Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spring is Approaching! - Garden Planning Guide: Maintenance Tips and Questions Answered

Spring Garden Planning Guide
Have the temperatures been rising and are you yearning to go out into the garden? Spring is approaching and it is a time to start planning and prepping the garden for a successful start to the planting season. There are some recommended maintenance tips for getting your garden underway. Here is a list of common gardening tasks to be performed in late winter/early spring. 

Cleaning Out Garden Beds

True or False? Any dead material remaining from last year should be removed from your garden now. True. It is best practice to remove dead material from the garden in fall to prevent possible pests and disease in your garden. If you have left annuals or perhaps perennials for winter interest, now is the time to tend to them, along with any weeds that might have survived the winter. Pull out any dead remaining annuals and prune perennials back to the ground to encourage new growth. If cold temperatures are still to be expected, push mulch up around the crown of the plants to protect them from temperature fluctuations.

Mulching Garden Beds
True or False? New mulching should be applied now before the ground thaws.  False. Mulch acts as an insulator and applying mulch before thawing would actually inhibit warming as temperatures rise. Allow the soil to warm, then apply two to four inches of natural pine mulch. When applying, keep mulch several inches away from tree and shrub trunks to prevent oxygen loss and rotting. Mulch benefits plants by reducing water evaporation, preventing weeds, adding organic matter to the soil and also acts as a buffer, preventing drastic changes in soil temperatures. 

Lawn Care

True or False? Nitrogen based lawn fertilizer can only be applied after April 1st.  True. According to the EPA, the prohibition on application of fertilizer between December 1st and April 1st applies to products that contain nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), or potassium (K). If a product does not contain any of these nutrients, it could be applied during the winter months without violating this law. ExplanationIf the ground is frozen, there is a greater danger of runoff and possible contamination of groundwater. Fertilizers applied when the ground is thawed and porous are absorbed and utilized by plant material and go through a natural filtration process before reaching the aquifer system. Please note that there are a variety of organic, natural fertilizers on the market that are more environmentally friendly. Success rate depends on brand and application.

Pruning Flowering Trees and Shrubs (Photo: Magnolia Royal Star)

True or False? Spring flowering trees and shrubs should be pruned in late winter/early spring. False. General rule of thumb is to prune flowering plants AFTER they flower. Early spring flowering trees and shrubs including rhododendron, azalea, forthysia, magnolia, plum, Eastern Redbud and cherry form their buds from the season before and should be not be pruned until after flowering. Pruning them now will remove flower buds that have already formed, resulting in a loss of blooms.

Pruning Summer Blooming Shrubs  (Photo: Buddleia Dwarf Butterfly Bush Lo & Behold)

True or False? Summer blooming shrubs such as Spirea and Buddleia should be pruned in spring. True. Mid and late summer flowering shrubs such as Spirea and Buddleia (butterfly bush) prefer a spring pruning to promote fullness and blooms. Prune Spirea slightly for shaping. If the plant is overgrown to the point it is unsightly, it can be pruned more drastically to rejuvenate it now in spring. Buddleia benefits from an early spring pruning and should be pruned all the way back in late winter/early spring to promote fuller plants and better blooms in late summer. This practice is best performed once you see signs of life on your plants.

Pruning Evergreens (Photo: Weeping White Pine)
True or False? The best time to prune evergreens is in early spring. True. Evergreens can be pruned anytime when there is no threat of extreme temperature changes that would cause undue stress; however, the best time is either in early spring before they push out new growth, or afterwards once new candles form. When pruning evergreens that form candles, such as white pine, it is best to cut candles in half to keep the plant more compact.

Pruning Liriope and Ornamental Grasses (Photo: Dwarf Maiden Grass on Left and Variegated Liriope on Right)
True or False?  Liriope and grasses should be cut back and divided now in spring. True. Liriope and ornamental grasses can be cold sensitive. Exposing the crown of the plant could be the reason for snow and cold damage. It is best to leave liriope and grasses alone in fall and to prune them back in early spring to allow for new growth. Spring is also the time to divide and move other perennials that have become overgrown. It is recommended that most perennials be divided every four years for best bloom. Dig up and divide with a sharp clean spade just as new growth appears, replant and add a sprinkle of slow release plant food in with the soil to help root promotion. Water in thoroughly.

Pruning Knock Out Roses (Photo: Double Pink Knock Out Rose)
True or False? Knock Out Roses should be pruned back in early spring. True. Wait until your roses are sprouting new shoots and showing some signs of life. Then, prune off dead wood or overgrown branches back about one third the size of the plant to promote strong growth and blooms. Be careful to watch while pruning so that you achieve a nice rounded shape for your plant. Early spring is also a good time to apply an organic slow release rose fertilizer mixed in with the soil at the base of the plant to ensure a successful start to the growing season. I would also recommend a regular watering schedule from the base of the plant, since roses do not fare well with constant water on their foliage.

