The golden color of spring.
The golden color of spring.
After my whining last Friday about how we were never going to get spring, a few warm days have brought out the flowers.
You can see how early it is. The trees still have no leaves and very little is greening up. These photos were taken April 14–the very day that I was whining that we don’t have spring.
So it’s nice to see a little color to prove me wrong.
On Friday I talked about picking a plant that looked most like every other plant. This is a good rule no matter what type of plant you are buying.
Today I want to get into a few more specifics about what to do when you get to the garden center–and let’s presume you are at a garden center today, simply because it will have more signage about varieties and possibly more information on the plant tags that will be accurate for your location.
What do I mean by that? When I go to a box store, I am told that the plant “lantana” is a perennial. That’s technically true. It is not, however, a perennial for me here in New England.
I know that in some parts of the country lantana is considered an invasive pest and can grow to the size of a shrub. Here, we grow it as a nicely behaved hanging basket that has flowers that feed our butterflies and hummingbirds and the plant dies at the first hard freeze. See what I mean now about “for your location?”
So, when you walk into your garden center, depending on where you are, you might find lantana in a hanging basket, you might find it with the perennials, or you might not find it at all because it is invasive in your part of the country. There you are. But chances are, you’re not going to just find it willy-nilly labeled “perennial.”
I know the box stores are working on this–and one reason has to do with their guarantee for a year. They don’t want New England customers bringing in their dead lantana the following spring and asking for a refund–and rightly so! No one is happy in that scenario.
Enough plants die in our now unpredictable winters that they shouldn’t have to give for plants that are mis-labeled. But if they mis-label them, well, they get what they deserve.
Apparently I have gone on long enough about why you should be going to the garden center for your spring plant shopping and not a box store–at least if you are a brand new plant buyer. We’ll talk about what to look for on Friday.
I planted this tree in 1997. I bought it as a tiny sapling, on close out, the prior year. I had originally planned to make it into a bonsai.
After a nearby dogwood showed signs of decline, I decided that I would plant the maple instead and let it grow up as the dogwood declined.
I am not sure what I was thinking about when I planted it in this narrow spot. Talk about wrong place! Nevertheless, the tree has thrived and has found a way to cope.
And despite the presence of the above ground roots, don’t think that the tree is compromised. I have talked about my rock ledge many times. This is how trees in my yard have to cope. All of our trees look like this .
Do you know this tree? It is a Katsura tree. It also comes in a weeping form.
It looks pretty unremarkable now. You can just see touches of its yellow fall color showing up on some of the outer branches.
What’s remarkable is that the leaves are scented, however. I have heard this for years but I sort of discounted it. I have never really smelled much of anything from this tree (it’s on my street, but I have walked by it for years with my dogs.)
Over the years, I have even picked up hands full of the fallen leaves to sniff to try to find a scent, but nothing.
This year is entirely different. I can be on the opposite side of the street and get a scent from the tree.
What does it smell like? Some people say chocolate and others say vanilla. I will just say that it smells sweet. And it’s not a strong, cloying sweet like some of the plants (my snake plants come to mind here). It’s just a sweet scent in the air that if I didn’t know that the tree had fragrant leaves, I would be losing my mind trying to find the flower making the scentrip.
Obviously it is a large tree so it is not right for every home. But if you have the space for a tree like this, you might consider planting one. It will surprise you.
Last week I posted a photo about the quality of light that told me that the seasons were changing. I also had a photo of a type of spider that appears this time of year in my garden (at least in a size when its big enough for me to notice).
Since seasons are changing in the northern hemisphere, what should gardeners be doing?
Certain lucky gardeners can plant whole second gardens of course. And if I were organized enough, I could get in a second crop of faster growing things like leaf lettuces and radishes and perhaps even peas if I had started then a bit earlier. But honestly, between the drought this summer and the poor critters that have been coming to the gardens to get at the produce because there’s no other sources for moisture, I really don’t have much desire to plant anything else as a “salad” crop for critters.
If this has not been your problem, by all means, plant a second crop of edibles!
One thing that should be done this time of year–even for those of us in drought stricken areas unless there is a watering ban–is to renovate the lawn. But please, folks, once again, let’s do this sensibly.
I noticed that one of my neighbors–the one that has been having a lawn company pesticide the heck out of their lawn literally every single week all summer long–finally had some core aeration done. Any wonder why that was necessary? This is the same neighbor that “tried” organic care last year but then said that the lawn looked terrible. I hate to tell you what it looks like this year. It’s completely fried from all those chemicals in a drought. But no one’s asking my advice.
If someone were, I would say the core aeration is a great place to start. A little layer of compost might be next. Ditch the pesticides and don’t fertilize–not in this drought! Lawn renovation might have to wait. But compost and aeration will never do any harm.
If you haven’t gotten around to ordering bulbs, you probably should. Even where I live, it’s still too warm to plant. But you definitely want to reserve them so that you get your choice. The growers won’t ship until it’s the appropriate time to plant anyway. And bulbs are remarkably forgiving.
Finally, get out to your garden centers. Anything that is left over is going to be on sale at a nice discount. And they most likely will have brought in some great new fresh stock for fall planting too. While that may not be discounted, you might see just the thing (beyond mums, cabbages and pumpkins) to liven up the yard for years to come. Just remember that you will need to water it if nature is not helping you.
So what are you waiting for? Fall has some of the best gardening weather around. Go out, enjoy, and get planting!
The Mount was Edith Wharton’s home from 1902 to 1911. It was her first home and it was her design lab, so to speak–she used the principles that she wrote about in her non-fiction book, Decoration of Houses, to design the house.
Wharton, like Mabel Choate, had traveled in Italy and would later write another non-fiction book, Italian Villas and Their Gardens, so the gardens are heavily influenced by European design.
This is the alleé of pleached linden trees (which she referred to as lime trees in the European fashion).
At one end is a very shady, formal garden enclosed by high walls covered in climbing hydrangea. It has nooks for benches (rather than statuary as European gardens might), a fountain at the center and paths within surrounding formal beds enclosed by low hedges.
At the other end of the alleé is almost its polar opposite, influenced by British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. There are flowers beds of hot colored flowers–neatly contained, but nevertheless a riot of color.
There were American natives cone flowers and meadow rue, plus annuals like zinnia and floss flower and perennials like lady’s mantle, astilbe and bee balm.
Overall, however, the effect throughout all the gardens is one of formality–as one might find in European gardens-rather than the cottage gardens popular in England or the new American meadow garden style.
Having visited this garden on the same day as Naumkeag, it was an interesting contrast. The two gardens were almost contemporaneous–this one was designed during a brief time and then Ms. Wharton moved on to France after her marriage dissolved whereas the Choate family continued to garden at Naumkeag for decades until the late 1950s–and yet they very different as well perhaps because of the “snapshot in time” that the Mount represents.
But that’s the beauty of seeing different gardens. No matter what you see, there’s always something interesting and different to learn.