by Lois RoseWatching the seasons unfold this year after the unusual spring weather has been exciting and puzzling.Going back four winters, I am reminded that 2013-14 and 2014-15 were very difficult in terms of extreme and sustained cold. Many plants that had survived in my garden for decades were damaged severely by the first of these winters. The second dealt a glancing blow but it did not do as much damage.As an example my fig trees which had been in the ground for twenty years and had produced five hundred figs in the summer of 2013, were knocked to the ground. They produced new branches but no figs in 2014. Last year, 2016, I had a few dozen figs and this year my considerably larger trees are covered with baby figs, much earlier than usual, on their way to ripening in the fall. Everything in the yard seems to have come in two to three weeks early.
My hardy orange trees, Poncirus trifoliata have a lot of fruit now…small so far, fuzzy green oranges, the first since 2013. There were flowers last year but no fruit. Again, they flowered a few weeks earlier than usual.
Looking at my other fruit crops, black and red currants started ripening in mid June,weeks ahead. Raspberries were similarly ahead.
I have been doing some research online and asking friends from OSU to find some explanations for the patterns which reflect the weather conditions in this part of Ohio this spring. The mild winter, second in a row, is the foundation of the story..very warm temperatures in January and again in February started the ball rolling. Plants that had completed their chill hours…needed to set them up for their normal spring routines…were thrust into advancing buds which formed last summer and fall early. Maple trees started to open their signature red flowers a month earlier than usual. Soil temperatures rose early (get a soil thermometer if you want to be on top of this) and crab grass was ready to germinate in early to mid March (time for pre germination treatment) earlier than usual. Growing degree days (http://www.oardc.ohio-state.e
du/gdd/moved ahead quickly by March. Then some cool and cold weather slowed things down. May have produced some very cold weather (not unusual) which damaged various plants, especially those that had started to open buds or were in flower. The damaging cold was defined by temperatures at or below freezing for many hours. Michigan as well as Ohio received a cold spell on May 8 and 9. But depending on the specific place, its altitude, proximity to water, etc.,the results were varied.
Depending on your garden niche, proximity to the cold lake, how far to the east or west and how high above the lake, snow cover…all of these things contributed to the damage or lack thereof to our plant material.Friends have observed a good crop on their berries, and also on hibiscus, roses, and many other flowers and shrubs and trees.I am speculating that the two mild winters, generous amount of rain this spring compared with the three month drought last year…plus the recovery of many plants after two damaging winters..has resulted in this year’s bounty.
In my yard, I see very little damage after the cold spells in March and May which included freezing and snow after many plants had been exposed to the warm air and warm ground earlier than usual. Magnolia stellata had buds covered in frost. Daylilies were bent to the ground as were helleboresand many other perennials. Yet my magnolia blossomed well, and the hellebores were very floriferous.
On the whole it seems that the outcome has been favorable despite the gyrations and surprises of the spring. Cannot wait to see what is going to happen next year!
by Lois Rose
Notes on the United States Botanic Garden
Thought of by George Washington, the garden was established in 1820 and now is administered through the Architect of the Capitol. Its mission is to promote botanical knowledge through cultivation of a collection of plants, to present displays, exhibits and programs to Congress and the public, and to foster sustainability and plant conservation.
The garden is a short distance from the Capitol building. It is not very large, but contains a wide variety of interesting and unusual specimen plants, especially in alternative colors and shapes and sizes. In early spring—April—there was just the beginning of the display but phlox for example was in abundance. People who work in the neighborhood gather there at their lunch time, sit and read. Water features, clever companion planting, garden rooms—for its size it packs a punch.
The United States National Arboretum
The extensive grounds of the Arboretum deserve at least half a day. The Azalea Collection was in full bloom in April, with thousands of plants covering the sides of Mount Hamilton with paths going up and around. Many of the shrubs come from the breeding program of former director Benjamin Morrison, hybridizing large flowered tender azaleas in the Indica group with Hardy northern species between 1929 and 1954. The Glenn Dale Hillside contains thousands of hybrids. Late blooming azaleas can be seen into May and early June, although April was spectacular and not to be missed, on winding trails, some difficult for strollers and the hike challenged.
National Herb Garden
The garden was in its early stages in April, and is adjacent to several other areas of interest. It is an extensive and diverse display of herbs from all over the world, for all purposes. Imagine the Cleveland Botanical Garden exploded to the entire Wade Oval and beyond. Roses come on in May—summer and fall must be equally impressive. The paths in this area are wide and easy to navigate.
The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
These are close to the other gardens, contains one of the largest collections of these trees in North America. Penjing refers to the Chinese precursor to the Japanese art of bonsai. Three pavilions hold about 150 plants and there is also a section of stones and ikebana, a style of Japanese flower arranging. The large variety and spectacular execution of this huge collection will require a sufficient time for study and appreciation.
Next to the Supreme Court building is a lovely small garden with much to see. In April there were many early flowering perennials, well arranged, beautifully tended. Be sure to take the short stroll to enjoy this surprising gem.
by Lois Rose
Cornell is located at the bottom of Lake Cayuga-far above the waters, right? It is approximately five and a half hours from Cleveland, a lovely drive if you take the cut off of 90 through the Southern Tier—mountains, valleys, rivers and streams—well worth it.
