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Spring 2002 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

"As a horticulturist the more I learn,
the more I realize, there's a lot I don't know."

    I'm not going to write of the mild winter. It has been enjoyable walking through the garden this winter. Sometimes with a friend, seeing the blooming plants and shrubs, not to mention the early bulbs. The blooms on the witch hazels (Hamamelis) were great this year. Some of them scented the air when there was warmth from the sun. They started blooming in January and some are still in full bloom as I write this on March 6th. I did pick a few of the Hellebore flowers. Some bloom stems were already eight inches high. There's so many there will be plenty to see into April. The deep magenta flowers of the cyclamen were beautiful. A few days ago as I walked back from checking the heater in the big green house, the cyclamen blooms were frozen stiff (3/4/02) as it was 20 degrees. Don't touch! They will be OK as soon as the temperature warms above 35 degrees. Same for daffodils, don't touch till they thaw. I was cutting a few branches of witch hazel for the house, in mid February, and as I turned to come back, I saw the Parrotia covered with 1/2" balls of red. And I mean covered. Sherri checked the nursery field Parrotia, and they were in full bloom also. My old tree is a little over 7'; they are great for the back of a border or as an ornamental close to the house. The foliage turns gorgeous colors in the fall as they are related to the Fothergillia and witch hazels. All are renowned for fall color. As I walked several feet farther along the border there was a sweet fragrance, and I knew it would be the Lonicera fragrantissima. There wasn't more than a couple of dozen 1/2" blooms open, but the perfume was intense. One or two branches will scent a room. It will continue to bloom till April. It's not a showy shrub in the summer, so it's best used as background. You can tell from the above, a garden is not just for summer. I enjoy my garden all year. And I have lovely views from my windows.

     Any day the sun shines, a fresh air walk in the garden is wonderful. Some winters when everything is white, I see the exfoliating bark showing cinnamon and white, the hollies, and cones and berries on shrubs. All have a different beauty. As you walk when it's snowing heavily, there's a hush in the air, and the sounds of traffic seem far away and subdued. My garden is becoming more naturalistic every year. A garden is never static, as plants are living things; they change constantly, therefore forcing change in the garden. Large square lawns are becoming things of the past. Several years ago I read an article that naturalistic landscaping was a fad. Author Ken Druse says in his book The Natural Landscape "There's a grass roots movement of natural landscape quietly sweeping across the country, it was a fad that refused to leave". In my borders I've always used flowering shrubs or roses, with the perennials (but never high maintenance perennials). They will carry the border with flower and foliage much longer. Just think of them as big perennials.

     Last summer we were asked questions on what insect was cutting perfect small circles in foliage. The culprit is a small leaf cutter bee. They are 1/2 to 3/4 inches long. They don't live in hives; they use the circle of foliage to form cells. They are very beneficial as pollinators. Especially since we've lost so many honeybees. They don't hurt the plants. Another question was about the extra large wasps that drill holes in the ground. These will never attack, I've had them bump into my legs in the garden there are so many. They are very beneficial also. They kill insects including Japanese beetles and large locust. They sting them; stuff them down the hole, then lay their eggs and cover the hole. When the eggs hatch they live on the insects. Lacewings are also beneficial, they can eat as many aphids as a lady bug. And we find and protect the egg sacks of the predator praying mantis.

     Sherri and I spent a couple of days in Columbus in January, going to seminars at the trade show. Often, certain speakers we wanted to hear would be at the same time. So we split up, with me going to a 2-hour seminar on Hollies, while she went to one on herbs (she says she didn't learn anything new, but saw some beautiful slides, especially the Echinecea tennesseensis, we're now growing). There were two speakers on Holly who started out saying there were practically no diseases on American Holly, then proceeded to talk for an hour on diseases of Holly. Except they were all on Hollies in the deep South or Southeast. Oh well. While Sherri went to one on Hydrangeas, I went to one on 'Invasive Plants'. I went there expecting to blow my top, only to find the speaker and I agreed. What may be invasive in one area, may not even grow in another area. The best seminar was the one on Hamamelis I attended, while Sherri went to one on 'Plant for Dry Areas'. Having lived through four years of drought, we know fairly well what will survive without much water, example the Cephalanthus (Buttonbush) that lives in water, but withstood the drought without a wilted leaf.

     There is a new line of plants out, called 'Steppables'. I saw samples at the trade show; some of them you wouldn't dare walk on. I've always felt nothing can surpass the thymes for stepping on for sheer resilience, fragrance and color. A thyme path is a wonderful thing. I've also had inquires about reblooming iris. These are not new and I've written of them before. Some of the varieties they list as rebloomers, I have and they have never rebloomed. But others have been very dependable in the years we have ample moisture, so they multiply more rapidly. Iris are heavy feeders, but don't over do it. Phosphorus applied in the early spring is best. An intermediate iris 'Lo Ho Silver' bloomed from September to November 1st when we had a hard freeze. It had up to 10 bloom stalks with 5 blooms each. A customer e-mailed us a picture last fall of a yellow one she bought here in the fall of 2000. "It did not bloom in the spring, but now in October, it's blooming like crazy." her words.

     We will have a weekend 'Garden Open House', June 22 & 23, with a lecture by Mary 'Fifty years of Growing Dazzling Daylilies' on Sunday. Our spring seminars are 'Wildflowers' on Sunday April 21st, at 2:00 p.m. A talking tour to not only see the spring wildflower varieties but those that will bloom in the summer and fall. On May 5th, at 2:00 p.m., 'Bulbs for Spring, Summer and Fall'. How to have color with bulbs from February to October. All seminars are free, but reservations are appreciated. Hope to see you there. Happy Gardening!

Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping

©Mary Harrison 2002