Winter Damage

This winter’s weather was a repeat of last year’s.  The frequent snows and frigid temperatures resulted in a layer of snow covering the ground continuously for over two months!   Fortunately the snows weren’t the heavy wet kind that snaps tree limbs and crushes shrubs, so structural damage should be light.  However, the cold, dry winds caused considerable damage to the leaves of many evergreen shrubs.

Yews and arborvitae that may have bent over from the weight of snow should straighten on their own.  Pachysandra and other ground covers should be fine, as should most perennials.  Lawns might exhibit patches of pink snow fungus here and there as a result of being buried under the snow for so long, but temperatures were generally too consistently cold for this to be a big issue.

Below is a summary of the plants most likely to have suffered some winter damage this year:

Hydrangea

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas – Last year a mid-April freeze did more damage to the stems than the winter did and destroyed most of the stems that would have given us summer flowers last year. If we don’t get another late freeze, hopefully the upper buds along the stems, which will produce most of this summer’s flowers, survived the winter.

Crape-myrtle-'Red-Rocket'

Crape-myrtle ‘Red-Rocket’

Crape myrtles – Expect them to leaf out very late (maybe not till June) and maybe not the whole tree at once, so don’t give up on any branches if the tissue under the bark is still green. To find out, scrape 1/4″ of the bark away with a sharp knife to reveal the tissue underneath.  If it’s a juicy green, the branch is still alive.

Skip-laurel

Skip laurel

Rhodos, Azaleas, Skip laurels – May have pockets of wilted-looking leaves or outright dead branches. These won’t recover and will need to be cut off.  On other branches some leaves might be half-burned and will linger into late summer before they finally fall off and get replaced by new leaves.

Evergreen shrubs near the street – Leaf tips facing the street might turn brown from the salt spray kicked up by passing cars and plows.  Browning might not appear until late April and will have to be sheared off.

Fig trees – If they survived last year but just barely, they might not be strong enough to get through a second bad winter in a row and might be dead this spring.

Euonymus 'Manhattan'

Euonymus ‘Manhattan’

Holly 'Nellie-Stevens'

Holly ‘Nellie-Stevens’

Evergreen Euonymus shrubs and ‘Nellie Stevens’ Holly trees – The existing leaves are pretty well burned up and will all fall off, but if the buds at the bases of the leaves are  green, then the first flush of new growth in the spring will bring on fresh new leaves.

Shrub Roses – Will die back further down than usual. Need to be cut back hard and dead stems removed, but the plants should be fine.

Shrub Roses

Shrub Roses

Any type of evergreen close to a street – Might have browning of leaf tips on the street side of the shrub due to salt spray kicked up off the street from passing cars and plows.  Browning foliage might not be evident until late April and will have to be sheared off to improve the appearance of the shrub.

Bounce Impatiens – filling in the Garden Impatiens void

Bounce Pink Flame Impatiens

 Bounce Pink Flame Impatiens

A new variety of hybrid impatiens has been introduced and will be available in limited quantities this Spring—the ‘Bounce’ series, along with its larger sister line, the ‘Big Bounce’ series. Both series result from a breeding cross between New Guinea impatiens and traditional Garden impatiens. Like many hybrids, ‘Bounce’ inherits some of the most desirable characteristics from each parent. From its New Guinea impatiens lineage it receives the leaf shape and the larger flowers typical of New Guineas. Perhaps most importantly, though, it also receives the celebrated New Guinea resistance to Downy Mildew.

Bounce white impatiens

 Bounce white impatiens

From its Garden impatiens parents it inherits the higher flower density, shade-tolerance and spreading habit typical of Garden impatiens. That means that each plant will tolerate more shade and cover a much wider area than will the more upright New Guinea impatiens.

Since ’Bounce’ impatiens, like most New Guinea impatiens, are produced from cuttings and not from seed, they’ll be available only in 4” pots or larger and not in flats of 48. Regardless, ’Bounce’ impatiens will make a welcome addition to the shade garden.

When to Prune Hydrangeas

Whether or not to prune your Hydrangeas — and how to prune them — is one of the most common questions our service department receives. We’ll try to simplify the answer for you below.

Old wood or New wood?

