It’s the Fall Season ! It’s never too late to think about adding features to your landscape. Consider perhaps adding a Fire Pit this fall. And gosh, while you’re at it, don’t forget to Fertilize your lawn. Fall is the PERFECT time to fertilize !!
When I think of a garden, I typically imagine plants first. However, there are a number of different non-living objects that you can add to your landscape to improve it. These are collectively known as hardscape.
Seating can be very appreciated in your landscape, especially if it is large. This will allow people to sit and admire the beauty or otherwise rest as needed.
We traditionally think of sidewalks when it comes to curbs, but it can also be used in the landscape to help create specific areas like flower beds.
Fire Pits, Pizza Ovens and Chimeneas
If you like the idea of cooking outdoors or sitting around a fire as part of entertaining, one of these structures may be just the ticket. They create a safer space for you to
Patios and Decks
Want to hold a gathering but not worry about your guests getting dirty from standing in the grass? Patios and decks allow you to have a solid surface that is perfect for patio tables, barbecues and more.
Pergolas, Arbors, Trellises and Other Structures
If you want to add shade to parts of your garden, these structures can be very lovely indeed. Vines like wisteria and trumpet vine can be trained to cover them, adding additional color to the landscape.
If you have a big enough lot,. consider adding a shed to have easy access to all of your gardening tools and equipment without having to take up space in your garage.
Steps and Walkways
These are very useful for keeping the rest of your garden from trampling and allowing people to move around the spaces freely. Potential materials are concrete, wood and stone.
Ponds, waterfalls, pools and fountains are some of my favorite types of hardscape features. Water can create a feeling of peace and tranquility in your garden. Do consider the ages of your children and their safety when thinking about adding one of these to your yard.
If you are interested in improving your garden with some hardscape, give us a call and we can help you make your landscape shine.
What hardscape features do you have in your landscape?
Image by Field Outdoor Spaces under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
I get more and more excited each week as spring draws closer. One of my favorite days of the year is when I am out and about in winter and suddenly see that the buds on the trees have begun to swell. It’s marvelous to discover that it’s almost time for everything to really start growing again.
One task that should be on your spring cleanup list if you have flower beds is adding mulch. This is especially useful if you have laid wood chips before. They tend to turn gray and otherwise become dull looking over the course of a year due to conditions like rain and snow. Putting a fresh layer down can really make your flower beds more eye-catching in a jiffy.
There are a few different types of mulch available to the home gardener. The ones that are the most aesthetically pleasing include:
- Cacao (cocoa) hulls
- Rocks or pebbles
- Wood chips
Adding one of these to your flower beds does more than just make it look more presentable. It will also help protect the plants from wild fluctuations in temperature, help stop weeds from being so problematic and keep water from evaporating away so easily.
You need to figure out how much mulch to purchase by calculating the area of your flower beds and multiply by how deep you wish the layer to be. You can use this handy calculator from Cornell University if you aren’t feeling mathematically inclined at the moment. You would then see how many cubic feet are in bags of the mulch of your choice and divide by that number to see how many you would need to buy. You can also buy it by the cubic yard if you have a large area to mulch.
Once you have brought the mulch to your yard, spread it evenly over the top of the soil or existing mulch. Do not work it into the soil. Keep it a few inches away from the trunks of any trees and shrubs since having it too close can cause fungal and other problems.
What is your favorite type of mulch?
Image by emily @ go haus go under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
When my husband and I were first married, we lived in a dumpy basement apartment. It seemed pretty glum to me sometimes since there wasn’t much light and we didn’t have a yard of our own. When our first Christmas came, I decided that I wanted to have a live holiday tree. I ended up picking out a small Norfolk Island pine and it did make the place more cheery. Live holiday trees are slowly becoming more common, though they are still not used as much as cut or artificial trees. You can purchase them at your local garden center or order them online. There are even services that will allow you to rent one. Some take care of details like delivery, setup and pickup. Some Advantages Are:
- You can plant it outside or use it as a houseplant afterwards. They are perfect if you only have a small space.
- You don’t throw it away after the season is done, like a cut tree.
- It is not manufactured with toxic materials, like artificial ones are sometimes.
- You get at least a little more oxygen added to the air in your household.
- It feels even more like nature since it is still living.
Some Common Live Holiday Trees:
- Aleppo Pine
- Fir Trees
- Norfolk Island Pine
- Palm Trees
- Rosemary Topiary
- Southern Red Cedar
- Spruce Trees
You can use any tree, though, for a short period of time as long as it fits into the space inside and you have somewhere to plant it afterwards. Things to Consider:
- Have you been working out lately? Tall potted plants can weigh a lot. Think about how much you really want to be moving around.
