It is time to till the soil and plant the garden!

Dan Fogelberg - Rhythm Of The Rain
Dan Fogelberg - 
Rhythm Of The Rain

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The king of the spring-flowering trees is the dogwood; from Florida north to Massachusetts, this is the most loved of all spring-flowering trees. This tree reminds me of the South with all of its beauty, the feathery strands of Spanish moss growing between its flowers on its branches. What would the Masters Golf Tournament be without all of these beautiful white and pink flowering dogwood trees creating a canopy of color over all those beautiful azaleas? If you have a garden with a bit of shade, the spring-flowering dogwood is the tree for you. When spring arrives, you too can enjoy the wonderful flowers of your dogwood as they brighten your garden as the trees of the Masters Golf Tournament do.

Have you ever heard of the legend of the dogwood? The dogwood of the past was a tree, larger than the mighty oak of today, that grew in the Middle East. It was valued for its strong wood, thick trunk and fine lumber but it did not flower then. The Romans chose this tree for the lumber to make the cross for the crucifixion of Christ. The dogwood was so distressed to be used for this purpose that it felt ashamed, and when Christ was nailed to the cross he could sense this. Jesus told the tree that "Because of your regret and pity for my suffering you will never grow large enough to be used for this purpose again. You shall grow slender, bent, and twisted and you shall blossom like no other tree with flowers to remind everyone this entire event. Your flowers will form a cross with two long and two short petals. The center of the outer edge of each petal will have a marking of a nail, stained like blood. In the center of the flower will be the crown of thorns worn on my head for all to see and remember this day." Take a minute today and look at the flowers on the tree, and you will better understand the legend of the dogwood tree.

The spring flowering dogwood will grow 20 to 25 feet tall and just as wide. The branches are smooth and dull gray; as the tree matures, they will become rough and almost scaly. The branches develop low on the tree and often grow very horizontal with a flat or rounded top. The growing habit is unique and distinctive, making the plant also very noticeable during the winter months because of its growing habit and appearance. If you're looking for something unusual for your garden, look at the weeping dogwood often found at larger nurseries. The branches seem to grow in layers, are very strong, and look like open arms inviting you to look at the flowers. The leaves grow 3 to 6 inches long, are oval with a point on the tip and the margins are a bit wavy. The leaves are deep green during the year but in the fall turn bright crimson red, lasting many weeks before falling from the tree. Today you can also find some varieties of dogwood with variegated foliage growing in milder climates.

The flowers form in April and last well into May and depending on the variety can be pure dusty white, soft pink and reddish-pink. The flowers have four petals that will grow 3 to 4 inches in diameter with a cluster of yellow polling sacks arranged in a circle in its center. As the flowers begin to fade, streaks of pink color will form in the wavy lines in the center of the petals just before they begin to fall. In warmer climates, you can also find double-flowering varieties with many flower petals.

If the bees visit your trees and do their job properly, the flower will be pollinated and a fruit will form where the flower once set on the branch of the tree. The fruits are bright red when ripe in September and will last on the tree until the birds eat them during the winter months. Each fruit will grow about an inch long and resembles a jelly bean; they sometimes grow in clusters on the tree. The fruits are noticeable on the tree during the winter until the birds eat them.

If you want to grow the spring-flowering dogwood in your yard, choose a location with a bit of shade if possible, but it will also grow in full sun. The tree does prefer a soil that is on the acidic side and one rich with organic matter but it must be well drained and there should never be any standing water around the plant. If planted in full sun, be sure to water the tree during the hot dry days of summer, as this is the time the tree is making flower buds for the following spring. When it's young, I would suggest that you make a large planting bed around the base of the plant 3 to 4 feet in diameter, add bark mulch 2 to 3 inches thick over the soil and plant flowers. If you do this, you will water and fertilize the flowers and the tree at the same time. This will help the tree to become established in your yard much faster and will also help it make flowers earlier in its life--and more of them. Trees grown in full sun will grow thicker and much fuller in appearance, causing them to lose some character, unlike those grown in partial shade.

