A Note From Rick | Buds and Blossoms in May

May 7, 2021

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Over the years, we’ve incorporated more native plants in the garden beds at Bridge Gardens to reflect the Peconic Land Trust’s commitment to showcasing sustainable landscape practices. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some interesting native perennials. Springtime always calls to mind spring-blooming wildflowers like Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)our native plant of the month.

Like Virginia bluebells, native wild ginger also enjoys the rich soil of the Northeast’s deciduous woodlands. Their leaves, often 6 inches wide, are a rich green in color. Hidden beneath these leaves are maroon flowers nestled at ground level and appearing in May. Its rhizomes are aromatic and can be candied. Like Virginia bluebells, native ginger makes a good ground cover for that shady area of your garden and grows well with ferns.


Native wild ginger, another shade-loving spring perennial

Moving to the vegetable garden, all the major spring crops have been planted. These include arugula, radishes, lettuce, beets, carrots, onion sets and plants, leeks, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and all the cold crops. Spinach planted in September 2020 has been harvested for a second time, as a row planted this spring approaches maturity.

May is a great time to make second sowings of vegetables already sown in April, like beets and carrots. Make multiple sowings of these throughout the season and you will continue to harvest well into the fall.


Early vegetables flourishing

Mid-may is also a great time to sow first crops of zucchini and summer squash in the garden. Winter squash, pumpkins and cucumbers can be sown now too. I often start those seeds in peat pots indoors on May 1st and plant young seedlings into the garden when night temps are steadily in the 50’s. Bush and pole bean seed can also be planted by the end of the month, along with the fruits that taste like summer - tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Here at Bridge Gardens, we’ll be planting seedlings sown indoors in early April. They were grown under lights, moved in and out on nice days and hardened off. You may do the same, or simply purchase young plants at local garden centers.

Make sure to plant basil this month, both plants and seed. Disease-resistant varieties are available and provide leaves throughout the season rather than succumbing to downy mildew by mid-summer. We’ve been planting varieties from the Prospera series with good results. If you’re thinking of creating a kitchen garden, many herbs grow well in terracotta pots on the patio, including basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and chives.


Vegetables seedlings

Elsewhere in the Gardens, our 4-quadrant herb garden is starting to grow. This was the first area of the garden created by founders Jim Kilpatric and Harry Neyens, and managed mostly by Harry. A medical writer by profession, he was very much interested in herbs and herb gardens. Siting his garden on axis with the main window of the Garden House, Harry created a square garden with four quadrants or beds, brick pathways, and an intricately trimmed boxwood knot.

Plantings in the herb garden are separated into four themes, each with its own bed. Some are shrubs, some are perennial, many are self-sowing annuals and also annuals we grow ourselves and add every year. In many ways, the herb garden is a cottage garden. Maintenance involves reducing the spread of aggressive perennials like Bouncing Bet and Greek oregano and annuals like bronze fennel and native bee balm. An annual maintenance protocol, this editing process allows room for the many herbs we plant every year, including exotics like ginger, turmeric and lemon grass. Those we dig up every year and overwinter indoors.


We keep the herb garden lush and attractive at all times by removing spent plants and replanting them with appropriate annuals waiting “in the wings.” Equally important as staying attractive is education. Every plant in the herb garden has a reason for being there, a story that highlights the long, long history of interactions between plants and humans. This year, we are featuring some of these stories in new on-line “signage,” using QR codes you can scan with your hand held device to access information about the plants you are seeing.

When you visit, you’ll soon see the dye herb, woad, ushering in the herb garden’s long blooming season with its sprays of yellow flowers, accompanied by other early bloomers like bugleweed and English daisies - all in the medicinal bed. Foxglove, roses, poppies and others will follow in June. The culinary bed is also showing signs of life and I’ve been busy planning for new herbs in this section of the herb garden. I look forward to their harvest later in the season. In honor of National Public Gardens Week, we’re sharing daily videos taken throughout the garden, starting with the herb garden. Enjoy these daily posts on our blog.

Many of our visitors enjoy exploring the rose roundel which is located in the sunny Outer Garden. It is a focal point, featuring a variety of hybrid, tea, and grandiflora roses. Roses will be pruned and fertilized in preparation for their big display in June, the perfect time to see them in their glory! Spraying with horticultural and/or insecticidal soap will begin this month at the first sign of aphids and black spot and will continue throughout the season. All plant care at Bridge Gardens is organic. We’ll be offering a workshop on organic rose care on Tuesday, June 9 featuring Paul Wagner of Greener Pastures Organics. You can register here.


Roses are interplanted with iris and native grasses

Our native plant focus continues to expand. This season we’ll be planting American hazelnuts, shadbush, hackberries, black cherries, and winterberries, as well as goldenrods, grasses, sedges and more. A workshop will be offered later this season on growing and enjoying fruiting trees and shrubs. Check our website calendar soon for this popular program coming in August.

I hope you’ll stop by to explore and revel in the reawakening throughout the Gardens. I look forward to seeing you soon!

~~ Rick

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