Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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Moisture and light will affect your plant’s growth. Always think about a plant’s light and water needs when trying to diagnose problems with your plants.

Wacky March weather continues this week as warm temperatures eliminated snow in some parts of my yard and now we have another 18” of snow. As always, I hope you read these tips with my personal gardening tendencies and apply what you have learned when it fits your situation.

My Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is blooming–in March. Plants react to light and my cactus was tucked into a dark corner until January. Once moved to bright eastern light it started budding up and here we are.  Moisture and light will affect your plant’s growth. Always think about a plant’s light and water needs when trying to diagnose problems with your plants.

Last weekend, pre-blizzard, I wandered my yard to seek out the green sprouting leaves of my daffodils, iris and hyacinth.  It feels victorious to see those plants coming back to life.  This week’s snow won’t damage those plants other than perhaps browning some leaf tips and bending stems.  Most likely, warmer dry days ahead will help them pop back to a more vigorous condition. Iris leaves remaining from last fall may show damage, but the rhizomes and bulbs of these plants are ready to send up flowers when the time is right.

I planted 150 daffodils in decorative clumps 2 ½ years ago and another 100 daffodils six months ago in another strip along our road.   After a little effort on two different days – bulbs planted with a 2” drill bit attached to our 3/8” cordless drill, I’ll have four weeks of flowering bulbs before grass and leaves get too long.  Eventually the grass and daffodil leaves will be mowed down this season only to return next year. This is what we mean by “good for naturalizing”.  I put in some minimal work and now I’ll enjoy them for many years.

Once the snow melts, consider where you wish you had more flowering spring bulbs. Then put that reminder in your phone or on your calendar to buy the bulbs in September and plant them in October.

Pots of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) tucked into a shady snowbank awaiting Tuesday’s blizzard and four weeks of chilling.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, starting perennials outdoors can be a way to simplify the cold chilling process. I wanted to start Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) so I can plant them in specific garden spots for less than buying the plants. The seed packet said three to four weeks of chilling were necessary before bringing the potted seeds to a brightly lit and warm (70o F) location to germinate.   I filled some 4-6” deep, sterilized nursery pots (mostly left over from past purchases) with soil and planted one seed into each.  Now the pots are OUTSIDE under 10 or more inches of snow and chilling for about four weeks. I’ll let you know what happens.

During the circuit of my yard on that distant warm and sunny Sunday, I also stopped by my peony plants.  They are mostly divided clumps and transplants that haven’t done much in the last two years.  I’m hoping this will be the year of a big show.  I leave about six inches of stem from the leaves when I trim them back in the fall.  I do that so I can identify the crowns of the plants among the weeds. I look for those standing stems to find the little red buds of the new stems.  The red buds poking about one inch from the soil surface tell me that the peony is planted at the right depth.

I have a few large pots along my driveway to plant with annuals or fill with branches for winter interest. I usually cut a few large stems of red twig dogwood gleaned from a wet area along where I walk that I’ll put in these pots in November.  I’ve learned that by March, these stems will start to root!  I gently pull on the stems to test if I can remove them.  Nope – the sticks are starting to be plants.  In April, I’ll dig those out and plant them in wet border areas of my landscape.  I think this year I’ll have a dozen new dogwood shrubs.

Red dogwood stems provide winter decorative interest while they form new roots in this container. Scraping the outer bark of a stem confirms a thin green growing layer underneath. These will be ready for spring planting in the garden!


I call myself the Lazy Berkshire Gardener because I don’t want to work too hard in my gardens. I want to enjoy them. I find it easier to observe my landscape and let the compost happen, the water pool up or daisies to self-sow.  I look for ways to do the minimum task for the biggest impact. For example, mulching is better than spraying and much better than weeding all season.  I look for beautiful low-maintenance plants that thrive in or at least tolerate my garden conditions. Plus, I’m willing to live with the consequences if I miss something.


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While we busily plant our annuals as a rite of the start of summer, just like Memorial Day, don’t neglect your perennial gardens.


I mentioned spongy moth caterpillars briefly last week. I hear Columbia County in New York has a tremendous outbreak now.

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The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.