Monthly Archives: February 2017

Flower Carpet Roses

The Flower Carpet Rose is a disease-resistant, low-growing shrub which requires none of the usual care that other roses do. Not only does it produce thousands of blossoms over the growing season, but it is virtually care-free. Deadheading, pruning, spraying and constant feeding are all unnecessary to keep these plants looking their best, although deep watering is suggested for new plantings. Once established, Flower Carpet Roses can become quite drought tolerant.

Flower Carpet Roses in Your Landscape

Flower Carpet Roses can be used in a variety of ways in the home garden. These plants are wonderful for foundation plantings, for covering sloping banks, to line a walkway or driveway, in large containers, alongside a quaint fence or simply mixed in among other flowers in perennial borders. The Flower Carpet Rose can go anywhere and still look spectacular. More adventurous gardeners may even want to train these roses into tree forms for amazing specimens and landscape focal points. They work well in terraces or other hard-to-reach locations, can help with erosion control on steeper slopes and are beautiful alongside water features or to create a welcoming, colorful entryway. Just be sure that wherever you position the plant, it will have adequate room to spread out to its full potential and blooming glory. Full sun is preferred for the best, most prolific blooming, though these roses will still bloom in part shade locations, albeit not as prolifically or for as long throughout the season.

Flower Carpet Roses are a top ground cover rose and can flower for up to 10 months (depending upon climate and soil condition), producing up to 2,000 blooms from spring to fall. Rich, glossy green foliage also adorns this full, rounded shrub and provides a luscious contrast to the blooms, which come in pink, red, yellow, peach and white hues, as well as subtly variegated shades. Even when the blooming is finally finished, these roses stay neat as the foliage and spent blooms drop cleanly away – no deadheading or cleanup intervention required.

To keep the shrub in shape, just cut back with shears to 1/3 size in early spring to keep them as a mounding form. Even pruning novices can manage this task – these roses aren’t fussy about the type of cuts or the direction in which they’re made.

Flower Carpet Roses are every gardener’s dream – virtually care-free, trouble-free plants that produce masses of colorful flowers throughout the growing season. Who could ask for more? Except, perhaps, more room to plant them!

Spider Mites

Spider mites are one of the most common pests in landscapes and gardens and feed on many fruit trees, vines, berries, vegetables and ornamental plants, as well as houseplants. These tiny mites are just large enough to be seen with the naked eye, but may just look like tiny, moving dots. For tiny creatures, they can do considerable damage to plants if left unchecked.

How Spider Mites Hurt Plants

Spider mites cause damage by sucking cell fluids from plant leaves. A small number of mites usually isn’t a reason for concern, but plants can sustain heavy damage if populations are high and the infestation spreads. You may notice a stippling of light or yellowish spots on affected leaves and often the webbing of mites can be seen on leaves and stems. As the damage continues, leaves may turn completely yellow, dry up and fall off the plant.

Controlling Spider Mites

Spider mites reproduce rapidly in hot, dry weather, therefore, keeping plants well watered is a good deterrent to heavy infestations. There are also many natural enemies to these pernicious bugs, such as lacewing larvae and some lady beetles that help to keep mite populations under control. Cultivating these helpful insects may be all that is necessary to minimize spider mite activity unless the infestation has already increased and spread.

Because spider mites are too tiny to pick off infected plants, judicious pruning or trimming of infested plants can help remove these pests. In heavy infestations, it may be necessary to discard an entire plant to take the mites with it. Do not put these clippings or removed plants in compost piles, however, or the mites will continue to thrive and will return to healthier plants.

At times, it may be necessary to use chemicals to deter spider mites. Be careful when using broad spectrum insecticides, however, as these will kill any beneficial insects as well as the spider mites, which can disrupt the delicate balance of a garden’s ecology. Simply spraying plant leaves with a blast of water, taking care to spray the undersides as well, can help to reduce mite populations by physically removing the spider mites. Insecticidal soaps and neem oil are also good choices when dealing with spider mites.

