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Worrisome Weeds

Gardeners spend hours carefully cultivating their favorite plants, whether they are delicious veggies, flavorful herbs, sweet fruits, stunning flowers or luxurious grasses. It hardly seems fair that unwanted weeds barge in and take advantage of all that work, and seem to sprout up without any effort. Fortunately, there are many ways to control weeds without losing your mind or your garden to their influence.

Stopped Before They Start

The easiest way to stop weeds from invading your lawn and garden is preventing them in the first place. Proper practices can discourage weeds from growing. Helpful tips to achieve a beautiful, weed-free lawn and garden include…

  • Buy only high quality, certified grass seed and select a variety that is best suited for the amount of sunlight and traffic expected in the area, as well as its ability to withstand drought, insects and disease. The healthier the lawn is, the less room there will be for invading weeds to use.
  • Avoid light, frequent watering or overwatering. Plants that receive deep, infrequent watering generate extensive root systems. Strong roots foster thick, hearty plants and lawns that withstand stress, preventing invasions from pests, weeds and disease.
  • Fertilize your lawn and garden on a regular basis. Be sure to first test your soil to determine its pH and add any soil amendments necessary to ensure ideal growing conditions. This will help keep your turf, garden and plants healthy so they crowd out any unwelcome weeds.
  • Always cut lawns at the proper mowing height. Never cut off more than 1/3 of the grass blade at one time. Keep mower blades sharp to avoid tearing plant leaves. Scalping or mowing too closely will stress your lawn, while weeds thrive under these conditions. A dense, healthy, vigorous lawn will resist the intrusion of weeds.
  • Properly cultivate lawns and gardens. By routinely tilling flower beds and aerating lawns, you reduce compaction and thatch. This allows air, water and nutrients to flow freely through the soil, making them more available to plants. Healthier plants will grow more vigorously, taking room and nutrients away from weeds.
  • Densely plant and generously mulch flowers, trees and ornamentals. By eliminating space and sunlight, weeds won’t have the needed room or nutrients to gain a foothold in beds and gardens. Always be careful mulch does not come in contact with plant stems and trunks as this can create areas of excessive moisture where fungus and disease problems can arise.
  • Plant ground cover or landscape hard to grow areas. If weeds are a persistent problem and you have difficulty growing grass in certain areas of your yard, consider alternative plants or decorative material such as landscape rock or other hardscaping.
  • Stop weeds before they can seed or develop extensive root structures. Remove existing weeds by pulling or hoeing them or use an all-purpose weed killer of your choice. Then apply Preen, corn gluten or similar pre-emergent controls to prevent new weeds from germinating.

Weeds may be a problem in any landscape, lawn or garden, but the more steps you take to eliminate them, the more successful your efforts will be and the fewer weeds you’ll see.

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Dandelion

Dandelion

Kids and Nature: Uncovering Surprises Everywhere

Wherever you live, nature is always near, with entire worlds to discover around the trees in your yard, in the carpet of grass or beneath that pile of rocks. With school vacations rapidly approaching, you may already be thinking of ways to keep your children or grandchildren busy during the long summer months. Well, how about setting up your own Nature Camp! An appreciation of nature will stay with children forever and teach them the importance of caring for the environment and all living things, including themselves. 

Top Nature Activities for Kids

Spring and summer nature activities with your child could be as simple as a daily walk around the block or backyard, or as complex as starting your own backyard wildlife preserve. Popular options include… 

  • A stroll through the woods or a nearby meadow, observing or gathering things of interest along the way. Spend some time watching ants or earthworms, caterpillars or butterflies. Take an evening walk to look for fireflies and bats or to listen to crickets and frogs. Note different species of birds, or look for other wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits or deer.
  • Very young children love collecting things – rocks, feathers, flowers, shells and leaves are a few easy examples. See how many different types, colors, shapes or sizes they can find. Older children might want to start a pressed leaf or flower collection, or capture some insects for identification and observation.
  • Raising butterflies or moths from caterpillars, noting how they grow and change in a nature journal or through a series of photographs to create a scrapbook of the experience. When they’re ready to be released, let the child have the wonder of connecting with nature as their fluttering friends fly free.
  • A more extensive nature activity could be to help your child plan and plant a whole garden devoted to attracting wildlife. By planting trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that attract birds (including hummingbirds) and butterflies, and by installing bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths, you can create a miniature wildlife refuge that you and your child can enjoy for many years to come.

We’ll be delighted to help you and your future naturalist select plants suitable for a wildlife garden, plan a backyard refuge or to identify flowers or leaves that have been collected on your nature walks. 

So, what are you waiting for? Make the most of this spring with a child and go back to nature!

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Raise ‘Em Right

Lousy soil? Not to worry! Try growing in a raised bed. Popular in colonial times, this style of gardening is making a tremendous resurgence and is ideal for many types of gardening ambitions.

Why Raised Beds

There are many benefits to gardening above the grade, including…

  • Better Soil Conditions
    Growing in raised beds is an excellent choice if you have poor soil. Once constructed, you may add the soil and amendments of your choice to provide the optimum conditions for root growth in exactly the space you will be planting. Because a raised bed is not stepped in and is carefully monitored, it is easy to maintain this peak condition.
  • Higher Yield
    Better soil equals better root growth which then leads higher yield of flowers, produce or herbs. Also, intensive planting in raised beds means more plants can be grown in a smaller area than with conventional row-cropping as no space is wasted between rows.
  • Maintenance
    If properly thought out, every area of the raised bed may be comfortably reached from the side allowing for less bending and reaching and easier maintenance for thinning, weeding and other garden tasks. A garden seat makes gardening in raised beds even easier by bringing the soil surface closer to your upper body. Intensive planting cuts down on weeds by shading the soil surface. Improved soil conditions (less compaction and controlled moisture) make weed removal easier.
  • Critter Control
    Pests are less of a problem in raised beds. A simple frame may be erected with plant stakes or bamboo. Cover the frame with garden netting to prevent birds and other critters from destroying your plants. The bottom of the bed may be lined with hardware cloth to prevent burrowing rodents from getting in. The smaller area of a raised bed is also easier to protect from unwanted insects.
  • Water Conservation
    A raised bed is advantageous for water conservation. Use an appropriate watering system to ensure that water gets only to where it is needed. Soaker hoses and drip-type irrigation systems disperse water in patterns well suited to raised beds. They also reduce disease by directing water to the soil instead of wetting the leaf surface with overhead irrigation.
  • Extended Growing Season
    Increased drainage speeds up soil warming and allows it to dry quicker after a spring rain for earlier planting. The addition of a portable cold frame will extend the growing season even further by also keeping the soil warm later in the fall. Not only does this allow for later harvesting, but it is possible to harvest crops from raised beds that simply wouldn’t have time to mature in a traditional garden.

With so many benefits, why not get started with raised beds this year?

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Clematis

Beautiful, showy clematis are not as difficult to grow as you might think. Learning when to prune your clematis and giving a little attention to their few requirements will reward you with a magnificent show of colorful blooms.

Planting Clematis

A beautiful clematis starts with proper planting. Clematis prefer to have their roots in the shade and their tops in the sun. Keep the roots cool with a well-drained rich soil with added compost, peat moss or composted manure and a good layer of mulch. Planting ground cover or other low growing perennials around the base of your clematis will also help to keep the soil cool and minimize weed growth. Organic amendments will help to retain moisture when added to the soil. Feed monthly with a liquid fertilizer or use a slow release fertilizer which can last for up to six months.

A Note About Bloom Rates

For the first few years, clematis may be slow to grow. Just keep in mind that it is establishing its root system, which is essential to a healthy, vibrant plant. In its first year, your clematis may produce very few flowers or even none at all. By the second year there will be more growth and a few flowers. By the third year you should see substantial growth and many lovely blooms.

Planting Clematis

For the best chance of success if you are new to gardening with clematis, buy plants in larger containers. While smaller starts will be less expensive to buy, they will take a little more work to establish and can be more delicate and prone to failure. If you purchase a pot of any size and are not planting it in the ground immediately, be sure not to allow the soil in the container to dry out or the plant may be overly stressed and vulnerable.

Keep the climbing habit of clematis in mind when selecting your planting site. Allow your plants to grow up into large shrubs and trees, or on a trellis against a sunny wall. Select varieties with growth that will not exceed your shrub or trellis; a 20-foot vine may overwhelm a smaller shrub or a weak trellis and will look overgrown and out of place.

Proper Pruning

Clematis are divided into three distinctive groups. Knowing what group your clematis falls under will guide you on when and how to prune.

These pruning suggestions are for established vines that have been in the ground for at least three years. Young vines should all be pruned to 12 inches the second spring and to 18 inches the third spring. This helps to develop more shoots, a fuller vine and a better root system.

  • Group 1
    This group includes certain species clematis and their cultivars which bloom early in the year. Some of the more familiar representatives of this group include the Montanas, varieties of C. alpina and C. macropetala. All of the Group 1 clematis bloom on growth made the previous year. They can be pruned to keep them within their allotted space or to remove dead and unsightly foliage. If they are pruned late in the season or before they flower, however, the cuts may remove potential flower buds and reduce that year’s flowering. To prevent this, prune Group 1 clematis right after flowering.
  • Group 2
    These are the large flowered hybrids. They are often divided again into two subgroups – 2a and 2b. All of the clematis in Group 2 bloom on ‘old wood’ (actually on short shoots from old wood) and should not be pruned except for deadwood pruning in early spring after the leaf buds open slightly.
  • Group 3
    These are the summer-blooming varieties such as the viticellas and Jackmanii types that bloom on new wood and the late bloomers such as Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) and orientalis types. Clematis in Group 3 mainly flower on new wood produced in the current year and should be pruned back severely every year in late winter, when they are completely dormant, to about 12-14 inches. Leave at least two pairs of buds on each stem of the plant. Most clematis in this group are very fast growing and will reach their full height before blooming every summer.

Once you know how to properly care for clematis, you will find it to be a welcome addition to your landscape. If you aren’t sure just what your clematis needs to thrive, our expert staff will be glad to help be sure you and your plants have a great relationship!

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Viburnums

Viburnums are one of the most outstanding groups of shrubs for use in landscape planting. Varying in height from 2-30 feet, viburnums can be found to suit most any planting location. Their varied growth habits, excellent foliage, striking and fragrant flowers, showy fruit and interesting winter appearance make them an excellent choice for most gardeners.

Which Viburnum to Choose

Effective in many situations, the smaller shrub forms, such as Viburnum carlesi ‘Compacta’ and V. opulus ‘Compactum’, are excellent for planting close to houses or in tighter spaces, such as narrow flowerbeds or in side yards. The larger forms, such as V. lantana and V. prunifolium, make good specimen and screen plantings to be a centerpiece in the garden or provide privacy. Which one will work best in your landscape will also depend on the available space you have, your soil type and the sunlight needs of individual plants.

Flowers and Foliage

Viburnum flowers, primarily white in color, are borne in clusters, ranging from a rounded snowball shape to a flat form. Large, white snowball clusters of florets are found on V. carlcephalum and V. macrocephalum. Half-round flower forms are borne on such types as V. carlesi and V. burkwoodi. Most of the others have a flat cluster of florets such as V. plicatum ‘Tomentosum,’ V. dilatatum and others.

Viburnum foliage can be extraordinary with types that include a velvety smooth leaf surface, bold rough-veined textures and glossy leathery character, all of which add more textural interest to the landscape. In addition, some forms have attractive fall leaf color such as the purplish red of V. dentatum and V. dilatatum, as well as the brilliant red of V. opulus.

Brilliant Berries

In the fall and winter there is also ornamental value with berries. Many viburnums produce lovely fruits in shades of red, pink, yellow and blue-black which not only add to fall and winter interest, but can also be attractive to birds and other backyard wildlife.

Viburnum Care

With so many many pleasing aesthetic features of these plants, how easy are they to care for? Easier than you may think! Viburnums are very hardy, resistant to serious pests, thrive in a variety of soil and environmental conditions and require little pruning. They will grow in either sun or shade; however, flowering and fruiting will be more profuse in a sunny location.

With so much to choose from and so many advantages to these shrubs, there’s sure to be one to suit all your landscaping needs. Stop in to consult with our landscaping experts today, and we can help you choose the perfect viburnum to complement your landscape.

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Jump Start Your Pond

Are you ready to get your pond started up for another beautiful spring and summer? It can be a big job to rejuvenate such a large water feature so it remains balanced and healthy after a long, harsh winter, but with a few careful steps, your pond can be back in shape in no time.

When to Reopen Your Pond

It is important that you don’t try to get your pond started too early in the season. All risk of hard freezes should be long past, and even nightly frosts should be tapering off or already finished before you restart your pond. The exact time will vary based on your pond’s size, depth and location, as well as your ambient weather conditions and the pond’s overall ecology. For example, a smaller, shallower pond in a sunny area will be warmed up and ready to restart before a larger, deeper pond in a shady spot. It can be helpful to keep a journal or calendar from year to year to note when you reopened your pond and how successful your efforts were. In time, you’ll be able to adjust your calendar easily without risking the health and wellness of your pond, even if annual conditions change.

Easy Steps to Restart Your Pond

When you are ready to jump start your pond…

  • Remove the netting that was set in place last fall. If needed, clean and make repairs to the netting right away so it will be ready to use next fall. Store it safely where it will be easy to reach when needed again.
  • Remove excess sediment from the bottom of the pond with a vacuum or a net. It is not necessary to remove every bit of sediment, but most of the debris should be removed so the pump can function effectively.
  • Test last year’s pump and replace if necessary. Be sure to test any additional moving or electrical features, such as waterfalls, fountains or lighting around the pond so repairs can be made if needed.
  • If water level is low, add fresh water to desired height. Avoid overfilling the pond, however, which can disrupt the essential chemical and microbial balance that keeps the pond healthy.
  • Add de-chlorinator as necessary to remove heavy chemicals from the water that has been freshly added to the pond. As with any chemical treatments, be sure to test the water several times to be sure you reach the proper balance.
  • Place aquatic plants in the pond and begin fertilizing to meet their nutritional needs. These may be plants that you’ve overwintered in a safe location, or you may choose to add new or exotic plants in late spring.
  • Begin feeding fish when water temperature stays above 55 degrees. Keep feedings minimal at first as fish come out of dormancy, as excess food will only rot and lead to greater bacteria and algae growth in the water.

It is perfectly natural for your pond water to turn green at first, but with the proper plants it should balance itself out in no time. It may take a few days or even a couple of weeks for your pond to return to its healthy, active state, but if you’re restarted it properly, you shouldn’t have any major problems.

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Planting Basics – Trees & Shrubs

Are you ready to add trees and shrubs to your landscape? You don’t need to hire professionals to do the planting when you learn the basics of doing it the right way yourself.

Soil Preparation

How quickly and how well trees become established once they are planted is affected by the amount of stress they are exposed to before and during planting. Minimizing planting stress is the goal of proper planting. Trees and shrubs should also be thoroughly watered prior to planting to minimize water stress.

Ideally, soil preparation should be carried out well ahead of planting. Preparation could include incorporating organic matter into the soil to improve aeration, assist drainage of compacted soils and improve soil nutrient-holding capacity. Specific preparation may be needed if the soil has an inappropriate pH or is lacking in certain elements. Trees and shrubs with a limited soil tolerance range may require very specific soil preparation to meet their requirements.

Additional soil preparation is essential when you are ready to plant trees and shrubs. Dig the planting hole 50 percent wider but only as deep as the root ball. Prepare soil by mixing one-third existing soil, one-third organic matter and one-third topsoil.

Planting Container-Grown Trees & Shrubs

When you buy a plant from a garden center or nursery, it often comes in a small pot that holds the roots. Remove the plant from that container gently, but without pulling on delicate stems or foliage. Squeezing the container all around can help loosen the root ball so it slides out more easily, or the container may be thin enough to cut away.

Because the plant was grown in a container, its roots have been restricted by the shape of the container. Loosen the roots all the way around, even on the bottom. If the root system is too tight to loosen with your fingers, cut through roots slightly with a knife or pruning sheers. Make three or four one-inch deep cuts, then gently pull the roots apart.

Center the plant in the prepared hole, keeping it 1-3 inches above grade. Keep roots spread out.

Planting Field-Grown Trees & Shrubs

If you are transplanting a tree or shrub that has been field grown, it may have bare roots or be lightly bagged or burlapped. Center the plant in the prepared hole 1-3 inches above the grade. Cut and remove all cords or twine from the root ball and trunk. Burlap should be left on, but loosened and pulled away from the trunk and below the soil surface. Remember to move trees carefully. Roll the root ball on its side and “steer” it into the hole with the trunk. Straighten the tree upright in the hole, checking it from different angles to be sure it is fully upright.

