Late-April Garden Tour

TWO WEEKS AGO, I asked you to join me for a mid-April garden tour.  But spring has progressed rather dramatically since then. Now clumps of blue Scilla siberica (above) dot the lawn, the Yoshino Cherry is in almond-scented bloom,  the adorable fiddleheads of ferns are emerging in the Woodland Garden, the species tulips have opened their fragrant cups, and…well, care to join me for a late-April stroll?

In the front yard, the ancient Forsythia that normally blooms in late March has finally opened its bells of screaming-yellow. I’m not the only fan of this easy shrub — finches and sparrows like to sing and prance on its gracefully-arched boughs.

Tip: To propagate forsythia, simply layer the stems.

And that concludes our tour of the front yard, a location I mostly ignore. The real gardens I’ve created are behind a tall, well-weathered cedar gate. Shall we proceed?

Passing through the garden gate, we enter the Rose Garden. As you can see, the boxwood hedges have grown so tall in recent weeks that we can barely see the rose shrubs.  In May I’ll have the hedges professionally trimmed. Some of the trimmings will be used to make new plants.

Great news: I flipped the switch to the fountains the other day, and discovered their pumps still work, even after they froze outside over winter. Phew!

A pair of weeping crabapple trees that flank the second terrace of the Rose Garden are dripping with greenery now. A cloud of white flowers will follow.

And by the way, my office (where I write this website) is located behind the two corner windows over on the left.  The long structure with “eyebrow” windows on the right is the old Kitchen Wing, with servants’-quarters upstairs.  I’ve looked and looked, but can not find those servants anywhere. Perhaps they are working at your house.

Let’s leave the Rose Garden now, and head north, up the blue-stone path. And please notice the weeds on either side of the path. I don’t bother with these. They get mowed during summer.

And speaking of weeds — I welcome the spring dandelions. The flowers provide early food for honey bees. Meanwhile, the greens provide delicious salads for me.

Another welcome weed is the violet. In spring, these purple-petaled beauties sprout all over my so-called lawn. Usually they disappear after the first mowing. (Mowing keeps the dandelions in check, too. Who needs chemicals?)

We’re standing outside the Kitchen Garden now, where Viburnum ‘Cayuga’ is busy opening its tiny white clusters. Please lean forward and sniff these strongly-perfumed blossoms. Heavenly, yes?

In a corner of the Kitchen Garden,  a patch of rhubarb is growing by inches per day. Do you love the tart stems of this early vegetable, too? Visit me in in May, and I’ll gladly serve you my favorite rhubarb dessert. 

Tip: If you have rhubarb in your garden, be sure to cut off the seeds-heads whenever they emerge. Otherwise, stem-production will come to a halt.  More details.

Continuing north, past two boxwood-edged perennial beds, we find ourselves in the Woodland Garden.

At first glance, it seems little is growing here.

But if you crawl around on your hands and knees — don’t be shy! —  you will discover all kinds of delights. Like these emerging ferns…

And these soon-to-bloom Primula japonica

And these tiny heirloom crocuses.

And while we’re on our hands and knees, we might as well say “hello” to this young Polemonium caeruleum, or “Jacob’s Ladder”…

And these rosy-hued hellebores, which honestly started to bloom while the garden was still covered with snow.

What’s that?

Oh. I’m so sorry about the mud on your yellow chiffon evening gown.

Yes, we can stand up now.

And we can look at the fish in their little fish pond. I’ve begun to feed them now, as the water temperature has exceeded 50 degrees.

Here’s the Hudson River tributary that runs behind the Woodland Garden.

Let’s leave the Woodland, and head back to house via the Serpentine Garden.

The Serpentine Garden has quite a few flowers to offer in late-April. Like Phlox subulata. And Vinca minor. And species tulips.

Planted in front of a hedge of dwarf lilacs, and creeping over the stone wall, is pink Phlox subulata. I love this plant that gives and gives, while asking nothing of me.  It is a perfect perennial.

Also creeping over the wall, but blooming more slowly than its pink partner, is this blue variety of phlox. I love how the orange eye is surrounded with specks of royal blue.

