It’s back to school time and our thoughts turn to gardening as they always do.
As I trimmed back the Blue Dogbane, Amsonia tabernaemontana, the other evening, I couldn’t help but notice the white sap which looks a lot like Elmer’s Glue and seems just as sticky.
Do kids still buy bottles of Elmer’s glue to put in their brand new backpacks along with new folders, pencils, pens, paper, crayons, and whatever else their teachers put on the list of needed supplies?
Buying these back to school supplies in late summer sort of reminds me of how gardeners buy all those “back to gardening” supplies in early spring. Except usually gardeners are delighted for the season to begin, whereas I think most kids, even those who love school supplies, are mostly whiny about going back to school so soon before summer is over.
Oh well, so sad! One day they’ll get out of school, see all those school supplies for sale and wonder how they got to where they are in life, no longer really needing school supplies, but tempted to buy some anyway. Then they can move on past all those unneeded school supplies and instead think about the return of fall gardening and how old everyone around them seems to be getting. Happy Birthday, Oldest Sister Turning 55 Today!
But back to the Elmer’s glue. My Blue Dogbane was a big sappy mess to trim. I ended up with sap on my shoes, my pants, my shirt, my arms, my gloves and even my pruners. Sap, Sap, everywhere. Sap. Thick, white, gooey sap, just like glue.
Normally, I would not advise trimming back Amsonia at this time of year, but not just because of this sap. I’d advise against it because you’ll miss out on the good fall color of its leaves.
The better time to prune Amsonia back so that it doesn’t self-sow all over the garden is right after it blooms in the spring time. It will be less of a mess as far as the sap goes, and you won’t be cutting off all its fall color.
The reason I cut it back now and not earlier in the season is because
I am inherently lazy I ran out of time in the spring after it bloomed. Other years, I would have taken my chances with the self-sowing and left it alone, but later this fall, I’m going to be moving this plant to another place in the garden and decided it would be easier to move if I cut it back.
So I did.
Amsonia is in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, which also includes Vinca and Plumeria. I don’t recall them having such a milky white, glue like sap, so they don’t remind me of school supplies like the Amsonia does.
Other plants that remind me of schools include the Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum. I’m going to plant one in my newly designed gardens in back later this fall
At the moment, I can’t think of other “school supply plants” for a back to school themed garden, but I’m sure they exist.
But if you want a “back to school’ themed garden, and who doesn’t, just add some bright school bus yellow black-eyed susan’s, Rudbeckia, and you’ll be all set!