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Southern Gardening - Potpourri for March

They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I have also heard that March is a great time to fly a kite. And we have all heard about "beware the Ides of March". However, March to gardeners could be termed the turnaround month, between winter and spring. The weather in the River Region is usually mild, with cooler nights and warm days which indicates the perfect time to start seeds, plant cool weather flowers and bulbs.

Before we just jump out in our gardens with a random selection of plants picked up from wherever, we need to stop, assess and plan. First of all, we want the right plant for the right place. That means to note which plants did well in a certain location and which failed to thrive. Ask yourself why a plant did not live up to its potential. Was it for lack of proper hours of sunlight? Was it for the plant having not enough or too much water? Was it because of weeds? Was it for improper soil pH? Was soil borne fungus the culprit? If there were no problems in these areas, we can go on to the next step. Planning the flower bed gives the gardener a road map to where he has been and gives direction to where he is going. Take a pencil and paper and divide the area into sections, noting the success or failure of the previous season's plantings. If one had completed a plan for the prior season, this would be very helpful. Or sketch out a rough facsimile of last year's plants and their placements. By showing on paper which plants went where, one can save time and money by not over planting an area that had been sown with seed. For instance, one takes note that the cosmos did well, but these seeds were sown by hand the year before. More than likely, the cosmos will reseed, so leave that area blank on the plan in order to keep from over-planting with other seeds or flowers. The same technique would apply to bulbs which die down in the fall and winter. Then, go from there taking note of the successes and failures.

Many gardens have fewer plants at this time, so take the opportunity to get the beds ready to receive any new additions. Clean up sticks and twigs which have cluttered the beds over the winter months and replenish the soil. If you have any composted leaves, great, just throw this material onto the soil. Garden soil at nurseries and big box outlets can be added now. Although somewhat expensive, this soil would not contain unwanted weed seeds which would contribute to more work later.

PLANT OF THE MONTH--CLEMATIS (ranunculaceae) within the buttercup family

Clematis encompasses a large genus of woody stemmed vines and herbaceous plants, with many being perennial. To be successful at growing and maintaining Clematis, the old saying is that they love their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun. They do well in a partial shade environment with moist soil in our area. I have had several of these flowering plants for many years. They require very little care, but one must be careful not to cut back dead looking stems as the new growth will sprout from these in the spring. I only fertilize once a season, add good soil in late winter, and then wait for the show. The flowers can range from the size of the palm of your hand to tiny clusters of flowers. The color range is enormous from white, pink, red, magenta, blue and purple, I keep my plants in large pots where I have mini trellises for them to climb. It is easy to fall in love with Clematis, so buy now and plant for the spring and fall.



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