Neighborly Garden News Issue 131
Dear readers; please visit our website: www.countrysidelandscape.net for the safety measures we have in place during this pandemic. Plant a Bee Lawn to support our native pollinators!
A few Bee lawn facts: Bee lawns have flowers mixed in with turf grasses such as fine fescues and Kentucky bluegrass. The flowers of a bee lawn provide food (nectar and pollen) for pollinators. Bee lawns are environmentally friendly because they are managed using low-input methods that generally use less fertilizer and pesticides. Bee lawns can still be used recreationally by your household like a regular lawn. A bee lawn can attract over 50 species of native bees.
Are you interested in doing more to help our native pollinators? You can make your lawn do double duty! A bee lawn can not only provide a recreational space for you, your family and your pets, it can also provide much-needed food resources for bees and other beneficial pollinators. While turf grasses can provide some environmental benefits, they don’t provide much food for pollinators. One way to provide resources for pollinators while keeping the function of a lawn is to incorporate other plants such as Dutch white clover, self-heal and creeping thyme. These plants have the right type of flowers for bees. Once established, bee lawns take a similar (or even less) amount of work to maintain as a traditional lawn, making them an accessible addition to almost any home landscape.
There are lots of plants that bees like, but few are adapted to lawn conditions. Not many plants besides turf grass can tolerate being mowed short and stepped on. Here are the traits needed for bee lawn flowers:
Low-growing and adapted to being mowed.
Flower at low heights.
Tolerant of foot traffic.
Provide good food (nectar and pollen) for pollinators.
Moderately competitive, meaning they can hold their own with the turf grasses without taking over.
Have a perennial life cycle (they live for more than one year) so they are maintained in the landscape with the perennial turf.
Dutch white clover (Trifolium repens), often just called white clover, was once commonly included in lawn seed mixes. It is a non-native species (as are all the cool season turf grasses) and somewhere along the line it became considered a weed. You have probably seen white clover many times and may already have white clover in your lawn. White clover has many positive traits that make it ideal for a bee lawn. It is tolerant to some shade, though it may bloom sparsely without enough sun, and is adaptable to different soil types. White clover has one particular trait that the other two bee lawn flowers don’t have. As a legume, it can fix its own nitrogen. This means that white clover doesn’t need to be fertilized with nitrogen, making it a good part of a low-input lawn. The forage quality of the flowers for bees is excellent. Its pollen has the high protein content that pollinators need, and the nectar has a high sugar content, which is good for those pollinators that depend on nectar. The flowers can be fragrant and are reminiscent of honey. White clover has a long bloom time, usually from the end of May to October.
Bee on White Clover
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata) is another plant that has been found to work well in bee lawns. One thing different about this plant, as opposed to the other two common bee lawn flowers, is that this one is native to our region. Self-heal, being a native plant, is especially good at attracting native bees. They found that 95% of the flower visitors to self-heal were native bees. Self-heal is adaptable to many different home lawn conditions. It can grow in sun to part shade, and in different soil types except for sandy soil. The purple flowers produce mostly nectar along with some pollen for pollinators.
Prunella vulgaris or Self Heal
Creeping thyme (Thymus praecox ssp. arcticus; formerly Thymus serpyllum) is a close relative of culinary thymes such as French thyme or lemon thyme. Like its relatives’, creeping thyme has foliage with a nice fragrance. Thymes are known for being tolerant of some foot traffic and have a low-growing habit, traits that are good for bee lawns. Creeping thyme is a non-native plant that blooms from July to September, a somewhat shorter period than white clover. It does best in full sun and in sandy or loamy soil. It has small pink flowers that provide pollinators with mostly nectar and some pollen.
Bee on Creeping thyme
There are other less common options, including other native species, that could work, but they may be more of a challenge depending on your site. Ground Plum (Astragalus crassicarpus) Lanceleaf Tickweed (Coreopsis lanceolata) Calico American Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum) If you’re a person who doesn’t use herbicides, your lawn might already have some flowers of the weedy kind. You may already have a bee lawn! Some common weeds are helpful to pollinators. Common violets (Viola sororia) are native lawn weeds that can have some benefits for pollinators. There are some fritillary butterflies whose larvae use these violets as a host plant and a few bees that forage on violet flowers. Common violets do have some shade tolerance and, of course, seem to do well in lawns where they are often considered a weed. Be aware that the bloom season is short, and violets can take over under the right conditions. Dandelion is a non-native plant, and its eye-catching yellow flowers have pollen that can attract a few pollinators. One good quality of dandelions is that they bloom early in the season when most other bee lawn flowers aren’t blooming. It is likely that if you have a bee lawn or a low-input lawn, there will be some dandelions unless you hand weed them out.
March’s to-do list
Today was only the third plowable snowfall we’ve received in Deerfield this winter. After experiencing the warmest January on record in Massachusetts, the 10-day weather forecast looks to be bringing more snow for the first weeks of March than we’ve received all winter. On the bright side, I hope everyone has been able to take advantage of our moderate weather and spend time outside. It has been much more pleasant to do the necessary yearly pruning in above freezing temperatures. There is still time to do dormant season pruning, but don’t wait too long, the spring or vernal equinox is on March 20th. On this day the sun will rise exactly in the east, and set exactly in the west; the length of night and day approximately equal.
When I was a student in my Plant Pathology classes, we learned that in the Northeast many plant pests were minimized and constrained due to our cold winters. Without sufficient cold weather, eggs and spores of pathogens can remain viable through winter. Dormant oil spraying is a low impact method to reduce populations of pest insects. The ultra-fine grade horticultural oil smothers insect eggs so they can’t hatch out. Long considered to be safe and ecologically sound, horticultural oil is non-toxic to people and pets.
Before this morning’s snowfall I had begun to see shoots from spring bulbs, always a welcome sight after weeks of waiting for signs of spring. When you see your bulbs start to emerge, scratch in some bulb fertilizer, to boost their reserves. The more food they can store during the growing season, the better their display in following years. If, despite your best efforts to feed and nurture your bulbs, they aren’t blooming well, it is probably time to divide the clumps. When you dig them up you will find many undersized bulblets, too small to produce flowers. But each of these has the potential to gain size and flower in a season or two. It’s worth the effort to replant them around your garden for many more spring flowers.
I’ve already received my veggie garden seeds, and I’m anticipating another delicious garden year. I will begin to sow my seeds from early March onward. Seed packets will inform you approximately how long it takes from sowing to get a garden ready plant. You only need to count backwards from your last frost-free date to estimate when to sow them. Some plants, such as Basil, only require 4 weeks, so I won’t sow these seeds until early May, for planting around Memorial Day.
Prepare for the start of another tick season. Ticks that cause Lyme disease will become active when temperatures are above freezing, and the ground has thawed. Ticks will aggressively seek out a host upon awaking and lurk in areas most likely for us to encounter them in our yard and garden activities. Our tick specialist, Scott Higley, can advise you on the various methods we have at our disposal for managing this dangerous pest. email@example.com
If you have stored any bulbs from last summer, such as: Dahlias, tuberous Begonias, Cannas, or Calla lilies bring them out of storage and check on their viability. Begin potting them up now and set in the light., or under artificial lights.
Need a hand with spring cleanup and garden chores? Give our office a call. (413) 458-5586 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fast plants for those who just can’t wait to get growing!
It has been said about gardening; it’s a slow pastime. You need to have patience while plants settle and grow in your garden. Fortunately for gardeners not every plant is a slowpoke. There are edible and ornamental plants that will sprout and grow at (almost) lightening speed (for plants anyway).
Craving a fresh summer salad? Radish plants can be ready for harvest in as little as 30 days from direct seeding into your garden. They are very easy to grow, and the seeds are big enough to be easy for kids to sow them too. Radishes are tolerant of cooler temperatures, 55-75F being their ‘comfort zone’. Many different varieties are available and grow into varying colors of white through red and purple. You can also roast them, for a different take on warm salad items.
Another mainstay for fresh salad veggies is Arugula or Rocket. I really crave the fresh peppery flavor of Arugula, in cold salads, sandwiches and sautés. Young greens can be ready in as soon as 30 days from seed. You are not limited to only growing them in a bed, you can get good results sowing your seeds in a container too. Just clip the amount you need with scissors, and the Arugula plant will continue to grow for additional harvests. As the plant matures, the flavor will become more pronounced and sharper during warmer weather. It is so cold hardy; I frequently find self-sown plants popping up where they were grown the previous year in early April.
Chives are both an herb and a flowering plant. This member of the Allium family can be ready from 30 days as a transplant, or 60 days from seed. Their grass-like foliage has a mild onion flavor; easy to incorporate into a variety of foods. Again, you are not limited to grow them in a bed or even outdoors. They can be readily grown in a container, outside, or even on a sunny indoor window. Harvest the leaves by snipping off as needed, as long as it’s not more than a third of the entire plant. An additional benefit: planting chives adjacent to your tomatoes, carrots and cabbage can help repel aphids, and cabbage worms.
Schreber’s Wood Aster (Eurybia schreberi) is a hardy native perennial that blooms in the fall. It will rapidly form dense stands of basal foliage via spreading rhizomes and seed. It is a great plant for bridging the gap between summer and fall seasonal blooms and can mature in 3-4 months. It puts forth a multitude of delicate white flowers with prominent yellow stamens. Very attractive to pollinators looking for a late summer snack. This particular Aster is well adapted to grow in shady or sunny sites, and is not at all fussy about soil type.
Schreber’s Wood Aster
The woodland native, the Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) is utilized for its capacity to spread and fill in areas rapidly. Despite its vigor, the Hay-Scented Fern has delicate feathery fronds that lend it a lacey texture. Dennstaedtia punctilobula will grow 30” tall X 36” wide and can be depended on to brighten up even the shadiest woodland.
A problem that comes up frequently is a tree that has outgrown its place in the garden. That sweet little tree you fell in love with at the garden center is now blocking your view and creating too much shade. You can choose to keep pruning it back to a manageable size or start over with a more space friendly specimen. Here are a few ideas for compact trees:
Cornus alternifolia-Pagoda Dogwood is one of the underused native trees that grow wild in our area. Dogwoods are one of the top ten species for attracting pollinators and wildlife. The Pagoda dogwood is noted for its graceful, tiered branching habit. It is very attractive in all seasons. Clusters of upright white flowers during May-June are followed by blue fruit carried on red stalks in August. Pagoda Dogwood prefers a shady area, with consistently moist soil enriched with organic matter, to do its best. Grows up to 15-20 feet tall.
Cotinus obovatus ‘Grace’, American Smoke tree has leaves which emerge a rich wine-red, and then turn near purple black by mid-summer. Autumn brings a final color change as the leaves turn brilliant orange and red. ‘Grace’ has a compact form, grows 12-15 feet tall x 12-15 feet wide. Blooms in early summer.
Cotinus obovatus ‘Grace’ American Smoke tree
Amelanchier canadensis-Serviceberry is one of my favorite trees. It has enchanting white to pinkish flowers that give it an airy appearance, while in bloom. The Serviceberry can be found in nurseries as a multi-stemmed or single stemmed tree. The multi-stemmed trees are very useful for screening or filling in a gap in your planting design. They are considered very adaptable to various growing conditions, including damp soils, or full to partly sunny sites. The juicy purple fruit is edible and sought out by many bird species. Grow to 15-20 feet tall.
Gingko biloba ‘Jade Butterflies’ is a new dwarf variety of the Maidenhair tree. Its mature form will be an upright vase-shaped tree. ‘Jade Butterflies’ has fluttery lime-green leaves that turn a rich gold in fall. Maidenhair trees are naturally deer resistant, and tolerant of pollution, making them great urban trees. Requires full sun, will grow 15-20 feet tall x 8-10 feet wide.
Gingko biloba ‘Jade Butterflies’
Viburnum prunifolium-Smooth Blackhaw develops into a large shrub or small tree. Lustrous dark green leaves are crowned with very show clusters of white flowers in June. It will adapt to sun or part shade conditions, and is not fussy about soil type. This tough New England native will grow 12-15 feet tall x 12-15 feet wide. Birds love their black fruit as it ripens in late summer.
Viburnum prunifolium-Smooth Blackhaw flowers
Neighborly Garden News
Dear readers; please visit our website: www.countrysidelandscape.net for the safety measures we have in place during this pandemic.
No Mow May; What Is It and How to Participate
By Karen Sutherland Director of Horticulture: Countryside Landscape & Design
The idea of “no mow May” is gaining popularity, and rightly so; this tagline has come to the forefront to bring awareness to the value of pollinators in our environment. However, it seems a few key details are often overlooked. There are important considerations to understand before making the decision to not mow your lawn for a month, especially in the month of May.
While most people may think of honeybees when thinking of pollinators, pollinators come in many forms such as flies, bumblebees, solitary bees, butterflies, moths, and even hummingbirds. All of these different insect and bird species require a diverse selection of plants for food and survival. The Monarch Butterfly, for example, uses several species of milkweeds for their caterpillars to feed on while the adults rely on a plethora of nectar-producing flowering plant species to supply their energy for their annual migration. A diversity of plant materials is needed to support all of these types of insects and it is important that we look at how we have been maintaining our lawns over the years.
Monarch on Joe Pye Weed
If the turf areas that have been treated year after year for weeds are suddenly left to grow, the flowering plants that the early pollinators need may not be available. Plants like dandelions, clover, violet, and ground ivy are typically found in lawns and are the very plants being prevented from growing using a traditional lawn care program. Therefore, it may take several seasons of not treating the lawns for these plants to get established and become available in the month of May.
Additionally, May is a big month for turf grass growth. Turf grass is, by design, able to withstand repeated mowing at a low 2- 4” height and maintain a lush consistent carpet of green. If the grass is left to grow for 4-5 weeks, it could reach 10-12” in height. Then, when suddenly cut back, it would look like a hayfield after harvest. That first mowing would also be a much more labor-intensive process and the cost for that cut could be substantial, certainly not the cost of a regular weekly mow. After that initial mowing, the lawn might need extra care to bring it to the condition of a lush green carpet.
