Monday, January 23, 2012

New Seeds for 2012

I just got in my 2012 seed order from Prairie Moon Nursery.  I'm only trying five new plants this year, but as I noted in my last post, I have another half dozen from last year already started.  The plants that I will be trying this year are:

Agastache foeniculum, Blue Giant Hyssop, a mid-western native that is often grown as an annual or short-lived perennial in New England.  I normally would have gone with the species native to this area, A. scrophulariifolia, the Purple Giant Hyssop, but this plant can get a bit too large for a residential setting, reaching 6-7'.  The Giant Blue Hyssop usually grows to about 3', a more manageable size for a suburban landscape.

Agastache scrophulariifolia in mid-October at
Garden in the Woods, Framingham, MA.  This was a small one,
others nearby were well over 6' tall.

Chamaecrista (formerly Cassia) fasiculata, Partridge Pea, is an annual that grows on poor well-drained soils.  It is often used as a temporary ground cover when establishing a meadow planting and has been recommended for use on roadsides.  As with other legumes, Partridge Pea help fix nitrogen into the soil.

Clematis virginiana, Woodbine, is a common woodland vine in the Eastern US.  I would like to try it under my Norway Maple, as a complement to the Virginia Creeper that is doing so well.  While it reseeds itself easily in the wild, it is more difficult to start indoors.

Lilium philadelphicum, Wood Lily, is a beautiful native lily that, while geographically wide spread, has seen its numbers diminished.  This is due in part to harvesting of flowers from the wild.  This may also be a tricky one to grow from seeds, but that will have to do until I find a good commercial source for the bulbs.

Solidago ulmifolia, Elm-leaved Goldenrod, is another shade-tolerant perennial.  I had such good results last year from the Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (S. caesia), that I thought I would try another woodland goldenrod for comparison.

Since I don't have any plants to show off yet, here's a photo showing each of the five seeds.

Clock-wise from upper left: Agastache foeniculum, Chamaecrista fasiculata,
Clematis virginiana, Lilium philadelphicum
, and Solidago ulmifolia.

I need to start the cold stratification for the Lily and Clematis right away!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Repurposing the Christmas Tree = Winter Mulch

All decorations are off?
Looks sad,
but it's easy to move.

Our Christmas tradition is to leave our tree up through Epiphany, all 12 days of Christmas.  In years before we started cutting our own tree, that could be a messy experience when taking down the decorations and moving it outside.

More recently, rather than having the town recycle the entire tree, we have been cutting off the branches indoors and slipping them into a big plastic bag.  Cutting the branches in this way allows one final inspection for missing ornaments.

The branch-less tree is now much easier to take out of the stand and move outside.  As for the branches, these make an excellent winter mulch.  They shade the ground and reduce the affects of freezing and thawing.  In the spring they are easy to remove.

The shallow-growing Heuchera, under these branches, are
susceptible to frost heaves.  A good winter mulch reduces this effect.

I especially like to use these evergreen branches on the German Irises.  These Irises like to stay close to the soil surface, and this way I have not added any 'soil' on top of them.  

Branches over the German Irises.  In the spring
I just pull away the branches and the Irises are ready to go.

For the rest of my winter mulching I will spread out the remainder of my chopped up leaves from this past autumn.  These I will allow to decompose in place to build the soil.

If your tree is already out of the house, it's not too late to harvest some of the branches for use as a convenient winter mulch.