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Rain, Rain Go Away!


Our official National Weather Service rain gauge clocked in with 3.60 inches of rain at 7 a.m. this morning. And more is falling. The daffodil flowers are nodding down toward the mud. The vegetable garden is a pond. There’s nary a robin in sight to feast on the hordes of worms migrating across the driveway in search of dry ground. And it continues to rain. What a difference from this time last year when gardeners were bemoaning the hot weather and how quickly all the spring bulbs flowered and dried up. But that’s ok. This is a good time to sow seeds indoors.

This year, I’m test driving several varieties of nasturtium. Their leaves and flowers are edible, but I’m growing them because they’re disease resistant, the deer don’t seem to bother them and I’m hoping they’ll feed the hummingbirds that are here from May through October.

There’s ‘Empress of India’ with its orange-red flowers. And ‘Dwarf Cherry Rose’ with wavy edged petals folded into semi-double blossoms. There’s Burpee’s ‘Jewel Mix’ and Thompson & Morgan’s ‘Orange Troika’, ‘Whirlybird’ and ‘Climbing Mixed’, which the seed packet touts as “ideas for walls and fences.” But I’m going to try something new — growing them in hanging baskets.

Although you can “nick” the hard seeds with a file or sandpaper, I’ve found it’s much easier to soak the seeds in an inch of water for 6 to 8 hours and then plant them in potting mix. Once they get their second set of leaves, I’ll move them into pots and hanging baskets but they won’t go outdoors until mid-May. Stay tuned for a bloom update.

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questions

Now that bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) are not recommended because of impatiens downy mildew, what are three good annuals for shade?

Our Russian sage (Perovskia) is full and bountiful but will not stay upright. Is there anything we can do? Is there a way to split some off when it has outgrown its space? Should it be trimmed back in fall or spring?

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

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