New England

May, 2012
Regional Report

Web Finds

Reclaiming a Flooded Yard or Garden
Last August many gardeners and homeowners in our region suffered flood damage to their gardens, lawns, and landscapes in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene. Earlier in the year, numerous homeowners along the shores of Lake Champlain watched as record high lake waters covered yards and gardens in the spring. If layers of silt brought in by flood waters still coat your grass and soil, you may be wondering how to get things growing again. Vermont Extension Service horticulturist Dr. Leonard Perry offers guidance in getting flood-ravaged lawns and gardens back in shape. Check out his advice on Reclaiming a Flooded Yard or Garden. He offers a number of suggestions for dealing with silt and the weed seeds it brings with it, along with coping strategies for lawns, trees, shrubs, and annual and perennial gardens that have felt the effects of flood waters.

Favorite or New Plant

Oriental Poppy
From the sizzling red-orange of older varieties to the more restrained pinks, corals, and plums of newer cultivars, Oriental poppies make a definite statement in the garden. When the large blossoms with their bowl of delicately textured petals come into bloom in early summer, they make an eye-catching focal point. I grow the salmon-pink cultivars 'Princess Victoria Louise' and 'Helen Elizabeth', plus three brilliant red varieties of unknown parentage. Regarding these latter three, each time I bought plants that were labeled as pink cultivars, but when they bloomed they were fire-engine red! Three times! I love them all the same, and have to admit that, while I would never have chosen that color for the gardens they're planted in, for the brief time the poppies are in flower their startlingly discordant hue provides a joyful "pop" that really brings the garden to life.

That drama doesn't last for long, however, and soon the poppy shows its downside, as its foliage begins a slow decline, followed by a summer dormant period that leaves a fairly sizeable hole in the flower border. Airy baby's breath (Gypsophila) is the poppy's traditional garden companion, as its billowy growth expands to fill the space vacated by poppy foliage. Since baby's breath has never lasted long in my acid soil, I plant tall annuals with an open growth habit, like nicotiana, nearby in late May. By the time the poppy foliage is looking raggedy, the annuals are filling in and providing cover.

Container-grown Oriental poppies can be planted carefully in the spring, but bareroot plants should only be planted in the fall. The time to move or divide poppies in the garden is mid to late summer when plants are dormant, before the tuft of new growth emerges.

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