Garden Notes : Latest fashion
A thoughtful client gave me an eco calendar with daily, going-green hints. The tip for today is sensible: "Stop using pesticides - they come into your house on shoes and pets." Even those who have been long-term pesticide users can change - along the lines of "tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life" for smokers. A personal environment that reduces pesticide exposure is healthier for all.
The well-known food activist and author Sandor Ellix Katz gives a demonstration and workshop on fermentation for preserving the harvest, Sunday and Monday, May 10 and 11, at the Agricultural Hall. For information, please call Jan Buhrman at 508-645-5000.
Early May is late to be enjoying the bloom of shadbush; on Martha's Vineyard, Amelanchier species usually flower in mid-April. The Native Island type is on the North American mainland, but not here. Nonetheless, there is taxonomic confusion about what exactly grows here, maybe a naturally occurring hybrid, as some are tree-like and some shrub-like. Either way, let me recommend shadbush to you for inclusion in the small garden or landscape.
Amelanchier has perfect attributes for Island planting and is a year-round treasure. In addition to the early spring flowers, which support subsequent pollinators, young foliage opens maroon to brown, a nice contrast to the delicate white flowers. Birds are constant visitors until the last fruit has been consumed, autumn foliage is rich orange to purple, and the bare tree itself is graceful with attractive bark throughout winter. Autumn Brilliance is a recommended cultivar.
A recent visit with our daughter in Charlottesville, Va., coincided with the bloom of offspring and crosses. They are planted extensively in Charlottesville as landscaping material in shopping plazas, commercial spaces, and as street trees.
Stretching from Washington down to Charlottesville however, was an appalling, ghostly invasion of these inedible ornamentals in yard, park, and mountainside, all sizes, growing out of cracks in paving - everywhere in the area. Michael Dirr has very little good to say about them, and when I asked my daughter, she confirmed that their spread has become problematical. It would be a shame to plant as weedy a tree as Callery pear on Martha's Vineyard when we have native Amelanchiers that are more beautiful and better suited.
Even though I find myself defining color in the garden as an impulse on the artless side of garden design, it must be acknowledged that after a six-month colorless period, everyone's eyes have a hunger for it. Is it any wonder that the early spring combination of Rhododendron PJM and forsythia is well on its way to becoming a horticultural cliché? They are an early, dependable, Easter-themed duo, but one which carries an implicit admonition. Being so early, when the show is over, will your garden have any further fireworks lined up? If possible, plan room for something equally wonderful, if not spectacular, for each and every segment of the garden year.
The glowing, ephemeral combination of lunaria flowers and weeping cutleaf Japanese maple foliage (photo) might be irritating were it to last the entire season. Lunaria annua, also known as silver dollars, money plant, or honesty, is a cruciferous biennial that self-sows into colonies that grow one year, bloom the next, and seed themselves nearby. (Occasionally paler forms than the usual purplish magenta do occur; collect seed from those and sprinkle to sow, if a toned-down patch is desired.) The maple, too, eventually settles down into being mostly green until autumn, when once again it flames decoratively.