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Entries in evergreen (9)

Wednesday
Jan222014

Winter Interest in the Garden

Snow topped pine and spruce brings out the blue green color of the needlesWinter gardening in the Northeast can be quite interesting. You might be surprised how enjoyable and beautiful this season can be.

Some highlights during winter include:

EVERGREENS: They stand out this time of year without competition from flowering trees and shrubs. My favorites species are all types of  Holly, Evergreen Magnolia, Cypress and Blue Spruce. Hollies are a deep, shiny green and some have red berries which are great for birds. Variegated English Holly is used as a specimen with the white variegation highlighting any garden space. Interesting structural forms pop when combined with blue-green or yellow foliage on different cultivars of Hinoki Cypress. Anything blue toned like the Colorado or Dwarf Montgomery Spruce is a welcome sight in the winter. I also use cuttings from these for winter decoration in my garden pots and urns or even in a vase indoors. 

Skimmia, bright with red berries in the snow covered landscapeFLOWER COLOR: There are several options for winter blooms. 'Arnold Promise' Witch Hazel blooms mid February with fragrant yellow flowers. Lenten Rose (hellebore) is a perennial that blooms in early March and Snow Drops are bulbs that bloom in late February. Heather is evergreen and can start blooming in November right through to early March. The best thing about these plants is that they bloom anywhere from one to three months and are all deer resistant.

Beautiful closeup of the exfoliating bark on a Paperbark MapleBRANCH COLOR: Try the Red Twig Dogwood, a medium sized deciduous shrub. Their summer appearance is not striking but when is snows the red stems will catch any ones attention. There is also a yellow variety. Important Tip: Prune older brown branches down to the base in the spring to encourage new growth. This new growth will start out a light red and intensify as the season progresses. For the late fall/early winter use deciduous Winterberry. It will give a spectacular show of color with red berries, great for the wildlife. Other plants with attractive berries for the wildlife are Viburnum, Sumac and Bayberry which are all native to our region.

DECORATIVE BARK: Once trees lose their leaves for the winter, their interesting structure and bark is more noticeable. Textures range from the exfoliating bark of River Birch, the cinnamon color and exfoliating bark of Crape Myrtle to the the mottled bark of a mature Sycamore, Dogwood or Stewartia to the smooth, gray bark of a Beech tree. Branching habits are visible on the Contorted Filbert, also known as Harry Lauder's Walking Stick, or the Corkscrew Willow with its curly, twisting branches. These are great to cut and bring indoors for floral arrangements or to use as a support for other indoor plants.

 

The winter can be full of garden delights.

Written by Rick Schneider

Wednesday
Oct162013

Drought: A Cautionary Tale

It is fall and we are in a drought. While it may not seem so because the weather has cooled off, our plants need water now more than ever. Stressed trees are turning colors earlier than normal. If you notice that your plants have brown or wilted leaves, early leaf drop or stem dieback, your plant is calling for help. When stressed, plants are more susceptible to pests and disease.

Stressed hydrangeaShocked viburnum

 

 

 

 

 

We are used to seeing this in the high heat of summer, but drought can happen any time of the year. A deciduous (drops leaves for winter) plant can mitigate the damage because it will have no leaves to lose water through and essentially go dormant. It may also drop its leaves prematurely in defense during a drought. This winter will be especially harsh to our broadleaf evergreens due to moisture loss through their leaves. Conifers and broadleaf evergreens will drop some needles and leaves every year routinely, but substantial leaf drop means something may be seriously wrong.

Drought stressed boxwood

Windburned skip laurel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An anti-desiccant spray can help. However, irrigating before the ground freezes will give them a much better chance to survive a dry fall and winter. A leaf with a bigger surface area will transpire faster than a leaf with a smaller surface area; therefore, broadleaf evergreens are more at risk. Even conifers such as pine, spruce and fir will lose water through their needles. If the plant loses too much moisture through its leaves, it can't stay healthy, and a unhealthy plant will fail. A plant will keep expelling water unless something is in place to stop it whether by the plant shutting the stomata by itself or with our help. An anti-desiccant (anti-transpirant) application can help protect the leaves by reducing the stomata openings. This application will also help protect the leaves from wind burn (see above right). The root system will be compromised if there is not enough water in the soil and if the soil is too dry it can erode away. If the roots are damaged severely, the plant could die. Protect your landscape investment!

From a recent interview with Long Island Pulse magazine, Tom Rodler, our president, says, "A good rule of thumb is to give a new plant about one inch of water per week throughout the fall." We are down 5 inches from our normal rainfall since June. You must be extra diligent, especially with new planting, to ensure your plants survival through the fall and winter.

