Neighborly Garden News
Field Notes: BEWARE of wild parsnip!
Mature Wild ParsnipBecause at first glance, the symptoms strongly resemble poison ivy exposure, skin reactions from Wild Parsnip are frequently misdiagnosed. Poison Ivy will affect any area of the body it touches, and needs an initial exposure to develop sensitivity to it. Wild Parsnip rash develops after sun exposure and you can be sensitive to it immediately. Poison Ivy can itch for weeks after it has healed; Wild Parsnip creates a burning sensation, which is temporary.
Toxic Plant Identification
Learn to identify, and avoid this plant. Wild parsnip is considered a biennial plant; it will develop the flowering stalk over a 2 year growth cycle. During the first year of growth, the wild parsnip will only produce leaves that resemble celery or flat-leaved parsley. The second year it will send up a hollow stalk, up to 4-5’ tall, containing hundreds of yellow flowers. It can be frequently found along roadsides, meadows, pastures, areas that have been disturbed; before native plants can become fully re-established.
Wild Parsnip, first year’s growth
Close-up of Wild Parsnip leaf
If you find wild parsnip and want to remove it, plan on doing this at dusk; to avoid sun exposure, and wear protective clothing. If you do get sap on your skin, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible to minimize exposure, and cover the area of exposure to prevent any sun exposure. The affected area will be sensitized to the sun for 8 hours after contact with the wild parsnip sap. Consult a doctor if the rash is severe; they may want to prescribe a topical anti-inflammatory medication. Please contact Scott Higley, our Lawn & Tree Applications Specialist Manager if you need help identifying and eradicating this toxic plant.
Congratulations to Scott Higley, on his recent promotion to Manager of our Lawn and Tree Applications division. Scott will be overseeing all aspects of LATS services, as Herb Severs transitions to retirement. Scott has worked in the green industry for 15 years, and has been with CSL&D for the past 2 years.
Scott can problem solve and make recommendations to help with your garden and turf problems. He has earned his commercial license for pesticide application in Massachusetts, and knows the specific applications to combat the many issues affecting turf, fruit trees, and ornamental plants. He is our expert in managing insect infestations; especially managing tick problems. Contact Scott- email@example.com
August’s ‘to-do’ list:
Now that we are in the ‘dog days’ of summer, it’s helpful to plan for the next season; fall will be here before you can say, Labor Day. Last August 2018, was a particularly wet month. We received about twice our typical amount of rain. So far June and July 2019 have been hotter and drier than average; what will August 2019 bring us?
Adequate moisture is vital for certain shrubs this time of year; as they prepare for next year’s flowering. Rhododendrons are forming flower buds now, and berried Holly needs additional water to ensure the fruit can ripen, and won’t drop off prematurely. The most favorable method of watering trees and shrubs is: a deep soaking once or twice per week; instead of more frequent, but shallow watering. It generally takes a newly planted tree or shrub about 3 growing seasons to reestablish their root system; so for a healthy start to life at your home or business, please water your trees and shrubs.
There’s still plenty of time to sow seeds for a fall crop of veggies. Lettuce, Kale Spinach and Swiss chard are easy to grow, delicious leafy greens, and are packed full of brain-boosting nutrients. They can be ready for harvesting in as little as 30 days! The simplest way to harvest your leafy greens is to trim off the leaves with a scissor, and allow the plant to sprout more leaves for successive harvests. Other fast growing, easy to grow veggies: radishes, beets, and carrots.
Mid-August through mid-September is a great time for over-seeding and renovating your lawn. Take advantage of turf’s natural growth cycle; cool season grass will become dormant through the hottest part of summer, and then revive as temperatures begin to cool, and steady rain starts again. Seeding now will allow the grass seedlings optimum conditions for growth.
August is a good month to evaluate your perennial beds. There is always some plant that is breaking or flopping over; is it worth the effort, or is there an easier alternative? Make note of which plants are in need of dividing. You may dig and divide Peonies this month. Remember that the ‘eyes’, or dormant flower buds must be planted no deeper than 1-2” below the soil surface. Planting deeper than this will interfere with blooming.
Roses will naturally begin to slow their growth with shorter days ahead. Allow roses to begin their ‘hardening off’ for winter by discontinuing fertilizer application. If you routinely use a rose spray for mildew and rose pests, you should continue to do so; to minimize overwintering of mold spores and insect eggs. During a mild fall, we may still have rose blooms right up to a hard frost.