Completing the Planting

For both container-grown and balled and burlapped plant material, backfill the planting hole with soil your mix and pack firmly. Make a rim of soil around the plant to act as a “saucer” for holding water.

Water thoroughly with a slow soaking, and use a root stimulator fertilizer to provide good initial stimulus for the roots to spread out.

Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch around your new planting, keeping an open space of 3 inches around the trunk or base of the plant to allow for air circulation.

Staking Container & Field Grown Trees and Shrubs

When larger trees or shrubs are planted, they are not yet firmly established in their new locations and may tip or lean as the soil settles. For larger trees, use three wires secured to anchor stakes in firm ground (never into the root ball). Where the wires touch the tree, they should be covered with rubber hose to prevent damage. Remove stakes as soon as roots become established. This can be as soon as a few months, so check your tree frequently. Stakes should not be left in place any longer than one growing season.

New Plant Care

All newly planted trees and shrubs need gentle care as they settle in to their new locations. To keep them healthy and encourage good initial growth…

  • Water Properly
    Plants should be slowly soaked to a depth of 4 inches, which is the equivalent of about an inch of water per week. This is necessary during the first year or two. Let the hose run slowly at the base of the plant until the water has penetrated to the root depth. Too much water can also be a problem. Feel the soil. If it is soggy or squishy, do not add water. Frequent light watering is not as good as a thorough soaking once per week, which will encourage strong root growth.
  • Fertilize Appropriately
    Your new plants should be given a Root Stimulator type fertilizer right after planting. You should not use a fertilizer meant for mature plants on new material, as it could cause damage to your plant. It is essential for new plants to develop a healthy root system – top growth will follow. After the first season, regular fertilizers can be used.
  • Prune Safely
    Pruning at planting time may be necessary for larger trees to reduce leaf surface to match cut roots. Remove one-third of smaller twigs. Do not cut back the main trunk or larger branches. If shaping is necessary, trim side branches enough to get uniformity.
  • Be Alert for Insects and Diseases
    Keep an eye out for holes or brown leaves or needles. This could be a sign of insect or disease problems. Ask our staff for help identifying the insect or disease and to prescribe appropriate treatments.
  • Special Care Plants
    Some plants need extra special care because of their finicky needs. For example, azaleas, hollies, rhododendrons and dogwoods all need well-drained, acidic soils, high in organic matter and a shady location. Research the trees and shrubs you are planting to be sure you are meeting their needs right from the beginning.

It can seem intimidating to plant your own trees and shrubs, since they are an investment in your landscape that you hope to enjoy for many years. By understanding planting basics, however, you can easily give every plant a great start in its new home.

Time to Plant

Time to Plant

Time to Plant

Time to Plant

Beetle Mania

It’s hard to forget the years that we’ve been plagued with Japanese beetles. These ravenous creatures can destroy your lawn, garden and good nature in one season by eating away precious time and money invested in our landscapes. As they know no boundaries, Japanese beetle control methods are most effective if neighborhoods band together in their efforts. So, rally the troops! 

Identification & Damage 

Japanese beetles are a problem at two stages of their life cycle: larvae and adult. The larvae, called grubs, are actively feeding from August through October and again in April through May. It is during this time that the grubs are closest to the soil surface feasting on plant roots, especially grass roots. A heavy grub population will result in dead patches of turf that can be lifted like a carpet. Japanese beetle grubs are 1 ½” long, C-shaped and white with a brown head. When gardening, you will almost always find some grubs in the soil. Small populations of grubs can be present in the soil without significant damage to the lawn. If you notice more than a dozen per square foot, however, this constitutes a problem that should be dealt with. 

Adult Japanese beetles have a hard-shell body that is about ½ inch long. They are metallic-green and copper-colored. At this stage, beetles can decimate a plant in record time by skeletonizing the leaves – nibbling off all the foliage between the veins. Adult beetles start to emerge from the soil with a frenzy of feeding, mating and laying eggs. You will find adults feeding in groups in full sun, and they feed on over 300 different species of plants. These insects maintain this frantic level of activity through the first half of August. The females lay their eggs on the ground. When the eggs hatch they dig their way into the soil to feast on plant roots in preparation for winter. As soil temperatures decrease the larvae move deeper into the soil only to resurface and feed on plant roots again in spring. 

Beetle Control Methods 

There are several methods to control both Japanese beetle grubs and adults, some environmentally-friendly and some more harshly chemical. Always read pest control labels in their entirety even if they are listed as organic or environmentally-friendly. These labels are meant for the protection of you, your plants and the planet. 

Environmentally-Friendly Adult Beetle Control 

Effective options for controlling adult Japanese beetles with the least harm to plants and the landscape include… 

  • Manual Removal – Pick off and destroy the feeding adults even if you see just a few. Japanese Beetles produce pheromones that will attract many more to your property, so it is best to pick them off and destroy them right away.
  • Use Non-Attractive Plants – If you have a shade garden you will not have a problem with Japanese Beetles. In sunny areas, choose plants that beetles don’t like.
  • Trap – Pheromone traps lure adult beetles, sometimes hundreds a day, and trap them in a disposable bag. Replace the bag as necessary. Place trap at least 20 feet from the plantings that you are trying to protect to lure the beetles away.
  • Row Covers – Floating row covers of reemay fabric may be placed over plants to avoid beetle damage by keeping the beetles from accessing the plants.
  • Pyrethrins – These insecticides are naturally derived from the pyrethrum daisies. Pyrethrins attack the insect’s central nervous system, producing a rapid knockdown. The residual effect, however, is only 5 days, so several applications may be needed to control severe infestations.
  • Insecticidal Soap – This soap is a contact kill with no residual control, but can be useful for smaller infestations or few beetles.
  • Neem Oil – This oil is an organic control that repels Japanese beetles. Spray early in morning or on an overcast day. Because neem is an oil, you may burn plant leaves if spraying in full sun. 

Chemical Adult Beetle Controls 

When using any chemical controls, read the product label completely and follow application instructions meticulously. It is a good idea to use a spreader sticker so that the chemical will adhere to the plant for the greatest effect. Popular chemical options to control adult Japanese beetles include… 

  • Sevin – This chemical is absorbed through the skin and will kill beetles on contact. It has a 7-10 day residual effect but must be reapplied after a rain. Consult label for recommended time that fruit and vegetables may be consumed after application.
  • Pyrethroides – Synthetic pyrethrin-like insecticides kill on contact and have an 8-10 day residual effect. Fruits and vegetables may be consumed in a shorter time period after application than Sevin.
  • Acephate – This systemic control works by poisoning the plant. The insect dies when the plant is ingested. Must not be used on edibles.
  • Malathion – This chemical must be ingested by the insect, however, this product may be used on edibles. Check label for number of days between last application and safe harvest.
  • Imidacloprid – Sold as a liquid form of Merit, this product is systemic and must be applied at least 20 days before anticipated adult Japanese beetle feeding. Only one application is needed per year. Use only on ornamentals.

Environmentally-Friendly Grub Control 

For truly effective Japanese beetle control, it is also necessary to control the grubs. This can be done in a number of environmentally-friendly ways, such as… 

  • Milky Spore – This biological control effects only Japanese Beetle grubs. Once this bacteria is established it can last in the soil for up to 20 years. It is completely harmless to people, pets, birds, fish and beneficial insects. Apply anytime the ground is not frozen.
  • Beneficial Nematodes – These microscopic worms kills grubs by feeding on, and reproducing in, the grub’s body. This is an excellent choice for a vegetable garden and should be applied after the soil is warm. Late summer/early fall application is best. 

Chemical Grub Control 

Chemical controls can also be effective at minimizing the harm from Japanese beetle grubs. Good options include… 

  • Merit – The granular form of this chemical is a systemic, season-long grub control with a 4-month residual effect, though it must be ingested by the insect. It is applied 3-4 weeks before grubs are actively feeding, mid-May through mid-June. Must be watered-in within 24 hours of application.
  • Dylox – This compound is absorbed through the grub’s ‘skin’ and will kill within 24 hours of application. Use only in late summer through early fall while grubs are still close to the soil surface. Must be watered in. It is active for up to 7 days in the soil.
  • Sevin – In its granular form, Sevin is a contact kill and will not remain active in the soil longer than 7 days. This product is used most effectively from mid-August through mid-October. Must be watered in.

With so many options for effectively controlling these pernicious insects, there is no reason why you need to keep being bothered by Japanese beetles. Once you know more about these insects and their habits, you can easily keep them away.

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Growing Grass in the Shade

Cool season turf grasses prefer to grow in the sun. To establish a thick, healthy lawn of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, you will need at least six hours of full sun daily. Fine and tall fescues are more shade-tolerant and require a minimum of four hours of full or eight hours of filtered sun a day. When plants do not receive enough sun, they cannot manufacture food (photosynthesis) effectively to support growth. As a result, plants that do not receive adequate sun are less heat- and cold-tolerant and more susceptible to disease and insect damage. When it is a tree or shrub that is causing the shade, there is also competition for soil nutrients and water. 

What does this mean for those of us with less than optimal light on our lawns? If it is grass that you wish to grow, it is not impossible, but you will have to settle for thinner turf. It doesn’t have to be any less healthy or hardy, however. Your chances of maintaining a healthy, thin lawn in a shady area is increased when adopting the following guidelines: 

  • Increase the amount of light and air circulation, if possible, by thinning tree canopies or removing the trees altogether.
  • Test your soil pH. It should read between 6.0-6.5 for growing fine fescue grasses.
  • If drainage is poor, improve it. Most turf grasses prefer well-drained soil.
  • Use a shady grass seed mixture with a high percentage of fine fescue grasses.
  • Do not sod. Most sod on the market is Kentucky bluegrass, which requires full sun.
  • Sow seed in late August to avoid heat and drought stress, weed competition and suffocation from falling leaves. Early spring is the second best time to seed.
  • During periods of drought, provide deep soakings to encourage a deep root system. Water early in the day to allow leaf blades a chance to dry and therefore reducing the possibility of disease.
  • Mow grass high, 3-4 inches. More leaf surface is required to increase photosynthesis in the shade.
  • Limit foot traffic in shady areas. This grass is already growing under stressful conditions and high use will contribute to its decline.
  • Fescue requires less nitrogen than other grasses. You may allow the grass clippings to stay in place. As they break down they will provide nitrogen to the soil. A spring and fall application of a high phosphorus fertilizer should also be used.

It is highly unlikely that you will have success when attempting to grow lawn in deep or heavy shade. The one exception is Poa trivialis, commonly known as rough bluegrass. This type of lawn is very shade-tolerant, but must have consistently moist soil. Without both heavy shade and constant moisture, you will not be able to grow a rough bluegrass lawn. 

Turf Alternatives 

Alternatives to turf in a shady area include: 

  • Shade-Tolerant Evergreen Ground Covers

Though not quite the same as grass, these groundcovers provide a green landscape without needing plentiful sunlight. They can also be lower maintenance and don’t require mowing. Selections include common periwinkle, pachysandra, purple wintercreeper, English ivy and lilyturf.

  • Perennial / Annual Shade Garden

Why not remove turf entirely in favor of other shade-loving plants? There are plenty of stunning perennials and annuals that don’t mind a bit of darkness. Visit our garden center and speak with our knowledgeable staff. We have an extensive selection of shade plants available and can help you make choices that will best suit your landscape conditions.

  • Mulch

Mulch is an excellent turf alternative for shady areas especially under a shallow-rooted tree where it can be difficult to grow anything. Mulch can also help you define paths to walk through the shade garden and will prevent mud from becoming a problem on those paths. You can opt for wood nuggets, shredded bark, gravel, river rock or even artificial mulches in a variety of colors. 

It can be a challenge to grow grass in the shade, but if you choose the proper type of grass and care for it well, you can cultivate shade-loving turf. If you’d rather not fuss with it, there are plenty of amazing alternatives that can make even the darkest corner of your landscape shine more brightly.

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Creepers & Crawlers: Ground Covers for Walkways

The durability of some plants is absolutely amazing. A number of them are so robust that they may even be tread on! These are the plants to choose when filling in the space between pavers, walkways, patios and steps. Placing plants in the gaps of your hardscape will soften its appearance and will keep weeds from taking over that space, as well as prevent erosion that will loosen stones. These ground covers will creep and crawl around the stone bringing the garden to your feet and closer for you to enjoy. 

There are resilient, low-growing, easy maintenance plants for just about any situation. Many even have showy flowers. But which is right for your yard? Before planting, scope out your site. Take into consideration the amount of sun or shade the plant will receive, the amount of foot traffic the area gets and the size of the space that the plant needs to fill. Still not sure which groundcover will work best? Stop in and speak with a member of our knowledgeable staff. We can help make your selection easier. 

Groundcovers for Moderate to Heavy Foot Traffic 

Areas that receive moderate to heavy foot traffic – backyard patios, front walkways, terrace steps, etc. – can be the most difficult to fill in. Depending on the light the site receives, some of the most popular groundcover options include… 

Full Sun 

  • Alpine Cinquefoil (Potentilla) – 12” spread, yellow flowers, green foliage
  • Carpet Speedwell (Veronica) – 3” spread, light blue flowers
  • Creeping Sunshine Speedwell (Veronica) – 12” spread, gold foliage
  • Creeping Thyme Doone Valley (Thymus) 23” spread, variegated gold foliage
  • Creeping Thyme Purple Carpet (Thymus) 18” spread, mauve flowers
  • Creeping Thyme Elfin (Thymus) –  8” spread, light pink flowers
  • Creeping Thyme Coccineus (Thymus) –  18” spread, red flowers
  • Creeping Thyme Pink Chintz (Thymus) 23” spread, deep pink flowers
  • Creeping Thyme Ruby Glow (Thymus) –  18” spread, purple-red flowers
  • Golden Stonecrop (Sedum) – 23” spread, yellow flowers and foliage
  • Hartington Silver Thyme (Thymus) 12” spread, light pink flowers
  • Mediterranean Creeping Thyme (Thymus) – 18” spread, deep pink flowers
  • Nutmeg Thyme (Thymus) – 18” spread, scented foliage
  • Orange-scented Thyme (Thymus) – 12” spread, scented foliage
  • Pink Pussy-toes (Antennaria) – 12” spread, deep pink flowers
  • Pussy-toes (Antennaria) 12” spread, white flowers
  • White Moss Thyme (Thymus) – 18” spread, white flowers
  • Whitley’s Speedwell (Veronica) – 23” spread, deep blue flowers
  • Woolly Thyme (Thymus) – 23” spread, grey-green foliage

Sun to Part Sun 

  • Blue Star Creeper (Isotom) 12” spread, light blue flowers
  • Black Brass Buttons (Leptinella) 12” spread, purple-black foliage
  • Black-Leaved Clover (Trifolium) – 18” spread, green and purple foliage
  • Celestial Spice Pratia (Pratia) 8” spread, deep blue flowers
  • County Park Pratia (Pratia) – 12” spread, deep blue flowers
  • Creeping Mazus (Mazus) – 18” spread, mauve flowers
  • Creeping Wire Vine (Muehlenbeckia) – 29” spread, wiry stems
  • Cushion Bolax (Azorella) – 8” spread, yellow flowers
  • Green Brass Buttons (Leptinella squalida) – 12” spread, yellow flowers
  • Irish Moss (Sagina subulata) – 12” spread, small white flowers
  • White Creeping Mazus (Mazus) – 18” spread, white flowers
  • Miniature Brass Buttons (Leptinella) – 16” spread, white flowers
  • Rupturewort (Herniaria) – 12” spread, tiny leaves
  • Scotch Moss Golden (Sagina) 12” spread, golden foliage
  • Turkey Tangle Fogfruit (Phyla) 23” spread, gray-green foliage
  • White Creeping Pratia (Pratia) 12” spread, white flowers 

Shade 

  • Corsican Mint (Mentha) – 12” spread, mauve flowers
  • Miniature Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia) – 18” spread, yellow flowers
  • Miniature Wintercreeper (Euonymus) – 18” spread, leathery foliage
Off The Beaten Path

Ladybug or Lady Beetle?

The different names given to ladybugs are almost as numerous as the number of species. But bug or beetle, understanding more about these garden guests can help you better appreciate their diversity and all the help they can offer in your garden and landscape.

