I’m not exactly sure why but in the midst of the Covid epidemic, I landed on the idea that this Spring I would finally get the grounds mulched for early flowering season in May, just AFTER fertilizing all of the beds. So, winter cleanup, cultivating, fertilizing and mulching all of the gardens BEFORE May 1. Out of my flipping mind. Nothing new here folks. Shown above is the first full Spring season for my new panicle hydrangea first pruned this February and just draped with a brand new scarf- not even named.. Azaleas and tulips incoming.

A closer look at the new Spring scarf- in front of the 2021 azaleas, just starting. Ever notice how fast azaleas bloom and go?

I’m pleased to say, the garden was mostly all ready for the azaleas- ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, I’m now a cripple and periodically writing at 2:00 am – my hyperactive mind unleashed by excessive physical activity. It’s not complicated. I had a deadline and once that happens, I bow to requirements. This was a pattern I cultivated when self -employed. At the time it was pretty much essential. Now? Old habits not yet dead. But not all bad! Consider the results!

At last, several years of judicious tulip plantings have started paying off. With all the chipmunks we support I’m generally reluctant to plant tulips. The wood shape hulking in the background is the artful remains of the dead tree we removed from the hill. 

Pest Control

I kicked off Spring on my hands and knees -exploring all the gardens to get a status report on relocated and new plants from late fall and some that had had damage from a late Spring insect infestation. Yuck. Sooty mold on the andromeda plants, caused by andromeda bark scale- back again.  I missed suffocating the bugs with an application of Neem oil in late winter so I’m now on my third Safer bug spray application. This pest can kill bushes and spread to azaleas too. I will follow up this winter with Neem, just to be sure. Learn more about treatments.

Gross alert! I was sure this was some kind of nefarious chemical problem from overhead pruning equipment. In fact, I learned the hard way that Andromeda Bark Scale is “a thing.” The black soot is caused by a secretion the bugs exude.

I generally learn about plants by growing and observing them and asking questions of other gardeners. Or, reading online. For certain jobs, like transplanting problem plants or pruning, I’ve resorted to YouTube with great success. Last year when my eleven ten -year- old boxwoods got sick – Leaves were curling and turning brown, with new growth dying, I became concerned. I tried spraying them weekly with various organic products to no avail.

Next, I took photos, shipped them to my old standby: The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, CT. You can also call, (203) 974-8565. It’s free! I also use them for soil testing. End of season this year I hope. The service called me back very quickly, finding we had boxwood leaf miner, and later I learned, a second insect called Psyllids. The bushes were sprayed late in season by a professional outfit licensed to handle pesticides and the bugs returned this spring. (not unusual) Apparently, the bugs have more than one life cycle- which can make for consecutive sprays. Luckily, they’re boxwood specific.

It’s hard when some plants are center stage. I look out my kitchen window so many times a day and have to avoid looking at their latest ailment. My new hardy geranium is strategically placed to mask my blighted bushes..you can barely see their tan leaves….!

Today, the boxwoods were sprayed a second time and I have high hopes. I did find a company through a local nursery that has a very holistic approach but is also licensed to spray pesticides. They are simultaneously fertilizing the bushes. I like these people – Soden Tree Experts in Woodbury, CT. Fingers crossed.

Parrot tulips, one of my favorite spring flowers. Can’t wait to use them in some new scarves. It’s what makes all the hard work worthwhile!

Emma Swift One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later). Emma Swift is an Australian singer-songwriter, a nice voice, a folk style I’m a sucker for. She surfaced because she’ll be presenting virtually, on a Bob Dylan Symposium, the weekend of May 22nd, sponsored by the University of Tulsa. We’re not even sure if there will be any actual MUSIC playing but you can check it out here.

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