Try Native Plants in Your Landscape

Eastern redbud in bloom

The eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is native to New York.

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.

Preserve Diversity

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.

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Start Deadheading Your Flowers

DeadheadingFlickrcreating in the dark

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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Adding Annuals to Your Garden

AnnualsFlickrdaryl_mitchell

 

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.

Color Combinations

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.

Design Considerations

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!

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Spring Color Displays Are Popping Up!

Crocuses are a great addition for a spring color display

Crocuses in the snow

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.

Annuals

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.

Bulbs

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.

Forsythia

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.

Fruit Trees

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.

Redbud

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?

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Choosing Plants for Your Garden

ChoosingPlantsFlickrtracie7779

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.

USDA Zones

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.

Size

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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Mulch During Your Spring Cleanup

Mulch is beneficial in the garden

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.

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Fall Color in the Landscape

Fall is here…

Lawn furniture is getting put away (slowly), snow blowers are being pulled out from the sheds and sent away for a quick tune up.  People ask me, “Joe…what can you possibly be landscaping in the fall?”

Truth be told, we are busy planting lawns, installing colorful hardy mums and getting our Spring bulbs into inventory for November/December planting.

Yes…Fall Color / Spring Color.

Hardy mums offer great curb appeal to a home.  They are bright, cheerful and continue to flower right through the first frost.  Unknown-17They accent halloween decorations, they are the centerpiece of Thanksgiving decorations….simply said they are just beautiful!!!

And what am I doing with bulbs you ask? Well, we install bulbs in November/December…they get cooled off and roots out during the winter months, and sure enough they welcome the spring season with a beautiful array of spring color……

Tulips...Spring Color

Tulips…Spring Color

You know ……Tulips, Daffodils,  Hyacinth, etc..

So just because the summer season has come to an end doesn’t mean your flowers and seasonal color has to also.  Spruce up your landscape with hardy fall mums and a display of spring blooming bulbs.  Trust me….you won’t regret it!

 

 

Have Three Seasons of Floral Beauty

Did you ever consider having three full seasons of color on your property? You can, and it’s fairly easy! By using early to late bulbs in spring, annuals in the summer and mums in Pansy_Atlas_Mixthe fall- plus your flowering trees and shrubs- you’ll have non-stop color almost year-round. Here are a few tips that may make your personal “flower show” more successful.

There are two basic ways to plan floral displays. You can go for the maximum visual impact or “wow appeal” by having a few massive beds of one or two types of flowers. The challenge with this approach is that in trying to keep the gardens fresh, you need to eliminate the spring bulbs before planting the summer annuals. And then do the same again in the fall when the chrysanthemums are ready to become your focal point. This process is more work and can be more expense, but you can really knock the socks off your guests and neighbors with massive flows of color.

The second basic approach is to plant your flowers in a border-type bed of mixed types of mixed_bulb_flowers_1plants. With this approach, you will mix all of the different kinds of flowers through the season, so that as your bulb foliage dies down your annuals begin to thrive and help cover the browning bulb leaves. Many gardeners find this approach more enjoyable for the variety it delivers year round. And you can include small shrubs and perennials as well. Planning a great mixed garden takes careful planning with consideration of blooming times and height of the different plants chosen.

The hardest part of creating a floral show comes first- improving the soil. As with all kinds of gardens the old saying also holds true for flowerbeds, “for every dime you spend on plants, put ninety cents into the soil.” Incorporate organic materials and lots of it. You can use compost, rotted manure, peat moss or any combination of these. Just be sure it’s mixed in really well and deep.

Once the soil is ready, the fun can begin! In selecting your spring bulbs, the choices are enough to boggle the mind. And since most bulbs bloom either early spring, mid-spring or Unknown-17late spring, you can have a succession of beauty and enjoyment just from the bulbs you select. It’s good to be aware that some bulbs (like daffodils) continue to multiply and stay vigorous from year to year while others (like tulips) tend to dwindle in quantity and quality if not pulled out and separated each year. A great feature of bulbs is that most get planted in the fall, so all winter you can imagine the show you’ll have in the spring.

