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Miss Floribunda: Roses added to native plant sale offerings

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Posted on: May 20, 2013

Dear Miss Floribunda,

I hear that the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA will probably have another native plant sale this month, though I don’t have the details. I like what I got at past sales, but don’t need more of the same. Is the sale returning this year, and if so, is anything new being offered?

Seeking Novelty on Nicholson Street

- MISS FLORIBUNDA -
– MISS FLORIBUNDA –

Dear Seeking Novelty,

You will find 10 new plant varieties at the Hyattsville Elementary School PTA Fourth Annual Native Plant Sale, which is set for Saturday, May 18 at the school (5311 43rd Avenue). The sale starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m., or sooner if sold out. I have to warn you, demand is high. Certainly the prices are low, ranging generally from $3 to $12 a plant, the highest being $16, and new groups of gardeners have gotten wind of it.

For example, the three varieties of native roses have attracted the attention of the Potomac Rose Society and the Arlington Rose Society, those notorious hotbeds of rosemania. In case you are wondering, “rosemania” is a real term applied to those who love the queen of flowers so much that they contrive to tuck 100 or more rosebushes into their gardens. I am myself a self-confessed rosemaniac, and I plan to be among those who acquire at least one each of the three native roses being offered. They will grow anywhere, are immune to all disease – even the dreaded Rose rosette disease – and are deliciously fragrant.

They extend the blooming season by coming into flower at different times. Rosa carolina, more familiarly known as the “pasture rose,” leads the way in late April, followed by Rosa palustris, the “swamp rose,” and then comes Rosa virginiana, the classic five-petalled pink flower that may well have been the one Edward MacDowell celebrated in his lyric piano piece, “To a Wild Rose.”

Other must-haves for the shaded areas of the garden are two new shrubs that do well without full sun. Rhododendron coryi, or swamp azalea, bears sweetly scented flowers of pristine white for a much longer period than any other azalea. In autumn its foliage flames forth in an incandescent spectrum of oranges and reds.

Another new offering this year, the Viburnum trilobum, or American highbush cranberry, has not only beautiful golden leaves in fall but also edible red berries. It is not a true cranberry, but the berries do have a similar flavor and make good jelly. You may not wish to allow the birds to have them all. The white flowers that bloom in May look much like lace-cap hydrangeas or Queen Anne’s lace. These attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Two new ferns make their debut at the sale. Matteuccia struthiopteris, or ostrich fern, has shoots that can serve as gourmet additions to salads. Thelypteris palustris, the swamp fern, is the only fern I know of that prefers sun to shade.

Other new offerings, more colorful than the ferns, are the wrinkleleaf goldenrod, Solidago rugosa, and the marsh marigold, Caltha palustris. I suppose you are aware the former has been upgraded from weed to wildflower, and completely cleared of the calumny of aggravating allergies. (The real culprit is ragweed.) The latter, with its glossy petals of saturated yellow, is obviously no true marigold but is a member of the ranunculus family. About two feet high, it looks like a buttercup on steroids.

Even more spectacular is the rose mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos, up to seven feet tall with enormous flowers in bold colors. It can be seen making dramatic statements in parks on Capitol Hill.

For a full list of plants that will be at the sale, go to www.nativeplantsale.org.

If after the sale you want to discuss your acquisitions with other gardeners, please come to the next meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society on Saturday, June 15, beginning 10 a.m. at the home of Jeff and Marsha Moulton, 6122 42nd Avenue.

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