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Spring 2001 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

Ah, that's the reason a bird can sing, on his darkest day he believes in spring.   
D. Mallooh

     Last fall the color of foliage was beautiful for a while, but the early arrival of winter left a bleak landscape. Upon looking out my windows at my own landscape, I saw beeches and oaks holding their tawny leaves, the greens of hollies with red berries. There is a Goldthread Chamaecyparis with a yellow berried holly planted nearby, with pines, spruces and buxus. Also the deciduous shrubs still covered with white, purple, blue or red berries. Nestled on the ground, the large leaved Bergenias getting their winter colors of rose and mauve, along with the dark green Hellebores. By planting carefully selected trees and shrubs, no area need look uninteresting in the winter. As I winterscape, I'll also make sure I plant to lure birds. My grounds are really a haven for them. They repay me by eating many insects in the summer. Many times when the fall webworm is in the trees, by the time I decide to spray, the cuckoos have arrived and eaten them. Even though the birds sow weed seeds with their droppings (i.e. Honeysuckle Mackii), they also occasionally drop seed of lovely wildflowers. Many years ago I found my first plant of Golden Seal (Hydrastis canandensis) beneath the locust along the driveway. I've collected and resowed the seed from it for years. In my early teens I learned you cannot dig Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum), since the roots are far too deep, I hate to think how many I may have destroyed. But over the years, under the same locust, are quite a few Erythronium, blooming in white and yellow. And now I notice them showing up in my so- called woodland (it's not easy making a woodland out of a cornfield). I've never planted a May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum), yet over the years there's a large bed of them where the birds roosted in a pine that went down in a storm a couple of years ago.

      I usually start my newsletter with the late blooming winter plants. But there aren't any as of Feb. 9th, we've had no thawing or warming periods. If I didn't have all the above mentioned colors and birds it would surely be very dreary as I sit by a window, waiting for my knee replacement to heal. By this time last year (after reading last years newsletter), there was color starting everywhere, with Snowdrops, Eranthus, Snow Crocus, bulbous iris, and the Hellebore. After going out and checking the clumps of Hellebore, in the most sheltered areas I have, the buds were just trying to crack the ground.

      Sherri and I attended the O.S.U. seminar, where one of the speakers said, "annuals were back". Sorry, I never gave up on them. I love perennials, but even the really long-lived and easiest to care for have a definite bloom period. With proper selection of perennials, you can have bloom eleven months of the year, but many annuals will bloom from June till a hard killing frost, with plenty of cut flowers. Some varieties of annuals also go very well in the mixed pots that are so popular. Annual Nasturtium and Arctotis give constant bloom. One speakers interesting idea was the use of Gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields' in a mixed pot. I sowed and potted too many of them last year, had too many left over, and gave them away, oh well. We also liked the green, pink and white variegated sweet potato vines we sold. Some customers were surprised to find they produced sweet potatoes, one customer even said she cooked and ate them.

      A few years ago Mr. Rand B. Lee, founder of the American Dianthus Society ordered plants of our Dianthus Barbatus 'Calico Button'. Last spring we started getting a lot of orders for the plants. On inquiry we found he had written an article praising it in the A.D.S. Bulletin, saying it was truly perennial. It's a heritage plant from my Mom and Dad's garden. I wrote and thanked him, and he wrote back saying I should register it. He offered to help if I was interested, and sent the paper to fill out. After eight months I now have a certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society of England, acting as International Registration Authority for the genus Dianthus, certifying that D. B. 'Calico Button' is officially registered by me. I shall frame it and hang it in the sales barn.

      I was reading in the nurseryman's magazine, that in Germany, Epsom salts was sold as a fertilizer, and they were going to market this to American garden centers. Many American gardeners already know how it nurtures plants with magnesium and sulfur. I've used it many times to try to force a recalcitrant shrub or tree to bloom. Sort of odd to buy it at a garden center instead of a drug store. The kicker was, the German manufacturer is then going to merchandise it in their country as a foot soak.

      As of last fall, we have a wonderful webmaster. Look at me, I'm learning the language. In case you want to look us up it's, We are very proud of the site and are grateful to Kent for his expertise.

      Wow a couple weeks have passed, and we've had two days of sixty plus degrees. We were able to pot up over a hundred lily bulbs that had arrived from Holland, without having to run the furnace in the potting area. I'm starting to look for the bloom on the Witch Hazels, and I love their fragrance. Weren't the massive sprays of rosy flowers on the Lespedezias gorgeous last August and September? I had planted the white blooming ones in the wrong place so they weren't as impressive.

      In mid November, as I was bemoaning my knee replacement, Sherri brought me in a huge bouquet of the old darkest purple Lilac from the back field. What a surprise. They were thick, short, leafless clumps, exactly like the ones we've ordered from Holland in the winter, for weddings. They were unbelievable, and cheered me for nearly two weeks, as I carried them with me from room to room.

      We are again going to have seminars this year. A wildflower one on Sunday afternoon April 22, and a bulb and fall flower seminar Saturday September 22. We're planning another, but not quite sure of the date yet. The seminars will be in lieu of Gardener's Day.

      Many of you admired the new type Campanulas blooming here last year. We will have some new varieties for you to try, C. Punctata 'Elizabeth' in pink, C. 'Kent Belle', C. P. 'Cherry Bells' and C. Raddeana. We really like the new Agastache (Hyssop), in addition to A. 'Blue Fortune' (that looked great in July and Aug. last year), there will be A. 'Firebird', and we've added A. 'Sunset' to the A. 'Sunrise' from last year. Also we'll have more of the Salvias, both culinary and ornamental. For those of you who like the hardy Geranium 'Ann Folkard' (sorry we sold out), we have more, plus several new geranium varieties. There are several new shrubs to add to our already extensive list, including the double Hydrangea Quer. 'Snowflake', Hydrangea Pan. 'Burgandy Lace' and the new Hydrangea Mac. 'Dooley', which M. Dirr promises will bloom on new wood. Incidentally, we still have copies of Dirr's huge manual, available at 20% off. We have a lot of great books in the gift shop with large discounts, a great bargain.

     We went to Iowa State University to see their Griffith Buck rose collection, and several trips to arboretums. In Des Moines we saw several new plants and Buck roses that will be offered this year. Also a few magnolias that you've seen growing here. We now have Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue', considered by the Magnolia Society to be the hardiest evergreen variety, and Magnolia 'Centennial'. We also found a beautiful 'gold' winter colored Pinus that is gorgeous.

     Happy gardening and we look forward to seeing you this spring. Please note our new summer hours.

Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping

Spring Opening April 3rd.
Spring Hours:  Tues. - Sat. 9:30 to 6:30,   Sunday 12:00 to 5:00,  Closed on Monday

Beginning July 1st: Tues. - Fri. 9:30 - 6:30,  Sat. 9:30 - 5:00,   Closed Sunday,  Closed on Monday

©Mary Harrison 2001

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