When you plant your dogwood, always use compost and mycorrhizae microbes to help the roots form quickly. If the tree is over 6 feet tall, the tree should also be staked for the first year to prevent root damage during the winter by the winds. The white dogwood is stronger than the pink varieties of dogwood, so be sure to plant the pink varieties in a sheltered area away from the winds of winter. Growing up in Massachusetts we planted a white and a pink dogwood on my parents' front lawn and during a normal winter both trees had flowers in the spring. If we had a windy and cold winter the pink dogwood had many flower buds that dried out and never opened or the partially opened with only two of the four petals showing color. The spring-flowering dogwood buds have no covering on them, just the four petals folded over each other; that is why some years they dry out and fail to flower. If this happens to your trees, spray the buds in the fall with an antidessicant like Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop in October.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone. When you apply lime to your lawn, keep it away from the planting bed. This is a great tree for adding to your landscape if you do not have one already. Plant the spring-flowering dogwood as a specimen on the corner of your home, in the middle of your lawn or, better still, in groups at the end of your property for a show of spring color in a planting bed with perennials or spring-flowering bulbs. Dogwoods do not like road salt, so keep them away from the side of the road or your driveway if you use salt during the winter.

If you have tall-growing pines, oaks, and maples that had their branches cut back to let in some sunlight to your yard, scatter small dogwoods here and there under them for a natural woodland look to your property. This dogwood will grow well in the same area as rhododendrons, azaleas, and mountain laurel, and when they are planted together, your property will look like the golf course where the Masters tournament is played. Dogwoods look wonderful if you place upward-facing night lighting under them--the shadows will be wonderful in the summertime as well as during the winter. Enjoy!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - The Wizard of Oz (1/8) Movie CLIP (1939) HD
Somewhere Over the Rainbow - The Wizard of Oz (1/8) Movie CLIP (1939) HD

Fragrant Lilacs

The number one selling late spring, early summer flowering shrub is the lilac. As you drive around town, look at the homes you pass by and you will be amazed how many of them have lilac in their yards. These plants are magnificent; they are easy to grow and the flowers they make will fill the air in your yard with a delightful fragrance. What a wonderful plant to add to any garden that has lots of sunshine. Sunshine is the main demand for this plant and the more it receives the more flowers it will make. They will grow in a partial shade but flowers will be far and few apart. Do not fool yourself; if your yard does not have sun most of the day, plant a different shrub.

Lilacs are deciduous and will lose their foliage during the winter months. The leaves grow 2 to 5 inches long, oval in shape and dark green to blue green in color depending on variety you select. The foliage is not known for fall color and is rather dull. If we have a hot and humid summer, the plant can develop Powdery Mildew on the foliage. This problem is controlled easily with Serenade organic fungicide if you begin treating the plant in early July, knowing you had a problem in past years. It does not kill the plant but if it happens every year, the plant will develop fewer flowers each year. Irrigation systems that wet the foliage regularly can also cause the same problem, so adjust the sprinkler heads. A fertilizer that contains mycorrhizae bacteria will help to prevent the problem as it doubles the root system size in just a few weeks and reduces stress to the plant. Granular products like Bio-Tone Shrub fertilizer must be worked into the soil, to contact the roots to do the job. The new liquid Protolizer  Mycorrhizae, can just be watered into the soil.

Lilacs are multi-stem shrubs that, depending on the variety, will grow from 6 to 15 feet tall and wide. They grow in a mounding habit with stiff upright growing branches. As the plant ages, the lower part of the plant will have exposed stems with little foliage. When young and actively growing, many suckering shoots will develop at the base of the plant. I have had great luck keeping the plant full by removing half to three quarters of these shoots. The shoots that remain will in time flower as the older branches slow down, producing fewer flowers. You can also dig some of those shoots in April or May and transplant them to a new garden to start new plants. The flowers develop on the tips of the branches growing 3 to 7 inches tall and pyramidal shaped. You can cut the flowers on short 12 to 18 inch stems and place them in a vase of water for the home; the fragrance is just wonderful. Pick early in the morning before the sun gets too hot and remove some of the leaves to prevent wilting. If stems are thicker than a pencil, split them in two at the base of the stem -- this cut will help the flowers get water easier and faster. Keep them out of the sun and if it is hot in the house add Ice cubes daily to cool the flower down.

