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Spring 2004 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

How little observed are the fruits we do not use.
-- H. D. Thoreau

     The above words were used to head an article I read about 'Edible Flowers'. The edible flower idea was not news to us, as we have served rose petal conserve over strawberries at our 'Gardener's Day' for years. We also used nasturtium leaves and flowers in the salad we made, and many raved about. The nasturtium leaves have a peppery taste, better than watercress. I've heard of those who use the fiddleheads of ferns (new fern fronds) for salad. I think it would be a dreadful waste, I prize our ferns too highly. A gardener called last week ordering lots of daylilies, as he wanted to pick the buds for sautéing, remarking how delicious they are. Sherri told him I'd break her arm if she debuded any of my daylilies (Hemerocallis) for salads. For an edible plant with large tropical looking foliage and really bright colored stems in reds, yellows and corals etc., try 'Bright Lights' Swiss Chard in your border. It stays less that 24" tall. I saw it growing at Cox Arboretum the year it was introduced and I've grown it every year. It's extremely ornamental and very tasty. I have a white bean soup I use it in. Try using other edibles in your flower border. Curly parsley makes a lovely edging and I don't have to go to the herb garden everytime I need some. The year I had extra variegated lemon thyme clumps to plant and was running out of time (unintended pun), I planted them along the north border. We got more questions that year as to "what is that lovely variegated plant that looks like a ground cover"? That reminds me, if a ground cover is needed for a hot dry area, nothing is lovelier than thyme that gets covered with blooms and could be walked on if among stepping stones, sending fragrance into the air.

     There are so many plants that can be grown in hot dry areas. The lovely creeping Veronica 'Georgia Blue' foliage ends have a wine tint and brilliant blue flowers, Veronica 'Waterperry' is a lighter blue. For contrast near it, an Achillea 'Maynards Gold' is less than 12" tall and doesn't tolerate water. For a silver color (my sister Fern always said, "no garden is complete without silver"), use the Santolina Incana. Treat it as a small silver evergreen or use the silver Artemisia 'Schmidtiana'. If it is in a highly visible or well traveled area in winter, use the Santolina as it looks great all winter, where the Artemisia does not have a good winter appearance. I could go on and on, it matters not what type of area you have, as there are plants for shady areas, wet areas, or where there is root interference. There is so much diversity and beauty in plants that are attractive and/or blooming every month of the year. This January and February almost made a liar out of me. The Hamamelis (Witchhazels) were extremely late, and I've always picked snowdrops (Galanthus) in January. It was February this year before they popped through. I loved the line in one of Beverly Nichols books saying, "you must lay down to look at a snowdrop to really appreciate them". He also gave good advice to dig and move your snowdrops while in bloom or immediately after, when they get too thick or disappear. It explained what happened to some of mine that was very thick and now only a few remain. The fragrant yellow Iris Dandifordiae always bloomed by the first of February, this season it was the first of March. But now it is mid March and everything is popping, including the lovely snow crocus along with the purple and blue Iris Reticulata. I did cut the fan tail pussy willows in early February for friends to enjoy the bloom. Yet my lovely Hellebore by the back entrance was late, but its purple flowers are now six inches high. I've checked the woodland and two or three other areas and all the Hellebore are blooming. Now is the time to cut away the old foliage so that the bloom sprays really show and there is room for the new emerging foliage. I got too anxious checking the Hellebore Niger and knocked several large white buds off, as they were stiff and frozen. The new H. Niger 'Praecox' are in full white bloom also. This is an improved and earlier blooming variety. I have some very large H. foetidus this year and have seen pictures of a couple new double varieties to dream about. I found the seedlings of the H. argutifolius I planted last year are still alive and doing well. And nearby I could see the deep pink flowers of Cyclamen coum starting to bloom. I did find some blooms snapped off, and I think birds are guilty. Does anyone know why birds cut blooms from flowers? They do it to the bloom on Gloriosa Daisies every summer, then leave them hanging on the snapped stem.

