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Creepers & Crawlers: Ground Covers for Walkways

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

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

Groundcovers for Moderate to Heavy Foot Traffic 

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

Full Sun 

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

Sun to Part Sun 

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

Shade 

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

Choosing the Right Flowering Tree

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

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

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

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Plants for Wet Soil

More water is always good for plants, right? Wrong! When water stands in the soil, air is displaced, which in turn smothers the plant roots. Once the roots are damaged many symptoms appear on leaves and shoots including wilting, marginal and inter-veinal browning of leaves (scorch), poor color and stunted growth. But the excess water isn’t always coming from overwatering, it may be the result of poor draining soil.

Poor drainage is often produced in disturbed sites when heavy clay soil is compacted by construction machinery or other excessive use, such as yards where several children are often playing. Areas cultivated for plantings, such as flowerbed or borders, then collect water running off the compacted ground – this is called the teacup effect. Wet areas may also be the result of swales, drain spout runoff and low areas even when soil percolation is adequate in most of the site but when general moisture levels are routinely high.

To check for a potential drainage problem, dig a hole at least 2 feet deep, fill it with water and note how long the water remains. If it doesn’t drain completely away within 24 hours a severe drainage problem exists.

Fortunately, you can correct drainage problems in different ways. Easy options include…

  • Divert water past plantings using drainage pipes, splash blocks or rain chains.
  • Plant in mounds or raised beds so water will run off and away from the plants.
  • Install drain tiles in saturated areas or use French drains to contain excess water.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter such as compost to improve its structure.

An even easier solution is to simply select plants that tolerate wet sites. The following trees and shrubs tolerate wet sites and flooding better than most. Few tolerate standing water for long periods (those that grow in truly swampy conditions are marked *), but all will do better in wet areas.

Shade Trees

  • *Acer rubrum/Red Maple
  • *Betula nigra/River Birch
  • Liquidambar styraciflua/Sweet Gum
  • Alyssa sylvatica/Sour Gum
  • Platanus occidentalis/Sycamore
  • Quercus phellos/Willow Oak
  • *Salix spp./Willow
  • *Taxodium distichum/Bald Cypress

Flowering Trees

  • Amelanchier Canadensis/Serviceberry
  • Magnolia virginiana/Sweetbay Magnolia

Evergreen Trees

  • Calocedrus decurrens/Incense Cedar
  • Ilex opaca/American Holly
  • Thuja occidentalis/Pyramidal Arborvitae

Deciduous Shrubs

  • *Aronia arbutifolia/Chokeberry
  • Clethra alnifolia/Summersweet
  • *Cornus spp./Twig Dogwoods
  • Enkianthus campanulatus/Enkianthus
  • Ilex verticillata/Winterberry
  • *ltea virginica/Virginia Sweetspire
  • Lindera benzoin/Spicebush
  • Myrica pennsylvanica/Bayberry
  • *Rhododendron viscosum/Swamp Azalea
  • *Salix spp./Pussy Willow
  • Viburnum spp./Viburnums

Evergreen Shrubs

  • *Andromeda polifolia/Bog Rosemary
  • *Chamaecyparis thyoides/White Atlantic Cedar
  • *llex glabra/Inkberry
  • Kalmia atifolia/Mountain Laurel
  • Leucothoe spp./Leucothoe

Perennials

  • *Arundo donax/Giant Reed Grass
  • Aster nova-angliae/Asters
  • Astilbe spp./Astilbe
  • Chelone/Turtlehead
  • Cimicifuga racemose/Snakeroot
  • Helenium autumnale/Helen’s Flower
  • Hibiscus moscheutos/Hardy Hisbiscus
  • *Iris kaempferi/Japanese Iris
  • Iris siberica/Siberian Iris
  • *Lobelia cardinalis/Cardinal Flower
  • Lobelia syphilitca/Blue Lobelia
  • Monarda didyma/Bee Balm
  • Myosotis scorpiodes/Forget-me-nots
  • Tiarella cordifolia/Foam Flower
  • Trollius europaeus/Globe Flowers
  • Viola spp./Violets

Ground Covers

  • Gallium odoratum/Sweet Woodruff
  • Gaultheria procumbers/Wintergreen
  • Hosta spp./Hosta
  • Mentha spp./Mint
  • Parthenocissus quinquifolia/Virginia Creeper

Annuals

  • Cleome hosslerana/Spider Flower
  • Myosotis sylvatica/Forget-me-nots
  • Torenia fournien/Wishbone Flower
  • Viola wittrockiana/Pansies

Not sure which water-loving plants to choose? We’d be happy to help you evaluate your landscape moisture and other conditions to help you choose the very best plants for your yard!

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Create Successful Shrubs With Proper Pruning

Gorgeous yellow, pink, red, orange, white and purple blooms put on a show in early spring from plants like forsythia, lilac, azaleas, rhododendron, mockorange, weigela and bridal wreath spirea. Summer then greets us with bold blossoms in hues of purple, magenta, blue and red from butterfly bush, hydrangea, crape myrtle and rose-of-sharon. These deciduous shrubs provide a beautiful backdrop for the garden and most of these plants only require basic watering, fertilizing and pruning. Why not add them to your yard today?

