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  • Upcoming events in Middle Tennessee

     

    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Celandine poppies bloom in spring

I have a shade garden and would love to have celandine poppies. What’s the best way to grow them?

Celandine poppyCelandine poppies, or wood poppies, (Stylophorum diphyllum) are among the prettiest flowers in a shady woodland garden in early spring. Tall stems with bright yellow flowers grow from clumps of lobed leaves in late March, April and May, before developing fuzzy seedpods. This native wildflower grows well in moist, slightly acid humus-rich soil.

When conditions are right, Celandine poppies grow and spread easily. Nashville wildflower expert Margie Hunter, in her book Gardening with the Native Plants of Tennessee, notes that they “readily self-sow” (other sources describe this as becoming “weedy”).  “If germination gets out of hand, just snip off the large seedpods before they open,” Hunter writes.

Consequently, they are also easy to share. Divide them in spring, or start them from seeds in a cold frame in the fall.

In today’s Tennessean: Sage, thyme and lavender are just a few of the herbs that can look as good in the landscape as they taste in the kitchen. See the story on double-duty herbs in today’s Tennessean and at Tennessean.com.

April is also a great time to get out and meet other gardeners. Check out the Events calendar at left, and in my newspaper column at Tennessean.com.

Definitely not stars in your lawn

QUESTION: Every year, the small white flowers called star-of-Bethlehem pop up in our lawn. The flowers are cute, but they’re everywhere! It makes an ugly lawn. How can I get rid of it?

Star-of-Bethlehem: Get rid of it if you can.

This time of year, star-of-Bethlehem shoots up in lawns, on creek banks, in wild meadows. They are indeed everywhere – even in gardens, where unsuspecting gardeners may plant them because they are a pretty little wildflower. The bad news is that once they get a foothold in your lawn, they are tough to eradicate.

Star-of-Bethlehem is a cool-season perennial that grows from small bulbs. The foliage resembles wild garlic, and the small white flowers each have six petals. The bulbs multiply rapidly, and are spread easily. After it blooms, the plant dies down and remains dormant until next spring.

As you might expect, it’s considered an invasive exotic here. The plant is native to North Africa, parts of Eastern Europe and western Asia. UT’s Institute of Agriculture notes that it has become a weed problem on athletic fields and golf courses. Even more bad news: the flowers and bulbs of star-of-Bethlehem are poisonous.

You could try digging it up, but that would be a monstrous task because you need to get every little bulb. UT Extension has a list of control products (most of which are to be used only by professionals). There may be very little you can do except wait it out, and don’t spread them around. The USDA Forest Service is very clear about this: “Do not plant this species.”

 

Get to know the natives at Cheekwood

Celandine poppies. Photo courtesy Cheekwood Botanical Garden.

Early one spring, my friend Nancy gave me a Celandine poppy that she rooted out from her backyard garden bed. In the right spot (light shade, moist, rich soil) it opens its bright yellow flowers in April in Middle Tennessee, and I’m embarrassed to have to let Nancy (and the general public) know that it didn’t succeed in my garden.

In her book, Gardening With the Native Plants of Tennessee, Nashville wildflower expert Margie Hunter writes, “Wood poppies form leafy clumps of stems 12 to 18 inches tall. Loose clusters of hairy buds open into bright yellow, 2-inch flowers through April and May. Fuzzy drooping seedpods develop. Leaves are grayish green and pinnately cut into several lobes.”

Along with light shade, the poppies appreciate slightly acid soil. They are easy to share, as you can divide them or sow seeds. “They readily self-sow, and if germination gets out of hand, just snip off the large seedpods before they open,” Hunter says.

 

Celandine poppy (wood poppy)Stylophorum diphyllum