The people's voice of reason

March Potpourri

March comes marching in with the wind, where there may still be a slight chill, but one senses winter is over. By mid-March we can confidently plant begonias, certainly geraniums plus impatiens, while getting ready to say goodbye to pansies and dianthus with the next 6 weeks. Everything seems to be happening at once: the grass suddenly needs mowing, regular watering is needed, fertilizing is now a task, and weeding becomes a priority. It would be nice if family members would lend a hand. My motto has always been, "a family who gardens together, stays together."

Besides the American Basketball "March Madness", there should be a similar March Madness in and around out flower gardens. It is a very hectic time for the gardener whom I term a "hands on gardener," one who has his hands in the dirt, one who we see at this time of year, searching the garden soil for any seeds which should be germinating, and one who has plan in hand, setting out late winter and early spring annuals. The perfect gardener is looking at a prepared bed he made last month, which has been weeded and mulched. He has already purchased seed for summer bloom, such as zinnias, coreopsis, and cosmos. We see in his basket of tricks, new perennials such as Shasta daisies; a variety of hostas for the shady part of the beds; and artemisia for sunny or lightly shady areas. I call this plant a transition species because of its adaptability in growing from U.S. planting zones 3 through 9. (Our region is in zone 8). Incidentally, Artemisia absinthium, or common wormwood, was once the source for commercial absinthe. According to lore, Absinthe, if drunk in enough quantity, would produce insanity in the imbibers. The country of France, in the late 19th century, produced the world's greatest supply of Absinthe.

There are many varieties of Artemisia, but all grow white to silvery and white gray green foliage. I have used the tried and true, "Powis Castle" in my beds for years, which is a more compact, clumping type. It has one downfall and that is the tendancy in the second year to obtain an open and leggy center. To cure this defect, just trim them back severely and let then start afresh. This open center problem is due to heat and too much humidity. Artemisia stelleriana, also called "beach wormwood" grows to about a foot and 2 feet wide and is one plant that will do well by the seaside.

These artemisia overall are easy to grow and propagate. They are an easy to care for plant, requiring well drained soil and are drought resistant. I use this plant in the garden as a foil for really bright flowers such as the orange butterfly weed to all the rainbow colors of zinnias. The use of the foil of the grey silvery color enhances the yellows, reds, fuscias, purples and pinks of other flowers. In other words, it help the color stand out with more intensity of color.

March is also a great month to visit botanical and other public gardens in Alabama or for that matter throughout the South. In the Mobile area, Bellingrath Gardens should be in full swing with gorgeous azaleas and spring bulbs in all of their glory. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens should not be overlooked as only perhaps one and half hours away. Just seeing Japanese Magnolias, yellow Forsythia, flowering Quince, Red Bud trees showing their beautiful pink and magenta blooms, lacey Dogwoods make one's heart leap for joy for all the beauty which surrounds us. We are thankful to live in American, the land of the free and the home of the brave.



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