New England

October, 2011
Regional Report

Clever Gardening Technique

Grow a Pot of Chives on a Windowsill
To enjoy fresh chives through the winter, dig up a clump from the outdoor garden in the fall and separate it into several smaller clumps, or simply slice off a small rooted section from the side of an existing clump. Pot up the small clumps in soilless potting mix, water, then leave the pots outside for two or three hard frosts. This will satisfy the plants' dormancy requirement. Then bring the pots inside to a sunny windowsill or place under grow lights. Soon you'll see new chive shoots emerging that will provide you with a winter harvest.

Favorite or New Plant

Canby Paxistima
If you are looking for an easy-care, hardy evergreen groundcover that does well in sun or part shade in a variety of soils, look no further than Paxistima canbyi. In fact, the most difficult part of this plant is figuring out how to pronounce its name -- paks-iss'-ti-ma can-bee-eye, which is better than its common name of ratstripper! This native of the central Appalachians is hardy to zone 3 and is found in the wild mainly on rocky, limy soils. In cultivation, moist, well-drained soil high in organic matter is ideal, but it is quite adaptable. Paxistima forms a mound of finely textured, lustrous, dark green foliage about 12 inches tall that spreads slowly to 3 to 4 feet wide or more. Inconspicuous flowers are produced in spring, but the leaves are really the show. I use it in a bed with sandy, relatively infertile soil where it provides an elegant and understated counterpoint to other low maintenance groundcovers such as bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) and sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina). I have read that paxistima can be susceptible to euonymus scale and to winter burn in exposed locations, but my plants have never had any problems. In fact, the first paxistima I bought shows how tough this plant is. Winter's cold was arriving and I hadn't gotten around to planting it, so I just shoved the plant in its pot deep under some shrubs and hoped for the best. I didn't remember it again until I inadvertently stumbled across it, still alive, two summers later. At which point I finally planted it in my garden, where it thrives to this day!

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