Archive for Landscape

Impatiens Tale of 2013

Posted in Landscape, Local News, Pest Control with tags , , on June 26, 2013 by Pat Hansen

If you depend upon impatiens for all-season color in your containers or garden, you may be disappointed this summer. If your impatiens die quickly, it probably isn’t the fault of the grower, the garden center or your own failing. The problem is a virulent strain of a water mold called downy mildew that has destroyed impatiens production in Europe and South Africa – and has now been confirmed in twenty states in America. Homeowners and businesses that expect masses of flowers, instead will see masses of dying, ugly plants.

Downy mildew infected impatiens

(Left) Downy mildew-infected impatiens showing leaf abscission. (Right) Landscape planting of impatiens following an epidemic of downy mildew. Photo credits: Mary Hausbeck, MSU

Not all impatiens are alike, and this disease only infects some of them – Impatiens walleriana is the victim, known to many people as the old-fashioned impatiens they buy in flats or as balsam or jewelweed. Newer cultivars such as double impatiens, Fusion and Spellwood are also susceptible. Fortunately, all the New Guinea type impatiens are not affected, including the Sonic and Supersonic series, Sunpatiens and the Divine series. 2013 may be the year of the New Guinea impatiens.

The Disease Story

Oval Spores

Oval spores produced on stalks that extend from the underside of the leaf. Photo credit: Mary Hausbeck, MSU

All diseases require three elements to succeed: 1) the pathogen, 2) the environment it requires, and 3) susceptible organisms. In the case of downy mildew, the organism is the impatiens crop. The pathogen consists of aerial spores that settle on plants. The environment for the spores to germinate is cool, moist conditions (temperatures from 59º to 73º Fahrenheit and either rain or overhead watering, especially late in the day). Here in Michigan, the rainy, cool spring was the perfect breeding ground for the downy mildew. Impatiens downy mildew also produces oospores that can survive through winter on plant debris above or below ground. So any soil where infected impatiens has grown is probably unsuitable for this crop for many years.

What You Saw

In greenhouses and garden centers, most impatiens looked healthy well into late spring. In those controlled situations, growers have products that manage disease outbreaks in early stages, and wind-blown spores aren’t likely to land on plants. When you bought and planted the impatiens flats or 4 inch pots at home – that’s when they were at risk. In two or three weeks, the plants showed pale green or yellowing leaves, some mottled foliage and eventually wilting, stunted growth, distorted leaves, severe leaf drop and total plant collapse. Light grey or white fuzz under some leaves is the definitive sign.

MSU greenhouse trial results

MSU greenhouse trial results. (Top left) Untreated control. (Top right) Adorn SC 2 fl oz drench. (Bottom left) Subdue MAXX EC 1 fl oz drench. (Bottom right) Heritage WG 4 oz + Capsil 4 fl oz spray. Photo credits: Mary Hausbeck, MSU

Prevent and Limit Diseases

For home gardeners or landscapers, some general principals can minimize the effect of this or another disease:

  • Avoid mass planting of anything. Mono-cultures incur the risk of a single species problem; diversity is good.
  • Water at the base of plants, if possible, rather than sprinkle all the foliage.
  • Water early in the day, if possible, so the garden can dry out before nightfall.
  • Thin out crowded plantings; lack of air circulation favors some diseases.
  • Do not compost diseased plants, but discard in garbage bags or bury them in a deep hole.

In the impatiens case, plants in brighter areas fared better than plants in deep shade.

Red Begonia Background (Andrew Schmidt | publicdomainpictures.net)

Red Begonia Background | Photo credit: Andrew Schmidt | publicdomainpictures.net

Greenhouse growers are not writing off impatiens completely. They suggest planting impatiens in containers instead of in the ground. Some growers will suggest planting New Guinea impatiens as mentioned earlier; others will suggest shade garden alternatives such as begonias.

As consumers, we should respect the risk that plant growers and farmers must take – weather, disease, insects, animals and an ever-changing marketplace.

What To Do About The Messy Cottonwood Trees?

Posted in Landscape with tags , , on June 19, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Cotton, cotton, everywhere — cottonwood trees are very popular landscape trees, primarily because they grow quickly and reach heights of 80 feet or more. They also provide ample shade in hot Midwestern summers.

