Dry conditions prevail which is troublesome this early in the season when the garden should be having its greenest days. The rain gauge in the garden registers only about eight and an half inches of precipitation year-to-date, a far cry from where it ought to be for happy plants, surely a lack of April showers. I hope this will not turn into a lack of May flowers. The national weather service has a hazard notice up today for fire due to wind and low humidity.  In addition to my typical busy spring workload, it looks like I’ll be adding plant watering to the to-do list. Sigh. Watering in August is one thing; in April, a whole different story.

Earth Day 2016 is tomorrow and according to Earth Day Network, was first celebrated on April 22nd, 1970 and founded by Wisconsin Senator, Gaylord Nelson. On that first day, “20 million Americans took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies….By the end of that year, the first Earth Day… led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air Act.” In 1990, “200 million people in 141 countries [brought] environmental issues to the world stage…Senator Nelson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.”

Much of the inspiration for Earth Day and environmental awareness came from scientist Rachel Carson’s prescient words in her book, Silent Spring, published in 1962 and now celebrating is fiftieth year in print. If you haven’t read this book ever, of if you haven’t read it in a long time, it would be worth picking up. I’m reading it now and I admit to feeling a little sick about what we humans have done to the environment by our use of chemical applications in terms of herbicide and insecticide. Understanding there is more awareness now, there is much, much more work to be done on this front. While we may not be able to control many aspects of our natural world, such as weather, we can sure control what we do within our gardens and landscapes in order to be good stewards of our own health, welfare, while at the same time reach beyond our garden gates to help improve the larger environments. Day by day, step by step. A few words from Silent Spring: “The booming sales of chemical crabgrass killers are another example of how readily unsound methods catch on. There is a cheaper and better way to remove crabgrass than to attempt year after year to kill it out with chemicals. This is to give it competition of a kind it cannot survive, the competition of other grass. Crabgrass exists only in an unhealthy lawn, It is a symptom, not a disease itself. By providing a fertile soil and giving the desired grass a good start, it is possible to create an environment in which crabgrass cannot grow, for it requires open space in which it can start from seed year after year” (p. 80.) Essentially, there are three ways to manage weeds in lawn and in planting beds: spray, pull, or out-compete. Out-competing and puling are the green ways; pulling is the more labor-intensive. Why give the weeds an opportunity to start with? Planting beds where there is more mulch visible than plants is just a welcome sign for weeds.

Earth Day Networks has an initiative called “The Canopy Project,” where since inception in 2011, have planted over three million trees in thirty-two countries. They work in partnership with the United Nations Billion Trees Campaign. Plant One Million is our local “ambitious multi-state tree planting campaign encompassing 13 counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The goal is to restore tree canopy cover in the Greater Philadelphia Region to thirty percent with the current number planted just over five hundred thousand.

You may remember a recent newsletter about property ROI and your garden, how trees add significant value to your property and neighborhood. Not only will additional trees add green to your wallet, they are also helping create a greener world. I would also say that if asked what one thing people could do to add beauty and value to their gardens, it would be to add trees. In the past few weeks, while visiting some clients’ gardens, I noted two trees in particular seldom seen: one was a Hackberry. I recognized it immediately by the warty bark. This is a native tree for us and a unique feature of it is in summer, butterflies and moths lay eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Haddon Heights has several of these trees in Haddon Lake Park–check it out next time you’re there. Next, a Franklinia tree. Named for Ben Franklin, this hard-to-grow tree is amazingly beautiful and my client has a gorgeous example of one in her garden; I admit to coveting that tree–big-time. The Franklinia is also a native tree and has a white flower that reminds me of a single peony. The tree also has an outstanding red fall color.

I have so many favorite trees. The short list would be the Evergreen Magnolia, Tupelo, Serviceberry, Japanese Maples, and Katsura, and I could easily add a dozen more.  I am loving two new additions to our garden–“Ace of Hearts” Redbud–a dwarf variety that will only get about twelve feet tall mature. Seems like there is always room for more.

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