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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
 

 

When winter comes to its end, look to the common flowering quince to begin the spring season. Quince is one of the earliest flowering shrubs of the spring season. Not as showy as the well known forsythia shrub but it brings us a welcome sign that spring is here. If you can plant the quince in a south facing exposure--away from wind and protected--you will be in for a real treat. The flowers begin to open near the ground first and move up the stems as the temperatures increase outside. You can even cut branches from the plant NOW and force them into bloom indoors in a tall vase filled with water.

The quince grows in an unruly shaped mound that is just as tall as it is wide. It will grow to 6 feet tall but can be easily pruned on a yearly schedule and kept to 4 feet tall or less. Pruning is required to encourage new growth, because the new growth this year will make flowers for next year. After the flowers fade, remove some of the old wood to make room for the new growth--do not be scared to prune! Say to yourself "I am doing this for your own good," and the plant will thank you with more flowers the next season. Remember, the plant will have many stems almost like a tangled mass of crisscrossing branches.

The foliage is dark green and shiny. The leaves are 1.5 to 3 inches long and oval shaped. Under all the foliage is a surprise for you--thorns! The bark is dark brown. If you want to build a pretty hedge to divide your property from the neighbors and keep them out, this is your plant.

The flowers resemble small roses with multi petals. The flowers are numerous on the tips of the branches and run down the stems of the plant. Each flower will open to 1 to 2 inches in diameter and have a yellow center. The flower color range is from pure white, soft pink, salmon to scarlet red. As the flowers mature, the color will fade, giving the plant a multi-colored look. Some of the flowers will be single and some double, on the same plant. The flowering cycle is 4 to 6 weeks, longer than most because of the outside temperatures being cooler at this time of the year. The warmer the outside temperatures, the shorter time a plant will bloom.

With a little bit of luck Mother Nature will give you a present. This plant will make some fruit that will grow 2 to 3 inches round, pale yellow to a blush color, resembling a pear and as hard as a rock. The fruit will make a great tasting jam or jelly--which can often be found in Cape Cod gift shops.

You can plant in a part shade area as well as a full sun location. The best plant will grow in a rich soil with a lot of organic matter, such as animal manure or compost. Well-drained soil with no standing water is best--and sandy rather than clay-type soils. Fertilize in the spring after pruning to encourage more flowers. Build a mulch bed around the plant and it will make it easier to mow the grass around the plant. The only problem you will have is in the fall when leaves from trees fall on the quince and you want to remove them. Just remember THORNS!!


 

Spring is just around the corner now and if you are looking for a flowering plant for the house that can be transplanted outside later look at the primrose. The primrose is a perennial flowering plant that is among a handful of flowers that bloom early in the spring gardens outside. Its Latin name, Primula vulgaris, implies earliness and means "early." Because it flowers early naturally, the primrose can be forced to bloom even earlier in the greenhouse for your enjoyment in your home at this time of the year.

The foliage is a ground-hugging rosette of shinny green leaves that are medium to dark green in color. The leaves are 4 to 6 inches long and only about an inch wide. The leaves have a rough look to them, as they seem wrinkled or puckered, with small teeth on the edges of the leaf--and a bit hairy. Once you see the rosette growth habit, you will always be able to distinguish this plant from all the rest of the perennials in your garden.

As soon as the frost is out of the ground, the leaves begin to emerge from the ground, and before you know it the flowers pop out of the center of the foliage. The plant will grow 4 to 6 inches tall and spread to about 8 to 10 inches wide. Growth will start in most gardens during March if the snow has melted and the weather has begun to warm up. The flowers come on short stems, 3 to 4 inches tall, and hold clusters of flowers. Each flower has five petals and the bloom resembles a shallow trumpet. The flower colors are BRIGHT, in shades of yellow, red, blue, purple and white. All the flowers have a bright yellow center, like a "bull's eye." The flowers will last from March to May in the garden outdoors and for 4 to 6 weeks indoors, if you can keep them cool. The best temperature indoors is 50 to 60 degrees; keep them out of south-facing windows where they get sun all day.

The primrose will grow best in a soil that is well-drained, and rich in organic matter like compost and peat moss. Grow them in your garden as a border plant up front and in groups of 3 to 5 for the best show of color. Primroses also will grow well in shaded gardens, rock gardens and wall plantings. If you have a woodland or shaded wildflower garden, this plant is a must. Remember the primrose flowers early; if you are looking for early color to motivate you to get you out in the garden early, this is the plant with all the excitement!

As a houseplant, the primrose makes a great potted plant, all by itself. You can mix it with other flowering or foliage plants. I pick the faded flowers from the stems as they fade; when the stem has no more buds I remove the entire stem right above the foliage at the base of the plant. This prevents the plant from making seeds and the energy stays in the plant, so you can transplant it into the garden in mid to late April.