     Back in December the Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn' decided to bloom early with its' small balls of deep pink blooms, that are so extremely fragrant. I cut an arm full for the house, as they scented the rooms. They usually bloom mid March, and in checking today they are budded and showing color again. This is a narrower shrub with dainty ribbed foliage, a lovely specimen for the garden. I can't think of a more varied group of shrubs than the viburnums. So many different bloom times, types of flowers, varied colors of berries and such gorgeous fall foliage. The Viburnum p. 'Watanabe' blooms all summer. Some will make 10' to 12' tall hedges for screening, and others are small shrubs 3' - 5'. All are excellent for feeding the birds or arrangements for the house. You can even make jelly from the native Viburnum lentago (Nannyberry) fruit. Another beautiful native is the V. Acerifolium, a hard to find species, but we try to keep it on hand.

     As to invasives, natives and exotics or whatever. I've read so much about one state banning this plant, and another state banning something else and then planting only natives. I have always grown many natives, but some natives can become darn invasive, so do your research. What worries me more, is the destructive insects coming into this country. The emerald ash borer which came into the country in the last few years has killed over six million ash trees in Michigan, and is in a couple upper counties in . The U.S.D.A. has banned the movement of ash trees from Michigan. They then found the borer in New Jersey and traced it back to a Michigan nurseryman, who was fined $25,000.00 and has to do public works of cutting down dead ash trees. This brings me to other bug problems. I'm asked about the early arrival of aphids. We try to practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management), using as few sprays as possible, watching for problems and catching them quickly. You can use a strong spray of water from the hose to wash them off and they drown, and it doesn't hurt the lady bugs who can fly. Of course more aphids can arrive. Female aphids do not lay eggs. They produce hundreds of live babies at a time. No wonder they are so plentiful. Gardeners bring in leaves showing mite damage. Usually called spider mites because of the webbing they form on the back of leaves. The foliage has a discolored look and if you rub your thumb over the back of the leaf you'll get a rusty smudge. A magnifying glass will show the webbing. This usually occurs in hot dry weather. Since mites are not insects, insect spray will not solve the problem; a miticide spray must be used. If only a few leaves are involved, removal of these can help control the problem. Everyone is talking of the cicadas (locusts) crawling out of the ground where they've been hibernating for 17 years. The female slits a hole in a limb lays her eggs and dies. The young hatch, drop to the ground and bury themselves, where they eat and grow. Years ago having built this home of ours in a cornfield, there were no cicadas. But the woods behind me had been cut for timber, and with most trees gone, they came to our young trees. I nearly went berserk, putting netting over smaller flowering trees, and later trimming limbs where I could see all the slits. Then the state nursery inspector arrived for our annual license inspection. I was shocked to have him tell me to ignore the slits in limbs, that they would heal and no damage resulted. He said the locusts were food for birds and wildlife. So I guess if we can stand the incessant noise, this too shall pass. I do know this past fall we had large areas dug up in the woodland, and now this spring near the maples. The ground looks like pigs have been rooting. We've been told by a naturalist we respect, that it is skunks digging for the cicada grubs emerging. I think he's correct because in replacing the soil and replanting the wildflowers I found cicada grubs coming up also. Sherri says if they're getting rid of the grubs, let them, we'll replace the soil or sod.

     Many years ago we had a Gardener's Night Out meeting, once a month. It got started because a male gardener asked to join my garden club and others had requested a night meeting. This was just gardeners meeting, walking and looking at plants, talking, exchanging seeds etc. If there is enough interest in a gardener's eve, we will host it again, on the last Tuesday of each month. If you're interested, sign up.

     I was so happy when Timber Press reprinted the Beverly Nichols gardening books. They are reprinting some of Peter Loewers also. Incidentally if you did not know, we can order books for you from the publishers and usually we give a discount. We also have many books for sale, and some discounted in the shop.

     Here are the Seminars for 2004. These are free, but we do appreciate reservations.
Wildflower Walk and Seminar - April 25th 1:30 p.m.
Iris and Late Blooming Bulb Seminar with Tour - May 8th, 10:30 a.m.
Gardener's Day and Open House - June 27th 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
12 Months of Bloom with Hardy Bulbs - September 25th, 10:30 a.m.

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-- Mary Harrison



     As our gardening customers tour Mary's private gardens, many times they find a plant that is in her private collection and not available in the nursery. So it is of high priority to propagate or find those plants and make them available.

