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Spring 2005 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

"To plant a garden, is to believe in tomorrow."

      Gardening is not only a belief in tomorrow, and a healthy exercise, but one of the most relaxing hobbies. I'm trying to wait out these early March snowstorms. The cloudy days make snow crocus and Eranthus close their blossoms, but with the first rays of sunshine, they open wide again, along with the flowers of Iris danfordiae and snowdrops (Galanthus). Remember when your snowdrops are too thick, they should be separated and transplanted while in bloom. I noticed in late February, that the buds on the Hellebore are staying close to the ground. This warned me, that lots of cold weather is still ahead. Last September, most everyone remarked on the color in the garden, as it continued ever changing. The first killing frost here did not occur till November 25th. I picked roses, purple and white Callicarpa berries, and Matricaria for bouquets in the house and Thanksgiving table. The Nandina shrubs were turning gorgeous shades of red with sprays of red berries. The yellow berried Nandina started re-blooming and forming berries again. The Nandina 'Fire Power' (dwarf) was every shade of red into port wine. Since it stays small, it is a gorgeous winter accent and holds its foliage. The Copper Beeches (Fagus syl. Riversi) turned bright green, then vivid gold. The Tri-Color Beech leaves had a beige border with the center turning gold, then a deep copper. Walking out the door, even on a cloudy day, their colors were like a burst of sunshine. The hornbeam with its wonderful oval shape, was the most glorious gold I've ever seen, with glimpses of black limbs showing through. Koelreuteria (Goldenrain tree) is covered with sprays of yellow blossoms in mid summer. So much so that its color floods through my window like sunlight. Then in late October, the leaves turn rich gold touched with orange and red. The tree peonies beautiful foliage turns rose red into wine in the fall, giving the plant two seasons of color. Even most varieties of spirea acquire beautiful fall colors. At our fall seminar in September, attendees couldn't believe that the beautiful colored foliage branches I showed them were from the crepe myrtles. I like these trees and shrubs not only for their color, but because all have small or compound foliage that blow away with no need for raking. I know that spring seems like the wrong time to write of fall color, but if you want to enjoy the late summer and fall color in your garden, you need to plant it early in the season. Now is the time to look at your garden, and consider what fall color you have. The earlier you plant, the more established your plants will be by summer.

      The few mild days we had the end of February, I transplanted roses. I will start separating and transplanting the shasta daisies and chrysanthemums as soon as the ground thaws again. Never separate them or the fibrous rooted anemones in the fall. Plants that must be separated or transplanted in the fall are Poppies and Peonies. During the mild days of February, we've had calls concerning the pruning of shrubs. The best time to prune trees and shrubs is while they are dormant and you can see the structure of the plant. To make an old overgrown shrub young again, remove the extremely old (past its prime) growth to ground level. Also, any branches that are crossing each other. Stand back and decide the height. If need be, trim back each branch separately to the desired size. Remember to keep a natural shape, DO NOT cut it straight across. Spring blooming shrubs must not be pruned until after flowering, or you'll loose a season of bloom. Summer blooming shrubs on the other hand, can be trimmed back in the spring. The sooner the better, as their flowers are produced on new wood. As an example, the Caryopteris and Callicarpa will be cut back to one foot, to force strong new growth. The variety of shrub can also make a difference, so when in doubt, ask us. During the summer you may also cut back some perennials to force them to branch, forming more flower buds, such as the Chrysanthemums and Heleniums. Cutting back sharply can also delay bloom, as I do with the Rudbeckia 'Goldstrum' and 'Triloba'. So instead of blooming in July and August, you can enjoy their bloom in Sept. and October. Incidentally, I get upset when I see all Rudbeckia called 'Black-eyed-Susan'. It actually refers only to the fulgida group ('Goldstrum'). Rudbeckia 'Triloba' is the 'Brown-eyed-Susan', and if you'd see it in seed form, you'd understand. Rudbeckia 'Gloriosa' is a variety that should not be trimmed back, but only dead headed. Cutting back and dead heading are not the same. Dead heading is simply removing dead blooms to prevent seed from forming.

     We are always asked questions concerning garden pests. We practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management), so we do very little spraying. By being diligent, catching a pest problem and removing the pest and/or affected foliage early, you can head off many bigger problems. A seed company had an interesting recipe for a natural insecticide from the Pyrethrum (Painted Daisy) plant. Soak one quart of fresh Pyrethrum flowers in 2 quarts of hot water for several days. Strain the liquid, add 2 tbsp. of liquid soap and spray your plants. In our spring 1986 newsletter, I wrote of slugs, what their eggs looked like, and how to control them by using wood ashes from your fireplace. At that time we also had a special insecticide for slugs, manufactured in England, that was an excellent product. It became unavailable for a number of years, but we now have found that a U.S. company is making it. We have purchased a supply, so inquire if you need to rid your garden of the dreaded slug.

     Last summer our cut flower bouquets with Cosmos were a big hit. Cosmos are another of the half-hardy annuals that can be open sowed in fall or spring, as I wrote in the fall 2003 Newsletter. Today I cut more branches of the witch hazels for the house. Their fragrance is wonderful. Timber Press has finally printed Chris Lane's new book on witch hazels (Hamamelis). It is an informative book, which includes close up pictures of Hamamelis blooms. We have copies of it available, along with several other newly published books including a new Hydrangea offering, for sale in the gift shop. This winter I was reading a copy of E. A. Bowles 'My Garden in Autumn & Winter'. He wrote of the Hellebore niger 'Praecox' we sold last year. The salesman at the trade show assured me it was a new and improved variety, but it was in Mr. Bowles garden in 1932 when he wrote the book. He said it is an excellent large flowered variety, and I agree, but new it is not. I get tickled at young speakers and writers who talk of perennials being the new 'in thing'. I've been planting them for 63 years and my father before me. I never found them 'out of fashion'.

     Last summer one of our tour groups was a group of 'Red Hat Ladies'. We had set up tables in the garden for the lunch that they brought after their tour and garden talk. What a delightful group. Later in the season we had a few additional 'Red Hat' groups enjoying the garden. I want to be a RED HAT LADY. I think I qualify, I just don't have time!

     I want to congratulate Dave Belew on his two garden awards last year. It is well deserved Dave! I'm also very proud of Sherri and my son-in-law Paul, for winning the Hamilton Community Appearance Award on their home and gardens in Highland Park. I'm also proud to say all the plants came from Mary's.

     Many have asked about our gardening classes, on propagation, design, pruning, plants, etc. If you are interested, give us your name and phone number, and we will notify you as to dates and fee.

     Note our new hours for summer and fall, and check our listing for seminars, classes, and afternoon tea. This, our catalog and additional gardening information is found at WWW.MARYSPLANTFARM.COM.

Spring Hours: Tues. - Sat. 9:30 - 6:30
Sunday 12:00 - 5:00

NEW: Summer & Fall hours (July - Oct.)
Tues. - Sat. 9:30 - 5:00

Nursery Closed between Sept. 20th - 24th, 2005

©Mary Harrison 2005