April: Spring blew in wildly

“April comes in like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” — Edna St. Vincent Millay

O verwhelmed and prone to procrastinate — Maureen Dowd said it so well in her recent column. It can definitely be applied to many of us who tend to put off less desirable chores. But as these chores multiply, so does your guilt feeling until one day you berate yourself for letting things go too far. As time eventually runs out, there is this mad dash to do what should have been done weeks (or even months) ago. My motto is “carpe diem,” a certain discipline and a definite sense of urgency especially in gardening. Nature does not wait for you to wake up from your winter slumber and stumble into action.

“You may delay, but time will not,” said Benjamin Franklin, so keep this in mind as you attend to the demands of this year’s outdoor activities such as gardening.

I had been taught many years ago that it is better to focus on progress than perfection. Do not agonize whether or not to transplant this flower or cut this branch or move this pot. Do not lose sleep in deciding what color annual you should plant this year. Just make a decision, do it and live with the result. And if you have become a slave to pointless chatter, the modern plague so promoted by social media, the time is now to get out, smell the fresh air, listen to the birds and enjoy the new awakening.

Anew cultivar has just been announced: Malus “Shotizam” Show Time — a crabapple tree with color so bright you have to wear shades. It grows to 25 feet with a spread of 15-20 feet. Fuchsia-red flowers contrast beautifully with foliage that has a lovely red overcast on dark-green leaves. It is a striking newcomer, taking center stage in the ornamental tree market.

Another very interesting plant, Ascot Spurge, belongs to the family of irresistible Euphorbias. It is really snazzy with flashy green, yellow and pink variegated foliage. Euphorbia is among those rare groups of plants that make a huge difference in the garden all year long. Check it out and see for yourself. This plant truly has “soft skills” and interacts harmoniously with others. An annual Euphorbia called “Diamond Frost” is now available in garden centers. With airy white flowers, it appears to be a blooming cloud and is ideal in containers.

Keep your eyes open for the new Heuchera cultivars. Thanks to the magic of tissue culture, the former rather insignificant coral bells have evolved into spectacular gems for our gardens. Their performance is superb, they are durable, shrug off the New Jersey summer heat and keep their wonderful leaf colors. One of my favored Heuchera, “Southern Comfort,” has grown to a circumference of 3 feet in bright sun.

For a quick garden face-lift, keep Heuchera in mind.

Don’t forget to stretch before you venture out to your garden! Shrub pruning, leaf raking, seed sowing and transplanting could easily tax those muscles not used to it.

Break down larger projects into small steps that can be easily completed within 30 minutes. Keep in mind that motivation and back power are two different things!

What to do now

Cut back to almost ground level ornamental grasses and red twig dogwoods

• Divide plants that are crowding their neighbors

• Set out supports for peonies

• Prune roses when the buds begin to swell


• Overseed lawn

• Be careful when applying granular fertilizer; do not contact plant foliage

• Prune spring-flowering shrubs as soon as their flowering is finished

• Leave bulb foliage until browned; then remove

• Mulch plants to conserve moisture and soil temperature

Gotti Kelley, a past president of the Navesink Garden Club, also serves on the board of The Garden Club of New Jersey and Central Atlantic Region of National Garden Clubs.