Issue #111 March 2019
These are trying times. We long for warm weather to come and stay, for the cash-flow tide to turn back to positive. But each step toward the welcoming arms of spring draws a frigid blast knocking us back into winter’s jealous clutches. My firewood stash is holding out, but I’m ready for a break from woodstove season.
This often-nasty month and our nearest celestial neighbor are both named for the Roman god of war. March on Earth can be bad, but y’know, it could be worse. We could be on Mars.
Will you northerners please get a handle on your weather? It’s screwing up shipping down here. We have all this beautiful stuff staged in our shipping houses, ready to roll north like spring itself, up the road and onto your benches. But you’re too busy closing schools, shoveling snow and sliding into ditches to let us send it to you. Get a grip!
Seriously, we have the goods and the goods are very good. Our liners are bursting with southern vigor like fully-charged batteries, ready to jump-start your season. 
The single-digit temps we whined about last month got worse: My thermometer read -8 on two consecutive nights. Yeah, we hear the scoffing from west and north of here. Negative 8 isn’t a record, but it’s plenty cold enough. And hey, on Mars, even at the equator, nights can hit -100. Take that, Chicago!
Even as we shiver, the slowly-waxing daylength works its magic. Green creeps in where browns and reds reigned just days ago as Campanula , Aquilegia and Achillea rub their sleepy eyes, refreshed from their long winter naps. 
(pictured:  C. carpatica
(pictured:  A. vulgaris
(pictured: Desert Eve™ 'Terracotta' )
With a foot on each side of the Mason-Dixon Line, we get two very different looks at this funky month’s funkiest cultural phenomenon. Pensacola celebrates Mardi Gras with a week of parades, food and music, with a family-friendly flair. Fat Tuesday in Pennsylvania is a much quieter affair – a party here and there, sure, but mostly it’s about food. And by food we mean bingeing on fasnachts, those Amish-style high-fat, high-carb, low-flavor donut-like objects. Oof. May the lard be with you. 
Speaking of Mardi Gras: These bodacious grasses are all infertile tetraploids, bred at the University of Georgia. They won’t self-sow, and they throw flowers like a New Orleans parade float tosses beads. Don’t let the “Big Easy”-style names throw you, they’re well behaved and, like other P. alopecuroides , hardy in Zones 5-9.
Anna Graham is wowed by your solving skills: she thought nobody could possibly get all six of last month’s brain busters. Hah! Louise Murray of Park Seed, Charles McEniry from Neshkoro, WI, and Jude Groninger of Santa Rosa Gardens, repeat winners all, did precisely that. Their trophy cases must be overflowing with ECG swag. 
Come to The Dark Side
Don’t be afraid of the dark! Black-leaved plants, those richly-pigmented improbables, are easy to grow. And they really make surrounding colors pop in the border. 
Deep purple-black shiny leaves with scalloped edges. A striking groundcover, just 4-6” tall to the tip of its blue flower spikes.
Lacy, mysterious, fit for the fashion runway. Foot-high mounds topped by 20” wands of pink flowers.
Shiny purple-black lobed leaves, great for gallons.
Pictures don’t do it justice. Broad, jet-black blades with ruby-red midribs form staunch upright 4½’ stands.
HORTISCOPE: Zodiac on wry
Celebrating a birthday in March? Thank your lucky stars you’re not partying on Mars. The atmosphere contains so little oxygen, you couldn’t light the candles on your cake. Or blow them out.
Pisces : You’re sensitive, empathetic and compassionate, sometimes to a fault. Counterintuitively, some astrologers say Pisces rules the feet. By that logic, does Taurus rule the gills?
Aries : Your sign is the Greek version of Mars. You’re known as daring, enterprising – and naive, and sometimes rash. If you hear yourself blurt out, “Hey, y’all, watch this!” please stop and think it through first. 
Our Floridians are onto something: their lows are running 20-30 degrees higher than PA’s highs. Hmmmm... March would be a great time for a fact-finding trip down to HQ. Maybe next year. I just happen to have some Mardi Gras masks.
Meanwhile, back in PA: After all the times I’ve built a blaze in my woodstove, you’d think I’d have it down to a science. But one day last week, I just couldn’t get it to catch. Frustrated, I googled “How to start a fire.” In seconds, I had 48,000 matches. 
John Friel
Marketing Manager