No fertilizer is needed in the house, but once you plant in the garden use compost and a product like Flower Thrive, Bio-Tone or Dr. Earth Starter Fertilizer, as they contain microbes and mycorrhizae for a quick start to the root system. The new garden technology in fertilizer will astound you because it is a reproduction of what lives in your soil already--and plants love it. Treated with this technology, plants grow better, faster, healthier, bloom more and need less care. Enjoy indoors now and plant outside for years of enjoyment in your garden outside.

 

As you try to look out the window this week for the arrival of spring, do not get discouraged with all the ice and snow on the ground. 

Just remember that all this snow cover will protect our roses, groundcovers, broadleaf evergreens, and hydrangeas from winter damage. On the other hand, if we do not get sunshine soon we will all go crazy, we will not care about the weather, and we will all be singing, "They are coming to take me away, ho, ho, hee, hee, ha, ha. To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time..." Look at the seed catalogs and wait it out--it's coming! Think Positive. You will be mowing the lawn before you know it.

When the snow melts, let's plant some late winter-flowering shrubs that begin blooming during February, so we will have something to look forward for next winter if the snow gets as deep as this winter. Look for the following shrubs at your local nursery this spring or have them order them for you:
* Cornelian cherry/ winter-flowering dogwood 
(Cornus mas

* Winter heather/winter heath

* Chinese Witch Hazel 
(Hamamelis mollis

* Oregon Grape Holly 
(Mahonia aquifolium)


* Rhododendron mucronulatum 'Cornell Pink'

 

Cornelian cherry is a zone 4 plant that will tolerate 20 to 30 below. A member of the dogwood family, this plant will make clusters of bright yellow flowers during February. The flowers are frost proof and slightly scented. The plant is more shrub-like than the spring-flowering dogwoods we know. During the summer, bright red fruits, like cherries, will form where the flowers were during the winter and you can pick them to make jam or leave them to feed the birds.

Winter heath and heather grow all over southern New England, and as the snow begins to melt, it is not uncommon to see them in bloom during late February. Some varieties will flower from January to March, depending on the snow cover. Look for bell-shaped flowers that will be white, pink, or purple, with evergreen foliage. These plants will grow 8 to 12 inches tall and up to 18 inches wide.

Chinese witch hazel is hardy as far north as Maine and New Hampshire and will flower starting in late February, even if there is snow on the ground. The plant will tolerate 20 to 30 below zero temperatures, making it a zone 4 plant. The flowers are bright yellow. When the sun is out, they are very noticeable but when the sun goes down, the flowers fold up and seem to disappear. The flowers are also fragrant and long lasting.

Oregon grape holly will begin to flower during late February, with clusters of spike-shaped yellow flowers that will last well into April.The flowers are lightly scented when temperatures are warm, and they sit on top of the evergreen foliage that resembles a holly leaf. The plant is in the Barberry family, not a true holly. Honey bees looking for early flowers love this plant and, if pollinated, the plant will make purple grape-like fruits that will last to the fall season.

Rhododendron mucronulatum is one of my favorite early spring plants; it will take 10 to 20 below zero temperatures. The plant is unusual for rhododendrons, as this plant will lose its foliage in the fall, making it not evergreen. Fall foliage is yellow-orange before it falls from the plant. The flowers open during late February, often with snow still on the ground, and last into late March. The flowers are clusters of pale pink petals that resemble the flowers on apple trees.

All these plants are available from your local nursery but are not carried by some, because they flower so early in the season that most of us do not visit the nursery at that time of the year to see them in bloom. If you go to the nursery to pick up your vegetable or flower garden seeds, soil, fertilizer, or bird food in the next couple of weeks ask them to order one or more of these plants for your garden.

If you're a casual observer of the garden at this time of the year these plants will help to change your attitude of winter gardening! Winter will be a time to stop and admire the splendor of winter flowering shrubs. Now, add plants to your yard that have berries on them during the winter like hollies, viburnum and alder. Also shrubs and trees with colorful bark and twigs that stand out with the white snow cover like willow, red twig dogwood, and birch. Think spring, but enjoy the garden during the winter months also. Spring is only a few weeks away!!



Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.

   
Featured Recipe Of The Week
 
Chicken and Dumplings Paul's Way

2 mounded cups of cooked chicken cut up in one inch cubes

1 can of 10 ounce condensed cream of mushrooms soup undiluted

1 can of 10 ounce condensed cream of chicken soup undiluted

2 soup cans of water from the cooked chicken broth

4 teaspoons of all-purpose flower

2 teaspoons of chicken base

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper fresh ground if you have grinder mill

1 can 4 ounce of mushrooms well drained

One jar or can of whole or cut up artichoke hearts 4 to 6 ounces well drained

1 can of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits "8 biscuits"

Mix all ingredients except biscuits in Crock Pot slow cooker.  Cut biscuits into quarters and gently stir into mixture.  Cover, cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.

Serves 5

Great for a cold day supper after playing in the snow or shoveling all day long! 
 
  
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