Earth Day: In the garden this week

_DSC4544

Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is unfurling its fronds right now. This native fern grows in deep shade and poor, dry soil and remains green all winter.

Happy Earth Day! Instead of the usual Friday list of garden chores, here are some photos of the garden taken yesterday.

_DSC4537

Native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is stalking out and will begin to bloom very soon.

_DSC4547

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) will bloom very soon. This plant does great in sun or shade.

_DSC4549

About a dozen species of violets are native to New Jersey, and all are hosts to fritillaries.

Enjoy Earth Day in the garden (and don’t forget to water newly installed plants–we’re having another dry spring.)

Advertisements

How about growing this: Northern bush honeysuckle

_DSC1842

Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) is a handsome small shrub that thrives in poor, sandy soil.

Last spring I planted one bush honeysuckle in a shady spot where I’ve never been able to grow anything except Christmas fern. It did great, and I’ve ordered 6 more.

This is a plant for shady spots with poor, dry soil–need I say more? And it’s very attractive: the new growth throughout the season is lovely shades of red and gold, as you see in the photo above. This spring’s new growth is primarily burgundy. It produces many clusters of small yellow flowers in summer. It’s a member of the honeysuckle family, so the flowers are very pretty. And did I say it prefers shade and poor, dry soil?

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle)

Flowers of Diervilla lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle).

4/15/16: In the garden this week

DSC_4954-001

Some serviceberry (Amelanchier) species are in full bloom, some are still just showing buds.

It’s turning out to be another dry spring. Despite the series of strong storms we’ve experienced recently, we’ve had less than 2 inches of rain over the past 30 days. This means that plants you installed last fall, as well as those you put in this spring, need supplemental water. Woody species in particular need extra water during dry spells for at least a year while they’re becoming established: aim for at least an inch a week. The main reason plants don’t survive is insufficient water while they’re becoming established.

Have you ordered your plants yet? The major mail-order suppliers of natives are running out of the most popular plants, so if you were intending to order but keep putting it off, do it now! Some suppliers have started shipping, and local nurseries will receive most of their spring shipments within the next six weeks.

In addition to ordering your plants, here’s what you can do in the garden this week:

divide hardy perennials and grasses. Many of the toughest native plants–many grasses, asters, rudbeckias, boltonia, columbine, to name just a few–have been in active growth for weeks. I start dividing as soon as each species is ready, and I try to do it right before it rains (saves watering). I’ve been at it for 2-3 weeks and have enlarged several beds to receive these divisions and others later in the season.

— you should have cleaned up the vegetable garden last fall, but if you didn’t, do it now! Remove dead plants and weeds, spread compost or rotted manure to prepare for spring planting.

— because the nights are still cool, continue to direct-sow seeds of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas.

— start vegetable seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— Weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard, which is about to flower. This noxious weed is particularly easy to remove–grab the base of the plant, and unless the soil is compacted, you’ll get the whole root system in one firm tug. It’s too late to pull western bittercress, which has already gone to seed. Mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

— if you’re planning on ordering native plants from specialty nurseries, get your order in now! Many companies are already sold out of the most popular plants. Some companies have started shipping. Once the plants arrive, get them in the ground as soon as you can. If you must hold them for a few days, put them in the shadiest spot you can find.

— if you or your lawn service has sown grass seed, water several times a day until the grass is up. Otherwise you’re just scattering birdseed. And it’s much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until Memorial Day. Even better, don’t fertilize at all this year. I bet the grass will do just fine.

This will be a gorgeous weekend to be out in the garden. Enjoy!

DSC_4876

Our native plum tree, Prunus americana, rivals any ornamental plum for the beauty of its flowers.

4/8/16: In the garden this week

DSC_4617

Serviceberry buds have reached their “string of pearls” stage. Gorgeous!

It’s cold again! A cool spring means that most plants stay in bloom longer, so enjoy the early spring bloomers. And if you want to brave the weather and get out into the garden this week, there’s plenty to do:

— you should have cleaned up the vegetable garden last fall, but if you didn’t, do it now! Remove dead plants and weeds, spread compost or rotted manure to prepare for spring planting.

— continue to direct-sow seeds of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas. They’ll germinate and grow when the weather is warm and stall when it turns cold. But cold weather won’t hurt them, and you’ll have spring greens as early as possible.

— start vegetable seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— Weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard. It’s too late to pull western bittercress, which has already gone to seed. Mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

— it’s really a bit too early to divide and plant perennials, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been dividing and moving very hardy, early appearing plants for a couple of weeks now: purple lovegrass and Junegrass (but not little bluestem, which isn’t in active growth yet); ginger, shade asters, sedges; coreopsis and sun-loving asters are among the plants that are extremely cold hardy and surviving early division quite well.

— if you’re planning on ordering native plants from specialty nurseries, get your order in as soon as possible. Many companies are already sold out of the most popular plants. Reputable companies will start shipping in late April or early May.

