Neighborly Garden News
Happy New Year! Here are the top 10 garden trends for 2019
A messy garden can leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. With our busy schedules, steps taken to simplify your garden will help you to keep the garden orderly. Choose perennial plants that will come back each year, and group them according to their water requirements, which will help pare down your gardening chores. Also consider investing in an automated watering system, to free up the time it takes to water your garden beds and lawn areas. Think about reducing your leaf removal, by removing certain trees and shrubs that seem to always drop debris into your pool, patio or walkways, and replace with tidier species, like evergreens.
Why leave town, when you have such a nice place in your own backyard? Think about setting up a weather-proof outdoor music system to enjoy while you relax outdoors. Position gathering places-not too far from the house, like an outdoor fireplace or seating area that will encourage guests to gather around them. Invest in comfortable outdoor furniture, and install outdoor lighting to allow access to the yard after dark. If you love to cook and entertain, maybe an outdoor kitchen will add to the fun.
Everyday garden structures; sheds, pool equipment boxes, fences, don’t have to be blah. Use your imagination to repurpose barn wood, old iron gates, or even old existing structures into eye catching elements of your garden. Salvaged materials are often inexpensive, and you help conserve our world by recycling and keeping stuff out of landfills.
Creating a secluded space within the larger garden, can help you feel like it’s your own private oasis. Having a quiet space for meditation, yoga or reading is a wonderful way to decompress from the rigors of daily life. Plant a privacy screen for a natural living fence, and surround yourself with lush greenery to enhance the tranquil mood. You could add a water feature to help block outside noise, and utilize an arbor or pergola to create a sense of enclosure.
First impressions can make a difference
Curb appeal is an important part of being a homeowner, not only for the value of your home, but how it can create a sense of happiness each time you come home. Here are some ideas to liven up your entryway: Add seasonal containers to update with plants and found objects as the seasons change. Use scented foliage plants to fragrance the air as you brush past. Install lighting to make it easier to navigate the front walkway, and add drama to your front door. Use flowering plants to complement the color of your front door. Dress up your walkway path with ultra-low growing plants bred to grow in nooks and crevices.
Break out of the box: use unexpected items in your floral arrangements
The newest trend in arrangements is utilizing non-traditional elements in your arrangements. Lowly weeds like Dandelions, Japanese Knotweed, and Queen Anne’s lace, have recently become the darlings of the arranger’s art. Stepping outside with a new eye to what is interesting can help you create something unique and truly your own. This can be a wonderful activity to pursue with kids and grandkids.
Include food in your landscape
Growing your own food is certainly not a new idea, but more and more people want to have a hand in what they consume. Growing a veggie garden is not limited to those who have acreage and a big tractor. I have always promoted the ease and availability of growing simple crops in containers (repurposed or new) right next to your back door or front porch. You can even grow vining crops (like cucumbers or bush beans) from hanging baskets on your terrace.
Give back to the land with your garden
We are becoming more aware that our gardens have great potential to be more than just a pretty flower bed. You can take steps to make your garden a Certified Wildlife Habitat, to benefit the wildlife in our area, and perhaps inspire your neighbors to do the same. Dedicate yourself to only using natural and low-impact methods to eliminate weeds and pests. Design and plant your garden with an eye for plants that will attract and nourish pollinators. Share your extra garden veggies with the local food bank, or sponsor a neighborhood meal.
Grow all types of plants indoors
Here in New England we have long periods where we can’t garden outdoors. Dedicated gardeners need to become resourceful in order to continue to grow indoors. Even if you don’t have perfect southern exposure, it’s very possible to grow almost anything indoors in 2019. Online garden supply stores offer a variety of lighting solutions and self contained wall gardens to suit every situation. At last count I personally have 80 indoor plants, and the act of indoor gardening keeps me grounded, and my home environment healthy. Consider one of the group of toxin fighting plants for a wall display in your bedroom, to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Invest in outdoor furniture that will last
The old adage, ‘You get what you pay for’ is certainly true. Of course sometimes you will luck out, and get a good buy, but how many deck chairs have you cycled through in the last twenty years? This year consider finding a local artisan for handmade furniture that will last you a lifetime. If you’re the handy type, consider building your own set of garden furniture, which can become a family heirloom. Perhaps just avoiding the ‘big box stores’ and purchasing your furniture at a specialty garden store will help you slow the cycle of disposable chairs.
January’s ‘to-do’ list:
Dormant oil spraying is a very low impact, yet highly effective way to manage insect pests on many fruiting, and ornamental trees and shrubs. Many pests overwinter as eggs or juveniles on the dormant plant. Spraying smothers these pests before they can emerge in the spring. ‘Sunoil’ or ‘Horticultural oil’ is ultra fine grade with the consistency of water, and odorless.
Winter is the preferred time for annual maintenance of fruit trees; pruning, thinning, and shaping, promotes a healthier tree. Most fruiting trees have a very vigorous nature and will grow quickly. Pruning helps channel that energy into fruit production, by eliminating extraneous twiggy growth, and poorly shaped branches. Dormant trees are easier to work on, a good project for a sunny winter’s day. If you need help or advice, please call our office.
