Neighborly Garden News
Do you know what plant hardiness zone means?
It is typically much cheaper to grow plants in the south; plants grow more quickly in warmer areas, and nurseries down there don’t have the costs associated with heating greenhouses, and providing additional light for growth. You can get a finished plant in half the time, at half the price. But what is the real cost?
You may purchase a plant species that is listed as hardy to our area, but lacking the provenance (*the region or geographical area where a plant or animal was originally found) to survive in our climate. That is to say it was grown to maturity in a warmer zone, but will lack the ability to acclimatize to a colder zone. I can tell you from experience that some bargain plants won’t even make it through their first winter. Of course this doesn’t matter for short lived plants like summer blooming annuals, but it will impact long lived trees, shrubs and perennials.
A fundamental selling point for native plants is that they are naturally adapted to the place they occur – the soils, climate, natural water regime, and surrounding plants, animals, insects and other organisms are all programmed into their DNA. This natural adaptation makes native plants reliable choices for the landscape. But it’s still important to ask about plant origin and expected performance on the site you’ll be planting.
Adaptability and performance concerns are not limited to species that naturally range outside the state. Hang around ecologically inclined horticulturists long enough and you’ll hear the words ‘ecotype’ and ‘provenance,’ and for good reason. ‘Ecotype’ refers to a genetically unique population of plants adapted to a local environment – and ‘local’ could be a region of Massachusetts or even a particular habitat in our county. Experience has shown that for many plants, ‘locality matters’ when it comes to foliage, flowering, seed set, seed germination, and overall plant performance.
That discounted shrub, tree or perennial might look very appealing, but purchasing a plant from a local nursery will offer you the benefit of their experience growing in our zone. Most growers stand behind their plant products, just in case you need help. Support your local farmers and buy local!
March’s ‘to-do’ list:
As another winter falls behind us, the vernal or spring equinox arrives on March 19th at 11:50 PM. On this day the sun will rise exactly in the east, and set exactly in the west; the length of night and day approximately equal. Let’s enjoy our increasing day length; earlier dawns and later sunsets! Have you planned out your garden for 2020?
If your garden beds are dried out enough to walk on them, you can begin spring clean-up. Wet soil is very susceptible to compaction, so be prepared to wait until the soils have drained sufficiently to walk on.
Begin cutting down spent ornamental grasses now, before they begin sprouting.
Schedule dormant oil spraying now, while both plants and insects remain dormant. This ultra-light horticultural oil will smother harmful insect pests before they can hatch out.
Continue pruning trees and shrubs while they are still dormant. This past winter’s severe winds wreaked havoc with many older and weakened plants. Look for any broken branches and make a clean cut on anything left ragged or torn. Prune summer and fall blooming trees and shrubs like: Roses, Spiraea, Hydrangea, Rose of Sharon and Buddleia now until late spring. Wait to prune spring blooming plants, like Lilacs, Azaleas and Forsythia, until right after flowering.
Begin fertilizing all flowering trees and shrubs, to boost this seasons flower and fruit production. The primary soil type in this area is heavy, with little organic matter. For the healthiest landscape plants we recommend an annual schedule of applying compost, fertilizing, and mulching, to conserve moisture.
Plan to feed your spring bulbs as the new green shoots appear. A balanced, organic fertilizer will help to nourish the leaves, essential for promoting the health of the bulb, corm, or rhizome growing beneath the ground. If you find you have more leaves than flowers in your bulb borders, it is sign that the bulbs (or rhizomes, corms etc.) are too crowded, and need to be divided.
If you have stored any bulbs from last summer, such as: Dahlias, tuberous Begonias, Cannas, or Calla lilies, pot them up now, and set in a bright window, or under grow lights.
Prepare for the start of another tick season. Ticks that cause Lyme, and other diseases, will become active when temperatures are above freezing, and the ground has thawed. Unfortunately ticks do not die with the onset of cold weather, but just go into dormancy. UMASS extension has reported that the mild winter have allowed ticks to be out and actively seeking their first meal right now.
Mid-March is a good time to begin sowing early veggie seeds; to be ready to set them out 6 weeks later. These would include the Cole crops: Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and their relatives. Wait until the end of March to start the heat loving veggies: Tomatoes, Peppers, and Eggplants.
Need a hand with spring clean-up or pruning? Wish to schedule dormant oil spraying? Give our office a call to get on the schedule.
New garden perennials for 2020!
The Greenhouse Grower’s association has published their list of recommended new perennials for 2020. There are some exciting new additions, and improved varieties that are sure to be beautiful additions to our zone 5 gardens.
Vernonia ‘Summer’s Surrender’ is a no shrinking-violet perennial,, it’s common name is New York Ironweed, and has a reputation as a vigorous plant. The attractive, olive-green leaves grow to 5 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Five-year-old plants measured 48 inches tall and 74 inches wide. With excellent resistance to both powdery mildew and rust, the foliage remains clean and attractive all summer and fall. Dark-purple florets are packed into nearly 1-inch-wide flower heads, which are borne in profusion on airy inflorescences from early September to early October. Butterflies, moths, and bees are attracted to ‘Summer’s Surrender.’ Use this selection in the back of larger perennial or mixed borders, near lake edges and other moist sites, in pollinator gardens, and in any other full sun situation that calls for a robust yet attractive and uniform perennial plant.
