Horticulture Corner

Horticulture Corner-April 2022

By Maureen Loomer

“It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” ―Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950), American poet

White-throated sparrows have replaced the dark-eyed juncos in my yard, and my bluebird box is occupied. The lone hummingbird I saw at my mother’s house was likely a male scouting out the territory.   Ruby-throated is the only species that nests in our area and the females should be following the males into the area in the next two weeks. Fellow bird lover and former TWGC member Cindy Robinson alerted me to a great website https://www.234birds.org/.  

Running/walking in Trent Woods: The Ag Extension and Forestry Services will start offering a bounty on Bradford Pear trees this month https://forestry.ces.ncsu.edu/2022/03/nc-bradford-pear-bounty/?src=rss. Paula Hartman reports that her hellebore (Lenten rose), gifted by her cousin in Chapel Hill, has never bloomed so beautifully. These winter-spring bloomers thrive in sheltered partially-shaded areas. Our winter had the not-too-cold-or-wet conditions they love. 

Carolina Jessamine is another evergreen that produces yellow trumpet-shaped blooms in our area from late winter until April. You may see this vine supported on fences or mailboxes. 

What’s “up” in Dr. Mo’s garden? Thespirea I pruned by 1/3 last fall has leafed out nicely. I hope for a great bloom in the next two months. All things herbal are going gang-busters, especially in the shed, walled, and milkweed gardens where the plants are somewhat sheltered. The white sage is evergreen, and the bronze fennel never died back once the swallowtails were gone. Mints and ornamental onions are all up, and the garlic chives will need harvesting this week to keep them blooming. Although the fern leaf lavender did not survive, my favorite lavender, Anouk, is in full bloom. More stems popped out of what I feared was frost-burn, and I will have to move the Mexican mint marigold that has shared Anouk’s raised bed since I transplanted them last year. The common rue is also in full bloom and already hosting lots of bumblebees.                                                                                                             

Work to do! The last week has primarily been devoted to prepping the beds and containers for the soil amendments and mulch I have stored up. Although April 3 is considered the last frost date for us, I will wait a week or so to transplant some Stoke’s asters to the woodland garden from the patio containers they have outgrown. If the mild conditions continue for the next week or two, I will give Anouk a haircut of not more than six inches. Anouk is about seven years old and not woody enough for me to chance anything more drastic. I will do the same for the common rue. I have compost to mix into the beds and new potting soil for the containers, so plenty to keep me busy.

It’s Tick Season! There are ticks where there are deer, mice, birds, or other vertebrates. They prefer dark, moist, warm areas, and I have already encountered them while trimming back ornamental grasses in the woodland garden. To avoid harming pollinators, I treat my skin and clothing with REPEL products which I have found effective even during EarthWatch field research in Maine. I will try some of the new environmentally-friendly yard sprays and report my findings. The CDC https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html and Prevention magazine https://www.prevention.com/health/a22095155/best-tick-repellents/ have good info on this topic. 

Member questions:  Sue Wyatt asked at the March 10 meeting for help identifying an evergreen shrub in her yard with lavender blooms. The PictureThis! app she used identified it as Buddleia lindleyana, but Sue says she has been told it is NOT a butterfly bush. The tiny tubular blooms appear to be on arching pannicles. I am familiar with buddleia as a deciduous shrub with narrow leaves and summer blooms that dissolve into LOTS of seeds by fall. Plant Delights says that B. lindleyana is the much lesser-known Weeping Butterfly Bush and is very different from the B. davidii Butterfly Bush that we have seen for many years. However, they emphasize that this species is dormant in the winter and should not bloom so early.   Wendy from Pinecone Garden Center agreed. Of course, the plant may not have read the literature. I will continue to research this question.

Garden centers etc.: Pinecone has some hellebores left, and the centers are full of spring plants. I  found Rattlesnake Masterto add to my pollinator collection when I met native plant grower Karen Mulcahey (Facebook@AbovetheBriary) at the Home and Garden Show.

