Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Landscape Garden Photos: The Beauty of Nature's Artwork

The snow is falling in the Northeast and the view is beautiful.   I had to run outside and take advantage of this photo opportunity.  There is nothing more breathtaking than a winter's first snow and this is it.  It has only been snowing for a few hours and the ground and gardens are already covered in a blanket of shimmering white.  Enjoy the photos.  I am sure there will be more once the storm passes.

Waterfall and White Pine in snow
Nature's Artwork (after the storm)
Snow Covered Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar

Magnolia in Snow
Snow covered Weeping Norway Spruce
Nature's Framework (Weeping 'Youngi' Birch in snow)

The Quiet of Nature (Blanket covered Dwarf Serbian Spruce)

Nature's Artwork (Weeping Japanese Maple)
Snow topped Montgomery 'Globe Spruce' (grafted)

The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

"Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle ... a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And the anticipation nurtures our dream."
- Barbara Winkler

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winterizing Evergreens-Anti-Desiccant Spray

Have you ever noticed scorched and browned foliage on certain broad-leaved evergreens after winter? Winter cold and winds can be harsh on your landscape. Evergreen trees and shrubs maintain foliage throughout the winter months where they continue to lose moisture. With winter temperature fluctuations, moisture loss and the ground still frozen, transpiration occurs from the needles and leaves increasing water demand. If the roots cannot keep up with these demands the needles and leaves start to turn brown and die.  Winter burn or desiccation is a dehydration of the plant due to water loss from the leaves through transpiration. This is caused by long dry periods of cold and thaw along with winter winds. Some broad-leaved evergreens such as holly, rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese Skimmia, Osmanthus (False Holly), Leucothoe, Aucuba and Boxwood are even more susceptible to winter drying and long-term damage.  An easy way of avoiding winter damage to plants is to apply an anti-desiccant spray to the upper and lower parts of the foliage before the temperatures drop below freezing or during a winter thaw.

PLANTS PRONE TO WINTER BURN: broad-leaved evergreens such as Boxwood, Holly (examples include: Oakleaf Holly, Nellie Stevens Holly, Sky Pencil Holly, Hoogendorn, Northern Beauty, Steeds and other compact Holly), rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese Skimmia, Osmanthus, Leucothoe, Aucuba, Southern Magnolia, Euonymus and Japanese Andromeda.

WHEN TO APPLY: Apply anti-desiccant when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (Fall-late October/mid-November here in zone 7). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.) Anti-desiccants are organic and break down under heat and light so it is recommended to spray again in late winter if there is a prolonged winter thaw. The newer brands of anti-desiccant such as Wilt Stop and Transfilm are produced to last throughout winter with good coverage.

DANGERS: Be sure to read all directions on the label since anti-desiccants can cause photo toxicity on some narrow needled evergreens such as Arborvitae, Hinoki Cypress and Spruce that could cause more harm than winter burn.  Spraying in freezing temperatures will do harm to the plant.  Do not spray in freezing temperatures and allow time to dry before temperatures drop below 32oF or 0oC.

HOW OFTEN DOES IT NEED TO BE APPLIED: Sudden warm spells can trigger your evergreens to open their pores allowing for more water loss. If there is a winter thaw part way through the season it is recommended to re-spray your plants but only if the temperatures are to remain above freezing for at least 24 hours.

WHERE DO I PURCHASE ANTI-DESICCANT?: The most commonly used brands of anti-desiccant are Wilt-Stop and Transfilm that can be found in nurseries, garden centers or ordered online. Ask your landscape professional for more information.

HOW IT WORKS: Anti-desiccant spray is organic and biodegradable. It adds a protective waxy coating to the tops and undersides of the leaves of broad-leaved evergreens to help slow the process of transpiration which causes water loss and winter damage.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Designing The Winter Garden – Creating All Year Interest in the Landscape

Welcome to the world of winter gardening.  As a landscape designer the three major aspects I look at when designing any landscape are structure, form and function. Even though all three are equally important the structure and form of a garden especially come into play during the wintertime. When designing for winter interest it is important to look at the backbone or framework of the garden. An assortment of evergreens along with deciduous trees and shrubs can help to accomplish this task. An important factor to consider is the branch structure of your trees and shrubs. There is nothing more beautiful than the gentle touch of a winter’s first snow on the branches of trees. Form and structure of trees and shrubs in the landscape offer the most interest when they are unusual in some way. For instance the crooked shaped curly branches of a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick or Corkscrew Willow are most prominent once their leaves have fallen and each attracts a lot more attention for their unusual structure during the winter than any other time of the year.

