Horticulture Corner

by Maureen Loomer

Horticulture Corner-December 2020

By Maureen Loomer

A chorus of sparrows in summer is how I remember you.  The fire of maples in autumn is how I remember you.  The silence of snowfall in winter is how I remember you. 

                                                       –Michael Franks on “Dragonfly Summer” (1993 album).

Runs in the autumn weather are my payoff for faithful running in summer’s heat and humidity.  Trent Woods is a beautiful town and I want to “shout out” to the professionals who are bringing us sidewalks that make our outdoor time even better.  They are friendly, courteous, and ever-vigilant for safety. 

Sedum Envy:  As a native Californian, I am embarrassed to say I am not a huge fan of succulents, but I make an exception for the sedums.  Both native and naturalized species of autumn sedum (aka stonecrop) are tough, colorful features of the North Carolina perennial garden (https://extensiongardener.ces.ncsu.edu/extgardener-remarkable-and-versatile-sedums/).  I have kept the upright cultivar “Autumn Fire” for four years in my container garden.  I also have several creeping cultivars that are less showy but keep weeds down and are great “fillers”. My mother, whose yard is blessed with better drainage than mine has an upright in the ground.  Flower heads form early in summer but the real show is from October through frost.  You can cut them down after frost or just leave the flower heads for winter interest.

Please enjoy the photo I took at the entrance to Canterbury Park where an upright sedum (maybe “Autumn Joy”?) is planted with sedges and iris.  The raised bed keeps the soil well-drained.  Good drainage and mostly-sun to full sun are all these hardy plants require.  Mine did not do well this year, but I bought some more Autumn Fire at Pinecone.  Fine Gardening has a nice article on using the creeping varieties.  I hope sedum envy is a lesser sin!

Garden Centers:  I visited Pinecone and Lowe’s before Thanksgiving and found both in transition to Christmas Trees, cabbages, and kales.  I snagged a rosemary from the bargain table at Lowe’s and some wallflowers at Pinecone.  I’ll see what I can do with them.  While at Pinecone I also grabbed a pineapple sage (full of blooms!), fern leaf lavender, and more bronze fennel.

Maureen’s Garden:  The walled herb garden has endured two frosts now but only the basils have returned to their fathers.  Rues, oreganos, and lavenders all still look good, and anise hyssop is blooming.  I moved the pots of heucheras (coral bells) up close to the sun room.  They are evergreen in a mild winter and I love their color. I have moved a few hardy herbs to the sunroom and will take photos next for next month.

Since it is December, I am concluding with a photo of a Christmas Cactus in my sunroom.  Happy holidays to all!  Please send any questions you would like me to research!

Until next month….

Horticulture Corner-March 2020
By Maureen Loomer
Now when the primrose makes a splendid show, And lilies face the March-winds in full blow, And humbler growths as moved with one desire Put on, to welcome spring, their best attire…
                                                                                       –William Wordsworth, “Poor Robin,” 