Hydrangeas can be grouped into two categories—those that produce flowers from old wood (branches that form the previous season), and those that will flower from new wood (branches that form the same year). Easy, right? Not so easy if you’re not a horticulturist. So we’ll simplify things a little. Fortunately, nearly all of the hydrangeas that produce white or whitish flowers fall into the new wood category, and those that are pink-to-red or purple-to-blue (depending on how acidic or lime-based your soil is) flower on old wood. Not to confuse the issue, but the hot new variety on the market, ‘Endless Summer’, blooms on both old and new wood and comes in both white and pink. We’ll lean towards the ‘New wood’ category on that one.

New Wood (white flowers)

You can cut them down to the ground each spring and they’ll give you great flowers the same year. If they happen to grow like a tree, then cutting them back hard without losing their tree-like characteristics will work just fine.

Old Wood (pink-red to purple-blue flowers)

Thin them out in early spring by removing the obviously dead stalks. You can reduce their overall height if desired by cutting off the top 12” or so of the remaining stalks, making sure some live buds remain along the sides of the stalks. Note: after a severe winter, all buds might be killed, despite your best efforts. In this case, you won’t see any flowers at all that growing season.

Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials Care Instructions

Typical Plant Care Instructions

Rhododendron and Azaleas – Shape as desired soon after flowering, but not later than mid-July since next year’s flower buds begin forming at this time. An acidic fertilizer is preferred. Tiny white stipple marks on leaves indicates feeding by harmful lacebug insects on undersides. Use an insecticide and spray as per directions on label.

Most flowering shrubs – No special care. Trim lightly after flowering. If plants become too tall over the years, remove 1/4 to ¸ total plant height in early spring before leaves emerge.

Most hedge shrubs – When new growth elongates to 6-10″, cut growth in half to promote bushiness. Continue procedure until desired height and width is reached, then trim closely as needed.

Most trees, especially Cherries and Plums – No special care if a shrub. Trim lightly any time as desired. Remove “suckers” (vigorous young shoots growing vertically usually from ground level but also from main branches) as they appear. Periodically cut out branches that rub against others. Check for presence of scale insects on branches yearly (white fluffy egg masses and/or 1/8″ tan shields covering adults). Call spray company for a dormant oil application.

Pines – To keep compact, shear ‘candles’ (light green new growth spikes) with hedge shears or clippers when candles stop elongating and before needles on their sides reach 1/2″ in length. (Generally, the last week in May). Timing is critical. Cut off 2/3 – 3/4 of total length. Look for black inchworms devouring older needles between May 1st and May 25th . Worms can eat entire plant in one week if left undetected. Spray with an over-the-counter pesticide.

Re-blooming perennials – No special care. Shearing off spent flowers after initial wave of flowering fades will promote second wave. Otherwise, will flower sporadically till frost. See below for division.

Many perennials – No special care. Divide and thin out periodically (every 3-4 years) if clumps become too large, unmanageable, or have significant dead portions (especially in the centers).

Most ornamental grasses – Cut down to 4″ in early winter or before new growth appears in spring (early April). Can be divided into sections as large as desired with a spade in early spring after the clump greens up. Discard any obviously dead portions.

Care of Your Replacement Plants

We have just replaced one or more perennials, shrubs and/or trees in your landscape. Where possible, we have marked your replacements with a colored ribbon.

Your new plants require special attention for at least 4 weeks after planting, until the root system gets a chance to grow out into the surrounding soil. Until then, THE ROOT BALL WILL DRY OUT WELL BEFORE THE SURROUNDING SOIL DOES. Thus we strongly recommend that all replacements be watered BY HAND until established. PLEASE DO NOT RELY ON YOUR SPRINKLER SYSTEM TO DO THE JOB. IT WILL NOT GIVE YOUR NEW PLANT ENOUGH WATER WHERE IT NEEDS IT – IN THE ROOT BALL.

Please DO NOT adjust your sprinkler system to an every-day schedule simply to water a few new plants or a small patch of new sod. You might damage your established sod and shrubs by over-watering them, and the sprinkler heads may not actually provide enough water to saturate the newly installed plants sufficiently.

Following the watering guidelines below will help integrate your replacements quickly into the landscape:

A. Small Shrubs and perennials – by hand with hose and/or bucket

1. First 2 weeks – Water every other day for shrubs and perennials in full sun, every 2-4 days if in shade. Under extremely hot or windy conditions, you may need to water every day. Treat them like house plants and aim the hose directly into the root ball.

2. Next 2 weeks – Cut down to once every 3-4 days.

3. After 4 weeks – Your new shrubs should be somewhat established. Continue to water every 2 weeks by hand as a supplement to your sprinkler system right up until the end of December and throughout the following spring while the plants have leaves.