Vernonia ‘Summer’s Surrender’
Nepeta ‘Blue Prelude’ or ornamental catmint has a compact and mounded habit its first year. Then it grows up to 3 feet the second year in the landscape. It is a first-year flowering, robust plant in the landscape with larger flowers than other Nepeta. It features a long flowering season and attracts pollinators with its fragrant foliage and flowers. Spacing 36 to 48 inches, height 28 to 36 inches, Prefers full sun and well drained soil.
Nepeta ‘Blue Prelude’
Echinacea Butterfly Series the two-toned flowers are pink near the center and coral-orange. They mature to a stunning raspberry pink. Compact plants with sturdy stems, will bloom mid-summer to late fall. This hardy perennial grows to 18” tall. Very attractive to pollinators, and if not dead-headed, seed loving birds will feed from them too. Prefers full sun, but will tolerate light shade.
Echinacea Butterfly Series
Hemerocallis ‘Double Pardon Me’ this stunning red flowered daylily has a new sibling with a double flower form!
‘Double Pardon Me’ is a mid-season bloomer named after the popular ‘Pardon Me.’ This new variety features large, deep-red flowers like its namesake but with as many as 18 tepals for a unique twist. Grows to 18” tall and will thrive in almost any garden situation except dense shade.
Hemerocallis ‘Double Pardon Me’
Carex × ‘Feather Falls’ is a completely different ornamental grass than other Carex on the market. Plants are uniform with clean foliage, and have no pest or disease issues. For gardeners, this grass is a great addition in the ground or in containers. It will stay green year-round and not brown out like other Carex. ‘Feather Falls’ can tolerate shade, sun, heat, and cold and is a great landscape plant overall. Plants will grow 18 to 24 inches by 18 to 24 inches, and have a mounding habit of growth.
Carex × ‘Feather Falls’
Sedum ‘Mojave Jewels Ruby’ the purple foliage of ‘Ruby’ is like no other and the habit is non-flopping. Its nearly black foliage, (darkest color in full sun situations) and red flowers make for a stunning combination. This exceptional Sedum is heat and drought tolerant, although it can take moist soil and withstand heavy rain. Sedum ‘Mojave Jewels Ruby’ grows 12 to 13 inches tall; 15 to 18 inches wide, and is an upright plant, yet compact and mounded in appearance.
Sedum ‘Mojave Jewels Ruby’
Heucherella ‘Peach Tea’ with beautiful clean colors on a tough garden favorite, ‘Peach Tea’ is an excellent addition to a shade garden. It is vigorous and compact but gives the appearance of daintiness, and delicacy in the landscape. Large, peachy-red leaves contrast beautifully with cream-white flowers. Naturally rust resistant, ‘Peach Tea’ prefers well-drained, humus rich soils. Allow the soil to dry moderately between watering. Grows to 12 inches by 22 inches, with a mounding habit.
Heucherella ‘Peach Tea’
A problem that comes up frequently is a tree that has outgrown its place in the garden. That sweet little thing you fell in love with at the garden center is now blocking your view, and gobbling up all the sun. You can choose to keep pruning it back to manageable size or start over with a more space friendly specimen. Here are a few suggestions for small stature native trees that will also encourage pollinators and wildlife to your yard.
Amelanchier canadensis-Serviceberry is one of my favorite trees. It has enchanting white to pinkish flowers that give it an airy appearance, while in bloom. The Serviceberry can be found in nurseries as a multi-stemmed or single stemmed tree. The multi-stemmed trees are very useful for screening or filling in a gap in your planting design. They are considered very adaptable to various growing conditions, including damp soils, or full to partly sunny sites. The juicy purple fruit is edible, and sought out by many bird species. Grow to 15-20 feet tall.
Prunus maritima-Beach Plum grows wild along the New England shoreline. It is very suited for rocky/gravelly soils, and hot/dry conditions. Early spring white blooms are followed in September by the dark purple fruit, which are very prized for jams and jellies. Beach Plum can be pruned into a tree form, but will naturally grow into more of a large multi-stemmed shrub. Prefers full sun, the Beach Plum will withstand wind and salt spray. Grows to 8 feet tall X 8 feet wide.
Crataegus crusgalli-Hawthorne trees are tough specimens that will thrive in hard to plant areas like planting strips, between sidewalks and roads. Hawthorne is a distinctly shaped tree with a broad spreading crown and horizontal branches with thorns. In spring apple-blossom like flowers are followed by small red fruits, beloved by birds. Will grow in sun or part-shade, and will adapt to medium to dry soil types. Hawthorne will grow to 10-20 feet tall.
Sassafras albidium-Sassafras has become more popular in recent years, as people have become more familiar with our bounty of lovely native trees. It has very distinctive leaves, that when crushed, release the beautiful spicy fragrance. The leaves have an unusual mitten-like shape. Sassafras is tolerant of heavy clay soil, and will also grow in drier sandy soil types. Small yellow flowers are followed by blue-black fruit that will attract many types of birds. Sassafras likes full to part sun conditions and will grow to 20 feet tall. This tree will naturally sucker to form a colony, so a good choice for screening and wildlife gardens.
Sassafras’ unusual mitten-shaped leaves
Cornus alternifolia-Pagoda Dogwood is one of the underused native trees that grow wild in our area. Dogwoods are one of the top ten species for attracting pollinators and wildlife. The Pagoda dogwood is noted for its graceful tiered branching habit. So it is very lovely in all seasons. Clusters of upright white flowers during May-June are followed by blue fruit carried on red stalks in August. Pagoda Dogwood prefers a shady area, with consistently moist soil enriched with organic matter, to do its best. Grows up to 15-20 feet tall.