Receive Mary's newsletter by Email

Spring 2007 Mary's Plant Farm Newsletter

"Through primrose tufts in that green bower, the periwinkle trails its wreaths."
-- William Wordsworth

     On January 4th I picked a bouquet of snowdrops (Galanthus) for a tiny vase. I noticed they were blooming before Christmas, under a pine by the north terrace and the south side of the house. If your snowdrops are in big thick clumps, they should be divided, Beverly Nickles writes that they will disappear if allowed to get to thick, and I've had this happen. In early March while they are still green or even in bloom, dig the clump, being sure to go below the bulbs, saving the roots and tops. Pull the bulbs apart into singles or small batches and replant. You can transplant Narcissus also while they are still green, just be sure to be cautious with the foliage, leaving it to replenish the bulb. Frankly it is easier to transplant them while you can see them, rather than digging into the bulbs while they are dormant. I've had many calls from gardeners earlier this winter, asking what can they do about the plants that are already up or the budded shrubs when the weather has been too warm. Usually plants take it in stride and a cold snap will slow them down. Hopefully that will be accomplished by snow for insulation. The real damage comes when warm weather has arrived causing the buds to open and then there is a quick drop to below freezing temperatures. As long as buds remain in their sheaths they are all right. I'm also asked why bark cracks and splits on tree trunks. This is usually caused when temperatures are very cold on a sunny day, as the sun heats and thaws the side of a tree. When the sun sets, a sudden freeze occurs in the heated tree trunk tissues. Snow cover, which reflects even more of the suns energy exaggerates the problem. This is called sun scald, and kills the tissues. The damaged area dries out causing a wound. This may not be apparent for a year or more. Over fertilization, causing too fast a growth can also cause the problem. While on the subject of trees, I went to a lecture where they said too many trees are being planted too deep. Trees should not be planted below the root flare. This is where the tree trunk spreads out just above ground. If the trunk is straight where it goes into the ground, it is too deep. This is also another reason why our balled and burlapped Rhododendrons always live. Not only because they are in soil with a good root system, but they are extremely shallow rooted and if planted too deep this will cause loss of growth and death. By planting the top of the ball even with the ground you eliminate the problem. An experienced Rhododendron grower told me that peat moss worked into the soil was death to them. That may also account for why container-grown rhododendrons die. The too deep planting rule can also apply to perennials. Shasta daisies are shallow rooted and need to stay close to the surface, yet peonies which have long thick tubers must not have more than 2" of soil over their root buds or they will never bloom. Another perennial that will not do well planted too deep is Eremerus. I've had a lot of comments when they are in bloom with their 3' to 4' columns of flowers. I've learned over the years they must have excellent drainage and cannot have more than two or three inches of soil over the roots. When they are spread out flat on the ground the roots resemble the legs of an octopus around an eye. A layer of pea gravel or grit under them helps drainage. I mulch heavily for the winter, but remove some in the spring, as I've discovered (after more reading) that the roots like to bake in the summer heat.

     I have been reading that Cornell University is evaluating perennials for their weed suppressive qualities. Those that spread over the ground reducing light transmission and therefore suppress weed growth are Liriope, Phlox sublata 'Emerald Blue' (creeping phlox), Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldstrum' and Nepeta 'Walker's Low'. Incidentally the Nepeta 'Walker's Low' is the herb of the year of 2007. I also read they are testing plants DNA. It seems it can eliminate time consuming field tests when two cultivars are very similar. It helps in plant identification. For instance Cornus florida 'Cherokee Chief' and C. f. 'Cherokee Brave' are very similar visually, but DNA proved they were genetically different. In another article (maybe I read too much) the author wanted the Mid-East Plant Committee to ban the shrub Jet Bead (Rhodotypos scandens) and list it as an invasive. This is one of my favorite shrubs, so I did some research and found it was introduced to America in 1866 and after all these many years is still not readily available. The writer complained that growers were touting it as an excellent shrub. My original bush from my father's garden died of old age and I tried for years to find a replacement. I finally got (well swiped) seeds from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and was lucky enough to get two plants from the dozen seeds I'd copped. I now know I should have stratified the seeds as it has very low germination. It will grow in heavy shade or sun, with small clean leaves that hold till late fall. The flowers are round with four white petals similar to a single rose bloom. After the flower petals fall, four oval jet-black (hence the name) seeds form, which are attractive on the stem all winter. We finally found a source for these plants to sell in the nursery.

     A gardener asked if she could gather some of my sweet gum balls. She uses them under her big hosta leaves to deter slugs and around her roses to keep rabbits from chewing them. I guess I should have put them around my Green Ice rose. The rabbits eat it to the ground every winter if I forget to cover it with onion or potato bag netting. We have some beautiful variegated leafed sweet gums. The star shaped leaves are splashed with gold and the fall colors are gorgeous. I was told that when Katsura leaves start to drop in the fall they smell like cotton candy. I must remember to test that. I researched a bit and read another gardener thought they smelled like his mothers cooked apple butter, or burning brown sugar.

