Monthly Archives: November 2016

Fall-Blooming Camellias

We love camellias! An Asian native and an old southern standby, they are now a favorite in the northern states as well. In recent years, new varieties have been developed for their increased cold hardiness, giving northern gardeners even more opportunities to enjoy these charming beauties. Blooming in October, November and even into early December, fall-blooming camellias provide an abundance of colorful showy blooms that can now be enjoyed in colder climates.

Camellias do best in rich, moist, well-drained, acidic (5.5-6.5 pH) soil. Plant camellias in a location where they will be protected from the drying winter sun and wind or else the delicate blooms may suffer. Because these shrubs are shallow-rooted, they should be planted no deeper than they are planted in the pot that you purchase them in. Apply 3-4 inches of mulch to the root zone to keep soil moist and control weeds. Compost added to the soil can also help provide suitable nutrition to keep these plants healthy. Water camellias first when newly planted and frequently during times of low rainfall – a drip system can be a great option to keep these shrubs suitably moist. Fertilize in the spring with a fertilizer specified for acid-loving plants. If purchasing and planting camellias in the fall, be sure to give them a little extra TLC to help them through their first couple of winters and they will reward you with their beauty for years to come.

To help you choose the most beautiful fall-blooming camellias for your landscape, consider these attractive cultivar options!

  • Ashton’s Pride: Lavender-pink, single flowers with yellow centers
  • Ashton’s Snow: Creamy white flowers in semi-double blooms
  • Long Island Pink: Single blooms with bright pink colors and ruffled petals
  • Mason Farm: Pink, single flowers with a white tinge
  • Northern Exposure: Pink buds that open to single white, papery flowers
  • Winter’s Darling: Deep pink flowers with anemone shapes
  • Winter’s Fancy: Deep rich pink, semi-double blooms
  • Winter’s Interlude: Light pink blooms with anemone shapes and peachy centers
  • Winter’s Joy: Bright bold pink, semi-double blooms
  • Winter’s Star: Single lavender-pink pale blooms with yellow centers
  • Winter’s Water Lily: Elegant white flowers with a formal double shape

No matter which fall-blooming camellia you choose, if you give it the proper care, it will love you right back with abundant growth and stunning blooms that bring an air of southern charm and hospitality to your yard.

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Devil’s Darning Needle

Fall is here and after hiding inside in the cool comfort of our air conditioning through the hottest, driest, buggiest time of the year, our interest in revisiting the outdoors is renewed. Reemerging from self-imposed exile into the garden, it is pure joy and a relief to witness the tenacity of late season bloomers that have had to bear, with no assistance or relief, the dog days of summer. One such plant, reliable and prolific, is Clematis virginiana, better known as Devil’s Darning Needle.

Devil’s Darning Needle – also called Devil’s Hair, Love Vine and Woodbine – is a North American native vine. It is very similar in habit and appearance to the Japanese native, Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora) that most of us are familiar with, yet Devil’s Darning Needle is not as aggressive and can be better controlled in the landscape. C. virginiana is a vigorous, twining, deciduous vine, growing about 15 feet in a season. This plant is in best form when planted next to a supporting structure such as an arbor, trellis, fence, tree or shrub. Its quick growth rate makes this an excellent choice where quick privacy is needed, such as along a fence, shielding a patio or forming a wall around a deck. If unsupported, it will sprawl along the ground.

What makes this plant so alluring is its annual, overwhelming display of 1 and 1/4 inch, highly fragrant, star-shaped, pure white blossoms produced in billowy masses in the fall followed by ornamental, silvery, plume-like seed heads. Both flowers and seed heads work well in floral arrangements. Either in the yard or in a vase, this prolific bloomer will not disappoint.

Devil’s Darning Needle is easy to grow. As a low-maintenance vine, it is rarely troubled by pests or disease. It performs well in moist to wet soil of average fertility and prefers full sun to part shade, although it will thrive and bloom in considerable shade. Supplemental watering may be necessary during times of drought. In late winter or early spring, prune C. virginiana back hard to about one foot from the ground to encourage spring growth, but be certain to leave at least two strong buds on each stem. During the growing season, monitor the vine if it is growing through a shrub to make certain that the shrub is not being overwhelmed. No special care is needed to trim it back to control size, but it can be pruned for shape if desired.

Devil’s Darning Needle can be an amazing addition to your landscape, and its late summer and early fall beauty is sure to delight just when other plants begin to fade.

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Over-Wintering Container Plants Outdoors

All containerized plants that are considered hardy in your zone can spend the winter outdoors, but you do need to take a little special care to keep them safe and comfortable as temperatures drop. Despite their hardiness, winter is still a challenging season, but it is possible to keep your container plants healthy until the days grow longer and warmer again.