The best way then is to look at this initiative as an opportunity to develop your landscape so that it can be a year-round food source and habitat for insects and birds. The first step to take will be to assess your existing lawn space and decide how much you really want or need. Going forward, maintain that lawn space at your highest threshold level for weeds and follow an organic management program for cultivating a healthy lawn.
Bee on Lavender
Next, take inventory of the existing plant material in your garden spaces. You may only need to enhance those gardens with the addition of a few select plant species to increase the variety of flowering plants. Or, this can be an opportunity to revamp particular areas of your landscape and create native habitats providing the necessary diversity for a wide variety of species throughout the seasons.
Perennial and annual border along front walkway
You can have the best of both worlds; lawn space for play and relaxation and attractive gardens that support pollinators. These habitats can be mixed borders, tree and shrub beds or meadow areas containing plants where all sorts of native pollinators can live and thrive. Keep in mind that native plant habitats do not need to be wild, unruly jungles. These landscapes can still be maintained to look well-kept and provide the necessary sustenance for a healthy population of at-risk pollinators.
To learn more about the research and efforts of increasing pollinator populations, visit The Beecology Project. This program was created by Dr. Robert Gegear, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, at UMass Dartmouth. Another resource for native plant gardening is the Native Plant Trust which is the nation’s first plant conservation organization and is based in Massachusetts. Their home is the botanical garden called Garden in the Woods and is truly a treasure to visit.
February’s to-do list
Winter has finally arrived in the valley; and the newly fallen snow is creating a very picturesque view from my office window. Creating four season views in the garden is an ideal garden designers work towards. We are fortunate to be living in New England, where Mother Nature, and her palette of seasonal colors, create the perfect backdrop for our gardens. Our snowy winters provide an opportunity to highlight the interesting branch patterns and silhouettes of trees and shrubs. If you’d like to see some color, consider adding trees with persistent fruit, like Crabapple or Hawthorne, which also provide food for our birds.
Indoor plants need a little TLCthis time of year! Dust your houseplants with a moist cloth to keep their leaf pores open and free to breathe, they will thank you! Scout for insect pests; plants leaking sticky sap is a tell-tale sign of sucking insects. Aphids, mealy bugs, and scale insects are the most common pests, easily removed with a strong stream of water, and a Q-tip at the kitchen sink. Have you noticed we’re getting longer days? By the end of this month, we will be receiving about 11 hours of daylight. Begin to fertilize your plants weekly, with a half strength dilution of your preferred water-soluble fertilizer.
As we move into the harshest part of winter, minimize winter burn damage by using an anti-desiccant spray. Winter burn of susceptible evergreens is most likely to occur during February, more than any other month. The three-part stress of strong winds, frozen soil, and bright late winter sun, sets up conditions that can lead to leaf burn or browning. Choose the best time to spray when the temperatures will stay above freezing for 24 hours and follow the label instructions for your product.
A good way to beat those winter blues is to get some greenery into your life. Two great gardening events coming up:
Amherst Orchid Society’s annual OrchidShow and sale, Feb. 25th-26th 2023, at Smith Vocational High School, 80 Locust St Northampton, MA. If you’ve never attended, well worth the trip. You can get ‘up close and personal’ to the many species of orchids displayed, with demonstrations and notable speakers, makes for an interesting day out. Have your deepest questions about orchid rearing answered!
Smith College Spring Bulb Show, Mar. 4th-19th 2023, Lyman Plant House, 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA. Just an incredibly scented breath of fresh spring air, we attend every year.
Late winter snowstorms often bring heavy wet snow and ice. Remember to shake off evergreen branches weighed down by ice and snow. If you should happen to get some broken branches, be sure to prune off the stump cleanly. A ragged tear will inhibit proper healing and invite infection. Continue pruning ornamental and fruiting trees while they are still dormant. Always remove broken or rotten looking wood. Fruit trees require seasonal pruning to stay healthy and bear fruit. The more overgrown they become the less quality fruit will develop. Don’t miss the opportunity for dormant pruning this winter. Please contact the office now to get on the schedule. email@example.com
Need a hand with winter chores? Please contact our office to schedule winter services:
(413) 458-5586, firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Indoor Gardening Ideas to keep busy this winter!
If you have a hankering to grow something now, try micro-greens! Kale, alfalfa, and sunflower sprouts anyone? Growing microgreens indoors is a fantastic winter garden project or something you can do year-round! They’re easy to grow and can be done under a small grow light or in a bright sunny window. The fresh little microgreens are absolutely loaded with nutrients in exponentially higher concentrations than their mature forms. I’m sure your winter body and palate will greatly appreciate that pop of green goodness! Organic micro-green seeds available from High Mowing Gardens here.
Start a worm composting bin
Worm composting is a great way to sustainably repurpose food waste! Not to mention, worm castings (aka worm poop) are the most incredible fertilizer and soil amendment you can use. Worm castings have the nickname ‘black gold’ for a reason. With a worm bin, you can create that for free! And your garden will thank you endlessly. Worm bins are easy to set up, perfect for small spaces, and can even be kept indoors. Contrary to popular belief, worm compost bins do not smell bad (especially if they’re well-maintained). Learn how to create and maintain a simple, inexpensive tote-style worm bin here. Worms do need to be protected from freezing conditions, so if you can’t keep it inside during the winter, wrap the worm bin in insulating material like a wool or fleece blanket and store it in a protected location such as a garage, shed, or basement. This indoor winter gardening project is something that the whole family can do!
Grow mushrooms in your kitchen
Ordinarily you wouldn’t want fungi growing in your kitchen, but here is a novel winter gardening idea: grow some (culinary) shrooms! Like microgreens, you can also start to grow any time of year. Mushrooms are fun and easy to grow indoors, especially since there are many mushroom growing kits readily available that make it very easy. The kits come pre-inoculated with mushroom spores (varieties of oyster mushrooms being the most common), and all you need to do is keep them misted and moist. Then you can harvest fresh, tasty, nutrient-dense homegrown mushrooms right in your kitchen!
Build a birdhouse or owl box
Calling all bird lovers! Building a birdhouse is a sweet little winter garden project and one your local wildlife will greatly appreciate too. Check out selection of DIY birdhouses and plans.
Or, if you want to step it up a notch, consider building an owl box! In return for providing them with shelter, these majestic birds of prey can offer excellent natural rodent control for your garden. You can find owl box plans online from trusted bird experts like this Screech owl box plan from the Cornell Wildlife Center, or this Barn owl box from the Audubon Society. Be sure to research what types of owls are most common to your area, since different owl species like particular box shapes and sizes.
Decorate your pots
Feeling crafty? Decorating pots is a fun winter garden project that you, and your family can do indoors. Grab some plain terra cotta pots and get creative! You could paint them with pretty designs, or even adorn them with a mosaic tile pattern. Have a look at this tutorial on How to Make Mosaic Flower Pots Hunting down mosaic materials (e.g. old plates or china) sounds like a good reason to visit your local thrift store.
Growing houseplants soothes the winter-weary soul
I have been an avid houseplant collector since I was a young adult. Back then, it was popular to sprout avocadoes from the large pit. We would suspend the pit from toothpicks into a glass of water, and in a few months, we would have the beginnings of an avocado ‘tree’. Two types of houseplants were standard fare back then, Philodendrons, and Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum). These were ubiquitous as decorative hanging plants; my Mom also grew African violets (Saintpaulia), but this was considered a huge achievement, and she had a ‘green thumb’.
Flash forward to 2023, and welcome to the world-wide-web of the plant world. There is virtually no limit to what type of plants you may purchase online; the limit is what you may successfully grow in your home environment. Yet, in researching this article, there are workarounds to plant un-unfriendly homes also. You can purchase wall garden kits that will create a completely self-contained, self-watering garden to function as a living ‘painting’ in your home. In one of the kits, I looked at, the plants were held in removable ‘cassettes’; allowing you to swap out different planting themes for holiday decorating etc.
An interesting ‘houseplant’ that isn’t a plant at all, is the Marimo moss ball. It is a form of sea algae that naturally forms a ball shape. You can grow it in a fish tank, or a decorative container, out of direct light. It is a passive organism; it doesn’t grow very much or move; has very few cultural needs but may be the perfect living green thing for somebody. You only need change the water periodically, and the moss ball would benefit from the addition of aquarium salt.
Did you know that some houseplants are very efficient at purifying the air? Sanseveria or the ‘Snake Plant’ can help remove formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, xylene and trichloroethylene gases from our indoor environments, and be decorative accents too. Most houseplants are considered tropical perennials, in their home ecosystems, and have varying light requirements. In general, though, most houseplants have low-medium light requirements, as befitting a plant suitable for growing indoors. Many will enjoy summering outdoors, but it is important to adhere to the light needs of the plant and not give them too much light, too quickly or they will get scorched leaves.
Tillandsias or ‘Air Plants’ are plants that can grow without soil. They are members of the Bromeliad family and use their roots to attach to trees or rocks in their natural environment. Tillandsias absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves and are classified as epiphytes. They obtain their water and nutrients from rain, and the debris that accumulates around them. Tillandsias prefer bright filtered light and can be harmed by direct full sun. It is important to completely wet the plant 2-4 times per week, depending upon the temperature and humidity of your home. Light misting can help with humidity, but it is not suitable for the main source of moisture. You should choose a fertilizer made for absorption through the leaves, such as Epiphyte’s Delight.
Miniature succulents, and succulents of all kinds have become very popular for indoor plants. The Haworthia attenuate, or Zebra Haworthia is a noteworthy member of the Aloe family, very easy to grow indoors. My grandmother had one in the same container on her shady windowsill, literally my whole childhood. Zebra Haworthia originates from South Africa, and normally will experience seasonal changes in light, water and temperature. Haworthia prefer cool (50’F), drier conditions in winter, and bright, indirect light and warmer temperatures in summer. During the summer water generously, letting the soil media dry out between watering. In winter, reduce watering to once every other month, making sure water does not accumulate in the rosette of leaves. Fertilize, using a formulation for cacti, in the summer months only.
For those of us with pets, having non-toxic plants is vital for their well-being. Two pet-friendly types of house plants, that are also easy to care for are Hoya kerrii, the Valentine plant, and Calathea crocata, the Eternal Flame plant. Calathea have attractive, slightly wrinkled, metallic green and purple leaves that tend to fold up in the evening. It gets its common name from the long-lasting yellow-orange flowers held up above the leaves. It likes bright light, no direct sun, and consistently moist soil through the summer- months. Calathea likes ‘soft’ water, and some sources suggest using distilled water for this plant. Grow Calathea on a tray of pebbles, to provide the high humidity it likes, or mist daily with tepid water. The Valentine plant, you may have guessed, has distinctive heart-shaped leaves, that are thick and waxy in texture. Sometimes called the ‘Sweetheart Wax Plant’ it is very easy to grow in the home, preferring bright filtered light, but no direct sun. The fleshy leaves can store water, so only requires 1-2 applications of water per month. Be sure to allow the pot to drain thoroughly, never sitting in water. Hoya kerrii blooms in the summer with clusters of unusual white flowers with burgundy centers, a mature plant may have upwards of 25 flowers. To facilitate flowering, allow the plant to become a little pot-bound, and fertilize with half strength fish emulsion-type fertilizer once per month during the summer.
Hoya kerrii with flowers
Every year new plant varieties are introduced at the start of the growing season, to get us excited for the new gardening year. Here are a few introductions to get you eager to grow this season!
Heuchera Dolce ‘Wildberry’-Coral Bells, Dolce ‘Wildberry’ has large, scalloped, incredibly glossy leaves that are a bold shade of purple. Charcoal veins accent the leaves and dark stems hold rosy-pink calyxes and white flowers in Summer. This perennial is deer resistant and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Grows 10-14 inches tall and 16-20 inches wide at maturity, ‘Wildberry’ Coral Bells will thrive in sun or shade.
Dolce ‘Wildberry’-Coral Bells
Hydrangea serrata ‘Let’s Dance Can Do’ re-blooming Hydrangea, ‘Let’s Dance Can Do’ hydrangea has luscious strawberry pink flowers in neutral/alkaline soils and a lovely lavender in acidic soil. It has the unique ability to create flower buds along the entire length of the stem instead of only at the stem tips. It also reblooms quicker than others all summer. Hydrangea serrata are versatile garden plants for anywhere you need some summer color and are much hardier to our cold winters than other ‘colored’ hydrangea species. Grows 3-4 feet tall and 3 feet wide at maturity. Plant in part sun to full sun.
Hydrangea serrata ‘Let’s Dance Can Do’
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Purple Pillar’ Rose of Sharon, ‘Purple Pillar’ has semi-double purple flowers that bloom continuously all summer through fall. It is drought and heat tolerant, deer-resistant, and attracts pollinators. The unusual columnar habit makes it a real space saver, if you thought you didn’t have enough space to grow rose of Sharon, ‘Purple Pillar’ may be just right for you. Try it in containers, or flanking your front door, or as an accent in your landscape. Grows 10-15 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide at maturity. Rose of Sharon do their best when planted in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
Hibiscus syriacus ‘Purple Pillar’
Rosa ‘Ringo All-Star’ Rose The pleasing flowers of ‘Ringo All-Star’ rose may look simple at first, but this plant packs in a lot of interest! ‘Ringo All Star’ flowers start out a rich melon-orange with a cherry-red center and transform to lavender and pink, creating a look of multiple colors on one plant. A crown of fluffy yellow anthers adorn the center and attracts pollinators. ‘Ringo All-Star’ is disease-resistant and low maintenance. No need to trim or deadhead to keep those fabulous flowers coming all season. Grows 2-3 feet tall and wide at maturity.
