PLANTING DALHIAS

If your perennial flower garden gets a little drab and boring come late summer and fall, think about planting dahlias. Gardeners are always trying to find colorful flowers to keep the show going into autumn, and dahlias are the perfect star to fit the bill. Dahlias just need a little more thought and attention compared to other perennial flowers.

Dahlias offer a wide range of flower types. There are flowers shaped like pom-poms, anemones, cactus, orchids, and water lilies. The flowers come with single or double petals and in almost any color of the rainbow from white to purple. Some varieties produce flowers the size of a dinner plate, while others have small flowers on dwarf plants.

Whatever dahlia variety you choose, they all grow from tubers planted in spring. Dahlias are winter hardy in USDA Zone 7 and warmer zones. In colder areas, the tubers need to be dug and stored in winter after a frost. Gardeners in warmer-winter climates can treat dahlias like perennials. Due to threats from disease and insects, however, some gardeners in warm-winter climates still prefer to dig and store their dahlias to protect them.

Plant dahlias on well-drained soil amended with compost. Dahlias grow best in full sun, but can take some afternoon shade in the South. Plant tubers about 4 to 6 inches deep in the soil. Unless your soil is extremely dry, don’t water until you start seeing signs of plant growth. Consider planting in groups and remember the ultimate height of your plants. Tall varieties look good tucked in the back of a perennial garden, while medium- to dwarf-sized plants look best right up front. For tall varieties, you may have to use plant stands or stakes to keep the plants upright. To promote bushier growth, when the plants are about 18 inches tall, pinch out the tip of the central shoot; this causes the plant to send out side branches, which will lead to more flowers.

KEEPING YOUNG TREES & SHRUBS HEALTHY

It’s hot out there for newly planted trees and shrubs. These plants may be struggling to survive the heat and drought because their root systems haven’t had a chance to get established in the native soil yet. That’s why it’s important to pamper spring-planted trees and shrubs during the first year after planting. Most trees fail after the first year of planting because they were stressed and never recovered from transplant shock. Here are some ways to take the shock out of tree planting.

Keep them watered. Young trees need moist soil to survive the first summer. If you have sandy soil, the roots will dry out quickly and the leaves may shrivel and drop. If you have clay soil, the dry ground will rack, exposing roots and causing them to dry out. You should water your trees a few times a week and deeply. Add 5 to 10 gallons of water per tree each time.

Use a gator. If you don’t want to be a slave to tree watering all summer, try this product. Tree gators are plastic-sleeved devices that wrap around trees. Fill them with water and they slowly release the water over time, keeping the soil around the rootball moist.

Mulch them. Keep the soil around the tree or shrub mulched with an organic mulch. This will help keep the soil moist, plus prevent weeds from growing. Be generous with your mulch ring size. Spread it outside the drip line of the plant. The feeder roots will be more likely to penetrate the native soil if there is no competition from other plants and the soil stays moist. Add a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch around each tree and don’t pile it up next to the trunk or the tree may suffer from crown rot.

Stake or no stake? Staking usually isn’t recommended for newly planted trees. The gentle swaying from the wind helps the new roots get established. However, if you have a windy location, you may want to stake the tree for just the first year so it doesn’t blow over.

BUG OFF! Nature’s Way

Not all insects are harmful to your garden; in fact, many are beneficial and are an important part of the ecosystem. Chemicals used to eliminate insects do not discriminate between the good bugs and the bad ones, so you can limit the damage done to beneficial insects and, at the same time, keep harmful chemicals out of the environment by practicing organic pest control.

Here are a few simple and effective ways to eliminate bugs and other pests naturally:

Handpicking: Insects can be handpicked from plants, and pests like potato bugs can easily be shaken from plants into a box. Use a butterfly net to capture white cabbageworm butterflies before they lay their eggs on your crucifers.

Traps: Slugs love to slurp beer from cans strategically placed in the garden, but don’t open the tops all the way lest the openings become two-way streets. Sticky traps hung in apple trees attract and trap apple maggot flies. Brush-on insect trap coating can be applied to small boards on stakes and used throughout the garden. Painting the boards a bright color will make them even more effective. Pheromone traps draw insects like Japanese beetles to their own hormonal scents and safely capture them in boxes away from prized roses and peonies.

