Countryside Corner; Neighborly Garden News
Let your landscape go wild!
I get a yearly reminder about invasive species, when I have to weed out the Bishop’s weed that never seems to go away; no matter how diligent I am. Aegopodium podagraria, also known as Goutweed, or Ground Elder, is an herbaceous perennial imported from Eurasia, and was widely used as a ground cover in years past. It is now on the invasive species list, but I still see the variegated form being sold online. Unfortunately many of the plants on the Invasive list were once considered favored ornamental specimens, until they weren’t. I can remember selling ornamental Barberry bushes, Berberis thungergii, right up until Barberries were banned in 2006.
One of the numerous problems with the proliferation of these non-native plant species, is they will out-compete, and crowd out native plants. This begins a negative chain of events for the animals and other organisms dependent upon the native plant’s role in our ecosystem. By choosing to plant a native specimen, not only will you get a plant that is naturally resilient to whatever New England weather can dish out, it has evolved to be interdependent with the organisms that live in its habitat.
I think you can mark the return of our native hummingbirds, by when the dainty red and yellow native Columbine blooms, (Aquilegia canadensis) I believe the Columbine to be one of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird’s first natural nectar plants to bloom. I began to see bumble bees the day the Bloodroot flowers (Sanguinaria canadensis) opened at my house. The Bloodroot is one of the very first native wildflowers to bloom in our area. If you move your gaze upwards, you may have noticed the bright red flowers of our Native Red Maple (Acer rubrum) very showy in early spring, when everything else is barren. For almost every type of non-native ornamental plant, there is a very good native substitute.
The point I’m making is that even though a trip to the local garden center will thrill you with row after row of perfectly blooming beauties, if we can make a conscious choice to include native plants in our landscapes, we will be rewarded with a diverse palette of plants to choose from, garden plants that won’t need to be babied along, and the knowledge we are contributing to our environment, not depleting it. I don’t think you need to pull out all the imported species of plants in your yard, but consider adding to the diversity by including native regional species, as you add or replace plants in your landscape and gardens.
There is a lot of information to explore online; the Audubon society has an extensive database outlining which native plants attract particular birds: audubon.org/nativeplants another good site is vtinvasives.org for plant recommendations.
May’s ‘to-do’ list:
It certainly seemed a like spring would never arrive this year, but nature always finds a way to catch up to a slow start. Weeds popped up early despite the late spring. With many chores beckoning, don’t neglect weeding, as these pests will grow even faster than your garden beauties. In the veggie garden I use grass clippings, or shredded leaves as mulch around my plants. In my ornamental beds, I’ve established a thick groundcover, and also use bark mulch; but still have to hand pull as necessary. It’s always a battle, but be vigilant!
Dead head spring bulbs, as they go by, but leave the leaves intact. Even if you have fertilized your bulbs, the leaves are still needed to nourish the underground bulb. Once they begin to wither and turn yellow, you may safely trim them back.
If you’ve started a compost pile last year, turning it over in the spring, will aid in decomposition, and give you access to all your ‘black gold’. Use your finished compost as a side dressing for perennials, a top dressing for trees and shrubs, and in the planting hole for transplants, and new plants. Watering the compost pile during dry spells also helps speed decomposition, and helps turn up the ‘heat’ to kill off weed seeds.
The recent severe winter may have taken a toll, on your landscape plants. Sometimes winter injury can be pruned out, and the plant rejuvenated. Often if the injury has compromised more than 50% of the plant, it’s not worth saving because the plant has lost its pleasing shape. In this case it may be conserved, but perhaps moved to a nursery bed for a few seasons to rehab. Replacing plants is a great opportunity to try something new, update your landscape; and renew your home’s curb appeal.
Prune spring blooming trees and shrubs as they fade. Spring blooming trees and shrubs will begin to set flower buds for next season in early summer, so don’t delay if you want to shape them.
Think about planting a container gardenusing perennials for continuous color and texture, spring through fall. Hostas, Heucheras, and Sedums, and ornamental grass like Pennisetum ‘Hameln’, for example. These tough perennials will happily grow in a container, and come in many colors and forms. When they outgrow their container, transplant them into your garden.
Be aware we are approaching the prime season for tick contact in our area. Take precautions for your family, visitors, and your pets. Invest in a tick I.D and removal kit, and familiarize yourself with early onset symptoms of Lyme disease in humans as well as pets. Countryside offers many options for tick management; please contact our spray program manager, Herb Severs for more information.