More Blooms, Better Blooms

To keep your shrubs healthy and blooming prolifically, it is important to know which plants to prune at what times. Before you go chopping away, do a little research about when your shrub should be pruned. If you don’t do it at the right time, you won’t get many (or any) of those gorgeous flowers to enjoy.

Shrubs to Prune When Dormant

Shrubs that produce flowers on wood grown in the same season should be pruned in late winter or very early spring. This allows time for the wood to grow and the current year’s buds to set to produce more beautiful blooms the next year.

  • Abelia
  • Beautyberry (Callicarpa)
  • Bluebeard (Caryopteris)
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia – except Alternifolia)
  • Cinquefoil (Potentilla)
  • Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia)
  • Hydrangea (Paniculata and Arborescens)
  • Rose
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus)
  • Spirea (all species that bloom in summer)

Shrubs to Prune Immediately After Flowering

Shrubs that bloom on year-old wood and need to be pruned just after blooms fade. This allows enough time for the new branches to form next year’s buds.

  • Azalea
  • Barberry (Berberis)
  • Beautybush (Kolkwitzia)
  • Heather (Calluna)
  • Daphne
  • Deutzia
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Hydrangea (Macrophylla, Seratta and Quercifolia)
  • Kerria
  • Lilac (Syringa)
  • Mock Orange (Philadelphus)
  • Pieris
  • Rhododendron
  • Scotch Broom (Cytisus)
  • Spirea (spring blooming varieties like bridal wreath)
  • Weigela
  • Witch Hazel (Hamamelis)

Still Not Getting Any or Many Blooms?

Even with proper pruning, it is possible you may not be seeing the blooms you’d hoped for. Some routine maintenance will help keep your plants healthy so they can produce those fantastic flowers.

If you haven’t already done so, fertilize plants this spring with Plant-Tone, Holly-Tone or similar products (for those acid-loving azaleas and rhododendron). Move the mulch and sprinkle the food lightly over the soil at the outer edges of the plant, then water well. Replace the layer of mulch to help conserve moisture and prevent most weed growth.

Though an established shrub can endure a moderate drought, it will flower more reliably if you help it through the dry weather with a weekly watering. Consider a drip system to provide good water and minimize evaporation.

Other reasons your shrub may not be putting on its best flower show might include improper lighting or incorrect soil conditions. Similarly, if a plant does not receive enough sunlight or if the soil pH isn’t suitable for that type of plant, it will not flower as it should.

If you’re having trouble with a particular plant, stop by or call us to help you find out why. And, remember, sometimes it just takes patience. Some plants, like wisteria, can take up to seven years to produce flowers, but will be well worth the wait for the amazing show they produce.

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Azaleas – An American Favorite

Azaleas are true garden favorite and are popular in all types of landscape designs. To keep them blooming prolifically and as beautiful as they can be, however, you will need to follow a few special directions for their best care.

Planting Azaleas

Azaleas need a well-drained location, as they will not thrive in an area that stays overly wet. They prefer afternoon shade, and too much sun can harm their leaves and fade the flowers, depleting their beauty. For their best growth, it is important to shelter azaleas from drying winds. The best locations in the landscape will be along the north, northeast or east side of a building or stand of evergreens or in the filtered shade under tall trees.

Azaleas may be planted any time of the year, even when in full bloom. Spring and early fall are ideal planting times so the plants are not stressed by the heaviest summer heat. Before planting, loosen the matted roots with a hand cultivator so they can spread and establish more easily.

To give azaleas the excellent drainage they require, they should be planted high, with half the root ball above the existing ground level in a hole at least twice as wide as the root ball. Amend the planting soil to provide good nutrition for these hungry plants. Once the plant is set in the planting hole, fill in around it with the planting mix, packing firmly to eliminate air pockets. Mound soil up to top of root ball. Water shrubs thoroughly with a diluted plant starter fertilizer to encourage root growth and help them establish more quickly. Mulch 2-3 inches deep over the planting hole, with mulch pulled away from plant stem to avoid insect infestations and rotting.

Watering Azaleas

Spring and summer plantings should be watered 2-3 times per week until fall the year they are planted, then once a week until Christmas. Plants may need to be watered as often as once a day if they are small or the weather is hot. Always check the soil moisture level before watering. It should be lightly moist several inches down, but if it is drying out more frequent watering may be needed. In following years you will need to water your azaleas about once a week unless there is a good soaking rain. Plants will need more water in hot summers and while in flower to keep their growth and form lush.

The Need for Mulch

Mulching around azaleas is always a good idea, and can help them thrive. A 2-4″ layer of mulch should be maintained at all times over the root area of the plant, but pulled away from the stems. This keeps the soil cool and moist, helps control weeds and protects roots in winter.