‘Ringo All-Star’ Rose
Neighborly Garden News
Dear readers; please visit our website: www.countrysidelandscape.net for the safety measures we have in place during this pandemic.
Strategize now to protect your garden from the Spongy Moth
2023 looks to be another bad year forthe spongy moth, formerly called the gypsy moth. The caterpillar is very destructive to many species of trees and shrubs that are native to our area, and non-native species too. Scientists will count the amount of egg masses observed in blocks of forested land, then calculate how many caterpillars may be predicted to hatch out the following spring. Unfortunately, heavy infestations usually occur 2-3 years in a row, until their numbers diminish enough to not cause great damage.
Spongy moths were accidentally released into MA in 1869 and has spread into 20 other Eastern and Mid-Western states and 5 provinces of Canada. They favor Oak trees but have been recorded to feed on 100 other types of trees and shrubs. They can decimate mighty Oaks by their sheer numbers; each egg mass can contain upwards of 800 eggs. The newly hatched caterpillars can travel great distances by becoming airborne on a silken thread, their furry bodies parachuting up to a half mile from where they hatched.
Newly hatched caterpillars are less than ¼” long, but they will continue to develop, going through 5-6 growth stages before becoming adults. It is during the egg and caterpillar stages we can best achieve some measure of control. Females will lay tan colored egg masses along crevices of tree bark. These egg masses can be removed into containers of soapy water to kill the eggs, just scraping them off without drowning them may leave eggs on the ground to hatch. Utilizing dormant oil spraying is another way to preemptively kill eggs before they hatch. This ultra-fine grade of horticultural oil will not harm beneficial insects, birds, or mammals, and is sprayed during the winter and early spring when plants and insects are dormant. Another type of spray, Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki) is very effective at killing the caterpillar stage of the spongey moth. It works by disabling their gut, and will not harm birds or mammals, but is best used on the younger stages of the caterpillar for the best effect. Caterpillars will die in about a week after eating leaves sprayed with Btk.
Spongy moth caterpillars and egg masses
Caterpillars in the last two growth stages will rest under leaf litter and crevices of trees during the day, then crawl back up to the canopy to feed at night. The old method of placing a sticky barrier around the tree trunk to trap them as they crawled back up, had the disadvantage of trapping beneficial insects and birds also. Try tying a section of burlap around the tree trunk with garden twine, allowing the burlap above the string to flop over it, forming a burlap flap. Sleepy caterpillars will hide underneath the flap, and you can brush these into cans of soapy water in the afternoon before they make their way up to feed at night. This isn’t the best solution for a heavily forested plot, but maybe a good trick to have if you have a few favored trees to protect.
Environmental factors like moisture and temperature can play a helpful role in keeping populations of spongy moths low. Entomophaga maimaiga, a soil borne fungus, was introduced from Japan to combat the spongy moth about 30 years ago. It has the best chance of developing and attacking the caterpillar when our spring is cold and wet. During dry springs, as they were recently, the caterpillars have had the advantage because the fungus doesn’t survive in dry weather. White footed mice can also help by eating the pupae, (resting stage of the caterpillar) and in years following an abundant acorn crop, mouse populations will naturally increase enough to reduce the number of spongey moth juveniles that can develop into adult moths.
Need help with managing spongy moth on your property? Contact Scott Higley for more information: email@example.com
January’s to-do list
As I write, the New Year 2023 beckons; 2022 seemed to pass so quickly. Our weather in the Pioneer Valley is a mirror of last season at this same time…little to no snow on the ground and only moderately cold. Dave Hayes, Massachusetts’ unofficial weatherman, has dubbed this section of western MA as the “Triangle of Disappointment for Snow lovers”https://www.masslive.com/weather/2022/12/weather-nut-calls-this-section-of-mass-the-triangle-of-disappointment-for-snow-lovers.html We are in this geographical niche for minimal snow accumulations compared to our neighbors east and west of us. Just a few miles west, Florida, MA, had the record snowfall for the state last week receiving 18”. Deerfield only received 4.5”, at least our lack of snow gives me a little more time to put down vole repellent, and hope that the lack of cover and cold weather will ‘naturally’ lessen the population. I’m impatient for longer days and a return to outdoor gardening; I received my first seed and gardening supply catalog in the mail yesterday, a sign of good things to come!
Animal repellent sprays can be applied as needed throughout the season, but it is more efficient to apply while temperatures are above freezing. You can achieve good results, and limit animal browsing, by being consistent with applications. If you have persisted with repellent strategies without favorable results, it may be time to rethink your planting design to limit or exclude plants that attract browsing animals.
We may receive a ‘January Thaw’ but be careful not to walk on your garden beds when they are wet and muddy during a thaw, because it can permanently compress the soil structure. Do check for any plants that may have ‘heaved’ out of their planting holes during freeze/thaw cycles. Gently push them back into place.
January, and throughout the winter, is the optimum time to perform corrective pruning and shaping of your trees and shrubs. You have a clear view of the whole tree and needn’t worry about oozing sap, particularly if you are pruning ornamental Maples. Fruit trees need annual pruning to keep them healthy. Fruiting trees have a very vigorous growth habit and will get ‘twiggy’ quickly. Pruning helps channel that energy into fruit production, by eliminating the extraneous twiggy growth, and poorly shaped branches. Ignoring a too dense canopy, and letting water sprouts develop, all can contribute to a tree’s decline. Always remove any dead or diseased wood; during winter storms these weak spots can tear off, and cause greater damage, than if they were preemptively pruned.
As I write, I’m watching different flocks of birds settle and eat from the Staghorn Sumacs outside my windows. They are eating seeds from the red cones that persist after the leaves drop. I allow my property line to be kind of wild and undisturbed, and I’m glad to be able to provide wild food sources for the birds. Additionally, I also hang several feeders of Black-oil sunflower seed, and suet cakes. Supporting your neighborhood birds is not only enjoyable, but these birds may become permanent residents of the area and help keep insect populations down in the spring and summer. If you have the space, planting fruit and nut bearing plants like native Winterberry, Sumac, Oak and Birch, will create a haven for wild birds.
Enjoy the break from the labor of love that encompasses caring for the outdoor garden. Take a gardening class with the Berkshire Botanic Gardenhttps://www.berkshirebotanical.org/events or Visit a local greenhouse and feel a breath of warm air and plant life at The Lyman Plant House at Smith College https://garden.smith.edu/visit or the Durfee Conservatory at University of Massachusetts at Amherst https://durfeeconservatory.umass.edu/
Sometimes seeing some green growing plants is a big pick-me-up from the winter doldrums! (Check before going for any schedule changes)
Need a hand with winter chores? Contact our office: firstname.lastname@example.org(413) 458-5586
Gardening Goals for the New Year!
Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a newbie, setting yearly goals for yourself will serve to create a plan and framework for the gardening year ahead.
Get organized-Familiarize yourself with your hardiness zone, if you don’t know it already. This will be a big help in choosing the right varieties for your yard. Get a garden planner or journal, to help you keep track of significant events throughout the gardening year and track your progress in reaching your goals. Make a check list of what you have on hand vs what you need to get.
Turn your garden into an oasis-Make a goal to enjoy spending time in the garden. Add comfortable garden seating to allow yourself the luxury of taking in your hard work. By creating an enjoyable space, all the gardening work will seem like less work, and taking breaks in this lovely space will be your reward for a job well done!
Fill the space with unique greenery-Look for plants with ombre’ shades, different textured foliage, and leaves that can catch the breeze. Large houseplants can be summered outdoors to bring a lush tropical feel to the garden. Trending for 2023 is variegated foliage; especially plants that are green with pink variegation.
Green and Pink Caladium
Grow something new and unusual-Skip the petunias and marigolds this year and try something you’ve never grown before. Maybe you’ve admired some exotic tropical plant in your travels, or wished to have a fragrant rose garden, but only have a small balcony. These plants will happily grow in a pot for the summer, and you have the option of bringing them indoors in fall or donating them to someone who can care for them.
Grow something trendy-The Pantone color of the year for 2023 is ‘Viva Magenta’. This bold hue is a powerful crimson red that is a balance between warm and cool. According to the designers at Pantone, it was inspired by the red of cochineal, one of the most precious natural dyes in the world. For a bright pop of color in your garden try growing crimson Zinnias, Sweet Williams or crimson Morning Glories; all easy-to-grow and have long lasting blooms.
Pantone ‘Color of the Year’ Viva Magenta
Entice more pollinators to your garden-Take some time to observe which plants attract the most attention from bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. In my garden I have noticed hummingbirds just love upright growing Catmint, and tall Zinnias. Lantanas are also swarmed by hummingbirds and butterflies. Discover what the pollinators like, and plan to add more of it.
Plan to do garden health checkups on a regular schedule-Identifying a pest or disease problem early on can help catch it before it spreads and gets far worse. Check the undersides of leaves for signs of insects: eggs, webbing or leaf discoloration. Sometimes you can notice something just slightly off from the normal look of the plant, it’s helpful to take a photo of your plant when it is healthy to refer to, over the course of the summer.
A good way to start encouraging pollinators is by planting food sources for their young. The only food source for Monarch caterpillars are plants in the milkweed family. There are several species of milkweed that are perennial in our growing zone. Tropical milkweed is very ornamental and can be grown as an annual in our area. Monarchs are not picky about whether it is native, annual or perennial, if it is a milkweed, they will thrive on it. Adult butterflies can be attracted by growing fruit trees, or offering cut slices of overripe banana, oranges or melon. They prefer to suck up a sweet liquid diet.
Asclepias syriaca-Common Milkweed thrives in sunny meadows and fields. This species of milkweed needs a lot of space and will spread by underground stems. It is best used in a wildflower garden, or other informal area. 3-6’ tall.
Asclepias incarnata-Swamp Milkweed doesn’t require wet conditions, contrary to its name. It is neater in its growth habit, with pretty, bright pink flowers, and graceful willowy leaves. 3-4’ tall.
Asclepias tuberosa-Butterfly weed is a hardy perennial that likes sharply drained, sandy soil and full sun. It has very showy red and orange or yellow flowers that will bloom all summer. Grows 12”-3’ tall.
Asclepias tuberosa with Monarch caterpillars
Asclepias curassavica-Mexican Butterfly weed is originally from the tropics so is only grown as an annual in our area. The Monarchs will happily lay their eggs on this species. A good hedge plant; grows densely to 4’.
Mexican Butterfly weed
Oxypetalum coeruleum-Blue Star Milkweed, or Tweedia, is a vine-like member of the milkweed family. With unusual blue flowers. Originating from Brazil, it is hardy to 25 degrees. Grows to 10’.
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What is rainwater collection?
Rainwater collection is an alternative water supply approach that captures, diverts and stores rainwater for later use. It can help alleviate the demands of existing freshwater supplies, such as a well. There are a variety of methods available for rainwater harvesting, but they are essentially comprised of a catchment surface, a conveyance system, and storage and distribution.
Your system can work well, even if it is as basic as a collection barrel. In fact, starting with a simple storage barrel may be a good way to get your ‘toes wet’ so to speak. You will need rain gutters and a downspout, to move the rainwater from the roof top collection area into your barrel, but not much else besides the actual barrel. Many garden centers, and online garden stores have ready-made rainwater collection barrels for sale. They usually come with a screened lid, to keep debris out of your rainwater, and a spigot to attach a hose.
Collecting rainwater is beneficial for two main reasons; it can save you money on water bills, and conserve our most precious resource, water. Every drop of drinking water we can save, by utilizing free rainwater, is helpful to everyone living in our communities. Rainwater is also healthier for our plants, as it is free from the salts, minerals and chlorine used to treat tap water for public use.
Harvesting rainwater can also help reduce the demand for groundwater, and the high costs, and environmental impacts of having to drill for water. Collecting rainwater can also help prevent erosion from extreme rain events causing heavy run-off onto lawns and beds. Please remember that rainwater is not pure, and not suitable for drinking, cooking or bathing. Rain can wash contaminants into your catchment area, such as bird poop, from the roof. Without being properly treated, rainwater is primarily used for irrigation, watering your garden and potted plants. Some localities may have their own regulations concerning rainwater collection, please check with your municipality.
You can estimate how much water you may be able to harvest using this equation: Catchment area (roof size in square feet) x Monthly rainfall (inches) x Conversion factor (0.62) x Collection factor (75%-90% to account for losses in the system) For example, according to NOAA’s Climate Report, the average monthly rainfall for the contiguous United States was just under 3 inches in 2019. Using this number and a 75% collection factor, the total water catchment for a 1,000-square-foot roof would be: 1,000 x 3 x 0.62 x 75% = 1,395 gallons per month, or 16,740 gallons per year (minimum) This is a substantial amount and can certainly go a long way in conserving drinking water. Consider the possibilities!
December’s to-do list
The week after Thanksgiving and we have been spared from snow and cold weather, so far. This has been one of the nicest autumns in recent memory, and I am grateful to be living in western MA, where beauty and serenity abound. Just the other day I saw a Bald Eagle soaring as I exited 91N in Greenfield. Not many places where you can see them flying overhead so randomly. As we close on 2022, I wanted tosay “THANK-YOU” to all our Countryside Corner readers, andfrom everyone at Countryside Landscape & Design, we wish you Happy Holidays, and a peaceful and healthy New Year.
With the winter solstice, and colder weather on the way; I willbe preparing to protect certain plants from gnawing animals, and the effects of severe weather. I have had problems with voles and field mice, aka white-footed mice, eating the roots and stems of shrubs and perennials, while under cover of snow and dead leaves. Plants store sugar and starch in their roots during winter, and rodents are attracted to this food source. I use a castor oil-based repellent applied around the base of the plant to ward off under ground attack. I will wrap the trunk of my special flowering cherry tree, with flexible tree wrap, to about 18 inches above the ground. Cherries, and other fruit trees, even ornamental types, have thin bark, making them particularly susceptible to gnawing.
