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Northeast Gardening: Adventurous Spring Planting

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Irene Virag is being adventurous in her garden planning for 2012. She's branching out with camellias and more. But she won't forget old friends.

Irene Virag is being adventurous in her garden planning for 2012. She's branching out with camellias and more. But she won't forget old friends.

My Aunt Pearl wasn't a gardener, but she gave me words to grow by. Whenever I lose myself in catalogs and plans for the garden, I think of one of her favorite maxims. "Make new friends but keep the old," Aunt Pearl would say; "one is silver, and the other, gold."

It works in the garden as well as life, and this season won't be any exception.

Plant veggies?
On the veggie front I'll go for the gold once again with Rosa Bianca eggplants and Brandywine tomatoes, and Chiogga beets and the baseball-bat-size Italian squash called cucuzza. As for favorite flowers, my good-as-gold musts include blue salvia and pastel hollyhocks.

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Refresh landscaping
My new flower friends will go hand in garden glove with the new landscaping in the backyard. We replaced the crumbling brick around the pool with bluestone, and built a terraced slope and walkway from the house. I'm counting on a couple of cold-hardy Japanese camellias to brighten a shady spot with their elegant blooms, and to screen a pool heater with their lustrous evergreen foliage.

Here's the scoop on Camellia japonica:

  • A northern or western exposure will shield it from winter's harsh morning sun and drying winds.
  • Light shade and plenty of mulch will protect its shallow roots.
  • Well-drained slightly acidic and enriched soil will keep it healthy and happy.
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Add anchors?
I'm also looking at tree peonies to anchor planting beds on either side of the walkway. These Chinese beauties like rich soil and dappled sunshine, but I'll have to wait till fall to plant them. Meanwhile I'll fill in with annuals.

Try something new
As for silver introductions among the veggies, I'll try crisp, juicy Poona Kheera cucumbers - disease-resistant Indian heirlooms that resemble potatoes when their light-green skin matures to russet brown. I'll plant seeds outdoors in June, when the soil should be warm enough for them to germinate.