Pruning Azaleas

Azaleas rarely need to be pruned. When pruning is required it should be done immediately after blooming, since if you wait to prune until summer you may cut off next year’s blooms and miss an entire flowering season. Azaleas may be sheared, as they will send out new shoots anywhere on a branch, or you may choose hand-pruning to create a neater form.

With a bit of considerate care, azaleas can be a showstopper in your landscape. Stop by today for help choosing the best azaleas and learning all you need to know to keep them gorgeous year after year!

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Nothing Says Welcome Like an Entry Garden

Now is the time to start planning your entry garden. This welcoming patch has the power to set a warm and friendly tone for those who pass through your garden on the way to your front door. It does take some planning to set the proper mood, however, and you need to consider architecture, setting, scale, boundaries and maintenance.

Architecture and Setting

First, it is critical that your garden style suits your architecture and setting to create a cohesive, uniform look. Try to match the hardscaping and plants to the style and feel of your house. A cottage or farmhouse would be accentuated by a friendly, loose informal garden with plants spilling onto the walkway and colors blending together at the edges of beds. A more formal and symmetrical building, however, should be paired with a more structured garden that includes well-groomed shrubbery, stately flowers and a well-defined path.

Plant Scale

Pay attention to the scale of the plants you choose. Plants that will grow too tall or broad can overwhelm the house or crowd the walkway. Plants that are too small can make the house feel too large and unwelcoming. Investigate the mature sizes of plants and be sure they are positioned appropriately within your entry garden so they will not crowd one another or block key features of your home, such as house numbers or security lighting.

Garden Boundaries

Consider setting boundaries for the garden using a fence, wall, hedge or gate. The boundary could encompass just the area around the front door, might include a flowerbed border or could frame the whole yard, but keep in mind the size and style of your home. A white picket fence around the entire yard is a quaint option for a cottage-esque home, but would look out of place with an elegant brick manor, which would be more suited to a wrought iron boundary or classic boxwood hedges.

Maintaining Your Entry Garden

Be realistic about the amount of time you have to maintain your entry garden. If you have limited time, choose native or easy to care for plants that will require little attention. Also consider using containers for some of the plants. They can be easily rearranged throughout the seasons to give a different look to the garden, and plants can be brought in over the winter months. Keep in mind essential tasks such as weeding, pruning and watering, and plan the garden to suit your abilities, time and budget so you can always keep it in perfect condition to welcome visitors.

With a little planning, you can create a welcoming entry garden to beautifully greet guests as they visit your home.

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Endless Summer® Hydrangeas

Do you love the look of large, stunning hydrangeas? Do they evoke wistful images of summer and floral nostalgia? Don’t you wish they would last longer in the landscape? Unfortunately, many hydrangeas have relatively short bloom cycles, but there are amazing cultivars you can investigate that provide longer lasting blooms without losing any of their beauty or richness as the season progresses.

Endless Blooms, Color and Summer Luxury

Endless Summer® The Original and Endless Summer® and Blushing Bride® are the first mophead (large, ball-shaped flower) hydrangeas that bloom on both old and new growth, providing you with beautiful flowers and gorgeous color all season long. Young plants produce blooms that are 4-6 inches wide, while mature plants can have blooms as large as 8-10 inches wide, making these massive hydrangeas real show stoppers in your landscape or garden. Flower color for Endless Summer® The Original ranges from shades of blue through shades of pink, depending upon the pH level of your soil. Pink blossoms are the result of alkaline soils (pH 6-7), while more acidic soils (pH 5-5.8) will cause the plant to produce blue flowers. Adding Master Nursery Hydra Blue or other acidifying agents to the soil can help produce the lovely blue colors if your soil is initially alkaline, or you can adjust bloom color throughout the season for a vibrantly changing show. Endless Summer® Blushing Bride, as its name implies, initially offers pure white blossoms that mature to a sweet, pink blush or pale blue tinge, again depending on the soil pH.

Large, deep green leaves provide a lovely background for these spectacular flowers, which are excellent for cutting for fresh arrangements and for drying. Endless Summer® hydrangeas mature at 3-5 feet in height and width and are perfect used as standalone specimens, planted in borders or as hedges, massed under deep-rooted trees or even set in large containers. These plants perform best in partial shade with moist soil. Another big plus for Endless Summer® hydrangeas is the fact that they are cold hardy to Zone 4, giving northern gardeners a beautiful plant that will bloom well year after year.

Perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, weddings and house warming celebrations, potted Endless Summer® hydrangeas make beautiful gifts that will provide years of beauty and enjoyment. If you already have these stunning blooms in your yard, consider cutting a few for a bouquet and share the joy with friends, neighbors, family members, coworkers and acquaintances, and the interest in these amazing hydrangeas will continue to spread until the world is blooming all summer long.

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Pruning Forsythia

Spring is here! Forsythia is a true spring favorite and never disappoints with its shocking yellow blooms atop a mass of unruly branches. This early-flowering shrub can thrive for decades on neglect but there will come a time, whether out of want or necessity, that your forsythia will require pruning. But how can you do so without dampening the ferocious spring flame these spring shrubs produce?

