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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for April

We are happy to reprint this great article from Judge Givhan that was originally published in the May 2015 issue of the Alabama Gazette


May Day has been celebrated throughout the world since ancient times and the festivals held commemorated the astronomical mid-way points between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. One of the earliest celebrations stemmed from the Celtic festival of Beltane. I can remember as a child in elementary school, watching the erection of the May Pole and being taught, along with other classmates, to weave the wide pastel colored ribbon around the pole. The May Pole had a bonnet of flowers at the tiptop with a few loose streamers of ribbon hanging down. Also, another tradition involved finding homemade May baskets filled with spring flowers on one's doorstep. May Day traditions like these need to be revived to remind of us a gentler time. For the 21st century, perhaps an edible flower arrangement made from fruit would be in order.

This is a charmed time of year in which we have plenty of sun and rain, while having cool nights. Perfect time to get the summer annuals and perennials established such as: begonias, verbena, vinca, salvias, dusty miller, geraniums, daylilies, canna lilies, impatiens, elephant ears, sometimes referred in the south as Persian Palms, and caladiums. Of course there are hundreds more that can be named, but these, I see, are readily available at garden centers.

Pot gardens do well planted now, also. Many of the winter annuals may be just too beautiful to pull out, so I devised a trick to allow the small begonias, or other new plants to grow in extra pots. Then when the mass pull out occurs, usually by June 1st, these flowers, which we have staged in pots, are full and easy to transplant.

Wildflowers or Weeds

As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is the preference, weed or flower in our flowerbeds. The following are examples of this type of category:

1. Carolina Geranium – these are weeds in my eyes, as they spread like wild fire and will take over the beds in a New York minute. They are native to the United States, have a sprawling habit, with greenish red segmented leaves. These are also known as Crane's Bill. Sporting a tap root, they are easy to pull out. After extracting a few, the plant material thrown out gives the impression of hours worth of hard hand pulling since they are so bushy and top heavy. Deer especially love this weed/flower. Where are the deer when I have to yank them out by hand?

2. Butter Cup or Oenothera speciosa – These are also called pink ladies, grow to about 10 inches in height, and produce many blooms. These are pink in color and, like all evening primroses, close up at night. The yellow variety is know as Oenothera fruitcosa. Northern Bob White and dove, along with seed eating songbirds, such as the gold finch, find the Butter Cup a delicacy. Again, in order to cut down on work the next spring, I try not let them go to seed. The Best of both worlds is to eliminate them from the flower beds, and sow seeds in the fields. News Flash – deer do not eat Butter Cup.

3. Sorrel – An herb that flourishes in low, moist areas and grows to about a foot in height. Common sorrel or garden sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is a perennial herb.

Another common name is spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock. Many countries use it as a vegetable and are frequently cooked in soups. The leaves are eaten by the larvae of many species of butterflies and moths. I have left some plants in the flower beds as they have a green leafy appearance and appears to be a good filler.

Plant of the Month

MARJORAM – This is a very popular herb which is a member of the mint family. The variety of Sweet Marjoram is the most poplar and very easy to grow.

Somewhere I read that marjoram conjures up the scent of sunshine and I might add the scent of sunshine in Greece or Italy. There is hardly a recipe in the Mediterranean that does not call for Marjoram or its more pungent cousin, Oregano. It is very easy to get these plants up from seed, and now is the perfect time to do just that. Sow the seeds in pots, keep it moist in a sunny location, and VOILA, you have saved about $2.00 per plant.


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