your garden in May is wonderful. I like the phlox and candy tuft bed, they make a nice combo.


  8. Thanks for this post, it gives me a much better overall picture of your garden. I really like the long shots, especially that last one. Fantastic. Wish I could grow Chaste Tree.


  9. Pingback: A Garden Review of 2014: Late Summer/Autumn | Words and Herbs

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