Back to School Time And Our Thoughts Turn To Gardening

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!


  1. Now that has always been the vision for my garden, Carol, a back to school theme! LOL That sap does seem icky poo, a good reason to never cut back the Amsonia here. I want those baby plants. School supplies are very cool. While I don't miss having to buy them, I do miss those sweet days of the excitement of back to school with new backpacks and drawing pictures on the brown paper lunch bags. :-) Happy Birthday big sis!

  2. Elmers Glue was so much fun to play with~But gardens are even better, way better. I keep hoping I'll get more babies from the amsonia and the other thing I remembered~Your dogbane is a darker flower then mine. Gail ps I do hope your sister has a great birthday

  3. I've only killed amsonia once - your post reminds me maybe it's time for another go. Love that the susans are school bus colors - nice timing by them :)

  4. I clearly remember the excitement of new back to school supplies...that smell of fresh paper and a new lunch box although I didn't love school. Funny about the school bus yellow as I mentioned that to a friend just the other day and, as you may recall, I really dislike that color in the garden but it is a good 50 mph plant color.

  5. No back to school for me this August: I'm retired! I'll gloat while my teacher friends return on the 23rd to prepare for another year.

    Right now all that seems to be blooming in my perennial beds are the Rudbeckia. Thankful for those in these dog days of August.

  6. I loved playing with Elmers glue. I liked to cover my finger tips with in and then peal off a perfect image of my fingerprint.

    Some how I never got tired of it. I am easily amused.

  7. I remember those days of buying school supplies with my kids and how much fun they had packing all their pristine new crayons and pencils into Barbie or Superman pencil boxes. Other mothers were excited because it meant the kids would finally be out of the house all day, but for me...well, it meant I was going back to school, too:(

    I'll pass on the school-themed garden, but I do love my school bus yellow Rudbeckias. And thanks for the tips on the amsonia. The small division I got from the Idea Garden this spring has really taken off and will probably need some cutting back next year.

  8. Great post and yup, the sap looks like Elmers glue!

  9. I always loved buying those back to school supplies. This year I got to play teacher. A friend of mine was whining about having to unpack all the boxes from the move from the old school to the brand new school. I offered to help. I put up posters, put book in the bookcases etc. It was fun. The schools now days are amazing. I didn't see any elmers glue because she is a reading teacher. I didn't get to go into the art room. This is a fun post.

  10. Very secret! Thanks for the birthday wishes.
    Kathy, the older sister

  11. Yes indeed, I just bought a little bottle of Elmer's glue for my daughter's back-to-school stash. Some things never change.

  12. I love back to school supplies so much I still can't resist buying a few new pens, or a new reporter's notebook and maybe some pretty colored paper clips. When I started school paste came in big jars and had a really great smell. Some tried to eat it, but not me.

  13. Crotons remind me of Back to School too. They're starting to appear in the nurseries around here now, though thankfully it is still too early for mums.

  14. Actually, over hear in the summer dry climates, we head out to buy new plants right after the school supply rush is over. Spring is a bad idea, most plants are much happier if you stick them in in late fall, so they get watered by the rain....

  15. When I was little and in school I loved planting. Me and My friends were planting in the vacation. Now a days, there is very tight schedule and i don't get time for gardening but sometime I spend time for gardening and enjoyed that.


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