If your garden has been the scene of repeated browsing by deer and rabbits, you may be helped by applying an animal repellent. It is best to apply repellent products while temperatures are above freezing. An alternative for larger gardens is deer fencing. This is particularly effective for protecting living screen hedges, and orchards. Contact Scott Higley for more information: email@example.com
White-footed mice are the primary vectors for Lyme infected ticks. These mice incubate generations of new ticks in their mouse nests. By breaking a link in the life cycle, you can help to reduce the population of ticks. Continue to set traps to reduce mouse numbers. Do a thorough cleanup of all the places mice may hide over the winter. Utilize Damminix tick tubes, which kill larval ticks in the mouse nest, and Tick Free repellent for thorough coverage against tick infestations. Ticks will continue to be active until we have snow cover and sustained cold. Contact Scott Higley for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Left over flower and veggies seeds can remain viable for several years if they are stored well. Seal them in Zip-loc bags and keep them in a cool dry place. A snap-lid container in the fridge would work well.
If you haven’t already inserted stakes along the edges of your driveway to mark the areas to be plowed, don’t forget to do this before the ground freezes. This helps the person clearing your snow do their best job, minimizing damage to your lawn, and garden beds.
Paper white Narcissus is a very easy and reliable indoor bulb that can bring a little flowering cheer to your home. They don’t need to be planted; I just set mine into a 12” tall vase on a base of pebbles, and water them lightly until the roots start to grow, thereafter; only once a week. They will bloom in 21 days. The 12” tall vase keeps the leaves from flopping. If you start them now, they can be in bloom by Christmas.
Resist the urge to cut down these plants to their bases: Russian Sage, Butterfly bush, and Caryopteris. They are considered woody perennials and leaving them whole helps them to over winter in areas where they are only marginally hardy. Let your ornamental grass stay whole also, they tend to be late coming up in spring, and the old stems help protect them.
If you keep a garden journal, now is the time to read and reflect on what has been successful, or not. If you’ve never kept a journal, it can be an invaluable tool for year-to-year garden planning. It’s also never too early to start planning for next year’s garden! Did your veggie garden produce as well as you’d hoped? Set a reminder for yourself to have your garden soil tested, and plan on making corrections before you start growing next spring. If you haven’t applied garden lime to your soil in the past few years, there is still time this month. Late fall is the best time for lime application, as the snow/rain and freeze/thaw cycle will help move the mineral into your soil profile through the course of winter.
Need help getting ready for winter? Give our office a call today. (413) 458-5586
New Garden Ideas for 2023!
I like to keep my gardening spirit active through the downtime during winter. I’m already envisioning new ideas for our 2023 gardening year. Since we are still in a water deficit in the Pioneer Valley, I’m taking that into consideration as I plan for next season. I’m also looking to garden smarter, and not harder; here a few ideas to get you thinking about gardening in the new year.
Greek Themed Gardens-I have been seeing this design idea all over the web. It harkens back to an image of romance and classicism: stone walls, Greek statuary and architectural elements. Think archways with climbing plants twining over it. Plant-shaded seating areas, adjacent to Grecian planters with ivy spilling over.
Color of the year-Terra cotta-Terra cotta means “baked earth,” and is a reddish-brown unglazed clay that is used to create pots and planters. Both the terra-cotta material and color are expected to play a big role in backyard design come the new year, adding a bit of a Moroccan or Mediterranean flare. The warm and vibrant tone will help balance out all the grays and neutrals that have dominated outdoor furniture and interior home décor.
Accessible Gardens-Super agers and Boomers living a productive and active lifestyle especially want to keep gardening as they age. Weeding has become my bane due to arthritis in my hands. Did you know there are now solar powered robotic weeders? It operates like an outdoor Roomba, and it gently tills the soil too. The Tertill weeder will be on my Xmas wish list!
Swapping lawns for meadow gardens-The trend for drought tolerant gardens and pollinator gardens is melding together. Many homeowners are removing their lawns and replanting it with drought tolerant meadow gardens. These gardens consist of primarily regional native plants that are naturalized together to give the appearance of a wild meadow. Though many of these plants consist of flowers, native grasses play a primary role. Meadows provide habitat to support wildlife, including bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insect pollinators. They don’t require fertilization or regular mowing, and no harmful chemical treatments.
Embrace vertical gardening-Make more of the space you have by maximizing its vertical potential. Vertical planting can also achieve privacy screening in small spaces by using rolling shelves, pergolas, trellises, hanging baskets, planter boxes, fence shelving, mounted containers, and pouches. Think of the unused ‘airspace’ above your beds as valuable space to grow more. You can even create a living wall indoors or outside to train plants on.
Grow your own bouquets-has become a hobby/job for some gardeners the last few years. Flower growers get a lot of satisfaction from growing a product that sparks joy for their customers. If you have an empty bed, or patch of ground, you can grow your own bouquet flowers too. Flowers with strong stems, and long bloom times work best: Dahlias, Cosmos, Zinnias, tall Ageratum, Celosia, Salvia, are readily available, and easy to grow suggestions for a cutting garden.
New flower and vegetable varieties are produced every year; growers test them in growing trials, such as those for the AAS. These new introductions were selected by AAS (All-American Selections) for attributes of habit, vigor, disease resistance, and flower presentation. Their growth habits, and productivity make them stand outs in the trial gardens; they will be winners in your garden too!
Hybrid Tomato ‘Zensei’- is an early-maturing, high-yielding Roma tomato for home gardeners. Zenzei produces a great yield of fleshy plum tomatoes that are perfect for canning and freezing. Neat and tidy plants produce fruits that are uniformly shaped and are easy to harvest on unique bushy yet indeterminate plants. Each fruit has fewer issues like spots and blossom end rot. Plant in full sun and provide stakes or a cage when the plant reaches the appropriate size but there is no need to prune!
Salvia ‘Blue By You’- This perennial features rich blue flowers that bloom up to two weeks earlier than the comparisons. ‘Blue By You’ has excellent winter hardiness and heat tolerance, ‘Blue by You’ salvia is an excellent candidate for your pollinator, cutting, and container gardens. Bright blue blossoms from late spring into fall, it will repeat bloom throughout the season when spent blooms are removed. Adored all season long by hummingbirds and butterflies. Salvia is resistant to browsing by deer or rabbits.
Salvia ‘Blue By You’
Squash kabocha ‘Sweet Jade’-This cute, single-serving-sized squash is the perfect addition to your garden for a fall harvest. Each fruit is between 1-2 pounds and can be used for single servings of squash, as an edible soup bowl, or in any number of Asian-style dishes where a sweet, earthy nutritious squash is typically used. Sweet Jade’s deep orange flesh is dry yet sweet and very flavorful whether roasted, baked, or pureed.
Squash ‘Sweet Jade’
Leucanthemum ‘Carpet Angel’-The first-ever groundcover Shasta Daisy! Growing only to a height of 6 inches, this unique Leucanthemum can act as a groundcover spreading up to 20 inches wide. Large 3-inch flowers boast a second inner frilly bloom adding to the unique look of Carpet Angel. The unique branching on this new AAS winner means more flower stems sporting beautiful pure white blooms that look like angels dancing over a carpet of dark green foliage. Deadheading will encourage repeat blooming.
Shasta Daisy ‘Carpet Angel’
Zinnia ‘Profusion’ Red Yellow Bicolor- Introducing a beautiful new bicolor addition to the popular Profusion series of zinnias. This gorgeous zinnia starts the season with a bold vibrant red center ring surrounded by golden-yellow outer petals. As the season progresses, the aging flowers morph into soft, beautiful shades of apricot, salmon, and dusty rose. This new compact Zinnia continued to bloom new flowers over the old, all summer, so there was never a decline in the floral display.
Zinnia ‘Profusion’ Red Yellow Bicolor
Neighborly Garden News
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Indoor Gardening: Tips for Overwintering Outdoor Plants
My second family is a collection of tropical trees I’ve nurtured for many years. My oldest Hibiscus tree was a cutting my Mom took from a tree in my yard, while I was pregnant with my now almost forty-year-old daughter. This collection has grown to include several more Hibiscus trees, an 8ft tall Plumeria, and about 70 more ‘friends’ who I diligently move outdoors in spring, and back inside again each fall. It’s a big chore, but worth it to have these tropical beauties blooming around our patio every summer. All the plants respond with increased vigor to their outdoor vacation. Those that bloom through winter put on a great show, after being exposed to outdoor weather variations, and the change in light intensity.
Plumeria tree almost the same size as mine
Everyone should plan to do some debugging to their plants before bringing them into the home. You don’t want any unwanted pests hibernating in the plant’s soil. Luckily you don’t need harsh chemicals to treat the plant. A mild soap, like Castile soap, will work very well. Make a solution using 3 TBS Castile soap to 1 gallon of water. Please don’t substitute liquid dish soap, as these contain harsh additives that will harm your plant. You can use this solution to soak your plants, up to the soil line, for 15 minutes. This will eliminate any soil pests. Your next step will be to use the Castile soap solution to spray the leaves and stems, especially the undersides of the leaves. Rinse the plant with clean water, and water the soil well; then allow everything to dry and drain well.
For most plants you’ll want to bring them back inside before a hard frost. (the exceptions are any plants that need to die back before winter storage, e.g. tuberous begonias) I don’t have a suitable area to transition my plants, but an ideal situation would be to gradually accustom them to lower light conditions. Acclimating your plants is basically lessening the shock of moving back inside; some plants react pretty severely to the move. Not to worry if your plants begin to shed a lot of leaves. It is a normal reaction to the lower light conditions. Plants will offload surplus leaves that they grew for outdoor sunlight. Try to site your sun loving plants as close to full sun positions, as practical. If this is not possible, adding some supplemental lighting would help boost the light intensity.
I think the #1 killer of plants during the winter is overwatering and over fertilization. The object of this exercise is enable cold-sensitive plants to successfully overwinter in a dormant state in your house. Unless you have a heated greenhouse, it is almost impossible to keep your tropical species in an active state of growth through our winters up north. If your plant is not actively growing, it will not require as much water as it did before. My Plumeria tree doesn’t receive any water at all from the time I bring it back inside, until the following spring, when I will take it out again. It drops all of it’s leaves the first month it is indoors, and looks like a giant stick creature the remainder of winter. The Hibiscus transitions from daily watering while outdoors, to about once per week indoors. Succulent plants and cacti may receive water once a month or less. Plants in the Amaryllis family (like Clivia and Amaryllis belladonna) won’t receive any water, until just before I want them to wake up from dormancy and start their bloom cycle in the early spring. The only plants that do get a little fertilizer are the Phalaenopsis orchids, which send up bloom spikes in the late fall/early winter, and can use a little boost.
Even though dormant plants have lower water requirements, they do benefit from raising the humidity in their space. Small plants can be grown on pebble filled trays, as long as they don’t sit in standing water. Other plants, such as ferns, love getting sprayed in the shower or using a hand mister. Resist misting hairy leaved plants, to avoid leaf issues. It is ok to wash the leaves off with tepid water, if the leaves are allowed to dry off before setting back in the sun. I never shower or wash my cacti or succulents, instead I dunk them in a tub of water and allow them to soak for a few minutes to adsorb the water, rather than watering directly into the pot. If they are pot-bound especially, the water seems to run right through the pot without allowing the roots to get what they need. It’s nice to see a few flowers that may sprout over the winter, but essentially my plants are now asleep for the winter. Spring and longer days will prompt them to awaken and begin the cycle of growth and bloom again.
November’s to-do list
After a few frosty mornings last week, and the passing of our tender annuals, we can be certain winter is approaching. Everyday sends waves of falling leaves past my window, the ground covered with Maple leaves; in shades of yellow, ochre and red. I was glad to have cleaned up the veggie garden beds last month, one less chore to tackle; now it is time to prepare the flowerbeds for winter.
I have read a few recent articles advising gardeners not to clear out their beds of old plant matter; leaving a haven for beneficial insects. Other authors split the difference and recommend customizing your garden clean outs to your particular area. If you have problems with ticks and field mice or voles, it would be better not to give them places to hide near your house. These pests prefer old leaf litter and fallen vegetation to overwinter in.
In this area, with its rural character, there are enough ‘rough edges’ to keep many insect species safe and protected through the winter, without enabling them near your home. Do consider saving your leaves, rather than sending them to the landfill. Chopped leaves will decompose into a highly nutritive soil amendment, which you can make for free! Leaves contain trace minerals that trees draw up from deep in the soil. When added to your garden, leaf compost feed earthworms and beneficial microbes. They lighten heavy soils and help sandy soils retain moisture.
The only perennial I definitely don’t cut down in the fall are the ornamental grasses. The seed heads and inflorescences look attractive through the winter months, and leaving them intact gives the crowns some insulation from the elements. Any remaining seeds provide a mid-winter snack for some lucky creature.
There is still time to transplant deciduous trees and shrubs; as long as the ground remains unfrozen, and weather permits. Their roots will continue to grow even though they have dropped their leaves. Be sure to water them until the ground freezes, (around mid-December) and mulch the roots well to retain moisture. Meteorologists are predicting another La Nina winter for 2022-23. This may mean another winter with minimal snow, and slightly warmer than usual. Use some of your chopped leaves to mulch around your tender or vulnerable plants. Protect lavender plants with a ‘tent’ of evergreen branches.
