Can’t take the Heat?
When natural rainfall is not enough to keep your plants watered, you have to pick up the slack. An irrigation system saves you time in not having to water your plants manually, but it doesn’t save money on the water required to irrigate them. And even if you do have an overhead sprinkler irrigation system, the amount of water that’s lost to evaporation and wind drift — without ever reaching your target plants — can be significant. If you don’t have an irrigation system, you’re relegated to dragging a garden hose all over your yard and standing over plants to water them individually. When summer’s heat combines with periods of drought, it may mean more watering time than you want, so drought-tolerant plants can help minimize your own time in the sun.
What are Drought-Tolerant Plants?
Plants that are “tolerant” of drought do not necessarily “thrive” during periods of drought. This designation simply refers to certain plants that can survive periods of low (or no) rainfall. It doesn’t mean that plants can survive extended periods of drought, but they are able to handle short-term, periodic dry spells.
Here’s the Fine Print
When you purchase a new plant, you can’t simply “plant it and forget it.” Even drought-tolerant plants must have sufficient water during their first year after planting so they can develop a strong root system. In plant terms, this is called “becoming established.” However, once established, drought-tolerant plants live up to their reputation.
- You may not want to plant ivy near your flower garden or vegetable garden because of its tendency to spread. But this is the perfect plant to use where you want a groundcover or a vine to scramble up lattice and shade you from the sun. Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and English Ivy (Hedera helix) are reliably drought-tolerant.
- Equally beautiful in your herb garden or flower garden, lavender (Lavendula spp.) is a Mediterranean plant, which means it’s adapted to periods of low rainfall. Whether you choose an English lavender, such as Hidcote Purple Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’), or the heat-tolerant Phenomenal Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal,’ don’t give these plants too much water to keep them healthy.
- Pink Muhly Grass. Billowy pink flower plumes rise above this ornamental grass to color your yard in summer. As a native plant, Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is adaptable to harsh conditions, including low rainfall.
- Purple Fountain Grass. Unlike many annual plants that need a lot of water, Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) really stands up to hot and dry weather. Deep purple, arching foliage contrasts beautifully with the vertical bottlebrush-like flower spikes.
- Butterfly Bush. Awash with color from its flower clusters, Butterfly Bush (Buddleia spp.) is a must-have for your hummingbird and butterfly garden. Not only does it attract these tiny winged visitors to your garden, but the blossoms from this drought-tolerant plant are long-lasting cut flowers for your home. Plant different types for multicolor bouquets, such as Pink Delight (Buddleia davidii ‘Pink Delight’) and White Profusion (Buddleia davidii ‘White Profusion’).
- Tiny, nodding, bell-shaped flowers give this plant its common name — yellow bells (or golden bells). Lynwood Gold Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’) is an exceptional cultivar, because it’s not picky about soils and it performs well even in hot and dry climates.
- A drought-tolerant evergreen garden staple is Juniper. Species of this plant cover a color spectrum from Skyrocket Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’), with gray-green foliage, to Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’), with stunning silvery-blue foliage.
- If you have a small yard, the Vitex Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) may be the perfect fit. It grows only 10 to 15 feet tall, and it’s covered in lilac-covered flowers in summer. This tough little tree easily handles heat, humidity and drought.
Other Water-Saving Tips
Other than adding drought-tolerant plants to your yard and garden, you can save money and time on watering with these xeriscaping tips (xeriscaping = efficient use of water in the landscape):
- Amend the soil. By simply spreading a few inches of compost or well-aged animal manures on the ground and mixing it into the existing soil, you’ll improve the growing conditions of your plants.
- Apply mulch. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch around your plants to help conserve moisture and keep weeds at bay. Use finely shredded pine bark, hardwood bark or another mulch of your choice to complement your landscape design. Pull mulch at least 6 inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs to keep moisture and pesky bugs at bay.
- Soaker Hoses. Install soaker hoses on top of the ground (but underneath the mulch) around your plants. This will channel the water directly to plant roots instead of spraying it into the air.
Often overlooked and underused in the garden, vines offer a landscape design element that other plants can’t bring to the table. They can be trained upward on a trellis or arbor; they can scramble along the ground as a groundcover; or they can provide a romantic cottage-garden look that softens the hard edges of trees and shrubs.
Four Outstanding Vines
Barbara Karst Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’). This tropical treasure is frost-sensitive, but it’s suitable for any garden as a container plant. (It’s a perennial in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 through 11, but if you live outside this range, you can simply move it indoors during the winter.) You’ll have to look closely to see the true flowers, because they’re surrounded by the pink red bracts, which are often called “flowers.” Talk about versatile — this shrubby vine can be grown in a large hanging basket, trained to grow on a trellis or planted around your pool or patio for a profusion of color.
Nelly Moser Clematis (Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’). If your flower preferences include the words dramatic, bold or even outrageous, Nelly Moser Clematis should be on your must-have list. Late-spring to summer blossoms burst into bloom with white stripes marking the center of each pink flower petal. Although clematis vines are the quintessential “mailbox plant,” their versatility extends beyond this design feature. You can create a “living fence” by spacing Nelly Moser Clematis plants along a fence and tying it up as it grows. It’s also a terrific vine to train on an arbor or pergola. A winter-tough perennial, Nelly Moser Clematis is hardy in USDA zones 4-8.
Amethyst Falls Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’). If you have visions of planting wisteria in your yard and watching it strangle everything in its path, it may help to know that Amethyst Falls is an improved cultivar of our native wisteria, which is more restrained in its growth than its Asian wisteria cousins. It’s a fast-growing twining vine, which means that it’ll wind its stems around a support as it climbs upward. It’ll need a strong support system, such as an arbor or pergola, to show off its vigorous growth and pendulous, purplish-lavender flowers. If you want a vine that shades the sun for your sitting area, this is it. USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9.
Peaches and Cream Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches and Cream’). Although some honeysuckle vines are invasive, Peaches and Cream is not. You’ll flip over the bicolor magenta-pink and white flowers that last over a long season. Be sure to plant this vine where you can revel in the fragrance of its intoxicating honeysuckle-scented flowers. Extremely cold hardy, you can grow Peaches and Cream Honeysuckle as a perennial in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9.
- Plant all these vines in full sun to maximize their growth and flower production.
- Although all these vines can take the heat, their roots benefit from a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch around the base of the plants.
- After blooming, if you pinch or prune the growing tips, vines will often re-bloom later in the season.
- Pinching or pruning the growing tips also helps vines to form lateral growth, which makes them thicker.
- Use soft ties for vines that need tying up — ones that don’t naturally twine around their support, such as clematis and bougainvillea. For an easy and inexpensive source of ties, cut nylon stockings into short sections!
Take Care of the Visitors
Hummingbirds and butterflies flock to flowering vines, so be careful not to use pesticides that are toxic to these winged visitors.
Resplendent in bright colors, azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) energize spring landscapes. Until the late 90’s, gardeners waited with anticipation all year to enjoy their azaleas’ once-yearly display. But with advances in plant breeding, you can now enjoy azalea flowers three times a year!
Their name says it all. These repeat-blooming azaleas bow out after their spring blossoms fade, but they come back for two encore performances – flowering again in summer and fall! This long-awaited introduction to the plant world contains diverse flowers colors and shapes to suit any gardener’s preference.
If you’ve found azaleas a bit finicky to grow, you’ll love Encore Azaleas!
- You can grow them in sunnier spots than conventional azaleas; in fact, Encore Azaleas thrive in areas that get 4 to 6 hours of sun, preferably morning sun.
- Field trials have shown Encore Azaleas to be more pest-resistant than other azaleas.
- Encore Azaleas are more cold-hardy than other azalea plants. Most Encore cultivars are perennials in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 10.
Which Colors Suit Your Fancy?
Choose from a rainbow of colors to complement your landscape design:
- Orange-Red: Autumn Embers (Rhododendron ‘Conleb’) sizzles with its 2.5-inch semi-double flowers on dwarf plants that grow 3 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide. USDA hardiness zones 6b-9.
- Cherry-Red: Autumn Fire (Rhododendron ‘Roblez’) is a dwarf azalea, reaching only 2.5 feet tall and 3 feet wide. USDA hardiness zones 6-9.
- Purple: Autumn Royalty (Rhododendron ‘Conlec’) won the coveted “Azalea of the Year” award in 2004, which was awarded by the American Rhododendron Society. This is a tough shrub that grows to 4 feet tall and 3.5 feet wide with long-lasting single purple blooms. USDA hardiness zones 6-9.
- White: Autumn Angel (Rhododendron ‘Robleg’) is a dwarf azalea, growing 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, which is covered with snow-white 3” single blossoms. USDA plant hardiness zones 7-9.
- Pink: Autumn Debutante (Rhododendron ‘Roblel’) bears 3” single flowers on shrubs that reach 4 feet tall to 4 feet wide. USDA plant hardiness zones 6b-9.
- Bicolor Pink: Autumn Belle (Rhododendron ‘Robleo’) does not disappoint. Its bi-colored 2.5-inch flowers are ruffled, like the skirt of a belle of the ball! A bit taller than other Encores, Autumn Belle grows to 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. USDA plant hardiness zones 7-9.
- Plant Encore Azaleas any time of year, but if you plant during warmer months, be sure to keep them well-watered so they’ll have an easier transition in becoming established.
- Don’t let the soil dry excessively around newly planted azaleas or the plants may die.
- During the growing season, give your Encore Azaleas 1 inch of water each week if there’s not enough rainfall to maintain this level.
- Keep 2 to 3 inches of mulch around your plants to suppress weeds and conserve moisture.
- Use a fertilizer that’s blended for azaleas shortly after planting your shrubs, and be sure to follow all label recommendations.
- Withhold fertilizer after August.
- Protect your first-year Encore Azaleas by covering them if winter temperatures are extremely cold.
Hummingbirds & Butterflies
Did you know that Encore Azaleas are as pleasing to hummingbirds and butterflies as they are to you? Because the shrubs bloom in early spring, they’ll attract migrating butterflies. And when Encores burst into bloom in autumn, they provide a nectar source for the butterflies as they begin their fall migration! Hummingbirds prefer to sip nectar from trumpet-shaped flowers, so Encore Azaleas are perfect to suit their sipping needs. Be sure to plant some Encore Azaleas near your favorite sitting area — not only to enjoy their beauty but also to watch the parade of hummingbirds and butterflies they’ll attract!
Plants give us multi-sensory experiences by tantalizing our senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Visitors to the garden who may be impaired by one or more of these senses often find deep satisfaction from plants that offer another level of sensory enjoyment. But even garden visitors whose senses are fully functional will enjoy designing a sensory garden to explore the depth of what plants have to offer.
A Joy to See
A landscape awash with color immediately pleases our sense of sight. Although we typically think of flowers as adding the color to a landscape, foliage, fruits and even bark can also add colorful touches.
Representing every color in the rainbow, flowers are truly the visual workhorses of any garden. Cheery Stella d’Oro Daylilies (Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’) brighten any sunny garden nook, and the blue flowers of Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus orientalis) rise in peaceful splendor above the strap-shaped foliage.
Some trees bear colorful flowers, too. The Yoshino Cherry tree (Prunus x yedoenis) is covered in dainty white blossoms in early spring to herald the coming of warm weather.
The sight of flowers also beckons butterflies to the garden. In fact, most butterflies are flower-specific, meaning they choose only certain plants as nectar sources and places to lay their eggs on. Soulmate Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Soulmate’) is a shorter version of the native milkweed. Its rosy-pink flowers are irresistible to Monarch butterflies!
Caladiums (Angel Wings) and Heucheras (Coral Bells) are plants that are most valued for their colorful leaves instead of their flowers. From the bright-red leaves of Florida Cardinal Caladium to the apricot- and caramel-colored leaves of Caramel Heuchera, colorful foliage plants are mainstays in the shade garden.
The red berries of American Holly (Ilex opaca) aren’t just for holiday decorations — they’re also a fruiting food source for birds!
From the romantic fragrance of Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) to the intoxicating scent of Tea Olive (Osmanthus fragrans), there’s a fragrant flower to suit everyone’s sense of smell. Be sure to plant fragrant flowers near your favorite sitting area – patios, verandas and decks – for maximum sensory experience!
A Pleasing Sound
As the wind moves through the trees in your yard, your sense of sound is stimulated. But you can even enjoy the “whoosh” of a breeze blowing through ornamental grasses, such as Purple Maiden Grass (Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’).
A Textured Touch
Plant some crape myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia spp.), such as Catawba (purple flowers), Tuscarora (watermelon pink flowers) or Natchez (white flowers), and you’ll not only enjoy the visual (colorful flowers), but the tactile (touch). As crape myrtles age, their bark peels away in curls to reveal a mottled trunk underneath!
If you grow plants that produce edible fruits and berries, you’ll enjoy “sensory garden overload” with flowers in spring, fruits in summer and vibrant foliage color in autumn! Depending on your taste preferences (and growing zone), plant Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.), Apples (Malus spp.), Peaches (Prunus spp.) or Strawberries (Fragaria spp.).
Sensory Garden Design Tips
- Choose several plants in each sensory category to incorporate into your landscape design.
- Vary plant sizes, heights and textures.
- Add a water feature to add peaceful sounds (and attract birds) to your sensory garden.
- Consider using bamboo wind chimes instead of metallic chimes for a more natural sound.
- Don’t forget to add chairs or benches in your sensory garden. Then sit…relax…and enjoy!
Colorful floral arrangements brighten foyers and enhance dinner tables. But if you’re hesitant to cut the flowers in your landscape to bring indoors because it may leave your yard less colorful, the answer is to plant a cutting garden. Then you can enjoy the best of both worlds — beautiful landscape plantings plus a separate garden for cut flowers — so you can snip to your heart’s content!
What Exactly is a Cutting Garden?
Think of your cutting garden as a separate section in your yard where you only plant flowers that you plan to cut and bring indoors to make floral arrangements. Although you can certainly cut flowers from your landscape plants to fill vases and make centerpieces, your landscape plants won’t be as showy if you’re constantly removing their blooms.
Where and How to Plant a Cutting Garden
Choose a spot in your yard that may be a tad off the beaten path — an inconspicuous location that won’t detract from your landscape design. A cutting garden is not typically the focal point in your yard; it serves more of a utilitarian purpose. So think more toward a garden that you can lay out in rows, similar to a vegetable garden, with paths between the rows that are wide enough for you to navigate. Instead of harvesting vegetables, you’ll be harvesting cut flowers!
Tall, Sturdy Stems
Any dramatic floral arrangement needs height. Sunflowers, glads and dahlias are flowers with tall, sturdy stems that hold up well in vases. Some flowers are so large that one bloom can fill a vase; for example, “dinner plate” dahlias. Avignon (white flowers with violet and burgundy splashes and stripes), Babylon Red (fiery red blossoms) and Moonlight Sonata (coral and peach-pink blooms) are a few showstopper dahlias.
You may not think of planting hydrangeas in your cutting garden, but there are numerous hydrangea species and cultivars that add great diversity and impact to cut-flower arrangements.
Round Flowers: Nikko Blue and Endless Summer are two hydrangeas with huge, “mophead”-type flowers. The color of these hydrangeas can range from pink to blue (or even purple), depending on the pH of your garden soil. Annabelle also has oversized round flower heads — but in brilliant white!
Cone-Shaped Flowers: Did you know that all hydrangea flowers aren’t round? Some species, such as Limelight and Oakleaf, have panicle flowers, which are cone-shaped. Pair these cone-shaped flowers with round flower specimens for a geometrically diverse arrangement.
A cutting garden wouldn’t be complete without roses. With a rainbow of colors from which to choose, select shades of roses that complement your home’s décor. Although some roses are a bit finicky — and some have sporadic bloom times — if you plant Knock Out roses, you’ll be sure to have a never-ending supply of colorful flowers. Sunny Knock Out brightens up any room in your home with its cheerful yellow flowers. Choose Red Knock Out roses for vivid color or Pink Knock Out roses for a softer touch.
Although flowers are certainly the prominent features of any floral arrangement, what really puts the finishing touches on any bouquet are dramatic non-flowering stems, such as ornamental grasses. Not to be confused with their turfgrass cousins, ornamental grasses come in a rainbow of dazzling colors, straight or arching stems and varying textures. Purple Fountain Grass adds a striking touch to bold centerpieces with its arching purple foliage and fluffy flower spikes, and Pink Muhly Grass lends softness to bouquets with its soft-pink flower plumes.
Messy flower pollen can stain your tablecloths or furniture. As you’re arranging the flowers in your vase or flower bowl, remove the stamens — these are the structures that hold the pollen. Not only will you keep pollen from falling and staining your tablecloth, you’ll keep it from becoming airborne and aggravating any allergies!
Keep Stems Fresh Longer
To extend the vase life of your cut flowers, use a powdered floral preservative that you can find at nurseries or flower shops. Simply dissolve the powder in water and place your flowers in this treated water so they’ll stay fresh longer.
DIY Tip: Many university websites recommend making your own floral preservative for cut flowers. Mix 1 part regular (non-diet) lemon-lime soda and 3 parts water plus ¼ teaspoon of household bleach per 1 quart of the mixture.
Whether you use a purchased floral preservative or you make your own, replace the solution every few days to keep the water clean.
Unlike some plants that need intensive pruning, staking and spraying before they bear fruit, blueberries are a dream to grow. After you plant them and they become established in their new home, they’re drought-tolerant and typically resistant to most pests and diseases. In the spring they produce pretty flowers and in the summer they bear a bountiful harvest of healthy blueberries! Fresh fruit smoothies, anyone? Or do you prefer fresh blueberries in your breakfast cereal or oatmeal? Maybe you’d like to bake homemade blueberry pies or make blueberry jam? Pick any of the above — or all of the above — and head to your back yard to pick the fruits of your labor!
Plant Them for your Health
- Are a solid source of vitamins A and C, iron and potassium
- Add fiber to your diet
- Have no cholesterol
- Are sodium-free
- Contain natural antioxidants (research shows antioxidants minimize some health problems)
3 Must-Have Blueberry Plants
Plant each of these for a variety of flavors and colors:
- Rabbiteye Blueberries (Vaccinium ashei)
Rabbiteye blueberries are named for their resemblance to “real” rabbit eyes — before the berries turn blue, they’re pinkish…resembling an albino bunny’s eyes! Their flowers need to be pollinated by another plant, so be sure to plant more than one shrub. A mature rabbiteye blueberry bush produces 12 to 25 pounds of berries each year!
- Sweetheart Blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Sweetheart’)
Sweetheart blueberries reward you with two harvests each year. While most blueberries bear fruit in mid-summer, Sweetheart is an early-bearing cultivar that produces berries in early summer and, typically, a lighter crop in early autumn. Mature shrubs produce up to 20 pints of berries each year.
- Pink Lemonade Blueberries (Vaccinium ‘Pink Lemonade’)
Yes, you read it right! Putting a spin on the traditional “blue” of “blueberry,” Pink Lemonade will make you do a double-take when it produces pink berries. Because these shrubs are shorter than other blueberries — they grow to 5 feet tall — they’re a good fit for smaller gardens or even containers.
- Blueberry shrubs are healthier, grow faster and produce more berries in full sun.
- Have your soil tested to determine the specific nutrient needs of your garden soil, and follow the soil-test recommendations. Blueberries prosper in acidic soil, so you may need to adjust for this. (Tip: For a nominal fee, your local County Extension Service will evaluate your soil based on a sample you take to them.)
- The more the merrier. Although some blueberry cultivars bear fruit without having to be cross-pollinated by another plant, they’ll produce more berries if you plant more than one shrub. (The exception is the rabbiteye blueberry, which does require another plant nearby for cross-pollination.)
- Space plants according to the type you’re growing. Plant Rabbiteye and Sweetheart blueberries at least 6 feet apart and Pink Lemonade blueberries 4 feet apart.
- Keep your blueberries watered, but don’t let the soil become soggy.
Combine Ornamental with Edible
You can use blueberries as landscape shrubs to mark a property boundary or grow as a hedge. But blueberry shrubs are deciduous, which means they’ll lose their leaves in the fall, so don’t plant them as a privacy screen if you want to block the view from something year-round!
If you could select only one type of flowering shrub for your garden, you couldn’t go wrong by choosing a hydrangea. But don’t stop at only one type of hydrangea, because the diversity among these plants includes different colors and types of flowers as well as distinctive leaf shapes and varying bloom times. Place these five hydrangeas throughout your garden and enjoy a long season of flowers!
1. Endless Summer
A remarkable improvement over standard mophead-type hydrangeas, the Endless Summer Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer’) just keeps blooming and blooming. Unlike the species, which blooms once in a growing season, Endless Summer is a remontant plant, which simply means it’s a rebloomer. Also, even if there’s a late spring frost, Endless Summer blooms on new growth, so once new leaves appear, the flower buds aren’t far behind! Flowers may be shades of blue or pink, depending on the soil’s pH. If your garden soil is acidic, the flowers will be blue. But if your garden soil is more alkaline, you’ll have pink flowers!
Height-Spread: 4’ x 4’
Hardiness zones: 4-9
Few flowering shrubs command attention like the Limelight Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’). Huge, cone-shaped flower panicles burst into bloom in the most brilliant shade of white and persist on the plant for most of the summer. As summer moves closer to autumn, the flowers turn lime-green before transitioning to pink in the fall — truly a sight to behold! Panicle hydrangeas like Limelight are the most cold-hardy hydrangea species, surviving winters to USDA plant hardiness zone 3.
Height-Spread: 6’-10’ x 6”
Hardiness zones: 3-8
Did you know there’s a native hydrangea that’s an outstanding performer in the garden? The Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is so-named because of its dramatic foliage, which resembles lobed oak leaves and grows up to 12 inches long! But the flowers give this plant’s leaves a run for their money. White cone-shaped blossoms turn varying shades of pink in the fall. Not to be outdone by the flowers, oakleaf hydrangea’s leaves once again take center stage in fall when they turn shades of reddish-purple!
Height-Spread: 6’-8’ x 6’
The belle of the ball in the hydrangea world is the Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’). The size of Annabelle’s round flower heads must be seen to be believed — up to 12 inches across! These pure-white blooms are so big you can see them from across your yard, nodding in the breeze. Annabelle Hydrangea is a true winner — it was awarded the 1995 Georgia Gold Medal as the outstanding shrub.
Height-Spread: 4’ x 4’
Hardiness zones: 3-10
5. Nikko Blue
Last but certainly not least is the quintessential ‘mop head’ hydrangea — the Nikko Blue (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nikko Blue’). The round blossoms are blue if you have acidic soil and pink if you have alkaline soil. It’s the perfect understory plant where it thrives in partial shade under trees or large shrubs. Nikko Blue is a fast-growing hydrangea that prospers in moist (but not soggy) soil.
Height-Spread: 6’ x 5’
Hardiness zones: 6-9
Unrivaled Cut Flowers
- Fresh. If you enjoy dramatic cut-flower bouquets to decorate your home, you’ll love arranging armfuls of hydrangea stems in your favorite vase. Strip any leaves from the stem sections that will be underwater, and re-cut the stems just before you place them in the water.
- Dried. Hydrangeas make some of the prettiest dried flowers. Cut flowering stems at the peak of their bloom, hang them upside down in a dark closet and they’ll dry to perfection!
What gardeners wouldn’t welcome plants so suitably “at home” in their gardens that they need little care and ongoing maintenance? Enter native plants – the ones that grow naturally in certain places and are acclimated to native soils, regional climates and natural rainfall levels. Some of these plants can be workhorses in your garden, providing a big payoff for minimal upkeep.
To their credit, plant breeders have given us a vast array of outstanding plants that brighten our gardens each year. Their work causes us to look forward with anticipation to the “latest and greatest” plant introductions each year. But sometimes, growing non-native plants comes at the cost of spending an inordinately large amount of time just to maintain them, because they may not be adapted to your particular region’s environmental conditions.
Win-Win-Win at a Glance
Choosing native plants for your yard offers a threefold benefit:
- Native plants are already adapted to the climate, soil and natural rainfall where you live.
- Many native plants typically require less water, pesticides and fertilizers.
- Native plants provide food sources for native birds, butterflies and insects.
Taking Care of Backyard Birds and Butterflies
Native plants serve a purpose beyond simply beautifying your yard and gardens. They provide food sources for native birds and other wildlife, which includes sustaining all the life stages of butterflies and moths. A garden filled with butterflies can only happen if you provide the particular plants that cater to all the life stages of these creatures, including nectar sources (to feed the adult butterflies and moths), larval food sources (to feed the caterpillars) and host plants where butterflies and moths lay their eggs. All plants are not to the liking of all butterfly and moth species; in fact, butterflies and moths are so particular that they have plant preferences! Native birds also have specific preferences for their plant food sources, such as berries and nuts. And did you know that some birds feed only on native insects, which are sometimes found only on native plants?
Stellar Native Plants
Dogwood (Cornus florida). When Flowering Dogwood Trees begin blooming in early spring, they poke holes of white into otherwise drab landscapes and naturally wooded areas. The red berries they produce in late summer are food sources for birds and other wildlife.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis). Even before flowering dogwood trees begin to put on a show in springtime, native Redbud Trees burst into bloom. Purplish-rose flowers are produced along the branches, blossoming before the leaves appear.
Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). A fast-growing native tree, the Tulip Tree is best suited for larger landscapes where it may grow to 90 feet. Eastern tiger swallowtails choose this tree as one of their host plants, and bees collect its nectar to make honey. You won’t need to fuss over this low-maintenance tree.
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Any plant with “American” in its name is a sure tip-off that it’s a native species. The American Sycamore Tree is a tree to plant if you want “big,” because it can reach a height of 100 feet. In areas where other trees can’t handle moist or wet soil, the American sycamore flourishes.
American Red Maple (Acer rubrum). “Red” is the descriptive word for the American Red Maple Tree. Not only do its leaves turn a vibrant red in autumn, but its twigs, stems, buds and spring flowers are also red!
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). While other hydrangea species may be a bit fussier, the native Oakleaf Hydrangea is an easy-care alternative. Its common name hints at the shape of its leaves, which are lobed, resembling oak tree leaves. White, cone-shaped flowers turn shades of pink as they age.
Rabbiteye Blueberry (Vaccinium ashei). Here’s an easy-to-grow native shrub that bears healthy berries. Native to the southeastern United States, established Rabbiteye Blueberries are tolerant of drought and resistant to pests and diseases.
Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) Plant breeders have developed numerous cultivars of the North American native purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Two of these introductions are Magnus Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ – purplish-pink flowers) and White Swan Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ – white flowers). These cultivars have all the same low-maintenance traits of the species plants, which include resistance to drought and deer as well as adaptability to various soils, including dry, rocky and clay soils.
Blazing Star (Liatris spicata). Here’s a native plant that really delivers. Blazing Star adds a vertical accent to your garden with stems up to 4 feet tall, which bear a profusion of violet flowers that are irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s tolerant of a host of conditions, including different types of climates and soils.
Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). This overlooked and underused native ornamental grass really brings the “wow factor” when it starts blooming in summer, painting your landscape with cotton-candy pink flowers. Pink Muhly Grass can handle different types of soil, heat and drought. A little bonus is when the flowers fade and form seeds to provide your backyard birds with a favorite food source!
A cottage garden stands in stark contrast to a formal, manicured garden. Typically small and intimate, a cottage garden strikes a balance between having a casual, informal look without looking “messy.” Carefully crafted, your cottage garden can be a place of beauty where flowers beckon birds and butterflies as you enjoy your handiwork from a favorite sitting area.
Diversity is the order of the day in a cottage garden. Different types of plants, with varying sizes, textures and colors, offer an eclectic look that somehow pulls everything together harmoniously. A cottage garden packs a lot of punch in a small space — this is one example of being able to place plants closer than the recommended spacing!
- Small Trees. The typically smaller size of a cottage garden lends itself to having smaller trees instead of towering giants. Flowering trees are particularly suitable to a cottage garden. Choose White Dogwood (Cornus florida) or Red Dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’) as flowering accent trees in your cottage garden. Redbud trees also enliven the early spring cottage garden. The Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis texensis ‘Oklahoma’) bursts into flower with fuchsia-colored blossoms.
- Plan your cottage garden so the flowering shrubs blossom in succession so you can enjoy the floral display over a long bloom season. A late-winter/early-spring cottage-garden favorite is Forsythia, also called yellow bells or golden bells (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’). If you enjoy variegated plants, the green-and-cream leaves of Variegated Weigela (Weigela florida ‘Variegata’) will not disappoint. These cascading shrubs are covered in pink trumpet-shaped flowers in early summer, with a scattering of repeat blooms throughout the season. When spring gives way to summer, Butterfly Bushes (Buddlei spp.) begin flowering and may continue to blossom until autumn! These shrubs are true butterfly and hummingbird magnets, luring these delicate creatures to feast on the nectar within their panicle-shaped blossoms.
- Cottage-garden perennial flower mainstays include dahlias, coneflowers, phlox and peonies. For vibrant color all summer long, choose Moonlight Sonata Dahlia (Dahlia ‘Moonlight Sonata’ – flowers of coral and peachy pink), Cheyenne Spirit Coneflowers (Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ – flowers in shades of red, yellow, pink and purple), Candy Stripe Phlox (Phlox subulata ‘Candy Stripe’ – variegated blush-pink and white flowers) and White Gardenia Peony (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Gardenia’ – huge, white flowers that resemble gardenias).
- No cottage garden would be complete without the intoxicating fragrance and romantic look of roses (Rosa spp.). You can grow heirloom roses, tea roses, climbing roses or Tree Roses, which are not true trees but rose shrubs that have been trained to a tree-form shape. Colorful choices are Red Knock Out, Sunny Knock Out (yellow flowers) and Pink Knock Out tree roses.
- Herbs are a staple in any cottage garden, particularly lavender. From the traditional look of Hidcote Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’) to the unconventional variegated foliage of Platinum Blonde Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia ‘Platinum Blonde’), you cannot go wrong with including lavender in your cottage garden design.
- Whether climbing over an arbor or trained to a lattice, vines are an integral part of a cottage garden. Fireworks Clematis (Clematis ‘Fireworks’) has vibrant striped flower petals of violet and fuchsia, Peaches and Cream Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) features pink-and-white flowers and Amethyst Falls Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’) is a cottage-garden stunner with its pendulous grape-shaped purplish flower clusters.
The Finishing Touches
Structures and enclosures truly set a cottage garden apart from a conventionally landscaped garden…providing the finishing touches for a “true” cottage-garden look and feel.
These structures need not be freshly painted and brand-new; often, the most appealing cottage-garden structures are those that are well-worn and weather-beaten. Use these structures as backdrops for plants, or as supports to tie or train certain vines for upright growth.
• Fences and Gates
A white-picket fence is a quintessential cottage-garden addition, but you can also use natural wood that’s unpainted and unstained to give a more rustic look. Typically, a cottage-garden fence is shorter than a typical backyard fence, and it has an open weave so passersby can glimpse the flowers contained inside. Place plants on the inside and the outside of your cottage-garden fence, with shorter plants on the outside so they do not block the view of the fence. Gates can mark the transition between your cottage garden and other areas of your yard, or they can be positioned at the street side of your garden to welcome visitors inside.
• Paths and Sitting Areas
Use pavers, pea gravel or mulch to create paths that meander throughout your cottage garden so you and your guests can explore your collection of plants. Strategically place chairs or benches in a shaded sitting area so you can enjoy all the birds and butterflies that will inevitably be drawn to your cottage-garden as much as you are!
Herbs are not just for cooking — many of them make beautiful ornamental plants for your landscape! Instead of planting a separate herb garden, you can incorporate herb plants into your flower beds, use them to line your sidewalk or driveway as an edging plant or even use them as evergreen shrubs! Think outside the traditional landscaping box by combining an edible plant’s functionality with its ornamental versatility.
An Herbal Evergreen Shrub…for the BBQ!
Barbeque Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Barbeque’) is so multi-talented that it could go on tour and entertain the masses! Fragrant, flavorful and flowering are three words that often describe rosemary. But did you know you can also plant this herb as an evergreen shrub in your landscape if you live in USDA plant hardiness zones 8-10? Pruning takes on an all-new meaning with this plant when you cut the straight and sturdy stems to make naturally herbal-infused barbeque skewers!
Not your Typical “Lawn Grass”
Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a staple in Asian cuisine, which you can grow in your own backyard! In the warmer climates of USDA zones 9-11, you can grow this herb year-round, and if you live outside this range, you can overwinter it indoors. Simmered in soups and stews, steamed with vegetables or steeped for tea, lemon grass lives up to its herbal tradition. But this grassy plant — a cousin to the turfgrass in your yard — is also an ornamental landscaping gem. The tall (up to 4 feet) arching leaves form a grassy backdrop in your flower beds or a cascading foliage accent in containers. Place lemon grass in the center of a large container as an upright plant, and use trailing plants on the outside of the container. If you use lemon grass in a container arrangement outdoors, you can more easily move the pots indoors over the winter.
A Blonde Bombshell Bursting with Possibilities
Platinum Blonde Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia ‘Platinum Blonde’) is a new introduction to the lavender family. Forget the mental image you have of “traditional lavender plants,” because this plant has a look all its own. Although Platinum Blonde Lavender has beautiful purple flowers that are similar to other lavender plants’ blossoms, it marches to the beat of a different drummer with less-than-conventional variegated leaves! Each green leaf is outlined by a creamy-white margin, making Platinum Blonde a superior ornamental plant. Use the dried flowers and leaves in sachets or potpourri bowls to savor the fragrance year-round.
Edible Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a coveted culinary and medicinal herb. Unlike other herbs, which are valued for their leaves and stems, the fleshy rhizomes of ginger that grow at ground level are what you purchase as “ginger root” at the market to use in your favorite dishes. The part of the plant that you see above ground — the three-to-four-foot foliage — is the ornamental treasure of this herb. Use ginger’s foliage to give a tropical look to a semi-shady garden or container. As the rhizomes multiply over the plant’s long growing season, they send up more leaves to fill in a garden area or container.
Tips & Helps
- Most herbs like the soil a little on the dry side; too much water means the early death of plants like rosemary and lavender. But even lemon grass, which prefers soil a bit moister, grows best in well-draining soil that other herbs also require.
- Raised beds and container gardens are herb-friendly environments. Because they’re elevated, beds and containers give herbs the drainage they need.
- Even though some herbs, such as rosemary, have tiny flowers, butterflies love them! Consider adding herbs to your butterfly garden to complement other annual and perennial flowers.
- Skip the chemical pesticides. Most herbs are naturally pest-resistant, plus if you’re going to harvest your herbs to use in the kitchen, you may not want to infuse pesticides into your food!
When you think of choosing flowers to add colorful touches to your landscape, you may be overlooking one of the most dramatic sources of this color — flowering trees. Not only can trees paint glorious brush strokes of color across your yard, but there is also a way for you to enjoy this color from early spring throughout the summer. All you have to do is choose trees that bloom at different times of the year!
A Trio of Spring-Blooming Trees
Depending on where you live, some spring-blooming trees may actually start blooming in late winter, much to the delight of warm-climate gardeners! Choose these trees to herald the beginning of spring for early-season color:
- Dogwood Trees (Cornus spp.)
Dogwoods are the quintessential spring-flowering trees across USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Although you are probably familiar with the white-flowering variety, did you know there are also pink- and red-flowering dogwoods?
- White dogwood (Cornus florida). Even though the true flowers of dogwood trees are the little yellow blossoms framed by a flurry of white, petal-like structures, it’s this flurry of white that you’ll enjoy!
- Pink dogwood (Cornus florida rubra). These trees are covered with a cotton-candy pink color that may deepen with age.
- Red dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Chief’). Although there are numerous dogwoods sold as “red-flowering” trees, it’s the Cherokee Chief dogwood that has a true ruby-red color.
- Redbud Trees (Cercis spp.)
A native tree, redbud species sport heart-shaped leaves and an abundance of flowers in spring.
- Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). The branches of this native tree are covered with deep-pink flowers in late winter to early spring before the leaf buds open.
- Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis texensis ‘Oklahoma,’ formerly Cercis reniformis). Another redbud selection, Oklahoma won the coveted 2002 Georgia Gold Medal Plant Award for its outstanding performance and durability. Its flowers are a vibrant shade of fuchsia.
- The Rising Sun Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘JN2’). Like the multi-colored display of a brilliant sunrise, The Rising Sun Redbud tree displays shades of apricot, yellow and lime-green after its pinkish-lavender flowers fade in spring. You’ll enjoy a second burst of color when its leaves turn shades of gold in autumn.
- Ornamental Cherry Trees (Prunus spp.)
- Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata). The double-flowered blossoms of the Kwanzan Cherry tree give a two-for-one impact! A profusion of pink flowers makes this tree a true spring stunner.
- Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis). This graceful, rounded tree is unparalleled for its open, vase-shaped form and white flowers that burst open in spring.
- Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry (Prunus‘Snofozam’). Imagine a cherry tree covered with white flowers in springtime…and now picture this tree with cascading branches! The weeping shape of this cherry tree mimics a waterfall, making it an anchor plant in an Oriental garden with a dry stream bed of pebbles “flowing” underneath it.
A Quartet of Summer-Blooming Trees
Plan your landscape so that dramatic summer-flowering trees begin to blossom as the spring-blooming trees fade. This succession of color brings a long-lasting feast for your eyes as well as rich nectar sources for birds and butterflies.
- Crape Myrtle Trees (Lagerstroemia spp.) With so many cultivars and colors available, you can’t go wrong with choosing crape myrtle trees in the Native American Tribe series. This group of crape myrtles was developed by scientists at the U.S. National Arboretum and bred for their high disease resistance.
- Tonto Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tonto’). If you like hot colors in your landscape, this is the crape myrtle for you! The award-winning Tonto Crape Myrtle bears fuchsia (hot-pink) flowers that last over a long bloom season.
- Catawba Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Catawba’). Vivid violet-purple flowers are a standout in the garden on Catawba Crape Myrtle.
- Natchez Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’). White doesn’t have to be boring! Simply look to Natchez Crape Myrtle to provide a snow storm in summer with its pure-white blossoms.
- Muskogee Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia ‘Muskogee’). Lavender flowers make Muskogee Crape Myrtle a “southern substitute” for lilacs, which typically can’t stand up to the heat and humidity of hot southern summers.
- Little Gem Magnolia Tree (Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’). With all the grandeur of the larger species magnolia tree — but in a smaller package — Little Gem Magnolia brings a touch of Southern charm to smaller landscapes. It’s no wonder that Little Gem Magnolia was awarded the 2000 Georgia Gold Medal Plant Award because of its outstanding attributes. In addition to its smaller size (it only grows to 20 feet tall), this evergreen tree’s leaves are slightly upturned, which allows you to see the brown undersides — a nice contrast to the deep-green tops. But its crowning glory are the summer-blooming white cup-shaped flowers that are intoxicatingly fragrant.
- Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). This is a very fast-growing tree that may reach a height of 90 feet. Choose this tree if you need some shade in your yard but you don’t want to wait a lifetime to enjoy the shade! Uniquely shaped leaves are tulip-shaped, but the “tulip theme” doesn’t stop at the leaves — each orange-and-yellow flower is also tulip-shaped. These flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, which is an extra bonus for you!
- Kousa Dogwood Tree (Cornus kousa). You may be more familiar with spring-blooming dogwood trees, but the Kousa Dogwood holds its flowering display until summer. It has another advantage over the native dogwood species — higher disease resistance. And the birds in your yard will appreciate snacking on Kousa Dogwood’s raspberry-shaped fruits!
A contented gardener can sit for hours in the backyard under a favorite tree — or in a rocking chair on the veranda — simply watching the birds and butterflies that come to visit. Gardeners delight in designing a landscape that not only looks appealing but also provides a habitat to welcome their favorite winged creatures. However, some plants are favored more than others by birds and butterflies, so it’s the careful consideration of your overall landscape design that can make your yard and garden come alive with fluttering wings!
Whether you’re watching year-round native bird species or seasonal, migratory birds, providing the plants they need for shelter, nesting and food invites them to call your yard “home.”
Evergreen trees and shrubs provide year-round protection for birds. These plants shield birds from predators and act as wind screens to keep cold, winter winds at bay.
- Choose needled evergreens, such as Green Giant Arborvitae (Thuja (standishii x plicata) ’Green Giant’, USDA zones 5-9), as fast-growing havens for birds.