B. Trees and Large Shrubs – by hand with hose or bucket

1. First 2 weeks – Water by placing the hose directly on the root ball, then turning on the faucet so that the water comes out in a slow trickle. Let it trickle for ¸ – 1 hour. The larger the tree, the more time needed. Repeat every 3-4 days.

2. Next 4 weeks – Water once a week as above.

3. After 6 weeks – Water occasionally as above during extended periods of no rainfall (or about once every 2-3 weeks) right up until the end of December and throughout the following spring while the plants have leaves.

Care of Your New Landscape

Your new trees, shrubs, and/or perennials require special attention for at least one month after planting, until the root systems get a chance to grow out into the surrounding soil. A little vigilance in ensuring that each plant receives its full allotment of water during this time is the single most important factor in determining the future success of your plants. Keep in mind that the root balls of your new plants will dry out just like a houseplant even though the surrounding soil appears wet. The best way to check the roots is to pull away the mulch from the stem of the plant and use your finger to scrape down an inch or two directly into the rootball to feel for dryness.

Sprinkler systems, even the best ones, will water some areas better than others. After your landscape has had time for the plant roots to spread out and intermingle (at least 6 weeks after planting), this unevenness in sprinkler coverage is not a major problem. But when the plants have just been installed, some plants may not receive enough water from the sprinklers to survive the critical first few weeks. For this reason it is imperative that you make frequent (daily to every second day) inspections of your landscape so you can spot plants that may be dry, and water them by hand to give them the opportunity to grow roots into areas that get more water.

Following the guidelines below as a supplement to your sprinkler system will help integrate your plants quickly into the landscape:

A. Shrubs and Perennials – by hand with hose and/or bucket

1. First week – Water every 2 days for shrubs and perennials in full sun, every 3-4 days if in shade. Under extremely hot or windy conditions in full sun, you may need to water every day. Treat them like house plants and aim the hose directly into the root ball. Make mental notes of areas that seem to need extra attention.

2. Next two weeks – Water your extra-attention areas as above. For the areas that are not a problem, water once a week just to be sure.

3. After 3 weeks – Your new shrubs should be somewhat established. Continue to water your extra-attention plants once a week by hand until the end of the season as a supplement to your sprinkler system.

B. Trees and Large Shrubs – by hand with hose or bucket

1. First two weeks – Water by placing the hose directly on the root ball, then turning on the faucet so that the water comes out in a slow trickle. Let it trickle for ¸ -1 hour for each plant. The larger the tree and the more exposed it is to wind and sun, the more time needed. Look for special-attention plants. Repeat every 5-7 days depending on weather and sunlight conditions.

2. Next four weeks – Water twice as above during this period.

3. After six weeks – Water those special-attention plants during extended periods of no rainfall occasionally as above until the end of December.

Establishing Your New Seed Lawn

A. WATERING

First month – Watering is the most critical factor for the rapid and healthy development of your lawn. To promote germination, the seed and young grass should not be allowed to dry out for the first three weeks after seeding. The lawn area should be kept moist but not saturated. A daily schedule consisting of a light watering early in the morning, a light misting in the early afternoon, and a second light misting in the later afternoon (especially during hot, dry weather) will help achieve this.

After first month – After the grass greens up and reaches a height of about 3″ (about 30 days), watering should be adjusted to approximately 35 – 45 minutes (rotary heads) every 2 days in Summer (in Spring and Fall every 3-4 days). ONCE THE GRASS HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED, DO NOT WATER EVERY DAY. This can lead to disease problems, drowning of roots, and weak root development. If the lawn is drying out in the summer heat, increase the time per zone rather than the number of watering days per week.

BEST TIME TO WATER – between 1 a.m. and 10 a.m.
WORST TIME TO WATER – between 4 p.m. and 1 p.m. (Fungus will develop and grow when the grass stays wet for more than 6 or 7 hours during the course of the night, so avoid the urge to water your lawn in the early evening.)

B. MOWING

First mowing – About 30 days after seeding. TIMING IS CRITICAL. If the lawn gets too long it will fall over and mat down, leading to the development of disease. The lawn should not be watered within 24 hours of the first mowing so that the mower tires and workers’ feet don’t make ruts in the wet soil. Make sure to turn off your sprinkler clock the night before. The mowers should cut off no more than the top 1″ of the grass blades so that the grass will not go into shock. Resume normal watering after mowing.