Gardening trends for 2018!
1. Forest Bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ means taking in the forest atmosphere, and was developed in Japan during the 1980’s. This philosophy has become a cornerstone for wellness care in Japan. The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way, there are calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits to be achieved. Some of the proven benefits are: boosted immune system functioning, reduced stress, increased focus, improved mood, and improved sleep quality. You can create your own forest glade, by planting trees and shrubs to make a woodland path.
2. Zen Gardens have become popular, as a haven to disperse our daily stress. Minimal, monotone colored plantings soothe the eyes, adding the sound of water, whether it’s forceful, or a gentle trickle can help mask neighborhood sounds. A restful seat, will allow you to linger in this gentle spot, until you return rejuvenated!
3. Surrounding yourself with plants both indoors and out. We have rediscovered the benefits of plants to help improve our indoor air quality. Besides, its’ a welcome touch to be around all that green life through our long winters. Peace Lilies, and Chinese Evergreens, are but two of the long list of plants easy care, and good for improving air quality.
4. Water features in the garden are not just waterfalls and Koi ponds! Many gardeners are opting for the ease and beauty of a reflecting pool, instead of a pond. Reflecting pools are typically shallow, may have running water as a feature, and may have plants adjacent to them, but not in the water. They are easier to maintain, because they have no fish or plants to care for, but allow the sound and beauty of a water feature.
5. Going Native is not just a trend, but a strong movement to restore our ecosystem. We have begun to make strides in understanding the complex relationships between groups of plants and animals, and why and how they depend on each other for survival. If we can be more like stewards of the land, trying to make it better for the next generation, we can be hopeful about the future of our planet.
6. Rock gardens sound pretty quaint; I know my grandmother cultivated a rock garden. But this trend combines low maintenance and low water needs, to make an eye appealing garden that can survive the extremes of our climate. Plants in this garden prefer to be dry, and have very sharp drainage (no puddles). There are even certain species of Cacti that will survive in our cold, as long as they have good drainage. A combination of shrubs, grasses, and perennials, interspersed through a collection of interesting and unusual stones and boulders, would be someone’s dream space.
Spring blooming trees always add beauty to a landscape. Our native songbirds and wildlife will appreciate the fruit or nuts produced from these regional trees with outstanding floral interest.
Sassafras albidium, the common Sassafras is also known as the ‘Mitten Tree’ because of its unusual lobed leaves. Some leaves are noticeably ‘right’ or ‘left’ handed mittens. Interesting yellow flowers are produced in April before the leaves appear. Female plants will produce ½” long, oblong dark blue fruit. Sassafras develops brilliant fall leaf colors, of red and orange. Grows 30-60’ tall x 25’ wide.
Cornus alternifolia, the Pagoda Dogwood is an underused small stature tree of great architectural beauty. It prefers to be in part shade, and would liven up a shadowy spot with its clusters of starry blooms in May/June. Showy purple and red fruit ripen in July, and are very attractive to fruit loving birds such as Cedar Waxwings.
Grows 15-25’ tall x 10-15’ wide.
Cercis canadensis, Redbud trees always get a second look when they are in bloom. The deep rosy-pink flowers are produced along the length of its bare branches, not at the tips as with most trees. Breeding has modified this tree into dwarf and weeping shapes, besides the open rounded profile of the species. There are also varieties with purple or golden leaf colors. Grows 10-20’ tall x 10-25’ wide, depending on the cultivar.
Tilia americana, American Linden or Basswood develops into a large stately tree with arched and spreading branches at maturity. Somewhat pyramidal shaped when young, it matures to a more oval/rounded form. Very fragrant creamy-yellow flowers bloom in June, and are beloved by bees. Prefers full sun, and moist, well-drained soil, grows 60-80’ tall x 30’ wide.
Amelanchier canadensis, the Shadblow is known to bloom when the Shad fish return to the local rivers and streams. It is a stellar small stature tree of our native forests. The bright white flowers really stand out in early spring when little is in bloom. Later, edible blue/purple fruit are produced, which becomes a food source for our native birds. Shadblows develop reliably brilliant red and orange fall leaf colors. It is very tolerant of boggy conditions, but will adapt to drier soils also. Grows to 20’ tall, full sun to partial shade.