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Garden Reflections

It’s time to decide what to do with your garden next year.

Garden Reflections
By Susan Nienow

November is a good month to look at my gardening successes and failures and make decisions. Even successes require decisions. For example, amsonia loves my yard. I have it in three places, and it is thriving everywhere. The decision is where to put the new plants that have cropped up nearby.

I share the plants that multiply, as do my gardening friends. That makes my garden more personal. We do find that just because a plant will do well in their yards doesn’t mean it will do well in mine. Plants are fussy about location. They like the right conditions.

Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) does well as do many grasses. My mums are not happy in their current location. Though they did well when I planted them, they are now under a spreading redbud tree and are suffering from too much shade and too many tree roots. I will move them in the spring. They haven’t bloomed yet, and it may be too late in the fall for me to want to work in the yard when they finish.

I will spread compost under the roses and through my perennial bed this fall. Also, it is time to put down slow-release organic acid fertilizer for my shrubs. Feeding the hydrangeas with Holly-tone and rock phosphate now and repeating in the spring will encourage blooming.

The evergreens will also get a dose of Holly-tone, which is a slow-release organic fertilizer. I won’t put any other fertilizer down now as that will encourage growth if we have a mild fall.

Several plants I want to investigate for next year include the Bloodgood maple, rosa rugosa for the rose hips, a fig tree, goji berry and hardy kiwi. Investigation includes finding out the growing requirements, size availability and cost. I may only buy one of them or may start a fruit area in the yard. Having them in one place would make it easier to protect those plants from the critters.
I also want to try a blue garden with gray-blue foliage plants and blue blooms. Most of those plants I can move from other places in my garden.

The year 2016 will be the year of the natives for me. I want to learn more about what is available and what wildlife those plants support. Since I am a flower lover, I also want to know what blooms and the size of those blooms.

In a recent experiment, professor Doug Tallamy, chairman of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, counted 410 caterpillars on his native white oak and just one, an inchworm, on his Bradford pear, an Asian native. This information was included in an article on planting native plants in the September/October issue of Horticulture magazine.

This is good news if you want a perfect plant but bad news for insects and birds. In fact, birds will eat most of those caterpillars before they get very big, so the native trees will still look pretty good.

I have transplanted the native white yarrow from the roadside to my yard, and it is doing well and reseeding but is not invasive. Swamp milkweed has planted itself in my yard, and I have let it grow. It is the only host plant for the monarch butterfly. This is my first year to try perennial ageratum, and it did well. I will watch for it to come up next spring.

Joe-pye weed has been a problem for me as I have bought it at least three times now, then pulled it up in the spring because it looks like, well, a weed. This past spring I cut apart a hot pink plastic pot and put it around the stem of a new Joe-pye weed. It should be safe now.

Rudbeckia reseeds liberally. It does provide a grand show of yellow and black blooms in August, however. Monarda does well in my garden and is drought tolerant. Several varieties are native, including the scarlet.

Many common landscape trees are native, including the dogwood, redbud, river birch, serviceberry, red and sugar maples and the sweetbay magnolia. Red and white oak, sycamore and sourwood are also native as are the sweetgums and tulip poplars. The sassafras tree with its three different shapes of leaves is also a native.

Keep these plants in mind when you are putting in new landscaping or replacing plants. For a complete list go to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at wildflower.org. The list has photos and is easy to use.