In our continued efforts to provide educational outreach, the Baltimore County Master Gardeners (BCMG), volunteers who are part of the University of Maryland Extension, offer this newest installment in our monthly newsletters designed to provide timely, informative articles to assist you in your gardening activities.
Answer to an article question. Spotted Lanternfly Alert! Native plant trials and tribulations! The Greens of Winter. New composting rules!
Suggestions for future newsletters or questions about the articles, please reply to this email and let us know how we can continue to Help You Grow!
Last Month's article, "Too Much Fern Botany" was written by Norman Cohen, Baltimore County Master Gardener.
ASK A MASTER GARDNER (A new section where you can send in your questions about the articles)
Question about last month's article on Ferns:
Do you have any practical suggestions about planting ferns, such as time, location, watering needs, deer resistance? I planted a variety of different ferns a few years ago to liven up an area under some hemlock trees - they all essentially disappeared.
Soil moisture is one of the most critical factors in successfully growing ferns.
Ferns require moist soil to be sustainable. When under trees, the shade requirement
is met, but trees will extract moisture, drying out the soil, leaving the ferns in difficult conditions,
During the summer months, the ferns should be checked to be watered. Plant ferns in the
spring. It is strongly recommended to plant native ferns, 20 are indigenous to the Piedmont area: Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides); Cinnamom fern (Osmunda cinnamomea); Evergreen wood fern ( Dryopteris marginalis) just to name a few easy ones to grow.
Never had a deer problem!!, but you never know.
Spotted Lanternfly ALERT
Be aware that the Maryland Department of Agriculture has expanded the quarantine for Spotted Lanternfly to include Baltimore County, as well as Anne Arundel, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, and Washington counties and Baltimore City. The quarantine is effective immediately and restricts the movement of regulated articles that might contain the spotted lanternfly in any of its life stages, including egg masses, nymphs, and adults.
Regulated articles include landscaping, remodeling, or construction waste; packing materials like wooden boxes or crates; plants and plant parts; vehicles; and other outdoor items.
Businesses, municipalities, and government agencies that require the movement of any regulated item within or from the quarantine zone must have a specialized permit, obtained by attending a training course and passing an exam.
Everyone living within the quarantine zone is encouraged to be vigilant in containing the spread of spotted lanternfly. You can report sightings through MDA’s online survey. Other informational materials are available on the program’s website.
From Norman’s Patch: The Anatomy of a Native Plant Bed
By Norman Cohen, Baltimore County Master Gardener
My obsessive-compulsive plant behavior got the best of me as usual. Before Covid 19, Irvine Nature Center had a native plant symposium and plant sale. “Ask a Master Gardener” had a table at the event. A benefit of volunteering is to make a few purchases of natives that you usually do not see in the local nurseries. Hopefully, all purchases have the proper provenance.
Two trees on the want-list, purchased at the Irvine Nature plant sale were Crataegus crus-galli (Corkscrew Hawthorn), and C. viridis (Green Hawthorn), The Corkscrew is native to all Maryland physiographic regions, the Green Hawthorn only to the coastal plain. The Hawthorn is in the Rose family and subject to fireblight, rusts, powdery mildew, aphids, borers, apple leaf blotch miner; however, this did not deter me from making the purchase. Due to the two-inch thorns, the tree is not recommended where small children play.
Generally, my criteria are- theoretically deer resistant, native to the piedmont; exposure, and a plant not in my collection. A native to Maryland or non-native, non-invasive is acceptable if deer resistant. The proposed bed is drawn on paper with the potentials listed.
Hawthorns do not usually exceed 20 feet when in an exposure of partial shade to shade. They would make an excellent understory planting to the Tulip Poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) which dominate the landscape. Since the purchase was made compulsively with no landscape plan, the Hawthorns were placed 30 feet from each other, the Cockspur located where it would receive maximum sun and the Green Hawthorn in the shaded area to meet minimum exposure requirements.
