Garden Notes : The root of it all
Many seasons here
Have taught me to love my home:
Green gem in blue sea.
The Memorial Day weekend comes early this year, pressuring us to plant tender material a wee bit soon. Cool weather and adequate rainfall have for the most part, so far, characterized May. I hope settled weather is here and that there are no surprises.
When one peers into the woods in spring, when plants are just leafing out, it is easy to tell different species apart and to discern the woodland's make-up. New growth emerges in different shades of green (even pinkish, brownish, and reddish), and at varying rates, and so it was that I was able to spot the beginnings of the winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus or "burning bush") invasion in this piece of native woodland (see photo) on West Chop.
The canopy trees are mixed young and mature white and black oak; there is pitch pine in the neighborhood; and the understory is largely composed of lowbush blueberry, huckleberry, aronia, and arrow-wood viburnum, with a covering of dead leaves, twigs and sticks, and leaf mold forming the mulch layer. Here and there are lady slippers and patches of checkerberry, with a solitary shadbush or two. In its own very Vineyard way, it's beautiful.
Across the street, however, is a nicely landscaped house lot; along the lot perimeter grow a number of large, full Euonymus alatus. It is very likely that these are the sources of the euonymus seedlings beginning to show up in the adjacent native woodland. They are evident by their striking chartreuse leaves and get the jump on other understory plants by leafing out early.
Since many people enthuse over "burning bush," what is wrong with this scenario? Sounding like a killjoy spoilsport, I know, I want to report on the appearance of native hardwood and white pine forests in the western suburbs of Boston where euonymus has invaded. There is no understory. There are only the warty reptilian stems of thousands of euonymus seedlings and saplings. Whatever the eco-system was previously, it has been profoundly disturbed.
We have these plants in abundance on the Island. Because they are now planting themselves, we need plant no more of them; in fact the plant was added to the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List in 2006. Homeowners with euonymus already on their properties (and this applies to properties with barberry too): please consider hedging the plants after flowering to restrict seed production. Learn to recognize the seed leaves and make weeding out seedlings and small plants part of your maintenance program.
Photo by Susan Safford
Speaking of hedging, that time is upon us too. A really nicely maintained privet hedge, tight and dense, is cut three times a season: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, or thereabouts. Twice a season yields a softer, more natural looking hedge that will still be reasonably twiggy and dense. Done once a season, privet can have no expectation of providing any real privacy or screening. When performing hedging, please watch for nesting birds at this time of year. Top-dress the base of the hedge with lime and low number organic fertilizer.
Lawns: Going organic
Attention lawn-care professionals: Are your clients intrigued by the idea of an organic landscape, but find giving up old methods a bit intimidating? Or do you have trouble convincing your customers that a lush lawn is possible using natural lawn-care alternatives? Please join Paul Tukey, publisher of "People, Places & Plants" and founder of safelawns.org, at the Polly Hill Arboretum for an informal discussion on the special problems landscape professionals face when "going organic."
Paul is on a national campaign to educate consumers about natural lawn-care alternatives, including organic fertilizers, weed killers, biological pest controls, water conservation and environmentally friendly turf grasses. Learn how you can help your clients make the transition to an organic lawn, free of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and the practical reasons for doing so. Stop by the Polly Hill Arboretum on Friday, May 30, at 4:30 pm for refreshments and a chance to meet Paul and learn more about SafeLawns. Call 508-693-9426 for more information. There is a $10 suggested donation.
As with organic lawn care, all aspects of sustainability in the garden are a desirable goal. In "Grow Native," news from the New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS), Scott LaFleur, the Society's Horticulture Director, outlines the basic tenets he follows to enhance the sustainable management of the NEWFS properties. Don't use herbicides or pesticides - it's not a sustainable practice. Constantly reuse, recycle, and reduce materials. Try to make the plant fit the condition-"right plant, right place." In the fall, don't cut it - leave it for winter food and shelter for birds and insects.
The National Garden Bureau recently circulated a short paper on "The Healing Garden." In addition to interesting success stories on treatment programs and therapeutic gardening, the paper offers the following guidelines:
Grow plants that you find pleasing. If you enjoy cooking, incorporate herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers.
Include a place to sit and observe...or a path for walking through the garden. Enclose it with shrubs or fencing to create a secluded retreat.
Add a focal point for meditation and reflection such as a sculpture, a special plant, interesting rocks, wind chimes or a water fountain.
Encourage butterflies, birds, insects and other wildlife to the garden for their healing energy. Birdfeeders and birdhouses quickly and easily begin attracting garden visitors. Choose plants that supply nectar and food including coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), butterfly flower (Asclepias tuberosa), salvias (Salvia spp.), dill, parsley, and sunflowers.
For more resources on therapeutic gardens, visit The Therapeutic Landscapes Database at healinglandscapes.org.
More on markers
Markers that are really indelible are an area where most gardeners experience vexation. In addition to Lynn Irons's recent advice comes this from Karen Perkins Probst of Garden Vision (the great epimedium source I mentioned in a recent column) via their 2008 catalogue: DecoColor™ brand paint pens, extra fine black. She suggests looking for them in art stores, and writing on both ends of the pot tag, so that if UV fatigue causes the top to crack off, there is still viable info on the soil end.