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Tooling Around in the Garden: Selecting and Caring for Garden Tools

Let’s face it – purchasing a new garden tool is usually not the first thing on your mind when you visit your friendly neighborhood garden center. Most of us tend to gravitate toward the latest and greatest herbaceous eye-candy without considering whether we have all the equipment necessary to prepare and care for it. The right tools, however, are critical to keep all your plants in top condition, and selecting quality garden tools is no simple matter. You want one that meets your needs, is available when needed, is easy on you, is long lasting and is not too expensive or too hard to maintain.

Choosing a New Tool

With so many tools on the market, choosing one that meets your needs can be a daunting task. First consider what type of work you will be doing, and what tools are required to accomplish your goal. Choosing the right tool for the job will make the work easier and more efficient. If you’re not sure, ask – our employees will be happy to assist your selection.

When you find a tool you are interested in, before you buy it, try it! Basic tools in new designs are available to the consumer every year. Those that are ergonomically designed, to align with the natural mechanics of our bodies, are meant to lessen the stress on muscles and joints as we garden. So pick up the tool and see how it feels in your hands. Make sure the weight and size are well suited to your strength and frame. Does it feel comfortable as you simulate the way it will be used? If it feels awkward, you will not be able to use it properly and may be tempted to neglect your garden chores instead.

Caring for New Tools

When you find a tool that meets your needs and is comfortable, you will want to have it around for a long time. Plan to purchase the highest quality tools that your budget will allow. If you purchase tools simply because they are the least expensive, chances are they will not last, and you will eventually spend more money to replace them.

Proper care and storage will add to the longevity of your garden tools. Hose off tools to remove soil and chemicals after every use. Allow tools to dry thoroughly before storing. For hardened soil, use a wire brush. Occasionally cleaning metal surfaces with oil will help to keep tools lubricated and prevent rust. Keep all moving parts oiled as well to enhance performance. Oil wooden handles at least twice a year with linseed oil to help prevent drying and splintering. For ease of use, keep tools with cutting surfaces sharp by filing them as often as needed. Check frequently and tighten any loose screws and bolts. Store all garden tools in a dry place with tool surfaces off the ground.

Every garden tool you own is important to the health, beauty and productivity of your garden and landscape. Be sure you choose the best tools and maintain them well to make the most of all your gardening.

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Spice Up Your Herb Garden With Horseradish

Used in dips, sauces, spreads, relishes and dressings, horseradish has a notable pungent flavor that quickly clears the sinuses. Although generally grown for its root, the young, tender leaves of this plant are delicious in a salad. How much more do you know about horseradish?

About Horseradish

Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) is a perennial related to wasabi, mustard and cabbage. Believed native to southeastern Europe and western Asia, it is now a popular plant around the world. It has been cultivated for millennia, from the ancient Egyptians and Greeks to modern horticulturalists. In addition to its popular food uses, enzymes found in horseradish are useful in biochemistry applications. The root has even had a variety of medicinal uses, both as an ingested medicine as well as part of poultices and washes. Horseradish has been used to treat urinary tract infections, coughs, arthritis, gout, swollen joints and more.

Horseradish in the Garden

If you are interested in growing horseradish, it is best to know this plant’s needs to encourage the best possible plants with rich, flavorful roots.

  • Planting
    Plant roots of this hardy perennial in early spring in full sun in a well-turned garden bed or container. One or two roots are more than enough to start with, as this plant self-propagates readily from side root shoots. Water plants as necessary to keep soil from drying out.
  • Harvest
    Horseradish planted this spring will be ready to harvest in October or November but roots may be harvested, as needed, any time of the year. Harvest large roots leaving smaller ones in the soil to fully develop.
  • Storing
    Dug roots can be stored in the refrigerator for several months.
  • Processing
    For basic horseradish, scrub and peel the root, chop into small pieces and grind in a food processor adding a small amount of white vinegar and salt. Place in clean jars, seal and refrigerate for up to six months. Other spices may be added if desired for different flavors.

Horseradish in the Kitchen

Fresh horseradish will have a more pungent, richer flavor. There are many delicious ways to experiment with this root and its mash, including using it for…

  • Marinades and wet rubs
  • Dips
  • Salad dressings
  • Condiments and spreads
  • Adding to soups or stews
  • Spicing up a Bloody Mary
  • Spicy deviled eggs

With so many tasty ways to use horseradish, you’ll wish you’d added it to your garden years ago!

Early Spring-Blooming Perennials

When winter is long and dreary, it can seem like your precious flowerbeds will never burst into life again. Early spring flowers, however, are precious proof that winter is on its way out, and some can even bloom in bright, cheerful colors right through lingering snow. Yet we often forget these beauties, overcome with the bold, familiar bulb displays of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and more. This is unfortunate, because many of these perennials have a subtle charm that complements bulbs and shrubs which bloom in early spring, and they add even more variety, texture and color to your landscape.

Perennials for Early Spring Blooms

When choosing the best plants to be a stunning early spring display, the amount of sun or shade the location receives is the most critical factor for the plants’ success and the gorgeousness of their growth.

For a sunny location, opt for…

  • Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
  • English Daisy (Bellis perennis)
  • Mountain Pinks (Phlox subulata)
  • Rockcress (Aubrieta)
  • Candytuft (Iberis)
  • Wall Cress (Arabis)

For part to full summer shade locations…

  • Pasqueflower (Anemone pulsatilla)
  • Bleeding Heart (Dicentra)
  • Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Dead Nettle (Lamium)
  • Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis)
  • Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera)

Planting Perennials for Early Spring Blooms

When you choose which early spring bloomers to add to your landscape, consider the plants’ overall mature size, soil requirements and both watering and fertilizing needs to be sure they can reach their full potential. If you choose to plant them in fall, take extra care to protect tender roots and give the plants time to thoroughly establish themselves before the first hard freeze. Good compost and mulching around the new plants can help protect and nourish them through the first winter, and they’ll be ready to burst into colorful bloom in just a few months.

Many of these plants are good mid-level bloomers ideal for flowerbeds. They can fill in around other small accent trees and shrubs and provide a lush background for other blooms or mounding plants in front of the bed. They can fill in around trees for a more naturalized look, and can be great in borders. Just be sure to plant at least a few where you’ll have a good view of their beauty from indoors and you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of their early blooms even if it’s a bit too cold to be outdoors in your garden!

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Feeding the Birds

When a bird’s natural plant food has waned or withered away in late winter, a few well-placed feeders can entice a feathered friend to stay nearby. There are four basic types of feeders, but the type of feeder and food it’s filled with will determine which birds will visit. Which do you want in your yard?

Feeder Types and the Birds They Attract

While birds will visit a variety of different feeders, the best options for winter birds are…

  • Tray / Platform Feeders
    A tray or platform feeder with low sides and a wide, open base placed one to three feet above the ground will lure ground-feeding birds like juncos, towhees and mourning doves. Grouse and quail may also visit this type of feeder, and these feeders are ideal for offering food to large flocks of birds.
  • House Hopper Feeders
    Hung from a tree or hook or mounted on a pole, “house” style feeders with seed hoppers and perches on the side will usually entice grosbeaks, cardinals and jays, as well as sparrows and finches. These feeders help keep seed dry and can hold a larger quantity of seed so refills are not as frequent.
  • Tube Feeders
    Long, cylindrical tube feeders suspended in air will bring in an array of small birds, including finches, titmice, nuthatches, siskins, redpolls and chickadees. These feeders may have either mesh-like sides where birds can easily cling, or they may have multiple perches to accommodate more birds. Sock-style feeders are also popular.
  • Suet Feeders
    A cage-like feeder that holds a cake of rich, fatty suet is a bird magnet for woodpeckers, wrens, titmice, nuthatches, titmice, mockingbirds and jays. A standard suet cage can hold just one cake and can be hung from a pole or branch. Larger suet feeders may hold multiple cakes, and some suet feeders are even designed as logs or other shapes to hold suet plugs or balls.

Best Winter Bird Foods

Birds will seldom drop or pick out unwanted seeds if you fill your feeder with only one type of seed rather than a generic mix. Black oil sunflower seeds are the most widely preferred, though white millet is popular for smaller finches, sparrows and ground-feeding birds. A tube feeder containing Nyjer (thistle) seeds will whet the appetite of goldfinches, siskins or redpolls. Jays, chickadees and juncos love peanuts or cracked corn as a treat in a tray feeder. Suet is another fine treat that offers great calories to keep winter birds healthy.

No matter which type of bird feeder you offer or how you fill it, you are sure to enjoy the company of a hungry winter flock. Keep the feeder filled and clean, and the birds will continue to visit all winter long.

Year-Round Container Gardens

The best gardens provide interest all twelve months of the year. In the spring and summer, gardens are full of color with bright, cheerful bulbs, pastel spring-flowering trees, vivid, multi-colored bedding plants and striking perennials; fall gives us shades of yellow, gold, orange, red and purple with the changing of the season, as well as abundant fruits and berries. Winter has its attractions as well with evergreens, hardy plants and persistent berries. With a little planning, container gardens can give us color and variety every month of the year.

Planning for Winter Container Gardens

While most gardeners have no trouble creating lush container gardens for spring, summer and fall, winter is more of a challenge, especially if you hope to enjoy the same plants in every season. Fortunately, many plants are suitable for winter container gardening. The best choices include evergreens, shrubs with berries, those with contorted branches or interesting bark and buds or later winter-flowering shrubs. These plants remain in the containers for year-round interest, while bulbs, annuals and perennials can be switched out for colorful seasonal interest. Consider how all the plants will change seasonally so you can create a living tableau that will retain gorgeous shape, form, color and texture throughout the year.

Planting and Care for Year-Round Container Gardens

When planting containers for all-season interest, frost-proof pots should be your choice. This includes fiberglass, polyethylene and structural foam planters. These pots resist winter damage, insulate to help regulate the soil temperature and retain moisture better than porous pots. They are also lightweight, so they can be more easily moved to a sheltered location in poor weather, or shifted to a sunny spot on a warm day.

Plant containers as you normally would, following good horticulture practices – enriching the soil, providing proper drainage and arranging plants for the best visual appeal. Be certain to give your pots shelter from the prevailing winds and water your plants when needed to keep roots from drying out. To water, check the soil moisture when temperatures rise above 40 degrees and add cold water as necessary. You may want to shift the containers’ location each season for the best light and weather protection. In winter, it may also be useful to add an insulating blanket around the pot or to provide more wind protection by stacking hay bales around the container.

Plants for Winter Interest in Year-Round Containers

While some plants are stunning for a season, the following plants are proven winners in winter and will bring great interest to your containers.

Evergreens

  • Buxus (Common Boxwood)
  • Pinus (Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Pines)
  • Thuja (Dwarf Arborvitaes)
  • Juniperus (Dwarf Junipers)
  • Tsuga (Dwarf Hemlock)
  • Picea (Dwarf Spruces)
  • Taxus baccata (English Yew)
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Filifera Aurea’ (Golden Japanese False Cypress)
  • Pieris Japonica (Japanese Pieris)
  • Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
  • Microbiota (Siberian Cypress)
  • Euonymus fortunei (Wintercreeper)
  • Sciadopitys verticillata (Japanese Umbrella Pine)

Deciduous

  • Amelanchier arboreo (Downy Serviceberry)
  • Fothergilla gardenii (Dwarf Fothergilla)
  • Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick)
  • Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ (Winterberry Holly)
  • Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ (PeeGee Hydrangea)
  • Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster)

Late Winter/Early Spring Accent Plants

  • Helleborus (Christmas and Lenton Rose)
  • Primrose
  • Ajuga
  • Violas or Pansies
  • Crocus*
  • Snowdrops*
  • Dwarf Iris*
  • Ivy

*Plant these bulbs in fall for winter flowering.

No matter what you choose to plant, it’s easier than you think to design delightful containers that will catch everyone’s eye all winter long.

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Feng Shui in the Garden

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese philosophy that believes in attracting and guiding the flow of cosmic energy to influence your health, wealth and happiness. If you are already familiar with Feng Shui, you should know that it is assumed by many that the same fundamental principles that apply to your home also apply to your garden, maybe even more so since the energy in your home is brought in from the outside.

