By Cindy Hovis
March is that wonderful time of year for gardeners in that it’s both a time for planning and planting. March is also the time of year that every day is marked by the appearance of perennials–my sedums are popping up like popcorn and my daffodils are sending up their narrow leaves and colorful flowers. My roses are budding and leafing out so the pruning time is now or never. Digging in the ground is a sensual experience for the gardener if you have prepared the soil with compost and mulch–the good dark dirt actually smells sweet and rich.
In my personal garden, I’m adding some more English or David Austin.
You may get some of these at some better garden centers and they will probably be available as potted plants. If you are careful you can order some bare root roses but this is a risky business–you might receive some top heavy plants with inadequate roots or the roses might come to you dried out from shipping situations. Always soak your bare root roses in a bucket of water the day before planting. Dig an ample hole about 2 feet deep by 2 feet wide. Fill the bottom 6 inches with well-rotted cow or horse manure.
(I use “black cow”) Save ½ of the soil that came from digging the hole and mix it 50/50 with good soil of peat moss. Refill the hole by planting the rose in the center on a 2 to 3 inch mound to allow for the soil settling. Water well, especially if you have used peat moss.
In addition to my own garden, I’m helping with two projects in public gardens. The first was mentoring two students with their senior project concerning the installation of many bulbs at the Art Center in Kings Mountain. Fortunately we were given these bulbs by a local hardware, when the traditional time for planting bulbs had passed. We secured an unheated space at the Art Center and gave the bulbs the necessary “cold treatment”. I helped the students draw a landscape plan on ¼ inch graphing paper, using the naturalized method, instead of the more contrived method of rows and circles. The naturalized method is easy to do. Just dig a large hole, following the directions on the package as to the needed depth and plant the bulbs slightly closer that recommended by the package. I was surprised that one student had never used a shovel before and didn’t know to plant the bulb roots down and green growth up. I helped them read the package instructions as to the planting depth for the daffodils, tulips, crocuses, alliums, and hyacinths. Since one of the students plans to be an elementary school teacher, I also showed her how to force hyacinths in clear plastic drinking cups, using gravel and water. This way the children in this future teacher’s classroom will be able to see both the root growth and the purple flowers.
The other project I’ll be working on is to help a girl scout develop a butterfly garden at Kings Mountain’s new walking trails. I’ll go over the planning and processes in a later column.
Helping with a public garden is a very exciting and uplifting and if we can inspire children and teenagers to help with the planning and maintenance, we can give the next generation the anticipation and joy of gardening. Speaking of public gardens, the Learning Garden at the Citizen’s Resource Center near Dallas, North Carolina is open to both individuals and groups.
Call the Master Garden Hotline for more information (704-922-2112 or 704- 922-0301 . This garden illustrates all the positive factors of a public garden and is designed and maintained by Master Gardeners. It’s located a the back of the building and is a great place to bring a date, a family, or your garden club.
If you have any questions, call the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Services at 704-922-0301 to speak to a Master Gardener.