The campus contains a large number of gardens but my favorite is the Botanic Garden which includes ornamental and useful herbs, interesting vegetables, perennials, grasses, an amazing bioswale garden, containers and other displays of shrubs, trees, groundcovers.
Many of the herbs are displayed in raised beds, or elevated on the sides of the main garden.
Around every turn is something of interest, like the tree which has a hole cut in its middle, still living and producing huge leaves.(Catalpa I think).
The drought over the months before we visited had taken a toll but there was still much to see. Mediterranean plants, those that love the heat, were as happy as a clam in high water.
Others had ostensibly succumbed and been replaced. It takes several hours to really see everything in this space, including the containers crammed with diverse and unusual plants on display near the visitor’s center which incidentally has top notch merchandise much of it devoted to gardening.
Cornell is feverish on Saturday morning, and visiting the Farmer’s Market is a treat if you can find a place to park.
By chance, because of my son’s wedding, I was able to visit a unique and memorable garden near Stockbridge, Massachusetts recently. We had part of day “off” from wedding festivities and decided to see this estate which includes a “cottage” designed by Stanford White and built for Joseph Hodges Choate, a well-known attorney, between 1886 and 1887 on the top of a hill overlooking fields and mountains.
The 44-room mansion called to my husband and cousin but for me and my other cousin it was the gardens. Mabel Choate, the daughter of Joseph, worked with Fletcher Steele for over 30 years to produce them. They are a “collection” of garden rooms, eclectic and entertaining, spanning most of the space around the house on the hill top. Unfortunately they had fallen into disrepair over the years. The Trustees of Naumkeag took over the restoration of the gardens and there is a tremendous amount of new planting and replanting going on.
The Blue Steps are the most well-known aspect of the rooms, extending from an area near the house down to the lowest part of the gardens. If you have ever glanced through a book about structures in gardens, then this picture will be familiar.
The Tree Peony Garden has been completely redone and the peonies are not looking their best after a serious drought this past summer. Built into the side of the hill on terraces, it must have baked in the heat. The Chinese Garden is quaint with mostly hardscape at this point. The Evergreen Garden is impressive and elegant. The Afternoon Garden is against the side of the house and has a great view down to the fields below the house.
Water features, stonework, paths—all restored or in the process. New plantings have restored privacy and recreated vistas throughout the gardens. There is an unexpected grove of pines and older trees five minutes from the house: suddenly you are in the woods, away from anything planned or ordered.
The house delighted my companions, but I think my cousin Dan and I got the better part of the tour.
by Lois Rose
I recently attended a talk by Linda Walker-Scott, an Associate Professor and Extension Horticulturist at Washington State University (see her blog theinformedgardener.com) Her talk about mulch and sustainable landscape provides the backbone for my comments.
Organic mulches are by far my own choice. I use many kinds of mulches, including straw (left to sprout its seeds for a few months before using),
compost from my husband’s heap,
bark chips, wood chips(aged, free from the city),
(By the way, let wood chips age before using them if you are concerned about disease. Add compost underneath the chips if you are concerned about nutrient deficiencies. Dr. Walker-Scott pointed out that well aged wood chips do not drain soil of nitrogen. Myth exploded.)
compost and manure,
and closely grouped living plant material.
Why Mulch? Beside providing nutrients to the soil, organic mulches are helpful to beneficial microbes, enhance biodiversity of “macrofauna”, help trees and shrubs get established, and improve soil structure, lessening compaction and allowing soil aggregates to form. (Tilling and digging can destroy the colonies of microbes, mycorrhizae, other important soil components.)
When to mulch: before annual weeds become established—fall or spring. Remove perennial weeds in early spring (easiest to pull or dig), then apply mulch. Better than pulling or digging is mowing or cutting to the ground. Remove everything to a brown bag away from your garden
Deep mulch decreases weed germination by limiting the amount of light that reaches seeds. Weed seeds can remain for years in the soil until—voila—exposure to light and moisture encourages them to get growing. Coarse mulch can help retain and increase the amount of water getting to the soil beneath. Weeds and plants that grow through the mulch are easier to pull. Meanwhile the mulch is preventing erosion.
Thick layers of mulch, 8-12 inches, are excellent for restoration sites and control of invasive weeds like ivy. She recommends heavy layers (4 to 6 inches) around ornamentals for a low-maintenance landscape. I was taught that no more than 4 inches of mulch should be applied to the soil around shrubs and trees. This is definitely a different take on depth of mulching.
Deeper mulch, and courser mulch, gives the most benefit and the fewest drawbacks.
Mulching No-No’s: Keeping mulch away from trunks of trees and shrubs is necessary to prevent rodents, insects and diseases from being given a free ride. Never pile mulch on perennials, only around them. “Volcano” mulching, where the ignorant landscaper piles mulch up against the trunks of trees, making it look like a volcano, is definitely a no-no. The question is: when you see this on the street—do you stop your car, go over to them and say, “what the hell are you doing?” Or, do you give them a sheet printed with the proper way to mulch. Or do you stop door to door to let your neighbors know that they are damaging their trees and shrubs by doing this?
I have been sorely tempted. Considering that you are investing in the hopefully long life of your tree, why treat the trunk this way?