February 2022 — Volume 12, No. 2
Hello Everyone,

The days are getting longer - and our plants know it! Despite temperatures that sometimes plunge overnight, my witch hazel ‘Orange Peel’ is showing specks of color on its flower buds. And my houseplants are beginning to put out a few new leaves. 
From Tower Hill Botanical Garden's orchid exhibit, Prismatic
Here at Pumpkin Brook, we are busy behind the scenes getting ready to welcome back our staff, ordering plants for upcoming plantings, and finalizing contracts for the season’s plant health care and fine garden maintenance. In this issue, we’ll share some of the new information we’ve been learning from experts in our field.
Winter Learning Recap
Winter is a great time for continuing education. Our NOFA Accredited Land Care Professionals are required to earn 4 credit hours each year in order to maintain their accreditation. There has been much new cutting-edge information in this winter’s seminars.
Invasive Jumping Worms
Invasive jumping worms inhabit the top layer of degraded soil
You may have seen soil resembling coffee grounds and noticed large worms moving quickly just below the surface - these are the invasive jumping worms in action. UMass sponsored four workshops over two days on this topic. The takeaway message is that the worms are here, and scientists are studying and experimenting in order to develop best practices for control in the home landscape. It may take some time, unfortunately.
Why should we care? The worms have a detrimental effect on the texture of soils. They migrate quickly from garden beds to surrounding woodlands and natural areas, altering ecology. We saw slides of a forest floor without any leaf litter, simply exposed soil due to a large population of jumping worms! With bare soil, the door is now open to erosion, nutrient loss, and environmental degradation.

The situation is made more complex by the fact that the adult worms die each winter in our region. They leave behind cocoons of eggs that hatch in late spring. By August, the new generation of adult worms is active. So, in spring, we do not see jumping worms in our gardens, but their cocoons may be present and invisible to the naked eye. Their past presence may be detected by the coffee grounds texture of the soil and utter absence of vegetation, in some cases.

We at Pumpkin Brook will continue to exercise caution in sourcing our plants, compost, and mulch materials. We will also take care to bare root plants whenever possible during planting and transplanting work. In addition, we may be experimenting with the application of Biochar in gardens where the worms have been active in the past. Biochar is a term used to describe black carbon produced intentionally for carbon management in the soil or for various agricultural uses. The molecular structure of this material is sharp and potentially damaging to the Invasive Jumping Worms. We will keep you posted on the Jumping Worm issue as information becomes available.
On a fun note, Priscilla attended a virtual talk by a clematis expert, Linda Beutler, curator at the Rogerson Clematis Collection in Portland, Oregon. Who knew that such a place existed?! See www.rogersonclematiscollection.org for inspiration.
This beautiful public garden specializes in the use of clematis combined with flowering trees and shrubs. Groundcover types as well as clematis that scramble up and over shrubs were featured in Linda’s slide talk. We will be following her recommendation to feed all clematis with a dose of slow-release organic fertilizer and compost in the spring.
Bright blooms of clematis enliven the garden
The timing of pruning clematis was discussed. We’ll be experimenting with little or no clematis pruning this season if your site has the space. This is a method of promoting earlier bloom. Instead of cutting the plant back to the ground, we will leave stalks in place to bud out. Always ask: “Do I want the clematis to flower in partner with a nearby shrub, or to provide interest later?” If you have a clematis planted next to a small support, hard prune this plant to a maximum of two feet; if left unpruned, the vine will overwhelm the area.