- Make sure you have a spot all prepped for planting (hole dug, etc.) if it will be moved outdoors. This is especially important if you expect the ground to freeze.
- You really only have about a week to work with if you live in a cooler area and intend to plant the tree outside. It will start to come alive again from its winter’s nap, which will be very confusing and detrimental when you take it back outside.
- Make sure that you water it. It won’t dry out as fast as a cut tree, but it is living, after all.
Have you had a live holiday tree? What kind? Image by MSVG via Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
If you want to try something different in your garden, consider adding some native plants. These are ones that originate from your area and can offer some potential benefits not shared by ornamental plants from outside the region.
Gardens can be repetitive and boring if everyone uses the same standard favorites. When you use plants that come from your area, you are helping to ensure the continuation of that species. This is especially important as invasive species have been introduced over the years that can take over and choke out everything around them.
Less Water Needed
When you try to bring in plants from other areas, they may be used to more water than often found in your area. If you pick natives, you will usually be able to irrigate less, conserving water.
Attract Beneficial Insects and Animals
Many plants have evolved to form a positive relationship with insects and animals found in their area. For example, planting the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis – pictured above) will entice visitors like butterflies and bees.
Less Maintenance Overall
Since the plants are adjusted to the growing conditions in the area, they will most likely require less care than other plants. This could include amending the soil to make it more acidic or alkaline, fertilization or pruning.
If you are interested in adding some to your garden, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has prepared a list of New York native plants that you may be able to find at your local nursery or garden center. A link to a local supplier list is also included on that page. You can call the local Extension office for additional recommendations.
Image by Cranbrook Institute of Science under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License
Many of the early blooming plants are done or winding down on their flowering, leaving you with dry flowerheads that are usually not as appealing. Unless it’s a plant where you are wanting the fruit to develop, you can deadhead and make your garden look better overall.
Deadheading is the process where you use a standard set of pruning shears (also called pruners, secateurs or clippers) to remove part of the stem under flowers once their life is over. This term is very commonly used in conjunction with roses, but it can be used for many of your other plants.
Some plants like the Knock Out® roses are self-cleaning, meaning that the old flowers naturally fall off and you do not need to do this process. You would also not want to do this on a fruit tree, of course, since you would be removing your entire crop.
One benefit of this practice is that you can sometimes get the plant to start flowering more. Since the flower’s job is to ultimately produce seeds and the next generation, the plant may “panic” and send out more flowers if you remove the dead blossoms and halt the reproductive process.
For roses, I suggest following the stem underneath the hip (the fruit) to the next node (joint where the leaf joins the stem) underneath and clipping it at a 45 degree angle just above this node. This will keep the plant’s appearance neater since you don’t have a bare stem sticking up. You can also have problems with insects and diseases if you simply cut it right below the hip and leave the branch. If there are a cluster of roses, choose the node underneath them all. Most other flowers can be deadheaded in a similar fashion.
Have you deadheaded your plants before? Did they bloom again?
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If you are looking to revitalize your garden, try adding some annuals. They only last one growing season, so if you decide you don’t like how they look, you can just try different plants next year. You can include plants like tropical species that might otherwise not be able to survive the winter in your area by treating them as annuals.
These types of plants usually come in brilliant colors that will instantly improve your yard. As Cornell University states, “There is no right or wrong when it comes to color in the garden. Color choices are a matter of personal taste.” One way to choose plants is to pick annuals with complementary colors to the plants that are already in your garden. You can also try choosing all warm or cool colors.
Think about your current plants when you are shopping for annuals. Check for the mature height so you do not accidentally plant a taller annual in front of a shorter one. Look at the growing facts like sun and water requirements, spacing and flowering time. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year to help extend the color show.
Suggestions to Get You Started
Not sure which annuals are the best for your landscape? There are some that will fit into almost any garden. Pansies, marigolds and snapdragons are very cheery species that are available in a wide variety of shades. Petunias add beauty and fragrance. Impatiens and coleus work well in your shadier spots.
If you would like help choosing or planting some annuals in your garden this year, call us today for an appointment!
Image by daryl_mitchell under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
One of the best days of the year is when I see flowers blooming for the first time after a long dreary winter. I love the reminder that the world is coming alive again! Spring color displays are showing up everywhere. The following plants can be used in your garden to provide that effect.
One of the easiest ways to add color to your garden each year is to plant annuals like coleus, impatiens and pansies. These species can be started from seed or you can buy plants at your local nursery. They will flower during the growing season and then die off. Next week I will go into more detail about planning and designing with annuals in mind.