The first step in designing a winter garden is to plan for a backdrop of evergreen trees, which will catch the winter snow and show a continuum of green throughout the winter months. Evergreens that show nice winter interest with deep evergreen coloring and bright red berries include hollies such as Ilex ‘Nellie Stevens’, Ilex aquiparynl ‘Dragon Lady’, Ilex crenata ‘Fastigiata’ or ‘Chesapeake, Red Oakleaf Holly or any of the blue Hollies such as Ilex meserveae ‘Blue Maid’. Other evergreen trees that serve as winter interest include Eastern White Pine, Japanese Cryptomeria, Blue Atlas Cedar, Blue Spruce, Western Arborvitae, Arborvitae ‘Emerald Green’, Golden Oriental Spruce, Norway Spruce, Weeping Alaskan Cedar, and Vanderwolf’s Limber Pine.

Much of the color in a winter garden comes from fruiting trees and shrubs. Along with members of the holly family, fruiting shrubs such as barberry, nandina (heavenly bamboo), callicarpa (beauty bush), vibernum, red chokeberry, winterberry and yew add interest to the garden and supply a food source for birds. Deciduous shrubs such as hydrangea and spirea also add much interest with their full branching structure and left over flower heads that glisten when frosted over. Ornamental grasses when left intact offer color to the winter landscape as well and act as a food source for birds.

Branching deciduous trees such as Crepe Myrtle, Magnolia, Birch, Weeping Cherry and Wisteria have an interesting layered branch structure that adds form to the winter garden. Known for their bark Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku') and Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea Stolonifera’) come to mind. The striking pinkish-red bark of Coral Bark Maple and bright red bark of the Red Twig Dogwood are an eye-catching display of color during the cold months of winter. Another shrub form of dogwood, Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ or Yellow Twig Dogwood offers showy bright yellow stems that are pronounced against a snowy backdrop. River Birch with its cinnamon colored bark in winter is also an excellent highlight. Other shrubs and trees known for their interesting structure include Weeping Japanese Maple, Weeping ‘Youngi’ Birch, Harry Lauders Walking Stick and Sycamore. There are even shrubs that bloom in winter such as Witch Hazel with its yellow blooms.

When it comes to structure different hardscape items can be used to add interest and dimension to the landscape. The use of strategically placed boulders for example can add some drama and impact to an ordinarily flat landscape. I often use a boulder border on chosen garden beds to add height to an area or add a large rock surrounded by low lying plantings so that in the winter there is added interest. The use of walls, fountains, birdbaths or garden art can add to the winter landscape as well and capture interest all year round.

The possibilities in the world of gardening are endless and a garden can be designed for all seasons. I hope you have found this information useful and that you too can add some winter interest to your landscape.

Author: Lee @A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winterizing Your Garden: 12 Helpful Tips

As seasons change and the temperatures are dropping here in the northeast, it's time to prepare your garden for its winter sleep.  Preparing your garden for winter is essential in any climate in which the temperatures drop below freezing (Hardiness Zones 1-9).  Regular garden maintenance will ensure the health and beauty of your landscape for years to come.  Here are twelve helpful tips.

1. Remove leaves from the lawn and garden.  Leaves left over winter can harbor fungal disease and damage your lawn or perennials.  Either add your leaves to a compost area or shred them.  A fine layer of shredded leaves can add valuable organic matter to your garden and can be used as mulch protection for your plants.

Hosta' Francee Williams'
2. Cut back perennials to a couple of inches above the ground. Perennials that benefit from winter pruning include salvia, coreopsis, sedum, gaillardia, nepeta and daylily.  Hosta should be completely cleared of dead foliage to prevent fungal disease.  When the hosta has completely died back simply clean the yellowed leaves from around the plant and apply a thin layer of mulch over the crown. Liriope is somewhat sensitive to cold and can be pruned half way but not all the way down.  Some perennials are very cold sensitive such as Heuchera (coral bells), astilbe, liatris, lavender, perovskia (russian sage) and lupine and should be left to be pruned in early spring.