- American Holly (Ilex opaca, USDA zones 5-9) offers a fruiting food source for many birds with its bright-red berries, and its sharp, prickly leaves discourage predators from reaching nesting birds inside the branches.
Deciduous trees and shrubs lose their leaves in autumn, but they provide nesting sites for birds during spring and summer.
- Flowering Dogwood Tree (Cornus florida, USDA zones 5-8) is a favorite nesting site for many birds, and an added benefit is the profusion of red berries it produces in fall that birds love to eat. An especially striking cultivar is Cherokee Chief, a red-flowering dogwood.
- You’ll enjoy the fragrance of Sweet Mock Orange flowers (Philadelphus coronarius, USDA zones 4-8) almost as much as the birds that like to nest there in this shrub’s branches!
Who can resist the antics of this tiny bird? Buzzing to and fro in their search for food, hummingbirds truly make a garden come alive. Because their food preferences differ from other bird species, be sure to design your garden with plenty of nectar sources for these gems of the bird world.
Trees. Some species of trees, such as the Tulip Poplar Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera, USDA zones 4-9), bear flowers that cater to a hummingbird’s sweet tooth. The Tulip Poplar tree is also a host plant for several butterfly species, including the Eastern Black Swallowtail.
Perennial Flowers. You may think hummingbirds only eat from tall plants because you’ve seen them visit nectar feeders. But they’ll visit low-growing flowers, too! So be sure and place shorter flowering plants around your outside sitting area to enjoy the hummers up close and personal.
- Coral Bells (Heuchera spp., USDA zones 4-9) are clumping perennials that are typically grown for their colorful foliage. But they also bear bell-shaped flowers that lure hummingbirds from all corners of your yard! Two cultivars guaranteed to ring the hummingbird dinner bell: Caramel Heuchera (buttery golden leaves) and Peach Flambe Heuchera (red-splashed peach-toned leaves).
- Phlox flowers come in a rainbow of colors, and some are prettily patterned. For example, each white flower petal of Candy Stripe Phlox (Phlox subulata ‘Candy Stripe’, USDA zones 3-9) has a pink stripe down the middle.
Flowering Vines. Scrambling up a lattice screen, crawling over a pergola or cascading over a fence, flowering vines offer a feast for your eyes as well as a feast for the hummingbirds.
- The brilliant fuchsia-striped violet-starburst flowers of Fireworks Clematis (Clematis ‘Fireworks’, USDA zones 4-8) lure hummingbirds to come sip their sweet nectar.
- Unlike its invasive plant relatives, Amethyst Falls Blue Wisteria (Wister frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’, USDA zones 5-9) has fragrant blossoms that look like clusters of grapes! Hummingbirds simply can’t resist these showy flowers.
If you want to have a garden filled with butterflies, you need to have plants that cater to all their life stages. This means providing nectar plants for the adult butterflies to feed on and host plants for them to lay eggs on. After the caterpillars hatch, they need a source of food before they mature into butterflies – not nectar as the adults eat, but plant leaves.
Trees and Shrubs. If you’ve only planted flowering herbaceous perennials in your butterfly garden, plant some butterfly-friendly trees and shrubs and you’ll attract even more butterfly species.
- The Cassia Tree (Cassia fistula, USDA zones 7-9) is a spectacular sight in spring because it is covered with yellow flowers. Typically, trees bloom a second time in fall. This tree is a host plant for several butterfly species.
- Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia spp., USDA zones 5-9) didn’t get their common name by chance. These shrubs are true butterfly magnets. Try these cultivars: Black Knight (dark purple flowers), Pink Delight (bright pink blossoms) or White Profusion (creamy-white blooms).
Perennial Flowers. Research shows that butterflies prefer certain shapes of flowers, primarily so they have an area to land while they feed — they do not hover above flowers like hummingbirds when they sip nectar. Look for plants with wide flower petals, flat flower heads or flower clusters.
- Blazing Star Liatris (Liatris spicata, USDA zones 3-8) is a superior butterfly plant because of its tall flower spikes composed of many individual flowers. Butterflies have lots of nectar portals on each flower spike!
- Magnus Coneflower (Echnicacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, USDA zones 3-8) is a magnificent butterfly plant. Plant some of these in your garden and you’ll be amazed at the number of butterflies they attract!
- Soulmate Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Soulmate’, USDA zones 3-8). There’s really nothing “weedy” about this plant — it’s a terrific butterfly plant, specifically as a host plant for Monarch butterflies.
Two Extras for Your Bird and Butterfly Habitat
- Don’t forget to provide a water source for the birds in your yard.
- Make a “puddling pool” for butterflies by filling a shallow clay dish with sand or clay and burying it to its rim. Keep it moist by simply watering it when you water your flowers!
A rain garden can be a beautiful solution to a not-so-beautiful eyesore in your yard. Do you have a low-lying area in your landscape — one where rainwater collects into a big puddle and takes forever to drain? Or even a level area that stays soggier than the rest of your yard after rainstorms? How about the area around a downspout where the soil simply doesn’t absorb diverted rainwater quickly enough? If you have any of these problem spots in your yard, make a rain garden your next landscaping project!
So What Exactly IS a Rain Garden?
It’s a place for plants that can tolerate flooding conditions that result in standing water in slow-draining areas. A rain garden should only detain water temporarily (typically up to 24 hours), not retain it indefinitely. But since most plants cannot handle having “wet feet” in soggy soil without suffering root rot, creating a rain garden means choosing plants that can handle these conditions. Tip: Locate your rain garden at least 10 feet away from your home’s foundation.
Perfect Plants for a Rainy Day
You’ll find many native plants on the list of recommended rain-garden choices, although some non-natives are also adapted to the fluctuations of soil flooding conditions.
- American Red Maple (Acer rubrum). A colorful addition to your rain garden, the American Red Maple is a native tree that really lights up a landscape in autumn when its leaves turn fiery red. Mature height: to 100 feet.
- Dogwood (Cornus florida). Among different species of dogwood, it’s our native species that excels in a rain garden. Choose your favorite color traditional white, soft pink or deep rose-red to complement your landscape design. Mature height: to 30 feet.
- American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). A third native tree recommended for your rain garden is the American Sycamore. Not only does this tree’s leaves turn a lovely shade of yellow in fall, but its exfoliating outer bark reveals white inner bark for year-round appeal. Mature height: to 100 feet.
- Tricolor Willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro-nashiki’). Many species of willow are perfectly at home in a rain garden. But it’s the outstanding foliage of Tricolor Willow that makes this plant a standout among its willow relatives. In spring, when the new growth makes its appearance, you’ll see why tricolor willow is so-named — delightful pink splashes adorn green-and-white variegated leaves are a landscape designer’s dream! Mature height: to 6 feet.
- American Holly (Ilex opaca). Alternately classified as a small tree or large shrub, American holly suits each purpose. This evergreen plant is the traditional “holiday holly” — red berries on lustrous green leaves. Mature height: to 30 feet.
- Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). Other hydrangea species may flounder in waterlogged soil, but not the native Oakleaf Hydrangea. It prospers in moist areas and can handle periodic flooding and draining events. The deciduous Oakleaf Hydrangea bears conical-shaped flowers in summer that gradually fade from white to shades of pink, and its oakleaf-shaped foliage turns brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow in autumn. Mature height: To 8 feet.
- Happy Returns Daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’). The cheerful yellow flowers of Happy Returns Daylily brighten any rain garden. Use this clumping plant as a grasslike border around your rain garden or interplanted with other perennials to fill in bare areas. Mature height: to 2 feet.
- Soulmate Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata ‘Soulmate’). A cultivar of the native milkweed species, Soulmate Milkweed turns your rain garden into a butterfly habitat. This fragrant wildflower is a host plant for Monarch butterflies — the butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves, feed on the flowers’ nectar and the emerging caterpillars feast on the leaves! Mature height: to 4 feet.
- Blazing Star Liatris (Liatris spicata). Another native plant, Blazing Star Liatris is not only a suitable addition to your rain garden, but its purplish-violet flowers are irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies! Paired with Soulmate Milkweed, Blazing Star Liatris is a must-have to turn your rain garden into a wildlife habitat.
Will a Rain Garden Become a Breeding Ground for Mosquitoes?
We’re glad you asked! You may think that the standing water in a rain garden will turn your yard into mosquito central. But a rain garden is not a bog or water garden, which are permanent reservoirs for standing water. A rain garden should drain within 24 hours or less, so it cannot support the 7 to 10 days required for mosquito eggs to hatch. But a rain garden will attract dragonflies, which is a plus. Harmless to people and pets, dragonflies are natural predators of the mosquitoes in your yard!
There’s not a lot of ornamental appeal to green turf-grass. Oh sure, it provides a canvas of green against which you place your landscape plants, but it typically requires a lot of maintenance to keep it looking lush and green. On the flip side is an array of ornamental grasses — colorful, low-maintenance and aesthetically more diverse than a conventional lawn.
A Round of Applause
Although different types of ornamental grasses have varying needs, most share these outstanding characteristics, worthy of a botanical standing ovation:
- Drought-tolerant. Most ornamental grasses meet the plant requirements of xeriscaping, which is the efficient use of water in the landscape. Some ornamental grasses are so drought-tolerant that you may never have to water them again — after you’ve transplanted them and watered them well until they become established.
- Adaptable to different types of soil. Lots of ornamental grasses are not too picky about the type soil where you plant them, although they do appreciate soil that drains well.
- Low fertilization requirements. Save the labor and expense, because here’s one group of plants that typically requires little to no fertilizer.
- No need to mow. Put your lawn mower away! One of the absolute best features of ornamental grasses is their natural shape. This means you won’t have to keep them manicured by mowing them as you do your lawn.
- Pest- and disease-tolerant. For all their appeal as landscape plants, ornamental grasses have little to no appeal to pests and diseases — good news for the gardener who’d rather not spend time and money to spray chemicals all over the yard.
- Bird-friendly. Birds love ornamental grasses! The seed heads provide a ready-made food source in the form of free birdseed. And the taller grasses offer shelter from predators and cold weather.
Six Stupendous Ornamental Grasses
- Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’). Yes, it really is purple! The cascading foliage from this 3-5 foot tall beauty lets you know why its common name contains the word “fountain.”
Fireworks Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’). If you want to make a colorful statement with an ornamental grass, this is the one for you. Picture a 4-foot tall clump of foliage with leaves that are burgundy in the middle and hot-pink on the edges…with green and white splashes in between. Now picture this plant growing in your yard!
- Karley Rose Fountain Grass (Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’). This patented fountain grass is shorter than other cultivars, topping out at only 3 feet, but the rose-colored plumes that arise in summer add another 8-9 inches to its height.
- Variegated Liriope (Liriope muscari ‘Variegata’). A neat and tidy 12-inch-high clumping grass that is typically used for borders, variegated liriope is sometimes referred to as “monkey grass.” Contrasting green and cream leaves frame the purple flower spikes that bloom in summer.
- Karl Foerster Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’). When this ornamental grass won the 2001 Perennial Plant of the Year award, it beat out the competition, which included many flowering perennials. Six-foot-tall plumes add a dynamic punch to your landscape.
- Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus). This staple in Asian cuisine is an ornamental grass as well as an edible addition to your herb garden. Growing to 4 feet tall, lemon grass is a vertical backdrop to shorter plants in front of it.
Some Design Tips
- Ornamental grasses are super in containers. For larger species, choose large pots that balance the scale of the plants’ mature heights.
- Shrub substitute. Plant a row of ornamental grasses instead of shrubs to add more “movement” to your landscape.
- Borders and edging. Use ornamental grasses to border islands that contain shrubs and trees. Consider the mature height of an ornamental grass when choosing a border plant so it won’t hide smaller shrubs inside an island. Edge sidewalks, driveways or patios with your favorite ornamental grass.
- Erosion control. If you plant ornamental grasses on a hill in your lawn, you won’t have to maneuver a lawn mower unsafely on a steep grade.
- Fresh or dried floral arrangements. Ornamental grasses are superior in floral arrangements, particularly those with feathery plumes or vivid foliage.
- Be sure and include at least one ornamental grass in your landscape that produces seed-bearing flower spikes or plumes. But don’t forget to place this new plant where you can see it from a window to enjoy watching the birds that fly in and eat the seeds!
Did you know that apples continue to live even after they’re picked? This means they continue the process of respiration, which means taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide. But as soon as they’re picked, apples are no longer connected to the tree that helps nourish and support them. The result is that the apples begin to lose nutrients immediately after harvest, because they’re essentially “feeding themselves” instead of depending on the tree to help out. If you grow your own apples, however, you are assured of the freshest and healthiest fruits — simply pick and eat while their full supply of nutrients are still intact!
A Nutritional Powerhouse
Take a look at just some of the nutritional benefits of apples:
- A medium-sized apple (2 ½ inches in diameter with the skin on) has only 80 calories
- Each apple contains 20 percent of your daily recommended fiber portion.
Soluble Fiber. This type of fiber, such as pectin in apples, helps prevent cholesterol from forming along your blood vessel walls to help prevent heart disease. Each apple has approximately 80 percent of soluble fiber.
Insoluble Fiber. This type of fiber adds bulk to your intestinal tract, which helps keep food moving through your digestive system. Each apple has approximately 20 percent of insoluble fiber.
- Vitamins and Minerals. Vitamins A, B1, B2, C and Niacin plus Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium are all jam-packed into each juicy bite of an apple!
- Fat, Cholesterol, Sodium. You won’t find any of these in apples — how’s that for a health kick?
Some Top-Producing Apple Trees…in Dwarf Form
You can actually harvest full-sized apples from dwarf apple trees! Plus, dwarf apple trees fit nicely into smaller landscapes. Be sure to plant at least two apple trees for cross-pollination to produce lots of fruit.
- Dwarf Red Delicious. A classic…for good reason. Think of a heart-healthy apple when you see this red, heart-shaped fruit.
- Dwarf Yellow Delicious. Honey taste, thin skin and a golden color makes this apple a tried-and-true favorite.
- Dwarf Granny Smith. You need tart apples for baking, because sweet apples just don’t hold up as well. Granny Smith is a superior baking apple.
- Dwarf McIntosh. A treasured heirloom, the McIntosh apple is as colorful as it is flavorful. These bi-colored fruits are best grown in cooler climates.
- Dwarf Gala. A flavor combination of sweet and spicy wrapped in a colorful package of pinkish-red stripes on a yellow background makes this apple a favorite for fresh snacking.
- Dwarf Fuji. If you love homemade applesauce, you’ll love growing Fuji apples.
- Dwarf Honeycrisp. This apple is the perfect combination of sweet and tart to satisfy even picky palates.
- Pink Lady. These “ladies” blush ever so slightly, with a pinkish cast covering a yellow background, with a taste that doesn’t disappoint.
A Versatile Fruit
- You can’t beat the taste of a fresh-picked apple that you’ve grown in your own backyard!
- You’ve never made homemade applesauce? Nothing could be easier. Simply core, peel and slice apples and place the slices in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the slices are soft. Drain the apple slices and pulse in a food processor (for a smoother texture) or mash (for a chunkier texture). Eat your applesauce unsweetened or with a bit of sugar and cinnamon. Tip: substitute applesauce for oil in your recipes.
- Apples make the best fresh juice! And if you like the juice in a cooler drink, use freshly juiced apples in your fruit smoothies.
- Pies and cobblers. What’s the difference? Typically, pies have a bottom crust (and usually a top crust, too). Cobblers lack the bottom crust, and their top crust may be crumbled instead of solid. Either way you bake it, nothing compares to the aroma of apple pies and cobblers!
- Fruit salads. For a classic Waldorf salad, dice apples and add walnuts, celery and toss with mayonnaise. For other salads, combine apples with your favorite fruits and skip the dressing!
Tips for Growing Apple Trees
- These sun lovers grow healthier and bear more fruit when they’re planted in full sun.
- Choose a site for your apple trees that has well-draining soil. Soggy soil that doesn’t drain well after rainstorms can cause the apple tree roots to rot, which can ultimately kill the trees.
- Have your soil tested and follow the fertilization recommendations to the letter. Too much fertilizer can be as harmful to apple trees as too little.
- Dwarf apple trees grow well in containers, so you can even enjoy them on your patio!
One of the frustrations of many gardeners is enjoying a riot of color in their yard during spring and early summer…but by mid- to late-summer, the garden loses a lot of its impact. The solution is to plan your garden with plants that have different bloom times (during different seasons). This will ensure a succession of color from early spring through fall!
Trees — few flowering plants put on a prettier show than flowering trees!
- Dogwoods (Cornus spp.) are true harbingers of spring, flowering in profusion in shades of white, pink or red. Cherokee Chief is a red-flowering dogwood that offers a change from the traditional white dogwood cultivars. (Although most dogwoods are spring-flowering trees, the Kousa Dogwood flowers later than most — typically in June — and is awash in white.)
- The Eastern Redbud is a native tree that has a unique flowering pattern — pinkish-red buds appear on the branches before the tree’s leaves appear!
- The Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry tree is unsurpassed for spring interest. It not only produces fluffy, white blooms, but its shape mimics the cascading waters of a fountain.
Shrubs — spring-blooming shrubs bring landscapes to life after winter!
- One of the earliest shrubs to bloom in spring — and often it’s already blooming in late winter — Lynwood Gold Forsythia is covered with yellow, trumpet-shaped blossoms.
- Living up to its name, Conversation Piece Azalea is a reblooming hybrid. This means that you’ll enjoy its multicolor pink and white blooms in spring…and then you’ll enjoy an encore performance in autumn!
- Some abelias grow quite tall, but Edward Goucher Abelia stays compact — it grows to only 3 feet tall. Although the individual flowers are delicate, plants are simply covered with tiny, pink blossoms!
- What a diverse group of flowering shrubs! Bearing the traditional “mophead” blooms, Endless Summer delivers in a big way — it’s a re-blooming hydrangea, so expect your summer flowers to last longer than other mophead types. Differently formed flowers — in a panicle shape — grow on bi-colored Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea. And a reblooming red hydrangea — Red Sensation — grows only three feet tall, making it perfect for containers!
- The intoxicating scent of white gardenias fills any garden with natural perfume. From Frostproof Gardenia, an early summer bloomer, to August Beauty, with blooms lasting ‘til late summer, gardenias are truly a garden staple.
- There are many cultivars of the summer-flowering shrubs, but Variegated Weigela may be the prettiest. Delicate pink-and-white flowers are borne in profusion on plants that have stunning green-and-cream variegated leaves!
The quintessential summer-flowering plant, roses can take many forms, including groundcovers (drift roses), shrubs (Knockout roses) and standards (also called tree-form roses). There’s a form and color for every gardener!
- Although dahlias come in all shapes and sizes, it’s the “dinnerplate dahlias” that are the real showstoppers. Having blooms of up to 10 inches in diameter, these dramatic beauties include names like Babylon Red (fiery red flowers), Avignon (multicolored white and purplish blooms) and Moonlight Sonata (peachy-pink and coral blossoms). Many dahlias are still blooming when the first frost in fall/winter hits!
- With their grassy foliage and cheerful blooms, daylilies are one of the most versatile plants. Use them as accents, in containers or to line flowerbeds and sidewalks. Stella d’Oro and Happy Returns are two examples of re-blooming daylilies – they keep going all summer long!
- Even if you don’t have an herb garden, you must grow lavender. It excels as a foliage plant and a flowering plant. Although most lavender foliage is green or silvery in color, Platinum Blonde Lavender has variegated green, cream and yellow leaves! Like other lavenders, it also bears flowers of purplish-blue.
Choose Some of Each
By choosing plants in each of these seasonal categories, you’re sure to enjoy flowers over a longer bloom season than if you only chose plants from one category. Mix it up — plant trees, shrubs and perennials so your yard not only has a succession of bloom, but it also has lots of different types of plants for a perfectly balanced landscape design!
If you want to turn your so-so yard into a so-terrific garden retreat, nothing could be easier or more effective than introducing container plants. Beyond a simple potted plant or two, you can create masterpieces with a few simple design tips and plant suggestions. And if your idea of digging a hole to plant something is using a garden trowel in a container, you’re already on the right track!
Types of Containers
Practically anything will work. Elaborate or simple, small or large, lightweight or stone…the choices are limited only by your imagination and preferences.
Here are some ideas to get your creative thoughts going:
- Purchased planters. These come in all shapes, sizes and colors and are ready to plant. Find styles or colors that incorporate a single theme…or a diverse mix that’s to your liking.
- Lightweight, “stone look” planters. These are good choices if you can’t lift heavy things.
- Stackable containers. You can purchase containers that assemble easily to form pyramid-shaped pots. Simply tuck in plants around the “pyramid” for a vertical container garden.
- Buckets and pails. Not for a formal garden; nevertheless, pretty buckets and pails are a snap to plant and can be moved easily if the handle is still intact. Don’t forget to drill a drain hole in the bottom.
- Yes, a lady’s handbag can even accessorize her garden! This recycled item adds a bit of whimsy and creates a real conversation piece. Poke drainage holes in the bottom, fill with potting mix and plant away.
- Wicker baskets. Your local thrift store is a super source of wicker baskets. If the weave of the wicker is tight enough, you can pour potting mix directly in the basket. If the weave is too open and won’t contain the soil easily, simply line the basket with a black plastic garbage bag, trim the excess and poke drainage holes at the bottom of the bag before planting.
Types of Plants
You can plant practically anything in a container! Just give careful thought to the mature size of the plant and its root structure to make sure the contained environment is suited to specific plant needs.
Annuals. These are typically “container plants of choice” for most gardeners. Annuals are easy to pop in a container; they give a lot of “flash” during a single growing season and you can have a different look each year for your container by planting different annuals.
Perennials. Some perennial plants actually do better in containers than in the ground, particularly if your garden soil doesn’t drain well; for example, heavy clay. Hostas and Heucheras are easily grown in containers, which also makes it easier for these shade-garden plants to be placed under trees instead of digging and damaging tree roots to plant them in the ground.
Bulbs and Tubers. A bowl full of colorful Caladiums is so quick and easy to plant! And because this tropical plant cannot live outside during winter, except in frost-free climates, it’s a snap to bring them indoors when cold weather threatens.
Shrubs. Most shrubs are suitable container plants. And if you choose a flowering shrub, such as Red Sensation Hydrangea, you’ll enjoy spectacular flowers, too! Because container plants are not insulated by the ground, choose a shrub that is hardy to one zone warmer than yours. For example, if the USDA hardiness zone where you live extends to zone 7 at the coldest end, choose a shrub that’s hardy to zone 8 to grow in a container.
Ornamental Grasses. As a standalone container plant, ornamental grasses are pretty. But as an accent in a mixed container planting, ornamental grasses are even prettier. They add texture, color and height to surrounding flowers. Consider using Fireworks Red Fountain Grass as a colorful addition to a container of flowering annuals.
General Container Care & Design Tips
- Always consider the sun/shade needs of your plants. In other words, don’t plant a container of caladiums in full sun or the leaf edges may burn.
- Don’t place drainage dishes underneath your outside containers. Typically, they hold too much water that is wicked up by the soil, which keeps plant roots too wet.
- Do, however, keep your containers well-watered when the weather is particularly hot. The soil in containers dries out faster than the soil in the ground.
- Instead of placing single containers, plant a grouping of containers with varying sizes, shapes and designs — to hold plants of various types.
- Lastly, experiment with different plants, different containers and different combinations – that’s part of the fun of gardening – just have fun doing it!
Many garden areas remain unplanted by gardeners who think that nothing really colorful can grow in very shady spots. But these gardeners are typically thinking of colorful flowers, forgetting that some plants are prized for their colorful foliage. So take another look at the bare, shady nooks in your garden to discover the untapped design potential that’s waiting there for your artistic touch. You can make shady areas spring to life with the simple addition of two plants: caladiums and heucheras.
These plants add a tropical touch to any shade garden. Large, heart-shaped leaves sprout from bulblike tubers and grow quickly into clumping plants that are a snap to maintain. The primary secret to growing healthy caladiums is moist, but well-draining soil. The tubers will rot if you keep them overwatered…or try to grow them in waterlogged soil. A perfect solution is to grow your caladiums in containers. Scattered under trees, pots of caladiums are also a no-dig way for gardeners to enjoy a garden. Containers also make it easy to bring the tubers – pots and all – inside for the winter, because this plant is only winter-hardy outside in USDA plant hardiness zones 9 and 10.
Five Choice Caladiums
- Rosebud. You can’t grow roses in the shade, but Rosebud Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum ‘Rosebud’) is a terrific alternative. Aptly named to evoke the pretty-in-pink look of a rosebud enveloped in green, Rosebud Caladium’s leaves have pink centers and green margins.
- Candidum. When you think “colorful” for your shade garden, do you think of white? Underneath the darkness of shade trees, white is sometimes the best color choice to brighten the area. And you can’t find a better white caladium than Candidum (Caladium x hortulanum ‘Candidum’). The huge elephant-ear-shaped leaves have green veins and green edging that trace the white inner sections.
- White Queen. If you need a predominantly white caladium for especially dark spots, but you also want a bit of vibrant color, look to White Queen (Caladium x hortulanum ‘White Queen’). As its name hints, the leaves are primarily white, but bright-red veins give White Queen a color pop.
- Fannie Munson. The bright reddish-pink leaves of this caladium will give depth and drama to your shade garden. Fannie Munson Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum ‘Fannie Munson’) is a tried-and-true caladium that has graced gardens for many years. Hot-pink veins and green accents give each reddish-pink leaf a second layer of color interest.
- Florida Cardinal. Like the beloved bird, Florida Cardinal Caladium (Caladium x hortulanum ‘Florida Cardinal’) is clothed in vivid red. Framing each heart-shaped leaf is a border of rich green – spectacular.
A darling of the shade-garden world, heucheras are also known by their common name, “Coral Bells,” because of the color and shape of the flowers on the original species plants. And even though these plants do produce dainty flowers, it’s their breathtaking foliage that steals the show. These garden treasures are cold-hardy perennials to USDA plant hardiness zone 4.
Four Fabulous Heucheras
- Caramel. One of the most heat- and humidity-tolerant cultivars, Caramel Heuchera (Heuchera ‘Caramel’) has buttery caramel and apricot leaves.
- Obsidian. Such a deep shade of purple that it’s almost black, Obsidian Heuchera (Heuchera ‘Obsidian’) stands out even more when interplanted with a lighter cultivar, such as Caramel or Peach Flambe.
- Palace Purple. When heucheras became all the rage in the early 2000s, Palace Purple (Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’) had already been introduced a decade earlier as the original purple heuchera; in fact, it won the 1991 Perennial Plant Association’s Perennial of the Year award. And it’s still an enduring favorite.
- Peach Flambe. Here’s a sizzling knockout of a plant that will entice you with its changing color palette! In spring and summer, Peach Flambe Heuchera (Heuchera ‘Peach Flambe’) sports leaves that are primarily peach but with red accents! But the color show is not over yet. By autumn, the leaves change colors to shades of plum!
- Plant caladiums or heucheras in “color bowls” – round bowl-shaped planters with different cultivars of each plant in each bowl for a multi-colored effect, or with a single cultivar massed as a unified color.
- Grow caladiums and heucheras in raised beds. This gives both types of plants the superior drainage they need, plus it elevates them to give you a closer look and make caring for them easier.
- Cluster odd-numbered groupings of plants together for a fuller look. For example, three plants grouped together — in a triangular shape — command attention better than a single plant.
- Plant Caladiums around a shady water garden for a tropical retreat.
- Plant Heucheras around a shady sitting area to enjoy the hummingbirds that will inevitably visit the plant’s flowers!
The next time you take a plate from your kitchen cabinet, picture a single flower covering the plate — now you have an idea of the size of “dinner plate dahlias.” Now go a step further… Imagine these huge flowers in shades of red, yellow, peach and lilac — some of them with contrasting petal edging, speckles, splashes and stripes — and you’ll likely be experiencing sensory overload! There are few plants that produce flowers so large and colorful they take your breath away…but dinnerplate dahlias are at the top of that exclusive list.
Easy Care with Big Results
Because they’re often prizewinners in flower show competitions, some gardeners shy away from growing dahlias because they think these flowers are hard to grow. But dahlia culture is surprisingly simple. These sun-loving flowers are actually a snap to grow!
Sun. This is a full-sun plant, which means it will grow and flower best if you find a garden spot that receives at least six hours of sun each day. Do you have a spot that receives more than six hours of sun daily? Even better!
Soil. Because dahlias grow from bulblike tubers, they need to have well-draining soil or the tubers can rot. If the soil in your garden is heavy clay or otherwise compacted, loosen it with your shovel or tiller and work in some compost or well-aged animal manure. Optionally, you can plant your dahlias in raised beds so the soil drains freely.
Support. Dahlias are tall plants! Typically, you can expect healthy plants to grow around 4 feet tall, give or take a bit depending on the specific cultivar. So have some stakes handy, and at planting time, gently press the stake into the ground beside the tubers. As your plant grows, tie it to the stake with soft fabric, such as nylon.
Showcasing Some of the Best
Dahlia breeders have successfully produced an immense diversity in these flowers. Flower sizes can range from very small to dinnerplate size. Flower colors are available in solids as well as patterns. Choose some (or all) of these cultivars for your garden to enjoy large, eye-popping flowers that suit your color preferences:
Babylon Red. If you like bold, vivid colors in your yard, this is the dahlia to choose. Babylon Red (Dahlia ‘Babylon Red’) is truly a stand-up-and-take-notice plant, with fire-engine red flowers that reach up to 8 inches across. Find a prominent spot in your garden where this 4-foot-tall beauty will command attention.
Kelvin Floodlight. This dahlia has been around since the 50s…and for good reason. Kelvin Floodlight (Dahlia ‘Kelvin Floodlight’) is a dahlia classic with cheery yellow flowers that reach a full 10 inches in diameter. If you like compatible color combinations, Kelvin Floodlight and Babylon Red dahlias make a vibrant duo.
Avignon. This unique dahlia offers color splashes, speckles and stripes! Each creamy-white petal of Avignon (Dahlia ‘Avignon’) is adorned with neon-violet accents, forming huge, 9-inch-diameter flowers. If you want something “dramatically different,” this is the dahlia for you.
Moonlight Sonata. Soft colors appeal to the peaceful side of us. And Moonlight Sonata (Dahlia ‘Moonlight Sonata’) does not disappoint. The striking flowers — up to 8 inches across — have petals of peachy-pink and coral. The blending of these colors results in no two flowers looking exactly alike.
Lilac Time. Another soft color for your dahlia collection is Lilac Time (Dahlia ‘Lilac Time’). In shades of lavender, mauve and its namesake lilac color, this dahlia is a standout. Each petal is edged in pink, which further defines an already magnificent flower.
Simple Overwintering Tips
In USDA plant hardiness zones 8 through 11, dahlias are perennials. But if your garden is outside this perennial range, the cold weather will kill your dahlias if you leave them outside. Not to worry, though, because these easy steps ensure the winter survival of dahlia tubers:
- Wait until the first frost kills the dahlia stems and leaves – they’ll turn black from being “burned” by the frost.
- Take your shovel and press it vertically into the soil, making a circle about 12” from the dahlia stem.
- Carefully dig the dahlia tubers by removing the entire clump from inside this circle.
- Remove the soil from around the tubers, making sure you do not damage the buds, or “eyes.”
- Let the tubers dry for several days by placing them in a cardboard box that you line with newspaper. Keep the box inside, out of direct sun and freezing temperatures.
- Remove the tubers from the box and add peat moss, shredded paper or vermiculite before placing the tubers back inside the box, burying them in the storage material.
- Find a dark, cool spot (35-50 degrees F) to store the boxes over the winter.
- Plant the tubers in your garden the following spring, after all danger of frost has passed and enjoy them again!
In spring and summer, pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) plays a supporting role to other plants by lending texture and greenery to your garden. But it captures the spotlight in late summer when it moves into a starring role in your landscape. That’s when this green-tufted ornamental grass pops with color, painting your yard with its dramatic pink plumes.
An Avalanche of Accolades
- Native. Trends in landscape design include incorporating native plants in your garden design. Why? Native plants typically are adapted to native soils and climate, which also means they thrive with natural rainfall levels. This translates to a term that will fall easy on your ears — low maintenance. After its initial transplanting and establishment care, pink muhly grass needs little attention.
- Perennial. Pink muhly grass is a Southeastern native, but if you live anywhere in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, you can enjoy it year-round. Even after the pink blooms fade in autumn, they give way to buff-colored seedheads, which give movement to your winter garden on windy days and provide a winter food source for the birds.
- Unsurpassed pink color. Blowing in the breeze, pink muhly grass is a dead-ringer for cotton candy. But the pink blooms are a lot tougher than their airy appearance suggests. Although some flowering plants won’t bloom if conditions aren’t “just right,” pink muhly grass thrives even when conditions are less than hospitable to reward you with a spectacular display, year after year.
- Drought tolerance. There’ll be no standing over these plants in the heat of summer with a garden hose to quench their thirst. Just make sure they’re planted in well-draining soil and they’ll be good to go. If you live in a particularly dry climate, several inches of mulch around plants will help to conserve moisture and keep the plants happy.
- Adaptation to different soil types. Does the soil in your garden leave a lot to be desired? Pink muhly grass prospers in all soil types — sandy, rocky or clay soil. So find that sunny garden spot where you’ve had challenges growing other plants, and “x” marks that spot to plant pink muhly grass.
- Beautiful in floral arrangements. If you enjoy bringing the outdoors in, you’ll love pink muhly grass in floral arrangements. Use it as an accent with other garden cuttings or a standalone vase specimen to dress up your dining table, mantel or dresser. You can make a unique centerpiece for a fall dinner party with pink muhly grass.
- Birds love it. You won’t have to buy bird seed every winter if you feed the birds naturally, with the seeds that pink muhly grass produces. Native birds look for native plants to provide their favorite foods. Because the seeds persist on the plants well into winter, you may see birds feasting on the seeds even when snow is on the ground.
The Fine Print about Its Care
No fine print. Although no plant is completely “plant it and forget it,” pink muhly grass comes awfully close. It’ll grow best in a sunny spot, but it can handle a little shade. If you want to tidy it up in late winter, simply give it a little “ponytail pruning.” Gather the stems together like a ponytail, and tie them with twine. Cut the ponytail off below the twine and you’ll have neat little tufts of grass that produce new leaves when the weather warms in spring. A bonus is that you won’t have trimmed stems to clean up around your plants, because they’re already bound with the twine. Just make sure to leave the plants intact through the winter so the birds can eat the seeds.
What about Pests and Diseases?
Forget about using chemical pesticides on pink muhly grass, because it is virtually bulletproof against the attack of pests and diseases. It’s even deer-resistant!
- Planted as a hedgerow, pink muhly grass is without artistic equal in the late summer landscape. Because it grows in a clump with a mature 4-foot spread, space plants two feet apart to allow them enough growing room to fill in a solid hedge.
- Plant pink muhly grass along your sunny hardscapes — sidewalks, driveway and patio — as a low-maintenance border.
- Welcome your visitors by planting pink muhly grass on either side of your front stairs. Plant in groups of three and wait for every guest to ask, “What IS that stunning plant?!”
Even though it’s a member of the grass family, pink muhly grass is anything but a run-of-the-mill grass. It is determined in the face of harsh growing conditions that other plants can’t handle. Discover the merits of this underused and enduring perennial by introducing it to your landscape — you’ll be tickled pink at the results!
Gardeners may be forgiven for forgetting to notice broadleaf and needle evergreens when flowering trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs are competing in spring and summer’s beauty pageant. But come fall and winter, when the brightest colors fade, evergreens move into the spotlight, ready to be recognized for the work they do all year long. Give them a standing ovation for providing a supporting framework for the garden. They define the boundaries between garden rooms and your neighbors’ yards, and provide focal points and punctuation within your own borders.
Over the winter, evergreen trees and shrubs do even more:
They offer us relief from winter’s monochrome. Birds roost within their boughs, protected from the elements and predators. And, as everyone knows, broadleaf and needle evergreens are essential elements in holiday decorations such as wreaths, swags, garlands, and table arrangements. Why purchase greens at a florist when you can pick from your own garden?
Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’)
Bluer-than-blue foliage provides contrast year-round—this is one conifer that might steal your attention from a flowering plant or two—and its growth, 10-to 15-feet tall, and 4-to 6-feet wide to at maturity, is dense and pyramidal, making it an excellent screen planted in multiples as well as a lovely specimen employed as a focal point. Although this juniper won’t require annual pruning to maintain its handsome shape, after becoming established in your garden, it will certainly tolerate some picking for holiday arrangements.
American holly’s glossy green and sharply toothed leaves are iconic emblems of the holidays especially when bright red berries are present. Leave this native shrub’s berried branches for the birds to forage in late winter (they feast on holly berries after most of the others are gone) or use them to embellish your holiday decorations. Established shrubs and trees will respond vigorously even to heavy pruning. Before bringing branches indoors or wiring them to a wreath frame, spray the leaves with an anti-desiccant for extra shine and a longer vase life.
The lobster-claw needles of this arborvitae, which grows at a fast enough rate (5’ per year) to screen your neighbor’s entire house from view within a few years, stay grass-green through the winter rather than darkening to bronze. Its vigorous vertical growth (to 60 feet at maturity) may be restricted by annual shearing after it reaches its desired height. Cut branches release a delicious holiday fragrance and will hold onto their color and delicate woody cones for weeks in outdoor arrangements or in water indoors.
The United States National Arboretum, located in Washington, D.C., is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service – the same people who bring you the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. And while this is a place where important scientific research and plant development occurs, a trip to the U.S. National Arboretum is filled with beautiful and practical ideas you can bring home to your own garden.
The Arboretum is also more than just trees. Although it has extensive tree collections, including magnolias, hollies, conifers and all 50 state trees, it also features azaleas, boxwoods, perennials, grasses, tropical and succulent plants, herbs, ferns, and even bonsai.
One of the most useful and relatable displays for home gardeners is the Friendship Garden, located on the grounds around the Arbor House Gift Shop. This garden was designed to provide an example of a sustainable, low-maintenance home landscape. Planted in a style called “New American Garden,” the garden weaves waving grasses between large swaths of perennials.
We visited during the transition from late summer to early fall, when the masses of Black-eyed Susans were setting seed heads and the Autumn Joy sedums were deep red.
The curved beds made use of grasses like little bluestem (Schizachryium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation’ ) and Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra), but did not include turf grass to save on mowing and watering. Both the flower heads and dried grass stems will be allowed to stay in place throughout the winter to reduce chores and add interest.
National Herb Garden
The National Herb Garden is larger and more diverse than you might expect—just as the true definition of an herb is also
far broader than most people realize. This garden includes trees, grains, evergreen shrubs, roses, and other plants which might be used for dyes or medicine, have a historical use, or be used to make beverages or industrial compounds.
You enter to a large brick courtyard with a pool and fountain in the center, and are surrounded by a colorful panorama of herbs from around the world. While some areas of the Herb Garden are simply collections of a single genus, most areas manage to be informative and decorative at the same time.
The garden is slightly elevated over the Knot Garden to help you appreciate the intricate medieval design of this formal area. Looking beyond the Knot Garden, you have a good view of the National Capitol Columns; salvaged from the original U.S. Capitol building (you can also view the current U.S. Capitol building from the Mount Hamilton Overlook in the Azalea Collection).
National Bonsai and Penjing Museum
The Arboretum’s oldest tree – a Japanese White Pine Bonsai tree in training since 1626 — is also one of its smallest. You can find it in the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, a collection of both the well-known Japanese horticultural art form and the lesser-known but older Chinese style.
Go through a traditional round “moon gate” to discover Penjing, a Chinese word meaning miniature trees and landscape.
As that implies, the art includes more than just the trained trees of the bonsai collection, and is meant to evoke an entire landscape.
There is so much variety to the exhibits that it is well worth the trip for any plant enthusiast (even people only interested in growing the perfect lawn can get great info from the Grass Roots exhibit!). While we enjoyed the beautiful grasses and lush tropical during our early autumn visit, there’s something to see in every season.
15,000 azaleas bloom during the springtime; boxwoods and hollies shine during winter; and award-winning daylilies are on display in mid-summer.
A few changes could make the visitor experience easier. Signage was sometimes limited, and a simpler map with larger icons would have been easier to read. The Arboretum covers a large area, and some of the collections are far from the entrance. There is a guided tram tour, but it only runs on weekends and holidays.