Feng Shui means ‘wind’ and ‘water.’ According to Chinese tradition, everything in the world contains ch’i, the cosmic life force. Ch’i means to flow freely like wind and water, but it is alleged that its movement can be blocked or trapped. This, it is believed, can cause disharmony or misfortune in your life. The movement of ch’i is thought to be influenced by several things such as colors, shapes and sound. The purpose of Feng Shui is to ensure that ch’i is flowing smoothly and gently without being allowed to stagnate or move too quickly. This harmony in your environment is understood to create harmony in your life.

Bringing Harmony to Your Garden

Feng Shui starts with basic gardening maintenance. Ch’i is believed to stagnate in areas where junk accumulates. Clean up your patio or deck and screen your garbage cans from view. Throw away any broken pots, planters or tools. Good cultural practices are also considered important in the flow of ch’i. Mow your lawn, pull up weeds, edge your beds and remove dead plants. Prune any broken or damaged limbs, stake plants and take steps to control insects and disease.

Ch’i requires smooth curves to flow. It is funneled by straight lines but impeded by sharp angles. It does not need to be costly or time consuming to remedy these types of structural problems. A straight walkway can be softened with the addition of curved beds on either side. You may also try planting perennials that mound or spill onto a walkway to break up straight lines. To help ch’i flow gently around corners, consider the addition of a tree, shrub or climbing vine. A curved bench or fountain is another option.

Bright colors, especially red, are used in Feng Shui to attract ch’i. Poor Feng Shui, it is believed, is remedied by placing the five elements recognized by the ancient Chinese – wood, fire, earth, water and metal – in their appropriate direction to beneficially affect the movement of ch’i.

Why not try some of the elemental remedies below in their appropriate directional orientations? They may assist with the flow of ch’i in your garden and perhaps you will reap the benefits of good fortune Feng Shui reportedly imparts.

Feng Shui Remedies
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Caring for Forced Bulbs

Potted tulips, crocus, hyacinths and daffodils add color to dull, dreary winter months. With proper care, these spring treasures can give you weeks of enjoyment long before their outdoor cousins poke through the soil, bringing a burst of color and life to your home even when winter is in full force. Stop by our greenhouse today and pick up some forced bulbs to brighten your home!

To Care for Forced Bulbs

While outdoor bulbs require are remarkably low-maintenance and will return year after year looking better than ever, forced bulbs take some extra care to keep looking their best while they’re in bloom. To make the most of your forced bulbs… 

  • Soil should be kept moist, but not wet. Do not allow the plants to stand in excess water, as this can cause rot that will destroy the plant. Be sure soil has proper drainage to keep excess water away from the roots.
  • Place the plants in indirect light and keep them as cool as possible. The cooler the temperature, the longer the bloom period will be. Ideal temperatures are 55-60 degrees during the day and 40-50 degrees at night. The pot may be kept in the refrigerator at night if necessary, or move it to an unheated garage or basement to chill out overnight. Placing pots near a window and away from heating vents can help keep them cooler.
  • When the flowers fade, cut off the flower stems near the soil level. Take care not to cut into the bulb, however, as the damage could impact any future blooming. Do not cut away foliage – it will continue to add nutrition to the bulb’s storage. Instead, allow the foliage to remain intact until it withers naturally, whether it is still in a pot or has been planted outdoors before wilting.
  • Bulbs cannot typically be forced indoors a second time. Instead, transplant the bulbs into the garden in the spring with a handful of bone meal in the hole and in a suitable location and soil type for the flower. Allow the foliage at least 6-8 weeks in the ground to gather energy for next spring.

Many forced bulbs will not rebloom immediately when planted outdoors, but with patience and good care, they may recover from being forced and could become an integral part of your spring landscape just as they were part of your indoor landscape in winter.

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Helleborus – A Perennial for the Ages

When selecting new additions for the perennial garden it is almost impossible to find one that will provide year round interest. This difficulty is further compounded when you need a shade-loving perennial. Well, what was once considered impossible for a perennial is now possible with the Helleborus!

About Helleborus

Although there are many species of Helleborus, the most popular is the Lenten Rose (H. orientalis). Bred especially for its unusual range of color, this cultivar is a low maintenance, long blooming, shade loving, evergreen perennial.

  • Habit
    The neatly mounded form of the Lenten Rose grows approximately 12-24” high by 18-24” wide.
  • Flowers
    The nodding flowers of H. orientalis resemble a single rose and are about 2-2.5 inches across. They are available in range of colors that include white, cream, lemon, chartreuse, lime, pink, rose, maroon, plum and almost black. Many varieties can even be speckled. Flowers appear in early to mid-March, while most other perennials are still sleeping, and last well into May. This plant has the unique ability to bloom in freezing temperatures often with snow still on the ground.
  • Leaf
    The Lenten Rose boasts a large, glossy, leathery, evergreen, compound leaf. Each leaf is made up of 7-9 serrated leaflets borne at the end of the leaf stalk, producing an umbrella like effect.

Helleborus in the Landscape

This perennial works well near a walkway so that it can be easily enjoyed before the garden season even begins. Elevate the plant for a better view of the face of the nodding flowers. Use all Helleborus as specimens in a small garden or near a pond, in mass as an evergreen groundcover or to provide textural contrast in the mixed border. At home in a woodland garden, Hellebores work well with hostas, ferns, brunneras, snowdrops, pulmonarias and winter aconites. It can be attractive surrounding a tree, tucked next to a deck or in a rock garden.

Growing Helleborus

Hardy in zones 4-9, Helleborus orientalis grows best in heavy to light shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, rich in humus and organic material, and is pH adaptable for a wide soil range. Tolerant of summer heat and humidity, the Lenten Rose is adaptable to drier soils, and competes well with tree roots once it is established. Mulch well to retain moisture and fertilize in early spring before the flower stalks begin to lengthen. By the end of the winter, leaves can often become tattered or scorched. Simply cut off any unsightly leaves and fresh new leaves will soon replace them.

If you wish to divide H. orientalis, do so in the late summer to early fall. Make sure that you dig a generous root ball and provide plenty of water until established. The Hellebores do not like to be disturbed and are slow to recover when moved, so be gentle. Helleborus orientalis may be propagated from seed, however, seeds take six months to germinate and the young plants take three years to bloom so patience is essential – but well worthwhile for the stunning results.

Hellebores are not prone to any pest or disease, and these plants are deer resistant.  

Other Popular Hellebores

While the Lenten Rose may be the most popular of the Helleborus plants, it is not your only option. Other popular Hellebores include:

  • H. foetidus – Stinking Hellebore
    The flowers of this Hellebore are light green, and the evergreen leaves are more deeply lobed and sharply serrated than those of the Lenten Rose. The flowers of the Stinking Hellebore are said to be slightly malodorous.
  • H. niger – Christmas Rose
    Similar in appearance to the Lenten Rose, this Helleborus must be vegetatively propagated and blooms earlier in the season the Lenten Rose. It can be a great option for extending the blooming season in your shade garden.

No matter which Helleborus you would like to try, you’re sure to love the results when you add these shade-loving perennials to your landscape.

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Blooming Plants: Brighten Your Home & Office

It is no secret that houseplants can beautify your home and office as well as freshen the air, promote relaxation and improve concentration. But if you’re tired of plain foliage and miss the colorful bursts of your annual and perennial flowerbeds, why not opt for flowering plants indoors as well? There are many beautiful bloomers that can brighten up your home and office throughout the year.

Orchids

Orchids are favorite flowers that add an exotic touch to any décor. The most popular varieties for indoor blooming include…

  • Phalenopsis (Moth Orchid) – This favorite selection can continue to spike up to 9 months during the year and is considered the easiest to bloom
  • Dendrobium – Many fragrant varieties in lots of colors, can rebloom 1-4 times per year
  • Cattleya – Large standard variety blooms once per year, miniature varieties can bloom 2-3 times per year, many fragrant varieties, colors and sizes of flowers
  • Oncidium (Dancing Lady Orchid) – Blooms once per year and lasts 6-8 weeks
  • Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper Orchid) – Blooms once per year with blooms lasting 6-8 weeks, very exotic.

Cyclamen

This popular plant produces a profusion of colorful flowers that bloom for a long time, ideal for adding reliable color and life indoors. Keep cyclamen evenly moist from September through May. Let them dry from June to August, so the tuber can rest and recover from the intense effort of the prolonged bloom cycle. Ideal light is a sunny east or west window. Cyclamen prefer a cool room (60-70 degrees). Feed them from September to May, then stop for the summer months.

African Violets

These small, robust plants are by far the most popular houseplant and among the easiest flowering houseplant that blooms all year long. Choose from a wide selection of pink, purple, magenta, white and blue options in both double and single blooms. African violets prefer bright, diffused or artificial light. Feed regularly and water from the bottom so as not to get water on the leaves, which could promote diseases and fungus. Be sure to empty any excess water so the roots do not rot.

Kalanchoe

These blooming plants’ flowers last for many weeks. Kalanchoes grow 8-12 inches tall with masses of small four-petaled leaves that are red, orange, coral, gold, yellow and purple. They have thick, waxy leaves with a succulent appearance and can withstand periods of dry soil, making them a good option for beginners or in offices that may be closed for holidays or other periods when the plants may be somewhat neglected. Water when soil feels dry to the touch and drain excess water from tray. Maintain flower color with bright, indirect sunlight daily for at least four hours.

Bonsai

If you haven’t tried it, the art of training a dwarf potted tree is a fascinating hobby. Because the soil around the bonsai plant is limited, these plants need watering almost every day, and sometimes twice a day during the hot summer. We carry a wide selection of starter plants and mature specimens from evergreen selections to tropical varieties. Some will bloom with true flowers, while others – though they don’t produce flowers – have such delicate and pleasing structures that their appearance is every bit as lovely as the most gorgeous bloom.

Not sure which blooming plant will be best for your home or office? Stop in and we’ll be happy to help you choose just the right plant to brighten your space!

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A Kitchen Herb Garden

Fresh cut herbs are a delight for any cook, and when they are within arm’s reach, fresh herbs are a delight and dream come true! During the coldest months of the year, potted herbs not only offer convenient, fresh seasonings, but also fragrance, color and flowers to truly spice up the kitchen.

Growing Tips for a Kitchen Herb Garden

Growing herbs in your kitchen isn’t much more difficult than growing them in your garden. To make the transition and bring herbs to your kitchen year-round…

  • When transplanting, use a soil-less potting mix such as Pro-Mix (remember to pre-moisten the soil mix) to ensure proper drainage in small pots.
  • Place on a window sill that gets direct morning sun until noon. If that isn’t possible, opt for another well-lit, sunny window with at least 4-6 hours of bright light.
  • Provide adequate air circulation, but avoid a direct draft or chilling breeze. Do not overcrowd plants which would limit air circulation.
  • Keep temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Bear in mind that oven and stove use will heat up the immediate area in the kitchen.
  • Soil should be allowed to dry slightly between watering. Never leave herbs in soggy or wet soil, and drain excess water to prevent rot.
  • Group pots on a tray of moist pebbles for increased humidity to keep foliage (the tastiest part of the herbs!) lush.
  • Feed with a 20-20-20 fertilizer, but adjust the feeding schedule as needed for individual plants.

Choosing Kitchen Herbs

Many different herbs are actually easy to grow inside on the sill. You might choose the herbs you use most often, or those that are featured in your favorite recipes for more flavorful results. You can even consider a specialized garden, such as a salad garden with chives, small Bibb lettuce and even pansies (colorful and edible, too!). An Italian garden might include basil, garlic chives, Italian flat parsley and oregano. Customize your kitchen herb garden to any taste!

The most popular, easiest-to-grow-indoors herbs include…

  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Catnip (for your feline friend)
  • Chives
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint (best choices include apple, wooly, Corsican, curly, orange, peppermint, pineapple, silver and spearmint)
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Bay Laurel
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Thyme
  • Winter Savory

No matter which herbs you choose, they’re sure to brighten not only your kitchen with their lovely foliage and aromatic fragrances, but they’ll add delectable depth of flavor to all your winter dishes, from soups and stews to roasts, marinades, breads, salads and even desserts. Enjoy those winter herbs, right in your kitchen!

