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Spring is on the Way - Honest!

Posted: March 24, 2014

Signs of spring have arrived...
The snowdrops are blooming, a good sign that Mother Nature's tricks with temperature will soon subside and spring will be here to stay.  Photo by Tina Clinefelter

The snowdrops are blooming, a good sign that Mother Nature's tricks with temperature will soon subside and spring will be here to stay. Photo by Tina Clinefelter

Tuesday, this week, was lovely – warm breezes, soft sunlight and a fresh scent in the air. Just so you know who’s in charge – Mother Nature is playing still another trick on us with rain, snow and falling temperatures in the forecast for the rest of the week. But, there is hope! Some of my spring indicators are happening, bit by bit, although I won’t put away the snow-shovel yet!

Here’s how it stacks up so far:

The grackles and red-winged blackbirds are back (bet they’re not too happy about the weather); dead skunks in the middle of the road are a sign of re-awakening spring-time passions (in the pursuit of romance on the other side of the road the male skunk does not look both ways before venturing out in traffic); ground-hogs are refurbishing burrows, eagles are sitting on nests and my snowdrops are in bloom! Yay!

It is time to start seeds and peruse the catalogs one more time before sending off the order for some unusual perennials. My seed-starting supplies were purchased weeks ago, and it’s been hard to hold myself in check, and as the list of desired perennials was getting a tad expensive, a dose of common sense was applied and reason wins the day!

One landscape item I like to buy ‘hands-on’ is an ornamental shrub or tree. I like to check it for a healthy, balanced appearance and vigorous growth; I check it for visible signs of disease and a healthy root system, with no ‘hitch-hiker’ weeds in the pot, and I like to have a good label detailing the variety, color, size, cultural requirements and the scientific name of the plant so I am sure I am getting the exact plant I desire.

Speaking of desired plants here are a few that it would be wise never to introduce into the home landscape:

  • Ash-the emerald ash borer is with us to stay until the last Ash tree is dead;
  • Bradford pear-disagreeably scented and structurally brittle. With age it will literally fall apart.
  • Black walnut-not if you expect to grow tomatoes or peppers or any plant related to them.
  • Willow-the weeping variety is huge, messy and a water-seeking hog. Not for the small home garden!
  • Mimosa-grows to 40 feet high and wide, very messy and will seed prolifically throughout the neighborhood.
  • Quaking aspen-I’ve heard this tree described as ‘Glorious, Golden and Gigantic’ and here is the reason – one tree can send up unknowable numbers of shoots forming colonies of the same parent plant. There is, in Colorado, a single entity called Pando (Latin for ‘I spread’) covering an area of 107 acres, with about 47,000 sprouts, weighing around 6,600 tons, making it the largest living organism known, dating back 80,000 years since germination of a single seed!

I guess I’ll stick with seeking out a couple of new Viburnums and some more Knock-out roses for this year.

Incidentally, to help the bees, it is better to plant the single varieties of flowers and shrubs as the denser, multi-petalled types just make it harder for the insects to reach the nectar.

Remember to plant in ‘drifts’ – a number of plants of the same type and color, planted in groups. Insects are better able to locate flowers when ‘massed’. They look better to the human eye too…

Contact Information

Tina Clinefelter
Penn State Master Gardener, Clinton County
Tina shares her 'Dig It!' news column in the the Lock Haven Express newspaper