There were renovations underway when we went, so you had to watch your step around the Friendship Garden and the koi were not in their pond. Finally, we were discouraged from extending our visit over lunch because the only listed picnic area was far from the area we planned to visit, but discovered there were tables behind both the Arbor House Gift Shop and the Administration Building.
Visiting hours & info
On the plus side, like most National Museums, there is no entry fee at the U.S. National Arboretum, and the gardens are open 8:00 a.m – 5 p.m every day except Christmas Day. (Note: The downloadable Visitor’s Guide on the website lists a
more limited schedule, but we were told by phone this was out of date. The hours listed on the website should be correct but can be verified by calling 202-245-2726).
You can see the full list of collections and gardens and even take a virtual tour on the website.
Once you are at the garden, you can get additional information at the Administration Building or get brochures and maps in the Arbor House Gift Shop.
Growing a tree from a shrub is a botanical impossibility, but a skilled horticulturist can create the next best thing. “Tree form” is the term used to describe a shrub that is shaped to look like a tree. After carefully pruning and training a flowering shrub — a process that typically takes several years — the end result is an eye-popping plant that will turn heads and stop traffic as people pass your yard. And if you tweak it another notch by growing this flowering “tree” in a container, you’ll raise it above the soil level so it commands even more attention…plus you won’t have to dig a single hole!
Up Close and Personal
If you enjoy bringing fresh-cut flowers into your home, you’ll love tree-form shrubs. No more bending down, losing your balance and even risking a fall just to cut your flowers — these “flowering trees” bring your flowers up to eye level where you can easily snip the blossoms. And if you plant fragrant flowers, you won’t even have to bend down to enjoy their fragrance, because the blooms are raised to “nose level!”
Of all the different kinds of roses you can choose for growing in containers, you cannot go wrong with Knock Out® Rose Trees. Their sheer beauty, stunning colors, sweet fragrance, long bloom season (up to nine months) and resistance to pests and disease make them the hands-down choice. (Zones 5-10)
- Red Knock Out® for a vibrant accent or
- The irrepressible Sunny Knock Out® for a cheerful yellow splash in your garden.
- Use a grouping of three containers by sandwiching a Red Knock Out® between Sunny Knock Out® (or vice versa) to make the colors really pop.
Pure-white blooms that exude an intoxicating fragrance to permeate your garden make gardenias a sensory garden staple. It’s also the perfect plant for a moon garden — white blossoms that reflect the moonlight and perfume the night air. But any old gardenia just won’t do for your “flowering tree.”
- August Beauty gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides ‘August Beauty’) is renowned for its longer-than-usual bloom time — you’ll enjoy its flowers from summer through fall. (Zones 7-9)
Panicle hydrangeas put a delightful spin on the old-fashioned mophead types. Oversized, cone-shaped blooms are borne in profusion on sturdy plants that scoff at some of the problems other hydrangeas face, such as pests, diseases and inclement weather.
- Limelight Hydrangea tree (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’) bears hard-to-find lime-colored flowers in spring through summer that turn blush-pink in autumn. (Zones 3-8)
- Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea tree (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Renhy’) looks like luscious strawberry syrup drizzled on vanilla ice cream. Your neighbors will not believe this is a hydrangea. (Zones 3-9)
Some Container Tips
- Choose a container that’s large enough and heavy enough to balance the top growth of your flowering tree.
- Make sure the container has drainage holes. Some “ornamental pots” have punch-out places at the bottom for you to make the drainage holes.
- Use a soilless potting mix that’s formulated for container plants, because sometimes your garden soil may compact too heavily in a confined space.
- The soil in containers will dry out faster than the soil in your garden, so keep your containers well watered, particularly during hot, dry summers.
- Be mindful of your particular plant’s sun or shade requirements, and place its container in a spot that captures the appropriate light level to keep it thriving.
Designing with Flowering Tree-Form Plants
- Drama. Make a design statement by placing large container plants on either side of the front entrance to your home.
- Leisure. Where do you have “outdoor leisure spaces” in your garden? Enjoy tree-form container plants where you and your guests will enjoy the floral displays — around your patio, pool or deck.
- Accent. Use your container plants as “focal-point anchors” for formal flower gardens or island beds.
- Combinations. Because your tree-form plant’s branches are elevated, you can plant complementary “filler” and “spiller” plants with similar sun/shade requirements in the same container.
Hardiness Zone Allowance
Plants in containers are raised above the grade of soil, so their roots don’t have the benefit of being insulated by the ground. This is a simple fix. All you have to do is shift the coldest limit of your actual zone range to one zone warmer. For example, if the coldest range of your climate is hardiness zone 4, choose a plant that’s hardy to zone 5 as the guideline for its cold hardiness in a container.
Ready, Set, Container
Ditch the shovel and enjoy these “flowering trees” in containers. And try not to miss the extra time you’d spend weeding around them if you planted them in the ground — that’s just a bonus!
You can transform a dark garden nook into a brilliant moon garden with the simple addition of three perennial shrubs — Radicans Gardenia, Annabelle Hydrangea and April Snow Camellia. As winners of the prestigious “Georgia Gold Medal Award,” these plants are indeed worth their weight in botanical gold because of their outstanding merits. They’re easy to grow; they don’t need a lot of “fussing-over;” and they all have brilliant white flowers that are luminous in the moonlight.
So What Exactly is a “Moon Garden?”
As a counterpart to the vibrant flowers you enjoy in your sunny garden during a fast-paced day, a moon garden allows you to slow down as you unwind from the day and relish a quieter, more peaceful time in your garden. The same vibrant, colorful flowers that shine in the sunlight typically blend into the darkness at night. White flowers, however, which may be lost in the brightness of day, reflect the moonlight and are resplendent as dusk ushers in early evening.
Close Your Eyes, and Say “Ahhh”
Some flowers — even though they may be open during the day — aren’t really fragrant until the sun begins setting, prompting them to release their intoxicating scents. The botanical reason is to attract nighttime pollinators, but the romantic reason is to perfume the air that surrounds your veranda or envelop your path during a moonlit stroll. Limited evening visibility allows you to enjoy these flowers even if you can’t see them very well, as their sweet fragrance fills the nighttime air.
Your Intimate Retreat
Let other plants in your garden cater to “curb appeal” — for passersby to enjoy — but allow your moon garden to cater to you. And if you choose to invite others into your intimate retreat, think of entertaining outside at dusk to give your guests a peek into your serene refuge away from the world’s cares. Skip the outdoor cookout with its competing fragrances; instead, choose an evening garden party or a star-gazing event to create the perfect frame that features your moon garden.
Six Simple Design Tips
1. Surround your patio, deck or veranda. The best place to start designing your moon garden is around your favorite outdoor sitting area. Whether you enjoy a chaise lounge on the patio, a comfortable rocker on the deck or a swing on the veranda, place moon-garden plants around this area first.
2. Line a path. Choose low-growing plants to border a path for an evening garden stroll.
3. Vary plant heights. Choose short, medium and tall plants for varying levels of “white,” and for their fragrance to infuse the air at different heights.
4. Plant in groups. One white-flowering plant is effective, but groupings or massed plantings will take your design to a higher level of enjoyment.
5. Extend the enjoyment. Staggered bloom times create multi-season interest. Plan your moon garden so the flowers from different plants bloom at different times of the year.
6. Enhance your experience. Although white-flowering plants can light up your evening landscape with their ethereal glow, solar lights add a soft, shining touch that enhances the effect of white flowers in the moonlight.
Three Essential Plants
(Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’)
In spring and summer, the intoxicating fragrance of Radicans Gardenia fills the evening air. Its double flowers pack a double punch with twice the brightness in the moonlight and twice the fragrance. Radicans is suitable for smaller garden spaces – it grows only 2 feet tall, but may spread up to 4 feet. Its dwarf size is perfect for lining a gardening path or for planting in containers, which allows you to place it strategically for its fullest, most fragrant, effect.
2. Annabelle Hydrangea
If you need a plant that makes a dramatic statement in your moon garden, look no further than Annabelle hydrangea. With stunning round flower heads that can reach up to 12 inches across, what plant captures the look of a full moon better than Annabelle? The blooming begins in late spring and puts on an unrivaled floral show through summer, sometimes continuing into autumn. Annabelle typically grows to a height between 3 and 5 feet, with a slightly larger spread, which makes it a design choice for filling in those dark pockets in your garden.
3. April Snow Camellia
(Camellia japonica ‘April Snow’)
Fragrant, evergreen and covered in snow-white flowers describes April Snow camellia in a nutshell. This standout in the moon garden blooms in spring through summer, depending on your climate, and bears flowers that resemble roses. As one of the April Series of cold-hardy camellias, April Snow is bred for winter hardiness to zone 6. Plant April Snow as a taller backdrop to shorter moon-garden plants, because its mature height may reach 8 feet. As an evergreen privacy hedge, April Snow is unrivaled.
With Radicans gardenia at your feet, Annabelle hydrangea closer to eye level and April Snow camellia towering overhead, your moon garden will be filled with plants that delight the senses at every level. So go ahead and design your garden — by the light of the silvery moon.
If you’re going to visit a botanic garden, the unexpected site of green gardens situated in the middle of a large city can be thrilling, a special treasure where it doesn’t belong. But there’s something so natural, peaceful and perfect about a botanic garden that’s right where it belongs, in the middle of “the Garden City” and a state known for its greenery.
The Oregon Garden in Silverton, is 80 acres of the best the Willamette Valley of Oregon offers. About an hour south of Portland, you drive past several charming small orchards, vineyards and Christmas tree farms to reach The Oregon Garden. But it’s a pretty drive that prepares your senses for the paths.
Be Sure to See
If you make it to The Oregon Garden this fall, you’ll be lucky enough to enjoy the autumn foliage, especially in the Axis Garden. Maples, oaks and shrubs throughout the grounds change colors nearly daily. And from the Oak Grove, your view extends out over the valley below. If you miss the fall foliage, however, don’t fret. Winter is a fabulous time at The Oregon Garden, which boasts a large and varied collection of evergreen conifers. It’s like an outdoor conifer museum, with some of the most interesting dwarf and miniature conifer varieties you’ve ever seen.
The Oregon Garden winds its pathways through and over some of the most interesting water features of any botanic garden or park in the country. You can walk across a water garden filled with lily pads, grasses and a special visitor sculpted not out of marble or metal, but out of plant material. And the Rose Petal Fountain is one of a kind, surrounded by annual flowers and plantings, and a favorite spot on warmer days.
Be sure to stop by the Sensory Garden, which sums up the peaceful nature of The Oregon Garden and its emphasis on ecology and sustainability. With a rain curtain, wind chimes and other carefully placed art and architecture, designers have added a place of respite and relaxation in this therapeutic garden.
The Oregon Garden can give true plant aficionados a peek of what’s coming soon in new plant introductions. The garden serves as a trial garden for several growers/breeders. You can see the Proven Winners and Ball Horticultural trial gardens during your visit.
But don’t worry about the kids getting bored while you peruse next spring’s plants. In addition to a fabulous Children’s Garden that includes dinosaur and jungle fun, the entire garden is spotted with touches of wow and whimsy. Figures are sculpted out of clay pots, and benches shaped like butterflies. Most of all, you and your young ones will be delighted by the pruning and topiary; you’ll identify plants in all kinds of shapes near and far from the Children’s Garden.
Family fun runs throughout the year, as The Oregon Garden invites guests for special events such as Christmas in the Garden. The staff goes all out for this event, adding 400,000 lights, an artisan vendor market, carolers, photos with Santa, an ice skating rink and more.
The garden also hosts family events throughout the year, including Sunsets in the Garden in late summer, and serves as a venue for special events such as weddings.
Japanese maples – some of the largest and most lush Japanese maples you’ve ever seen dot the landscape, and don’t miss the ones intermingled with the conifers.
Rhododendrons – the garden is rhododendron and azalea heaven, with some of the most magnificent displays of these stunning shrubs.
Burning bush – the fire-engine red shrub featured along with rhododendrons in the Honor Garden, which pays tribute to the garden’s donors.
Wisteria – Catch them in surprising places overhead or on structures around the garden.
Roses – Nearly 40 varieties of roses cascade over and around the Rose Garden, including The Oregon Garden’s own variety.
The Oregon Garden is open every day of the year, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from May through September, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from October through April. Entrance costs $11 for adults, but seniors, students, children and retired or active duty military personnel receive discounts. You can take a tram tour for free to get a terrific overview of all the garden offers and some inside information from guides. The tram makes stops along the way so you can disembark to enjoy favorite gardens on your own.
The garden is located at 879 Main St. in Silverton, between Portland and Eugene, Oregon, off of Interstate 5. If you want to stay for a full day, and take in all that Silverton offers, you can make reservations at The Oregon Garden Resort right next door.
It’s official. The sweltering summer is over. Sweaters replace swimsuits, blankets wrap shoulders, and book bags litter the living room. The lazy, hazy days of summer are a distant memory, replaced with pumpkin patches, apple picking, and excursions to discover the best fall colors.
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful jaunts in the south is an autumn drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway. With climatologists predicting spectacular colors due to the relatively dry summer, it’s a must-do autumn outing. As you wind your way throughout the mountains, consider adding a destination to your journey: the North Carolina Arboretum.
Located within the Pisgah National Forest, the 434-acre public garden is a showcase of the botanically diverse Southern Appalachian Mountains. From displays of native azaleas to the historical Quilt Garden to the internationally renowned Bonsai Exhibition Garden, the North Carolina Arboretum is a rich display of Appalachian culture, botanical excellence, and educational stewardship.
Established in 1986 as an affiliate of the University of North Carolina, the NC Arboretum “demonstrates, interprets, and celebrates the importance of plants to our world—to our economy, our culture, and to our enjoyment,” according to the organization.
The Arboretum is true to its mission. From the moment visitors enter the gardens, a rich display of plant collections, installation ideas, and cultural heritage awaits.
With 65-acres of cultivated gardens, each display surrounds the visitor with sensory pleasure, from beautiful blooms to fabulous foliage, textures, and fragrances. Nestled within each garden is an educational foundation, with some lessons more obvious than others.
In the Heritage Garden, for instance, visitors find a living museum featuring plants associated with four traditional Appalachian crafts: broom making, basket weaving, hand papermaking, and natural dye cultivation. Additionally, the garden contains plants used as botanical remedies. A covered shed serves as an educational center for the garden, when students can test their skills in craft making.
From the indigenous crafts of the Appalachians to today’s environmental activism, the Arboretum encompasses many learning opportunities. The Gardener’s Green Shed provides a display of eco-friendly gardening strategies. From rainwater collection for irrigation to solar panels that capture energy to green roof installations, the display showcases ideas to create greener gardeners.
As visitors stroll through the grounds, they’ll find a sudden burst of color along their paths. Located near the Heritage Garden, the Quilt Garden is an interpretation of traditional quilt block patterns. Crafted historically as a means to stay warm in the winter, today quilting is enjoyed as a hobby and artistic endeavor. The Quilt Garden reflects the beauty of the tradition of quilt making. The garden is divided into 24 in-ground beds, separated by gravel and slate walkways. Each of the 24 beds is planted seasonally, with the 3,000 annuals, perennials, vegetables, and herbs selected to withstand light frosts, intense heat and full sun, and variable temperatures. Additionally, the plants chosen each season must be easy to maintain, requiring no deadheading to bloom abundantly.
The individual squares deliver a beautiful burst of color, but the magnificence of the Quilt Garden shines from the viewing platform. Here, atop the 12-foot high stone viewing platform, the true beauty and design of the Quilt Garden amazes. The pattern is changed every two years to reflect a traditional quilt design, such as Bow Tie or Grandmother’s Fan. The current Quilt Garden is designed to reflect the Rail Fence pattern, a Colonial quilt design often used to teach young children how to piece fabric together.
While the Quilt Garden reflects the traditional heritage of the Appalachians, the world-renowned Bonsai Exhibition Garden adds international influence to the Arboretum. Bonsai, the art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees, shrubs, vines, and deciduous plants, is a traditional Asian art. However, the NC Arboretum created a distinctly Appalachian flair to their Bonsai Exhibition Garden. The collection contains traditional Asian plants, such as Japanese maples and Chinese elms.
However, it also includes American species, like Bald Cypress and Limber Pine, as well as plants native to the Blue Ridge region—American Hornbeam and Eastern White Pine. More than 100 plants comprise the collection, many of which were originally donated by Mr. and Mrs. George Staples of Butner, North Carolina, to begin the collection in 1992. Private individuals donated additional specimens, and the Arboretum created many bonsai from seedlings, cuttings, or plants collected from the landscape. While the original plans for the Arboretum did not include a Bonsai garden, the tiny trees attract international recognition, as the Arboretum hosts an annual bonsai expo, with international speakers and attendees.
In addition to the bonsai garden, visitors can enjoy the Forest Meadow, a tree collection designed with emphasis on spectacular autumn foliage—the perfect place to enjoy fabulous fall colors. In the spring, the National Native Azalea Collection offers a dreamy stroll among spring blooms. A woodland garden found along the banks of Bent Creek, the collection represents every species of azalea native to the United States, as well as natural hybrids and selections. For winter visits, the Dickinson Holly Garden offers a wide variety of American native hollies and non-native hollies that thrive in our region. The holly family (Aquifoliaceae) contains more than 400 species of trees and shrubs, and the Dickinson Holly Garden showcases the best varieties for the Blue Region region.
For visitors planning a landscape renovation or for professional garden designers, the Plant Professionals’ Landscape Garden shows more than 250 ornamental specimens in landscape applications. While the garden inspires design ideas, the goal of the garden is to provide a place for study, training, and testing for both the Certified Plant Professional Exam and the Certified Landscape Technician program.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the NC Arboretum continuously adds new attractions. For instance, the current 2,500-square-foot exhibit, The Robot Zoo, reveals the “magic of nature as a master engineer.” The “zoo” features three giant robot animals with cutaways to show the animals’ inner workings—all comprised of easily recognizable machine parts. Children and adults can compare the anatomy, environments, and inner workings of the robots with the actual creatures, offering a fun, interactive learning experience. The exhibit runs through January 2, 2016.
Along with the gardens and exhibits, the NC Arboretum’s art collection beautifully showcases nature reflected in artistic expression. Found both within the buildings and throughout the grounds, the Art Walk is a self-guided tour, with information about the subject, artists, and medium of each piece included in the guide.
Not only can visitors enjoy the gardens, art, and educational exhibits, more than 10 miles of trails wind through the property for hiking and biking. Visitors can wander through the trails, and leashed pets are allowed to accompany their owners. For visitors craving expert information during their tours, guided trail walks are offered April through November on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 1 p.m. Volunteers share information about wildflowers, tree identification, natural history, and more during the 1-2 hour tour.
While the NC Arboretum offers beauty for every season, you can enjoy a colorful, crisp, autumn outing this fall. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountains at their loveliest. And, after spending a day touring the lovely gardens, you can bring inspiration home to your garden. After all, fall is the perfect time to plant. Enjoy!
The North Carolina Arboretum is open April 1-October 31 from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., November 1-17 from 8 a.m.-7 p.m., November 18-January 2 from 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., and January 3-March 31 from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Additionally, tickets to the second annual Winter Lights, which runs from November 20-January 2, are available online at http://www.ncarboretum.org. There is no admission fee to the Arboretum except for Winter Lights, but the daily parking rate is $12 per vehicle.
For more information, call (868) 665-2492.
As southern California faces the harsh transition from its lure as a lush paradise for visitors and celebrities from around the world to the reality of record drought, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is meeting the challenge. The Arboretum, which is located in Arcadia, Calif., has gorgeous aquatic gardens, but also has sections dedicated to water conservation.
For the visitor, the Arboretum is the perfect combination of abundant green, colorful blooms and plenty of education on how California landscapers, gardeners and Arboretum horticulturalists are adapting to the new reality of California’s water scarcity.
A visitor from any region of the country is sure to marvel at the balance between old and new, the dedication to California’s rich gardening history, and an introduction to plants from around the United States and the world. There’s also something for everyone, including rare and tropical plants, a Victorian cottage on site, a citrus grove, and peacocks wandering the grounds.
Be Sure to See
The site of the LA Arboretum boasts an extensive filmmaking history. Johnny Weissmuller swam in Baldwin Lake as Tarzan back in the 1930s, and the lake and forest areas have been home to a number of movie sets since then, including the more recent comedy film, “Bridesmaids,” and the popular Katy Perry video, “Roar,” which was filmed at several locations around the Arboretum.
If you want an overview of the entire 127 acres, take a weekend tram tour or enjoy the scene from the viewing platform near the Daylily and Magnolia Collections. You’ll also want to see your favorite areas up close, and that’s a matter of personal choice. Just open up your free map and choose your favorites. You might be partial to the Herb Garden, Organic Vegetable Garden, or Madagascar Spiny Forest.
Interested in rare plants? Check out the Carnivorous collections. A Tropical Greenhouse presents nearly 1,000 orchid varieties. If you’re planning a wedding soon, check out the Arboretum’s Wedding Garden, and while in California, you ought to take a minute to browse the Redwood Grove. Be sure to stop by gift shop on your way out, which has a terrific selection of gifts and books for gardeners and plant lovers.
Of course, some plants simply stun visitors more than others and half the fun of visiting arboretums and botanic gardens when traveling is seeing plants you’re not used to seeing in your own landscape. The other half is finding out whether you can grow the same plant – or a cousin of it – in your own lawn!
For example, the recently featured Floss Silk tree (Chorisia speciosa) is an Argentinean native that blooms in September in southern California. But several other Arboretum plants thrive in fairly warm and humid climates:
Magnolias. The Meadowbrook Garden has lawns framed by this Southern favorite.
Daylilies. The bulbs are scattered throughout the grounds and are featured in a special Daylily and Magnolia Collection.
Crape Myrtles. These stunning trees or shrubs bloom in summer at the Arboretum with red or white flowers.
Roses. A dedicated Rose Garden lets visitors view a number of rose varieties while walking under rose-covered arbors.
Palms. Mexican fan palms make a textural contrast to heirloom roses, and palms sway in the breeze throughout the garden grounds.
Herbs. The Herb Garden shows international varieties for plant lovers and educates on the herbs’ many uses for home gardeners interested in growing their own herbs.
The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although the doors close at 4:30. You need way more than 30 minutes inside! Admission to the LA Arboretum is $9, but students and seniors age 62 and older pay only $6. The tram is an additional $5. The LA Arboretum is located just east of Pasadena, Calif., at 301 Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia. It’s accessible from the Gold Line of the Metro bus system.
Anyone younger than age 18 must be accompanied by an adult. If you have children with you or anyone who has trouble walking, be sure to plan extra time for rest stops. There is a lot of ground to cover, but the Arboretum offers plenty of benches and open grassy areas for breaks that you can enjoy. And be sure to take along some water for hot summer or fall days, or purchase it in the gift shop or Peacock Café.
You don’t have to head to the hills or look up to tall trees to spot gorgeous fall color and texture in your landscape. These five fall stunners look great as the weather cools and all require little maintenance, a welcome feature as the season winds down.
1. Drift Roses
These rebloomers are a cross between typical groundcover roses and miniature varieties. Drift roses have been developed to bloom from late spring through fall. They’re also bred to resist diseases such as black spot or powdery mildew that can affect other rose species as cool, damp afternoons and evenings approach.
In fact, fall is the perfect time to plant drift roses. Just give them plenty of organic matter and good drainage.
The groundcover roses provide bursts of white, coral, peach, pink or red to line beds or pathways.
They even can provide colorful groundcover for sunny areas of your lawn. Drift roses are hardy in zones 4 through 11.
2. Pink Muhly Grass
Add pink color and a bit of texture to your fall garden with Pink Muhly grass.
Best of all they add a little action to your landscape as you sit back and enjoy the sway of the reddish-pink blooms in the cool autumn breeze.
Pink Muhly grass begins blooming in late summer in full sun and holds its color through fall, then the blooms turn into sand-colored seedheads that still look great all winter.
Pink Muhly reaches heights of nearly 4 feet, and planting a group of the clump grass about 3 to 4 feet apart gives you a wall of fall color for privacy or walkways.
The unique native of the Southeast grows in zones 6 through 9 and requires little maintenance. Just cut back your grass in early spring to make sure you have the same gorgeous blooms the next fall.
3. Fragrant Tea Olive
Fall bloom color is reason enough to choose a plant, but a pleasant scent drifting in through open windows is an autumn bonus.
The Fragrant Tea Olive is one of the most aromatic plants for Southern gardeners to enjoy in the fall.
Small white blooms appear amid the evergreen, holly-like leaves. The blooms produce a fragrant, citrus-like scent that sweetens the cool autumn air.
The scent from a hedge of the 10-foot high plants can drift up to 100 feet and the plants provide an evergreen privacy screen.
The Fragrant Tea Olive is a low-maintenance, slow-growing plant. Expect to purchase it in larger sizes than some shrubs or small trees, but get the most from its established size as a specimen or hedge plant. The tree grows well in zones 7 through 9.
4. Double Knock Out Roses
If your wish for this fall were the perfect rose, at least one with vibrant blooms all season and little maintenance, your wish would be granted by the Double Knock Out Rose.
This rose variety was developed to rebloom from spring through fall with no pruning or deadheading required. And does it ever bloom!
Each rose boasts 18 to 25 petals, making it a beauty in your garden and as an aromatic cut flower in your home.
Double Knock Out roses also are resistant to diseases and pests.
The huge double blooms of the Double Knock Out rose should be at the heart of any fall garden plan. The roses are hardy in zones 5 through 10.
5. Variegated Liriope
It’s a grass, a big summer and fall bloomer, and one of the easiest ornamental plants for containers, groupings or unique spots in your garden. The Variegated Liriope, also called a lilyturf, is much tougher than it appears.
Although the plant with delicate-looking purple flower spikes and variegated yellow and green leaves does best in partial sun, it can take many soil and location conditions. The favorite border plant is an easy-care choice.
Just clip off faded leaves at the end of fall or during winter to revitalize your liriope for next year. If the clumping plant gets too crowded, you can dig it up and divide it, spacing the plants at least a foot apart. Expect Variegated Liriope to reach heights of about 12 inches in zones 5 through 10.
It’s summertime! Beach vacations, grilling, and newly erected baby (and adult) pools are in full effect. But, there’s one problem. Your tan is near perfect but rainfall is nonexistent. Your plants are dying of thirst and wilting under the summer rays. Is it time to forgo the comfort of your lounger, drop your dime store novel, and become a 24/7 plant waterer?
Quite the opposite.
There are some simple watering tricks on how to beat the summer heat and keep the lushness alive. Your flower beds will continue to shine, and you can once again succumb to the life of leisure. So, grab a cold lemonade, lift up your sunglasses, and read about the zen of summertime watering.
Start with the Soil
A well-prepared soil bed not only provides nutrients, but it can also retain water even during the most arid of times. Clay is not your friend. It can hold water, but it can have the consistency of wet cement, thus clogging your plant’s roots. Plus, if it dries up, it can be harder than a brick. If you have clay, you can first break it up with green sand and then add a good compost (like mushroom or worm castings). You can also add compost to sandy soil since sand does not hold water at all. Compost will not only absorb water, but it also has tons of beneficial microbes and nutrients that will keep your plants happy and healthy.
Become a Mulching Maven
Mulch does many things for the garden. It keeps the soil moist longer. It can stifle weeds. It can even be aesthetically appealing if you’re using a decorative bark mulch. The best practice is to lay at least 3 inches of mulch in the beds and around each plant. If you’re really looking to keep weeds away, consider putting down cardboard or newspaper (4 sheets thick), and then adding a top layer of bark mulch.
Now for the Main Event…Watering!
Water strategy is key to healthy summer plants. If you plan ahead (like laying simple irrigation), you can essentially have all your flowers’ thirst quenched minus countless hours of watering each day.
It’s quite tempting to retrieve the hose daily and resort to shallow watering. Don’t. This method encourages roots to stay near the surface, which in turn makes your precious plants susceptible to drought. The best rule is to water deeply once or twice a week. Water at least an inch at a time. If all you have is a hose, make sure to water at the roots slowly. Don’t wet any of the leaves since that can lead to foliage burn in the summer. However, a hose is not ideal since it’s very tough to water effectively.
Two of the best methods are…
Soaker Hoses: You can lay soaker hoses along your rows and right up to your plants. Its slow release of water allows the plant to soak in all the moisture without getting a gush of water from an overhead sprinkler or hose. The even broadcast of water along the roots is the best way for your plants to stay hydrated. Since soaker hoses can be damaged in the sun (as well as not being that pleasing to the eye), cover it with mulch. However, soaker hoses can spring leaks, and they can be unwieldy if you’re using it over a long stretch of garden space.
Drip Irrigation: This is the most efficient way to water. Period. Emitters on the tubes can be placed directly on the base of the plant, and it will water only there. You get a perfect amount of water to each plant, while also saving on the water bill.
Finally, if you decide to go with either soaker hoses or drip irrigation, invest in a timer. Some of the better brands can even be set to go off daily at specific times. This leaves you free to hit the beach with friends without the worry of watering.
Choose Drought Tolerant Plants
Picking up drought tolerant plants at the nursery will not only save on water but also your sanity.
Some of the best…
Lavender: This versatile herb is great in culinary dishes as well as potpourris. Its colorful tuft of lavender flowers stand out in any garden setting. And it rivals the cactus for minimal water needs.
Hydrangeas: One of the great wonders of the plant world. The large blooms (up to six inches or more) can change colors depending on the soil ph. A more acidic soil can create blues, while a more base soil can render pinks and reds. Great as a low hedge, and they can handle both cold and heat with ease.
Of all the flowering plants in the gardening universe, the esteemed Knock Out™ Rose is perhaps the mightiest. Bred by horticulture legend, William Radler, this hybrid masterpiece took the rose world by storm in 1997. Nearly twenty years and numerous awards later, the Knock Out is the highest selling plant in the world, eclipsing the 100 million mark and counting.
Why the fascination? Well, besides its eye-popping petals, the Knock Out has 4 cycles of blooms compared to 3 cycles of other rose varieties. But, its main appeal is that the Knock Out asks very little of its keeper. Its resistance to growing nuisances is the stuff of gardening legend. It includes…
That means you can plant it and forget it.
Well, almost. If you want your Knock Outs to be the pride of the block, you can give it some simple care. Below you’ll find some easy steps on how to make you and your Knock Out compatible.
Fun in the Sun
The Knock Out scoffs at winter (down to growing zone 5), as well as the blaze of summer (up to growing zone 10). Your best planting area is in the full sun in a well-drained soil. Your hole should be enriched with a good compost (like mushroom or worm casting additions) to maintain vigor. While the Knock Out can handle drought, it’s wise to water one to two inches a week when rainfall is lacking in the summer. Mulching is another great option since it holds moisture in, deters pernicious weeds, and is aesthetically appealing in the landscape.
At the onset of spring, feed your roses with a granular organic rose fertilizer (4-4-5 or comparable). Simply scratch the required amount into the soil, and voila, the flowering show will commence. After the end of each blooming cycle, you can then go to a foliar feed (like fish emulsion). Make sure to feed spray either in the morning or evening. Never spray in mid-day to avoid leaf damage in the hot sun.
Ah, the dreaded pruning. One wrong snip and there go the roses. With Knock Outs, those fears can be put to rest. Follow these easy steps along the way to ensure that your roses get the right kind of “haircut.”
#1 Do Nothing
That’s right. Do absolutely nothing after planting your fledgling Knock Out. In fact leave it alone for the first one or two years. You want a mature confident rose bush before you break out the pruners.
Year three is here, and it’s time for your Knock Out’s initial cut. To ensure a disease free plant, dip your pruners in something like rubbing alcohol. Next, consider how big you want the Knock Out to be. Apply the “two foot rule” when pruning. Knock Outs can grow to over four feet. So, if you want this size, cut it down to two feet. Three feet? Cut to one.
Cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle. Cut new shoots back by a third and cut out any interior canes to ensure the best looking roses. And remember to wear your rose gloves. No hand likes a thorn.
#3 Follow the Three D’s to a T
During the summer, follow the 3 D mantra: dead, diseased, and damaged wood. You want to eliminate any of these interlopers on your rose bush. It’s easy to cut them away as well as being simple to spot.
#4 To Deadhead or not to Deadhead
The Knock Outs are known for being self-cleaning, which means they can cast off blooms to prepare for the next batch. But, you will have an even prettier rose bush if you do some spent flower disposal on your own. Cut right above the five-leaflet leaf below the flower. It’s that simple.
Autumn is a great time for fall colors and freedom from pruning. But, if you are a glutton for the perfectly sculpted bush, you can cut your Knock Out by a third. After pruning, add another round of granular feed to ease the shock.
Before the start of winter, add up to four inches of mulch to give it a good winter coat until spring.
That’s it. A simple yet thorough guide to make your Knock Outs, well, the knockout of the neighborhood.
Azaleas are the biggest teaser of all flowering plants. Its commanding blooms in the spring turn every head from butterfly to bee to human. But, as summer approaches, the azalea decides that flowering time is over. Your memories of an azalea Eden will have to sustain for ten more months.
Sadly, you are a slave to the azalea’s one season bloom.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to the miracles of modern horticulture, there are azaleas out there that just start their show in the spring. They return for an encore in the summer, and then again in the fall. You can cheer three times for this wonder plant, which is appropriately called the Encore™ Azalea.
A Little History
For hundreds of years, hybrid experts have experimented with azaleas to create new colors, sizes, and seasonal adaptability. Over 10,000 different azaleas are registered and named. The new champion of this azalea metropolis is the Encore. Its journey to the top began with azalea expert, Robert Lee. The Louisiana native began experimenting on azaleas in his backyard. He crossed the traditional spring blooms with the Rhododendron oldhamii, a scarce Taiwanese summer bloomer. For fifteen years, Lee worked to perfect the azalea. In 1997 (with marketing from PDSI and Flowerwood Nursery), the Encore became commercially available. Word spread faster than crabgrass, and it soon became the world’s best selling reblooming azalea with presently 29 varieties to choose from.
The Same Care as any Other Azalea
Despite its star status (with fans ranging from Southern Living to HGTV), the Encore requires the same care as the traditional azalea. Most Encores thrive in growing zones 6-10, and its evergreen status means color even in the doldrums of winter.
Maintenance? Check this out…
● Pest and disease free
● Rarely needs pruning
● No fertilizer once mature
Azaleas love a slightly acidic soil (ph 5.5-6). Mulch with with pine bark or pine needles to not only keep moisture in, but also to lend some acid to the azalea’s home. Avoid the “wet feet” syndrome by providing a moist but not saturated soil. Fertilizing is optional, but if you’re a glutton for more blooms, feed three times before each bloom with an organic azalea fertilizer (4-3-4). Finally, you can have the shade garden of your dreams since the Encores thrive in a partial shade setting.
Which Encore is Right for You?
Basically, you are looking for desired color and size in your Encore Azalea. All of them bloom three times a year, all of them are evergreen (unlike every other North American azalea species), and all of them attract butterflies. The Encores can accompany almost any garden design, from a regal row hedge to a perennial flower bed backdrop to even a container garden.
The biggest “problem” you will face is which one to choose.
Here’s some choice Encore Azaleas among, well, other choice Encore Azaleas…
Autumn Debutante Encore™
The Debutante is the only pink azalea to bloom in all three seasons. The blooms reach up to 3” in size. This azalea can grow to four feet high and wide, making it a versatile choice in the landscape. Although it can handle full sun, a partial shade environment is best.
Autumn Angel Encore™ Azalea
This angel of the azalea world lends its white blooms in spring, summer, and fall. The abundant 3 inch blooms can either stop the show in the garden or as a cut flower in floral arrangements. The Autumn Angel reaches 3 feet high and wide at maturity, providing a centerpiece without hogging all the garden space.
Autumn Royalty Encore™
The Autumn Royalty is the queen of the Encore series, thanks to its Azalea of the Year award in 2004 by the American Rhododendron Society. It casts its purple reign of flowers all growing season until winter begs it to stop. Its mid-size at maturity (5 feet high and wide) makes it an impeccable choice for a royal purple hedgerow.
Autumn Embers Encore™ Azalea
You’ll be seeing red all through the growing season. The orange-red 2.5 inch double blooms of the Autumn Embers will show up every flower on the block. Its cozy size (3 feet high and wide) makes it a great choice for a groundcover.
Summer is here! Plants are bustling. The sun and blue sky are aplenty. Everyone’s happy. Yet, the summer heat can wreak havoc on a garden . Flowering plants can wilt and abandon their blooms by mid-summer. Luckily, there are some tough plants out there that scoff at intense rays by producing flowers all the way into fall.
Ready for your rainbow of summer colors?
Here are the best long bloomers for the summer season and beyond…
If there’s any plant that symbolizes the South, it has to be the crape myrtle. This regal specimen can be found adorning lawns, boulevards, hedge formations, and even patio gardens. There are flower colors for every taste from whites to pinks to reds. The foliage comes to life in the fall, with tinges of autumn colors like deep oranges and shimmery reds. Not to be outdone by the blooms and leaves, the peeling bark in the winter makes sure the Crape is a standout in every season. Its propensity for being low maintenance makes it a surefire choice for even the blackest of thumbs.
Dynamite Crape Myrtle
This large and in charge crape myrtle (up to 30 feet high) displays fire engine red blooms for up to four months. It reblooms constantly throughout summer into fall. Homeowners can see their curb appeal jump drastically with the addition of even one of these beauties.
Cherry Dazzle Crape Myrtle
This is the one true dwarf crape myrtle, reaching a max height of five feet. Cones of red flowers are complemented by bronze green foliage. In the fall, the leaves turn a reddish orange hue. This plant is a must for a hedge design or as a patio plant.
Growing Zones: 6-9
The Muskogee is the pride of the National Arboretum, which bred this hybrid masterpiece for landscaping perfection. The 12 inch lavender blooms can last up to six months, and it’s considered the toughest of all crape myrtles. It can reach a grand height of 25 feet, and it’s guaranteed to stop all foot and motor traffic.
Growing Zones: 7-11
Gardeners of every stripe, from fledgling to expert, wants a hydrangea to grace their garden. And who can resist? Blooms can reach proportions bigger than a lap dog, and they just keep coming throughout the summer. It’s also a plant prime for experimentation, thanks to blooms changing colors depending on the soil’s persuasion. Alkaline can produce reds. Acid can produce blues. And the hydrangea loves even the most callous of neglect. No pests, disease, or deer come near. Soil can be almost any variety, and it only occasionally needs a good prune. It can even handle the close confines of a container with ease.
Endless Summer Hydrangea
The name says it all. The Endless Summer presents what seems like an eternity of blooms, with some regions having as long as six months of flowers. It can even bloom on new and old growth. It’s the perfect cut flower, and it will be the eye-grabber in any bouquet. “It’s one of the most important plant introductions of the last 50 years,” says plant expert, Michael Dirr.
Reaching majestic heights of 10 feet, the Limelight boasts lime green blooms in the summer before succumbing to deep pinks in the fall. The foliage creates its own center stage thanks to a transformation to reds in autumn. This is a must for beginner growers since the Lime Light is considered the lowest maintenance of any hydrangea.
Growing Zones: 3-8
Knock Out™ Roses
Don’t groan at the mention of roses. Sure, their high maintenance reputation over the years scares away even the bravest of growers. But, the Knock Out is an anomaly in the rose world.
Plus the varieties available in the nursery are astounding. You can choose the Double Knock Out™ for twice the blooms. If yellow’s your fellow, than give the Sunny Knock Out™ a try. Or, if you want some stature above the bush varieties, plant a Knock Out™ Tree. Whatever choice you make, the neighborhood will name you the plant guru of the block.
Growing Zones: 5-10
The lilac is the go to plant for both its everlasting blooms and its enticing fragrances. There are a ton of colors, from wedding gown whites to blushing pinks. Plus, its low maintenance and incredible cold hardiness makes it the wise choice for gardeners getting their hands in the dirt for the first time. And it’s a great container plant for those with limited space.
Bloomerang® Purple Reblooming Lilac
This hybrid masterpiece really gets its blooming glutton on, with hundreds of flowers in the growing season. The Bloomerang first struts its blooming stuff in the spring. It then takes a short rest before unleashing a wave of pleasant purples from midsummer until the first frost. Its compact shape (4-5 feet high) makes it the regal choice of hedge formations or as the superstar of the patio garden. Its only requirements are a well-drained soil with compost and a light prune after the initial spring bloom.
