Mystery plant of the week

This little beauty appeared in my garden as a tiny sprout all on its own. I think it may be in the Hosta family. Can you identify it?

— D

The photo sent was of a short spreading plant with simple leaves marked with a chevron of dark maroon on the pointed green leaves. This is not a hosta. The leaves are not thick and waxy like most hostas and the structure is a soft mound.

I would guess that it is a variety of Persicaria (knotweed, jumped) Probably the Asian invasive, Persicaria filiformis (occasionally Polygonum), a plant that produces plenty of seeds and self-sows into a dense mat that can smother desirable native plants.

See the article, Don’t Jump to Conclusions about Asian Jumpseed (mdinvasives.org/iotm/may-2022/) on the Maryland Invasive Species Council website.

There is a native variety, Virginia knotweed (Persicaria virginiana), that can be easily confused with the Asian invader. This article shows examples of both plants and notes subtle differences between them, however, the article also mentions that these plants easily crossbreed so that is neither one. One noted difference is the darkness and crisp edges of the chevron on the Asian knotweed and the softer-edged ones on the native that fade as the leaves mature. Because of the hybridizing, many of the traits are confusing including the word “usually” in descriptions, making a firm identification is difficult.

Most gardens have some sort of non-plant ornamentation or furniture, Now, while we still have beautiful, warm days, is an excellent time to clean and store those items that need winter storage or protection.

Much statuary needs indoor storage or protection. Concrete will deteriorate over time as water seeps into small crevices in the piece and then cause small cracks as the water expands as ice and then melts throughout the colder months. When possible, small states and structures should be moved out of the weather to a protected area, cellar or garage. Larger pieces can be wrapped in burlap, to absorb condensation, and draped loosely with plastic. Make sure that there are no areas that can collect water or check often and dump any water found.

Fountains and birdbaths can be turned over or on the side to discourage water collection, The pumps, hoses, and so on of the fountain should be drained, removed and stored indoors,

Resin and sealed concrete are more durable but will also deteriorate over time. My sister loved gnomes and we had a garden bed just for them. Over the years, the statues, left outside, faded and cracked. My Alice in Wonderland statues, stored on shelves in an outdoor but protected area have faired much better, retaining their color and undamaged by cracking.

Wooden furniture treatments can be divided into groups depending on the wood and the finish. Durable woods, like teak, will develop a beautiful silver patina over the years or can be sealed and finished to retain the original color. Lightweight, movable furniture, unused during the winter is best moved into storage. Covers are available and a substantial one securely fastened can also protect furniture. Protective coatings, sealers or oils, will also aid in protecting the finish of most woods.

Fabrics, even those rated for outdoor use, should be cleaned and stored. Cushions and pillows washed, dried and stored out of the weather in secure deck boxes, garages or other shelters. Make sure the storage is dry and the items are not moldy before stowing away.

As previously announced, the PHS Garden Show is returning to the Pennsylvania Convention Center and its early spring dates, March 4 to 12, 2023. It was recently announced that discount tickets are on sale now. So, if you are planning on attending and need to buy tickets, order now on the PHS website (https://phsonline.org/the-flower-show).

This year’s theme, The Electric Garden, is described by Seth Pearssoll, director of design at PHS:

This year’s theme, ‘The Garden Electric,’ is meant to encompass the feeling of magic, celebration, and awe we get when we encounter gorgeous flowers and gardens. We are creating a truly immersive experience for guests centered on bold, eccentric, vibrant color pairings, and an element of surprise that will ignite a sense of wonder and excitement in our guests. Three distinct muses inspired the theme: Makoto Azuma, a Japanese flower artist who sent flowers into space and underwater; Jimi Blake’s Hunting Brook Gardens in Ireland and The Great Dixter in England.

Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at grdnkpr@gmail.com or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, PO Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.

Planting: Use asters, kale, mums, winter pansies and other fall garden favorites to brighten the fall landscape. Plant spring-flowering bulbs, garlic and shallots, asparagus and rhubarb, perennials, trees and shrubs. Sow seeds that require a cold period for germination. Seasonal: Dig up and store gladiolus bulbs. Dig and store other tender bulbs as the foliage is killed off by cold weather or frosts. Allow the final flush of flowers to go to seed on plants that provide food for the birds and small mammals during the fall and winter. Plan ahead, if you are purchasing a live potted or burlapped Christmas tree, find an appropriate planting spot, dig it out and store the soil, covered or in a container in the garage. Cut back peony greens to about three to four inches tall. Apply broadleaf weed control through mid-October. Install sod through October. Treat for grubs, chinch bugs and sod webworms. Cut as needed to a height of about 2½ to 3 inches tall. Use a sharp blade. Keep newly seeded or sodded lawns watered; supplement rain in weeks where less than an inch. Fill in holes and low spots in lawn.

Chores: Watch for frosts. Protect tender plants and get a few more weeks of color. Stop pruning. Order or buy mulch for winter but do not apply until the ground freezes. Stop watering amaryllis bulbs. Allow the bulbs to dry out and go dormant. Store in a cool dry area until they resprout in about 8 to 10 weeks. Order bulb and plants for fall shipment. Check seed inventory for late crops and fall planting. Harvest crops regularly, at least every other day. Remove and compost spent plants. Dump standing water and remove anything that may collect rainwater to help control mosquito populations. Water any recent plantings and containers anytime we experience a week with less than an inch of rain. Repair damaged screens and caulking around windows and doors in preparation for the indoor invasion of wintering over insects and rodents.

Maintain deer, rabbit and groundhog protection for vulnerable plants. Reapply taste or scent deterrents. Clean and fill bird feeders regularly. Clean up spilled seed and empty hulls. Dump, scrub and refill birdbaths at least once a week. Use a small heater to keep water liquid during cold weather.

Clear gutters and direct rainwater runoff away from house foundations.

Tools, equipment, and supplies: Maintain summer equipment and store or send for repair as you finish using it.

Check winter/fall equipment, repair or replace as needed.

Safety: Clear lawns of debris before mowing and make sure pets, children and others are well away from the area being mown.

Store garden chemicals indoors away from pets and children. Discard outdated ones at local chemical collection events. Photograph storm damage before clearing or repairing for insurance claims and file promptly. Anytime you are outside and the temperatures are about 50°F or warmer watch for tick bites. Use an insect repellent containing Deet on the skin. Apply a permethrin product to clothing. Wear light-colored clothing, long sleeves, hats and long pants when working in the garden. Stay hydrated. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, nonalcoholic beverages. Even in cold weather, apply sunscreen, wear hats and limit exposure to sun. Wear closed-toe shoes and gloves; use eye protection; and use ear protection when using any loud power tools.

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