I’m sure we will have deep snow by Mid-January, but if we don’t, check newly planted shrubs and perennials for heaving. Heaving is the freeze/thaw action of the soil expanding and contracting; pushes the plant out of the planting hole. Just gently firm them down with your foot.
Cut branches of forsythia, quince, and pussy-willow for indoor forcing. This is a fun craft to do with kids; it teaches them about water traveling up dormant branches (even when they look dead). Arrange cut branches in a deep heavy vase, and bring into a warm room, to slow development put them in a cooler room overnight. It takes between 4-7 days to force bloom, and lasts about 2 weeks if kept cool.
Don’t forget about our little feathered friends! Deep snow and ice severely limit the food and water available to our wild creatures. Providing fresh water and food can literally save a life. Feeding birds is a wonderful, rewarding hobby with ecological benefits. The birds will become residents in your area, and eat many insects and pests that would otherwise grow unchecked. I also put out suet, but if you’ve had an animal problem, be mindful of where you place it. Suet attracts many kinds of wild birds, and provides them with essential extra calories during the winter.
Be on the lookout for plants with winter interest; flourishing evergreens, trees and shrubs with dramatic and graceful branching, and consider adding something new to perk up your winter landscape.
It’s great to be seeing more daylight, and your houseplants will sense this move back to the light, too. Begin to feed your houseplants half-strength doses of fertilizer. Weekly-weakly, is the phrase gardeners use to describe this. With increased light levels, insects on houseplants might be back. Look at the undersides of leaves, and remove any dead leaves and debris that might hide insect eggs. I’ve noticed mealy bugs here and there on my houseplants, and have dispatched them on the spot.
Animal repellent sprays can be applied as needed throughout the season. You can achieve good results if you are consistent with applications. It may be helpful to rotate products so tolerance doesn’t develop. If you have persisted with repellent strategies without favorable results, it may be time to consider temporary winter fencing, or changing your garden design; including less appetizing plants.
Field notes from this past summer: what your weeds are telling you…
The presence of weeds around your yard this past summer is not necessarily an indicator of lack of garden maintenance; like all kinds of plants, weeds prefer certain growing conditions. You can learn a lot about soil conditions in your yard by the type of weeds that are found, and devise a strategy to prevent them in 2019.
Broad-leaved Plantains are an unsightly weed, but are often used in traditional medicines to help with stings, rashes and insect bites. They will thrive in poorly drained and compacted soils that are low in fertility and have a low pH. To prevent Plantains next year, consider aerating the soil, correct imbalances, and raise the level of your mower, so grass will shade out the Plantain.
Ground Ivy or ‘Creeping Charlie’ is a perennial aggressive weed that will quickly over-grow an unhealthy lawn. It thrives in areas with poor drainage, low fertility and heavy shade. Ground Ivy will also colonize bare spots, so in the future, be sure to keep your lawn fertility levels adequate, improve soil drainage, and eliminate bald areas.
Dandelions will grow just about anywhere, but they do prefer acidic soils. Their presence may indicate an abundance of potassium, and possibly a calcium deficiency. Dandelions also grow in compacted soil. The upside of having Dandelions is their thick tap root can actually aerate the soil and bring calcium to the soil surface. Next spring, test for soil compaction by pushing a screwdriver into the soil. If it slips in, no need to aerate. If there is resistance, consider aerating your soil.
Common Chickweed is one of the wild edibles. It is also an indicator that your soil is highly fertile, compacted and/or poorly drained, and perhaps overwatered. Lamb’s Quarters, fall into the same category: a wild edible that grows in areas of high fertility; and can be prevented by providing aeration, and not overwatering. Or you can just pull them out and cook them for dinner! Now that you know a little more about weeds, you can devise your 2019 best game-plan to eradicate them.
Is your landscape looking a bit too bare this winter? A landscape consisting of all deciduous plants can become very stark during winter months. There are evergreen shrubs in many different shapes, colors, and sizes that can be used as screening or foundation plantings, and look good in all seasons. Here are a few hardy varieties.
Picea pungens glauca ‘Globosa’ is the dwarf blue spruce. This is a natural dwarf with a broad rounded form. Just the right plant when you’d like a touch of blue in your garden. Like most Spruces it prefers full sun, and good drainage. A very hardy shrub, it grows medium-slow to 5’ tall X 6’ wide.
Picea pungens glauca ‘Globosa’
Pieris floribunda or ‘Mountain Pieris’ is a native broad-leaved evergreen. A great candidate for a shady area, Mountain Pieris has very showy flower buds through winter; opening into long lasting panicles of creamy-white or pink flowers that bloom in April. Depending on the variety, grows 2-6’ tall.
Juniperus chinensis or Chinese Juniper is a species with many cultivars, and as many different shapes and sizes. The cultivar ‘Seagreen’ grows with a pronounced ‘fan-like’ effect to the fine textured branches, and is one of the best for a medium height 6’ X 6’ shrub.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Seagreen’
Pinus strobus ‘Nana’ is the dwarf White Pine, and like its larger cousin is a hardy native to New England. The long, soft blue-green needles persist for 18 months before being partially shed in late summer through fall. Deer resistant, this versatile plant can be used as an accent or screening shrub. There are numerous fine cultivars to choose from. Dwarf White Pine grows to 7’ tall X 10’ wide.
Pinus strobus ‘Nana’