Planting Summer Blooming Bulbs (Photo: Snowball Dahlia)
True or False? Summer blooming bulbs should be planted in late springTrue. While spring blooming bulbs such as crocus, hyacinths, tulips  and daffodils are planted in fall, late summer blooming bulbs such as  Dahlia, Canna and Gladiolus are planted in spring. Amend the soil with compost or manure to insure them a good start and plant in a well-drained area to prevent rotting. Generally, bulbs are planted at a depth of three times their diameter, and specific instructions are usually supplied on the packaging. Once planted, water your bulbs thoroughly and be sure they get watered regularly. Applying bone meal will give your bulbs energy during the growing season, but do not mix in too closely to the roots. 

Endless Summer Hydrangea
Will the unpredictable weather we have been having across most of the U.S. and other areas harm my garden?  I have been getting asked this question quite a bit over the past couple of years. Generally, plants are pretty resilient. Buds that are forming on the trees early are sparked by the warmer temperatures in daytime but slowed down by the colder nighttime temperatures, which tends to balance out their progress. If there is severe cold for a prolonged period of time, buds could freeze and get damaged, but the tree produces enough buds to still have a bloom. More sensitive plants like old fashioned hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' that bloom on old wood are more susceptible to cold and time will tell. If there is die back on your plant, prune out the dead wood and apply a dose of a high phosphorus fertilizer. It could help to boost larger blooms from any undamaged buds. Hydrangea varieties that bloom on new wood, such as 'Endless Summer' and 'Pee Gee' should winter alright.

Winter Bronzing of Evergreens
Some of my evergreens are a bronze color. Should I be concerned? Winter bronzing is normal on evergreens near the end of winter while temperatures are cold. Once the temperatures rise and new growth is stimulated, the foliage will turn back to a more vibrant green. Broken or dead branches are different in that they are completely dried out and brown. Those branches should be pruned off the tree in late winter/early springtime to prevent any further damage. Any falling or divided tree leads can be arbor tied to secure them and encourage upright growth. Split branches can also be arbor tied together, and if caught in time the cambium growing layer of the tree can mend. In the photograph above, the center upright Western Arborvitae are displaying bronzing and there are no signs of broken branches. As you can see the trees are healthy.

Have you heard about my new book, Landscape Design Combinations? My first book A Guide to Northeastern Gardening covers recommended plants for zones 3-9 with topics including butterfly gardening, deer resistant plants, shade gardening, perennials, trees and shrubs, evergreens, general maintenance tips and more. 

Landscape Design Combinations is a continuation of the previous publication, with greater emphasis on design, including numerous numbered and labeled photographs of successful landscape plans. Topics include elements of landscape design, designing for the seasons, how to build a natural stone patio or walkway, simple container combinations and garden styles throughout the centuries.

Both A Guide to Northeastern Gardening and Landscape Design Combinations were written to provide you with the tools needed to help you to create a successful garden. If you have read either A Guide to Northeastern Gardening or Landscape Design Combinations and have found the information to be useful, please consider leaving a brief review. Reviews help a book get noticed (especially when new), and I would really appreciate your help! Click on the links below for more information and previews. I hope to inspire you!

Landscape Design Combinations

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day & Foliage Follow-Up February 2017: Winter Garden Interest