Growing Zones: 3-7
This Manchurian native offers longer blooms than any of its lilac cousins. Pink-purple buds bestow ice-blue hues at maturity and then finally burgundy reds in the fall. Its also a prime pick for the South since it can withstand heat better than most varieties. Its compact size (6-8 feet tall) will turn a normal hedge design into a natural work of art.
Growing Zones: 3-8
Your home is supposed to be your refuge. But as summer settles in, the house is rivaling the oven in temperature. You can turn on the AC, but the bills are more than the mortgage. You dream of hammocks and shiny new lawn furniture all protected from the mean old sun.
Is there any quick relief?
Luckily, there are shade saviors out there that can grow from 5 -15 feet per year. These quick growers will not only alleviate your mood, but you can also cut your energy bills by 25%.
Ready to let off some steam?
Which Shade Tree is Right for You?
Your yard, home, and tree should be in complete syncopation with each other. The wrong tree may give shelter, but its growing habits may put your yard and home out of whack. The first thing you need to consider is how big of a tree you want. While an October Glory Maple is gorgeous, it can grow upwards of 50 feet and stretch about 25 feet. If you have a small yard, this tree could shade out your precious gardens.
Secondly, make sure your tree is non-invasive. An invasive tree’s roots can wreak havoc on a house’s foundation.
Also consider for your tree…
● The length of your region’s growing season
● Suitable temperatures
● Rainfall amounts
● Soil type of your region
With these things in mind, here are some the best and quickest growing shade trees on the market.
Weeping Willow Tree
The graceful sweeping beauty of a Weeping Willow Tree is undeniable. Not only does it brighten the yard, it can also maintain it. The Willow is perfect for fighting flooded areas, since the roots soak up water like a giant sponge. It can also stop erosion in its tracks, preserving your precious topsoil. Despite the Willow’s hard work, it doesn’t need much in return. You can essentially plant it and leave it. Pests and disease seek refuge elsewhere, and the tree is fairly drought tolerant.
The traditional weeping look will start to manifest once the tree reaches 8-10 feet tall. From there, the dramatic show of a spreading canopy will lengthen each year. Within 4-5 years, you will have the weeping willow of your dreams.
Crimson King Maple
If you want an array of colors in your shade tree, then you’ve found a natural soul-mate with the Crimson King Maple. The tree begins its show in spring with red and yellow flowers atop the purple leaves. If you’re a bird enthusiast, you’ll be busting out the binoculars as winged wildlife seek out the berries in the fall. The maple can adapt to several soil types, handles drought, and resists most disease and insects.
A royal canopy indeed.
This king of the sycamores grows faster than any of its relatives. The American Sycamore is also noted for its longevity, living 200 years or more in the right conditions. And it’s a beauty. Bright green leaves of spring and summer give way to rich gold foliage in autumn. The bark is even more handsome. As it peels, the bark reveals an inner mosaic of greens, browns, and yellows. By age 7, the sycamore begins to flower, with revealing clusters of green and then red blooms. It can handle any soil, from dense clay to flood prone marshes. Insects and disease are rarely an issue, and it can flourish in either hot or cold conditions with ease. If you have room for this giant, the American Sycamore is an epic choice.
Royal Empress Tree
Alright, you say, the trees in this blog are great, but I want to see it grow. While this is not possible with the naked eye, the Royal Empress Tree comes close. Its growth rate of 15 feet per year is perfect for new homes needing a quick shade fix. It also gives your yard the beauty treatment. An intense burst of lavender flowers in the spring are only outdone by the sweet fragrances that will enrapture every nose.
The Empress can handle most soil types, but a loamy medium is preferred. It resists disease and insects, is drought tolerant, and prevents erosion. However, be judicious with pruning. If you cut too much back in early spring, the Empress may not flower.
This type of Royal Empress is also non-invasive (unlike most Paulownia types). It’s grown from tissue culture, ensuring a hearty and healthy tree from the nursery.
A living fence is a perfect way to both enjoy your privacy and be in tune with the natural world. Perhaps the best choice for creating a green wall are shrubs. Gardeners of both the amateur and expert variety can go hog wild with the infinite choices of shrubs. Unfortunately, meticulous pruning is a misguided stereotype of shrubs. While this may be true for hedges adorning the Biltmore House, a lot of shrubs maintain a natural shape without a shear. Your biggest task will be deciding if you want an evergreen shrub or if you want a shrub bedazzled in a carpet of flowers, etc.
Ready for the wonderful world of hedges?
Here are some of the popular varieties of shrubs along with a favorite from each group.
The boxwood’s population in the world (although there’s no official count) rivals that of humans (or maybe even ants). Its evergreen and sculpted look adorns places from simple cottage yards to the grand lawn of the White House. It’s an easy choice for landscapers due to its simple care. Boxwoods look great for sprucing up the new business on the block, or as a front piece for high reaching flowering trees. You can virtually set a boxwood anywhere, and it will add a simple natural touch.
A Boxwood Favorite: Green Velvet Boxwood
The Green Velvet Boxwood proves that not all boxwoods are created equal. This evergreen shrub is stubborn with appearances, preferring to maintain a rounded shape without any pruning. The Green Velvet is unique among boxwoods in that it is actually fragrant, thanks to tiny white blossoms in the spring. Its mature height at 6 ft. makes it a perfect candidate for your next hedge display. Pests prefer to chew elsewhere. Deer steer clear. It even resists pollution, making it perfect for the urban environment. Finally, its cold hardy status (growing zones 4-9) will green up even the drabbest of winters.
This goliath of the flowering shrub world can grow to 20 feet. They are widely popular as hedges or even a large privacy screen. The viburnum loves to be a show off, from its grand foliage to its big fragrant flowers. Pruning is rarely necessary unless you want to shape it to a particular size.
A Viburnum Favorite: Snowball Viburnum Bush
Cheerleaders may flock to your yard, mistaking this bush’s giant flowers for pompoms. And it loves to produce high populations of blooms (hundreds in fact) from mid spring into summer. The Snowball Viburnum Bush can reach heights of 20 feet, making it the perfect hedge for your neighbors to gawk at. Your house will be bustling with cut viburnum arrangements, and bird lovers will grab their binoculars as numerous songbirds dine on the berries in the fall. Best of all, the viburnum asks very little, except for full sun, well-drained soil, and an all-purpose fertilizer twice a year.
The gorgeous hydrangea is a plant fit for a mad scientist. The blooms can actually change colors depending on the type of soil.. Alkaline can lend a pinkish color, while acidic can transform flowers to stunning blues. Flowers can amass sizes bigger than a hefty bowling ball. For all its beauty, the hydrangea prefers to be free of fuss. It has no enemies in the pest and disease world. Pruning is rare except for removing dead or diseased branches. It can even reside happily in a container or in the ground. Neglect is truly the hydrangea’s best friend.
A Hydrangea Favorite: Nikko Blue Hydrangea
Of all the colors in the garden, blue is possibly the most unique. The Nikko Blue Hydrangea’s burst of indigo blooms will make every other shrub look grey in comparison. It virtually scoffs at the heat by busting out blooms from early summer all the way into early fall. The six inch blossoms nestle against the emerald, tooth edged leaves. Plant in the sun or leave it in the shade, the Nikko couldn’t care less, except in its ongoing mission as a flower factory. Residents north of growing zone 6 can grow Nikko in a container and move it inside in the winter.
This hardy deciduous shrub numbers over 400 species in its family. The barberry is a popular hedge choice for homeowners and landscapers due to its uniform growth pattern. It hates to be fussed over, and it can adapt to almost any growing environment. Pruning? Nope. Drought? Handles with ease. Pests and disease? They don’t care to congregate. Better put, the barberry is perfect for those gardeners who don’t live in their lawns.
A Barberry Favorite: Crimson Pygmy Barberry
This is an excellent choice for smaller yards or to spruce up a drab driveway. The Crimson Pygmy Barberry’s red foliage will provide a perfect accent piece to evergreen shrubs. Small yellow flowers dot the bush in the spring before giving way to purple berries and then red berries by fall. You’ll need to make way for the songbirds when the berries ripen to its final crimson stage. The Pygmy is also quite cold hardy, living comfortably in growing zones 4-8.
Ask a gardener why they plant the weigela and there’s a good chance the reply will be, “it’s the blooms!” The weigela hates all the attention, preferring little or no maintenance. It’s highly prized as both a hedge and border plant, and it can turn your hedge design into a work of art.
A Weigela Favorite: Variegated Weigela
The reigning champ of the weigela world. Its light pink blooms (that lasts for months on end) with a deep pink center is merely one of its numerous attractions. The fragrance from the flowers lend an enticing citrusy scent that attracts every hummingbird and butterfly from miles around. The foliage is just as majestic. The leaves are dappled with a creamy border that almost outshines the blooms. The weigela is mature at four feet high, and it is perfect for a low row of flowering perfection. It’s cold hardy from growing zone 5-9. It can even handle shade and drought without batting a bloom.
Nothing is more satisfying for the mind, body, and soul than a fresh blueberry. Native Americans introduced this super fruit centuries ago to European colonists, and the blueberry is now produced around the world for both its impeccable taste and health benefits. More species of blueberries are native to North America than anywhere else on Earth. The U.S. alone produces 275 million pounds a year, half of what’s grown worldwide.
While it’s nice to find fresh blueberries at a Farmer’s Market, it’s divine to plant your own bushes. Imagine walking out into the backyard and picking a fresh basket for your smoothies, parfaits, or pies. Plus, the task of growing your own blueberries is quite simple.
Ready to get started?
Some other fine attributes include…
● Blueberries can improve memory.
● Blueberries can be frozen for up to six months without losing its antioxidant properties.
● Lowers blood sugar.
● Good source of dietary fiber.
● Great source of Vitamin C.
Now that you know its superfood status, it’s time to get a bush or two or three in the ground.
Ready, Set, Plant
Blueberries are one of the easiest plants to grow. Most U.S. varieties are extremely hardy (typically growing zone 4-8), and they have colorful appeal in every season. Blueberries are self-fertile, but they produce heavier bushels (up to 15 lbs a year) with group plantings. It’s optimal to plant different varieties that pollinate at the same time (see below).
The fruits and foliage undergo numerous color changes in the season, giving your garden that extra appeal. Winter can bring out the doldrums, but native birds will flock to the bush in winter if you leave berries on the bush.
Once you get your plant from the nursery and into the ground, follow these basic guidelines…
Blueberries love an acidic, organic, well-drained soil. If you’re not sure what your soil or potting mix’s pH is (blueberries prefer a pH of 4.0-5.2), talk to someone at the nursery to get your soil to your plant’s liking. The easiest way to amend your soil’s acidity is with peat moss and pine needles.
Feed your blueberries in the spring with an organic 10-10-10 fertilizer. Once the buds open, give it another feeding, and then apply once more a month later. Water up to an inch per week in the spring, and water up to four inches a week when the berries appear.
You’re probably groaning at this subject. Not to worry. Trimming a blueberry bush is simple and takes all of five minutes.. Don’t prune at all in the first 2-3 years except to remove damaged or diseased canes. Once your baby is mature, remove older center branches and any growth that’s growing inward. Prune only in late winter or early spring. The rest of the year, you can watch the bush grow and leave the pruners on the shelf.
Leave it to the Bees…and not the Birds
Bees are your friends. Birds (in the growing season) are not. Bumblebees are the best pollinators for blueberries with honey bees a close second. Plant a variety of flowers around your bushes to attract the most pollinators possible. And while birds are great for upping your wildlife count in the backyard, they love blueberries just as much as you. Consider purchasing some netting for your bushes to protect the berries from winged nibblers.
This is one time that you’ll love feeling blue. Once your berries are completely ripened, wait 3-7 days before picking. The stem should also be blue and detach easily. A mature plant can have up to 15 lbs of delicious fruits each year. You can refrigerate for up to 7 days or freeze right after harvest. Remember: don’t wear your Sunday best when picking blueberries since they easily stain clothing!
While one blueberry bush can give you years of harvests, it’s best to plant several different varieties each year that have the same ripening times. Plus, each blueberry has its own unique taste, giving you numerous inspirations for recipes.
Or you can simply gorge yourself on berries straight from the bush.
Below you’ll find four varieties of blueberries. The first two are early ripening and the last two are late ripening.
Early Ripening: Rabbiteye Blueberry
The Rabbiteye is the traditional blueberry bush seen on hiking trails and yards all over the U.S. This heavy producer doubles beautifully as a hedge. Pink spring blooms give way to delicious plump berries that ripen quicker than any other variety.
Early Ripening and Late Ripening: SweetHeart Blueberry
Are you ready for 30 lbs of fruit a year? This hybrid marvel is the result of ten years of meticulous work by expert growers. The SweetHeart Blueberry is a mix between the Northern Highbush variety and the Southern Highbush variety. Plus, this is the only blueberry bush that yields twice a year, once in the summer and then in the fall.
Get your glutton on.
Late Ripening: Toro Blueberry
The Toro Blueberry Plant is perhaps the most charming blueberry bush for its vast array of foliage and fruit colors. Pink flowers transform to creamy white blossoms before the show of fruits appear. The fruits grow in large clusters very similar to grapes. Plus, the foliage is perfect for leaf lovers. Bronze leaves in the spring change to green in the summer before going fire engine red in the fall. Oh yeah.
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. There is actually a pink version of the beloved blueberry. And the taste is as sublime as its blue cousins. Fragrant white flowers contrast beautifully with the glossy green foliage before giving way to pink berries. And, like the Toro, the Pink Lemonade Blueberry struts its foliage stuff throughout the growing season. Green goes to yellow in the summer before surrendering to red and bronze in the fall.
Neighbor envy will be at an all time high.
You finally have a day off. The garden chores are done, and it’s time to kick back and enjoy the summer sun. But, just as you recline in the hammock with an ice cold drink, the party crashers arrive. They congregate on your arms and legs, unaware that this your time to relax. You run inside with numerous mosquito bites. The bugs have won.
You want to be rid of these interlopers, but you don’t want to use toxic sprays. You want all natural, but you also don’t want to hear buzzes or feel bites ever again. Luckily, there are plant warriors out there that will battle biting bugs until they are driven from your sacred haven.
Here are the best of the pest repellent plants…
Citronella Mosquito Plant
No more sprays. No more spending a fortune on Citronella candles. The Citronella Mosquito Plant is a perfect patio plant for its lemony scent, and it’s the bane of all mosquitos. Also known as a scented geranium, the Citronella is an ideal potted patio plant in zones 3-8. You can move the Citronella to surround your patio furniture, enabling you and your guests free time to enjoy the outdoors without the worry of mosquito armies. And if you live south of zone 8, you can plant a wall of these lemony barriers for year round protection.
Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Tree
Goodbye Ticks. So long fleas. Adiós hungry deer. The Silver Dollar Eucalyptus Tree is possibly (at 40 feet high) the tallest pest deterrent in the world. If you live in growing zones 7-11, you can plant this evergreen for year round delight. The beautiful silver blue foliage is only matched by a sublime scent that is dreamy to humans but a nightmare to pests. Snip off a few branches for some floral arrangement zest. Or add some foliage to your pet’s favorite sleeping area to ward off fleas and ticks. Other annoyances like drought and disease don’t affect this tree at all.
This herbal wonder of the culinary world is also enemy #1 of mosquitos. And it’s a great guardian in the vegetable patch by repelling cabbage moths, carrot flies, slugs, snails, and the Mexican bean beetle. Rosemary is versatile in a container or in the ground (in growing zones 7-11). It’s luscious piney scent will draw the nose and ward off winged enemies. For a little gastronomy flair, consider getting the Barbecue Rosemary. Its long stalks at maturity make it the perfect skewer for your BBQ parties. Guests will praise your cooking prowess, and mosquitoes will curse your rosemary’s scented prowess.
Another culinary staple of chefs and home cooks around the world. It contains natural oils of citronella, which means mosquitos will seek bites elsewhere. Lemon Grass grows to four feet high and three feet wide at maturity, giving it an ornamental grass look. If you live south of zone 10, you can have hedges of Lemon Grass to repel mosquitos. It can also sit well as a patio plant, and you can move it inside in the winter to enjoy the lemon scent year round. It’s also one of the most prolific herbs for recipe inspirations. Add to soups, meat dishes, marinades, and, yes, even ice cream. Guests will buzz about your food. The mosquitos will buzz elsewhere.
Summer is here, but your vacation is not. This is the one year you can’t hitch a plane to an exotic locale for some tropical downtime. But, you can still create a feel for the tropics in the comforts of your backyard, patio, and even the sun room. There are numerous plants out there that scream tropical, yet can handle a growing environment light years from their native surroundings.
Here are a variety of specimens, from the star tree of the flower world to the grand emperor of all bamboos. Get your sunglasses ready…
Basjoo Cold Hardy Banana Tree
Even Canada can now get a taste of the tropics. The Basjoo Cold Hardy Banana Tree can handle growing zones 5-11 with ease. A “plant it and forget it” tree, the Basjoo uses neglect to its advantage. Drought can’t stop it. Deer won’t taste it. Pests and disease won’t touch it. Watch your native plant beds go island time with a backdrop of this banana tree.Giant bright green leaves set the show for long clusters of golden-yellow blooms. The Basjoo can grow up to 2 feet a week, and can reach up to 16 feet in height. It also adapts readily to a container, turning that once drab patio into a mini-jungle.
Windmill Palm Tree
A cold-hardy palm tree may sound like an oxymoron, but not with the Windmill Palm Tree. It can withstand growing zones 6-11, and it can turn your drab winter into a taste of the tropical paradise to come. This palm can reach up to 30 feet in height, and is perfect around pools. Its elegant symmetrical canopy can provide protection for a partial shade garden. Landscapers love it for its numerous design possibilities, and its resistance to all pests and disease.
The papaya, more than any other fruit tree, is the symbol of the tropics. And contrary to widespread belief, the Papaya Tree can even bear fruit in the north. If you live north of zone 8, all you need is potting mix and a big container to get your papaya on. This single stalk tree is bursting with pod after pod of lime green fruits that give off shades of yellow and orange when ripe. One bite into the papaya’s subtle flavors (think of a sweeter cantaloupe) will enliven your tastebuds and your future recipe inspirations. The papaya is great in ice creams, smoothies, or the traditional Thai Papaya Salad. If you live south of zone 8, plant your papaya in the ground and watch it grow up to 15 feet. If you treat your tree well, you can receive a bounty of up to 80 pounds per harvest.
Congratulations: The gluttony of the tropics is now in your backyard.
Tropical Hibiscus Tree
The Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia, a country with one of the most diverse tropical ecosystems in the world. The Tropical Hibiscus Tree is like adding a touch of the rain forest in your own yard. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees will populate the flowers, which bustle with blooms from mid-spring all the way into fall. This low maintenance dwarf tree reaches only 6-8 feet at maturity, and is the perfect container companion piece to a tropical themed patio. If you live south of zone 8, you can plant the tree right in the ground. Unlike other Hibiscus varieties, the trees require little, preferring to fill up with blooms rather than fuss. The trees come in a variety of colors, including yellow, red, and pink.
Black Bamboo Plant
You might be wondering why bamboo is included on this list. It seems that every yard, porch, or even the office desk has this Asian native plant. However, the Black Bamboo Plant is a rare exotic specimen even among its more popular bamboo cousins. But, like other bamboo, it’s easy to grow and maintain. Its sleek regal black canes will add an elegant polish to any garden or patio.
If you live south of zone 6, add this beauty to your ground, and your yard will take on that look of the far east. Its natural weeping shape will add a graceful plumage to whatever landscape design you choose. However, plan your planting carefully since this type of bamboo likes to run if not properly contained. For you northern residents (or even postage stamp lawn owners), you can easily place this beauty in a container and move it inside in the winter. A word of caution: your other houseplants may feel neglected since the Black Bamboo is a beauty that captures every eye.
Ask anyone which flower first comes to mind, and it’s a better bet than choice Vegas odds that they will say the rose. And why not? Shakespeare wrote about it. Valentine’s Day wouldn’t exist without it. Most gardens have it.
But, the rose is also known as being fussy. Thorns destroy even the most calloused hands. Pests create their own mini cities in the flowers. One bad prune means one dead rose. Even the blooms can be a tease, some only flowering once a year.
Is there any hope for the new gardener?
Never Fear, Knockout is Here
Luckily, not all roses are created equal. Thanks to the fearless work of rose expert, William Radler, there is a superhero breed that dispels the notion of roses being fiendishly fussy. In 2000, Radler introduced the Knock Out® Rose to the gardening world. The plant won numerous awards, including the prestigious All America Rose Selection Award. Radler continues to introduce new varieties each year, from double petaled Knock Out roses to shades of pinks, rainbows, and whites. This year, the Knock Out reached millions in sales.
Why such fanfare?
Simple. The Knock Out blooms longer than any other rose variety. It can flower up to 4 cycles in a growing season, compared to just 3 cycles from its rosy cousins. And this tough beauty will bloom all summer.
But, you ask, what about the fuss factor?
With the Knock Out, there is essentially no maintenance…
● Pests and disease stay away
● It can handle even the most careless of cuts
● It’s cold hardy
● It can handle any soil
● It’s spray free
● It self cleans its blooms
● Flowers even in intense summer heat
Wait. There is one problem with the Knock Out. There are so many varieties that it may be hard to choose the right one. So, to make things even more difficult, here are some of the standouts amongst, well, other standouts.
Red Double Knock Out® Rose
This Knock Out is for those gluttonous types who can’t handle a single-petaled rose. The Red Double Knock Out or the Pink Double Knock Out will make the neighbors head to the nursery just to keep up. Its compact 4 feet high and wide size at maturity makes it the perfect low hedge. Best of all, everyone will think you’re an expert. Don’t tell them your secret.
Sunny Knock Out® Rose
Not even the sun can compete with the Sunny’s radiant yellow blooms. This newest member of the Knock Out family is also the only one that gives off a fragrance. The tantalizing smells can roam up to 50 feet, and it is the #1 choice of landscape professionals. Just to be even more of a show off, the Sunny’s green foliage turns to burgundy in the cooler days of fall.
Knock Out® Rose Trees
Just when the gardening world recovered from the Knock Out Rose craze, Radler decided to go rogue and introduce a Knock Out Rose Tree. Like its smaller brethren, the tree retains both the high bloom cycle and low maintenance needs. It can even adapt to the confines of a container, and it will outshow any plant on the patio. If red is not your thing, don’t despair, you can choose from the Sunny Knock Out® Rose Tree or the Pink Knock Out® Rose Tree.
Time to Grow
Your decades of rose fear is now over. With the advent of the Knock Out Rose, even the blackest of thumbs will get a green makeover with this wunderkind of the flower universe. And its propensity for blooming in intense heat will make you love summer even more.
Summer is nearly here and with it comes a parade of blooms and colors that light up backyards across the country. With the arrival of flowers comes flocks of numerous visitors of the winged variety. There is nothing more graceful than the flight of hummingbirds and butterflies in search of nectar. Bird enthusiasts go for the binoculars and identification books as multitudes of species congregate in search of precious seeds and berries.
Garden gurus and beginners alike can attract species into their yards with the right flower, bush, or tree. Here’s some simple things to remember if you’re wanting wildlife to think of your yard as a second home:
● Use native plants if possible.
● Try for as much variety to attract different species.
● Create plant beds that flower or produce fruits at different times in the growing season.
● Plant in clusters.
● Downsize your lawn space with wildlife attractant plants
● Apply the proper maintenance (i.e. fertilizing, watering) for your plants.
● Avoid spraying pesticides (even organic) in times of high wildlife traffic.
There are a metropolis of plants that can attract winged beauties. The best thing for you to consider is the size of your yard and your wallet. Most wildflowers attract wildlife. But, for some extra pizzazz, consider getting a mix of trees and shrubs for the ultimate “wildlife preserve”. Below are surefire shrubs and trees to turn your lawn into a mini Garden of Eden.
The Royal Butterfly Bush
Also known as the Buddleia Shrub, this regal deciduous bush attracts more butterflies and hummingbirds than any other plant. The fragrant blooms and variety of colors makes it a great addition to a hedgerow, a background for a flower bed, or a standalone feature. This plant is in such demand that expert growers across the world go to shrub’s native Himalayas in a constant quest for new varieties. The only thing you need to search for is what color variety works best for you.
The Black Knight Butterfly Bush: The most fragrant of the Buddleias. Purple blooms measure up to twelve inches long. Its low maintenance requirements–no pest or disease problems, simple pruning–make it a favorite for the fledgling gardener.
Pink Delight Butterfly Bush: This is the only Buddleia that produces pink flowers. Perfect for cut flower arrangements, this beauty is also easy to care for.
White Profusion Butterfly Bush: This Buddleia blooms from spring well into fall. Its enticing sweet honey scent will capture your nose and your winged friends. Its tall stature (8 feet high) makes it a prime candidate for a unique hedge wall. And, like its brethren, it’s virtually maintenance free.
The Burning Bush maintains glossy green leaves in the spring before turning fiery red in the late summer and fall. Its main fans are birds which love the bush’s berries. It’s popular for hedgerows and is both cold hardy and drought tolerant.
The Magnolia Tree has long been associated with the South, and its graceful flowers and sublime scents decorate numerous yards as a standalone feature. Plus, winged wildlife considers the magnolia as food heaven. Bees and hummingbirds seek out flowers for its mounds of sweet nectar. In the fall, the flowers make way for berries that draw birds of every shape and color to fill their bellies.
Some favorite magnolia varieties of gardeners and wildlife:
Little Gem Magnolia: A dwarf version that produces saucer-shaped white flowers. This evergreen is perfect for hedgerows.
Southern Magnolia: Of all magnolias, the Southern is the reigning king tree of the southeast region. This evergreen variety can reach up to 80 feet, and its stature is only outdone by its creamy white flowers and purple centers.
Jane Magnolia: This unique magnolia blooms late in the spring, an anomaly amongst other magnolias. It’s pink and white flowers beckon all forms of wildlife. Its short size (15 feet high max) and pruning friendliness makes it the perfect privacy hedge.
Another longtime symbol of the south. It’s proliferation of blooms in mid-late spring has lit up backyards since the 18th century. Its propensity for little care–pest and disease resistant, little or no pruning–makes it a favorite of flowering tree fanatics. Nectar seekers like the magnificent azure butterfly dance around the dogwood in the spring. Summer and fall give way to bounties of berries for the birds.
White Dogwood Tree: This dogwood is considered by some as the most elegant flowering tree in all of North America. Its 20-30 foot height makes it perfect for almost any landscaping whim. Its silvery bark and fiery red foliage in the fall will warm the hearts of humans and wildlife alike.
Red Dogwood Tree: This is a great alternative for those who want to have a showy dogwood beyond the traditional white flowers. The crimson blooms nestle nicely in the green foliage. Late summer and fall give way to burgundy and bronze leaves. Watch out for roving flocks of wild birds that eat the berries bare.
To want a flower garden is human. To have a hydrangea garden is divine. These marvels of the plant world are known around the globe for their eye-catching blooms that can be as large as the human head. Colors range from indigo blues to candy cotton pink. The most appealing trait of the hydrangea is its ability to change colors based on the type of soil it lives in. Alkaline soils will change the flowers to a more pinkish color. If you’re feeling blue, plant in soil that leans towards the acidic side.
Despite its tendency for gargantuan flowers, the hydrangea is basically a “plant it and leave it be” specimen. Pests and disease search elsewhere. Deer find it unappetizing. It can grow in a wide variety of soils. It rarely needs pruning, except to remove dead or diseased branches. And, they can grow in the ground or in containers.
What you do need to pay attention to is sunlight. The further north you live (up to Zone 3), the more sun the hydrangea can abide by. If you live further south (Zones 7 and up), understand that your hydrangea cannot take all day sun. The best recipe for these climates is 2-3 hours of morning sun with an afternoon of partial shade.
The beauty of these plants is that beginners can dive right in and have showy blooms that will upscale the neighborhood. Basically, you are looking for colors, flower shapes, growing zones, and ease of care.
Below are the styles of hydrangeas, and then some of the best varieties in each category:
Bigleaf Hydrangeas (H. macrophylla)
These varieties are perfect for gardeners who live in Zones 8 or warmer. Plus, the Farmer’s Almanac recommends the Bigleaf for experimenting with bloom color change. Finally, these plants are known to bloom on last year’s growth.
Two of the most popular hydrangeas in this category are…
The rock star of the hydrangea world. Horticulture guru, Michael Dirr, calls it, “One of the most important plant introductions of the last 50 years.”
A list of attributes:
● 6 months of flowers
● Can grow bountifully up to Zone 4
● Virtually frost proof
● 8-10 blooms
● Perfect cut flower
The Endless Summer is also unique because it can bloom on both old and new growth.
Bluer than BB King, this Hydrangea will spruce up any garden design with its deep indigo colors.
A winner for many reasons…
● Blooms from early summer into fall
● 6 inch snowball-shaped blossoms
● Landscape adaptable
The Nikko thrives best in Growing Zones 6 and warmer. Plus, its 6 foot height and width makes it the perfect candidate for a foundation hedge.
Panicle Hydrangeas (H. paniculata)
Beginner growers, this is your perfect hydrangea. Its trademark cone-shaped flowers will make amateur gardeners look like experts. These tough customers can thrive in Growing Zones 3 and warmer, and they are known for blooming on new growth starting in early summer.
The newest entrant in the Endless Summer™ series range from deep purples to vibrant reds. Plus its fall foliage of burgundies and reds makes it a three season wonder
It’s a perfect hydrangea for many reasons…
● 10 to 12 weeks of blooms
● Flowers on old and new stems
● 5 inch blooms
● 4 foot height and 5 foot width makes it perfect for compact gardens
Southern residents, never fear. The Bloomstruck can even take the heat. Just make sure some dappled shade is available.
This tall drink of water (10’ high and 6’ wide) is also the most cold hardy (Zones 3-8) of all hydrangeas. The monster blooms go from white in spring to lime green in the summer, to, finally, deep pink in the fall.
This is a favorite with beginner growers because…
● Lowest maintenance of any hydrangea
● 8 inch blooms
● Foliage turns red in the fall
● Perfect hedge potential
For even more zest to your growing flair, try growing this variety indoors. Careful, your other plants may develop envy!
And, check out its dwarf cousin, the Hydrangea Little Lime.
Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
This gorgeous hydrangea was voted ‘Top Plant of 2010’ by the American Nursery and Landscape Association. The flowers are the showstoppers here, transforming from a cotton-candy hue to deep maroons by late fall.
It’s also a best-seller due to…
● 6-8 inch blooms
● Excellent privacy hedge
● Flowers from mid-summer well into autumn
And cut flower fanatics will love the floral arrangements with its unique multi-color looks.
Oakleaf hydrangeas (H. quercifolia)
This final variety has impeccable bud hardiness and can thrive in Zones 5 and warmer. Known for blooming on old growth, the oakleaf boasts amazing fall colors that range from reds to purples. Plus, the flower heads transform into deep browns that can last all winter.
But, that’s not the only reason to own this plant…
● Multi-colored blooms of white and pink
● Excellent privacy hedge
● Extremely drought tolerant
● Wildlife attractant
The Oakleaf is perhaps the most versatile of all hydrangeas and most flowering plants. This is one plant that put its foliage and blooms on equal footing.
You are the master of patio plants. Every inch of your deck is a tapestry of blooms that is the talk of the neighborhood. But, lurking over the horizon is summer: a season that is both spectacular and burdensome. Heat can turn your flower festooned patio into a drooping dry mess.
How do you coexist with a season that can halt all your hard work? It’s actually easier than you think. With a few preventative steps, you can make your container garden outshine even the hot sun.
The Right Pot For the Job
Life’s too short for both you and your plants to buy cheap pots. While terracotta is a nice choice, consider getting a glazed ceramic/terracotta since they tend to keep in moisture better during the hot months. Also, consider fabric pots which aerates plant’s roots and keeps the soil much cooler than standard plastic pots. Plus, larger containers should always be used instead of small containers. Your plant will have time to grow in a bigger container, and it will keep you from having to constantly transplant from one pot to the next.
Water, Deadhead, Fertilize, Repeat!
Following these three (and a half) rules will keep your plants happy even when the sun is unrelenting…
● Watering: Rain is always your friend, but it’s not adequate for your patio plants since it is typically not enough to soak even small pots. Containers need a thorough soaking for your plants to beat the heat. Patio plants need much more water than ground plants, sometimes up to twice a day. The soil should be kept moist, but not saturated. Plus, never let your soil totally dry out. If you try to water on dry soil, the water will just spill off. And, make sure to have a good quality potting mix (like a blend of vermiculite, compost, and perlite) that can absorb both water and nutrients. Finally, if you want to have a summer vacation, either hire a dependable neighbor or consider getting a drip system specific for container gardening.
● Fertilizing: Since you have to water more with patio plants, you have to realize that nutrients will leach out of the soil quicker. Granular fertilizers come in a variety of ratios (5-5-5, 3-7-4) for your plant’s needs. The first number is nitrogen, which give your plants the most growth. If you’re looking for that bloom potential, even in the heat, buy a fertilizer that’s heavy on phosphorus (the second number) and potassium (the third number). Follow the instructions on how much to add in the container, and scratch the fertilizer in on the soil surface. Depending on the formula, the feed can last from two weeks to two months. And, if possible, go organic.
● And more fertilizing: Yes, diligent gardener, you have been on top of the fertilizing regimen, but it’s optimal to do a bi-weekly or weekly feed with a liquid organic fertilizer. A nice mix of organic fish and seaweed emulsion will keep the blooms and growth going. And, never liquid fertilize in the middle of the day or straight into dry soil.
● Deadhead: There always comes that sad day when the flowers lose their luster and being their droopy decline. But, all is not lost. Picking the spent blooms means that the plant will deliver more flowers very soon. This is especially true for annuals, since proper deadheading can extend their life.
Some of the Best…
You really are a patio plant guru, but you need a little R & R away from home. There are numerous container plants that need little care, and they could care less about the heat.
Here are some winners…
Bloomstruck Hydrangea: This vibrant bloomer greets you with round lavender flowers from early summer well into fall. In fact, it blooms 10 to 12 weeks longer than the standard hydrangea. Plus, it’s heat and drought tolerant, and it resists all pests and disease.
Black Bamboo Plants: This is a gorgeous addition to your patio, giving it a tropical flair that not even regular bamboo can replicate. The deep black color of the canes contrasts perfectly with the light green foliage. And, it loves the heat, and it is fuss free.
Mandevilla ‘Crimson Red’: One of the most dramatic looking plants for the patio. This blooming beauty shows it stuff from spring all the way into fall. It’s perfect for a trellis setting, and it can climb up to 20 feet. Birds, bees, and butterflies will accompany you on the patio as they hang out amidst the bright red flowers. The hot sun is of no consequence to the Mandevilla. Plus, you only need to water when the soil dries out in the top 3 inches.
The winter doldrums are officially over. Spring is in the latter stages with bustles of blooms and bees. Summer is on the horizon, which means beach vacations, cold lemonades, and lazy porch sittings. But, before all the leisure activity can commence, you need to step up being the garden guardian. Summer is lovely, but it can also bring a host of problems–heat, bugs, drought– to your well-maintained landscape.
How do you juggle being the leisure lover of summer with the diligent gardener of the growing season? Below you’ll find some easy steps on how to enjoy lazy days without garden guilt.
As the summer heat sets in, it’s only logical that you’ll need to step up the frequency of watering. But, don’t just run for the hose and spray with abandon at the first sign of drought.
Follow these easy steps for the optimal watering experience:
● Double up: Plants that only need one watering a week in the spring, will need more as summer begins. A great way to check when a plant needs water is to stick your finger in the surrounding soil. If it’s dry more than an inch, then break out the watering can. And make sure to water slowly and deeply!
● Established means less: Plants you’ve had for several years have adapted to the seasons and are typically veterans of your growing climate. Older fruit trees or established drought tolerant bushes like Knock Out Roses or Sage will not need the same watering regiment as a young plant. They can sometimes go up to a week without watering.
● Water early: Plants will get the most out of moisture if you water well early in the day. Roots that sit in water overnight can develop rot if done on a regular basis.
● Judicious misting: It’s OK to lightly mist the plant’s leaves early in the day when dew is still on the foliage. Never spray water on the leaves in the heat of the day, since it can scald the plant. And never spray the foliage late in the day since it can encourage disease.
● Consider a drip system: If you’re going on multiple vacations, you might want to invest in a drip irrigation system. They water the plant’s roots optimally with feeder lines at the soil. Plus, you can put the system on a timer, giving you a worry free holiday.
Weed, Mulch, Prune (a Little)
The bane of every gardener are those pernicious weeds that never seem to go away. It’s best to pick weeds as they emerge. Better yet, consider laying down landscape fabric or some simple cardboard around your plants. Of course, this is not the best for ascetic purposes, but that’s where a nice mulch comes in. Mulch keeps moisture in, suffocates weeds, and it looks gorgeous in your landscaped beds.
Pruning is a trickier proposition once the heat hits. For flowering shrubs that last in numerous growing seasons, it’s best to prune back after the initial bloom in early spring. Never cut back by more than a third to avoid damaging the shrubs when summer arrives.
For fruit trees, only cut back new growth in the spring. In the summer, it’s best only to remove diseased and damaged wood from the fruit tree.
Be a Pest to the Pests
● Morning or evening: It’s best to treat for pests in the morning or evening. Spraying the plant in the middle of the day may kill some bugs, but it could also scald your plant.
● Know your bugs: While there are many bad guys in the bug world, there are also numerous beneficial bugs that can protect your garden. Ladybugs and lacewings eat aphids by the hundreds. If you want that summer vacation, but you’re afraid to leave your property, consider planting beneficial attractant plants near your perennial beds. Red clover and yarrow are great for attracting both ladybugs and lacewings.s
● Diatomaceous earth: This is one of the best bug preventatives out there. Made from fossilized algae, DE shreds the outer shell of bugs and causes them to dehydrate and die. Sprinkle some around the base of your plant that may be attacked by ants that deliver aphids to blossoms. Be careful not to dust in the blossoms since these can harm bees.
There are numerous plants out there that both love the summer and can be left to their own devices. Here’s a few heat lovers:
● White Rose of Sharon Tree: This gorgeous tree can reach heights of 6-8 feet and is the perfect backdrop for perennial beds. This member of the Hibiscus family shows off a ton of snow white blooms even in mid-summer.
● Hot Coral Coneflower Echinacea: This butterfly attractant really gets going in summertime and can amass up to 100 blooms per plant.
● Lacey Blue™ Russian Sage: This rare member of the sage family shows off blue blooms nestled on silver foliage. It flowers in midsummer, is drought tolerant, and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
You’re tired of hearing your gardener friends talk about their lush backyards. Boasts of flower rows and towering fruit trees fill every conversation once spring hits. You, on the other hand, lack a lawn. But, you do have a patio. This is fertile ground for a container garden. So, instead of having yard envy, you can create a potted garden that will give fellow gardeners patio envy.
There are tons of flowers, vines, and fruit trees that flourish in pots. Plus, you have the added benefit of moving things around (unlike the ground) to suit your landscape designs. Furthermore, if pests or disease infiltrate a plant, you can easily isolate it from the others.
Ready to get your patio growing?
Here are some of the best patio plants and patio fruit to choose from.
In every gardener lies a culinary explorer. One of the best and easiest things to grow are herbs. There’s nothing more satisfying than walking outside, snipping off a few favorite herbs to add to a marinade or a simple spaghetti. Better yet, all herbs can grow amazingly in containers.
Here’s a few favorites:
The fragrant piney leaves of the Rosemary will have you snipping with the scissors every day. Its evergreen properties and gorgeous blue flowers in the summer make it the perfect patio/culinary plant. Plus, its non-fussy nature makes you enjoy it even more. You can choose from the traditional Rosemary, the towering Barbecue Rosemary, or get creative with the Rosemary Bonsai.
This herb is widely used in soaps, sachets, and potpourris for its soothing scents. It’s also a great accent in the patio with its diversity of flower colors. You can choose
the Munstead Blue Lavender for its unique shocking blues, or the Hidcote Lavender for the traditional purple colors.
Yes, patio planter, even fruit trees can flourish in a container. The super popular Meyer Lemon Tree has long been a favorite of container garden gurus. But, there are many other fruit trees that thrive on the patio.
