Garden.True.North is about gardening in Zone 3,
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
sharing thoughts, ideas and tips for all northern gardeners.
Spring started this week which gets gardeners excited like kids anticipating Christmas. Except it is still way too early to start gardening. Even starting seeds is at most about 6 weeks before planting and we usually can not plant until late May.
I’ve always thought the astrological seasons were off kilter; even meteorological seasons are too early for those in Zone 3. Yesterday we received about an inch of snow which is now melting on top of the foot of snowpack left from our winter that started before Thanksgiving (i.e. “fall”).
What can a gardener rely on to determine the proper planting time?
Update: Programs in April - May, 2020 have been cancelled.
Garden catalogs can only provide so much inspiration. Plan to come to local events to connect with fellow gardeners while learning more about gardening. Scheduling is underway and these early dates are confirmed.
Scene from the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands.
There is still time to order, receive and plant bulbs for next spring. I doubt that how your garden looks next April or May is on your mind as the leaves begin to change color and start dropping. However, if you take a few moments now there will be a reward next year.
I had visions of a sea of blue after my daffodil’s foliage melted away. Earlier in the growing season I lost a row of Swiss Chard. I put bird netting around that raised bed and the chard is recovering. But my Baptisia looks like a lost cause. A small rabbit has been sighted near the garden. Maybe this bunny thought Baptisia is tasty since it is a member of the pea family. So much for “tolerates rabbits” advertised with this plant.
Left to right: Baptisia australis, what remains of my plant after the bunny, and new cultivar 'Solar Flare'.
My garden fence was built to deter deer from ravishing my vegetables. The fencing is not made to turn away a small bunny and there are gaps under the gates. After being on this property for 15 seasons, this is the first rabbit. The wolves, coyotes, fox, and eagles may be credited for the lack of rabbits; that is until now.
Baptisia australis, common name False Indigo, is a native plant to the eastern U.S. In addition to being advertised as tolerant of rabbits the plant is unappealing to deer, drought resistant, and tolerate of poor soils. I thought it perfect for my garden since it likes full sun to part shade (my garden receives about 6 hours per day) and would provide some color between the spring ephemerals and the summer bulbs that grow alongside my raised beds. At 3-4 feet tall, it would stand out, just what I wanted.
Baptisia australis was named Perennial of the Year in 2010 by the Perennial Plant Association. It seems appropriate because this plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9, has multi-season interest, is tough, and is low maintenance. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder: “Over time, plants develop slowly expanding clumps with deep and extensive root systems, and should not be disturbed once established. Plants take on more of a shrubby appearance and tend to open up after bloom. Trimming or shearing foliage after bloom helps maintain rounded plant appearance and obviates a possible need for staking, but eliminates the developing seed pods which are so attractive.”
In addition to this native, there are now new cultivars that come in yellow, pink, violet-blue, and creamy vanilla. Baptisia attracts butterflies with its flowering for 3-4 weeks in June. Both its blooms and dried seed pods can be used in floral arrangements. The common name of False Indigo refers to the use of this plant by early Americans as a substitute, albeit an inferior one, for true indigo in making blue dyes. I originally thought that the Latin "australis" was odd for a native North American plant and found out that it means "southern". It can also refer to Australia.
I’m putting up netting around the Baptisia and hoping for the best. Maybe next year I’ll get some blooms? Or maybe it's time for another trip to the garden center?
The Columbine bed at Longwood Gardens.
Columbines have 60-70 species that are perennial but short-lived. They are excellent self-seeders but deadhead if you want your purchased hybrid plant to last longer. Of course, then you give up the self-seeding character of the plant.
Now I wonder if I want to find some hybrids and see how my volunteers would fare with a few more colors.
This blog post was also published on the North Country Master Gardener website.
If you are traveling in the Philadelphia area I highly recommend this list of gardens, all quite different. Seeing woodland spring ephemerals in different settings taught me a new appreciation for what I tend to take for granted here at home. Anytime during their long growing season these gardens will teach, display and provide pleasure to their visitors.
Morris Arboretum – As the name implies the arboretum is a teaching and research facility of the University of Pennsylvania. It is set on the historic grounds of the summer home of John and Lydia Morris. They have informative displays of trees, shrubs, and woodland perennials.
Longwood Gardens – One of many du Pont family gardens in the area. The gardens are spread about on 1,100 acres of highly manicured display gardens. We were there for six hours, more than enough time to see almost everything and spend time in their excellent garden shop. According to their website they raise 75 percent of the plants used in their displays onsite producing about 110,000 plants of 1,000 different varieties. Nearby is Kennett Square, a tidy small town with many retail shops and restaurants.
Mt. Cuba Center – The Center is set in the rolling hills of the Delaware Piedmont near Wilmington. The property was developed by Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland. Mrs. Copeland is quoted in their intention for the property: “I want this to be a place where people will learn to appreciate our native plants and to see how these plants can enrich their lives so that they, in turn, will become conservators of our natural habitats.”. If you go, I recommend scheduling a tour by one of their very knowledgeable tour guides. If you can’t go to Mt. Cuba Center, you can still learn much by going to their website. I have bookmarked as one of my favorites the native plant finder.
Winterthur – The home of Henry Francis du Pont, the 1,000 acres near Wilmington, DE includes 60 acres naturalist gardens, a research library, shops, museum, and the mansion chock full of American textiles and furniture. The gardens are more in the background of Winterthur given all the other attractions of this property.
Chanticleer - This garden was the last we visited, and I think the best. Chanticleer is set on 47 acres of the former home of the Rosengarten family, members of the family still guide the foundation that manages the property. This unique property employs seven Horticulturists who are each responsible for an area of the grounds. Chanticleer advertises itself as a pleasure garden and definitely lives up to that name. We felt as if we were invited guests, the horticulturists and grounds staff were about the grounds ready to answer our questions.
What a treat to have visited these gardens, each one unique in its own way. And the Winnebago Master Gardener Volunteers are wonderful traveling companions.
The good news: My first blooms of the season, crocus! The bad news: I have lost my garlic! The good news: The garlic has been found and rhubarb is poking through. (Note to self: label the garlic rows in the fall.) Spring has started in spite of the remaining snow piles and ice still on the lake.
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