Ask a (Local) Master Gardener: A call for your gardening questions

  • Priscilla Touhey. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 1/21/2020 2:00:33 PM

Hello, readers:

We need more questions from you! It takes a village to make a local newspaper happen, and the Ask a (Local) Master Gardener column is no exception. This column is a joy to write, but we cannot do it without your support. 

So, please take pause for a moment and search your mind for gardening topics that may have been tickling around the edges. I realize we are in winter hibernation mode now, but I know those seed catalogs are out there, and many of you are getting cozy with them either on your couch or on your device.

What do you want to know? What gardening resolutions do you have this year? What gives you trouble? What grand visions pull you? No question is too small or too simple. We need at least one question per week. We will publish the answer to one question along with your full name. Unpublished questions will also receive a reply.

Sometimes garden goals start unexpectedly. Last year for the first time, I planted airy purple Verbena bonariensis in the one garden spot of my yard that gets full sun, an odd four-sided wedge surrounded by stone pavers, lawn and driveway. I chose this species because I love its wavy wands and wanted a pollinator-friendly plant that would solve three of my problems: 1) a lack of tall plants; 2) a need for annuals because this spot is in the direct path of the snowplow blade; and 3) a lack of late summer bloom. I planted three in a triangle configuration — odd-numbered groupings look best to me — and crossed my fingers. 

By the end of summer, those three little plants grew mightily, up to four feet high and three feet wide each. Sitting on the porch near them at twilight one August evening, my husband asked, “What is that? A hummingbird?” Looking at the rapid winged visitor, it turned out to be a sphinx moth — the first to ever visit our yard in 12 years. Each night, the moth returned, and we would eagerly await its visit. Word apparently got out, and, over the next couple weeks, more flying guests arrived until six sphinx moths came to dine promptly at dusk like they had a standing reservation.  

We are hooked. My garden vision is a pollinator-friendly habitat where bees, butterflies, moths and birds sip nectar, gather pollen and nest happily while we sit and enjoy the frolic. I am working on a five-year plan. Now, how am I going to do this in my shade-prone, pine- and oak-tree-edged yard? Well, those are the problems I am on a quest to solve in 2020. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading a (local) Master Gardener.

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be selected and answered per week.


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