Mary's Plant Farm main page

Archive of Mary's Newsletters

Receive Mary's newsletter by Email

Spring 2003 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

'As within the hazel's bough, a gift of mystic virtue dwells.'
-- John Greenleaf Whittier

     This February tops them all. I've always found mild days when I could walk the garden. I'd have to wear snowshoes this year. The first week of January I walked with a gardening friend, so he could see things he might plant for his fall and winter garden. The Hellebore were budded at ground level and the foliage on the Cyclamen, Arum Italica, and Bergenia cordifolia were beautiful. It was too early for the Hamamelis to be really blooming. Just before the blast on February 15th, I was filling the bird feeder on the south side of the house and there peeking through the snow were snowdrop (Galanthus) blooms. I picked them and brought them in to enjoy. We're also enjoying the pots of Hyacinth blooms, Sherri potted for us last fall. She keeps them in her garage till mid January, then brings them into her breezeway and starts watering. By the first of February we have bloom, and she shares with Fern and I.

     I try not to repeat in these newsletters, yet answer some of the questions we are often asked. One is 'What can I plant under walnut trees?' I've read all types of information, and some I think is wrong. My information on any gardening subject is what I find to be true from my own many years of experience. Walnuts release a chemical, juglone, which can be toxic to some plants. My father always kept his tomato plants on the other side of the garden from the walnut trees. It never seemed to bother the other vegetables. I have a huge walnut at the edge of my herb garden and everything grows well there, even a rose. Directly beneath it I allow Hesperus and black-eyed-susan's to reseed, plus there are rows of shrubs on the field side of the tree. I know even hosta and narcissus do well there. I have been told by a gardener I respect, that Rhododendron, Azalea and Mountain Laurel won't grow near walnut roots. I do till the soil there and pile compost (rotting weeds) which may help. Another question was what to grow in dry shade. There are many plants, but each situation may be different. Near shallow rooted trees, like maples, there will be lots of roots. Do not dig or add compost, it will only increase the trees small roots activity. It is best to add a few inches of soil and plant shallow rooted plants, that will tolerate really dry conditions. Examples are; Arabis procurrens, Lamium galeobdolon 'Silver Frost', Campanula posckarskyana, Cyclamen neapolitanum (hyderifolium) or Coum, garlic chives (that bloom lovely white in September, but don't let them reseed), Fritillaria meleagris bulbs, and the Stachys b.'Silver Carpet' (lambs ear) that has huge leaves and no bloom. Under flowering crabs (Malus), flowering pears, and many conifers, the roots go deeper and you may successfully plant beneath them. I do have one spruce that the thick roots are practically on top of the ground, the best thing in this situation is to mulch the area and leave it alone. Under the malus etc., I plant Epimediums, evergreen gingers, Brunnera, Sweet Woodruff, any of Lamium macualatum, hardy geranium, Arum Italica, and Lily of the Valley. Last year we tried a new bush clematis that likes dry shade, C. tibetana 'Orange Peel' that blooms late in the season. The hardy Geranium macrorrhizum varieties have a beneficial fungus attached to its roots, which searches the surrounding soil to bring nutrients to the host plant. I read an article in a trade magazine that one grower is charging more for his plants because he is introducing the geranium mac. fungus into all his plants soil. If you're unfamiliar with this geranium it is those with the fragrant foliage. Back to shade. My Hellebore are in the woodland in dry shade, among trees. They do very well, are evergreen all winter, and survived the summer drought. Even our extra hydrangea stock is grown under the pines. They appreciate the acid soil there, but had to be watered in the drought. One gardener inquired, should he cut everything down in the borders for winter. No. A total clean up leaves nothing to protect your plants roots. The accumulation of leaves etc. on soil, rotting down to become soil and holding moisture is called 'duff'. This is what makes the wonderful woodland soil and loosens our clay soil. Evergreen perennials should never be completely cut down. Roses should not be trimmed in fall. Do your pruning in the spring when you remove any winter damage. Climbers should be tied up in the fall, and pruned after their first bloom, unless you have severely damaged canes. Our hundreds of roses are never protected for winter. I feel if a plant has to be covered, wrapped with burlap etc., it isn't worth growing. There are so many wonderful plants that need no pampering. One writer called the over use of soil amendments and fertilizers as 'feed and fluff'. It is definitely not necessary in gardens that use xeriscaping.