Canna Lily

3. Pull up any annuals or vegetables destroyed by frost and put into a compost pile or dispose of them.

4. Dig up tender bulbs such as gladiolus, cannas and dahlias that do not survive the winter and store them in a cool dry place such as a crawl space or garage in either a paper bag or in a container of vermiculite.

5. Plant spring blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, hyacinth and crocus from September through early November.  
Astilbe 'Sprite'

6. Check and apply mulch to your gardens around perennials and shrubs in areas where the  temperatures fall below freezing for long periods of time. The mulch serves as insulation for the plants and provides some important protection during winter freezes and thaws and also helps to prevent moisture loss.

7. Apply an anti-desiccant spray to any broadleaf evergreens such as holly, rhododendron, cherry laurel, skip laurel, mountain laurel, Japanese skimmia, leucothoe, aucuba and boxwood. These plants can be subject to severe winter burn due to water loss from the leaves by transpiration.  Apply an anti-desiccant when the daytime temperatures start falling below 50 degrees (late fall/early winter). Apply when the temperatures are above freezing and there is no threat of rain or frost within 24 hours. Application can be repeated in cases of mid-winter thaw.  (This tip applies to areas going into their winter season-temperatures dropping below freezing: 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Cherry Laurel 'Otto Luyken'
8. Water evergreens, trees and shrubs until the ground freezes. It is important that prior to winter that there is significant moisture around your plants before the ground freezes in order to ensure their health. A well watered tree will over winter far better than a thirsty one and will not be as susceptible to winter frost damage.

9. Weed your garden beds now. Weeds seem to show up and thrive in the fall garden so pull them up before they get out of control.  This prevents further weeds from developing and gives your garden a good start for spring!

10.In very windy areas cover your evergreens with burlap or form a wind barrier to prevent chilling winds from drying out and causing winter burn on your plants.

11.Do not fertilize or prune plants as winter approaches. Pruning or fertilization can spark new growth. If a hard frost hits it could kill the new growth and harm your plant. Do trim out dead or damaged branches.

12.Use dormant oil on deciduous trees to prevent spring insect damage. Spraying of dormant oil should be done on a clear day when the temperatures are expected to remain above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not spray if freezing temperatures are in the forecast.

Following these simple tips will help to ensure the health, beauty and lifetime of your landscape and will give your garden a good start for next year.  Gardening doesn't have to stop just because the  temperatures are dropping.  There is much to do to get your garden ready for the winter months so grab your tools!  Watch for more to come on winter gardening and designing your landscape for winter.

Lee@ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall Garden Photos: The Fall Garden In All Its Glory-A Moment in Time

Crape Myrtle 'Sioux'
I just gazed out into my garden on this autumn day and had to share the spectacular array of color that was before me.  This is certainly one of the most beautiful fall displays we have had in a long time here in the Northeast. It is about to rain so the lighting is just right.  I had to run out with my camera in a timely fashion before the weather took a turn for the worse. It was one of those rare Canon moments that I could not resist and would probably not be able to capture again.   The Crape Myrtle 'Sioux' is magnificent standing in all its fall glory displaying hues of orange to red and the grasses are displaying their showy plumes and golden color.  The flower caps on the Sedum 'Brilliant' are now a fiery orange-red and the heuchera are showing off a brilliant  burgundy glow.  A blend of oranges, reds and gold playfully dance in the wind as displayed by Spirea 'Gold Flame'.   Then onto the Coral Bark Maple that glows like golden rays of sunshine and this specimen will soon show off its spectacular fiery red bark in winter.   The Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar and Golden Oriental Spruce now against the oranges and gold of fall are absolutely vibrant.  This is just a brief moment captured in time that will change again tomorrow and the next day and the next until this show is over and winter sets in.  Then the gentle flakes of snow will settle on the garden and bring forth even more to gaze at in awe.  A garden really is forever changing and can be enjoyed throughout every season of the year. There is always something new to encounter and this fall display is a real crowd pleaser. Enjoy the photos! 

Dwarf Fountain Grass, Sedum and Juniperus 'Blue Star'

Crape Myrtle in Background with Hinoki Cypress Aurea to left

Golden Oriental Spruce 'Skylands' (Right), Nepeta (Front), and Barberry (Left) with Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar in Background
Coral Bark Maple

Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar (Back Left), Golden Oriental Spruce 'Skylands' (Right), Barberry & Nepeta

Coral Bark Maple (Back Left), Golden Oriental Spruce 'Skylands' (Right), Barberry(Front Center)

Crape Myrtle 'Sioux' and Weeping Norway Spruce

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shade Gardening-Designing For Shade

Shade Garden
Over the years, I have received questions on what to plant in a shaded spot. There are many different plants available to create a lovely shade garden that will provide interest throughout the seasons.  I will stick to the varieties of plants which I know from personal experience to be hardy and long lasting for years of enjoyment in your garden. 