February 2017  Long Island Garden
The winter is winding down with just 32 days left until spring! It has been another unpredictable season with temperatures fluctuating anywhere between 20 degrees to temperatures in the 50's. We had one significant snowfall in January with occasional coatings in the forecast, only to be followed by warmer days and melting. Less than a week ago on the 9th, we were hit out of the blue with Winter Storm Niko, bringing blizzard force winds and 15 inches of accumulating snow to Long Island. The rains came,  washing away much of the snow, and now it's blue skies and cold. It is time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Foliage Follow-Up so let's take a stroll in my February garden. There is a combination of structure and winter blooms, with some subtle signs of spring!
February 10th (Day After Winter Storm Niko-February 9th 2017)
Before we move along with the tour, here are a couple of snow scenes from just six days ago. Winter Storm Niko left the landscape covered in a glistening blanket of white, as it had been back in January from Winter Storm Helena.
February 10th (Day After Winter Storm Niko-February 9th 2017)
The day after a winter storm there is something magical about the gardens being covered in a blanket of snow, especially with there is a deep blue sky. All the colors seem to be more vibrant and amplified. While there still remains a thin coating of glistening snow upon much of the landscape, the snow has melted around many of the garden beds and Winter Storm Niko is just a memory. We are aiming to get back onto spring track. Come along with me to see the gardens!
Skyland's Oriental spruce and Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar
 We start with the front driveway bed with Skyand's Oriental Spruce with its bright golden foliage, along with Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar behind it to the left. Towering in the backdrop is the upright form of Blue Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'.
Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca')
Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca' is a majestic heat and drought tolerant evergreen with steel blue to frosty blue-green foliage. This impressive tree reaches heights of 40-50 feet tall by 20-25 feet wide and produces both male and female cones on the same plant. Finger-shaped male cones shed yellow pollen in autumn, while female egg-shaped cones form on mature plants, and turn from blue-green to lavender brown in color. 
Blue Atlas Cedar Cones February
Here are some of the male cones, which are more visible during the winter months.
Coral Bark Maple 'Sango Kaku'
For winter interest, Coral Bark Maple 'Sangu Kaku' displays bright coral-red bark during the colder months. The newer growth on the outer branches tends to be more pronounced in color and "glows" in front of a clear blue sky. Coral Bark Maple grows to a mature size of 20-25 feet tall by 15-20 feet wide.
Skyland's Golden Oriental Spruce
Here is the Skyland's Oriental Spruce that I planted back in 2008 as a memorial for my mom. Planted at just 7-8 feet tall, it now reaches a height of approximately 20 feet in stature. Mature size for this tree ranges between 10-35 feet in height by 4-12 feet wide. 
Skyland's Golden Oriental Spruce Foliage
Here is the foliage up close. Mature trees produce purplish-brown female cones. You can see some cones developing now during the month of February.  
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar February Winter Interest
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar is another favorite of mine. This one is located in the same driveway bed and now extends to approximately 20 feet in width by 8-10 feet tall.  The silvery-blue foliage provides structure and interest all year long. 
Foliage Combination
Now...around to the back yard...and in winter, it's all about the foliage! The deepening color of the Coral Bells behind the golden foliage of sedge makes a nice contrast, and is one of my favorite foliage combinations.
Montgomery Blue Spruce Foliage
Speaking of foliage, Blue Montgomery Spruce adds bright blue color to the February garden along the patio...
Leucothoe Axillaris
and Leucothoe displays medium to dark green glossy foliage in the back shade garden.
Weeping White Pine February
This Weeping White Pine was planted back in 1996 when the back pool garden was constructed and has become a statement. Weeping White Pine grows to a mature height and width of approximately 6-15 feet high by 10-12 feet wide, depending on individual plant and displays a graceful cascading habit.
Weeping White Pine Cone February
Mature plants produce these fabulous pine cones!
Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo)
During wintertime Bloom Days, I always share these wonderful berries from Nandina domestica, also known as Heavenly Bamboo or False Bamboo. Not a true bamboo, it has a clumping habit and is not at all invasive.  Evergreen foliage (in zones 6-11) has the appearance of bamboo with voluminous bright red berries that appear in winter...one of my seasonal favorites!  This one is planted on the north side of the house.
Holly Nellie Stevens Berries Winter Interest
Another tree that produces red berries throughout winter is Nellie Stevens Holly. Mature trees produce so many berries that they can be seen from across the property. The berries are also an attraction for winter birds.
'Kousa' Dogwood and Evergreens Winter
The newly added Dogwood in the back north side beds is doing well.  If you remember, the Wisteria that had previously been in that spot was lost over the winter of 2015-16. I do miss the Wisteria at times, but am really enjoying the new Dogwood addition. I am looking forward to its blooms in late spring-early summer.
Hellebore 'Shooting Star' February Garden
While there are few winter blooming plants, here is Hellebore (or Lenten Rose), which is a welcomed addition in the winter landscape.
Hellebore 'Shooting Star' February Garden
I get so much enjoyment from their large pinkish-white blooms that start in February and last until early spring. The foliage remains evergreen throughout the year.
Backyard Garden Design
I love the fact that the garden is always changing and even some evergreens go through color changes during winter. These upright Western Arborvitae 'Virescens' along the back fence (center) turn a coppery hue in February, adding additional contrast to the winter garden. In spring, they turn back to a light green for the summer months.
Birdbath Winter
As the tour comes to an end, we pass by the granite birdbath in the back garden. The birds love it and I get so much pleasure out of watching them. The birdbath also acts as a piece of art in this shady spot.
Weeping Alaskan Cedar
Here is the Weeping Alaskan Cedar in the back southwest garden. After being in the garden for many years, it is really coming into its element as its branches widen. To date, it stands approximately 30 feet tall by 8 feet wide.
Rhododendron Elegans
While there are still several weeks of winter left, there are subtle signs of spring. Buds are forming on the Rhododendron...
Weeping Pussy Willow Catkin February
and some catkins are starting to show on the Weeping Pussy Willow by the back patio. There will be more sure signs of spring to come as the daylight hours grow longer.
Hawk Visitor
Lastly...you never know what kind of visitors you are going to get in your garden. I looked out the window this morning and this is what was sitting on top of my Japanese Maple. I haven't seen one of these in my garden for years and was lucky enough to get a photograph. I grabbed the telephoto lens and took the picture from indoors. It was a good thing as he quickly flew off!
February Long Island Garden
I hope you enjoyed your stroll through my February garden. Special thanks go out to our hostesses Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who makes it possible to see blooms on the 15th of every month with her meme Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up. I am also linking with some other wonderful hosts and hostesses at Today's Flowers, Floral Fridays, Macro Monday 2, and Nature Notes at Rambling Woods. Also check out Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides and Saturday's Critters at Viewing Nature with Eileen.