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Bay: An Herb Worth Enjoying

A staple in most kitchens, bay (Laurus nobilis) is a familiar herb popular for flavoring soups, stews, stuffing and marinades. But how much do you know about this savory seasoning?

History of Bay

Originally from Asia Minor including Turkey and Armenia, this fragrant plant is a broadleaf evergreen also known as sweet bay, bay tree or bay laurel. Because of its popularity and multiple uses, it quickly spread around the Mediterranean and beyond. Bay, along with true laurel, was worn in Greece and Rome as wreaths on the head for protection, as well as an honor for being victorious in sports and battle. Accomplished scholars, diplomats and statesmen could also be crowned with bay wreaths. 

Unique Uses for Bay

Bay leaves have long been used in flour and grain to keep pantry moths away. Medicinally, it has been used for treating high blood sugar, migraines and bacterial and fungal infections. The oil has been used in bruise and sprain liniments and salves. These evergreen plants can be attractive in the landscape, and have been used as topiaries, hedges and even houseplants.

The leaves of bay have the flavoring properties, and may be used fresh, though dried by is most familiar and common. Fresh leaves are less flavorful and milder, but after drying the flavor strengthens. Whole leaves are most commonly used to flavor recipes, but should be removed before serving because the sharp edges of the dried leaves can cause internal cuts if ingested.

Growing Bay

Bay is easy to grow in pots on the patio or indoors. Give the plant full sun for at least half the day, or keep it indoors in a sunny window. Pick the leaves as needed. Keep the plant pruned to size as it wants to become a tree. To dry bay for future use or to strengthen its flavor, leaves can be dried in a thin layer in the oven or sprigs may be hung upside down in a cool, dark, dry area such as a closet for several weeks until they are completely dry. Dried leaves can retain their flavor for a year or longer if properly stored.

Try a New Bay Recipe

Bay is popular to flavor stews, soups, roasts, stuffing, marinades and other savory dishes, and can even be used in teas. But what about a sweet dessert using this versatile leaf? Enjoy a new dish with bay and discover even more about its unique flavor and usefulness today!

Bay & Warm Bananas with Vanilla Ice Cream (from the Food Network)

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen orange juice
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 not quite ripe bananas, peeled and into bite sized pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and cook until browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the bay leaves and turn in the liquid, then add the lemon & orange juices, brown sugar, bourbon and salt. Simmer the liquid until it has reduced by half and has reached a syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the bananas and black pepper. Stir to coat the bananas evenly. Serve still hot over ice cream.

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Caring for Orchids

Orchids can be an amazing addition to your indoor landscape, but unfortunately they have a reputation for being finicky and difficult. While they do require precise care, if you know what their needs are, you can easily grow a variety of beautiful orchids and enjoy their exotic loveliness throughout the year. To care for orchids properly…

  • Provide Good Light
    Orchids need at least 6-8 hours of bright indirect light or morning sun. Light is the key with growing orchids – without enough proper light, an orchid may live 20 years but never rebloom.
  • Increase Humidity
    Orchids are tropical and some varieties require from 65-75 percent humidity. The plant can sit on pebbles in a water-filled tray that is kept filled up as it evaporates. Grouping orchids can also improve their collective humidity.
  • Adjust Temperature
    Ideal orchid temperatures vary depending on the type of orchid and the time of year. Warm orchids require 55-65 degrees temperatures at night with daytime warmth reaching 75-85 degrees. Cool orchids need the same night time temperatures, but only 65-75 degrees during the day.
  • Water Appropriately
    Water the plant every 5-7 days in the sink, as the growing medium has fast drainage. Smaller orchids may need watered every 3-4 days. The water should be room temperature and without any additives other than fertilizer.
  • Fertilizing
    Use a Blossom Booster fertilizer with every other watering while in bloom. When not in bloom, use 30-10-10 fertilizer every two weeks.
  • Repotting
    Use only a potting mixture designed for orchids. These mixes are made up of different size fir bark pieces, perlite and even charcoal. Repot your orchid when it is nearly overgrown with roots and is not in bloom. This will average about every 2-4 years.
  • Resting Period
    After blooming or producing new growth, most orchid varieties go into a rest period. Reduce the watering slightly and maintain good lighting to allow them to reenergize.

Blooming Orchids

Each type of orchid requires different conditions to bloom (example: Phalenopsis need 6 weeks of cold nights). When you achieve that delicate balance and your orchid bursts forth with a delicate bloom, make sure you do not change your cultural practices or the plant will abort the buds. Even a small change in humidity, temperature or light can cause the plant to abort its bloom, but when you keep the conditions stable, you’ll enjoy the reward these exotic flowers offer.

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Dill, Delicious Dill

Have you enjoyed dill? An often overlooked herb, dill deserves much more attention in both the garden and the kitchen than it normally receives.

Growing Dill

This cool season plant is best when planted in very early spring or in late fall. Dill does best when planted from seed, because it doesn’t transplant well. Simply scatter seeds in a container on the patio or in the garden in early spring. Dill plants grow best in full sun. Other than this, dill will grow happily in both poor and rich soil or in damp or dry conditions, making it easy to add to any garden. One of the benefits of growing dill is that both the leaves and seeds of dill weed plants are edible.

When the daytime temperatures reach the mid to upper 60s, your dill will bolt, meaning it will put up seed shoots and go to seed. There is not much you can do to prevent this because the plant wants to set seed for the next season. Gather the ripened, dry seed for use later, or scatter the seeds immediately on the soil for another crop. Often you will get a crop in late summer that lasts through the first hard freeze, when the plant finally dies.

Dill is an annual, although the scattered seed will produce new plants the next season. Dill weed, or the leaves of the dill plant, are also easy to harvest and dry so you don’t have to go without dill in winter. Simply cut leaves and lay them on newspapers indoors, out of sunlight. In about a week the dill will be dried and you can put it in an airtight container to use later.

Dill Seasoning Tips

  • Dill seeds have a strong flavor, so use sparingly and taste often to balance the flavor to your preferences.
  • Dill leaves can be dried or frozen. Cut off leaves with scissors as needed.
  • Dill can be frozen in small plastic bags for up to 6 months. Use what you need and keep the rest frozen until later.
  • One tablespoon chopped fresh dill equals 1 teaspoon dried dill weed.
  • One half ounce fresh dill equals about one half cup of leaves.

Dill Recipes to Try

Dill can easily be used in marinades and rubs, and it can season soups, stews and even breads or crackers. If you want to extend your dill palate a bit further, try these delicious recipes!

Dill Dip (24 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 3 teaspoons dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, chopped onion, seasoning salt, dill weed and white sugar. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

Garlic Dill New Potatoes (5 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium red potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place the potatoes in a steamer basket, and set in a pan over an inch of boiling water. Cover and steam for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender but not mushy.

In a small bowl, stir together the butter, dill, garlic and salt. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl and pour the seasoned butter over them. Toss gently until they are well-coated. Serve immediately.

Once you taste dill, you’ll be curious to include it in many of your favorite recipes. Get planting and grow your own dill today!

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The Edible Garden

Who said fruits and vegetables can’t be show-offs in the ornamental beds? Mix fruits and veggies into your flower and shrub borders to add drama, texture, color and, most importantly, food!

Blueberries

Displaying white flowers tinged in pink in little tassels during late spring, blueberries will grow only in moist, peaty soil with a pH lower than 5.5. The best way to grow them is in an informal border or along a woodland setting with other acid-loving plants like rhododendrons. To ensure good pollination, two different cultivars should be planted together. Plants should be protected from birds with netting when the fruit begins to ripen. Apply cottonseed meal to the soil in spring, water regularly during dry summers and prune the plants in winter by cutting out dead or damaged branches. You can also lightly trim plants in spring to keep them compact. Blueberries are rarely attacked by insects or diseases, but will look pale and chlorotic if the soil is not acid enough.

Raspberries and Blackberries

Although not particularly ornamental, bramble berry bushes, when trained on wires, offer a nice summer screen, or they can be grown against a fence or wall. Both raspberries and blackberries require slightly acidic soil, adequate moisture and will need support. Plants will succeed in light shade, but prefer a sunny location. Mulch in early spring with manure or compost, then cut old canes down to the ground after fruiting in early to mid-summer. No more than 5-6 strong stems should grow from each plant. Protect fruit from birds and squirrels to ensure enough left to harvest.

Strawberries

In the past few years strawberry plants have become increasingly popular for their ornamental qualities. Beautiful white flowers with yellow centers become delicious, glowing red strawberries. When choosing cultivars, be sure to try both June-bearing and ever-bearing selections to extend your harvest. Alpine varieties are perfect for edging a path. Strawberries require deep, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil for the best results. Plant in early spring and replace plants every three years for the best-tasting berries and most productivity. Fertilize in spring and cut off runners as they form to keep plants fruiting well, unless you are starting new transplants. Spread salt hay around plants as fruit starts to develop to keep the berries free from soil and well ventilated. Protect from birds and watch for slugs and botrytis (moldy, grey fungus) during wet springs.

Grapes

Trained over an arbor or combined with clematis on a pergola, grapes add an elegant touch to any landscape. Plant grapes in well-drained, fertile soil where there is full sun. When growing on a trellis, limit your grapevine to a single stem or trunk. Train the leading shoot vertically and the lateral shoots horizontally. There are also various other ways to train and prune grapes, but do not let this task scare you. Grapevines are very forgiving. Birds will love the rich, aromatic fruit so you may want to protect several areas to ensure a good harvest.

Rhubarb

Offering beautifully colored stalks of pink, white or red, rhubarb can be grown in any kind of soil in a sunny spot. You can pick from this trouble-free plant from spring until early summer. Only the stems of rhubarb are edible; the leaves should be discarded. Add plenty of manure to the soil, keep damp during dry summers and remove tall stems before they produce flowers. Although decorative, larger stems tend to reduce plant vigor. Divide every five years or as needed to control plant size. Watch for tunneling insects on the leaves and treat with rotenone as needed.

Figs

Adding an air of distinction where space is limited, a fig tree can be grown in a large pot. Forgiving figs do well in poor soil, but need a sunny, protected area, which may mean a south-facing wall. These ancient trees tend to produce more fruit when their root systems are restricted. Therefore, when planting in the ground, it is a good idea to dig a hole about 3 feet wide and line with bricks. Mix plenty of bone meal in with the soil, too. Mulch fig trees in late spring with compost and water in dry weather while the fruit is growing. You can also encourage these trees to produce more fruit by pinching new shoots in spring.

With careful planning, it’s easy to mix beautiful edibles in with your landscaping beds, allowing you to do double duty with your gardening and landscaping combined and dramatically increase what you can harvest and enjoy.

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Rotating Your Vegetable Crops

Whether you just plant a few tomatoes, herbs and some lettuce or an elaborate garden complete with exotic selections of lesser known veggies, you’ll want to rotate your crops each year. All types of vegetable crops – brassicas, onions, legumes and root crops – require a slightly different blend of nutrients and trace elements, even if their light and water requirements are similar. If you always grow your tomatoes in the same place, eventually the soil will become exhausted of the nutrients that tomatoes require the most, and the crop will become weaker and less productive. Meanwhile, another vegetable could easily thrive in that location and its growth would help replenish the nutrients that tomatoes may need in future years. If you rotate crops in and out, you’ll enrich the soil and enjoy larger, more productive, more flavorful harvests.

The easiest way to rotate your vegetables is to use a 3-year plan. First, you’ll need to decide which vegetables you plan to grow, then divide them into these three main groups:

Group 1:
Peas
Beans
Celery
Onions
Lettuce
Spinach
Sweet Corn
Tomatoes
Zucchini

Group 2:
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Kohlrabi
Rutabaga
Turnip
Radishes

Group 3:
Beets
Carrots
Parsnips
Potatoes

It’s all right if you don’t plant to grow vegetables from each group. Simply adjust your rotation plan to compensate, or even consider trying out a new vegetable to complete the rotation and expand the variety of your garden.