Western Arborvitae
For starters, I would suggest the use of evergreens as  the first element in your shade garden. Use taller shade loving evergreens to provide an element of privacy or smaller evergreens for a foundation area. Some of the shade tolerant evergreens that I use for privacy screening are Blue Holly, Dragon Lady Holly, Fastigiate Holly, Oakleaf Holly, Nellie Stevens Holly, Skip Laurel, Western Arborvitae and Leyland Cypress. The Dragon Lady and Fastigiate forms of holly tend to stay more on the narrow side whereas the other varieties mentioned tend to become larger and fuller.  Western Arborvitae and Leyland Cypress are both shade tolerant and fast growing; however, Leyland Cypress are prone to wind damage and drying due to their shallow root system. 
Liriope Variegata
Western Arborvitae are deeper rooted and look similar to Leyland Cypress without the risk of damage. 

As a smaller evergreen backdrop, I often use Cherry Laurel 'Otto Luyken', Ilex 'Compacta', or Boxwood 'Wintergem'.  For added interest, some flowering shrubs I would recommend are 'Little Princess' Spirea, Hydrangea or Vibernum.  (The last three flowering shrubs are shade tolerant but do need some amount of filtered light in order to bloom correctly.) 

Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Once the foundation of your shade planting is established, perennials can be added for additional color. Some of the best shade perennials I have encountered are hosta, liriope, hakonechloa (japanese forest grass), astilbe, heuchera, japanese painted fern, golden sedge and ajuga.  These perennials combine beautifully with cherry laurel. rependans yew, boxwood, variegated boxwood, leucothoe, holly, skimmia and aucuba.   There are many forms of hosta to choose from as well as heuchera.  My personal favorite is Hosta'Patriot' combined with Heuchera 'Palace Purple' or 'Plum Puddng' . The variegation of the hosta along with the deep burgundy color of the heuchera combine beautifully with variegated liriope or golden sedge.  Astilbe can be another desired addition and is available in a variety of sizes and colors.

Additional interest can be achieved in your shade garden through the use of hardscape. There are various hardscape elements that can be used to complement your space, such as the addition of large boulders, stone pathways and raised walls. You may also like to add a bench for seating or other hardscape element such as a birdbath to attract wildlife to your garden. 

A shade garden can be very pleasing, providing you have the right plants.  So next time you ponder, "What can I do with this space?", there is so much that can be done to create the shade garden of your dreams! Visit the following link Shade Garden for my complete album of shade tolerant perennials.   

For more on Garden Design: My Books on Amazon:
Author:Lee@ A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Garden Maintenance: Pruning and Dividing Ornamental Grasses & Perennials

Maiden Grass 'Yaku Jima'
Ornamental grasses can add much interest to the winter landscape and can be enjoyed all winter long.  Here's a helpful fall tip for pruning and dividing your ornamental grasses such as 'Miscanthus sinensis' Maiden Grass or Dwarf Fountain Grass 'Hameln'. Winter cold can do harm to the root system of grasses.  It is best to cut your grasses back in late March to early April in order to protect the roots and ensure the health of your plants.  If your ornamental grasses become a bit unruly by the end of the fall cut them back to only one half the height of the plant and leave the rest for early spring. Another trick is to wrap a bungee cord about halfway up around the center and let the grasses drape over keeping them upright and in place. In late March or early April cut your ornamental grasses to approximately 4-6 inches above the ground so that new growth can emerge. 