Options to Overwinter Your Container Plants

  • In the late summer or fall, removed the plant from its container and plant it in the ground while the soil is still warm. Another method is to bury the pot, with the plant in it, in the garden and remove the pot following spring. Both of these methods will help insulate the root system, preventing it from freezing solid and killing the root system.
  • Place containerized plants in an unheated garage but along a heated wall. This is an excellent method for very large pots or porous pots that tend to break apart from the constant cycle of freezing and thawing, and so would not be very hardy if buried. For extra root protection and insulation, wrap the pots in plastic bubble wrap or wrap an old comforter or quilt around the pots.
  • Group pots together along the sunny side of your house or shed. If this area is windy, create a windscreen with stakes and burlap. Place bales of straw or hay around the perimeter of the grouping up against the pots to further protect plants from cold winds. Fill in areas between pots with mulch, shredded leaves, grass clippings or hay for insulation. Lay evergreen branches or place a layer of mulch on top of the pots for additional protection.
  • Use a cold frame covered with plastic or Reemay fabric to help control temperatures and reduce light as well, helping plants stay dormant in winter. It will still be necessary to use mulch, shredded leaves or hay around and in-between pots for insulation. Rodent control, such as Havahart traps, may be necessary when using this method.

Watering Container Plants in Winter

Make sure that plants go into the winter with moist soil so that there is water available to plant roots. Check soil moisture occasionally, never allowing it to dry completely. It is also a very good idea to spray needled and broadleaf evergreens with an anti-desiccant. This acts as a protective coating for plant foliage and stems as it helps them retain moisture.

With just a little care and forethought, you can easily prepare containers for winter without risking the plants and arrangements you have so carefully cultivated.

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Plant a Tree This Fall

There are so many reasons to add a new tree to your landscape this fall that it’s hard to find a reason not to.

Just think about it, trees will…

  • Beautify the Environment
    Trees add texture and color to the landscape. They soften the harsh lines of buildings and driveways, while their foliage and blooms add seasonal color changes and variety.
  • Stabilize Soil
    Tree roots prevent soil from blowing or washing away, minimizing erosion and providing protection for the surrounding landscape.
  • Provide Wildlife Habitat
    Trees provide shelter and food for birds and numerous small animals, including squirrels, raccoons, insects and more.
  • Make Food
    Many trees provide fruits, nuts, seeds, sap and berries for human consumption. Wildlife will also rely on the food provided by trees.
  • Create Oxygen
    Through photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and other poisons from our air and release pure oxygen for us to breathe. One tree can produce enough oxygen for 10 humans for one year!
  • Filter the Air
    Trees act as giant filters trapping dust and pollution particles with their leaves and bark until the rain washes the particles away.
  • Cool the Air
    Air will remain several degrees cooler in the shade of a tree canopy. This is accomplished by not only by blocking the sun’s rays but also through transpiration. Tree leave transpire, or release moisture, which cools the surrounding air. A large tree can release as much as 400 gallons of moisture from its leaves daily.
  • Reduce Utility Bills
    Deciduous trees planted on the south and southwest sides of a home will shade the structure during hot summer months and reduce air conditioning or other cooling needs. In the winter, with the leaves fallen, the sun is able to warm the structure, reducing heating bills.
  • Reduce Noise Pollution
    Strategically planted, trees can dramatically reduce the volume of unwanted noise from loud neighbors, nearby businesses or car traffic.
  • Hide undesirable views
    Purposefully sited, trees can camouflage unattractive views and create privacy, providing a natural sanctuary in your yard.

In our area, fall is just about the best time of year to purchase and plant a tree. The soil is warm, air temperature is cool and morning and evening dew increase available moisture to nurture a new tree. Stop in and see our extensive collection, and we can assist you in choosing the tree that is perfect for your landscape and lifestyle needs.

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Autumn: Why Plant Now?

Although many gardeners plant trees and shrubs in the spring, knowledgeable gardeners plant in the fall to take advantage of all this fabulous season has to offer. But why is fall planting better than spring planting?