After a very droughty summer, it is a relief to be experiencing regular rainfall this fall. Keep watering recently planted woody plants until the ground freezes. Evergreens, especially, need to go into winter well hydrated to avoid winter injury. Evergreens may benefit from a timely application of an anti-desiccant type spray, to help minimize winter drying. Unfortunately, the effect of winter desiccation does not show up until spring, and by then it is too late to help the plant. Please contact Scott Higley for more information: email@example.com
Now that the leaves are down check out your trees for any weaknesses, this summer was especially stressful for trees and shrubs. Scout around for any broken or split branches. Pay particular attention to any trees adjacent to buildings, driveways or power lines. If trees overhang your roof, you may need to clear your gutters out before winter sets in. Clogged gutters may cause ice to freeze up onto your roof, and begin leaking when rain and snow have no place to flow. Please contact our office if you need help with your gutters:
If you would like to decorate with a living Christmas tree this year, dig a hole now before the ground freezes, mulch the hole with straw or chopped leaves (yet another use for your leaves), and keep the hole covered with a tarp, until planting time. It may also be helpful to stockpile some unfrozen soil to backfill the planting hole.
Need help getting your home and yard ready for the holidays? Countryside Landscape can help with outdoor and indoor decorating; wreaths, Balsam roping, trees and lights.
Please contact our office: (413) 458-5586 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Great gardens to explore: check out these winter garden shows!
Now that the gardening season is over, and our gardens are put to bed, it’s time to head out and take inspiration from what others in the gardening world are doing.
There is something about walking into the tropical paradise of a greenhouse from the blustery cold that soothes my winter weary soul. For a little while, I can suspend the world, and relish the warmth and smells of lush growing plants.
Smith College’s annual Fall Chrysanthemum show; showcases the hybridizing experiments by Smith College horticulture students, takes place November 5-20th 2022. Open from 10-4pm daily, 10-8pm Fridays, at the Lyman Plant House 16 College Lane, Northampton, MA. You’ve never seen mums like these fancy flowers!
The New York Botanic Garden’s annual Holiday Train Show is a fun experience for the whole family, not just avid gardeners. NYBG’s Holiday Train Show, has been making memories for over 30 years! See model trains zip through an enchanting display of more than 190 replicas of New York landmarks, each delightfully re-created from natural materials such as birch bark, lotus pods, and much more. November 19th-January 16th 2023 2900 Southern Blvd. Bronx, NY https://www.nybg.org/visit/
The Connecticut Flower Show arrives at the CT Convention Center, 100 Columbus Avenue, from Feb 23-26th 2023. This show packs in demonstrations, garden equipment, seminars, and gorgeous display gardens- in the dead of winter! More info: https://ctflowershow.com/
The Vermont Flower Show held in Essex Junction, VT will be held March 3-5th 2023. The 2023 Vermont Flower Show Grand Garden Display theme will be Out of Hibernation! Spring Comes to the 100-Acre Wood, an adaptation of the world and magic of Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne.
Before too long all of the trees will be bare, and not much to look at in our gardens. If you have planted some specimens with winter interest, like hollies, ornamental grasses, or interesting evergreens, your garden will keep you engaged. The rest of us will have to wait until spring returns. Here are a few of very early spring blooming plants worth waiting all winter to see.
Abeliophyllum distichum, the white Forsythia has a more compact growth habit than its yellow cousin. Fragrant white flowers bloom in March on a rounded shrub with arching branches. Grows 4ft wide x 5ft tall, and prefers full sun to partial sun exposures.
Hamamelis x intermedia, hybrid witch-hazel has very fragrant ribbon-like flowers that bloom January through March. Flowering lasts for over a month, during a barren time in the landscape. Cultivars have been bred to flower in various shades of yellow, red, and coppery bronze. Fall foliage is deep red and yellow. Grows to 15ft tall, prefers full sun to partial sun conditions.
Hamamelis x intermedia in bloom
Erica carnea, the spring Heath is a must for the early spring garden. Masses of rose-pink to white flowers occur January through March. Heath requires well drained, acid soil, in a sunny spot. Considered similar to a ground cover, grows only 10in tall, and spreads to 20in wide.
Helleborus orientalis, the Lenten Rose has evergreen leaves & blooms January through May on 12-24in stems, depending on the variety. Blooms in shades of burgundy, pink, yellow or white. Grows best in humus rich, moist soil, and adapts well to full or part sun.
One of the many colors of Helleborus orientalis
Daphne cneorum or Garland Daphne is a great plant for a rock garden, front of the border or along a walkway. It has especially fragrant flowers in early spring. The bright pink flowers bloom profusely along its trailing stems. Garland Daphne prefers moist, free draining, alkaline to neutral soil types. It will thrive in full sun to partial sun conditions. This low growing plant will mature to be 1ft tall x 2-3ft wide.
Fragrant Daphne cneorum in bloom
Neighborly Garden News
Drought tolerant lawns and xeriscaping: the next big idea!
Drought, water shortages, increasingly extreme weather and changing climate may point the way towards the demise of the lush green lawn. Other options, filling in for the traditional lawn, can make a beautiful statement and reduce your water and workload too.
Xeriscaping; a form of landscaping that requires little water and minimal care. Non-turf lawns needing less pesticides and fertilizer; generating less waste is gaining momentum across the country. A few FAQS about xeriscaping and creating an environmentally friendly yard:
About 9 billion gallons of water per day is used on landscaping in the USA-according to the EPA. This is about one-third of our total daily water use.
Grass doesn’t need to be watered daily. General USDA recommendations say most traditional lawns only require weekly irrigation.
There are 112 million people living in drought conditions across the USA. As of September 15th, 2022, 66% of the country is in some level of drought; about 12% is in extreme drought.
Low-water doesn’t necessarily mean you have to replace your lawn with rocks or cactus. Many wonderful groundcovers are low, green and lush. Some can even be walked on, like a traditional lawn, but don’t require regular mowing or watering.
Utilizing native plants is a great choice, but certainly not your only option. The key to success is diversity in the planting plan, and using plants that will thrive in your particular situation. You’ve heard this before: “The right plant in the right place.”
Knowing your soil type is your first step towards a successful planting. The four basic types are: sand, silt, clay and loam. Each has different holding capacities for water and nutrients; a simple soil assessment can advise you on what type of soil you have and the best plants for your type.
A few cold hardy suggestions for possible lawn alternatives are:
Ajuga reptans (Carpet Bugle) grows 8-12” tall x 12-18” wide prefers full sun to partial shade.
Cerastium tomentosum (Snow-in-Summer) grows 4-6” tall x 15-18” wide. Prefers full sun, very tough; tolerant of foot traffic.
Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (hardy Plumbago) produces stunning deep blue flowers in late summer, then brilliant red fall foliage. Can grow in full sun or full shade; 9-12” tall x 12-20” wide.
Tanacetum densum v. amani (Partridge Feather) feathery silver foliage makes this a stand out in any garden. Grows well in full hot sun or partial shade. Rabbit resistant once established- 3-8” tall x 12-24” wide.
October’s to-do list
As I begin to write, today is the 1st day of fall and it is a strange, yet enjoyable, sensation to be enjoying a cool rainy day after the dusty, dry summer. I’m hoping the recent spell of soaking rain will push us out of the current drought. On a recent drive it was nice to see the beginnings of fall colors throughout the valley and hill towns. This cooler weather has jumpstarted my urge to get out and play in the garden. I plan to plant garlic for next year’s crop and divide and transplant some established peonies, and other perennials this month. I’m hoping freezing temperatures are a few weeks away; it’s always sad to see the end of another growing season. We’ve had a good tomato year, canning 30 quarts of ‘Blue Beech’ plum tomatoes; in addition to the bounty of sun-dried cherry tomatoes, snow peas, sweet peppers and herbs we’ve frozen. I think I am ready to face winter with a full pantry of preserved produce. How has your garden year turned out?
Because of the recent drought, it would benefit any recently planted (within the last 3 years) trees & shrubs to provide them with supplemental water before winter, as long as you have no restrictions on outdoor water use in your town. Older trees and shrubs, and those that were showing signs of weakness, would benefit from additional water, too. If you are unsure, please consult with your landscape professional for their advice.
Get ready for bird feeder season by cleaning out your feeders with hot soapy water, and be sure to rinse very well. Try and leave a few seed heads on flowers and ornamental grasses to feed finches and other small seed eaters. The seed heads and leaves provide much needed winter interest too. Leaving foliage intact on ornamental grass also acts to insulate the crowns and offers a bit more winter protection.
If you noticed your garden not growing as well as you thought it should, despite fertilizing and watering, you may want to check the soil pH. In New England our soil type tends to be on the acidic side of normal. Incorrect pH can limit a plant’s ability to uptake nutrients from the soil. It is recommended to apply lime to garden beds every other year or as needed. Fall is the best time of year to apply lime to your soil. The natural freeze/thaw action helps physically move the mineral into the soil structure. If you grow vegetables, replenishing lime is an important component to maintain the fertility of your beds. Adding lime will alter the pH, or acidity/alkalinity of the soil. Countryside can do a basic pH test to determine your needs.
Falling leaves mean it’s time to clean out your gutters before winter. Clogged gutters can create ice dams (frozen blocks of ice that prevent your gutters from free-flow) over the winter. Frozen gutters often lead to leaky roofs and big repair costs down the road.
Reduce winter damage caused by rodents and other gnawing animals by clearing away turf and weeds from the base of fruit bearing trees and shrubs. A trunk that is girdled by gnawing will likely cause the tree to die. Wrap the stems or trunks with hardware cloth (a kind of wire screening) to keep mice and rabbits from gnawing the bark.
After frost has killed the foliage of tender bulbs and tubers, (like dahlias, gladiola, and tuberous begonia) you may dig them up in preparation for storing them for next year. Cut back the tops to about 6”, and brush off any remaining soil. Let your bulbs or tubers ‘cure’ in a well ventilated cool, dark area for about 2 weeks. After the ‘cure’ they may be stored in peat moss filled containers. A protected area that stays about 40-50 degrees will keep them dormant until next spring.
Garden clean-ups are an important step in keeping your beds and plants disease free. Remove any organic debris from plants known to be susceptible to fungal and bacterial problems; Peonies, Roses, Tall Garden Phlox, and Lilacs are all healthier if we clear out their faded and/or blotchy plant material.
Need a hand with fall clean-up? Thinking about screening out the deer this winter? Give our office a call to schedule your fall and winter services: (413) 458-5586 or email email@example.com
Tips to improve your patio and garden space
Now that leaves have fallen, and garden chores aren’t beckoning you may find you actually have some spare time to assess your yard. If gardens stayed the same year after year, we would not need to think about tweaking our outdoor spaces. Most gardens are not static, and the plants we grow do change and shift over time. I can easily see the young trees I planted ten years ago bear no resemblance to their former selves. I don’t plan on removing them, or drastically pruning them, but I will reconsider how I utilize the outdoor space I have created.
1. Consider your positive features. Every outdoor space has it’s ‘sweet spot’, try and look for your yard’s power position. You may have a fabulous view, or a terrific swimming pool and patio area. Highlight these areas by aligning your seating with a view towards these special places. Even if a nearby structure casts a long shadow, embrace the shade and create a soothing shade garden offering a respite from the busy world with comfy seating.
2. Make your backyard a place you want to escape to. Hang a hammock between two trees, or on an unused corner of a porch to create a simple hideaway. Create a gathering space, like a fire pit, for entertaining into the cooler months, or use heat lamps to extend your outdoor season well into fall. Build a treehouse that both kids and adults can use as a secret hangout.
3. Improve your gardens ambiance. Adding lighting will change the way your garden looks at night. Something as simple as a string a lights along the railing of the stairs, or an upward facing light at the base of your favorite tree, can add a dramatic touch. Discreet lights along a pathway will beckon your guests to follow along.
4. Don’t forget the audio. With the latest Bluetooth technology, having our favorite tunes to listen to is as easy as buying an outdoor speaker. There are many weatherproof types to choose from; some are even disguised as flower pots! If there is distracting noise you’d rather mask, think about installing a water feature, so all you’ll hear is the sound of trickling water. A bird bath bubbler would help your feathered friends and create a soothing sound at the same time.
5. Add a tree to bring everything together. The right tree can become the focal point of your outdoor space. Think about what you’d like to gain from the new tree. Would one that is multi-stemmed and spreading, and provide a privacy screen work for you? Or perhaps you’d want something with multiple season interest; flowers in spring, fruit in summer, and beautiful fall foliage? Maybe the best choice is something showy, but a dwarf specimen, to fit in your compact area. Taking the time to visit outdoor display gardens helps visualize what a tree will look like in your space. Consulting with your landscape professional is always a good choice, because they already know the soil and climate conditions you are working with.
Enjoy the ‘downtime’ fall and winter provides for gardeners. Now is our time to kick back for a while and relax; take stock of our past growing season, and plan for next year. Soon enough all the beautiful plant catalogs will start showing up in our mail and inboxes, and we can start the process of gardening again in 2023.
After another summer of blistering heat, and scant rain, I am re-thinking my perennial beds to accommodate our changing climate. This summer, I finally stopped watering and decided to let nature take it’s course. I know this may sound harsh, but we must become water-wise for the betterment of all, if we want a tolerable future on planet earth. Here are a few ideas for perennials with exceptionally low water requirements.
Lavender is extremely drought tolerant, and actually dislikes abundant watering. I have seen it growing wild along the sides of the roads in the south of France. Growing in gravel, no water and blazing hot. Lavender needs full sun to do it’s best. Providing a cover of evergreen boughs over the winter will help keep ice from accumulating around the plant, and protect it from harsh weather. Very resistant to animal browsing.
Bees love Lavender
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower is a native plant that has been improved upon over the last few years, so is now available in many other colors besides purple. It’s ability to withstand drought and full sun remains the same fortunately. It’s native environment is out on the western prairie, and it has evolved to be a tough, yet beautiful addition to the garden. Makes a good cut flower too.
Purple Coneflowers also come in white, red, orange and yellow
Achillea or Yarrow has also been hybridized to include a multitude of new shades besides the common yellow color. Yarrow has the benefit of been resistant to animal browsing as well as being very drought tolerant. The flowers are good for cutting, and also can be dried for arrangements.
