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OPINION | JANET B. CARSON: Breaking Ground

by Janet B. Carson | April 3, 2021 at 1:47 a.m.
Redbud trees are vivid and hardy natives that produce welcome color in the spring. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

APRIL

It's spring! It feels like we have gone through all four seasons in a week, but let's hope the most recent cold weather was the last.

I think many of us are feeling a whole lot better about our yards than we did a month ago. Many burned or damaged plants are starting to grow back. Some will need corrective pruning, and some might even need replacement, but we are having a pretty spring in spite of the damage.

◼️ Give those damaged plants a little extra TLC this season. Wait for them to finish blooming, if they are spring bloomers, but then feed a light dose of fertilizer to all your shrubs. Water when dry.

◼️ Even though many plants are growing (and blooming!), some have yet to kick in. That doesn't mean they are dead. Give them another few weeks of warm weather before you start assessing. And while it is April, don't be too quick to plant warm season flowers and vegetables. Wait until mid-month to be safe — and then begin. There are plenty of other gardening activities to occupy your time.

◼️ Winter weeds are in their prime, and while some of you love your spring beauty, henbit and dandelion, others prefer not to have them multiply in the garden. It is too late to apply herbicides with much advantage, but mowing them (before blooming is over) can prevent seed set and more problems next year.

◼️ Hold off fertilizing your lawn until it is totally green. It is getting there but still not 100%, and you don't want to waste any of the fertilizer's benefits.

◼️ Pansies and violas got a big boost in their blooming these last few weeks from cool nights and warm days, and they are looking great. Continue to enjoy them and let the nights and the days warm up before replacing your plants.

◼️ Spring bulbs gave us a shot of color when we really needed it, and many are still flowering. Be sure to allow them at least six weeks of green growth after bloom so they gather enough fuel to flower next season. A little fertilizer right now would also help.

◼️ Gradually move houseplants outside toward the end of the month — don't rush it. If you have areas in the garden that need extra fill until plants recover, consider placing some of your tender plants in the garden (in their pots). This will fill the drab places and make the potted plant management easier, especially if you have a sprinkler system.

◼️ Some of our overwintered vegetables are ready for harvest or bolting and blooming. Start replacing them with a last batch of cool-season things, and gradually begin adding in the summer vegetables and herbs.

◼️ Nurseries and garden centers are a gardener's wonderland these days. New shipments of colorful plants arrive every week. Stop by to find some new treasures. I predict this is going to be another banner year for gardening, and a boon to the nursery industry.

"Rising Sun" is a variety of redbud with bright spring foliage. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)
"Rising Sun" is a variety of redbud with bright spring foliage. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

NATIVE OF THE MONTH

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is in its glory right now.

This small, spring-blooming native tree has a lot of great cultivars to choose from. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, and depending on variety, can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide. There are dwarf and weeping forms as well.

Redbuds do best in a well-drained soil with ample moisture when conditions are dry. They do not tolerate wet feet well. These trees bloom before their heart-shaped foliage appears.

The most common flower color is a purplish pink, but white-flowering forms are available. Foliage on the original tree is green, but newer cultivars have purple, orange and even yellow leaves. "Forest Pansy" was the first variety with purple leaves. Its new leaves start out purple and then age to green.

Chinese redbud resembles the native redbud, but typically makes a large multi-branch shrub rather than a tree.  (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)
Chinese redbud resembles the native redbud, but typically makes a large multi-branch shrub rather than a tree. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Some newer varieties hold their purple foliage a bit longer — "Merlot" and "Ruby Falls."

"Rising Sun" and "Flame Thrower" are two varieties with yellow and orange new growth in the spring and outstanding fall color.

Whichever redbud you choose, it will give your garden some colorful spring flowers and possibly some great foliage color, too, in more than one season.

Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.

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