Avoid stressing the plants even more during drought by refraining from pruning and transplanting. Mulch can help prevent water loss by evaporation from the soil around a plant, but if the soil is dry to begin with it is a futile gesture. Once the ground is frozen a plant can't take up any more water so protecting it now is important. DO NOT water at lower temperatures. Heaving will lift and damage root systems if not properly mulched, especially as the ground freezes and thaws throughout winter. We offer a winter mulch application to protect your plants against heaving damage, but don't apply it too late or clean it up too early. Some animals stuff themselves before hibernating in the winter and we need to prep our plants in a similar manner. A dry, windy winter could be the last nail in the coffin.

Tuesday
Jan082013

Winter Interest  


During winter, the garden takes on a different character with the play of light and shadow. It is also a time when the unique features of certain plants are highlighted. Witch-hazel, to the left, is a small tree that blooms in February. It's a wonderful native specimen to showcase during a time when there are few things in flower. Camellias also flower during the winter, but be careful to protect their broad evergreen leaves with an anti-transpirant to reduce wind burn. These do best in a more sheltered area such as behind a windbreak or near a building.

In addition to flowers, there are countless
varieties of trees and shrubs with interesting forms, bark, berries, cones and evergreen color to animate the winter landscape. Berries provide food for birds during the winter as well as color for your garden. A mature Japanese Dogwood or Crape Myrtle (at right) both have multicolored, exfoliating bark that stand out in any landscape. The reddish color of the Crape Myrtle's bark is a striking contrast in a winter landscape. A Montgomery Spruce has beautiful blue needles all year (shown in bottom picture with the granite wall).

Grasses, whether evergreen or perennial, can give you good groundcover all year long. Green liriope doesn't get a haircut until Mid-March. Acorus only needs a light raking. Dwarf fountain grass plumes usually last though early winter if there hasn't been a heavy snowfall. Grasses like this should be cut down as soon as they start looking messy, but don't cut them down based on color. The brown plumes add a feathery, light look to your landscape and contrast well with blue skies and white snow.

Hardscape elements, such as paving, boulders and walls, stand out. Structural elements such as sculptures, pergolas and gazebos enliven an outdoor space all year but in winter they can take center stage. A patio heater or fire pit can make an outdoor space usable on mild winter days. Warm drinks like cocoa, tea and coffee can extend your stay outdoors but remember to dress warmly and to extinguish the fire before returning inside. Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can't have fun. An arboretum like Planting Fields in Oyster Bay is a great place to explore year round and there aren't as many people in the winter so you can relax more and take your time to enjoy everything. They have numerous trails through the woods on the grounds but they also have greenhouses to explore if it is too nippy outside.

Exterior lighting schemes can highlight unique landscape elements like the Westchester granite wall to the right. The light picks up the bits of mica in the stone and makes it glitter. During the summer, plants might cover most of this wall, but in the winter when the perennials die back it has a chance to shine. Winter is a time to showcase textures and elements not seen in the summer months when brilliantly colored flowers take center stage. 

 

 

 

Tuesday
Oct092012

Just A Few More Things About Fall

Skimmia: Broadleaf EvergreenAs the weather turns chilly you might think it's time to give up on the garden. Not so! There are many things left to do before bunkering down for the winter. Plants, furniture and utilities need special care.

Protect your broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendron, cherry laurel, andromeda and others. Some anti-desiccant/anti-transpirant applications can be made by yourself, liquid kelp is a popular homeowner's application, though one feature of our Plant Healthcare Program is an anti-transpirant application in the late fall. This application helps lock in moisture for the winter and decreases the likelihood of wind and frost damage.

Another idea to consider for your landscape is a deep root fertilization for your trees, which can be applied in the fall or even in the spring. This fertilization gives your trees the help they need to get through the winter and come out swinging when the temperatures warm up.

Iced WaterfallPlants aren’t the only item in your landscape to protect. Winter can do a number on your outdoor furniture. Secure it in a safe place, such as a garage or shed, or have a professional shrink wrap it for you. Even your boat can be shrink wrapped.

Remember to have a professional blow out irrigation and pool lines to prevent damage from water freezing and thawing in the lines throughout the season. Drain and cover any fountains. Talk to a professional for pond care and winterization if you have animals in the pond. Hungry birds and raccoons can make a meal out of unsuspecting koi and goldfish when the weather turns nasty.

 

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