Covers: Using lightweight floating covers on crops such as blueberries keeps those pesky birds, rabbits, and deer from eating you out of house and home. Of course, don’t install them until after pollination so that bees can do their job first.

Biological Pest Control: Releasing beneficial bugs into your garden to feed on bad bugs is a fine way of eliminating pests. Ladybugs love aphids, and certain wasps lay eggs on the eggs of other insects, such as cutworms and cornborers; when the wasp eggs hatch, they feed on the pest eggs. The bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is found in spray form and is used to control cabbageworms and their cousins.

Botanical Pest Control: Natural insecticides made from plants like the pyrethrum daisy (Tanacetum coccineum) are used very effectively and are a major force in the bad bug patrol. Pyrethrum, rotenone, and sabadilla are a few of these botanicals, which disperse quickly and do not leave residues.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Moonlit Gardens

Although gardeners often dream of sun-splashed borders filled with stately perennials, many are discovering that their daisies, daylilies, and daffodils are working overtime, bringing the garden to light…at night! Welcome to the world of the garden after dark.

With busy families finding fewer daylight hours to enjoy their gardens, it makes perfect sense to create a moonlight retreat in which family and friends can gather after hours. Spending balmy evenings out-of-doors is a wonderful luxury after the chill of winter…and during the scorching days of summer, the relative cool of the nighttime garden will come as a welcome respite. For the romantic at heart, few things are more enchanting than a midnight stroll through flowers kissed by moonlight.

How do you begin to create such a paradise? The secret is to select white and pale-colored plants that shimmer in the night. You’ll find that many of your favorite flowers, which you thought only bloomed in blue or hot pink, have been hybridized for white color or a very pale interpretation of their darker counterparts. Annuals like petunias, impatiens, and snapdragons all have white cousins, along with perennials, such as echinacea (coneflower) and campanula. You may also be surprised to learn at what time of day many flowers open. While some, like daylilies, as the name suggests, actually close at nightfall, others, such as evening primrose and moonflower, with its lemony scent, come alive right along with the peepers and crickets.

Just like any other garden, the moonlit garden should be filled with plants of different heights and habits, shapes and textures. Plants with variegated or white-edged foliage like euonymus, ivy, and hosta, add contrast to the garden and will sparkle in the dim light just like the flowers. Shrubs like spirea provide a backdrop for lower-growing plants like cosmos and artemisia, while a well-placed trellis or fence can lend support to lacy curtains of clematis and passionflower. A bench beneath an arbor brimming with white wisteria and climbing roses or a garden swing flanked by fragrant lilac or mock orange is an intoxicating spot to while away an evening. You’ll find that the strong fragrance will not only attract hopeless romantics, but also the “butterflies of the night,” moths, which will flit and flutter throughout the moonlit garden feeding on sweet nectar. Special touches complete the scene: A serpentine path lined with phlox, baby’s breath, and lilies, will invite a leisurely stroll, and a rustic lantern will allow you to enjoy your garden even on those nights when the moon is hidden by clouds.

A warm summer’s night, a trickle of water from a nearby fountain, and some soothing music from a speaker hidden beneath a shrub–the stage is set for spending a relaxing evening with friends and family in the magical land of the midnight garden.

It’s Not Too Late To Mulch

Is it too late to talk about mulch? No, indeed! We’re coming up on the hottest part of the year when mulch can help keep roots cool and growing (remember – grow the roots, the rest of the plant will take care of itself) and when we need to conserve moisture.

Everyone asks how much mulch to apply and when to apply it. There are no right answers. It depends on several factors, including your soil, amount of rainfall, type of mulch, and how weedy the ground is.

Here are some guidelines:

  • For most mulches and soils, start with a layer 3-4 inches deep. Use newspaper as a decomposable barrier to keep weeds at bay.
  • If the soil is dry, water it before applying mulch to pull weeds easier.
  • Apply mulch just about anytime, remembering that if you mulch early in the spring, the ground might be slow to warm. If you mulch only in the winter to prevent heaving, wait until the ground freezes. Mulch could delay freezing of the ground, causing roots to go dormant later than normal and possibly damaging them.

