Nursery Happenings mid-April 2016

It’s been a frenetic spring for the crew at Cricket Hill Garden. On top of all of our usual work, this year we are also clearing three acres. This additional space will provide us with more growing space as we expand our nursery.

View from the tractor of the new area. The clearing is set in a larger area of mixed hardwood second and third growth woodlands.  About 60-70  years ago this was a pasture for the farm that occupied this land in the early 20th century. The large timber trees are sent to a saw mill, and the smaller diameter pieces down to 4” will be used to grow shiitake mushrooms. The clearing will give us the sun and space to grow more fruit trees and peonies.

Meanwhile, in a less chaotic area of the nursery, first peony of the season opened on 4/25. It’s Paeonia meirei, a rare wild species from Yunnan province, in southwest China. 

‘Hosui’ Asian pear is also in full bloom.

We came across this cluster of herbaceous peony seedlings deep in the woods! I guess it goes to figure that even the squirrels are peony fanatics around here. 

We are still pruning away winter damage. The worst effected of our tree peonies are some of the Central Plains, or Zhongyuan cultivar group from central China. This is the most damage we have ever seen in our quarter century of growing these cultivars. While none of the damage is fatal, there will be many fewer flowers this spring on some of our old favorite tree peonies. 

More winter damage, with new growth coming from lower buds which held onto their dormancy in our warm fall and early winter and were thus unaffected by the Valentine’s Day freeze of -10 F.

Some damaged buds are still making a valiant attempt to flower, without any petal formation. More fully formed flower buds can be seen below the aborted blossom.

Some of the beds in our display garden are a carpet of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) this time of year.

Weed control is one our biggest problems at the nursery. We are committed to organics and have never used chemical herbicides.  It takes a lot more time and energy to apply mulch on our production beds than it would to spray, but  we also live where we work and believe that everyone is healthier without a dose of glyphosate.

For our tree peony graft beds, we hope that the combination of landscape fabric and a coir fiber mulch disk will greatly reduce the time we will spend hunched over this summer yanking weeds.

The distinctive chartreuse stems of ‘Golden Wheel’ stand tall in the nursery. 

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