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.

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.

Crape Myrtles on Long Island — not just for the South

Crape Myrtles are not just for the South

Crape MyrtleLooking for a small tree or shrub that blooms for over two months in late summer, has leaves which turn a beautiful fall color, and in winter displays a most handsome, peeling bark?  Then perhaps Crape Myrtle, long a mainstay of Southern gardens, is the answer.  In the last 15 years many new varieties have been bred to withstand our Long Island winters.

Tree-form varieties will mature to a height of 15 to 20 feet, while shrub-form varieties can be as small as 1 to 2 feet tall.  Flower colors range from white to lavender, soft pink to a vibrant hot pink and red.Crape Myrtle bark

The winter appeal of Crape Myrtle with its rich cinnamon-colored  peeling bark and graceful branch architecture

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.