Ants are Your Friends

Who plants like this?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking to a great group of women in the Shippan Garden Club about “Lazy Gardening.” One of my statements was that ants are your friends, so long as they are outdoors.

This is generally a tough sell because no one seems to adore or admire ants as much as I do. But since I have such heavy clay soil, any insect that will help me aerate that ( for free!) is definitely welcome.

And that photo of the bulbs in the juniper, above? We can most likely thank our ants. Ants are wonderful at moving our minor bulbs around. So if you are wondering how those crocus or grape hyacinths got all over your lawn, thank my buddies, the ants.

Finally, I do understand that no one–including me—wants them in the house. I have found a great organic product for that (which I buy–I am not compensated in any way for this recommendation).

Earthkind ant repellent

These little sachets, which are inert ingredients and essential oils, last for 30 days. Sometimes just finding their trails and wiping them away with soapy water works. But occasionally I can’t tell where they are coming from or I can’t get to the source. In that case, these repellents are just perfect.

So try not to bother your ants out of doors now that you know that they will multiply your spring bulbs and aerate your soil. And should they seek refuge indoors, here’s an easy way to change their minds.

Lawn Scraping

Mowers leaving after inappropriately mowing

Yes, it’s mid-April here in the frozen north but we are still pretty frozen. In fact, the forecast for this evening is for more snow. Somehow, no matter when our magnolias bloom, they always get snowed upon and ruined.

Perhaps you thought that I was exaggerating last week when said that spring was a “non-season” for us. I wasn’t. It stays cold later each year. It snows into May quite often. There’s no reliable early growing season.

But the idea that lawns could need mowing a second time right now is ludicrous. I know this personally. I walk here all the time. Unless they’re just making work for their landscape crew–which is not helpful to the health of the lawns–there is no justification for this.

And I will save my tirade about pollution completely. But this is just wasteful on so many levels!



I am never quite sure why some years I buy pansies and other years I am content to pass them by. Clearly this was one of the years where I felt the need to have them.

I am sure that weather has something to do with it. It’s been rainy and cool for days, if not weeks. April showers, I suppose. So there’s very little color anywhere. The forsythia is trying to open around the neighborhood. Same thing with spring bulbs. But nothing has really begun yet.

We are predicted to have some unseasonably warm weather next week. That should hasten things along.

And interestingly enough, you may remember me writing about branded or trademarked plants in the past. When I looked more closely at the tag for these pansies, even they are a trademarked plant now! Good grief!

Take Time to Smell the Roses

Hellebores aka Lenten roses

I just finished my Spring article for WeHa Magazine, our local glossy lifestyle magazine. One of the first points that I made in the article is that spring is the busiest time in the garden and if you’re not careful it can turn into a non-stop round of chores. That’s why it’s important to take time every time you are outside to metaphorically “smell the roses,” and to enjoy the beauty of what each season holds.

I am pretty lucky because I get outside at least 2-3 times each day without gardening: I walk a dog. So that lets me enjoy the warm sun, the birdsong, and whatever delights nature might have on a given day without obsessing too much over which gardening chores I still have to do.

Sometimes I walk the dog repeatedly by the same bed and finally I can’t stand looking at something–in the dead of winter I went down and pruned off a branch that was hitting her on the head and back every time she walked by a particular plant. But that’s rare.

Usually I just enjoy listening to the various natural sounds around me–at least until she spies a squirrel and tries to give chase!

Taming an Unruly Jade Plant

“Weeping” Jade plant

This jade plant is one of my oldest and most treasured plants. My Mom gave it to me decades ago–so long ago that I have lost track but I am pretty sure that it was before I was married and I have been married over 26 years so it’s been with me quite a long time.

Length of some of the “weeping” branches

The above photo shows just how long some of the branches have gotten. Unfortunately there isn’t any real growth near the center of the plant so I am going to try a bit of a modified cutback of the longest branches to see if I can spur some interior growth.

Broken stems

Also unfortunately the weight of these stems has caused some of these to break spontaneously–or with just a slight tap from a nearby plant or leaf–so it really needs to be done.

“Final” grooming–for now

It hardly looks much different but I knew as soon as I picked up the pot that it was substantially lighter.

Now we’ll let spring do its work and maybe by late summer I can do another another trim.