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Tips for the Compleat Gardener - Spring in the air


I walked through the woods with my dog early this morning and the sweet scent of spring was in the air, I noticed the swelling of red buds on the silver maple on the verge of bloom, the yellow beginnings of the spice bush and the carpet of snowdrops. This week a few species crocus have opened at my house as have the winter aconite.

Today as morning progressed so did the velocity of wind – March, still the lion, trying to shake dead wood out of the trees, forest walking is out for the day’s remainder.

While there is still roaring going on outside get your clippers out and bring spring in. Most of us know how to force forsythia into yellow hello but there are several other spring bloomers to grace the table starting with what is known as white forsythia or Abeliophyllum distichum which brings a fragrant white surprise to the early landscape.

I think the shrub is underused as is another great forcer Hamamelis vernalis (witchhazel) [ham-am-EE-lis]. Both bloom earlier than most gardeners are outside so they should be near a path often used but not too near because in summer they are not exciting. The shadbush (Amelanchier) is another early blooming native that opens white flowers and you can spice up the bouquet by adding flowering quince with its bright colored flowers.

Cuttings from certain trees can be satisfactorily forced such as the red maple, horse chestnut, magnolia, flowering almond and crabapple. Daphne, another under-used specimen forces easily very early but dogwoods are a little harder – the wait calls for patience.

For that Oriental style arrangements branches of the Larch (Larix) look great with delicate green needles, oaks produce pretty pinkish leaves that turn pale green, beech has that lovely coppery tone and there is always the pussy willow with its fuzzy buds.

For best results in forcing, put the newly cut branches in a tall container of water overnight so they can drink in as much water as possible, then place in a vase in a cool space with some light but not sun until buds are ready to open. The process can take some patience but is worth it.

This is a great time to visit your local native plant nurseries to see what is happening for spring. I know that Iron Creek Nursery on Pine Lane and Russell’s in Richboro have made a point of adding many native perennial choices and Gino’s Native Plant Nursery on 232 in Wrightstown has increased the choices of native shrubs and trees. It is really important to use as many natives in your gardenscape as possible to attract and feed pollinators.

I know I say this almost weekly but please avoid the use of poisons; they never kill just one thing. A balanced environment is never overrun by pest populations because with the pest comes the insect or bird that dines on it, it is a bug eat bug world.

If you are worried about ticks get guinea hens, which will entertain you while eating ticks and more. These trucks you see around advertising tick and mosquito control are just spraying to kill whatever.

Our life depends on the survival of the insect population for all kinds of services so find a way to live with them in our one world and find out how your representatives vote on banning persistent pesticides.

Plant your lettuce and spinach anticipate the early spring salad and enjoy the moment.

Happy spring.