April Foolery

Bird’s nest fern earned its common name for a reason. April Fools!

Heartland Gardening Book Release

heartland gardening FINALCOVER1

We are excited to announce our upcoming book release, Heartland Gardening: Celebrating the Seasons. We’ll launch the book on Sunday, March 18 at 2 p.m. at our talk at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville, Ohio.

Our new book celebrates gardening in the Midwest with a collection of our best blog posts. We’ve assembled gardening lessons and reflective essays and woven them together with beautiful images and illustrations. The book leads readers through the region’s heralded seasons, offering tips for favorite plants, recipes for beloved edibles, plant design ideas and advice for top garden destinations. It’s a great tribute to Midwest gardening and an excellent gift for gardening friends.

To register for the “Gardening in the Heartland” event, visit Inniswood.

Inniswood Garden Talk

Inniswood garden talk

Join us on Sunday, March 18, 2 – 4 p.m. at Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville. We’re delighted to share the stage in three talks on spring container gardening, what’s hot and not, and healthy gardening strategies.

We will also be giving away a $125 gift card to Kurtz Bros Mulch and Soils and announcing our Heartland Gardening book release.  We hope you will join us for this fun gardening event!

Tickets are $15/IGS members and $20/non-members.  Call 614-895-6216 to register. Inniswood Metro Gardens, 940 S. Hempstead Rd. Westerville, OH 43081.

March Madness

Early Spring Tasks

By Debra Knapke

 Blustery winds, snow, wintercress setting bud, temperature changes that make you feel like you are on a rollercoaster … it’s March, and the time I look out into my garden and create a to-do list. I save the major clean-up of my garden for March. Stems and seedheads of perennials offer winter interest while providing protection to herbaceous crowns and food for wildlife. They also may be insect nurseries.

My list for this year:

1. weed-weed-weed:  bitter wintercress is beginning to bloom and must be removed. If you catch it before it buds, you can leave it in the garden, roots side up. Look for the early rosettes of garlic mustard. Separate the roots from the crown and you can leave this to compost in-place, too. Chickweed, which is an edible spring green, is bursting out, too. Dandelions are beginning to show. The plants in the garden will end up in salad. I don’t concern myself with the ones in the lawn.

1a. Remove invasive plants that you have planted or have shown up – uninvited – in your garden

garlic mustard resize

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) — remove it in its rosette stage before it blooms.


bitter wintercress frosted 3-5-18resize

Even after being frosted several times, bitter wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris) keeps on blooming!

Ranunculus ficaria 3-5-18resize

This cute perennial is a thug in disguise. Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) will spread by seed and root tubers in a very short time.

2. Cut down the stems from the herbaceous perennials. I only cut them down to 6-8”as native bees may use them for their bee nurseries. The blue mason bee is already flying and searching for tubes to lay her eggs in. Watch for eggs and egg cases and leave those stems standing.

fennel stems 3-5-18resize

Stems of fennel stay in the garden for now.

fennel stems pith drilled 3-5-18crop

Notice how the usually solid pith is drilled. There might be a resident inside.

3. Cut down last year’s grasses. Chop the leaves into 8-12” pieces and leave them in piles. In my garden I lay them in the “wild” area in the back for birds to use for nestbuilding. The leaves that are not used will breakdown and add to the nutrition in the soil.

4. Make sure that leaves left in the garden are not covering emerging crowns. Most plants will grow up through leaves, but snow may pack the leaves, especially oak leaves. This will trap moisture around the crown and cause crown rot.

5. If you mulched in the fall, fluff it. Mulch can flatten and cause an impermeable surface that blocks water and air movement into the soil. If you are thinking of mulching in March, chase that thought right out of your mind. That is a mid to late April task when the soil has warmed. In cool-spring years, I have delayed adding mulch until early May.

6. Edging the garden beds; especially good for the times when you should not be stepping on saturated soil and compacting it. February and the first week of March have been very rainy this year. In the low areas of my garden, edging and weeding  the perimeter of the bed is the only task I will be doing for the next week or so.

7. Check trees and shrubs for broken or dead limbs and remove them. Prune suckers and crossing branches. This is better done in the fall, but if you didn’t get to it, do it now. An exception to this is any maple species. I prune live wood on maples in the late summer to mid-fall to avoid causing sap flow from the wound.

8. Look for plants that are heaving out of the ground and press them back into the soil. A side note: the deer have been very active in my garden and while tiptoeing through several areas, they have uprooted plants and bulbs. Look for this type of animal damage and fix it.

9. Sit back, breathe, and enjoy the early bulbs and perennials that are emerging, but don’t be surprised if Mother Nature snows on your parade.


Jewel Box Blooms


Teeny, tiny flowers are potent symbols

By Michael Leach

Small packages can contain fabulous wealth. Consider the simple cube. Hardly bigger than two plump thumbs, it opens to reveal a glittering diamond and emerald ring that sits like an imperial crown upon a velvet pad.

So it is with some of the smallest bulbs in my garden, snowdrops and snow crocus. Their tiny flowers generate excitement on a scale far beyond their size not to mention an early meal for pollinators. Those teeny, tiny blooms are powerful signs of better things ahead.
These diminutive flowers are especially potent this winter, which arrived early with a nastier attitude than usual. It’s taken itself far too seriously in my opinion. Fortunately a thaw in late February turned into a few days of late-May weather, prompting those precious little flowers to pop open.

The mild weather also pushed the two big silver maples in the back yard to get into the act. Their flowers are even smaller thanthe bulbs’ but their masses of swelling buds create a pastel yellow aura around one tree and burgundy the other. Unfortunately their beauty appears too far over head to appreciate the flowers. 

Because wee blooms are lost in a vast scene, legions of them are needed for a visual statement in a expansive landscape, such as mine. Those trees produce their own show. Bulbs require my effort.

crocusMy token blossoms always inspire visions of lavender and yellow swaths of snow crocus, white drifts of snowdrops and golden rivers of countless daffodils for next spring. 

What will probably happen is a repeat of the disappointment of many past springs. The reality of bulb planting season is fatigue, hard soil and sprawling plants that I tangle with while digging holes. The garden season always seems to require too many weedings, waterings and plantings. Near exhaustion, not enthusiasm results. Instead of the thousands or even hundreds to bring alive these visions of spring glory, only a few bags of various bulbs are purchased and planted.

galanthusKnowing such fantasies are unlikely to take root, a practical thought comes to mind. A few dozen tiny bulbs would suffice to greatly enliven the portion of the perennial border nearest the sunporch windows. Why not order from one of those clever bulb companies? Their catalogs, spiced with early bird specials, arrive during the heyday of spring bulb season. Instead of a token few, I could buy enough to create a modest statement. Because the bulbs will bepaid for months ahead, my frugal nature will insist that there be no waste of money. This will generate sufficient energy to dig the required holes.

Perhaps this is the year. But for now, I must go out and gaze at the wee wonders who seem to whisper, “Winter’s done for.”




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