New England

May, 2012
Regional Report

Favorite or New Plant

Baptisia
This past winter's virtually snow-free season was definitely an anomaly for our region. In most years, many New Englanders have to be concerned with heavy piles of snow sliding off of roofs and breaking the branches of woody foundation shrubs below. Some gardeners erect large wooden A-frames over plants to shield them. But there is an easier and more attractive solution to this problem, which is to plant large herbaceous perennials instead. These die back to the ground in winter, safe from snow damage, but grow quickly in spring, assuming shrub-like proportions by early summer. For sunny areas, baptisia (bap-TEE-zsah) is one of my favorites. Also called false indigo or wild indigo, this legume family member bears spikes of pea-like flowers in June on a rounded mound of foliage reaching 3-4 feet tall and wide. The straight species, Baptisia australis, has lovely, indigo-blue flowers, but there are also a number of cultivars available that expand the color range. 'Purple Smoke' is a hybrid with dusky purple flowers, deep purple stems, and gray-green foliage. 'Carolina Moonlight' is a hybrid with butter-yellow flowers. The Praireblues series developed at the Chicago Botanic Gardens offers some eye-catching bicolors -- 'Solar Flare' with flowers that open yellow and age to orange; 'Twilite' with deep purple and yellow flowers; and 'Starlite', whose blossoms mix soft blue and white. All are long-lived, troublefree, drought tolerant, low maintenance plants that can go without division for a decade or more. I simply cut back my plants by about a third after they finish flowering so they keep their shrub-like shape without flopping for the remainder of the season.

Clever Gardening Technique

Fight the Plum Curculio by Picking Up Dropped Fruits
The plum curculio is a small weevil that attacks just about all fruit trees in our region. Overwintering adults lay eggs in young fruits in spring, leaving a tell-tale crescent-shaped scar. The larvae that hatch out tunnel into the center of the fruit to feed. These infested fruits often fall to the ground in June. Diligently picking up and destroying all dropped fruit in June through early July will help to reduce the numbers of these pests.

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