Why Prune Forsythia?

When this shrub does so well without detailed care, why is it necessary to prune it at all? In many landscapes, if the shrub is properly sited, it may not need pruning. Unfortunately, many people underestimate the vigorous growth of these beauties, and in just a few years it may seem crowded and overgrown in a corner, narrow bed or border. A large, unruly forsythia may also seem overwhelming in a smaller space or when paired with less vigorous plants. Damage or illness may also create a misshapen or unbalanced plant that is no longer so pleasing to the eye. In these cases, judicious pruning can rejuvenate and refresh the shrub and give new life to its part of the landscape.

Rejuvenating Forsythia

Rejuvenating an old, out of shape and poorly flowering forsythia is simple. After the shrub has finished flowering in late spring, cut all the branches back to within one foot of the ground. When branches put on new growth, reaching two feet from the ground, prune all branch tips to the first set of side shoots. This will help develop a fuller, thicker shrub for a more lush look. Be aware, however, that it will take until the second bloom season for a severely pruned forsythia to return to its former splendor.

A newer forsythia that is just a few years old can be kept in tip-top shape a bit more easily. Each spring, after it flowers, cut up to one-third of the branches back to the ground. Choose dead branches, branches thicker than your thumb and all crossed or inward facing branches. This will help create a good form with healthy air circulation and pleasing growth for years of beauty and enjoyment.

It’s easy to keep forsythia looking stunning for many years. Whether you want to make the most of the forsythia already in your yard or want to add this beauty to your landscape, stop by – our landscaping experts can help you choose the best species for your yard and needs so you can enjoy its beauty for many springs to come.

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Lilacs

One of the most popular deciduous flowering shrubs, and certainly one of the most nostalgic, lilacs herald the arrival of spring. When we reminisce about this old-fashioned favorite we recall large panicles of sweetly scented, pale purple blossoms. Today, however, lilacs are available in an incredible variety of sizes, growth habits, flowering times, bloom sizes, shapes, colors and fragrances.

About Lilacs

Lilacs belong to the genus Syringa that consists of approximately 20 different species and about 1,000 different varieties. Most species are native to Asia, but Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, is an Eastern European native. Some of the finest cultivars of this species were bred in France in the early twentieth century, hence the term “French Hybrid.” Lilacs were cultivated in America’s first botanical gardens and grown by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. They remain a steadfast favorite to this day in public gardens as well as backyards, and many municipalities even host lilac festivals to celebrate these blooms each spring.

Proper Lilac Care

If cared for properly, a lilac bush has the potential to survive for hundreds of years. Planting your lilac in pH neutral, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter will help ensure the longevity of your shrub. Providing at least 6 hours of direct sun each day and deadheading immediately after flowering will guarantee an abundance of lovely scented blooms. Give lilacs adequate growing space so that they may grow to their full potential. Spacing these plants too closely will cause them to grow tall and spindly and only flower at the top; instead, be sure they have plenty of room to grow out as well as up and you’ll be rewarded with copious blooms all over the shrub. Fertilize with a high phosphorus fertilizer in the early spring to ensure the best growth and most luxuriant blooms.

When your lilac reaches a height or shape that is no longer to your liking, you may remove up to 1/3 of the thickest stems. Cut them back to the ground. You may also shorten any unusually tall stems by cutting them back to a strong branch. Open up the crowded base of the shrub by removing a portion of the youngest stems. Remember; prune lilacs immediately after flowering before plants start to form next year’s flower buds.

Beyond the Classics

Syringa vulgaris provides the spring garden with perfumed blooms for up to two weeks. To extend the bloom season for up to 6 weeks, plant an assortment of the uncommon species along with the common lilac. Some excellent choices are hyacinthiflora (which blooms before vulgaris), paired with palibin, prestonia and reticulate (which bloom consecutively after vulgaris).

Want to branch out into even more lilac cultivation in your yard? See the chart below, or come in today to see the latest lilacs to love.

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Tree Peony: The Ancient Empress

From the ancient palace gardens of China comes an elegant empress, the tree peony. Native to China, the tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) has been grown by Chinese herbalists, gardeners and nobility for more than 1,500 years. In 1994, China named this beauty as its national flower, giving it a treasured place in history and sparking more interest in its botanical nature worldwide.

In recent years, tree peonies have become increasingly popular and more readily available for landscape use. This plant is distinctly different from the herbaceous peony that we are so familiar with in our American perennial beds. The tree peony is a deciduous woody plant with fern-like foliage that produces larger flowers two weeks earlier than its perennial partner. These blossoms come in a wide range of shapes, colors and fragrances depending on the cultivar, providing great variety to suit any landscape.

Tree Peony Particulars 

Not sure if the tree peony will be best for your landscape? Learning more about these exotic beauties can help you decide if you want to welcome one to your yard.

