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Perennial Geraniums

 

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Geranium ‘Azure Rush’

 

People often get confused about Geraniums. For many, Geraniums are red or pink annuals with a rather weird scent that you put in pots every summer. While that is true in one sense, those “geraniums” actually have the botanical name of Pelargonium. It’s an example of why it’s helpful to know the botanical name in order to make sure people are talking about the same thing, as the habit and care of those two plants could not be more different.

 

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Geranium , a.k.a. Cranesbill (This one is ‘Rozanne’, I think.)

 

 

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Pelargonium

 

The true Geranium (Often called ‘Cranesbill’, just to confuse things) is a perennial, whereas Pelargoniums are annuals in the Northeast. They look a lot different, too, with Geraniums forming mounds of sedate foliage covered in five petaled flowers in pink, white, magenta, or purplish blue, Pelargoniums having thick, leathery foliage and clusters of red, pink, salmon, or white flowers borne on stalks. Geraniums nestle right into a garden border, whereas Pelargoniums seem more at home in pots.

Geraniums are wonderful, versatile plants that will bring you weeks, if not months, of blooms in the garden. There is even a native Geranium, Geranium maculatum. Some are as short as 6-8″ like Geranium sanguineum var. striatum,  delightful little pale pink one with dark pink veining on the petals. Others are taller, like ‘Blushing Turtle’, which has medium pink flowers and grows to be 18-24″. There are Geraniums with dark bronze foliage and pink flowers (“Espresso’), ones with nodding burgundy flowers with black centers (‘Mourning Widow’) and some with neon pink flowers and white edges (‘Elke’), for example. One of my favorites is one called ‘Azure Rush’. Compact and growing in civilized 18-20” mounds, it has purplish-blue flowers with pale centers that bloom from May through October in my garden.

Try them in the front of the border, spilling onto paths, atop a stone wall… You won’t be sorry.

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Time to plant the early birds!

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At long last, Spring is at the point where we can start planting things. As soon as the ground is workable, you can plant your pea seeds. They like to grow best in cool weather so will do much better if you plant them now than if you plant them in June. Ditto Nasturtiums. Lettuce also likes cool temperatures. Don’t forget that you can also plant a crop in late summer to enjoy throughout the fall!

 

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Nasturtium blossoms are not only pretty to look at, they are tasty to eat, as well, with a light, peppery taste that goes well in salads.

 

Things like tomatoes and squash can be given a head start on a sunny windowsill, if you are so inclined. You will still have to wait until around Memorial Day to plant them (they like heat and lots of it, so planting them outside too soon isn’t productive) but you can certainly get them started. Just remember to bring them outside during the day and inside at night for 4-5 days before planting them outside for good. This is called “hardening off” and gets them used to the cooler temperatures so that they adapt better when in their final places.

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Pansy plants are also favorites for early planting. While typically they do best in the spring (and they love fall, too, although we don’t tend to think of them as fall flowers) they will often do pretty well in the summer heat if given a semi-shady spot. I had pansies that I planted in a barrel last April that survived and flowered until Christmas. Now that’s value!

Scratch that planting itch with a few of these beautiful and tasty plants, and get the season off to a good start!

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Cherry Trees

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While George Washington’s famous “Father, I cannot tell a lie, I chopped down the cherry tree with my hatchet” may be a story invented by his biographer, it is not surprising that the cherry tree was chosen to feature in the myth, as it has had a place in history for thousands of years.

The first mention of the cherry tree is said to have been in 300 bc, when they were named after a town in Turkey. Since then, it has appeared in legends from all over the world.  It has also been goven as a token of friendship, often from Japan,  as were the famous cherry trees that now grow in Washington D.C. Parts of the tree have been used throughout history to treat jaundice, intestinal discomfort, used as a sedative, and in cough medicine. (Ludens cough drops ring a bell?) We eat cherry jams and jellies on toast, bake them in pies, and spear them with tiny swords and put them in cocktails which we serve on on tables made of cherry wood. The uses go on and on.