  • Stress Reduction
    Transplanting causes stress as plants are removed from containers, balls or established locations and changed to new locations. Planting in the fall, when a plant is entering dormancy and is generally hardier and sturdier, reduces this stress so the plant can thrive.
  • Establishing Strong Roots
    Fall planting “establishes” trees and shrubs by encouraging root growth. Because the soil is still warm, the roots continue to develop until freezing, though the upper parts of the plant are already dormant. When transplanting in the spring, the developed roots are active and delicate tips or rootlets, as well as buds and new leaves, are more easily damaged.
  • Weather Resiliency
    Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better able to withstand the rigors of the next summer’s heat and dry conditions because they have much longer to develop healthy roots systems and become thoroughly established. This is especially critical in dry climates or areas prone to drought or irregular rainfall.
  • Faster Maturity
    The “head-start” of fall planting results in a larger plant in less time, helping create a mature landscape without waiting for smaller plants to catch up. This can be especially critical when replacing dead or damaged plants in a mature landscape to avoid a gap or uneven look.
  • Water Conservation
    Planting in the fall saves watering time and promotes conservation by eliminating daily watering. Cooler temperatures with the addition of both morning and evening dew contribute greatly to soil moisture availability in fall without as much supplemental watering.
  • Color Confirmation
    Fall is the best time to see a plant’s autumnal color. Planting in the fall eliminates the surprise of the wrong color or unexpected shades that may not coordinate with nearby plants. By planting in autumn, you’ll know exactly what you’re purchasing and planting, and you will be able to match better with your existing landscape.
  • Saving Money
    Last but definitely not least, buying your beautiful trees and shrubs in autumn can save big money. We discount prices on trees and shrubs to create room for holiday season materials and pass the savings on to you. Selection may be more limited later in fall, however, so don’t wait too long to take advantage of great savings.

Autumn can be the ideal time to plant trees and shrubs, whether you are adding to your landscape, replacing plants or starting a whole new look. If you plant in autumn, you’ll be amazed at how lovely your landscape will look next spring.

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Redbud Revelry

Gardeners love the Eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis). Native to North America, these hardy, slow-growing, small trees richly deserve their places front and center in the landscape. They flower very early in the spring (as early as April), provide beautiful fall color, remain reasonably small, are low maintenance and create quite a display when planted in groupings or as a single specimen. They even grow well in parking lots, sidewalk strips and in containers, making them ultimately versatile for all types of landscaping plans. What else could you ask for?

New and Exciting Redbud Varieties

As if the classic eastern redbud wasn’t beautiful enough, there are always new varieties that give these stunning trees even more charm and character. Which one will be the centerpiece of your landscape?

Recent introductions include ‘Lavender Twist’, which grows in an elegant weeping form, and the compact ‘Ace of Hearts’, which excels in a small garden or container as a blooming, dome-shaped, focal point. ‘Alba’ flowers in pure white and ‘Appalachian Red’ blooms with deep burgundy pink flowers. The leaves of ‘Hearts of Gold’ open red in the spring and slowly change to gold.

‘Rising Sun’ redbud, another new introduction, stops most people in their tracks. In spring, before leaves appear, lavender-pink pea-like flowers cover the trunk and branches. The show really starts when the leaves open and the heart-shaped, deep-apricot colored leaves transition through orange, yellow and gold to lime-green with all colors showing at the same time. In fall, the tree shimmers in shades of gold. Amazing!

Growing Your Redbud

No matter which type of redbud you choose, you’ll want to take good care of it to be sure it reaches its full beauty. First, be sure to plant your redbud in an area where it can stretch to its full size and show off the unique branching growth habit. You will also want to choose a position where the redbud won’t be crowded or overshadowed by other plants. These trees prefer at least four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day, so full or partial sun positioning is best. These are hardy trees and grow well in most soil types, but adding organic material to the soil and mulching around the tree is always a wise idea to protect and nurture it.

Whether planted as a specimen, en masse, or in a container, we’re sure you’ll agree these little trees deserve consideration for a special place in your garden.

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Entrance Way Evergreens

Cool and classic or chic and contemporary, no matter what your style, you’ll always be proud of an entrance flanked with beautiful containers highlighting just-right evergreens. In this case, “evergreen” doesn’t necessarily mean a conifer, either – many other shrubs remain green in the winter and can be beautiful showpieces welcoming guests to your home.

Planting Your Container

Entrance way evergreens are generally planted in containers and frame a doorway, walkway or arch. If you truly want your evergreens to take center stage, opt for more understated, neutral containers, but select shapes that match the architecture of your home. You can opt for a boldly colored container, but take care that the container’s decorations won’t overwhelm your evergreens.

You will want to use high quality potting soil for the container to provide adequate nutrition for your evergreens to thrive. Also pay careful attention to the moisture levels, watering the plants appropriately – containers often need more frequent watering than plants in your landscape. You can rotate the containers regularly to help the plants get even sun exposure, and regular fertilizing will help keep them healthy.