To finish the bed also purchased were the Maryland natives Spiraea tomentosa (Steeplebush or Hardback Spirea) and Spiraea alba var. latifolia, syn. S. latifolia (Broad-leaved Spirea). The selections may be questionable. S. latifolia is indigenous to the mountain region and both require a sunny exposure and add to the fact Spiraea sp. are in the Rose family with all its insect and disease issues. Should I not practice what I preach, “The right plant in the right place makes for sustainable horticulture”? S. japonica, the non-native, invasive, is one of the most deer resistant shrubs that is in my garden which was purchased "ante" master gardener and performs well in part sun. Hopefully, its cousins will have the same attributes. Incidentally, in the marketplace, there are now sterile cultivars of Spirea: Crispa, Dart’sRed, and Neon Flash.
Two Maryland piedmont perennials selected are Monarda punctata (Horsemint or spotted Bee Balm) and Symphyotrichum cordifolium (Aster cordifolius or commonly Heart-leaved Aster). Monarda sp. are members of Lamiaceae which are for the most part deer resistant. The plants were available at the Master Gardener plant sale, thanks to their propagation by Master Gardeners. Asters are not deer resistant, but I have resigned myself to this fact, and every two weeks the Asters are sprayed with deer repellant from leafing out through flowering.
The highlight of the project was my nine-year-old grandson, Merrick at the time, artfully placing the flagstones around the bed and helping me plant the perennials. As usual monetary compensation was asked and received but not enough for an ‘app’. A quick update: my Corkscrew Hawthorne has already suffered from Cedar Hawthorne Rust and the deer ate the flowers of the Horsemint but did not partake of the Spirea.
Photos Credits: Crataegus crus-galli-NC State University Extension
Crataegus viridis-Oregon State University
Spirea alba- NC State University Extension
Monarda punctata-NC State University Extension
Symphyotricum corsifolium-NC State University Extension
The Greens of Winter by Flora Shive, Baltimore County Master Gardener
Some consider green the most restful and relaxing color for the human eye. It is also believed that green can have a calming effect on a person. Green is the most common color in nature. It is associated with spring when nature is reawakened; green shoots push up through the soil, trees begin to leaf out. Green represents growth, life, renewal, and energy. Can getting out into nature’s green space have that calming effect as well?
When you observe the current brown landscape, do you feel winter-weary? Even though winter has a beauty all its own, the absence of green is obvious. Leaves have turned brown and dropped to the ground, grass has gone dormant, and gardens look dead. Many would consider December, January, and February to be “the dead of winter”. But if you brave the season’s cold temperatures and take a hike on one of the many trails in the Gunpowder Falls State Park, you’ll soon discover that not all the green has disappeared over the winter.
Aside from the well-known evergreen trees with needles, like pine, hemlock, and spruce, there are native broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs that also hold onto their green leaves throughout the harshest winter weather. Two are particularly easy to spot in the wild.
The native American holly (Ilex opaca) is a common tree seen in shaded moist woods, forest bottomlands, and along streams and riverbanks. Among evergreen broad-leaved trees, it is the most cold-hardy in North America and can live up to 150 years. Because of its slow growth and shade tolerance, it is considered a forest understory tree, even though it can grow 40 to 60 feet tall. It is easily recognized by its thick, leathery, 2- to 4-inch-long green leaves with spiny marginal teeth. The female trees produce beautiful red berries, technically called drupes, which are an important food source for songbirds, game birds, and small mammals. The branches of these trees are well known around the winter holidays for indoor and outdoor decorations. *
A native broadleaf evergreen shrub seen in the forest understory is mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). It typically grows on wooded well-drained hillsides and rock outcrops. These shrubs have an open sprawling growth habit reaching 15 feet tall and spreading 5 to 15 feet wide. Their 2- to 6-inch-long elliptical shiny deep green leaves stand out against the brown winter landscape. As the shrub ages, the branches take on a gnarly growth habit with peeling strips of cinnamon-colored bark. Due to the toxic nature of its foliage and flowers, it is not usually browsed by deer and therefore will sometimes be seen growing in large stands or thickets that provide cover for birds.