Sort through the mulch options and choose the right security blanket for your flowerbeds.

  • Dark-color mulches will absorb and retain more heat from the sun than light-color ones. This is an advantage in cooler regions but a disadvantage in hotter climates.
  • Light-color mulches (particularly decorative landscaping types, such as white stones) reflect light and heat and can dangerously overheat surrounding plants.
  • Some mulches won’t stay put. Gravel and stones creep onto lawns (and make tempting throwables for kids). Cocoa hulls blow away. Small bark chips can wash downstream in a heavy rain. In general, mulches with heavy or large pieces are more likely to stay put. Those that form a mat, such as leaves and pine needles, are usually stable, too.
  • Organic mulches, such as grass clippings, leaves, manure, and compost, improve the soil. Stones and plastic don’t. Black plastic, unless it’s porous or perforated, grows a smelly, slimy coating. It also turns brittle and breaks into little pieces that escape the garden. Cheap landscape fabric is not worth it — weeds and roots will tangle in it.

Keeping Them Lush and Blooming

Fertilizing plants can be a bit bewildering, but to get the most out of your plants, especially container plants, it is essential.  Have you ever wondered why some people and places seem to have larger, fuller plants?  The likely answer is regular fertilization and correct watering.  While many plants will do OK with little or no fertilizer, they will reach their full potential only with the correct nutrition.

If you are planting into the landscape add the appropriate amount of fertilizer into the hole before placing the plant (consult the package for specific amounts).  Be sure to mix the fertilizer into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Roots can be burned by direct contact with slow release fertilizer.  If you are applying to an already established planting, top dress according to the directions on the package.

So should you use a water soluble or controlled/slow release fertilizer?  In general I think most people are best served using a controlled or slow release fertilizer.  You apply it once or in some cases twice a growing season and then just water as necessary.  You don’t have to mix up fertilizer every week or two and your plants should be perfectly happy.

There are times when it makes sense to supplement your controlled release fertilizer with an application or two of water soluble fertilizer.

If you have plants in pots that are “heavy” feeders (those that need a lot of nutrition), such as Supertunias®, you may want to use a water soluble fertilizer every couple of weeks to boost the nutrition level.  Heavy feeders planted in the soil are taking advantage of the native fertility of your soil and shouldn’t need the extra fertilizer.

If you have gone through a long rainy period or had a very heavy rainfall, an application of water soluble fertilizer will return some nutrition to your potting mix (what was there has likely washed away in the rain) and help your plants rebound.

If your plants have grown very large supplemental water soluble fertilizer may help them maintain lush growth.

Plants will only need fertilizer during active growth periods.  So if the plants are dormant don’t bother feeding.  If the plants are actively growing you should be fertilizing.  Be careful not to over fertilize in early spring (only a problem with water soluble fertilizers) when cooler temperatures mean plants aren’t growing as much.

The Easy Way To Grow Roses

Until recently, many gardeners saw roses as too frustrating or time consuming for average people. Further, the amount of fungicides and insecticides required were not ecologically or economically friendly.

Fortunately, advances in rose breeding have changed all this, making roses something any gardener can enjoy. Often called shrub or landscape roses, these are bred for resistance to the many rose problems, including black spot and other diseases.

Low-Maintenance Roses For Everyone

These landscape shrub roses were a small percentage of the rose market in the 1990s, but today are exploding in popularity. The reason? These new shrub roses don’t require spraying, harsh chemicals, pruning or lots of water. They are also tough as nails, surviving the hottest summers and harshest winters.

Easy Does It

The Oso Easy® series from Prov­en Winners is known for its disease resistance. These roses also don’t require any spraying or pruning. Each rose in the series has green glossy foliage complementing the bright flower color.

Knock Out Roses

Perhaps the best-known landscape rose, ‘Knock Out’ bears masses of cherry-red blooms over dark red foliage. It’s disease resistant and blooms all season long.

Home Run Roses

Like its father (Knock Out), Home Run has excellent resistance to black spot. Unlike Knock Out, Home Run is also completely resistant to powdery mildew and has a higher level of tolerance to downy mildew as well.

