If mosquitoes and other flying, biting insects have made it difficult for you to enjoy your outdoor space in the evening, include attracting nature’s insect controllers in your landscape plans for 2024. Bats can eat thousands of flying insects every night, but they’re best kept at a distance from humans.
Bats are mammals whose arms have evolved into wings. They live in colonies and are nocturnal creatures. They leave their homes at dusk and catch insects in flight. These creatures get somewhat of a bum rap, however, due to the fact that they can carry diseases, including rabies. That’s why it’s best to keep your distance from them, and don’t touch them if you see any on the ground. They have teeth and will use them on humans if they feel threatened. It’s best to let them do their own thing while you watch from afar. If your deck or patio is well lighted, bats will avoid that area. As nocturnal creatures, they don’t like bright lights.
Perhaps you’ve seen on various television programs stories from San Antonio. Texas about the huge colonies of bats that live under the Camden Street bridge over the city’s famed River Walk or the even bigger colony that lives in Bracken Cave Preserve just north of the city. Each night, thousands of people gather at dusk to witness and photograph the spectacle of thousands of bats taking flight for their nightly hunt.
You certainly wouldn’t want to attract a colony of bats the size of either of the two mentioned above, which are just two of 12 bat watching sites in Texas. Bracken Cave, owned by Bat Conservation International (BCI), houses 15 million bats and it’s estimated that one bat can eat 1,000 to 1,200 insect per hour.
The bats in San Antonio are Mexican free-tail bats. The most common species in our area is the little brown bat.
You probably don’t have a cave or bridge on your property, but you do need to provide a habitat that will satisfy them. Bats like native plants. They also need a source of open water, such as a pond, because they drink on the fly.
It’s recommended that you install a bat house. That’ll discourage them from setting up housekeeping in your attic. Install the house near water and away from bright light. Bat houses in kit form or fully assembled are available online from several familiar retailers. There are also local sources, including the big box stores and The Bird House on Monroe Avenue in Brighton.
If you like the idea of putting nature’s insect controllers to work for you but you don’t know where to start, our landscape professionals would be happy to help. Our designers can plan out your bat-attracting landscape and our landscape technicians can complete the installation first thing in the spring.
Plan Now To Attract Pollinators To Your Landscape This Season
When making plans this winter for your 2024 landscape updates, consider the plight of pollinators. These hard workers include many insects, the best known of which are bees and butterflies. Birds, especially hummingbirds, are also excellent pollinators.
If you want to attract these creatures, you should know a little about their biology, especially why and how they do what they do, as well as what they need to survive and thrive. Pollinators go about this important work quite unwittingly. They don’t fly around in search of pollen to spread. They really want the sweet nectar in the flowers. While imbibing, they come in contact with the anther, which is the male part of the plant. Grains of pollen from the anther sticks to their feet, legs and, sometimes, to their whole body.
When they’ve consumed their fill of nectar, they fly off. Soon, they’re hungry again and seek out another nectar- filled plant. When they land on the new plant, the nectar they’re carrying sticks to the female part of the plant, called the stamen. This results in a fertilized flower that produces seeds.
Some pollinators have very specific needs and are very fussy, other not so much. Much has been written about the decreasing monarch butterfly population. One reason often cited is their appetite for milkweed plants. This is the only plant this finicky pollinator’s caterpillars will feed on. When it’s egg-laying time, the females will seek out milkweeds on which to lay their eggs. Planting milkweed somewhere on your property is essential to attracting monarch butterflies. Milkweed isn’t especially attractive so it’s not most people’s first choice for planting beds. However, it can be planted in a back corner of your yard and still provide monarch caterpillars with the food they need.
Honeybees are by far the most prolific pollinators. If you have the plants they will come, often from afar. Don’t worry about making special living arrangements for them unless you want to start a hive and become a beekeeper. Bees will fly great distances from established hives to your flower beds.
Pollinators are attracted to bright, fragrant, long-flowering plants. They prefer those with long throats. Hummingbirds have long beaks and most pollinating insect, including butterflies have long, sucking mouthparts (probiscis) to enable them to reach the nectar they want.
It’s hard to predict in advance what pollinators will visit you. The best way to start is to create a welcoming habitat and see who comes. As with any wildlife, pollinators need a source of food, water and shelter. Flowers are their food source and a birdbath and puddler are water sources. A puddler looks like a miniature birdbath. It’s small and shallow so a butterfly can bathe and drink without drowning.
Don’t worry about housing for hummingbirds. They don’t use birdhouses. However, some species of butterflies will use butterfly houses. These apartment-like structures have slits instead of holes for entryways.
Coordinating the needs of several different kinds of pollinators can be a daunting task. Our landscape designers would be happy to help you design your pollinator garden and habitat and our landscape technicians can install it if you want.
Happy Holidays & Holiday Gift Ideas
The winter holidays will soon be upon us, and with them comes the often stressful task of selecting just the right gift for everyone on your list. First, let me be one of the first to wish you Happy Holidays. Then let me give you some gift ideas for family and friends who take pride in their landscapes and spend time and/or money making them look spectacular.
Those on your gift list who take pride in their landscapes but prefer to hire out the heavy and technical work, a Birchcrest Tree & Landscape gift certificate would be appreciated. The certificate can be applied to any service we offer. Pruning trees while they’re dormant this winter would be a good investment. Or they may prefer a professional lawn care or Plant Health Care (PHC) program. May I also suggest giving a pruning, lawn care and/or PHC program as a gift to yourself as well.
Friends and family who enjoy gardening and working in their yards would be delighted with a gift card from their favorite garden center. It’ll help them when they go to buy spring plants, tools, containers, and all the materials they’ll need to successfully turn their landscape into a showcase. They may also want to use it for one of the new lightweight, ergonomic tools now on the market.
For more instant gratification, may I suggest a gardening book. Several good and useful books have been published recently, and then there are some classics that are still relevant. A classic that’s always a great read is Slow Gardening by Felder Rushing. Its message is that it’s OK to landscape your yard to suit your taste and personality rather than your neighbors’, and it offers advice for doing that. Another book to consider is The Nature of Oaks: The Nature of Our Most Essential Native Tree. Author Douglas W. Tallamy writes about the importance of oak trees to our environment.
Two new books that people you know may enjoy are The Urban Garden: 101Ways to Grow Food and Beauty in the City, by Kathy Jentz and Teri Speight and Groundcover Revolution by Kathy Jentz. The Urban Garden’s title is a bit of a misnomer. The ideas apply to small space gardens regardless of where they’re located. Ground Cover Revolution is for those who want to replace all or part of their lawns. Last but not least, consider The Geriatric Garden: Adaptive Gardening Advice For Seniors for those on your list who are feeling that the aches and pains of old age is putting a crimp on their favorite activity. Local garden writer Duane Pancoast provides tips on adapting gardens and gardening so the reader can continue doing what they love.
Google the title of the book(s) you want to order. You can order Birchcrest gift certificates by calling 585.671.5433, and for garden center gift cards, your best bet is to call or visit the garden center. Since it’s the middle of December, all the gift suggestions I’ve presented here are easy to obtain last minute. I hope you have a happy and less stressful holiday season.