If you’re not sure how to plant a container, try this simple formula: “Use a thriller, filler and spiller.” Thriller refers to the tallest or showiest plant, the one that immediately catches the eye. The fillers are the plants surrounding the thriller that add more structure and bulk to the arrangement, filling in empty spaces. The spillers are plants to grow over, and soften, the edge of the container, giving it a more natural, organic look.

Here’s a listing of “thriller” plants to consider for your door decor. We can make recommendations of dwarf cultivars of many of these plants. Dwarfs will take longer to out-grow their container. Happy potting!

  • Shade
  • Azalea*
  • Boxwood
  • Camellia*
  • Evergreen Viburnum*
  • Japanese Andromeda*
  • Heavenly Bamboo*
  • Mountain Laurel*
  • Sun
  • Arborvitae
  • False Cypress
  • Juniper
  • Heavenly Bamboo*
  • Holly
  • Pine
  • Spruce
  • Yews
  • Yucca*


* These plants flower!

Accents for Your Entrance Evergreens

In addition to welcoming your visitors with a beautiful entrance, it’s easy to entertain them and show your style when you accessorize your evergreens. Festively dress your plants to coordinate with seasons or holidays. Fun and creative options include…

  • Spring: Small bunnies, silk spring blooms such as daffodils, pastel Easter eggs
  • Summer: Patriotic flags or ribbons for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July
  • Fall: Scarecrows, pumpkins, Indian corn, Halloween decorations
  • Winter: Holly sprigs, tiny twinkling lights, beaded garlands, snowflake ornaments

You can also personalize your entrance evergreens for birthdays, anniversaries or to showcase your favorite teams, colleges, hobbies and more. All are easy to do, fun, and affordable, and make your entrance truly eye-catching.

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Choosing a Japanese Maple

We’re certain you’ve heard it numerous times: fall is the best time to buy your Japanese maple. Have you come into the garden center to pick one? Did the varieties overwhelm you? Let us make it easier for you by explaining Japanese maple differences. Then, when you come in, you’ll know exactly what you want.

The species Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, moderately grows to a 20′ by 20′ multi-trunked tree. The leaves have 5-9 finely cut lobes giving them a more delicate look than other maples. Red spring leaves turn to green in the summer and blaze with yellow, orange and red in the fall. All do best with protection from drying winds and hot overhead afternoon sun. During their centuries of use in gardens around the world, gardeners have discovered and propagated those selections with unusual growth habits and bark patterns, as well as leaf color and shape. With hundreds of Japanese maple varieties available at garden centers, we feel a little simplification is in order.

  • Leaf Shape
    The variation Dissectum or Laceleaf Japanese Maple has leaves are deeply cut and finely lobed giving a lace cutout look. These varieties generally grow best in shady locations as the leaves easily burn or scorch. The leaves of non-Dissectum varieties are much less lacy. They resemble the leaves of native maples but are smaller and more deeply cut.
  • Leaf Color
    The leaf color of different Japanese maples also varies. Many have red spring growth changing to green in the summer. However, some retain the red through the growing season. Some varieties have variegated leaves with white, cream, gold or pink. Variegated leaves burn easily in the sun but can revert to all green in too much shade. Green leaves tolerate more sun than red. Autumn is when Japanese maples really put on a show with a riot of blazing colors.
  • Tree Form
    Non-Dissectum varieties grow more quickly into upright forms. Some varieties remain less than 10′ tall but others can grow to 25′ tall by 20′ wide. Laceleaf maples slowly develop a weeping form approximately 8-10′ tall and 8-12′ wide. However, ‘Seiryu’ is an exception, growing into an upright form.

Laceleaf (Dissectum)

Non-Dissectum

Location

More shade

Less shade

Size

Smaller

10-25′ tall depending upon variety

Tree Form

Weeping

Upright

Leaf Shape

Lacy, fine cut

Lobed

Leaf Color

Red, green

Red, green, variegated

Now that you have identified a suitable planting location and the type of Japanese maple you prefer, come see us and let our friendly staff show you the varieties that meet your requirements. Autumn colors are blazing now so this is a great time to make your selection.

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Outdoor Ornamentation

Do you miss the vibrancy of your flowerbeds and the rich, lush colors of your landscape once winter sets in? With warm weather pots, window boxes and hanging baskets already in place, decorating the outside of your house this winter will be a cinch!