What’s In a Name

You may call them ladybugs (although they are not really bugs), lady beetles (they are technically beetles), lady birds or in Germany you would say “Marienkafer” (Mary’s beetles). In North America, there are more than 350 distinct species of ladybugs, and there are more than 4,000 ladybug species around the world. Most species can be identified by the pattern of spots on their elytra (flight wing covers). In many areas, these helpful insects go by different common names, including lady fly, lady cow, little hen, insect of fortune, Mary’s bug and more.

About These Bugs

Lady beetles are members of the beetle family Coccinellidae, which means “little sphere.” In their life cycle, a lady beetle will go through egg, larval, pupal and adult stages, though the length of each stage and how quickly the beetle proceeds through each one will vary depending on the species and local conditions. Lady beetles may live in shrubs, fields, trees and logs.

Lady beetles’ favorite food is the notorious aphid, though they do eat a variety of different insects. A female lady bug has huge appetite, eating from 75-100 aphids per day, while the male eats about 40 per day. This makes them ideal garden helpers, and many gardeners deliberately release swarms of lady beetles to help control aphid outbreaks. Most lady beetles are predators, but a few are plant eaters, and can be crop pests if not controlled appropriately. Crops most at risk from certain lady beetle species include potatoes, beans and different types of grain. When lady beetles swarm in vineyards and are inadvertently pressed with wine processing (it inevitable that some insects are part of the process), they can impact the taste of the resulting wine.

Self-Preservation

Lady beetles have some surprisingly innovative ways of protecting themselves. First of all is their coloring. Most predators know that bright colorings mean that their victim would likely taste gross, usually sharp or very bitter, and bold colors can even indicate poisons or stinging. While lady beetles don’t sting, their bold red and black coloration can easily mislead predators. Lady beetles also produce a pungent odor when threatened or may just play dead. As well, the lady beetle larvae is kind of alligator looking, so not many predators will not mess with it.

Ladybugs and lady beetles are fascinating insects, well known to gardeners throughout the world. The more you know, the more you’ll respect and appreciate these iconic insects.

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Conserving Water Through Proper Planting

Worried that you may have to give up color in your landscape to save on maintenance and water? Afraid that watering restrictions in your area will put a damper on your colorful flowerbeds, borders and shrubs? It doesn’t have to be that way! Many brightly-colored trees, shrubs and flowers don’t require as much water once they become established, which generally takes about a year. The key is knowing which plants to select and how to treat them for that year. 

Choosing Plants That Tolerate Drought 

The key to keeping your color while losing the water is to opt for plants that aren’t quite so thirsty. Fortunately, there are all types of beautiful drought-tolerant plants to choose from, with more cultivars being developed every year. 

Dry soil tolerant plants include: 

Annuals

  • Cosmos
  • Nasturtium
  • Portulaca
  • Strawflower
  • Verbena

Perennials

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Anthemis (Golden Marguerite)
  • Artemesia (Wormwood)
  • Asclepias (Butterflyweed)
  • Baptisia (False Indigo)
  • Echinops (Globe Thistle)
  • Gallardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Hemerocallus (Daylily)
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
  • Salvia (Sage)
  • Sedum (Stonecrop)
  • Stachys (Lamb’s Ear)

Shrubs

  • Berberis (Japanese Barberry)
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Chaenomeles (Quince)
  • Cotinus (Smokebush)
  • Hamemelis (Witchazel)
  • Hypericum (St. John’s Wort)
  • Juniper
  • Ligustrum (Privet)
  • Myrica (Bayberry)
  • Potentilla
  • Rhamnus (Tallhedge)
  • Pyracantha (Firethorn)
  • Vitex (Chastetree)
  • Yucca

Establishing Drought-Tolerant Plants 

To be sure drought-tolerant, water-saving plants get the good start they need, it is important to plant them in appropriate locations. Some do well in full sun, others need varying amounts of shade. Also pay close attention to soil needs, including pH values – the chemical composition of the soil affects its water retention and the ability of plants to absorb that water effectively. If your plants are in the right spot, they will flourish with the best foliage and flowering possible, even with little watering. 

Plant drought-tolerant plants as early as possible so they can begin growing strong, absorbent roots well before the driest days of summer, and use drip watering systems, mulch and windbreaks to protect delicate plants from too much heat stress. Grouping plants with similar watering needs together can also help minimize water loss by avoiding irresponsible watering. 

More Watering Tips 

To make the most of every drop of water you offer to your garden, flowerbeds or landscape… 

  • Water in the very early morning when the air is still cool and less water will evaporate before it soaks into the soil.
  • Water deeply but infrequently to help plants stretch their roots deeper into the soil seeking moisture.
  • Check your irrigation system regularly for any leaks or other problems that could result in poor watering practices.

With thoughtfulness and care, you can easily enjoy beautiful, colorful flowerbeds, gardens and landscaping even without a great deal of water.

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Tomatoes and Peppers – A Gardening Tradition

Tomatoes and peppers are two crops you can never have too much of. They freeze well without the difficulty of blanching, and although the texture of tomatoes disintegrates, the flavor remains good. Both tomatoes and peppers offer brilliantly colored fruit that can be particularly attractive in the garden or in containers. Both have the same requirements – a sunny, nutrient-rich site that is well-drained. To prevent disease problems, neither should be planted in a location where tomatoes, peppers or eggplants were grown the previous year. If you’re not growing both tomatoes and peppers, you’re missing out! 

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes come in two different types: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate, or bush varieties, grow 1-3’ tall. When flowers form at the vine tips, the plant stops growing. This means fruit sets all at once – which makes them excellent for canning. Indeterminate types, on the other hand, have sprawling vines that grow 6-20’ long, and keep producing and growing until frost. Indeterminate vines should be pruned to ensure that they do not put too much energy into vine production. Pinch out sideshoots (“suckers”) as they develop to prevent excess growth and encourage more fruit. 

Tomato plants should be set deep in the soil with the first leaf just above ground level. Leggy plants can even be planted horizontally as roots will develop from the planted stem. 

Blossom-end rot can be a common problem with tomatoes. It is a leathery scar that develops on the bottom of the fruit. This is caused from a deficiency of calcium and/or irregular watering. To ensure a supply of calcium, work gypsum into the soil before planting and maintain regular watering. Feed tomatoes once a month with Garden-tone or use Miracle-Gro weekly. Apply mulch around all vegetable plants to help keep the soil moist and cool. 

Another disease, early blight, makes dark, depressed areas on the leaves just as first fruit appears. Late blight appears as black, irregular, water-soaked blotches on leaves and dark-colored spots on fruits. Both diseases usually occur during cool, rainy weather. Destroy plants to keep from infecting other plants and select resistant varieties to minimize future outbreaks. 

Spread by aphids, tobacco mosaic virus will appear as yellow, mottled foliage with fruit possibly being stunted. Severely affected plants should be destroyed. Aphids should be controlled to prevent infection. 

Peppers 

Ranging in selections from crispy sweet to fiery hot and from big and blocky to long and skinny, peppers should be cut from the plant rather than pulled off. Most sweet peppers become even sweeter when they mature as they turn from green to bright red, yellow, orange or even brown or purple. As hot peppers mature and turn red, they get hotter. 

Peppers are also susceptible to blossom end rot and tobacco mosaic virus the same as tomatoes. The same measures should be taken to prevent infection. 

Although we’ve touched on the most common problems with tomatoes and peppers – if you’re not sure, bring in a sample to let one of our experts correctly diagnose the problem and help you find a solution. 

Types of Tomatoes & Peppers 

Tomatoes

  • Beefsteak – Large slicer
  • Better Boy (VFN) – Medium
  • Big Beef – Large slicer
  • Big Girl (VF) – Medium
  • Celebrity (VFNTA) – Medium
  • Champion (VFNT) – Large
  • Early Girl (VF)- Medium, early
  • Husky Gold (VF) – Medium yellow
  • Husky Red (VF) – Medium
  • Lemon Boy (VFN) – Yellow
  • Patio – Self-supporting, medium
  • Roma (VF) – Medium
  • Sunray – Yellow
  • Supersonic – Medium to large
  • Supersteak – Large slicer
  • Sweet 100 – Cherry

Notations after the tomato variety designate their resistance to the following diseases: V-Verticillium, F-Fusarium, N-Nematodes, T-Tobacco Mosaic, A-Alternaria 

Peppers

  • Biscayne Italian Fryer – Sweet
  • California Wonder – Sweet
  • Cherry Hot – Hot
  • Cubanelle – Sweet
  • Golden Bell – Sweet
  • Habanaro – Hot
  • Hungarian Wax – Hot
  • Italian Gourmet Fryer – Sweet
  • Ivory Bell – Sweet
  • Jalapeno – Hot
  • Jupiter Green – Sweet
  • Lady Bell – Sweet
  • Lilac Bell – Sweet
  • Long Hot Cayenne – Hot
  • Mandarin (Orange Bell) – Sweet
  • Sweet Banana – Sweet

In The Kitchen 

There are hundreds of delicious recipes to try with either tomatoes, peppers or both at once, whether they are fresh or canned. Try this favorite tomato recipe, and use your strong crops of both of these fruits to experiment with different flavors and tastes all year long! 

Scalloped Fresh Tomatoes

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 4 medium, ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheese
  • 1 cup fine, soft bread crumbs
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream
  • 2 eggs, well-beaten
  • ½ tsp salt

Cook onions in butter until tender. Place half the tomatoes in a 10 x 6 x 11 ½” baking dish. Top with half each onions, cheese and crumbs; repeat. Mix remaining ingredients. Pour over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes. Serves 4-5.

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Espalier

Espalier is the process of training trees or shrubs, by pruning and trellising, to create a vertical, two-dimensional, formal pattern. The purpose of espalier is to artfully train a tree to grow in limited space, to provide pattern and texture on a solid wall, to grow fruit in a limited space and to create privacy in the garden.

It is possible to purchase plants that have been already been espaliered, however, your selection of plant choices will be limited and it’s not nearly as much fun as doing it yourself. Fortunately, it’s not as hard to do as it may sound!

Espalier Basics

To begin, choose a spot in full sun where you have garden space at the foot of a bare wall or fence. It is important to remember to leave about 6 inches of space between the wall or fence and the plant to allow sufficient room for roots to grow. A wire frame is often used in place of a trellis when choosing this type of plant training, though a trellis may be used when training a plant for privacy when no wall is available. Screw eyebolts into the side of a building at 1-foot intervals, horizontally and vertically. Tie wire between the bolts to create a grid. There are many styles and patterns, of espalier to choose from, some simple, some complicated. It may help to layout your design on graph paper first to solidify your plan and to visualize its complete form.

Select a tree that is young as its branches will be more flexible and more readily trainable. All branches must be pruned from the side that will be flush with the wall or trellis. Tie the main trunk to the wire grid with a twist tie, then prune away all branches that grow forward leaving only laterally spreading branches. Next, begin tying the lateral branches to the frame at approximately a 45-degree angle from the ground. You now have the beginnings of an espalier! This process will require annual maintenance. Branches chosen to be part of your original design should be retrained and retied yearly. Check the ties twice a year to make sure that they are not strangling the branches, and loosen them as necessary. Branches that are not needed to maintain your design should be removed.

Pruning Your Plant for the Best Espalier

Pruning and training will continue throughout the life of your chosen plant. Generally, most major pruning is done in late winter to early spring before new growth begins, but pruning at different times can have different advantages. Pruning during the dormant season or early spring, for example, will stimulate new growth that can help fill a pattern in more quickly. Pruning in mid-summer (June, July) tends to have a dwarfing effect, ideal to keep a more mature plant under control in a smaller space. Pruning should not be done in late summer, however, as this could stimulate new growth that will not have time to harden off before a heavy frost sets in.

An espalier design can take years to fill into a luxurious form, but the effort and meticulous nature of this type of plant training can be well worthwhile for a unique and eye-catching feature in your garden.

Apple Fruit.

Begonias for the Home

Begonias are a beautiful and diverse group of plants, with more than 1,500 species. Some are suitable for use as bedding plants or in container gardens, some for hanging baskets and others for indoor cultivation. Begonias are treasured not only for their colorful flowers but also for their unique foliage, and many varieties make spectacular houseplants. 

Indoor Begonia Care 

Begonias require little care when grown indoors. They need plenty of bright light with shading from the intense afternoon sun. Comfortable indoor temperatures are advisable, 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit, and should drop slightly at night, but not below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Begonias are very sensitive to over watering. Make certain that the soil drains well, the pot has a drainage hole and water is not permitted to stand in the saucer. It is beneficial to provide additional humidity as heating and air conditioning rob indoor air of precious moisture. The best way to increase humidity is to use a humidity tray under your begonias. Avoid misting these plants to prevent mildew on leaves. Provide adequate air circulation to ensure the foliage stays fresh without excessive dampness. 

Indoor begonias are relatively carefree if they are kept healthy. Insects that commonly affect indoor plants may also cause problems for begonias. These include mealybug, whitefly and spider mites. If leaves become crispy around the edges it is an indication that the plant requires more humidity. If the leaves yellow and start to fall off it means the plant is receiving too much water. Fertilize begonias bi-weekly with a balanced fertilizer during the growing season. Stop fertilizing during the winter months to give the plant a rest.

 If you have any questions about these or any other houseplant problems, please call or stop by our greenhouse and speak with one of our experts. 

Best Begonias for Indoor Cultivation 

  • Angel Wing Begonias
    These begonias are favored for their large, colorful, patterned, wing-shaped leaves. The flowers of this begonia are large, hang in clusters and tend to be soft in color. Angel Wings bloom in shades of white, pink, red and orange. Due to their cascading habit, these plants lend themselves well to hanging baskets but also look wonderful in larger pots. You may pinch Angel Wing Begonias to keep them at a manageable size and also to promote new canes at the base of the plant. Hang these plants outside in a semi-shaded area during the summer.
  • Rex Begonias
    Although these begonias do flower, rex begonias are grown primarily for their striking foliage. The leaves are uniquely shaped, unusually patterned, heavily textured and come in exceptional color combinations that can include green, pink, red, silver, yellow, orange, maroon and purple.
  • Rieger Begonias
    These are one of the most loved and easy to care for houseplants. The main attraction of this plant is the brilliantly colored, double or semi-double flowers in white, yellow, orange, pink and red. This plant will flower for several months and the flowers will last longer if temperatures are on the cooler side, 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Deadhead to encourage new blooms and extend the blooming season.
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Rex Begonia

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Raising Root Crops

Root crops are among the easiest vegetables to grow, and often the first and last vegetables in the garden to mature. Your garden may produce enough vegetables to take you through the entire year and, if kept correctly, root crops will last a long time in storage. These vegetables are great to grow, even in a small space. Many root crops are frost tolerant and with most, the tops, or greens, are also edible. 

What Root Crops Need 

To get the best harvest of root crops, no matter which types you opt to add to your garden, you need to meet their cultivation needs. 

  • Soil
    Root crops grow best in deep, loose, rock-free soil that will allow the roots to form and grow easily. To nourish the plants, supplement the soil with plenty of organic matter.
  • Fertilization
    Root crops require a high phosphorus fertilizer for optimum growth, but check the needs of individual crop types to choose the best mixture. Always apply fertilizer according to the proper directions to prevent burning.
  • Temperature
    Most root crops are considered cool season vegetables and are planted both early and late in the growing season. Warm days and cool nights are most beneficial for root expansion.
  • Light
    Full sun is best.
  • Planting
    Seeds should be sown 2-3 weeks before the last expected frost date and subsequent plantings made every three weeks thereafter as weather permits (some exceptions apply). Planting depth varies depending on the type of plant; follow the directions on the seed packet. After seedlings emerge, thin to desired spacing as determined by the diameter of the root at harvest time. Beet and turnip tops that are thinned are edible raw as salad greens or they may be cooked. Root crops are generally not transplantable because they have a tap root.
  • Mulch
    Mulch plants that have already been thinned with salt marsh hay to retain soil moisture and minimize weed growth.
  • Pest Control
    Maintaining appropriate cultivation requirements will reduce or eliminate the need for pest control. As with all vegetables, it is important to rotate crops each year. Rotating root crops will discourage root weevils.
  • Basic Storage
    All root crops may be stored for a time before being eaten. In general, store at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 95 percent humidity. Leave the crops in the garden as long as weather permits, then dig. Store the harvest in a root cellar or refrigerator.

