Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 21, 2013

THE DIRT ON GARDENING: Planting season arrives with color

By TOM YODER
COLUMNIST

GOSHEN — How do you say perfection?

Superb, grandiose, magnificent, magnifico — all these superlatives apply when it comes to this spring’s flowering trees.

Never, in our recent past, has spring blossoming of our ornamental trees and even the fruit-bearing trees been more perfect than in the spring of 2013.

What makes it even more spectacular is the fact that nearly every flowering tree “broke color” at once — in a matter of a week or two. If you weren’t out taking pictures of these full-clustered trees then you aren’t a flower lover.

Many times a late frost or a harsh wind or a sudden downpour will render these colorful beauties to a shortened lifespan, as far as eye-candy is concerned, with petals suddenly blanketing the ground beneath them and then only memories. You’ve no doubt heard that age-old expression “make hay while the sun shines” and that would have been this past week for picture-taking. There may be a few that hang on yet this week but winds and rain will take their toll.



Our nagging winter blues, that seemed to hang on much too long for most of us, finally broke. Our waiting and waiting finally paid off in May (with a cold and wet April in our past) when temperatures did an about-face with lots of warm sunshine and a more appropriate liking for gardening activities.

Unlike last year when Mother Nature turned the tables on us (and all the fruit growers) with the far too early arrival of “May-like” weather in February/March then added insult to injury with a “kick-in-the-pants” hard freeze in May that destroyed nearly every blossom and budding leaf on all the trees.

Quite often these harsh temperature swings can devastate entire areas and render trees hopelessly susceptible to disease and stunting and sometimes even their death. Reference, a clump dogwood (a prized specimen) I once owned that succumbed to a quick death when a late May freeze took all its new and tender growth as well as its leaves. Needless to say it was a devastating loss to me and left a large and empty hole in my landscape.



On a happier note, this is the middle of May and farmers are hard at work finally able to get in their fields to work the soil and get planting done. Gardeners too, should have their soil tilled by now and their vegetable plants in the ground.

Mid-May is your perfect timing for planting most anything including annuals and perennials.

I’ve been all over the county this past week to many greenhouse operations and they are all bulging with annuals and perennials, as well as a host of novel hanging baskets and unusual planters — some downright amazing.

Each year new twists are introduced in planters. Some more unusual than others, like one I saw that was a tear-drop shape two feet in length and moss-lined that would allow greater room for planting medium and rooting and at the same time, more than likely, would be entirely encompassed with growth once plants reached maturity.

Other planters seen were of a whimsical homemade version of a small wagon made entirely of split logs for sides and round branch slices for wheels and when planted with various annuals made cute conversation pieces.

Vendors at spring “early-buy” venues that I attended each year in Lansing, Mich., would entice hundreds of growers and retailers with all kinds of merchandise. Much of it was new on the market, and included everything from planters to growing medium to every kind of gardening merchandise on the market.

Much of the merchandise was bought in quantity at discounted prices and delivered early in the season. I looked forward to it each year with anticipation, often taking my daughter Kim who participated in the buying, or my wife who was the “planter magician” who had many ideas of her own.