In contrast to the holly tree and the mountain laurel shrub which are more easily spotted in the forest, there are a few less obvious native evergreen plants worth searching for while hiking. The Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) is so named because it persists through winter when many other ferns have disappeared, and it holds up well when used in winter holiday floral arrangements. * This hardy fern occurs on both moist and dry shady wooded slopes, in ravines, and along woodland streambanks. It can be seen clinging to rocky hillsides and growing in groupings around the base of trees. Its 1- to 2-foot-tall dark green leaves, known as fronds, are leathery and lance-shaped, and grow in a fountain-like clump that contrasts nicely against the brown leaf litter of the forest floor. Each frond consists of many “stocking-shaped” pinnae, or leaflets, also reminiscent of Christmas, with minutely toothed edges. The fronds lie flat on the ground through the winter but survive even under the weight of snow. The Christmas Fern provides protective cover and habitat for salamanders, toads, and other small land-dwelling animals.
If you look closely at the ground while hiking you might spot the tiny native perennial herb called partridgeberry or twinberry (Mitchella repens). Growing no taller than 2 inches high, this woody creeping vine has 6-to12-inch trailing stems that lie prostrate on the forest floor. Where stem nodes touch the ground they will root, thus forming colonies. Its evergreen leaves are rounded, only ½ inch in diameter, glossy dark green with a pale yellow stripe down the central vein, and appear in pairs on a woody stem. The plant produces a small scarlet berry with two contrasting red spots on its surface and 8 seeds within. These berries can be seen from fall into winter if they haven’t been eaten by songbirds, turkeys, skunks, foxes, chipmunks, and mice. Partridgeberry prefers undisturbed locations and is commonly found in moist forests where there is dappled sunlight to complete shade, on stream banks, and in humus-rich acidic soil.
Another diminutive native perennial evergreen herb likely to be seen throughout the winter is spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata), also called striped wintergreen and striped Prince’s pine. But you must look closely in the dry woodland’s understory among the fallen leaves, for there it will be hiding. Only growing 3-5 inches tall, it has 1-3-inch long by ¼- to 1-inch wide leathery green and white mottled leaves arranged in a whorl on its stem. The white midrib stripe on this dark green leaf is an identifying characteristic. We are fortunate to have this little native plant growing in Maryland as it is endangered in Illinois, Maine, and Ontario.
Lastly, while on your foray through the woods you might come upon low-growing evergreen forest plants called clubmosses (Lycopodium spp.). These can be found growing under trees in large swaths or in small patches. At first glance, you might think they are pine seedlings or moss, but they are neither. The common name “clubmoss” is based on the premise that at first glance these plants resemble moss which are non-vascular plants and have no true roots. But clubmosses are vascular perennial evergreen plants. The actual roots are rather shallow, but individual plants in some species of clubmoss are connected by horizontal stems that run above ground (runners) or below ground (rhizomes). These runners and rhizomes send up erect shoots ranging in size from one-half inch, which resemble moss, to several inches tall, which resemble tiny trees. Clubmosses produce spores in cone-like structures called strobili at the end of a stalk. When the spores are released they germinate very slowly, taking up to twenty years to develop the new plant! At one time, clubmoss plants commonly were used for Christmas decorations. Species in which individual plants are connected by rhizomes or runners were ripped from the ground and used as decorative ropes of greenery. Since clubmosses are such slow-growing plants, conservation groups discourage this practice. *
These are only a few of our native evergreen forest plants that you might encounter on a winter hike. Hopefully, this information will encourage you to venture out into nature and enjoy the “greens” that thrive despite winter weather.
*It is never acceptable to collect wild plants from public lands. Please enjoy them in their wild habitats and leave them to be enjoyed by the next person hiking through the woods.
New this year, Baltimore County will now allow some food scraps to be used in backyard composting. Visit the County’s composting page for more information and to see a list of prohibited food items. See the backyard composting guide for more information.
BUY A BIN OR BARREL
To help enable residents to participate in the sustainable practices of home composting and rainwater reuse, Baltimore County is hosting an online pre-order sale for compost bins and rain barrels. Compost bins are available for $55 each, and rain barrels are available for $65 each. There is an additional $25 flat rate delivery charge. Prices include tax. This sale is limited to residents of Baltimore County and City only. Starting February 1, products can be ordered at baltimore.enviroworld.us. Pre-orders are open until Thursday, March 31.
All orders will be delivered directly to residents’ homes between March 15 and April 30, 2022. The delivery agents will follow social distancing protocols, and orders will be delivered to each resident’s driveway or front door.