And here is ‘Dasystemon Tarda,’ a fragrant, sunshine-yellow species tulip.  Species tulips are the tiny ancestors of the tall, familiar Dutch tulips.

On the middle terrace of the Serpentine Garden, Vinca minor has covered itself with flowers of periwinkle-blue.

I love Vinca minor.

The greatest feature in the Serpentine Garden just now is the in-bloom Yoshino cherry tree. The tree grows just behind a bench, and provides terrific shade in summer. The white flowers that appear in spring are infused with a touch of almond.

We are standing beside the garden shed now, between the Serpentine and Rose gardens. Peer into the Rosa ‘Super Fairy’ that grows against the shed’s clapboard siding, and let me know if you see anything of interest.

Need a hint? Look for a bright red beak. It’s the beak of a cardinal, who has made a nest in the rose. What a choice piece of real-estate! The thorny canes will thwart any curious cat. And because the rose grows beneath the eaves of the shed, mama and babies will be protected from rain.

Well. I hope you enjoyed this little tour.  In the comments field below, tell me what’s blooming in your own late-April garden. As always, I love to hear from you.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly newsletter.

Other Garden Tours:
Garden Tour, Autumn 2012
Garden Tour, January 2013
My First “Open Day,” and A Tour of the June Garden


  1. I love your garden tours. Thanks for taking me with you.

  2. Joni Holland says:

    Thank you for the tour. Lovely grounds and engaging text!

  3. Donna Scramling says:

    As always, thank you for the fabulous tour, Kevin. 🙂

  4. Kevin, I love dandelions because they remind me of my dad. I don’t like them when they are popping up in between bricks next to my driveway though, do you? I didn’t know they give food to the honey bees. Thanks for that.

  5. Wonderful tour Kevin! Thank you, I absolutely fell in love with the Dasystemon Tarda.
    Greetings from Spain 🙂

  6. Allison K says:

    SooOOOooo jealous! Yesterday was our first day of “spring” at LONG last—first temperature above 45 degrees since last October! We (SW Minnesota) just had a major ice storm two weeks ago, which was immediately followed by 8″ of heavy, wet snow–we made the national news due to the widespread power outages (some people without electricity for 6 days) and major tree damage (estimated 50% of all the trees in my town of 13,000 suffered significant damage). Just this afternoon I did a once-around the house to check on plants–my tulips are currently only 3/4″ above ground….this time last year they were in full bloom! I’m getting REALLY antsy to start digging in my garden….once the last of the snow in the shady spots disappears this weekend!

  7. Sandy Staples says:

    Love your tour. Such talent and knowledge that you have. And thank you for sharing with us. I also have propagated clematis by the layer method.

  8. krystyna says:

    your gardens for public viewing?

  9. Ouida Lampert says:

    Thank you for the tour! I so enjoy these intimate looks into your gardens. Panoramas are nice, yes, but it’s the close-up looks that most please me.

    BTW, your violets would make a tasty addition to your salads, but you already knew that, yes?

  10. Joni Davis says:

    Love you tours! Especially this one – as I am still looking at a foot of snow in my yard! It’s gone down, will be happy when it’s all gone!!! But my tulips are coming up – so between your tours and my tulips – I am a happy camper!

  11. I look forward to your tours. Where is the beagle?

  12. Sherlie Magaret says:

    I enjoyed your tour around your garden. Our daffies have been blooming for a month and there seems to be a lot of blooms this year even with the drought last year. The snow and cold we have had doesn’t even seem to bother them. The tulips are up and next to bloom. I had some early little yellow flowers on the south bank in March. Things are starting to leaf out and so are the lilacs. Everything is really late this year because of the cold. The hummers are back but not the wrens yet. We have felt that winter was never going to go away.

  13. Love the tour! Thanks for helping me experience spring in the northeast even though I won’t be there for another week. This is such a great time of year and thanks to you, I’m not missing those spring miracles. Getting to see them in your fabulous gardens is a special treat and your sense of humor adds just the right touch.