Cottonwood Seeds (EnLorax G. Edward Johnson | wikipedia.org)

Photo credit: EnLorax G. Edward Johnson (Own work) [(CC-BY-3.0) via Wikimedia Commons]

Cottonwoods are, however, known to be messy trees for a few reasons. In early June, the female trees drop “cotton” everywhere. The cotton is actually a seedpod, but looks like masses of fluffy cotton. Both male and female cottonwood trees easily drop small twigs and branches during windstorms. The trees also drop very sticky bud capsules that attach themselves to everything — including your dog’s fur and your own bare feet, and are difficult to remove – leaving a yellow stain behind.

Spray the Trees

It is possible to spray the trees or have them sprayed by a certified arborist if you don’t feel competent enough to do it on your own. You will need to use a product called a fruit eliminator. A fruit eliminator is applied to the fruit-bearing part of the tree, and fruit production is drastically reduced or eliminated. Such products are to be applied directly to the buds. The amount of cotton a treated tree produces will be much lower than that of an untreated tree.

Use a growth hormone or regulator to minimize the flowers that are produced and therefore the seeds. There are many on the market, but the product that works the most consistently has ethephon as the main ingredient. Apply the product in early spring.

Cottonwood Trees (gfpeck | foter.com)

Tall cottonwood trees. Photo credit: gfpeck | Foter.com | CC BY-ND

Set up a ladder so you can reach all the aspects of the tree. Mix the recommended amount of growth regulator for your tree size into the hose end sprayer. The usual amount for an ornamental tree is 1 quart chemical to 10 gallons water. Only mix as much as you will use and then screw the unit onto the hose. Turn on the water.

Spray the top of the tree first and coat the leaves and stems. Only apply enough to wet, but not cause significant chemical run-off. The best temperatures in which to apply the chemical are between 61º and 94º Fahrenheit. The chemical breaks down ethylene inside the tree, which is a hormone that signals flower formation.

Watch Out for Breakage

Another cottonwood problem that could be loosely classified as “messy” is that the tree tends to have weak, brittle wood. You can see this in the small branches and twigs that are sacrificed during windstorms. Because the tree grows so fast, its wood is not as strong as that of other trees. If you decide to leave the trees and treat the mess, and not cut down the trees, it is a good idea to have mature cottonwood trees examined every few years by a certified arborist to prevent catastrophic breakage – especially if the tree grows near your house.

Annuals And Perennials: What You Should Know Before Planting

Posted in Landscape with tags , , on May 8, 2013 by Pat Hansen

The arrival of bedding plants marks the beginning of spring – even for the most casual gardener. Here’s a to-do list before purchasing plants:

1. Know the difference between annuals and perennials. Annuals are a one-season splash of color. They bloom almost immediately and continue blooming until the first killing frost, which often occurs anywhere between September 15th and October 1st in the metro Detroit area.

Annuals - PetuniasAnnuals are maintenance intensive. To continue blooming, they require close attention to watering, fertilizing, weeding and dead heading. Annuals often are used in new landscapes as colorful fillers, while foundation shrubbery grows and matures. They can also be planted in hanging baskets and containers, adding color to a deck, garden or patio. Annual plants often are more costly in the long run than perennials because they must be replaced each year.

Perennials - Foxglove & Russian SagePerennial plants grow and spread for years. The initial cost is greater, but they are a permanent addition to your garden. Plant tall perennials at the back of a border and shorter plants in front. With a little planning, it is possible to plant masses of successively blooming flowers for an all-season display. After three years, most perennials need dividing which will yield many new plants.

The average frost-free date for the metro Detroit area is between May 15th and May 31st. If tender annuals are planted too early, a late frost could kill every plant. Perennials and hardy annuals such as pansies and snapdragons will survive a light frost.

2. Prepare the soil well before you plant. Your soil can be heavy clay or very sandy. The structure of either soil type can be changed by adding organic matter such as Canadian sphagnum peat moss, well-rotted manure or garden compost. Spread two to three inches of the organic matter over the soil and roto-till or double-spade it in. Add a well-balanced fertilizer at this time. Don’t take shortcuts with soil preparation. When planting a perennial garden, you have just one chance to do it correctly.

