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"In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt."
~ Margaret Atwood
Now there's a lady after my own heart.

I've always enjoyed "playing in the dirt." That's one of the main reasons I've owned houses all my adult life -- to be able to have flower gardens, as well as the occasional veggie garden. My love of gardening is one of the things I miss when we're traveling in our RV.

As busy as Jim and I have been the past six weeks, I've put in almost as many hours out in the yard as I have on the house projects I talked about in the last entry.

In this entry I'll showcase the parade of flowering plants in our yard from March 23 until today. We've had the pleasure to see most of the range of spring flowers at our house, in the city, and on the trails we ran, hiked, and rode our bike.

This is a simply gorgeous time of year to visit or live in the Roanoke Valley. So is autumn. That's the main reason we return to our house each year during those two seasons.

It is, after all, part of the Dandelion Time Warp in which we live. Yep, the dandelions are in bloom now!


We had a good clue about what would be blooming on May 22 when we drove through Roanoke on our way back to the house. We'd seen lots of forsythia, daffodils, and fruit trees like Bradford pears that appeared to be at their peak bloom at our elevation and latitude. I crossed my fingers that our daffodils would still be blooming.

To my delight, they were!

Three years ago I transplanted all of those bulbs -- probably 300 of them! -- from a dozen too-tight clumps that the former owners planted before we moved in seven years ago. I should have divided them much sooner than I did but I knew it was a lot of work and I just kept putting it off.

The daffodils were located back where the truck and camper are sitting. There weren't any other flowers growing next to the retaining wall where I transplanted them. I needed a lot of space to transplant so many bulbs, so I spread them out toward the road. There was plenty of room for them because that bed is over 100 feet long.

The best time to divide most spring bulbs is after they bloom but before the green tops die back. Otherwise, it's harder to find the bulbs.

What this meant is that I wouldn't know if my project was successful until the next spring when the daffodils popped through the earth in March. That year (2010) we didn't get back to Roanoke until April 6. By then the flowers were all wilted. The green leaves were still visible, so at least I had the satisfaction of knowing that all or most of the bulbs had taken root and grown.

But I didn't have the satisfaction of seeing the flowers until this spring.

I loved them! There's nothing quite so cheery in the spring than early-blooming daffodils. Ironically, they are already so thick that I should probably thin them out again in another year or two and spread them out even farther.

If we'd gotten back a week later, I would have missed the flowers again.

We enjoyed other types of flowers the last week of March and early April, too. Our hyacinths were blooming, and for some reason the neighborhood deer and/or rabbits didn't eat them this time:

I could tell where deer had been walking in two of the other flower beds, though.

The Vinca Minor AKA periwinkle was just starting to bloom where our front bed slopes down to the driveway:

That's an attractive, fast-growing ground cover we were happy to inherit from the previous owners. Most of the landscape plants in our yard were planted by the previous owners. Although I've added a few things since we've been here, my main jobs have been weeding, pruning, transplanting, and fertilizing what's already here.

By mid-April the periwinkles were at their peak and growing very thick. After I took the next picture I transplanted several sprigs near the bottom of the slope to fill in a bare spot where some ajuga had died:

Some shrubs were already in bloom when we got back March 22.

This is our largest forsythia:

It was almost done blooming when I took that photo on March 23. You can see the green leaves starting to come out already.

I was surprised to see some buds opening up so early on a rhododendron I planted in the front bed three years ago when we were here all summer. It would be another week before the azalea flower buds would start opening up.

We don't have Bradford pears in our yard but they are very popular landscape trees in the Roanoke area, both in peoples' yards and in commercial areas. They also line many streets in town.

Dozens of Bradford pears were planted in the Valley View area when the shopping mall and other stores were developed. I took this picture of several of them along Valley View Boulevard between the mall and airport on March 24. The flowers were already a little past their peak and new green leaves were quickly taking their place:

Bradford pears are one of the first trees to leaf out in the spring and one of the last to lose their leaves in the fall. They also have pretty fall color. These reasons add to the popularity of this species in the South.

Other fruit trees were peaking in the Roanoke Valley in late March -- apple, crab apple, peach, etc.  We have several peach trees that are very pretty then. This is the largest one:


It was covered in pink blooms for about two weeks:

By the end of April it had dozens of little peaches growing on the branches. Squirrel food!!!


By the second week of April our dogwoods, redbuds, and azaleas had taken center stage. I took these photos between April 15 and April 25:


I didn't take any new redbud photos this year. Here's one I took of our largest redbud tree in early April, 2010:

It looked like that this year, too!

Above and below:  some of the azaleas in front of the house; that bed is
full of perennial groundcovers, daylilies, and other flowers in the summer.


Several types of azaleas grow in this bed in the side yard;
our largest white dogwood tree is in the background.

View out the north side of the screened porch (4-17-11)

While all the attention is on the dogwood, redbud, azalea, and rhododendron flowers in our yard in mid- to late April, the long bed by the driveway is transitioning between the spent daffodils and emerging bearded irises, spiderwort, and peonies:

Lots of photos of those late spring flowers continued on next page . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2011 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil