April 2020       Volume 10, No. 4
Hello Everyone,
We hope you have been able to enjoy the awakening of your spring garden this month! With everyone sheltering at home, we can all get a closeup view of unfurling stems, leaves and flowers. In this issue, I will share some of the magic that is happening in my own front garden beds, where passing walkers have been commenting on the early color and variety.
Our crews are busy opening up beds, banishing the last of winter's browning, and preparing for the glories of May. We are all being careful to observe social distancing rules and to sanitize any commonly shared equipment and your spigots, gates and handles!
There will soon be some planting and transplanting going on. Vegetable garden preparation and planting has already started. Reese has begun his tick and mosquito spray routes, and it's not too late to sign up for this important service by emailing him at < >.

Early Color in Your Garden - What to Plant Among Your Bulbs

Spring has Sprung with Glory of the Snow and Primroses

For many years I've had fun experimenting with minor bulbs, meaning those small bursts of color other than tulips and daffodils. Being smaller in stature, that means a smaller sized bulb to begin with, and that means digging a shallower hole! Fall planting goes much more quickly that way. In these photos, you'll see a carpet of blue flowers which is Glory of the Snow, or Chionodoxa forbesii 'Blue Giant.' This minor bulb tolerates my dry, part shade conditions and naturalizes freely, now spreading into the lawn and tumbling through various beds. It is tough and didn't blink at last weekend's snow. Glory of the Snow also comes in pure white, light pink, or a mixture of the three colors.

A Stately Hellebore
As companions to this great little bulb, I have been collecting Primula varieties in my travels and even grew a few from seed. These have been in bloom for two weeks and will continue well into May. Helleborus orientalis are the tallest plants in the photos, with deep pink and purple colors selected for contrast with the other plants. Hellebores send up their flower stalks in late March and begin to bloom shortly thereafter. Their color will persist until early June, by the time that the pink fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia, will be in bloom.

Early-blooming Lungwort Lights up the Garden
In a nearby nursery bed, I have a large clump of Lungwort, or Pulmonaria officinalis. This plant gently spreads and self-seeds a bit around the area. It is important early forage for bees. As the flowers age, they will turn from blue to light pink. There are many cultivars grown for various shades of blue or pink, leaf shape and degree of spotting on the leaves.
Not that I don't like daffodils or tulips - note the daffodil foliage in the photos. The varieties I planted many years ago are late bloomers, usually blooming around Mother's Day weekend once the April show is beginning to fade. And deer would eat tulips in such a spot - so I reserve them for an area at the side foundation by the walkway to the back door!

Congratulations to Martha and Susan - Our New Crew Supervisors

We are pleased to announce that Martha Ludlum and Susan Shaine have been promoted to Crew Supervisors this season! They are both seasoned veterans of the PBOG Crew, avid gardeners, and stand ready to help you through the garden year. You will see them driving PBOG trucks and wrangling debris and tools. Please join us in welcoming them both to their new roles.



New Procedures in Place for Invoicing and Payment this Month

As a key part of our commitment to go paperless in 2020, we will be sending all invoices to you via email. Please be sure that we have your updated email address. Then look for your invoice the last week of April or the first week of May. If you would prefer to receive a hard copy, please let Nancy Altman know by calling 978-425-5531 or emailing her at < >
Please remember that our terms are net 15 days, and we will be adding a due date this year for easy reference. There is a $35 late fee added to any invoices that remain open beyond 30 days. Thank you for your prompt payment that helps keep our small business on an even footing.

Black Knot - The Fungus Demystified

Black Knot Fungus on Twig of Ornamental Plum Tree
At this time of year with leaves off the trees, we often see black masses or galls attached to outer twigs of plum and cherry trees in the genus Prunus. Both ornamental and edible varieties are susceptible to this fungus, along with the native chokecherry. Sometimes apricot and peach trees are impacted. This disease produces rough, irregular, black growths that encircle and eventually kill the twig or branch. Insects take advantage of the growth, drill into it to seek shelter and may cause other problems.
The disease cycle starts in spring when temperatures are above 60 degrees. At that time, disease spores emerge from existing black knots and travel to other parts on the tree or to nearby hosts. When it is wet, rainy and cool, the probability of these conditions are even greater.  Spores can germinate on a thin film of moisture. They may not show up as visible black knots until the following season.
What to do?  

  • Wait for a dry day to prune out infested parts. Bag them and put in the trash. Clean pruning tools with a spray of bleach (1/2 cup to 1 gallon of water) between cuts. We have even cut a prune plum down to a framework of low branches, and it is resprouting with healthy new growth. In some cases, however, removal of an entire infested tree and its stump may be the best solution.
  • Be vigilant - check trees frequently and prune out the black knot as soon as it is spotted, using the procedures above. Do not let it get a toehold!
  • Choose disease-resistant varieties of apricot, peach, plum and cherry to head this fungus off at the pass. Some recommended varieties are not cold hardy in our region (see link below).
  • Work to build soil biology and balance nutrients in the soil around the trees via soil testing, foliar and root feeding with compost tea, and granular soil amending.
  • Spraying is best done in the dormant season before blossom and leaf emergence. Unfortunately, spraying cannot rescue a tree that already has black knot, but can help stem the development of new spores. In an organic program, Neem Oil, Liquid Copper, and Lime Sulfur are the materials of choice and are sprayed in late winter as a preventative.
  • Consider eliminating these trees from your property once they are infested, in favor of the native chokecherry at the perimeter, a host plant for numerous native caterpillars and the birds who eat them! It may be disappointing to forego harvesting your own cherries and plums, but these items are readily available at the grocery store or farm stand in season.
For more information, here is an excellent fact sheet from Ohio State University about black knot:

Plant Pick: Prunus maritima, Beach Plum

Prunus maritima blooms in another month
This native of the coastal plain of the Northeast (Nova Scotia to Virginia) is resisitant to black knot in my experience! Blooming in mid May through June with a brilliant show of pinkish-white flowers, it is a small stature tree (4'-6') or multi-stemmed shrub. Plant and enjoy in full sun. It is not fussy about soil, as it tolerates a loose, sandy soil in its native habitat. Often Beach Plum is recommended for roadside plantings since it is salt tolerant. Yes, its fruits are the ones used to make Beach Plum Jam in late summer!

Priscilla's Garden To-Do List for Late April/Early May:

  • Continue to clean up garden beds by raking, cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses
  • Finish dormant pruning by May 1 when leaf-out is expected
  • Cut back butterfly bush, smoke tree, caryopteris, beautyberry and other cutback shrubs
  • Prepare vegetable garden beds
  • Sow seeds of peas, spinach, kale, chard, carrots, beets, lettuce - all appreciate cool temperatures
  • Prune roses and hydrangeas when you see canes beginning to bud out
  • Fertilize roses after pruning with compost and a slow-release organic fertilizer
  • Cut clematis vines back to a 3' height and topdress with compost and a slow-release organic fertilizer, training to a support
  • Prune honeysuckle vines hard to a framework, as they will bloom on new wood
  • Divide and transplant fall blooming perennials such as sedum, aster and goldenrod
  • Begin to edge and mulch beds, keeping mulch away from the root flare of trees and shrubs

There are some wonderful virtual garden tours, webinars and videos offered online these days. Check the Tower Hill Botanic Garden website < > or take in one of the free Wednesday at 12 noon webinars presented by Ecological Landscape Alliance < >. And don't miss this clip from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum featuring the trailing nasturtiums that usually decorate their courtyard in April: Watch video here.

This is an especially good time to start growing vegetables in a container or in the ground. Our PBOG staff are all home gardeners who have grown many different types of crops over the years for ourselves and others. We are also experienced in building raised bed structures and offer a special raised bed mix to fill them. Please let us know how we can help you with growing resiliancy at home as the season moves ahead.
We look forward to seeing you soon in the garden,
Priscilla and the PBOG Crew

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