  • This slow-growing woody shrub grows 4-10 feet tall with distinctive, silken blossoms in a multitude of shapes, colors and fragrances.
  • Flowers best with most vigorous blooms in dappled shade with 3-4 hours of filtered sunlight per day.
  • Tree peonies require a site with good drainage amended with plenty of organic matter. Space plants at least 4 feet apart to provide good air circulation.
  • Prefers a soil pH range of 6.5-7.0. Use organic mulch or added sulfur to lower the pH level if necessary for the best nutrition.
  • Tree Peonies are heavy feeders. Do not fertilize the first year. Foliar feed in the spring of the second year when the leaves emerge with an organic fertilizer. Fertilize again after blooming and again in the fall before dormancy. Spread organic material (compost or manure) around the base of the plant each spring and gently work into the soil for slowly-released nutrition.
  • Virtually pest- and disease-free if planted in a good location with organically-rich soil to feed from.
  • Deadhead after blooming and clean up fallen leaves in autumn to keep the tree looking its best in every season.
  • Prefers to be transplanted in the fall if moving is necessary, or plant new specimens in fall to allow them to establish before winter.

Once your tree peony is established it will reward you each year with an abundance of glorious blooms, bringing exotic flair and distinction to your landscape.

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Trees For Small Spaces

There’s something about putting a tree in the ground that just feels right. In many cases, you start with just a bare trunk with a few branches and then, rather quickly, it begins sprouting new growth. You nurture your new acquisition and each year it increases in height and girth. Finally, one day, you look out the window and a magnificent mature tree is there to greet you!

Choosing Your Best Tree

Trees are a permanent addition to the landscape and therefore require a great deal of thought and planning in their selection so you are not regretting your choice as the tree matures. When choosing, not only do you need to keep climate and soil type in mind, but you will also need to consider how much space you have, both above and below the ground, and how large your tree will be at maturity. Large trees should be given the room that they need to grow and thrive. Planted in the wrong location, some large trees have far reaching roots that can damage plumbing, break underground utilities and buckle pavement, not to mention branches that can tower dangerously over your roof. Fortunately, there are many small to medium trees available that look great and cause no damage when planted close to your house, sidewalk or driveway.

Top Trees for Small Spaces

  • Acer ginnala (Amur Maple) – Multi-stemmed, rounded habit, bright red fall color, 15-20’ h x 15-20’ w
  • Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) – Upright, irregular habit, exfoliating bark, excellent red fall color, 20-30’ h x 15-25’ w
  • Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) – Numerous varieties, textures, colors and forms and sizes for every taste and situation
  • Aesculus pavia (Red Buckeye) – Native to the southeastern United States, red upright flowers in May to early June, flowers attract hummingbirds, 10-20’ h x 10-20’ w
  • Amelanchier canadensis (Shadblow Serviceberry) – North American native, shrubby, multi-stemmed trunk tree, white flowers in early spring, edible purplish-black fruit, reddish-orange fall color, 6-15’ h x 15-20’ w
  • Betula pendula ‘Youngii’ (Young’s Weeping Birch) – Strong weeping tendency, attractive white bark, yellow fall color, 8-12’ h x 10’ w
  • Carpinus caroliniana (American Hornbeam) – Eastern North American native, multi-stemmed, smooth muscular gray bark, yellow/red/orange fall color, 20-30’ h x 20-30’ w
  • Cercis Canadensis (Eastern Redbud) – Eastern North American native, often multi-stemmed, purple-pink flowers in early spring, 20-30’ h x 20-30’ w
  • Chionanthus viriginicus (Fringe Tree) – North American native, multi-stemmed, rounded habit, fringe-like white flowers in May to early June, golden-yellow fall color, 12-20’ h x 12-20’ w
  • Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood) – Eastern North American native, tiered horizontal branching, white flowers late May to early June, blue-black fruit, persistent coral colored fruit stalks, yellow/reddish/purple fall color, 25’ h x 25’ w
  • Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood) – Eastern North American and northern Mexican native, rounded habit, white or pink flowers in mid-May, reddish-purple fall color, 30’ h x 30’ w
  • Cornus kousa (Korean Dogwood) – Rounded habit, vase-shaped branching habit, flowers white aging to pink in early summer, red to purple fall color, 30’ h x 30’ w
  • Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry Dogwood) – Multi-stemmed, rounded habit, small yellow flowers in early spring, bright red berries in the summer eaten quickly by birds, 20’ h x 20’ w
  • Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ (Winter King Hawthorn) – United States native, broad horizontal crown, white flowers in spring, yellow fall color, abundance of small red berries in winter, 15’ h x 20’ w
  • Halesia tetraptera (Carolina Silverbell) – native, irregular to rounded and broad shaped, pendulous white bell-shaped flowers in May, Smooth muscle-like bark, 30 – 40’h x 25 – 35’w
  • Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia) – Multi-stemmed tree with oval habit, lightly fragrant showy white blooms in early spring, ornamental smooth silver-gray bark, 15-20’ h x 10-15’ w
  • Malus sargentii (Sargent crabapple) – Mounded habit, blooms April through early May, fragrant flowers, pink-red in bud opening to white, very showy deep red fruit held in clusters, 6-8’ h x 9-12’ w
  • Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’ (Thundercloud Plum) – Rounded habit, deep purple foliage all year around, slightly fragrant pink flowers in the spring, 20’ h x 20’ w
  • Stewartia koreana (Korean Stewartia) – Pyramidal or oval in shape, white flowers in June and July, long bloom time, excellent fall color orange/yellow/red/purple, 25’ h x 12’ w
  • Stewartia ovate (Mountain Stewartia) – Slow grower, dense with spreading branches, white flowers in July, orange to red fall color, 10-15’ h x 10-15’ w
  • Stewartia pseudocamellia (Japanese Stewartia) – Slow grower, pyramidal, solitary white camellia-like flowers June to August, excellent fall color yellow/red/purple, beautiful exfoliating camouflage bark exposed in the winter, 40’ h x 20’ w
  • Styrax japonica (Japanese Snowbell) – Horizontal branching, broad flat top at maturity, hanging white flowers from late May into June, good fall color of yellow with a reddish cast, 20-30’ h x 20-30’ w
  • Syringa reticulate (Japanese Tree Lilac) – Stiff spreading branches, fragrant showy white flowers borne in early summer on panicles up to 12″ long and up to 10” wide, 20’ h x 15’ w