Tips for Favorite Root Vegetables 

  • Carrots – Plant in sandy soil if you want the classic, long, narrow type.
  • Beets – You may harvest 1/3 of the tops without affecting the root.
  • Garlic – Best planted in the fall.
  • Horseradish – Use caution when planting this aggressive perennial.
  • Kohlrabi – Has a mild, sweet cabbage flavor.
  • Leeks – Flavor is best if harvested after a light frost.
  • Onions & Shallots – Plant from seed or sets.
  • Potatoes – Best planted from ‘seed potatoes’ to match variety.
  • Radishes – Mature in as little as three weeks.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Warm weather root crop, will not withstand a frost.
  • Turnips – For a fall crop, sow seeds in midsummer.
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Rose Care Basics

Beginners often become confused with the many recommendations and suggestions for growing roses. However, it is important to start with the basic guidelines for successful rose growing. Roses can thrive under many conditions, but they are sure to grow better, with more luxurious blooms and fewer problems, when you follow the basics. 

Prepare the Soil 

The proper soil is essential to nourish roses so they can grow to their full potential. To make the soil ideal for roses… 

  1. Take a soil sample to test the pH, either with a home testing kit or through your local extension service. Roses like a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. You may need to add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it to the optimum rose range.
  2. Incorporate composted cow manure or other healthy compost into the soil. This will provide superior drainage and excellent organic material for roses to absorb.

Planting Roses

If they aren’t planted properly, roses won’t thrive as well as they could. Improper planting could even damage roots and destroy a rose bush. 

  1. Select a sunny spot with good soil drainage – roses require at least 6 hours of full sun daily. Early morning sun is preferred because it dries the leaves, which helps prevent disease.
  2. Dig a wide, shallow hole that is 2-3 times as wide but not quite as deep as the root ball (about 1 inch shallower). The plant should sit on solid ground so it doesn’t sink when the soil settles.
  3. Remove the plant from the pot and loosen any circling roots. If you can’t pull the roots apart, use a knife to make 4-5 vertical cuts in the root ball. This will allow new roots to grow out into the surrounding soil as the plant becomes established.
  4. Place the plant in the hole slightly elevated above ground level. Backfill with soil until the hole is half full.
  5. Soak the root ball with a mixture of a Root Stimulator & Transplanting Solution.
  6. Fill the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Apply mulch to a depth of 2 inches, being careful not to mound mulch against the trunk of the plant, which could encourage rotting or insect damage.

Pruning Roses 

To look their best, roses must be properly pruned. This can be intimidating for rose-growing novices, but once the basics are mastered, the techniques for pruning roses are not difficult. 

  1. In spring, remove winter mulch when new grow appears. Prune out all dead wood and twiggy growth and cut back to sound wood with a clean slanting cut, just above a good bud eye.
  2. During the growing season, remove fading roses promptly, cutting just above a five-leaflet leaf. This will help encourage reblooming on many cultivars, and will help prevent rot or disease infestation.
  3. To winterize, remove all fallen leaves and debris from the base of the plant, cut back to 10-12 inches after the ground freezes, then apply a mound of mulch over the canes to protect them from temperature shock. 

Food and Water 

Roses need the proper nutrition – water and fertilizer – to bloom well and develop stunning colors and fragrances. 

  1. Roses thrive best when given 1 inch of water weekly. A thorough soaking from rain or hose will keep roses blooming all season. Try not to overhead water unless it is early in the day, as the damp leaves can promote disease.
  2. Fertilize monthly with Espoma Rose-tone or similar products specially formulated for the nutritional needs of roses.

Treat for Disease and Pests 

There are times when roses will succumb to diseases and pests. Quickly recognizing these problems and treating them properly will help minimize outbreaks that can damage several rose plants at once. 

  1. Fungus diseases cannot be cured, so a regular spraying schedule is very important. Keep an eye on plants that were infected last year and spray with a fungicide to prevent outbreaks this year.
  2. You may also need to use an insecticide for severe insect problems. Minor problems can be handled with less harsh methods, but diligence will be necessary to keep pests from taking over the rose bushes.
  3. Many rose lovers find it convenient to use an all-purpose insect and disease spray once a week or a systemic control every 6 weeks.

It may seem like a lot of work to cultivate roses, but when you wander through your rose garden or see your favorite rose bush in full bloom, that effort will be well rewarded.

Spraying the roses

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Garden Fence, Pink Roses

Attracting Hummingbirds

It is an awesome sight to capture a glimpse of a ruby-throated hummingbird hovering over the flower garden on a sunny summer morning. One or two a year may be seen seeking food in the landscape, sampling everything in their path. Unfortunately, they leave as rapidly as they arrive. This season, attract more of these miniature avian anomalies and keep them returning year after year. 

What Hummingbirds Want 

You can charm hummingbirds to your yard with a selection of their favorite nectar-producing flowers. Hummingbirds are not attracted by scent but by color. Red happens to be their favorite, however, pink, purple, blue, orange and yellow will also catch their eye. Tubular flowers accommodate these birds’ long, narrow bills. Select a wide variety of plants that bloom at different times to keep hummers well fed all season long. Refrain from using insecticides when attracting hummingbirds, as they rely on insects for protein in their diets – especially during the summer nesting season when young hummers need extra protein for healthy growth. 

Hanging a feeder is another way to encourage these visitors. Choose one with red parts to resemble the flowers that they prefer. Fill the feeder with a mixture of one part sugar to four parts hot water to help the sugar dissolve. Fill the feeders after the mixture has cooled. Easier yet, fill with instant nectar purchased at our store. Clean feeders every 2-3 days early and late in the season, and daily in hot weather. 

Plants That Attract Hummingbirds 

The easiest way to keep hummingbirds fed without the hassle of refilling and cleaning feeders is to provide a lush landscape filled with their favorite flowers. Fortunately, that’s easy to do because these birds will sample nectar from a wide variety of blooms. No matter what your yard size, soil type, sun exposure or moisture levels, there are plants you can add to the landscape to entice hungry hummers to stop for a snack. 

Annuals

  • Flowering Tobacco
  • Four-O-Clocks
  • Fuchsia
  • Geraniums
  • Impatiens
  • Mealy Blue Sage
  • Mexican Bush Sage
  • Nasturtium
  • Petunia
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Red Salvia
  • Zinnia

Bulbs

  • Canna
  • Gladiolus

Perennials & Biennials

  • Bugleweed
  • Bee Balm
  • Beard Tongue
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Columbine
  • Coral Bells
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Gaura
  • Hollyhocks
  • Hosta
  • Phlox
  • Spiked Gayfeather
  • Lily
  • Rose Mallow
  • Russell Hybrid Lupine

Vines

  • Cypress Vine
  • Honeysuckle
  • Morning Glory
  • Scarlet Runner Bean
  • Trumpet Vine

Shrubs

  • Azalea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Glossy Abelia
  • Lilac
  • Weigelax

Trees

  • Bottlebrush Buckeye
  • Catalpa

Fun Hummingbird Facts 

Why not learn a little more about these fascinating birds? The more you know about their amazing abilities and unique characteristics, the more you’ll appreciate having them visit your yard! 

  •  Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world.
  • There are over 340 species of hummingbirds and they are found only in the western hemisphere. Most species are found in the tropics.
  • Hummers can hover as well as fly straight up and down, sideways, backwards and even upside down.
  • Hummingbirds beat their wings about 75 times per second.
  • They can drink eight times their body weight and consume about 500 insects daily.
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Green Gardening

Planting a vegetable or flower garden seems like the perfect thing to do when you are looking for ways to adopt a greener, more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Some traditional gardening practices, however, may not be quite as “green” as you might think. Planning your gardens with the environment in mind and choosing some practices that maintain healthy ecosystems can help you create a truly “green” garden. 

Tips for a Green Garden 

There are easy, effective steps you can take in your garden to go green, including… 

  • Plant local and native species of trees and shrubs which are naturally adapted to the conditions in your area, thus requiring less watering and having natural defenses for local insect pests and plant diseases.
  • Collect rainwater for watering your container gardens and new transplants, and adjust your irrigation schedule to compensate for whenever Mother Nature does the watering for you.
  • Use organic compost and mulch to improve soil health and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Better yet, make your own compost so you can adjust it to exactly what your plants need while keeping more waste out of landfills.
  • Opt for disease-resistant and pest-resistant plants rather than trying to force plants into an unfriendly area where they will need chemical assistance and extra maintenance to thrive.
  • Try to use natural products instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Use traps, parasites and natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings. Plants that repel insects – basil, chives, mint, marigolds or mums – mixed in with other plants can help keep pests away.
  • Choose wildlife-friendly plants such as flowerbeds that will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators, and don’t be upset to share some of your garden space with other critters.

These are just a few of the simple changes you can make in your gardening practices that will benefit the environment.

Green Products 

More and more “green” products are readily available to help you maintain the natural health of your garden. Before using a product, however, be sure it is suitable for your situation, and follow all application and use instructions. Even organic or eco-friendly products can become toxic contaminants if they are improperly used.

Popular options for green gardening products include… 

  • Dr. Earth contains probiotic beneficial soil microbes, plus ecto- and endo- mycorrhizae which feed the fiber of the living soil by releasing natural organic matter. People and pet safe.
  • Dr. Earth pest controls are organic controls for all of your pest problems, including all types of unwanted or troublesome insects. People and pet safe.
  • Espoma Organic Traditions line of products includes bone meal, kelp meal, garden sulphur, potash and garden lime for helping to improve your soil without artificial chemical compounds.
  • Bonide offers organic fertilizers as well as organic formulas for pest and plant disease control, such as fruit tree sprays.
  • Scotts Organic Choice lawn care products provide more environmentally friendly choices for your yard.

Developing “green” gardening practices benefits you and your family, your garden, your native plants and animals, your water supply – our world, all of us.

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Succulent Container Garden

Have you noticed how a container garden can really jazz up a front entryway, back deck or porch? Perhaps you’ve thought twice about including this addition to your plantscaping because you just don’t have time every day to water. 

Cheer up! You can plant a container with succulents (plants with fleshy or thickened leaves, stems or roots) and you will not have to worry about watering frequently. Succulent container gardens are relatively carefree, and they’re so easy that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. If one container makes a statement, several will create a conversation! 

Succulent Container Garden Tips and Tricks

To have the greatest success with your new succulent container garden, consider… 

  • Exposure
    Full sun is a must for all succulents and will help show off their subtle colors and textures. If your viewing location has less than adequate sun, place your succulent garden in a full sun area for the majority of the day and move to your desired location when you have company or time to enjoy it yourself. Remember to move it back out into the sun when company leaves.
  • Containers
    Because succulents do not have extensive root systems, your chosen containers may be shallow. Too much soil can hold excessive water causing the succulent’s roots to rot. Perhaps a strawberry pot would make the perfect focal point at your front door, and many front doors look great with a single shallow round planter sitting on the stoop. If you have several steps to the door, try a pot on each step. How do you want your front entrance to say “hello”?
  • Height
    Think about varying the heights of your containers. Perhaps your containers will require a pedestal or something else for elevation. This could be an inverted pot, a table, shelf or even pot feet. You may even consider hanging your container for elevated elegance. Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember succulents require excellent drainage. Therefore, the containers must have holes.
  • Soil
    All succulents need fast draining soil. Pre-mixed soil is available that is specifically blended for succulent container plantings. You may also use a general all-purpose potting mix and add perlite, coir or sand to increase the drainage sufficiently.

Plants for Your Succulent Container Garden

When making your plant selection, it is fun to let your imagination go wild and embrace the full range of amazing succulents available. As a good container gardening rule of thumb, Use a thriller (something stunning to catch the eye), a filler (a sturdy, reliable choice to fill in bare spots) and a spiller (a trailing plant to blur the container edges) and you’ll never go wrong. 

Succulents come in an extensive variety of colors, striking shapes and varying sizes. As when planting any container, evaluate plant color, texture and shape when making your selections. You may feel overwhelmed when choosing your plants. If you can’t decide, here is a simple “recipe” for planting one 16″ container to be seen from all sides. Maybe it will give you some ideas: 

  • 1-thriller (Euphorbia tirucalliSticks on Fire‘) planted in the middle.
  • 3-fillers (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) to surround the thriller and provide texture or color contrast
  • 5-spillers (Sempervivum arachnoideum) to drape over the container’s edge.

As an extra bonus, many succulents bloom, adding extra unexpected beauty. Blooms can be few and far between, however, but they will be exciting and rewarding when they are spotted. 

The Importance of Topdressing 

After planting, gently brush off any residual soil from the succulents’ leaves. Add more interest by topdressing the container. This is a layer of material will give your container garden a finished appearance. Desert type plants look great with a thin layer of light tan-colored gravel or red lava rocks. Create sparkle with sea-glass toppings or add a clean, contemporary look to Zen-like or Asian inspired plantings with smooth black river stones. Other popular top dressings include glass marbles, colored aquarium gravel or tiny seashells. You might even add a fairy garden surprise in the container, such as a miniature hut, hidden gnome or other quaint character who will call your succulent garden home.

Most importantly, have fun!

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Late Spring Gardener’s Calendar

Turn over your vegetable garden and add humus, mushroom compost or manure to enrich the soil.  Apply Bonide Fruit Tree Spray as buds swell and again at petal drop to all fruit trees.

Fertilize perennials with Dr. Earth Rose & Flower Fertilizer.

Continue spring cleanup.  Completely remove winter mulch.  Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds, then edge.  Prepare your annual beds, and mulch landscape beds with shredded mulch, bark chips or gravel.   Apply Preen or Corn Gluten and scratch it in to prevent future weeds, or try the new Preen Mulch Plus which combines mulch and Preen and prevents weeds for up to 6 months.

Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials (including hardy lilies and lily-of-the-valley).

Seed or sod new lawns.  Reseed bare spots in established lawns.  Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3” high.

Put down a second application of Team or Tupersan (newly seeded lawns) for pre-emergent goosegrass control and control of crabgrass the rest of the year.

Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden.  When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm- and cool-season vegetable and herb seeds.

Dig and divide crowded spring bulbs after they have finished blooming. Enrich the soil with compost, manure or Espoma Bulb-Tone.

Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees and shrubs after the flowers fall.

Place gro-thru sets and link stakes over or around peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.

Check arborvitae, cedar, juniper spruce and pine for bagworms.  Hand-pick bags from the host and spray with Ortho Systemic Insecticide.

Begin summer rose care program of deadheading, spraying and watering.

Fertilize roses with Bayer All In One Rose and Flower Care or Dr Earth Rose and Flower Fertilizer, azaleas with Espoma Holly-Tone or Dr Earth Azalea/Camelia Fertilizer, and fruit trees with Dr Earth Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer.

Deadhead bulbs, but leave foliage to mature and yellow before removing.  This will help nourish the bulb for next year’s flowering. Fertilize with Dr Earth Bulb Fertilizer.

Prune new growth on needled evergreens.

Dig and divide early blooming perennials after flowering.

Apply Encap Fast Acting Iron Plus or Bonide Liquid Iron Plus to azaleas, hollies, junipers, laurel, pines, rhododendron and spruce to provide iron for chlorophyll production by foliage.

Fertilize container plants and window boxes weekly with a Master Nursery Bud and Bloom Plant Food, or use Dynamite All Purpose Plant Food for season-long feeding, to promote healthy, vigorous plants all summer.

Pay close attention to the watering needs of these plants as well as hanging baskets, because they tend to dry out quickly on hot summer days.

Check plants for spider mite damage and treat with Bayer 3 in 1 Insect, Disease and Mite Control then alternate every 7-10 days with Bonide All-Season Oil Spray.

Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii, commonly known as Arkansas blue star, Arkansas amsonia or threadleaf bluestar, grows 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide in a mounded form. This hardy perennial grows in hardiness zones 4-9 and is a versatile North American native ideal for many landscaping uses in all types of yards and gardens.

Amazing Seasonal Interest

Unlike many plants that truly shine only for one season, Amsonia hubrichtii offers a variety of features throughout the seasons. From late spring to early summer, 2-3-inch wide clusters of small, light blue, star-shaped flowers are borne above the delicately soft, ferny or lacey foliage. The alternate-arranged, narrow leaves are a marvelous bright green in spring and summer, but turn a bright yellow-golden color which is second to none among herbaceous perennials in fall. In winter, the foliage can hold its shape and support snowfall, creating a beautiful mounding effect in the winter landscape.

Caring for Amsonia hubrichtii

These plants thrive in full sun to partial shade and perform best in average, moist, well-drained soil with a neutral (7.0) pH. Full sun will promote the best autumn color, but spring and summer blooms will be more prominent in a part-shade location. In a full shade location or when planted in too-rich soil, however, the plant may tend to open up and flop over, losing its full mounding traits. Though initially slow to grow and less lush and attractive when young, once established, it can tolerate drier conditions. Having no known severe insect or disease problems, other than minor occurrences of Mycosphaerella leaf spot and rust, this is a very easy to care for perennial.

After the flowers have faded, cutting back the foliage to 6-8 inches will help keep the mounds full and compact. Late season growth will fill in the plant in plenty of time for its showstopping autumn color. When the plants are large, they can be divided for transplanting to add even more specimens to the landscape.

In the Landscape

Amsonia is a real asset in borders, native gardens, cottage gardens or open woodland areas. Because of this plant’s versatility, it is also ideal in rock gardens or even rain gardens in well-drained soil. It is best when planted in masses and very attractive when mixed with ornamental grasses and other plants that have attractive seed heads. It tolerates deer and attracts butterflies, making it wildlife-friendly as well.

The outstanding ornamental qualities, ease of maintenance and many uses make Amsonia an invaluable perennial selection for any gardener.

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Shade Gardening: A Natural Opportunity

Although developing a garden for a shady area may require a little extra planning, some more thought and a bit more effort than sunny spaces, there are many opportunities to grow remarkable, unusual plants in the shade garden. Shade-loving plants are often noted for their foliage and can be combined to produce appealing contrasts in form, texture and color. From the glossy, dark greens of camellias and rhododendrons to the soft, silvery lamiums and the bold-textured, brownish-purple leaves of bergenia, the diversity of foliage available is positively breathtaking!

Defining Shade

The term “shade” encompasses many light conditions. Shade can range from dense darkness to the light-dappled shade under a birch tree. Most plants require at least a few hours of direct light each day (light shade) to look their best, especially if they feature bright colors in foliage or blooms. Some plants, however, do best in an abundance of filtered light (medium shade), especially if the shade is provided in the afternoon to cut the strongest rays of the sun. In the meantime, a few plants can thrive in the darkness of a forest (dense shade), without ever being exposed to bright, direct sunlight.

Other factors you will need to consider when planting your shade garden are the amount of moisture your shady spot receives and the soil conditions. The soil under large trees is usually dry because of the “umbrella” affect created. Other locations may have soggy soil that will only allow bog-type plants to grow. The soil’s drainage, pH and texture will all have to be taken into account to create the best shade-loving garden.

Not sure where to start for finding plants for a shade garden? Top shade-loving perennials and their requirements include…

Perennials for Dry Shade:

  • Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)**
  • Dicentra ‘Luxuriant’ (Bleeding Heart)*
  • Epimedium perralchicum, pinnatum, pubigerum (Bishop’s Hat)*
  • Geranium maculatum, endressii, nodosum (Cranesbill)*
  • Helleborus foetidus*
  • Lamium maculaturm (Deadnettle)*
  • Polygonatum multiflorum (Soloman’s Seal)*

Perennials for Cool, Moist Soils in Shade:

  • Adiantum pedatum (Maidenhair Fern)**
  • Athyrium nipponicum ‘Pictum’ (Japanese Painted Fern)**
  • Cyrtomium (Japanese Holly Fern)**
  • Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern)**
  • Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal Shield Fern)**
  • Epimedium grandiflorum, warleyense*
  • Helleborus viridus, orientalis (Lenten Rose)*
  • Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebell)**
  • Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)**
  • Polystichum setiferum ‘Divisilobum’ (Soft-Shield Fern)**
  • Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)*
  • Tricyrtis formosana (Toad Lily)*
  • Trillium sessile, grandiflorum**
  • Trollius europaeus*

Perennial Groundcovers in Shade:

  • Acanthus mollis (Bear’s Breech)*
  • Aegopodium podagraria ‘Variegatum’ (Goutweed)*
  • Asarum europaeum (European Wild Ginger)*
  • Galium odoratum (Sweet Woodruff)*
  • Lamiastrum galeobdolon ‘Florentinum’ (Variegated Archangel)*
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Beacon Silver’ (Dead Nettle)*
  • Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’*
  • Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)*
  • Vinca minor*
  • Waldsteinia ternata (Barren Strawberry)*

Climbers for Shady Walls & Fences:

  • Akebia quinata, trifoliata
  • Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’
  • Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloradus’
  • Hedera helix (English Ivy)
  • Humulus lupulus (Golden Hops)
  • Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (Japanese Honeysuckle)
  • Parthenosis henryana, quinquefolia, tricuspidata

*Does best in light shade
**Does best in medium to dense shade

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Magnificent Mountain Laurels

An undeniably beautiful shrub in any season, mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) explodes into bloom in late spring to early summer. One of our nation’s greatest contributions to the botanical world, mountain laurels possess beautiful, shiny, deep green foliage. They boast legendary clusters of star-like buds opening to delicate cup-shaped flowers with frilly edges. The flower buds emerge red, open pink or white and reveal purple dappled markings inside the flower, giving this shrub its nickname “calico bush.”

A native from Maine to Florida, these broadleaf evergreens intrigue, but sometimes frustrate the home gardener. With so many magnificent specimens growing wild in eastern forests, why is it sometimes difficult to grow mountain laurel in the home landscape?

Location

Mountain laurel needs the proper site to thrive. These plants will tolerate sun if there is adequate moisture and the root area is cool, however, partial shade is preferable and shade will do if there is some morning sun. Plant your mountain laurel where it has plenty of room to grow to maturity; it should not require pruning except to remove dead or damaged wood. Mountain laurels are slow growing, 4-8 feet over 10 years; this contributes to their irregular habit, creating an elegant, natural specimen.

Planting

As a member of the heath family, which includes rhododendron, mountain laurel requires well-drained, rich, acidic soil. Attempt to replicate these conditions and your plant should thrive. Your pH should be between 5.0-5.5, but if your reading tops 6.5 your mountain laurel may not survive and certainly will not thrive. Laurels seem to perform best in raised beds, heavily amended with sphagnum peat moss or finely ground pine bark. To plant, dig a hole three times as wide as the root ball. Set the plant at or above the depth as it was growing in its container/root ball. Do not plant it more deeply or the roots will suffer. Mix a handful of superphosphate to the amended planting soil, then backfill the hole and water thoroughly. Add a 3-inch layer of pine bark mulch to keep the roots cool in hot weather and to retain soil moisture.

Care

Mountain laurels require little care if they are sited and planted appropriately, but it is wise to monitor them, especially when the plants are young and not yet fully established. Check the plant often throughout the season and water before the soil dries out. Fertilize twice yearly with a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants: once in the spring and half-strength in the autumn.

Selections of Mountain Laurel

Not sure which mountain laurel to choose? Consider each of these beauties, or come on in to see new cultivars of these favorite shrubs!

  • Alpine Pink – Rich pink buds open to medium pink with a white throat.
  • Carousel – Starburst pattern inside the corolla. Good growth.
  • Hearts of Fire – Red buds open to a deep pink flower.
  • Nipmuck – Intense red buds open cream white to light pink with the back of the corolla is dark pink.
  • Olympic Fire – Large deep red buds open to pink flowers.
  • Pinwheel – Maroon flowers edged in white with a cinnamon-maroon band that almost fills the center of the corolla.
  • Snowdrift – Compact, mounded plant with pure white flowers.
  • Elf – White flowers on a dwarf plant.

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CAUTION IN THE GARDEN… CHLOROSIS

Yellow means caution, even for plants. While leaf yellowing, known as chlorosis, may be a signal that there is a problem that requires attention, it may also be normal. Understanding when this coloration is to be expected and when it indicates a problem is essential to be sure you’re giving your plants the proper care.

The Good and the Bad About Chlorosis

Chlorosis is the scientific word used to indicate the full or partial yellowing of plant leaves or stems and simply means that chlorophyll is breaking down. There are times when this is normal, expected coloration, and there are times when it indicates deeper problems that need attention.

  • Normal Chlorosis – Yellowing leaves at the base of an otherwise healthy plant is normal; the plant is simply utilizing the nitrogen and magnesium for exposed leaves near its top rather than older, lower leaves. These yellowed, older leaves will eventually shrivel and fall off as newer growth emerges at the top of the plant.
  • Chlorotic Response to Light – Moving a plant from full sun to shade, or visa-versa, can cause yellowing leaves as the plant reacts to the change and stress. Make sure that you grow and maintain your plant in the proper light. Also bear in mind seasonal changes that may affect how much light a plant is exposed to, even if it hasn’t been moved.
  • Chlorotic Response to Moisture – Sudden changes in soil moisture may damage or kill plant roots which can lead to yellowed leaves as the roots are unable to take up sufficient moisture. Most otherwise healthy plants, however, are able to grow new roots as they readjust. Maintain correct soil moisture or move the plants to a more favorable environment.
  • Mineral Deficiency – A shortage of some key mineral nutrients will cause chlorosis in plants. Often, a yellow leaf indicates a lack of nitrogen, however, magnesium, iron, sulfur or manganese deficiencies are indicated by yellowing leaves with prominent green veins. A magnesium deficiency will manifest itself in the yellowing of older leaves. On the other hand, an iron deficiency presents itself in the yellowing of new or young leaves. A simple soil analysis will let you know what minerals or trace elements your soil is deficient in.
  • Soil Factors – Although essential and trace elements may be present in the soil, many other factors affect how the plant uses and absorbs them. If the soil pH is too high/low or there is too much salt in the soil, the plant will not be able to utilize the available nutrients. Test your soil pH and adjust as necessary to be sure the plant can absorb nutrients appropriately to maintain proper foliage colors.
  • Toxins – Although this doesn’t happen frequently, pollutants like paint, oil, chemical solvents, airborne herbicides or pesticides or other pollutants may cause leaves to turn yellow and dark brown before dying. In this case, remove and dispose of the plant and its surrounding soil, and mark the area to be sure it can be treated appropriately and no other plants are inadvertently exposed to the toxins.

It can be alarming to see healthy plants suddenly yellowing, but by understanding chlorosis and how it happens, you can take steps to determine the cause of the color change and what to do to help your plants recover.

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Growing Exotic Citrus

Citrus trees grown in fancy terra cotta pots, light-weight decorative containers or wooden planters can be used to adorn your garden, no matter how small it is. Use a potted citrus as a centerpiece for an herb garden, place several in a series on your steps or decorate your deck with these grand-looking accent plants. Dark, glossy green leaves look beautiful all season long while colorful, healthy fruit dangles enticingly from the branches. Although citrus plants are not winter hardy in the north, they may be moved indoors during this time. For added pleasure, citrus offers weeks of fragrant flowers in the spring.

Top Citrus Picks

There are several varieties of exotic citrus trees that can be stunning in the landscape. The most popular options include…

  • Calamondin Orange – This cross between a mandarin and kumquat produces miniature oranges that are somewhat tart but make excellent marmalade.
  • Ponderosa Lemons – Producing fruits that weigh up to a whopping 5 pounds each, Ponderosa Lemons have a thick ring with very little juice.
  • Variegated Pink Lemons – This lemon has variegated foliage and produces a yellowish-pink fruit.
  • Meyer Lemon – Although not a true lemon (it is said to be a cross between a lemon and either an orange or mandarin), the Meyer Lemon is one of the sweetest lemons.
  • Key Lime – Also known as Mexican Lime, this selection is highly prized for making Key Lime Pie. The plant is very thorny and produces small aromatic fruits.
  • Goliath Pummels – The largest of all citrus fruits, pummels taste similar to grapefruit.
  • Blood Orange – Having an unusual red flesh, these oranges are prized by gourmet cooks for their slight berry-like flavor.
  • Flame Red Seedless Grapefruit – This grapefruit variety produces medium-sized pinkish-colored fruits.
  • Cocktail Trees – These are a grafted tree that usually contains 4 to 5 different types of citrus on the same plant, great for your own fruit salad in minimal space.

Citrus Care

Place citrus plants in a sunny location where they will receive a minimum of 6 hours of sun to ensure the best possible fruit. Water regularly and feed with a fertilizer listed specifically for citrus plants every two weeks. During the summer months, citrus plants will produce a lot of new growth. In the early fall, before bringing plants indoors, prune citrus plants back about 1/8 of their existing size. This will help to minimize the shock that plants often experience when being moved. Use a humidity tray indoors or mist daily. Avoid placing your plant in a drafty area or by a heating vent. Provide a minimum of 6-8 hours of daily sun or very bright light in the winter months. It may be necessary to supplement with an artificial light source at this time of the year to keep the plant at its best.

It may seem unusual to have strange citrus trees in your yard or even right inside your home, but with a little care, you’ll be amazed at how much fun these plants can be to grow, and their sweet fruit is a wonderful reward for your efforts.

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Perennial Power

Perennials may not be the best showstoppers in a garden full of annuals, but they make great foundation plantings to serve as a reliable backdrop or trusty fillers among other plants. There’s no reason you can’t select perennials that are just as beautiful as your favorite annuals, however, it’s just a matter of choosing the flowers that pack the most punch and using them appropriately.

Best Perennials to Choose

When choosing a perennial to fill an empty space in your garden, make sure to get the most bang from your buck by selecting one, or several, long-blooming perennials. These flowers will be worthwhile additions to your landscape for their ongoing staying power, giving you a reliable backdrop and structure to build from.

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Alcea (Hollyhock)
  • Anemone (Wind Flower)
  • Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)
  • Campanula (clips series)
  • Clematis ‘Jackmani’
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed)
  • Corydalis lutea (Yellow Bleeding Heart)
  • Delosperma (Ice Plant)
  • Dicentra exima (Bleeding Heart)
  • Doronicum
  • Echinacea (Coneflower)
  • Gallardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Gaura (Wand Flower)
  • Geranium ‘Johnson Blue’
  • Helenium (Helen’s Flower)
  • Heliopsis (Sunflower)
  • Hemerocallis ‘Stella D’Oro’ (Daylily)
  • Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’ (Daylily)
  • Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
  • Lavender
  • Liatris spicata (Gayfeather)
  • Ligularia (Ragwort)
  • Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)
  • Lythrum (Loosestrife)
  • Malva (Mallow)
  • Monarda (Bee Balm)
  • Nepeta (Catnip or Catmint)
  • Oneothra ‘Siskiyou’ (Evening Primrose)
  • Perovskia (Russian Sage)
  • Rudbeckia (Coneflower)
  • Salvia (most verticillata)
  • Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower)
  • Shasta Daisy ‘Becky’ or ‘Snow Queen’
  • Stokesia (Stoke’s Aster)
  • Veronica (Speedwell)

Using Your Blooming Perennials

To make your perennials truly pop, it’s important to position them in your landscape where they will show to their best advantage. Popular options include…

  • Filling in between showstopping annuals with perennials that will grow and bloom to cover fading blooms after the annuals are finished.
  • Adding blooming perennials in front of a hedge, fence or privacy screen for extra coverage with a dash of color.
  • Using perennial flowers as a backdrop for lower annual plantings along a house foundation or in other flowerbeds.
  • Creating a naturalized lawn or meadow-like area full of different perennials for a low-maintenance option that still stuns.
  • Planting perennials in hard-to-tend areas, such as alongside a water feature, in tight corners or on terraces so they can be gorgeous with less maintenance.

With so many options for lovely perennials that can be used in many different ways in the landscape, there’s no excuse not to enjoy these easy-care flowers for many years!

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Dwarf Evergreen Conifers

Dwarf conifers are some of the most versatile and popular plants of today’s modern garden and landscape. These fantastic plants add interesting texture, color and form to rock, pond and container gardens as well as any type of mixed border. They come in a variety of cultivars of different sizes and growth habits, and more cultivars are being introduced all the time. Dwarf conifers are virtually carefree and often provide four seasons of interest.

Dwarf Conifer Types

We commonly think of conifers as needled evergreens such as pines, spruce and firs, but not all conifers are needled and not all are evergreen. The common larch is needled, but deciduous. Ginko trees are conifers that have fan-shaped deciduous leaves, and this tree is neither needled nor evergreen. What identifies a plant as a conifer is that it is cone-bearing.

Dwarf conifers are slower growing and smaller versions of the straight species of a given conifer. A good example is the Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus, which can reach a height of 100 feet at maturity. The dwarf version of this plant, Pinus strobus ‘Nana’, will only grow to eighteen feet at maturity, but other than its size, it shares all the charming characteristics that are so well loved about the full-size tree.

