Joy's Garden Patch

Share in the fun of the season with gardening tips and advice

I once had a rosemary plant that lived quite happily in my herb garden for a number of years.  After one  especially wicked cold winter, it up and died. I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. That rosemary plant was living on borrowed time.

For instance, when I told my mother, Oma Tike, that my rosemary plant had been kept outdoors for at least five years, she was shocked. “That’s not possible,” she said. “Rosemary isn’t hardy in Connecticut.”

She had a point.

According to the National Gardening Association, rosemary is from the Mediterranean, and is hardy to temperatures as low as 20°F.  All bets are off if it gets colder than that.  Even the United States National Arboretum, while managing to find cultivars that can survive the winter, keeps a few cuttings in reserve, just in case.

You’re safer to pot your rosemary and bring it inside each winter.

It brings us to understand that within our yards we have microclimates. As a simple, rule-of-thumb, North Haven gardeners are in zone 6. My Mediterranean, heat-loving rosemary made it through the winters due to a few factors. We were in a cycle of mild winters. I was in a cycle of not doing fall cleanup in the herb garden. The garden is bordered by hedges, and tall oak trees overhead also played a role in the plant’s survival. The plant was protected—within a microclimate—and that was enough to be able to get through winter. Luck probably played a hand in it, too.

We also create all sorts of microclimates in our yards. It can be as hot as the Sahara on a south-facing lawn that broils in heat produced by the road or driveway that’s next to it. You either plan your landscape utilizing plants that love those conditions, or you change the climate.

Creating and changing microclimates can be as simple as when you put up a windbreak, using brush, trees, conifers or hardscaping. Even when you plant tall hardwood trees, combined with smaller under-canopy trees such as dogwood, and then smaller bushes under that, you have essentially created a microclimate within the overall climate of your yard, your street, your town, your state, etc.  

Oma Tike Tip: Give your plants a big drink. Your plants need extra water in the really hot weather. Give them a deep drink of water early in the morning. Don’t be stingy. They need it! 

June 10-11:
Gardens by the Sea, presented by the Stonington Garden Club. Get ticket info, including advance sales and garden descriptions at the club’s site.
June 12: Free Hydrangea Workshop at Natureworks, on Forest Road in Northford from 9:30am-10:30am. Learn hydrangea care with a visit from Prides Corner Nursery.
June 18-19: Rose Weekend Festival at Elizabeth Park, HartfordJune 26: CT Historic Gardens Day at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock. Get more info at 860-928-4074.

A Walk in the Woods: Last week I had the pleasure of taking a tree identification walk during National Trails Day with Walter Brockett, master gardener and North Haven resident. He shared his knowledge as we took to the trails at Peter’s Rock.

I cannot believe how terrible I am at identifying trees. I stink. And yes, Mr. Brockett did quiz us along the way.  Actually, you have to give us some credit. We had to identify the tree mainly from the bark, not the leaves. Most of the trees were so, so tall—you’d need a helicopter to get to the canopy up above.

Anyway, you try it. Take a look at some of the pictures from our time on the trails. See if you can name the trees before you look at the captions. Good Luck!

Tree Trivia: Want to know if that’s a Norway Maple in your yard? Take a leaf off the branch, and squeeze the leaf stalk. If the sap is milky, it’s a Norway Maple. If it’s clear, it’s one of the natives, a sugar maple.

Oma Tike Tip: Keep on top of things. Keep an eye on your trees for caterpillar tents and this is the time to watch for black spot on roses other beasties in the garden, too.

From the Garden Bookbag:
Oma Tike’s Pick
: “Tasha Tudor’s Garden,” by Tovah Martin, Houghton-Mifflin Publishers
Oma Tike admired the lifestyle of Tasha Tudor, brought to light in Tovah Martin’s book. Oma Tike said Tudor was smart and talented. She especially liked the way Tudor would let nothing go to waste, she used everything. What’s more, Tudor was a good cook and had beautiful gardens. Tudor’s “perfect world” was designed from another time period, without modern conveniences. She did that in spite of her age. She was an eccentric, but she did not isolate herself from others. Instead, her unusual lifestyle tended to pull people to her.

Joy’s Pick: “One Magic Square,” by Lolo Houbein, The Experiment Publishing, LLC
Small space gardening. There’s a number of reasons to go small when it comes to planting. Maybe you want to control your time and energy. Maybe you don’t have much space. Maybe you have physical restrictions. Whatever the reason, there is no reason why you can’t grow what you want. You can. This book tells you exactly how to start, gives you plenty of planting plot suggestions, and offers a lot of old-fashioned commonsense ideas when it comes to mulching, soil amendment, composting, pests and more.

Next Week’s Column:  June chores; Art in the Garden; Bookbag, and more!


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