Have you heard about my new book,Landscape Design Combinations? It is a continuation of my first book, with a greater emphasis on design, including numerous numbered and labeled photographs of successful landscape plans. Step by step, the book teaches the elements of landscape design, how to choose and place various types of plants to serve a function, and how to design for the seasons. Also included are illustrations on how to build a natural stone patio or walkway, simple container combinations and the development of different garden styles throughout the centuries. If you have read Landscape Design Combinations and found it to be useful, please consider leaving a brief reviewReviews help a new book get noticed, and I would really appreciate your help! Click on the link below for a preview. I hope to inspire you!

 Next up on the 28th. is "Color Our World Round Up" for the month of February, then "This Month's Color in the Garden" on the 7th. Also...celebrating 7 years of garden blogging on February 17th!

WAIT!!! There's more! A blogging colleague is doing a review and giveaway of my first book. You can visit her beautiful blog and enter a comment to win at Three Dogs in a Garden. 
(Deadline for entry is February 25th.)

As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

This Month's Color in the Garden February 2017: Hellebore-Pink Blooms for Winter

Hellebores for Winter Blooms

Hellebores, also known as Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose are grown for their winter interest in the garden. The plants are frost-resistant and produce showy blooms starting in late-winter, when other perennials in the garden are dormant.  I was fortunate to have found some of these wonderful plants at a local nursery two years back, and they have proven to be a rewarding addition to the winter landscape.
Hellebore 'Shooting Star'

There are 22 species of Hellebore with different bloom times and flower colors.  Many of the species are evergreen, possessing leathery deep green foliage. Hellebores can be grown in full sun to full shade, but mostly prefer a partially shady spot, such as a northern exposure. Plant Hellebore in a slightly acidic, moderately moist, but well-drained soil and be careful not to plant too deeply. Like Peony, the crown should be just covered with soil, because planting too deeply inhibits flower production. Bloom time is during late winter and into early spring and buds are often a pinkish-white, followed by beautiful three to four-inch wide blooms in February. Plants grow to a height and width of approximately 1-2 feet.
Hellebore Foliage and Buds

Out of the different species, the most popular and easiest to grow are the Oriental hybrid hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus), hardy in USDA hardiness zones 6–9. Their common name is Lenten rose because their blooms resemble those of roses and they bloom around the beginning of Lent, in late winter. Hellebores come in a variety of colors, including pink, white, green, apricot and purple, and can either exhibit a solid color or combination of hues with colorful specks towards the center. Flower shape includes that of single bloom, double bloom or star-shaped.
Hellebore Winter Blooms (Photo Credit:  Center portion of Photo Monrovia Brandywine Collection)

Use of Hellebores dates all the way back from 1400 BC, when they were used by herbalists to cleanse the mind of all irrational habits. Considered as both a poison and medicinal remedy, the roots, leaves and rhizomes of certain Hellebores were also used as a strong laxative for cleansing livestock taken ill. Back in Biblical times, the flower got its nickname of Christmas Rose because it was believed to be discovered from underneath the snow by a young shepherd girl named Madelon, who brought it as a gift to the newborn Christ. The ancient Greeks associated the flower with demons and possession, and considered it a cure for insanity. Although Hellebore is toxic, its parts when used in small amounts served a number of medicinal uses. The leaves and blooms of Hellebore are extremely unpleasant tasting; therefore, not readily touched by animals. Strangely, in later times, a vase of Hellebores brought into a home was considered to drive away an unpleasant atmosphere and create tranquility.

Have you heard about my new book, Landscape Design Combinations? It is a continuation of my first book, with a greater emphasis on design, including numerous numbered and labeled photographs of successful landscape plans. Step by step, the book teaches the elements of landscape design, how to choose and place various types of plants to serve a function, and how to design for the seasons. Also included are illustrations on how to build a natural stone patio or walkway, simple container combinations and the development of different garden styles throughout the centuries. Landscape Design Combinations was written to provide you with the tools needed, along with sample designs as guides, to help you to create a garden of your own. Click on the link below for a preview with more details about the book. I hope to inspire you!
As Always...Happy Gardening!

Author: Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved