April in the Southern Garden
April was the second month in the Roman calendar until emperor Pompilius added January and February -- and that put April where it is today. The origin of the word April is an open subject and has been associated with the goddess Aphrodite. The Latin verb "aperire" -- "to open" -- may refer to the opening of leaves and buds that characterize this season so well.
In Charlemagne's calendar, April was called "Grass Month" -- coinciding with the greening of fields and meadows. Anglo-Saxons called April "Oster-Monath" -- for Estre -- their goddess of Spring -- a word sounding much like our word "Easter".
The flower of April is a choice: Sweet Pea or Daisy. Sweet Pea has been cultivated from wild origins in Southern Italy. The leaves of this hardy, climbing annual are each tipped with an active, gripping tendril. The blossom, which may be two inches across, is colored in many delicate shades. There are dwarfs and giants -- some climbing as high as seven feet.
The Daisy is one of the oldest and best known English flowers. Its Anglo-Saxon name -- "day's eye" -- is appropriate both for its appearance and that its petals close at night. It has also been called "Star of the Earth" and "Companion of the Sun". Garlands of daisies have for years been used by schools in graduation exercises. Daisies bloom in shades of red, pink and white. A popular, double daisy -- developed by Luther Burbank -- was named by him for the snow-capped Mt. Shasta in Northern California.
The Daisy of classical English literature is a low-growing native -- once so plentiful it covered fields and pastures -- inspiring artists and poets.
If you plant flowerbeds now, you'll have color all summer long. Gladioli are great backdrop plantings for full sun. Dahlias are also large and enjoy direct light. For lower-level blooms, in sunny areas, use Dwarf Zinnias, French Marigolds and Salvia. Plants that flower in shade are Balsam, Four-O'clocks, Gingers and Impatiens. Lists of flowers at County Agent's Office.
This month, dig and divide your Chrysanthemums, Day Lilies and other perennial bulbs if they are crowded.
There is still time to plant all the warm-season varieties in your vegetable garden. So, try some unusual items -- Chayote Squash, Yard-long Bean, Malabar Spinach or Luffa Gourd. Whatever you plant, use lots of mulch in the garden to conserve water and build soil. For a free Vegetable Gardening Guide, send a large, SASE to: Jim Notestein, 3701 NW 17 St., Gainesville, FL 32605.
If you remove most of the first-time blossoms from young fruit trees, the energy saved will increase the plant's vitality and make for better fruit production in following years.
April is a good time to start a herb garden. If you do, a savory season is sure to follow. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens has an inspirational collection of herbs -- some are for sale.
When moving houseplants outdoors for the summer, place them in a shady location at first. Plants that are accustomed to lower light levels may burn their leaves in harsh, direct sunlight.
Discover your County Agricultural Extension Office at 2800 NE 39 Avenue in Gainesville for a full month of activity in the plant kingdom. Visit the Farmers Market every Saturday. If you haven't gotten into the garden yet, you'd better hurry.
Enjoy April to the fullest.
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