Archive for March, 2012

Greetings Eastern Shore Gardeners! Just a quick note to let everyone know I’ve added a few more dates to the Calendar of Events. The first Farm Dinner on the Shore is scheduled for Priapi Gardens on April 14. In case you’re worried about April showers, you will be dining in the greenhouse!


Above: Hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) at Hackberry Point


Also added are the 2012 Maryland House and Garden tour dates. Scroll down the calendar to look for them, or search for Baltimore City, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County. From the looks of the descriptions on the website, organizers in Talbot County and Anne Arundel County have put together great tours for gardeners. Other tours seem more architecturally oriented.

There is so much going on this spring! Have a great time getting inspired!

As always, please let me know of any errors you spot or links that don’t work!


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Enemy du Jour

In the past week, I’ve taken a run at eliminating a pretty, but particularly annoying, weed from my garden: Hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta). This early in the season, its clusters of dainty white flowers look lacy and particularly decorative. Flowers are especially prevalent in the garden in cool weather, from mid to late spring, although this plant will bloom through much of the season provided plants have adequate moisture. Flowers arise from a mound of pinnate (featherlike) leaves with small rounded leaflets, and the plant springs up everywhere that moist soil occurs, including containers and mulched garden beds.


Innocent looking hairy bittercress in the garden.

How could I possibly identify this small, innocuous plant as my enemy du jour? In another week or two, the flowers from the main spring crop will fade and seed will ripen. Trying to pull plants with ripe seed is simply an exercise in futility. The authors of Weeds of the Northeast describe them as “explosively dehiscent, propelling seeds over 3m.” That’s nearly 10 feet, so pulling seedlings—or even walking through a patch of plants—is basically an exercise in seed distribution. So far, getting angry at the little boogers hasn’t helped at all, so I’m on a pulling mission.

When I’m weeding, I tend to focus on a single species. In this case, eliminating flowering plants cuts back on seeds for next year’s garden. Theme weeding also means I don’t have to change tools from plant to plant: Weeds like dandelions and wild onions require a gardening knife for digging, while hairy bittercress can just be pulled and tossed into a collection basket. (It does mean I have to go back over the beds again, though.) And while my aim is eradication, I know that’s impossible. In reality, I’ll just cut down on the hairy bittercress next season, but that’s good enough for me!


A day’s weeding. More planned for tomorrow!

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Greetings Eastern Shore Gardeners. I just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve added a variety of lectures sponsored by Queen Anne and Kent County Extension to the Calendar of Events. I also added several lectures to be held at London Town and Gardens that looked really interesting. (London Town is just over the Bay Bridge in Edgewater).

I hope something on the list piques your interest!


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If there’ one plant combination that could lure me to live in the deep South, it is live oaks festooned with Spanish moss and resurrection ferns. Live oak (Quercus virginiana) is a massive evergreen, hardy to Zone 8, that supports the other two plants. Blue-gray Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) sways romantically all around the canopy, while leathery leaved resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides) clusters along the tops of the branches. I can’t think of a similar iconic combination for the Eastern Shore, at least not one that instantly tells you where you are the way live oaks and Spanish moss do.


Above: A live oak with Spanish moss and resurrection ferns gracing the plantings of Brookgreen Gardens outside Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

I’ve recently had plenty of time to think about it. My husband and I just returned from visiting family in Florida. For various reasons, we drive, and I enjoy the time spent looking at plants and landscapes. (Once again this trip, I contemplated compiling a horrible pruning errors blog post, but stopping and taking pictures of people’s yards seemed rude. Suffice it to say the pair of tightly sheared camellias that had been shaped into dense giant green gumballs studded with struggling red flowers won this year’s prize!)

We travel back roads as much as possible, since 95 is boring and hectic. (Did you know Route 301 goes the entire way, only joining up with 95 for a couple short sections?) I started thinking about iconic plants as I watched spring roll in as we drove south.

One plant that seemed to signal spring is Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), whose yellow, trumpet-shaped blooms were much in evidence by the time we reached the Carolinas. A native, evergreen to semievergreen vine that reaches about 20 feet, it grew along fences and climbed up through trees and shrubs lining the roads. It’s a lovely plant, hardy in Zones 7 to 9, that should be grown more often.

I added improved cultivar ‘Margarita’ to the garden here at Hackberry Point a couple years ago. I got my plant from North Creek Nursery, who report the cultivar has larger flowers than the species and is reliably hardy to Zone 6. Its clear yellow flowers appear in early summer. (See North Creek Nursery for more information and a photograph.) In a “do as I say, not as I do” move, I finally installed a permanent trellis for it last year—luckily, without major damage!

Camellias were also much in evidence both on the way down and the way back, and as we rolled back onto the Eastern Shore, I noticed the first signs of spring up here as well. There were early daffodils, especially in warm, south-facing spots, along with cherry trees in full bloom. I also spotted a Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) strutting its stuff in Chestertown yesterday.

Above: American holly along with tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) in full fall regalia.

As for iconic plants and plant combinations for the Eastern Shore, marshes along the Chesapeake Bay spring to mind. As a horticulturist, though, I decided to pick a native plant that most of us can grow, and for me, that’s American holly (Ilex opaca). I’ve never lived anywhere that it grows so well. Plants thrive in our beech-maple woodland along Worton creek. I’ve seen hollies combined with all sorts of plants, and grown alone, but its native companions in the woods are my favorites. There, it grows with summersweet clethra (Clethra alnifolia), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and what I think is deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum) filling in below. In the patches of sun beneath the shrubs is a ground cover of emerald moss and partridge berry (Mitchella repens). Hollies anchor a more subtle combination than live oaks provide, but it is one that grows on you. I’ll happily claim it!


Above: Mountain Laurel blooming in June, with gardening companion Casey.

A travel note: If you’ve always wanted to see manatees, plan a trip to Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida. My picture isn’t great, but if you look you can see one of the many manatees we spotted. (Reminder to self: Check your camera battery before you go so you can take better pictures next time!) Best time to visit is during cold weather, from late November through early April. Blue Spring is a consistent 72°F, and when the weather gets cold, manatees from the St. John’s River gather there. One person I talked to saw over 300 on a day when it was 26°F in the morning!


Above: A manatee glides through the clear water of Blue Spring off the St. John’s River in Florida.

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