Impatien - Red Geranium (Ladyheart | morgueFile.com)

Photo Credit: Ladyheart | morgueFile.com

3. Select plants that are suitable to the site. Most garden centers will list the specific exposure, soil and cultural requirements for a variety of plants. In the absence of signs with this information, read the tag on each variety. Note the amount of sun the plants will receive. Is wind a factor? Many tall flowers do not tolerate wind and snap easily; other tall varieties bend with the wind and perform beautifully. Wind can damage shorter plants too. Impatiens, for example, will shrivel and die in a windy location because they hydrate easily.

4. It’s time to buy the plants. Avoid cell packs containing tall, spindly plants with flowers. They’ve been in the packs too long. You can pinch them back and trim the roots for better performance, but this sets them back, and you’ll wait longer for blooms than if you had chosen smaller plants. Annuals - SnapdragonsCheck leaves and stems for diseases such as leaf spots or stem cankers (dark, sunken areas) and insects. Take the plants out of the pot or pack and check the roots. Healthy roots should be firm and white, without spirals or kinks. Don’t bring home unhealthy or insect-infested plants.

Water and drain cell-packs for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the plants. Remove transplants from cell-packs by gently squeezing the bottom of each cell. Take out the plants one-by-one to delay drying of the root ball. Pinch off long coiled bottom roots with a garden knife and gently rough-up root-bound areas. Arrange the plants close enough together to make a full, attractive bed.

As a general rule, don’t plant seedlings deeper than they were in the cell-pack. Firm the soil lightly around the plants and water thoroughly with a soft spray nozzle attached to a hose. Transplant shock can be minimized by planting during cooler times of the day, preferably evening.

Perennial - Phlox (jdurham | morgueFile.com)

Photo Credit: jdurham | morgueFile.com

5. When should I feed my annuals and perennials? A good quality product such as Bachman’s Garden Food 10-20-10 works well with annuals and perennials, both flowering and foliage. With annuals, it can be applied, monthly, throughout the growing season. With perennials, it should only be applied twice; first when the plants have just started growing in early spring and again, a month later.

With proper planting, watering and feeding, your flower beds should provide beauty and color from spring through early fall.

Forsythia – A Beautiful Harbinger of Spring

Posted in Landscape with tags , , on May 1, 2013 by Pat Hansen
Forsythia (Efraimstochter | pixabay.com)

Photo Credit: Efraimstochter | pixabay.com

After a long, drab winter, most gardeners anxiously await the arrival of spring. One sure sign that spring has truly arrived is the sight of the bright yellow flowers of the forsythia. These lovely yellow-flowering shrubs that foretell the coming of spring grow in almost any soil and are hardy – even in Michigan. 

Forsythias, also known as golden bells, are available in many sizes, require minimum care and tolerate city pollution. Plus, they are represented by so many species and cultivars, you can choose the perfect one for your landscape, that is, as long as you like plants with amazing yellow flowers.

Probably no other shrubs you can name are as distinctive in early to late April. What a delight it is to observe them when the end of winter weather is near and warmer temps are just around the corner.

Forsythia (Hans | pixabay.com)

Photo Credit: Hans | pixabay.com

There really is a forsythia for every landscape. This is a fast-growing deciduous shrub, increasing in size and width by 1-2 feet a year. Depending on selections, forsythia can be found as small as 1 foot tall, while others grow to 10 feet high and just as wide. They’re generally found in landscapes as graceful and informal hedges, planted in mass or used as striking specimen plants. Taller varieties can be espaliered against a wall or fences, but no matter where they’re planted, one thing is for sure: they’re blooming traffic-stoppers – with graceful, cascading branches of bright golden-yellow flowers.

The most popular of golden bells is “Forsythia x intermedia”, represented by at least 30 cultivars. “Spectabilis” is a popular and vigorous selection that reaches 10 feet tall and wide. Another popular choice, as well as one of the best is actually a selection of “Spectabilis”: a plant known in the nursery trade as “Lynwood” also called “Lynwood Gold”. Also growing 10 feet tall and wide, this forsythia might be the perfect starting place for those who are new to planting this brilliant shrub.