Graceful soldiers

In the garden, Cherry trees and their cousins, the Plums, are beautiful additions, providing blossoms in the spring, shade in the summer, and stately silhouettes in the winter. Cherry blossom festivals seem to pop up wherever more than a dozen grow. There are tall ones and short ones, shrub sized ones, weeping ones, tart ones and sweet ones, so there is one for every garden situation. No wonder they have stood the test of time!

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Spring cleanup

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I tend to prefer to clean up the garden in the spring rather than the fall. That is when I’m motivated to do it, as I am dreaming of the spring garden and looking forward to getting re-acquainted with the plants. It’s better for the garden, too, as the dead stems and foliage protect the crown of the plant in the winter, and the birds can eat the seeds, if any. The only thing I religiously cut back in the fall are irises and daylilies, but that’s just because I can’t stand how slimy they get over the winter.

Eventually, however, you have to pull your wellies on and get busy. It’s a good idea to get the dead plant material out of the way before the new growth starts, otherwise you might cut some of that by mistake. For the most part, you want to cut perennials back to about an inch or two above the base. Don’t cut closer than that or you may injure the crown. Cut less if the new growth has already started – it will cover the “stumps” soon. Don’t cut things like roses, woody perennials (ones that have bark) early spring bloomers like Moss Phlox or vines back unless you have read up on them and are sure that they will do what you want after you cut them. Some things only bloom on new growth, and so you can be set back years if you cut them back too much. But for perennials like Echinacea, Shasta Daisies, Geraniums, etc, cutting them back can be very beneficial.

 

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This is a picture of new growth on a Peony. If you look closely, you can see how last year’s stems have been cut back, barely noticeable now. The plants to the right and in the background have also been cut neatly.

 

Fallen leaves can be raked up and composted or, better still, put through a leaf shredder and put back on the garden. There, they will release nutrients all summer as they break down, and you won’t need to add additional fertiliser. I also mulch about every other year with a mixture of compost and shredded pine bark, just for good measure. The trick is to do it before the plants put on too much growth, otherwise it’s a rotten job.

And that’s it! Your garden now looks neat and tidy, your plants will be fed, and you can sit back and enjoy it. (For awhile!)

 

 

2018, March 2018, Uncategorized

The Show must go on!

As we have done for the last two years, we participated in the Seacoast Home and Garden Show this past weekend, and had a great time! It’s is always so much fun to talk to people and hear what they are looking for in their landscapes, and to feel like spring really is on its way. (Even though there usually is a snow storm around the time of the show!)

Below is a slideshow of our display, from concept to completion. Enjoy!

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2017, Uncategorized

2017

Untitled_ArtworkAs 2017 is about to draw to a close, and 2018 is waiting to take its place, I thought I’d take a moment to put together some pictures of some of our favorite projects of the year. I see that I need to put “taking after-pictures” on my list of New Year’s Resolutions… Thanks to the guys who shared a few of theirs with me. Wishing you all a Happy New Year – Here’s to 2018!

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An Unexpected Guest

This winter I experimented by planting some plug plants, the idea being to grow them to maturity by planting time, and save money. In January the box of plugs arrived from Florida with much fanfare. I opened the box and was greeted by the optimistic foliage of some diminutive perennial geraniums, a ray of hope that pierced the heavy grey skies of a very long winter.

I set about planting them into larger pots right away. I was working in my studio, as the greenhouse was much too cold for the tender new arrivals, and had settled on the floor with everything that I needed to complete the job. Suddenly, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and when I looked around, there was a tiny frog, about the size of a quarter. A stowaway! What to do… I wasn’t sure how to overwinter him, and so put a pot over him so he wouldn’t escape and started to build him a house out of an old terra cotta pot in a sheltered place outside. Once the frog condo was complete, I brought him out and showed him his new home.

Sometime later, I crossed paths with a representative of the company which had sent the plugs. I thanked him for the bonus frog, and without missing a beat, he said, “Oh! You found Leroy!” I then had to tell him the rest of the story.

About five minutes after I had put the frog in his new home, I thought better of it, and decided that he would probably have a better chance of survival if I put his new house in the greenhouse, where it was marginally warmer. But by the time I got outside, it had been ransacked. Looking around, I saw one of our dogs licking her lips…

Poor Leroy.

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