Gardening, Spring 2017, and Lessons Learned

This gardening season has begun in its usual way. Friends and family lament our absence as they understand the spring demands on the Kennedy farm. The two of us are spread pretty thinly nowadays.

My husband, Kerry, bought a larger bush-hog to speed up his work cleaning up the orchard, the field, and the areas around the house and barn. Our experiment with quail last year ended in disaster. Not only did some vermin (hawk? raccoon? possum?) get into the fly pen and kill the birds, but the field that we decided to leave untended to draw wild quail is now nearly impassible due to wild blackberries and trees that have taken root from the horrible offspring of the Bradford Pear that we cannot seem to be rid of! I just want everything bush-hogged and cleared. (As a boon, snakes will now be more visible again.)

As an ecology lesson, I must explain more about ornamental pear trees.

There is a reason that non-native plants are not healthy for our environment. People planted Bradford and Cleveland pears as decorative trees with pretty white flowers in the spring and red leaves in the fall not realizing the harm they cause. The former owner of the farm had a nursery here, so what Bradfords and Clevelands he planted and did not sell remained. And, those that he sold didn’t leave cleanly. Where they stood sprouted the most atrocious trees with thorns that can flatten tractor tires.

From the NC Cooperative Extension: “Structural weakness is not the only drawback associated with Bradford pears…Originally bred to be sterile, this ornamental pear tree was never intended to produce fruit. In reality, though, it is often pollinated by newer Callery pear cultivars (“Aristocrat,” ‘Chanticleer,” “Cleveland Select,” and “Redspire”) that were developed to overcome some of the Bradford’s structural issues. This cross-pollination can lead to viable seeds, and that’s where the real trouble starts. The offspring of those well-mannered ornamental pears are, to put it nicely, aggressive thugs. They spread rapidly with the help of birds dropping their seeds, and the resulting plants are thorny invaders, choking out native wildlife habitat wherever the seedlings take hold. The problem is severe enough that many localities have banned the Bradford pear altogether in certain settings.”

Because of bird droppings, we have these nuisances popping up all in our large field we had saved for a wild quail habitat. The whole field must be bush-hogged, and though I have warned Kerry that he could flatten tractor tires, he is willing to clear the field.

As for the house gardens, they are coming along. Every spring we weed and lay a thick layer of mulch. (We vary this mulch from dark brown pine to hardwood, and for the last three years we have used pine needles around the shrubs to feed them and keep weeds at bay.)

We are trying to plant only native flowers, though I will not ever give up the Asiatic lilies that came from my aunt among other favorite and non-invasive treasures. The knock-out roses are all gone as of last year. We battled Japanese beetles constantly and loathed the pruning that they need to keep blooms thriving. Cutting them back with their thorns every winter was a pain as well. So, the picket fence is only decorated with herbs such as Artemisia & salvia. Though Artemisia is not a true native to our area (It is native to temperate Europe, Asia, northern Africa and Alaska.), it is a naturalized American plant and provides a lush, silver green foliage that can be contained within our picket bed.

I hope you enjoy the photos of our gardens as they are coming along this year. We lost some plants due to last year’s drought (ferns on the North side of the house, a Foster holly on the Southwest side, and every single azalea on the East and West sides), we don’t worry too much because we made the choice not to water in the heat of the summer. (Note to self: water this summer; you don’t want to lose any more plants.)

5 Comments

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  1. 2
    LB Gschwandtner

    Dear to my heart, this theme of gardening amid the invaders. Deer ate a gorgeous patch of hosta but they still produced bud stalks and then the deer got those, along with the daylily bud stalks. Sigh … but everything else looked great this spring and now the hardy gardenia radicans are blooming profusely.
    Your gardens are delightful. Loving the mixtures and the colors. I know what work is in those beds. So thank you for the eye treats!

    • 3
      Emily

      Laura,

      Thanks for coming here and responding! I think when we changed sites I lost all of my old comments. So sad because I treasured each one!

      I have not neglected my gardens, but I have sorely been amiss by not writing about them enough. Connecting with people about nature is the happiest! Love your pics too.

      Emily

  2. 4
    Susan Walters

    I love artemisia. We had some beautiful ones, but they died. Now I’m going to have to replace them after seeing yours. Your flowers are beautiful!

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