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North Hills Monthly

It’s Easy to Participate in Plant Something Month

Apr 30, 2015 02:43PM ● By Denise Schreiber
“If you cut down a forest, it doesn’t matter how many sawmills you have if there are no more trees.”
—Susan George

May is Plant Something Month! Never heard of it? It’s a new promotion designed to inspire people to just plant something, whether that’s a tree, shrub, vegetable garden or just a hanging basket.

When you plant a tree or shrub, you are getting more than flowers, leaves, fruits or vegetables. While these plants may not seem to be doing anything except making you care for them, they are actually doing double duty in the environment. In urban and suburban settings, vegetation helps reduce storm water runoff, decrease pollutants and suspended solids in surface water runoff, and reduce nasty things such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter from the air.

Did you know that just one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide annually from the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of 11,000 miles of car emissions? According to the Department of Energy, just having three well-placed trees in the landscape can save homeowners between $100 and $250 a year in heating and cooling costs. An attractive, lower maintenance landscape can add as much as 15 percent to the value of your home. Compare a new development where the trees were cut down and cookie-cutter homes with barren landscapes were built, then look at an older neighborhood with mature trees, shrubs and flowers. Automatically, you feel a sense of calm.

Now you don’t have to go and buy out the local garden center or nursery. A few well-chosen plants will get the job done. A tree to provide shade on the southern or western exposure of the house will help reduce cooling costs in the summer, but allow the sun to warm up the house during winter. A couple of shrubs that provide flowers in the spring and color in the fall really help to dress up an otherwise bland landscape. 

And there are more than just azaleas and hydrangeas (re: deer food) that flower in the garden. Caryopteris (bluebeard flower) blooms mid- to late summer with beautiful blooms; honeybees and butterflies love it, and the deer don’t seem to care for it. It requires full sun, average soil and you only need to cut it back early in the spring. Calycanthus (Carolina allspice, aka sweet spice bush, aka sweet bubby bush), is an underused and tough plant for the landscape that only requires watering. It grows in full sun to partial shade, is deer and pest-resistant, and its blooms are fragrant. The Aphrodite strain has larger flowers and an intense fragrance. It turns a soft yellow in fall and requires no trimming—an added bonus.  

Potentilla is an easy-to-care-for shrub that grows in a mounded shape so there is no trimming involved. A plant with yellow, pink or orange flowers, it attracts butterflies and other pollinators and requires little care. Spirea is a wonderful shrub with flowers ranging from raspberry pink to a light pink, and foliage that is colored from lime green to a rich deep green. Its height can range from one foot to three feet, and it grows three to four feet wide. Because it is deer and pest-resistant, it is an ideal plant for the landscape. And it’s just one more plant that butterflies love!

If you live in an apartment, you may think that planting trees and shrubs is out of the question. There are always containers that you can fill with flowering annuals for lots of color or you can plant some vegetables. A self-watering container is ideal for growing vegetables on a balcony. You can plant patio tomatoes, herbs and more, and there’s no weeding required, which means less work for you. HGTV Plants has developed a line of container vegetables that fit the bill. Pepper, tomatoes, eggplant and basil are just a few of the selections. I grew them last year, and I can tell you that they are very heavy vegetable producers.

Hanging baskets are another way to just plant something! Go to your local garden center and pick one or more of the gorgeous hanging baskets that they have for sale. The bigger the basket, the bigger the bang for your buck. Say that three times fast! There are baskets for sun and for shade; just remember to water as needed and fertilize them once a week.

Last but not least are houseplants. An easy-to-grow and forgiving houseplant is Spathiphyllum (peace lily). It tolerates medium to low light, produces a large, creamy white flower and is easy to grow inside. It just likes a moist soil and regular fertilizing.

So no excuses—go plant something!