From Shady Corner


March                    Kitty Clasing MG



            Bloodroot, perhaps some violets, the vernal equinox, pussy willows, St Patrick’s Day, throw them all in a pot and you have the makings of the month of March!  Yes, though this month represents the beginning of spring, in this area it can sometimes still seem like winter.  If March decides to dump a bunch of snow on us, we know she’ll reward us with some sunshine that may very well have all the powdery stuff gone within a day or two.  Why in the first week of March the lengthened sunlight will give us almost eleven and a half hours between sunrise and sunset and we know that the days will continue to lengthen as March progresses. 

Seedlings of impatiens, herbs, petunias and other annuals sit on the windowsill or under the grow light.  Water will be dripping from the eaves and the first green signs of spring bulbs will emerge in the garden.  In the nearby woods, the woodpeckers will be giving a drum roll to usher out winter and welcome the beginning of spring.



Did you know that bloodroot was in the poppy family? It gets its name from the red juice in its thick underground stem.  Legend has it Indians once used the juice for war paint.  However, don’t be using any of this juice as it is considered poisonous!  The bloodroots dainty pink to white flower with a yellow center looks more like a daisy than a poppy. The blooms are short-lived and are protected against the cold by a young leaf that clasps each bloom tightly.  The leaves are gray-green, broad and round-lobed.  They can bloom anywhere from March thru May.            

Bloodroot is often referred to as Indian Paint.  This spring beauty is not in abundance in this area.  I have been blessed with a nice patch in my habitat and have found over the last 30 years it has maybe doubled in size, which isn’t much growth that’s for sure. 

double bloodroot
I also have a double bloodroot that I purchased at a wildflower garden center that is doing very well.

Information from How To Know The Wildflowers by Alfred Stefferud

red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

This is one of the most poorly named birds.  One has to look closely to find even the slightest pink tinge running between its legs to near the base of its tail.  There is no red belly!  Many think because the male has a bright scarlet color on its head, that it is a red-headed woodpecker or anything but a red-bellied.  And the female has only a bit of red on the nape.  It does have a ladder-backed look of black and white stripes on its wings and back.  The most common call we hear from it is the churr-churr-churr.

In the Midwest they prefer insects, nuts and natural ripening fruit.  It is common for them to store corn, sunflowers and peanuts in tree bark and under shingles for future use.  Like most woodpeckers, they are pretty much found in wooded areas.



The gardener’s autumn begins in March, with the first faded snowdrop.
Karel Capek   “The Gardener’s Year"
Translated by M. & R. Weatherall (1931)

Shamrocks and Other Oxalis

 green oxalis

There is just something about shamrocks that gives them an almost magical quality. Maybe it’s all the rhymes and superstitions about four-leaf clovers ·or maybe the leaves that fold in half each night or when it is cloudy. Or it might be the connection with St. Patrick's Day and all the Leprechauns. Whatever the reason, shamrocks are fun, beautiful and easy plants for indoors.

There are literally hundreds of types of oxalis and several of them make very nice indoor blooming plants. The variety most commonly grown as shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day is Oxalis acetosella.

maroon oxalis

It is a three-leaf clover with pure white blooms and a compact growth habit. Another wonderful variety for indoors is a variety that has huge maroon leaves and pink blooms.


maroon oxalis bloom
 In addition to being called oxalis, four-leaf clovers and shamrocks, these plants are also known as
wood sorrels. Although their leaves look similar, they are not related to clover that grows in lawns and hay fields.

Shamrocks and other oxalis all need a dormant period each year in order to perform their best. This need for a rest seems to cause lots of confusion. Many indoor gardeners have kept their oxalis actively growing for years without a rest period. But this is very stressful to the plant. To get the most out of an oxalis, let it grow and bloom until it starts to look tired. At that point, no matter what you do, it just doesn't look good. This will usually be in the summer. When this happens, stop all water and fertilizer and store the plant for a month or more preferably where it is cool and dark (I never do the dark part of this procedure, and my oxalis come back looking great). After that period of time, you can either simply bring it back out and start watering it again or repot it.  All oxalis need lots of light to grow and bloom well.  They need to be kept just barely damp.  They grow from little bulblets and can be easily divided.


What is a Shamrock?

White Clover, trifolium repens L. is considered by many authorities to be the Original Irish Shamrock.  A shamrock has 3 leaves according to Irish legend and a clover with 4 leaves is just considered a “lucky 4 leaf clover”!




Once Americans became pizza crazy, oregano found its way into  American cooking.  Until then oregano was mainly known for its usage in the kitchens of Greece, Italy, Spain, and many other countries.  Oregano is also delicious to use with tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, eggs and many other foods.

The fragrance and taste of oregano is similar to that of sweet marjoram but slightly stronger and less sweet.

Oregano can be used fresh or dried.  It prefers well-drained, average soil and full sun.  It is native to the Mediterranean all the way to central Asia, but has naturalized widely in North America.  Plants themselves can be upright or mounding.  Regular cuttings promote bushy growth on all oreganos.  If buying a plant, taste of the leaves first as many oreganos are stronger than others.  For instance, Greek oregano is much stronger than the Italian variety.  Whatever variety you try, experiment using it in lots of different recipes.


Salt Soak

White crusting along the rims of your pots indicates a buildup of harmful salts and residue that can burn a plant.  Remove the plant from the pot and soak the pot in a sink full of hot water mixed with a cup of white vinegar.  Scrub the salty crust from the rim with a good scrubber.  Rinse the pot well and replace plant into the pot again.

                                                            Information from Trowel & Error by Lovejoy


Nature Quiz:

What do knee-deeps, pinkie tinkies, and hylidae have in common?


They are all different names for spring peepers!  They are a tiny frog which can make lots of noise.  Many a spring I have wondered why I never hear them.  Well, with a little research, I’ve found spring peepers are mostly in the far-east sections of Iowa.  Some have been reported in southern Iowa and a few other counties, but at this writing, none have been seen in our areas.  So, I guess I’ll stop listening for those little critters!


By March’s end the month will be merging with April and cool days will be merging with the warm feel of spring.  Everyone will be navigating puddles.  We will go out to see what spring bulbs or wildflowers have lifted their petals to the warm sunshine.  The azalea and rhododendron buds will be bursting at their seams just waiting to show off their bright colors and by now robins will be a common visitor in the yard. 

The quiet of winter has ended and April is whispering in our ear to come out and play in the garden.  But we know that frost may still visit us and we must be patient another month or so.  Ahhh, sweet spring!





Kitty Clasing

Master Gardener-ISU 
This newsletter is published here with permission of author Kitty Clasing. 1/31/2005