Landscape Trends For 2024
The 2024 Garden Trends Report from Garden Media Group focuses on climate change and the resulting ecological changes. Ecology is not a new term. It has been around for a long time and refers to the interaction of all living organisms within a given environment.
The report is intended to help garden centers and landscape professionals like us plan for what customers will be requesting. It also gives property owners a view of what’s happening elsewhere. It may confirm or legitimize some of the ideas you may want to try in your landscape but are reluctant to because it’s not being done by your neighbors.
This year, the report is very Gen Z/Zoomer oriented. Don’t tune out if you’re older, though. It contains good ideas for every generation. For example, we all need to have more concern for the environment. One way to accomplish this is by planting more native and carbon capturing plants. There’s also more interest in pollinators, especially bees and butterflies.
You can attract pollinators to your landscape with plants that these creatures require, such as bee balm, asters, goldenrod and, of course, milkweed. Milkweed is the only food for monarch butterfly caterpillars. Butterflies have long probisci and hummingbirds’ long bills, so they like deep, bell-shaped flowers to allow them better access to the nectar that is an important source of nourishment for them. These are easy for bees to access, too. While feeding on the nectar, these pollinators emerge covered with pollen that they carry to other plants.
Due to the growth in urban (and urban style) living, container gardening increased 200 percent last year. According to the report, the United Nations projects that 89 percent of the population will live in cities by 2050. Urban landscapes are usually on small lots in cities, but they can also be small space landscapes in the suburbs. The people who design these landscapes use creative means to maximize the number of plants they can grow in the allotted space. The report predicts much of the growth in containers will be hanging containers. This is one way to conserve space. Others include vertical gardens, green walls and green fences.
Another trend is what the report refers to as dark goth gardens, interest in which is growing on social media. It’s identified by eerie plants, pottery and statuary, and by plants left in place when they whither and fade. The result is an untidy look. There’s even an increased interest in cemeteries and what’s living there (plant material). But we’ve had this interest for years at Rochester’s Mount Hope cemetery.
A new term coined in the report is Hortifuturism. It appears to be the fusing of horticulture and science-fiction. It’s identified by bright, bold, vibrant colors and sci-fi movie style. The report anticipates more terrariums, survivalist and night gardens, neon-colored plants and foliage with bright variegation.
Each year’s report announces a color of the year. In 2024 it’ll be Cyberlime. The report says this punchy, vivid, hyper-bright color forms a powerful connection between nature and technology and can be matched with many other colors.
There you have it. The reader’s digest version of the 2024 Garden Media Group trends report. If you’d like to develop any of these ideas for your landscape, our landscape designers will be happy to provide professional assistance.
As winter approaches, we tend to think of evergreen trees because they play such an important role in our upcoming holiday celebrations. A less obvious reason for evergreens, the sweethearts of the season, is the green respite that they provide from a monochromatic winter. While evergreens deserve to be recognized, it’s also important that we not forget our deciduous trees. This is the season when their lifeless skeletons need TLC.
Your leafless deciduous trees aren’t dead. They’re just dormant, and dormancy is what makes it such a good time to have maintenance service performed on them. Dormancy acts as nature’s anesthetic, and they’ll have plenty of time to “heal” (more properly “callous” but that’s another story). Lack of foliage also lets our arborist get a good view of the tree’s structure. It gives them a view of the tree that’s similar to how doctors see our bodies through x-rays but without the cost or exposure to radiation.
The most common maintenance procedure for deciduous trees is pruning. Pruning removes dead, dying, broken, crossing, rubbing and other branches that are affecting the tree’s health. Pruning lower limbs is a technique that raises the crown. We even have procedures for reducing a tree’s height without having to resort to the tree mutilating practice of topping.
Sometimes, more serious work is needed. For example, a tree whose trunk forks into two trunks may need cabling and bracing. This condition is referred to as co-dominate leaders, and the fork usually forms a tight “V” rather than a stronger “U”. Although both leaders look equal, the aren’t. One is always stronger and will win out in the competition for space at the fork.
Cabling and bracing strengthen the fork, referred to by arborists as a crotch. We drill through the leaders right at the fork. We then insert a threaded steel rod with big washers and nuts on each end. The nuts are tightened to enable both leaders to withstand strong winds. A network of cables is then installed in the tree’s crown to further reduce sway in a windstorm.
Leafless trees also allow our arborists to easily inspect for hazards, such as rot. When mushroom-like organisms appear on the outside of the tree, it’s an indication that rot’s at work inside. What you see outside is called a fruiting body. Its job is to spread spores. These aren’t necessarily a death sentence for the tree. We have instruments that let us determine the amount of rot present. We can then give you an accurate prognosis and make recommendations for dealing with the problem. Trees have lived for decades with rot.
Winter is the time you should be heaping love on your deciduous trees. Don’t worry about maintaining evergreens at this time. Evergreens only need care in case of an emergency like broken limbs. They should receive preventive maintenance in summer, specifically June or July.
Tree pruning is not a do-it-yourself job. It’s dangerous and, each year, too many DIYers get hurt or worse. All the tree maintenance services discussed here should be performed by a
professional arborist who has the specialized training, equipment and experience to perform the work safely and in compliance with industry standards.
We hope that you and your family had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now as we focus on Christmas, Christmas tree lots are popping up all around town. To help you select the freshest, most attractive tree possible, and to care for it to prolong its beauty through the season, I offer the following tips.
When shopping for your live, cut Christmas tree…
• Check the shape from all directions. Be sure there are no bare spots and that the tree is conical in shape. Flat spots indicate that they were planted too close together in the field.
• Run your hand across some of the branches. A handful of needles will indicate that the tree was cut too early and you are apt to have a Charlie Brown tree by Christmas.
• If running your hand across the needles is too rough on your skin, bend a few needles. They should bounce back. If they break, the tree was cut too early.
• Tap the base of the tree on the ground. A “puddle” of needles on the ground indicates an old tree.
When you get the perfect tree home, cut a quarter inch off the bottom and immediately put it in a bucket of water. Use a hand saw not a chain saw. The heat generated by the chain saw will “cauterize” the vessels that take up water, defeating the purpose of cutting a piece off the base.
Keep the tree in the garage at least overnight so it gets acclimated to warmer temperatures. I suggest that you not take it inside until you’re ready to put it up. It’ll do better in the cooler temperature of the garage.
When you do take the tree inside and put it up, be sure there’s always plenty of water in the stand tray. If your tree is already set up, check the water level and keep the tray full for as long as the tree is inside.
If you opt for a potted or balled and burlap tree, check for freshness by checking the color of the needles to be sure they’re dark green. Bend a few needles to make sure they bounce back and check the soil in the pot or root ball to make sure it’s moist.
Dig a hole now, before the ground freezes, if you opted for a potted tree or balled and burlap tree. You should cover the backfill with a tarp to keep it from freezing. Cover the hole with a piece of plywood or other protection to keep people from falling in the hole. Keeping a live tree in the house for more than a week isn’t advised. And, you should plant it as soon as you remove it from the house. It’s also a good idea to spray the tree with an anti-desiccant after planting.
I hope you’ll enjoy your “real” tree. Christmas tree growers are farmers who use sustainable techniques to assure that we have plenty of trees each Christmas.