     The tropical look in gardens is popular again. This makes our old standby cannas with their hot colored blooms in vogue. Incidentally, the color for this year is chili pepper red. Cannas in pots can be submerged in ponds, as most are water lovers. They also are great to use in the back of borders or dwarf ones in front. And add some of our lovely calla lilies to the garden. To continue the look use the large leaved southern magnolias that have proven to be so hardy here, with their huge white lemon scented flowers in summer, M. g. 'Edith Bogue', M g. 'Victoria', M. g. 'Bracken Brown' and M. g. 'D. D. Blanchard' are the best. The variety M. g. 'Little Gem' did not prove hardy for me. Another plant that makes a statement in the garden is Leonotis. It is perennial in zone 7, but I treat it as an annual. I start the seeds the beginning of February. It can grow to six or seven feet with orange balls clasping up the stem. It also dries well for winter bouquets, and gardeners stare and comment on it every year. I usually have extra plants of this in the sales area if you're interested.

     About this branding of plants thing. A wholesale company sent me a list of daylilies they have branded as their 'Designer Collection'. Since these are not new varieties but a hybridizer's introduction years before, I will now sell those varieties as a 'Designer Collection'. The new (to them) one they added is H. 'Rose Emily' which they listed as an all summer rebloomer. I've had this variety for many years and it is a lovely green throated pink that blooms in mid summer. But a rebloomer it isn't. I wonder if a heavy watering program would help. Perhaps I'll try it, and see.

     I'm in love with the newer shorter and earlier blooming sedum varieties, especially the ones with purple foliage. They tolerate hot dry sun and flower later. Our Sedum s. 'Neon' variety had amazing bloom last year. The purple foliage of S. s. 'Purple Emperor' or S. s. 'Montrona' which is taller, with beautiful leaf and stem color are great even without their wonderful flowers.

     We would like to announce another of our gardeners has won an award for her garden. Congratulations Charlene Dudley. I especially liked the idea that the organization giving the award demanded botanical names on all her plants. Charlene even saves her own impatient seeds and sows them out the following year. Try that in the garden!

     I hope your winter was restful, so that you are ready for another year of gardening.

Visit us at:

Spring Opening: April 3rd 
Spring Hours:  April - June 
Tues. - Sat. 9:30 am - 6:30 pm
Sunday 12:00 - 5:00 pm

Fall Hours:  July - October
Tues. - Sat. 9:30 am - 5:00 p.m

-- Mary


Mary's Plant Farm & Landscaping
New for 2007

     The list of new and hard to find plants available for this spring is growing.  We have been successful in supplying a number of plants on customer's 'wish lists' along the way.  Corylopsis spicata blooms in February to April in our woodland, with long narrow racemes of fragrant flowers.  Physocarpus 'Summer Wine' with dark purple fine cut foliage or Physocarpus 'Center Glow' that has yellow green foliage over the mature burgundy red leaves are great all season shrubs with bloom, foliage and exfoliating bark.  Keeping with the dark foliaged plants we have the new Sambucus (Elderberry) 'Black Lace' that has a fine-lacy foliage and beautiful pink bloom.  The native azaleas have been hard to find, but are lovely, fragrant and hardy in our gardens.  We will have 5 varieties available in a choice of colors.  Syringa vul. 'Prairie Petite' is a dwarf (3' max) lilac in lavender.  For a small area where you want to see grandma's lilac this would fit the bill.  It's hard to believe that a regular lilac can stay at 3 foot, but this one will.  Although we list five Cercis (Redbud) varieties; Cercis can. 'Covey' a weeping form, C. can. 'Alba' with white bloom, C. can.'Silver Cloud' with variegated foliage, C. can. 'Forest Pansy' with purple foliage, C. canadensis our native redbud, we are adding Cercis can. 'Hearts of Gold' with bright yellow foliage.  We also have the largest selection of Cornus kousa (Chinese Dogwood) varieties, from pink or white blooming trees to ones with bluer foliage, or Cornus k. 'Lustgarten Weeping' with white bloom to the new C. k. pendula with pink blossoms on weeping branches.  We are also adding the C. k. 'Lipka's Variegated' with beautiful variegated foliage and those who see the red, gold and green glossy summer foliage of the C. k. 'Madison' can not pass it by.  For those who wanted a smaller size of the Cornus k. 'Wolf Eyes' we will now have a few of those available.  It's green leaves edged in white look like a wolf's eye.  Another bonus of the kousa dogwoods is the beautiful red raspberry like fruits. These are great for the birds or to view on the tree while they last.  Someone worried whether they would make a mess on the ground.  I have never seen many that have fallen, much less make a mess.  For those who are looking for berried shrubs we have added the Cornus mas varieties for their red or yellow fruit clusters.  These provide continual beauty in the garden, from flower, leaf and berry. I would be amiss if I didn't also mention the Aesculus (Buckeye) varieties in red, pink or yellow bloom, Styrax in pink or white bloom, Cladrastis (Yellowwood) in yellow or pink bloom or the number of beautiful blooming magnolias in purple, pink, yellow, white or green/brown/rose mixture. We have added new perennials; Baptesia 'Purple Smoke' with dark stems, Lilium 'Altarie' and L. 'Boogie Woogie' both are fragrant and colorful, Coreopsis g. 'Tequila Sunrise' with variegated foliage, and Ajuga r. 'Chocolate Chip' which we fell in love with because of its darling small purple crinkled foliage.