  1. Use only containers that are winter safe. Porous pots, like terra cotta, are not a good choice as they tend to crack when they freeze. Better choices include cast iron or aluminum urns, fiberglass or foam containers and cocoa-lined wire hanging baskets and troughs. For a truly holiday look, consider containers that may have red-and-green coloration or other holiday hues, or look for whimsical holiday-themed designs.
  2. Use the soil that is already in your containers. Remove just the tops from your previous plantings, allowing their roots to remain in the soil as an anchor for your winter arrangement. OASIS Floral foam is another good choice that works well for smaller outdoor arrangements like those in hanging baskets. You may also need some plant or gardening pins to help keep your arrangement in place and secure.
  3. Begin by adding greens to your container (note: your greens will last longer if soaked in Wilt-Pruf for 24 hours before using). Cut branches to the desired length and remove all green needles from the portion that will be inserted into the soil. Create a dense base for your arrangement using either white pine or spruce. Consider allowing some boughs to trail over the edge of the arrangement for more visual interest, or mix up different types of greens for interesting texture.
  4. Create a focal point for your arrangement with the addition of a few tall branches of curly willow, Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick, red twig dogwood or white painted birch. Position these taller elements near the back of the arrangement to allow more room for additional plants and decorative items. To add more magic to the arrangement, consider painting taller branches gold or silver.
  5. To include additional color and texture, incorporate more winter-themed plants into the arrangement. Magnolia leaves, holly, incense cedar, winterberry, China berry, pepper berry, protea, eucalyptus or other decorative branches and berries are all top choices. Go for a lush, tiered look for the best effect.
  6. To bring your arrangement to life add mini white or colored lights, desired ornaments and weather-proof ribbon. For a more whimsical look, consider garlands, candy canes, cranberry strings or even a fairy gingerbread house. Remove these when the holiday season ends and leave the arrangement intact until time for spring planting.
  7. You might spruce up around the pot to bring even more notice to your arrangement. Consider a ribbon around the pot, or add light-up gift boxes or wrapped boxes around the pot to create a larger focus.

With just a few steps, the outdoor containers you enjoy in spring, summer and fall can continue to be lovely accents for holiday and winter decoration.

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Cloches

Back in the early ages of gardening, someone realized covering a plant could protect it from frost and wind chill, preserving blooms and protecting foliage from the ravages of ice crystals and dropping temperatures. In Victorian gardens and parlors, dome-shaped glass covers protected many tender and treasured plants from the nip of winter’s chill. Because of the resemblance to a close-fitting, bell-shaped woman’s hat, these protective devices were called cloches, the French word for hats. You’ve probably seen them over a plant in someone’s garden or greenhouse. Today, in addition to protecting plants and extending the growing season, they provide a touch of whimsy and romance for an elegant garden, terrarium or greenhouse.

Our gift store offers several sizes, materials and styles of cloches for garden use. The clear glass bell-shaped cloches are also popular for in-house decorating. Placed over a miniature orchid to enhance its growing environment or protecting a treasured arrangement, these gardening items show your trend setting and eclectic gardening style. They are ideal for specimen plants, or may be used to showcase a vintage vase, whimsical fairy garden, lush succulent arrangement or favorite potted plant. Even indoors, they provide protection to regulate the humidity and temperature near a plant, eliminating damaging drafts and helping keep delicate, temperamental plants happy.

Although the original cloches protected only one plant, the “cloche concept” now effectively extends the outdoor growing season for row crops. Modern technology and new materials make it easy to continue growing even after the temperatures drop. Hoops, tents and row covers protect late crops from frost and wind, extending the season and ensuring later harvests for the full richness of the fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers that need just a bit of extra time to mature. Whether you hope to sell late season crops and want to improve your profit margin or would prefer a later harvest for extra canning and preservation, these tools can increase your season and improve your yields.

We have a large selection of protective materials including frost protection blankets, plastic row covers and curved hoops to hold the cloth above the plants without damaging produce or bruising leaves. Furthermore, if you want the growing season to never end at all, you can consider cold frames and miniature greenhouses that can keep your green thumb bright and active even on the coldest days. Come on in to see our complete selection, and keep on growing. 

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Winter Silhouettes

Winter provides us the opportunity to examine our landscape silhouette, the flowing lines and overall shape of our landscape design. Combining varying heights, shapes and forms not only increases winter interest, but it also provides the framework for summer leaves, flowers and colors. So, how’s your garden’s silhouette shaping up?

Trees, Trees, Trees

Trees are the backbone of your landscape and are noticeable in every season. When flowers have faded and foliage has fallen, it is the trees that will be the stars of the show. If your winter landscape is lacking interest, here are some ideas for small to medium trees to provide winter texture and variety. If it’s too late (or too cold!) to plant now, consider the placement of one or more of our suggestions to incorporate after the big thaw.

  • Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’): This long-time favorite slowly grows to 8′ tall and wide. With drooping, twisty branches, this small tree is perfect in a large container, as a focal point or as a specimen in a small garden. Golden hanging catkins often persist through the winter. The contorted twigs and branches provide interest in flower arrangements.
  • Curly Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’): This upright rounded tree with curly twigs and branches grows to 30′ tall by 20′ wide, ideal for larger yards or bigger spaces. The twisted twigs, when encased in ice, bounce the sunlight around. When painted with metallic paint or shades of white, cut branches add interest to flower arrangements.
  • Paper Bark Maple (Acer griseum): This tree slowly grows to a gracefully shaped 15-30′ tall oval tree. Additional winter beauty is from its rich red to cinnamon-brown peeling and curling bark, which draws the eye both for its color and its texture. It’s simply beautiful against a snowy white background.
  • Weeping Cherry (Prunus subhirtella varieties): The fountain-like “weeping” form with slender drooping twigs casts fascinating shadows with its silhouette. Covered with a light dusting of snow or encased in ice, it looks like a sparkling Victorian chandelier and is an elegant focal point in the yard or flowerbed.
  • Slender Silhouette Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Slender Silhouette’): A columnar variety of an American native, this tall and slender introduction grows to 40′ tall by 5′ wide, perfect for adding strong vertical pop to punctuate the winter garden. This is ideal for narrow spaces or smaller yards.

Of course, our helpful staff is here to answer any questions and offer landscaping suggestions tailored to your specific needs. There is no reason your landscape silhouette needs to fade into nothingness when winter arrives – we have the right trees for you!

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Holiday Light Safety

Holiday lights are, by far, the most popular holiday decoration, adding sparkle and elegance to the season. Whether you use classic strings of lights, themed light displays or elaborate light dances, follow these important precautions when illuminating your home this year, both indoors and out, then sit back and enjoy the beauty of the season.

  • Use only UL approved light strands, extension cords and replacement bulbs, and purchase them from reputable dealers and retailers.
  • Use lights only in the manufacturer specified environment: indoor lights inside the home and outdoor lights outside the home.
  • Examine previously used lights carefully. Repair or replace frayed wires and damaged sockets or discard worn lights and purchase new strands.
  • Identify and replace all burned out bulbs (note: 2 burned out bulbs can shorten the remaining life of a light set by 39 percent, four bulbs by 63 percent).
  • Use heavy-duty extension cords with no more than three strands of lights per cord.
  • Carefully place extension cords to avoid tripping. Running cords against a wall is preferred. Indoors, extension cords should never be run under rugs or caught directly under furniture legs.
  • Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • A warm plug or wire and fuses that repeatedly blow means the circuit may be overloaded. Reduce the number of light stands to the circuit.
  • Fasten strings of lights securely to tree trunks and branches, walls, posts, mailboxes and other structures. Outdoors, support and hang lights with plastic zip ties or insulated holders. Never use metal tacks, staples or nails. Do not string lights on metal structures or near standing water.
  • Do not use light strands in nurseries, children’s play rooms or children’s bedrooms.
  • Do not hang lights near main electrical and feeder lines.
  • Indoors, only hang lights on a fresh tree or an artificial tree labeled as fire-resistant.
  • String lights carefully so light strands and cords are not pinched in windows, doors or under furniture, which can damage the cord’s insulation and increase the risk of short circuits.
  • Keep holiday lights on only during the evening hours and turn them off when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Cover unused outlets on light strands and extension cords with electrical tape or plastic caps to minimize the risk of short circuits or pets or children contacting a live circuit.
  • Holiday lights are meant to be temporary. Take lights down when the season is over and store strands carefully for next year.

With careful attention to safety, you can enjoy stunning holiday light displays for many joyous seasons to come.

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The Winter Landscape

Although the blooms of summer are a distant memory and the splendor of fall is neatly raked into the compost pile, don’t think your yard has to be dreary from now until spring. Background planting, berries, bark and even blooms are the secrets of a colorful and interesting winter landscape.

Background Planting

Evergreens are the mainstay of the winter landscape. When the shade and flowering trees and shrubs of spring and summer have entered their winter sleep, it’s evergreens that take the stage. Spruce, cedar, pine, hemlock, arborvitae, yew and juniper – there are many beautiful varieties suitable for foundation or specimen planting, windbreaks, screens and groundcovers. Some change into their ‘winter wardrobe’ too: “Reingold” Arborvitae takes on a coppery hue, while junipers like “Bar Harbor” and “Prince of Wales” turn bronzy purple. Don’t forget broad-leaved evergreens for texture contrast, plus make use of evergreen perennials like Coral Bells (Heuchera), Thrift (Armeria), Creeping Phlox, Candytuft (Iberis) and varieties of Sedum for groundcover or edging. A few ornamental grasses such as Blue Fescue retain their color in winter and can create interesting and colorful tufts in a barren landscape. The foliage and flowers of others, like Miscanthus and Fountain Grass (Pennisetum), dry to a biscuit color and look particularly effective against a snowy backdrop.