Finally, recycling your tree after Christmas closes the circle of life by creating mulch to help other plants grow. Take it to one of the many recycling stations around the area to have it ground.
Give You & Your Landscape An Early Present
With the holiday season just around the corner, may we suggest an early present for your landscape? The present I’m talking about is a full growing season of professional pampering with a Birchcrest lawn care and/or Plant Health Care (PHC) program. Birchcrest lawn care and PHC programs are all inclusive.
Lawn care includes fertilization at just the right times of the year, beginning first thing in the spring and continuing all through the season to the fall. Our lawn care professionals spot treat for weeds and apply pre-emergent crabgrass and broadleaf weed killer. They also check for grubs and treat for them if they’re present.
PHC programs depend on the mix of trees and shrubs you have and their health condition. Some or all may need fertilization in the spring and fall. During each monthly visit our PHC professional checks for any diseases or insect activity and treats accordingly. Anti desiccant application can be added to protect your broadleaf evergreens and confers. The PHC professional may also recommend special treatment for any unusual conditions your plants may have.
These maintenance programs provide you with peace of mind, confident that we have visits scheduled at times when all treatments will be the most effective. You can enjoy your beautiful, healthy landscape without having to worry about making sure you have the materials on hand and can fit their applications into your busy schedule.
Renewals have been sent, or will soon be sent, to current lawn care and PHC customers. We urge you to open the big, thick envelope as soon as it arrives. Notice that there’s a discount for returning the renewal with pre-payment by the deadline. The saving can be substantial.
When we make applications, you’ll know that we’ve been there by the invoice hanging from your front doorknob and the ubiquitous yellow signs that New York State requires us to post. The good news is that, if you prepaid, the bottom line on the invoice will read, “Please Remit: None.”
You haven’t been on a lawn care or PHC program before? This would be a good year to give yourself an early holiday gift that will last the whole year. Just contact our office and one of our professionals will visit you to inspect your property, review your needs and expectations with you and prepare a proposal.
It may be strange that we’re promoting next season’s maintenance when you’re just winding down last season’s work and preparing for winter. However, we have to place orders for our fertilizer and pest control materials very soon in order to take advantage of supplier discounts, so we can pass them on to you.
Thanksgiving ushers in the season when we put aside the challenges that have beset us through the year and concentrate on all that is good in this world. It is only natural that the season should begin with a feast that gives us nourishment to sustain us through this busy time and into the new year.
Members of our Birchcrest family will be with their families on this holiday. Personally I’ll be thankful for the confidence you placed in our company this past year, and pledge to continue to give you uncompromisingly professional service that come to expect from us.
We look forward to continuing our current relationships and building new ones in the years to come.
Flowers are pretty to look at and fragrant to smell. However, when they’ve finished their job of attracting pollinators and dropping their seeds, we’re quick to cut off the spent flowers, stems and leaves. If you haven’t cut them already, may I suggest that you leave them standing for the winter?
One of the main reasons we plant ornamental grasses in landscapes is to peek up through the snow and provide winter interest. Whether grasses are standing still or their seedheads are waving in the breeze, their tan or gray color is a welcome visual relief from the sea of white that winter can thrust upon us.
You can plant only so much ornamental grass before it begins to look boring. Supplementing it with long stem flowering plants like coneflowers and Black Eyed Susans can continue to provide pleasure long after their natural functions have ceased.
If this winter is anything like the last one, you can leave lower growing perennials for the winter as well. Hosta is the first such plant that comes to mind. But the only palette limit to winter retention is your imagination. If we have a low-snow winter, you’ll appreciate being able to look out the window and see color rather than bare ground, or even mulch.
The one downside of this idea is that you’re putting off the inevitable. You’ll have to cut the perennials in the spring. This is necessary to let new plants grow in their place to repeat the colorful display next season. Look at it as a small price to pay for an extra season of enjoyment.
Next spring, you can trim the spent flower stems and leaves at the same time you do the ornamental grass. Although you’ll only be putting off the trimming, you’ll save time and effort on the disposal of debris. Instead of two separate debris disposals in two different seasons, combining the trimming in spring will result in just one disposal in one season.
The trimmings next spring will make good compost, unless any of the plants have signs of insect or disease activity. Contaminated plants should go in the trash. If your community offers landscape waste pickup, check on the date your neighborhood is scheduled for pick up. Plan your trimming as close to the pickup as possible so you don’t have the debris decomposing at the curb for weeks.
Trimming spent perennials and ornamental grass is an easy DIY job. For the perennials, loppers or pruners work best. The tool of choice for trimming ornamental grass is a matter of choice. Some people use loppers or pruners. Some even use chainsaws but you had better wear Kevlar chaps or pants to protect your legs against kickback. My tool of choice is hedge clippers.
If you’d prefer to enjoy your grasses and perennials this winter and have them disappear in the spring, our landscape professionals would be happy to do the trimming and disposal for you next spring.
It’s amazing what damage those cute wild animals can do to your landscape when you’re inside where it’s warm and comfortable. You never get to catch them in the act anymore than you’ll catch your dog tearing up pillows or your cat scratching furniture.
Wildlife isn’t destroying your landscape plants now because they’re their favorite delicacies. Your landscape plants, especially trees and shrubs, are their diet of last resort. Field mice would rather eat foliage, seeds, insects and fruit. Rabbits prefer fruits and vegetables, but their favorites are grass and other leafy greens. Voles are also among the rodents that nibble on your trees in the winter. They prefer vegetation to bark. Rodents aren’t interested in the rough outer bark, but they chew through it to reach the tender, nutritional inner bark, the cambium layer. Foliage is hard to find in the dead of winter, so rabbits, mice and voles eat what’s available, rather than starve.
Protecting your trees and shrubs against rodents is a relatively easy do-it-yourself project. Go to your local hardware store or home center and buy a roll of hardware cloth. It’s a fine, steel screening material that you can wrap around the trunk or stem. It should extend between a foot and a half and two feet up the trunk. If possible, a couple of inches should be buried at the base of the plant. But don’t cut roots to bury the hardware cloth. You can also use plastic tree wrap but I prefer hardware cloth. Don’t forget to remove the barriers next spring.
In addition to wrapping the trunks and stems, it’s also necessary to keep the base of the trees and shrubs free from snow, leaves, mulch or debris. Rodents are shy and prefer to dine in private. They’ll burrow under the snow or other “camouflage” material. Leaving the plant base bare will discourage them.
When its available, deer prefer to eat vegetation, fruits and vegetables. When that’s not available, they’ll eat whatever they can. And that’s often your trees and shrubs. While you only have to protect the lower trunk or stem against rodents, deer can reach as high as 12 feet to browse. Deer are larger and less easily deterred from eating. They aren’t a bit shy.
There are various commercial and homemade preparation whose odor is supposed to repel deer and rodents, but I’ve not found any that work. Deer deterrents are bigger, more visible and require a bit more labor to install. My deterrent of choice is a burlap barricade. Drive eight-to-12-foot-tall wood poles into the ground all the way around the plant. The stakes should be three or four inches away from the plant. Be sure they’re sturdy enough to withstand deer trying to knock them down. Staple or nail burlap all the way around the plant. Leave your tent open at the top so sunlight and moisture can reach the plant.
