As of today, we’re still in business. The Governor has exempted the landscape industry from an imposed shutdown, so for now, spring cleanup, spring plantings and lawn care can continue as long as supplies hold out. Know that your landscape contractors are attempting to maintain healthy social distancing when possible. You may want to limit communications to phone and email while we attempt to navigate this new normal. We are fully aware that this status could change as time marches forward.
On a more pleasant note, what a joy to see our gardens coming back to life. If you are lucky enough to have Edgeworthia chrysantha / Paperbush, you have been treated to a wonderfully, fragrant few weeks. You are welcome to come visit mine.
SPRING FLOWERING BULBS & EPHEMERALS
Now is the perfect time to plan for the Spring Flowering Bulbs you’ll want to plant in October. Walk around your property. Put some brightly painted small stakes in the ground where you think you’d like to see flowers next year. Color code the stakes so you’ll remember what you had in mind. For instance, use yellow for Daffodils, white for Snow Drops, and blue for Chionodoxa. (I always pronounce this china-dox-i, which is probably wrong, but I know I’m not alone.)
PLANT PHOTOS – Unlike most Timely Tips, this month, the photos in the Featured Plant section support this section on Bulbs & Ephemerals.
My Favorite, Deer Resistant Options:
There are Daffodils that bloom at various times during the season. Go to www.brecks.com, just one of the many excellent sites for ordering bulbs. There you can select Daffodils, and then narrow your search by Color, Height, Bloom Time, etc. I like to spread my selections over early, mid and late spring. When grouping your bulbs, I recommend keeping the bloom time the same within a group. I tried splitting them up within a group, and the effect has never been as satisfying.
Group your Daffodils with a minimum of 7 bulbs per group, and space them 3-6” apart to allow room for expansion. The flowers will fade long before the foliage, yet you want the foliage to remain until it turns yellow so that the maximum amount of energy goes back into the bulb for next year. You have no time to police aging foliage? Simply place your Daffodils where other plants will grow later in the season to hide the leaves.
Site at least 6’ off the bed edge.
Site in the woods, or at the woods edge.
Site in a lawn area, if you are willing to mow around the Daffodils while the foliage ages. In this scenario, it is a bit easier if you plant multiple groups in the same area, so there will be one large area where grass and weeds are allowed to grow for a bit.
Winter Aconite (Eranthis cilicica)
This small ground hugger type plant is only about 3” HT, but with a bright yellow flower that stands out when all around is a drab, winter grey. The foliage will disappear by mid to late spring, and doesn’t seem to bother most other plants in the vicinity. This is one of the first flowers to appear.
Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
There are quite a few Galanthus sp. available, but this is the typical plant that is readily available. At about 6-8” HT, this cute white flower usually appears in late February/early March. Sometimes, we even have a bit of snow on the ground. The foliage will disappear by mid to late spring, and doesn’t seem to bother most other plants in the vicinity.
Early Snow Glories (Chionodoxa forbesii)
These petite blue flowers always make me smile as I pass on my morning walk. They have no trouble moving about and eventually filling up a space. At only 4-5” HT, somehow they manage to show up even in the woods, above a blanket of leaves. They can easily be tolerated in the middle of lawn areas, since the flowers are almost always finished before the lawn mowers need to arrive. Whether naturalized in the woods, in a lawn or a planting bed, they are always a welcome sight in March.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
This NOT a bulb. This is an ephemeral with foliage that goes dormant usually fairly early in the season, so this will need to be planted in the spring. These delicate blue flowers overlap with the Daffodils, creating a beautiful composition. I also love the way they seed throughout the garden, and never seem to bother other plants nearby.
Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)
The foliage for this Leucojum appears at the same time as the Daffodils, but the delicate, white, bell flowers usually wait until most of the Daffodils are finished before they appear. In my garden, they extend the spring flowers just a bit longer.
Naked Ladies (Amaryllis belladonna)
Many of you have noticed these soft pink lilies in September/October, rising on stems, but no foliage in sight. That’s because the Daffodil type foliage appears now, along with all of the Daffodils and Leucojum. This foliage will go dormant by the early summer, and then in the fall, the flower will appear above bare stems. As a result, it’s important to determine the location now in relation to the other spring flowers in your garden.
SPRING IS A BUSY TIME IN THE GARDEN
DO…spread Holly-Tone within the drip edge of all your BROADLEAF EVERGREENS, and other acid-loving plants.
DO…spread Plant-Tone within the drip edge of all other plants, but I usually limit myself to a liberal broadcast among all of my PERENNIALS.
DO YOU HAVE HOSTAS OR OTHER LARGE LEAF PLANTS?….If you have ever noticed holes in the leaves, this is usually caused by slugs. Ortho makes a product called Slug Bait which you broadcast over the area, and is effective for several weeks before reapplication is necessary. Another good option is to create a continuous ring around the base of the plant with DIATOMACEOUS EARTH. This fine white or off-white powder is the ground fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It causes the slugs to dehydrate and die. I generally find that one application in the beginning of the season is all that is needed. After 1 or 2 rains, the white ring is no longer visible. Be sure to use gloves when handling this substance.
HELLEBORUS…DO remove foliage from last season.
HYDRANGEAS…Folks are always asking when to cut back the Hydrangeas. First, it’s important to know which ones you have. The Annabelle Hydrangea/Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, blooms in late spring on new wood. This should be cut back to 12-18” HT now in order to encourage the really large flower heads you love. If you forget to cut them back, the plant will be fine, but the flower heads will be a bit smaller. The Oakleaf Hydrangea / Hydrangea quercifolia blooms in the spring, and pruning should wait until after flowering. The Bigleaf Hydrangea/ Hydrangea macrophylla tends to be the most popular since it blooms in the summer and appears to stay in bloom all summer long. The older varieties bloom on second year wood, and I normally prune these in August/September in order to give the plant time to set new flower buds before winter hits. There is an exception to this rule. Wait until the buds start to break in the spring, and then cut back to just before a healthy bud break. A few seasoned gardeners have enjoyed success with this method. The H. macrophylla that blooms on first and second year wood such as the ‘Endless Summer’ cultivars can be pruned now or August/September. PeeGee type Hydrangea/ Hydrangea paniculata is a late summer/early fall bloomer, and is best hard pruned in the early spring. These flower on new wood.
SPRING CLEANUP….A thorough spring cleanup now will greatly reduce the maintenance all summer long. Freshen up the bed edge, rake, weed and apply 3 inches of SHREDDED BARK MULCH. Resist the urge to buy the dye-colored mulch. You want the mulch to decompose over time, and the additional chemicals can’t be good for the plants or the environment.
SPRING FLOWERING BULBS….When the flowers start to fade, remove the flower stem close to the base (a form of DEAD HEADING). This prevents the plant from spending a lot of energy on the development of seeds. DO allow the foliage to remain for as long as you can stand it so that the plant will be able to manufacture food that will be sent down to feed the bulb for next year. Some people have hundreds or thousands of daffodils and other bulbs which makes it impractical to dead head. In this case, it’s best just to leave the entire plant alone until the foliage starts to turn yellow, and then cut it back to the ground.
POISON IVY…The foliage has yet to appear, but you can get the rash from the root system or vine stems. It’s easy to identify the large, hairy vine climbing up a tree. It’s much harder to identify the small fibrous root system lying dormant just beneath the surface. A good rule of thumb is to assume that some of the roots encountered are Poison Ivy, and act accordingly.
A Poison Ivy Primer is now resident on my website as a sub-heading under Timely Tips. Please consult this for more detailed information.