March 2012 Issue #27
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Beware The Ides of March
The ancient Romans, who negotiated really long-term naming rights, dubbed this turbulent season Martius for Mars, god of war. Spring training ended about now, and Rome's legions trooped off to boldly kick butt where no butt had been kicked before. Gearing up for a new spring campaign in the plant business feels a little like that.
A Roman subject born in England is honored in pubs everywhere on the 17th. Enslaved in Ireland by Celtic kidnappers, Patrick escaped - but returned to bring the mixed blessings of Christianity to my heathen ancestors. Slainte' to the good saint.
DOWN ON THE FARMS
Our Southern contingent is hustling to finish producing cool season grasses. Even in the relatively-mild Panhandle, FL's cool season ceases to be cool far sooner than PA's. Pensacola knows summer dormancy like Lancaster knows winter dormancy. So the Phalaris (pictured at right), Calamagrostis and such that they're wrapping up now may slow down in summer, but will revive to become the lush, flushed liners you'll love come autumn.
By seed, division and tissue culture, we're crafting the starters that will turn your containers from hollow cylinders to hallelujah sales. We've sown Carex testacea, a.k.a. Prairie FireTM, divided Festuca 'Elijah Blue', and teased TCs of Heuchera villosa hybrids from their Stage III tubs. Crocosmia 'Lucifer' is waking up in deep 38s. Finally, Helleborus germination is better than expected, which bodes well for June availability.
PA Grower, Andrew Babikow with Festuca 'Elijah Blue'
Baby, it's cold outside - but not for long. At my Zone 6 home, crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops are flowering, the naked ladies are leafing out, mergansers are diving for fish, Canada geese couples are scoping out riverside real estate -- all signs that it's high time for you to pot those glorious grasses that will grace your benches and/or enhance your designs, like our five flavors of Calamagrostis. 'Karl Foerster' is the standard bearer, and for good reason, but don't overlook his splendid siblings 'Avalanche', 'Eldorado', 'Overdam', and brachytricha.
The five flavors of Calamagrostis. (Featuring from left) C. 'Karl Foerster', 'Overdam', 'Avalanche', 'Eldorado', and brachytricha.
The Four Seasons:
Click HERE to hear Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.
Click HERE to hear Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Achillea 'Summer Pastels' huddles in winter garb, while Sedum 'Autumn Joy' springs into buoyant new growth mode.
Pisces: Dam! said the carp as it swam into a concrete wall. Don't be koi. Plan ahead.
Aries: Young rams ram on and old rams ramble on, but they only have eyes for ewe.
The Ideas of March
Idea #1: Tap into Pot Power! Pot up Salvia 'Evolution', Alcea 'Spring Celebrities' (pictured at right) and/or the Vogue® series of Mandevilla ASAP, and they'll be retail-ready by May/June. Feel the power! Plant the power! Sell the power! Stop me, before I exclaim again!
Idea #2: Play the native card in style - prairie style - with our great Panicum selections. This versatile all-American genus spans a range of colors & sizes. It's not just pretty, it's pretty tough, too.
Panicum v. 'Ruby Ribbons'
Idea #3: Contain yourself! Many ornamental grasses are extra-effective in pots. Acorus, Isolepis, Juncus, and the ColorGrass® collection are copacetic in cozy containers. For big impact, try a little tenderness: Our annual Pennisetum varieties -- the Royal collection ('Prince', 'Princess', Princess Caroline and Princess Molly) and the Celebration series ('Fireworks', 'Cherry Sparkler' and 'Skyrocket') - make perfect plus-size planters, as does the Celebrations' celebrated daddy, P. 'Rubrum'.
The Pennisetum Royal Collection. (Featuring from left) 'Prince', 'Princess', Princess Caroline and Princess Molly.
Random Useless Fact(oid) Department, Nomenclature Division
Why do many scientific names end in "-oides?" It's Greek for "-ish." E.g., Pennisetum alopecuroides is a fountain grass whose inflorescence resembles that of Alopecurus, foxtail grass. So when offered a "factoid," beware: It may be true, or merely truth-y.
Beware the Odds & Ends of March
March contains the first day of spring, Agriculture Day, Johnny Appleseed Day, and Weed Appreciation Day. The Iditarod race salutes historical heroics, the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, and (attention smokers!) the 21st is Kick Butts Day.
If opening cans for Fido is a pet peeve, you'll love What If Cats & Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs? Day. We'll sidestep that bit of March madness, but we'll observe National Procrastination Week if we get around to it. Thanks, Chris Beytes, for the tip on brownielocks.com, a lode of holiday arcana.
See you again soon. May your spring kick butt.