— if you or your lawn service has sown grass seed, water several times a day until the grass is up. Otherwise you’re just scattering birdseed. And it’s much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until Memorial Day. Even better, don’t fertilize at all this year. I bet the grass will do just fine.

What’s in bloom in your garden?

_DSC4485

Native plum tree is in full bloom, while most native trees aren’t even thinking of leafing out yet. The light-green growth at top right is a Norway maple. The big ash tree at center left is still bare.

Survival

DSC_4889

Blossoms of native plum (Prunus americana) continue to unfold despite the late frost.

I’m happy to report that all my tough native plants are doing just fine despite two nights when temperatures dipped down into the 20s. Even the plants that I had just divided look good. The photo above was taken in 2014, but the plum blossoms look just like that today.

This is a good year for Dutchman’s breeches (meaning that the rabbits didn’t eat the one measly flower stalk that comes up every year). If you have shade and rich soil, by all means try this lovely, early blooming native and its cousin, native bleeding heart (Dicentra cucullaria and D. eximia), as well as other spring-blooming denizens of rich, most soil such as blood root and Virginia bluebells.

DSCN1730

Dutchman’s breeches (D. culcullaria) in a very shady spot in my front garden. I divided the tiny corms two years ago and three small clumps came up this year, but only one is in bloom.

Spring buds

On this cold, dark day, I thought you’d enjoy seeing some pictures of spring buds that my husband took last Friday. You can see all the potential for this season’s growth encapsulated in these early buds. Notice particularly how the plants that bloom early produce fully formed flower buds along with the first tiny leaves.

_DSC4455

Ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius, blooms in mid-May. Flower buds are not apparent yet, but aren’t the new leaves lovely!

_DSC4456

Cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum) will bloom by late April. Notice the flower buds held proudly above the new pairs of leaves.

_DSC4459

Robert Frost was wrong: Nature’s first green is more often red than gold. Notice how the new leaves and flower buds of black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) emerge from the dark-red buds.

_DSC4462

Nothing is more exquisite than the flowering bracts of our lovely native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as they slowly enlarge and turn creamy white.

_DSC4465

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) lights up the woods in early spring with its tiny green-gold flowers.

DSC_4744

Our native plum tree (Prunus americana) rivals any Japanese flowering plum tree for the beauty of its flowers–and it produces plums! I wish I could recommend this tree to more clients. Unfortunately it suckers prolifically so it’s hard to use in any but the most informal designs. (Full disclosure: this photo was taken on April 21, 2014. The buds looks just like this today. We are having a very early spring!)

4/1/16: In the garden this week

_DSC4437

We lost a large Norway maple in the windstorm on Monday night. It smashed one of our cars; luckily, we were out, or it would have smashed both. The only good thing about this tree is that its rotten branches sheltered a lot of birds. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see what’s left.

It’s been an eventful week, to say the least, in and out of the garden. Truly bizarre weather, very strong winds; it’s 70 degrees now, but it’s supposed to snow on Monday.

Are you absolutely itching to get out there and plant? It really is too early, but I did succumb to temptation yesterday afternoon and dig up and divide a couple of plants of very tough native grasses. Grasses respond best to being divided in early spring, and I knew we were going to have some rain, so I went for it. But I’ll hold off a while onger on the full-scale dividing and moving of perennials I do every spring.

In the meantime, here are some things you could be doing in your garden this week:

— you should have cleaned up the vegetable garden last fall, but if you didn’t, do it now! Remove dead plants and weeds, spread compost or rotted manure to prepare for spring planting.

— continue to direct sow seeds of cool-weather crops such as lettuce, mesclun mix, spinach, arugula and peas. They’ll germinate and grow when the weather is warm and stall when it turns cold. But cold weather won’t hurt them, and you’ll have spring greens as early as possible.

— start vegetable seeds for warm-weather crops such as tomatoes and squash. You can find a list of dates for starting seeds in this post.

— Weed! Dig up wild garlic and dandelions and pull garlic mustard. It’s too late to pull western bittercress, which has already gone to seed. Mustards go to seed particularly early, so it’s a good idea to pull them as soon as you recognize them. And they’re easy to pull.

— as weeds and lawn grasses begin to grow, neaten the edges of your perennial and shrub beds. It’s easier to do it now, when the weeds’ and grasses’ root systems are relatively small, than it will be once the weather turns warm.

— if you or your lawn service has sown grass seed, water several times a day until the grass is up. Otherwise you’re just scattering birdseed. And it’s much too early to fertilize the lawn. Wait until Memorial Day. Even better, don’t fertilize at all this year. I bet the grass will do just fine.

And here’s what’s left of that Norway maple–a large snag. Dead trees are excellent shelter for wildlife, so we left the trunk standing. Eventually we’ll plant a good-sized silver maple (Acer saccharinum) nearby. Silver maples are trees that were originally growing here in our sandy river-bottom soil but have been largely replaced by alien species.

Enjoy the garden this week!

_DSC4451

Eventually we’ll disguise this snag with additional plantings. The front island will get too much sun now that the big tree is gone.