Master Gardeners take on weeds

info@islandpacket.comMarch 30, 2012 

Here come the Master Gardeners, ready, willing and terrifically able to attack the pesky plants that compete and often win in the ongoing contest of Weeds vs. Natives.

Who can tell the difference? The Master Gardeners of Beaufort can and are helping to eradicate the small and spreading undesirables as well as shrubs and trees poised to take over the landscape.

They're handy with pruners and loppers too, as witnessed recently at the Hilton Head Island Xeriscape Garden. Located at Town Hall, the garden comprises more then an acre of natives and non-native plants (as a proper Xeriscape Garden should). Working to clear and clean the garden, the gardeners have worked two days a week since September, amassing several tons of refuse.

March brought a burst of bloom as azaleas, native and not, redbud and dogwood trees, the yellow flowering, showy jasmine shrub and water-growing lizard tail began to flower.

With most of the heavy work completed, gardeners began planting. Violets around the redbud trees, blue flowering mist flower (Eupatorium celestine) around the sweet pepperbush ( Clethra alnifolia) and button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). A large live oak will host trumpet vine (Campsis radicans); there's partridge berry and scullcap (Scutellaria elliptica) under another. Large clumps of papyrus grass were planted on the water banks.

Smart Lowcountry gardeners are sure to let me know that trumpet vine's other moniker is Cow-itch, for its invasive habits, and that it may cause skin inflammation in some people. Now on the native plant list, it has been widely cultivated for its attractive orange flowers and rapid growth.

WHAT'S GOING ON IN YOUR YARD?

It's feeding time. I'm often asked when I feed citrus trees; this year I'm upping the three times a year to four- in March, May, August and early October and with a citrus fertilizer. Some citrus growers spray trees with a minor nutrient spray, I plan to do this once a month during growing season, using a seaweed-based liquid. Recent publicity about sick Florida citrus trees appears to still leave question marks. Contact with the University of Florida Extension Agents produced a whole list of possibilities that included new diseases, insects and cultural problems.

If your tree displays symptoms, yellowing of leaves and fruit drop, cut all declining branches, or even, prune the tree way back to the thicker limbs.

You can expect to spend some time on your next visit to a local garden center. There are many new plant introductions of old favorites, plus plants you've not heard of like "Banana Cream" Leucanthemum or "Curly Fries" hosta. Gardeners in Sun City Hilton Head who grow outsize and dramatic hostas are sure to latch on to this new variety with leaves stiff and curly that emerge chartreuse in spring, then turn gold. There are evermore Silver bells (Calibrachoa hybrid) to dazzle you, in red, plum, yellow and a stunnner called "Blackberry Patch." Look for new Colorblaze coleus, "Velvet Mocha," and "LifeLime" for your morning sun only garden, "Pink Champagne" clematis, with large flowers that bloom in May and often repeat in late summer, and "Whitewater" bear's breeches, with big pink and white flowers, that's said to have tolerance for heat and humidity. For hanging baskets, there's a neon-bright "Superbell" of pink and gold "Cherry Star." An All-America Bedding Plant Winner is Salvia coccinea "Summer Jewel Red" with nonstop spikes of red flowers.

After you read this you might want to head out to The Plantation House on Hilton Head Plantation to The Avid Gardeners Flower Show, The Mystical Garden, taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. The Standard Flower Show includes horticulture, floral design, exhibits, artistic crafts, entrance gardens, an azalea sale, boutique and cafè. Admission is free.

Don't be surprised if you bump into a gardener from Aiken, Barnwell or Charleston, because today is also a statewide "Follow the Blooms" day, which is held throughout South Carolina during the spring.

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