Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Anticipation of Spring

It's been a snowy, rainy, icy winter here in Massachusetts. Now that February is quickly departing, Spring must be arriving soon. I can tell that winter has lasted too long as I've begun looking through gardening catalogs and websites with many sighs and thoughts of warm workable soil. The snowdrops in the warmer part of the garden have begun flowering but the Hellebores haven't shown much activity yet. Snowdrops are one of my favorite bulbs. They're easy to grow, multiply without dividing, and tolerate all kinds of growing conditions. Today brings about some warm(ish) dry weather which means I'll begin cleaning up broken branches and clearing out the horrible bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, that keeps turning up in the yard.

Invasive plants are a topic I've had an interest in for quite some time. Bittersweet and I have a long and antagonistic relationship. Once I think we've finally broken up for good, its sprung up somewhere else and grown far faster than any plant has a right to. Added to this list is the infamous Black Walnut, Jugluns nigra. Ok, ok, it's not on any invasive plant lists that I've seen, but its managed to become a major thug in the yard. Squirrels bury the nuts and before long there are seedlings all over the place. Cut down a seedling, turn around, and suddenly it has sprouted new leaves and shows a determination to survive similar to the bittersweet. Last, but not least, is the truly nasty Rosa multiflora. I have no idea where this first turned up in the yard, but it has made such a pest of itself I'm about ready to pour gasoline on any stems I find and light a match. It's quite pretty when it flowers and the hips are excellent in wreaths but beyond that the plant is downright nasty. Oh, I suppose the birds enjoy hiding in it and I'm sure the berries provide a nutritious food source, but I've had enough. So, the major tasks this spring include dealing with the invasives.

While the invasives are thriving in the yard the same cannot be said for plants I pay money for. I've managed to kill numerous perennials, shrubs and trees. The poor things think they're gaining a safe home and I manage to put them in the wrong place or forget to water them. In other cases, they just mysteriously fail to thrive. While working with customers I'd suggest that plants are very much like children, more often than not they don't turn out like you'd hope. So although I enjoy plants and can spend all kinds of money on additions to the garden, I do not have a 100% success rate.

Recommended Plant of the Day: Each post I'll recommend a plant that I've grown and enjoyed or one I've experienced in the trade and have wanted to grow.
So, for this entry I recommend: Epimedium grandiflorum "White Queen." Epimediums are fantastic perennials. They tolerate dry shade, have few problems with insects or disease, and spread fairly rapidly. Additionally, they divide easily to be shared with friends. "White Queen" has proven especially tolerant of my garden. The flowers are showy and far larger than other Epimediums. They have massive spurs, reminicient of Columbines and the light green leaves always look fresh.

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