Sedum & Fountain Grass 'Hameln'
Since new growth occurs on the outside edges of the root crown, the center of ornamental grasses often start to die out as the grass matures.   If your grasses are starting to hollow in the center before winter it may be time to divide them. Early Fall and early Spring are the best times for this procedure. This must be done when the grasses are actively growing so the earlier in fall the better.  If you should decide to divide your larger grasses an axe or hacksaw may come in handy.  Use a sharp spade to completely dig around the perimeter of the grass and lift up out of the ground.   This may take some muscle and may require a couple of extra hands!  Now depending on the size of the grass you can use either an axe, hand saw or a gas powered saw to divide it into cleanly cut pieces for planting.  Dig a large enough hole to allow the roots to spread and plant the new clumps of grass at exactly the same height as they were planted before. Remove any loose pieces, add mulch for protection from cold and water in thoroughly
Stella D Oro Daylily
When your daylilies are at the end of their bloom in August and the foliage is starting to yellow cut them back half way to the ground. They will rejuvenate giving you lush green foliage and even more blooms throughout September and into October. (Works best with Stella D Oro Daylily).  Dividing daylilies is also best in the fall for the health of your plants.  Simply dig deeply around the perimeter of the plant and gently lift the entire clump out of the ground.  Use a sharp spade to divide the plant into parts and plant each section into a hole twice the size of the root ball.  Be sure to get at least three or more strong shoots and a good root ball around the plant.  Cut the foliage back halfway and back fill with soil around the plant.  Then add mulch around the base to protect the roots and water thoroughly.   Keep the plant well watered until the roots become established.  At the end of the season once the fronds have turned completely brown remove all foliage to the ground to prevent fungal disease over the winter.  Other plants that benefit from fall division are salvia, iris, peony, hosta, goldenrod, monardia (beebalm), nepeta, coreopsis and sedum. 

Nepeta 'mussinii'
It is also good practice to prune back spent perennials to within a few inches above the ground in the fall and to surround the area with a layer of mulch.  This procedure prevents possible infection from fungal disease and helps to insulate the plants during winter. Perennials that benefit most from fall pruning  include hosta, daylily, nepeta, salvia, coreopsis, gaillardia, phlox, monardia, veronica, platycodon and yarrow. Liriope, Heuchera (coral bells), astilbe, liatris, lavender, perovskia (russian sage) and lupine are all cold sensitive and should be left to be pruned in early spring.

Author: Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Fall Garden

Dwarf Fountain Grass (right) . Spirea (left) , Hosta (center)
The Fall garden can be beautiful in its own way. Seen here is a combination of grasses, spirea and hosta in all its’ fall glory. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower an array of oranges, yellows, reds and tans emerge in the garden. When I design I like to use plantings that show off their beauty in the later summer and fall as well as in the warmer temperatures. Just as other colors fade grasses just start to get their abundant plumes and spirea go into a color burst of oranges and yellows.

Sedum 'Brilliant'
As I gaze into my garden an array of deep pink now steals the show. This autumn favorite is Sedum ‘Brilliant’. Sedum is just going into bloom now at the end of summer and it holds its' color well into autumn. Sedum comes in a variety of sizes and colors including Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (18-24” orange blooms), Sedum ‘Brilliant’ (18 “ rose blooms), Sedum ‘Rose Glow ‘ (8-12” pink blooms) and Sedum ‘Fulda Glow’ (4” rose-red blooms). Other fall favorites include: Callicarpa (Beauty Bush) with its deep purple berries, Perovskia (Russian Sage), Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan), Agastache (Hyssop) and Hamamelis (Witch Hazel). Just as the other elements in the garden start their exit these beauties begin their vibrant display. 
As far as maintenance is concerned it is good practice to prune back spent perennials to a few inches above the ground to prevent fungal diseases and to surround the area with a layer of mulch that will insulate the plants during winter. It is best to completely cut back perennials such as hosta, daylily, nepeta, salvia, coreopsis, and gallardia to prevent disease. Grasses on the other hand should be kept throughout the winter in order to protect the roots and cut back to about 4-6 inches off the ground in late March. If your grasses are a bit unruly at the end of the summer season you can take off a portion of the top but it is recommended that the majority of the cutting back be done after the harsh winter. Plants such as heuchera (coral bells) continue to show color throughout the winter and are prone to frost heaving so they are best cleaned up in the spring. Astilbe, Liatris, Lavender, Russian Sage and especially Lupine are sensitive to cold and are better being pruned back in early spring after the cold temperatures have ceased. Black Eyed Susan and Coneflowers even though not that attractive in winter serve an excellent food source for birds and can be cut back in early spring.

Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)

Happy Gardening!
The garden season does not have to end in August. Add some of these plants to your gardening list and add some fall interest to your landscaping.

Author:Lee@A Guide To Northeastern Gardening Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved