Priscilla Hutt Williams

35 Turner Road, Townsend, Massachusetts 01469

(TEL) 978-597-3005  (FAX) 772-264-7886

[email protected]

 Volume 5, January 2015

In This Issue





Dahlia up close


Tall Dahlias
More beautiful dahlias


































We are pleased to send you our first newsletter of 2015.  We hope that this will be a restful winter for all.
Highlights from Our 2014 Gardening Season
Les Collettes
Tulip 'Les Collettes'
Used with permission from Colorblends

A long cold winter and a late start to spring meant delayed and longer blooming times for bulbs and early perennials.  On May 21 these tulips were putting on a grand show in Lincoln! It was quite a long wait to see them, but worth it.  Anyone who had planted hyacinths and daffodils saw almost a full month of bloom from them. 

Lots of ground moisture from last winter's snow melt meant profuse blossoming of all flowering trees, shrubs and perennials.
Crab apple
Crab Apple Blossoms

Our summer weather continued into the fall months, and those of us working on garden maintenance crews wondered if the annuals and perennials would ever die back so that we could do our usual fall work of dividing and transplanting. 

Dahlias bloomed well into November!  We dug the last of them up just before a real cold snap hit. Lawns were certainly green through the same period and even managed to brighten up during the December period of 50 degree temperatures.

The first snow of the season dumped 9" of heavy, wet matter here in Townsend, falling on unfrozen ground and delaying our winter protection schedule until unseasonably high temperatures settled more reliably into the teens late in December.

It seems it will be the warmest year on record.  Here are some statistics:  

The average temperature recorded at the National Weather Service site at Worcester airport for the time period of December 8-21 was 30.5�F, which is 0.7�F above the 30-year average of 29.8�F. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces during November tied with 2008 as the seventh highest for the month, at 1.17�F (0.65�C) above the 20th-century average.

The first 11 months of 2014 compose the warmest such period on record, with a combined global land and ocean average surface temperature of 1.22�F (0.68�C) above the 20th-century average of 57.0�F (13.9�C), surpassing the previous record set in 2010 by 0.02�F (0.01�C). The margin of error is �0.18�F (0.10�C).

2014 is currently on track to be the warmest year on record if the December global temperature is at least 0.76�F (0.42�C) above its 20th-century average.

What will these trends of climate change mean for our landscapes?  Probably we will continue to see great swings in temperatures and severity of weather. So we need to be prepared to deal promptly with damage from windstorms, hail, heavy rain and drought.  Where possible, choose plants that are resilient and recover well from breakage or have stems that yield gracefully in the face of inundation.

We need to help mitigate any environmental stress that comes with drought and prolonged heat by providing proper irrigation.  Use of mulch around root zones is a further means of protection.
Plant Pick:  Helleborus niger

We may want to begin experimenting in protected microclimates with plants that bloom in warm winter regions.  Two clients have recently shared photos of lovely blooming Helleborus
Hellebore blooming in the winter garden
niger, the Christmas Rose, which often blooms outdoors during a mild December or January and beyond if conditions permit. A hellebore grower told me a few years back that he won't grow this species since the evergreen leaves may burn in cold winter winds and thus may be unsaleable.

Mother Nature has a will of her own, so be prepared to treat your more tender plants as pure experiments.  For now I feel more confident planting the usual suspects, hardy to the old Zone 5.  But I keep one eye always on the weather and may decide to seize the moment and plant something new!
Emerald Ash Borer - Alternative Host Discovered
Emerald Ash Borer

The US Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently confirmed that samples of adult and larval insects taken from a fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) in Ohio are those of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  This lovely native understory tree is widely found the in eastern and south-central United States.  We have planted several in recent years which are thriving, so this is sorry news indeed.

Up to now, it was thought that this pest attacked only ash trees (Fraxinus spp.)  The fringe tree is a member of the ash family.  This borer has been active in 15 states so far, and a quarantine went state-wide in Massachusetts this past November.  This means that hardwood firewood (any piece of wood smaller than 48 inches) may not be moved outside the state, along with all ash nursery stock and any untreated ash lumber.

This devastating pest was first detected in North America in 2002.  Experts have calculated that it may cause up to $10.7 billion in economic damage to ash trees alone by 2019.  Ash wood is commonly used for tool handles, bats and furniture.

Here's what to look for: 
  • Tiny D-shaped exit holes in the bark
  • Dieback in the upper third of the tree canopy and sprouting of branches just below the dead area
  • Severe woodpecker activity in winter months at the base of the canopy or on the main stems MAY indicate possible EAB infestation
The EAB is an emerald-green metallic beetle so small that 7 of them could fit on the head of a penny

Be assured that our staff will be on the lookout for EAB in your landscape, but extra pairs of eyes are always welcome from your end.  Call the EAB hotline, 866-322-4512 or visit the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project to report sightings.
Time to Buy Seeds

Seed catalogues have been arriving.  For me in winter, there is nothing more fun than to sit down with a stack and begin to plan spring vegetable and flower gardens!  Please let me know if you, too, are perusing these catalogues and have a wish list started.  PBOG does custom growing of unusual annuals, vegetables and perennials that can be started from seed.  

Here are some of my favorites:

How About Renovating an Area of the Garden in 2015?
Paul Marean
Paul Marean, our resident designer and project manager, is available this winter to discuss and plan your project.  This is the ideal time to weigh options and discuss alternatives, long before the spring rush!  Contact Priscilla if you are interested.
January Is the Time for....
  • Planning changes to the landscape 
  • Reviewing notes from the 2014 garden
  • Planning vegetable gardens
  • Reading up on new plants
  • Ordering bareroot plants such as roses, small fruits and trees for April planting
  • Sharpening garden tools
  • Watering houseplants lightly until well after February 1 (when light fertilizing can begin again)   
  • Scouting for pests on houseplants such as scale and aphids, treating with a blast of water from the kitchen sink, insecticidal soap spray, or wiping leaves with baby wipes
  • Stocking birdfeeders with high calorie seeds and suet
  • Enjoying indoor displays of forced paperwhites and amaryllis
I look forward to hearing from you from time to time this winter!