Once the mites have been removed, damaged plants may look bedraggled, but they will generally recover within a season or two, especially if the pests were recognized and treated quickly. Don’t let spider mites catch you in their webs – get rid of them today!

General Soil Amendments

We’ve all heard of the importance of amending the soil properly for gardening and landscaping, but the number of soil amendments sold in garden centers often confuses gardeners. Which is which, and which will work best for your soil conditioning needs?

Types of Soil Amendments

Soil amendments fall into two basic categories, inorganic and organic. Inorganic amendments come from non-living materials such as sand, perlite, vermiculite and crushed stone. With the exception of limestone and gypsum, which are used to increase soil calcium, these are not commonly used in the garden.

However, organic amendments are the opposite. They come from previously living materials such as peat, manures and composts. When leaves, bark, peat, animals and animal wastes are mixed together to decompose, compost or “humus” is the final product. Very commonly used, these materials enrich the soil by increasing the air spaces, adding extra nutrients to the soil, improving the absorption of those nutrients and increasing overall soil fertility.

Why You Need Soil Amendments

Excellent soil is not common around most homes. Even if it was initially, house construction and roadwork often removes the good soil and construction equipment compacts the remaining soil. Furthermore, heavy use of the remaining turf – children and pets playing, for example – continues to compact the soil. Chemical treatments, runoff from gutters and downspouts, removal of existing plants, changes in local wildlife – all of these factors can wreak havoc on soil.

Adding organics loosens compacted soil and results in better gardens. Incorporate organics into the beds throughout the year by working evergreen needles, leaves and lawn clippings into the soil. Amendments such as peat or lime can improve a pH problem, if one exists. Calcium and magnesium deficiencies can be corrected using organic materials such as bone meal or wood ashes, or inorganic materials such as limestone, gypsum or soft rock phosphate.

Mulching is another simple way to add biodegradable materials to the soil. Simply place mulch around the plant, leaving several inches bare closest to the stem to discourage insect invasions and rot. In addition to slowly providing nutrients as it decomposes, mulching is attractive, reduces weeds and erosion, maintains soil temperature and prevents “crusting” that occurs when soil becomes too dry.

Another advantage of adding organics is the attraction of worms. They further assist in the decomposition, increase aeration and leave worm castings, a valuable organic material, behind. A healthy garden is home to many worms, and it all starts with adding organic soil amendments.

Whether you opt for organic or inorganic soil amendments, if you use them properly, you soil will improve and your landscaping, flowerbeds and garden will look better than ever.

Edging and Trimming

Edging and trimming the lawn is like having a manicure after cutting your fingernails. It smooths out any roughness and adds an elegant finishing touch to your landscape, and everything is just more perfect! But which lawn care activity is which, and how do you do them properly to give your lawn that manicured look?

Edging or Trimming – Which is Which?

Before you pull out the lawn tools, it’s important to know which activity you need to do to create the look you want.

  • Edging
    When you are edging, you define the line between a hard surface (sidewalks, driveways and curbing) and a growing area such as a flower bed, garden or lawn. To achieve this, a vertical cut is made between the two using a spade or edging tool. Some have mastered the art of using the string trimmer to do this. This creates a crease-like separation between the organic (growing) and inorganic (non-growing) surfaces. Properly done, edging will help minimize weed growth in these cracks and crevices and gives the landscaping a smooth, formal appearance.
  • Trimming
    Trimming removes the grass, weeds and other plants from areas a lawnmower can’t reach. Long wisps of grass along the side of the house, fence or other structure aren’t very attractive, and trimming them away will give a finished, uniform look to the landscaping. Most people use a string-trimmer or bladed trimmer for this work, but hand shears also do the job. Trimming is also often done around trees or in tight corners where a lawnmower is less effective.

When to Do Edging and Trimming

How often should trimming and edging be done? This depends upon your own personality. Some people feel edging and trimming is a requirement of every mowing. Others do edging and trimming every third or fourth time they mow, or whenever it may look necessary to give the lawn and landscape a uniform look.

Edging and Trimming Tips

No matter how often you choose to do edging and trimming, it is important to do it effectively!

