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Catalog Dreaming: Middlesex Conservation District's Spring Sale

Plant and seed catalogs are arriving daily in the mail or email; I'm spending days reading the descriptions, researching the plants, and imagining where I could put them in my garden. Each plant takes me on a fantasy trip; I'm in another world.

With my budget tight, I'm only ordering from the Middlesex Conservation District—because their sale supports programs to decrease soil erosion and flooding, increase water supplies, and protect wetlands.

This spring's brochure lists 91 trees, shrubs and plants, including evergreens, fruit-bearers, groundcovers, herbs, and perennials—in addition to composted cow manure, compost bins, a soil amendment to improve water retention, and red worms. To get a brochure, call the MCD at (978) 692-9395. Or visit their website, <>, where you can download one to print, and see photos not in the brochure.

Orders must be received by March 19; pickup at the 4-H Fairgrounds in Westford is April 23-24. On those days MCD also offers for "cash sale" some extra brochure items, additional annuals, and any perennials wintered over from last fall's sale. Many of the trees and plants will be sold bare-root, in dormancy.

Fundraising Coordinator Julie Weiss included this year native plants recommended for planting in wetlands which have been disturbed:

  • Speckled Alder—like legumes, these shrubs grow root nodules which harbor nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
  • Summersweet—ornamental, with fragrant flowers.
  • Red Maple
  • Spicebush—ornamental, whole shrub is aromatic.
  • Winterberry—bright red fruit remain after leaves fall.

Ms. Weiss' personal favorites?

  • Kousa dogwood—"looks great all year": attractive shape, creamy-white flowers in summer, crimson-purple leaves in fall. Untroubled by the fungal disease anthracnose, which is devastating native dogwoods.
  • "The Fairy" rose—I love this one too: it blooms nonstop in my garden, covered with one-inch double pink flowers.
  • "Cambodian Queen" chrysanthemum. A super-hardy, old-fashioned rubellum mum. Its salmon-pink, yellow-centered daisies start in October and last for weeks. It's a wonder having bloom so late.

And I see they have "Burgundy Glow" Ajuga! I have some, have been looking for more. Pink, white and green leaves make a thick mat no weed can grow through—but it's not invasive, like many Ajugas.

But there are more in the brochure I haven't yet looked up in my books and on the Web: more dreaming to do.... I know a man who calls himself a "plantaholic"— but an addiction is a pleasure that ultimately isn't good for you. I prefer to think of this as a magnificent obsession.

© Copyright 2004 Catherine Holmes Clark

extraneous word count 330

Published in the six Nashoba Publications papers on Friday, 20 February 2004

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For more information

Middlesex Conservation District's website — you can download the sale brochure and order form from here, as well as look at more photos of the plants.

The wetlands remediation plants:

  • Alnus rugosa Speckled Alder
  • Clethra alnifolia Summersweet, Sweet pepper-bush. There's a big stand of these on both sides of the path in Howard Park along the river, just before you get to the retaining wall built by the Nashua River Watershed Association.
    • good photos here on on U. Vermont's site.
    • lots of info here on the Floridata site
  • Acer rubrum Red Maple
    • photos of flowers great here, on the Missouri Plants site
    • photos of buds and bark good here, on U. Vermont's site.
    • full info here, on the personal site Earl Rook has made of resources for visitors to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of northern Minnesota.
  • Lindera benzoin — this is one of the shrubs I was thinking of for the front of my woods, in For the Woods' Edge (part 2)
  • Ilex verticillata Winterberry
    • useful photos of bark, flowers, leaves here on U. Vermont's site.
    • photo of shrub in winter here on U. Arkansas' site.
    • as a Bonsai!