19th May 2017 Free Plants

Susan’s Garden—I’m ridiculously pleased when plants reseed themselves in unexpected places. Gravel pathways are the easiest way to propagate plantswithout lifting a finger. I’ve found tiny cedar trees, physocarpus, butterfly bushes, geraniums, coneflowers, penstemon, and columbine all in less than three feet of pathway. If I pull them up early enough, I’ll get the whole root system very easily. Ajuga’Chocolate Chip’, phlox, and thyme can be pulled up in sheets and transplanted around the garden.  

   I’ve been spraying my columbine with systemic insect spray to kill the little green caterpillar that strips the leaves off leaving just stems and buds. You have to spray every plant including the seedlings, or else they’ll be stripped overnight. If you have aphids on your birch trees, consider using a systemic soak.

   Its easy to see dead stems on shrubs like hydrangea now that the leaves have started, so just prune off the tips or prune lightly to shape. Every few years, spirea and barberry can use a hard prune. It will rejuvenate them and allow you to remove the dead

5th May 2017 Cloudy Skies


I’m taking advantage of the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies, to translant over-crowded beds and divide some of the perennials. When hostas heaves are still rolled up tight, its easy to cut them into nice chunks. Once the leaves get larger, it becomes more difficult to avoid breaking the leaves. I don’t like to divide spring blooming plants now like hellebore, pulmonaria and brunnera, but summer-blooming plants like phlox, helenium and rudbeckias will still flower with barely a hitch in growth if they’re divided now.
   If you have the room, shrub borders can provide you with a continuous supply of flowers. Witch hazel and cornus maas are much more subtle than forsythia, but I appreciate the flowers more. Lilacs, kerria, fothergilla, quince, earlier-blooming viburnum, and azaleas are blooming now. Mock orange, rhododendrons, later-blooming lilacs and viburnums, and physocarpus will start flowering next. Weigela, spirea, and potentilla are easy summer shrubs and rose-of-sharon and hydrangea will take you into late summer. Personally, I couldn’t have a garden with at least one of each of these shrubs.

What a difference a month makes!

What a difference a month makes!  All my plantings have evergreens in them, junipers, boxwod, holly, or spruce, but until the perennials and shrubs fill out, the garden can still look pretty bleak. Drifts of evergreen perennials like ginger, lamium, ajuga, hellebores, and geraniums add even more color and texture as their new leaves continue to sprout. Epimediums old leaves and stems were cut back a few weeks ago and the tiny orchid-like flowers are filling out nicely. This is a great plant for dry shade and can be a slow bit slow at first to spread, but its worth the wait. 

   My dog is doing her best to keep the frogs corralled in the pond, perhaps a little to zealously at times. One frog has only one eye and though I hate to blame my sweet gardening friend, I have to constantly remind her ‘No teeth’!

   Mustard weed is already nearly a foot high and cleverly hides itself at the base of plants. Remove them as soon as possible before they go to seed. Bittercress is another weed that you don’t want to delay eradicating. Its seeds ripen very quickly and shoot quite a distance. This weed has tiny white flowers and is only about 6 or 8 inches high.

   I’ve barely raked the last of the pin oak leaves out of the garden beds, when last years beech leaves are starting to fall. These are two trees to place far away from mixed beds.

Susan’s Garden 22nd April 2017

It’s amazing how fast everything’s growing! A garden maybe empty in the morning, but go by again mid-afternoon, and  ligularias black ruffled leaves are suddenly up and unfurling, primulas yellow buds are opening, and the spiky closed leaves of brunnera expand to show slivers of silver. Spirea and barberry tiny leaves are a haze of soft gold, lime green and vibrant orange. Ajugas dead mass of leaves is suddenly showing shiny new growth. You have to look closely for leaves on the viburnum . They remain closed and are the same color as the stem bark. But the lilacs already have buds forming. Please no late frosts!

You have to work quickly, but there’s still time to prune your smoke bushes back if you don’t mind losing the puffs of smoke in favor of larger, richer colored leaves. Trim last years flower heads off rose-of-sharon and hydrangea. If you have ‘Annabelle, which has a suckering habit, you can trim just the top off for a taller plant, or cut it back nearly to the ground for a lower plant. If it’s a shrub form, prune off the dead wood to a bud and prune to shape.

Remove last year’s leaves are soon as possible. They can be smothering perennials and keeping too much moisture around plants particularly sedums.