Berries

Berry-bearing plants are a boon for birds and other wildlife, as well as being a decorative addition to the winter landscape. Try prickly Pyracantha, colorful cotoneaster and hardy hollies – a must for holiday decorating. Hollies come in many shapes and sizes for all sorts of landscaping situations. Plant a dwarf grower like “Blue Angel” (Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Angel’) as a foundation plant, a medium grower like “China Girl” (Ilex cornuta ‘China Girl’) as a screen or hedge and a tall grower like “Nellie Stevens” (Ilex) as a specimen. Hollies require a male pollinator for best berry production. Be sure and ask which pollinator you need for the variety you select.

Bark

The beautiful bark which many trees and shrubs exhibit can be seen at its best during winter, when leaves have fallen and surrounding plants are bare. Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) is a delightful small specimen tree with reddish-brown bark that exfoliates in thin papery sheets. Consider white-barked European or Himalayan Birch or water-loving River Birch with its eye-catching grey-brown to cinnamon colored peeling bark. For attractive mottled trunks, plant Stewartia and Crepe Myrtle. The dazzling stems of Red and Yellow Twig Dogwood brighten as the winter progresses bringing cheer to dreary days. Twig Dogwoods look particularly stunning when planted in groupings in front of evergreen trees.

Blooms

Even in the middle of winter, there are a few plants that will surprise us with flowers. Perennial Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has pretty white buttercup-like flowers; its cousin, Lenten Rose (H. orientalis) blooms a little later with flowers ranging from purplish green to white and pink. Both are shade-loving and grow slowly to a loose evergreen clump. Witch Hazel (Hammamelis mollis) is a large, multi-stemmed shrub with fragrant late winter blooms in yellow, orange or red. Other late winter bloomers, all of which are also fragrant, include Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealii), Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and Sweet Box (Sarcoccoca).

Stop by soon and talk to us about planning your landscape to include background plantings, berries, bark and blooms for winter interest. Your yard will never have the winter doldrums again!

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Pruners for the Lefties

Have you wondered why left-handed gardeners have difficulty using “regular” pruners? It’s because of the way the thumb and index finger have to push together to make the cut. It’s hard to control it for detailed work plus incorrect pruners often cause bruises and painful calluses to form.

Fortunately, there is a solution – pruners specially designed for left-handed use. The correct pruners, with the left blade on top, allow the leftie to see what they’re cutting and enjoy pruning. Come on in to check out which of these wonder-tools fits the best.

FELCO

Felco hand tools originated more than 70 years ago when Felix Flisch patented his first hand pruner, the Felco 1. The company’s three core values, ergonomics, interchangeability and durability, haven’t changed and even today, all their products incorporate these values. We carry two left-handed styles of Felco pruners.

  • Felco 9: This is the left-handed version of Felco 8, one of the most popular hand pruners ever. Recommended for up to 1″ cutting capacity, these bypass pruners have forged aluminum handles and hardened steel blades with a screw-mounted anvil blade. They include a lifetime guarantee. The efficient design includes a blade with a wire-cutting notch and a sap groove. The blades have removable dowel pins to allow easy maintenance and replacement. The micrometric adjustment system, using the included adjustment key, promises precision cuts and maximized user comfort.
  • Felco 10: This bypass pruner is the top of the line left-handed version of the Felco 7. Designed for the professional gardener (but enjoyed by all), this pruner requires 30 percent less effort, thereby reducing hand fatigue, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome with its unique rotating handle. The narrow, pointed blade design facilitates close-in pruning. Like the Felco 9, an adjustment key is also included. Also recommended for 1″ diameter cuts.

Replacement parts are available for both styles along with holsters and blade sharpeners.

Bahco

This company, established in 1862, produces very fine gardening tools in addition to their industrial lineup. Although they look a little different, the workmanship and ergonomic design make them among the favorite of garden tools. This company uses the term “Secateurs” as hand pruners and designates the levels as professional or expert.

  • PX-M2-L: This is a left-handed version of the popular PX-M2 bypass model. The composite materials in the handle with an upper section of soft rubber act as a shock absorber. The ergonomic styling and vertical and lateral inclinations of the cutting head allow the wrist to remain straight when cutting. This reduces fatigue and increases comfort and performance. All parts are replaceable.
  • PXR-M2-L: This pruner is the left-handed version of the heavier bypass PXR model designed for frequent professional use. Home gardeners also love them! A rotating handle increases performance and comfort. All parts are replaceable.
  • PG-03-L: This tool is the left-handed version of the home gardener (expert) hand pruner. This model is available in two hand sizes, small and large, and in two pruning widths for 1/2″ or 3/4″ cuts. Fiberglass reinforces the plastic handles and Xylan® coats the blades to reduce friction and protect from rust. As a convenience, it has a one-hand locking mechanism.

