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.

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.

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

Fall is for Planting

Early fall, from early September through late October, is a great time to put plants in the garden. The shorter days and cooler air temperatures reduce the demand for water and keep plants from producing an abundance of new leaves, while the still-warm soil promotes root growth. Thus plants have plenty of time to build a healthy root system and get established before the onset of winter.

Late August through mid-September is also an ideal time to divide and replant those perennials that have become overgrown. Irises, Hostas, Daylilies, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan, summer Phlox, and Astilbe are just some of the perennials that can be divided at this time.

Reinvigorating Your Summer Flowers

Now that it’s August, your summer flowers may require a little additional care to keep them attractive and blooming all summer long. Following the guidelines below will ensure a continuous flower display.

Grooming

Some annuals require a little grooming now and then in order to look and perform their best. Grooming includes removing spent flowers before they begin to form seeds, called ‘Dead-heading’.

Annuals that benefit most from deadheading — which promotes continuous flower production— are Dahlias, Zinnias, Snapdragons, Salvias, Geraniums, and larger-flowering Marigolds.

Pruning off leggy and overly-long branches of many plants promotes renewed flowering and plant compactness. Don’t worry about removing too much; even a severe haircut will become unnoticeable after a week or so.

Petunias, Verbenas, Scaevola, Calibrachoa, Bidens and Ivy Geraniums benefit from this, as do trailing foliage plants.

Watering

Watering during hot, dry months is critical, especially for plants in containers. Do not let your plants dry out! Excessive dryness causes leaves to become stunted and yellow, and reduces flower production. When you water your pots, wet the soil thoroughly until water runs out the drainage holes at the bottom. Repeat until thoroughly soaked. Check pots daily, as high summer temperatures and windy days will dry out your containers more quickly.

Summer and Fall Gardening Tips

August 1st: Last day for heavy summer pruning of rhododendrons, azaleas, forsythia and other spring-flowering shrubs. Also time to reapply slow-release dry fertilizer to your pots of annuals.

August 15th through September 15th: Time to divide and replant overgrown clumps of perennials.

August 15th through October 1st: Ideal time for re-seeding an old lawn or seeding a new lawn.

September 1st: Last day for trimming of hedges

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

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

November 15th through December 1st: Time to remulch perennial beds.

Spring Gardening Tips

March: Best time to do heavy pruning of trees and shrubs.

Late March: Time to plant pansies. Also good time for first lawn fertilization of the season.

Early April: Time to prune roses.

April: Ideal time to divide and move perennials, and to remulch beds.

Mother’s Day: Generally, last date for killing frost. Time to begin planting summer flowers and to turn on irrigation system.

June 1st: Safe to put cold-sensitive tropical plants outside. Introduce them only gradually to full sun.

Late June: Time to remove pansies and other cool-weather annuals and replace with summer flowers.

Spring Bulbs: Save or Remove?

Spring-flowering bulbs are loosely categorized into two groups in our climate: those that come back reliably every year, and those that don’t.

Daffodils, Narcissus, and most hardy woodland bulbs usually return year after year, as long as their leaves are allowed to turn brown after flowering before being cleaned up.

Tulips and Hyacinths, however, don’t stay green long enough to consistently produce flowers for the following season. Two or three seasons of brilliance is all you can expect, so it’s a good idea to remove them, bulb and all, right after the second year of flowering, while you can still find them. You can then plant new ones in the fall.

Spring and Summer Gardening Tips

Spring/Summer GARDENING TIPS

March: Time to prune roses and deciduous shrubs before they fully leaf out. Mulch beds if not already done in fall. Cut some dormant Forsythia branches and bring them inside for some early color.

April: Ideal time to divide and move perennials and to plant pansies and Osteospermum

Mid-April through May: Time to re-seed a thin lawn.

Mother’s Day: Generally, last date for killing frost. Time to begin planting summer flowers. Turn irrigation system on for regular watering.

June 1st: Safe to put cold-sensitive tropical plants and Caladiums outside. Introduce those that have been in your house gradually to full sun so the leaves don’t sunburn.

Late June: Time to remove pansies and other cool-weather annuals and replace with summer flowers.

Early to mid July: Give your flower pots their first tune-up — trim back long, trailing foliage, dead-head Geraniums. Add more slow-release fertilizer and then give everything a good, thorough drenching with liquid fertilizer. Repeat one month later. Time to give shrubs and trees their first summer pruning.

Mulching – Be Careful What You Cover

Mulching—Be Careful What You Cover

Annuals can be severely injured when fresh mulch is applied too soon

The benefits of mulching are well-known. Applying mulch in late fall (mid November through December) or early spring (March) will help your plant beds immensely. However, mulching newly-planted annuals can prove fatal.

In a nutshell, please don’t mulch your annuals. Extreme injury can occur when annuals have been mulched soon after planting. Fresh mulch can be extremely toxic to young plants. It can build up toxic gases (the sour smell you might notice) and trap moisture against the stems, leading to stem rot; steal fertilizer from the soil, and even burn the plants (fresh mulch can be hot to the touch when first used).

Your best defense against weeds is to keep your flowers growing rapidly when they are young.

Do a little additional hand watering daily in the driest spots so their tiny roots don’t dry out. Remember, annuals are basically tropical weeds, and they already have a head start on other weeds in the bed. Maintain that head start by keeping them growing!