Lilacs love a sweet soil and should not be planted in gardens that have rhododendrons growing in them, as they prefer an acidic type soil. If you apply limestone, wood ash or  magic lime substitute in the spring and fall, the flowers soon cover the plant. Lilacs will also grow better if you can keep the grass from growing under the branches right up to the trunk of the plant. Cut out all the grass under the plant, making a small mulch bed. I have found that if you plant flowers under the lilac, you tend to water the plant more, as well as fertilize the flowers and this will help the lilac plant to make flowers buds during the summer for next spring flowers. Feed plants every spring with a granular fertilizer such as Plant-Tone fertilizer. A well-fed plant has fewer problems with disease during the summer also.

If you should notice a single branch die in the clump during the summer, check the base of the plant for small holes in the trunk -- it could be a Lilac Bores. Usually this is not a major problem, but the branch should be removed and the plant treated with Bayer Tree and Shrub systemic insecticide. Prune as the plant comes into bloom in the spring. Any non-blooming stems in the lilac should be cut back to 4 feet tall and fertilized in the spring. During the summer, the stem will produce foliage and in just 2 to 3 years, it will be flowering. Remove as much as 1/3 of the non-flowering stems each year to control the height and size of the plant.

Today Lilacs come in many colors from white to pink, lavender, purple, red and even several varieties that are bi-colored. Common Lilacs seem to be the most fragrant but the newer French Hybrids have more colors to choose from, bloom later in the season and have different leaf texture. If you have a small yard, look into the dwarf types that will grow up to six feet tall or when pruned, can be kept at 4 feet. If you are looking for summer color for your yard, look at the Japanese Tree Lilac. This plant is a small growing tree 20 to 25 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. The Tree Lilac flowers during June and early July with white flower clusters. The flowers grow 6 to 12 inches tall and are not as showy as the bush type of lilac, but are still beautiful. Summer flowering trees are rare and this tree is wonderful to look at. The bark looks like a cherry tree: smooth and spotted. The flowers are not as fragrant as the bush type Lilac, but it has a scent similar to that of the privet hedge plant. Care for the tree type Lilac the same way you do for the bush type. This plant is also very hardy and will grow when temperatures drop to minus 30 to 40 degrees.
Rod Stewart - Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Official Video)
Rod Stewart - Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Official Video)

If you're looking for something unusual to plant in your garden this year that will catch the eyes of your friends and neighbors, look no further than the fothergilla. Of all the shrubs and trees I have seen in my many years of gardening, this plant stands out because of the flowers it makes in the springtime during April and May. The flowers are white and fragrant a real bonus. Each flower cluster will grow 1 to 2 inches long and about 1 inch wide, not very large, but it is shaped like a baby bottle brush used to clean the used bottle. Each flower petal is 1/2 to 3/4 inches long and tubular, with a tiny opening on the tip that is the thickness of a round tooth pick--delicate.

When the plant is in full bloom, it will look like a Fourth of July firework display on the plant. It is very unusual and the white color of the flowers is bright and showy. As the flower petals begin to form and open, they begin as a green-yellow thread that quickly turns white. The flowers form on the tips of the branches of the plant before the foliage develops and last well until the leaves form on the plant or longer. The best flowers are on plants grown in full sun but if the plant does get some shade, they are still nice, just not as plentiful. Fothergilla will flower every year no matter what the winter weather was like.

The foliage of this plant is also special; each leaf will grow 1 to 3 inches long and about 1 inch wide. It looks like a fat oval leaf with a somewhat blunt tip, and smooth-to-toothed leaf edge, depending on variety. The leaf is dark blue-green and some hybrids are almost blue--in the shade less blue and more green because of less sunlight. In the fall, more magic for your garden, as the foliage will turn yellow, orange, and red on each leaf at the same time. The color is more brilliant in full sun than in part shade, but still beautiful. The color lasts a long time on the plant, and it changes with the colder weather and frost during the fall season.

Fothergilla will do best in a soil rich in organic matter. The more peat moss or compost you add when you plant, the better the plant will grow for you. If your soil is sandy, dig a big hole, remove the sand and backfill with top soil that has been conditioned with compost, animal manure or peat moss. Acidic soil is best for this plant, so be sure to keep lime products away from the plant. Plants like a moist soil to grow in; adding bark mulch on the garden after planting will help retain moisture around the plant during the heat of summer. If your soil has clay in it, it's O.K.--but the plant will not tolerate standing water around its roots. Plant the fothergilla in a raised planting bed if drainage is a problem in your garden. This plant will also grow very well on the side of a sloping hill or embankment to keep the plant happy and healthy.

