Odds and ends

Photo by Kit Flynn.

 HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

By Kit Flynn
Columnist

This week I’m dealing with several subjects that have either caught my attention or refer to questions people have asked me.

Crapemyrtles: I have long championed the prevention of the horrible practice of crape murder, that mutilation of limbs performed on crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia) throughout the Triangle. Not only does the neighborhood have to endure the resulting leprous appearance, but this exercise also noticeably weakens the tree; when the feeble limbs begin to regrow, the thick stems end up supporting a silly lollipop structure, one that isn’t found in nature. Contrary to common myths, this mutilation does not produce more flowers than it does, leaving the limbs in a flattering natural shape.

Look at the two photos and ask yourself, “Which one would I like to have?” Crapemyrtles come in all sizes and shapes, so there is no excuse for planting the large ‘Natchez’ in a small space. While the owner planted the mutilated specimen correctly out in the center of the yard, he left us with an eyesore and a harmed tree that cries to be beautiful. Crapemyrtles are specimen trees, meaning they should be planted to be viewed from four sides.

This tree also looks gorgeous four seasons of the year, not just when it is in bloom. Notice the ones that have been allowed to maintain their regular shape in winter – their smooth bark is a welcomed sight.

North Korean Hostas: Now, I have never had a desire to travel to North Korea probably because it’s best at my age to avoid nightmares – and taking a chance of retention in The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea certainly amounts to a nightmare to me. However, one of the best plant magazines, The Hosta Journal, recently had a fascinating discussion on hostas in North Korea by June Colley.

Among the delicious nuggets were these: (1) Taking pictures is verboten so she had to ask for a guard’s permission to take a photo of a North Korean hosta; (2) Even a trip to view hostas required three days of enduring lectures on the glories of socialism; (3) Because North Korea has little access to outside resources, there is very little variation among the plants; repetition consequently is the name of the game; (4) Due to a fuel scarcity, driving on particular roads was limited to either Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday, leaving Sunday as a negotiable day.

Most of the hostas were introduced by the Japanese during their occupation during WW11. Those that were on display were dug up from the wild, including H. longipes and one of my favorites, H. plantaginea. North Korea has a fair number of daylilies and species hostas, but little (if any) hybridization has occurred. This article adds a little more insight into this country, providing interest even if your first love isn’t hostas.

Pruning Roses: An excellent article in the April issue of American Rose offers pruning advice to beginners. Trust me, I have never graduated past this beginning level. Harlow Young refutes two prominent rules of rose pruning – much to my appreciation.

Most instructions insist you must make the cut above an outward-facing bud eye. I defy you to find many bud eyes when you’re performing a big yearly pruning. Young states he makes the cut where he wants it, figuring that the plant will produce a leaf bud somewhere below it. Refresh the pruned cane if the leaf bud is a bit too low compared to the cut cane.

Young refutes the second myth: the universal dictum that cuts must be at a 45-degree angle. He and other rosarians have found that this makes little difference to the plant’s health. Concentrate on making “clean” cuts rather than cuts at a 45-degree angle.

Photo by Kit Flynn.

The Importance of Diversity: I took this photo of a segment of one of my perennial borders and decided to return to one of my often-repeated dictums about gardening: the importance of diversity. I know I keep on yattering about the need for diversity, but keep this in mind: Flowers are only around for a short period of time. What remains for the rest of the growing seasons are the leaves. Please observe the shape and color of the leaves before purchasing the plant as that is what you will be viewing for most of the year.

One Last Thing: Where has the subjunctive mood gone? The subjunctive voice (mood) is ingrained into my psyche because of school; much to my dismay it has seemingly disappeared, so I am heading a campaign called “Let’s Save the Subjunctive Mood” (and it’s classified as a “mood” rather than a “tense”). Don’t put up with awkward statements such as these: “If I was to go outside in this weather…” or “I dreamt I was in my Maidenform bra” (an advertising line that flooded the 1950s and 1960s). Insist upon instead, “If I were to go outside” and “I dreamt I were in my Maidenform bra.” Don’t let the subjunctive mood die out (until my demise)!


After being an active member of the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners for 13 years, Kit Flynn now holds emeritus status. For five years she was the gardening correspondent for “Senior Correspondent” and shared “The Absentee Gardener” column with fellow Master Gardener Lise Jenkins. She has given numerous presentations on various gardening topics to Triangle organizations and can be reached at howyourgardengrows@icloud.com.

This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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