  • Use only the proper tools for these landscaping tasks. This will help prevent injuries or strain on your hands, wrists and elbows, and will get the job done more quickly and efficiently.
  • Check edgers and trimmers regularly to be sure they are sharp, well-oiled and in good functioning condition. Keep extra string for a trimmer on hand so you can quickly replace the spool when it runs out.
  • Always practice good safety measures when edging and trimming. Wear safety goggles if there is risk of flying debris (as there often is), and keep the tools away from children and pets.

For many people, edging and trimming is all part of good lawn maintenance. Once you know the differences between them and how to do them well, you’ll be amazed at the difference these tasks make to the beauty of your lawn.

Kids and Nature: Uncovering Surprises Everywhere

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

Top Nature Activities for Kids

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

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

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

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

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Top 10 Fool Proof Houseplants

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

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

Good Care Basics

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

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

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

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Fungus Gnats

Have you noticed little black gnats flying around your houseplants or outdoor potted plants? These are probably fungus gnats. These can be a serious problem in commercial greenhouses holding thousands of plants but are easily controlled by homeowners who take appropriate steps for eliminating these pests.

What Fungus Gnats Need

As weak fliers, fungus gnats live in and around damp decaying material. Plants with fungus gnats are usually being overwatered. This is the primary cause for an increase in the gnat population, as they thrive in wet, organically-rich soil. Gnat grubs nibble on the tender roots of houseplants, but they do not generally do enough damage to severely harm the plant – they are more of a nuisance as they mature and fly around the plant. These gnats do not bite, but they can be annoying. When an infestation is bad, they can quickly spread from plant to plant, making them even more challenging to control.

Ways to Control Fungus Gnats

Letting a plant dry out between watering will decrease the decay and fungus in the soil, making the pot less hospitable for fungus gnats. Always make sure pots have adequate drainage and that water is not left standing in saucers. Adding a porous top-dressing, such as sand or gravel, to the pot can also help water drain away from the surface so the gnats cannot burrow down to the organic richness they crave.

For home use, insecticidal sprays with Pyrethrins are available and can be used against fungus gnats. If treating a houseplant, be sure to take plants outside and follow label instructions carefully, keeping the chemical away from children and pets at all times. Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a biological control, will also provide relatively fast control killing the larvae in the soil.

For houseplants, the easiest and fastest remedy is often the best. Repot the infested plant using new potting soil into a pot with drainage. Carefully rinse the plant’s roots while repotting to remove as much soil as possible, and be sure the new pot’s hole is not clogged. Prune away any dead roots, leaves and stems. The gnats will be gone immediately.

To keep fungus gnats from returning, carefully check a plant’s moisture before watering to prevent moisture problems that can bring fungus gnats back in a flash. Water monitors can be used, or simply check that the top 2-3 inches of soil is dry before watering. Using watering bulbs or other waterers that are inserted deeply into the soil can also keep fungus gnats at bay by providing water directly to the plant’s roots, without saturating the entire pot.

Fungus gnats certainly aren’t fun when they infest your plants, but fortunately there are many ways to keep these bugs under control or eliminate them entirely. Using several techniques at once will be most effective, and the gnats will be gone just as fast as they first appeared.

New Shrub Raspberries

Rejoice! You no longer need hedgerows, trellises or complicated stakes to grow succulent raspberries. You won’t need armor-like gloves either. Now you may grow thornless raspberries in your garden or in containers on your patio, deck or front porch.

Introducing Raspberry Shortcake™

Developed in Oregon after decades of intense breeding for the most desirable plant characteristics, Raspberry Shortcake™ (Rubus idaeus ‘NR7’) is the first truly dwarf raspberry. Growing just 2 ½ to 3 feet tall with a compact, mounding shape, it is covered with full-sized sweet raspberries from mid-summer through fall. Deciduous in the winter, it produces new canes in the spring to bear even more fruit. It is self-fertile so does not require multiple plants to bear fruit, but its size, appearance and juicy berries are too good to plant just one.