  14. Nina Hedrick says:

    Beautiful garden tour. I live in NE Tennessee and we are way ahead of you with Spring – Virginia Bluebells, daphne shrub in full bloom, dogwoods, both pink and white, daffodils are finished, and I can’t see my garden from where I type, so I can’t think of anything else right now. Oh, some of the many hostas are are almost at their full size. They are gorgeous in early spring before the voles, moles and slugs get their fill! Too long a note, sorry. Nina

  15. Janice in Black Creek, BC says:

    Hi all, here on the wet coast, the crocus are finished, the daffodils–which the deer do not eat, so I have a lot of them, are finishing, and the scilla are under way. My tiny forsythia , which is still in a pot, is wondering where I will plant it, and so am I. Do deer eat them?
    Deer love tulips and so I do not have many–only 2 in a small double fenced garden. The rhubarb has already been harvested once,to give to a neighbour, and since I have a lot, there will be more for me in a couple of days. I have a big pot full of baby dogwood trees started from seed, that need to be planted out, but do deer eat them?

    One poor deer–probably one whose Mama was killed on the road before she had a chance to teach her child about what is good and what isn’t– ate the rhubarb I had planted outside the fence–all of the leaves of several plants. A week later the smell led us to her, dead by the duck pond in the woods. Life in the country can be so sad.

    I have filbert bushes to plant out too, They will bet too big for my fenced garden, so I wonder again–where can they go and “do deer eat them?”
    Thanks for your lovely garden tour. You are an inspiration to me. I may have to make small fenced enclosures for some things until the plants get large enough to fend for themselves.

  16. I can never decide which I enjoy more, your delicious recipes or the magnificence of your gardens. What a treat for me. Thank you so much for sharing…

  17. Enjoyed the tour. Can you tell us more about edible weeds? Aren’t violets edible? Will be looking forward to another tour.

  18. Naomi Shelton says:

    Kevin, I love touring your gardens. I’m always inspired. There’s SO much to do in my own! It’s raining here today in mid-Michigan, but yesterday was sunny and warm and the daffodils growing the length of my driveway are all in bloom. I hate for them to get rained on again, but they are pretty hardy. They are SO my favorite. The smell of them to me is such a heady statement of Spring’s arrival. My one forsythia bush at the back corner of the house blossomed out this last week, too, so it must for sure be Spring! Thanks so much for the show-and-tell. It lifted my spirits and the rain here comes down.

    And, by the way, what was I thinking wearing that dress on a garden tour?!!

  19. Our daffodils are done, the bleeding heart and irises have emerged, but nothing else yet. Hubby did cut the grass yesterday, so the May race is on now of who’s faster … the grass or the mower.

    Thank you for your lovely tour, Kevin!

  20. Thanks so much for the tour, Kevin. I am in love with your gardens.

  21. What fantastic gardens you have! Thanks for sharing! Here in NW Arkansas my dwarf apple trees are in bloom along with iris, scilla, bleeding hearts, red buds are finished, dogwoods are about through. I have a Korean Spice Viburnum that looks and smells like yours, just heavenly! I am so looking forward to my new daylilies that I added two years ago, they should really make a big showing this year. Do you grow daylilies? I recommend them, some bloom all summer long here. The blooms are gorgeous!
    We have had a couple of late cols snaps. Should be through now and I am anxious to get seeds and annuals in the ground!
    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and advice, also for the yummy recipes!

  22. Your photos are stunning Kevin. The first shot of your serpentine garden really took my breath away.
    Right now what I’m most excited about in my garden are the clematis I’m planting. I had a sudden inspiration this spring to cover my sad columnar aspens (they have dead spots) with flowering vines. Oh I hope they will thrive here!

  23. Love the tour. You did it so well. I walked around Friday here in NW Indiana, taking pictures of what is blooming. My apricot tree is blooming. The long range forcasts say no more late freezing temps this year so maybe I’ll get my first apricots. My foresthia is still small but blooming. My white star Magnolia is in full bloom and the pink one are beginning to open buds. Drooping cherry is beginning to bloom. I have lots of daffadils and hyancynths. Deer nibbled on my lilly leaves. I planted a few tulips but the deer will eat them unless I do something to stop them. I have an acre and cannot afford a fence. Do you know of anyone who can help me get one. Last year i put temporary fences around the veggie beds and that worked. Hung a white fabric sofner sheet on a rope where they come through and that helped. I have lots of new leaves emerging to protect too..