Next, draw a plan of your garden and mark where each group of plants will go, keeping in mind the light and watering requirements of different varieties. It may help to sketch out the boundaries of each group, noting which plants are part of which rows, boxes, containers or beds. Keep those notes and sketches in your garden journal, and also take notes throughout the growing season about which plants perform best and which may be struggling. Next year, move the plants accordingly to shift where different crops are located. If you choose to add new vegetables to your garden, start them in the location with their appropriate group and bring them right into the rotation scheme.

As you rotate crops each year, you will notice consistently lush, healthy plants, bountiful harvests and delicious produce. After a few growing seasons, rotating your vegetable crops will be second nature and will be an important part of your gardening plan to ensure only the best comes from your garden.

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Attracting Birds to Your Garden

One of the benefits of a garden is the wildlife it attracts, and birds are some of the most popular garden wildlife. Most birds are voracious eaters that are glad to keep the insect population down, and may eat 500-1,000 insects in one afternoon. This makes them ideal for natural (and free!) pest control. Anything you can do to attract birds will make your garden healthier and you’ll be entertained by their feeding antics along the way.

Fortunately, it is easy to attract birds to your garden if you meet their needs for food, shelter, water and overall habitat variety.

Food

While birds will certainly eat insects and may munch on seeds, berries and fruits in the garden, consider placing a variety of bird feeders in your garden to entice even more birds to visit. Platform feeders attract ground birds, hanging feeders are for perching birds and suet holders attract insect-eating birds. Suet is especially important during the winter as this helps birds maintain their body temperature by adding fat to their diet. Hang plastic mesh bags of suet or pinecones dipped in suet (or peanut butter) from the limbs of trees.

For your other feathered guests, white millet and black oil sunflower seeds will attract the most common seed-eating birds and can be sprinkled directly on the ground or added to feeders. Add other species-specific seed like Nyjer (thistle) seed (to attract goldfinches, pine siskins and purple finches) or peanuts (to attract chickadees, jays and tufted titmice) to your buffet. Various gourmet seed mixes are also available like Lyric Supreme, Delight, Chickadee, Woodpecker and Finch Mixes, each of which is blended with specific birds in mind and includes the foods those birds like best.

Shelter and Nesting Sites

Birds feel more secure if they have shelter to protect themselves from the weather and other predators. Plant native trees and shrubs birds will easily recognize as suitable shelter. If your landscape is young and doesn’t include much shelter for birds, don’t worry. Consider building a brush pile or adding a loose woodpile to the yard and birds will happily take advantage of it.

You may also want to add nesting boxes or bird houses and other materials for birds to raise their young. This should be done in late winter or early spring just as birds are beginning to look for nesting sites. Clean houses or boxes after each nesting season.

Water

One of the most important things to include in your bird-friendly garden is water. This is especially true during the winter months. Use a bird bath heater to keep water from freezing. Ideal water sources are 2-3 inches deep and 3 feet off the ground to keep visiting birds safer from prowling predators. Moving water is a magnet for most birds and will attract them from great distances for a drink or bath. A mister, dripper or circulating pump can be added to a bird bath or other water feature during most of the year, but take care to winterize the equipment properly so it does not freeze and break during the coldest months.

Habitat Variety

Because birds live in many different habitats, the variety of plant material you can offer in your backyard will determine how many birds are attracted to your garden. Consider native plants, plants with berries, fruits, sap and nectar for year-round food sources as well as nesting materials. Plan your landscape in tiers and flowing, connected beds so birds can move around easily, and include a variety of both deciduous and evergreen plantings so birds can find the habitat useful year-round.

We carry a complete line of bird feeders, houses, seed mixes and suets as well as garden accents; all the accessories and plants you will need to start attracting birds to your backyard. Stop by today!

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Size Up Your Site: A First Step in Planning Your Landscape

Whether you plan your garden from start to finish or use a professional designer, a few simple steps can help you assess your property’s potential to develop the landscape of your dreams. By getting involved in the landscape design process, you can address practical problems, structure your outdoor living space and develop a plan that will reflect your taste and lifestyle.

Surveying Your Site

Every yard, garden and landscape site will have differing light conditions, grade changes, varying soil conditions and existing plants and structures to consider when planning changes and expansions. Using a loose-leaf binder, take notes on each of the following:

Overall:

  1. What are your favorite spots in your yard and why? What your least favorite and why?
  2. In landscapes, do you generally prefer open on enclosed spaces?
  3. What existing plants do you want to preserve, and which do you want to remove?
  4. What is the architectural style of your home? What is your decorating style?
  5. Are you planning any additions to your home that may take away yard space?
  6. Do you want special areas for children, entertaining, pets, recreation, vegetable gardening, water features or composting?
  7. What is your time frame? Do you want a short-term or long-range plan?
  8. Which building materials do you like – brick, wood, stone, pavers, etc.?
  9. Is your outdoor lighting adequate for your use?
  10. Do you need to screen an area for wind, noise or an unwanted view?
  11. What is you landscaping budget (both short- and long-term)?
  12. How will your landscape use change over time, such as when children grow up?

Specific Areas:

  1. What is the light condition of the area? How does it change seasonally?
  2. How is the soil – well-drained, poor, heavy clay, poorly drained, etc?
  3. What are the dimensions of a confined area that could affect plant size?
  4. What are your favorite plants or types of plants?
  5. Would you like a garden accent or other feature in this area (trellis, arbor, sculpture, bench, pond, etc)?
  6. What is the pH and general condition of the soil?

Once you have taken adequate notes, you’ll have a much better understanding about the overall layout of your landscaping site. This can help you plan the best options without making costly or time-consuming mistakes, such as planting the wrong tree that will outgrow a corner in a few years, or choosing building materials that won’t stand up to your climate.

More Tips for Landscape Surveying

You can never have too much information at your fingertips when you are surveying your site for landscaping changes. More techniques that can give you all the information you need include…

  • Photographing your property. Snapshots can reveal what the eye may overlook, and can be useful to show others to get their unique perspectives. Take views from your house and various areas of your property. Include photos from different times of day.
  • Measure everything and mark it on a map. You can use graph paper to create a simple sketch that will show dimensions so you can properly size your landscaping plans.
  • Make a sketch that shows what is existing (plants & structures) and where it is located. This will help you figure out what features you want to preserve, what you may want to expand and what you would rather remove and how the space will change.

Still need help? Bring your information in – we can help you choose the best plants, accents and accessories suitable to your needs, style and budget for the landscape of your dreams!

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Winter Interest in the Garden

Many gardeners think of the fourth season as a time for rest, but winter can be interesting and fun to plan for a bold, appealing landscape. While most of us plan our landscapes for bloom times in spring and summer, there are many plants offering color and texture appeal for the cold season landscape.

Winter Beauty in Your Landscape

Winter is a time of special beauty and interest. Berries sparkle on shrubs under a layer of frost and ice, while other shrubs have shades of bronze leaves that cling and rattle in winter breezes. The leafless branches of larger trees cast dramatic shadows across the freshly fallen snow. Bark hidden by the leaves of summer stands out gorgeously in the winter. Barks of silvery gray, white, green, yellow, purple or red hues add a burst of color when the landscape is covered in white. Even barks that are deeply fissured, sleek as satin, peeling in thin layers or curiously pocked by a pitted surface give interest to a wonderful winter landscape. Dried grasses stand out in bright contrast against the backdrop of dark evergreens, shaking snow off their delicate heads. There is even the surprising yellow ribbon-like blooms of witch-hazel which flower in mid-winter or the delicate lavenders and blues of tiny species of crocuses under the snow. Pansies are also a great addition for late-season winter color in your flowerbeds. Everywhere you look, there can be beauty in the winter landscape.

Top Plants for Winter Interest

Many different plants offer interesting features that reach their full potential in the winter landscape. Popular options include…

  • Paperbark Maple (Acer grisium)
  • Threadleaf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum dissectum)
  • Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifalia)
  • Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata)
  • Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca’)
  • Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’)
  • Winter Dephne (Daphne odora)
  • Common Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Christmas Rose (Heleboris niger)
  • Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis)
  • Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) Need female and male plant for berries
  • Christmas fern (Polystichun acrostichoides)
  • Common Camellia (Camellia japonica)
  • Heathers/Heaths

Not sure which plants will offer the beauty you want to see all winter long? Our experts are always happy to help you plan the best landscape design for all four seasons, so come in and share your ideas today and we’ll help you be prepared for an amazing winter landscape.

Don’t Miss Out on Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’

Are you trying to add drama and beauty to your shady spots but keep finding only bland, lackluster plants? You won’t want to overlook Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ with its stunning appearance and easy care.

Introducing Brunnera macrophylla

Also called Brunnera-Heartleaf and Siberian bugloss, this plant is a stunner for its delicate foliage. The broad, heart-shaped leaves of ‘Jack Frost’ are dark green with a heavily frosted metallic silver overlay. This allows only the green veining to peep through, giving the plant a crackle-like finish with a thin green border. Sprays of tiny bright blue forget-me-not like flowers burst forth in mid- to late spring, growing well above the foliage on delicate stems.

Using Jack Frost in the Landscape

Excellent in a woodland garden, the genus Brunnera is a group of classic perennials valued as a shade tolerant ground cover. The variegated forms are slower to spread than most other species, making this cultivar ideal for smaller spaces where crowding may be a concern, such as around younger trees, in smaller beds or in borders along a shady fence, deck or pathway. This plant is fabulous as a specimen plant or may be massed to show off its phenomenal floral display. ‘Jack Frost’ would also make a wonderful addition to a shady container garden on a deep porch or covered deck. The flowers are long lasting when cut and can be lovely, delicate additions to arrangements. Because this plant is resistant to deer and rabbits, it can also be a favorite in wildlife-friendly areas.

Proper Care is Key

Brunnera is a woodland plant, and that must be kept in mind if it will be able to show off its full potential in your landscape. ‘Jack Frost’ should be grown in full shade and consistently moist soil in southern regions to mimic the thicket-like conditions it naturally favors. In the north, morning sun is acceptable as long as the soil remains moist and the temperatures in the sun do not rise too high. Although tolerant of many soil types, this plant will grow best rich soil. If needed, amend soil with lush compost to improve its condition and provide proper nourishment. Little care is needed once Brunnera is established. Cut back the old foliage in the spring rather than in the fall; it will help to protect the crown during the winter. A winter mulch is also recommended to help keep the soil moist and warmer to protect the roots.

Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ may not be widely known, but once you meet it, you’ll want to invite it to every shady part of your landscape!

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A Buffet of Berries for Winter Birds

Plants with berries add winter interest to the garden and also attract many different types of birds. But which berries are best for your yard, and how can you ensure a bountiful buffet for your feathered friends to enjoy?

Caring for Berries

No matter which berries you choose to add to your landscape, opt for varieties native to your region. When berries are native, they are more readily adapted to the local climate changes, including the temperature extremes of winter. Furthermore, regional birds will recognize the berries more easily and will enjoy them as a safe and familiar food source.

Plant berry bushes as early as possible so the plants have plenty of time to become established in your landscape and bear copious amounts of fruit for the winter. Water them well throughout the summer and fall to encourage a good crop of plump, rich berries. Avoid pruning the bushes in autumn, and instead leave the branches intact, complete with their tasty treats. Not only will winter wildlife enjoy the feast, but the extra shelter from unpruned bushes will also be appreciated.

Best Winter Berries

There are many different types of berries that can attract winter birds, but two standouts are top picks for winter interest, not only for the birds but for their beauty in the garden.

  • Hollies
    Offering long-lasting bird forage, this group of plants provides great cover and nesting sites as well as edible berries in shades of red, orange and yellow. And, because the berries ripen at different rates even on the same bush, hollies provide food for several months. Winterberry and American holly are easily pruned as shrubs or small trees and are almost always within pollinating range because they are natives. Birds that seek holly berries include robins, blue jays, eastern bluebirds, red-bellied woodpeckers and more, including grouse and quail. The sharp-edged foliage is also a deterrent to predators, and cut branches can be stunning holiday decorations if desired.
  • Pyracantha
    This easy to grow plant has a huge feathered following. In addition to different thrushes, bluebirds, woodpeckers, grouse and quail, pyracantha, or firethorn, also attracts cardinals and purple finches. The dense clusters of orange, yellow and red berries look like a blaze of fire in the winter landscape, and the thorny branches provide superior protection from predators as well as shelter from winter storms.