Yarrow and Russian Sage are pretty paired together
Perovskia or Russian Sage is a beautiful plant for very hot and dry locations. It prefers sandy, well draining soil in direct sun. It has the ability to blend into any color scheme, with it’s silvery-white leaves and lavender colored flowers. Several cultivars offer varying heights to fit into any sized garden. Very resistant to animal browsing.
Stachys byzantina or Wooly Lamb’s Ears adds texture and cool silver colors to the garden. It is grown primarily for the foliage, but will produce shoots with tiny lilac colored flowers too. Often placed to ‘cool down’ and compliment warm tones in the garden, Wooly Lamb’s Ears is a very versatile garden addition.
Wooly Lamb’s Ears
Neighborly Garden News
Spotted Lanternflies are among us, be on the lookout!
Last month an established colony of this destructive non-native insect was found in Springfield, MA (Hampden County). Previously the only sightings were in Fitchburg and Shrewsbury, MA (Worcester County). I hate to be a pessimist, but this does not bode well for us. My family in New York City tells me that adult Lanternflies can be seen flying around just about everywhere; from the canyons of Wall Street, to the suburbs of Queens, even as high us as the eighth floor balcony! It only seems a matter of time before they are in our neighborhood.
2 views of adult Spotted Lanternflies
Even with a directive from the Governor to ‘kill Lanternflies on sight’, they are hard to catch and kill. They are like giant leafhoppers, and have the ability to jump quite fast and far. Anecdotally, I have read they only can sustain their hopping for about 3 jumps, so don’t give up! The Spotted Lanternfly has no known predators in the US, for now, as they originated from Asia. They will feed from an alarming amount of important food crops, and local farmers are rightly concerned about this pest becoming established in our region.
Adult Lanterflies swarming on a tree trunk
The spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula), also known as a Lanternmoth, is neither a fly nor a moth. This insect is a member of the Order Hemiptera (true bugs, cicadas, hoppers, aphids, and others) and the Family Fulgoridae, also known as planthoppers. The adults and immatures of this species damage host plants by feeding on sap from stems, leaves, and the trunks of trees. Much of our information comes from research performed in PA, where the insect has been established since 2014. Adults can be found on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive plant. In the fall in Pennsylvania, adult spotted lanternfly prefer to feed and mate on tree of heaven when compared to other host plants. That being said, proximity to tree of heaven did not significantly influence the number of spotted lanternfly found on other hosts in a 2015-2016 host plant evaluation conducted in PA. (After spending time on tree of heaven, the insects disperse in the local area to lay eggs just about anywhere.)
Lanternfly egg masses
According to the Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) there is no reason to be preemptively treating for this insect in other areas of the Commonwealth at this time. If you suspect you have found spotted lanternfly in additional locations, please report it immediately to MDAR. If you are living or working in any of the areas mentioned above, please be vigilant and continue to report anything suspicious. When the adult is at rest, particularly on the trunk of the tree of heaven, their gray, spotted color may actually cause them to blend in with their surroundings. Freshly laid egg masses appear as if coated with a white substance. As they age, the egg masses look as if they are coated with gray mud, which eventually takes on a dry/cracked appearance. Very old egg masses may look like rows of 30-50 brown seed-like structures aligned vertically in columns. Coated egg masses may look like “weird gypsy moth egg masses”, an insect we are more familiar with here in Massachusetts, but they are not.
Report Spotted Lanternfly in Massachusetts Here: https://massnrc.org/pests/slfreport.aspx (link is external) (Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project)
September’s to-do list
Wow, what a difference a year makes! Last year, at this time we were reeling from the effects of several tropical storms occurring back to back; drenching us with a month’s worth of rain in a day. This year the land is crying out for moisture, and we are in the midst of a critical drought throughout the Pioneer Valley, and much of Massachusetts. The rain we had last week was the first good soaking we received since June, but it has not quenched the dire need for sustained rain in this area. The only upside to this terrible shortage of rain, is that it has made the local peach harvest the sweetest and juiciest in memory. The lack of rain has concentrated the sugars within the fruit, and they have been just delicious! Buy some of local peaches, and enjoy them while they last. Until we get a break in the dry weather pattern, I would recommend holding off on any transplanting or dividing of perennials, unless you are able to really soak them with supplemental water prior to digging. Let’s hope for a more normal weather pattern this fall.
As my garden veggies struggle with the abnormally dry conditions, the weeds have had no problem at all holding their own through the sustained heat and drought. It’s discouraging to see these robust weeds next to stunted corn as I drive around the area. Get a handle on next year’s weeds now! Some of the worst offenders set seeds and propagate in the fall. Ragweed, the main culprit during allergy season, sets millions of dust-like seeds that can remain dormant in the soil for decades! Goldenrod has been found to not be the offender for allergies as we once thought it was. Some species of Goldenrod are grown as ornamental perennials. During late fall you may notice many bees and wasps congregating on Goldenrod flowers, it is an essential source of pollen and nectar after many other flowering plants have faded.
If you see some browning of needles, and leaves on evergreens, this is the normal cyclical shedding of the older and innermost needles, and leaves of these plants. Don’t worry if you see this browning of the interior needles/foliage of evergreen trees and shrubs during the fall. Autumn is the time evergreens will periodically shed their older needles that have begun to lose their ability to photosynthesize. This is nature’s way of ‘lightening the load’ so to speak, and preserving the integrity of the plant. Additionally, many trees have begun to prematurely shed leaves in the wake of the drought, if you are able to provide supplemental water in your area, please provide water to any young trees and shrubs (those planted within the last three seasons).
Buy garlic sets for planting next month before they are sold out. Once you’ve planted garlic, you’ll always have some bulbs or ‘seed’ to renew your crop. It is a sustainable crop; just reserve the largest bulbs for re-planting, save the small and moderate sized ones for cooking. Planting cloves from the larger bulbs almost always guarantees the biggest heads at next year’s harvest.
If you move your houseplants outdoors for the summer now is the time to gradually acclimate your houseplants back to indoor life. Move them onto a porch to simulate the lower light of indoors. Scrub the pots, and be sure to rinse off the foliage to knock off any clinging insects. You may need to re-pot houseplants that have outgrown their containers. Final step; spray the plants with Safer’s soap or other general purpose insecticide to kill any lingering pests.
Early fall is the time mice will be looking for winter homes, and bringing their germs and pests with them. In the Northeast, the White Footed mouse is the reservoir for the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is contracted when Blacklegged ticks feed on infected mice, then bite people. We utilize Damminix tick tubes to rely on the natural nesting instincts of mice to deliver tick controlling insecticide directly to the host animal and the ticks it infects. Biodegradable cardboard tubes are filled with permethrin treated cotton. Mice will collect the treated cotton for their bedding; the permethrin from the cotton is released onto the mouse’s fur, ticks that feed on the mice are exposed to the insecticide and killed before they can spread Lyme disease to you, your family and pets. Please contact our Damminix specialist, Scott Higley, for more information.
Need help with the fall garden chores? Want to get those weeds out once and for all? Contact our office to schedule your fall clean-up. firstname.lastname@example.org (413) 458-5586
Mosquitoes are buzzing; be on the defense!
Back when I was an undergrad, my entomology professor asked us to name the world’s most fearsome predator. Students called out, “Tigers, crocodiles, wolves, etc.” but the true answer is mosquitoes. The tiny mosquito, whose population is about 100 trillion insects worldwide, contributes to the death of 700,000 humans every year. Scientists have estimated that the mosquito borne disease, malaria; has killed about half the total population of the earth, since humans have existed. Malaria infects more people now, than in any time in history; over 500,000 new cases per year. Malarial infection causes upwards of 2 million deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa; half of them children, annually. Closer to home, we have read with increasing alarm about other diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes in our hemisphere; Zika, Dengue, West Nile, and EEE (EEE-Eastern equine encephalitis, first recognized in MA in 1831).
Researchers have attributed human exploration over centuries, and continued global expansion of travel and trade for introducing new species of mosquitoes to areas where they never were before. These foreign mosquito species have arrived carrying the infectious diseases with them. Contributing to the migration of mosquitoes is the warming of our planet. Areas that were limited to colonization by tropical mosquito species are now poised to allow them to thrive. In addition, warmer temperature can speed up the time it takes for the mosquito to mature into a biting adult. Warmer climate also accelerates the time between when a biting mosquito picks up a disease organism, and then becomes infectious, according to Dr. Oliver Brady, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. The Aedes aegypti mosquito transmits Dengue, Zika, and chikingunya. One species variant is considered an ‘urban mosquito’; it likes to live in cities. Dengue, also known as ‘break-bone fever’, will infect 100 million people worldwide each year, and contribute to 10,000 deaths. The latest study published in the Journal of Microbiology predicts a very significant expansion of this disease in the southeastern United States, South/Central America, and the Caribbean in the coming years. With so many people traveling internationally every day, you can see how it may be possible to contract a mosquito borne illness without actually living in these regions.
A few mosquito facts: only the female mosquito bites, she requires a blood meal to nourish her eggs. Mosquitoes will bite anyone, she does not favor women over men, or brunettes over blonds. Mosquitoes are drawn to certain odors, like perfumes, and sweat. They prefer type O blood over other types. Female mosquitoes utilize a series of mouth parts to simultaneously inject an anti-coagulant into her bite, and suck your blood in the shortest time possible to avoid detection, and a possible smack. Mosquitoes can drink 3x their bodyweight in blood. There are 3,500 species of mosquito in the world. Scientists have developed methods to create sterile mosquitoes, in order to reduce their populations.
Even though we are considered low risk for EEE and West Nile Virus in our region of MA, counties in the eastern part of our state are at higher risk. Prevention is the key element in protecting yourself, and your family from mosquitoes. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, and the larvae require water to mature into flying insects. Eliminating standing water throughout your yard can prevent thousands of mosquitoes, as females lay hundreds of eggs at a time in as little as an ounce of water. Drill holes in trash and recycling containers so water will drain. Remove clogs of leaves in gutters to promote drainage. Be sure to aerate ornamental ponds, or add a few hungry fish. If you don’t already change the water in your birdbath every few days, step up the water changes. Check around your yard for areas of poor drainage/standing water and take measures to correct them. Mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk. Wear protective clothing; long sleeves and long pants, and use a mosquito repellent. A word of caution about repellents, DEET is not recommended for children under 2 months old, and oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be applied to children under 3 years old, permethrin products should not be applied directly to the skin, they are for clothing and outdoor gear only; as per MASS.gov website. For more information about repellents and mosquito prevention in MA please use this link: https://www.mass.gov/service-details/mosquito-repellents
Fall is on the way, with an abundance of harvested fall fruit and vegetables, along with dramatic changes in our gardens. Many plants are beginning their descent into winter, but others are gearing up for a last blast of color before the growing season ends. With a little planning, you can have a fresh burst of color in your yard with some of these spectacular fall accent plants.
Viburnum nudum‘Brandywine’ The native Smooth Witherod Viburnum has very lustrous dark green leaves in summer. It blooms heavily in early summer followed by green fruit that quickly turns pink, finally finishing an electric blue. Fruit clusters are a mix of pink and blue throughout the growing season. Leaves turn a deep burgundy color in the fall. Grows 6’ wide x 6’ tall, and will happily grow in full sun to partial shade. V. nudum is not fussy about soil, and is resistant to deer browsing.
Viburnum nudum fruit
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’ the Willow leaved Spiraea holds its golden leaves until very late in the season, and would be a real eye catching beacon of golden light in your fall garden. ‘Ogon’ blooms with dainty white flower clusters before leaves emerge in the spring. This deer resistant shrub has arching branches, and grows 5’ wide X 5’ tall. ‘Ogon’ prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade too.
Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’ Big Bluestem is a dramatic native prairie grass that turns brilliant scarlet red at the first hint of frost. Native ornamental grasses offer many advantages in the garden; food and shelter for birds and mammals, and interesting views through all seasons. Big Bluestem prefers, and grows best, in poor, dry soil. Grows 5-6’ tall, and requires full sun.
Andropogon gerardii ‘Red October’
Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’ the native Sweetspire shrub, has so much to offer the gardener. Very fragrant white flowers bloom from late spring into summer. As autumn approaches, the leaves change from green to sizzling ruby red and scarlet. Itea virginica prefers consistently moist soil, and full to partial sun conditions. ‘Henry’s Garnet’ Sweetspire grows 3’ tall x 5’ wide. If you are seeking to replace non-native plants such as ‘burning bush’ (Euonymus alata) sweetspire is a good candidate to replicate the intense red foliage of that invasive shrub.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’ This cultivar of our native Ninebark has striking copper-colored leaves that mature to a rich burgundy in the fall. Deep red berries add to the beauty of this shrub. Very adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions and deer resistant as well; prefers full sun. ‘Amber Jubilee’ grows 6’ tall X 4’ wide.
Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Amber Jubilee’
Neighborly Garden News
Meet our Director of Horticulture: Karen Sutherland
Karen joined the Countryside team in fall of 2021, relocating to the Berkshires from Eastern MA, where she operated her own garden design and maintenance business. Karen oversees our maintenance division which includes: garden maintenance and development, fine pruning, mowing, and yard cleanups. Over the course of the last year she has been assisted by Bella Massari, garden maintenance field supervisor (CSL 3rd year), in getting acquainted with our clients’ and their properties.
Karen is a graduate of Stockbridge School of Agriculture, and is a MA Certified Horticulturist, MA Certified Arborist, MA Certified Landscape Professional, and an Accredited Organic Land Professional. These certifications are offered through local trade associations which help promote professionalism within the green industry. Karen’s philosophy in her new role is to be very ‘hands on’; working alongside the crews to train and help develop professional workmanship standards, and to look for opportunities for education and appreciation of the natural wonders around us everyday. Karen believes that by elevating our team members they’ll work up to their fullest potential which will be reflected in the quality of work they do and this will help them to feel fulfilled and enriched doing their jobs.
