The May Garden Ramble - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 2253629

The May Garden Ramble

Number of images 4 Photos
This is a Trillium grandifolium

This is a Trillium grandifolium "Monroe" that came from Plant Delights nursery last year. The flower opens white then develops a pink striation that deepens over a period of weeks. Planted in a moist woodland garden, a mass of these would look spectacular. Maybe next year? The leaf litter remains in place all season and acts as a soil-cooling, weed-resistant mulch, keeping the woodland soil moist all summer. ANDREW MESSINGER

The Hampton Gardener’s back porch, otherwise known as the unpacking porch. Only a few of these specimens will get planted right away. The smaller ones will go into larger pots, grown on then installed in the gardens. By repotting and later planting the plants don’t get lost or unintentionally ignored in the gardens. The result is better placement of larger plants able to fend for themselves. ANDREW MESSINGER

The Hampton Gardener’s back porch, otherwise known as the unpacking porch. Only a few of these specimens will get planted right away. The smaller ones will go into larger pots, grown on then installed in the gardens. By repotting and later planting the plants don’t get lost or unintentionally ignored in the gardens. The result is better placement of larger plants able to fend for themselves. ANDREW MESSINGER

Unlike its cousins that grow to 6 to 10 feet tall, this Thalictrum kiusianum is 3 inches tall at best. Native to Japan and Korea, the hope is that it will become a groundcover near its relatives. A great example of diversity within a genus.  ANDREW MESSINGER

Unlike its cousins that grow to 6 to 10 feet tall, this Thalictrum kiusianum is 3 inches tall at best. Native to Japan and Korea, the hope is that it will become a groundcover near its relatives. A great example of diversity within a genus. ANDREW MESSINGER

This 20-foot-tall lilac provides summer shade to the Hosta bed below it. But a lack of pruning (and a tall enough ladder) has resulted in the plant only flowering at the top with just a few flowers on the bottom where it was pruned back last year. Some things just slip by and still look nice.  ANDREW MESSINGER

This 20-foot-tall lilac provides summer shade to the Hosta bed below it. But a lack of pruning (and a tall enough ladder) has resulted in the plant only flowering at the top with just a few flowers on the bottom where it was pruned back last year. Some things just slip by and still look nice. ANDREW MESSINGER

Autor

Hampton Gardener®

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: May 23, 2024
  • Columnist: Andrew Messinger

It’s spring, it’s planting time and it’s crazy. Three boxes of plants arrived this afternoon, and despite cutting my plant orders by at least 75 percent, the back porch is rapidly filling with perennials large and small. Much to say about these and other things, so onward with this May’s ramble

For several years I’ve been suggesting the use of cold-pressed neem oil for certain insect and disease problems in the garden. And I still do. But I ran into a very interesting problem. I went down into the basement where I have a bottle of neem from last year and one I just got. The lily beetles (scarlet lily beetle, or SLB) were beginning to show up, and it’s so critical to control them early, nixing them before they begin laying eggs for the next crop. The neem also goes on the tall garden phlox and roses for disease and mite control.

I open the quart bottle, turn it to pour out one ounce of the liquid that’s added to a gallon of water. Nothing comes out. Not a drop. The neem is still there but it’s solidified. Now what? A quick reread of the label and it does indeed state that even at room temperature the product can solidify. It’s normal and the simple resolution is to put the bottle in a bowl of warm water, wait 10 minutes and voila, liquid and pourable neem. But the problem didn’t stop there.

With the neem mixed, some Joy dish soap is added as an emulsifier and surfactant. It was ready to pour into a 1-gallon compression sprayer. First, since it’s the beginning of the season, some water goes into the sprayer so the pump, pressure and nozzle can be tested. I did this step last fall before putting it into storage. At least I thought I had.

Some water goes into the sprayer, the piston pumped to get it pressurized, the trigger squeezed — and nothing. Not a single drop comes out of the nozzle end. I release the pressure on the tank and start to take the wand and nozzle off for inspection. Seems I missed just a few drops of diluted neem from the last use last year, and the nozzle was totally clogged. Easy to remedy though with some warm water and a pin. Then I was out to spray.

