The Garden Craze: Spring Fever Solutions

Another kind of March Madness brews in Wilmington about this time every year.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s as insidious as it is contagious. The affected person rarely knows it’s happening until it’s too late.

Symptoms include:

• empty nursery shelves

• finger-tapping callers waiting for garden center phone lines to open

• sun-hungry perennials suddenly and haphazardly being planted under shade trees, etc.

Our mild, early-blooming spring fortune overrides common sense in the best of us.

By late-March heads are swimming with fragrant wisteria, crawling vines of gold-blooming Carolina Jessamine, and pale pink explosions of Yoshino Cherry blossoms. So, we wander to the garden in the front yard of our imaginations. Then, naturally, we head to the nursery to buy everything in bloom.

And, often, within a few months, we’re cashing in on more than a few 1-year guarantees.


Raymond Bray, of Outdoor Creations, Landscape and Design, Inc., says the best thing we can do for our gardens this time of year is to come back to earth. Bray is a horticulturist, soil biologist, and landscape designer; and his dad happens to be one of the top ten horticulture research scientists in the world. So, he’s kind of a plant guy.

“Whenever someone asks me what to plant in the garden this time of year, I say, ‘Nothing’,” Bray said. “Right now, all people need to be doing in the garden is enjoying it.” And, obviously, preparing it.

“You don’t want to put a $50 plant into a five cent hole,” Bray added. And, you don’t want a yard full of frozen blooms and compromised plants when the last frost of the season hits.

It’s the time for soil testing, conditioning, and reading up on what performs and thrives best in each location, says Bray.

And, it’s time for a little field research.

Local Sanctuary

With spring fever in hot pursuit, it’s often hard to keep the car on the road past garden centers. Satiate your need for garden brilliance by visiting it. Airlie Gardens encompasses 67 acres of horticultural heaven, and, it’s tulip madness there right now. Take a picnic, a few hours off, and a camera to capture the varietals and design elements you love most. With the Azalea Festival Garden Tour around the corner, Airlie is in top form, showcasing varietals you may not get to see elsewhere. Spend some time in the butterfly garden to learn how to bring a little extra beauty to your own garden.

Window-shopping can also help to keep the itch at bay. Its a haul for many of us, but a trip to Pender Pines, in Hampstead, is an experience every home gardener should have.

Quick Fix

If you simply have to do it now, we totally get it. Just try to be thorough, for the sake of your pocket book, and the plants. A lot of energy has gone into the blooms you’re buying, so we (and Mr. Bray) recommend chatting with a consultant before you dive in. And, if at all possible, postpone the digging for a week or so. Typically, the last frost bites just before Easter.

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