Get Growing: Colors of spring

Friday, June 20, 2014
Blue is often regarded as a melancholy color, i.e. “feeling blue,” but who can feel sad when there is a carpet of blue Scilla siberica or Chionodoxa sardensis covering your garden?

The other morning my spirits were lifted when I found my annual patch of glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) by the kitchen steps. The usual C. luciliae is lavender blue, but 30 years ago I planted C. sardensis from White Flower Farm, a much deeper cobalt hue with a white eye. One day it was simply grass-like leaves. The next morning it was glorious blue. Scillas and glory-of-the-snow self-seed freely in gardens or lawns and I love the unexpected clumps of brilliant blue in out of the way places. I also have the milky white Scilla mischtschenkoana (what an unpronounceable name) and this year Scilla bifolia, another deep, deep blue. But by far my favorite is the glory-of-the-snow with its upward facing white-eyed stars that reflect the spring sky on a sunny day.

CRITTERS: Alas the ticks weren’t daunted by the frigid winter. Already they are evident. It seems to me that tick season didn’t really start in past years until May, but already I have found dog ticks on my border terrier despite application of repellent. That means the ticks are on the lookout for humans as well as animals, so be prepared. Wear an insect repellent when gardening, don light-colored clothes and do a tick check after a session in the garden or on the trail. Lyme disease, spread by the tiny black deer tick is no joke. At the Master Gardener symposium in Lenox last Saturday gardeners were sharing horror stories of this debilitating disease. It is spread by mice as well as by deer. In fact, some research shows a correlation between white-footed mice, deer ticks and the invasive barberry, which provides shelter for the mice. Another reason to eradicate the thorny barberry.

SNOW??!!! What a rude awakening. Tuesday night in the pouring rain I wrote the above comments on blue flowers and ticks. In the middle of the night something woke me up and when I looked outside there was snow on the ground. Spring flowers are resilient, so I trust they will recover from this cold, white blanket. We’ve had snow before in April, including real blizzards, but this latest minor snowfall seems like an insult after our harsh winter.

AMHERST FARMERS MARKET: The weekly Amherst Farmers Market opens tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. in the Spring Street parking lot of the Amherst Town Common. Welcome back your favorite farmers. Other area markets don’t open until May.

REJUVENATING SHRUBS: Forsythia, lilacs and other favorite shrubs tend to produce rampant growth that can detract from the beauty of the species. Learn how to rejuvenate old shrubs by renewal pruning at a workshop tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge. The instructor is Ron Yaple, a Berkshire arborist. Fee is $40. Register online at berkshirebotanical.org or call 298-3926.

SCOUTING SESSION: Join UMass Extension personnel on a scouting trip around the UMass campus on Wednesday, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Learn to identify and deal with a variety of insect pests. Three extension experts will lead the tour. Fee is $50. To register or for more details go to extension.umass.edu/landscape/org or contact Ellen Weeks at 545-0895.

EAT YOUR YARD: Lisa DePiano, of UMass, is offering a free workshop on permaculture called “Eat Your Yard: Backyard Edible Forest Gardens,” Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at River Valley Market in Northampton. Register by calling 584-2665. Space is limited.

TREE ID: Nancy Goodman will lead another tree ID trek on April 26 in Cummington from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in an old-growth forest. The program is cosponsored by the New England Wild Flower Society and the Hitchcock Center. Fee is $25. To register call 256-6006.

MUSHROOMS: Learn to pair mushrooms with other members of the plant family in a workshop April 26 in Belchertown sponsored by Fungi Ally. Call 978-844-1811 or go to www.fungially.com for details.

GARLIC MUSTARD: The invasive garlic mustard is rampant in the Pioneer Valley, but, fortunately, easy to pull out by the roots. The new Friends of the Fort River Wildlife Refuge in Hadley at 69 Moody Bridge Road is planning a garlic mustard eradication effort on April 26. A new handicapped accessible trail is in the works for this refuge, but help is needed to get rid of invasive plants. Reserve a space on the volunteer team by emailing FriendsofFortRiverRefuge@gmail.com. Work shifts are 9 a.m. to noon or 1-4 p.m.

SUSTAINABILITY FESTIVAL: Amherst will once again hold a Sustainability Festival on April 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Amherst Town Common. Local nonprofit organizations will have booths filled with information on composting, tree care and other environmental issues.

DAFFODIL FUN RUN: Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Hampshire County is sponsoring a 5K fun run on April 27. Registration forms are available at the Bangs Community Center or at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Hampshire County online. Entry fees are $27 for adults, $20 for students and $12 for children. The race passes by thousands of daffodils planted via the town’s Daffodil Project.

PERMACULTURE DESIGN: Ashley Schenk will give an introductory lecture on permaculture called “Connecting You With Your Backyard Landscape” on April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sunderland Public Library. Free.

PLANT SALES: Nonprofit groups are scheduling annual fundraiser plant sales. If your group would like an event listed in Get Growing, please send information to valleygardens@comcast.net. I will be featuring several plant sales in a Valley Gardens column on May 9, but will have a weekly listing in late April and May of all plant sales of which I am made aware.