You know the expression, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, sure enough, April brought us some rain this year and we can expect May flowers to follow. Below you will find some tidbits about a few of the flowers you are likely to find in the various gardens at the WVBG this May.

Enjoy!

 

Columbine – Columbine (Aquilegia spp.) is one of my favorite woodland wildflowers. Its delicate beauty seems almost out of place amongst the rugged forest landscape. At the Botanic Garden, look for them scattered throughout the Yagle Garden (seen best from the lawn area next to the deck) and elsewhere. Here we have the pleasure of enjoying cultivars bred specifically to delight our visual senses. You will find a variety of stunning color combinations and flower forms. Be on the lookout for the purple, double-flowered cultivar, Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Winky Double Dark Blue & White’. Its double-flowered form makes it look quite different from other columbines, but it is exquisite nonetheless. Curious about the genus name Aquilegia? It comes from the Latin word for eagle, in reference to the talon shape of the flower spurs. 

Columbine (Aquilegia spp.)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Winky Double Dark Blue & White’

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Peonies – Peonies are probably the most extravagant flowers blooming at the WVBG in May. It’s hard to pass by these large, gorgeous flowers without noticing them. And lucky for WVBG visitors, there are some nice specimens adjacent to the lower parking area, making them very easily seen by all. Here you will find Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) ‘Nippon Beauty’ sporting striking reddish-purple petals. This species of peony is also referred to as Chinese or common garden peony, of which there are several hundred cultivars. Here you will also find two different types of Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa). Unlike the herbaceous peonies, tree peonies are actually woody shrubs. The ‘Renkaku’ cultivar has very large, pure white flowers with beautiful, lightly fringed petals. Another tree peony of unknown cultivar displays similar flowers in a shade of dark pink. Peonies can live to 100 years and still produce flowers and are native to Asia, Southern Europe, and Western North America.

Peony (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Nippon Beauty’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa ‘Renkaku’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Tree Peony (Paeonia suffruticosa)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Rhododendrons & Azaleas – Rhododendrons & azaleas are another example of beautiful flowers found blooming in the woodland understory. The rhododendron is the WV state flower and we have many of them growing naturally in the forests at the WVBG. May is peak time for the Rhododendron Garden. Because there are so many blooming during this time, and it’s hard to gauge exactly which ones will bloom when, I am going to focus on them as a group rather than point out individuals. Rhododendrons and azaleas are both members of the Rhododendron genus which contains over 1000 species.  True rhododendrons have 10 stamens (the long, stringy flower parts that have pollen at their tips) in a flower and azaleas have only 5. Azalea leaves also tend to be smaller than rhododendron leaves in general although among the rhododendrons, leaf size varies (from a quarter inch to 20 inches). In addition, azaleas can be either evergreen or deciduous and some are reblooming! One thing is for certain, they are all stunning and worthy of our attention. Take a moment to look at the blooms up close. You may discover even more hidden beauty when you do. Many of the cultivars we plant in our gardens are hybrids of two different species, so often only the genus and cultivar name is listed.

Girard Rose Azalea (Rhododendron x ‘Girard Rose’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Yellow Eyes Rhododendron (Rhododendron x ‘Yellow Eyes’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Nova Zembla Rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense ‘Nova Zembla’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Carpet bugle – This last selection is the less flashy of the bunch, but no less of a superstar. Look for it in the Shade Garden as well as atop the retaining wall surrounding the information kiosk. Carpet bugle, also known as bugleweed, is an attractive, versatile ground cover and a member of the mint family. The foliage of this evergreen perennial can be enjoyed year-round and the purplish-blue blooms appear in May. Be sure to check out the leaves of the different species and cultivars growing at the WVBG. In the Shade Garden, you will find Burgundy Glow Carpet Bugle, Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’. Burgundy Glow’s leaves are both dark green and purple and edged in creamy white. In autumn, the leaves change to pink and burgundy, hence the name. Also in the Shade Garden, look for Metallica Crispa Bugleweed, Ajuga pyramidalis ‘Metallica Crispa’. The small leaves of Metallica Crispa are crinkly like spinach and also a dark green or purple color. When mature, the leaves develop a metallic-looking sheen. Near the information kiosk, look for Bronzeleaf Carpet Bugle, Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’. True to its name, its purple and green leaves are glossy and bronze tinged. In addition to their beauty, these plants are garden superstars due to their shade tolerance, ability to grow almost anywhere, and resistance to deer and rabbit browse.

Burgundy Glow Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Metallica Crispa Bugleweed (Ajuga pyramidalis ‘Metallica Crispa’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

Bronzeleaf Carpet Bugle (Ajuga reptans ‘Atropurpurea’)

Photo by Erin Smaldone.

 These are just a few of the flowers blooming in May at the WVBG. We hope you enjoyed learning about them. The next time you visit, consider lingering a moment amongst some of our blooms. Discover their hidden beauty and other features that make each one special.

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