C. AFTERCARE

The establishment of a healthy lawn from seed is a long-term process. Use of the seeded area should be limited as much as possible while the grass is getting established. Depending on the time of the year the seeding is done, it may take up to 12 months to reach the look of a sod lawn. The ideal time for seeding and touching up of seeded lawns is mid-August to mid- October. Avoid use of crabgrass control while the lawn is newly seeded.

D. FERTILIZING

Apply a complete fertilizer only after the lawn has been up for at least 30 days. Avoid fertilizers heavy in Nitrogen (the first number of the three that appear on the bag) for this first fertilization. An ideal balance would be in the range of 10-30-15 (as opposed to 25-3-3). After the initial fertilization, follow a May-August-Thanksgiving fertilization schedule (i.e. 3 applications per year). If you are a chemicals minimalist, then use an organic fertilizer and apply on Thanksgiving only, or again in July.

Establishing Your New Sod Lawn

A. WATERING

First week – Every day for 15 minutes (mist zones) to 45 minutes (rotary zones) per day for zones in full sun or on slopes, 10 minutes (mist zones) to 30 minutes (rotary zones) for zones in shade half the day or more.

After first week – should now be changed to 20 minutes (mist) to 45 minutes (rotary) per zone every two days (summer), every four days (spring and fall). For low-lying zones that tend to stay wet and zones that are shady most of the day, watering time should not exceed 30 minutes, and preferably these problem-area zones should be shut off and turned on manually only when necessary. WATERING EVERY DAY, REGARDLESS OF TEMPERATURE, CAN LEAD TO DISEASE PROBLEMS AND DROWNING OF ROOTS. If your lawn seems to be drying out in the heat of the summer, increase the time per zone rather than the number of days per week that the system goes on. Lawns will tend to turn light brown in spots during times of drought, but will green up again after the next heavy rain. Watering schedules should be adjusted to accommodate for natural rainfall.

BEST TIME TO WATER – between 1 a.m. and 10 a.m.

WORST TIME TO WATER – between 4 p.m. and 1a.m. ( Fungus will develop and grow when the grass stays wet for more than 6 or 7 hours during the course of the night, so avoid the urge to water your lawn in the early evening.)

B. MOWING

First mowing – 7-10 DAYS AFTER LAYING. TIMING IS CRITICAL. If the sod gets too long it will fall over and mat down, leading to the development of disease. The lawn should not be watered 24 hours prior to first mowing so the mower tires and worker’s feet don’t make ruts in the soft, wet sod. Make sure that you turn your clock off the night before the grass is scheduled to be cut. The mowers should cut off no more than the top 1″ of the grass blades so that the grass does not go into shock. Resume watering after mowing.

Second mowing – Ideally, 4 to 5 days after the first mowing. Follow the same instructions as for the first mowing. (Practically, it will be difficult to get your maintenance company to break their weekly schedule.) After this, a regular mowing schedule can be established.

Fall Color Ideas for the Garden

Fall Color Ideas

Fall Container Planting

Fall is not just for mums anymore.  Your choices for Autumn and Winter color are far more varied than just a few years ago.  Try combining mums with new varieties of Ornamental Kale and Cabbage, Millet (a red-leafed, wheat-like flowering grass), the more compact varieties of Maiden Grass, and Algerian Ivy to really brighten up your pot and bed arrangements.

Fall Front Entry PlantingAnd once Thanksgiving comes, pop out the spent mums and add a mix of white Birch stems and Red-Stem Dogwood branches for height.  Use layers of evergreen boughs like Spruce and Pine as a cover for the soil.  If this winter is anything like the last three years, you’ll have color right up through New Year’s Day.

Fall Gardening Tips

Fall Gardening Tips

Garden Design with a Gazebo designed by Schlick Design Group

Around September 30th:  Shut down irrigation clock and run manually only when needed

September 20th through October 10th:  Time to plant fall Mums

September 20th through Thanksgiving:  Time to plant Ornamental Kale and Cabbage

October 1st through Christmas: Time to plant spring bulbs.

November 15th through December 1st: Time to apply your last lawn fertilization.

November 15th through December 1st:  Time to replace spent mums with Holiday color.

November 15th through December 15th: Time to remulch perennial beds.

Thanksgiving through March 15th:  Time for winter pruning of all trees and shrubs