By Paul Nuhn, Extension Master Gardener
As I write this column, we have experienced a warmer February but a typically cold and windy March. This warm spell sent many of our plants into believing spring was upon them. Mother Nature sometimes plays us for fools. Plants too.
Flowering trees and shrubs were tricked into opening their buds early only to be hit by winter’s return in early March.
Magnolias were hit the hardest. Though these fragrant trees are early bloomers, their blossoms turned brown with the sudden drop of temperatures. Flowering cherries and their prunus relatives were also affected.
But do not despair, as Mother Nature is always watching our back. While this year’s blooms were off schedule, the long term prospects are good for your trees and shrubs to remain healthy.
The library’s spring bulb collection is right on schedule and our herbaceous plants (perennials) are on track to give you a tremendous spring show. A few blooming now are creeping phlox (Phlox subulata), Lenten rose (Helleborus), while others just starting their growth cycle. Still showing fabulous winter interest are: chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Oregon grape holly (Mahonia aquifolium), and winterberry (Ilex verticillata).
Weeds, however, like the disruption of the normal weather patterns and take advantage of them. Purple deadnettle (Lamium purpureum) and hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) are just two exasperating early weeds that seem to come out of nowhere and take over. The flowers and soon-to-be seeds will be everywhere hiding amongst the shrubs, flower beds and edges of lawns.
Please take some time and ‘weed out these weeds’! This late in the season, the best way to get rid of them is to just dig them up by the roots which, luckily, are easy to pull. Grab them at the base of the plant (many weeds have a rosette form) and twist while pulling the entire plant out of the ground.
When these weeds show up in your well maintained lawn, you could run the lawn mower over them to dispose of the top growth and hopefully toss the flowers and seeds into the nearest trash can. This is also a fast way to remove any leftover leaves still hanging about.
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense)
A flower that brings you to your knees – literally.
Wild ginger is found throughout Virginia (with the exception of coastal areas) in woodland areas. This herbaceous ground cover is an excellent choice for our neighborhood. The kidney-shaped foliage shimmers in the filtered light of the forest floor. This flower, one of the earlier bloomers, is loaded under the magnificent leaf resting near the ground, where it is pollinated by ground and low-flying insects. The brown/green flower is exotic in looks and appeal.
We currently have two healthy colonies in our gardens, one by the entrance and the other near the library bay window. Elegant but subdued, this plant reaches a whopping 5 inches with a loosely spreading habit forming a clump between 2 and 3 feet spread. The seeds are dispersed by ants to form new colonies a few yards away. For additional info:
- Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic: Asarum canadense, Wild Ginger
- Virginia Native Plant Society: Wild Ginger (Asarum Canadense) .