Time to get tropical with this exotic addition to your patio. This cold hardy wonder of the banana family can produce up to 90 bananas a year. And thanks to the Cavendish Banana Tree’s 6-8 foot maximum height, it’s perfectly happy in a pot. Best of all, this tree is pest and disease free.
Moro Blood Orange
Not all oranges are created equal! The delicious blood orange is a staple in the culinary world, as well as being a nutrient powerhouse. The Moro Blood Orange Tree is perfect in a container, and it can stand temps down to 27 degrees F. The fragrant citrus blossoms will fill up the air before giving way to an abundance of fruits. This is a must have for any patio landscape.
Believe it or not, there are vining plants out there that can live to a ripe old age on the patio.
Here are a few favorites.
Some of the best growers in containers are jasmine. The Star Jasmine displays white pinwheel shaped flowers nestled against glossy emerald leaves. The honey fragrances will fill your patio and inside your home. Since this vine is a night-bloomer, you should catch the jasmine show on a moonlit night. The vine is low maintenance, and it can be easily trained on a simple trellis.
Purple Queen Bougainvillea
This vine lives up to its royal name. Waves of purple flowers will bloom up to three different times in the growing season. Plus, the Purple Queen Bougainvillea is super low maintenance, and it can handle drought like a cactus once established. This is a perfect plant for trellises or you can create a dramatic waterfall look by letting it freely drape over a wall. And, if you live more North (above Zone 8), you can bring the Bougainvillea inside in the winter, and it will stand out as the Queen of all houseplants.
Tropical Hibiscus Trees
These incredible trees of the tropics will add a punch to your patio that will draw envy from three neighborhoods over. The dwarf varieties never reach more than eight feet, and they can be added to a backdrop of shorter fragrant plants like lavender. Plus the maintenance is low, and the Tropical Hibiscus is widely known as a “plant it and forget it” style of tree. If you live above Growing Zone 9, you can bring the Hibiscus inside for a houseplant renaissance!
You can choose from…
Patio Plant Power
As you can see, you don’t need a backyard to design a garden landscape that rivals any ground grown bed. All you need are containers, potting soil, and a patio to create the garden of your dreams.
A natural fence is the best way to get back your needed solitude and keep in touch with mother nature. Forget the traditional white picket fence or the industrial drabness of a chain-linked fence. Going green with a privacy hedge saves both money and adds value to your home.
But, before you go out and buy ten hedges at random, take some time to do a little research.
Do you want evergreens? Do you want a fast grower? Are you looking for various colors that change with the season? Do you want low maintenance? These are all things that should pop into your mind when you visit the nursery. Below are some more pointers on how to get that perfect hedge and start your own private zen in your backyard.
You’re gearing up for the nursery visit. Keep this checklist handy so you can buy with confidence…
Foliage: If you’re really wanting the up-most privacy, make sure to get hedges that are evergreen. Not only do you have a natural wall 365 days a year, you also get a little green in your life during the doldrums of winter. One of the best is the Nellie Stevens Holly. This decorative hedge can reach heights up to 15-25 feet if left untrimmed and spreads out 10-15 feet. The dense evergreen is just one of the features of the holly. White flowers blanket the shrub in the spring before giving way to the bright red berries in the fall. If you’re a bird enthusiast, you’ll have droves of winged friends dining on the berries throughout autumn.
Size Matters: This goes without saying, but make sure to get hedges that are the right size for you. You may only want a shrub to reach six feet in height, but you love the looks of the Thuja Green Giant. This extremely fast grower can reach heights up to 40 feet. You will spend half of your growing season trying the keep this hedge small. Your pruning arms will be spent, and you’ll have an awkward looking plant to boot.
On the other hand, if you want a monster grower that protects against winds and can hide an unsightly structure next door, then you should consider something like a Willow Hybrid Tree. This hedge really wants to grow (10 feet a year), and it can reach heights up to 75 feet!
Before you fall in love with the first hedge you see, make sure you know what kind of pruning it requires. Some hedges like the gorgeous Loropetalums offer vivid colors of burgundies, pinks, and reds. They offer a beautiful privacy screen, and they will be the talk of the neighborhood. But, they need to be pruned lightly to keep their shape and health. On the other hand, the Lynwood Gold Forsythia can be pruned a lot without worrying about damage. This free grower displays brilliant yellows in the spring, and it can give you a wall of green privacy in the first year.
Shape or Free Form:
The next thing you need to decide is if you want a hedge that has a natural shape (like a pyramid) or do you want more of a free form look. All varieties of junipers (like the Skyrocket Juniper) have a natural shape that creates an easy flow in your landscape designs. Pruning is minimal, and deer steer clear.
For the more free form look, consider going bamboo. One of the best clumping bamboos (which means it’s not an invasive runner) is the Bamboo Hedge Mulitplex. Its exotic looks can add a flair to your backyard setting. This variety can reach heights up to 20-30 feet, but it can be easily pruned without worry of damage. And it can handle temps down to 10F.
You also need to look for bushes that can withstand a variety of variables. Is it disease and pest resistant? Can it handle persistent winds and drought? Is it cold hardy? One of the toughest hedges on the market (and one of the prettiest) is the deciduous Burning Bush. Green foliage in the summer surrenders to fiery reds in the fall. It’s known as one of the most drought resistant bushes out there. Plus, its natural shape allows the smallest of pruning. And if you’re worried about its deciduous nature, use it as a backdrop to the evergreen Thuja Green Giant.
Privacy Right Around the Corner
With these simple steps, you are on your way to selecting the perfect privacy hedge. With a vast amount of natural walls to choose from, you’ll have both solitude and a landscape that truly shines.
Mother knows best.
Like, the ultimate patio tree that will melt your mother’s heart?
There are numerous decorative trees with Mom in mind. Below are three of the best, and they will spruce up the patio for years to come.
Mom might even call you her new favorite.
August Beauty Gardenia Tree
A hundred bouquets can’t compare to the fragrance of one August Beauty Gardenia Tree. This rare tree variety sits pretty in a container, and it will add a flair to patios, a drab doorway, or even a walkway in need of color. Moonlit evenings are especially enticing, with the giant white blooms creating a show in the night. Best of all, this Gardenia will just start to bloom when it arrives on Mother’s Day. The giant fragrant 3 inch flowers will last until the final days of summer. Thus its name, August Beauty.
Tell mom to get her scissors ready. This tree will bestow tons of flowers for cutting. She could fill up every vase in the house and still have plenty left over. The natural fragrance will fill up every room, and you and the Gardenia will be the centerpiece of Mom’s heart.
If she’s worried about maintaining such a lovely specimen, tell her not to worry. Gardenias own a reputation over the centuries as being high maintenance. But the August Beauty Gardenia Tree is the exception.
Here are some easy steps to keep the tree happy:
● Follow a regular watering schedule until the tree is fully established.
● Plant in a well-drained potting mix.
● Feed with an acidic organic fertilizer after blooming.
● Prune once after flowering.
That’s it! Your mom can enjoy her new tree without the fuss. Of course, if your mom is feeling a little more adventurous, consider getting her a Gardenia Bonsai Tree.
Growing Zones: 7-9
Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree
Everyone loves lilacs. The waterfall of lavender blooms with a sublime scent softens the hardest of hearts. Now, thanks to science of grafting, the Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree is a reality. And just in time for Mother’s Day!
It’s an eye-grabber on the patio, and your mom’s other plants will move to background as this rare tree takes center stage for its spring blooms. When she gets her new tree, you can assure her of its non-fussy nature and its great adaptability to containers.
Tell her to follow a few steps…
● Plant in full sunlight or in light shade.
● Plant in a well-drained organic and slightly acidic mix.
● Feed with a slightly acidic organic fertilizer right after flowering.
● Prune right after flowering to maintain its graceful round shape.
It’s as simple as that. You just created the perfect Mother’s Day! And if her tree needs a companion, consider getting a Miss Kim Lilac
Growing Zones: 4-8
Knock Out® Rose Tree
Knock Out® Roses are a favorite among flower aficionados. Their low maintenance appeal with blooms that last throughout the growing season is the reason this rose is approaching the 100 million sold mark since its introduction in 2000. Now, the same experts that first brought this rose to the public has made the Knock Out Rose Tree. Plus, this is the only rose tree recommended for containers. Your mom’s patio will be the star of the neighborhood.
When she first gets her tree, brag to mom about all the tree’s wonderful traits.
● Self-cleaning of blooms, which means no dead-heading.
● Drought tolerant.
● Resistant of deer, disease, and pests.
● Blooms that last up to nine months.
Plus, you can tell your mom that this gorgeous tree needs the smallest of care. Prune in the early spring for more blooms. Apply an organic rose feed (like a 6-12-6) once or twice in the growing season.
And she’s done. No fuss. She’s happy, and you and the Knock Out Rose Tree are the crown jewel of Mother’s Day. And if you really want to shine on her day, consider getting Sunny Knock Out Rose Tree or a Pink Knockout Rose Tree.
Growing Zones: 5-10
What are the best of the fragrant plants? That’s certainly open to debate, from the flower family to the herb family. Even citrus trees could claim the throne for best fragrance. But, there are three specific scent champions that draw humans, mammals, and insects alike. They enrapture the nose, and can fill a home with fragrance quicker than any scented candle.
Introducing the sublime smells of…
Frost Proof Gardenias
The history of gardenias go back over a thousand years to its native China. Its heavy fragrances were world renowned, and they made their way to America in 1761. John Ellis, a Charleston native, first cultivated the plant for the cut flower industry. Its main attribute being a heavy fragrance corsage.
The gardenia is still in high demand for both its looks and smells. But, it is temperamental by nature, and it can claim a lot of gardening time due to upkeep. That’s where the Frost Proof Gardenia stands out from the pack. Unlike its brethren, which loses blooms if the soil is too moist or too dry (not an easy feat to maintain even for the professional), this Gardenia deals with drought, insects, and disease as if they didn’t exist.
And the blooms? Bustling white flowers that not even frost can claim as a victim. They last for months, from spring well into summer. Best of all? The fragrance, which can carry over the neighborhood. You can snip these beauties and fill your home with smells that not even essential oils can touch.
Furthermore, it works wonderfully as an evergreen privacy hedge. Try a row of hedges along a walkway, or right outside your window. Plant in a bed or a planter with other sweet smelling plants like Lavender or Sage. Plant in the full sun or partial shade. Prune if you want or leave it be. It doesn’t really care, except for showing off.
No wonder it took home the “2007 Garden Writers Best Plants Award”.
The Frost Proof Gardenia does best in Growing Zones 7-10
Fragrant Tea Olive
Legend has it that the Fragrant Tea Olive carries a fragrance from over a 100 feet away. Whatever the real story, it’s guaranteed that an up close smell will win the heart and nose. The fragrance is described as a mix between roses, gardenias, and apricots.
The small white blooms first appear as winter is just beginning to slouch away. The blooms become slightly sporadic by mid-summer, but return with a flourish in fall. You, the neighbors, the butterflies, and hummingbirds will all jockey for space next to this hedge/tree.
This is also the most fragrant natural wall out there. Plant a row (5 feet apart), and soon you will have a privacy hedge like no other. It also works well as small tree (10 feet high max) and can serve as a backdrop for perennial beds.
The maintenance? Easy does it. Follow a regular watering regimen, and feed the Fragrant Tea Olive with an all purpose organic fertilizer (5-5-5) in the spring. Pruning is up to you. If you want a formal appearance, break out the shears.
Plus, any work you do on the Tea Olive means you get to enjoy the fragrance. You win. The tree wins. Birds and bees win.
The Fragrant Tea Olive does best in Growing Zones 7-9
The Wisteria is a legendary vine/tree with clusters of flowers that can soften the most granite of hearts. It’s beloved in Asian culture, and it is seen as a symbol of the graceful gardens of the South.
It’s also criticized in certain circles for being hard to manage with some vines (mainly Asian varieties) growing over 70 feet. But, the Purple Wisteria is easy to maintain (growing 30 feet max), and its smell will butter up the soul in seconds.
What’s also great about this plant is that it can turn even the most depressing wall or fence into a natural work of art. Its trellis tendencies will work on any standing structure, and the bees and butterflies will do their dance amidst the blooms that last from spring into summer. Every inch of your acreage will fill up with the strong sublime scent of the Purple Wisteria.
Specific soil is not an issue with the wisteria, since it can adapt to even the thickest of clay. Fertilizing? Not hard at all, but don’t overdo with a nitrogen heavy feed. It’s best to use phosphorus heavy feed (like a 5-10-10) as your main fertilizer several times in the growing season.
And, don’t be afraid to prune this fast grower back. It’s nearly impossible to kill this plant by over shearing. Early spring and after the first bloom is the best time to give this vine a haircut. The blooms and the fragrance will be stronger for it.
The Purple Wisteria does best in Growing Zones 4-9
If there is one shrub unsung in the decorative hedge world, it would be the Loropetalum. Maybe it’s because of the hard to pronounce name, or maybe it’s because plants like azaleas and forsythia have hogged the hedge spotlight for too long. Whatever the case, anyone wanting some flair in their landscape would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful plant than the Loropetalum.
This is the shrub that is always showing off, whether with their dramatic strap-shaped petals or the diverse foliage color ranging from bronze to purple to fiery red. The Loropetalum gets to work in the spring, popping out a mass amount of blooms with four to six petals on each (depending on the variety). But, this is one plant where the foliage is just as stunning as the flower. Some shrub varieties can go from a deep olive color in the spring to a gush of orange-reds in autumn.
The Loropetalum is commonly known as Chinese Witch Hazel, and its bold features contrast sharply with its low maintenance needs. Basically, give it some sun and water, and the shrub will do the rest. Insects and disease find other plant prey, and even the deer steer clear. Their size can range from about 6 feet in height and width to 12 feet if left unpruned, making them a perfect candidate for privacy hedges. They don’t mind the occasional shear, and they can be cut into a range of shapes (the highly motivated have even turned the Loropetalums into Bonsais). But, unless their size becomes unruly for your taste, pruning is rarely necessary.
The Loropetalum is highly adaptable to numerous landscape designs. If you’re tired of seeing a line of cars go by your road, you can plant a wall of these evergreen shrubs. They grow quite fast, and you will soon see a natural wall of numerous colors. The butterflies and hummingbirds will have a field day in the flowers, and you can watch the natural world fully at work. The Loropetalum also adapts quite well to partial shade, making it a perfect backdrop for a shade perennial garden.
Tests on the cold hardiness of the Loropetalum have made it down to almost 0 degrees F. But, if you live further north, you can always put the plant in a container and still enjoy the sublime looks.
But, now comes the hard part. Which Loropetalum is best for you?
Here are some prime candidates…
Ever Red Loropetalum
This blooming superstar begins the show in the spring with a flush of red flowers. But the foliage can’t stand to be second fiddle, and its burgundy colors will take the breath away. If you’re lucky, you might have blooms throughout the growing season. This shrub variety is also one of the more compact of the bunch, with a max height and width of 6 feet. Because of its small stature, the Ever Red Loropetalum is a go-to in almost any garden design, from a walkway feature to a colorful natural wall.But, be prudent with the pruning. Cut back lightly during the growing season only if you feel like the shrub is becoming unruly. Otherwise, leave it be, or you might not get that show of blooms the next year.
If plants had egos, the Ruby Loropetalum would be high on the arrogant list. And why wouldn’t it with its burst of pink blossoms and red foliage? The leaves are an emerald color when mature, but all the new foliage growth is a bright red, giving the shrub a triad of colors. The blooms can last for several months, but you won’t have time to miss the spent blooms because the leaves continue to show off all season. Its compact size (5 feet high and wide when mature) sits pretty in any landscape feature. Prune only when necessary.
Of all the varieties, the Burgundy Loropetalum probably has the most contrast between flowers and foliage. The hot pink dangling flowers dazzle on a stage of Bordeaux tinged foliage. Plus, its bigger size (10 feet high and wide max) makes it the ultimate privacy hedge. The blooms last for several months, but the foliage says “look at me” all growing season. Prune only when size becomes an issue.
This shrub should be called ever-purple instead of evergreen. The Zhu-Zhou pops out the pink blooms in early spring, but it’s only a backdrop for the maroon/purple foliage that turns heads wherever it sits. It’s the tallest of the varieties (12 feet high and wide at maturity), and it will be the most royal privacy screen you’ve ever had. Prune only when size becomes an issue.
You dream of an island vacation, but the hassles of everyday life keeps the plane ticket to the tropics at bay. One way to beat the doldrums and bring a little sun and fun into your life is a Tropical Hibiscus Tree. These evergreen jewels only reach a maximum height of 8 feet, making them the perfect companion for a container. Or if you live in a warmer zone (with winter lows only in the 40’s), you can plant this masterpiece of the tree world in a flower bed or as a standalone feature in the yard.
Of course, the main player on the Hibiscus stage is the flower. The show commences in summer and lasts well into the cooler months of autumn. The Hummingbird and butterfly population explodes around the tree as both search for the beloved nectar.
The trumpet-shaped blooms (in colors ranging from red to white) own five or more petals. The protruding stigma really makes the flower shine, and it’s no wonder that the Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia. But, the looks are only part of the Hibiscus flower’s appeal. It’s quite edible, and it is very popular in salads or as a garnish. It’s also an excellent tea with mellow citrus notes, and it is proven to naturally lower blood pressure.
Once you’ve picked up your new Tropical Hibiscus at your favorite nursery, it’s time to decide where to plant it. If you’re way down south (optimally growing zones 9-11), you can put the Hibiscus in the ground. Make sure to plant in a protected sunny spot away from malicious winds since the Hibiscus’s branches tend to be brittle. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is on the poor nutrient side, add a nice layer of compost. Fill your hole half with dirt and then water to settle the soil. Allow the water to drain, and then fill with the rest of the soil and water thoroughly.
Fertilize twice a year in the growing season. Hibiscus experts say to do an organic nitrogen heavy feed in the spring and then switch to a phosphorus heavy feed (i.e. 9-13-13) when blooms are getting ready to bustle. Pests and disease aren’t really an issue. Whiteflies and aphids sometimes appear, but they can be easily eradicated with an organic insecticide like Safer’s Soap.
Even the northern climates can enjoy a little tropical flair since the Hibiscus is right at home in a pot. Make sure to have a nutrient rich potting soil, and follow the same fertilizer requirements as mentioned above. When you bring the Hibiscus inside for the winter, spray it off well outside to get rid of any pests along for the ride. Find a south facing window or use a supplemental grow light four to five hours day. Don’t freak out if some leaves drop. This is a natural occurrence when a Hibiscus switches to a dormant stage. Water sparingly and don’t keep the soil saturated. Allow natural dormancy during this time, and don’t try to keep the blooms going.
Now that you know a few growing tips, here are some of the choice Tropical Hibiscus Trees to choose from. Or if you’re feeling frisky, get them all…
Red Tropical Hibiscus Tree
The Red Tropical Hibiscus Tree struts it stuff from July through October. Eye-popping red petals are complimented with a rich red center. Its low maintenance attributes include being drought tolerant. Patios, walkways, and even the backyard will become a little slice of island paradise. The flowers have a lovely subtle scent and can even be cut for your favorite vase. Be warned: this tree is known to create Hibiscus obsession.
Pink Tropical Hibiscus Tree
This unique tree flourishes with 6 inch pink blooms with streaks of white and a yellow stigma. The blooms keep coming from summer to the end of fall. Careful: The Pink Tropical Hibiscus Tree can show up even the most elegant of flower beds!
Yellow Tropical Hibiscus Tree
The color yellow has never been more divine. Six inch blooms with a deep red center and an orange stigma will turn all the heads in the neighborhood. The flowers are perfect for indoor arrangements and have staying power well after other blooms in the bouquet wilt. Like all the other Hibiscus trees, the Yellow Tropical Hibiscus is low on maintenance and high in bloom count.
For more information on Hibiscus care as well as a wealth of other Hibiscus related knowledge, visit the American Hibiscus Society.
Garden envy is an affliction that many growers suffer. Worse, a lot of gardeners see powerhouse perennial beds that seem to glow with colors in every season, sending them into a pit of despair. Questions like, how could I possibly grow those fancy plants with the fluffy plumes? Or, I want every perennial in sight, but how can I find the time for care?
It’s time to put those frets away. There are numerous perennials out there that don’t require a lot (or any) maintenance. Yet, their features can make even the blandest of gardens come to life. Even if your thumb is lacking the vibrant green, these perennials will make your life easier, thus allowing you to pursue a more leisurely life.
So ease on in to these selections…
The Lacey Blue™ Russian Sage proves that big things come in small packages. While only 2 feet tall and wide, this plant still packs more flower power than its 5 foot older varieties. Its unique blue colors give Lacey a boost amongst taller perennials in the garden. And Lacey doesn’t really like to show off until late summer, when the aromatic blue blooms finally pop out from the silver foliage. This grand show lasts way into fall. Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds congregate in mass.
Maintenance Factor: Slim to none. Lacey can handle heat, drought, and even a low nutrient soil. If you feel like showing a little love, add some compost and green sand to the ground when planting. Give Lacey full sun and add water when dry. Your biggest job will be spending two minutes of your time cutting Lacey back to six inches in early spring. Tough plant. Easy love.
Growing Zone: 4-9
Another summer lover! The bloom show begins in early summer and lasts into fall. The Hello Yellow Butterfly Plant is a distinguished host for the Monarch Butterfly that makes a home amidst the yellow and gold 3 inch blooms. All forms of nature flock to the Hello Yellow, including bees and hummingbirds. It loves virtually any landscape setting, whether along paths, borders, in the middle of a perennial bed, or in a container.
Maintenance Factor: Tiny. Like the native Butterfly Weed, the Hello Yellow can handle the inhospitable with ease. Drought, heat, and even bad soil doesn’t seem to affect this long living plant. Your biggest chore will be removing deadheads for another show of blooms. Poor you.
Growing Zone: 4-9
The Big Daddy Hosta shows off its stuff in the shadiest of places. Its big blue heart-shaped leaves will class up any shade landscape design. Big Daddy can serve as an elegant ground cover, in a border, or paired with other shade perennials. It can also choke out undesired weeds as it expands its blue reign across the landscape.
Maintenance Factor: Tiny. Big Daddy grows but doesn’t fuss. Drought and bad soil don’t affect this hardy plant. Just plant in your favorite shade spot. Add a little compost and fertilizer at the beginning of the season, and you can sit back and watch Big Daddy go to work.
Growing Zone: 3-8
Also Check Out: Empress Wu Hosta
The Look At Me Astilbe dares you to look away for even a second. Hundreds of tiny pink flowers sit proudly on each fluffy plume.The Astilbe struts it stuff in early through late summer, as the baby blooms come to life. This plant will garner the attention of every neighbor, whether it’s in a perennial bed or in a container. You can even take some scissors to the elegant Astilbe and add cut flowers to any floral arrangement in the home. Plus, it loves the shade, and it can be a dramatic boost to a hosta garden.
Maintenance Factor: Low. For the best flowers, plant the Astilbe in a well-drained soil with plenty of compost. The plant loves water, so make sure you keep the soil moist at all times. Fertilize at the beginning of the season with an organic all-purpose fertilizer. Five minutes of your time for months and months of flowers.
Growing Zones: 3-9
Also Check Out: : Fireberry Astilbe, Milk and Honey Astilbe
The Chocolate Chip Ajuga is the ground cover for the clumsy at heart. This rugged beauty can handle errant foot traffic with ease, whether it’s you or the wandering dog. Plant this beauty where grass has issues growing, like shade trees or on a stone paver path. It’s also a gorgeous natural weed deterrent. In the spring, you’ll see green 4 inch stalks appear before bursting in late spring with cluster after cluster of purple blue flowers nestled amidst chocolaty colored foliage. And make room for the butterflies and hummingbirds that will use the Ajuga as a second home.
Maintenance Factor: Slim to None. The Ajuga can handle just about any environment. Heat, drought, torrents of rain, and bad soil don’t seem to affect its growth.
Growing Zones: 4-9
One of the biggest problems that avid gardeners have is growing space. Urban areas and postage stamp lots do not suit plant lovers very well. But, there are ways to enjoy lush growth and rainbows of blooms even when space is tight.
You need three things:
The next thing you need to consider is what types of perennials are best for the patio. With a wealth of plants to choose from, a simple trip to the nursery may turn daunting. But never fear, we did extensive research on the best plants so you can quickly become a patio perennial pro.
The winners are…
A Daylilly of the highest order, this yellow beauty will beat other plants for the first bloom of the spring. But, it’s early exuberance never falters as the blooms remain all through summer. Bright yellow 3 inch flowers with an orange center sit proudly against an arch of emerald leaves. The Stella D’Oro ’s popularity as a potted plant has grown due to its high tolerance of growing mediums, climate, and disease. Think of it as the ultimate facelift for your patio.
Growing Zone: 4-9
Many growers assume that lavender is meant for the ground due to its wide bushy nature. That isn’t the case with the Hidcote Lavender. Royal purple flowers give off a sublime scent. It’s not a bad idea to have several Hidcotes placed strategically in corners of the patio to give off a flourish of color and fragrances everywhere. It does incredibly well in a container due to its non-fussy nature. The beauty of pruning the Hidcote is that you can take the flowers and add to vase after vase in the home. Its dried flowers are still capable of fragrance, which makes it a winner in a potpourri mix. And once the Hidcote ends its majestic reign of blooms, you can do a quick prune to allow the lavender to spread its silvery foliage and enjoy its container home year-round.
Growing Zones: 5-8
Also Check Out: Munstead Blue Lavender
Sitting on the patio as the summer sun begins to dip below the horizon is one of the finer things in life. Until…a tiny horde of mosquitos decide to wreck the party. But, there is a natural way to protect against these pests. The Citronella Plant has a lush geranium look with a pleasant lemony scent that will fill up the home. Mosquitos hate the smell and steer way clear. Create a wall of Citronellas around the patio and enjoy the lazy days of summer without the buzz and bites.
Growing Zones: 5-11 Patio
This darling of the ground cover world is now gaining prominence as a patio perennial. And who can resist? Cluster after cluster of pink petals with a red center contrast beautifully against the pointed emerald leaves. Take a few snips of the Phlox “Cosmopolitan” flowers and place in an indoor bouquet for a nice touch. This dwarf variety never reaches above 16 inches in height, and it can adapt to just about any potting medium you give it. It loves the sun, and diseases never come calling.
Growing Zones: 4-9
Also Check Out: Nicky Phlox, David Phlox
Thai Elephant Ears
A plant of epic proportions, this emerald monster will be the conversation piece of the patio. The leaves can grow to over 6 feet, with the stems growing to almost 10 feet. It might be a little smaller in a container, but it will still tower over your other perennials. The Thai Elephant Ears made its way from Thailand almost a decade ago when collected seeds of the plant came to the U.S. Despite its massive size, its needs are small. Make sure to have a large pot and a rich composted soil. The Elephant loves full sun and plenty of water. Pests and disease never bother. When cold weather hits, bring the Elephant Ears inside and watch it once again become the talk of the room.
Growing Zones: 8-10
To Be Continued…
This is just the first entry in the patio perennial blog series. Stay tuned for more prime picks to get your outdoor patio growing.
Spring brings a pageantry of plants just begging for attention. Stately magnolias and rows of daffodils explain in colorful detail that winter is long gone. The loudest of this flowering bunch is the Dogwood Tree. A native of the Eastern U.S., the dogwood is the symbol of springtime in numerous yards across the country. The dogwood blossoms are actually leaves (called bracts) that open in colors ranging from white to crimson. Fall is especially dramatic as the leaves display deep hues of reds. The tree even attracts a huge number of birds thanks to the red fruits that are abundant well into winter.
Sources differ on the origin of the dogwood name. One account is that “dagwood” was the original name of the tree. Dag is an old word for a meat skewer made from the wood of the dogwood. Another source claims that the boiled bark from the European dogwoods was used to treat dogs with mange. Whatever the true story, the dogwood is a revered piece of present landscape design as well as a historical tree that even treated malaria during the Civil War.
Caring for the Dogwood
Dogwoods are the perfect lawn tree since their height rarely eclipses 20 feet. They can be a perfect background compliment in a flower garden, or even a standalone showoff in the yard. Partial shade is never a bad idea: the dogwood is originally a smaller forest tree adapted to living under larger trees’ canopy. Also, make sure to have a well composted nutrient rich soil. The dogwoods can tolerate a wide range of mediums, although its soulmate soil is a slightly acid loam. An addition of worm castings or even mycorrhizal fungi when planting will give your tree a healthy boost as well as keeping your fertilizer additions to a minimum.
If you have a lawnmower, make sure to be delicate in mowing trips around the tree. The bark is easily susceptible to damage. The dogwood does not like long periods of drought, so keep the soil moist if the rain is far away in the forecast.
Pruning is a rare need, other than taking off dead wood and branches during the winter and early spring. Disease and pests are infrequent, but it never hurts to do some research for your area to see if the dogwood has any enemies.
Now for some superstars of the dogwood world…
It would be disservice to not start out with the esteemed White Dogwood Tree. This is the classic dogwood, a milestone in many landscapes. For several weeks in mid-Spring, the white flowers come alive for a display that resides in the memory until next season. Autumn brings fiery reds with the compliment of the tree’s silver bark.
This tree grows best in growing zones 5-8
Your early spring will never be the same with the shower of pink flowers that emerge from this dogwood. The blossoms will even darken as they near the end of their cycle, creating an artistic contrast with the green foliage. The Pink Flowering Dogwood gets fiery in autumn with crimson leaves and bright red berries. The red fruit remains in the winter, which look lovely against the gray bark.
The tree grows best in growing zones 5-8
Red Dogwood Tree
This is literally a red tree for all seasons. The Red Dogwood Tree casts a giant bouquet of crimson flowers that dare anyone to look away. The emerald foliage is just peeping out in early spring when the red blossoms with pink undertones come out to play. For almost a month, the flowers will light up the lawn. Autumn comes with leaves of burgundy and bronze, followed by the lush red berries of winter. Plus, the Red Dogwood is known for being one of the most drought tolerant of the dogwood family.
It grows best in growing zones 5-8.
Kousa White Dogwood Tree
This is probably the most unique dogwood tree for one huge reason: it’s a late bloomer. It’s also a longer bloomer. The Kousa White Dogwood displays six weeks of startling whites through the middle of summer. It’s also the least finicky in regard to soil. The White Kousa can handle alkaline soil, which is an anomaly for the acid soils most dogwoods prefer. The beauty of the Kousa is that the blooms are only finished for little more than a month before the red leaves of autumn take over. Besides the White Dogwood, this tree is the top choice for both beginners and aficionados.
This tree grows best in growing zones 5-8
If there’s any tree that symbolizes the South, it’s the stately magnolia tree. When the blossoms first display their delicate heads in early spring, the sweet fragrances fill every yard and home. These graceful trees can be found in every state in the South, including the native evergreen, Magnolia Grandiflora. This is the classic magnolia tree with the large glossy leaves and huge white blossoms. The Southern Magnolia flower is so revered that it’s the state flower of Mississippi and Louisiana.
But, magnolias aren’t just relegated to the Evergreen southern look. They can also be deciduous. Leaves of every shape, size, and feel can be found in the large magnolia clan. Blossoms can range from startling reds to subtle yellows. And there are certain magnolias that are indigenous to China and the Himalayas.
Care for the Magnolia
Whatever type you choose for your yard, garden, or container, you will find that they are easy to care for. Growing zones, pruning, and watering needs can vary, so do your research before falling in love with the first magnolia you see. But don’t fret about the pruning. Most magnolias rarely need it. Evergreens like a little in the early spring for shape, while deciduous varieties like a prune right after the flowering period.
If you plants yours in the ground, make sure that you like where its planted. Most types are extremely hard (if not impossible) to move once they mature. Large magnolias are great for adding majesty to a large lawn. Smaller deciduous types can showcase a flower garden or even as a patio container plant. All magnolias love a richly composted, well-drained soil that is either neutral or just slightly acidic. Best of all, your only natural visitors are of the beneficial kind like bees and butterflies. Pests and disease rarely visit, and deer typically go elsewhere to munch.
Now it’s time to pick a tree.
Here are three of the best…
First glance at the Butterfly Magnolia Tree will make you think a swarm of butterflies are inhabiting the plant. Closer inspection reveals yellow blooms that consist of 10 to 15 petals, thus the butterfly look. Fragrant blooms and orange stamens bring bees and birds in droves. This early spring bloomer will give way to oval green leaves in the summer. Even as the leaves fall in late winter, the Butterfly’s unique pyramid shape stands out even in the dullest part of winter.
This deciduous tree was bred by magnolia guru and hybridizer Phil Savage, who made a cross between the Cucumber Magnolia (a Canada native)and the Yulan Magnolia (a China native). This “child” of the two magnificent trees can handle temps all the way down to -30F. Its roots are small but they can handle a little wear and tear. You can decorate around the base with colorful ground covers or perennials that can handle partial shade. And while the Butterfly can grow to 30 feet, it also handles container planting quite well.
It does best in growing zones 4-9
The Jane Magnolia continues to compel gardeners, even at the golden age of 60. It first came on the scene in the 1950’s as one of eight magnolia “Girls” created at the U.S. National Arboretum. Besides the obvious dazzle of the pink blooms, the Jane was developed to withstand cold weather as well as heat and drought.
The Jane is also unique from most other magnolias in that it blooms in late spring. Gardeners with even the smallest amount of patience will be rewarded with a show of large fragrant Fuchsia blooms. The flowers give way to leathery dark green leaves in the summer. Its semi-dwarf height (15 feet) makes it perfect as an elegant shrub or an addition to a walkway. And if you’re lucky, you might get the occasional flourish of blooms even in the summer.
The Jane does best in growing zones 4-8.
Little Gem Magnolia
Despite the smaller stature, the Little Gem’s 8 inch white saucer blooms rival their bigger relatives. These fragrant flowers can last on the tree for up to six months. The evergreen foliage has a glistening green top with a bronze belly. Bees and butterflies surround the nectar of the giant blooms. If you’re a bird enthusiast, this tree would be a perfect complement to any of your feeders. The flowers give off pods of bright red seeds, which attract a huge diversity of native and migrant birds.
The Little Gem is also a choice for many landscape designs. It’s perfect as a natural privacy screen, and it can be a backdrop for your perennial or cottage garden. If you prune the Little Gem at an early age and then leave it alone, it will maintain a natural oval shape.
The Little Gem does best in growing zones 5-9.
Cherry blossom trees are the exclamation point of spring, a stark contrast to the blahs of winter. The kaleidoscope of colors, from whites to pinks to reds shower these elegant trees from top to bottom.
Cherry blossoms are so revered that there are numerous spring festivals around the world in its honor. The most famous in the U.S. is the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C. For three weeks starting in late March, the city honors its 3,750 cherry trees that decorate the Tidal Basin. The trees cast a show for the millions that come each year.
They never disappoint.
Growing and caring for these natural works of art is actually quite easy. Most blooming cherries (if pruned right) grow about 30 feet tall and spread anywhere from 15-30 feet depending on the variety. They can handle cold decently, but be judicious where you plant the tree. Since blooming cherries typically blossom in early spring, they can be susceptible to damage from a surprise late spring frost. Your cherry tree should be planted on slightly higher sloped ground to prevent frosty air from settling in the low spots.
All cherry trees love full sun along with a heavily composted and well drained soil. Shade is not the best habitat for the tree since it will produce spindly branches and less flowers. Prune lightly after the first bloom to get rid of any sucker branches or broken branches. In the dormant season, you can prune heavier for optimal shape and size.
That’s it! A little love will go a long way in keeping your elegant cherries the envy of the block.
Now for the fun part…
Selecting the perfect cherry tree will one of the hardest decisions to make. With so many colors and shapes and blooms to choose from, you may get bogged down by the sheer size of the selections.
Here are five cherry blossoms that will steal your heart.
Warning: These trees may prompt you to buy lots of acreage just so you can have them all.
Gigantic pink blooms will send you into spring in grand fashion. The Okame Cherry Tree will be the centerpiece wherever you decide to plant it. It’s typically the first bloomer of the year, and it is considered the grand ambassador of cherry trees. In the early 1900’s, the Japanese gifted thousands of Okames to Washington D.C. as a symbol of friendship. This prompted the start of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Okame can reach 30 feet high and wide. It does best in growing zones 6-9.
The cherry tree that keeps on giving. In the spring, the Kwanzan Cherry comes alive with clusters of double-petal pink blossoms. But the show is only beginning for this proud tree. Bronze leaves take over the fade of flowers in early summer. When the fall season commences, the leaves turn a shimmering yellow orange. The Kwanzan even flaunts its looks in the winter with its glossy bark.
The Kwanzan can grow up to 30 feet high and wide. It does best in growing zones 5-9.
Nothing prepares the eyes for the Yoshino Cherry. Its dramatic bursts of white blooms with dabs of pink will brighten even the dullest of yards. Its fragrance can fill a whole valley, and it attracts all sorts of visitors from bees to birds that dine on the Yoshino’s fruits. It even rewards in the first chills of fall with leaves that change to a shimmering yellow-orange. No wonder it’s the most talked about tree at both Georgia’s Cherry Blossom Festival and the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The Yoshino can grow up to 40 feet high and wide. It does best in growing zones 5-8.
This may be the hardest decision of your life: do you get the pink or the white weeping cherry tree?
Whatever you decide, you will have a unique tree that will garner looks from neighbors and nature alike. Its distinguished weeping form creates a cascade of flowers that seems to constantly shower the ground with pink and white petals. Even winter can’t slow the good looks of the weeping cherry. Its delicate branches arch to the ground, reminiscent of what many call a living fountain.
The weeping cherry can grow up to 30 feet high and 25 feet wide. It does best in growing zones 5-8.
The Autumn Cherry owns the most unique spring blossoms. The pinkish flowers have ten petals instead of the typical five of most other cherry blossoms. The blooms take a backseat to the green foliage and small black berries in the summer. As your tree matures to full size, its canopy provides the classical cherry shape that many growers look for in a cherry blossom tree. And when fall comes, the leaves turn an elegant bronze, giving the tree a stately, dramatic look.
The Autumn Cherry can grow up to 40 feet high and 25 feet wide. It does best in growing zones 4-8.
The fabled Lenten Rose is rising in popularity as the spring flower. More than the Daffodil. And even more than the look-at-me-and-only-me Tulip. Also known as Helleborus, the Lenten Roses are the first symbol of spring. These tough beauties raise their heads even in the grip of late winter. The blooms bestow bright colors of the rainbow while the rest of the land is still colored in grays and browns. These joys of the perennial world can live past the ripe age of 50, and they get their name,The Lenten Rose, because it typically flowers during the Christian season of Lent.
The Mad Scientist
Gardener interest with the Lenten Rose is at an all time high. The flower can withstand almost any environment, yet display blooms that capture the imagination. Breeders are taking notice, and they are creating Helleborus hybrids that are the stars of the flower universe. Breeder Hans Hansen, who has hybridized everything from Asiatic lilies to Hostas, took on the challenge of creating a new mix of Lenten Roses several years ago. In 2015, Hansen perfected his creation, and he just unleashed the Honeymoon Mix Lenten Rose to unsuspecting gardeners everywhere.
Simply put, the flower world will never be the same.
So Many Colors
The first thing you’ll notice about the Honeymoon mix is just the breathtaking amount of colors. Hues of apricot, buttery yellow, carnation pink, wine red, and even elegant black adorn this arrangement. Best of all, these colors will jump out in the white of winter before any bulb or flowering tree. Once the Lenten Rose gets going, not even frost can chink away at its beauty.
The plants will grow out about 18” tall with a 12” spread. A tough happy Helleborus will reward you in the early spring with upwards of 40 blooms, which can last up to four months. Due to their woodland origins, they can even handle a good amount of shade. And when the colors begin to fade, the lush evergreen foliage (which has a likeness to mini palm leaves) creates a nice backdrop for summer blooming perennials.
The looks of the Honeymoon Mix are deceiving. With such delicate features, you would expect hours of pampering. Not with the Lenten Rose. Critters like rabbits and deer venture to more delectable patches. Slugs, that seem to dine on anything that grows, also stay away. The Helleborus can grow in soils of every range, from neutral to acidic. However, avoid wet clay if possible. If you want to do a small amount of legwork, add a nice organic compost each year at the beginning of the season for even better growth. And, if you’re feeling like spreading lots of love to your Lentens, give them an organic Seaweed spray every couple of weeks.
