Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow in March

What a shock to the system to wake up this morning to a snow frosted landscape. No working in the garden today. For deciduous trees that have not yet leafed out, this bit of heavy, wet snow is usually not a disaster. Down the street from me several trees have branches hanging over the street. If they had already leafed out the extra weight of the snow would have been enough to break them. This happened to us a lot in Colorado, where we once had snow the first week of June and sometimes as early as September. We would be out at midnight shaking the snow out of the trees.

Here it is the evergreens that take the brunt of these late snows. My neighbors have arborvitaes as a screen and over the years many branches have broken. Some are hanging over onto my side of the fence. You can take a broom or rake and gently push up on the branches to remove the snow. Where branches have broken you will need to prune them. This will aid the tree in healing over and reduce the opportunity for disease or insect damage later on. You can go to the Cornell University extension web site for a down loadable brochure on pruning to see how to do it properly.

It is also time to cut back your ornamental grasses. They can be cut back to about 6 inches. You might also give some thought about dividing them. They should be divided about every 2-3 years otherwise they die out in the middle and begin to look like a donut. Many perennials have this tendency if not divided frequently. It is actually a survival mechanism. As the middle dies and begins to decompose it provides needed nutrients to the remaining part of the plant. However, since I know you are very diligent gardeners and fertilize with a well balanced fertilizer every year and otherwise take good care of your gardens, it is an un-necessary task for the plant to do this and plants with holes in the middle are unsightly in the garden. So transplant regularly, (spring is great time to do this), and if you run out of room, find a friend who would like them or donate them to Habitat for Humanity.

And speaking of grasses, this year’s Plant of the Year, as selected by the Perennial Plant Association, is the Hakonechloa “Aureola,” otherwise known as Japanese Forest grass. I guess we don’t often think of grasses as being a perennial, but really they are and the PPA is to be commended for selecting a grass as this year’s Plant of the Year as they have become so popular in recent years. I would have thought that the Plant of the Year might have been a miscanthus, one of my favorite grasses, but the Hakonechloa does have a lot going for it. This grass is hardy in zones 5-8 (we are zone 5) and in our climate does well in partial sun and moist, rich soil. Its leaves are gold with green stripes and will lighten up the darker corners of any garden. It would also look good in a container, with some colorful coleus. It is also deer resistant, which is a definite benefit where we live. You can also go to the Perennial Plant Association web site to learn more about this plant and the PPA.

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