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Spring 2000 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

so I grow flowers -- in a high spirit of adventure.  
J. Smith

      As I write this, it is mid-February, Fern, Sherri, and I am enjoying the forced bulbs, Sherri potted for us last fall. The paper whites have finished blooming, now I am enjoying the fragrance of pots of white and blue hyacinths. It smells like Spring. The snowdrops began blooming in January. Then the snows came, but as soon as the snow melted, they were still there to greet me. The hellebore were all showing lots of buds by mid January, and are growing upward now that the snow has disappeared. Incidentally, deer do not like Hellebore. The rabbits can sometimes eat the older leaves, usually leaving the buds alone. The snow crocus are blooming in yellow, cream and blue pearl, along with the lovely little winter aconite (Eranthus) with their ruffled collars of green. The first flowers Ive picked are the Iris dandefordi, so fragrant in a tiny vase, as I sit here drinking my tea and writing.

     In mentioning deer, Im reminded of the complaints I hear of deer eating plants. Interspersing a few plants they dont like can make them move on. They usually do not like fuzzy leaved plants, so the Ieatherleaf viburnums are a bit of a deterrent. Also the Rudebeckia including the gloriosa daisy types. They dont like the tall grasses, although they will chew on the short fescues (Festuca ovina). Ive heard a lot of complaints that they eat daylilies (Hemerocallis), yet with the hundreds we grow in two different fields and borders, weve had no damage. At least, not that I can see. Ive used daylilies in landscaping around two different swimming pools, because Ive been told by the homeowners (in rural areas) that the dayliles were the only think the deer didnt eat. I have a booklet about reducing deer damage and a couple of pamphlets on resistance to deer and I.P.M. management, I ordered from Cornell University Resource Center. These will be in the sales barn if you would like to read them, or I have the address if you would like to order a copy. Frankly I have much more loss from rabbits pruning down my roses, chewing the bark off ornamental trees, and eating the tops off my true lilies (where the bloom buds are) as they come through the ground. I mentioned IPM before. This refers to Integrated Pest Management, which I practice. Its more organic and can save you from a lot of problems. I wrote of it in my 1994 newsletter and of spraying dormant roses with superior oil, inquire if interested. Perennials are such a rage now. I grew up with them in my parents garden, and have grown them all my life. Yet no garden is complete without some annuals. Last August 12th, I wrote myself a note after gathering cut flowers for bouquet orders. It might help you plan your annual selections this year. The following flowers were cut during the dreadful heat and drought and had no water. The fragrant blooms of Nicotiana in pink, rose and white. The Zinnia varieties with no mildew, such as the small cut and come again type (2 1/2 tall), also the large cactus flowering types. I especially appreciate the chartreuse of Zinnia Green Envy, a more formal type, and the Persian and Chippendale varieties. These last two varieties along with other bedding types are not hurt by early light frost and continue to bloom into late fall. That reminds me of the lovely Calendulas, which will still be blooming when the mornings are frosty. In November 1 always have them arranged in a cobalt blue vase, plus the petals are great in salads. Celosia plumosa spikes give a different shape for bouquets. The blue eyed white daisies of Arctotis grandis with it lovely silver foliage loves the heat and drought. It is a true species, so I must remember to save seed, Another true species annual is Star of Texas (native xeranthemun), with its crisp lemon yellow blooms on 18 rounded plants. The Gloriosas love the hot weather. The brilliant patch edging the woodland is a real show stopper, and has caught everyone eye. The Cosmos are not quite as tall in the drought, which might be better, although C. Sonata variety can be used if shorter plants are preferred. I tried a new double (really semi-double) Cosmo Psyche last year that were really nice and must start more for 2000. I also love the Cosmo candy stripped and seashell varieties. The cream (so-called white) marigolds were a lovely surprise, or 18 compact mounds of bloom. Ive always knocked the hybrid Marigolds as too formal and too gold and orange. But I love the cream color and of course the lemon M. Tagetes, that I can put in salads. The malvas and/or lavateras bloom well with their pink and purple colored cups that look so ethereal, yet are so tough. And in the midst of the drought springing up everywhere (thats really what they do) are the Lycoris squamegeri (Mystery Lily). You must have a large bulb to get bloom. We sell only blooming size bulbs that multiply lavishly. And what would I do without the lovely clusters of small white daisies of Matricaria, blooming from June till Thanksgiving and sometimes beyond. I just keep trimming them back. I must not forget the August blooming shrub Caryopteris Blue Mist, whose azure blue bloom spikes are so great in bouquets. Plant a tall yellow Tithonia behind the Caryopteris for a beautiful look.

     We may be able to plant our annuals a bit earlier this year if the Spring is mild. But around Mothers Day is the safest for annuals and bedding plants.