There is also an abundance of summer annuals from which to choose. Be sure to select annuals that will work well in the amount of sun your garden gets and how well you’ll be able to water during hot, dry periods.

Even though most annuals will keep blooming until cold weather, extending the fall with one more change is exciting. Like all the plants we’ve been talking about mums come in a variety of size, color and texture. The standard garden mum is a good performer almost every year. From rust to deep reds and bright yellows and whites, grouping of three or five plants (or more) add a vast burst of color to an almost-finished season.

The great thing to remember is that you can “jump onboard” during any season and enjoy the wonderful feeling of watching something you’ve planted grow!

Holiday Wreaths

When it comes Holiday Wreaths there are many different variations that make beautiful, festive decorations.  Depending upon what look you are searching for, just a few supplies are necessary to make a homemade, one of a kind wreath.

Traditional Greens Wreath:

Supplies:

  • Fresh or artificial greens (for example, pine tree branches)
  •  Holly Clippings: These will add a splash of color into your wreath.
  •  Wire coat hanger or a pre-made wreath frame.  If you chose to use a wire coat hanger, unbend it from its original shape into a circular shape. The hook can then be used to hang up your wreath when it is completed.
  •  Paddle wire (also called floral wire)
  •  Pine cones

First coil your floral wire around a section of the wreath frame. Next take 5-6 greens and bundle them together. Then take your floral wire that is attached to the wreath frame, and wrap it around the bundles tightly. Repeat this all around the wreath frame until it is completely covered with branches. Make sure to cover the stems when adding each bundle. Once you’ve completed your circle with branches, twist the excess wire around the wreath, trim it, and then tuck it under.

When adding the pinecones, wrap the wire around the base of the cone and make sure to leave at least 6 inches on each side. Then place the pinecones where u desire and secure them on by winding the wire around the wreath until it’s on tight. You’ve now completed your wreath!

Pinecone Wreath:

This wreath is a simpler wreath to make and has a unique flare to it.

Supplies:

  • Pinecones (You will need about 50 pinecones of different size)
  •  Paint (Color of your choice or if you chose you can leave them their natural color).
  •  Hot glue
  •  Grapevine base

All that has to be done to make this wreath is a bit of gluing! First take your pinecones and use the hot glue to glue them to the grapevine base. Then allow them to dry once they are arranged how you would like them. You can then brush them with paint of your choice or spray paint. Adding a touch of glitter will add a pretty twinkle!

 

 

Party on the Patio!

As the nights grow cooler this fall, there’s no need to move the party indoors. There are several options for keeping things warm and cozy outside, well into the night.

Patio Heaters

You’re probably most familiar with free- standing patio heaters, which are generally about 8’ tall, though table-top versions are also available. A propane gas tank concealed in the base usually fuels these heaters, but there are also natural gas and electric models depending on your needs and preferences. A good patio heater will enable you to regulate the amount of heat given off. For a reasonable price, you can purchase one that will warm an area 20’ in diameter pretty reliably.

Fire Pits and Fireplaces

There’s something to be said for burning wood outdoors. Cast-iron fire pits with wheels can easily be moved out of the way when not in use, or you can have a pit dug into the ground if you’d like something more permanent. For a more formal look, consider a brick, stone or concrete fireplace with a venting hood, shelves and even storage space for wood. If you do go with a wood-burning option, make sure there is plenty of space between the fire source and the seating for both comfort and safety.

Don’t Forget the Lights!

Regardless of the temperature outside, proper lighting is essential for extending the use of your patio into the nighttime hours. Low-voltage exterior light fixtures can provide ample illumination to help you and your guests move about safely. Plus, the low voltage requirements won’t drive up your electric bill.