Forsythia (curlsdiva | morgueFile.com)

Photo Credit: curlsdiva | morgueFile.com

Because some forsythias are marginally hardy to northern climates and may suffer from sudden freezes and snow covers, cold-hardy selections have been introduced that may survive -30 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Among them are “Meadowlark” which grows 8-10 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide; “Northern Gold”, 6-8 feet tall and 5-7 feet wide; and “Sunrise”, a compact form at 4-6 feet tall with a spread of only 3-5 feet. Ask your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office which ones perform best where you live.

In addition to just being attractive shrubs, forsythias are good investments for your landscape as they are long-lived and take little care beyond annual trimming and feeding. They perform well in most soils, but like many other plants do best in well-drained sites.

Forsythias grow and flower in full sun or in light shade. For best flowering, they should be fed moderately in late winter to early spring with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering, as the plants bloom on wood produced the previous summer. Older branches can be cut back severely, and others trimmed to the desired length. Older plants that don’t bloom at all should be cut to the ground. Within two years they should begin to bloom again – stronger than ever.

Forsythia (PublicDomainPictures | pixabay.com)

Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures | pixabay.com

Speaking of cutting branches, if you want a brilliant display of flowers in your home, cut back some forsythia branches, place them in a vase and enjoy a fabulous spring bouquet from the comforts of your couch.

Forsythias are now available in most garden centers. Plant one now and enjoy a golden spring!

Lawn Aeration

Posted in Landscape with tags , on April 24, 2013 by Pat Hansen

Lawn aeration is one of the most important, and neglected, practices available for your lawn. Lawns that receive regular aeration will be:

  • Greener
  • Easier to maintain
  • Suffer from fewer pest problems and disease

 Aerating lawns also:

  • Helps control thatch build up
  • Improves the soil structure
  • Helps create growth pockets for new roots
  • Opens the way for water and fertilizer to get into the root zone of your lawn

Beautiful green lawn (Lot 390, Manors of Deerwood | Robert R. Jones Homes | Clarkston, Michigan)Soil compaction is a frequent cause of turf deterioration. Soils that are hard and compacted have no nooks and crannies to hold the water, air or nutrients. Without these crucial components, root growth is virtually impossible and greatly impeded.

If your lawn’s roots aren’t growing, the grass won’t develop the root system that is essential to survive in hot/dry or harsh/cold periods.

Aerating is really beneficial any place your lawn slopes. If you aerate, water will soak into these sloped areas, instead of just running off quickly before it can soak in. If you’ve noticed these dry slopes, it’s because the water just isn’t getting down to the roots. Aerating will help the problem.

How often should you aerate?

Aerator attachment (Lovesgreenlawn | wikipedia.org)

Photo credit: Lovesgreenlawn (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

If you maintain your lawn to a high standard or if your soil is heavy and tends to compact, you may need aeration twice a year.

Sandy soils do not become compacted as easily and may only need aeration every few years.

When should you aerate?

What type of grass do you have? Cool season or warm season? The best time to aerate is during the peak growing season for the type of grass you have.

For cool season lawns it is best to aerate lawns between August and early October. The next best time is in the spring. Wait until you have mowed the grass twice before aerating.

If you aerate in the fall, aerate at least 30 days before the ground freezes. This will ensure that your lawn has the opportunity to recover before winter dormancy.

The best time to aerate warm season lawns is in late spring or early summer.

Common cool season lawn species include:

  • Bluegrass
  • Bent grasses
  • Fescues
  • Rye grasses

Cool season lawns grow best during temperatures of 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit (spring and fall). When it’s hot and dry, they can go dormant or even die.

Common warm season lawn species include:

  • Bermuda grass
  • Saint-Augustine grass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Buffalo grass

Warm season lawns grow best with temperatures between 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whether you aerate your lawn in the spring, summer or fall, use your own aerator, contract for it or rent one at your local rental supplier. Aeration is essential to a good looking, well maintained lawn.

