Spring thoughts

April 26, 2014

Dudley Wooten

PDT Outdoor Columnist

As we exit from what seemed to be a long winter, it’s time for spring thoughts. This winter, I’ve written about nature, hunting, farm and a few travels, but with spring my thoughts return to landscaping, design, trees, shrubs, perennials, etc. Today’s thoughts will include spring bloom, xerscape, thinking outside the box, re-bloomers, think small, temperennials, etc.

The further you get from the equator, the more dramatic the change of season becomes. Here in Southern Ohio, we have the 4 seasons and each year is different with regard to the transition. March is usually the pivotal moment when the weather can’t decide if it’s going to be snow or 75 degrees. That scenario is lingering well into April this year. It’s this time of year when we’re ready for a change and our thoughts swing back to landscaping. It’s now that we’re looking for that sign of light and life at the end of the wintry tunnel, and it’s time to dream in color.

We may see the first sign of spring in the daylilies shooting their greenery from the mulch in search of warmer days and light. We may be dreaming in anticipation of the many colors they will soon bring in bloom. Daylilies are an excellent example of some of the greatest new thoughts in the horticulture industry. They’re not only now available in many colors, but many are bi-colored. This means they will have one color on the petal and sepal blooms and another color on the throat. Examples might be “Pardon Me” with red petals and yellow throat or “Fooled Me” with yellow petals and wine throat. “Strawberry Candy” has pink petals and red throat, while “Pandora’s Box” has white petals and lavender throat. “Primal Scream” is a hot orange, “Red Razzamatazz” is a great red, “Stella” is gold and some fabulous yellows are “Happy Returns” and “Going Bananas.” I don’t know which I like best – the colors or the names.

Another great feature of today’s landscape market is re-blooming. Some repeat blooming daylilies are those previously mentioned. We grow many more and daylilies are always a good thought in the landscape.

A third feature is size. The old “ditch-lilies” a.k.a. tiger lilies were 3-4 feet high and were top-heavy. The daylilies listed here today are about 16-18 inches tall, full, not leggy, and fit the space available in the landscape. That space may be in the foreground of the bed or under an ornamental tree. Daylilies are meant to “enhance” the landscape, not “be” the landscape.

A fourth reason to choose daylilies in the landscape design is they’re low maintenance – cut them back once at the end of the year. Still another reason for choosing daylilies is that you can’t kill them. They are quite free of hardiness, drought, disease, or insect problems.

All the good things you just heard about the daylilies can be said for coral bells. Their color selection, versatility, low maintenance, and success rate will encourage their use. They bring plenty to the table to justify their selection. We use “Encore,” “Midnight Rose,” and “Plum Pudding” for red foliage on a stone mulch and “Caramel,” “Sweet Tea,” “Georgia Peach,” or “Silver Scroll” on dark mulch.

Earlier, I spoke of re-blooming daylilies. Newcomers to our re-blooming landscape choices would be the boomerang lilac, hydrangea, and some azaleas. Of course, some of the earliest of blooms in spring would be the crocus, daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth. These would be spring color from fall bulbs. If these are absent in your 2014 spring landscape, mark your calendar for fall planting and 2015 will be better.

The landscaping industry is now promoting two thoughts – “xerscape” and “temperennials.” Xerscape is the practice of using native plants that can withstand any of the temperatures, rainfall, and other factors naturally occurring in your hardiness zone and climate. This is meant to eliminate any irrigation, greenhouse, or other manmade influence on the landscape. Everything is natural and this means very low maintenance. Life is good.

Temperennials, on the other hand, is just a new marketing word, invented to sell you “annuals” or “house plants.” These are plants that don’t normally grow in your climate and hardiness zone and they will die in your winter if you don’t take them in the house. I don’t know about you but I for one don’t like a new term for a plant that’s intended to die within a year. My advice would be to pursue xerscape method and avoid temperennials.

In closing, I would say a few words about landscape design. As we go through the process, we should keep one eye on “thinking big” and one on “thinking small.” To keep ourselves from being wall-eyed or cross-eyed, we must use both thought modes in moderation and this will allow focus. Let me clarify.

When we think big, we allow ourselves to think outside the box, brainstorm and dream in color. This allows imagination, creativity, and choices. It was imagination, creativity, and hard work that brought forth the compact, dwarf, and miniature tree, shrub, and perennial choices we use in modern day landscaping. Thinking big and thinking small can be different but they can be one in the same. To think small can mean that we focus on individual plants or small areas and it can mean that we’re using small, dwarf, or compact cultivars of certain plants. Ponder that thought.