Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Must-Have Plants: Japanese Painted Fern

Japanese Painted Fern - Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum'

Must-have plants are among the best for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Japanese Painted Fern

Flower Color: None

Bloom Time: None

Foliage: Herbaceous, metallic gray, reddish/bluish blush

Height/Spread: 12 inches to 18 inches x 12 inches to 18 inches.

Climate Zones: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun Exposure: Partial shade to full shade.

Soil Condition: Moist to well-drained, loamy, pH 6.1 to 7.5

Features: Colorful foliage, deer resistant, insect resistant, disease resistant.

Uses: Massed planting, naturalizing, fern collections, woodland gardens, shade gardens and borders.

Comments: Athyrium niponicum 'Pictum', also known as Japanese Painted Fern, is one beautiful perennial. Emerging fronds are metallic gray with reddish/bluish blush. Mature fronds hold their color well and contrast nicely with the emerging fronds. Japanese Painted Fern is winter dormant. It forms clumps.

Japanese Painted Fern is deer, insect and disease resistant. Mature height is 12 inches to 18 inches. Performs well in USDA zones 4 to 9. Japanese Painted Fern requires moist soil, but take care not to over-water. It does well in partial shade to full shade. Space 18 inches to 24 inches. Recommended pH is 6.1 to 7.5.

Return to Ferns at goGardenNow.com.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FAQ: How far should I plant hollies from the house?

How far should I plant hollies from the house?

Typically, foundation plantings are installed too close to structures making building maintenance and pruning difficult. Humidity between the plants and buildings encourages mold and mildew on windows and walls. Tall plants growing too close can rub and damage soffits. Furthermore, ornamental trees and large shrubs can undermine and compromise the integrity of foundations.

To figure planting distance, determine the mature height and diameter of the species you intend to install. At minimum, determine the height and diameter you intend to keep it. Divide the diameter by 2 to figure the radius. Add at least 3’ to the radius. That point should be the center of your planting hole.

“But I don’t want the plants to be that far out in the yard,” you might protest. Well, choose smaller plants.

“I’ll keep them pruned,” you might convince yourself. Maybe you will; maybe you won’t.

“My neighbors’ foundation plantings are closer to their homes,” you might exclaim. Well, that’s their problem.

Design your foundation beds to a generous size. Your foundation plants can realize their potential. Your landscape will appear fuller and richer. 

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Monday, October 12, 2015

What is this growing in the back of my yard? Someone said it's a "Devil's Walking Stick."

Devil’s Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) aka “Hercule’s Club” and “Angelica Tree” – is a mighty impressive native American plant. Six words – devil’s, stick, spinosa, Hercules, club and Angelica – should complete the picture. It grows in USDA climate zones 4-9 in slightly acidic to neutral soil with full to partial sun exposure.

There are some fascinating facts you should know about Aralia spinosa.
  • It should not be confused with False Aralia (Dizygotheca elegantissima) - pronounced "dizzygoTHEEKa" - though it might compare with the inelegant Dizzygoths some raise in their homes;
  • It is covered head-to-toe with nasty, fiery spines;
  • It is frightening, in its own way;
  • The name “Hercules Club” was probably given by some literate person who knew the awesome legend of Hercules and of the sculpture of Hercules with his club;
  • Species in the Angelica family often bear flowers with heavenly fragrances;
  • According to Wikipedia, “The sprinkling of it all around the outside of the home is meant for protection”;
  • If you cultivate Aralia spinosa around the perimeter of your garden, few trespassers will dare to enter;
  • Aralia spinosa is maintenance-free, needing no pruning;
  • Dizzygoths, however, should be pruned low and very often.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Will Epsom salt kill an unwanted tree trunk?

Will Epsom salt kill an unwanted tree trunk and keep it from re-sprouting? I was told it will.

You were told correctly. Epsom salt does this by drying out plant tissue. If you use enough, it will dry out the tree stump and kill it.

With a ½ inch or larger spade drill bit, drill holes at least 4” deep at 4” intervals into the top of the stump. Pack the holes with dry Epsom salt. Moisten the salt in the holes, being careful not to wash any out. Cover the stump with plastic, anchoring it down with a few bricks. In due time, the stumps will dry and rot.

The advantages of using Epsom salt are that it is inexpensive, natural, and arguably "eco-friendly." The disadvantage is that enough run-off can damage nearby plants, too. Use carefully.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When should I dig my gladiolus bulbs?

When should I dig my gladiolus bulbs?

As you probably know, "glads", as they are sometimes called, are native to Africa, Asia and southern Europe. Though cold hardy from USDA climate zone 7 through 11, they can be grown practically anywhere in the United States. In northern zones, they can be grown as inexpensive summer annuals, or they can be dug, stored over winter, and replanted in spring when danger of frost is past. In southern zones, they can be left in the ground and should come back year after year.

Gladiolus corms should be left in the ground until their leaves turn brown. Frost might brown them, or they might brown all by themselves by late summer.

Begin digging by loosening the soil on both sides of the row. Lift the corms gently. Take care not to dig too closely to the corms so as to avoid damaging them with the spade or garden fork.

Remove the foliage, leaving very little if any at the tops. Spread the corms in a dry location exposed to full sun for a day, then remove them to an airy location out of the sun to dry further. You may spread them on layers of newspaper. Some gardeners construct tables or trays with mesh bottoms for drying. Such structures can serve to dry other bulbs and corms after harvest. Stir the corms to allow all sides to dry, especially during damp weather. You may even expose them to an electric fan. Dried soil should fall away during the process. Remaining soil should be brushed off before final storage.

During cleaning, the corms may be inspected. Those that are damaged or diseased should be discarded.

Must-Have Plants: Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold'

Achillea 'Coronation Gold'

Must-have plants are among the best for appropriate garden situations. When you need great garden plants for ground cover, naturalizing, wildflower gardens, perennial borders, butterfly gardens, hummingbird gardens, herb gardens, heritage gardens, cutting gardens, woodland gardens, shade gardens, bulb gardens, container gardens, bog gardens, water gardens, rain gardens or xeriscaping, look for the best among our must-have plants.

Name(s): Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold', Fern Leaf Yarrow,

Flower Color: Golden yellow

Bloom Time: June to September

Foliage: Herbaceous, gray-green, fragrant.

Height/Spread: 30 inches to 36 inches x 18 inches to 24 inches.

Climate Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Condition: Well-drained to dry, average to poor, pH 6.1 to 7.8

Features: Drought tolerant, deer resistant, fragrant.

Uses: Xeriscaping, massed planting, naturalizing, cutting gardens, butterfly gardens, herb gardens, borders.

Comments: Perennial Achillea filipendulina 'Coronation Gold', also known as fern-leaf yarrow, produces long-lasting golden yellow blooms from June to September. Foliage is herbaceous, gray-green and fragrant. Plant height is 30 inches to 36 inches.

'Coronation Gold' is recommended for USDA climate zones 3 to 9. Plant it in full sun to partial shade. 'Coronation Gold' prefers soil pH 6.1 to 7.8. Space plants 12 inches to 15 inches apart.

Achillea tolerates poor soil and drought conditions. 'Coronation Gold' is great for cut flowers, and is easy to dry for arrangements. Yarrow is wonderful for massed plantings, naturalizing or for mixed perennial plant borders, and is superb for herb and butterfly gardens. It is deer resistant, too.

How to move shrubs to a better place in your landscape.

I want to move some shrubs to a better place in my landscape. Can you give me some helpful hints?

You didn’t say how large the shrubs are, or the kind. I’ll assume they’re small enough for a couple of people to manage with hand tools. I’ll give some general instructions regarding kind.

If you’re in no hurry to move them, I suggest you root-prune them to develop a more concentrated mass of roots near the base of the shrubs. To do that, you only need to take a nursery spade and slice downward into the soil in a circle around each shrub. By slicing through roots, you will encourage roots to branch within the circle. A three-foot diameter should be sufficient. After slicing, leave the plants in place for a few months. Be sure to fertilize and irrigate your shrubs within the circles.

It’s best to move them from late fall to early spring when they are dormant, or at least when not in an active growth stage.

For specific instructions on digging and transplanting, it is best to refer you to instructional videos. Since I haven’t created any on the topic myself, take a look at this one on How To Ball and Burlap Dig A Tree. Following that, view How To Plant A Ball and Burlap Dug Tree.