Container Gardening

Posted in Around Your Home, Landscape with tags , on April 17, 2013 by Pat Hansen
Potted Plant (dee88 | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: dee88 | morgueFile.com

Container gardening allows anyone the opportunity to grow plants. Annuals, perennials, herbs, trees and shrubs, vegetables, water plants; if it grows in the ground, chances are it can be grown in a pot. Container gardening is mobile, it can be a quick fix, quick spruce up or decoration, and can be short or long term. Container gardening works for homeowners, condo and apartment dwellers, kids, senior citizens, the physically challenged, or anyone who just wants to do a little gardening.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  1. The first thing you’ll need is the container. Any container will work, as long as it’s large enough to support the root system of the plants you intend on growing in it, and has excellent drainage holes. There are so many pots to choose from today. Again, size and good drainage are the two (2) most important factors. Do not add gravel to assist in drainage; all it does is add weight to the pot.
  2. Next, you’ll need a good, soil-less potting mix. These mixes are what the professionals use, and although there are many brands to choose from, the basic ingredients include sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and sometimes a small, finely ground pine bark. Forget the 99¢ bags of potting soil – invest in the soil-less mixes instead. Remember, you can use them year after year. Depending on the soil-less mix, you may want to add extra Pine soil conditioner to the mix (25-30% pine soil conditioner). Combining soil-less potting mix and Pine soil conditioner makes a very nice growing medium.

    Potted Plant (earl53 | morgueFile.com)

    Photo credit: earl53 | morgueFile.com

  3. Soil-less mixes are basically nutrient free, so you will need to add a little fertilizer to the mix. Use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote for a slow, all season feeding. Then supplement additional feedings as needed with good old Miracle-Gro®, Fish Emulsion, or fertilizer of your choice, and feed as needed depending on what you’ll be growing in your containers.
  4. Here’s the real secret to container gardening: Plants in containers will be depending on you for water, so make sure you have a good water wand. To help cut down on your watering, add Soil Moist to your soil-less mix. These tiny polymers absorb water, swelling to 200 times their original size. As the soil-less mix becomes dry, the Soil Moist releases water back to the soil, basically cutting your watering in half.
Vegetables (Irish_Eyes | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: Irish_Eyes | morgueFile.com

Do you want to grow your own vegetables, but don’t have room in your yard? Container gardening is your answer! Greens, onions, rhubarb, horseradish, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and even strawberries can be grown in containers. As I mentioned before – if it grows in the ground, chances are you can grow it in a pot and it will grow even better!

Now you’ve got the basics for container gardening. The rest is up to you and your imagination.

What Flowers Should You Plant In April?

Posted in Around Your Home, Landscape with tags , on April 10, 2013 by Pat Hansen

April is typically a good time to start planning your landscape and the design of your yard. You can select from many different types of flowers to plant in April, after the frost warnings have passed for your particular planting zone. The Metropolitan Detroit area is in zone five. If you purchase plants from a nursery, the pots generally have markers attached to them that suggest when they can be planted.

Pansies (jeltovski | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: jeltovski | morgueFile.com

Pansies
Pansies come in a large number of varieties for shapes and colors. They are a short plant that is excellent for borders on flower beds and bulb beds, container pots and at the base of mailboxes.

Pulmonaria or Blue Ensign
Do you need ground cover in a shady spot of the yard? Pulmonaria, also known as Blue Ensign is perfect to plant in April in bare spots and under trees, along fences or at the base of mailboxes. The plant is tolerant of most soil conditions and spreads rapidly.

Dicentra Spectabilis (Bleeding Heart) (jdurham | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: jdurham | morgueFile.com

Dicentra Spectabilis
The Dicentra Spectabilis blooms with a spray of beautiful pink flowers that look almost like hearts. The plant is tolerant of various soil conditions and does well as a ground covering. You can mix it with the Blue Ensign to create an area of blue and pink flowers for a very dramatic look.

Akebia Quinata
Archways, gazebos and decks are ideal areas to plant Akebia Quinata flowers during April. The deep maroon or burgundy color of the flower clusters provide an excellent covering for these areas of the yard. These flowers are notorious for their heavy scent of vanilla or chocolate. Another advantage to these flowers is their evergreen quality. While they bloom in the spring, the green foliage after blooming is an attractive ground cover.

Sweet Williams (MUmland | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: MUmland | morgueFile.com

Sweet Williams or Wee Willies
You can attract butterflies or hummingbirds to your yard later in the summer by planting Sweet Williams or Wee Willies in full sun during April. The striking shades of reds, pinks and white make these a great addition to your yard for a wildlife habitat or just to enjoy their natural colors. These flowers have a very pleasant, light scent and make an attractive centerpiece.

The tulips, daffodils and other bulbs that bloom in the spring are already showing their presence. They will compliment any of the above newly planted annuals and should satisfy the most avid gardeners until late May or early June when the late spring and early summer annuals and perennials can be planted.

Novi Home and Garden Show

Posted in Landscape, Lifestyle, Local News with tags , , on April 3, 2013 by Pat Hansen

The upcoming Novi Home and Garden Show, April 5-7, 2013, at the Suburban Collection Showplace is a Home Builders Association Event, and an enjoyable, mood-lifting way to experience the sights and aura of spring. Sitting Area, Water FeatureThe Show has a remarkable following with an excellent list of quality exhibitors. Everything you need for your home and garden can be found under one roof.

  • The “Fountains & Flowers” sponsored by Huntington Bank features over 25,000 square feet of landscaped gardens featuring fountains, flowers, ponds and waterfalls. There are 26 landscape exhibitors.
  • The Green Thumb Theatre provides a variety of fun and informative 45-minute seminars on gardening and landscaping, including a demonstration of the key design principles used by professional designers to create stunning container arrangements.
  • Pergola, Sitting AreaThere is also a seminar on gardening myths and landscaping blunders filled with valuable tips on how to avoid some of the most common and costly mistakes. The seminars are scheduled hourly, on both Saturday and Sunday: from Noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and Noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
  • There will be amazing exhibits including an indoor fine arts fair hosted by The Image and Arts Council of Troy (I/ACT), which is a non-profit, Detroit-area artists organization that promotes art, culture and urban design in the metro Detroit area. There will be painting, pottery, artwork and much more available for purchase. Artists will be demonstrating their craft as well as selling their creations. “Buy local” – the artists are all from the Detroit Metro area.
  • The Home & Garden Marketplace will display many vendors including: crafters, local businesses and food merchants.
  • CJ Forge Blacksmithing will be on hand to provide live demonstrations in custom ironwork and blacksmithing techniques.
  • A great selection of perennials, from the best area greenhouses, will be available for sale.
  • Don’t forget the “In-Booth Giveaways” – several of the vendors are offering drawings, gift cards and incentives.

Novi Home and Garden Show
Suburban Collection Showplace
4600 Grand River Ave., Novi, MI 48374

Show Hours:
Friday, April 5th: 2-9 p.m.
Saturday, April 6th: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sunday, April 7th: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Admission & Discounts:
Adult admission (ages 13 and up) is $8.00
Senior Admission is $7.00
Children 12 and under get in free
→ Pick up a $1 off coupon at any Oakland County Tim Hortons location. To receive $2 off advance tickets, stop by your local metro Detroit Home Depot store.
Parking is available for a fee

Planning Your Spring Garden

Posted in Around Your Home, Landscape, The Drawing Board with tags , on February 20, 2013 by Pat Hansen

February is the time to think about your spring gardening. To begin, you should plan your garden. A piece of graph paper and a pencil are all you need to start. Draw a diagram of your garden. Lay it out so it accurately reflects all planting areas. Once you have completed your diagram, bundle up and walk around your garden area to see what is there and to note the empty spaces. Consider past experiences: What worked in your garden? What didn’t? Consider removing plants that don’t do well in your garden and replace them with ones that will.

Vegetable Garden (ssyredboots | morgueFile.com)

Put all this information on your garden plan. It is a good idea to keep a record of each year’s garden. It helps you in planting the following year. This is especially true of vegetable gardens. You will want to rotate your vegetables to other parts of the garden for best results. Take a “before” picture of your garden so that you can admire the “after” results.

Butterfly (earl53 | morgueFile.com)

Photo credit: earl53 | morgueFile.com

Once you have a diagram, you are ready to select what will go into your spring garden. Think about what kind of garden you want to have. Is your garden shady, sunny or perhaps both? Do you want vibrant colors? Are you interested in attracting butterflies or hummingbirds? All these questions should be considered in planning your space. Remember if you want blooms until fall, you need to plant accordingly. Now comes the next step – selecting seeds, bulbs and plants.

Seed catalogs abound on the internet and order forms can also be found in gardening magazines. You can order seeds for starting plants inside and transplant seedlings into the garden when the danger of frost is gone. Many varieties that are available in seeds are not available as plants in your local nursery and seeds are cheaper than live plants.

