Monday, February 27, 2012

Two In A Dozen For Diana

I am joining Diana of Elephant's Eye in choosing twelve months of my favorite garden plants. In this month of February, I am feeling "pink love", dark chocolate, and ... Roses! Not a dozen dying red roses in a vase (my Valentine knows to give me live flowers), but roses in the garden. What could be more romantic? I always felt my garden would be incomplete without at least one rose, but ah hem haw, I had never grown roses. I don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides or sprays – roses require such things don't they? No! So, there's no excuse not to include a rose in this garden of my twelve favorites. I decided on two native, wild roses to add to my garden and I would recommend both to anyone who fears "high maintenance roses" and who likes to garden on the wild side.

I planted a Swamp Rose, Rosa Palustris, along the edge of my Potager where the soil tends to stay moist. This rose has grown substantially in just a few years from bare root. It has put forth suckers but they are easily dug up. Never one to pass up a new plant, I have begun a mini rose hedge/border.

Along my "classic" chain link fence garden feature, I planted a Climbing Prairie Rose, Rosa Setigera. This rose puts that fence to shame as it should be. It grows alongside our new covered back porch so I can really enjoy its fragrance and blooms. Every now and then I redirect the canes to follow the fence line.

Aside from romantic blooms and perfumed summer nights, roses also offer interest in Fall and Winter. Yellow-orange leaves in Fall stand out against darkening skies. In Winter, rosy red hips brighten snow and ice.

Roses are also pollinator friendly and fruit loving birds such as Robins will eat the hips. I know my Leafcutter Bees use the leaves for their nests as evidenced by their nearly perfect, circular cut outs. What's not to love?

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Monday, February 20, 2012

What's Growing: Mushrooms? Potager Plan for 2012

Well not much grows here in the North Country in February, or does it? The last of our Amish onions decided to grow, dirt or not.

For Christmas, I gave my husband a mushroom of the month kit.  I thought it would be fun to try growing our own mushrooms. We have been misting, misting, misting but so far no mushrooms though it does look like something is beginning to brew. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

One Rosemary is fairing just fine this Winter, the other not so much. And the herbs on the sill? The Parsley is growing through the curtain and I just noticed, is beginning to flower. The Cilantro is gone but we did cook with a good portion of it so I don't consider it a failure. The Chives are just beginning to get going. Not the most beautiful or prolific winter window sill herb garden, but I'll keep trying. The fresh herbs taste oh so good.

A little unnerving is that bulbs are growing in my garden, just ten minutes away from the Canadian border, in February. I am worried that these Daffodil and Crocus will be killed by a winter storm – the big winter storm all of us Northerners have been bracing ourselves for thinking, knowing, that Winter here just can't be this kind. Secretly, I hope it is the earliest Spring ever because I just can't wait. Apparently, neither can my bulbs.

What will be growing? I just finished ordering seeds and my Potager plan for 2012. New trials this year: artichokes, mini eggplant, scallions, stevia. I'm adding more flowers! Flowering vines to grow along side beans, cucumbers and peas, and some perennials to entice more beneficial insects and to leave as a winter retreat.

Next month, I hope to begin starting seeds indoors and also, sprouting seeds to eat!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Going Native: Redtwig Dogwood

I have two Redtwig Dogwood shrubs in my garden. One was tucked into the back corner of our property when we moved into our home, and one I purchased. I am guestimating the existing one is a Redtwig or Redosier Dogwood because they are common in our area. The one I purchased is Cornus sericea Cardinal.

The neglected shrub in the corner I moved out into our backyard. I gave it more growing room and pruned it hard. It had a main, gnarly trunk that was twisted like a pretzel and growing back onto itself. This I cut back to the ground. Any stems that looked old and grey, I also cut back to the ground. It has come back nicely – bright new, red stems.

The Cardinal Dogwood shrub will be in its third year. It has grown to 10' tall and now I hope it begins to fill in. Redtwig Dogwoods provide year round interest in the garden. Butterfly-attracting, flat-topped clusters of creamy white star-like flowers appear in Spring to early Summer followed by pea-sized white berries.

The berries attract birds. At least 18 species of birds eat these berries including the Gray Catbird. It also provides dense cover for songbirds during the Summer as well as a few insect snacks. Waterfowl, marsh and shorebirds are also attracted by Redosier as well as large and small mammals. This would include deer who browse on Redosier year round. I do not have many deer visitors in my small village (although it is not unheard of). If you have frequent deer visitors you may want to protect your Dogwood shrubs, or maybe just let them work for you for once and prune that Dogwood hedge. My rabbit is doing a little light pruning on the shrub out back.

In Autumn, the foliage turns from orange-red to burgundy.

The stems also begin to turn red. In Winter, these stems "bloom" in the garden. Frosted by snow, they glow. Placed in front of an evergreen, their color is even more pronounced.

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden Guide "Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants" lists the Redosier Dogwood as an alternative to Ligustrum amurense Privet, and other Privet including Japanese Privet. If you own an invasive Privet, maybe you will consider planting our native Redtwig Dogwood instead. Maybe, as you gaze upon your garden this Winter, you are wondering what to plant that could provide more Winter interest. Here is a good candidate for a moist, rich soil, even one that floods occasionally, though it will adapt to a variety of soils just not prolonged drought. You might also attract the Spring Azure, Celastrina ladon who uses the Redosier as a host plant.

Sources: The Brooklyn Botanical Garden Guide "Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants," Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, "The Audubon Backyard Birdwatcher, Birdfeeders and Bird Gardens" by Robert Burton and Stephen W. Kress 

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