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Don Davis: Time to plan for spring

Don Davis: Time to plan for spring


You can start planting in a few more weeks. Now is the time to plan your gardens and decide what is needed.

Q. I recently had some trees removed from a mulched over area of my yard. I wish to keep the mulch, but now the area gets a lot of sunlight.

I want to plant some shrubbery in the area with an emphasis on low maintenance. I was thinking about forsythia, azalea, Mexican heather, juniper and or Japanese holly.

I was hoping for a little color as well. So my questions are: Are these choices reasonable? Do you have any suggestions in mind? Lastly, when would be the optimum time to plant?

— R.W., Lynchburg

A. Your choices are quite reasonable except for the Mexican heather, which does not survive Virginia winters. Azaleas would probably grow well around the edges of your area where there is partial shade. The suggestions I have in mind are native to eastern North America, and foremost among them is high bush blueberry. Planting a dozen or so blueberry bushes would be an investment in beauty, as well as flavor and nutrition.

Some other native shrubbery worth considering recently was the subject of a news release from Proven Winners. They have developed a wide range of new varieties of natives ideal for use in home landscaping, including summer blooming oak leaf hydrangeas such as Gatsby Gal (semi dwarf), Gatsby Star (double flowers) and Gatsby Pink (petals age to pink). Other introductions are Gem Box inkberry holly, which resembles boxwood and is useful in both formal and informal landscapes.

Winterberry hollies always are a good choice with their showy red fruit favored by bluebirds, and Proven Winners has a scaled down version called Berry Poppins that is more suitable for small spaces.

White-flowered chokecherry now is available in a compact form, called Low Scape Mound, and a narrow columnar form, called Low Scape Hedger.

Among other new native shrubs is Sugar Shack buttonbush, with a more controlled growth habit than wild buttonbushes. Its fragrant white flowers are a magnet for swallowtail butterflies.

Q. I saw a low growing ground cover near Virginia Baptist Hospital It has yellow blooms in spring. Do you have any idea what this is?

— M.H., Lynchburg

A. The plant is a hardy perennial from Europe called Aaron’s beard, St. John’s wort and Hypericum calycinum.

It spreads freely in sun or shade, developing a dense canopy of leaves that inhibits weed growth. Dry poor soils are no problem for this plant, and it does well under leafy shade trees and on slopes where erosion control is a priority. Hypericum can spread too freely and become invasive, unless it is contained at the edge of a lawn or between a sidewalk and the wall of a building, as it is at the hospital along Oak Lane.

Its name translates as “above the picture.” Old World cultures placed sprigs of Hypericum above pictures to ward off evil spirits.

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