Protecting your valuable plants from hungry animals is a challenge every winter. However, wildlife experts will be quick to remind you that your yard was their home before it was yours.
Frosts, Freezes And Hardiness Zones Affect Your Landscape
This is the time of year when meteorologists warn us of impending frosts and freezes. These are accompanied by warnings to bring plants inside or cover them up. What does it mean for the average homeowner?
For most residential landscapes, no precautions are needed, especially if they’re well established. Plants bought at local garden centers or planted by a landscape professional should be hardy in our area. The United States Department of Agriculture publishes a plant hardiness zone map. This color-coded map shows the average annual minimum winter temperature for every area of the country. Here in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region, we’re in zone 5b (-15 – -10 degrees Fahrenheit).
Some zone 6a (-10 – -5 degrees F) pockets, known as microclimates, exist here but most garden centers and landscape professionals handle only “durable” plants hardy to zone 5 or colder, especially if they’re guaranteeing them. I define durable plants as trees, shrubs, perennials and turfgrass.
You’ll know your plants are winter hardy if your landscape has survived one or more winters. Don’t use last winter’s mild weather as a guide. If you added new plants over the summer, check the nursery tag that was attached to the plant to be sure it’s a zone 5 plant. If you didn’t save the tag, contact the garden center or landscape contractor and ask them. Or check the internet.
Frost warnings are issued when the overnight temperature is predicted to dip below 36 degrees F. You’ll know we had a frost when you look outside the next morning and see it on the ground. When the temperature reaches 32°F, it’s a freeze. Frost and freeze warnings are issued so you can take appropriate action to protect your plants, especially those that are very tender. The most serious are killing frosts – those that are actual freezes. They are cold enough to kill all but the hardiest plants and signal the end of the growing season.
Take precautions if you planted new plants or threw caution to the wind and bought plants hardy to zone 6 or higher. (Zones begin in the cold north and the numbers get higher as they progress to the warmer south.) Speaking of winds, wrapping any new or tender plant in burlap will protect them from some of the high winds we experience, especially those off the lakes.
The best way to wrap a plant is to install wood poles all the way around the plant and three to six inches away from the plant. They should be at least eight feet tall to discourage deer browsing. Then wrap burlap around the plant, stapling it to the poles. Leave the top open so the plant will have access to sun and moisture.
Frost and freeze warnings apply mostly to annual, vegetable and containerized plants. Unless they’re late season bloomers, annuals will be at the end of their life anyway. If you have a vegetable garden, harvest the produce before it can freeze. Containerized plants should be in their winter home by now. Those that are still in their summer home should be taken inside when the first frost is predicted.
Plants respond to temperature and light. That’s why you should heed frost and freeze warnings and buy only durable plants hardy to zone 5.
When all the leaves fall from our deciduous trees, we know that winter’s not far off. Time to hunker down in the warm house. But wait! There’s one more job you should do first. Schedule a thorough biomechanical inspection by one of our professional arborists.
As living organisms – giant living organisms – trees provide us with many benefits. Most basic is supplying us with the very oxygen we need to breathe. Big trees also sequester carbon that can pollute the air. In summer they provide shade from the hot sun. Some provide us with food, specifically fruit and nuts.
As living organisms, trees are also subjected to injury, attack by diseases and insect infestation. The result can be tree death and/or failure, and their size and weight can make failure disastrous to people and property.
Many of the insects attacking our trees are invasive pests from other countries. Fungi attack trees, causing them to rot. Often, you don’t even know rot is destroying your trees from the inside out until fruiting bodies that look like mushrooms appear on the trunk or the tree fails and limbs begin breaking off.
One tree enemy that’s often overlooked is the wind. We realize the wind’s a hazard only when a storm causes branches and whole trees to break and uproot. It doesn’t take a strong wind to break a rotted tree, though.
The most positive way to identify any hazards and to be sure your trees are healthy is with an annual tree inspection. Our arborists examine your trees from the crown to the roots, checking for insect activity, diseases, cracks in the trunk and major limbs, significant lean, narrow forks and signs of internal decay.
Many of these conditions can be repaired. Narrow forks, for example, indicate a weakness in which one of the limbs can break. We fix this condition with cabling and bracing. Our arborists put a threaded rod through the two limbs near the fork and secure them with big washers and nuts. The tree grows around the hardware. Up in the crown, we install a network of cables to reduce flexing in the wind.
The presence and extent of internal rot doesn’t necessarily mean that a tree must be taken down right away. The tree’s future depends on the location and amount of rot. Trees can live for decades before rot becomes so extensive that they should be removed. We have special devices that allow us to diagnose the extent of rot and provide you with an accurate prognosis.
Some conditions that may need immediate action include the removal of limbs hanging over your house, pool, power lines or any other place where they can cause expensive damage. We would also recommend removal of any dead, diseased, crossing, rubbing broken/hanging branches.
Trees add value to your property. Like anything of value, trees need care to retain that value. When a problem is visible to you, it may be too late. That’s why an annual, professional inspection is inexpensive insurance for keeping your trees growing in value.
As temperatures drop, days continue to shorten and leaves fall, there are still several landscape tasks to complete before winter really arrives. I’ve covered the importance of mulch to moderate temperature and moisture reaching plants, fall fertilization, planting bulbs, mowing until the grass goes dormant, anti desiccant protection for your evergreens, and easy leaf management. What more can there be?
Weed Control. It seems like weed control never stops. It’s one of your first tasks in the spring and last tasks in the fall. Weeding needs to continue until they go dormant. As weeds prepare for winter dormancy, they’re dropping seeds. If you don’t remove the plants before they drop their seeds, those seeds will lie dormant until spring and be among the first plants to germinate, greeting you with a bumper crop. Weeds begin appearing before most of your desired plants in a bid to take over your landscape.
Debris Clean Up. Even if you’ve kept your yard clear of debris all summer, there could be an accumulation during the fall. The wind begins picking up as the weather declines, and it often brings debris with it. Debris from the street and neighborhood may end up in your yard. If you don’t pick it up and dispose of it now, it’ll still be there when the snow melts in spring.
Winterizing Your Deck Or Patio. You’ve taken your houseplants back inside, but have you winterized your deck or patio yet? You probably have covers for furniture or a shed or garage to move it into. However, that leaves any containerized plants that winter outside. The hardier plants can be moved to a sheltered area of your property where they can get the sunlight and moisture, they need but not the wind. Containerized soil is more exposed to cold temperatures than the soil in your grade-level planting beds. To protect the plant roots, wrap the pots with bubble wrap or some other insulating material to protect the plant roots. For less hardy containerized plants, I recommend they spend the winter in a cold frame. Be sure to open the cold frame on sunny days and water the plants when the temperature is above freezing.