Thanks to their popularity, new varieties of dwarf conifers are being introduced each season. This gives you an almost endless selection to consider for your landscaping needs. Some of the most popular options include…

  • Abies alba ‘Green Spiral’ (Silver Fir)
  • Abies lagrocarpa ‘Arizona Glauca Compacta’ (Rocky Mountain Fir)
  • Abies procera ‘Sherwoodi’ (Noble Fir)
  • Abies balsomea ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Balsam Fir)
  • Cedrus deodora ‘Albospica’ (Deodar Cedar)
  • Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Hinoki Falsecypress)
  • Chamaecyparis obtuse ‘Nana Lutea’ (Hinoki Falsecypress)
  • Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Aurea Nana’ (Japanese Falsecypress)
  • Picea abies ‘Little Gem’ (Norway Spruce)
  • Picea abies ‘Conica’ (Norway Spruce)
  • Picea abies ‘Pumila’ (Norway Spruce)
  • Picea abies ‘Argenteospicata’ (Norway Spruce)
  • Picea pungens ‘Montgomery’ (Colorado Spruce)
  • Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’ (Colorado Spruce)
  • Pinus cembra ‘Glauca Nana’ (Swiss Stone Pine)
  • Pinus mugo (Mugo Pine)
  • Pinus nigra ‘Hornibrookiana’ (Autstrian Pine)
  • Pinus sylvestris ‘Globosa Viridis’ (Scotch Pine)
  • Tsuga canadensis ‘Gentsch White’ (Canadian Hemlock)

Not sure which of these or other amazing dwarf evergreen conifers are best suited for your landscape? Let our experts help you choose a beautiful tree that will be a standout however you may use it in your yard.

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Heavenly Hosta

Hostas are amazing plants, truly glorious with heavenly foliage that is stunning as a specimen or in mass plantings. The thin spikes of purple or white, trumpet shaped flowers appear for several weeks in the summer and are an added benefit to this divine perennial. But how much do you know about hostas, and which can you add to your landscape?

Phenomenal Foliage

Hostas are praised by many for their magnificent variety of leaf sizes, colors and textures. These angels will grace your garden with heart-shaped, lance-shaped, oval or nearly round leaves, and leaf sizes vary as well. Smooth, quilted or puckered textures, with either a matte or glossy sheen, add to the glory and hostas’ radiant glow.

The leaf margins can be either smooth or wavy and range in color from light to dark green. Foliage colors also include chartreuse, gray and blue, depending on the cultivar. Variegated hostas with cream, white or yellow margins will radiate in a dark area of your garden.

Where to Plant Hostas

While most hostas are shade worshippers, some types will tolerate sun, depending on the overall climate and moisture levels. Hostas remain attractive from spring until frost and can withstand a wide range of growing conditions.

As choice groundcovers or single specimens in the landscape, hostas are certainly divine. Some hostas are quite unusual and rare and may increase in value each year, especially as the plants thrive and can be divided and transplanted with ease.

Best Hosta Care

Little maintenance is required to care for hostas. Cut off old flower stalks after flowers have faded. Divide plants occasionally to increase their quantity. Keep an eye out for pests, especially slugs and snails that munch on the foliage.

Types of Hostas

With so many selections and varieties, you can find a hosta the will fit into almost any garden situation. The most popular options include…

  • Dwarf & Small Hostas: In addition to being planted in secret little pockets throughout your garden or next to paths, dwarf and small hostas can be used in difficult places. Plant them among tree roots, on a slope or terrace or in rocky places containing little soil.
  • Edger Hostas: These hostas are 12” or less in height and have more horizontal growth. They are able to control weeds as they leave no light, when well established, or room for weeds to grow.
  • Groundcover Hostas: This group of hostas grows to 18” or less in height. They do a great job in areas difficult to weed or maintain. If you are in need of a hosta for use as a groundcover, keep in mind it works great to plant spring-flowering bulbs among them. The hosta comes up after the show of flowers and covers the fading foliage of the bulbs.
  • Background Hostas: Selections from this group grow to 24” or taller at maturity. They can be used to increase privacy where you sit and relax or to provide definition to your property line as a unique hedge.
  • Specimen Hostas: Specimens may be any size. Choose a site close to where the plant will be viewed so that every detail (texture, color pattern, buds, flowers and fragrance) may be enjoyed.

Not sure which hosta is right for you? Come in today and let our landscape and garden experts help you choose the right heavenly hosta to add a bit of the divine to your yard!

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Rose – Queen of the Garden

We all love roses. It may be the luxurious fragrances, rich colors or the elegant flower forms that attract us. It may be the memories that roses evoke. Whatever the reason, roses are one of the world’s most popular flowers. With so many different types of roses available, ranging from the diminutive miniatures to the towering climbers, there is no excuse to exclude this “Queen of Flowers” from your garden.

Rose Types

There are many types of roses to cultivate, and it can be difficult to choose. If you’re just getting started with roses, consider some of these popular favorites…

  • Hybrid Tea Roses: These blooms are a favorite of rose gardeners who enjoy long-stemmed, large flowers. Hybrid tea flowers have many petals and plants grow upright and tall, about 3-7 feet. These roses are appropriate in either a formal garden or informal planting.
  • Floribunda Roses: These roses have smaller flowers than hybrid teas with the flowers arranged in clusters. This rose bush is useful as a hedge for a border or privacy screen, and is equally stunning in mass plantings.
  • Grandiflora Roses: These beauties were developed by crossing hybrid teas with floribundas. This rose grows to around 10 feet tall so it should be used in the back of the border where its beauty won’t shroud other plants. The flowers of the Grandiflora are hybrid tea form and can be single stemmed or borne in clusters depending on the cultivar.
  • Climbing Roses: These roses make an outstanding vertical display when trained on arbors, walls, fences, trellises and pergolas and can grow from 8-15 feet tall. Flowers may be borne large and single or small and arranged in clusters.
  • Miniature Roses: These delicate nymphs are dwarf in every way – flowers, leaves and height. This rose may be mass planted as a ground cover, used as border or grown in containers on decks, patios and porches.
  • Shrub Roses: These flowers are renowned for their bushy habit and superior disease resistance making them an excellent choice for mass planting. The shrub rose flower may be either single or double. Some types have very showy rose hips.
  • Old Roses: These luscious heirlooms are making a come-back! Although bloom times and color choices are limited, old roses are much more fragrant, vigorous and disease resistant than modern roses. To obtain all the qualities of an old rose combined with a long bloom time of a modern rose, look for the David Austin varieties.

Not sure which rose is just right for your landscape or garden? Our rose experts will be glad to help you choose the perfect rose no matter what thoughts or emotions you want your garden to evoke. Stop in today to see the latest types of roses and the most popular cultivars for this year’s gardening.

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Let Me Out! Moving Houseplants Outside for the Season

Are your house plants looking a little peaked after a long winter of being cooped-up inside? Getting out for some fresh air during the warm months is healthy for all living things, including your potted plants. It is important to move plants safely and thoughtfully, however, or else you risk shock and damage that can destroy your carefully cultivated houseplants. With the right steps, you can move your houseplants to outdoor accommodations for the spring and summer while still protecting them from unfavorable conditions, pests and wildlife.

Tips for Moving Houseplants Outdoors

When you are ready to move your houseplants outside…

  • Wait until there is no longer any danger of freezing or frost before setting houseplants outside.
  • Before you place plants outdoors, acclimate them to the spring temperatures. Set them outside for short periods of time and bring them inside at night.
  • Over a period of two weeks, lengthen the plants’ outdoor exposure time gradually. Continue to bring plants inside at night if temperatures are not consistently above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Do not place plants directly in the sun or else the leaves may burn.
  • Set plants on pot feet or a suitable plant stand to prevent sow bugs.
  • Arrange plants in groups for increased humidity, being careful to promote good air circulation within the foliage.
  • Check soil often for moisture levels, as warmer days and breezes may dry pots out more quickly.
  • Empty saucers of excess water to prevent root rot and minimize standing water that will attract biting insects.
  • While away on vacation, use a self-regulating plant watering system.
  • Mulch the surface of the soil to retain moisture and keep weed seeds from invading the soil.
  • Keep squirrels from digging in pots by placing a layer of crushed oyster shells or chicken wire on top of the soil.
  • Use a slow-release fertilizer to save you time and energy on frequent fertilizing. Or, use a water soluble fertilizer every other week. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions so as not to burn tender plant roots.
  • Groom plants by clipping off damaged stems, yellow leaves and spent flowers. This will also improve air circulation and sunlight reach.
  • Trellis or stake plants that get too tall to prevent them from flopping over.

As they enjoy their time outdoors, you’ll see healthier, more robust houseplants with plentiful new growth and vigor. Why not give all your plants a great spring and summer getaway by moving them outdoors?

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Top 10 Disease-Resistant Crabapples

Crabapple trees in flower are a sight to behold. They are the showstopper trees of spring, and are compact enough to fit in nearly any size, shape or style of landscape. But how will you pick the variety that is best for you?

About Crabapples

The unrivaled spring beauty of these trees can take your breath away, as they frequently bud in one color but the flowers open in another, which can create a glorious variegated effect. To add to their appeal, they perform again in the late summer or fall with a fabulous display of hanging, showy fruit that wildlife loves.

Crabapples are available in a range of flower petal colors that include white, pink, red and all shades in between. Flower forms may be single or semi-double with some varieties being fragrant. Selections may be made for fall fruit size and color, including shades of green, yellow, orange, bronze, red and purple. Crabapple trees are also available in a variety of leaf color, size and growth habit to accommodate a landscape of any style and size.

Crabapple Problems

Although these trees have the potential to be stunningly beautiful, crabapples are subject to a number of serious diseases that can leave them unattractive through most of the growing season. The four main offenders are…

  • Apple Scab: This disease manifests as unsightly dark lesions on the leaves and fruit and will cause premature leaf drop.
  • Cedar-Apple Rust: This blight presents as yellow spots on the upper side of the leaves early in the season, followed by orange rust spots on the underside of the leaves in the late summer. This disease will cause premature leaf drop.
  • Fire Blight: This infection gives new shoots the appearance of being scorched by fire and the fruit will look dark and shriveled.
  • Powdery Mildew: This common disease will cause the leaves to be deformed and give them a white, powdery appearance.

There is, however, good news. You can plant a crabapple today without hesitation, because we carry crabapple selections with an excellent degree of disease resistance. Here is our list of the top 10 stunning crabapples with the best disease resistance. We may not have all of these varieties in our current inventory but we certainly have a great assortment on hand for you to choose from. Stop in today to see which varieties we have available or what other cultivars we may be able to recommend for your exact landscaping needs and preferences.

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Choosing the Right Flowering Tree

Purchasing a tree for your landscape is an investment that can raise the property value of your home and bring you pleasure, beauty and shade for many years to come. Selecting the proper flowering tree for your enjoyment is easy, just follow these simple guidelines and remember, we are here to help you with any of your gardening questions.

  1. Care
    Study your chosen planting environment carefully. Familiarize yourself with the sun patterns. Will your tree be in full sun, part sun or shade? What about soil type? Is it heavy clay or well-drained loam? Some trees will survive in poor soil, some will not. Is there a water source nearby? Having a clear understanding of your tree’s cultural requirements and characteristics of the site you have chosen will help you make a good match so the tree will thrive.
  2. Size & Form
    Consider the space where you will be planting the tree of your choice. Know the ultimate height and width of the plant that you choose to make certain that it will not outgrow the room you have allotted for it. At the same time, note the growth habits and sizes of nearby trees and shrubs to be sure they don’t crowd one another out in the years to come.
  3. Flowers
    Make note of when you would like your tree to flower. For instance, you don’t want flowers in August if that is when you are traditionally away on vacation. Many flowering trees are available in more than one flower color, depending on the cultivar. Choose the one that works best for you and your taste and looks good with whatever else you will have flowering at the same time.
  4. Other Ornamental Characteristics
    A higher value and more enjoyment is gained by choosing a tree with multiple seasons of interest. Look for a flowering tree that may also have interesting winter bark, persistent fruit or unique leaf coloration so you can enjoy its beauty in every season.
  5. Availability
    Frequently, folks will read about a unique new plant introduction and are disappointed when it is not yet available on the market or does not grow well in their area. To avoid disappointment, choose from our large selection of flowering trees in inventory. We pride ourselves on carrying plants that thrive in our area and can suggest an appropriate substitute for your desired tree.

With just a bit of careful consideration, you can easily choose a flowering tree that you will enjoy for many years to come.

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Shrub Bouquets

Do you love fresh, seasonal bouquets straight from the garden but don’t have the time to plan, plant and tend to an annual cutting plot each year? A fabulous alternative to the annual flower garden is the planting of woody shrubs. Woodies are a great investment that will reward you year after year with little maintenance. These are hardy, easy care shrubs whose flowers, foliage, berries and stems may be cut, without damaging the overall plant. Clippings from these plants may be used alone, in bouquets and arrangements or mixed with the annual and perennial flowers that you do have time to nurture and grow. No matter what the season, there are amazing shrubs that can easily become part of beautiful bouquets. Why not choose one of each for year-round options?

Spring Bouquet Shrubs

  • Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris): White, pink, lavender or variegated fragrant blooms depending on the cultivar.
  • Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa): White, apricot, salmon, pink and red flowers depending on the cultivar. Branches may be forced.
  • Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia): Yellow to gold flowers depending on the cultivar. Branches may be forced. Foliage may be used, after flowering, in the summer, winter and fall.
  • Pussy Willow (Salix spp.): Soft, fuzzy catkins (flowers). There are also numerous Salix grown for their colorful and twisted stems.

Summer Bouquet Shrubs

  • Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla): White, green, pink, blue and purple flowers depending on the cultivar and soil pH.
  • Hardy Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata): White or pink flowers depending on the cultivar. If cut correctly, you may even get a second crop of blooms from this plant.
  • Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius): Deep burgundy, lime green, bronze or coppery-orange foliage depending on the cultivar. Foliage may be used in the late spring through the fall.
  • Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens): Large, white snowball-like flowers.
  • Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria): Bluish-green to dark purple foliage depending on the cultivar with smoke-like flower panicles in June through August. Foliage is attractive from late spring through fall.

Fall Bouquet Shrubs

  • Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis): Light, bright and deep blue flowers depending on the cultivar.
  • Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica): Full, drooping panicles of yellow or red berries depending on the cultivar. Foliage may be used any time of the year, even in winter as this plant is semi-evergreen, and takes on a purple or bronze cast in the cold weather.

Winter Bouquet Shrubs

  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica): Silvery blue berries.
  • Twig Dogwoods (Cornus spp.): Yellow, gold, orange or red stems depending on the cultivar.
  • Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata): Yellow, orange or red berries depending on the cultivar. Must plant a male pollinator in order for this plant to fruit.

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Summer Sizzles With Crocosmia

There is an excellent assortment of bulbs available for planting this time of year that promise a bounty of summer blooms. The thing is, many of these bulbs are not winter hardy. This can create a predicament for gardeners anxious for easy summer flowers but short on time and space to dig and store tender bulbs. Crocosmia can be the answer.

Introducing Crocosmia

Native to South Africa, Crocosmia – also known as montbretia, coppertips or falling stars – sizzles all summer long in colors of yellow, orange and red. The numerous small florets are tubular in shape and borne along a long, gracefully arching stem rising above sword-like foliage. Together, this formidable combination creates exotic elegance sure to be a showstopper in the garden or landscape. Hummingbirds and butterflies also find it irresistible when in bloom, and the fall seedpods are delectable for many seed-loving finches and sparrows.

Planting Crocosmia

Plant Crocosmia corms now, while they are available. Plant them in well-drained soil in full sun, 2-3 inches deep and 8-10 inches apart. A south-facing location is best, or in colder regions, add Crocosmia next to a wall that will help warm the soil. The pointy side of the bulb should be facing up. Place a handful of bone meal in the planting hole and water the soil well when done planting. These are drought-tolerant flowers, but supplemental water will still be welcome in extremely dry conditions.

Crocosmia look best when planted en masse. A grouping on either side of a sunny entrance way can be stunning, and they look equally fetching when tucked into the perennial border. This plant performs well in containers and makes an excellent cut flower – in fact, cutting the flowers will encourage even more beautiful blooms to form.

Blooms will first appear in May or June and will continue blooming throughout the summer. Flower spikes can stretch 2-3 feet tall, adding a bold burst of color to the landscape. Even without the flowers, the blade-like foliage is attractive, and some cultivars show pleats or rippling for more textural interest.

After flowers have finished blooming, simply snip off the faded flower stalks. Leave the foliage to fade naturally as you would with any other bulb. These leaves continue to produce food to provide nourishment for next year’s flowers. Leaves may be cut back to the ground once they are completely yellow, and a thick layer of mulch should be added for winter protection. Once established, these bulbs are winter-hardy and will return year after year to heat up the spring and summer with their gorgeous colors and forms.

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Top 10 Fool Proof Houseplants

Do you have a “black thumb”? Do you love houseplants but just can’t seem to keep them alive no matter what their species or condition? Are you worried about getting new plants because being in your home is a death sentence for anything green? Worry no more! This list of foolproof houseplants will help you select and grow houseplants with confidence. Although all plants look and grow better with optimum care, these plants are some of the toughest you can find and will tolerate more abuse and neglect than most others.

