April Gardening Calendar


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April is another busy month for gardeners; usually a month characterized by ups and downs in temperature.  Keep watch for frosts; protect cold frames with mats if frosts are imminent, and admit air daily as weather permits.  Finish pruning fruit trees if not done, plant grapes; fertilize and prune blackberries.  Check your fruit trees and roses for pests as soon as they bud and leaf out and set out apple pest traps two weeks before bud break.  Weed and amend all your beds now while it is cool and moist.

Finish planting fruit trees, shrubs, roses, and perennials.  This month is a good time to direct sow (where they are to flower)seeds of several flowers: sweet alyssum, cornflowers, carnations, pinks, poppies, stocks, rose campion, Lychnis, columbines, valerian, honesty, foxglove, snapdragons, mignonette, larkspur, kiss-me-by-the-garden-gate and four-o’clocks.  Perennials still may be divided if weather has not become too warm.  Violets can be divided after blooming and cuttings taken of pansies.  Make cuttings of chrysanthemums, gauras, Helianthus, lupines, Lychnis, Liatris, knautias, saponarias, scutellarias and veronicas.  Dahlias and tigridias may be started inside in cold climates and planted out later after frosts are over, or planted outside if the soil temperature is above 60 degrees F.

Several vegetables can be direct sown if weather permits and it is not too cold: beets, arugula, carrots, caraway, celery, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill, fennel, collards, mache, fava beans, cress, kale, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, rhubarb, turnip greens, onions, pasley, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radishes, salsify, scallions, spinach and Swiss chard.  Sunflowers and tomatillos can be sown two weeks before the last expected frost.

Corn may be sown after April 15th in cool maritime northwest climates, or a week or two later in the inland and mountain areas.  Usually corn is sown about 10 days to two weeks before the last frost.  Native Americans of the Hidatsa tribe living in the Dakotas planted sunflowers first, then corn, and after frosts followed with beans and finally, squash.  Sunflowers were grown by themselves in a field, but corn, beans and squash were grown together; with corn in hills of 6-8 and beans and squash vining through.

Vegetables started last month indoors may be planted out this month: the brassicas, parsley, Asian greens, rhubarb and tomatoes; once frosts are over.

Prune established roses before bud break and seal the cuts with water-based glue or wood glue.  This prevents drilling wasps from injuring the canes.  Fertilize organically with Epsom salts, manure or compost, bone meal or rock phosphate, alfalfa meal and seaweed or wood ashes.

A few things maybe grafted now: grapes, hollies, pears, maples, pines and clematis.  Layers can be made of Cotoneaster, Cotinus, Hydrangea, Lavandula, Lonicera and Parthenocissus. 

Enjoy spring!

March Gardening Calendar


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This photo is of a double blue primrose seedling, blooming now in Corvallis, Oregon.

March is a very busy month for gardeners.  Root crops stored from the previous year and planned to produce seed can be planted out late in the month after the soil thaws (cabbages, celery, lettuce, leeks, onions, parsnips).  Planting time will arrive soon, or has already arrived for those of you in mild climates.  Weed and clean borders and vegetable beds, plant perennials, sow seeds of hardy annuals, plant rhubarb, asparagus, sea kale and artichokes.   Plant and/or prune cane fruits and fruit trees (cherries, apples, peaches, apricots, pears, plums, currants, gooseberries, etc.).  Check cold frames on a regular basis, venting as needed and closing the glazing panels at night.  Watch temperatures in the greenhouse also, as March is a month of ups and downs in temperature.  Manure and other organic soil amendments (epsom salts, seaweed meal, alfalfa meal, greensand, bone meal, compost and wood ashes) can be spread over vegetable, fruit, flower and rose beds.  Grape vines can be manured now, leaving space around the stem; treat roses in the same manner.

Many vegetables can be sown indoors now for transplanting out later: cole crops (brassicas), onions, lettuce, peppers, eggplant and leeks.  Some vegetables can be direct sown outside if weather permits and if your soil is not too wet to work: arugula, carrots, corn salad, fava beans, cress, mustard and turnip greens, onions, peas, radishes and spinach.  Celery and lettuce can be direct sown into frames.  Several vegetables and fruits can be transplanted now: raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, asparagus, horseradish, head lettuce, onion sets and plants and perennial herbs.  Make sure your mushroom beds do not get too wet; replace straw if wet.

