THANKS TO hardworking helpers John, Adrienne, Ken, Micki (and myself, Susie) for turning out this morning. It was amazingly beautiful–sunshine, 65 deg. after it warmed up, plant highlights including purple Beautyberries, red Winterberry Hollies, and fall color developing on the Black Gums and Amsonia hubrichtii. (Unfortunate “lowlights” include abundant evidence of deer and maybe ground hog depredations–especially on moonflowers and daylilies. Of course, if Susie had applied more deer spray over the past month, this damage might be less. However, the moonflowers will be killed with the first frost, and the daylilies are all well established so loss of tender fall foliage should not hurt them much.)
Yesterday Susie used the small family tiller to dig nine large planting holes for perennials. This morning John continued and dug the remaining five so that we could install half of the 2-gal. perennials purchased several weeks ago for Warrington Community Day. This process has been experimental this year in our wettest areas, so far with good results. We outline a 2-3′ circle with shovel-deep cuts, till the area as deeply as possible, top the hole with several shovels-full of organic matter, then dump on 30 lbs (half of a 5-gal. bucket) of coarse sand, plus granular fertilizer if I’ve remembered it, and till again. The logic behind this experimental proceeding has been that if perennials are placed in a well-drained hole, even if we do get too much moisture (a drain pipe issue for us), there will be a slightly drier zone immediately around the roots, leading to plant survival. On-line sources caution about sand+clay=concrete, but so far we haven’t seen that result. We have been using a lot of sand for the hole size, which may be helping. Using the tiller–once it is started (our biggest issue)–makes incorporating the amendments much faster. John is the only person who can start the tiller, and it takes many, many pulls of the string, tweaking of the choke and gas line, etc. After two days of starting the wretched machine for me, his arm is sore and he has a linear blister on one of his fingers.
Once the holes were all dug and amended, Adrienne, Micki and Ken were able to plant 10 ‘Little Joe’ Pye Weeds and 4 ‘David’s Lavender’ Phlox. Joe Pye is a native plant that likes very moist soil. I have seen it growing happily in fresh-water marshes though it also tolerates fairly dry soils. Phlox is more sensitive to oversaturation, but as an experiment we planted 2 in well-sanded holes in a potentially very wet area. It will be interesting to see how they survive and maybe thrive. We reviewed planting technique for well-rooted-in container perennials, especially the importance of cutting the root ball. After planting, all plants were watered, with corn gluten meal and then mulch applied. Both species are supposed to be deer resistant.
Micki and Ken also planted 2 native Jack-in-the-Pulpit corms (big ones), Martha‘s gift to the Gardens from her home. We’ll look forward to seeing these grow next spring. If happy, they will eventually produce seeds and possibly a colony around each parent plant.
THANKS TO Jack, who responded to my request for poison ivy removal a week or two ago. Jack is about 85-years-immune to poison ivy, so I am extremely grateful whenever he can work on the Rhus toxicodendron plants that keep turning up. The back azalea slope is much safer now due to his efforts.