Groff's Plant Farm Images

April Observations

Published: Tue Apr 11th 2017

Driving around town, I usually have one eye on the road and the other one on trees and flowerbeds. Some may say that makes me a bad driver, they are probably correct, but it does give me interesting things to think about.

Last week I noticed quite a few of the plants that jumped up in February and then got a foot of snow and ice dumped on them didn’t like it very much. Daffodils and hellebores seem fine, but daylilies seem to really have had their foliage damaged. This should not affect flowering, as most do not bloom until July and will have not started to set their flower buds yet. If unsightly foliage bothers you, go ahead and give them a trim, but they should grow out of it.

Forsythias. Some are blooming, some are not. It seems that the ones that were in more southerly facing directions, or were protected in a warmer microclimate and had started to bloom early are the most affected. Up here on our windy exposed hill, they had not started to crack their buds and show color in February, so were not damaged by the ice and snow. They are now blooming as usual.

The other funny thing I noticed was a dwarf Alberta spruce that has a “sport” of a normal sized spruce growing out of the side of it. Often times, dwarf plants are a result of a genetic mutation that causes the plant to not reach normal size. These mutations are purposefully selected by breeders and used commercially for their more compact habit and garden-friendliness.

Plants have growing tips, or meristems (basically stem cells) on their roots, tops and tips of the side branches. These rapidly growing cells occasionally have a genetic mutation. Often it is something not readily visible, but in this case, the dwarf gene got turned off on one branch and is now growing to normal size.

This happens a lot with variegated plants. Hostas are famous for “sporting” new varieties. There is very little actual cross-pollination breeding happening in hostas. It is mostly observation of random mutation and selection of the most interesting ones.

We have a variety of sedum in our greenhouse that has a very unstable variegation pattern. Some plants are nicely variegated, others revert to solid green, some almost solid white. The white ones are very week or die, due to lack of chlorophyll and inability to photosynthesize and make their own food. The green are pretty boring and end up getting chucked over the hill.

The cherries and Bradford pears are starting to bloom. I haven’t seen redbuds or locusts popping out yet, but I’m watching for them. I drive a silver mini-van if you want to stay out of my way.