What a beautiful spring. The gentle rains during the past 2 weeks have been a huge help, but unfortunately, March and April were significantly drier than normal. Though this has allowed us more time to be outside, it has been a bit stressful for our emerging spring plants. I have yet to set out my sprinklers, and know that my plants would benefit for the extra water they could provide. Some mature plants are half dead or completely dead. I’m blaming last year’s monsoons for most of these problems, though the excavation activity of my dog certainly hasn’t helped. I am trying to adopt the attitude of one of my clients…’just an excuse to try something new.’
CAREX PENSYLVANICA … For the past 3 years, I have been attempting to convert significant areas of turf grass to Carex pensylvanica. It has worked beautifully for my clients with the clumps more than doubling in size each year, so why not at my house. This wonderful native, finely textured, ornamental grass tolerates shade to part shade, grows upright for about 8”, and then flops over forming an undulating green carpet. It will spread by underground runners (rhizomes) as well as the expansion of each clump from year to year. When happy, the dense carpet will help to keep weeds at bay, and may only need cutting 1 or 2 times per year, if at all. Sounds great, I know, which is why I’m subjecting myself to this experiment.
Some is on a hillside with excellent drainage, but other sections were relatively flat, and subjected to relentless flooding from stormwater runoff. With all of last year’s rain, most of the Carex in the flat areas died from root rot. The hillside areas are surviving, but would perform better if I would remember to water once in a while. Though the plant tolerates shade, it does much better in part shade. Unfortunately, the experiment at my house has been rather painful. Will this ever be successful? Time will tell.
KEEP TRACK OF TEMPERATURES …Enjoy the warm summer days that often surprise us in May, but also try to remember how difficult this is for our plants. If the weather suddenly turns warm, the plants will be experiencing stress and will need more water. A good rule of thumb is a 20 degree change in temperature is significant enough to cause stress. During the growing season, try to give your plants water 3x/week if at all possible. Just do the best you can. Remember a long, slow, steady soak is much better than a quick burst.
TIME TO DIVIDE PERENNIALS … Now, is the perfect time to divide and spread out many of the perennials. Frequently, it’s as easy as placing the shovel where you want to cut the plant, and dig straight down. The mother plant stays put, and the baby plant will be given a new home. Rule of Thumb…do not change the depth of the root mass, and soak immediately after planting to remove the unwanted air pockets.
DO…spread Holly-Tone within the drip edge of all your BROADLEAF EVERGREENS, and other acid-loving plants. It’s not too late.
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. It’s not too late.
DO lay out protective rings of DIATOMACEOUS EARTH to protect large leaved perennials from slugs. Hopefully, I’ll get around to these chores soon.
ANNUALS…Now you can buy your annuals. Try something different this year. Experiment. You can always change it later. Feeding your plants once a week can make a huge difference in the performance. Miracle Gro, Peter’s Plant Food or Jack’s Classic Plant Food are options. If you use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote, then you may only need to apply 1x/month or less.
SPRING FLOWERING PLANTS…Your Helleborus should be dead headed to minimize the number of volunteer seedlings. Many of their seed pods are plump and ready to explode. Spring flowering bulbs will benefit if you remove the spent flowers and allow the foliage to remain until it turns brown.
GARDEN TOURS…Do you enjoy visiting private gardens? May and June is the best time to see most Maryland gardens. The Horticultural Society of Maryland has its annual tour on Sunday, June 2, 2018, 10am – 4pm. Tour private gardens in Towson and North Baltimore. Go to www.mdhorticulture.org for further information. This event is a fundraiser for the Horticultural Society of Maryland.
POISON IVY…Poison Ivy has leafed out, and it is everywhere. At least now we have a fighting chance to avoid it. Please take precautions when in the vicinity of this irritating plant. Feel free to refer to the Poison Ivy Primer, now resident on my website.