Critter Proofing Trees & Shrubs. Don’t forget the woody plants. Hungry wildlife certainly won’t. Although there are plants certain animals don’t like, they’re just like us humans. When they’re hungry, they’ll eat anything. Protecting plants against deer foraging seems to vary by neighborhood. My best advice is to find out what works for your neighbors and give it a try. Don’t get so focused on deer that you forget about smaller animals like mice and rabbits. They can do more damage than deer. Deer like to chew on the tender ends of the lower tree branches. They can reach branches 8-12 feet up. If your trees are tall enough, you can solve the problem by removing any branches lower than 12 feet. Rodents, on the other hand, chew the bark around the base of the tree in an effort to get to the tender cambium layer. If they chew all the way around the tree, girdling the trunk, they can kill the tree. The best way to deter rodents is to make sure you don’t have any mulch volcanoes, keep snow from piling up against the trunks and wrapping the trunks with hardware cloth.
When you finish all these jobs, you’ll have completed fall cleanup and winter preparation and be ready for the snow to fly.
After deciduous trees finish their colorful autumn display, they take their final bow and drop their leaves. However, they don’t drop them all at once. It’s a gradual process over the course of days or even weeks. Cleaning up those leaves often dampen the memory of the beauty we just witnessed.
If you play your cards right, you may be able to reduce the back breaking task of raking or blowing the leaves to the curb, or even to your compost pile. Begin by approaching each part of your landscape in the most efficient way possible. That means taking care of those leaves on the lawn differently from the way you take care of those in planting beds and on driveways, walkways and patios.
Leaves on the lawn can be left there to be chopped up with the lawn mower. When the leaves begin falling, be sure your lawn mower is set in mulching mode. It will then chop the leaves as finely as the grass clippings and drop them on the ground where they can decompose and return organic matter to the soil. If your mower doesn’t have a mulching mode, the leaves will come out the chute with the grass clippings. If there are a lot, use a leaf rake or blower to scatter the leaves and grass. Keep an eye on the tree crown to see when all the leaves have fallen. You’ll be done mowing for the season when all the leaves have fallen and the grass has gone dormant. A few may get blown into your yard from the neighbor’s yard but probably won’t be enough to worry about.
You may be able to leave the leaves in planting beds to decompose in place. Be sure they aren’t piled against tree trunks or shrub stems, where they can trap water and hide critters dining on these stems. If there aren’t too many leaves in your planting beds, you may be able to rake or blow leaves from driveways and walkways into the nearest bed.
If you want to compost leaves in a central compost bin, they should be chopped up. The finer they’re chopped, the faster they’ll decompose. The best method I’ve seen for finely chopping leaves is to gather them into a plastic trash can. Don personal protection equipment, including safety goggles or glasses and hearing protection. Then fire up your string trimmer and plunge it into the can like you would an immersion blender in the kitchen. When the leaves are sufficiently chopped, empty the trash can into the compost bin.
Don’t leave layers of leaves on the lawn. They can hold water, which is a medium for winter fungal diseases. Renovating the lawn next spring will be more work than cleaning leaves up or chopping them and leaving them in place this fall. Leaves in beds won’t cause any damage, unless they’re too close to tree trunks and shrub stems. However, if they don’t decompose this winter, they may have to be removed in the spring.
There’s no way we can enjoy nature’s display of color without paying for it in some sort of leaf management. The tips shared here can result in a substantial leaf management “discount.”
If you have evergreens in your landscape, anti desiccant is their best protection against winter burn. Regardless of whether they’re broadleaf evergreens like boxwoods and rhododendrons or coniferous like pines and junipers, I strongly recommend this effective, economical, easy to apply protection. It’s also why I issue this reminder every fall.
Winter burn can occur when the leaf or needle surfaces are deprived of water. Unlike deciduous trees that go dormant for the winter, evergreens’ metabolism simply slows down. The green leaves or needles are still making food through the energy trapping process of photosynthesis.
Water is an important part of the photosynthetic process. It’s normally absorbed by the roots and carries nutrients to the leaves by way of the plant’s xylem. Water, also a byproduct of the process, is given off through the leaves. This is called transpiration.
When the ground’s frozen and the roots can’t absorb water, the plant reabsorbs transpired water and recycles it during photosynthesis. While on the leaves, transpired water picks up nutrients from the air, similar to the way those curious air plants in the genus Tillandsia get their water and nutrients.
This is fine until the wind blows. Wind picks up transpired water droplets and carries them away before they can be reabsorbed. When this occurs, photosynthesis shuts down and the affected leaves, needles and branches dry out and die. Desiccation is defined as dehydration, withering, shriveling and drying.
Desiccated leaves and branches turn brown but the whole plant rarely dies. It just has ugly brown patches, and the only remedy is to cut out the dead wood. This affects the aesthetics of an otherwise graceful, beautiful evergreen.
Anti desiccant is a wax like material that’s sprayed on the leaves or needles to trap transpired water until it’s reabsorbed. Anti desiccant’s consistency is such that its application is very weather dependent. It can freeze when it’s cold and melt when it’s warm. Applications are made on days when the temperature is below 50ºF and above 32ºF (freezing). If we get sustained warm spells, as we did last winter, additional applications may be necessary. Nothing has to be done in spring, though. The anti desiccant just melts when the weather warms up.
Garden centers and home stores sell anti desiccant in spray bottles. The most familiar brand is Wilt Pruf, and it’s in easily recognized green bottles. Buying one or two of these bottles to apply to a couple of evergreen shrubs is a good DIY project. Any more and your hand will let you know how hard it is to squeeze those spray triggers.
For properties with many or large evergreens like towering conifer trees, it’s more economical and efficient for one of our Plant Health Care professionals to apply anti desiccant. We buy it in bulk, which is considerably less than buying those consumer-size containers at retail, and you don’t have to worry about properly disposing of the empty containers. Our PHC pros apply anti desiccant with backpack sprayers that have enough pressure to reach the tops of tall trees.
Before anti desiccant, it was common to wrap all evergreens in burlap. Today, only plants affected by salty road spray, young trees and shrubs that are still getting established, or tender plants that may be near the limit of their hardiness zone benefit from wrapping. The others are sufficiently protected by anti desiccant.
Just because autumn has arrived, it doesn’t mean you can put the mower away until next spring. We could have a month or more of mowing ahead of us, and this is the most critical time for mowing.
Hopefully, you’ve been mowing with the deck height set between 3.5 and 4 inches. Continue that until the first frost and then lower the deck to 2.5 to three inches for the rest of the season. The rest of the season is until the grass stops growing and goes dormant for the winter.
The high deck height during the growing season allows the grass to grow nice and thick, reducing the area available for weeds to germinate. The reason for the lowered deck height at the end of the season is to give winter fungal diseases less leaf surface to infect. Fungal diseases thrive in wet environments, including under the snowpack. These diseases will appear as discolored patches in the lawn after the snow melts.
When the lawn dries up in the spring, the fungi won’t spread but you’ll be faced with cleaning out the dead grass and rejuvenating the lawn. It’s much easier to lower the mower for what you hope to be your last few mowings of the season than having to care for the aftermath. Besides, shorter cut lawns will also look better when the snow melts next spring because they won’t have that matted look.
In addition to mowing, fall lawn care tasks may include renovating any bare spots caused by grubs – after treating for them of course – and applying weed control to broadleaf weeds before they go to seed. This will reduce the chance of seeds germinating first thing in spring.
Grass will continue to grow and make food through photosynthesis until the ground freezes. The turfgrass plants are trying to store as much food in their roots as possible before going dormant so they have sufficient energy to break dormancy in the spring.
