Q: I am trying to identify a lovely perennial that I bought several years ago at a yard/plant sale in Tamworth, N.H., in the foothills of the White Mountains. I tried planting it in several locations, but it did not bloom until I placed it in a pot in full sun.
The flower cluster is a brilliant blue at the head of a 12-inch stem. The cluster is in a ball formation, blooming in midsummer. The stem had a reddish/burgundy color, and the mature leaves at the very bottom of the stem are 21/2 inches long and of rough texture. When the plant sends out new leaves, they resemble violet leaves in a heart shape but eventually elongate at the tips. The plant looks like a miniature topiary with a formal look. I have looked in several perennial books and cannot find it. Attached are several photos.
A: Beautiful pictures! Beautiful color! Thank you! I think it's a campanula. With so many different varieties, I can't be much more definite, but it might be a campanula named Blue Chips or Freya.
Campanulas can bloom in a cluster or display a single bloom on a stalk, and the leaves differ in size from low to high on the same plant.
Grown in the garden or in a pot or container, they all enjoy hot sun as long as they have plenty of water in a well-draining soil — they will bloom from mid- to late summer. Deadhead to promote more and more blooms.
You chose a lovely plant at that plant sale — congratulations!
Q: Last year, I planted some bush Italian green beans. Not only was the yield poor, but the leaves have a red tinge. I don't recall ever seeing this reddish color on garden plant leaves. Do you have any idea what causes this?
A: Italian green beans are great in New England if we have a "normal" summer. They do better in warm summers without too much rain.
Did you water too much? Beans have to be kept moist, but water from the bottom with a soaker or early in the day, avoiding wetting the foliage, which carries various wilts and viruses from plant to plant.
You could have transferred the disease from another plant, and not necessarily one in your own garden but from a friend's garden, or even a nursery. Wash your hands thoroughly and change clothes if you brush through other plants with this problem.
Fertilize plants all season — a time-release type is easy! A healthy plant will be able to fight off the stress of diseases.
If you're going to grow beans again, plan to rotate your crops every year or two. These organisms live in the ground from year to year. And at the end of the season, clean the bed thoroughly and burn the trash — don't compost it.
Treated seed is available, as are plants that are resistant to various diseases. Check the larger seed catalogs.
Here's hope for the biggest and healthiest and best Italian bean crop you've ever had!
Q: I've already bought my peas and lettuce seeds and plan to have them all started outside in two weeks!
Now that I have these new raised garden beds, my question for you is this: Before I go dreamily peruse the seed packet racks and buy the summer veggie seeds spontaneously, which will happen, tell me this, what veggies do NOT like to be planted close to each other? I'm not speaking of being overshadowed, but rather "eggplant and tomatoes fight over the same soil nutrients" kind of dislike for one another. Thank you, and happy spring!
A: Isn't it nice to have had a mild winter! But God always seems to get even, and it IS only April.
Companion planting can be very complex, so my list probably won't be anywhere near complete — but let's see ...
Asparagus is helped by planting with dill but NOT by growing with onion, garlic and potatoes.
Beans help to grow fine corn, carrots, beets and radishes, but avoid planting tomatoes, peppers or any members of cabbage family with beans.
Avoid growing broccoli with mustard and tomatoes. But they are helped by geraniums and rosemary.
Carrots — avoid growing them with dill and radishes, but do grow with beans. Tomatoes grown with carrots may stunt growth of carrots.
Corn is helped by beans. ... We could go on and on.
For more specific veggies and their likes and dislikes, send me a list, and I'll try to find answers. We know that most of these claims are not really completely scientific but have been used and observed by gardeners with personal experience for centuries.
This week's dirt
Now that it's April, are you wondering when you can plant? For generations, Memorial Day has been the safe planting day: "A cold May is kindly, and fills the barn finely ..." "When oak leaves are the size of a mouse's ear, it's time to plant corn and other hot weather veggies."
"Plant corn when the apple blossoms fall."
"If a thunderstorm occurs before 7 in the morning in April or May, we'll have a wet summer!"
And, as we all know, "April showers bring May flowers!"
It should be a beautiful May!
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North Shore Gardener by Barbara Barger of Beverly is a feature of Friday's Lifestyles section. Reach Barbara by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to her c/o The Salem News, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915. Previous North Shore Gardener columns can be found at www.nsgardener.com.