Until next time…

by Maureen Loomer

 Horticulture Corner-January 2022
By Maureen Loomer
“And Winter slumbering in the open air, wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring …”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Garden chores:  I join Southern Living’s “Grumpy Gardener” as a believer in raking up dead leaves from my lawn.  I add the leaves to the berm between my back garden and the wetland behind.  This mulching protects the berm, discourages briars, and provides shelter for insects, amphibians, and birds.
My mother had me plant more narcissus, ranunculus, and hyacinths in her garden in late October. As I pointed out at the December meeting, our mild winters accommodate planting into January.  Spring bulbs and rhizomes planted until the end of January will have time to set a root system before flowering after any planted in fall but before the hot weather starts.  This might be a great strategy for extending the season for some of your spring favorites. 
The woody varieties in my herb garden (germander, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and lavender) are evergreen, and both the rue and the bronze fennel are still green; sheltered by the shed garden.  Those of you thinking ahead to the TWGC herb sale might want to consider that these (as well as bays, marjoram, and some mints) are winter hearty.  They will retreat with a hard freeze but will come back (and even flower) during mild days.  As always, please remember to plant with good drainage and appropriate sun exposure in mind.
Evergreens are only one source of winter interest in the garden.  I brought you some seed pods from one of my garden favorites this month.  These can be left in the garden or harvested for arrangements indoors. 
Running and Walking in Trent Woods:  Peer-reviewed studies find that the average American gains about 1.5 lbs during the holidays, and it is believed that failure to lose that weight year-to-year is a major contributor to cumulative weight gained through middle and old age. I hope you are enjoying the mild weather that allows us to enjoy the outdoors pretty much year-round.  Please take advantage of our parks and sidewalks to indulge in some birdwatching, dog-walking, and other healthful activities.   
Garden Center Report:  My visits to Lowe’s and Pinecone revealed that both had sold out of Christmas trees before mid-month.  Pinecone had a large selection of annuals and perennials for planting now.  I purchased calendulas and snapdragons to brighten up the patio garden and pansies for the front porch.  I was pleased to find both honeybees and sulfur butterflies nectaring on them on some of our warm days.
Of course, I reluctantly purchased poinsettias to join my old Christmas cacti.  As much as I enjoy their brief gaudy show, it is always sad to have to mulch them in January.  My Christmas cacti, at least, survive happily in the sunroom.
Would you like to be interviewed for Meet the Gardener?
I am looking for volunteers!  Interviews can be conducted by telephone or face-to-face at the volunteer’s convenience.  If interested, please email me at bee27534@aol.com.
Until next month…
Horticulture Corner-October
By Maureen Loomer
“There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.”—Nathaniel Hawthorne
Monarchs on the Move: 
I have not seen monarchs for the last 2-3 weeks even though I still have some Asclepias tuberosa growing in my milkweed garden.  I would be interested in knowing how many of our membership have seen monarchs this year, especially if you grow milkweed for the larvae.  Typically, we are on the extreme eastern side of their journey south, but these can be disrupted by storm activity. 
A recent visit to the Pollinator Garden at Rassie-Wicker Park in Pinehurst revealed milkweed beetle activity on the common milkweed’s seed pods.  I rescued several pods and have collected the seeds which I will give to Wendy at Pinecone Garden Center for culturing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have this milkweed variety (known for its pink blooms and rose-vanilla scent) next summer?
Garden chores:
Autumn is the time for dividing irises and putting in perennials.  Hardy perennials can be put in the ground through the next several weeks.  Folks new to our area should know that the Eastern NC growing season typically lasts well into November as we seldom get frost before the middle of the month.  Last year our growing season officially ended November 18. 
I am in the process of re-planting my (so-called) cutting garden.  The Siberian irises have resisted division and taken over the plot, so I am taking most of them out.  I will transplant some to the sunny parts of the woodland garden.  I will replace them in the cutting garden with my surviving guara, Sweet William, and lanceleaf coreopsis.  A new addition to this cutting garden (which I never cut) is Society garlic.  I have frequently mentioned my love for ornamental onions because they are hardy, produce graceful blooms, and are some of the few plants the deer NEVER bother.  I have had good luck with all the alliums although my favorites are pink nodding onions.  Society garlic is not an allium (belonging to the family amaryllidaceae) but has enough onion-garlic scent to discourage the deer.  It also has a longer bloom time than my alliums. 
Requests from your Horticulture Chairman:
My goal for this year is to increase member participation in the horticulture end of TWGC.  Last month I floated my idea of recruiting members to volunteer for a face-to-face interview about their gardening experiences, which will be incorporated in this column in a “meet the gardener” segment.  If you would be willing to be interviewed but want to be anonymous, I will be glad to omit your name from the segment.  Also, I would appreciate having volunteers willing to EITHER donate a specimen for the monthly meeting OR suggest a plant for me to research that I can present at the monthly meeting for you OR present/request a horticulture question/problem.  I will mention this at the meeting, and if you would like to volunteer or know more, please email me at bee27534@aol.com.
Running and walking through Trent Woods
Unlike the rarified environment enjoyed by plants bred for the indoors, outdoor plants must continuously contend with sometimes brutal environmental change.  The foliage on outdoor trees and shrubs responds to the wide fluctuations in temperature/moisture as well as the normal solstice changes typical of our region.  These stressors cause leaf-drop in some species and color change as carotenoid production replaces chlorophylls.  Don’t confuse internet advice for indoor plants with what is normal to expect for outdoor plants.  Most of the plants you see around Trent Woods are natives or introduced species that survive because their innate defenses enable them to cope with mild predation by bacteria, invertebrate animals, and fungi.  The rare occasions when I have had a problem with fungi, I have simply pruned the affected plant severely.
Powdery mildew has been mild this year in my saucer magnolias, and severe in my monarda. They are in the rear of my shed garden where it has stayed quite damp.  Monarda at my mother’s house, in a southwest-facing cold frame, has done beautifully.
I encourage everybody to use the sidewalks and the walking track at Cottle Park to promote fitness. The fall of leaves and pine straw can make the sidewalks slippery, so it is even more important to use proper footwear.  Please be alert to children on bikes and scooters, especially just before and after school.  Since I run as soon as the sun comes up, I have changed my 3.5 mile route to avoid children heading to Bangert Elementary on Chelsea Road and Country Club Road.  Please avoid using telephones and other devices that distract you from your surroundings (especially someone coming from behind).  Please encourage friends and family to SHARE the sidewalks safely. 
Until next month…
October Horticulture Specimen 
Common Name: Society garlic, like my September selection, is not a NC native plant but one that you may like for your perennial garden.
Genus/Species:  Tulbaghia violacea
Character:  Delicate, sweetly fragrant flowers on deep green stems that smell of garlic when crushed. Various sources suggest it can bloom as early as late spring and may continue till frost. 
Origin:  South African grasslands
Size:   Forms clustering mounds like ornamental onions, up to 20 inches tall.
Lifespan:  Perennial, like ornamentals can be grown from seed, but it is easier to divide existing clusters.
Photographed in her garden by:   Maureen Loomer
Requirements: Full sun and well-drained soils.  

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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