Category: Ginny Rosenkranz

Butterfly weeds ready for spotlight in June

Asclepias tuberosa or the common butterfly weed is one of many native herbaceous perennials that burst into full bloom in June. The plants have very thick roots and form a mounded clump of green foliage in May, then in June the beautiful flowers begin to open, a bright orange, sometimes yellow or red in color. They grow in full sun and love our Eastern Shore sandy soils, and once established they are very tolerant of drought. As with a lot of native flowers, the Asclepias tuberosa has many common names including Butterfly milkweed, orange milkwed, chigger flower and pleurisy root. All of the common names are great at describing the plant, as butterflies flock to the bright orange flowers of the butterfly weed plants. The name “milkweed” comes from the milky white sap that seeps out of plants when the stems or leaves are broken off. Some find the milkweed sap irritating to their skin. The name “chigger flower” is a way to alert gardeners not to dig up the wild plants without walking into a possible pesky insect. Pleurisy root highlights the medicinal uses of the plants that in the past were very helpful in relieving the difficulty of breathing. Butterfly weed flowers cluster together to create a bright bouquet on the top of the plants, easy for many pollinators to find. The nectar in the bright orange...

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Lily of the Valley always an early starter

One of the most wonderful surprises of spring is the emergence of some herbaceous perennials that have been dormant all winter long. As the soil warms up the plants begin to push their foliage out into the warm spring air. Some need all summer before the flowers emerge, but some very lovely ones bloom almost as soon as the foliage emerges. The Lily of the Valley is one of those springtime treasures that blooms in May with an arching stem of tiny pure white, very fragrant bell shaped flowers. The stems can grow 4-9 inches long which hold five to 10 sweetly scented flowers that are only a third of an inch long. The fragrance of the flowers perfumes the air for at least two to three weeks, and the flowers can be cut and brought indoors for tiny bouquets. Lily of the Valley grows best in moist partly or lightly shady gardens and the dark green pairs of leaves make a lovely summer groundcover that colors the gardens from spring to late fall. The-lance shaped leaves can grow 8-15 inches tall. The plants grow by underground rhizomes, which are often called “pips,” and can be dug and divided for sharing in late fall. A few plants can become a dense groundcover in a few short years. There are some lovely cultivars such as Convallaria majalis “Albostriata” that has...

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April is when tulips bloom

All the bulbs that were planted in the fall sprout foliage in March and produce beautiful brightly colored flowers in April. Tulips are bulbs that prefer to live in colder areas than our Eastern Shore of Maryland, but some will still be able to survive our hot summers. They should be planted in full sun or in an area that provides some afternoon shade. They need to be planted in well drained soils at least 6-8 inches deep. If the bulbs are planted in low areas or in soggy soils, they will drown and die. Compost can be worked into the soil to add slow release nutrients. In the spring the foliage starts to emerge as early as February and March. The leaves of tulips are very hardy no matter how cold it gets. Once the leaves are about 7 inches tall, the flower buds will begin to grow out of the bulb and will soon grow taller than the leaves. Tulips come in a rainbow of colors and shapes. From purest white to the darkest purple that it appears to be black. There are yellow, orange, pink, red, lavender and purple. The earliest tulips usually have round flowers with single petals which often have short flower stalks and there are also double early tulips with many petals. The Triumph tulips which always flower in April have either a...

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Don’t be afraid to walk on egg shells

Starting seeds indoors in the early spring allows the home gardener the chance to try many varieties of plants with the smallest amount of money. Buying a few different variety seed packages of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, annual herbs and flowers can provide a full garden by planting only a few seeds of each variety and saving the seeds that become the new favorites for next year. Another way to save money and also help the garden vegetables is to plant the seeds inside of egg shells instead of purchasing peat pots or other special pots for seedlings. The egg shells are made up of calcium and many vegetables, including tomatoes, need calcium for better fruit set and fruit growth. Planting the seedlings grown in egg shells into the garden will allow the egg shells to decompose and gradually release the calcium for future vegetable. Break the eggs in half and remove the edible eggs for cooking or baking, then rinse out the inside of each shell. Place a crumbled paper towel for support inside the shell and poke a small hole in the bottom of the egg shell with a paper clip to allow drainage for the egg shell container. With a marker, add happy or silly faces to the egg shell and add the names of the vegetables, herbs and flowers. Add water to a new sterile...

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Cold weather won’t scare off all blooming

February is always a cold month and the ground can be covered with snow or frost, but with the occasional warm days there are landscape plants that will bloom despite the chilly weather. The Oregon Grape Holly is a native shrub that often blooms very early in the spring and sometimes as early as February. The plant grows to 3-6 feet tall with evergreen leaves that have sharp spines at the edges, very similar to the American Holly. The main difference between the American Holly and the Oregon Grape Holly is that the leaves of the Oregon Grape Holly has 13 leaflets that create a compound pinnate leaf while the American Holly has a single leaf. The flowers of the Oregon Grape Holly are small but bright yellow, slightly fragrant, and are arranged in clusters on stems that look like fireworks on the top of the plants. The stems are about 2-3 inches long and the yellow flowers shine brightly on the top of the dark glossy evergreen leaves. The plants love to grow in part sun or full shade in acidic, moist but well-drained soils, perfect for most of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Neither rabbits nor deer like to nibble on these plants but the native birds love the rounded blue grape like fruit. Another native shrub that blooms in the very early spring are the Witch...

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