Holsters and blade sharpeners are also available.

Corona and The Gardener’s Friend

The Corona BP6340 has aluminum handles and hook with replaceable blades and springs. The steel blades of high carbon steel and the ergonomically angled head result in close, clean and healthier cuts. With less stress to the wrist, it easily cuts up to 1″ branches.

The Gardener’s Friend Ratchet Hand Pruners are designed for gardeners with small hands, or hands weakened by arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis. The unique ratcheting action easily cuts branches to 1″ thick with less hand strain.

Of course, we have an excellent selection of other specialized hand pruners in our tool department. Whether you are buying for a child, a delicate hand or a large-handed gardener, we have the proper sized tools to reduce strain and make gardening easier and more enjoyable for all. 

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Colorful Clematis – America’s Favorite Flowering Vine

When it comes to flowering vines, few can rival the excellent performance clematis provides with its profusion of colorful blooms, and this plant is largely pest-proof and disease-free. With a few tips, you can successfully grow America’s favorite vine in your garden this spring!

Selecting a Variety

Clematis comes in a wide variety of colors: purple, pink, red, lavender, mauve, blue and white as well as blends of more than one color. There are over 200 varieties in all, and most plants bloom for several weeks in May and June with a few sporadic flowers in fall. Others bloom in summer, and a few varieties flower from late summer into fall.

Choosing a Location

Clematis performs best in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day – this is especially true with later blooming varieties like ‘Lady Betty Balfour.’ They also need moist, well-drained soil. Because clematis climbs by curling or twining leaf tendrils, stalks or stems around a support system, a location with a trellis, arbor or fence is essential to provide adequate structure so the plant can show off its full beauty.

Planting

To give clematis a good start in your yard, dig a hole slightly deeper than the rootball of the plant and twice as wide. Add about one-third peat moss, compost or other organic matter to your soil to provide sufficient nourishment. Clematis prefers a neutral pH, so you may need to amend the soil with lime if your soil is acidic.

Without handling too much, plant the clematis rootball slightly above the ground and water well with plant starter fertilizer. Next, add about 2-3 inches of mulch, but keep the mulch away from the stem of the plant so as not to encourage stem rot. This layer of mulch is important because clematis prefers cool, moist roots. The mulch will also discourage weeds while the plant is getting established.

Maintaining Your Clematis

To assure full, healthy plants, you will want to prune your clematis back to about 12 inches the first and second spring. After then, you should refer to specific pruning instructions for each variety. Generally, the following pruning practices should be followed:

  • Type 1: Early Flowering Clematis (macropetala, alpina and montana types) – These plants produce flowers on wood that was grown the previous year and should be pruned within a month after flowering in the spring. Thin out weak or dead branches, lightly prune side branches to 1-2 buds and leave the main branch alone. Train or guide branches as required.
  • Type 2: Early Large-Flowering Clematis – These varieties bloom on the previous season’s wood and on new shoots, blooming from early to late summer. These varieties should have one-half of the previous summer’s growth pruned back in late winter before new growth starts. Remove dead or damaged stems and cut back all other shoots to where strong leaf-axil buds are clearly visible. Immediately after flowering, cut one-quarter to one-third off the main shoots to within a foot or so of the base. Water and feed well. Train or guide new growth as required.
  • Type 3: Late Small- and Large-Flowering Clematis – Cut these types back hard to the lowest pair of strong buds on each stem (usually about two feet) in late winter just as leaves begin to open. These varieties will bloom on wood produced in the upcoming spring months.

Clematis should be fed monthly during the growing season with 5-10-5 fertilizer or in early spring and again in early summer with a slow-release fertilizer. You will also want to check the pH of the soil periodically to keep it neutral, and refresh the mulch as needed to protect the roots. With just a little care and appropriate pruning, these lovely vines will bring gorgeous color and structure to your yard for years.

A Buffet of Berries for Winter Birds

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

Caring for Berries

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

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

Best Winter Berries

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

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

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

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Anti-Desiccants: Why, What, and When

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

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

Preventing Desiccation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beyond Winter Drought

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

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

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7 Top Trees for Multi-Season Interest

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

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

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

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

Feeding the Birds

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

Feeder Types and the Birds They Attract

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

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

Best Winter Bird Foods

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

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

Design a Raised Landscape That Works

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

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

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

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

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