Neighborly Garden News
Green is easy on the eyes!
Gorgeous in green
When designing a garden border, you strive to plan your sequence of bloom so something will be blooming in all seasons. In all my years of growing, it is more likely bloom times will not follow a predictable schedule. Temperature, rain, and sunny/cloudy days, can all modulate growing conditions and hasten or halt growth. Choosing plants for their foliage, in addition to their flowers, can make a big impact on how your garden looks during non-bloom times.
Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’
Many of the early spring blooming plants have leaves we may consider to be ephemeral, or temporary; they will fade away, and can be removed by early summer. Some examples of these are Dicentra (Bleeding Heart), Sanguinaria canadensis (Bloodroot) and Pulmonaria (Lungwort). Other perennials like Thalictrum (Meadow Rue) and Aquilegia (Columbine) can be dead-headed to promote a second flush of flowers.
There is a whole group of luscious big leaved perennials, which just beg for inclusion into a foliage garden. Macleaya cordata, or Plume Poppy has bold incised palmate leaves, and can grow upwards of 8’ tall. They develop a pinkish, ostrich feather-like flower that last for weeks during mid-late summer. Macleaya prefer full sun, and will tolerate any soil type; they will spread into a robust colony. Rodgersia spp, is often mistaken for a giant Astilbe flower. Its huge leaves have a quilted texture, and can be 18-24” wide. Rodgersia prefer moist conditions and partial sun exposure, but will grow in full sun, as long as the soil remains damp.
Our native Polygonatum (Solomon’s seal), Tiarella (Foam Flower) and Arisaema triphylum (Jack-in-the-pulpit) offer variations on leaf shapes and textures, in addition to showy flowers. You can feel good about planting these perennials knowing you are promoting native species, and providing a food source for local pollinators. Often these are the first flowers to be in bloom when Hummingbirds return to our area.
Tiarella ‘Cutting Edge’
Some other suggestions for foliage plants would have to include our native ferns; we have many choice species growing literally in our backyards. Perennial Iris, Dianthus, Sedum, Alchemilla, and Heuchera have eye catching leaves that can be useful in massed plantings and ground covers.
I have intentionally left Hostas off this list, not because I dislike them, but I feel they have become the go-to foliage plant, when there are so many others that are under used. Additionally, in our area if browsing animals are causing problems, Hostas are definitely on the menu.
June’s ‘to-do’ list:
This month would be a good time to sort through your accumulation of garden chemicals, and re-assess how necessary they really are. Can a pollinator friendly alternative be used? Are there any more effective cultural methods to achieve your end result? Countryside Landscape offers both organic fertilizers and an organic weed killer option; please contact our Lawn & Tree Applications Specialists, Herb Severs or Scott Higley for details. Another resource for new ideas and methods can be found on the UMass website; for up-to-the-minute advice for the home gardener.
Now is the best time to prune and shape your early spring flowering trees and shrubs; right after bloom time. This allows them to form buds through the growing season for next year’s bloom. Examples are: Forsythia, Lilac, Azalea, and Magnolia. July 4th is considered the last safe date to prune Lilacs before they set flower buds for next season.
Prune and shape evergreens once the new growth ages to a darker green color. If the plant is very overgrown, better results will be achieved with gradual trimming rather than a drastic cut. Pruning too much growth at one time, can risk killing the entire branch. Unsure how much you can safely prune? Countryside offers professional pruning services and summer shearing.
Bulb foliage should be allowed to fade naturally; allowing the bulb to benefit from the nutrition the leaves provide it. You can safely cut or mow the bulb foliage after June 30th.
The latest bulletin from the UMass Extension service warns about the above average tick population this season. According to the CDC, May and June are the peak months for Lyme disease infections. Countryside uses the product ‘Tick Free’, which is 100% organic and very effective for eradicating ticks in your yard, and garden; yet completely safe for people, pets, and beneficial non-target insects. Please contact our Lawn & Tree Applications Specialists, Herb Severs or Scott Higley for details.
Cut back early spring perennials that have gone by, for a second flush of blooms. Geraniums, Nepeta and Salvia are but a few perennials that will bloom multiple times following a good ‘haircut’. They may look awkward at first, but soon will push out new leaves and shoots for their second coming.
Stake tall perennials now, to support their bountiful blooms later. A quick summer thunder squall can flatten the plants you’ve been pampering all spring in a few minutes.
Our unusually cool spring has allowed for an extended period of bloom for early flowering plants. The weather has also favored the development of weeds; there seem to be an astounding amount of weed seedlings everywhere this spring! Don’t allow these pests to get ahead of you, the favorable conditions will allow weeds to grow quickly and overwhelm your beautiful plants. There’s nothing like pulling weeds to settle your mind after a busy day at work. Utilizing household, 20% acidity, white vinegar and orange oil as a spray (a stronger type than table vinegar) can also be an effective method for killing annual weeds. It is particularly useful for those problem areas between paving stones, and gravel walkways. Just be careful about spraying onto any favored plants; it will not discriminate between ‘garden plants’ and weeds. Apply it on a hot sunny day, (make sure you wear protective gloves and eye glasses) and the weeds will begin dying in 24 hrs. Perennial weeds, being more resilient, might take a few applications to eradicate them.