Overwhelmed with small tree varieties and not sure which one is best for your yard? Let our experts help you choose the perfect tree to fit your space!

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Dealing With Winter Damage

It’s early spring – time to survey the damage that winter has produced. In some areas, shrubs may still be hiding under piles of frozen snow, and could be crushed or compacted. Severed tree limbs may lie scattered across the landscape, and bark may be torn and stripped from trunks. It’s difficult to know what to tackle first, but fortunately, much of the damage is easily correctible.

Repairing Winter-Damaged Trees

When surveying and repairing winter damage, start with your trees – they are generally the most valuable additions to your property. As you survey the damage – broken limbs, torn bark, a tilting trunk – ask yourself “Is this tree salvageable or should it be removed?” If the damage is extensive, or you are unsure about how the damage may affect the tree’s overall health or future growth, hire a professional for a consultation. Replacing a severely damaged tree with a younger one, perhaps a type you like even better, may be the best solution.

If a limb is broken somewhere along its length, or damaged beyond repair, employ good pruning practices and saw off the remaining piece at the branch collar, being careful not to cut into the trunk or leave a stub. Sometimes a fallen limb may strip bark off the tree trunk. To repair this damage, cut the ragged edges of the loose bark away from the stripped area to firmly affixed healthy bark. Nature will take care of the rest. Even if the trunk of the tree is split, the tree may still be saved. For large trees, repairing this type of damage usually requires cabling and bracing done by a professional. If the tree is still young, the crotch may be pulled tightly together and tied or taped until the wound eventually heals.

Repairing Winter-Damaged Shrubs

Shrubs can suffer the same damage as trees, including broken limbs and stripped bark. Heavy snowfall can crush smaller shrubs, and larger varieties may have their trunks or centers split from heavy snow or ice accumulation. Most shrubs are resilient, however, and slowly regain their shape as the weather warms. If branches are bent but not broken, you may tie them together to help them along and prevent further damage from late-season storms. Do not tie tightly and remove twine after about a year. Completely broken branches may be pruned away, but take care to maintain the shrub’s form and balance, keeping in mind its growth pattern so it will not look lopsided or ungainly. Again, if the damage is severe, you may need to replace the plant.

The harder the winter is, the more of a beating trees and shrubs will take. With prompt attention in early spring, however, you can easily undo much of the damage and help your landscape recover with ease.

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Growing Under Black Walnut

If you have a black walnut tree on your property, you know how difficult it can be to find anything that will grow anywhere near this plant.

Black walnuts release a substance called juglone into the soil, which is toxic to many ornamental and edible plants and can stunt their growth significantly – in fact, juglone is used as a herbicide in some areas! A mature black walnut tree can have a toxic zone with up to an 80-foot radius, depending on the tree’s size and age. Every part of the walnut tree contains juglone and this substance remains in the soil long after the tree is cut down, continuing to inhibit anything that may be planted in its place.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of plants that are less affected by juglone and can still thrive in contaminated soil. When choosing to plant in an area where a black walnut is located or where one once stood, it is safe to make your selection from the lists below.