     This year in climbers we have included two varieties of yellow blooming climbing Lonicera. L. periclymenum 'Graham Thomas' blooms all summer with clusters of trumpet shaped flowers, or L. sempervirens 'John Clayton' with yellow and white fragrant blossoms June till frost. We also have a few of the new climbing Hydrangea petiolaris 'Miranda' with cream and green variegated foliage. There are a number of new perennial selections. The Anemone multifida Rubra has rose red single blooms in 12" stems in May and June. The Aquilegia vul. 'Black Barlow' has the unique 'Barlow' double columbine blooms, but in a near black color. Campanulas make such a show in the garden and to the other 12 varieties we are adding Campanula trach. 'Bernice' with large double purple bells on 18" stems from June to August. We love the Filipendula Rubra Venusta Magnifica (Queen of the Prairie), but now we have the white blooming alba form. Echinecea is a mainstay in any garden; Echinecea 'Paradox' is a new introduction in yellow we have added, along with a new crop of the Echinecea Tennessensis, which sold out early last year. Thalictrums are a lovely addition to the garden with their delicate lacy foliage. Their fluffy flower clusters are a bonus in either spring, summer or fall depending on your variety. This year we're adding two dwarf varieties; T. Kiuseanum has clusters of pinkish purple summer blooms over 4" tall purple tinged foliage and T. minus Adiantifolium is 12" tall with yellow-green blooms. Tricyrtis provides beautiful orchid like blooms in September through October. A wonderful bloom for late in the season in either white, pink or purple speckled blooms with green or variegated foliage. We are adding three new varieties to our collection, T. f. 'Gilt Edge, T. f. 'Dark Beauty' and T. h. 'Miyazaki Hybrid'. Clematis are only thought of as vines, but when our bush forms of clematis are in bloom they create quite an interest. Clematis intergrifolia makes a small shrub covered with clusters of 4-petal bell shaped blooms. In blue, white or pink colors, their nice fragrance is a bonus.

     We have added four new Buck roses to our collection, 'Frontier Twirl', 'Mountain Music', 'Silver Shadows' and 'Prairie Sunrise'. Hard to find varieties for sure. Plus a number of additional olde and shrub roses which bring our rose listing to 105 varieties.

     During the season the garden display of flowering trees and shrubs create so much attention. Shrubs and ornamental trees are fairly maintenance free, yet give texture, mass, bloom and winter appeal in the garden. In trees we have new stock of the Styrax jap. 'Pink Chimes' that blooms pink bells in may and June, Stewartia psuedocamella a summer blooming tree with camellia like flowers and mottled bark, Cornus f. 'Cherokee Sunset' that has tri-colored foliage, hardy evergreen grandiflora Magnolias, and the rare Magnolia hybrid 'Woodsman' that has brown, green and purple blooms. In shrubs we have added seven Hydrangea varieties, some Japanese species with double lace cap blooms. A Nandina 'Harbour Dwarf', with evergreen foliage, red berries and fall color, Salix melanostachys the black pussy willow, and three Spirea thunbergii varieties, 'Ogon Gold' with white bloom and gold foliage, 'Fujino Pink' with pink flowers, and 'Mt. Fuji' with white bloom and variegated foliage. These spireas bloom early in the season have beautiful fine foliage, and tolerate most garden conditions. If you are looking for conifers, there are a number of beautiful Chamaecyparis varieties from dwarf 12" tall C. obtusa nana and C. o. nana lutea, to larger B&B C. o. gracilus. Cahmaecyparis are accepting of sun or shade and make a wonderful evergreen look in the garden. Another great find is the Tsuga can. pendula, a weeping form of Hemlock. Theses added to other unusual conifers available, make the selection great this year.

     These new selections, plus many more, added to our already extensive list offers an abundance of plant options for your garden.

     For those who are interested in large shade trees, that will give instant gratification in the garden, we have a number of Picea 'Blue Ice' and P. 'Bakeri' available. Along with Alnus (Alder), Pyrus (Pear) and Syringa Reticulata (Japanese Lilac) that have been dug from our fields by a commercial tree digger. These trees are all 10' to 18' in height, and are priced at wholesale prices so that they find a new home.

Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping


©Mary Harrison 2004