Rooting for More
The Honeymoon Mix will develop deep spreading roots as the years pass. This keeps your Lentens vibrant and healthy, which is one of the reasons it begins its flowery display so early. You can divide the plants in late winter, but it is not necessary. But, if you’re feeling like being a total neighborhood showoff, you can easily containerize several divided plants for your deck, patio, or walkway.
Winter is rarely forgiving. Plants shrink away and hide for months on end. But, imagine when the ground is covered in snow, you see petals of every color slowly sprouting through. This is the Honeymoon Lenten Rose.
No flower does it better or earlier.
Of all the flowers that beg for our attention, the peony is the queen of the “Look At Me!” plants. And how can you resist? Every variety of peony—pink, red, purple, white, etc.—stands out in even the most vibrant of gardens. Huge blooms capture the eye and dare us to look away for even a second. Plus, they will remain your longtime friend in the garden.
Peonies can live up to 50 years with even the smallest of care. This is one flower that certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome! Peonies can survive in growing zones 3-8, and they can thrive on the smallest of care. Despite its attractive features, deer and rabbits cut a wide path away from the plants.
Even in the world of peonies, where each bloom is worth a thousand descriptions, there are the standouts. Below are five varieties that are sure to make your neighbors flock to your yard in collective admiration and envy.
And at the end, check out some basic care that apply to all these beauties.
The winners are…
The origin of Alexander Fleming Peonies remain a mystery. Sources site its origins in either England, France, or possibly the Netherlands. The only certainty is that it is named after the great Dr. Alexander Fleming, who discovered Penicillin.
This is a dramatic peony with large, pink double blooms that give off a sweet citrus scent. Spring time reveals flowers that can reach 8” in diameter. Burst after burst of pinks sit proudly amidst green glossy leaves. The Alex Fleming sits tall in any perennial garden. Plant in a bed of ferns for stunning contrasts, or place it behind a bed of early spring tulips for a two season burst of different colors. Cut some of the flowers and bring them inside for a grand flower arrangement in every vase in the house.
Karl Rosenfield Peonies
Karl Rosenfield Peonies redefine how to appreciate the color red. Gargantuan 8” blooms can last up to six weeks with proper deadheading. Ruffly brilliant red flowers nestle nicely with the glossy green leaves peonies are known for. Its sweet citrus fragrance will liven up the flower beds or all the rooms in your house.
Paeonia “Red Sarah Bernhardt” Peony
This legendary peony was first created in 1906 by the infamous French nursery, Lemoine. A hundred years later, the Paeonia ‘Red Sarah Bernhardt’ Peony is still the best seller of the bunch. It’s also one of the sturdiest of the peonies, and one of the longest lasting bloomers. From late spring well into summer, this peony shimmers with a purplish red hue inside massive 8” blooms. Flower beds, homes, and even containers on the patio will come alive with the addition of this traditional favorite.
Red is dramatic, but white is sublime. The Paeonia ‘White Sarah Bernhardt’ Peony displays a bounty of white bowl-shaped blooms with a subtle fragrance. Its sturdy growth requires no staking. It’s also a top choice for cut flowers. The white blooms compliment any flower arrangement.
Sarah Bernhardt Pink Peony
This is the go to cut flower for florists. Its double pink blooms and wafts of citrus please even the most jaded of flower aficionados. The Sarah Bernhardt Pink Peony is also one of the toughest of the peony varieties. It can withstand almost any soil, which makes it a perfect addition in almost any landscape design. Who said pink isn’t tough?
Care and Planting
Peony care requirements are the same across the board. They prefer full sun, although partial shade is doable once established. The best time to plant peonies is in the fall. All peonies ship bareroot instead of a full green growing plant. This ensures great growth once spring arrives. When you look for a planting site, try to find an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
After you dig your hole, fill it with a good organic compost. Plant your bareroot so buds are facing skywards and are about 11/2 inches below the soil line. Finally, water well and add about 4 inches of mulch to keep new roots from freezing in the doldrums of winter.
Care during the season is quite easy. Peonies are tough without all the fluff. Water regularly, and apply a good liquid fertilizer in the late fall after blooming season. Deadhead flowers during bloom time. In the fall, get rid of all plant debris and cut back the peonies to the ground. That’s it! You’re on your way to flower heaven!
Peonies are the show-stoppers. They are the go-to flower powerhouse when nothing else is flourishing in the garden. Best of all, they live for decades without you spending precious time caring for each facet of the flowering.
Your neighbor’s five dogs are barking at you from their porch. Plus, his unsightly pink storage shed is visible from your chair. To make matters worse, his large bay window reveals a pair of binoculars aimed in your direction.
What to do? A new neighbor is not in the cards. You want a nice fence, but you lack the time, money, and know how. Unless your neighbor wins a European vacation for the next five years, your best choice is a living privacy hedge. Green walls are not only economical, but they add natural class to your home.
Here are three of the best natural walls out there…
Thuja Green Giant
Evergreens are the ideal privacy hedge. They offer year round looks without any winter leaf shedding associated with deciduous trees and shrubs. Plus, you have the look of brilliant emerald green 365 days a year! Of all the evergreens, the Thuja Green Giants are the fastest growing at 5 feet per year. This prolific mammoth was created by expert breeders at the US National Arboretum specifically for natural privacy.
And it’s a keeper. The Thuja is a prime model for the “plant it and forget” approach to landscaping. Drought is not an issue. Pests and disease look elsewhere. You can plant in heavy clay or even a sandy mix. Deer even hate it. Pruning? Only when you reach the desired height. In that case, take off the top leader branch and you’re done. Its natural conical share means you don’t have to shape the front. And it’s narrow enough to be planted close to other hedges. It will fill out quickly, blocking any prying eyes. If you decide to not prune at all, your Thuja Green Giant will reach up to 40 feet. Imagine that. Four stories of total privacy!
Leyland Cypress Trees grow even faster than their Thuja counterpart, with an average growth of six feet per year! Its soft nettle like foliage lends a lovely flair to this pyramid shaped tree. Its deep emerald luster lasts every season, and it is compatible with almost any landscape design.
Plus, much like the Thuja, maintenance is zero. Pests and disease look for more vulnerable plants. It loves full sun, and the Leyland can handle any soil variety. Strong winds, ice storms, and even drought can’t take down the mighty Leyland Cypress.
But, of course, its real strength is the privacy barrier look. Within a few years, the Leyland bursts with dense growth, creating a thick privacy wall that not even a bird can peer through.
Willow Hybrid Tree
You like the 5 feet per year growth of the Thuja, and you get even more excited by the six feet per year of the Leyland. But you need more. You want a magical privacy hedge that can go eight, no, ten feet!
Is there such a thing? Yes there is, privacy lover. Look no further than the The Willow Hybrid. By the end of the first growing season, you will already have a healthy hedge that bursts with dense foliage, hiding unsightly property and providing the ideal noise barrier.
While the Willow Hybrid is not an evergreen, it still grows fast enough to provide the ultimate cover for even the most unsightly structures. The Willow Hybrid is quickly becoming a top choice for contractors and developers who want a fast growing tree to add value to housing developments.
This lush green giant can grow up to 60 feet and is fuss free. Pests and disease are a non-factor. The Willow can thrive in hot and cold climates, and it will adjust to any soil.
Just You and Your Yard
These natural fences are a great way for you to get back to the simple private life without a big ugly fence that screams, get out! You will be surrounded by the look of nature, and you have a beautiful wall of green all year long. And best of all, no next door eye sores!
The hottest plant trends for 2015 are small in stature, but huge in eye appeal. Dwarf trees are officially hip, and they are replacing their bigger counterparts. From knockout blooms to culinary zest, these trees are a must for the gardener who wants to be both cutting edge and practical with space.
Here are five trees that are the talk of the plant world…
Knock Out® Rose Tree
The reigning champ of Rose Trees. This hybrid beauty was developed by horticulturists to be both prolific in flower production and simple to maintain. Blooms can last up to nine months, and it is the only rose tree that is perfect for the container. Fussy it is not. Knockout Rose Trees resist disease (like the dreaded Blackspot that attacks other roses) and pests. They are not finicky about soils, and they even handle long periods of drought. Do you dread deadheading flowers? Don’t fret. The Knockout Rose Tree is like a self-cleaning plant, shedding spent flowers to make way for new ones. You literally can sit back and watch the tree do all the work.
August Beauty Gardenia Tree
August Beauty Gardenia Tree is not restricted to blooming in the dog days of summer. The fragrant 3 inch double blooms adorn the tree from spring into late fall. While it’s petite, this style of gardenia is tougher than its brethren. It loves the full sun or partial shade, and it resides well in growing zones 7-9. Northern residents never fear. You can move the gardenia inside during the cold months and make your other houseplants look small in comparison. And it’s the perfect tree for cut flower arrangements.
Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree
The Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree is destined to be your patio centerpiece. Unique in looks with a fragrance that fills the air, this tree is also minus the prima donna maintenance typically found with showy plants. Dark green leaves in the spring set into a burgundy hue. Before you know it, bursts of lilac flowers adorn the tree and reside proudly for months. You can plant the tree in almost any soil. Water well, or water lightly, the lilac will adapt. Hate pruning? Well, this tree just needs a simple cutting after bloom season. Spend five minutes pruning to keep its round shape, and you’re done. Plus, if you’re a resident in growing zones 4-7, you can leave the tree out year round.
The Culinary Delights
Yes, citrus lover, you can now grow the Improved Meyer Lemon with relative ease. Forget the acreage needed for groves of citrus. All you need now is a small patio and lots of sun. This prolific grower has been a culinary go-to for many chefs. The tart taste reserved for most lemons is not a characteristic of the Meyer Lemon. The dwarf fruit tree is a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin Orange. Despite the small size, the Meyer Lemon will deliver loads of fruit, and it is even self-pollinating. And, if you really want to show off, you can move the tree inside during the winter and still produce prolific amounts of fruits. Plus, the citrus smell will liven up the living room.
Pomegranate Bonsai Tree
Don’t be scared of the word, bonsai. These artfully sculpted trees from Asia get a bad rap for being too meticulous in care and pruning. While some bonsais deserve the high maintenance label, the Pomegranate Bonsai Tree is easy as they come. And you are rewarded with delicious pomegranates that are high in nutrients and inspire numerous recipes from juices to salad toppings. The difficult wiring of some bonsais is not necessary for this variety. Forget the pruning and say hello to pinching. You simply pinch off new shoots. That’s it. Your small fruits of labor will be rewarded with pomegranates in late summer. It’s even a fall centerpiece with green leaves that turn to bronze as autumn approaches. Once winter hits, move the bonsai inside for a centerpiece display.
Dwarf trees are becoming hip because they offer the space-limited gardener a lot of room for creativity. Whether you’re looking for a flowery display on the patio or delicious fruits for the kitchen, you will find a friend in the dwarf tree. Join the growing legion of plant enthusiasts who follow the “less is more” motto.
The winter doldrums can sap the energy from even the most optimistic of gardeners. Flowers that burst with color in the spring and summer are former shells of themselves. Once bountiful fruit trees are bare skeletons. Worst, the garden beds are a mess.
Luckily, there’s plenty to do even as winter holds on with a final frosty grasp. So, stretch the legs, grab the gardening tools, and get to work. Images of colorful gardens and flitting butterflies are just around the corner.
Here are some tips on how to get ready for the spring season…
The Artful Planner
The best part of spring bed prepping is skillfully planning the bed design. If you’re starting new garden beds, it’s best to draw out a plan of what plants you want to go in your garden. After you know your spacing, check online with the nursery and see what the mature height and width will be of each plant. Also, check out the times of each bloom, so you can stagger your colors. Flowers like pansies can be put on the border, which can give way for a background of colorful echinaceas and roses in the summer.
If you have an established garden, then this is the best time to move a badly placed shrub while it’s still in winter dormancy. Make sure to dig way out from the bush to keep from damaging the root ball. Once you find a new location, plant at the same level as in the previous bed. And make sure to water the shrub thoroughly.
Clean Beds are Happy Beds
Plant debris in the winter is unavoidable, but is quite easy to tidy up for the warm days ahead. Also, if you’re a wildlife lover, it’s best to leave old plants standing in the winter in order to provide seeds for hungry birds.
You can use a rake to clean out your beds, and a garden trowel to root out more persistent weeds like invasive grasses. Leaf debris can be shredded and added to spring beds. They are chock full of nutrients like magnesium and calcium as they break down.
Be careful if you have established bulbs in the ground! It’s good to know exactly where they are planted to avoid damaging or killing newly sprouted bulbs.
Add three to four inches of good compost and manure (at about a 50-50 ratio with native soil) to new and old beds to provide needed nutrients in the soil. Then mulch around the garden to cover up bare spots and make your bed look appealing amidst the grey of winter. If you mulch around your fruit trees, make sure not to place it right up on the tree.
You can also add black plastic sheeting over the beds to suppress weeds until you plant. Here’s an old trick: flip over the sheeting once a week, and you will likely find slugs that are hiding in your bed. This is an excellent way to control slugs, and it keeps their population at a minimum in the growing season.
Early spring or late winter is optimal for pruning bushes and trees before the new buds greet the season. It’s always best to cut back while plants are in their dormant period. Spring and summer cuts can damage even the heartiest of fruit trees and flower bushes. Trees that are established can usually be cut back by a third in late winter. Remove dead branches from perennials, and make sure to prune roses right when their buds appear.
Just because you can’t see pests in the winter doesn’t mean they all perished in the cold. Hungry larva burrows in the soil and then dines on roots in the spring. Other nefarious hibernators include slugs and snails. You can pick these out by hand (or gloves if grossed out by touching) and drop them into a simple solution of a teaspoon of dish detergent to one pint of water. Also, there are various organic pesticides available.
Even the most zen of gardeners have a tough time not wanting to plant at even a whiff of spring. If you must put something in the ground, be aware that the early growing season is full of surprise cold snaps. If frost is on the horizon, protect your new plants with a frost cover. Or be resourceful and use what you have around the home: a plastic bucket or a sturdy cardboard box should protect your plants from freezing.
Now that you’ve done the maintenance, you can dream of spring and the blooms to come. Plus, the work in the bare garden will warm the body and make you forget the winter air. Before you know it, the sun will shine, bees will buzz, and you will be on your merry way to the nursery!
The lavender herb is many things: The head turner. The body builder. The scent superior. Once you go lavender, you never go back. And why would you? Its indispensable property as a landscape champion only scratches the surface on the numerous great traits this violet beauty possesses.
Lavender’s high marks for looks doesn’t mean it’s low in toughness. Although it’s a Mediterranean native, Lavender can grow in almost any region (Zones 5-9) and can even take some neglect. Plus, you can grow this herb in almost any landscape design. Hedgerows, rock gardens, and even containers are perfect for lavender. You can even cut the just opened flowers in the spring to add to a favorite vase in your home. The lush soothing scents will fill the air and rest the soul.
A Spoonful of Lavender…
You can’t beat lavender for its impeccable medicinal and culinary attributes. Its body enhancing properties are numerous:
• Soothes scalp conditions
• Aids in digestion and sleep
• Lowers heart rate and blood pressure
• Natural anti-inflammatory
Need some recipe inspiration for dinner guests? Add a sprinkle to grilled meats or zest up some vegetables. You can even add some lavender to Greek yogurt in the morning for an extra boost to health!
Ready to Grow?
Now that you know all the wonderful properties of lavender, it’s time to get one in the ground. First off, you should choose the best variety for your region. If you want an all-purpose lavender that can resist hot and cold, stave off fungi, and still have a full fragrance, then look no further than the Phenomenal Lavender (Lavandula intermedia ‘Phenomenal’ ). This rugged jewel is highly adaptable to the Deep South, and it is the toughest lavender ever developed. Better Homes and Gardens even called this distinguished herb a “Must Grow”.
Or, if you’re wanting a little blue in your landscape, then pick up the extra hardy Munstead Blue Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘munstead’). Want the purples to really pop out? Then select the highly fragrant but low maintenance Hidcote Purple Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ ).
Alright, it’s planting time!
Once you find your perfect lavender, pick out a spot in the garden. Of course, if you’re limited on space, lavenders thrive in container pots, especially in the Deep South. But, if you’re wanting to enhance the garden, lavender is great as a hedge or for garden edging. Its superstar hues will make your other flowers, like Roses and Shasta Daisies, jump out at the eye,
Now, get to growing!
First off, set your herbs 12”-18’ apart with access to full sun and excellent air circulation. Add builder’s sand to the soil, or put gravel around the plant to increase drainage. Gravel adds an extra bonus by allowing the water to evaporate quicker. Lavender hates wet soil and too much humidity. The added drainage will keep your plant healthy.
During the growing season, feed your plant sparingly but richly. Add a phosphorus rich fertilizer like bone meal or side dress several times during the season with a rich compost.
Your fears of shears have no place in the lavender bed. It only requires a good prune in the spring when flowers are just appearing. You can sculpt to any shape, and you only need to cut it down to a third every three years.
The extra incentive for cutting is that you have a wealth of cut flowers for almost any floral arrangement in the home. The flower spikes have an incredible scent just as the flowers are peaking their heads in the spring. Cut the stems long and add to your vase. Or dry them out in the sun for an extra boost to your potpourri collection. Best of all, the lavender will have a second bloom period for months of divine scents inside and outside. The bees and butterflies will be happy too!
Bye Bye Maintenance!
If you follow the guidelines above, then the rest is easy. The lavender’s resilient nature (especially the Phenomenal variety) makes it stand strong against even the harshest of summers and winters. Pests like bugs, deer, and rabbits are repelled by the scent. Fungus is rarely a problem as long as the soil is well-drained. A flower has never been this easy, yet so regal!
The lavender enriches not only the eyes, but tantalizes the nose and soothes the mind. It’s a plant for all seasons and your garden, neighbors, and body will thank you for it.
Bareroot Perennials are the budget gardener’s dream. While not especially gorgeous at the outset (a wooden stem with bare spidery roots), bareroots acclimate quickly to their growing environment. Sure, a lovely container of red roses is a head-turner in the nursery, but you can save money by going bareroot.
What is a Bareroot?
A bareroot is a plant that is sold with exposed roots, rather than in potting mix. Bareroots are dug out during the late winter. The dormant roots are shaken free of soil and then packaged in a damp lightweight material. They are then kept in cold storage (like a fridge) until they ship to a garden center for sale.
Some of the best bareroots are:
• Fruit Trees
When to Shop
Ideally, you want to buy your bareroot when freezing temperatures give way to spring. You want to plant the perennial within three days of purchase to ensure optimal growth. However, it can be difficult to predict when temperatures will finally warm up and the ground will thaw out.
If you purchase bareroot plants during the winter you can safely store them until Spring. Simply keep them in a dark room like a basement or cellar that doesn’t get above 60 degrees. Also, make sure that the roots don’t dry out. Every once and a while open the bag that the roots are in and give your plant a drink of water. Be careful not to over water your plant.
Dormant roots are your friend. A completely dormant perennial will grow better than one that has already sprouted leaves. A newly planted perennial with leaves won’t grow as well because the roots will have to put all of its energy towards the foliage, therefore stunting growth.
Finally, inspect the bag and make sure it’s lightly moist. Steer clear of saturated or dried out bags.
Spring Into Action
The growing season arrives, and it’s time to plant your baby perennial. If you want to get a jump on the season, you can pot the plant in all purpose growing mix for a month or so. You can then transplant the bareroot into the soil when spring is in full bloom. It’s best to plant within two to three days of getting your bareroot. If you need to wait a little longer, mist the plant in its package and put it in the fridge for no more than two days.
When you decide to put the perennial in the ground, the outside temps should range between 45F and 60F. Dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Add a mound of soil into the center of the hole. Gently place the roots on the mound and allow the smaller roots to drape over the side. Fill the hole back up with the crown being flush at the top. Tamp the soil down, but don’t pack too much so the plant can breathe.
Once planted, make sure to label the perennial, especially if you’re planting a lot. You don’t want one that surprises of a rose bush actually being be a raspberry cane!
Next, water the perennial thoroughly, but try to keep all waterings on the dry side. A new plant will hate soggy soil, and it could quickly perish in the saturation. Morning time is the best for watering, since the sun will dry the soil through the day and keep diseases away.
Don’t Overdo It!
While your bareroot may look scrawny at the outset, refrain from feeding until the plant is at least 6” high. A good balanced organic fertilizer (soluble or granular) and compost will make almost any perennial happy. But, consult your plant’s specific feeding requirements as they grow bigger.
Mulching is attractive but not necessary until the perennial is established. Early mulching will only trap unneeded moisture in and possibly kill your new member of the garden family.
Prune judiciously. Pinch back leggy stems for healthy branching. Once the perennial is in full swing, research your plant’s specific pruning requirements.
While the bareroot is not gorgeous right out of the bag, a little TLC in the growing season will have your perennial outshining those “ready-to-go” starters.
One of the most rewarding features of any garden are fruit trees. Sweet smelling blossoms in the spring give way to luscious fruits in the summer and fall. Imagine bounties of plump cherries and juicy apples ready for pies and jellies. The health benefits of eating fresh fruit daily are too numerous to count. Plus, you save tons of money by forgoing the expensive fruit aisles in favor of plucking fruit from your own backyard.
Ready to grow?
The best thing about having your own fruit tree is that the maintenance is easy. First off, research what fruit trees grow well in your growing zone. Citrus trees thrive in warm climates like Florida. But, you can still grow citrus in the North by planting in containers that can be moved inside when the freeze comes. The Meyer Lemon Tree is not only popular for it’s unique taste, but it also thrives in a pot. Most apple, plum, peach, and cherry trees are cold hardy. One of the best options (if you have the space) is to plant a variety of trees since each harvest will be at different times. Imagine baskets of peaches in mid-summer giving way to a kitchen full of apples in late fall!
All Yards Are Equal
The creation of dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees make it possible for anyone to grow fruit even if their yard is no bigger than a postage stamp. If you have the space, consider getting several fruit trees of the same species for better pollination. While most fruit trees can self-pollinate, the bounties will be bigger if you plant several varieties. For example, a “Granny Smith” apple tree produces more fruit if a “Macintosh” apple tree is planted nearby.
Cold hardy fruit trees can be planted in the spring or fall. They are usually available at a nursery as bareroot or potted. Either choice is fine, although the bareroot tends to be cheaper. It’s best to plant the tree right when you get home so the plant can acclimate faster. Try to choose a day that is overcast when planting. Dig a hole that is twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Add several shovelfuls of organic compost into the hole and then add the tree. Shovel the dirt back around the tree and pack it lightly. Water thoroughly and then pack the soil down again.
Add a nice layer of mulch around the base to stifle pesky weeds and to keep the soil at an even temperature. You may even want to place a small barrier (like chicken wire) around the tree to protect it from curious critters like deer or mice.
Now is the time to practice the fine art of patience. Wait for the tree to establish for a month before adding a well-balanced organic fertilizer (like a 5-5-5 granular or fish emulsion). If you plant in the spring, feed the tree one more time in the fall.
Don’t expect a bounty of fruits in the first year. Most trees from the nursery will bear fruit in the second or third year. If you see blossoms on the tree in the first year, don’t jump for joy just yet. You will need pinch the flowers off so your tree can develop a strong root system in the first growing season.
Bugging, Pruning, and Plucking
Nature will come calling as your tree matures. Expect droves of butterflies and bees to congregate as the blooms appear. However, pests of a nefarious nature will try to suck your tree of precious nutrients. At the sign of any infestation, spray with an organic pesticide. One of the best non-toxic insecticides on the market is Kaolin Clay.
Make sure to prune your tree each year in the dormant time. Cut away any dead or diseased branches. The best practice for pruning is to cut away one branch from every fork and space each horizontal branch at least 5 inches apart. Your tree will love the “haircut”, and it will reward your palate with delectable fruits!
You’ve been good. You’ve waited two seasons and now the fruits are starting to appear! Research your specific tree to know when the fruits are harvest ready. Once your fruit is the size of a thumbnail, thin some out so that they don’t grow too close together. Now, kick back, watch your fruit ripen, and get the recipes ready!
Ah, the temperamental Gardenia. Its pleasing smells and massive white blooms softens the heart of even the most jaded gardener. But, the impatient green-thumbed will find that the gardenia will not tolerate a slack growing environment. Exact temperatures, watering, and feeding is necessary for this gorgeous, but fickle flower. Only the strong-willed grower will find a friend in the gardenia.
Still feeling brave? Read on…
There are over 200 species of gardenias available, each as beautiful as the next. The majority of blooms are two to five inches wide with shades of creamy white or pale yellow. Standouts like the ‘August Beauty’ has white and yellow flowers that bloom three months each year. The most popular (due to less maintenance and looks) is the ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ , which greets the eyes and nose with star-shaped ivory flowers and incredible fragrances.
In order to get the gardenia to bloom brilliantly and smell great, you need to take into account five things:
• Insect visitations
Much like an active teenager, gardenias are voracious eaters. Every two weeks in the growing season, feed the gardenia with an organic soluble fertilizer. And once every three months, feed your plant with an acid-based fertilizer. Make sure to not spray any of the fertilizer on the leaves since it can cause burns. Only add around the base of the plant. Also, make sure your soil’s PH is between 5.0 to 6.0. You can get a soil test done quite easily at a local extension agency.
Gardenias love humidity and will cast monster blooms if the moisture is spot on. If the gardenia is inside, you can mist the plant daily. Also set the gardenia’s container in a dish filled with colorful pebbles to increase the surrounding humidity as well as creating an aesthetic look. You can mist the plant daily outside if you live in a drier climate. But, remember the fickle plant in front of you and make sure not to over spray the leaves since it causes unsightly spots and disease. Gardenias also need at least one inch of water in a well-drained soil each week. Try not to over water or underwater since the plant will resort to bud drop with either extreme.
Sunny Disposition and Temperature Temperaments
If you have your gardenia indoors, place the plant in a south facing windowsill, but keep it away from direct light. The outdoor gardenia should be placed in a sunny location, but it’s essential to have some form of shade in the hottest times of the day. If you have a porch or patio near a window, think about putting your gardenia there since the lovely fragrances will
fill your home.
Gardenias love to show off, but they’ll shy away from their true blooms if the temperatures are not perfect during the flowering season. You want your temperatures to be between 65F and 75F during the day and between 55F and 60F at night. With the proper climate care, you can optimize blooms for up to three months!
Spring comes alive with new flowers and fragrances, but it also awakens hungry pests in search of defenseless plants. White flies, aphids, and mealybugs love to congregate in the gardenia. You can easily keep these insects at bay with an insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Spray at the first sight of infestation. Don’t spray too much, since the soaps and oils can clog the leaves, which can suffocate the plant and stunt growth. Pruning in the early spring, as well as deadheading any flowers, will deter disease while maximizing flower power.
Keeping gardenias blooming bright and smelling great requires upkeep, but the rewards are worth every minute. You’ll forget the work once you see the gardenia cast its first flower in your garden!
You have a green thumb, but you don’t have the yard space. You have images of lush flowers and harvest after harvest of luscious fruits, but your reality is parking lots, stairwells, and balconies. Don’t fret. On every patio and walkway is a potential garden, full of the lush flora you dream about. Container gardening allows you to save space and fill that once concrete area with plants of every size and color.
Now, before you jump in and start potting every dream plant, read this guide on some of the top plants for your container creations. With a little light, love, and tasty plant treats, you will have a flourishing space garden that is even easier than the old fashioned in-the-ground method.
Before you begin to map out the garden, first consider your potting and watering needs:
Potting: Clay pots are attractive, but they can be hard to move around. Plastic pots aren’t as pleasing to the eye, but once everything blooms, the foliage and flowers will hide the eyesores. Or consider purchasing aeration containers like Smart Pots, which keeps the plants from being root bound.
Watering: If your ambitions are high, then your container garden may reach epic proportions. A large garden means lots of watering. Consider getting a drip irrigation system for container gardens. You’ll have more time to admire and less time to water.
Next, read up on each plant you’re considering for the garden.
Check for :
• Sunlight or partial shade needs
• If they are space hogs
• If they have a companion plant that enhances growth
• Pest or disease thresholds
• Bloom time or harvest time
Staggering bloom times with different plants will add creativity to your garden. If you have patio space, but a good amount of shade, consider a shade container garden.
Annual and perennial flowers are the obvious choice for starter container gardens. The range of colors will add sparkle to any patio or indoor setting.
Here are some of the choice flowers for containers:
Sunny Knockout Rose Tree
This hardy rose variety can survive in zones 5 through 10. Its gorgeous yellow flowers will standout in any container garden. Beautiful tufts of yellow blooms last throughout the growing season. The rose’s compact growth (3’-4’ wide at maturity) makes it the ultimate space friendly flower. And it’s highly resistant to all pests and diseases.
Pardon Me Day Lilly
This flower is an urban gardener’s dream come true. Its maintenance free traits make it a must-have for the beginning or professional grower. Lush red flowers with yellow centers bloom both day and night. The Pardon Me is ideal for any container setting from window boxes to a part shade patio.
Yes, citrus trees like pots! However, do your research to see what citrus grows best in containers. Harvest times are another consideration. Tart fruits like lemon and limes take six to nine months, while sweeter varieties, like oranges, take up to a year.
Finger Lime Tree
One of the most unique citrus trees, and one of the most adaptable to pots. Called the “Caviar of Fruit” for its juicy citrus beads that spill out of the fruit, the Finger Lime will add unique color to your container design. Its compact size (3’-4’ wide) will sit pretty amidst your other plants. Plus, the low maintenance will give you a garden beauty without all the fuss.
Meyer Lemon Tree
This is probably the most popular of all citruses for its taste and adaptability to container gardening. The Meyer is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, giving the fruits a sweet tart taste that is the talk of the culinary world. The compact size (3’-4’ width) and sweet fragrances will make your Meyer the centerpiece.
Bonsais have the reputation for being hard to maintain and sculpt. But, there are plenty of varieties out there that are easy as well as adding an exotic flair to your container garden. If you’re new to the bonsai world, consider an easy option like the Ficus Bonsai or a Sago Palm Bonsai. Get your herb garden fix with a Rosemary Bonsai. Or if you want to compliment your other citrus trees, go for the Dwarf Pomegranate Bonsai.
This is just a starter for your guide to the wonderful world of container gardening. There are tons of options out there. Play around with different designs. Experiment each year. Enjoy the rewards of seeing your once stark patio come alive with the call of nature!
Grove after grove of green, yellow, and orange fruits are the citrusy symbol of the sun laden tropics. However, what are the colder climate residents to do if they want the looks and tastes of the South? Never fear! Citrus trees can be abundant in a well- maintained indoor environment.
But don’t go out and purchase the first citrus tree in the nursery. You need to pick a dwarf variety that is suitable for indoors. Some of the most ideal trees are the Calamondin Orange, the Meyer Lemon, and the Key Lime Tree. Also, don’t expect your tree to start popping out fruit the minute you set it in a pot. Lemons and limes typically take about six to nine months to ripen. Sweeter fruits, like oranges, take up to year. But the smells of fruit blossoms will ward off that instant desire for fresh squeezed fruits. Not to mention the unique look that a citrus tree offers amidst your flowers and cactuses!
Prep and Pot Time
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Pick out a clay, ceramic, or plastic pot that is slightly larger than the root ball. While not the most aesthetic choice, a plastic pot is light, which makes it easy to move the tree around. Place the pot on top of a saucer and then fill the base with decorative pebbles to provide ideal drainage. If you want to avoid water draining out of the pot too quickly, line the bottom with newspaper or landscaper cloth for ideal absorption.
Next, fill the pot with a well-draining soil that is slightly acidic. A loam based potting mix with peat and vermiculite or perlite is perfect. Fill the pot halfway with soil and mix in a well-balanced organic feed (like a tomato fertilizer). Take the tree out of the nursery pot and give the roots a gentle massage so they can spread more easily in their new home. Place your new citrus tree into the pot and fill it up with more soil. Press the soil down around the new plant but don’t make it too tight. Make sure to not get any dirt on the trunk of the tree and don’t leave any roots exposed.Now, congratulate yourself. The hard part is over!
Ideally, you want from eight to twelve hours of indirect sun or lighting each day. Place the tree next to a south-facing window and make sure the room has great airflow. Avoid areas with chilly drafts or forced heated air. When the winter doldrums hit, you can supplement artificial sun with a high intensity discharge light or a T5 fluorescent.
Watering is a big component of the citrus tree’s survival. The plant likes to remain moist, but not saturated. You can check the moisture levels by dipping your finger down in the soil. If it’s dry more than an inch down, then grab the watering can. Also, make sure your humidity levels are at least 40-50%. Supplement with a humidifier if necessary. And use a spray mister regularly to give your citrus tree that feeling of natural rain.
All Pests Big and Small
Greedy Insects are a way of life even in the indoor climate. Tiny terrors like spider mites and scales love to wreak havoc on the citrus tree. Look for infestation signs like curled or yellowed leaves or tiny webs between the branches. Prevention is simple with a homemade insecticidal soap spray (1 teaspoon of dish soap to 8 ounces of warm water) or Neem Oil. Also, if you have a mischievous cat that loves to climb any tree in sight, a little spray of water will send the feline running.
Fertilize and Acclimatize
If you want to move your tree outside in the warm months, make sure to place it in semi-shaded spot for a few days before full sun exposure. This will prevent scorching the tender leaves. Plus, you’ll have a gorgeous addition to a patio, porch, or walkway. In the outside growing months, feed your citrus every three weeks with a balanced organic fertilizer. In the fall and winter, feed every six weeks to two months.
The most exciting moment in you and your tree’s life has come! Plump fruits are ready for the pluck, and for your culinary creations. Once the citrus reaches its full color, test for ripeness by squeezing the rind. If it softens slightly at the touch, it’s picking time!
Goodbye grocery store runs. Hello fresh fruit. You can now bask in the freedom of picking delectable citrus from the comfort of your own living room!
Pruning roses never looks easy, unforgiving thorns and unruly stalks can be a nightmare for the novice. Cutting away the wrong branch or pruning too much has killed many a gardener’s precious beauties. However, with Knockout Roses, the hours of meticulous cuts comes to an end. Forgiving in nature the Knockouts are sturdy enough to withstand heavy pruning. Typically they can survive even the worst of snips and still produce blooms that every gardener strives to make. You’ll be a pro without the years of pruning practice.
Ready to look like an expert?
Here’s what you need:
• Bypass pruners
• Rose gloves with long cuffs
• Lysol or bleach (to sterilize the pruners)
If you just planted your Knockout Roses, congratulations! You can neglect the bush for one to two years. Most experts say to wait until the second or third growing season before pruning. This ensures the plant will be mature before cutting commences. Typically, your rose bush is an adult when the plant is four feet high and four feet wide.
After that, your first foray into pruning will begin in the early spring. A great time to start is when the yellow forsythias are in bloom. Also, if the buds are swelling, but there is no new growth, then you need to find your pruning shears.
Double Knockout Roses are vigorous growers, and they will spread out before you know it. It’s best to cut back the bush by about a third to a half of its growing size. This allows the plant to forgo putting its energy towards foliage and focus on the desired blooms. Use the “two foot rule,” which means to cut the plant down to a certain size, and it will grow back two feet during the growing season. If you want a three foot plant, then trim it down to one foot in the spring.
Dip your pruners in a household cleaner to ensure that disease doesn’t pay a visit. Make each cut at a 45 degree angle. Cut healthy shoots back by a third to a half. Anything more can stunt the roses. Also, cut out interior growth to provide ideal air circulation and keep diseases away, plus creates an ascetic look. Remember to snip away any canes (the spindly looking branches) that are overlapping.
Also it’s important to remember, no bare hand likes thorns. Get the best rose gloves possible to avoid unwanted scratches.
The Dreaded Three D’s
In the summer, your mantra should be to deter the “Three D’s”: dead, diseased, and damaged wood. Summer is perfect for easy trimming and the majority of your work will be to remove the dreadful D’s from your roses’ daily life. Also, feel free to deadhead the flowers by cutting just above the five-leaflet leaf below the flower cluster. Even though your Knockouts are self-cleaning you can have a much prettier bush by disposing of old flowers. Most rose enthusiasts go for a dome look in the summer by cutting back new shoots and canes. However, be careful not to become the vigilant pruner in the summer, since over-cutting can be disastrous in the extreme sun!
If you had enough of the spring and summer prune, an autumn cut is not entirely necessary. Although, if you just want that extra prettiness even in the cooler times then go for it! Prune up to one-third the height of plant if it grew vigorously during the growing season. Right after you cut, make sure to fertilize the plant to avoid any kind of shock.
To you can prepare it for the winter, add up to a four inch layer of mulch to protect during the chilly months ahead.
That’s it. You’re happy. Your roses are happy. Your neighbors are envious.
You have rose envy. Every yard or botanical garden you walk by has a flourish of rose bushes that dazzle your eye and raise your jealousy. You want your garden to have those same bursts of reds, pinks, and yellows. But, you fear the work involved.
You think that hours of backbreaking work like shoveling hole after hole of heavy dirt is not worth it. Then there’s the hours of upkeep. Plants this pretty are sure to require more maintenance than you have time for.
No! Double Knockout Roses are the easy-does-it gardener’s dream come true. Not only can they stand up to harsh winters and unforgiving suns, they also keep greedy insects and debilitating diseases away. The best part? They are easy to plant and fertilize at the get-go. No back trouble. No sweaty workouts in the blazing sun. In fifteen to thirty minutes, your Knockout Roses will be sitting pretty in the garden, ready to reward with bloom after bloom of dazzling colors.
Tools you’ll need:
• Gardening gloves (no holes preferred)
• Tape measure (for spacing)
• Seaweed fertilizer
• A sunny location
Next, purchase your Knockout Roses in your desired colors. Pick out a sunny spot in the garden that gets at least four to eight hours of light each day. Anything less will sadden your roses and they will not grow to their full potential. If planting multiple clusters, space your plants no more than 30 inches apart. Anything more will result in the loss of the hedge look. Less than 20 inches will restrict your roses’ growth.
Avoid clay if possible. You want a loamy well-draining soil since roses hate wet feet. The roots will rot, and your precious plants will die. If clay is the only option, apply green sand fertilizer into your chosen hole and mix around with a shovel or pitchfork. This potassium rich addition will break up heavy soils.
Easy Digs It
Dig a hole that’s six inches wider and six inches deeper than your root ball. While you’re digging, immerse your rose roots in a half strength seaweed fertilizer. Set aside the dug dirt in a wheelbarrow. Apply a small mound of the dirt back into the hole. Place your new roses into the hole and delicately spread the roots across the hole. Leave the roots just above the soil level if you’re in a warm climate. Place the roots just under the soil level if old man winter is a frequent visitor in the cold months. Apply another helping of half strength seaweed fertilizer.
Add a rich compost (avoid cow manure since the roots can burn from the contact). Gently compress the soil down well, but don’t make it so compact that the roses can’t breathe. Water well and keep the soil moist for the first several months until the roses establish. If you need to make a moisture check, stick your finger down into the soil. If the dirt is dry more than an inch, then grab your watering can or trusty hose. Avoid using a rose fertilizer for the first month or so to avoid burning the roots.
Once the days warm up, spread a layer of mulch (about two inches thick) around thent
Then…oh, wait, that’s it! Your Knockout Roses are now ready to hog all the attention in your garden. Now you can sit back and watch the flower display commence.
Plus, no more jealous jaunts in the neighborhood.
Ferns come in numerous varieties. Their variation in their foliage is fascinating and they have incredible diversity. From the delicate colors of the Japanese Painted Fern to the dramatic new growth of the Cinnamon Stick Fern, ferns are stunningly beautiful plants.
What ferns need
Widely planted and generally hardy, ferns don’t ask for much. They need moist, loamy soil that drains well and dries slightly between waterings. They prefer shade to protect the sensitive fronds so they don’t scorch but they need a bit of morning light or filtered sun. Add a little nitrogen-based fertilizer to their watering scheduling and they will grow happily.
Indoor ferns are very popular houseplants since they stay green and full year-round. House ferns like the Boston Fern are happy to live the winter inside but can also spend the warmer months outside.