Fertilizing in the fall replenishes the soil nutrients that the grass plants used during the summer and assure that the grass plants will be able to manufacture sufficient food to sustain themselves through the winter and into early spring.
Remember, fertilizer is not plant food. Plants make their own food through photosynthesis. For that reaction to take place, however, the plants need minerals and nutrients present in the soil. If your soil is deficient in any of these nutrients, they need to be replenished through fertilization. You could look at fertilizer as vitamin supplements for plants.
If you want a lush lawn without the work involved, our lawn care professionals can apply fertilizer and weed control, and overseed if necessary. Then all you’ll have to do is wait for spring to enjoy your renewed lawn.
If you have houseplants on the deck or patio, it’s time to keep an eye on the thermometer and an ear to weather reports. Nighttime temps will soon begin to plummet and frost will be in the forecast. That means summer vacation is over for your fair weather plants and you’ll have to bring them indoors.
The sooner you start planning for this migration, the easier it’ll be. You first decision will be where to put the plants you’ll be bringing back into the house. Are their old homes still waiting for them? Or are they occupied by new plants you acquired over the summer? If their old homes await their return, great! If their spots have new occupants, then begin the transition by shuffling plants around to make room.
Your houseplant transition doesn’t have to take place all at once. Move each plant inside as the forecast overnight low nears its cold tolerance level. They should all be back indoors when the first hard frost warning is issued.
Be sure the plants are clean before moving them inside. Remove weeds that may have taken up residence in their container. Also guard against taking insects indoors where they can infest your healthy plants. If you can see insect activity, such as eggs, chewed leaves or the insects themselves, pick off what’s visible and hose off others. If no insects or insect activity’s visible, take the precautionary step of shaking the plant and then submerging the container in water to drown any insects in the soil or on the soil surface.
Quarantining the plants for a day or two before taking them into the house would be a good idea if you’re able to. You need a place in which they can get sufficient sunlight during the day and not freeze at night. Suggestions include a garage or outbuilding with enough windows to let photosynthesis continue, or a glassed in, unheated sunroom. This quarantine will allow the plants to adjust to an inside environment gradually. It’ll also give soil an opportunity to dry out from dunking, and you can check for any lingering insects.
Don’t forget to water the quarantined plants if they need it. When you take the plants indoors, use a moisture meter or base your watering regimen on the humidity in the house and the feel of the soil.
Plants whose crowns are substantially larger than when you put them outside can be pruned before going into the house. Otherwise, they may not fit the space you have allocated for them. Using pruning shears or sharp kitchen scissors remove one third or up to half the foliage. If you can identify new growth, pruning off only that foliage will return the plant to its size when you took it outside. When pruning, always try to maintain the plant’s natural shape.
Your houseplants added an attractive touch to your deck or patio all season. But now it’s time to bring them back to their natural environment. There’s a reason why they’re called houseplants; the house is their natural habitat. These easy steps will make the transition good for the plants and for you.
When the first crocuses appear in spring, some people proclaim it to be a miracle. Spring’s arrival may be a miracle, but the crocuses announced their arrival because someone planted the bulbs last fall, or a previous fall. Fall planting is necessary so that the roots can get established before the ground freezes.
Crocuses aren’t the only bulbs that have to be planted in fall if you want spring flowers. All spring flowering bulbs need to overwinter in the ground. Daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are the most popular. That’s why garden centers are stocking up on these bulbs now.
The bulbs we grow originated in different parts of the world. Crocuses come from the Alpine region of southern Europe. Daffodils are from the Mediterranean area. Tulips originally came from Turkey. Hyacinths got their start in the Middle East as well. Today, Holland has become the epicenter for bulb production, and this is where most of those you’ll find in garden centers were grown.
If you’ve grown bulb flowers before, you know that they naturalize and become perennials. However, a lot can happen from the time they bloomed last spring until they bloom again next spring. Some may die of old age. Others may become a critter’s dinner. Still others may succumb to weather extremes, such as torrential rain that drowned them. Critters are the only “enemy” that leaves tell tale signs. The soil will be disturbed around the area where they dug up the bulbs.
Did you notice any open spaces in your bulb garden(s) when they bloomed last year? If so you know where you have to fill in with new bulbs this fall. Next spring, be sure to check for any other spaces that need filling in next fall.
A good way to manage your bulbs garden is to draw a sketch of the plot, indicating the type of plant and color of flower. Then you’ll easily be able to buy replacement bulbs of the same or contrasting color. Large areas of same color bulbs result in a spectacular, colorful show to welcome spring. Even if you prefer a mix of colors, planting many bulbs in a large bed is a more attractive display than scattering them so that they grow singly or in small groupings.
Most garden centers sell bulbs both prepackaged and loose. If you’re planting a new bulb garden this fall, packages may be more convenient. If you’re buying bulbs for fill in, those sold in bulk may be better. You can buy only as many as you need, although it might be a good idea to have a few extra on hand. Be sure you separate the colors when buying in bulk.
Bulbs are easy to plant and maintain. When you plant them, dig the hole twice as deep as the length of the bulb. Bulb planters are nice, but you don’t really need one. Just plunge a trowel into the soil to the proper depth and pull it to you. Place the bulb in the hole root end down, pointy end up. Then remove the trowel and make sure the hole seals up. Bulbs have plenty of nutrition in them, so they don’t need fertilizer.
After your bulbs finish blooming next spring, it’s OK to cut off the spent flowers. This isn’t deadheading. A new flush won’t grow this season. Be sure to keep the green foliage intact to make food through photosynthesis. This food will be stored in the bulb to sustain the plant through the winter and next spring’s reawakening. Leaves can be removed when they turn yellow, and the bulbs would appreciate fertilizer being scattered around the bed next fall. Mulching the bed’s, a good idea, too.
Planting bulbs in fall provides you with a beautiful display to anticipate next spring. These colorful plants are relatively inexpensive, enabling you to plant sufficient flowers for a spectacular view. Best of all, they’re easy to plant and low maintenance. What can be better!
The Labor Day holiday is the unofficial start of autumn. I’m sure the kids returning to school has something to do with that. For landscape professionals and do it yourselfers, however, it’s the start of a busy season. Fall is for Planting is more than a clever marketing slogan. It’s a clever slogan to remind you that some of the best weather for planting deciduous trees and shrubs, perennials and spring flowering bulbs is yet to come.
As the dog days of summer give way to the warm days and cool nights of autumn, the rain also returns. The result is perfect growing weather for deciduous trees and shrubs to get established in their new home before winter descends upon them. Spring plants don’t really have this establishment time before they start to battle summer heat and drought.
Next spring, fall plants will break dormancy and begin growing several weeks before spring planting can get underway. Because of their earlier start, last fall’s plants require less care during the summer than spring plants. That means less watering and, possibly, less fertilizing, saving you both time and money.
Herbaceous perennials can also be planted or dug up and split in fall. And spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips must be planted this fall if you want them to bloom next spring.
Wait until late spring, however, to plant evergreens. They retain their leaves or needles and don’t go completely dormant. Fall planting can result in unsightly winter burn, unless you apply anti desiccant. Also, wait until spring to plant perennials like butterfly bush and big leaf hydrangeas that flower on new wood. Otherwise, you’ll have to prune the old wood away in the spring to allow new wood to grow.
