Mid-Atlantic

March, 2007
Regional Report

Forcing Colorful Foliage

Think green and structure as well as flowers for indoor spring color. Less floriferous trees and shrubs can be forced, for interesting effect. Bittersweet's sculptural twigs have an artful air. Red maples push bright scarlet buds along their gray branches. Birch trees produce long, fuzzy catkins before tiny, new, bright green leaves emerge. Weeping willow branches make wonderfully drooping chartreuse switches.

Mulch Early, Say the Pros

Staffs of the Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, and Chanticleer, A Pleasure Garden in Wayne, mulch ornamental beds in late winter/early spring, while application is easy. They say that shoveling bark mulch, compost, or composted/shredded leaves on a garden bed is easier when perennials haven't popped and shrubs haven't leafed out. Be careful to avoid stepping on green spring bulb stems, though.

Plan and Repair Before Planting

If winter has passed without you updating your garden plan, take advantage of this still-quiet time to consider options. Have a thoughtful look at the bones of your garden -- shrubs, trees, perennial mounds, accent pieces, trellises, arches, paths, and walls. Does anything need repair, replacement, or repainting? Are the shrubs in good shape? Are you happy with everything or is there a declining shrub or perennial cluster you'd like to remove? A spot or plant where a preventive tactic could reduce future insect damage? Also, what new plants would you like to add, where, and why?

Admire Your Hellebores

Evergreen perennial hellebores are blooming now. On most cultivars, these richly colored, handsome flowers face downward and are often hidden under palmately divided leaves. New cultivars have larger, sometimes double, rose-like flowers on taller stems. Hellebores are a must for the shade garden. Be patient after planting though; they take a few years to mature and flower. When happy, they self seed wee plants under the mother plant, which you can carefully transplant.

Investigate New Tools

Yes, we have our favorite, handle-worn garden tools. Certainly we'll treasure, treat, and use those long-time helpers with care. Keep an open mind about new tools, though. There are many new materials and ergonomic designs that can make gardening chores easier and less wear-and-tear on the body. Try out a new tool soon after purchase to see if it fits your hand, your body, and the garden chore. If it doesn't and the tool is still in pristine condition after a quick trial, your garden center may take it back or give credit towards a different product.

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