     Last spring's early deluge of rain rotted many plants roots. Then came extreme heat and drought. The lilacs suffered the worst. They can survive drought normally but not without a good root system. The magnolia loved the extra water and with a good root system survived the drought without watering, which surprised me. Sherri moved my six-foot Magnolia g. 'Victoria' last fall. I didn't expect it to grow that fast. The Magnolia g. 'Victoria, M. g. 'Edith Boque' and M. g. 'Bracken Brown' are the true southern magnolia grandifolia type, with the huge white fragrant saucer flowers. They have the brown felt on the back of the foliage called inudentum. These varieties can withstand our Z6, to minus 10 degrees for Z5.

     So much has been written about growing natives lately. I've always grown and loved them, but I'm not going to stop growing non-native varieties. Many of the perennials and trees that writers are pushing have been in most gardens for years. Black-eyed-Susan, Echinecea, Chelone 'Lyonii' and on and on. I don't like that some States are trying to ban many lovely things their calling invasive. A New England state has banned barberry, and Nevada has banned the lovely little Iris verna. I can't get it to stay more then two years and it's on the endangered list in Pennsylvania.

     I was amused when a wholesaler offered us 'designer and classic' daylilies. His wholesale price and varieties are the same price and varieties we're selling in the north field. I will admit their 'designer and classic' varieties are better then some of the new ones offered. They stated they have a hybridizer evaluating the varieties for them. I've kept extensive growing records on mine for years, so I can tell you when bloom time is, how long, what multiplies the fastest and which hold up in storms. Some of the tets can look fairly awful after a storm if its a day you're showing your guests your garden.

     I've read an article this winter about two small trees that will tolerate dry shade, or sun, and even moisture. The Ostrya virginiana (American Hop Hornbeam) and his quote 'the under appreciated Alders'. I've loved them bother and we get a lot of questions about the Alder in my woodland. The Alder has both yellow catkins in the spring, along with the previous years one inch brown cones (strobiles). The catkins soon form the new green cones and both stay on the tree. We are pleased to have nice large sizes of both these trees available. Another gardening article I read discussed fall planting for oriental poppies, peonies, iris and bulbs. Fall is a good planting time for most plants, although I'm careful with some perennials. For instance, Shasta Daisy and Japanese Anemones should only be moved in the spring. I'm calling most attention to the mention of Iris. In our area, move your Iris as soon as they have finished blooming, or they'll heave and rot in our wet winters. Never move them later than early August. This just brings to mind that there is so much misinformation being printed about gardening. No wonder 'Flower and Garden' went defunct last year. If I'd had the time I would have written them concerning three misleading articles. One said you must sow lemon basil direct as it could not be transplanted. I've transplanted hundreds. Another said nasturtiums could not be transplanted. They're the easiest plants of all I transplant. One day Bonnie and I had just transplanted a couple hundred and as she watered them a customer said 'I love nasturtiums but I was told you can't transplant them'. Bonnie replied 'Gee, I guess they forgot to tell Mary'. I won't say much about the article that said there was only one grower of tree peonies in the U.S. I can name several old companies plus myself. We only sell 3 year from grafting or older tree peonies. If sold too young they sometimes die above the graft. I learned that the hard way. Have you noticed advertising on the so called new 'temp-perennials? These are the same bedding plants or annuals we've always grown. Some bedding plants are perennial in the south; here we simply treat them as annuals. They do make nice combination pots. Cannas seem to be back in vogue now. They can also be used in pots, as they love to be watered. I like to use the Nepatas hanging out of the pots. Its soft grey foliage and all summer blooms of blue are a nice contrast with the Petunia 'New Wave' in lavender and plum. Add some white petunia or alyssum to contrast with the dark foliage of the lovely newer coleus varieties. Sometimes I think I read too much which brings me to a book Timber Press has reprinted of Peter Loewer. For those who work all day and come home to a garden, The Evening Garden would be a good read. We have copies, plus other Loewer books from when he lectured here. Our hardbound copies are priced 10% lower than the new reprinted soft cover copies.