Garden center report: Flowering plants. 
Lowe’s had an abundance of potted bulbs in various degrees of maturity when I visited on March 2.  If your daffodils got blasted by our recent snow storm or your hyacinths are already spent and you want blooms for Easter, you might want to drop by.  I will be putting some in a container to decorate my front porch, then lift the bulbs to put in the ground for next spring.  Lowe’s also had primroses and Carolina jessamine, both flowering very nicely.  Those of you that attended the February meeting will recall that our speaker recommended Carolina jessamine as a good choice for extending the food supply for our pollinators. 
Pinecone had Lenten roses (Helleborus sp.), an old-fashioned favorite that I have never tried.  This relative to the buttercup is a herbaceous, woody-stemmed, evergreen perennial that deer avoid, so I think I may put some in the shady part of my woodland garden.  The NC extension says they are easy to grow (https://pitt.ces.ncsu.edu/2015/11/lenten-rose-for-winter-color/) New cultivars are much more colorful than the older varieties that are mostly white or green. This is the first time I have seen them at Pinecone and I am very tempted to give them a try.
Pinecone also had the colorful “Origami” hybrid of columbine (Aquilegia sp.), a deer-resistant buttercup-relative that is a North Carolina native.  They will die back in the summer, but would be very nice in the spring cutting-garden.  More information on these at (https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/980/origami-mix-columbine/).
Ground covers: 
It is time to start thinking about weed control, and putting down pre-emergents and new mulch.  I only do this in a few of my beds since I like to encourage the flowering weeds that are important too so many of the non-colonial pollinating insects that were discussed by our speaker at the February meeting.  For those of you who are interested in putting in ground covers that provide pollen, perhaps you would be interested in considering red creeping thyme which has done very well in both my walled herb garden and the sunny part of my woodland garden.  I also like to grow it in my container garden.  Another consideration might be mossy rockfoil (Saxifraga sp.).  On my visit, Lowe’s had a really pretty saxifrage cultivar “Alpino, early Picotee” that claims a bloom window of 10 weeks! This could be a good choice for mounding or spreading in dappled sun (https://garden.org/plants/view/653686/Saxifraga-Alpino-Early-Picotee/).
            For those of you looking to replace part of your conventional lawn with a no-mow or low-mow option, there are some great choices including dwarf mondo grasses.  I had never seen the “black” variety before, but after seeing it at Pinecone on today’s visit I decided to see what I could find out.  This article in the Charlotte Observer might be of interest https://www.charlotteobserver.com/living/home-garden/nancy-brachey/article41693211.html  
Wendy at Pinecone wants you to know that she has vegetables now, and more coming in!  Until next month….

Horticulture Corner-February
By Maureen Loomer
They say if there is a rosemary bush in the garden there is a strong woman in the house.             —-   Briscoe White, thegrowers-exchange.com
            At the January meeting, VP Ann reminded us that the club’s annual herb sale is fast-approaching and needs every member’s support.  She brought a sprig of rosemary to help us all get into a herbal mindset, so I am doing my bit to continue the momentum Ann started. 
            The pic here is from the large mulched bed in the most elevated portion of my back garden.  From late spring through late fall, this area is dominated by a large old crape myrtle that keeps it shady.  At the extreme edge is this rosemary “Arp” that I planted next about 10 years ago.  As you can see, it is just coming into full bloom and looks brilliant next to the bright foliage of a dwarf nandina. As the Ag Extension https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/salvia-rosmarinus/  noted, it will bloom through early spring.  Both plants thrive in the 6+hours of full sun made possible by the fact that the crape myrtle is bare in winter.  “Arp” and “Hardy Hill” are cold-hardy upright cultivars most commonly planted in our area, along with “Prostratus” or creeping rosemary. Prostratus looks so pretty clambering over the rocks in my Woodland garden.  I will prune back the woody stems on my older plants after they finish blooming to discourage legginess.  This is one plant you can’t get the deer to prune for you!
            The rosemary plants elsewhere in the garden are doing well except for those planted in the walled herb garden where I think the heavy rain has caused some over-all yellowing.  This area drains poorly.  I checked the soil pH and found it to be in the acceptable slightly-acid range.  If the yellowing continues after some dry weather I will give them a bit of food in case there is a nutrient problem.  Since the ones in the containers look good, I really suspect it is the hydrology. 
If you have poor drainage then containers are the way to go with rosemary because, as with most herbs, soggy roots are deadly.  A container planted with rosemary and companion plants with the same light/water/soil needs will give you much needed color in the winter, and can be easy-care all year long.  Not to mention the lovely scent and culinary uses.  Rosemary and olive oil: yum.  Pass the bread, please.
Elsewhere in the garden, my bulbs (narcissus and crocus) started shooting up in the last two weeks but perhaps may be slowed by the cooler temps rolling in this week (January 26).  I even have some alliums coming up.  I’m not worried, these plants are tough. 
Surprise, I have a pair of Baltimore Orioles that showed up in the last month!  They are likely stragglers from southward migration that were attracted by my feeders and the fruit on my crape myrtles and holly plants, according to Journey North https://journeynorth.org/tm/oriole/News.html.  I hope they stay for a while.  I’ll keep the suet and mealworms coming!  I haven’t gotten a photo yet, but will keep trying.

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