Spring brings a sense of revival and special finds, like a begonia that likes sun — and unexpected moments of serenity

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Good morning! Spring is truly a time of renewal. I look out the window and see green growing things and blue sky, and just want to shout with joy. Spring rains also frequently bring rainbows — a singular and spectacular gift from Mother Nature.

Spring also brings long lists of chores like weeding because those little buggers had an easy winter right along with the flowers and seem to be doing exceedingly well here on the hill. All those gardening chores create a flurry of activity and “flurries” lead to “hurries.”

About two weeks ago, I was on my way to Jack’s Greenhouse in Buckfield for my annual first stop on my search for container plants. I had a busy day planned. Well, if any of you have traveled Buckfield roads, you know that many don’t allow for safely passing another car. In Buckfield Village, I ended up behind a slow moving truck. After a few moments of frustration and thoughts of my hurried schedule, I settled back and decided I might as well enjoy the ride.

As I came around a blind curve on a back road, I saw a lovely small farm pond with a pair of Canada geese swimming as the morning sun sparkled off the water. Forming an arc in the background were fields absolutely solid yellow with dandelions. It was an incredibly beautiful sight made even more wondrous because it was composed of everyday, unappreciated things.

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Perfect for this begonia lover

Since that visit to Buckfield, I have visited about six other favorite plant places and, as always, found some new and interesting plants. As you may know, I love begonias — all kinds. My problem is that most begonias do best in shade and I have way more sun than shade at my house. So, I was happy to discover a new begonia (other than wax and angel wings) that will take lots of sun. It is called Solenia and is bred by Oglevee. It is as beautiful, if not more so, than regular tuberous begonias, with fluffy bright pink blossoms and a darker pink edging.

I found the Solenia, which comes in other colors, when a friend and I went on a clematis hunt at Hummingbird Farm in North Turner. Each year, Cindy and Brian Tibbetts seem to find some of the most unique, new offerings for their customers.

For those of you who love impatiens but have the same sun-shade conundrum, check out the new Sun Patiens. I have to warn you, though, these aren’t the impatiens you are used to. These plants grow to 2 to 3 feet wide and tall in containers, and 3 to 4 feet in the ground. They are designed for full sun to part shade; and, by the size, I think they might be small bushes. I bought a couple and will let you know how they fare. I found these at Jack’s in Buckfield along with some new varieties of sun coleus. There was also a new oak-leafed sweet potato vine for containers that is really pretty.

Beautiful bright eyes

Since I have sun, geraniums are always on my list. Last year, I planted several called bright eyes that have a lighter outer color and a darker, brighter eye in the middle of each leaf. They are beautiful, but I didn’t discover this until fall. With the continual rain last summer, they lived but just barely. I took them out of the containers and brought them inside for the winter — and they bloomed up a beautiful storm all winter. Along with those, I had picked up one lonely plant (I think by mistake) called mosaic. It also loved the greenhouse and turned out to be a real attention grabber. Well, I found several of those for this spring at Longfellow’s in Manchester and will be looking forward to their presence in my containers.

For those of you who like petunias, I found several this spring that look unique and fun. I searched for one called Pretty Much Picasso, a Proven Winner, because I saw a picture in a magazine. I just got the first blossom and it is great. It won’t sound that way, but believe me it is great. It is a raspberry pink with lime green edging around each blossom. I also found a Proven Winner Supertunia mini rose veined that I expect will be beautiful cascading from some pots. Choices of petunias these days seem endless. There is also a gorgeous purple veined one called Bordeaux.

Give me a shout, if ….

Also on my list was a Twinny Peach snapdragon, but, alas, I couldn’t find it. If anyone comes across any, please let me know. It looks beautiful with its peach to pink to yellow blooms, and I want some.

Beetles, deer and lilacs

For those of you who are always fighting Japanese beetles, which will be appearing in about two months, this is the time to get those beneficial nematodes onto your property. You can usually order them through the Paris Farmer’s Union or get them online at a gardening site. The nematodes attack the grubs that will become Japanese beetles, and I found them to be effective. It is also time to fertilize your perennials with a long-acting, time-release organic fertilizer. They are usually good for two months or sometimes three; and don’t forget the rose fertilizer, they are heavy feeders. If you have clematis, they like rose food as well. It is also time to plant dahlia bulbs for those beautiful bouquets in August and September.

If you are planting new gardens or adding to existing ones, here is a short list of tried-and-true plants that deer do not like: asters, lavender, peonies, lamium (spotted deadnettle), bee balm, daffodils, all kinds of sage and sage-related plants, and lamb’s ear.

Remember, deer do not like plants with strong smells, like scented geraniums; odd foliage like the fuzzy leaves of lamb’s ear; or prickly plants like holly and sea holly. I have lamium in several colors in many gardens around my house. It blends well with the wild violets that our woodlands supply in plenty. I also have astilbes, knotweed and cranesbill geraniums — and they all get along fine. It forms a great groundcover, looks pretty all season, requires little and is noninvasive.

I plant lamium with tuberous begonias in pots for the north side of my house, and it is beautiful. Come September, I take the containers apart and put the lamium into the ground, where it adds to next spring’s show. I found great lamium this year, and last, at Farmer Whitings in Auburn. Whitings also has lovely begonias and bunches of other stuff you might want to try.

Lilacs are early this year, just like everything else. Cut a bouquet and bring some into the house to enjoy their scent. If you love lilacs, don’t forget the Lilac Festival at McLaughlin Gardens in South Paris on May 28-31. There will be garden tours and workshops on caring for lilacs. Also don’t forget, when lilac blooms have gone, you need to prune the bushes and the forsythia — if you haven’t already. Pruning makes for more blooms next year, but you have to do it as soon as possible after they finish blooming. Before I forget, primroses are especially pretty this spring and now is a good time to add a few to the front of your garden for next spring’s show.

So until next time, try to enjoy spring’s gifts. Stop and look at the rainbow until it disappears, take a road trip and if you encounter a slow driver on a country road, watch for the ordinary that can turn extraordinary.

Happy gardening.

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her dog and two cats. She may be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at jodyike@megalink.net.

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