Winter birds will love the berries they can find in your yard, and you will love the visual interest and seasonal color these beneficial plants provide.

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Design a Raised Landscape That Works

Raised beds have been around for years, but have become increasingly popular recently because they make the landscape orderly, organized and easy to maintain. You can readily reach over and pull weeds as they appear, plant more comfortably and enjoy the new tiered depth and dimension of your lawn and garden. Raised beds are also particularly helpful if you are working with heavy soils that drain poorly, or if you have mobility limits that make getting down to ground level more difficult.

If you’re just getting started with raised beds, it’s easy to successfully bring your gardening to a higher level:

  1. Define the bed lines with a rope or hose. Consider the overall bed size, as well as the size and shape of your building material. You may want to position the bed along a fence or in a corner for more dimension and support.
  2. Dig a 4-6” deep edge along the perimeter. Don’t worry if this line isn’t as neat as you would like, because it will be more refined once you construct the bed frame.
  3. Remove existing sod/grass from the bed. You can compost the removed material, or use it to patch other spots in your lawn or turf as needed.
  4. Place concrete blocks, wall stone or other edging along this new bed line to build your bed frame. Wooden railroad ties or planks can also be used, but be aware that they may warp or decay in time. In general, stone or other sturdy materials are preferred.
  5. Build up your flower bed approximately 6-8” with top soil, mixing in peat moss for better drainage and compost, leaf mulch, cow manure or similar organic material to adequately nourish the soil.
  6. Compact your soil mixture as you build up each layer. This will help keep the bed from settling excessively as you plant and water.
  7. Increase the visual impact of your flower bed or gardening area by planting at different levels. Arrange shorter, lower growing plants in front, followed by medium and then tall plants in the back. You might consider some “spiller” plants along the sides and front if desired. Choose plants carefully to match the size of the bed, avoiding plants that will quickly outgrow the smaller, more confined space.
  8. Apply a 2-3” layer of mulch or stone and thoroughly soak your new landscape feature. Sprinkle Miracle Gro Weed Preventer or a similar product over the area to provide an invisible layer of protection against germinating weeds.

Before you know it, your new raised bed will be thriving and will quickly become the centerpiece of your landscaping. Then it’s time to construct another!

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Feeding Birds in Winter

Winter is a crucial time for birds. As temperatures drop, there are no insects to eat and the natural seeds are covered with snow, and as the season lengthens, the berries and crab apples are long gone. Birds need enough food to maintain their body temperatures and must search for food from sun up to dusk. If you provide nutritious options at feeders, birds will flock to your yard all winter long.

Best Foods for Winter Birds

Fatty, high-calorie foods are important for winter birds. Fat is metabolized into energy much quicker and more efficiently than seeds to help them maintain their high body temperature necessary for survival.

A number of backyard foods are excellent sources of quick energy and protein to nourish winter birds, including…

  • Suet
    Suet cakes provide an excellent energy source for birds and are often mixed with seeds, berries, fruit and peanut butter to appeal to a wider range of species. These fatty cakes are easy to add to cage or mesh feeders, or suet balls, plugs, shreds and nuggets are also available.
  • Peanut Butter
    Peanut Butter is also very popular with a large number of birds. To reduce the cost of feeding peanut butter, you can melt it down and mix it with suet or mix in cornmeal so it is not quite so sticky. Smear peanut butter on pine cones and hang them for fast, easy feeders.
  • Seeds
    When native seeds may all be eaten or hidden under snow, seeds at feeders are very important. Seeds contain high levels of carbohydrates that are turned into glucose to help with the bird’s high energy demands. They also are a good source for vitamins and some protein. Make sure the seed you purchase does not have a lot of fillers (milo and wheat seeds) that are not eaten. Mixes with sunflower seeds and millet are preferred.
  • Sunflower Seeds
    If you want to offer just one seed to birds, you can’t beat sunflower seed. Black oil sunflower seeds have a softer shell than the striped seeds and can be eaten by sparrows and juncos, as well as cardinals, finches, jays and many other birds. These seeds have a number of advantages: they are not overly expensive, they appeal to a wider variety of species and they contain a larger amount of vegetable oil to help supply the energy birds need to maintain their body heat in the winter. They are also a good source of protein.
  • Cracked Corn
    Cracked Corn is a good, inexpensive food that appeals to a large number of birds, including doves, sparrows, juncos, quail and cardinals, as well as starlings and grackles. Sprinkle the corn liberally right on the ground for larger ground-feeding birds to enjoy.
  • Nyjer
    Nyjer (thistle) seeds are small, oil-rich black seeds typically offered in tube feeders or fine mesh feeders small birds can cling to as they feed. These seeds are tiny but they pack a huge punch for oil and calories, ideal for winter feeding. Nyjer is a favorite of goldfinches, pine siskins and redpolls.
  • Nuts
    Nut meats are highly nutritious and provide necessary amino acids and protein a bird’s body cannot produce. They also have oil and are high in energy. Peanuts are the most popular nuts to offer to backyard birds, but walnuts are also a good option. Avoid using any nuts that are salted or seasoned, however, as they are not healthy for birds.

Other Winter Feeding Tips

Just providing food for winter birds isn’t enough to help your feathered friends stay well-nourished during the coldest months of the year. For the best feeding…

  • Position feeders 5-10 feet away from bushes and shrubs that may conceal hungry predators.
  • Use broad baffles to keep squirrels off feeders and to shelter the feeders from snow and freezing rain.
  • Refill feeders frequently so birds do not need to search for a more reliable food source, especially right before and after storms.
  • Use multiple feeders so you can offer a wider variety of different foods and more aggressive birds cannot monopolize the feeder.
  • Provide water in a heated bird bath so thirsty birds do not have to use critical energy to melt ice and snow to drink.

Feeding birds in the backyard can be a wonderful winter activity, and if you offer the best, calorie-rich foods birds need, you’ll be amazed at home many birds come visit the buffet.

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Bird Feeding 101: Low Maintenance Suet Feeding

Suet is a high-energy brick of animal fat and other ingredients to attract insect-eating birds. Because it is high in fat and calories, it is a quick source of heat and energy for birds and has been used as a good substitute for the insects that birds usually feed upon, but are not plentiful in cold weather. Suet can be offered all year long but is especially important in winter. Why not offer suet to your backyard birds today?

Easy Suet Feeders

Providing suet in a wire basket or mesh bag is an easy, low-maintenance option. Depending on the numbers of birds feeding in your yard, you may only need to add a new cake or ball to the basket or bag once or twice a week. Birds will cling all over the feeder to access the suet, so even as the cake is nibbled away they can still reach the treat. While suet may be most popular in winter, you can leave it in your yard year round and birds will always visit, so there is no need to swap out the feeder or store it during different seasons. Another popular option is a suet log – a simple length of wood with 2″ holes that will fit suet plugs. Birds happily cling to the wood as they feed, as it mimics their natural feeding habitat. For the safest feeding, position any suet feeder 5-6 feet off the ground and near a tree trunk, shrubs or brush for birds to retreat easily if they feel threatened.

It is important to note that squirrels may love suet just as much as birds. Using wide baffles above and below the suet feeder can help keep squirrels away from the food and give birds a better chance to feed without interference. Choosing suet blended with hot pepper can also discourage squirrels, but birds have very limited taste buds and don’t mind the heat.

Birds That Love Suet

Presenting suet in your backyard will also attract a greater variety of birds for your enjoyment. The different birds that enjoy suet include…

  • Bluebirds
  • Bushtits
  • Cardinals
  • Chickadees
  • Jays
  • Kinglets
  • Mockingbirds
  • Nuthatches
  • Starlings
  • Titmice
  • Thrashers
  • Woodpeckers
  • Wrens

As more birds discover your suet feeder, your flock will grow and you may find you need to add a second, third or even fourth feeder to sate all those feathered appetites!

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Insect Control Begins Now

It’s hard to think of insects in winter, but don’t forget the havoc these tiny creatures can bring to your garden – defoliating leaves, contaminating produce, even destroying complete plants. Before these pests begin to be a problem is the perfect time to take steps to control them.

Why Winter Control?

Late winter is the right time to control insects for two reasons. First, the insects and their eggs are just coming out of dormancy. The shells and protective coverings are softer and more porous in late winter, and so are more vulnerable to the effects of oils and sprays. Second, the oil-water mixture should not freeze on the tree or plants, which could damage the plant and make the spray far less effective. When you spray, the temperature should be above 40 degrees. Delay spraying if freezing night temperatures are predicted. Choose a calm day for spraying to be sure stray breezes and cross winds do not spread the spray to plants you don’t want covered.

Insects to Control

In late winter, before any leaf buds begin to open, spray Bonide All-Season Oil or Dormant Oil Spray on fruit trees or other ornamental trees or shrubs to suffocate over-wintering aphids, thrips, mealybugs, whitefly, pear psylla, scale and spider mites that cling to the bark. The treatment will also destroy the eggs of codling moths, Oriental fruit moths and assorted leaf rollers and cankerworms. Don’t wait until the buds have burst in early spring, as the coating of oil will also smother the emerging plant tissue.

Tree Spraying Tips

While small shrubs can be easy to treat, larger trees are more challenging to be sure you don’t leave any area untreated where insects can thrive. Spray the whole tree at one time, concentrating on the trunk, large branches and crotches, rather than spraying down a whole row of trees at one pass. If you’ve experienced extremely bad infestations of insects, you might treat your trees a second time. But be sure to spray before the buds are near the bursting point. Dormant oil can also be used after the leaves have dropped in the fall. Never spray when any foliage or fruit is on the trees or you risk unwanted pesticide contamination.

After you spray, be sure to store any remaining oil properly and out of reach of children and pets. Containers should be labeled clearly and kept in cool, dark spaces to preserve their usefulness. Avoid reusing any sprayers to minimize the risk of cross contamination or inadvertent use.

Spraying for insects in winter may not be the most glamorous job, but you’ll appreciate the improvement in your trees through the spring and summer when you’ve nipped your insect problems in the bud.

 

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Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants

The key to successful gardening is healthy soil. This basic principle of organic gardening applies to all plants, whether it is anchor trees in your landscape, flowers adoring a bed or a garden full of vegetables. Quite simply, when you feed the soil the proper nutrients, you let the soil feed the plants. But how do you feed your soil? First, you need to understand some basic principles about soil and why it is so important, then you can take steps to improve it.

Soil Texture

To start, you should determine the soil texture by moistening the soil and rubbing it between your thumb and fingers to determine its feel. Sands are gritty and will barely hold together, clay can be squeezed into a firm, dense shape and silt will act in a way to allow particles to cling together. Sandy soils tend to dry out quickly because they contain high amounts of soil air. Clay soils, on the other hand have a tendency to pack together, shutting out air and water and minimizing evaporation. The best garden soil, loam, has moderate amounts of sand, silt and clay that balance together to provide good amounts of water and air.

If your soil is mostly clay, you will need to add sand or other aerating materials to help loosen the soil. For sandy soils, humus should be added to help retain moisture and nutrients.

Soil Structure

Next, you must evaluate the soil structure. Soil structure is affected by soil pH, the amount of humus and the combination of minerals in the soil. Ideal soils allow particles to clump together with air spaces between them for water drainage as well as oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide release from plant roots. The best way to improve soil structure is to add high amounts of organic matter like humus, dehydrated manure, composted manure, mushroom compost, alfalfa meal, peat moss or worm castings. These materials should be mixed in with your soil and allowed to decay further, both for seasonal maintenance and whenever you are planting new items in your garden or landscape.

Soil Nutrition

A soil sample is needed to measure the pH and amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the soil as well as other nutrients. This will help determine exactly what the soil needs to provide the best nutrition to your plants. Our staff will help you read the results and determine what to add to your soil and how much. Generally, a pH of 6.0-7.0 is acceptable for most plants and landscaping. If your pH is lower than this, your soil is too acidic and requires lime to be added. If your soil is low in organic matter, it will often have a higher pH level. All plants require a proper balance of nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Soils lacking any one of these elements will not produce healthy plants.