Order your spring blooming bulbs now for the best selection. Choose varieties that will bloom during early, mid, and late spring for an extended bloom season. Although deer and rodents are known for eating Tulips and Crocus, there are many species of showy spring blooming bulbs that they won’t eat. Daffodils and Narcissus have a noxious substance that deters browsing, and ornamental Onions (Alliums) also repel animals from eating them. Other animal resistant bulbs to try: Camassia, and Fox-tail lily, Snowdrops and winter Aconite for outstanding blooms in your spring garden.
Have the weeds taken over or do you need help with your late summer chores? We can help; give our office a call or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hurray for Hydrangeas!
It wouldn’t seem like summer in the garden if it weren’t for the enchanting blooms of the Hydrangeas. For the most part they remain kind of plain and unassuming through their non-blooming months. But when they come into bloom, the effect can range from big and blowsy and in-your-face, to ethereal, delicate and lacey. The Hydrangea flowers achieve their spectacular looks through a combination of sterile and non-sterile flowers. Hydrangea species fall into two categories; those that will bloom on new growth each season, and others that bloom on second year growth. These species sprout shoots that will develop during the growing season of year one; forming flower buds that remain dormant over the winter, to bloom in year two.
Although many species of Hydrangea are non-native, there are two native species that make beautiful additions to any garden space. The Oakleaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia) is considered one of the handsomest of the genus. The 3-8” long leaves are deeply incised, and resemble the leaves of our mighty Oaks. Hydrangea quercifolia is one of the few species that develop good fall leaf coloration, in purple and red tones. Oakleaf hydrangea begins flowering in late June, and will bloom for 4 weeks or more. As the flowers age, they can turn purplish-pink. H. quercifolia will thrive in full sun or partial shade, and will grow quickly in moist, rich soil. Standard sized cultivars can grow 8-12’ tall and similar size wide, there are also compact and dwarf varieties for smaller spaces. This species of Hydrangea blooms on second year growth. It’s helpful to plant it in a slightly sheltered area for best blooming. I have my Oakleaf Hydrangea planted in full sun, next to a wooden fence that protects it from northerly winds.
H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’
H. quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’
Our other native landscape Hydrangea is the Smooth Hydrangea (H. arborescens). It is surprising how adaptable Hydrangeas can be, and the smooth Hydrangea is no exception. Cultivation and hybridization have improved upon the wild form of this Hydrangea. In its native environment H. arborescens is a limp and loosely branched sub-shrub. When it was cultivated, given water, sun and fertilizer, H. arborescens developed into a much more attractive landscape plant. Named cultivars, like Incrediball, and Annabelle, have bountiful, beautifully rounded heads of snow-white flowers. H. arborescens begin flowering in June, and go through a color progression of lime-green, white, and back to green again, the flowers will last all summer. Or, you may cut the blooms in June, for drying or arrangements, and a second flush of bloom will occur in August-September. Smooth Hydrangea blooms on new growth; prune the stems down to within 6” of the ground in fall or late winter. Some new cultivars are also available in shades of true pink expanding your color palette. The cultivar, Incrediball has been bred to have strong stems to resist flopping. Grows to 4’ tall x 4’ wide at maturity.
H. arborescens ‘Incrediball’
H. arborescens ‘Incrediball Blush’
Hydrangea paniculata is grown across New England, and is often associated with a vintage or retro garden design. There have been so many new cultivars developed in the last 10 years; you can’t really call this an old fashioned shrub anymore. The standard shrub has been called Pee Gee Hydrangea, which is an abbreviation of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’, and can grow up to 25’ tall. Modern hybrids like H. paniculata ‘Bobo’ are true dwarves topping out at 3’ x 3’, and are good for container gardens as well. The newer introductions have also improved upon H. paniculata’s trait of turning pink as cool weather sets in. ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ has flowers that turn a intense shade of pink, very much like the ice cream. The flowers are often several shades of pink and white simultaneously; it can grow up to 6’ tall and same wide. If you love this plant, but are limited in space, its cousin Strawberry Sundae may work for you; only growing to about 4’ x 3’. Gardeners who weren’t Hydrangea lovers often change their minds after they’ve seen H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ in someone else’s garden! This extraordinary Hydrangea has flowers that absolutely shine, in the most luminous shade of green-ish white. It’s a vigorous plant, and can grow up to 8’ x 6’ very quickly. Luckily plant breeders have also bred a smaller variety with similar attributes called ‘Little Lime’; growing to 3-5’ tall. Hydrangea paniculata can be grown in full sun to partial shade, the more direct sun they receive, the greater their water needs will be. While most H. paniculata are multi-stemmed shrubs, they can also be purchased as a single trunk Hydrangea tree.