  24. Karin W. says:

    Thank you for the tour, Kevin! I am still trying to get the dirt off from my knees ….. I enjoyed every little bloom you shared including the red beak in the rose bush!
    Here in my Kansas Garden we are finally seeing the dark pink blossoms of the crab apple tree!
    The tulips are either in full bloom or slowly fading away. Creeping Phlox is in full bloom as are Virginia Bluebells, so beautiful! The first Columbines look like they are getting ready to bloom very soon. The Dame’s Rockets are shooting up high and ready to produce blooms.
    This is a very exciting time in my yard, but also, everything is about 4 weeks later than what we are used to. Also, the lilacs are almost ready!
    Thanks again and I am looking forward to your May tour!

  25. I’m exhausted from spending all of this beautiful weekend doing garden clean-up! The daffodils began s looming this week, but it seems to be an unusual spring, with the cherry and redbud trees and forsythia all blooming together! Maybe because we had such late snows? (Central MA) Love your gardens, home and cooking, you’re like a great friend over the distance!

  26. Pooh Kevin love seeing the little tidbits of your area through your gorgeous eyes!

  27. Wendy Borders says:

    We are in the Kansas City area, on the north side of the Missouri River~ we have a woodland garden too, and it has it’s own morel patch! It’s late this year, so we’re checking it often and are looking forward to our usual harvest of 10 or so lovely morels.

  28. Beautiful! Thanks for the tour!

  29. Thanks Kevin, I’m so excited for spring/summer! Today was the first day I got my hands in the dirt – so theraputic! I love watching my 3 year old daughter playing in the dirt and holding a worm in her hand likes its magic – fun, fun! I just printed out your writing on growing rhubarb, I’m going to give it to my neighbor who said they replanted some already because the ones from last year didn’t do so well! Thanks for your blog, I really enjoy reading it!

  30. Thanks for the tour of your gardens. You are so far ahead of me, here in central MN. The grass is still yellow, but buds are swelling on the trees. I’ve a few crocuses blooming and tulips and daffodils are coming up. I still have some snow in shady spots.

  31. Thanks for the lovely tour of your lovely gardens. My mother lives in South Africa where she has an UH-MAY-ZING garden in constant bloom, but this summer she is moving back to Sweden; away from her garden…So to inspire her of what she can plant in the Stockholm zone I told her about your blog and she’s loving it! So fabulous to be able to connect with her on garden matters! Thank you!

  32. Georgette says:

    What a great person you are to share your witty comments along with the tour. Thank you so much for all you do. Your website is such a pleasure I’m not sure which I love the most …..your recipes (with pictures) or your lovely gardens.

  33. Beautiful! I love spring and the hope that it brings to all gardeners!!

  34. Kimberly Bright says:

    Hi Kevin! U r just amazing! I SO enjoy your Garden Tours! I feel as though we are best friends strolling through together 🙂 I, too, can not decide what is my favorite part about your Newsletters! I LOVE IT ALL!! Oh and I don’t mind that I got my pretty dress dirty today, lol!
    Here, in Kansas, it has been absolutely beautiful this weekend! Temp was 80 today! Everything is blooming and flowering! Wish u could stroll with me today in my gardens! Wanna join me for Coffee this lovely morning? 🙂

  35. Kimberly Bright says:

    Oh Kevin I forgot to tell u to bring Lily along! She can play in the yard with my Bailey! My boy Beagle! LOL 🙂

  36. Paddy Barr says:

    Live in Ohio my flowering trees are about done with the blooms,now waiting for the lilacs flowering almond viburnum and mock orange to bloom. love everything about your site have learned so much.

  37. Loved seeing the progress of your gardens! In NOVA watching my maple leaf viburnum develop its green soon to be white snowballs. The red tip photinia is vibrantly colored as it puts on new growth. I’m waiting to get my boxwoods trimmed so I can start some shoots. Tulips are getting past prime but the redbuds, azaleas and dogwoods are taking the spotlight. Can’t wait to visit on your next stroll!