Need an extra hand with weeding, mulching, and garden chores? Countryside can do the ‘dirty work’ so you don’t have to. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office (413)458-5586.
Children are the gardeners of the future
Introducing children to the joys and challenges of gardening can foster a lifelong hobby, and teaches them skills that they can use in their day to day life. Gardens are nature’s interactive science project; there is always something fascinating out there in the garden patch.
Children like a hands on approach to life; they are busy doing before you can say “Go!” What kind of garden chores might harness this energy? Plucking bugs off plants and drowning them, might be creepy to grownups, but very cool for 9 year-olds. Watering plants with a bucket can be turned into a tea party for the plants. Everyone gets a drink. This is my granddaughter’s favorite activity.
Almost everything has an element of fun, even weeding. What kind of game can be made out of weeding? I think kids like active roles, digging, cutting, planting; where they can see cause and effect.
If children have been instructed in scissor safety, show them how to deadhead. Give them an example of a healthy leaf vs. a dying leaf, and let them cut off the bad ones. Little hands are also so nimble at removing spent blossoms, and seed pods.
Planting seeds can be made into a game of ‘what happens next?’ Or how do these seeds resemble the fruit or vegetable it came from? There can be many opportunities for learning and observing the life around us.
A large part of being a gardener is developing a keen eye for changes in our garden plants. This allows us to sense when something is amiss, or if a plant is getting ready to put out a bloom spike. Recognizing subtle cues and nuances are part of our daily lives; developing these skills will benefit our children as they move towards adulthood.
What memories do you have from your childhood garden? What memories will you create for your children and grandchildren? I remember ‘feeding’ the compost pile with my Grandmother, long before it was fashionable and trendy to compost your kitchen wastes. I can also remember digging up and transplanting any flowering plant we may have found on our walks through the fields where we summered in upstate New York. We had many native plants in our garden, when this too was not in vogue. Later in life I was able to find out the names of these flowers, and I really do cherish these memories, and the passion it has instilled in me for growing plants, and observing the world around us.
As daylight fades into night a new world of shadows, sounds and fragrance await us; welcome to the moon garden. In the moon garden bright colors become invisible as light turns to dark. Only the palest pastels and white stand out. Grey and silver foliage plants will reflect light with their metallic sheen. Many flowering plants will release their perfume at night, or become more intense. Good choices to start a moon garden:
Stachys byzantina, better known as woolly lamb’s ears, this is a delightful perennial plant with large leaves covered with dense white ‘fur’. In summer it will send up 18-24” bloom spikes with dainty pink flowers. Some cultivars have been bred to be sterile; the variety ‘Silver Carpet’ is particularly showy.
Stachys byzantina ‘Silver Carpet’
Eryngium amethystinum ‘Sea Holly’ has spiny silver grey foliage and lavender purple thistle-like flowers, Very tolerant of heat and dry conditions, it is easy to grow in full sun. Grows to 30” x 30”, deer resistant.
Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’ Oriental lily. Very fragrant, pure white, outward facing flowers make good cutting specimens too. Lilies require full sun and well drained soil to put on their best show, and will happily grow into large clumps over time. Grows to 4’ tall, and may require staking.
Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’
Cerastium tomentosum ‘Snow in Summer’ is a delightful, low growing perennial. ‘Snow in Summer’ has shining, fine textured, silver leaves and pure white, star-shaped, flowers. It makes a hardy groundcover for hot and dry sites, and will tolerate light foot traffic. Cerastium grows to 3” tall x 2’ wide.
Athyrium x ‘Ghost’ Lady Fern. This fern is a hybrid between the Japanese Painted Fern, and the southern Lady Fern, with the best attributes of each. The result is a very upright fern with silvery-grey foliage. This fern will spread via shallow underground rhizomes. Lady Ferns prefer moist, yet well drained, hummus rich woodland soil. Ferns are a great choice for shady spots. Grows 2-3’ tall.
Athyrium x ‘Ghost’
Rose ‘Blanc de Coubert’ is a pure white rugosa type rose; it is a repeat blooming type, with very fragrant flowers. ‘Blanc de Coubert’ will not spread like most non-hybrid rugosa roses, so it will remain tidy. Needs full sun and moist yet well drained soil, it will develop red rose hips, if not deadheaded. May grow 4-7’ tall by similar width, but easily contained with yearly pruning.
Rose ‘Blanc de Coubert’