H. paniculata ‘Limelight’
H. paniculata tree
H. paniculata ‘Vanilla Strawberry’
The blue flowered Hydrangeas are the most challenging to grow in our northern area. Hydrangea macrophylla or Bigleaf Hydrangea, bloom in shades of blue, purple or pink, unfortunately they are not hardy beyond zone 6. They will sprout dense foliage, but the flower buds often die over winter; Bigleaf hydrangeas bloom on second year growth. That being said, the Mountain Hydrangea, H. serrata, is hardier, and has delightful lacecap style flowers in shades of blue. Some reliable cultivars are: ‘Tuff Stuff’, ‘Blue Billows’ and ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’. Mountain Hydrangea will grow to about 3-5’ tall, with a sun or part sun exposure. Fun fact- this species of hydrangea will be affected by soil pH; acid soils will produce blue flowers, and alkaline soils will cause the flowers to bloom pink. What will your garden soil produce?
H. serrata ‘Blue Billows’
H. serrata ‘Tuff Stuff’
H. serrata ‘Tuff Stuff’ turns pink from high pH soil!
Embrace the flowers of summer, and plant a Hydrangea or two. When not many other shrubs are blooming, your hardy Hydrangea will give you weeks of easy care flowers, for bouquets or just to admire and wonder how you lived without one for so long.
The summer heat can be oppressive, and we are seeing a lot of green leaves, but not too many flowers in late summer. Adding a few summer blooming trees and shrubs can add dimension and variety to your garden border. These plants will take the heat and humidity, and produce an outstanding floral show.
Hibiscus syriacus, Rose of Sharon, is a hardy small tree or shrub, depending on the cultivar. The colors range from white, blue, pink, purple and red, plus pretty bi-colored flowers. Flower shapes can be the true Hibiscus single flower, or double flower forms. Blooming can begin as early as June, and continue right through September. This plant blooms on new growth, so prune early in the spring to encourage lot’s of flowers. Very adaptable to most soil types, except those which are overly dry or extremely wet. Rose of Sharon does best in full sun exposures, grows 8-12’ tall x 6-10’ wide.
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Magenta Chiffon’
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Blue Bird’
Sophora japonica, the Japanese Pagodatree, is a really impressive sight to see when in full bloom. Creamy white panicles of flowers 6-12’ long cover the foliage in a lacey veil during July and August. Pagodatrees can grow to 50-70’ tall and wide, so it’s good candidate for a specimen shade tree. Sophora japonica develops a densely upright and spreading crown at maturity. Sophora japonica needs full sun exposure and moist, well drained soil.
Koelreuteria paniculata, The Goldenrain tree is one of the few yellow flowering trees. Very showy flowers are held in long bundles, 12-15” long, blooms during July and August. Fall leaf colors are golden to orange-yellow. This trouble-free tree, likes full sun, and will grow 30-40’ tall. Once established is very tolerant of pollution, drought, heat and wind, but the best growth is achieved with moist and well drained soil.
Caryopteris x clandonensis, Blue Mist Shrub makes you feel cool just looking at its cool blue flowers and silvery leaves. It’s a shrub that does its best in adverse conditions; poor and droughty sandy soil, heat and full sun. Flowering occurs on new growth, so prune it to encourage heavy blooming in early spring. Cluster of fragrant, soft blue flowers begin blooming in August, and will continue through September. Grows 3’ x 3’, various cultivars are available in shades of blue, with silver or yellow toned leaves.
Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’
Heptacodium miconiodes, Seven-son Flower is a small statured tree with a very long season of visual interest. Creamy-white, fragrant flowers that are borne on 7-tiered panicles, bloom August through October. After the petals drop, the flower calyx or sepal turns a brilliant reddish-pink, and persist on the tree through November. The visual effect is said to be spectacular, and best of all long lasting. Heptacodium trees prefer moist soil with full sun exposure, but can adapt to semi-shady areas with drier soil. Grows 10-20’ tall x 15’ wide.
Heptacodium miconiodes in summer
Heptacodium miconiodes showing flowers and calyx
Heptacodium miconiodes in late summer/fall