Planting Your Raspberry Shrub

Well-drained, rich soil produces the best and most abundant fruit from these shrubs, and neutral pH (7.0) is preferred. If planting in a container, be sure to use a potting mix especially for containers to ensure adequate nutrition to the plant. If planting in the landscape, choose a location in full sun with moderate room suitable for some spreading, such as bordering a hedge or along a walkway that will help guide the growth and expansion. Water regularly for plump, juicy berries. A well-balanced fertilizer in early spring and summer increases plant vigor and production.

Pruning is simple, just remove the oldest canes after fruiting and enjoy the fruits on the new ones in spring. Avoid trimming away new growth, or you may miss out on future harvests, but any dead canes can easily be pruned away to keep the plant healthy and productive, as older canes will not produce new fruit.

Protecting Your Berries

It is important to note that these berries can be just as irresistible to birds and other backyard wildlife as they are to gardeners of all ages and abilities. To protect the berries so there are some left for you to enjoy, it may be necessary to use netting or other types of covers over the shrubs after the berries first appear in the summer. After the fruiting is finished, the covers can be removed.

Raspberry Shortcake™ is so simple, safe and easy, it doesn’t matter what color your gardening thumb may be, what experience you have harvesting berries or even if you’ve never grown anything to eat before – even young children can grow and harvest these mouth-watering raspberries with ease!

Shrub Bouquets

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

Spring Bouquet Shrubs

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

Summer Bouquet Shrubs

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

Fall Bouquet Shrubs

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

Winter Bouquet Shrubs

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

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Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses can reduce your watering costs, lessen your mowing time and increase the interest level of your garden. No matter what your garden’s needs, there’s a grass to solve it. From short ground covers to tall bamboo, there’s something for every site.

About Ornamental Grasses

Generally defined as “a plant with narrow upright leaves growing from the base,” ornamental grasses come in different sizes, shapes, colors and with differing growing requirements. While they may be cut to the ground each year, they are not mowed regularly, and work well as borders, specimen plants or part of coordinated beds. When choosing an ornamental grass for your site, consider the following:

  • Size
    Some beautiful grasses are just inches tall. Others, such as bamboo, grow to 20 feet or even taller. A shorter grass is a perfect edge for a walkway or to border a flowerbed, while a taller grass provides screening or background height.
  • Deciduous or Evergreen
    The winter form of a grass can be very different from its summer form. Evergreen grasses do not die back in the winter, their form remains the same. Winter colors may change and provide interest. Deciduous grasses die back or lean over. Consider the plant’s use when choosing between deciduous and evergreen. If using a grass as a screen, deciduous may not be a good idea.
  • Running or Clumping
    Clumping grasses stay where they planted, and as they grow, the overall plant width increases. However, a running grass sends runners through the ground to grow another grass plant. Sometimes this can be up to 6 feet away. This is advantageous when using the grass as a groundcover or trying to fill in a larger area. Clumping grasses can be divided if they become too large for the site.
  • Color
    Ornamental grasses are available in many colors, including variegated shades with contrasting edges. Additionally, many grass colors change throughout the year. Blues, reds, greens, yellow and variegated shades work well in different situations. A gold or white-hued grass can brighten a dark corner, whereas a dark green grass may be a perfect backdrop for smaller colorful plants.
  • Growing Requirements
    Sun, water, wind and soil requirements vary among grasses. Some require full sun; others grow best in the shade. Some grasses are ideal in rain gardens or wet soils, while others thrive best in drought conditions. Some don’t mind a breezy location, while others need to be more protected. Some prefer a rich, organic soil, while others will look great even in poor soils. And, of course, there are grasses for every range in between.

Before going to the garden center to purchase an ornamental grass, make a list of your requirements. You may want a short grass to line a walkway in full sun with sandy soil. Alternatively, you may need a grass to fill a dry and shady corner. Perhaps you would like to watch a grass clump emerge in the spring, grow to 6′ tall, change colors through the summer and harvest dry seed heads for an autumn arrangement. Choosing the correct grass ensures the beauty of your garden for years to come.