  1. Cast Iron Plant / Bar Room Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
  2. Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema hybrids)
  3. Cordyline (Cordyline fruitcosa)
  4. Dracaena (Dracaena spp.)
  5. Jade Plant / Friendship Tree / Money Plant (Crassula ovate)
  6. Mother-In-Law’s Tongue / Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
  7. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum cochlearispathum)
  8. Philodendron (Philodendron spp.)
  9. Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
  10. Spider Plant / Airplane Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Good Care Basics

While these tough plants can withstand some neglect, it isn’t as hard as you may think to provide them with proper care. No matter what type of houseplant you choose, some good rules of thumb that can help keep them happy include…

  • Position plants in a brightly lit room, but out of direct sunlight that can cause burns on the foliage. If the plant is stretching toward the window – turning to face the light – it can use more sunlight.
  • Use good quality potting soil appropriate to pot plants, and fertilize them regularly to provide adequate nourishment. Reduce fertilizing during the winter months when growth naturally slows.
  • Water plants regularly, but allow the top 2-3 inches of soil to go dry between waterings. The pot should have drainage holes, and never let a houseplant sit in a saucer of water – that can lead to root rot.
  • Group pots together to increase the humidity around the houseplants and reduce the yellow tips of leaves (a sign of dryness in the air). Use a wet pebble tray or mist plants to raise humidity as well.
  • Dust plants 1-2 times per month to keep their leaves bright and pores clear for better gas exchange. Be gentle, however, and do not use waxing sprays or other dusting chemicals on houseplants.

It can be a great joy to have houseplants thriving in your home. No matter how many plants you may have killed in the past, you’ll soon be a successful houseplant gardener when you choose plants that don’t mind kind-hearted abuse!

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Edible Flowers

Flowers aren’t just for beautiful dining table centerpieces anymore! For all you “foodies” out there, who also love flowers, are you aware that there are numerous blooms that are not only edible but also delicious? Flowers make a striking, colorful, textural and flavorful addition to soups, salads, baked goods and more.

Safety First

There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when experimenting with unfamiliar flowers. Not all flowers are edible and some can be poisonous, even in small tastes. Be certain to clearly identify your flowers and accept no imposters, as some blooms can look very similar. Also, it is best to use flowers that have not been sprayed with chemicals – either fertilizers or pesticides. The best way to avoid both of these issues is to grow your own edible flowers from seed, keeping them conveniently in a kitchen container garden or safely on a deck or patio where there’s no risk of contamination or misidentification.

Favorite Edible Flowers

There are surprising blooms that can be tasty accents to your favorite dishes. For the best flavor and freshness, harvest blooms at their peak early in the day. Younger and older blooms or blooms of different sizes often have subtly different flavors, so be sure to experiment to find your favorites.

  • Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – Tea-like flavor, flowers in white, pink, red and lavender
  • Borage (Borago officinalis) – Cucumber-like taste, flowers in lavender, purple and blue
  • Calendula (Calendula officianalis) – Peppery taste, flowers in yellow, orange and gold
  • Chive (Allium schoenoprasum) – Onion flavor, flowers in white, pink and lavender
  • Nasturtium (Tropaloum majus) – Peppery flavor, flowers in white, yellow, orange and red
  • Pineapple Sage (Salvia eleagans) – Sage flavor with pineapple undertones, flowers in scarlet
  • Pinks (Dianthus spp.) – Clove-like flavor, flowers in white, pink and red
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pretense) – Sweet tasting, flowers in pink and red
  • Signet Marigold (Tagetes tenufolia) – Citrus taste, flowers in white, yellow, gold and red
  • Viola or Pansy (Viola spp.) – Sweet flavor, flowers in a multitude of colors

Not sure which recipes to try? Flowers make surprising accents to salads or garnishes for cakes, cookies and ice creams. Add flower petals to a favorite drink, or freeze blooms in ice cubes for colorful cooling. There are even recipes available for sauces, salsas, marinades and more, all with more taste and color thanks to edible flowers. Bon appétit!

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Determinate Versus Indeterminate Tomatoes

It’s tomato-planting time again! If you’ve grown tomatoes in the past, you most likely have your favorites. If not, just ask! You’ll find some pretty strong opinions regarding tomato choices, and every gardener has their own top choices, must haves and great picks for tomatoes.

Choosing Tomatoes

Along with soil type, climate, moisture and other typical gardening considerations, one of the features you will need to take into account when choosing what type of tomato to grow is plant habit. The two main habit classifications are “determinate” and “indeterminate” and are based on fruit use, available growing space and length of growing season. Both habit classifications include fruit selections in a wide variety of colors, sizes, shapes and tastes.

Determinate Tomatoes

Tomatoes from a determinate plant are produced earlier in the growing season, on terminal ends of a compact bush. This type of tomato generally reaches 3-4 feet in height and is easily supported with a tomato cage or may even be self-supporting. Due to its compact habit, it may even be grown in containers, ideal for gardeners with less available space. Because all the fruit ripens at the same time, determinate tomatoes are an excellent choice if you plan to can your fruit or make sauce, as you won’t need to worry about collecting enough fruit to work with. Determinate classification includes popular tomato varieties such as:

  • “Celebrity” – an eating tomato
  • “Roma” – a paste tomato
  • “Patio” – a dwarf selection
  • “Baby Cakes” – a cherry tomato
  • “Carolina Gold” – extra large, yellow fruit

Indeterminate Tomatoes

Indeterminate tomato plants will fruit along the entire length of the stem over a longer period of time, in fact continually, until frost. Smaller amounts of fruit ripening regularly throughout the growing season makes an indeterminate tomato plant an excellent choice if you cannot cook or consume a large quantity of this perishable fruit all at one time. Indeterminate tomato plants are vines, requiring proper pruning and support, to reach their ultimate height of 8 feet or more. Indeterminate classification includes popular varieties like:

  • “Amish Paste” – heirloom, paste tomato
  • “Beefmaster” – extra large sandwich tomato
  • “Better Boy” – juicy but firm, compact vine with shorter internodes
  • “Black Krim” – deep color, rich flavor
  • “Chocolate Cherry” – cherry, chocolate red in color

By understanding the differences between these basic tomato classifications, it will be easy for you to choose the tastiest tomato to suit your gardening needs and harvest preferences. Many gardeners choose more than one of each type of tomato, ensuring there is always a bountiful supply to use, to share and to enjoy!

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Watering Tomato Plants

Proper watering plays a significant role in producing a healthy tomato plant with tasty, meaty, juicy fruit. So, what’s the secret, and how can you be sure you are watering your tomatoes the right way?

Watering Location

Always water tomatoes at the root zone; never overhead water your tomato plant. Watering directly at the soil level will strengthen the plant’s root system and ensure the maximum amount of moisture reaches the roots. When you overhead water, much of the water will not make it to the roots as it evaporates before reaching the soil. Water droplets on plant leaves act as a magnifying glass and can burn tender plant tissue, damaging foliage that is essential to keep the plant healthy. Water dripping from leaf to leaf can also spread disease, infecting an entire crop. To be sure tomatoes are not being watered inappropriately, keep plants out of reach of lawn sprinkler systems or other inadvertent watering.

Watering Speed

Slow watering is essential to properly distribute moisture to a tomato plant. Allow the water to drip slowly into the soil, giving the plant roots time to absorb the moisture. A drip system is best and will also help with water conservation. Avoid using a hand held hose, as it is easy to either underwater or overwater using this method. Water to a depth of 8 inches to ensure all roots have access to adequate moisture. You can also use a watering reservoir, such as a gallon jug with several small holes in its bottom, to slowly and carefully water the plants without flooding the root zone.

Watering Frequency

A regular watering schedule is essential for the healthiest, most productive tomato plants. Water consistently to produce larger fruits and to avoid split and cracked fruit and blossom end rot. Tomato plants should be watered 2-3 times a week in the height of summer or when natural rain is lacking. A deep soaking rain counts and supplemental watering should be adjusted whenever Mother Nature lends a hand with watering chores. The top inch or two of soil should dry out between watering to be sure the plant is not getting too much moisture.

Watering Adjustments

There are several times when it may be necessary to adjust where, when and how much you water your tomatoes. Changes in local rainfall – increasing spring or summer rains, a sudden storm, an unexpected drought – can require changes in supplemental watering to keep the moisture to your tomatoes consistent. As plants grow and more fruit appears, more water may be needed to meet the plant’s watering needs and keep it lush and healthy.

By understanding the basics of watering tomatoes, you can keep your plants well hydrated without risk of either overwatering or underwatering, both of which could be disastrous for your tomato crop.

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WOOLLY ADELGID

Woolly Adelgid is an aphid-like insect that is a serious pest of the Eastern Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, and its cultivars. Adelgids need to be controlled as this insect spreads easily and rapidly and, if left untreated, can kill a mature hemlock in 4-10 years.

Recognizing Adelgids

Adelgids, formally called Hemlock Woolly Adelgids (Adelges tsugae) or HWA, present as a fuzzy, cottony white substance on the underside of hemlock needles. This is actually a waxy filament produced by the tiny, 1/16-inch insect as a covering and protection for itself and its eggs. These insects are native to Asia, and damage trees by sucking on the sap. As damage occurs, the needles of the tree become grayish rather than robustly dark green. When infected, trees may lose their needles and will not produce new growth on the damaged branches. Because infected trees are significantly weakened, they are subject to many other infections from diseases and pests, and ultimately die.

Controlling Adelgids

Exercising good horticultural practices is the best way to prevent Hemlock Woolly Adelgid infestations. Site your hemlock appropriately, in proper sunlight and a location where it can grow well without being cramped or crowded. Water and feed as required for optimum health, including adding extra fertilization or nutrition as required. A healthy tree will always withstand disease and insect problems better that one that is already stressed.

When Adelgids are present, apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil in early April and again in June. Be certain to follow manufacturer instructions carefully and reach the underside of the needles where the Adelgids are located. When spraying in June, do so on a cooler, overcast day so as not to burn the Hemlock needles. If your Hemlock is too large to handle on your own, contact a trusted and licensed tree-care professional for treatment. Even after you have controlled an outbreak, annual spraying is recommended to be sure the pests do not reappear.

Other types of chemical treatments that can be used against these invasive pests include…

  • Foliage Sprays: These insecticides are sprayed over the entire tree to coat the foliage. They are stronger than soaps or oils and may be effective for 2-4 years. Higher toxicity can lead to other problems and contamination concerns, however, and applications should only be done by experienced professionals.
  • Soil Drenches: These are insecticides that are specially formulated to be absorbed by the tree’s roots and then will be consumed by the Adelgids as they sip on the tree’s sap. This can take longer to be effective, however, but it has long-lasting impact to control these insects. They should not be used where water sources may be inadvertently contaminated.

In some areas, predator beetles have been released to consume Adelgids, and while this is not yet effective on a widespread scale, there have been positive reports and limited success.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgids are a vicious, invasive pest, but with proper control techniques, their invasion can be stopped and the majestic hemlock forests renewed and restored.

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VEGETABLE GARDEN WEED CONTROL

You may want to grow many different things in your vegetable garden, but weeds probably aren’t on your favorite edibles list. Weeding can be an enormous time-drain and is one of the the least liked gardening chores. What’s wonderful is that we have so many weed control methods to choose from; there’s a solution for every type of gardener and their schedule.

Safe Control Methods in Edible Gardens

When it comes to vegetable gardening, many gardeners are very particular about what goes into their soil and onto their plants, as it will eventually end up on their plates and in their bodies. Here are some indisputable safe and effective ways to control weeds, without chemicals, in your veggie or any other garden for that matter.

  • Apply corn gluten meal to prevent weed seeds from germinating (don’t use if direct seeding your garden as all seeds will be affected).
  • Plan your garden to crowd edible plants together, effectively crowding out weeds because there isn’t space left for them to grow.
  • Manually pull weeds when the soil is wet and roots are looser. This can be done after a natural rainfall or after supplemental watering.
  • Hoe when the soil is dry to break apart weeds and damage their roots. Pick up larger weeds after hoeing so they cannot reestablish themselves.
  • Mulch with salt hay which contains no weed seeds. The hay will shield weed seeds from the sunlight and moisture they need for germinating.
  • Lay biodegradable and compostable mulch film down to create a firm barrier to keep weeds out or to prevent existing weed seeds from germinating.
  • Attract seed-loving birds such as finches and sparrows, which will happily eat hundreds of weed seeds each day for natural control.
  • Consider raised beds or container gardening to more effectively control weeds and make any remaining weeding easier.
  • Use fire (with all appropriate safety precautions) to burn out unwanted weeds, especially in pathway areas or along garden borders.
  • Treat exposed weeds with boiling water – the hotter the better – to cook and kill them. Several treatments may be needed for the best effects.

Weeds can be some of our worst enemies in the garden, and it is impossible to eliminate every single weed all the time. By using multiple methods and keeping on top of the task, however, it is possible to minimize weeds and make this chore less onerous, without resorting to harsh chemicals.

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Pink Muhley Grass

Ornamental grasses are becoming increasingly popular, and there is now an over-abundance of options available at garden centers. So many choices can make the selection process difficult, even overwhelming. There is one ornamental grass, however, that takes the cake. Pink Muhley Grass is arguably the most colorful ornamental grass around and it is sure wow your friends and neighbors.

About Pink Muhley Grass

Pink Muhley Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a native grass that is deer, drought and salt tolerant. It is hardy in zones 7-10 and may be grown as an annual elsewhere. Broadly adaptable, this grass prefers sun but will tolerate part shade and will grow well in just about any soil type. ‘Regal Mist’, or also called ‘Lenca’, is a cultivar known for the deepest plume color.

Perfect used as a specimen plant in containers or in groupings in beds and borders as well as naturalized in a meadow garden, this fall bloomer is an outstanding ornamental plant. The pink-purple flower plumes that grow up to 4 feet are also exceptional for use in cut and dried floral arranging.

Proper Care

This ornamental grass is very easy to care for. Simply prune your Pink Muhley Grass clump back hard in late winter or very early spring before the attractive new growth begins to show. Although drought tolerant, the plant will be fuller and lusher with regular, consistent watering. It is especially adaptable to poorly drained soils, and can grow in full sun or partial shade locations.

In the Garden and Landscape

There are many stunning uses for this outstanding grass, whether you are cultivating a formal garden or a more relaxed landscape. Consider these popular options…

  • When not flowering, the green clump creates a textured mound acting as a groundcover or background for other smaller plants. It can also soften harsh garden corners, walkway edges or awkward intersections.
  • As a finely textured grass, plant Pink Muhley Grass with contrasting companions such as calla lilies, evergreen shrubs or low growing groundcovers to create interest in the landscape.
  • Plant in front of the larger smoketree Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ for an exquisite coordinating display of color and texture.
  • Plant where it will be backlit. It positively glows where it catches the early morning or late afternoon sun.
  • Use as a beautiful and unusual addition to floral arrangements.

Do you need another reason to grow Pink Muhley Grass? Oh, yes, the birds will thank you – they love the seeds!

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Try Something New: Pomegranates

Want to grow an exotic fruit that is delicious, nutritious, beautiful and incredibly hip? You really should consider planting a pomegranate! It’s not as difficult as you may think.

Why Pomegranates are Popular

Pomegranate is a stunning superfood rich in antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. It has no cholesterol, and is also rich in fiber and potassium. Because of these nutritional advantages, pomegranate is showing up in a multitude of supermarket products like yogurts, juices, salad dressings, jellies and desserts. It can be added to sauces, fruit crisps, salsas, relishes, dips and more. You can even make a pomegranate martini! And, of course, it’s an extraordinary experience eating a fresh pomegranate. These are stunning, delicious fruits that are rarely seen in backyard gardens, but can make a great landscaping statement when properly grown.

Growing Pomegranates in the Landscape

Pomegranates grow as multi-stemmed, small trees or large shrubs. They reach 15 feet tall by up to 15 feet wide. In spring, vibrant, gorgeous orange-red flowers grace the branches of this plant. These beautiful blossoms develop into the luscious pomegranate fruit containing dozens of tart and tangy bright red seeds and pulp. The fruit ripens somewhat square in the early fall and has a leathery skin that can be yellow to red in color.

The cultivar ‘Wonderful’ is hardy to zone 7 and is easy to grow. Plant your tree in full sun. It will thrive in the summer heat and in most soils. Pomegranates are drought tolerant, however, the fruit is better and the seeds more plump with regular deep irrigation. Because this fruit tree is self-fertile, there is no need to plant a second one for pollination.