The branches of this plant seem to all come out of the ground individually in a cluster when the plant is young, and do not branch out until it matures. These branches are strong, upright-growing and gray. The plant grows thick with these branches. When the flowers fade, no fruit or cone will form on the plant. The winter shape is not special, but the plant can tolerate lots of snow on it because of the upright branching and has little to no winter damage. Fothergilla will do well in a climate with -20 degree temperature and grows throughout most of New England and south to Florida.

Fothergilla was not grown much as a landscape plant when I first started to work in the nursery industry during the 60's. In the past 20 years, the plant has created much interest because of its flowers, foliage and hardiness; it can now be found in many nurseries.

Use this plant in a foundation planting around your home, mixed in deciduous shrub beds with quince, forsythia, and the early-flowering Rhododendron mucronulatum or in mass planting with evergreen shrubs that flower at this time of the year, like 'P.J.M' rhododendrons, azaleas and hollies. This plant will make a wonderful background hedge when planted behind the perennial flower garden to draw entrees to your bleeding hearts, hellebores and spring flowering bulbs. In the fall with its yellow, orange and red foliage the plant will add extra excitement to that fall flowering mum growing in your garden.

Fothergilla will grow 2 to 3 feet tall and just as wide if pruned regularly as it finishes flowering. This is the best time of the year to prune the plant and help stimulate more flowers for next spring. If not pruned each year, the plant can grow up to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide. If you can prune every year, the plant will develop a mushroom cap-like appearance making it formal; not pruning it will let it open up, giving it a wild or more natural look.

If you like a taller growing variety, look for fothergilla major, as it will grow 6 to 10 feet tall and wide--if not pruned, often it can grow as tall as 15 feet. This taller growing variety is a bit hardier and will do very well in exposed area with lots of wind, weather, and temperatures to -30 degrees. The flowers are also larger--2 inches plus long and 1 .75 inches wide. If you like the size and shape of the burning bush/Euonymus alatus and where you live it is no longer available, this would be a good plant for you to substitute for it. It will make a great hedge; its fall color is more orange but just as outstanding to look at in the fall, with the bonus of spring flowers that the burning bush does not have.

Fertilize in the spring with Holly-Tone. Again, keep lime products away from the plant or you will have fewer flowers on the plant in the spring. The plant will attract butterflies and early hummingbirds because of the shape of the flowers, and early honey bees do love the fragrance of the flower and its nectar. Cut some of the taller growing stems and place the branches in a vase of water for wonderful cut flowers for the kitchen table. Enjoy!!
"It's Spring, we are so excited we wet our plants!"

                                       New Orleans- Andouille- Shrimp Cream Soup

If you're fortunate enough to travel to the French Quarters in New Orleans, here is a wonderful soup that the French brought with them and has been modified by Cajun cooks over the years. The bold flavor of Andouille sausage, a blend of beautiful shrimp and spices. If you want a bold flavor use this recipe or cut back on the chili powder and cayenne pepper to lower the heat.

1 pound of fully cooked andouille sausage links, thinly sliced
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 medium green pepper, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
¼ cup of butter, cut up in cubes
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 cups of fresh or frozen corn thawed
5 to 6 medium plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup of vegetable broth
2 tablespoons of minced fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
1 teaspoon of chili powder
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of coarse black pepper
¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your taste!!!
1 to 1½ pounds of uncooked medium shrimp peeled and deveined
1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1} in a large skillet, sauté your sausage slices, onions, celery, red and green peppers, and jalapeno peppers, in butter until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute after blending with other ingredients. 

2} Add your corn, tomatoes, broth, thyme, chili powder, salt, pepper and cayenne peppers. Bring to a quick boil and then reduce the heat, to simmer, uncovered pot for 10 minutes.

3} Stir in the shrimp and cream. Bring to a gentle boil. Simmer uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.

4} This recipe will serve 6 to 8 people and should take you about an hour to prep and cook. Eat with crusty bread and a glass of white wine. Enjoy!

Day to look forward to:

May 21st - Armed forces day is 9 days
May 30th - Memorial Day is 18 days
June 14th - Flag Day is 32 days
June 19th - Father's day is 37 days

36 Garden Journals left Paul found another case


Garden Journal

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5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
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