Reese, Jeff, Kim, and Priscilla attended the Tower Hill Urban Tree Symposium and took in words of wisdom from Ed Gilman, Professor Emeritus at Florida State University, on Pruning Young Trees.  Decades of teaching and experimenting in trial fields informed this talk. We came away with tips about pruning at planting time to correct structural defects that the grower did not address back in the nursery. For instance, reduce the number of upright stems that will eventually compete with the leader. There is space for only one leader per tree! Even heading back such stems will reduce their growth rate and thickness over time.
Upcoming Virtual Lecture Series: Grow Native Massachusetts talks
On March 16, a series of three monthly talks on native plants begins on Zoom Webinar. Sign up for one or more Evenings with Experts, sponsored by the nonprofit Grow Native Massachusetts. As always, this series is free and open to all. Talks from past years are also available on the group’s website, www.grownativemass.org
Now is the Time to Order Bareroot Stock - Roses, hard-to-find perennials, and natives
These bareroot roses arrive ready to plant in early April
So, we’re ordering plants and seeds. What are we ordering?

Bareroot stock is now available for early spring planting. This is the best way to find fragrant, antique rose varieties. These simply aren’t sold in nurseries anymore. Edibles like raspberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and young fruit trees are also available as bareroot stock.
What does bareroot mean? No soil or pots. The plants are wrapped in wet newspaper or shavings and shipped during cool weather. It’s best to plant immediately or to pot up with fresh potting soil if in-ground planting is not possible.

Seeds are selling quickly this year as the home gardening craze continues. Remember that almost all native wildflowers can be winter sown, and in fact, require freezing and thawing temperatures in order to germinate. Read up on techniques from our friends at Wild Seed Project here: https://wildseedproject.net/how-to-grow-natives-from-seed/.

Contact Priscilla to place your bareroot plant order and to talk seed varieties, phw@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com.
Plant Picks: Skunk cabbage, Snowdrops and Helleborus niger

What will be the first plants out of the snow? The answer is a native plant generating so much heat that it melts the snow around it in order to emerge — Eastern skunk cabbage! 

In fact, a pollinating fly is attracted to the pollen in the emerging skunk cabbage “flower,” and from there, our bluebirds flock to feast on the flies. What a beautiful testament about how we are all interconnected.
Snowdrops and Helleborus niger make a great late winter combination
Not far behind skunk cabbage are the Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, hardy little, white-flowered bulbs that are very long-blooming. I’m told that if you want to divide or transplant snowdrops, do it while they are in bloom! 

Helleborus niger, the white-flowered Black Hellebore often called Lenten rose, is another very early bloomer. If your hellebore is sporting tattered, browned leaves, simply cut them off so that new green leaves can quickly develop. I enjoy looking for this plant in the protected outer courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Peek through the windowed door of the Chinese gallery to see the hellebores growing just outside. There may be some snowdrops blooming there as well.
Eastern skunk cabbage exudes heat, pushes up through snow layer
Escape the Cold at Tower Hill’s Orchid Show
You may enjoy a trip to Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston to view the new Orchid Show, Prismatic, that just opened. The Orangerie, Limonaia, and hallways are filled with 1,400 blooming orchids and colorful prismatic artworks that reflect light. Be sure to get there before the display closes on March 20. Advance tickets are needed:  www.towerhillbg.org
Priscilla’s Garden To-Do List for February into March:
  • Return your Fine Garden Maintenance or Plant Health Care contract by March 1
  • Schedule a virtual meeting to ask questions and discuss details, phw@pumpkinbrookorganicgardening.com
  • Place orders for seeds and bareroot stock (see article above)
  • Start seeds of onions, leeks, and pansies indoors
  • Sow some native seeds outdoors in containers — there’s still time (see article above)
  • Enjoy forced bulbs indoors: amaryllis, paperwhites, hyacinths, tulips, daffodils
  • Begin to feed houseplants with a weak solution of fish fertilizer
  • Water houseplants more often as they start to put on new growth
  • Review notes that you made last season about changes to the garden
  • Consider garden design services now and avoid the spring rush
  • Attend a virtual garden talk (see article above for ideas)
  • Catch up on your garden reading
  • Get outside and walk in nature as weather conditions permit

Counting down - only 30 days until spring begins on March 20!
– Priscilla & The PBOG Team
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