A rerun from my Garden Compositions in Nashville House, Home, and Garden March 2008:
BEWARE THE DECEIVER!!
Some call him the seducer, the way he woos us with his warmth. He skews our perspective and flirts with what he knows are our ultimate intentions. Last year, I hate to admit, even I found myself succumbing to his overt advancements. I’m not talking George Clooney here. It’s the month of March that can lure even the most faithful gardener to transgress our prudish adherence to not plant annuals until after Tax Day. The seduction of early spring, the lure of brilliantly colored flowers topping tables at all the big box stores, the longing to feel the dirt in our hands – all these combine to bring down the florally starved gardeners who think, “Surely this year we won’t get caught with a late freeze!”
Last year we all learned our lesson. With February and March of 2007 bringing temperature that aligned more with April and May, many folk were convinced that global warming had eliminated our winter. By the end of March I was seeing annual beds being planted, baskets of spring flowers being hung, and Boston ferns placed in urns. Granted, in some years the meticulous gardener can escape the damage of late frost by covering their flowers or bringing containers into their garage. But last year’s three day deep freeze in early April defied preparation and protection. It’s time to encourage the Victorian Age rule of planting for Middle Tennessee: “Don’t plant your annuals and tropicals until after April 15!” I’ll even add another word of caution here. Many of the gardening old-timers that I love to glean information from swear by the fact that they will not plant annuals until after Mother’s Day (a good two weeks after April 15). Late April 2005 brought temperatures in the upper 20s at night – enough to decimate plants like impatiens, coleus, or mandavilla vines.
DEFYING THE DECEIVER
With warm afternoons beckoning us to action but responsibility controlling our purse-strings, here’s a list of early spring activities that help you prepare the way for a gorgeous and healthy spring display of annual color. Just so we’re all on the same wave-length, I’ll give a quick explanation of what I’m talking about when I discuss annual color:
Encarta Dictionary describes “annuals” as a “plant that dies after one season”. In our area this is a long list that you can best explore by checking out these two web sites:
- Visit the websites above to read about which annuals and tropicals best handled our past two scorching summers. You’ll find plants listed by botanical name, but you’ll also find the name that grandma used to call it! Make note of the specific variety – for example, not all geraniums perform the same. Look for these varieties in local nurseries.
- Amend your annual beds with products such as Erth Food, soil from the Compost Farm (794-1483), Nature’s Helper Soil Amendments, or other good soil enrichments.
- Visit the Bloom N Garden Expo (April 8-10) at the Williamson County Expo. Not only do they have great displays, but this is one of the best places to buy plants and garden accessories, plus learn lots from their line-up of speakers.
- Start planting in your perennial beds. Two great new books out to help you decide what to plant where: “Southern Shade: A Plant Selection Guide” or “Southern Sun: A Plant Selection Guide” both by Jo Kellum.