     Congratulations to Rita and Richard King, and Bunny Snow for their awards from the Cincinnati Horticulture Society last season. I know that with all the awards their gardens have won, it is well deserved.

     This years seminar dates and open house are listed below. They are free, but we do appreciate reservations.

Wildflower Seminar and Walk - April 26th 10:00 a.m.

Garden Tour and Open House - June 22nd 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Mary's Lecture 'Everything Gardening' 2:00 p.m.

Hardy Bulb Seminar - September 13th 10:00 a.m.
Lecture 'Hardy Bulbs for Four Seasons' followed by garden tour

-- Mary Harrison



     If you are looking for some new additions to your garden we have some interesting finds. For years Nepetas have been a great long blooming, heat tolerant perennial in shades of blue. Now we have Nepeta sub. 'Sweet Dreams', in a lovely pink and only 15" tall. During last summers drought the Amorpha (Lead Plant) looked great. We are offering Amorpha canescens, a native with blue bloom spikes for June/July, 3'-4' tall and the Amorphia nana, an earlier blooming dwarf variety with fragrant pink bloom. Also the Hibiscus 'Red Belle' with its huge red blooms in July and August stood up and shined throughout the drought. For those who love the hardy geraniums, we will again have the Geranium Samobor, which sold out the first few weeks last year. Its foliage with brown star center surrounds a lovely cluster of dark purple upright blooms. In addition this year we offer the Geranium 'Bertie Crug', a dwarf cultivar with shiny bronze tinted foliage and magenta pink bloom, and Geranium 'New Deminsion' with blue flowers above dark bronze foliage and 12" tall. For those who love baby's breathe but have limited space try the dwarf double Gypsophilia pan. 'Compacta Plena'. Try the Stockesia l. 'Purple Parasols', a new introduction that displays 5 different colors from powder blue to magenta on one plant as the blooms mature. Those who were disappointed to find we had sold out of the following, we have additional stock this year on Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset' with its fully double golden blooms with dark eye, and Salvia Azura var. grandiflora (Pitcheri) a 3' tall true blue September to frost blooming salvia. A great color for the fall garden. There are a number of new shrubs including two Viburnums; V. dent. 'Red Feather' and V. dent. 'Blue Muffin', a dwarf variety with huge blue berries in summer. Also Spirea thunbergii 'Mt. Fuji' whose early pink buds open to white with pink edged blooms, and glorious fall foliage, five new boxwood (Buxus) varieties, six new Hydrangea mac. varieties in some glorious colors including H. m. 'Lemon Wave' with tri-color foliage and the H. pan. 'Lime Light' that has eye catching lime-green bloom panicles. In trees we have a few more of the popular weeping redbud (Cercis 'Covey') available and three new beech (Fagus) varieties. Last but not least, the roses. There are three new Griffith Buck selections including 'Distant Drums', a rugosa 'David Thompson' a semi-thornless dwarf variety, olde rose varieties such as Henry Nevard a fragrant crimson red, Rosa Mundi with fragrant pink and rose striped blooms, climbing Sombreuil in creamy white, and additional stock of the ever popular climbing 'Zephirine Drouhin' and hybrid musk 'Ballerina'. Finally the Romantica Series of roses. We are taken with these hardy, beautiful and fragrant new roses and include eight selected varieties this season.

     As always our customers are invited to check out the growing fields to see the stock available. There are also items in the field that are not always dug and shown in the nursery area, so give yourself some time to check out the north field to see what is growing. We always ask that you watch your step, since we don't always have time to fill up the holes when stock is dug on order. Remember to check out our website for new listings and additional gardening information throughout the season.




Spring Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday 9:30a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Summer Hours (beginning July 1st)
Tuesday - Friday 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping


©Mary Harrison 2003

Archive of Mary's Newsletters

Receive Mary's newsletter by Email