Add color and depth to your gardens and landscape with potted ground covers and green flowers
While you're still planning color themes and varieties of plants, flowers and ground cover to grow this spring and summer, make room for green!
Green flowers and ground cover can make other colorful blooms really stand out. Plus, you can plant these from seed and start them indoors, then move them outside when warmer weather arrives.
Here are two to try:
Oxalis goes by some other names, like wood sorrel or shamrock.
The plant itself is a small tuber with a little bulb and as it grows, it sprouts three small leaves.
The leaves can be green or burgundy, depending on the variety. One variety called Iron Cross is burgundy in the middle and green on the leaves' edges.
When they flower, the oxalis plant sprouts dainty white or pink flowers. And oxalis grows well as a houseplant or even in container outdoors.
You can use oxalis as ground cover, just check which variety will grow well in Vermont climes. Certain types can overtake areas where its planted. Avoid this by growing oxalis in containers.
If you're starting oxalis indoors and it gets leggy or if it gets insect infested, you can just cut it back to the soil and it'll sprout right back up.
Bells of Ireland: This beautiful green plant grows up to about two feet tall. It has like a foxglove-like stalk with green bells.
This plant is an annual so you can start it from seed now, as Bells of Ireland take a month to germinate.
Plan on another few months of growing indoors to get them to a transplantable size.
Q: I have a large seven foot tall potted ficus. It's put out lots of fresh growth in the last two years since we saved it from its formerly neglected state. It's now in a new pot with good soil and gets lots of sunshine with regular watering. Most of the growth is on the exterior branches. I'd like to grow more interior branches and get it a bit bushier and less tree-like. Do you have any tips? - Lauren, in Worcester
A: Congrats on your enormous ficus! You can prune the tree in late winter (which, in Vermont, is March or April).
Prune back the edges of those longer branches first, just use some restraint and don't prune back too extremely, perhaps to just about a third of the length.
Also, try to keep the leaves intact, as removing too many could shock the ficus tree.
When you're pruning them back, cut right above a side branch. If that location isn't available, cut them back to where there's a little bud scar.
As long as that branch is green where you cut it, it should send up some new growth and get a little bit bushier.
Just go slowly and prune a bit at a time - not the whole tree at once. And lay a drop cloth or some kind of material on the floor because it might start dripping sap.
Q: We had a water main break last fall and the water flooded our yard and vegetable garden leaving silt on top of our lawn and garden. What steps can we take this spring to prepare our garden for a productive growing season? - Martin, in White River Junction
A: The best suggestion is to remove that silt. There may be some contaminants or heavy metals in it that would not be good for your plants.
Once spring arrives, dig out that silt from that garden and remove it. Then come back in with some compost and organic matter on top and you should be able to grow some veggies in that garden this year!
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