Enjoyment All Summer

Shrub roses are easy to grow and are low maintenance. They are also ecologically—and pocketbook—friendly because they don’t require spraying. They work for mixed borders and beds and are compact enough to plant near walkways and other tight spots.

Roses need five to six hours of direct sun each day, so make sure you don’t plant in full shade. Avoid planting your roses beneath eaves or gutters so they are not damaged by falling water. These shrub roses don’t require heavy pruning, but you can prune to your preferred shape in spring.

Courtesy Proven Winners

Pizza Planter

They say the way to Dad’s heart is through his stomach, so why not say Happy Father’s day this year with a ‘Pizza Planter’? It is a fun and playful way to tell all the Dads out there how much you care – plus who can resist pizza? The key to this planter is combining all the elements into one planter, or a cluster of planters. So what makes a perfect pizza? It must have tomatoes, peppers and plenty of tasty herbs. We’ve selected some basic herbs for our planter, but you can let your imagination go wild with some tantalizing combinations including cilantro, parsley, hot peppers, plus a wide variety of basils.

Putting it all together is simple and straightforward. Plant your tomato in the center of the planter and place your pepper plants at around 4 and 8 o’clock (as you look at a clock face) and place the basil at 6 o’clock. You can tuck the rest of the herbs around the backside. Don’t be afraid to pack that planter. You’ll want to include a tomato cage to keep things tidy as your garden grows.

Planter Types –

  • Whisky Barrel
  • Plastic Planter
  • Stacked Pots
  • Set of Pots

Plants –

  • San Marzano Tomato (roma or other patio size)
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Peppers

Soil – Organic is best. You’ll want soil that will drain well. We carry a great selection that are perfect for this project. Stop by and talk with our staff. You should include either a granular or time released fertilizer that will keep those plants fat and happy.

Making the pizza together is something you can do as a family making it the perfect Father’s Day present!

Starting Seeds Indoors

seedlings-300x225The arrival of March means that winter is finally coming to an end and Spring is just around the corner! However, temperatures may still be quite cold during the days and nights, and frost and snow still pose a threat to budding outdoor plants. While it’s not quite an ideal time to start planting your spring garden outside just yet, there are plenty of steps you can take to plan and get your plants off to a great start indoors while you await warmer, longer days that will promote beautiful blossoms outdoors. Starting fruit, vegetable, herb, and flower seeds indoors is easier than you think, and with a little knowledge and effort you can be well on your way to a beautiful Spring garden by the time it warms up outside! [Read more…]

Year Round Container Gardens

Container gardens offer so much versatility.  They are re-usable, inexpensive and properly planted, can provide color from march to november!  The trick is to replant the container with each new season.

holiday container gardensLet’s start from november and work our way through the year.  There is a chill in the air, you’ve finished raking the leaves and you discover some tulips, daffodils or grape hyacinths  you’ve neglected to plant.  Take your container (we’ll use a 14″ pot as an example here) and remove any and all plant material.  Top off the pot with a potting soil mix.  Dibble down 4-6″ into the soil and plant your pot.  Your taller daffodils would be your uprights, your tulips would be your mid-sized and your grape hyacinths would in this case be labeled your trailing types.

Come springtime you’ll have a cheery pot full of spring flowers.  Add a few pansies to extend the flowering and you are all set till May!

When the season warms up enough in May to set out your annual bedding plants, either remove the spent bulbs, or plant over them.  Just mix and match according to your color or plant preferences.  Come mid-September, remove the annual plants, and again, following the recipe for success, replant with fall mums, ornamental kales, fall pansies or experiment with late season perennials.

Finally, to dress the house up for the holidays, take spent flowers out, cut back perennials, and replace with fresh greens.  Boughs of fresh pine, hemlock and fir look great when contrasted with holly, variegated eunomous or even twigs of white birch branches.

Once you get a feel for the growth habit of most plants you can mix and match plants to achieve great looks all throughout the year.  This model works just as well on a whiskey barrel as it does on our 14″ planter.  Have fun creating your pot full of color all year long!