While some have been lamenting the recent unseasonably cold weather, others have been basking in the extraordinary beauty of their spring gardens. Some soil is bare, waiting for the traditional summer annuals, while other gardens are awash with color. The difference is in the gardeners.
Beautiful spring gardens are the particular specialty of an exceptional gardening couple, Don and Beverly Sudbury. The Sudburys have been gardening for years but have paid particular attention the past few years to perennials.Their fabulous daylilies are also bred for new varieties, but those wonderful flowers are subjects for another season. Right now their garden is a rare treat as the spring perennials, biennials, winter annuals and bulbs have erupted into waves of beautiful colors, textures and sights.
Beverly Sudbury has her favorite perennials, and many thrive in shady areas.
"Anyone who claims you cannot have early spring color from the shade garden does not know perennials. Some of my favorite spring flowers flourish in the shade," Beverly Sudbury says.
Beverly lists many shade-lovers from her garden.
"Hellebores are early and they last so well. Hepaticas are another genus that have recently caught our interest, and we hope to do more with them. I have a real fondness for corydalis. The pink, the yellow and the blue are all exciting yet very different plants. Mertensia, dicentra and pulmonaria are also very lovely flowers."
She also has some favorites for sunnier areas. "We have just planted some Australian poppies that are similar to Iceland poppies but are more tolerant of heat and drought. I also love the myosotis, the hesperis or dames rocket and the lunaria or money plant. English daisies will go sun or shade, and I think they could be used more for color in the spring gardens."
Don Sudbury provides growing tips for spring blooming flowers:
"There is an abundance of plants to provide spectacular blossoms in the shade," he says. "Most gardeners are disappointed in their shade gardens because they try to grow them underneath trees. Trees roots are often the problem, not the shade. The roots become so aggressive and take the water and the nutrients leaving almost nothing for the flowers."
The growth habit of the trees also affects the flower growth. Blue spruces shed the water because of their dense needle growth. Take into account how you are watering. If your sprinklers hit the needles, the water may be shed toward the outside and never reach the soil, he said.
Don Sudbury also offers this advice on soil, "Most spring flowers that love the shade are native to forest situations. They therefore need a forest type soil that is rich in organic matter or humus.
"The soil should be well drained. I create an amended soil by adding lots of organic matter, some sand and garden soil. By combining the three ingredients you can create an excellent growing medium.
"Some of the nicest shade gardens are grown under arbors or other structures. If I had a choice, that is where I would grow them because then I do not have to fight the tree roots."
He practices what he preaches because he has created some wonderful artificial shade structures in his own garden. He also has many different perennials growing underneath trees and shrubbery.
The Sudburys' gardens don't emphasize statuary or formal hedges, buildings and designs. Theirs is a garden for plants and a garden for plant lovers. The accessories are muted additions to set the plants off with classic yet informal style so the gardens are superb sites to behold.
The Sudburys are a wonderful complement as they assist one another in the garden. Each has favorite plants and way of caring for special areas of the gardens. They each have their areas of plant knowledge and offer great advice to the beginning or the advanced gardeners.
In spite of the time they spend in their own gardens, they spend many hours helping others learn about gardening. They are both active in the Salt Lake County Master Gardeners Organization, and they are members of the Utah Hemerocallis Society and the Utah Rock Garden Society.
They plant and tend a wonderful perennial garden at Red Butte and one at the Utah State University Extension garden at the state fairgrounds. They are frequent contributors to many newsletters and are co-authors of "Perennials for Wasatch Front Gardens" available at local Utah State University Extension Office.