Planting in fall is no different from planting in spring. Select a planting site whose conditions are right for the plant you select. Remember – right plant, right place. Dig the planting hole two to three times bigger than the rootball, but only as deep. If potted, remove the plant from its pot. If balled and burlapped, remove the wire basket or rope but leave the burlap around the ball.
Set the plant in the hole and backfill, stopping occasionally to press the backfill to fill in any air pockets. Do not pile soil up against the trunk. Finally, mulch and water well. Only trees planted in a windy area may need staking. Try to avoid this practice.
If you want to be sure you have winter hardy plants and the right plant is planted in the right place, you can turn to our landscape professionals. Then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy your new plants this fall, next spring and for years to come.
Most nurseries and garden centers order fresh, new plants for fall planting. They are probably arriving now. If plants look like they’re left overs, don’t buy them. Or, if you are looking for a bargain, you may be able to negotiate deep discounts on those that survived for last spring and summer. Personally, I’d rather pay full price and get new stock.
There’s never a season to mulch. You can even mulch, add mulch or fluff up mulch now, in the middle of summer. Mulch is nature’s filter and insulator. In a forest, nature provides the mulch in the form of fallen leaves and branches. As they decompose, they become nutrient-rich humus and return essential nutrients to the soil for the living plants to absorb.
Cultivated landscapes don’t have the same luxury as natural landscapes. Mother Nature leaves it up to cultivated landscapes’ owners to provide the necessary soil amendments. That’s why it’s so important to learn all about the various types of mulches available and their benefits.
Mulch can be divided into two main categories – organic and inorganic. Inorganic mulches include such materials as various size stone and ground-up, recycled rubber. Stone is purely decorative. Recycled rubber is used on playgrounds as a cushioning material to protect the children. Inorganic mulches have no environmental benefit.
Organic mulch includes such materials as ground wood chips, various types of bark, pine straw and compost. You can buy bags of bark in garden centers and you can make your own compost. Pine straw is bagged pine needles. It’s popular in the south but is not used much in our area. Tree care services sell ground wood chips in bulk, by the cubic yard.
My preferred mulch is ground wood chips. This form of mulch is made from debris from tree pruning and removals. This keeps thousands of cubic yards out of landfills and puts them to work protecting landscapes. To convert chip to mulch we double or triple grind them and let them age until they take on a blackish color. Some companies add dye to give the chips the red or other color you see in some yards. Dyes, however, may contain chemicals that can damage plants.
Organic mulch insulates, or moderates, the soil, cooling it down in summer and allowing it to retain heat in winter. Plant roots don’t like wide temperature fluctuations. Organic mulch also holds water and releases it over time. More water from rain or melting snow is available for plants to absorb. Without organic mulch, much of the water from a heavy rain would leach away before plants could absorb it.
If you have organic mulch and it looks as though it’s disappearing over time, that’s because it decomposes, returning essential nutrients to the soil. As it decomposes, just add more mulch. It should be two to three inches in summer, spring and fall and three to four inches in winter. Wait until the leaves drop in the fall and they’re cleaned up before spreading the winter mulch. And make a note to remove any excess in spring.
When spreading mulch, resist the temptation to form mulch volcanoes by piling it up against the trunks of your trees. Although popular, mulch volcanoes are bad for the tree. The mulch volcano is full of water, which is an excellent environment for fungi, including rot fungus. If there’s even the slightest crack in the bark, water can carry the microscopic rot fungi into the tree. Mulch volcanoes are also good places for rodents to hide while they dine on your valuable trees.
Applying organic mulch to your landscape is replicating a natural process that takes place in the wild. That’s why mulch never goes out of style.
Every autumn, tree and shrub owners are faced with the title decision. Some “experts” advise not fertilizing and others advise fertilizing. The reason most often cited for not fertilizing is that it may cause the plant to put on new growth that won’t have an opportunity to harden off in preparation for winter. That doesn’t apply to woody plants, at least not in our area. Winter preparation is also the reason others recommend fall fertilization, and I belong to that group. Here’s why.
Fertilizer is spread around the base of plants, but its purpose isn’t to feed plants. Its purpose is to replenish soil nutrients. If you’re one of the few residential property owners whose soil is rich in organic matter and teaming with microbes, you probably don’t have to worry about fertilizing. Otherwise, the only way to replenish depleted soil nutrients is with fertilizer and organic matter. The soil cannot replenish nutrients by itself.
If you’re not sure whether you need fertilizer, we can test the soil. Your plants have probably used most of the nutrients replenished during spring fertilization. They were needed for the plants’ intense spring and summer food making process. Although it’s autumn already, the plans still need to make a lot of food before all the leaves fall. Like animals that hibernate for the winter, deciduous plants have to binge, so they have enough energy stored to sustain them through the winter and to break their buds to flower and leaf out next spring. Even after the leaves fall, the roots remain active until the ground freezes.
In the fall, the plant is working extra hard to make enough food to sustain itself now and pack enough away in the roots to keep it alive through the winter and get the food-making and reproduction system going again in the spring.
Nutrients from the soil aid in the process of photosynthesis, which is the plant’s food-making process that takes place in the leaves. The comparison between plant and animal needs that I find most easy to understand is comparing fertilizer to the vitamin supplements that many of us take. Some of the minerals (nutrients) that plants need is the same as those that we need.
Plants need three major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium – and trace nutrients zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, cobalt, iodine, manganese, molybdenum, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Check these against the label on your multi vitamins and you’ll see that many are the same.
If you apply fertilizer, it’ll, no doubt, be granular, in which case, you’ll have to water the area thoroughly. Fertilizer only works when it’s dissolved or suspended in water. The roots then absorb the fertilizer laced water and send it up the plant. After the photosynthetic process has taken place, the food is distributed throughout the plant. Any food that’s left is stored in the roots until needed. If we fertilize your plants, we place it directly in the ground, near the roots, in liquid form. You don’t have to water the area and the roots can begin absorbing it and putting it to work right away. Fall fertilizer can be applied until the ground freezes but the sooner it’s applied, the sooner it can go to work helping your plants get ready for winter.
Many people look forward to nature’s display of fall color, namely the turning of the leaves. But that’s several months off. Yet, the summer annuals are fading. You don’t have to wait for the leaves. Plant fall flowering plants now, beginning with your annuals.
Garden centers are beginning to take delivery of their fall annuals. You may think your only choice is chrysanthemums, but you have a wider choice for immediate fall color. Certainly, mums are the most popular and the harbinger of fall in the same way crocuses are the harbinger of spring. But you have more choices, including pansies, petunias, dianthus and ornamental cabbage to name just a few. Many will continue to bloom well after leaves fall, making them a very good investment.
Pansies can be annuals or perennials, depending on the hardiness zone. As might be expected, they are annuals here in our Zone 5 climate. However, they may grow back each year like several other plants that die off each fall and grow back each spring.
Fall flowering perennials include asters, fall crocuses, Joe Pye weed and some sedums. You can plant them and give them the same care you’d give any other perennial. Then you don’t have to worry about the best time to plant each one for fall color.