Potted auricula primroses should be protected from rain and frosts; they will begin to bud soon.  Sow any remaining auricula and primrose seeds.  Herbaceous perennials can be divided and planted now.  Many hardy annual flowers may be sown during March: larkspur, sweet peas, lychnis, nigella, lavatera, poppies, kiss-me-by-the-garden-gate and sweet alyssum.  Inside the greenhouse sow: petunias, impatiens, pansies, alyssum, chrysanthemums, iceplants, portulacas, salvias, snapdragons, sweet Williams, ten-week stocks, mignonette, hesperis, Shasta daisies, hibiscus, lupine and Salvia x superba.

Roses and other shrubs may be layered now, and cuttings may be made of geraniums, myrtles and hydrangeas.  If you want to plant a hedge from seed, now is the time to sow seeds of hawthorns, stone fruits, roses and other hardy shrubs you might like to use.  The young plants can be transplanted out to their permanent positions later.

Happy Spring!


Antique Chrysanthemums


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More than 150 species of Chrysanthemum exist in nature.  In this article we are concerned with Asian species brought to Europe and North America as garden plants.  In ancient China gardeners selected interesting plants from the wild and over centuries developed chrysanthemums into popular garden plants.  A yellow garden variety and a white were known in China by the fifth century B.C.  By 1,000 A.D., in the time of the refined Sung dynasty, thirty-five named varieties of mums existed.  By 1700, the number had jumped to 300.

The florist chrysanthemums we grow today in America (and all over the world) are descended from wild and garden plants introduced from China.  The first species to reach Europe was Chrysanthemum morifolium, ancestor of modern florist mums.  Plants arrived in Marseilles, France in the 1780s, then were brought to England by 1790.  The flowers of this species are purple.  After 1800 more garden varieties arrived in Europe and America from China.  The yellow-flowered C. indicum arrived in England in the early nineteenth century.  Enthusiasts soon crossed C. morifolium x C. indicum to create a wide range of colors and shapes.  (It is not known how many of the diverse forms that appeared in the early 1800s were new hybrids; some may have been garden varieties received directly from China.)  By 1834 fifty varieties in several colors and shapes were available in Europe and America.

Robert Fortune introduced another Chinese species, C. rubellum, the Chusan Daisy, in 1846.  The advantage of this species and several of its hybrids is that it endures colder temperatures than the other two species.  The plants tend to be shorter, also.  The picture above (from The Cottage Garden, by Roy Genders, Pelham Books, 1969) shows several blooms of C. rubellum.  Because of the button-like shape of the flower this kind of mum came to be known as the “Pompon chrysanthemum”.   The pompon class is still recognized today by the National Chrysanthemum Society.

I once grew a beautiful pompon mum named ‘Paul Boissier’, but lost it in a move.  It grows to about three feet or more and has beautiful, double orange and bronze flowers in the lovely circular shape of the pompon mums.  Few heirloom mums survive today, and only a very few are commercially available.  Shirley Hibberd, in his book The Amateur’s Flower Garden, published in 1871, listed 100 named cultivars of chrysanthemum.  None of them is available from a nursery today!  It is probable that if some of these old named plants do still exist, they would have to be re-identified.  I am always looking for old mums, especially pompons, but have not had much success.

Today the National Chrysanthemum Society recognizes thirteen distinct classes of mums, defined by their flower shapes.  Emphasis seems to be on contemporary varieties, not on heirloom mums, but membership does expose one to the great diversity of modern mums available.  Membership is only $20.00 per year for an individual.  Youth memberships (under 17), garden club affiliation (organization) memberships, and life memberships are also available.   The website for the society is mums.org.  Two benefits of membership are a cultural manual for new members and a quarterly journal.  Why not join and voice a desire to locate, preserve and propagate antique chrysanthemums?