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  • March garden tips & tasks

    If your fescue lawn looks a little skimpy, overseed early this month. Fescue grows best when the weather is still cool.

    Clip dead stems from perennial herbs – thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary. Pruning encourages vigorous new growth.

    Prune nandinas, flowering quince and other airy shrubs by reaching in and removing about a third of the branches at ground level.

    Remove mulch or leaves that may be covering perennials in garden beds.

    Prepare a new garden bed: Have the soil tested (check with your county’s Extension service). Remove grass and dig or till soil 8 to 10 inches deep and mix with soil amendments and organic matter to improve drainage.

    Add fertilizer lightly to perennials as soon as you see new growth. Too much fertilizer may result in lanky growth.

    Herb transplants that don’t mind cool weather -- parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano – can go in the ground now.

    When you cut daffodils to bring inside, cut the stems at an angle and place them in water right away. Change the water in the vase daily to keep them fresh longer.

    Save the date - Middle Tennessee garden events

    The Perennial Plant Society's annual Plant Sale will be April 8, opening at 9 a.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale offers newly released and hard-to-find perennials from top local nurseries -- more than 450 varieties of perennials, vines, grasses, shrubs and annuals. The event supports local scholarships for Tennessee horticulture students and monthly gardening programs, open to the public, at Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. For information visit www.ppsmtn.org.

    The Herb Society of Nashville's annual Herb Sale will be April 29, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. at The Fairgrounds Nashville. The sale will offer heirloom vegetables, rare varieties of perennial and annual herbs, handmade pottery herb markers and more. To learn more, visit herbsocietynashville.org.

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Spiderwort: Love it or loathe it?

QUESTION: We have clumps of spiderwort popping up all throughout the perennial beds. The little flowers are pretty, but the plants are taking over parts of the beds, and more I pull up the more they grow. How do you get rid of them?

Spiderwort 3It is hard to remain neutral about spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) if you’re a gardener. Either you love it for its pretty blue flowers and the fact that it grows without complaint just about anywhere, or you hate it because it’s a thug that muscles its way in and runs over everything else in the garden.

The individual blooms last only for a day, but the buds grow in large clusters, and some are always blooming. That’s one of the good things about spiderwort. It reproduces by letting its seeds blow all over the place, which is why you’ll find spiderwort suddenly growing up in inconvenient places – through the center of a clump of favorite daylilies or in the middle of the iris bed, as they do in my garden, for example. Not so good.

Getting rid of it is not easy. The roots are strong and fleshy and grow in large, wide clumps so pulling it out only works when the plants are very young. Digging is required, and you must dig up every bit of it because what’s left in the ground will grow into more spiderwort. If you feel you must bring in the chemicals, use a product that contains glysophate (such as Roundup), but use it only as the label advises, and keep it from drifting onto other plants.

It may be easier to control spiderwort if you deadhead it (cut off the flowers before they can disperse seeds), and pull up new shoots as soon as you see them emerge from the ground.

Spiderwort 1I remember visiting a friend’s shade garden several years ago and seeing a vigorous clump of spiderwort growing at the edge of the path. She was surprised when I told her that I dig it up and toss it out whenever I find it in my beds. “The little flowers are pretty,” she said. “And it grows so well in the shade!”

Yes, that’s the part to love. Just remember how watchful you have to be to keep it from taking over your yard.


4 Responses

  1. I always wondered what that plant was! Thanks for all of the great info.

    • There’s a plant that looks similar called dayflower (I think) that blooms later and also is pretty aggressive. I’m already pulling them up whenever I find them.

  2. I love mine! It grows in a shady bed that gets dry into July/Aug, so that seems to keep it under control and it provides pretty blooms from May-July.

    • The blooms are pretty, aren’t they? I also discovered that rabbits nibbled it in early spring, and maybe that keeps it from getting too much out of control.

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