  38. The Baroness says:

    Thank you for the tour. Here in (now a hot 90 degrees) San Francisco Bay Area all my bulbs have faded and I am planning my summer annual plantings for the new brick walkway boarders. The vastness of your garden and your late spring are such a welcome sight. I love that you recognize the tiny hidden details of your garden-the nesting cardinal, the emerging new growth, the delicate scent of the cherry blossoms! Thank you for sharing.

  39. Ann Honer says:

    Hi from Illinois,
    We have daffodils and scilla blooming; the tulips are in bud and the grass is growing!
    Nothing much else is showing yet.
    Can you please tell me when you start planting your seedlings from the jugs?
    Do you go by soil temperature or by how big the seedlings get? I have 13 jugs sprouting!

  40. Riversana says:

    Loved your tour! After two years of planting and planting I’m finally starting to see some results and I’m loving it!! Enjoyed my daffodils and narcissus, which are winding up. My native azaleas are blooming in my woods (pale pink and white), my dogwood is wrapping up. My native columbine is going gangbusters, and soon I’ll have irises blooming in several different colors–I can’t wait! My Dame’s Rocket is lovely, next to the spiderwort and geranium.. My mom gave me lots of bulbs for Christmas, which have almost all bloomed–scilla, Rolf Fiedler triella, orangey pink-cupped narcissus, crocus, and species tulips. In my shade garden my hosta has a great start and the woodland phlox is blooming. Birds-foot violets and standard violets are blooming all around the yard, and my chinese fringe flower put on a fabulous show. I love spring!

  41. Enid Albat says:

    Your garden tours are one of my favorite things about your newsletter, right next to your tips on how to produce them. And the recipes and the prizes, and…. As two others commented, don’t leave those lovely violets out of your salads. They are as tasty as they are lovely. I first had them sugar coated as candy/cake decorations in Madrid, Spain, then found I like the taste naturally even better. Here in Western AR we are having an unusual spring. 87 today and may have a frost Thursday night. But the perennials are doing good. Even with the wavering weather the peaches, pears, plums and grapes all have proven they will produce this year. Fresh asparagus for supper tonight. I will have poke salad tomorrow. I wish you lived further south so your monthly lists were more timely. If I see something on one I missed, I know I’m late.

  42. Like everyone else love your up close and personal garden tour as well as comment
    Fr your friends. Great to read what’s growing in everyone ‘s gardens. Here in my
    Redmond, Wa ‘bit of Paradise’, late blooming yellowlily tulips are in full bloom, trilliums are fading Fr bright white to soft pink, Nodding English bluebells, white wood anemones, pink PacificDicentra, crepe Yellow Celedine poppies and royal blue centaurum in wood
    Land garden.

  43. Beverly, zone 6 eastern PA says:

    That was a wonderful “brain vacation” – thank you Kevin.

    Loads of stuff is blooming for me right now, but the most dramatic and beautiful are the Virginia Bluebells, Mertensia. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

  44. Thanks as always for your excellent advice, Kevin–this time on the care and keeping of cyclamen, which I love and am happy to know how to keep alive and blooming. Also loving your garden tours. I share your love of vinca minor, and have it growing everywhere, it seems. Especially this time of year…am trying to get a patch of mertensia to thrive…I too swoon over blue flowers 😉 Thanks for sharing, and for your excellent photography too. And the cardinal nesting in the rose–priceless! By the way, we are trying a raised bed this year for our tomatoes, peppers and basil, per your recommendation. I also am a fan of your monthly chores lists–the weeds are manageable at this stage. Keep it coming!

  45. Thanks for the tour Kevin!! I’m puzzled about “loving” the vinca minor though. It is very pretty right now with all the little blue flowers, but,,, it is taking over a flower bed along the house. so invasive. It was here when I moved in last July. I didn’t cut it back much but got to tackle it NOW!

  46. Took one tour and loved it so much asked to take another. We’ve been in Florida for over 30 years, but I recall all those friends by name from when we lived in Massachusetts – Each one was an Ooh – seeing dear friends –

    My only regret is that your tours are not filled with plants suitable for growing down here. LOL –

    Thanks for all the personality and knowledge you add to your tours and ‘blog’.

    Linda in Florida

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