If you’re looking for flowers that bloom even when the ground is snowy, try one of the bulbs that bloom early in the year. I am partial to crocuses, personally. You can also plant species like snowdrops and glory-of-the-snow. If you want to add these to your garden, though, you will have to wait until autumn. Bulbs meant to be planted in spring will bloom for you in summer, which can be a good way to keep colors going in your garden.
The cheery yellow blossoms of the forsythia are a sure sign that spring is right around the corner. This is one of the first shrubs to come alive each year. It is generally unremarkable for the rest of the growing season, however.
In addition to gorgeous flower shows in the spring, fruit trees will reward you with a bounteous feast later in the year. Make sure you get cultivars that are known to grow in your area. It is especially necessary to choose one that matches the amount of chill hours (how much time they spend at colder temperatures) or you may have blossom and fruiting problems.
One of the lovelies little trees around is the redbud. It is so eager to bloom in spring that the pink flowers burst open even before the leaves do. I recommend the ‘Forest Pansy’ cultivar, which has rich purple leaves in contrast to the rosy blossoms.
What is popping up in your garden these days?
Image by Muffet under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Spring is right around the corner and you may have already started planning for new landscape improvements. It’s tempting to run down to your local garden center and buy any plant that catches your eye, but you must resist that urge and do your homework. Choosing plants for your garden requires attention to the conditions present in your yard.
The USDA produces a map that divides locations into hardiness zones based on the average minimum low temperature each year, with 1 being the coldest and 13 the warmest. For example, Yonkers, NY is rated as USDA Zone 7a.
Each plant has a general range of zones where is it most likely to be successful. While this is not an absolute guarantee (microclimates and other factors can affect its chances in your own garden), choosing a plant that is meant for your zone helps its possibility of survival.
Plant Life Span
Think about how much work you want to do in your garden and whether you want it to change yearly. Annuals grow for one season, then die. Biennials last two growing seasons before the end. Perennials, trees and shrubs usually live for many years. Some people like cheery annuals like pansies that brighten up your garden, but need to be replanted yearly. Perennials last longer, but may need pruning to spruce them up.
When you are shopping, make sure you look at the tags to see what the expected size will be at maturity. It is easy enough to forget and buy a plant that looks like it will work in your space based on the container size at the garden center, but turns out to spread farther than desirable over the years. You don’t want to have an imbalance where front plants tower over rear ones (thus hiding them) or end up with your plants becoming crowded from improper spacing
Planting Site Conditions
Plants do not all have the same preferences and needs. Look at the tag and see the sunlight requirements. Ask a garden center associate if your site has special needs. For example, clay soil, places that tend to be wet or acidity all require specific species that are able to tolerate those conditions.
Ensure Fruit Pollination
If you are trying to grow fruit in your yard, make sure you have enough plants available for cross-pollination. Some species are able to fertilize themselves, but many need a different cultivar (cultivated variety – think Golden Delicious and Fuji for applies) nearby. If you only have one plant, you may not get any fruit at all.
Choosing plants for your garden carefully will help you get the best possible look for your landscape and make it easier for them to grow properly. If you would like assistance in planning out your garden this year, don’t hesitate to call.
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When you are doing your spring cleanup to prepare your garden for the coming growing season, take the time to put down some new mulch. This practice helps your plants stay healthy and strong. It also makes your yard more visually appealing.
Some Benefits of Mulch
When you put wood chips, compost, or other common mulching materials into your garden beds, your plants benefit greatly. This layer above the soil insulates the plants better from temperature fluctuations that could freeze the roots or evaporate the water present. Weeds have a harder time pushing through to the surface and growing properly. It is also aesthetically pleasing and adds a uniform color to the base of your plantings.
Two Reasons to Mulch Every Year:
1)Mulch is often made of natural organic materials. Over time as they are exposed to air, water and organisms, it begins to break down. If it is not replenished yearly, it will become thinner and you will lose the beneficial properties.
2)Since the mulch has been through the elements and decomposition, it can look old and weathered. A fresh layer will reinvigorate your planting beds and accent the colors of your foliage and flowers.
How Much Should You Use?
Two to three inches is a good general guideline to use when applying mulch in your landscape. This is enough to cover the soil up properly and add insulation. You can figure out how much you need by multiplying the length and width of your garden (using feet) times how deep you want the layer to be, converted to feet. Three inches would be .25 feet, for example. The resulting number is how many cubic yards are needed to cover the entire area.
A warning for trees and shrubs: Make sure you leave at least six inches of space around the trunk that is free of mulch. If you have it closer, this can invite pests and diseases to invade the plant. It can also keep the bark moist, leading to rot.
Image by csessums under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License