Be careful with the amount of light you give an indoor fern. However, once you find the right kind of light, your fern will want plenty of it. Look for a spot that gets indirect or filtered light. Try putting your hand in the light and look at the shadow it leaves. The edges should be fuzzy and the shadow should be a bit light in color. (The official description says the light should be between 1100 and 1800 foot candles, a measurement of light.)
Indoor ferns grow best when it’s warm but not hot. The range from 73 to 86 degrees is where they are happiest. Indoor air can sometimes be a little dry for ferns so consider spritzing them with a light mist of water once or twice a week or use a cool mist humidifier and keep them away from heat vents and radiators.
Despite their need for moist air, don’t be tempted to overwater. Ferns do not like wet feet and can be easily damaged by fungus.
Heavy soil, damp soil, dry shade: these are the toughest spots to fill in a garden but ferns don’t mind any of them. Hardy outdoor ferns are the epitome of the low maintenance garden plant. All they ask it that their roots be in the shade and that they be watered regularly. Most outdoor ferns prefer a neutral to alkaline soil but there are acid-loving exceptions.
When ferns become crowded, they need to be divided. This is true for both houseplants and garden plants. The process is the same for most ferns. Remove the plant from the pot or dig up the clump from the garden. Using a sharp spade or knife, cut the root ball in half leaving a part of the crown whole in each section. Replant immediately and keep moist, but not wet.
Once you see how easy these beautiful plants are to grow, you might just fall in love with green.
If you’ve ever flipped through a gardening website, magazine or book, you’ve probably seen the term “specimen plant” but you might not know what it means. A specimen plant is usually something interesting or different in the garden that is planted alone for an ornamental effect. It may be grouped with other plants, but there will be only one of the specimen plant in the arrangement.
A specimen plant is the opposite of a bedding plant, edging or border plant. These are planted in mass groupings. A specimen is something special, a plant that your eye will single out as an item of interest. It will be “center stage” in the garden.
Specimen plants are used as focal points in the garden. They can be used to create something interesting for the eye in an otherwise blank section. They can add height or drama to a blank space. They might bring color to a green space. There are any number of ways a gardener might use a specimen plant.
Trees are often used as specimen plants. They can help give dimension to a lawn and shade to a home. Blooming trees can add a great deal of color and fragrance to a landscape. A tree can balance the architecture of the structure as well. Here are just a few colorful or interesting trees to use as specimen plants.
- Crepe Myrtle. Summer blooming, medium sized, vase shaped tree available in several colors.
- Tulip Poplar. Fast growing and tall, offers brilliant yellow fall color as well as big spring blooms.
- Weeping Willow. Graceful, cascading branches give interesting texture where there is plenty of water.
A shrub can also be used as a specimen plant in the garden. Shrubs can serve as an anchor for a planting bed. They can decorate a mailbox or highlight a gate. A few notable specimen shrubs are listed below.
- Snowball viburnum. Medium sized shrub with big, long lasting, globe-shaped flower clusters.
- Gardenia. Medium to small evergreen shrub with extremely fragrant, waxy, white blooms.
- Burning Bush Euonymus. Medium sized shrub with brilliant scarlet fall color.
Many plants can serve as specimen plants when properly placed in a garden bed. They will not have the showy drama of a larger shrub or tree but by properly placing a plant, it can have a lot of impact. Try using a plant in a bright color in a bed of green ground cover. A textural grass could serve the purpose as well. Perhaps a specimen vine could cover an arbor or climb a trellis for an eye-catching effect. Here are a few interesting plants that could serve as specimen plants.
- Clematis. Visually interesting, textural and colorful blooms available in many colors on a twining vine.
- Elephant ear. Huge leaves and tall stalks available in several sizes and colors.
- Cinnamon fern. Unusually shaped new growth resembling cinnamon sticks in a uniquely sun-tolerant fern.
If there’s a spot in your garden or planting bed that needs a little extra something, consider finding an interesting specimen plant. Just make sure that the sunlight and water needs of the specific plant will be met in the space before you buy.
There are very, very few plants that can thrive in any light conditions. Typically, they favor either full sun or mostly shade with a varying tolerance for doses of the opposite. The gardener needs to carefully asses and consider the available light in his outdoor space before buying plants. This is especially important when purchasing perennials, which can cost more because they return in the next growing season. If you don’t know a plant’s needs, it probably won’t thrive and it may not even live. Make sure you know the proper place for your perennials.
Sunlight will naturally vary to some during the course of a day or over the span of a year due to cloudy days and other weather patterns. However, a gardener can usually determine the average exposure a particular area receives without much trouble.
- Full sun. Full sun is defined as 6 or more hours of sun exposure in a day. This includes open areas of lawn and areas not blocked by walls or structure. Perennial for full sun include daylilies, sedum and salvia.
- Partial sun or partial shade. Used interchangeably, this category receives anywhere from 3 to 6 hours of sun exposure. If it is on the lower end of the range, we typically say “partial shade” and the higher end is referred to as “partial sun”. Partial sun/shade perennials include holly fern, ajuga and some hostas.
- Dappled sun/shade. An area of dappled sun or shade is usually under the cover of high deciduous trees, as in a wooded area or beneath an established oak. It gets several hours sun but in a filtered way.
- Full shade. Receiving less than 3 hours of direct sun exposure in a day, a full shade area is limited in what light it receives. The sun may be somewhat blocked by your home or thickly wooded. Some hostas and the painted fern like full shade.
You can purchase color changing exposure meters to help measure your available light. They can cost just a few dollars for a simple device or quite a bit more for a fancy digital version. You can also map your garden yourself for free.
Just make a rough sketch of your garden on paper and check the light at several intervals during the day. Use a pencil to shade in areas where the garden is no longer getting direct sun. Check at least four times: early morning, midmorning, early afternoon and late afternoon. More frequent checks will give you better results.
Once you know how much sun your planting beds are getting, you can begin to choose perennials to fill them. Look at the tags on plants or the descriptions if you are ordering online. Many will give a range, like “full sun to partial”. This means the plant has a preference for the first but will tolerate the second. (Keep in mind, full sun perennial will need a little more water than shade.)
Putting your perennials in the right place will help you grow the lush garden you want.
Blueberry season may be a few months away but if you want a bountiful crop this summer, you’ve got to get busy in the spring. There are many spring tasks that gardeners can take on to improve their summer harvest. If you aren’t already growing blueberry bushes, spring is also the time to plant!
Benefits of blueberry bushes
The blueberry is an attractive, moderately sized shrub with pretty foliage and flowers. A typical bush can grow to a mature size of 4 to 12 feet tall, depending on the variety. It makes a good landscape plant on these merits alone. But this bush also produces one of the tastiest, most healthful berries you can eat. Known for their amazing antioxidant properties, they may also fight cholesterol and cancer cells.
Planting a blueberry bush
Spring is the best time to plant a blueberry bush. Choose a spot that gets a day’s worth of full sun. These shrubs need the sun’s energy to flower and produce sweet, plump fruits. They prefer a slightly acidic soil. A pH measurement of around 4.0 to 4.5 is considered ideal. (Soil testing can help you determine your soil’s pH levels.)
This amazing shrubs isn’t picky about the soil outside of its pH. It actually likes a little clay or rocky soil so many gardeners will have success with blueberries where other plants fail. As with any other plant, work some organic matter and compost into the planting area. Give the bushes some space, around 5 feet between shrubs should do.
Choosing a variety
There are many varietals of the blueberry plant. Some are hardier than other and mature sizes can vary. Pick the one that is right for your landscape. Here are a few dependable and popular options:
- Rabbit Eye. A big shrub at up to 12 feet, this blueberry bush produces early fruits but need to be planted in multiples for pollination.
- Pink Lemonade. This fun variety has fruit that is bright pink when ripe and is small enough to be grown in a container.
- Sweetheart. This blueberry “refruits”, producing in both summer and fall.
- Toro. Toro is a good choice for northern gardeners as it is hardy in zones 4 through 7.
Caring for blueberry bushes
If you have existing shrubs, spring is the time to gently prune and fertilize. Buds will have formed in the previous summer and fall on second year wood so a hard pruning will damage fruit production. Keep this in mind before you cut. Simply remove dead wood and trim back slightly if air circulation is needed.
This is also a good season to plan for the protection of your harvest. Most animals won’t bother them but birds are especially fond of blueberries and can fly off with most of your berries. Netting is an inexpensive and fairly effective means of keeping the berries on the bush till you harvest.
A little work in the spring will bring you a bumper crop of sweet and nutritious fruit when summer finally arrives.
When creating, changing or making additions to your landscape, it’s best to have a clearly defined style in mind. Choosing a gardening style will help you pick plants that complement each other as well as your home. You don’t have to adhere strictly to a single style, but keeping one in mind will help direct your gardening.
Choosing a style
There are a number of landscape styles that homeowners and gardeners can choose. They range from structured and formal to nearly wild. Each has its own beauty so there is not “wrong” choice. However, each also has its own challenges so it’s best to choose wisely when first planning a garden so you don’t end up removing valuable plants later.
Consider the architecture of your home and neighborhood before choosing a style. You should also keep your climate zone in mind. For example, a formal rose garden will be very hard to grow in a desert climate.
Formal style. A formal garden is structured and orderly. It is typically symmetrical and based on geometrical shapes and right angles. Plantings are neatly pruned and walls or paths are often used to define the space.
This style is elegant and traditional. It works well with Georgian style homes and other symmetrical architecture styles. Formal garden rely on traditional plants like roses and clipped privet hedges for color and structure.
This style requires a good deal of upkeep. Pruning and tidying will be frequent tasks.
Informal style. Informal style uses curved lines and gives a more relaxed feeling than a formal garden. Softer mass plantings create a more naturalistic setting but this style still conforms somewhat to a plan.
Informal gardens complement a wide variety of current architectural trends. They more relaxed nature of this style allows asymmetry to balance transitional style homes. It still requires upkeep, though less than a formal garden.
Cottage or English Garden style. A cottage garden is loose and free flowing. It has its roots in the formal English style, but is lacking in the structure and rigid lines that characterize formal gardening. This style often incorporates culinary herbs to be used in cooking.
Cottage gardens are low maintenance and colorful. However, they can easily go from whimsical to downright messy. Cottage plants are often perennial or annuals that reseed themselves so the garden takes less care. This style works well with cottage-style homes and beach houses but will look a bit odd if paired with a more formal home.
Asian style. Minimal in appearance but highly planned, Asian style gardens seek to replicate all of nature in a small, controlled space. They typically incorporate all the elements of nature including plants, trees, stones and water elements.
This style can look bare to the Western eye but there is beauty in the simplicity. Elements are in balance but not symmetrical. It may not complement Western architecture as well as some other styles but it is often very easy to maintain.
Eco style. Also called xeriscaping, this style is designed to make use of available resources without taxing the natural environment. Use of drought-tolerant plants is common as well as native grasses.
Extremely easy to maintain, this style has a natural look. Some of the plants common to xeriscaping might be prickly and unwise for small children, like cacti and saw toothed grasses. However, this style needs no supplemental watering and almost no maintenance after planting. It is ideal for desert climates and coastal areas.
No matter what style you choose, make sure it works with your climate and native soils. While there is a lot that can be done to amend and alter the soil, you will always be fighting Mother Nature. Few gardeners win against this formidable foe.
When we think of our gardens, we often limit our perspective to a single sense: our vision. We consider how a plant will look in a space, how a tree will enhance the appearance of a home or how the neighbors will enjoy a bloom’s color. However, this is a restrictive way of gardening.
A garden can engage all of our senses, not just our sight. We can touch the velvet petal of a rose as well as see its deep, rich color. We can hear the rustle of the junipers and the birds that call them home. We can taste the herbs and vegetables we grow. And we can smell the incredible scents that a garden encompasses from sharp pine to sweet floral to spicy herb.
Principals of Scent Gardening
One interesting and popular trend in garden design for the senses is scent gardening. Scent gardening is planning the fragrances of a space rather than leaving them to chance. It prioritizes the perfume of a plant over its appearance. This approach has been used to create amazing gardens that are equally appreciated by those with typical vision as well as those who are visually impaired. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden created the first example back in 1955.
Garden designers can spend vast amounts of time planning a scent garden. There are so many options for fragrant plants and trees. There are plants that only perfume the air when in bloom (like a rose) and also those that give off a scent when crushed, cut or brushed (like rosemary). Add in the changing choices for changing seasons and you could be in for a seriously long planning session!
At-home Scent Gardening
Most home gardeners won’t have the know-how or the time to create a complete, four-season scent garden. However, we can incorporate some of the principals in our own gardens. Here are a few ideas for the at-home scent garden.
- Plant a fragrant shrub beneath your windows. A gardenia makes an attractive foundation shrub but its scent is even more beautiful drifting in through an open window.
- Consider the seasons. While a wisteria vine will give you an entire spring season of fragrance, its blooms will be spent by midsummer. Plan for another specimen to take over the job of pleasing your nose for the next season.
- Remember to add variety. While you might think of sweet-smelling flowers first, other plants can also provide a wide range of scents. An herb like creeping thyme could be used to fill the gaps in a rock walkway, providing a burst of spicy scent with each step.
Don’t limit your garden to a visual experience. Consider all your senses when you plan your garden this spring.
Every gardener, no matter what his skill level, could use a little help to get a better result. Whether you’re talking about a little advice from a neighbor or some seeds passed along, we all like to feel like we’ve got the inside track to a great looking yard. One way to get in on some great inside information is to go underground and test your soil.
Your soil is the garden’s source of both nutrients and moisture. Every plot of soil has a different profile and personality. Even in a small yard, the soil can differ drastically from one side to the other. Soil testing give you the information you need to get you garden performing at its best. A soil test can tell you where you need to amend your soil and with what materials. It can also help you decide what to plant.
What is soil testing and why do I need it?
Soil testing is the process of analyzing what nutrients are present in the sample provided. The results can help you decide what fertilizer(s) or amendments are necessary to give your soil optimal balance and fertility.
Is it expensive to test my soil?
Soil testing is generally quite reasonably priced. A reliable and fairly comprehensive test can cost as little as $5-$10 in many areas. Testing kits may be available from your local cooperative extension office. (A link to the United States Department of Agriculture’s list of cooperative extension offices can be found here.) You may also be able to find private agencies locally that offer similar services.
What will a soil test tell me?
A typical test will tell you the pH of your soil, its nutrient content and its percentage of organic matter. The readings your test reveals will tell you what to do about the conditions. One thing a test will not likely tell you is the level of nitrogen in your soil. This can change very quickly and very dramatically. You may have to request this test and pay a little more to have it performed.
How do I use the information I get back?
Most flowers and vegetables like a soil that is slightly acidic. (A neutral soil level, neither acidic nor alkaline, is 7.0.) So if you want to grow these and your soil is alkaline (more than 7.0) you would add materials to lower that number like garden sulfur. If your number is too acidic, you might add lime to counteract the acidity. Many soil test reports will give you specific advice on what to add to balance your soil.
How do I collect a sample of my soil for an accurate test result?
- Use a trowel and bucket that are not zinc-coated. (Zinc-coated instruments will skew your results.)
- Remove the surface layer. Scrape back mulch and leaf litter.
- Dig out a wedge about 6 to 8 inches deep and set it aside.
- Scrape about an inch of soil from the bottom of the hole and drop it in your bucket.
- Replace the wedge you set aside.
- Repeat steps 2-5 in *various locations of the garden. About 5 to 10 digs (depending on the size of the yard or garden) scattered across the testing area should do.
- Mix the contents of the bucket together well so it becomes a single sample.
- Fill the soil test vial, bag or other container and fill out the accompanying paperwork then drop it in the mail as directed by your testing agency.
*Certain spots should not be included in your testing sample. Back-filled areas like ditches, soil under fence lines, wet soil, heavily or recently fertilized areas and patches of soil where grass or plants have died suddenly should be avoided.
Once you have received results, you should have a better understanding of your soil and garden. You can use this information to choose plants, schedule and choose fertilizing treatments and care for you garden. It’s a big payoff for a little bit of effort. Get the inside dirt on your soil this spring.
Creating a backyard orchard is a wonderful way to utilize your landscape. Planting your own fruit trees is one more step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. You can also use your harvest to support you community. In addition, they make excellent shade trees and are beautiful to see.
Many gardeners find that their fruiting trees and shrubs, once established, provide more produce than the gardener or his family can consume. Think about how often you’ve been given a few extra tomatoes or zucchini. Even a single fruit tree can produce more than you can eat, even if you preserve the fruit. Community food banks and local shelters are often the grateful beneficiaries of gardeners’ over-production. If you choose to plant fruiting shrubs or trees, please consider calling some of these charities to see if they might have needs you can fill during the harvest season.
Before you harvest, you first must plant. Planting fruit trees and shrubs isn’t drastically different from any other tree. Here are the basic instructions for planting a tree.
Selecting the location.
Fruit trees needs a lot of sun. The more sun, the better! The light from the sun helps the tree develop the sugar that will make your crop sweet and tasty. If your tree or shrub doesn’t get enough sun, it may not produce good fruit or it may not give you a harvest at all. Find a sunny place for your fruit tree. Most will need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight per day and well-drained soil.
Consider the mature size of your tree when you plant. A rabbit eye blueberry bush may seem small when first purchased but it will be about 10-12 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide at full maturity. It’s not a small plant like a strawberry. A large tree like an Arbequina Olive can be 20 feet tall and 12 wide. Give your tree or shrub plenty of clearance from your home and any other structure, power lines and other trees too.
Set the tree in a bucket of water while you prepare its new home. This will allow the roots to absorb some much-needed water before it experiences the inevitable (and hopefully short-lived) transplant shock. Cut through the covering, usually burlap or a similar fabric, in an X-shape to help encourage the roots to explore.
Cut the sod from the surface in a circle about twice the diameter of the root ball and put it in the compost heap. Once this area is clear of sod and weeds, you can start digging. Dig a hole big enough so that root ball can sit in it without touching the sides. One and a half times to two times the size of the root ball is a good rule of thumb. Make a pile of the top soil first (usually darker in color) and then one of the subsoil (usually lighter in color). Rough up the sides of hole with your shovel or pick so the roots can find places to grab.
Water the hole. Give it some moisture now. The tree will need it and watering will help soften the soil at the bottom. Give the hole a quick rinse and don’t let it flood.
Locate the graft if your tree has one. This is the point where the root stock and cultivar have been grown together. If it bows at the graft, point the bowed area towards the prevailing wind.
Place, don’t drop, the tree in the planting hole. Layer the soil back into the hole, subsoil first and then top soil. The graft should be at least 6 inches above the surface. You may need to stake it loosely and low on the trunk for stability and flexibility.
Water, DON’T fertilize.
Water the tree in well so that there are no air holes in the soil. Keep it well watered for the first several months. Supplement the rainfall until the end of the tree’s first summer when it begins to go dormant. Don’t fertilize just after planting. The roots are too new and sensitive for fertilizer.
Your tree may need horticulture oil or other protection against insects. Ask at your local garden center or county extension office for recommendations for your zone and specific location.
Some trees and shrubs will produce in the first growing season, but many take a year to become established. Be patient and wait. The results will be worth it.
Soon you’ll be sharing the fruits of your labor with you family and friends and hopefully your community as well.
Spring can often bring unpredictable weather. Storms can come up suddenly in any area of the country and cause damage to your garden. A little protection and a few preventative measures can prevent plant loss and save you both money and time. Here are a few of the most common weather related issues and a few ways you can counteract their effects.
A late cold snap can kill plants and your gardening budget in one fell swoop. Fruiting shrubs, perennials and annuals alike are sensitive to frost and can be severely damaged by a late or “killing” frost. Here are few tips to keep from losing plants to frost.
- Plant in the right place. Don’t plant cold-sensitive plants where they will be encouraged to bud early, before the last frost has passed. For example, plant a blueberry bush on a north-facing slope where it will be the last to feel the effects of spring.
- Use later blooming cultivars. There are usually early, middle and late blooming versions of a plant. Research before you buy.
- If all else fails, cover them up. If the forecast calls for a late frost or freeze and your shrubs or plants are vulnerable, cover them at night. Use newspaper or a cheap, thin cloth like muslin instead of plastic. These will allow the plant to breath and won’t burn it if you’re a little late getting up in the morning. Get the covers off the plant as early as you can.
Powerful winds can wreak havoc on a tree. Limbs can be twisted off or they can even be ripped from the ground. Many spring thunderstorms come with high winds and can produce a particularly strong wind called a microburst.
A microburst is a localized column of rapidly sinking air. The air drops straight down till it hits the ground, then it goes straight out. One can last for a few seconds or a few minutes and it can rip a tree right out of the ground.
Spring is also tornado season in many states. The winds produced from a powerful tornado are far too strong to be fought with simple measures so these solutions will be geared more towards the less severe thunderstorm winds.
- Choose trees wisely. If you live in an area prone to windy conditions, be sure to pick deeply rooted trees that are less likely to be uprooted or trees with strong trunks.
- Plant in the right place. Plant the trees on the side of your home that is best protected from the typical direction of the wind.
- Don’t get fancy. Trees and shrubs prunes into unnatural shapes are more susceptible to breakage. Avoid complicated topiaries unless you have them in pots that be brought indoors in bad weather.
- Choose an alternative. Some plants like certain native grasses do very well in windy conditions. Lower growing shrubs may also work better.
Spring storms can leave puddles in your garden. If you have low lying spots or heavy soil, the water could stick around for a while. Many plants like clematis simply won’t tolerate standing water.
- Amend the soil. Add organic matter and till it into the existing soil to improve drainage.
- Divert the water. Add a wet weather creek bed or French drain to divert the water from the area.
- Pick plants that don’t mid wet feet. Irises, astilbes and hydrangeas love the extra drink and red twig dogwoods and hostas will tolerate a little flooding.
Prevention is the key to getting ahead of weather issues. Keep some old newspapers on hand for late frosts and plan your landscaping for the weather your zone produces. It’s much easier to plan ahead that pay for repairs.
Is your garden looking a little flat? Bring some of those blooms up to eye level with an arbor and flowering vines. Many flowering vines are easy to grow and can bring a huge visual impact to an otherwise one-dimensional landscape. Spring is a good season to get started on an arbor and plant a beautiful vine.
Arbors take many forms. They can be as simple as a sheet of lattice attached to a wall or as complicated as the builder’s skill allows. There are numerous plans available online, some are available for free and some for a fee. Alternately, you could check out your local library or home improvement store for building plans. If you don’t happen to have construction or carpentry skills, the home improvement store may have some ready-made options or contractors available to hire.
Choose your spot
The first task is to choose where you want to place your arbor. Traditional placement is often arching over a path or a gate. You can also have a flat version dressing a blank wall. Putting one over a patio can provide a bit of dappled shade to relive the summer heat. Just don’t forget that your arbor will also be visible in the winter so make sure it will look appealing in all seasons.
The spot you pick should have good soil for the vines that will soon be growing over it. You can provide this with large pots or planters at the base or by amending the soil. Don’t till up the earth so much that you no longer have a solid foundation for your arbor.
Choose your vine
This is probably the most fun you’ll have in this process. The variety of vines is amazing and each one seems more beautiful and fantastic than the next. From low maintenance ivies to fragrant yellow jasmine to the showy purple queen bougainvillea, the choices seem endless. Here are a few things to take into consideration before making a purchase.
- Soil conditions.
- Light requirements.
- Care and training needs.
- Hardiness and viability in your zone.
- Required support.
Read up on the vines you like before buying. Make your choice on the facts, not just the pretty blooms. Here are a few vines that are reasonable easy to grow and tolerate many conditions.
Vines for shady spots.
- Purple Wisteria. Fragrant with masses of lavender blooms.
- Climbing hydrangea. Thick and lush with delicate white clusters of flowers.
- Virginia Creeper. Does not flower but grows thickly and turns brilliant scarlet in the fall.
- Star Jasmine. Highly fragrant with small, waxy white blooms and shiny dark leaves.
Vines for full sun.
- Henryi Clematis. Stunning brilliant white blooms in a fast growing vine. This one likes its top in the sun but its “feet” in shade.
- Scarlet Honeysuckle. Exotic fragrance, fast growing and attracts hummingbirds.
- Passionflower. Otherworldly purple blooms that defy description.
- Morning Glory. Exceptionally easy to grow with purple blooms that only last a day, opening in the morning and twisting closed by lunchtime.
No matter what you choose, planting a vine on a vertical arbor will add dimension and drama to your landscape.
Once spring arrives, it’s time to get back out in the garden. Gardening is relaxing and can help lower your blood pressure. Gardening is good exercise and the results will make you smile all season long.
There are a few tasks you might want to tick off your to-do list early in the season. A little preventative maintenance now will save a lot of headaches once it’s too hot out to fix a problem. So take a few afternoons to complete some of these early spring gardening projects.
Spring is a good season to take care of any structural issues in your garden. The weather isn’t hot enough to drive you back inside in the middle of the day. Materials won’t typically be in short supply this early in the season either.
Check the wooden structures in your garden like arbors, fences, gazebos and decks for signs of insect infestation and rot. In the early spring, your perennial plants won’t be in the way and you won’t have to worry about your annuals being trampled.
Clean out the waterways in your landscaping. Clear the gutters and downspouts in the early spring. Remove any debris from your drainage ditches or dry creek beds. Clear out all the winter rubbish and get them ready for spring showers.
Weeding is the least favorite chore of many a gardener but it is vital to the health of your plants. If you get rid of the weeds while they are young and have weaker roots, they are easier to pull out.
Your trees may need to be pruned in the early spring. A word of caution is needed on this topic, however. Many flowering and fruiting trees have already set buds by springtime and should not be pruned. Cutting back can mean losing your harvest or spring bloom.
Spring is a good season for pruning late blooming trees like the crepe myrtle and for cutting back hardwoods and evergreens. Make sure you trim back any branches that are cracked, diseased or broken. Get rid of branches overhanging your roof so pests don’t use them to gain access to your eaves or attic.
Some shrubs like hydrangeas can also be cut back in the spring. You will be able to tell exactly where the winterkill ends and new buds have formed. Allowing these shrubs to bud first tells you exactly where to prune.
Get ahead of pest problems by patrolling your landscape thoroughly before they become active. Look for signs like the tunnels of termites and old hornets nests and take appropriate actions. Apply horticultural oil to shrubs and trees with histories of aphid, scale and spider mite problems.
Take advantage of the beautiful spring weather to get started on your gardening chores. When you see the results, you’ll know it was well worth your time.
There are plenty of reasons to choose groundcover plants. A landscape plan just won’t look finished if there are bare spots or exposed roots. Groundcovers can address a lot of issues: filling in vacant areas, covering the bare “ankles” of taller plants and shrubs and minimizing garden maintenance. Choosing the best one will depend on which issue you need to address.
There are spots in the garden that may not be as lush as you’d like. This can happen when the soil is a little problematic or there is a transition from one bed to another. Steep slopes can also be a planting challenge.
Groundcover plants can address these challenges. Steep slopes can be conquered with hardy ground covers like junipers. These tough evergreens will grip the soil and prevent erosion. Vinca is another hardy plant for hillsides with variegated growth that blooms in pretty periwinkle from spring till fall.
Vinca will also tolerate less-than-ideal soil conditions. Another happy-go-lucky groundcover is Pink Muhly Grass. This tough grass is a drought-tolerant problem solver. Its rich color and interesting texture provide interest year-round.
Filling In the Gaps
Taller perennials and shrubs make a big statement above ground but their legs aren’t always pretty. A shrub’s trunk and a perennial’s stems can be camouflaged with groundcovers. A fluffy favorite is Emerald Pink Creeping Phlox. This plant isn’t fussy and fills in the lower layers of your landscape with a carpet of brilliant color every spring. The entire plant will be enveloped in blooms if you plant it in full to part-sun.
Some gardeners prefer to enjoy their landscape rather than work in it. Investing in plants that require little in the ways of care is their first priority. Groundcovers typically have few needs other than water, soil and sun. They also help smother out weeds and made the landscape a little easier to manage.
Carpet roses provide a big impact with a small amount of maintenance. Drift Roses are easy to grow and bursting with color. They are hardy and disease-resistant repeat-bloomers that are willing to spread.
Investing in a good groundcover will make your landscape even more beautiful. Assess your needs to choose the best one for your yard.
During the dark days of winter, a garden can get a little gloomy. With so few flowers to enjoy, tending a winter garden can become something of a chore. A few bright blooms can really perk up a plant lover’s spirits and help bring a little of spring’s glory to the worst of winter.
Bulb-borne flowers are some of the brightest and most dramatic plants of springtime. They can also make winter glow with scent and color. When forced indoors, bulbs make spring seem like it’s just around the corner.
Forcing bulbs isn’t as harsh as it sounds. It’s simply the process of coaxing them into bloom before their proper season arrives. Think of it as tricking them in to thinking that spring has already arrived.
The process of forcing is fairly simple and straightforward. Just choose a variety that works well for forcing and a container that is appropriate for the bulb. There are specialized vases that are made just for this purpose but they aren’t strictly necessary.
Most bulbs will require a chilling period in order to get a full bloom. Ask your grower if their bulbs come pre-chilled or if you will need to start the process at home. An unheated garage or cellar works in cooler areas but in warmer climates, bulbs should go in a fridge. Make sure onions and apples are not stored in the same fridge as the ethylene gas they produce may damage the bulbs. Here are a few bulbs that will give you great results.
Daffodils are an excellent choice for forcing. They are typically very eager to bloom and grow well indoors. They require a lot of light to bloom well so choose a spot that will make the most of the winter light.
Try grouping a few bulbs in a pot and cover with just enough soil to reach the tips of the bulbs. Water enough to moisten the soil but be very careful not to overwater. Their vivid yellow blooms of a variety like Dutch Master will bring sunshine back to your home long before the temperature rises.
Tulips are another bulb easily brought into bloom. They will also need a chilling. Find a very sunny window as these bulbs also like a lot of light. They come in a huge variety of colors, some are patterned with fancy stripes like Pink Petticoat and others, like Blue Moon, are painted in bold solids.
Tulips will bend significantly toward the light, both before and even after they are cut. Rotate the container every few days to get a strong and upright plant.
Perhaps the one of the most fragrant flower bulbs, the hyacinth can fill an entire room with scent from a single bulb. They are a classic forcing bulb that has been favored since Victorian times. Both their incredible perfume and the range of available colors have kept them popular. Hyacinths can be found in shades from pure white to bright pink to dee
p violet. These bulbs can be grown in nothing but water, making them very easy to force.
Start hyacinths in the dark with the base just touching water and keep the water level steady. Keep them a cool, dark spot for 4-6
weeks or until a good root system is established. Then bring them into bright light. The stems are hollow so you may need to stake them if they begin to flop.
When winter becomes dreary, don’t despair. Bring a little of spring’s joy into your home this winter with bulbs.
Don’t settle for another boring Mother’s Day bouquet of cut flowers! They’ll soon be forgotten once they begin to wilt a few days later. Surprise her with a lasting perennial rose bush that will be bursting with beautiful fragrant blooms for months on end, year after year.
Mom is guaranteed to experience thousands of blooms over the lifetime of these special hybrid roses that are a breeze to take care of.
Our Knockout Roses can bloom for up to nine months and present thousands of gorgeous, deliciously sweet-smelling flowers over the life of the bush. This rose bush is compact and perfect for any area of Mom’s garden, and will even exhibit some dramatic fall foliage.
Knockout Rose bushes are disease and pest resistant, hardy and adaptable. They’re so easy to grow, they practical take care of themselves. Choose from a variety of colors such as hot pink, snowy white, sunny yellow and ruby red.
For a unique and different landscaping design element entirely, offer Mom one of our stunning Knockout Rose Trees. They add vibrant blooms of color to Mom’s garden for six months out of the year, in a stunning tree form atop a small trunk.
This tree has all the same wonderful attributes of the Double Knockout Rose bush, but has been bred as an accent tree. As a plus, it can even be grown in a container for ornamental value on a patio or deck if Mom is tight on garden space.
Drift Rose bushes make another excellent choice when it comes to showing Mom how much you love her this Mother’s Day. Drift Rose bushes are delicate and lovely, super easy to grow and can be used in a variety of ways.
Since it is low-growing, Drift makes superb ground cover and is also perfect for growing in containers or window boxes where it can cascade over the side. Drift Roses come in a variety of brilliant colors and bloom from spring through fall.
The beauty of bestowing a perennial rose bush is that Mom is certain to remember when the gift was given every time she looks at it in her garden. It’s a present that certainly will carry memories and will bring a smile when she sees the bounty of blooms that arrive in an ongoing wave.
All three of these rose varieties are absolutely gorgeous, low maintenance and offer a lifetime of vibrant, vigorous blooms. Your Mom deserves the best, so give her a flowering perennial that will remind her of how much you love her every time she sees it bloom. For Mother’s Day delivery, order yours today.
Don’t bother with a floral bouquet that will die in a week, or the clichéd Easter Lily as an Easter gift. Instead, give the gift of a flowering perennial that will continue to delight. Check out these flowering perennials that burst with flowers… every year!
Knock Out Roses: Why would you give a bunch of cut roses when you know they won’t last long? For the same cost of a pricey bouquet, you can give a pot of our award winning Knock Out Roses that will persistently bloom year after year with little effort. Choose from Double Red and Double Pink Knock Out, sure to bring a massive pop of color in anyone’s garden. You can even choose white or yellow varieties, too.
Caradonna Salvia: Blooming from June through October every year, this Salvia is guaranteed to bring a wave of butterflies to any landscape. Wrap a bow around Caradonna and give it to your favorite nature lover, who will be enchanted by the hummingbirds that will come for a visit. Caradonna Salvia can also be enjoyed indoors, as flower cuttings can be taken and popped into a vase. Gorgeous deep purple spikey flowers! It doesn’t hurt that it’s drought resistant and deer are not a fan of this aromatic plant, too.
Clematis: You might think it a tad unusual to give a vine for an Easter gift, but trust us. Massive blooms take over these climbing vines, and they can easily be trained to scale most any trellis or mailbox for a cheery and welcoming sight. These perennials are truly not fussy and are very easy to for anyone to grow. Armandii Clematis happens to be evergreen in most zones, and has gorgeous white flowers. Jackmanii can handle shade and still send out three months worth of purple blossoms, while Henryii will enchant with blooms the entire summer.
Rosemary: If you’ve got an aspiring chef on your Easter gift list, then Rosemary is the herb plant that will certainly fit the bill. This fragrant beauty can even be grown on a sunny kitchen window sill and does not require lots of water to keep it happy. Whenever a sprig of Rosemary is needed for a recipe, simply snip it off with a sharp scissor and sprinkle it into any meal. Baked bread and Lamb dishes pair perfectly with a dash of fresh Rosemary, and it makes for an exquisite olive oil flavoring. You get cute purple blooms, too!
Lily: If you want to stick with tradition and gift a Lily, why not try something a bit more unusual than the expected white Easter Lily? Our Lily of the Nile comes in white, purple or blue and is truly a unique specimen. This perennial is extremely tough, plus drought and heat resistant. It can very easily be put into a pot and be brought indoors in winter. You won’t believe the birds and butterflies that will be attracted to this tropical looking gem. It produces a ton of flowers each summer, and the leaves are also very attractive when it is not in bloom.
Forget for a moment, the notion that America’s long-standing history with the beautiful Cherry Blossom Tree involves our first president chopping down one of these lovely specimens as a young child. Whether that account is fable or fact, we Americans cannot deny our deep-rooted devotion to this beloved tree.
At the turn of the 20th century, the mayor of Tokyo offered a gesture of friendship to the American people by bestowing us 3,000 sakura (Cherry Blossom Trees) to our nation’s capitol. Fast-forward about a hundred years, and you will still see this gesture celebrated each year for two weeks in April at the National Cherry Blossom Festival. At this time, the streets of Washington D.C. are literally carpeted in a blanket of delicate pastel pink, crimson and white flower petals.
So, what’s so special about the Cherry Blossom Tree? Take one look at the flowers on our Pink Weeping Cherry Tree and the answer will be quite apparent–these blossoms, in their varying shades of pale pink and crimson are graceful and wispy, and appear to be spraying out of the tree trunk like a blushing cascade of color.
Now picture this same tree with a blanket of snow white flowers, and you’re talking about the White Weeping Cherry Tree–truly as stunning and classy.
And if that’s not enough to convince you of America’s love affair with the Cherry Blossom Tree, consider our showy Kwanzan Cherry Tree with its clusters of fuchsia blossoms that gives the appearance that the tree is covered in miniature roses. If you love flowers, the Cherry Blossom Tree is a flowering superstar that becomes the centerpiece in your garden.
And what’s not to love? Cherry Blossom trees are relatively fast growing. They are hardy, easy to grow, and enjoy full sun best, but will tolerate partial shade. Plant one as a dramatic focal point or several around a patio or terrace, and you’ll find it provides aromatic and aesthetically pleasing décor all wrapped up in one glorious tree.
Remember, these deciduous trees are as eye-catching in the fall with their fiery bronze leaves as they are in the spring, when you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood with your ornamental Yoshino Cherry Tree blanketed in snow white blossoms.
It’s a no-brainer to consider one of our Cherry Blossom Trees for your next landscaping addition. It will add both beauty and value to your garden.
Set at the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, the Masters plays host to one of the most prestigious annual golf competitions in the world. Fans come to see the most talented golfers in the world, but stay to see the incredible blooming azaleas and perfectly manicured landscapes.
One part of that history is not just the talented players or the lush fairways, but the planting of azalea shrubs that began in 1931. In fact, the grounds were a former nursery that helped introduce many species of Azaleas into the US. Its legacy is still apparent, as many exquisite varieties of shrubs and trees still decorate the golf course today.
Though many might think of azaleas as a quintessential southern shrub, it by no means needs to be limited to being grown in southern gardens. Azaleas are very hardy and grow easily all around the country. They’re the perfect low-maintenance flowering shrub for just about any sheltered area.
Azaleas flower heavily for weeks and typically will only need deep watering if you happen to be in a drought. Otherwise, you can leave Azalea alone and let it strut its stuff with little help from you. It doesn’t even require pruning to flower! As a bonus, many azaleas are evergreen and can thrive all the way to zone 4 if you select the right variety.
It’s not hard to turn your yard into a beautiful landscape like Augusta National Golf Club. Just plant a row of encore along your home or property line for a sea of color. They like loose, well-drained soil, so if you’re putting them in clay or hard-packed dirt, simply amend it by adding some compost, peat or sand to your soil.
If you want easy-to-grow azaleas with a great punch of bright color, try our Conversation Piece Azalea that sports huge pink flowers with a white trim. Place it beside the Autumn Royalty Encore Azalea for a truly splashy combo that will provide a lively color display. Encore Azaleas will reward you with a whole season’s worth of blooms that is truly unusual when it comes to azaleas or any other flowering shrub.
Azaleas do best with mulch around their roots to guard them from cold in winter and to preserve some moisture in warm weather. You shouldn’t need to prune them except to shape it to your liking or to remove a dead branch. As a tip, if you do prune it- do so after the shrub is done flowering. Try to avoid pruning later than the end of July, as once the weather cools the shrub begins producing its buds for next year’s blossoms.
Almost every hole at the Masters Golf Tournament is named for a different plant or tree. For example, the 2nd is called Pink Dogwood, and the 10th is Camellia. So, if you happened to watch the tournament, we wouldn’t have been surprised to have learned that you were scanning the landscape to check out the gorgeous blooming azaleas for great gardening ideas.
Vertical Gardening adds life, depth, and a touch of whimsy to an otherwise horizontal existence in the garden. For people living in an apartment or small outdoor space, it also creates more space to grow your beloved plants and brings in a touch of artistic style. As an additional bonus, you are raising the plants up off the ground, preventing cats and some insects from damaging the plants and it thwarts rabbits from eating your bounty.
The godfather of vertical gardening, French Botanist, Patrick Blanc foresaw the need for creating a new way to grow and raise plants. This need led him to create the concept of vertical gardening. Since then, he has created living works of art on such structures as the Museum of Science and Industry in Paris and the French Embassy in New Delhi. His works are not only ingenious in their practicality, but they are also stunning visual displays.
Now our vertical garden will most likely not be as dramatic as a Patrick Blanc work, but it can still be both beautiful and functional. Here are a few basics that will allow your gardening creativity run wild…
First off – The Benefits
- Great for a small or limited space. With a vertical garden, you can turn even a concrete shared common area into a mini utopia.