This year’s Garden Maintenance team includes: Deliah Shulman (CSL 2nd year) Madelyn Kocsis (CSL 2nd year) Chelsea Shetterly (CSL 1st year) and Holly Zabriskie (CSL 1st year). This season we also welcomed a summer intern from VT Technical College, Brandon Schopps, to our garden maintenance team. We hope this will become a tradition for future landscape professionals.
Recently some team members participated in the annual MA Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) event: ‘Down to Earth’ held at Weston Nurseries, in Hopkinton, MA. Nursery and Landscape professionals met to share ideas, show off new plant introductions, and promote education within our industry. Over the last year, other team members have attended related industry events including programs offered by Berkshire Botanical Garden, Arbor Expo, and UMass Extension Service. This fall UMass Extension will be offering their eight-week Green School which is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary education in landscape gardening. A few team members are getting prepared to attend and we wish them much success.
Working closely with the field supervisors in the pruning, mowing and garden
maintenance departments has allowed Karen to streamline and better coordinate the maintenance tasks we tend to on our client’s properties. She has been able to fine tune services such as: complete mulching every year. Now we touch up and add mulch only as necessary. Planning the timing for fine pruning helps to keep everyone’s shrubs healthy and blooming. There is an optimal time for pruning, and it has been so helpful to have this mapped out in advance, so the crews can be ready and prepared to do the
Karen strives to ensure each client has the best care for their property, and works with each person to see that the vision they have for their garden is brought to fruition. Karen believes in the philosophy espoused by the MNLA that “encourages leadership in the green industry by promoting the highest professional standards and ethically responsible practices”. We hope you have had a chance to meet Karen and learn more about her ideas and practices. Please contact her: email@example.com
August’s to-do list
As I begin writing this month’s newsletter, Western MA is still in the throes of a drought; some areas of the state are worse off than others. If you have no restrictions on outdoor watering in your area (many towns have begun to restrict outdoor watering) please continue to provide supplemental watering to all trees and shrubs planted within the last 3 years. From the time of planting, it takes a tree or shrub about 3 growing seasons to re-grow any roots cut or disturbed by the harvesting/planting process. Prior to this the plant does not have the capability to draw moisture from deep within the soil profile, and this can have long-term effects on the plants longevity and health.
I just finished harvesting the garlic I planted last October, and now it is curing up in the loft of our barn. Curing is just another term for the process of drying the garlic bulb in preparation for winter storage. Happily, I now have an open bed, and more room to sow seeds. August is a good time to sow seeds for a fall crop of veggies. Lettuce, Arugula, Kale 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. All of these will mature and be ready to harvest before our weather turns cold.
Limit fertilization of woody plants at this time of year. Now is the time woody plants will begin to harden off foliage in preparation for winter. Applying fertilizer now could stimulate succulent new growth that would be damaged by an early frost. This is especially important for Roses too; so any new growth has time to harden off before the frost. This step can help reduce winter injury on your Rose plants; less to prune out next spring.
Despite our dry weather, the lack of water has had no effect on weed development. They seem to not notice the heat and humidity. By mid-to-late-summer weeds will be setting their seeds; it’s important to keep up with weeding chores. For each mature weed you pull now, saves you from weeding hundreds of seedling weeds later. Weeds steal food, water, space, from your favorite plants, so keep pulling them out! Preventing mature weeds from going to seed will save you hours of pulling next year. I’ve recently been using household vinegar (more concentrated than table vinegar, and not for use in cooking) to help solarize my tough weeds growing in between paving stones. On those 90 degree days, I let the acid and sun work for me; to kill those weeds down to their roots. It really does work, and no risky chemicals involved.
Make spring 2023 a bit more beautiful, by planning to add to or start a bulb garden.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. Most bulb vendors will list the average time of bloom for each type, to help with your planning. 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 sap 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.
August is a good month to evaluate your perennial beds. After weeks of hand watering due to lack of rain, I’m looking for an easier and greener alternative. When I lived in an area without any groundwater, we irrigated with ‘grey water’, which was just wastewater from sinks and showers. We can collect also our rainwater for irrigation. Updating some of our traditional perennial beds to include more drought tolerant and native species, would help with water consumption. 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.
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.
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.
Hydrangea paniculata can be found across New England, and is 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 containers 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.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’
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?
Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’
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 late summer and early fall is the time of year when ornamental grass comes into their season of glory. Most will produce an inflorescence or flower stalk and they are very showy; even when viewed from a distance. There’s something very soothing, watching the slender grass and their tassels of flowers wave and undulate in the breeze. Many native varieties also provide food for wildlife, and most have great fall colors, and remain very handsome right through winter. Ornamental grass is also deer and rabbit resistant.
Calamagrostis acutiflora-Feather Reed Grass is a good selection if you have poor, compacted soil. Well adapted to sunny, very dry locations, it can make a good backdrop for lower growing perennials. The cultivar Karl Foerster will not self seed, and when not in bloom forms a neat clump 2 ft tall. The bloom spikes emerge in early summer and can reach 6 ft tall.
Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
Sporobolus heterolepsis Prairie Dropseed is a native grass that is a good source of food for wildlife. This grass is found in the wild from Canada to Texas, and is renowned for its tolerance to heat and drought by nature of the extremely deep roots it will form. It was once used as a source of grain to make flour by Indigenous people. Prairie Dropseed grows into 2-4 ft tall clumps, with flower stalks 3-8 inches long.
Andropogon gerardii Big Bluestem has been called the ‘Monarch of the Prairie’ and was once the dominant component of our tall grass prairies. It is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, as long as it is also situated in full sun. Big Bluestem’s foliage undergoes a remarkable color change through the growing season- From bright green in spring, to blue-green in summer, and finally a stunning red-bronze in fall. Grows 5-8 ft tall.
Andropogon gerardii in fall light
Panicum virgatum Switchgrass gets its name from the peaceful swishing sound the leaf blades create in the wind. This native grass has many different outstanding cultivars available, chief among them are ‘Heavy Metal’ a blue toned selection with golden flowers, and ‘Apache Rose’ which has unusual rose colored flowers in fall. Switchgrass is very tolerant of poor and dry soil, and requires full sun to do its best. Grows 4-6 ft tall x 2-3 ft wide depending on the cultivar.
Panicum virgatum ‘Apache Rose’
Neighborly Garden News
Pruning is essential for plant health
What creates a pleasing landscape to most people? In the past we landscaped our homes primarily for the view from the curb. Now we are versed in the concept of creating ‘outdoor rooms’ to give pleasure to the homeowner, and purposely design outdoor spaces as extensions of the home environment.
Having a beautifully landscaped yard is not all about having the most exclusive plants. I think a beautiful yard is largely about upkeep and maintenance, and the simplest plants will look outstanding when well cared for. Most landscape professionals will tell you the #1 method to dress up the look of your yard, is to edge the beds. Weeding can take hours (or days in my case), but edging is a quick fix that can really improve the view.
This is a little known fact, but trees and shrubs growing unattended in a forest environment, have little in common with cultivated species. Populating a garden with your chosen types of plants creates an ecosystem that would probably never be found in nature. In this person-made environment, its likely plants may encounter stressors to their well being and immune system. Soil type and sun exposure may not be optimal, the level of soil moisture may be more or less than they are accustomed to; all these factors enter into the tree’s viability. This is one of the reasons why our landscape plants require nurturing and training to thrive.
A newly planted tree often has little to no resemblance to what they will look like at maturity. I often notice small, newly planted, saplings planted only 6 feet apart. This distance looks correct when they are first planted, but it doesn’t take into account the size of their spread at maturity; soon they will be too close together. No training is required for the first year or so, as the new tree is setting down structural and new feeder roots. The second or third year would be the time to start pruning to accentuate its form. The type of pruning it had received while growing in the nursery environment was to facilitate working around the tree farm. Allowing access to mow between rows, and apply fertilizer, etc.
If you do the major structural pruning while the tree is young, these wounds will heal and be unnoticeable as the tree matures. Waiting until a mature tree starts interfering with a structure to remove limbs will result in a large wound that takes longer to heal and will remain visible. Working on a smaller tree is also more cost effective; the fee for tree work goes up for larger scale trees.
Another type of pruning is called shearing. This is basically clipping the tips of branches to create a smooth and even surface. This technique is used on both formal and informal hedges. Formal hedges usually have smaller leaves and are sheared to form a ‘wall of green’. Think of the massive evergreen hedges planted to create living mazes. Informal hedges are more loose and irregular in shape, and may have larger leaves. Often they are chosen for their flowers and fruit, and create a living opaque wall.
You should be sensitive to the timing of pruning for flowering specimens; too late in summer, or too early in spring may rob you of blooms for the season. Pruning evergreens too late in the growing season and cutting too deeply into ‘old wood’ may result in a bare patch as these tender new shoots will be susceptible to any early cold snaps. Fast growing shrubs might need more than one pruning per season to help slow their growth. Hemlocks and Yews are examples of fast growing plants that are often sheared into a hedge. Without regular pruning they would be 40 ft tall or more in a few years.
Need help pruning? Give us a call! (413) 458-5586
July’s to-do list
As I sit down to write our newsletter this month, we are in the midst of an ‘abnormally dry’ spell in both Berkshire and Franklin counties. According to Drought.gov, 93% of our state is classified as abnormally dry right now. Plant symptoms may include stunting of plants, early browning and dormancy of turf grasses, and wilting of garden plants. Yesterday was the first good soaking rain we had all month, in the valley, and it was sorely needed. Now that we are officially in summer, don’t allow yourself to get lax about weeding. Weeds tend to rebound with amazing powers of viability during high summer and will overrun your garden as soon as you ignore them. Unfortunately too, ticks show no signs of abating yet either. Stay vigilant with tick checks; after you’ve spent time outdoors, and remember to use insect repellent as your first line of defense.
Resist pruning spring flowering shrubs after July 4th or risk losing flower buds for next year’s bloom. It’s helpful to remove spent flowers to keep your garden border neat. Now is a good time to prune heirloom and rambling roses, now that they’ve finished their bloom period. Some heirloom roses will have a second flush of bloom, so applying a fertilizer for roses, after pruning, would nourish the new growth.
New and recently planted shrubs, trees and perennials need supplemental water during the growing season. Deep, less frequent watering is preferred over shallow daily irrigation. Please don’t rely on rain for watering newly planted trees and shrubs. It is usually not enough to get down to the root zone. Additionally, older trees will benefit from extra water during droughty periods. Countryside can provide watering services while you are away on vacation, please contact our office: email@example.com
Raise your mower height to 4” to conserve your lawn through the hotter and drier days of July. The added height will help shade out lawn weeds too. If you can, water your lawn through prolonged dry spells, so it won’t go into dormancy. Watering deeply once a week is far more effective than multiple shallow watering; and will promote better root development.
Potted plants need extra TLC to keep looking beautiful all summer.Pots in the sun need deep watering (saturate the pots until water drains out) daily, and regular feeding to replace what you flush out with daily watering. We like to use a timed release fertilizer, such as Osmocote in the potting soil, and a weekly dose of water soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro or Peter’s to keep our client’s plants blooming all summer.
Don’t let your basil go to flower! Keep the plants pinched to encourage bushiness. It’s very easy to preserve your extra basil. I like to puree’ chopped fresh basil in a little extra virgin olive oil to create a paste; I freeze it into portions to use all through the winter.
If you haven’t done so already, protect your blueberries and other small fruit from hungry birds by covering the bushes with netting or floating row covers.
If you have a lot of Japanese Beetles attacking your plants the low impact way of eliminating them is to hand-pick Japanese Beetles in the morning, and drown them in a container of soapy water to reduce adult populations. The fewer adults you have=less egg laying and new beetles. Later you may consider starting a grub reduction program. Grubs are the immature phase of this pest, and grub infestation goes hand in hand with mole and skunk damage on lawns. These mammals will dig up lawns in their quest for grubs.
Contact Scott Higley for more information about grub reduction programs: firstname.lastname@example.org
Need a hand with weeding and pest control? Send us an email email@example.com or call today! (413) 458-5586
Massachusetts has pollinators aplenty, but they need our help!
Last month was our National Pollinator month in the US. Pollinators are insects and animals that transfer pollen from one plant to another. This pollen transfer leads to plants being able to produce fruits, vegetables, and nuts. When we think about pollinators, bees and butterflies immediately come to mind. You may not know that other animals and insects have a hand in pollinating, and many are represented here in MA.
Honeybees are not native to the US, but still play a huge role in commercial pollination. Our most familiar native bee is the bumble bee (family Bombus). A bumble bee likes to feed on clover; you can help them by planting a patch of clover, both red and white clover will grow in our region. Other types of MA bees are carpenter bees, (family Xylocopa) sweat bees (family Halictidae) and mining bees (family Andrenidae) Most of the lesser know bees are not at all aggressive, and rarely ever sting. Wasps are also considered pollinators, not as efficient as the bee, but they will transport pollen as they visit flowers to feed on nectar. A wasp’s larger benefit is their constant hunting for insect prey, which helps keep insect populations in check.
Honeybee covered in pollen
Carpenter bee near it’s nest entrance
A butterfly is considered second only to the bee in its pollinating efficiency, but did you know that moths also pollinate plants, but mainly at night. A moth’s hairy body contributes to its pollinating ability Moths out-number the population of butterflies, and are also further divided into their own sub-order, Frenatae. Planting a ‘moon garden’ of white and light colored fragrant flowers will help attract moths. Moths particularly favor tubular flowers, like Nicotiana, Petunia, Calibrachoa, Moonflower, Phlox, and Hosta.