I hope this helps.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Sheep's Fescue - A Natural Beauty

Ah! Consider the pastoral life of sheep, wandering wherever they may and ruminating on the beauties of nature – mostly the grass.

Unfortunately, many people don’t think often about the beauty of grass except in lawns and golf courses. Gardeners are discovering, however, that hundreds of grass species stand out as ornamental beauties.

Sheep’s Fescue (Festuca ovina var. glauca) is one of them. It is native to many parts of Europe and Asia. I’ve but one inkling of why it was called Sheep’s Fescue; sheep seemed to like it.

The most common form is green. Leaf blades are stiff, wiry, and grow in dense, evergreen clumps six inches to twelve inches tall. The flowers are white, light and graceful. Sheep’s Fescue became most popular, however, when blue-bladed forms were discovered.

Sheep’s Fescue is popular with gardeners because:

  • It’s beautiful;
  • It thrives in USDA climate zones 4 through 10;
  • It grows in full sun or partial shade;
  • It’s drought-tolerant;
  • It grows in poor soil;
  • It requires very little maintenance.
Consequently, it is perfect for xeriscaping, massed planting as ground cover, low borders, accent planting, edging and container gardens. You can’t say all that about your typical lawn grass.

With lovely plantings of low-maintenance Sheep’s Fescue, you might find yourself ruminating more on the beauties of nature.

Return to Festuca at goGardenNow.com.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Gardens of Havre de Grace

Garden in Havre De Grace

Havre de Grace (pronounced: Have-ruh-duh-Grayce), Maryland is a small town you should visit. Located at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace has retained its historic charm though it has long been beside heavily-traveled routes along the Eastern Seaboard. It was formerly known as Harmer’s Town, named by the settler – Godfrey Harmer – who established it in 1658.  The Lower Susquehanna Ferry first crossed the river in 1695.

The Marquis De Lafayette visited several times while traveling up and down the coast to encourage American patriots and fight alongside them. It was he who suggested that the proposed city along the banks “should be called Havre de Grace” meaning “Harbor of Grace.” So it was.

Though small in size, Havre de Grace was proposed to be named the capitol of our new nation. It lost the distinction by one vote to the swamp along the Potomac.

Havre de Grace became a terminus of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal in 1839. The Underground Railroad route ushered slaves to new-found freedom in nearby Pennsylvania.

Nowadays, U.S. 40, I-95 and U.S 1 carry lots of traffic nearby. It’s amazing that so many people pass without knowing about the jewel of a town just down the hill.

As proudly noted on the Explore Havre de Grace web site, Smithsonian.com listed it among the Best Small Towns in 2014. Rightly so. Interesting shops and restaurants, museums, special events, walking tours and gardens satisfy tourists, and of course there’s the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. Walkers can enjoy it from the Promenade. 

Havre de Grace Promenade

One particular feature of this part of the Chesapeake is the area known as the Susquehanna Flats. Millions of tons of sediment are deposited at the mouth of the river into the bay covering thousands of acres. Rich with submerged grasses, The Flats attract many species of wildlife, especially fish and waterfowl. Fishers and hunters follow.

Canada Geese

Havre de Grace is famous as the Decoy Capitol of the World. There’s no better place to learn about the history of hunting waterfowl and the decoys that attract them than the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum
Havre De Grace Decoy Museum

No matter your interest, a good walking tour can begin just about anywhere. Park your car where it’s legal and start strolling. That’s what I did. Follow me as we view landmarks and some of the gardens of Havre de Grace.
Concord Point Lighthouse
Concord Point Keeper's House

Concord Point Park
Raised beds in the making.

Peonies in bloom

Variegated boxwoods

Magnificent Fagus sylvatica purpurea
Gordonia alatamaha

Acer palmatum dissectum atropurpureum
Cornus kousa in bloom

History is best lived in.
Lovely clematis in bloom
Small, effective landscape planting
Hosta - America's favorite perennial.

Iris germanica
Quiet street scene

Old Bayou Hotel - Hot Spot of the Jazz Age

Rhododendron in bloom

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