So I hope I’ve learned, and I hope you learn from my mistakes. Neem oil is great. It’s organic, has little to no effect on most beneficials, but you must clean and rinse any spraying equipment with WARM water after you use the product. Also make sure the oil is liquid before you try to pour it. It’s also important to add some dish soap to your mix. Without it the neem will not completely mix with water. The instructions call for one ounce of soap to one gallon of spray. I think this is too much but a third of an ounce should work. If you make your mix in a 1-gallon plastic jug just look at the color of the liquid. It should be uniform in color and not wavy. If it’s not, the neem and water are not completely mixing, so add more soap and mix again.

Back to the plants that just came in. One of them is a tall and mysterious pitcher plant (Sarracenia sp). My first try with this genus didn’t go well so wish me luck. It came from Plant Delights, from which I also got Trillium grandiflorum “Monroe” from last year. It just flowered, and what a sweetie. The flower opened as a traditional three-petaled white then over a few days the petals filled with pink, giving it some wonderful color. I’ve got great hope for this moist woodland plant and will be adding more next year.

In the box from Edelweiss perennials was another new plant for me, Thalictrum kiusianum. I’ve got four other Thalictrums in the garden. One yellow that’s only a few feet tall and three others that range from 5 feet tall to 8-plus feet tall. T. kiusianum will be a challenge though because this one is only 2 to 3 inches tall. That’s right, inches. I love the diversity you can find within a genus. I’m also very impressed with Edelweiss Perennials. They’re on the West Coast, but their packing and 3-day shipping is unparalleled. They only sell smaller (and less expensive) plants but have an incredible plant list.

Added to the Thalictrum collection will be the variety “Hewitt’s Double.” I was warned many years ago that this variety can be short lived. Indeed it is. But it’s also the only double-flowered Thalictrum and stands out nicely among the taller single-flowered types so every few years I buy another one.

I still use Bluestone Perennials to fill in where plants need replacements, and since they tend to carry less adventuresome plants that’s all I use them for these days. It’s hard to find special plants among their offerings, and they’ve gotten a bit expensive for the most common varieties but still good for filling in where mass plantings of the more common perennials are planted.

Everywhere I read and look I’m being told to trash my lawn and let it go natural. The movement for No-Mow May had lots of press this year but please give this wayward trend some serious thought before you jump in. No-mow lawns seem to be very popular among lazy property owners who simply see it as a way to reduce the cost (or effort) of maintenance in the guise of being environmentally sensitive and of course, they claim, adding pollinators that would otherwise be mowed.

Thanks, but no thanks. I keep my “wild” areas on the periphery of the property, and I mow my lawn so I have a nice green carpet. Not sorry if that offends you, but keep in mind that I only use organic fertilizers and little to no herbicides.

Let your lawn go wild for the month of May, then how do you cut it when it’s 12 inches tall? Most mowers will only adjust to a three- or four-inch cut. And if you manage to push your mower through the jungle what about the mess it leaves behind? Rake it all up and take it to the compost pile? Sure, right!

There’s more though. Remember ticks? Those gross little things that bite you, suck your blood and ruin your life? They will rarely be found on your 3-inch blades of grass but will abound in your mouse-infested May meadow. And what about the weeds that you’ve allowed to grow to seed-setting stage? Those seeds drop to the ground and slowly but surely outcompete whatever lawn may be left. And the dandelions? Their bright yellow flowers that a few bees get pollen and nectar from are also turning into airborne puff balls of seed that on the slightest wisp of wind will travel through your yard and onward to your neighbors’.

There are much, much better ways to bring nature to your property and to nurture it. Yes it takes work, it takes some initial planning but it can and is often done and done well. Don’t be a weekender who ruins it for your neighbors and folks down the street, please?

