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”A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” — Juliet in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”Eriger strigosus and E. annus are charming Aster family members that stand 1-3 feet topped by small, delicate one-half-inch flowers with yellow centers surrounded by pink-tinged white thread-like petals. They are prolific growing in full sun-shade, wet-dry any soil, and maintenance-free. They also are known as fleabane, a weed in the eyes of many gardeners.Fleabane has many good qualities that give us reason as to why it should be planted or allowed to grow in our gardens. The American native has naturalized in Europe and is planted in many English gardens such as Vita Sackville-West’s garden. There are over 170 species and named varieties of fleabane in America, but it is E. annus that is often found along roadsides and in our lawns.
In addition to its flowers that bloom into autumn, it is found throughout the country as it readily adapts to any condition. It is drought resistant, making it ideal for rock gardens. The young plants are easy to pull and replant among other tall garden flowers for an English Cottage garden look. Cut flowers, singly or in a mixed bouquet, will last about a week. The only maintenance is cutting the plant to the ground when it ceases blooming to prevent spreading.Fleabane will grow well in fertile loam though it prefers slightly alkaline. An early bloomer, it will cover exposed ground conserving soil and moisture.It is deer-proof while providing food for small animals who nibble on its leaves and flowers. It’s a good pollinator that attracts a wide variety of bees, some butterflies, wasps, beetles, and other insects for its nectar and pollen. The leaves are human edible after boiling to get rid of the hairs on the leaves.THINGS TO DO• Birds — Enjoy your coffee and benefit the Audubon Society by purchasing shade-grown Bird Friendly, USDA Organic, and Fair Trade coffee. Go to audubon.org and click on Shop Audubon.
• Garden — Order spring bulbs for fall planting. Many online nurseries are offering free shipping on orders above a certain amount. Plant glads and other summer bulbs. Plant purple hyacinth bean (not edible vine) seeds for continual purple flowering and fall seed pods. Geraniums grow best in 4-6 hours of south or west sun, rich soil and well-watered. Deadhead spent iris blooms for a neat garden; some varieties will respond by repeat blooming, and directs the plant’s energy to its roots. Pinch mums to force bushy growth.Continue to pull young weeds by running your thumb and forefinger down the stem to the base and gently. Dig mature weeds. To divide Solomon’s seal, work fingers under the rhizome and pull toward the leaf. To replant, have all rhizomes facing in the same direction and the direction as the leaf arches.• Lawn — Set mower blades to 1.5 inches for zoysia, 2 inches for bluegrass, and 2-3.5 inches for tall fescue. Abundance of rain has produced lush lawns requiring more mowing. Never cut more than one-third of the grass height. If necessary, wait a few days before re-mowing to allow the grass to recover from cutting. Wipe down the mower and clean under the mower deck after each use. Keep beds clean by mowing away from beds and walks. Apply broadleaf weed herbicide.• Trees and shrubs — Shape flowering trees and shrubs after blooming. Remove split and dead branches. Sharpen the chainsaw blade for a clean cut and ease of cutting. Cut into live wood and do not seal any cut. Remove dieback twigs on Japanese maples and “weed” their seedlings.• Events — Today, Benton Master Gardener’s Fifth Annual Plant Sale, 8 a.m. to noon, Marshall County Farmer’s Market (next to Extension Office), 1933 Mayfield Highway, Benton.May 26, Summer and Fall Lawn Care, Horticulture Webinar Wednesdays. See above.