"No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth."
— Thomas Jefferson
In the spring when you visit a plant nursery, garden center or box store, you will find new versions of familiar plants. Growers and breeders try to provide customers with plants that fit current needs and desires. They develop new plant sizes and colors, and, of course, they constantly try to strengthen their resistance to disease and pests.
So this year they are offering:
• Compact versions of familiar but floppy plants.
• Small plants because people have smaller yards these days.
• Plants with extended bloom times. Not just rebloomers, but continual bloomers.
• Plants with bi-color or tri-colored flowers and/or foliage.
• Plants with hot, vibrant flower colors that may also be transitional. The initial color changes as blooms age.
• Sterile plants that put energy into generous flowering rather than making seeds.
• Plants that can take both shade and sun.
• Better behaved wildflower pollinator plants for use in residential landscapes.
With the growing interest in cultivated meadows as an alternative to boring groundcover plants or expansive labor-intensive areas of turfgrass, the focus has turned to wildflowers.
Mostly along roadsides or in impromptu meadows on undeveloped properties, they are source of all our varieties of ornamental plants. These plants are not necessarily native to the place where they currently grow, although some are. Hardy spreaders, they move to any areas where they are comfortable and become “naturalized.”
What is so special about wildflowers is this sturdiness — being able to grow on their own without our attention. They participate in an interactive plant community with other plants that are natural in a particular site and share their climate needs. There they contribute soil erosion control, wildlife habitat and pollination sources. Wildflowers may be bulbs, shrubs, trees, grasses, vines, annuals or perennials.
The good news is that these plants are not comfortable in just wild or even cultivated meadows. They are also adaptable to perennial borders, containers or formal plantings.
Do you know?
• Pistachios, mangoes and cashews are related to poison ivy.
• Eighty percent of perennial plants’ growth takes place in the fall.
• Urban tree canopies collectively contribute $18 billion worth of pollution removal, carbon sequestration and reduced power plant emissions by saving energy.
• One out of every three bites of food that we eat is thanks to pollinators such as bees. Bees pollinate 70 out of 100 of our major food crops.
Quality yard care hand tools make many projects easier, safer and faster. The investment in good quality tools and the time it takes to keep them cleaned and properly stored is worthwhile.
In the garage, have at least two types of rakes. Long-handled spring rakes, sometimes called leaf or lawn rakes, are lightweight, with a fan of thin, flexible metal strips for tines. Garden rakes have rows of short, stiff tooth-like tines that can handle soil, mulch and woodchips.
Then have at least one basic general-purpose shovel with a concave blade 10 to 12 or 8 to 10 inches wide to hold soil, pointed to aid digging, attached to a 3-foot or so wood or metal handle at an angle to facilitate lifting.
A spade is also essential. It is a type of shovel featuring a narrow, straight-edged, fairly flat metal blade with a blunt bottom edge, attached to a 2-foot or so wood or metal handle, with a grip on top. Sharpened, the bottom blade edge cuts roots and slices into soil with ease.
Finally, have one or more trowels. This indispensable handheld digging tool has a narrow, pointed metal blade attached to a short wood or metal handle. It is perfect for popping weeds out of the soil, planting plants in the ground or in containers.