     Container gardening with tropicals, mix plants or succulents is so poplar now.  Whether you have a large garden or a patio area that could use a focal point, we have a wide range of sizes, styles and colors to choose from.  We provide a 'made to order' service for containers that you already have, or the option of choosing the container and plants that would suit your landscape.  Some of the new plants we are using to give a designer look are Silene unifolia compacta with blue-green foliage or Silene 'Druett's Variegated' that has variegated leaves, both bloom throughout the season.  Or choose Veronica 'Georgia Blue', Origanum 'Amethyst Falls' with pink hops-like blossoms all season, or even the new Coleus 'Trailing Queen' with its colorful foliage.  Taller perennials, unusual annuals and even dwarf conifers can make a statement that will last even into the winter months.  Many gardeners choose to keep their succulents in tufa troughs or containers for easy care in the winter months.  We have a number or tufa containers for sale and have added a number of unusual succulents including the Echivera 'The Rose' whose name says it all.

     Every year the gardens change and we invite you to walk or relax on one of the garden benches.  The 'Garden Cafe' has been well received and we continue to offer specialty desserts, tarts, cakes, coffee and tea on the weekends for those who want to enjoy a snack in the garden or in our Cafe and gift shop.  Clubs and groups are always welcome to join Mary for a talk and tour of the gardens.  Reservations are required.

     If you are interested in landscaping we offer a full design service from consultations for the do it yourself gardener, to complete installation.  Landscaping is an important value to your home, let us help.  Our designs use the correct material for the location, improving longevity and easy maintenance.

     The following events are planned for 2007.  Most classes and activities are free, but reservations are required and some are limited to space.  Note:  High Tea in the Garden and the Tufa class fill up quickly.

Pruning: Class Demonstration - Sat. April 14th, 10:00 a.m. Learn when and how to prune both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs in the landscape. And how to renew their shape if overgrown. Pre-paid fee: $10.00 per person

Wildflower: Talk and Tour - Sun. April 22nd, 1:30 p.m. A comprehensive class on native wildflowers. Not only spring blooming varieties but summer ones also. Then, join Mary with a walk through the woodland to view the extensive wildflower collection. Free with reservation.

Bulbs: Not just Tulips and Daffodils, Color throughout the year with Hardy Bulbs - Sun. May 6th, 1:30 p.m. Have bloom in your landscape even in winter with hardy bulbs. Garden tour to follow showcasing spring varieties. Free with reservation.

Planting Mix Containers or Tufa Troughs for All Season Color - Sun. May 22nd, 1:30 p.m.  Bring your container or purchase one at the nursery. Learn the design techniques to planting for all season color in a container garden. Everything from succulents to perennials, along with annuals and even conifers. Fee: Cost of materials only, no fee for instruction. Reservation required.

High Tea in the Garden - Sunday, July 8th & July 22nd, 2:30 p.m. - Enjoy a four-course high tea served in the garden. An afternoon of delight for your senses. Pre-paid fee:  $16.00 per person

Propagation: Methods for use in the Home Landscape - Sat., Aug. 25th 10:30 a.m. Class and demonstration to learn the proper timing and techniques to propagate your plants by cuttings, seeds and divisions. Great information to help renew any garden with older overgrown plants. Free with reservation

Easy Maintenance Landscaping: Color with Native Trees and Shrubs - Sat. Sept. 22nd, 10:30 a.m. How to maximize the color in your garden for 12 months of the year using low maintenance native varieties. Plants for all size gardens will be discussed. Free with reservation

Making Hyper Tufa Trough Class - Sat. Oct. 6th, 10:00 a.m. Materials and instruction are included to make a 12" - 18" trough, with your choice of mold shape. Pre-paid fee:  $35.00 per person

Don't forget to check out our web site and catalog   

©Mary Harrison 2007