When dealing with poor or improperly balanced soils, obtaining healthy, ideal soil may take 2-5 years of dedicated work. The best thing you can do to supplement your soil program in the meantime is to use various organic fertilizers to meet your plants’ needs and regularly add organic matter. This will continue to help improve the soil structure as well as create biological activity that is also a vital part to developing productive soil.

Want to know what to add to your soil to nourish your landscape? This handy chart can help!

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Family Gardening: Attracting Wildlife to the Garden

Attracting wildlife to the home garden is an enjoyable and creative way to teach children about nature, evoke their respect for the environment and provide meaningful family together time. Many things that are good for wildlife are equally good for a wholesome, thoughtful garden – win-win!

 Covering the Basics

 All wildlife – butterflies, birds, squirrels, snakes, deer, etc. – requires three things for survival: food, water and cover. When you meet these basic needs in the garden, you can expect a variety of visitors.

  • Food
    Native trees, shrubs, vines and wildflowers provide the foliage, nectar, pollen, berries, seeds and nuts that wildlife requires to survive and thrive. As an added advantage, natives are well adapted to their particular geographic area and therefore are more disease and pest-resistant and generally require little extra fertilization, supplemental watering or other maintenance.

    There will be times when natural food sources are not readily available, especially in late winter when many stores of food are exhausted or early spring before natural supplies are replenished. This is when it is most important to provide supplemental sources of food using bird, squirrel and butterfly feeders to add to the native food sources for resident and migrating wildlife.

  • Water
    All wildlife requires a source of clean water for drinking and bathing. Many of us do not have a natural water source on our properties but this situation is easily remedied by adding a garden bird bath or water dish. With larger landscapes, adding a pond, fountain or pondless waterfall is an ambitious and rewarding project that will greatly enhance your efforts to increase the wildlife population. If space and your budget permits, you might even consider a tiered stream or other extensive feature.
  • Cover
    Wildlife requires a place to hide from predators, shelter in inclement weather and a secluded place to birth their young. Trees, both dead and alive, are perfect for hiding, nesting and perching. Leafy and thorny shrubs also provide wildlife protection and a suitable hiding place. Tiers of plants are most desirable, and thicker, denser plantings such as thickets or groves will be very attractive. Even if you have plenty of vegetation already, the addition of bird and bat houses will increase areas of wildlife safety in your landscape.

Native Plants to Benefit Wildlife

All types of plants, from trees to vines to shrubs to flowers, can provide food, water and cover to wildlife, but some plants are more useful than others. These handy lists can help you choose the best options for your landscape and the type of help you want to give backyard birds, butterflies, squirrels, deer and other visitors.

Note: “Seed” denotes abundant seeds that are attractive and nourishing for wildlife; “Nectar” denotes blooms butterflies and hummingbirds will sip from; “Fruit” denotes berries or other small fruits to feed wildlife; “Host” denotes a nourishing host plant for butterfly larvae.

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Still not sure about the best plants for your backyard wildlife? Come on in and we’ll help you select just the plants you need for the wildlife you want to welcome to your yard!

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Japanese Pieris

Looking for an easy-care spring-blooming shrub that supplies year-round beauty? Take a look at Japanese Pieris this season – you won’t be disappointed!

About Japanese Pieris

Pieris japonica is an upright evergreen shrub with spreading branches. It has the potential to grow 6-8 feet high and 4-6 feet wide. This is an easy to care for four-season plant that can be a stunner in the yard throughout the year. Except when they emerge in early spring with a bronzy hue, the leaves of the Pieris are lance-shaped and glossy deep-green throughout the year. The flowers appear in April and last well into May. The urn-shaped blooms, like those of lily-of-the-valley, hang in heavy, drooping, pendulous clusters that are 3-6 inches long. The fruit is ornamental and will persist through the winter, but it is best to remove the fruit so that the plant will put its energy into developing next year’s flowers.

Growing Tips

Not as fussy as other ericaceous plants like heath and heather, Pieris prefers a moist, well-drained, acidic soil with a pH in the range of 5.0-6.0. When planting, amend soil with plenty of peat moss; this will aid in drainage and help make the soil more acidic. Organic matter like compost should be added to compacted soil to increase drainage and should also be added to sandy soil to enhance water retaining capability. Sulfur may be added to the soil to lower the pH if it is too high. After planting, mulch the soil around the base of the plant with two inches of bark mulch, making sure to keep it from touching the trunk of the shrub. Pine bark mulch is a good choice when mulching Pieris because it will acidify the soil as it decomposes.

Pieris likes a semi-shady location and will flower best in areas where it receives some sun during the day. Protect all broadleaf evergreens from the prevailing winter winds. If this is not possible, spray them in the winter with Wilt-Pruf, an anti-desiccant, to prevent winter burn. Pieris must be watered frequently during the first year after planting to encourage root growth. The addition of a root stimulator at planting time will encourage the plant to quickly create deep, strong roots. After becoming established, Pieris is relatively drought tolerant but does, of course, grow best with consistent adequate moisture and regular fertilization.

Pruning Pieris is usually not required. When purchasing, know the ultimate size of the cultivar you desire so that you may choose a suitable location in your landscape where the plant may grow to its full potential. If pruning is necessary, prune immediately after flowering so as not to interfere with the formation of next season’s buds.

Pieris in the Landscape

Pieris mixes well with shade-loving plants that require acidic soils such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Highly diversified in its design use, Pieris works well in a Japanese garden, woodland setting, shrub border, foundation or even a mass planting. The smaller varieties look great in containers and rock gardens. Pieris is deer-resistant as well, making it a great border or screen for other plants.

Cultivars

We have a great collection of Pieris cultivars to satisfy the novice as well as the discriminating connoisseur. Consider the following varieties, or come in to see the latest Pieris types and let us help you choose the best one for your landscape.

  • ‘Brookside’ – New growth is chartreuse. It has upright white flowers and a dwarf habit, maturing at only 1-2 feet tall.
  • ‘Brower’s Beauty’ – Compact form, 4 feet wide by 6 feet high. This is a heavy bloomer with large trusses of white flowers in spring.
  • ‘Cavatine’ – This is a low growing, compact mounding cultivar with white flowers that are held upright on the plant. This cultivar blooms slightly later than others.
  • ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ – Compact form, 4 feet wide by 6 feet high. Dorothy has dark red buds opening to pale pink flowers.
  • ‘Flaming Silver’ – Leaves emerge a brilliant red, turning green with a pink margin and finally becoming green with a silver-white edge. This cultivar matures at 6 feet wide by 6 feet high.
  • ‘Forest Flame’ – Light pink leaves mixed among brilliant red appear after the plant has finished blooming in spring. Flowers are white. This Pieris grows 8-10 feet tall.
  • ‘Mountain Fire’ – With its vivid fiery-red new growth, clean white flowers and a compact uniform growth habit, this Pieris has become increasingly popular in the last few years. ‘Mountain Fire’ matures at 4 feet high by 4 feet wide.
  • ‘Prelude’ – This cultivar would make a wonderful addition to any rock garden. It is a dense mounding, low growing plant with red new growth that blooms slightly later than most other Pieris.
  • ‘Valley Fire’ – The young growth on this vigorous grower is a brilliant red. This cultivar has white flowers that are larger than most other Pieris.
  • ‘Valley Valentine’ – This Pieris has deep maroon flower buds on pendulous flower stems that open into deep rose-pink, long-lasting flower chains. It is a slow-growing cultivar with a compact mounding habit maturing at about 5 feet tall by 6 feet wide.
  • ‘Variegata’ – Attractive leaves are green with white margins. Flowers gracefully droop in white clusters. This Pieris grows to 5 feet tall in the garden or landscape.

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Flirting with Spring

In January and February, winter flirts with spring. Despite snow on the ground, there will be occasional warm days, balmy breezes and stunning blue skies that remind us of the rich colors of spring. On these flirtatious days, quince, forsythia and pussy willow begin to emerge from dormancy. With this slight swelling of buds, it is time to cut a few branches to bring spring indoors, so even when winter reappears with the next freeze or storm, we’re reminded of the warmer times to come.

Forcing Branches

Just like forcing bulbs, forcing branches will bring their buds into full beauty even if the outside weather isn’t quite right yet. To force branches, select plants that have set their buds in the fall or early winter. Look for branches with plump flower buds, and cut branches that you would have normally pruned in order to preserve the shape and health of the plant.

Next, scrape about 2 inches of the bark from the pruned end of the branch and make a 3-5 inch cut up the branch (lengthwise from the pruned end) to allow water to be absorbed. You can also split the end by carefully hammering it, but avoid crushing the tissues. Fill a tall container or vase with room-temperature water and floral preserver, then place the cut branches in it. Place the arrangement in a dimly lit room for 2-3 days, then move into a brighter area (but no direct sunlight). Change the water and cut 1 inch off the bottom of the stem each week. Mist the branches daily. Although they may take up to 3 weeks to bloom, the delightful bursts of color will be a celebrated reward for your time and efforts.

Flowering Branches for Forcing

Depending on when you want your buds to bloom, there are a variety of great branches you can work to force into brilliance even when spring is weeks away.

Early bloomers…

  • Witch Hazel
  • Cornelian Cherry
  • Forsythia
  • Pussy Willow
  • Azalea
  • Flowering Quince

For Later Blooms…

  • Magnolia
  • Apple
  • Crab Apple
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Hawthorn
  • Red Bud
  • Mockorange

 Decorating With Forced Branches

There are many different ways you can add a little spring glory to your interior décor with forced branches. Consider…

  • Using blooming branches in lieu of any flowers in vases.
  • Putting shorter branches in bud vases on a windowsill.
  • Adding branches to candle centerpieces or other arrangements.
  • Twining thinner branches around a wreath form.
  • Using the tallest branches in a tall, thin floor vase.

Spring will be here before you know it, and you can speed it along when you force branches to enjoy their blooms a few weeks early!

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Growing Plants Under Artificial Lights

When growing plants indoors it is often difficult to provide the proper amount of light required to maintain a happy and healthy specimen. With the onset of winter, the days are shorter and the nights are longer limiting the amount of available natural sunlight even further. The intensity of the sun is also diminished at this time of year. The addition of artificial lighting to replace or supplement natural sunlight is important for growing healthy, attractive houseplants and necessary to keep flowering plants in bloom during the winter months.

 Light Color and Plant Growth

In order for a plant to grow properly the light it receives must mimic natural sunlight. Sunlight contains all the colors of the spectrum and all are necessary for the process of photosynthesis. Red and blue are two of the most important colors vital to plant growth. Red stimulates vegetative growth and flowering, however, too much red will create a leggy, stretched plant. Blue regulates plant growth for a fuller, stockier plant. For the best results, choose a full-spectrum fluorescent gro-bulb. This is the best lighting choice for optimum houseplant health and vitality.

 Light Intensity

Different types of plants require different light intensities. Some plants thrive in low light, others require bright light. With artificial lighting the intensity of light is determined by the bulb wattage and how close the plant is to the light source. Knowing the light requirements of your plants will benefit you greatly when determining where to place a light and which plants to group together under the fixture. As a general rule of thumb, plants that are grown for fruit and flower usually require more light than those grown strictly for their foliage. Plants under artificial light should be rotated weekly, as light from tube style bulbs is more intense in the center of the bulb than at the ends. Using white trays, mirrors or trays lined with foil will help reflect light to increase the amount of light available to your plants.

 Duration of Light

Most houseplants do well with 12-16 hours of artificial fluorescent light each day. Too little light will result in elongated, spindly growth and too much light will cause a plant to wilt, color to fade, soil to become excessively dry and foliage to burn. Plants also require a rest period each day. Providing your plants with an 8-12 hour period of darkness a day will moderate plant growth rate and provide the rest necessary for setting flower buds. For example, the Christmas cactus needs 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness a day, for six weeks, in order to set flower buds. Without this required time of rest time the Christmas cactus will not flower. The use of an automatic timer is helpful in regulating the amount of time your houseplants are exposed to light and darkness.

