Sunday, March 25, 2012

Leftovers for sale

There is a benefit to having plants that seed themselves all over the garden: extra income! Last year, I allowed the spent blooms on my butterfly bush to stay on dry up. That fall and winter, the seeds dispersed in numerous spots in the garden and shortly germinated, and now I have lots of Buddleia seedlings ranging from 8-12” high.


They sprouted mostly in the paths around the garden, so they would have had to be moved anyway. Since I don’t really have much more room for large shrubs like Butterfly Bush, I’ve potted them up and will likely sell them for $7.50 a piece. Similarly, I have tons of volunteer spiderwort plants (Tradescantia spp.) that are slowly taking over the garden, so those two were dug up and put in pots to be sold. In the next few days, I plan to do the same thing with scores of volunteer Rose of Sharon hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) that have popped up as well. What could be better than de-cluttering the garden and making a few extra bucks while you’re at it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Signs of spring

Now that I've adjusted to the time change and one less hour of sleep, I'm finding it hard to come inside in the evenings once I get home from my landscaping work. I grab a quick bite to eat, and head into the garden to continue clean-up work..pulling back the leaf mulch, cutting back the fountain grass, moving a few things around. This is my favorite time of the year in the garden, watching everything come back to life, finding surprises such as my pineapple sage plant that came back, despite being listed as an annual here in zone 7. I took a few pics from the first blooms of the season. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Opening act

March and April are like the 4th of July for gardeners…flowering cherries, pears, peaches, plums, magnolias, redbuds, and dogwoods are blooming at full power. Few sights are more magical than gazing down a row Bradford pears or a woodland mix of dogwoods and redbuds, or a solitary ‘Jane’ Magnolia lighting up a front yard, with no leaves yet to obscure the showy flowers. It’s the grand kickoff to a new year of gardening, and while I don’t quite have room in my already-crowded garden for these trees, I do have a spring-blooming Camellia japonica called ‘Romany’ which is bursting with double red flowers. It catches my eye every time I glance out the window.


This particular Camellia has held up very well in our zone 7 winters. Granted, this winter has been unusually warm but we did have a few cold spells back in January where temperatures dipped into the 20s for a few nights, with some frost. Both foliage and the young flower buds were undamaged, which is rare for a japonica that isn’t a hybrid crossed with the cold-hardy Camellia oleifera or sasanqua species.

Next to bloom in my garden will be Viburnum x carlcephalum ‘Cayugga’, a snowball type viburnum with a heavenly spicy scent. This viburnum is closely related to V. carlesii, or Korean spice Viburnum. After flowering, it doesn’t offer much the rest of the year, but the early spring burst of those fragrant, white puff ball blooms is worth it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Invasion of the weedy plants!

When most gardeners hear the word “invasive” in relation to plants, most likely they would think of common weeds in their own garden. But in many cases, an ornamental plant can be invasive with no signs of taking over in the immediate area. For example, Nandina (also known as Heavenly Bamboo) and Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) feature bright red berries in the fall. These berries are eaten by birds, then “deposited” in natural settings wherever the birds travel. Those seeds germinate and become new plants. The shade from those new Nandinas and Burning Bush plants then makes it difficult for neighboring native plants to survive, plants that were  used to full sun conditions. The loss of native plants is never a good thing…that’s less food sources for wildlife. Over time, it has implications for the food chain and the health of entire ecosystems.

This issue of invasive, non-native plants is just now starting to garner some attention from gardeners and others throughout the horticultural industry. Many state agriculture departments have lists of invasive plants (such as this one, for Virginia) but they are, for the most part, voluntary. Nurseries and garden centers, as far as I’m aware, have discretion as to whether they want to sell some of these plants or not. As a landscaper, I try to steer my clients away from these non-native invasives, and towards the many wonderful native plants that can be just as showy and beautiful as the ones that have been introduced from China, England, Japan, and other parts of the world. [Click here to read a great article on the benefits of using native plants]

It’s hard to fault nurseries for wanting to sell long-time favorites like Burning Bush and Nandina…they’re tough and durable, standing up to heat and drought exceptionally well, and put on quite a show in the fall with a wide range of reds and maroons. But my hope is that as more and more gardeners become educated and interested in native plants and their benefit to not just their own gardens but to the whole ecosystem, the trend will continue at the retail and wholesale levels as well.

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