You can also order a variety of live plants and bulbs from catalogs and garden centers. Summer flowering bulbs such as gladiolas and daylilies can be purchased now for spring planting. Keep them inside and plant them once there is no danger of frost. If you took bulbs inside for the winter, go through them before planting. If any seem soft, toss them. Also, look for signs of mold and disease and discard any affected bulbs.

Another option for bedding plants is cuttings from indoor plants. Coleus, which comes in a variety of colors and shapes, is a common house plant. Take several cuttings and root them in a container filled with water. They will thrive in your flowerbed.

Once you’ve made your seed choices, order them and be ready to plant them upon arrival. Make sure that the containers you use allow for drainage of excess water from the bottom so they do not stay too wet.

Soil-less mixes make a better planting medium for seeds because there is no risk of contamination from weed seeds or bacteria, both of which you would find in soil. Make sure the seeds have sufficient light for germination. Also, keep the seeds in an area where the temperature is at least 50 degrees. Enjoy watching your seeds germinate and grow for the next several weeks.

The ideal garden consists of many things: color placement, variety and longevity make for seasons of delightful viewing and enjoyment of your garden. Plan it now and enjoy the results!

Fall Is The Perfect Time For Splitting Perennials

Posted in Landscape, Lifestyle with tags , , on October 19, 2012 by Pat Hansen

A perennial plant dies back to the ground every fall and grows from existing roots each spring. The longevity of each perennial differs, with some being as short as 3 years while others last over 100 years. Transplanting or dividing these plants can be done in the fall. At this time of the year the temperature is cool enough to ensure minimum damage while the ground is still warm enough for new roots to form.

Grape HyacinthsNot all perennials need to be split, but many will benefit from the procedure. Plants exhibiting the following characteristics should be split:

  • Plants that produce fewer and smaller flowers than usual will benefit from division. Once they are split into smaller sections, the plants will develop new vigor.
  • When a plant outgrows its designated area and starts crowding other plants, part of the plant needs to be removed, allowing the plant to continue to grow. Often, plants left unchecked can take over a whole flower bed.
  • Perennials that start to die out in the center but still have productive growth on the edge will become spindly if the dead material isn’t removed from the plant.

Plants don’t have to be showing signs of stress before they can be divided.  They are often split because more than one plant is desired. Since most perennials grow quickly, it is a practical and economical way to produce more plants.

The root and the plant structure dictate how to divide a perennial so it is necessary to examine the plant carefully before starting.

Plants with bulb roots need to be dug up and carefully separated by hand. When replanting the bulbs, keep in mind that the larger bulbs produce the best flowers. Very small bulbs might need a few years to develop before flowering. Lilies and all spring flowering bulbs are best planted in the fall. Peonies should also be divided and replanted in the fall.

PeonyPlants with underground runners that come up some distance from the mother plant are called suckers. When digging up this new growth, it is necessary to make sure some fine roots are growing from the sucker stem before severing the connection with the mother plant.

Thick roots called rhizomes need to be dug up and carefully separated.  If they have grown into a tangle, carefully cut the roots apart using a sharp knife, ensuring that each rhizome has at least one bud or shoot. The roots of irises and lily of the valley are rhizomes.

Plants that spread by producing new crowns, in an ever expanding circle, usually need to be split every 4 to 5 years. These plants should be dug up and split into a number of pieces. To grow, each new plant requires a few stems and a good supply of roots. If the center of the root is dead, remove all the dead material which should result in a number of individual plants remaining.

Crichton Honey DahliaGround covers and low growing plants are the easiest to split. They often produce roots, at nodes, where their stem touches the ground. All that is needed to propagate these plants is a sharp knife to separate the offshoot from the mother plant.

When dividing plants, only replant healthy material. Discard any material that is damaged or diseased. To replant, dig a hole, put in bone meal and fill it with water.  Once the water has receded, place the plant in the hole and back fill with soil, pressing it down firmly around the plant. Try to place the plants at the same depth as before since this has an effect on some plants’ growth habits.

Give away any perennials that don’t fit in your garden. Some of the best perennials in my yard were given to me by neighbors who were thinning their flower beds.

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