Early or Maybe Not?

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You already know that I am a fan of phenology by my reliance on the oak leaves as a last frost date.

For years, my recollection (backed up by 20 years of written gardening journals) is that our trees are pretty much in full leaf by the first week of May.

Additionally, the dogwood trees bloom for Mother’s Day, along with the lilacs. Other gardeners that I have spoken to confirm these “recollections.”

So is the problem this year the date of Mother’s Day, which is falling in the second week of May? Because while I do have dogwoods (albeit not quite as lush this year as in other years), the lilacs are barely open.

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Perhaps because of the late date, they decided to split the difference!

Is “Instant” Gardening a Plus or a Minus?

It was bound to come to this: “instant” pre-grown hedges in a couple of different sizes. Just dig, drop, and “voila!” You have your hedge or your knot garden or your privacy screen or whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve. The web site of the grower to which I am referring is here, along with the different types of plant material.

So cost aside, the question becomes, is this a good thing? And even I am not entirely sure. For one thing, it does seem that there are “sustainable” planting options offered, like biodegradable planting boxes.

And there are valid reasons to need–or want–hedges for one reason or another. I recall the Christmas that my young abutting neighbor got an ATV that he insisted upon driving around his much too small 1/2 acre lot. “Instant” shrubbery would have done a lot to deaden that sound.

Even now we have another abutting neighbor whose son has a log splitting business. It sounds harmless and charming doesn’t it–until you realize he’s using a commercial log splitter for 4 hours or so at a time. Again, some “instant” shrubbery would be useful here, except that I am not sure that it would grow in competition with the roots of my large pines. (Luckily, he is off to college in the fall! Whew!)

In my retail gardening days, I always advised clients to buy “the largest plant they could afford.” (Actually the way I phrased it was that I always buy the largest plant that I can afford because I am not getting any younger–which still happens to be true). So again, “instant” plants solve a bit of that conundrum as well by taking some of the work of “growing the hedge” away from you.

And yet, even with all of these very positive things, there’s something about this that troubles me.

First are the inappropriately sheered plants that don’t want to be hedges like magnolias, cornelian cherry, viburnum and even sheered arborvitae (nevermind ‘Witchita Blue’ Juniper!)

Next, there is the danger that some folks will order plants that are invasive to their region–here in Connecticut, for example, privet is banned.

And then there is just the idea that gardening–the idea of growing things–teaches us so many things about our soil, microclimate, etc. Now, we can probably still learn that with a pre-grown hedge, but it’s going to be a different lesson–a more expensive one, I venture to say. And since part of gardening involves killing a lot of plants, that’s not how I want to learn, thanks so much!

So maybe this “instant” hedge idea is going to be better for commercial applications and large residential projects. If I were a home gardener (as I am) I think I would prefer to grow my own to learn about them and let them settle in. But, then again, I am not getting any younger.

Deferred Maintenance

There has been a lot of “turnover” as they call it, in my neighborhood. Houses that were owned by older couples are being bought by younger families with children. And this is nice to see. Things like that always reinvigorate a neighborhood.

What’s always a wonder to me, however, is when a growing family buys a house with a meticulous landscape and then, clearly, lets that landscape deteriorate.

We have such a situation–or two–in my neighborhood. And mind you, this has nothing to do with the fact that these folks aren’t maintaining the homes.

In the first instance, they have a lawn service mowing, so that’s fine. What I object to–and perhaps it will be remedied eventually–is that they have ripped out every shrub around their foundation and sunk the home in a sea of black dyed mulch. They’ll discover the consequences of that shortly as the artillery fungus shoots spores all over their yellow home.

In the second instance, the couple bought a house that had shrubs that had been neatly manicured to within an inch of their lives. It wasn’t to my taste, but at least it was a “look.”

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These folks are barely mowing the lawn–and this is one of their specimen rhododendrons. I am sure they haven’t got a clue but I hate to see ancient shrubs killed off under weeds like this. This just makes me sad.

This isn’t a question of money–there’s a huge hulking Lexus SUV in the driveway and the guy roars by me in his Jaguar sports car (an oxymoron?) every morning.

I suspect that they just don’t know plants–or don’t care. But what a shame.

I hope the folks are at least enjoying living in a lovely place.

But at least I know this is not just happening in my neighborhood.

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You can barely see the gold thread cypress under all the Virginia creeper here. There’s even some poison ivy mixed into this mess which is probably why no one will deal with it.

Sadly, this shrub is at a commercial building near my vet. It’s a doggie day care place. I am not sure I would leave my dog at a place where the shrubs are over-run with poison ivy.