     I have been getting lots of calls for native plants since we are listed as a source in the book Go Native, which was reviewed by a garden writer in the Cincinnati Enquirer. I first wrote of growing native plants in our 1995 newsletter, after Ken Druse listed us as a source in his book on natives. I think many gardeners regard native material as wild things that are weeds. When actually many of our favorite garden plants are native in some part of America. The following are examples of native flowering understory trees and shrubs. The first to bloom is Witch Hazel (Hamamelis vernalis), Shadblow (Amelanchier), Wahoo (Euonymus Atropurpureas or Americanus); even my beloved holly (Ilex Opaca) is native. Although I like many of the hybrid Ilex, I use a species Ilex Opaca growing native in Kentucky. I dug it and planted it here to pollinate my hybrids. Our beloved Redbuds (Cercis Canandensis) and Buttonbush (Cephalanthus) are native. Cephalanthus is the most amazing shrub I have grown. I grew it originally because I loved the clean foliage and round 1 to 1 1/2 white ball blooms in the summer. I first saw it growing in a foot of water at Kentucky Lake. I planted mine in the dampest part of the garden, which in the summer is dry, unless water runs there after a rain. The last two years of drought, when everything was so limp and dying back, this was the best looking bush in the garden. Still crisp as ever and no insects. Another good-looking shrub was of course the beautiful Vitex Agnus Castus that nothing seems to bother. Also in native shrubs are the Iteas, which turn scarlet in the fall, even in shade. Clethra Hummingbird with its lovely white spikes in July and now the newly introduced Itea Little Henry was all found in the wild. The other fragrant Clethras with their August blooms are all native. All our lovely wildflowers are native, and hurray for the birds that seeds them everywhere. My first Goldseal appeared under the birds favorite tree, and I have collected seed from it for many years. I have to grab fast, because soon as that big red berry is ripe the robins gulp it down and then reseed it in someone elses garden. The native Spring blooming perennials such as, Amsonia Taber., that I have grown for thirty years with its beautiful golden fall color (and Ive never seen a bug on it), our black or brown eyed susans, Echinecea, the lovely Digitalis Lantana (Foxglove) and on and on. A native that I started cultivating several years ago, and we now list in our catalog, is Ironweed (Vernonia). If picked at full bloom, it dries a lovely amethyst. A plant came up in a Garden I had landscaped. I somehow had missed it when wed do our monthly maintenance. I saw it when in bloom in September and was about to remove it when the garden owner said he liked it and thought it was a perennial I had planted. I stood back and stared, and it was lovely, purple against a gray stone wall. Needless to say it is still there. I dug some from the edge of our field and planted it in our border. It has a good growing habit by not spreading, and does not reseed near as much as Id like. I do prune it back in July to keep it a bit shorter, since they can reach 5 tall. Now I have seen it listed in many garden books.

     Having all these lovely natives doesnt mean Im going to give up growing my wonderful Beeches, Cornus Kousas, Magnolias (oops, another native Sweet Bay Magnolia), Nandina, and the lovely old roses.

      Ah, roses. The Dr. Griffith Buck roses held their own in the heat and drought. The light yellow of Prairie Harvest was a bit creamier in the heat, but such lovely buds. Rose Ballerina and The Fairy bloomed very well. The climbers Dortmond with masses of single red blossoms and Dr. Bucks Carefree Beauty are always full of flowers. The fragrance of Magnifica with its gorgeous fall colored foliage and hug red hips all summer are a bonus with this rose. In January I was clearing out some old garden magazines (never got finished as I kept stopping to read articles). In a 1970 Flower and Garden issue (I know, I know, I even found some 1959 issues, its either clear things out or move) there were two articles on new roses. Out of the 31 hybrid tea varieties described, there were only two that I think are still listed today. The other article was by Dorothy Stemler (now deceased) of Roses of Yesterday and Today. Many of the roses she suggested, which I purchased in the 70s are still growing here today and blooming. Come look at the Belinda, Blanc Double de Coubert, Rosa Rubrifolia, Magnifica, Cornelia, Lavender Lassie and the first Dr. Buck roses I ordered.

     Ive been writing these newsletters since 1982 and I try not to repeat information, just answer questions were asked during the year. A few years ago we stapled the newsletters into booklets, we still have a few copies at $1.00. Ive written of so many things. How and when to trim shrubs (1987); slugs and what their eggs look like (1986); when what and how to fertilize (1989); the new smaller disease resistant crabapples (Malus) that hold their fruit all winter (1989); advice on growing seeds (1990); groundcovers (1991 & 1994); how to grow gladiolas without fall digging; also herb use and rhubarb whiskey (1993).

     Its now March 6th, as Sherri says thats enough. I could ramble on. Anyway, after the last few warm days the lawn looks like someone dumped piles of Easter eggs all around with all the bloom from the little bulbs of blue, lavender, gold, purple, and pink. Happy Gardening and remember it should be fun. Last Fall I was surprised when a young gardener said to me Youve made gardening so much easier for me. Im not afraid of doing things wrong anymore. I never really stopped to think about it, but gardening should be fun, that is why we do it. I know we break our backs, but it is insidious. It gets in your blood and your hooked.

©Mary Harrison 2000

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