With lilacs fading and forsythia already faded it’s time to prune and shape these shrubs. Forsythia is easy to trim, and trimming is really the only way to ensure you get a great show of yellow next spring. Shape it as you like and you can use a pruner, hand sheers or electric (battery) hedge clipper but this needs to be done now so next year’s buds can form through the summer. Do this later in the summer or even in the fall and you won’t have flowers next year.

The lilacs are a bit more complicated because they get woody, and in addition to a pruner or lopper you may also need a small tree saw. If you don’t cut back lilacs, they will only bloom on the top as they bloom on new wood not year-old wood. Pruning stimulates this new wood growth and ensures a great display next year. The general rule of thumb is to try to reduce the plant by 1/3 every year. This doesn’t mean removing 1/3 of the branches, just pruning them back and removing the much older branches that are cracked or misshapen.

What to do about tree roots that make your lawn difficult to mow? Should you bury the roots? Prune them? Ignore them? The one thing you don’t want to do is constantly have your mower (or your landscaper’s mower) come into contact with them. This invites disease and root damage that can be irreparable. There was a great article in The Washington Post two weeks ago that you should take a look at and also read the embedded piece from Rutgers and their research on the issue. You can access the article by using this link: wapo.st/3yeszDM.

I’ve been planting hellebores for several years because the pictures look great in the catalogs, but I should know better. Some of these plants do have really nice flowers, and it’s one of the earliest flowers to emerge in the garden. There are a couple of downsides though. The newer varieties grow very slowly and really should be planted in mass plantings of three, but preferably five, to a group or in larger drifts. The older foliage dies out as the flowers emerge and the plants can look a bit ratty for a while but the new foliage fills in fairly quickly. The plants can flower from two to six weeks going into early June and starting in March.

I always see drifts of hellebores planted where they are just barely seen and now I know why. At the same time, when you carefully choose your varieties you can end up with a really nice display that can be admired from just 5 feet away but maybe not from the kitchen window — where mine are. Nonetheless, they are early flowers, and if you can pick varieties with colorful flowers that open looking out at you instead of nodding down you’ll be very happy with your planting after a few years. They require little to no maintenance.

Helleborus factidus “Red Silver” (Plant Delights) is one of my current favorites. This plant has year-round appeal. The plant has palmate-like lower foliage that’s evergreen (to reddish) and a delight to see in the winter garden. In the spring, however, the flower stalks reach up another 12 to 15 inches in a fascinating show of flowers. The flowers are actually green when fully open then develop a red edge on the flower that’s striking.

Honeybees are the main pollinator for this plant, and give it a couple of years to fill in, but I’ve found it fascinating because of its unusually multitiered habit and year-round interest. Cut the flowers when done as the seedlings will not come true but could be just as interesting though different. Keep growing.

AutorMore Posts from Andrew Messinger

Prepare Your Garden for a Hurricane

It’s been many years since the East End has had to deal with a substantial ... 19 Jun 2024 by Andrew Messinger

How To Attract and Support Butterflies

I’ve had a number of experiences with butterflies in my life, and each one has ... 12 Jun 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Light It Up And More Seed Starting Advice

The adventure started back on April 22 and was repeated on May 5. But in ... 10 Jun 2024 by Andrew Messinger

What To Know About Growing in Containers

I’m getting reeducated with growing plants in containers this season, but it was an act ... 30 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

What To Know About Growing Marigolds

This week’s column is the second and last part in a series on marigolds. As ... 15 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

The History of Marigolds

Here’s a short gardening quiz: What plant is native to the New World, a sacred ... 9 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

The Truth About Butterfly Bush

It was several decades ago when I was standing in front of a Meadow Lane ... 2 May 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Spring Is the Time To Pot Up Houseplants

In spring our gardening attention logically and naturally focuses on things going on outside. We ... 25 Apr 2024 by Andrew Messinger

The April Ramble

April got off to a typical start. For most of the first two weeks of ... 18 Apr 2024 by Andrew Messinger

Plant Radishes Now

As you may have discovered from last week’s column there is more to a radish ... 11 Apr 2024 by Andrew Messinger