Vegetables

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Melons
  • Squash

Fruit

  • Black Raspberry
  • Cherry
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum

Annuals

  • Pot-marigold, Calendula officinalis
  • Begonia, fibrous cultivars
  • Morning Glory, Ipomoea
  • Pansy, Viola
  • Zinnia species

Perennials

  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • European Wild Ginger, Asarum europaeum
  • Astilbe species
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • Leopard’s-Bane, Doronicum species
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera
  • Plantain-lily, Hosta
  • Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica
  • Balm, Monarda didyma
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Polyanthus Primrose, Primula x polyantha
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana
  • Horned Violet, Viola cornuta

Ferns

  • Crested Wood Fern, Dryopteris cristata
  • Senstitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis
  • Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

Bulbs

  • Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa luciliae
  • Crocus species
  • Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
  • Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Siberian Squill, Scilla sibirica

Trees

  • Japanese Maples, Acer palmatum
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis

Vines and Shrubs

  • Euonymus species
  • Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus
  • Honeysuckle, Lonicera species
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
  • Arborvitaes, Thuja species

Black walnut can be a challenging plant to have in your landscape, but if you understand the unique characteristics of this tree you can easily pair it with other plants that don’t mind its toxic effects.

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Heath or Heather

Often mistaken for one another, heath (Erica) and heather (Calluna) look amazingly similar. To confuse things further, heath is frequently referred to as “spring heather” and some landscapers, garden centers and nurseries may use the names interchangeably. Both types of plants belong to the Ericaceae family, and they share many similarities.

Which is Which?

The key difference between these two popular landscaping plants is that heath blooms from winter to early spring while heather blooms from mid-summer to early fall. Heath features slim, needle-like foliage, while heather’s foliage is flatter and more scale-like. Heath generally only grows to 12 inches tall, while different heather cultivars can range from 8-20 inches tall. With their many similarities for location, soil type and sunlight, however, it is easy to grow these two shrubs together for a much longer and more brilliant flowering season.

Heath and Heather in the Landscape

Both heath and heather are low maintenance, low growing, perennial shrubs that love well-drained, acidic soil, but do not plant them too deeply or their shallow root systems may rot or smother. Heath, or spring heather, has tiny, urn shaped flowers in white, rose or fuchsia and is readily available in early spring. Heather will be more popular later in the season and into early summer, and its bell-like mauve, rose or lavender flowers provide lovely color to the landscape later in the season. Depending on the cultivar, heather’s foliage can range from bright green to golden yellow, reddish or even silvery-gray.

Both plants should be watered well, and mulching around the shrubs will help inhibit weeds and conserve moisture without overwatering. Pruning should be done just after blooming is finished to maintain and shape the plant mounds and discourage overgrowth and legginess.

Heath and heather look terrific planted en masse on a sunny hillside or in the shrub border with other acid-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. They are a welcome addition to the rock garden and can brighten up a dwarf conifer grouping or container garden. Their mounding habit makes the plants easily spill over edges for a naturalized, graceful organic look ideal for cottage gardens and flowing landscape design.

It is important to note, however, that deer can be very attracted to both heath and heather. If these backyard visitors are a problem in your garden or pester your landscape, you may want to take a variety of steps to keep them away from your beautiful shrubs.

Planted together, heath and heather will provide you with a succession of dainty blooms to take you through the entire growing season.

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Pruning Evergreens

When choosing an evergreen for your landscape project, it is always best to select a plant that will not outgrow its designated space, crowding out nearby plants or distorting its own shape without enough room to shine. Proper research can help you choose – you should know the ultimate height, width and growth rate of your selection before committing to what may be one of the more costly additions to your landscape. Always choose naturally slow-growing or dwarf conifers for small spaces, bearing in mind how nearby plants and structures may limit available space over time. Fortunately, just about every genus of evergreen is available in a dwarf variety.

That being said, what if the mistake has already been made? We’ve all made it! It is easy to fall in love with a sweet little plant in the garden center that, within a few years in the ground, looks like it could swallow your house. Fear not, there are ways to rectify the situation with proper pruning.

You will need the right tools to accomplish the job:

  • Loppers
  • Bypass pruners
  • Safety goggles
  • Leather gloves

Pruning should begin in the early spring before the plant’s soft new growth hardens off. Take a close look at your evergreen to determine its branching habit. Pine, spruce and fir trees all have layers of branches that are whorled around the trunk. Arborvitae, juniper, yew and false cypress have limbs that are produced randomly along the trunk.

Conifers with a random branching habit are able to grow new limbs from old, foliage-bearing wood. You may prune this type of evergreen back to this older wood to encourage a more compactly branched habit and keep size down, or to create the desired shape. Whorled branching evergreens are pruned differently, however. They have new growth called “candles” at the tip of their branches, and they really do look like candles with lighter coloration. To promote a more densely branched, compact habit, pinch the candles back by up to half their length before the needles harden off. Never cut into the older wood below the candle, as this type of evergreen does not have dormant buds on the stem that will become new growth. Pruning into old wood will leave a hole in your plant and distort its overall appearance.

As always, we are eager to assist you with selecting the proper plant for any landscape project you undertake and to advise you on proper pruning to keep it healthy and beautiful for many years.

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Needled Evergreens for a Shady Space

Evergreens are a very important addition to the winter landscape. During the coldest months of the year, when most other plants have been stripped of their leaves or have died back to the ground, evergreens are the stronghold in the garden that provide stunning texture and color, shelter for winter wildlife and the hope of spring for everyone.

