Gardener’s Corner

May 19, 2022

A gardener in spring is like a kid on Christmas morning, with newly decorated trees leafing out over plants and flowers opening like gifts. Most gardeners bide their wintertime planning for warmer days and how their garden can be better than last year. We troubleshoot the errors and pitfalls of the last growing season, testing soil for nutrients and pH, and most important, dreaming of the flowers and fruit to share with others.

Even though late winter seems to drag on forever with constant anticipation of the first signs of spring, we take advantage of warmer days and attempt to get ahead of Mother Nature. We attack tasks in the garden such as topdressing plants with composted manure, collecting leaves, mulching, looking for winter injury/damage on woody plants, and resuming our not-so-favorite dance with the varmints (deer, rabbit, voles, skunks, and hogs). This year we’re trying a spray mixture of one-part milk to three parts water to keep away the deer and rabbits, and it seems to be helping. Recently we spotted a woodchuck, so we set a trap with apples and lettuce that managed to entice only a black bear. Perhaps the woodchuck saw the black bear as well — no sign of him since.

For this year’s face lift, we’re focusing on our green roof planting design and a renovation of our Azalea Walk. During late winter and early spring, we’ve implemented design edits based on form and function, primarily to provide new strategies for how our garden responds to the increased intensity of storm events.

In the garden we’re currently planting Iris cristata, Indian pink, trilliums, large-flowered bellwort, twinleaf, jack-in-the-pulpit, hepatica, cranesbill geranium, shooting star, and featherbells. Spring and summer are a great time to plant up here at 4,500 feet. The air is cool and humid, so plants will not go into severe shock. They have plenty of time to “root in,” which is growers’ jargon for developing a mature root system or filling the pot with roots. This anchors the plant before harsh winter temperatures freeze the soil. We’ve found when we plant in late fall, frost can heave small plants out of the ground, freezing their roots and killing them. The smaller the plant, the more vulnerable to this damage. At lower elevations, winter arrives later, and this is not as much of a concern.

The nursery is ramping up production, germinating seeds of red spruce, poke milkweed, jack-in-the-pulpit, coral bells and magnolia species. Azaleas will be arriving for potting as well. Pots are sterilized and ready for plants to arrive so they can be well-rooted for the fall plant sale on August 26. The nursery also sells azaleas, rhododendron, red spruce and other plants year-round by appointment.