March/April 2019       Volume 9, No. 3    

Spring is Here!  
Spring Crocus
Arriving this year on Wednesday, March 20 at 5:58 pm, we welcome spring with cries of joy and gladness.  It's also maple sugaring time, mud season and pussy willow picking time.  But we could still get another snowstorm or two!  So don't put away the snow shovels or the Safe Paws ice melt just yet.  In this issue we offer some tips and inspiration for the new season ahead.
Act Now to Prevent Unsightly Damage to Korean Spice Viburnums

It will soon be time for the first Spot Spraying of the year.  In an organic program, proper timing is everything!  We will be spraying horticultural oil on Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii, as soon as the leaves begin to unfurl.  This prevents snowball aphids from damaging the leaves.  See the photo below for an example of what the leaves may look like if left untreated. 
Snow Ball Aphid 1
Curled leaves due to snowball aphids, 
Viburnum carlesii

While this damage is only cosmetic and does not impact the plant adversely, it can be easily controlled.  This is especially important if your Viburnum is located in a prominent spot.

Please contact Kim in our office to arrange for your spot spraying.  We will also be contacting clients from last year's spray route.
Plant Pick:

The Korean Spice Viburnum shrub sports some of the most fragrant flowers of spring.  Typically its pinkish-white blooms appear just before the leaves, perfuming the air with the most wonderful aroma!  From a distance, the blossoms look like snowballs, hence its nickname of "snowball viburnum."   
Viburnum carlesii
Viburnum carlesii
This shrub is very easy care, but unfortunately, it is attractive to the pest called snowball aphid.  See the accompanying article about how we can help you with organic control.  Another method in our toolbox is soil testing and amending.  We find that plants g rowing in soils low in Phosphorus are less attractive to insect pests.  Since New England soils are naturally high in Phosphorus, we strive to bring this nutrient down by adding Calcium, Potassium and/or Sulfur to help balance your soil, depending on your test results.
Check your Houseplants for a New Invader:  Spotted Lanternfly

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources is warning consumers to check houseplants purchased this winter for a new pest called Spotted Lanternfly.  Evidently a single dead pest was found in a home near Boston and reported to officials.  Experts believe the pest may have arrived on a shipment of poinsettia plants that arrived from Pennsylvania.  Spotted lanternfly has been a scourge in that state since 2014, where it has caused damage to crops such as apples, grapes, hops, stone fruits and walnut trees.

Other hosts reported for this insect include: American beech (Fagus grandifolia), American linden (Tilia americana), American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), big-toothed aspen (Populus grandidentata), black birch (Betula lenta), black cherry (Prunus serotina), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), black walnut (Juglans nigra), dogwood (Cornus spp.), Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonicus), maple (Acer spp.), oak (Quercus spp.), paper birch (Betula papyrifera), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), white ash (Fraxinus americana), and willow (Salix spp.).

Spotted lanternfly nymph & larvae
Spotted lanternfly adult

Native to Asia, the spotted lanternfly is a large, gray insect roughly 1 inch long.  It sports black dots on the upper wings and red lower wings.  Insects are roughly 1.5 inches wide and have a bulbous lower body similar to a bee's in color.

The University of Pennsylvania has published an excellent homeowner fact sheet available here:

If you find Spotted Lanternfly, contact Massachusetts state officials using this link:
Bringing Spring Indoors

It's easy to cut a few branches from your flowering trees and shrubs at this time of year and to bring them indoors for forcing.  They've already had the requisite six weeks of freezing temperatures and are raring to go.  Here are some of my favorites:

Bridal veil, Spirea nipponica

Weeping Cherry

Apple or Crabapple
Spiraea (especially Bridal Veil)

I cut the branches outdoors on a warm, dry day (at least a little above freezing) and bring them into my 50 degree basement.  An unheated garage attached to the house will work well, too.  I always follow good pruning practices in this endeavor, pruning at the trunk or base of the stem.  Things can always be shortened later.

Indoors, I recut the woody stems with a knife so they can take up the maximum amount of water.  I fill a metal urn with warm water and insert the branches.  I suggest keeping separate containers for each type of plant, as each one will flower at different times.

My reference book, Forcing, etc by Katherine Whiteside, also suggests submerging cut stems immediately into tepid water for a two-hour soak in the bathtub.  This will moisten and loosen the bud scales.  Then set them into their vases of warm water in the basement for an additional period of waking up.  I'd suggest this for a plant that is still tightly budded and not quite "ready to go," such as Magnolia or Lilac, that bloom later in the spring.

Magnolia sieboldi
Magnolia soulangeana 'Alexandrina'
Magnolia soulangeana 'Alexandrina'

Over the next several weeks, I check on the branches and top off the water as needed.  The warmth indoors will gradually induce flowering.  When I see this starting, I re-cut the stems to fit a vase for the house.
Tribute to Al Newman
Al just  announced t hat he will be leav ing us at the end of March after nine years with Pumpkin Brook.  Starting as a crew member in 2010, he was a fast learner who became Plant Health Care Technician in 2013 and then Manager of the department in 2017.  He has taken another position in the green industry.  We will all miss Al's cheerfulness, good humor, and skills on the job!  Reese Crotteau is assuming Al's duties as our Plant Health Care Manager and has been under his tutelage for the past year.  Please join me in wishing them both well!  
When will we begin our rounds?

The answer to this question changes from year to year.  In general, we wait until the threat of snow is over.  Levels of snow differ widely in our service area and depend greatly on the amount of shade and the altitude.  We like to see the snow mostly gone from your yard and a good deal of the moisture evaporated before we start our season.  In this way, we avoid ruining your lawn with our footprints or damaging still-wet soil with early transplanting activity.

We plan to begin our tick and mosquito spraying season early this year, again as soon as the snow is gone.  It's not too late to sign up!  Please contact Kim in our office for more information.

Remember that ticks like to congregate in moist conditions at the edges of woods and yards, so wear tick protection and check yourself, your children and your pets after frequenting these areas.  I have found our spraying regimen to be very effective in reducing both tick and mosquito populations on my own property, so I highly recommend it to you.
Priscilla's To-Do List for late March/April  
  • Shear ornamental grasses and root prune or divide if they have grown too big for their space
  • Continue dormant pruning of fruit trees, deciduous shrubs, inkberry, holly, and any overgrown shrub you want to contain
  • Prune honeysuckle vines hard as they bloom on new wood
  • Reduce girth of yew, privet and arborvitae now as a template for future size before they put out new growth
  • Cut back butterfly bush, caryopteris, smoke tree, and Rose of Sharon as these bloom on new wood
  • Inspect all shrubs and trees for winter damage and prune out
  • Rake off beds that had a layer of leaves for winter protection
  • Cut brown stalks of perennials such as sedum or Montauk daisy that were left for winter interest
  • Shear back lavender, sage, thyme, epimedium, fern to start plants over for a new season
  • Make notes for transplanting and dividing perennials later in April
  • Begin to edge beds as the ground dries out
  • Spray horticultural oil on Korean spice viburnum to prevent snowball aphid damage
  • Direct seed early vegetables such as peas and lettuce when the ground dries out
  • Seed indoors other vegetables such as beets, Swiss chard, and peppers
We all look forward to seeing you soon in the garden!

Priscilla and the PBOG Crew
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