Fixtures

When choosing a plant light fixture, the most important feature is that the fixture be adjustable. You should be able to adjust the fixture up and down to account for the growth height and varied light intensity requirements of a variety of plants. If the fixture is not adjustable you will limit the type of plants that you can grow and how much you can use the fixture. Simple shop lights and tabletop light fixtures are both adjustable and good choices for lighting houseplants. Another consideration is the size of the fixture. Size choice is based on the number of plants that you plan to grow under the light. Lighted plant carts provide multi levels of lighted shelves on which to grow plants. Carts are on wheels that make them easy to relocate, while tabletop fixtures are lightweight and easily transported to other locations when necessary.

It may seem intimidating to get started with artificial light sources, but you will be amazed at the difference it will make to all your indoor plants, houseplants and seedlings alike.

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Orchids: Exotic Beauties To Warm The Winter

Orchids are some of the most exotic plants on earth. They display an amazing range of diversity in the size, shape and color of their unique flowers. There is a misconception, however, that these floral treasures are difficult to grow, when in fact more and more gardeners are growing and collecting orchids each year. Provide the essentials of good care and you too can grow orchids easily!

Growing Orchids

Orchids have some unique needs when it comes to proper care. Because they can be temperamental at times, it is best to carefully investigate the types of orchids you are interested in growing and be sure you can meet their individual needs.

  • Light: Most orchids prefer abundant, filtered sunlight. This can be met with west- or south-facing windows, or you may need some supplemental light sources. A few popular orchid varieties can grow in lower light levels.
  • Temperature: Like any plants, orchids can do well in a temperature range, though some prefer warmer locations and some prefer cooler locations. Measure the temperature range where you want to grow orchids and select varieties that will do well in that range.
  • Humidity: Orchids are tropical plants that do well in more humid environments. They can do well in terrariums or greenhouses where the humidity can be elevated, or you can take steps to increase the humidity around the orchids in your home, such as through plant grouping, pebble trays or misting.
  • Watering: Orchids tend to do best if they dry out somewhat between thorough waterings. Plant your orchids in an appropriate medium, and take great care with watering so they can absorb sufficient moisture without fostering root rot or other mildew.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilizers are not critical for blooming orchids, but they can help provide better nourishment. Fertilizing lightly is better than over-fertilizing, and fertilizer should only be applied during active growth periods.

The exact care your orchids will need will depend on the varieties you choose. Research their optimal environments and you’ll be well prepared to host an array of stunning orchids in your home.

Common Orchid Varieties and Care

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The Benefits of Plants in the Workplace

Time spent in nature is well known to provide many physical, mental and emotional benefits, but what if your work schedule and career keep you in an office without many opportunities for heading outdoors? You can bring the outdoors in and reap many of the same benefits.

Plants Can Improve Your Workplace

There has been extensive research done regarding the benefits of plants in the workplace. With full time employees spending approximately one-quarter of their lives at work it is important that these buildings provide an environment of beauty, health and comfort. Studies confirm that there are both physiological and psychological benefits to surrounding yourself with nature at work. An eight-month study conducted by a Texas A&M University research team has concluded that plants significantly reduce workplace stress and enhance employee productivity, a win-win situation for both employer and employee. Other studies have verified those findings, as well as expanded the list of benefits plants can provide when used judiciously as part of an indoor workplace.

The presence of plants in the workplace can…

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Increase humidity
  • Reduce illness
  • Purify air
  • Reduce dust
  • Lower energy costs
  • Quicken employee response time
  • Enhance problem solving ability
  • Spark creativity
  • Increase brain activity
  • Provide a positive outlook
  • Act as a mood elevator
  • Have a calming affect
  • Boost learning
  • Contribute to noise reduction
  • Improve office appearance
  • Reduce distractions

With so many obvious benefits just by including plants in office décor, every office – whether it is a large corporation, a simple business or a cozy home office – should include at least a few plants.

Bringing Plants to Work

There are many easy ways to blend plants into office décor. Popular ways to integrate plants into the office include…

  • Larger potted plants or containers in a greeting or reception area.
  • Ferns or hanging pots in broad windows.
  • A ficus tree or other large pot near a water cooler.
  • Pothos or other trailing plants on top of cabinets in a break area.
  • Small plants and flowers on individual desks.
  • Decorating for holidays with seasonal plants.
  • Giving office plants as gifts for work anniversaries, welcomes, etc.

When choosing plants for the office, be sure to opt for plants that will function best in the environment. Take into consideration temperatures, light levels and humidity so the plants will thrive. Selecting low-maintenance plants that can withstand good-natured neglect is also wise, so they will still thrive even when project deadlines, committee meetings and vacation days may make their care sporadic. Fortunately, there are many great plants that can liven up an office, and each one will bring great benefits to the workplace.

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Pruning Fundamentals

Pruning is essential to keep your trees and shrubs in good shape, but it can be intimidating if you’ve never pruned before. Once you learn the fundamentals, however, you’ll realize it isn’t as hard as it may seem.

Tree Pruning

The first thing to look for when pruning a tree is broken, diseased or dead branches, all of which should be removed to preserve the overall health of the tree. The next thing to be concerned with are suckers and water sprouts. Suckers can be either bottom suckers coming from the root system or growths originating from the trunk. In either case, they reduce water and nutrient flow to the main portion of the tree and should be removed. Another problem growth is called a water sprout, which is very noticeable because it grows straight up from a branch. Water sprouts also rob water and nutrients from the tree.

After all of these problems have been corrected, a second look at the tree should let you know what other limbs should be removed. Removing large limbs is perhaps the most difficult part of tree pruning. It requires two cuts in which one cut removes the weight of the limb and prevents tearing of the bark. The second cut is made closer to the trunk and removes the remaining stub, but should be no closer than the branch collar. Smaller limbs may also be removed to help preserve the desired shape and size of the tree if needed.

Pruning Deciduous Shrubs

Many deciduous shrubs can really benefit from annual pruning. Pruning not only controls the size of these shrubs, but it can also increase flower production and encourage colorful bark.

Let’s begin with a few of the more common shrubs, such as lilac, forsythia and weigela. These shrubs are most commonly known for their flowers, so we should prune them accordingly. By removing a portion of their oldest stems entirely we can encourage younger growth, which will give us more flowers. Plants such as red and yellow twig dogwood have colorful stems which can be enhanced by removing the older gray stems. Another group of plants that benefit from pruning are the spireas and potentillas. These plants are treated a little differently in that they are cut down to about 4 or 6 inches in the fall or early spring. By pruning them this way, we increase their flowering and yet remove all of their twigginess that would look unsightly throughout the winter and early spring.

There are many other trees and shrubs that require more detailed pruning recommendations and careful guidelines. Please email us your questions or stop by the store, we always have people available to answer your questions whether they involve specific plant recommendations or which pruner is the right one for you and the pruning job you need to do.

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Dormant Pruning With the Proper Tools

Late winter pruning is often recommended for many trees and shrubs. Pruning the plants while they are dormant is less stressful for the plant and it’s also easier to view the structure of deciduous trees and shrubs without leaves to ensure the pruning helps create the desired shape. It’s also a time of the year when late winter sunshine makes us all long to be in our gardens and pruning is an excellent job to get us out there.

Pruning Tools

To get out and get pruning, you will need the proper tools. There are several types of pruners that should be in every serious gardener’s tool shed.

  • Hand Pruners
    The simplest tool, but the hardest to choose, is the hand pruner. There are two distinct styles of hand pruners: the anvil type and the bypass. The anvil pruner is good for pruning deadwood or undesirable growth. For more valuable specimens anvil pruners tend to smash the wood during cutting, leaving the wound open to insects and disease. Bypass pruners are like a pair of scissors and give you an easier, cleaner healthier cut. Different hand pruners are available in different sizes and grip styles, including options for both right-handed and left-handed gardeners. To get the best results, it is important to choose a hand pruner that feels comfortable but still provides adequate strength for the job.
  • Lopping Shears
    Another tool that comes in handy is the lopping shear. They are used for making larger cuts up to 1-1/2″ in diameter, and have longer handles to provide more power without stress or strain. The longer handles also provide a better reach than hand pruners. They are also excellent for clearing away undesirable growth in your yard, including trimming hedges.
  • Pole Pruners
    The last tool you’ll need is a pole pruner. It is a combination lopping shear and pruning saw. The pole pruner extends out to twelve feet and can be used for making small cosmetic cuts or larger limb removals without needing to set up a ladder. Pole pruners are also useful in dense canopies when using a ladder would not be practical or suitable.

To learn more about pruning specific trees or shrubs and to choose the appropriate tools for the job, please stop in or give us a call. We’ll be happy to help you be sure you are equipped to make clean, appropriate cuts that will help your trees and shrubs look their very best.

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7 Top Trees for Multi-Season Interest

7trees_2What’s not to love about a tree? As they grow, their photosynthesis removes and stores carbon dioxide, maintaining a safe oxygen level for us to breathe and cleaning pollutants out of the air. They provide beauty in our gardens and parks. Many provide shade, fruit, syrup, nesting places and animal refuges. They can be a windbreak or a privacy screen. They can be ornamental and practical all at once, and can thrive with little or no care.

We want you to get the most enjoyment out of your trees. Therefore, we have selected seven underused but special trees for you to consider in your landscape. Very hardy, these trees provide all-year interest in mid-Atlantic gardens.

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Of course, these aren’t the only trees with year-round interest. Harry Lauder’s Walkingstick, paperbark maple, tri-colored beech, ‘JN Strain’ musclewood and the various cherries are just a few others that can be showstoppers in your landscape throughout the year.

Come on in to see our diverse and incredible selection of beautiful trees. We’ll help you select the perfect one for your landscaping needs and ensure you enjoy it throughout the year.

Anti-Desiccants: Why, What, and When

You’ve removed late-autumn weeds, layered on the mulch, pruned appropriately, possibly even covered or wrapped your plants – so why do some still die in the winter, despite all your well-meaning efforts?

Many plants die during winter because they dry out, or desiccate. As temperatures drop, the ground freezes and plant roots cannot take water from the soil, no matter how much snow may fall. This causes the plant to use stored water from the leaves and stems as part of the transpiration process, during which water exits the plant through the leaves. If the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, transpiration increases and more water exits the leaves. If no water is available and transpiration continues, the plant will soon die. Because evergreen plants do not drop their leaves, they are especially susceptible to this death.

Preventing Desiccation

How can you help your plants stay well-hydrated through the frozen drought of winter? The first step is to remember healthy plants in the summer survive the hardships of winter far better than sickly or stressed plants. Through the spring, summer and fall, you should always be on the lookout for signs of pests, diseases and damage, and take all necessary steps to keep your plants thriving.

Second, be sure to water well even when temperatures begin dropping below freezing. Later, if the ground thaws, water before the ground refreezes. Water slowly to provide a deep drink without waterlogging the roots, however, so they are not damaged by ice.

The third step is to use an anti-desiccant, also called an anti-transpirant, to reduce the moisture loss from the leaves and needles. Because broadleaf evergreens such as boxwood, aucuba, holly, rhododendron, many laurels, Japanese skimmia and leucothoe do not drop their leaves, they are especially vulnerable to winter death. Using a product such as Wilt-Pruf to reduce transpiration by protecting the pores will save many broadleaf evergreens.

When using any horticultural product, be sure to check the label and follow all instructions properly. Some conifers such as cedar, cypress, juniper and pine may benefit from these products. However, be sure to read the instructions to prevent burning specific conifers. Also, do not use on “waxy” blue conifers, such as blue spruce, which already have an oily protective film on the nettles.

Here are a few reminders to get the best protection from an anti-desiccant:

  • Plan to apply when day temperatures begin dropping below 50⁰ Fahrenheit. Apply when temperatures are above freezing on a dry day with no rain or snow anticipated within 24 hours. This allows the product to thoroughly dry. Spraying in freezing temperatures will cause plant damage.
  • Do not spray conifers until thoroughly dormant, generally in late winter. This prevents trapping moisture in the needles which could burst when frozen.
  • Generously apply to dry leaves and needles. Don’t forget the undersides. Spray from several angles to ensure complete coverage.
  • Because the anti-desiccant will break down in light and warmth, reapply in late winter on a dry day when temperatures are above freezing for at least 24 hours.

