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New Crofton Home Owners – Taming Your Yard (Part 2)

As a recent home buyer in Crofton, you may be discovering that the beautiful manicured beds and lawn need some basic spring maintenance – and you may not know where to start.  Several days ago, I posted Part 1 of Taming Your Crofton Yard, which addressed the need to clean out your shrubbery beds, removing leaves and taking control of your pachysandra and other groundcovers. 

Divide Your Hosta Plants

Hosta PlantAnother spring maintenance task, before planting your annuals, is to divide your hostas and other perennials.  If you haven’t already done this, don’t wait another weekend.  Pretty soon, they’ll be too big and too heavy to manage.  I usually divide my hostas in mid-late April, but it’s not too late now.

What’s a hosta, you ask?  Well, I’m no horticulturist, so I’ll give you the amateur answer:  It’s a perennial plant with large leaves that produces a tall stem with blooms later in the summer.  At least, that describes the hostas in my yard.  Actually, there are many species of this lily-like plant, and I encourage you to read all about them.  The variety I have doesn’t do well in the sun – it yellows and gets attacked by bugs – but it thrives in shady beds.

Hostas do well in Crofton, since there’s so much shade, but the problem with them is that a small plant can turn into one that’s larger than your shrubs, if it’s not divided periodically.  I know it’s hard to imagine, but you can literally put the sharp blade of a shovel through the middle of a hosta plant and, with a little effort, divide it to remove half the plant.  The remaining half will round out and you’ll never miss the part you removed; then you can plant the part you removed in another location – or give it to a neighbor.  I’ve been known to leave a plant laying on the ground or even wrap it in plastic for days before re-planting, and it survived without any ill effects.  After a while, you’ll probably have more hostas than your yard will accommodate, and you’ll be giving them or throwing them away!  This photo shows four of them potted to give away.

Remove Un-invited Vines

As an amateur gardener, I have never uncovered the “secret” to eliminating wild vines that invade my beds (and sometimes my lawn) every year.  If any readers have a suggestion, PLEASE comment on this post and share your suggestions with me and others in Crofton.  In the meantime, I’ll do as I have for the past 30 years – pull them out by the roots the best I can, whenever I see them.

Wild strawberryFor the benefit of homeowners who never owned a home in an established neighborhood and may not have experienced these before, I’ll try to show you what they look like so you won’t assume they’re a ground cover planted by the previous owner.

On the right, you see a plant with three leaves on a thin stem that grows quickly along the ground and wraps itself around your shrubs and trees.  I’ve been told it’s “wild strawberry” – but again, I’m an amateur at this so it probably has a scientific name.  The closest thing to it that I could find on the USDA website was woodland strawberry

All I know is that you’d better stop this vine the moment you see it, before it chokes the life out of plants you care about.  In this photo, you see pachysandra at the bottom of the photo (a desirable ground cover that I have in some of my beds), the leaves of an azalea at the top, and that darn vine rapidly growing and attempting to take over and choke out everything else.  Shortly after snapping this photo, I wrapped the vine around my hand and followed it to its root, where I removed it from the bed.  If the ground is dry, the vine may break off without the root being pulled from the ground – if so, expect it to come back.  Nothing seems to kill or prevent this stuff, at least not that I’ve found, except removing it by the root.

Virginia Creeper
On the left, you see a plant with five leaves on a thin stem -this one likes to climb your trees, fences and even your house.  It’s called Virginia Creeper.  It’s a perennial that dies off during the winter, but comes back with a vengeance in the spring and summer.  I remove this the same way as I did the strawberry vine, by pulling it out from the roots.  However, if it has started to grab onto a tree or other surface, you may wish to clip it with your pruning shears every two or three feet to remove manageable sections of the plant.  Again, getting the root is important, or it will come back.

Warning: Virginia creeper berries are highly toxic to humans and may be fatal if eaten.  Its sap can also cause skin irritation in some people.  If you have small children, obviously you have to be more diligent than those of us who just resent their intrusion on principal.

Some people confuse Virginia Creeper with poison ivy – the most obvious difference is that poison ivy has three leaves and red stems, and Virginia Creeper has five leaves and green stems.  For more information about this plant check out the USDA Fact Sheet (PDF) and Plant Guide (PDF).

Challenges of an Established Yard

While challenges like these require some management, they’re a small price to pay for having beautiful mature landscaping.  In fact, these vines like new yards and beds, as well, so you won’t be immune from them if you don’t have an established yard.

Chances are that the beautiful mature trees and landscaping in much of the Crofton are among the things that attracted you to this community.  Enjoy, and watch for Part 3 of this series later in May.


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