Enjoying Your Pomegranates

If you’ve never cut your own pomegranate, it can be frustrating to learn how to separate the juicy seeds from the husk and membrane. To access the seeds…

  1. Cut off the crown of the fruit.
  2. Score the leathery husk in quarters from stem to crown end.
  3. Set the scored fruit in a bowl of cool water and let soak for a few minutes.
  4. Hold the fruit under water and break scored sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Discard the skin and membrane.
  6. Drain the seeds on paper towels.
  7. Toss pomegranate seeds into your salad, mix them in your yogurt or smoothie or shake them into a martini and enjoy!
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Get Your Mint On!

And, they’re off!

As the iconic Kentucky Derby approaches, there’s no better time to refresh your mint knowledge and prepare for a thirst-quenching round of flavorful mint juleps.

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint (spearmint is the favorite)
  • Crushed ice
  • Early Times Kentucky Whisky

Make simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight to allow the mint flavoring to infuse.

Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

(Recipe from www.kentuckyderby.com/party, with permission)

Growing Your Own Spearmint

Want to add a personal touch to your mint juleps – or any other mint recipes – by growing your own spearmint? Nothing could be easier. However, there is one word of warning – containment. Mints quickly become invasive when left to their own devices so it is imperative to plant mint in a container or an area from which it can’t escape. Growing mint indoors is the ideal solution and ensures it is easily at hand whenever you have a recipe that calls for mint’s refreshing taste.

Easily grown from seed scattered on a moist surface, mint also transplants easily from purchased pots or from a friend’s garden. It thrives in moist shady areas and grows to 3′ tall. A light application of compost or a well-balanced fertilizer improves the quality but be careful; too much adjustment can also affect the overall flavor of the mint.

Harvesting is also easy. Whenever you want to use your mint, just wait until after the dew dries then cut the plant 3″ from the ground. Preserve by drying, freezing or storing in salt, sugar syrup, alcohol or oil. This method allows the mint oil’s distinctive taste and aroma to infuse the medium for future use.

Aside from mint juleps, varieties of mints flavor a wide assortment of foods from salads to sauces and cookies to ice cream. In the upcoming hot months, put spearmint in your lemonade (or beverage of choice). Of course, fresh mint has the strongest taste, so just pluck some, put it in a glass, and pour in the lemonade for a cool delightful thirst quencher with a sprig of freshness infused in every taste.

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Try Delosperma

“Ice plants” refer to several types of plants, usually succulents with fleshy thick leaves in cool green-blue colors. However, after an introduction to Delosperma, you’ll know it as the real deal. As a group of tough groundcovers, these blooming succulents flourish in full sun in well draining soils with little water, once they are established. Plus, they’re amazingly colorful!

About Delosperma

Native to Africa, with fleshy, clustered green leaves, Delosperma species and varieties solve many common groundcover, erosion and container garden needs. From only ½” tall and a few inches wide to 4 inches tall and spreading to 2 feet wide, Delospermas begin blooming with daisy-like flowers in early spring and often continue blooming through the summer. Depending on the variety, these perennial succulents punch up the garden with bright fuchsia, red, bronze, yellow, white, lavender or orange flowers, and several variegated or two-toned blooms are available as well.

A more adventurous gardener can turn up the heat with Delosperma ‘Fire Spinner.’ It quickly grows to an attractive weed-thwarting 2 inches high and 15 inches wide mat in two seasons. The variety name perfectly describes the flowers. It’s a kaleidoscope of hot colors on unbelievable 1½” wide fiery flowers. Radiating from a clear white center, petals with deep magenta color in the middle transition to hot orange, finishing with bronze on the outer tips. These arresting flowers sit atop shiny, apple-green needle-like succulent leaves making an astonishing garden statement from late spring through fall. What an unexpected showstopper!

What Delosperma Demands

Most gardeners are all too used to the finicky habits of their favorite plants, from precise soil pH levels to a specified amount of sunlight to a unique cocktail of soil fertilization and amendments for the best growth. Not so with Delosperma – all these plants ask (it’s more of a demand, really) is good drainage. With that, they’re fairly self sufficient – easy to care for and requiring very little maintenance.

Birds, bees and butterflies love Delosperma just as much as gardeners, but deer don’t, making these plants ideal for areas where deer are a bit too friendly in the garden. They work well as borders or to soften the edges of buildings, walkways and driveways, and they’re right at home in well-drained terraces, rock gardens and xeriscaping.

Whether you live in a naturally drought-prone area or just want to conserve water without sacrificing color and beauty, give Delosperma a try and you won’t be disappointed!

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Growing and Containing Rampant Spreaders

What do you do when you fall in love with a plant but you know it spreads and could take over your entire garden? You don’t have to give up your hopes of nurturing this plant, you just have to learn how to contain it securely without destroying its beauty.

Favorite Spreaders

Many different plants may be desirable, but have the nasty hidden personality of spreading out of control. Common spreaders that are still garden favorites include…

  • Mint
  • Lamb’s ears
  • Lily-of-the-Valley
  • Beebalm
  • Loosestrifes

Any plant that is labeled as “fast growing” or “aggressive” can potentially take over a garden space and should be treated with caution if you want to keep it contained.

Literal Containing

Containing a known spreader could be as easy as planting it in its own container. Ceramic, metal or resin pots certainly put a punch of color in a corner, on a deck or by the front entrance. They’re also great for adding plant height and focal points in the garden, and they will ensure the plant stays put.

Perhaps a touch of whimsy would add pizzazz to your garden while controlling your marauder. Picture your potential runaway planted in a pot, “sitting” in a hole cut in the seat of a painted and weather-sealed wooden chair. This creates a colorful garden focal point, elevates your beauty and keeps it from spreading. Another quirky option is to use an old, rusty wheelbarrow as the container and position it near the garden or inside a flowerbed. It can be fun to get creative with container options, all of which will help you enjoy your favorite spreading plant without letting it get out of control.

Containing Plants in the Garden

If you want the potential invader in the ground, research the plant well before introducing it to your garden. Different plants require different control measures. Mowing to eliminate new growth controls some plants. Herbicide applications can have an effect on others, while some require hardscaping to control their roots and keep them in place. Some plants may not give in easily to any control methods.

For the Most Vigorous Runners

In cases where plants are nearly assured to take over without proper control methods, trench containment may be the best option.

  • Determine where you would like to plant, bearing in mind the needs of the plant for proper sunlight, moisture and soil condition.
  • Dig a trench 26-30 inches deep along the boundary of the planting area that you wish to contain.
  • Line this trench with a high-density polyethylene liner, leaving 2 inches of the liner above the soil line.
  • Overlap the end of the liner by at least 6-8 inches to that the plant root cannot escape through the opening.
  • Backfill the trench to secure the liner and hold it firmly in place. If desired, you may fill the trench with gravel or other inorganic material to create another level of containment protection.
  • Plant inside the growing area, taking care not to disturb the containment trench.
  • Periodically, check the edges of the trench liner to be sure the roots don’t try to climb over the barrier. If they are, be ruthless and cut them back.

Left to their own devices, vigorously spreading plants can quickly become a nightmare as they take over a garden or landscape. If you know how to contain these plants, however, your dreams of nurturing them in your yard can come true.

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Rain Barrels

You’ve heard it said, “When it rains, it pours.” In gardening terms, this could easily refer to the amount of rain on the roof going through the gutters and downspouts, and then out to the storm drains and pouring away from your garden. With the unpredictability of rain and the cost of water, don’t you wish you could keep some of that rain and put it to better use? You can, by installing a rain barrel, or two, or three or more. Rain barrels don’t have to be expensive or an eyesore.

The Best Rain Barrels

By diverting the gutter downspout to the rain barrel, rainwater is collected during a storm and stored. A fine mesh screen across the top prevents rocks and debris from entering the barrel and mosquitoes from laying their eggs. It’s a good idea to use a small amount of algaecide to prevent algae from building up in the barrel as well. Some barrels even have a solid cover with an opening to fit the downspout into, and the darkness inside the barrel helps inhibit algae growth.

Most rain barrels have two spigots, one at the top and one by the bottom. Attaching a hose to the top spigot redirects excess water when the barrel is full. You may use this to connect to another rain barrel that stores the overflow from the first, or you may position the overflow hose to direct excess rain to a nearby flowerbed, tree, garden or other plantings that can benefit from a good soaking.

A hose attached to the bottom spigot allows the stored water to flow for use. Incidentally, the water pressure increases if the rain barrel is elevated even just a few inches, allowing gravity to assist getting every drop of precious water out of the barrel so it can be put to use.

Value of a Rain Barrel

Is it worth it? According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), a rainstorm measured at 1/10th of an inch, over a 20’x30′ roof, would more than fill a 32-gallon rain barrel if all the water is properly directed. Multiply this amount by your water charge per gallon and you’ll see it won’t take long to pay back the small investment made in a few barrels.

Furthermore, rainwater is often better for watering garden plots, containers, flowerbeds and new plantings, and is even better for many houseplants. Rainwater does not contain the same chemical treatments or compounds found in tap water, so collecting rainwater is a healthier alternative for keeping all your plants well hydrated.

Not sure which rain barrels will suit your style or how to set them up effectively? Stop in to see our collection and consult with our experts to choose exactly the barrel that will help meet all your watering needs.

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Yellowjackets: Good Guys or Bad?

When you hear “yellowjacket,” what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A buzzing, stinging insect ruining your outdoor meal or a treasured pollinator of many plants? A yellowjacket is both!

About Yellowjackets

The most commonly found yellowjacket is the Eastern yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons). The Eastern yellowjacket is a wasp that is 1/2 to 5/8 inch long and is black and yellow striped. The body is curved under and is wider than the head. Yellowjackets do not have any “hairs” such as are found on honeybees and bumblebees.

Yellowjackets are generally ground nesters, however, in some situations, especially in urban areas, they will make their nest above ground such as in hollow walls and attics.

During the spring and summer, the colony population increases from the fertilized solitary queen, who survived the winter, to several thousand. Adult yellowjackets feed protein to the young wasps and larvae while they subsist on sugars. Foraging for food, the wasps cross-pollinate plants while seeking small insects and nectar. Yellowjackets provide a valuable service to humans by consuming numerous insects that eat ornamental and cultivated plants.

On the other hand, yellowjackets are drawn to cookouts, picnic areas and garbage cans. Their sting, unfortunately, is especially painful. Unlike honeybees, which only sting once, wasps can sting numerous times. Some people react severely to the venom and may have problems breathing or other dangerous reactions.

To Minimize Yellowjacket Interactions

Despite their good characteristics, many people prefer to keep yellowjackets away from picnics, play areas and yards. To reduce the possibility of inviting yellowjackets to your outdoor party…

  • Don’t leave moist pet food outside during the summer. Bird seed is fine, but not suet.
  • Keep garbage cans washed. Securely cover all garbage cans and recycling containers. Rinse beer, wine, soft drink and ice cream containers before disposing of them.
  • Keep garbage cans away from entertainment areas, play areas and pathways.
  • If eating outdoors, cover all serving plates and drinking glasses/bottles to prevent yellowjackets from getting into food or drink. When yellowjackets are in the area, be sure to check your food and drink before consuming.
  • Yellowjackets feed on aphids and scale on trees and shrubs. Therefore, spray for these pests in July and August, if needed, to remove that food source.
  • Repair dripping hoses and faucets as the puddles can attract wasps.
  • Wasps enjoy rotting fruit. Harvest tree and cane fruits when ripe. Carefully pick up all fallen fruit (gloves are a good idea!) and dispose of it in a covered container.
  • Wasps create a flight-path from the nest to food sources. Avoid this area. If this is not possible, consider removing the nest.

Yellowjacket Traps

To help make your outdoor gatherings more pleasant and safer, yellowjacket traps can be effective. Hang these around the perimeter of your yard if you plan to eat outside, but never hang traps near the food area, as you will only increase the attraction to that area. Some traps are disposable and have the benefit of reducing the sting possibility. Others are “reusable” and must be emptied and refilled with bait. These increase the probability of being stung but can be more affordable in the long term.

Eliminating Yellowjacket Nests

When absolutely necessary, the elimination of a yellowjacket nest should not be undertaken lightly. If it’s early in the season and the nest is visible, a forceful water blast will break it apart. To reduce the chances of being stung, do this during the day while the workers are not home. Wasps return to the colony as dusk. Sometimes the workers will begin rebuilding in the same place. Pesticide sprays can kill wasps, and after the nest is destroyed, spraying the area can discourage rebuilding. If it’s later in the season, the aerial nest may be too large to eliminate safely.

Underground nests are a much bigger challenge to destroy. Because the entrance may be at an angle to the nest, flooding seldom works. Never try to burn a yellowjacket ground nest by pouring kerosene or other flammable liquid into the entrance and lighting it. In addition to many stings, more serious injuries may occur. This also pollutes the soil and a fire can quickly get out of control. If the flight pattern to the entrance creates a serious hardship or is close to a building, it is best to consult with an expert for safe nest elimination.

If the yellowjackets have built their colonies within your house walls or attic, it may also be necessary to contact a professional. Note: if yellowjackets are nesting in your home, do not plug the entrance/exit hole or they may chew the rest of the way into your house! Our experts can offer a professional referral for local wasp removal services or search “Pest Control” for your city on the Internet or in the yellow pages.

Yellowjackets do have their uses, but if you have no use for these stinging insects, there are many ways to eliminate them safely. Using several techniques will be most effective and will minimize the risk of being troubled by wasps again.

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Top Native Shrubs for Year-Round Interest

We just love incorporating natives into the home landscape, and it’s easier to do than many gardeners realize. Including native plants is an important part of sustaining local pollinators and wildlife. Furthermore, native plants are naturally lower maintenance and pest-resistant, and wow, are they beautiful!

Favorite Native Shrubs

It’s easy to find native shrubs to provide interest in the garden the whole year through, from fresh spring growth to brilliant summer blooms to outrageous autumn foliage to stunning winter structure. Our list offers outstanding selections that will do well in a variety of moisture levels, soil types and sun exposures. Cultivars of these species offer variations in size, form, leaf color and shape as well as flower colors.

  • Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia)
    Deciduous shrub, 3-8 feet high x 4-6 feet wide. Fragrant white blooms in July to August. Full sun to part shade, but will tolerate heavy shade. Moist to wet soil, tolerates erosion and clay soil. Use as a hedge, to naturalize or in rain garden. Attracts butterflies.
  • Sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina)
    Deciduous shrub, 2-5 feet high x 4-8 feet wide. Insignificant flower, ornamental and fragrant leaf. Full sun to part shade. Medium moist soil preferred, but also drought tolerant. Use to naturalize or in rain gardens.
  • Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)
    Deciduous shrub, 6-12 feet high x 6-12 feet wide. Yellowish-white flowers in May to June followed by showy fruit. Full sun to part shade. Medium to wet soil. Deer tolerant. Good for erosion control. Use as a hedge or in a rain garden. Attracts birds.
  • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)
    Deciduous shrub, 3-12 feet high x 3-12 feet wide. Showy red fruit in the winter. Full sun to part shade. Medium to wet soil and tolerates clay soil. Tolerates air pollution. Controls erosion. Use as a hedge or in a rain garden. Attracts birds.
  • Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
    Broadleaf evergreen, 5-15 feet high x 5-15 feet wide. May-blooming with rose to white flowers with purple markings. Sun to part shade. Medium moist soil. Deer and rabbit tolerant.
  • Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
    Deciduous shrub, 6-12 feet high x 6-12 feet wide. Fragrant greenish-yellow, flowers and showy fruit. Part shade but can tolerate heavy shade. Medium soil moisture and drought tolerant. Deer tolerant. Can grow in clay soil. Attracts birds and butterflies.
  • Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
    Deciduous shrub, 5-10 feet high x 5-10 feet wide. Showy fruit in the winter. Full sun to part shade. Dry to medium soil moisture. Use as a hedge, naturalize or in a rain garden. Attracts birds.
  • Pinxterbloom Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum)
    Deciduous shrub, 3-5 feet high x 3-5 feet wide. Blooms white to pale pink in May to July. Part shade. Medium to wet soil moisture. Very ornamental and good as a cut flower. Tolerant of rabbits. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum opulus ‘americanum’)
    Deciduous shrub, 8-12 feet high x 8-12 feet wide. White lacecap flowers in April to May. Edible fruit. Full sun to part shade. Medium soil moisture. Use as a hedge or in the shrub border. Attracts birds and butterflies.

If none of these suggestions quite meet your preferences for a year-round native shrub, stop in to see our experts for more tips and options – new species and cultivars are always arriving!

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