Beyond Winter Drought

Other than protecting your landscape evergreens from winter drought, there are other uses for anti-desiccants. Many gardeners use it to protect newly transplanted shrubs from drying winds and sunshine as they settle in. It also provides protection to tender bulbs going into storage. A quick spray in early winter protects rose canes and hydrangea stems. Spraying onto live or cut Christmas trees and carved pumpkins slows the drying process, making them last longer for greater holiday enjoyment.

To answer your questions, or to choose the best product for your landscape plants, come in to discuss anti-desiccants with one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff members. Together, we can reduce the number of plants you lose to the dryness of winter and keep your garden beautiful and healthy.

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Ideas for Creating Winter Interest in the Garden

How does your winter landscape look from inside your home? Even if it’s bleak and uninteresting, it can be easy to renovate and redecorate – just treat it like your home! Perk it up by using your indoor decorating skills outdoors.

When you decorate your house, you make it interesting and inviting by hanging pictures on the walls, creating focal points with houseplants or statuary, adding color and displaying collections. A garden is no different. Texture, layers, colors, scents, sounds and movement all combine to create a wonderful space to enjoy when outside in the summer and from inside the house during the winter.

If the temperatures are low and the snow is deep you can’t plant right now, but these plants could go on your wish list in your gardening journal to enhance the view next winter. Here are some suggestions to get your dreaming started…

Colorful Berries

Not only can berries add an easy burst of color to the landscape no matter which direction you view it from, but they can attract winter wildlife as well. Winter berries may be black, white, red, orange, pink, purple, blue or golden. Popular options include…

  • Hollies (Ilex spp.)
  • Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
  • Korean Barberry (Berberis koreana)
  • Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
  • Florida Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Cotoneaster varieties
  • Creeping Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)
  • Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’)
  • Linden Viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum)
  • European Cranberrybush (Viburnum opulus)
  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
  • Crabapples (Malus spp.)

Ornamental Bark

Exfoliating, or peeling, barks may reveal underlying bark of the same or differing color. Patterned, ridged or furrowed bark offers visual interest, especially against snow. Consider…

  • Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum)
  • Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum)
  • Arctic Fire Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)
  • Redosier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
  • American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
  • Cinnamon Clethra (Clethra acuminata)
  • Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera)
  • Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis)

Seed Heads

Although we often deadhead plants as blossoms die, leaving a few to overwinter is a fabulous idea. Not only do they provide uniquely organic winter sculptural interest to the garden, but they also provide feed and protection for birds. Winter seed heads, when backlit by the low winter sun, really add pop in the landscape. Try leaving some seed heads on the following plants…

  • Hydrangeas
  • Roses
  • Sedums such as Autumn Joy
  • Rudbeckias
  • Echinacea
  • Astilbe
  • Caryopteris

Unusual Branching

Especially beautiful when encased in ice, unusual branching patterns create natural focal points pulling the viewer’s vision through the winter garden. These plants prove a winter garden doesn’t need to be boring…

Twisting Growth:

  • Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’)
  • Curly Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’)
  • Twisty Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Rasen-Sugi’)
  • Dwarf Twisty Baby Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lacy Lady’)
  • Contorted White Pine (Pinus strobus ‘Contorta’)

Weeping Shape:

  • Weeping Cherry (Prunus subhirtella varieties)
  • ‘Lavender Twist’ Weeping Redbud (Cersis canadensis ‘Covey’)
  • Weeping Crabapples (Malus spp.)
  • Maples (Acer spp.)

Ornamental Grasses

Nothing adds structure to the winter garden like ornamental grasses. Whether blowing in the breeze and adding movement or covered with reflective ice, grasses add texture, volume and the subtle colors of seed heads. Great options include…

  • Silvergrass (Miscanthus spp.)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum spp.)
  • Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium)
  • Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’)
  • Fountaingrass (Pennisetum alopecuroides or P. setaceum ‘Purpureum’)
  • Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa)
  • Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’)

Evergreens

No garden is complete without evergreens. Broadleaf evergreens and conifers establish the garden’s foundation. They anchor the beds when the perennials disappear, define boundaries and pathways and soften hard edges. Many broadleaf evergreens also provide summer flowers and fragrance.

Broadleaf Evergreens:

  • Aucuba japonica
  • Azalea and Rhododendron varieties
  • Boxwood varieties
  • Holly varieties
  • Laurels
  • Leucothue
  • Pieris varieties
  • Skimmia
  • Yucca

Conifers:

  • Spruces such as Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’)
  • Silver Korean Fir (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’)
  • Umbrella Pines such as Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)
  • Junipers such as Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Bulbs

Several early bulbs emerge in the winter. Planted in the fall near entrances and along walkways, they offer their promise spring is just around the corner and can add a burst of color to the end of winter. Popular options include…

  • Crocus varieties
  • Yellow Danford Iris (Iris dandordiae)
  • Snowdrops
  • Blue Silberian Squills (Scilla)
  • Snow Glories (Chionodoxa)
  • Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)
  • Hyacinths

Even though you can’t being planting now, you can begin planning, and perhaps even installing, non-plant garden features such as benches, yard art or lighting. LED lighting along pathways may be high on your list and we have the newest products to help your guests navigate to your doorway in any season. A bench, arbor or trellis adds structure and interest to the garden and will make a perfect meditation spot or reading nook when the weather warms up. You might want to plan a pond, the perfect spot for a fountain or even consider adding a sundial, fire pit or other unique feature to the yard. Whatever your garden dreams, we can help you achieve them, and you’ll never look out at your winter garden and wonder what could be again!

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Getting Tools Ready for Spring

Did you clean, sharpen and store your gardening tools properly last fall when you stopped gardening?

Hopefully, you did, but if you didn’t, it’s not too late. Spring is just around the corner, but there’s still time to get these essential chores done and be ready to jump in to all your gardening and landscape work when spring arrives.

  • Assemble Your Tools
    Round up the shovels, hoes, rakes and picks. Gather the hand tools such as pruners, loppers, saws, cultivators, weeders and all those little special gadgets you use. If they are all in one place, you can clean and care for them assembly-line style to make the task easier and less overwhelming.
  • Washing Tools
    Fill a bucket or sink with sudsy water. Combine some elbow grease with some rags, a stiff wire brush, steel wool and small toothbrush and wash off all accumulated mud and dirt. Remove sap from pruners and loppers using rubbing alcohol, turpentine, paint thinner or other solvent. Be sure to clean the handles. Towel dry each tool carefully.
  • Handle Care
    How do the wooden handles look and feel? To prevent splinters, lightly sand and apply a protective coating of boiled linseed oil. (Boiled, not raw, as raw won’t dry.) This is also a good time to apply brightly colored rubberized paint to hand tool handles. Not only will this improve the grip but makes it easier to find the tools when Ieft in the garden. If any handles are so worn or damaged that they need to be completely replaced, this is a good time to do so.
  • Remove Rust
    Get the rust off using sandpaper, steel wool and/or a wire brush. For difficult rust, you may need to attach a wire wheel to your drill. Safety googles are necessary eye protection when using a power tool for cleaning. Afterwards, coat the metal with a thin layer of oil such as WD-40, machine or 3-in-One oil to prevent new rust from forming.
  • TIP: To prevent rust, make an “oil bucket” and keep where you store your tools.
    • Half-fill a 5-gallon bucket with coarse sand such as builder’s sand
    • Pour in a quart of oil (used motor oil is fine)
    • Mix until all of the sand is lightly moistened
    • After using a garden tool, plunge the tool into the bucket several times to thoroughly remove soil and thinly coat the metal surface with oil
  • Sharpen Blades and Edges
    Check the edges and moving parts of the tools. To sharpen shovels, spades and hoes, fasten in a vise and use a hand file to restore the same original bevel angle, usually between 40-70 degrees. Use a fine grit grinding stone along the back edge of the tool to remove the burr created by the file. Wipe the metal surface with machine oil. Don’t forget to sharpen hand pruners and loppers as well, and use machine oil to lubricate the moving parts of different tools. Note: If you aren’t equipped to sharpen your tools yourself, take them to an appropriate expert to be sure they’re sharpened safely and correctly.
  • Check Tool Storage
    Now that you tools are ready for work, where will you keep them until spring arrives? Check hooks, stands, toolboxes and other gear where you keep your tools and be sure they are stored safely and securely while still being easy to find and reach whenever you need them.

Now, you – and your tools – are ready for spring. 

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Keeping a Garden Journal

Do you remember exactly when you planted your seedlings last year? What was the date of the first frost? Did you see a unique cultivar at the nursery and wanted to give it a try? How well did that new pest-control technique work on your prize flowerbed? Whether you are recording your landscape, a vegetable garden or both, the details make the difference, and a garden journal can help you keep track of those details to build on your own gardening expertise.

What to Record

A garden journal does not have to be intimidating, and you do not have to be either an expert writer or an expert gardener to keep one. You are simply keeping record of your garden and notes on what worked, what didn’t, want you wanted to try, what you wanted to change and more. You might keep one journal just for your landscape, another for your vegetable garden, even one for an indoor herb garden. Depending on the journal type, you may record different things in different ways, but don’t worry – it’s your journal and you can keep it however you want.

  • Your Landscaping Garden Journal
    Use a journal to record your landscaping activities. A simple sketch of your landscape provides a basic plan. Track the dates of planting and blooming, fertilizer applications, pruning and other maintenance duties to determine if the activities are worthwhile and effective. Map the placement of bulbs and perennials so you don’t have to remember over the long season when they disappear. Note your color combinations. Did they look good or was something missing? Maybe you saw an article with some ideas to try, so tuck it in and remember try it.
  • Your Vegetable Garden Journal
    A journal can help you keep notes about your vegetable garden. Use graph paper to design your plantings. Next year you can use this sketch to plan your veggie rotation to keep your soil rich and your harvest productive. Note the dates of pest treatments, fertilization, thinning and other activities. By recording the details in a garden journal, it serves as your memory, reminding you what you planted, how it did and what you could do better and easier. Wouldn’t it be nice, at the end of the season, to see how much money you saved by growing your own produce? Keeping track of expenses and harvest quality will do it.
  • Your Indoor Garden Journal
    Whether you just have a few houseplants, a simple windowsill herb garden or an elaborate setup for starting seedlings, you can use a journal to keep track of all your plants. Note when you add new plants to your displays, the frequency of watering, foliage changes, bloom cycles and herb harvesting. Note seasonal changes in your plants, and when it is necessary to repot.

A garden journal provides a great place to save sketches, lists and photos. Depending upon your personal use, they can store excess seeds and plant tags, bed rotation and fertilizing schedules, even gardening brochures.

Now is a perfect time to start a garden journal. You’ve been cooped up in the house during the long winter and probably have lots of ideas about the upcoming garden. Beginning a garden journal now ignites your creativity, sets your goals for the upcoming year and lets you plot your upcoming journey. Twelve months from now, when you look back and review your goals and plans, you’ll see how much you’ve done. Then, you can look forward to the next year and make a great plan, thanks to the notes you’ve kept.

Come see our assortment of garden journals. Whether you prefer loose-leaf or bound, simple lined paper or adorned with sketches, we have just the right garden journal to get you excited about the upcoming gardening season. 

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Reaching New Heights with Tall Perennials

Did your garden seem to come up short last year? Were there areas where some height could have added excitement, texture and pizzazz to your landscape? If so, grab your garden journal and make some notes! We have an excellent list of perennials coming this spring and it’s sure to include the colors, heights and types of plants to add a vertical punch to your garden. Our top picks include…

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Of course, this is just a partial listing of taller perennials available in the coming months. Delivery trucks filled with beautiful, healthy and vibrant plants arrive nearly every day. Make your wish-list and come on in to see us on a regular basis. That way, you’ll have the best selection of our incoming beauties and can choose the perfect tall plants to add a vertical lift to your garden

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