- Avoid mutilation by fauna. As mentioned before, it discourages animals, such as cats and rabbits, from eating the plants or using them as their own personal privy.
- Create a work of Art. Vertical gardens provide depth and visual backdrops to an outdoor, as well as an indoor, space.
- Great for indoors. This type of garden also lends itself well to indoor spaces. An added benefit is that is cleans the stale indoor air and adds a touch of the outside into your home.
- Provides easy access to those with limitations. By bringing the plants within easy reach off the ground, vertical gardens allow many people the ability to garden. Just make sure to arrange them so that they are not too high.
Trellis & Teepee Stakes
Most people are familiar with trellises and teepee stakes to support the growth of vines and some vegetables. If this is a structure you use or have used in the past, then you have been vertical gardening without even knowing it. Trellises are wonderful for displaying flowering vines such as the Yellow Jasmine Vine on brick walls or as an outdoor room divider. Teepee stakes on the other hand can create depth in the outdoor space by lifting flowers and vegetables, such as zucchini and bell peppers, up off the ground. For heavier fruiting plants, such as melons, encase the ripening fruit in a net and hang from the supports. This will keep the weight of the vegetable from breaking it off from the stem and allow it to continue to grow. Another advantage to growing vegetables away from the ground is the fact that the side of the vegetable that would be touching the earth will not become white, and thus a more beautiful harvest.
Tubes may a bit unorthodox, but create a new and unique way to grow plants vertically. One plant that is well suited to life growing from holes cut in a PVC pipe is strawberries. Just cut holes along a tube of PVC pipe, cap one end, fill with dirt, cap the other end, plant the strawberries, hang the planter and water. For detailed instructions, see this article on how to create a strawberry planter. Strawberries not your cup of tea? Try hens and chicks or experiment with different plants to get the desired result.
Small Wall Mounted Planters
There are a multitude of planters that can be hung from walls. Whether they are wooden walls, brick, concrete, or stucco, you are limited only by your imagination. You can try the traditional, such as clay pots hung from the wall or try growing chives or rosemary in a nontraditional container such as a sconce. Beware, though, of the beautiful glass bulbs that just beg to be used in your artistic vision. There is a reason why they earned the nickname, “glass coffins”.
Other great unusual containers can be created from hanging canvas shoe organizers or similar plastic structures. Think, also of a square made of wood or plastic with individual slots for various plants. Both ideas make for good containers for herbs like tarragon, peppermint, dill and basil. Place this piece of living sculpture along a wall on the balcony or in your kitchen for an aromatic work or art.
Are your creative juices flowing yet? Then take a moment to think about a vertical element you would like to incorporate into your garden. Just a few things to remember: Vertical gardens require watering more frequently due to the lost of moisture from runoff and evaporation. Also, plants growing on the outside wall of your home have a hidden advantage, insulation. During the summer months, they absorb the sunlight causing the house to be a touch cooler.
Do you have some tips or a success story you would like to share for creating a vertical garden? Then please leave a comment and let us know what is on your mind.
Spring is near, and that means preparing for vegetable planting. Be sure to consider these five factors when starting up your garden…
Preparing the garden area
Choose a well drained garden area. Then prepare the soil by plowing and discing. If a fertilizer is needed, such as animal manure, it should be added before planting.
Watering your vegetable garden
The moisture level of the soil below the surface could be different from what’s above the ground. Dig down deep in a spot, feeling the dirt. If it’s dry, irrigation is needed. The best irrigation methods to help conserve water are trickle irrigation and drip irrigation.
Earthworms can be a gardener’s best friend! Worms work like mini aerators to help maintain the airflow in soil. If they aren’t cooperating, aeration can also be achieved through plowing or using a manual aerator.
Better soil ph through liming
To lime or not to lime – that could be the question. The Ph (acid level) of soil should be maintained to achieve optimal results, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The soil conservation office can test soil samples to determine Ph. Liming should be done at least every two years.
Weather plays a large part in the success of a vegetable garden. Too much rain can rot the roots. A dry season will cause it to look like the Mohave Desert. Choosing a well drained garden spot will help if it rains a lot. Installing an irrigation system will be time well spent if the season turns out dry.
Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to enjoy an abundance of vegetables in your garden!
Forget exotic grasses and high profile flowers – choose a low maintenance flowering shrub if you want a long lasting plant that won’t break your back. Producing vibrant blooms and lush foliage comes easily to the flowering shrubs listed below. These are perfect for any skill level and are easy to grow in any type of soil. Let them grow natural or prune them to your desired size and shape. A flowering shrub can make a captivating focal point for any type of garden.
Not your average rose bush! Double Knockout Roses are naturally disease and pest resistant, able to withstand extreme weather conditions, and consistently produce an abundance of vibrant red blooms. These plants will deliver pure satisfaction for even a beginning gardener. Want maximum appeal? Plant these in groups of 3 for a dramatic effect.
With no effort at all, the Lynwood gold Forsythia flowering shrub will produce yellow-studded eye candy for you and all your neighbors to admire. Fast-growing, long-living, and early blooming make this a no-brainer for those seeking a super low maintenance flowering shrub with curb appeal. Let them grow freely or prune to your desired size. Think big, bright, bliss.
Try a fun Butterfly Bush if you are looking for something unique and low maintenance. It adds a whimsical quality to your garden. Kids will love these plants and local butterflies will be attracted to the big bunches of delicate flowers from midsummer to fall. Butterfly Bush flowers create interesting cut flower arrangements as well.
Surprised? Yes, this award-winning Gardenia variety requires minimal sweat. Beginning in late spring, pairs of huge white flowers emerge that are sure to impress beginning gardeners and seasoned growers alike. The new Frost Proof Gardenia is naturally resistant to disease and insects, deer won’t be a problem, and neither will the weather. For something new, these low maintenance flowering shrubs are a must-have!
Viburnum is a garden staple and main ingredient for any low maintenance gardener. The Blue Muffin Viburnum features dark green foliage in spring, fluffy white flowers in summer, and charming blue berries in fall and winter. Consider the Blue Muffin Viburnum as the bread and butter of a low maintenance garden. You’ll be delighted with colorful butterflies and sweet song birds all year!
For country gardeners and city gardeners abound – try any of these flowering shrubs and they’ll quickly prove why they’ve landed on the list of low maintenance garden plants. Fancy flowers can be sensitive and disappointing if not maintained properly. Exotic grasses and basic shrubs may lack the color your garden needs. Find the best of both worlds – colorful flowers and attractive greenery with the structure of a bush – with Double Knockout Roses, a Forsythia bush, Butterfly bush, the new Frost Proof Gardenia, or the Blue Muffin Viburnum.
Everyone loves citrus fruit. They’re great as a snack, or as a side for a meal. Since they’re tropical plants, not everyone knows that you can grow citrus trees anywhere in the country. Just pot them up as a patio plant, and then bring them indoors during the cold months.
That way, no matter where you live in the country, you can grow your own citrus trees. Here’s how…
Choose dwarf varieties for container growing so that they’re maintainable when you bring them indoors. Also, look for pest resistant varieties (to avoid spraying) and cold hardy plants. Low-maintenance varieties like the Improved Meyer Lemon Tree or Key Lime Tree are ideal.
Any container will work, keep the weight of the pot in mind. Remember, you’ll be moving this plant indoors during the winter. Water remaining in the bottom of the pot will rot roots, so make sure the pot has sufficient drainage holes. Choose a large container allowing lots of room for roots to grow. Plan on repotting the citrus plants every 3-4 years as it grows larger. Increase pot size by 20-25% each time.
Use well-drained, soilless potting mix for outdoor plants. Avoid those with high levels of peat and dense material. Bagged potting mix is fine if it contains perlite or composted bark for drainage. Feel the bag. If it’s hard and dense, don’t use it. Perlite and double or triple shredded bark added to a standard purchased mix (such as Miracle Grow potting mix or Pro-Mix) works fine. Mix in green sand, an organic soil amendment mined from the ocean floor full of minerals and trace elements. Finally, add Mycorrhizae to this mix to help the plant produce fine hairs on the roots for more efficient uptake of fertilizers and water.
Citrus plants should be fertilized in the spring and not the fall (which forces new growth which can be harmed by lower temperatures or stresses the plant at a time when it should rest). Use a slow release fertilizer on the soil surface or carefully brushed into the mixture and water well. Avoid plant stakes that can damage or burn roots.
Plant one plant per pot and make sure the crown roots are slightly above the soil surface. In a large pot recycle package peanuts in the bottom for drainage and to make the pot lighter. Spread out or cut through any roots that are circling in the original pot and spread them out inside their new home on a mound created in the pot and fill in the rest of the mixture. Press the soil down so it is firm around the roots. Water well.
Citrus plants need 8-10 hours of direct sunlight a day. Less will produce spindly weak growth and less fruit and put it at risk for diseases and pests. When first placing the potted citrus out in the yard start with part shade and gradually move to full sun over a few days. Indoors they need a south window or better a greenhouse. In regions with cold winters, make sure it is moved outside in the summer, but remember to acclimate it to the full sun it gradually.
Lots of water is needed to grow great juicy fruit. Water when an inch or two of the soil is dry, less when it is resting. Test daily and don’t guess. Size of plants, container, temperature, humidity and wind affect how much water the plant uses. Also, don’t let the plant stand in drainage water.
Prune weak growth, damaged limbs or any rubbing branches. Rule of thumb is never more than a 1/4 – 1/3 of the plant at a time. If you want to keep the plant a certain size, periodically remove the plant from the pot (another reason for dwarf varieties) and prune back the roots 2-3 inches and repot…a good time to also add more mycorrhizae.
Watch the weather, especially nights. Move citrus to shelter if the temperature dips below 32 degrees. Remember potted plants are more susceptible to cold temperatures.
Remove some of the small immature fruit the first few years. This keeps the plant from a cycle of overproducing and resting.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to enjoying a lifetime of juicy citrus… no matter where you live!
Endless Summer Hydrangeas are versatile, easy to grow, and nearly maintenance free!
These hydrangeas blooms on old and new growth, making them the only hydrangea capable of gracing lawns across the country with prolific blooms from mid-summer to hard frost. They produce huge 8 to 10 inch blooms and grow up to 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, so you can plant them alone, in mass, in containers or as multi-colored heavy-blooming hedge rows.
Growers can control the color of their blooms by altering pH levels of the soil. Want blue hydrangeas in the hedge and pink hydrangeas for accent? Easy! Simply adjust the pH of the soil; Lower the pH for blue hydrangea blooms, and raise the pH for pink hydrangea blooms.
Endless Summer Hydrangeas are easy to grow in nearly any soil type including clay and sandy soils, and can grow in partial shade to full sun. Northerners will want to make sure the plants receive six hours of light, while growers in the south will see the best results when the hydrangeas are partially shaded from the hot afternoon sun.
Tired of pruning hydrangeas? The Endless Summers are low maintenance flowering shrubs that do not need fall pruning, and only need to be fertilized once during the season.
Use Endless Summer Hydrangea cuttings for long lasting color that will brighten any vase, arrangement or pot. Once the blooms are done for the year, the leaves continue to delight, turning bright orange and red before falling off for the winter.
These new hydrangeas make a colorful addition to any garden or landscape!
As the winter winds down, the promise of spring awaits behind every plant and underneath the fallen leaves. What better way to chase the gray away than splashes of vibrant early spring flowers? To take advantage of plants that bloom in the early part of the season, research plant blooming times and the colors you wish to enjoy and you will be able to benefit from the beautiful colors, not only in spring, but throughout the year.
Many people think they have to plant tons of perennial and annual flowers to get stunning spring displays, but this is not true. There are a myriad of shrubs and trees that offer a dramatic burst of color to chase the gloom of winter away. Take a look at the top 5 blooming plants for beautiful early spring color.
- Forsythia. This stunning yellow shrub should be in every gardener’s landscape. Try the hardy Lynwood Gold Forsythia and let it grow to enjoy its wild look or trim it into neat blocks. Either way, the color will burst onto the early spring scene to liven up any yard.
- Azalea. Part of the genus Rhododendron, the azalea is a champion bloomer known for its vibrant blooms and hardiness. Dubbed by many gardeners as “Old Faithful” for its blooming reliability, it’s no wonder that azaleas, such as the Autumn Embers, are seen in gardens across the country.
- Frost Proof Gardenia. The Frost Proof Gardenia is so picturesque you will not be able to stop yourself from taking pictures of it against any background. Old gardenias are insect prone and finicky, and the occasional late frost comes and wipes out your blooms for the whole season. New Frost Proof Gardenias are unaffected by cold snaps and thrive on neglect. They adapt to a variety of soil conditions… do great in full sun or partial shade… and resist insects and disease. Even deer leave them alone.
- Peach Tree. Enjoy showy peach blossoms in the spring and delicious fruits afterwards, with trees such as the Dwarf Elberta Peach Tree. Dainty pink flowers are the harbingers of spring and yield plenty of fruit for making jam or enjoying straight off the tree.
- Weeping Cherry. Known for its graceful sweeping branches, the Weeping Cherry is prized as the main attraction in residential neighborhoods. When planting this beauty, make sure to let it stand out by planting a solitary tree in a prominent location. The comments you will get on this tree will roll in as quickly as it blooms.
Whether it is a multipurpose plant, such as a peach tree, or a plant like the azalea that boasts beauty to spare, these five plants are sure to please the senses and drive away the doldrums of winter.
The first signs of spring are just beginning to appear and many of us are anxious to see the incredible color of our Double Knockout Roses but don’t get in a hurry to plant just yet. For plants to thrive, they need a good start in healthy soil. You’ll need to get your garden ready for spring first.
Clean your Tools: Before you begin any gardening activities, be sure your shovels are clean and your blades are sharp. This will prevent disease and fungus from spreading.
Spring Cleaning: Make sure last season’s plants are in order before ordering new ones. Cut back ornamental grasses and perennials. Compost spent annuals.
Break ground: If it’s warm enough, break up the ground. Use a tiller or just a turning fork to aerate the soil and work in compost. Double Knockout Roses and other flowering plants need loose, well-drained soil.
Divide: The dormant time is the best time to divide perennials. Daylilies, irises and other plants crowd their spots when they’re happy so spread the joy to other parts of the garden.
Pruning: This may be a good time to do a little pruning. However, you should research your particular plants as some have already put out buds in anticipation of spring. A Frost Proof Gardenia will be ready to spread its heavenly scent very soon so you don’t want to cut off its beautiful blooms by pruning too early.
A beautiful garden takes some thought and planning. Look through catalogs and websites to get ideas and choose the best options for your gardens. Draw out your garden on graph paper so you know where each plant belongs when it arrives.
Blueberries are known for their many health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants and high in fiber and are a recommended part of a healthy diet. Growing them at home is an effective way of having plenty of fresh, delicious blueberries to eat all season long.
Once you decide what blueberries you want to plant, growing them is easy. Blueberry plants love sunlight and will require a full-sun location. Blueberries grow best in fairly acidic soil with a pH of around 4.5. In most cases your soil will need amending to achieve this. Pete moss and sulfur as well are acidic fertilizers may help get your soils pH to the desired level.
Blueberry plants have shallow root systems and like to be planted in loamy soil (approximately 4-7 percent organic matter) with good drainage. If you have clay soil in your area or poor drainage you may want to consider a raised garden bed or as an alternative you can hill up the plants.
Many blueberries are self pollinating but for the best fruit yields you should plant multiple bushes. Blueberry plants typically reach their fully productive stage when they get to be about 6 years old. For the first two years after planting it is recommended that you remove the blossoms to prevent fruiting, this promotes vigorous and strong root systems.
With a blueberry garden you can enjoy years and years of sweet, healthy, delicious blueberries fresh from your own home. Pick your blueberries when they become large firm and dark with a whitish hue to the skin. The darker and more ripe the fruit, the higher they are in antioxidants.
Sources for this blog include:
Full grown in less than 5 years makes the Royal Empress Tree one of the fastest growing trees in the world. This tree provides you with instant shade and hundreds of fragrant lavender blooms in the spring.
This Empress Tree is a tree you do not have to baby. Just plant in the ground and watch in amazement as it takes off… growing up to 15 ft. per year. Its huge leaves block out the sun providing you with cooling shade in the summer.
Click here to learn more about Royal Empress Tree…
They not only smell great, but they’re incredibly resistant to pests and diseases. These flowering shrubs and flowering trees are chosen for their incredible resistance to pests and disease, which means you never have to spray. Remember to plant several of these for a wonderful fragrance you can smell from a distance.
To learn more click fragrant shrubs…
As with all Knockout Roses, these newest introductions are just as hardy and disease resistant as their cousins.
You get the same great benefits such as: cold tolerant in most climates, never needs spraying, resistant to insect and disease and produces an abundance of blooms for up to 6 months!
Click to learn more about Knockout Rose Bushes.
New improved, Encore Azaleas give you a bright, thick mass of color for 3 seasons. Plus you can grow them almost anywhere in the USA. They’re trouble free and extremely easy.
To learn more click Encore Azalea
Last summer our nursery manager Paul grew way too many Knockout Rose Trees. Due to a colder than average winter we were unable to sell as many as we had projected for Valentine’s Day.
This is where you come in. We are offering a special 25% discount on low maintenance, easy to grow Knockout Rose Trees. These Knockout Roses are resistant to most pests and diseases that affect other types of roses. That means you don’t have to spend your free time spraying, you just plant and enjoy.
To learn more click Knockout Rose Trees.
You might think it would be expensive to create an authentic oriental theme.
Some of the commonly used plants like Black Bamboo and Red Japanese Maples are very expensive plants to purchase. You’ll be delighted to know that there is an affordably priced and easy to grow evergreen shrub that works just as well.
The Nandina domestica or Heavenly Bamboo is really authentic to Asia.
This super drought tolerant plant was actually imported to the US direct from the Orient for its exotic beauty over 100 years ago. The reason it is called Heavenly Bamboo is because the Chinese grow it around their temples. It is common to find these Nandina shrubs beside the front doors of their homes. It was thought the shrubs were there to protect the homeowner from bad luck. Actually they are just there for beauty.
Heavenly Bamboo does well in sun or shade so you can grow it anywhere.
In the Orient, these landscape shrubs are specially clipped to mimic regular bamboo. This is easily done to give an authentic Oriental theme in your landscape too. Just keep all the lower leaves of your Nandina bushes clipped off and leave only the top fringe of foliage on each cane. There you have it a fast growing, authentic theme plant discussed as a common shrub.
The most cold hardy banana tree in the world is the Basjoo Banana. Actually, bananas aren’t trees but the largest perennial in the world. Their “trunk” is created from tightly packed unfurled leaves that work to form an upright stem. The Basjoo or fiber banana will thrive even in winter chills of -20°F. So no matter where you live in the US, most likely you can grow ornamental bananas in your yard too.
These exciting tropical plants are very easy to grow.
The Basjoo Banana tree grows so fast it is incredible at 2 feet per week. You can enjoy them in a container where they’ll reach 6-9 feet tall. For that awesome banana tree accent in your cold climate landscape Basjoo will soar to 16 feet tall when planted in the ground. These cold hardy bananas are known to do well all they way up into Canada! If you live in zone 4, it would be a wise idea to mulch the roots heavily for winter. That way, no matter if you have good snow cover or not, your Basjoo Banana will thrive for many years.
Here are some of the birghtest and most popular trees for fall color. These fast growing trees will product a spectacular color this fall.
To learn more about fall colored trees click Fall Color Trees
What a great place for kids to experience.
Unfortunately they pulled up all of his Daylily signs so now he can’t say for certain what varieties they are. Many are Premium grade, collector quality plants that easily sell for $11.95 or more.
Well his buyers canceled orders on 60,000 plants. He just wants to cover his cost.
To read more about this story click Daylily Bulbs…
If you have never planted daylilies before click Planting Directions…
And if your looking for a phone, buy the iPhone. I’m a technologically illiterate farmer. I refuse to read directions or manuals. Within minutes I was checking emails, creating maps, getting weather forecasts and making calls.
Don’t you love it when things do what they’re supposed to do.
Fragrant Blooms smother this plant.
Everyone loves Gardenia shrubs, but old varieties can be finicky and not bloom if they get hit with a late frost.
New Frost Proof Gardenias solve these problems, plus give more blooms to enjoy, smell and display. No spraying or babying.
Buy several for a fragrance that can be enjoyed from a distance. Plant near a patio or window. They also make great property dividers. These are new and improved varieties you can’t find in stores.
To learn more about Frost Proof Gardenias, click the link…
Yes, I’m a plant geek. But this is amazing stuff. Nothing adds color like Azaleas. But the best bloomers only last for 2-3 weeks, and then you wait a whole year.
New improved, Encore Azaleas give you a bright, thick mass of color for 3 seasons. Plus you can grow them almost anywhere in the USA. They’re trouble free and extremely easy.
Read more about the amazing Encore Azaleas…
A friend and one of the top Daylily breeders in the country let his grandchildren play in his fields during a recent visit.
What a great place for kids to experience.
Unfortunately they pulled up all of his Daylily signs so now he can’t say for certain what varieties they are. Many are Premium grade, collector quality plants that easily sell for $11.95 or more.
Click here to find out more information about daylily bulbs…
Enjoy spring a month early. These Camellias are the first to bloom and will give you 2 months of colorful flowers. Beautiful green foliage adds interest all year round. These large blooms appear before most shrubs have even thought about flowering.
Camellia shrubs are extremely drought and disease resistant, you just plant and forget.
Click here to learn more about Camellia shrubs.
Yes, I’m a plant geek. But this is amazing stuff. Nothing adds color like Azaleas. But the best bloomers only last for 2-3 weeks, and then you wait a whole year.
New improved, Encore Azaleas give you a bright, thick mass of color for 3 seasons. Plus you can grow them almost anywhere in the USA. They’re trouble free and extremely easy.
Click to learn more about Encore Azaleas.
Soften the harsh look of any masonry structure with the Boston Ivy plant.
Brick, stone and concrete walls are without a doubt the ones that will withstand the elements for the longest span of time. Sometimes, too much of a good thing is too monotonous. You can add ambiance a towing brick building. Or add warmth to the barrier presented by privacy walls.
You can rapidly add ageless beauty to even the most unattractive walls.
Boston Ivy will quickly climb and fill in large areas with dark, glossy green leaves from spring to fall. When the chill of autumn fills the air, the entire plant will be radiant red. Imagine this striking accent against the bright yellows and gold fall foliage of shade trees. This easy to grow climber will hold onto those showy leaves longer than many other deciduous plants.
Boston Ivy plants are easy to grow.
Sometimes called Cottage Ivy or Boston Creeper, this beautiful plant does well even in poor soil. Once established, it has good drought tolerance and can adapt to a wide range of climate conditions. In the northern reaches of its hardiness zone, Boston Ivy can be late at leafing out. The richness of those large, shiny leaves makes it well worth the wait. This plant is very popular for disguising unattractive building designs in many locations.
You won’t need to invest a lot of money to soften or cover a cold or ugly wall.
When given the space to spread without restriction, one plant can get up to 50 feet wide over time. You don’t want to grow this on painted surfaces. It is best to plant at least 15 feet away from any such area. The chemicals in the roots of the climber will destroy the paint. In some design themes, this age-old appearance may lend great flair to a time worn patina. Shabby chic is just as wonderful inside as it is in your outdoor living areas.
When shopping for Boston Ivy, you will want to look for larger plants.
Some nurseries will state that you should plant one every two feet for quick coverage. In truth, you will have much more pleasant results if you buy Boston Ivy plants that have well developed root systems. To enjoy the beauty faster, you will want to start out with plants that already a 1-gallon size and plant them at least 10-12 feet apart.
The beauty of spring is enriched with these big, beautiful flowers.
Professional designers will often find a spot for the Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum opulus) in almost any landscape they work on. This large shrub has many points of interest. Beginning with the white ball-type flowers up to 5 inches across. Flowering so thickly, the plant will look like a late spring snow bank.
The foliage of the Snowball Bush offers good textural interest.
All plants are attractive in flower, but those that have outstanding leaves can heighten the any landscape design. The foliage of this Viburnum resembles three-lobed maple leaves. The coloring will be rich, attractive green over the summer months. As cooler weather arrives in fall, each leaf will turn to sun kissed gold.
For a long-lived shrub where height is needed, this is an excellent plant.
The Chinese Snowball Bush is not only attractive; you will find it very easy to grow. This Viburnum will adapt to a wide variety of soils and growing conditions. These shrubs are quite drought tolerant once established and mature to 8-10 feet tall and wide. You will get the best flowering results when planting this bush in full sun, though it tolerates quite a bit of shade. Viburnums grown in a mostly shady situation will not flower at all.
The Snowball Viburnum works well with many other plants in your landscaping.
To establish a really dazzling early season display, you can pair this beautiful shrub up with almost any other same time bloomer. Consider creating a planting that also features Encore Azaleas and some low growing purple leaved shrubs such as Crimson Pygmy Barberry. To really heighten the beauty of such a landscape planting, add a few perennials to extend the beauty through the season.
You will love the changing beauty of this deciduous shrub in your yard.
The hummingbirds will be most delighted with your choice in plants and feed on the blossoms. Once spent, the flowers of Snowball Bush produce brilliant red berries as a bonus color point. Birds are attracted to the berries as a source of food.
It’s hard to find a landscape plant with so many benefits to offer your yard.
Now you can easily understand why a professional designer will seek out the right spot to include this shrub in almost every yard. The Snowball Viburnum is wonderful as a tall specimen plant or planted as a hedge. It grows rapidly and will fill to offer warm season privacy where it many be needed.
This is definitely the smartest rose on the planet.
Not all roses are created equal.
If you have shied away from plating roses in your yard because they require so much coddling, we don’t blame you a bit. Who has time for all that tedious, finicky behavior? Everyone loves roses as a flower but most refuse to be a slave to their plants. Just as with anything else, if you wait a while, a vast improved specimen will come along and change everything.
They named it Knockout for a lot of good reasons.
All roses are beautiful. As performers in your yard the majority tend to fall short of low maintenance. Many rose bushes only flower once a year. Shrub roses are your best bet for low maintenance and reblooming beauty. While there are some great landscape roses available, none of them holds a candle to the Knockout Rose.
Excellent disease resistance makes this one brainy plant.
All shrub or landscape roses are disease resistant, but resistant and excellent resistance is two different things. Knock Out Rose also have exceptionally large flowers for the shrub rose family with showy clusters of blooms opening repeatedly from early summer right through to hard frost. The individual blooms on Pink Double Knock Out Rose measure 3.5”-4” across and lightly fragrant with an expected rosy aroma.
Maintains great shape with only a minimal clipping.
Knockout Roses are naturally a compact and tidy flowering shrub with the blooms forming on new growth at the tips of the stems. Knockouts grow to 3’-4’ high and wide and will flower at maximum proportions in full, hot sun. You can grow your Red Double Knockout Rose in part sun, but bear in mind that you will have less flowers. Roses should always be planted with good drainage to prevent root rot from waterlogged soils.
Did you know that Rhododendrons and Azaleas are close kin?
Confusion in family tree is revealed.
If the tag on your new Azalea says that it is a Rhododendron, it isn’t an error. Rhododendrons have eight distinct divisions, two of which are actually what we call Azaleas. You have evergreen azaleas (Rhododendron Tsutsusi), of which there are about 100 different species that originated in the Orient. Then there are the deciduous azaleas (Rhododendron Pentanthera), which represents only about 18 different species that are native to North America. The family tree gets a bit more mixed than that but those are not important at this moment.
DNA studies show long line of evolution at play.
Following the recent discovery of a new native Azalea in Alabama, genetic studies of that shrub’s DNA have led horticulture scientists to test surprising results. The natural splicing of the newly discovered plant’s genes show them that it very well may have evolved to this new species from a well known existing native azalea. The actions of the birds and bees have been causing the evolution of many plants into completely new forms as far back as we have records.
Louisiana man reinvents the Azalea wheel.
Plant evolution in nature takes eons. Plant enthusiasts experimenting with crossbreeding can finish the process in record time. The most superior Azalea ever to appear is the Encore Azalea collection. If it weren’t for Robert Lee whose love of Azaleas and curiosity over breeding them we would still have only azaleas that bloom in the spring. In a mere 15 years of breeding and test trials, Mr. Lee has brought us a blooming wonder that just cannot stop performing until frost sets in.
Encore Azaleas outshine traditional azalea traits.
The first Encore Azalea selections were available for purchase in 1997. By 2002, the work of Mr. Lee and Plant Development Services, Inc. had a total of 13 different shrubs to choose from. Today the Encore Azalea Autumn series offers an astounding 23 different superior shrubs. All of them are evergreen azaleas that begin blooming in spring and continue to repeat the beauty until frost takes out the flowers. Encore Azaleas cover shrub sizes from demure to robust in a dazzling variety of colors.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven … a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Would you consider your Maple tree as an invasive and dreadful nuisance?
The number one sold shade tree in America and yet those whirlybird seeds can create a forest without some cleanup when they fall. No one plants a shrub around the foundation of their house without expecting to do some clipping to keep it in control. It is common sense to not allow bushes to cover up the windows or creep under the siding.
Good judgment and common sense are used to avoid problems.
Thousands of plants left unchecked, could be labeled as invasive. Yet with common sense and timely tricks, they are not the thugs you can be led to believe. To do away with one of the most fabulous heralds of spring would surely be a crime.
Wisteria in bloom is a blessing of spring.
You can keep this vine in check with a couple simple tasks. First use good sense when selecting where you plant it. This extremely fragrant vine can be trained as a tree with staking and grown in the open where it cannot climb desired trees or creep into your gutters. Plan ahead if you want to grow wisteria on a structure like an arbor. You want sturdy, metal construction that will withstand the weight and twisting nature of the plant.
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.
The right time for trimming a wisteria: a light trimming in July and a heavy pruning in October – January. To keep the plant from sending up running shoots simply prune the roots with a sharp spade to a depth of 18″ all the way around the trunk at 4-ft. out. Root pruning should be done in late fall and also can make the vine produce more flowers with less top growth.
What makes most wisterias not flower?
In the north (zone 5 and colder), a harsh spring can freeze the buds forming in the stems. The most common cause of not getting flowers is the fertilizers used. Wisteria does not use nitrogen. To coax it to flower or even flower more profusely use a combination of root pruning and a heavy dose of super phosphate fertilizer. Another recommended method is a severe pruning in early spring, which can reward you with a bumper crop of blooms.
The curiosity and determination of plant breeders bring continual delights.
Reinventing the wheel occupies many a curious professional mind.
The creation of new and improved long ago spread into the world of ornamental plants. Each spring homeowners looking to improve their yards and gardening buffs hunting for the next big thing shop for the easiest to grow and most beautiful plants they can locate. Everyone looks forward to the new colors and easier to grow ornamental plants that arrive on the scene each season.
Flower lovers everywhere attempt to grow this plant.
The exotic fragrance and pure, snowy blossoms of the Gardenia bush make it a favorite flowering shrub of florists. As a houseplant or in the landscape, the Gardenia plant has always been finicky and heavily dependent on chemical sprays. The powerful scent makes the plant the envy of every person who cannot grow them in their yard. Until recent improvements, this was a plant that only very warm climate gardeners could enjoy the scent of in their personal space.
Southern scentsation improved for the north.
It took only one plant specialist, Don Kleim of Henderson Experimental Gardens in California to discover one particularly cold tolerant Gardenia shrub in the crowd. After some thorough testing around the country, Gardenia jasminoides ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ came on the market. This Gardenia is known for holding its flower buds even through a spring frost. He later developed a similar cultivar known as ‘Frost Proof’ Gardenia.
Nothing ever stays the same – in life or plants.
Every season brings us new and exciting plants for our yards and gardens. Frost Proof Gardenia is the new Gardenia bush for success and the reward of fragrance all the way into zone 6. These Gardenia plants may suffer a little frost burn on the leaves, but the flower buds will hang on. Frost Proof Gardenia is one hothouse flower that can take the heat and the cold. You’ll have the heady fragrance of that singular perfume from spring into fall with this cold hardy Gardenia plant.
Whether you’re looking to add some color to the garden, create a flowering privacy screen, or plant a new focal point for the front yard, a Rhododendron is a perfect selection that millions of gardeners love and recommend.
Before selecting a Lavender Rhododendron or Azalea, be sure to gather some general knowledge about your local climate and temperature conditions. Be sure that your USDA growing zone is proper for the shrub of your choice. Information about your area’s soil, sun, and growing conditions is also essential. You can typically gather this information from the internet, a local nursery, or even other experienced gardeners in your area. Knowledge is power, and having a good deal of knowledge about your location’s gardening conditions will make selecting your White Rhododendron more simplified, and also prevent you from falling in love with a plant that you cannot cultivate in your location.
In addition to this factual information, you may wish to discuss Red Rhododendrons with local gardeners in your area. Find out which varieties they have found to be successful where you live, as well as their recommendations are for care and maintenance. Typically, local gardeners will also be able to give you specific information about how long you can expect blooms, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this in person, get on the internet and locate a gardening forum for your area that you can participate in.
Once you have an idea of what you like and what will work in your location, visit or investigate the nursery of your choice. Local nurseries will have a limited selection of Yellow Rhododendron on hand; however they will be “tried and true” varieties that the nursery has found to be ideal for your area.However, bare in mind that some nurseries stick to “what works” and don’t update their inventory as fast as new and improved cultivars are being developed.So just because the variety you are interested in is not available at your local nursery, this does not mean it won’t work for your area.
Again, this is why knowledge is power.
If the nurseries in your area do not carry the Rhododendron or Azalea that you like, consider an online nursery. Not only will you find a vast selection of shrubs, you will also have the convenience of having them delivered to your door.
Following these simple steps should allow you to select the ideal Rhododendron for your yard. Your new flowering shrub will provide you with beauty and joy for years to come.
We all know at least one person whose yard looks like a barren wasteland in winter. Their perennials and annuals have died back, and their shrubs and bushes are bare sticks. Becoming the proprietor of such a dismal landscape, however, is quite easily avoided with just a bit of foresight. If you want year round color, it is essential that when selecting shrubs and hedges that you ensure what you are purchasing is an evergreen.
When you hear the word “evergreen”, you may think of boring green shrubs with no personality. But planting an evergreen landscape does not have to mean a lifetime of ordinary green foliage. There are dozens of bright, colorful selections to choose from. And there is an evergreen option for any area, regardless of the location or purpose of the planting.
Flowering shrubs are probably the best example of how you can plant a yard full of evergreens and simultaneously have the prettiest, most inviting landscape in town. Plant an assortment of encore azaleas, rhododendron, and camellia and you’ll have a yard bursting with blooms of every color. Best of all, as evergreens, they will still be lush and green even in the coldest months of the year.
If a flowery landscape isn’t quite what you’re going for, but you’re still looking for a burst of color, choose an evergreen with some punchy fall color, like the Loropetalum or Nandina. These gorgeous shrubs turn all different shades of red and purple during the fall season.
And for those out there that would really prefer a simple landscape with some basic evergreens, then juniper, boxwood, and yew will always be classic selections.
While homeowners all across the country drop thousands of dollars on landscaping each year, few take into account just what their yard will look like in the cold winter months. Plants tend to die back and trees go dormant, creating a dismal landscape that one must contend with all winter long. This can be avoided however, if during your initial landscaping plans you choose to include and put emphasis on shrubs and perennials that will provide visual interest in the wintertime.
One of the most effective ways to go about this is to plant shrubs and hedges and perennials that bloom during the winter months. Unlike standard evergreens that few people pay attention to, these unique winter blooming specimens will delight your visitors and bring color and warmth to an otherwise cold and barren landscape.
Quite famous for its winter blossoms is the Lenten Rose, or Helleborus. This gorgeous perennial boasts large, almost tropical looking flowers that bloom in late winter. You can find Lenten Rose in a few different colors, making it easy to coordinate with your current landscape. Those in search of a beautiful winter bloomer typically find what they are looking for with Helleborus.
However, your winter interest selections go far beyond the Lenten Rose. According to Justin French, Project Manager of Bright Blooms Nursery, Camellia are just as good a selection, with plenty of colors from which to choose! “Camellias come in an immense array of colors. There is little to no chance that you will not find at least one Camellia you can’t go without.” French explains what make the Camellias such a good choice for homeowners seeking to add blooms to there landscape in the winter months. Camellia sasanqua is the fall-winter blooming variety of Camellia and will provide large richly colored blossoms to really draw attention to your landscape. However, if you happen to fall in love with a Camellia japonica variety, which is the spring variety of Camellia, these will work for you also. They have been known to bloom in late winter.” French also recommends Loropetalum and Aster for their cold hardy blooms.
Due to the steady rise in heating and cooling costs over the past decade, homeowners are taking advantage of every money saving idea that comes there way. One of the most popular methods in recent years is landscaping for energy efficiency. Shade trees that block the sun and lower air conditioning bills and privacy screens that double as wind barriers for the cold winter months have become staples in the attempt to save energy and funds through landscape.
Ideal for this purpose are thick, lush evergreen shrubs, such as American Boxwood. The density and form of this boxwood make it perfect for holding those winter winds away from your home, automatically stabilizing the temperatures inside through insulation. Other fantastic selections are Privet, Osmanthus, and Yew. However, if the idea of plain evergreen shrubs does not appeal to you, there are plenty of flowering bushes that will add some visual interest along with practicality. Camellia and Rhododendron are both fantastic evergreen shrubs that come in a wide variety of bloom colors.
When utilized properly, your “insulation shrubs” can pay for themselves in just one cold season. Pair the idea of foundation shrubs with a wind barrier in your yard, and you’ll be saving up to 60% on your heating costs this year.
For passionate gardeners, this cold time of year cannot pass quickly enough. However, there are several things you can do all season long to prepare for the coming of spring that can actually improve your gardening endeavors far more than you may thing. Plus, they’ll keep you busy and make the cold season fly right by!
The first thing you’ll want to do is draft any new plans for your landscape. If you would like to make changes or repairs, begin the process now. Figure out exactly what you’d like to do, and you’ll be able to jump right in when the weather breaks.
The next thing you’ll definitely want to do during the winter is get any gardening equipment cleaned and serviced. The last thing you’re going to want when spring arrives is to find that the lawn mower is broken. Any damages can be repaired and upgrades made long before you actually need to utilize your equipment.
You may want to have your soil tested before the actual planting season arrives, especially if you’ve had any growing difficulties in the past. This test will assess what, if anything, you need to add to your soil. Then if you need to amend the soil in any way, you’ll have plenty of notice and time to do so.
Be sure to clean and prepare flower beds. You may also want to do this in any areas of your yard that you believe you will want to plant perennials, vines, or ground covers. Preparing the area beforehand will speed the planting process when spring rolls around. Prune any deciduous trees, shrubs and hedges You will also want to prune any fruit trees or bushes you may have. Also, give any ornamental grasses a gentle, annual trim.
Follow these steps and you’ll have a great head start on your spring gardening and landscape plans.
The rose is a stand alone in the gardening world, historically and today. Arguably the most popular flower in American history, it is rare to find an experienced gardener that has not tried their hand at the cultivation of a rose bush. With fragrance, visual charm, and undeniable romance… the classic rose is just a flower that cannot get any better, right?
Well, that may be a matter of debate. Since their debut in 2000, Knock Out Roses have taken the gardening world by storm. Particularly, the Double Knockout Rose. With up to twenty-five petals per single bloom, the Double Knockout is easily twice the size of your average rose. Apparently, it’s now aimed at becoming twice as popular as well.
Size, however, is not the only thing the Double Knockout rose has going for it. The Double Knockout boasts an extended bloom period that can stretch into all four seasons. More compact than even the original Knockout rose, the Double has a home in even the most modest of planting spaces. Becoming increasingly known for pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance, and being the ultimate in low-maintenance, it’s no wonder gardeners all over the country have fallen head over heels for this amazing cultivar.
Available in classic rose hues, you won’t have to forgo that long cherished elegance with the Knockout roses. Looking for that romantic, cherry red? The Red Double Knockout rose will deliver all the time honored tradition with twice the size and glowing with color. If a softer, more feminine bloom appeals to you, you will find all that and more with the Pink Double Knockout rose.
With all the looks and attributes one could ask for in a rose, it’s certainly not hard to see why the Knockout roses are becoming more popular by the day. And it looks like a sure bet that they will have a place in gardens and landscapes for generations to come.