Choosing a broad-leafed evergreen for a shady location in the garden is simple. There are so very many to choose from: Rhododendron, azalea, camellia, aucuba and cherry laurel are just the beginning, and there are many more options for any size or shape of shady space. It’s a different story when it comes to hunting for a needled evergreen for that darker corner of the landscape, but it is not impossible.

Popular needled evergreen options for shady spaces include…

  • Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canandensis) – Broadly conical and gracefully branched, reaching up to 75 feet high.
  • Dragon’s Eye Pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus-draconis’) – Part shade. A very unique, asymmetrically shaped pine with a pale halo on the needles.
  • Dwarf Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtuse ‘Nana Gracillis’) – Slowing growing, compact plant with dark green scale-like leaves.
  • Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) – Light shade. Graceful, pyramidal tree with bluish-green scaly foliage and exfoliating cinnamon-colored bark. Growing to 65 feet tall.
  • Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) – Light Shade. Needles are thick and succulent, whorled around the branches.
  • Nootka False Cypress (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) – Light to part shade. Narrowly pyramidal growing up to 60 feet tall.
  • Russian Cypress (Microbiota decussate) – Part shade to full shade. Low to the ground forming a rosette of soft, graceful branches. Great ground cover for a shady location.
  • Spreading English Yew (Taxas bacata repandans) – Part shade to full shade. Three feet high and mounding. Great foundation plant in front of windows or at the back of borders.
  • Upright Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Fastigiata’) – Part to full shade. Four foot tall, stiff, linear form.
  • American White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) – Light to part shade. Scale-like foliage formed into flat plane fans. Grows up to 40 feet tall.
  • False Arborvitae (Thujopsis dolabrata) – Light to part shade. Pale green leaf scales with white undersides. Grow up to 65 feet tall.

Not sure which of these evergreens may do well in your landscape? There are different cultivars to explore, and our experts can help you make the best choice for your landscaping needs.

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Eastern North American Native Ferns

Ferns are magnificent, whether in the wild or under cultivation. Among the oldest plants on earth, ferns can be traced back to the Coal Age, over 300 million years ago. Today, ferns are one of the most overlooked and under-utilized perennials in the garden.

Types of Ferns

Eastern North American native ferns are available in a vast array of sizes, forms and textures and thrive in a variety of habitats. Many ferns present a combination of both fertile (with spores) and infertile (without spores) fronds that add an additional element of interest to their growth and texture. Some ferns prefer sun, some shade. Some prefer moist soil, some dry. Some spread quickly, some stay put. Some are easy to grow, some… not so much. You get the picture – the versatility of this plant group ensures a selection for every gardener and every garden situation.

With so many ferns to choose from, which is right for your landscaping needs? Consider the following popular varieties, or come in to consult with our landscaping experts to find the perfect fern to complement your landscape.

  • Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) – Grows 24-36 inches tall. The stiff fertile fronds appear in spring, first green and later turning cinnamon-brown. The plant grows neatly in a symmetrical clump. This fern does best in a shady site with moist soil.
  • Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) – This is one of the few evergreen ferns native to the eastern United States. The leathery fronds of this durable fern reach 18 inches in height. The Christmas fern is not an aggressive spreader and is easy to nurture in a moist, shady garden.
  • Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) – This lovely fern grows to about two feet in height and spreads rapidly. Spreading may be controlled by pulling out some of the growth in spring. This fern does best in full sun to partial shade and will tolerate somewhat hot, dry sites. Hay-scented fern produces lightly scented, apple-green, lacy fronds that add delicacy to the garden.
  • Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana) – This fern is unusual for its sterile, three-foot tall fronds that have brown spore cases in the middle of the frond with pale green leaflets both above and below. Interrupted fern grows best in a shady site with moist soil. This fern will tolerate more light and drier soil than most, and it is remarkably easy to grow.
  • Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) – This fern can reach up to 36 inches, although its height can be quite variable. This easy-to-grow fern is an excellent choice for beginners. In the spring, Lady ferns produce a hearty flush of reddish-green growth. This is when the plant is most beautiful. Lady fern does best in shady conditions with slightly acid, moist to wet soil.
  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) – At 18 inches tall, this specimen is the daintiest of the Eastern North American native ferns. The fan-like leaves are borne on delicate, curving, black stems. This fern does best in filtered light and well-drained, cool soil. This fern spreads fairly slowly.
  • Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) – This fern produces light-green, gracefully arching fronds that reach up to 40 inches or more. This is an excellent choice for background planting. Underground runners extend in all directions and will colonize large areas, so it needs abundant space. The early spring fiddleheads are edible. Ostrich fern does best in sun to partial shade and moist soil. It is native to marshy areas.
  • Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – This fern forms a three-foot, vase-shaped clump of bright green fronds. Light brown spores are borne on the top of the fertile fronds. Royal fern does best in shade or sun and a moist organic soil.
  • Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) – This fern makes a spectacular ground cover of 18 inch high, light green fronds. The fronds emerge in the spring tinged pinkish-purple until maturity. This fern prefers average moisture and part sun.

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.

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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