Mums are usually sold in pots. If you plant them in the ground, they can be planted as single clumps directly from the pots or split apart and planted in separate, smaller groupings. Some property owners prefer to plant mums in containers. You can remove them from the nursery pot and replant them in your decorative container. This allows you to divide the mums, so they fit your container. The alternative is to buy them in nursery pots that can just slip into your decorative containers.
If you prefer woody plants, there are also some shrubs that flower into the fall season in our Zone 5. They include panicle hydrangeas, viburnum and caryopteris. These and all the plants I’ve mentioned here are just a sampling. There are others as well. To find out what’s popular, and available, locally, visit your local garden center and talk to one of their horticulturists.
There’s still another alternative. Turn the design and installation of your fall flowering plant bed(s) over to our landscape professionals. Then all you need to do is enjoy your new planting beds right up until the snow flies. No trips to the garden center. No research. All you do is approve the design. If you have a favorite, we can incorporate that, too. Remember, landscapes are to enjoy, not to take all of your time maintaining.
As you enjoy the great outdoors on these beautiful days, do you stop short when your eyes fall on those overgrown perennials? You suddenly come back to reality and jot down the need to take care of them this fall.
Overgrown perennials are reduced in size by dividing them. Dig up the whole plant, including as much root as possible. Place it on a tarp and cut the root in half and then into quarters. How you cut it depends on the size of the root and your strength. Some people are able to divide them with a very sharp shovel. Others may use an axe or even a saw.
When finished, you’ll have four plants instead of one. Now you have to decide what to do with them. You can put one back in the hole from which you removed the original plant and the other three in new locations in your yard. This means that you’ll have to divide four plants when these outgrow their spaces. You could return one quarter to the original hole and give the other three to family, friends or even to a community plant sale.
If you’ve divided your perennials before and it seems as though the plant root is larger each time and it’s getting harder for you to wield the cutting tool, both reactions are accurate. As the plant grows, its roots grow in size and strength. As you age your strength and endurance begins to wane.
If this is the position you find yourself in, why not find new homes for all four pieces this fall? In the perennial’s spot, plant a shrub or a dwarf conifer. Neither of those plants need to be dug up and divided. A shrub may have to be pruned once every year or two. Dwarf conifers need even less care. Some never need pruning, others every few years. The pictured dwarf blue spruce is one of two that a customer has had since 2009 and they’ve never required pruning.
A common argument against replacing perennials with shrubs is that the perennials were planted for their flowers. Many shrubs flower just as beautifully. Our city’s signature plant, the lilac, is just one example. Shrubs may flower earlier in the spring, and the blooms may not last as long as those on the perennials. But think of the progressively more difficult work you’ll be saving.
If you want flowers in a particular spot where you’re considering replacing perennials, mix early blooming plants like lilac or rhododendron with later blooming plants like hydrangeas. Another alternative would be to place decorative containers of annuals in the bed when your spring blooming shrub has finished its annual display of color.
Mixing several sizes of dwarf conifers with various foliage colors and textures can provide an outstanding display. Best of all, it needs little or no maintenance. Dwarf conifer gardens are among the fastest growing segments of the landscape industry.
If replacing your high maintenance perennials with low maintenance shrubs and/or dwarf conifers interests you but you don’t know where to start or are unable to visualize the change, we’d be happy to help. Our landscape designers can create your beautiful new area and our landscape professionals can do the planting. Then all you have to do is enjoy the new look to your yard.
Fighting weeds in your landscape is a never-ending battle. However, you may be able to get ahead of it a bit by keeping a constant eye out for these undesirable plants. This would be a good time to start your vigilance.
The ideal time to pull or spot treat weeds is any time in their growth until after they’ve flowered but before they drop seeds. Using the ubiquitous dandelion as an example, they can be pulled or treated now, even if they’re displaying their familiar yellow flowers.
You can still get rid of the plants in your landscape after the yellow flowers have turned into the round, white seedheads but it then may be akin to closing the barn door after the animals have escaped. You’ll get rid of one plant but not until it has released all those seeds into the atmosphere to frustrate you even more.
From now until it’s cold enough for killing frosts, weeds are particularly insidious. Their seeds may not germinate now. Instead, they may overwinter in the ground in a latent state until spring. Then they’ll dramatically show how the season got its name when they all spring up and cover your lawn or planting bed.
One way to crimp their style is to treat them with a selective herbicide that contains both pre and post emergent material. The pre-emergent will prevent any seeds they dropped from germinating while the post emergent will kill the existing weeds.
This weed control method isn’t foolproof. Don’t blame the material or your application if a few weeds appear in the spring. You could only take care of those seeds present when you made the application. You have no control over those blown in by the wind or dropped by birds after you finished.
When you buy herbicide for weeds, be sure to buy a selective herbicide, as in broadleaf weed killer. It you apply a non-selective, it will kill your lawn and anything green that it touches. You have to be particularly careful using broadleaf weed killer in your planting beds. Shield the good plants during the application because the material can’t differentiate between a weed and your prize hostas.
While broadleaf weed killers are effective on lawns with no damage to the grass, I recommend hand pulling weeds in your planting beds. After all, weeds are just herbaceous plants that are growing where you don’t want them. Weeds may be stronger and more aggressive than your landscape plants but genetically, they’re the same.
As we approach the mid-point of the lawn season, you may be tiring already of the amount of maintenance required to keep it looking like a championship golf course. The weekly mowing, constant weeding, periodic fertilizing and pest control. You may want to join the growing number of property owners who are tearing out their lawns.
Lawn removal and replacement is a trend, but one that’s not universally accepted. In fact, it’s downright illegal in some places. Before you begin ripping up sod, you should do your homework. The first question you need to ask yourself is, “What will I plant in its place?” Even if it’s legal in your community, it would also be a good idea to discuss your plans with your neighbors. You will then know whether the people you live next door will embrace this radical idea, accept it or vehemently turn thumbs down.
As far as suitable, substitute plant materials are concerned, you have a wide range of options. Some lawns are being replaced with moss. Moss is easy to grow, doesn’t need mowing, or much care at all. Groundcover is another popular choice. Pachysandra is the best-known groundcover but there are others as well. Another option may be to remove only some of the lawn and install planting beds with a cottage garden look or a meadow-like carpet of wildflowers.
As part of your due diligence, you might acquire a new book on the subject. A recommended title is Groundcover Revolution; it’s written by garden writer Kathy Jentz and published by Cool Springs Press. Groundcover Revolution’s available wherever books are sold, or you can check with your local library. It should get your creative juices flowing; and it’s not just about pachysandra, either.
One alternative to ripping out your lawn would be a professional lawn care program. It’s not too late in the season to begin. Our lawn care professionals will apply fertilizer, weed killer and insect control at just the right time. They can also aerate and dethatch if needed. You can hire a lawn mowing service as well. Then all you need to do is water or live with the dormant grass during the dog days of summer.
If you’re committed to replacing your lawn but can’t decide what your yard should look like, turn to our professional landscape designers. They can create the exact environment that’ll make you the envy of the neighborhood. And, if you want to leave the transformation to the pros, our landscape installation professionals can remove the sod and plant the new plants. All you have to do is enjoy your trendy yard.