Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
April, 2007
Regional Report

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Pink spring beauties and Virginia bluebells usher in spring.

Spring in the Garden!

Yellow-tipped daffodil buds push their way between strappy green leaves. Curly Virginia bluebell foliage unfurls above the mulch, promising blue/purple bells any day now. Frilly yellow-blue-green columbine leaves fan out before flower stalks rise.

We're tiptoeing in the spring garden beds -- carefully dodging the pink Solomon Seal tips still hiding in the soil. Kneeling, we gently pull away brown leaves and twigs caught low in azalea branches and hydrangea stems. We clip off winter-burned hellebore leaves to better see the rose or white or pink-faced flowers.

Standing and stretching, we reach for the expandable rake, then adjust it to comb through small, oval Phlox stolonifera leaves, persistent pachysandra, sturdy English ivy. The air is cool, the sun warm, the soil chilly with winter.

Spring is a quiet time in the garden, filled with potential and questions. Did the Lobelia cardinalis survive the winter? Do those tiny leaves resemble anything growing here last fall? Be careful, don't step on the tiny, emerging geranium leaves. How much should I prune the lavender? What IS that tangle of brown twigs? Anemone japonica, you think?

Know anyone who wants a clump of helianthus 'Lemon Queen', whose crown is three times larger than when we planted it? Wow, looks like four penstemon where there used to be three! Any sign of the clematis 'Nelly Moser'? I can't use all these dried rosemary twigs; do you want some as skewers for grilled chicken or lamb? Yes, the needle-like leaves are brown but they're still full of flavor for roasted potatoes.

A Snip Here, A Snip There
We cut off brown flower stalks of echinacea, rudbeckia, and astilbe just above the green, ground-level (basal) foliage. We clip off hydrangea flowers just above the first plump leaf bud on a branch. We remove tattered purple, green, silver heuchera leaves, giving more light to new ones pushing from the plant crown. A robin stops to see if we've turned up any earthworms.

In the herb corner, we clip away the dead, scraggly, brown stems on thymes and oreganos. We look hard where they meet soil, hoping for green signs of life. New leaves, please!

As the small, cut-leaf maple leafs out, we admire the tree's graceful, spreading form. We prune off several dead, gray twigs and branches, leaving a well-groomed, red-green, umbrella-like armature soon to be covered in blood-red leaves.

Nutrients to Grow On
Anticipating a steady spring rain, we feed the soil, which feeds the plants. We sprinkle slow-release, no-burn mineral fertilizer (4-6-6, four parts nitrogen, 6 parts phosphorus, 6 parts potassium) around plants and under shrubs. The nitrogen will be available quickly; the granulated minerals will release nutrients for months. How much? Each fertilizer brand is different and application rates can change on the same products. So we read the directions on each bag.

Lavender, candytuft, and rosemary prefer sweet, limey soil, so we sprinkle dolomite limestone under their branches.

We carefully dose the clusters of daffodils, tulips, crocuses, spring beauties, and snowdrops with a quick-release bulb booster. This spring's tonic helps feed next year's flowers.

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