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Report From PIA – May 11

One of the gardening myths I come across is the belief that biennials bloom every other year. The truth is that biennials spout and grow one year, bloom the next, and then they die.

Some biennials, such as feverfew, are so prolific that their offspring need to be weeded out of the garden. I can count on there being just enough variegated Lunaria to add color to my late spring garden, but other biennials are less dependable. Most of us would like foxgloves to sow and grow thickly in our gardens, but in reality they’re usually few and far between, or sprouting in the wrong place.

The bottom line is that biennials are work. We need to be able to recognize the young seedlings and leave them, move them, or thin the extras out. Some, such as Verbascum, we’ll need to grow from seed each year and place where we want them to grow.

Because they take some extra effort every year, I think that biennials are plants for gardeners, not for home landscapers.

There are other areas of life that take a bit more work in order to keep them going as well. I was thinking about this last week when helping my neighbor whose wife died. He’d grown out of touch with many family members over time, and I was surprised to learn that he hadn’t spoken to a brother or nephews for over twenty years.

Keeping relationships going with friends and family takes the same on-going effort as growing biennials in the garden. Some connections are as easy as growing feverfew, and others take annual attention to keep them going.

This purple-flowering Lunaria scatters itself around the garden. I like this particular variety because the foliage is variegated, so it looks interesting in the garden the year before it blooms, and it isn't quite as prolific as the green leaf type. Even though it seeds well, I do need to be sure those seedlings aren't weeded out or covered over with mulch. I need to leave the plants after they go to seed, and are less attractive, so that I will have enough seeds to grow them the following year. And I can't count on always having a good show of flowers because if the spring is too dry, fewer seeds will sprout or seedlings survive.

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