What's Blooming in May

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Posted by @LarryR on
“The flowery May, who from her green lap throws, The yellow cowslip, and the pale primrose." (John Milton) The cornucopia of color that is May in the Midwest certainly does include the cowslip and the primrose, but ever so many more interesting and beautiful varieties. Follow me into the garden and see what's blooming at Cottage-in-the-Meadow in May.

Click on this photo to see what's hiding in the blossom

(Editor's note: this lovely article was intended for a May publication date, but with our recent transition it became a little lost in the shuffle; with apologies to LarryR and his guests.)

A Banner Year for Irises

The iris has a rich history reaching back to Ancient Greece.  The Greek Goddess, Iris, for whom the plant is named, was a messenger of the gods.  She served as a link between heaven and earth, hence her name, which means "rainbow."  The rainbow was considered symbolic of such a link.

"Rainbow" is certainly a fitting name for another reason as well, given the wide spectrum of colors this popular plant offers the gardener.  There are over 200 varieties to choose from, and they are found in virtually every part of the world.

In our small corner of the world here at Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, irises are particularly exuberant this year.  Varieties that haven't bloomed in years are offering up breath-taking blossoms.  Perhaps the reason has to do with the warmer than usual winter followed by record breaking warmth this spring.  Whatever the cause, the kaleidoscope of blossoms is a joy to behold.

Below are the varieties that are blooming as I write this article.  Those labeled as "pass-along" were either given to my late mother-in-law, Carrie, and planted in her garden in the 1950s or to me when my wife and I took over her gardens in the 1980s. 


Carrie's Bearded Iris Passalongs
2012-05-11/LarryR/a456e3 2012-05-11/LarryR/907f56
Bearded Iris pass-along Bearded Iris pass-along
2012-05-11/LarryR/62825e   2012-05-11/LarryR/8a178b
Bearded Iris pass-along Bearded Iris pass-along (Kool-Aid fragrance)
My Additions to the Iris Collection
2012-05-11/LarryR/6b267a  2012-05-11/LarryR/34b90c 
Bearded Iris 'Champagne Elegance'

Bearded Iris 'Honey Glazed'



Yellow Iris pass-along (Click photo to see blue beard)  Siberian Iris (This pass-along flowers on stems 3 feet tall!)


Pass-along Siberian Iris Siberian Iris 'Super Ego'


 Iris ensata 'Yellow' Iris spuria 'Adriatic Blue'


Two Winners This Month 

Congratulations to eclayne and sandnsea2 who guessed April's mystery flower, Pinellia 'Polly Spout.'  It was a team effort, with eclayne providing the genus and sandnsea2 the cultivar name.  Below are their favorite flower photos.

We asked our winners the traditional questions. Here are their responses.

Sandnsea2 (Janice)

How did you come to be a gardener?

Both my mother and grandmother had amazing gardens that I played in and 'helped' with as a child. Mother had rock gardens, alpines and miniatures. My grandparents had wonderful Rose and perennial gardens to walk through, a large vegetable garden and glorious Grape arbors.

How long have you been gardening?

Over 30 years.

If you had a chance to give just one piece of advice to a beginning gardener, what would it be?

Go on local Garden tours and ask questions there. That is how I found my first local sources of Hostas, Daylilies and perennials and learned what flourished in the area. You asked for just one, but I would say join ATP, as well!

Why did you choose this particular photo for publication?

Because it's blooming now. Linaria is an easy annual to direct sow.

Do you have a favorite flower?

No, whatever is blooming at the moment.

Do you grow vegetables as well?

Only heirloom tomatoes, chard, lettuces and rhubarb this year.

Do you have any other hobbies?

Quilting, Cooking, reading, surfing, tennis.

Is there anything else you'd like readers to know about you?

That's about it, I think!

Favorite Flowers
eclayne:  Arisaema speciosum
sandnsea2:  Linaria spp.

Eclayne (Evan)

How did you come to be a gardener?

Helping my Dad replace dozens and dozens of spreading and upright Yews.

How long have you been gardening?

After living in Boston for 20 plus years, only the past 4 years on my own dirt. Somehow I would find myself helping friends and family with their gardens.

If you had a chance to give just one piece of advice to a beginning gardener, what would it be?

By far the most helpful for me has been first Cubits and now ATP.

Why did you choose this particular photo for publication?

I find myself visiting my Arisaema speciosum most everyday they’re up.

Do you have a favorite flower?

I like Iris and Colocasia, then there’s Hosta and Heuchera and . . . What Janice said.

Do you grow vegetables as well?

Herbs, root vegetables, some berries and tomatoes.

Do you have any other hobbies?

Greenland style sea kayaking.



June 1, 2012

This shrub is not only beautiful in bloom, but has bright green stems throughout the winter.  In our Zone 5 gardens it generally blooms in May and then off and on throughout the gardening season.


Scroll down to the forum at the end of this article.  Click on the thread, "May Contest Entries."  (The thread may not appear immediately after the article is published.  If there is no thread by that name, please start one titled "May Contest Entries" if you'd like to identify the mystery flower.)  Enter the name of the plant pictured at left, either one of its common names or its botanical name.  It's important to also include its cultivar name, which appears in single quotes when it's cited. The winner gets to select a photo of a blooming plant from her/his garden, to be published in next month's What's Blooming article, along with a brief interview.

Check back often to see if the bloom has been identified.  If readers are having difficulty, I may provide a hint.




Cottage-in-the-Meadow Gardens, owned by Larry and Wilma Rettig, South Amana, Iowa, has been featured in local and national publications, on the Internet, and is listed with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in its Archives of American Gardens.  Larry and Wilma grow over 300 varieties of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables. Since 1986, they have maintained a seed bank that preserves vegetable varieties brought from Germany to the Amana Villages during the 1850s.


Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Irises by PollyK Aug 2, 2012 4:17 PM 13
May Contest Entries by LarryR Jun 4, 2012 1:15 PM 3

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