It’s a Sunday in mid February and we are having yet more snow! This has been the longest and toughest winter I remember in 9 years of being back in New England. We groaned when we heard the weather forecast (another “biggie”), but I don’t mind too much because today I put in my annual seed order from Johnny’s Selected Seeds! I always order from Johnny’s – they are based in Maine so not only am I supporting our regional New England economy, but I know that anything that’s hardy enough to grow in Albion, Maine will probably survive our cold valley winters in central MA.
Johnny’s is a very wise company, sending their catalogues out in early January to tempt us flower-starved northern gardeners with lush photos (I call them “eye candy”)! I usually spend a month looking through the catalogue and making my list. It’s fun to dream about summer flowers in the dead of winter when the world outdoors is covered with the white stuff….
So, here’s what I ordered. I grew “Purple Majesty” Ornamental Millet (Pennisetum glaucum) (below, the tall plant with dark foliage) a few years ago and really liked the vertical structure and contrast it brought to my “butterfly garden”. Not to mention, later that fall, I saw American Goldfinches picking at the seeds from the tall waving stems. Anything that feeds the Goldfinches is always welcome here! The birds did beat me to all the seeds, eating them before I had a chance to collect a few for myself! So I’ve shelled out for a new packet of 10 seeds. I have a new bed next to the barn paddock where I plan to grow it this year. I just need to plant them far enough from the fence that the horses can’t munch the seed heads, which is what they did to my tall Sunflowers last year…
I also ordered seeds for American Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum pilosum), an eastern native plant which is excellent for natural-style gardens, offering white flowers that attract hordes of enthusiastic pollinators. I first fell for this plant when I saw it growing in a moist meadow garden at Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary (below) happily mingling with native Sedge (Carex), Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Goldenrod. Choosing plants that grow naturally in those kinds of conditions means that this established meadow area requires no irrigation or fertilization. I plan to try Mountain Mint in my dry, upland meadow garden as well as right next to our farm pond, to figure out where it will best thrive.
The foliage has a minty taste, so Mountain Mint is worth investigating as a deer-resistant plant. Many of my clients have a problem with deer devouring their prize plantings, so I’m always looking for plant suggestions that might be less likely to become deer forage.
I also picked up seeds for pink and white cultivars of Hummingbird Sage (Salvia coccinea). I love the “Lady in Red” cultivar of Salvia coccinea because of its vigorous growth and drawing power for hummingbirds and other long-tongued pollinators, so this year I’m adding some more varieties to add to some garden areas that need a little pizzazz from mid to late summer. Below is “Lady in Red” growing in a pot hidden in a Cotoneaster bed, bringing those Hummingbirds right up close to our porch!
Another new plant I’m trying this year is Flax (Linum usitatissimum). In winter, I feed my horses ground-up Flax seed to add some valuable Omega-3s to their hay-based winter diet. So this year I’ll try growing a small patch of Flax, and if it does well without too much
fussing, I’ll set aside a larger area for it in future years. I try to make the most of our small but fertile patch of earth, and if I can save money on my equine costs and reduce our carbon footprint by “growing it ourselves”, all the better. The tiny flowers of Flax look as though they are insect-pollinated, so hopefully they will provide good yields in our “pollinator-friendly” landscape here at Turkey Hill Brook Farm.
So….what’s stopping you? Start dreaming of spring and order some seeds of wildlife-friendly plants.The days are getting longer and it won’t be long til the lush greenery of summer returns to our frozen landscape! Promise!