Hummingbirds are the primary bird species for pollination in the US. In our area the native hummingbird is the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. These busy, tiny birds transfer pollen as it sticks to their face-feathers and beak. They are attracted to brightly colored, nodding, tubular flowers. They love Lantanas, Salvias, Phlox, Columbine, Honeysuckles, and Cardinal flower, to name a few. If you plant groups of these flowers, they will visit your garden frequently, and you need not bother with a fancy feeder.
A pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds
Certain animals and insects have perfected the art of mimicry as a survival tactic. Two flies native to MA have that mastered, and I would challenge the casual observer to tell them apart from their ‘real’ counterparts. The Flower fly mimics a wasp (family Syrphidae) so it will look scary and not get eaten. The Bee fly (family Bombyliidae) looks just like a bumble bee, and probably fools its predators most of the time. Both mimics are fuzzy enough insects to do a decent job transferring pollen, even without the pollen carrying leg baskets that real bees have.
The bee fly mimics a real bee
Beetles are some of our planets oldest known pollinators. Their remains have been found preserved with the flowers and pollen they lived on millions of years ago. It seems reasonable that beetles would prefer to pollinate the living descendants of ancient plant species. In Massachusetts beetles are responsible for pollinating native Magnolias, and the yellow-flowered water lily; they will also pollinate Sassafras, Paw-Paw (Asimina triloba), and Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus).
Creating a haven for pollinators means planning ahead to design a more diverse yard. Planting native flowers and trees and shrubs, in addition to your imported plants, will attract a wider group of pollinators. Try to leave a portion of your outdoor space a little wild and unmown; for the wildlife. Let us make this our new mantra- “Leave it wild, for the Wildlife”.
Creating habitat for our native and introduced pollinators has become important as we continue to see the effects from honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. Pollinator gardens can also provide habitat for natural pest enemies. Many natural pest enemies only feed on prey for part of their life cycle; pollen and nectar are alternative food sources when prey is absent. These plants are excellent sources of pollen and nectar:
Acer rubrum, the native Red Maple is highly prized for its outstanding red fall leaf color, and its ability to withstand periodic flooding. The frilly red flowers in April, add to Acer rubrum’s appeal. There are many outstanding cultivars available for home gardeners. Red Maple will grow 40-60 ft tall, and has a medium rate of growth: 10-12’ in 5-7 years. Prefers slightly acidic, moist soil; one of the first trees to show seasonal fall color.
Acer rubrum flowers
Helenium autumnale, or Sneezeweed is a hardy member of the perennial sunflower family. Hundreds of flowers will open in late summer on a bold 3-5 ft tall plant. A pollinator magnet, you may see hundreds of native bees on one mature plant during bloom.
Tilia Americana, the American Linden or Basswood, has very fragrant yellow flowers during June. Sometimes T. Americana is called the ‘Bee-tree’, because it is so beloved by pollinators. Growing to 60-80 ft tall, it is said to be a source of the best honey for bees. Tilia Americana will grow in full sun or partial shade, but prefers deep, moist soil.
Tilia Americana flowers
Vaccinium corymbosum, the High-Bush Blueberry, will provide sweet berries for your family, and pollen and nectar for the beneficial insects. If you want to harvest berries for yourself, it is recommended to protect the bushes with bird netting. Blueberries are native to swampy areas, but will thrive in sandy, acidic soils also. They can grow well in sun or partial shade, depending on the cultivar will grow 6-12 ft tall x 8-12 ft wide.
High-Bush Blueberry flowers
Agastache foeniculum is Anise hyssop, a long blooming, very easy native perennial. The fragrant plants attract many kinds of pollinators, and bloom June through September. The leaves and flowers smell and taste like licorice, and has been long used as an herbal tonic. Anise hyssop will grow in full sun to part shade, and prefers a well drained soil. The plants may self-seed, and can spread into 2-3 ft tall clumps. There are several cultivars on the market as well as a sterile cultivar called ‘Blue Fortune’.
Anise hyssop flowers
Neighborly Garden News
6 Procrastinator-Friendly vegetables that you can harvest in a flash! (Almost)
We know how easy it is to put off projects when so many activities keep calling. June does not mean you have missed your window of opportunity for getting a veggie garden going. Even if you are unable to get a formal garden dug, you can still raise very tasty and healthful veggies in almost any type of container which can have holes drilled through the bottom. The easiest and quickest-to-harvest veggies are best grown from seed. Local sources for seeds, are the garden center, hardware store, grocery store, even the dollar store sells seeds. Quick growing veggies are:
Leafy Greens-grocery store favorites like baby spinach, baby kale, baby lettuce etc. are just normal leafy greens harvested earlier in their growth period. Arugula, Spinach, lettuce and Kale can be ready for harvest within 30 days of planting. Sow the seeds in rows 6-8 inches apart for harvesting at the ‘baby’ stage. If you want the greens to fully mature, space the rows 12 inches apart. Other choices for quick baby greens Mustard, Escarole, Endive, Mesclun mixes.
Radishes-These brightly colored veggies can be ready in as little as 3-4 weeks. Once you see the radish poking itself up about the soil; it’s time to harvest. If you just can’t wait for the tasty radish tang, radishes also make speedy micro-greens. From seeding to harvest in about 10 days, you can harvest the tiny leaves for toppings on salads or other dishes. Sow radish seeds about an inch, deep in rows 6-8” apart. Plan to thin out dense seedlings to make room for the mature radishes to fill out.
Baby carrots-are just earlier harvests of regular carrots. Carrots like rich soil, with added compost; sow seeds about a half inch deep in rows 12” apart. Baby carrots are ready to harvest in about 60 days. Leave the baby carrots for the full 75-80 days for fully mature veggies.
Bok Choy-This leafy cabbage cousin is ready to harvest at the young stage in 30-45 days. Plant bok choy a half inch deep, in rows 12” apart. Bok Choy does not like to dry out, make sure you keep it well watered in its container.
Sunflower Shoots– make great additions to salads, and sandwiches. So easy to grow, you can even grow them on your sunny windowsill. Ready to harvest in about 12 days, any extras can be planted in an outdoor pot for their cheerful blooms.
Bush Beans-Reaching maturity in only 50 days, these veggies require no extra care beyond watering. Your only drawback may be the productivity of the plants- they all are ready at once, so be prepared to freeze or share the bounty. Plant bush bean seeds a half inch deep, 3 inches between the seeds; in rows 18 inches apart. Bush Beans won’t require any trellis like pole beans do.
June’s to-do list
My Mother told me I was born during a New York City heat wave, on May 20th. So our little mini heat wave last month did not seem too unusual to me. Honestly, I was born loving warm weather. Our yo-yoing temperatures these past few weeks did take me and some of the plants by surprise, though. In Zone 5, our last frost date in Western MA is May 16th, or possibly as late as the 31st. It’s hard for the plants to acclimate to the wide swings in temperature that we saw. Good reason to hold off on planting tomatoes and their cousins until Memorial Day. Luckily they all seem to catch up by the end of June. There is definitely still time to get a veggie garden going for this season- so get growing!
Now that Forsythia, Lilac, Azalea, and Magnoliashave finished blooming, it’s the best time to prune and shape your early flowering trees and shrubs. This allows them to form buds through this growing season for next year’s bloom. July 4th is considered the last safe date to prune Lilacs before they set flower buds for next season.
Prune and shape evergreens once the new growth ages to a darker green color. If the plant is very overgrown, better results will be achieved with gradual trimming rather than a drastic cut. Pruning too much growth at one time, can risk killing the entire branch. Unsure how much you can safely prune? Countryside offers professional pruning services and summer shearing.
Bulb foliage should be allowed to fade naturally; allowing the bulb to benefit from the nutrition the leaves provide it. You can safely cut or mow the bulb foliage after June 30th.
A dry winter, with unseasonable periods of warm and cold, has damaged many ornamental plants in our landscape. Predictions call for an unusually hot summer. Our gardens require a minimum of one inch of water per week (best to invest in a rain gauge), whether it’s from Nature or our hose. Woody plants installed during the last season should be given supplemental water, and all trees and shrubs will benefit from watering during times of extreme heat and drought. Damage from drought stress will often show up 1-2 seasons after the stress occurred.
Insect and fungal pests will increase with the approach of summer. To help get ahead of any plant problems, train yourself to monitor your plants frequently. Check under the leaves, looking for signs of infestation: yellowing leaves, and discolored leaf spots, flowers that fail to open fully are some readily noticeable ones. Aphids are a common pest, and surprisingly can be black, orange, or green in color. Botrytis, or grey mold can be minimized by not allowing dead leaves or flowers to accumulate, as it thrives on decaying plant matter. Deadheading your flower bed is as effective as weeding for settling your mind after a long day on the computer.
If you haven’t already staked your peonies, and other tall garden plants, better late than never! One minute all the plants were just popping out of the ground, and we put it off, but now is the time to get your beauties supported.
I’ve had my own run-in with a tick this spring, and had to take medication, so everyone be aware of the seriousness of a random tick bite for humans and animals. According to the CDC, May and June are the peak months for Lyme disease infections. Countryside uses the product ‘Tick Free’, which is 100% organic and very effective for eradicating ticks in your yard, and garden; yet completely safe for people, pets, and beneficial non-target insects. Please contact our spray program manager, Scott Higley, for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Need an extra hand with weeding, and garden chores? Countryside can do the ‘heavy lifting’ so you don’t have to. Please call our office: (413) 458-5586 or email: email@example.com
Bugs with Benefits
Let’s start by saying that all bugs are insects, but not all insects are bugs. The true bug species are in the order Hemiptera, which include aphids, leafhoppers, and cicadas. The defining features of these insects are the mouthparts which have evolved into a beak-like proboscis that is used to pierce plant tissues, and suck up the sap.
Caterpillars can be garden pests, but the immature phase of butterflies and moths feeds 95% of our terrestrial bird species. They are the ideal food for baby birds; full of essential nutrients and protein. In actuality very few species of caterpillar eat crops or ornamental plants. The majority of caterpillar species live on wild native plants, such as Monarch caterpillars feeding on milkweed plants. A diverse palette of flowering plants will benefit moths and butterflies. If possible try and leave an area in your yard unmown, or only mown once a month to achieve an undisturbed area for the immatures to develop. When doing garden clean-ups be aware that some butterflies and moths will over winter in fallen logs, and under leaves.
Crickets are called the unsung heroes of nutrient recycling. Their job is to aid in the breakdown of leafy organic matter, which is bound up in a tough layer of cellulose. By chewing leaves up into smaller pieces, the cricket accelerates the decomposition process, allowing plants to access the nutrients each leaf holds.
Robber Flies, Tachinid Flies, and Parasitic Wasps are the sharks of the insect world. They all work to keep other insect populations in check by hunting and eating them. Robber Flies will even catch tough, hard to kill, Japanese beetles. Make them welcome by allowing a few rotten logs to remain in your yard perimeter; their larvae develop in this environment while they feed on wood boring insects.
Robber fly eating a Japanese beetle
European honeybees are used to pollinate our food crops; 35% of our crops will not set seed or fruit until pollen is transferred from flower to flower. Bumblebees and the other 4,000 species of indigenous or native bees are the pollinators of our native plants, which helps to support our ecosystems. Native bees nest in many different kinds of habitats; ground nesting bees are the most common, and need bare patches of well drained, sunny soil. Cavity dwelling bees will welcome bundles of hollow reeds or bamboo for nesting. You can purchase pre-made nesting blocks for cavity dwelling bees from online garden retailers. When placing out bee blocks or other nesting material, be sure to provide protection from sun and wind exposure.
A home for native bees
We can help our native pollinators by increasing plant diversity, and not mowing too early in the season. Early season blooming native plants provide essential nectar, for newly emerged pollinators. We can grow perennials and shrubs to provide nectar the whole season long. American Linden is known as the ‘bee tree’, as it is that attractive to native bees. Native Blueberries also provide a good source of nectar for bees, and delicious fruit for us. Let some of your yard remain wild, unmown if possible, for our beneficial insects to live and reproduce.
Summer blooming trees add color and texture to the lush green foliage of summer. It’s a welcome sight after the explosion of early blooming tree species have faded. We are fortunate to have many attractive native species to enliven our summer gardens.
Cladrastis kentukyea, the Yellow-wood tree is a member of the legume, or pea family. Yellow-wood has wonderful sweet- pea-like panicles of white or pink flowers in June. This hardy native tree grows 30-50 ft tall x 40 ft wide, with low branching, smooth, silvery bark. It is adaptable to a range of soil types.
Cladrastis kentukyea flowers
Oxydendrum arboretum is our native Sourwood tree. Known as the Lily-of-the-valley tree, it has distinctive panicles of fragrant, creamy-white flowers blooming over a 4 week period during June-July. Excellent specimen for naturalizing in poor, acid soil, with full sun or partial shade. Mature height: 25 ft tall x 20 ft wide.
Oxydendrum arboretum in bloom
Liriodendron tulipfera, The Tulip tree is a stately native tree with unusually shaped glossy green leaves. The yellow, orange and green tulip flowers are borne in late June. Interesting cone-shaped fruit develops and will persist through the winter. This is a tall tree that can grow 70-90 ft tall x 35-50 ft wide at maturity. The tulip tree benefits by allowing for its massive potential height. Tulip trees prefer consistently moist soil.
Liriodendron tulipfera flowers
Aesculus parviflora, the Bottlebrush Buckeye is a handsome large native shrub. It is very adaptable to a range of soil conditions. The interesting rough textured leaves turn butter-yellow in the fall. The white and pink flowers are formed on 12” spikes at the tips of branches. Bottlebrush Buckeye is very adaptable to soils types and sun exposure, blooming well in full sun to partial shade. Grow 8-12 ft tall x 8-15 ft wide.
Aesculus parviflora in bloom
Planting a tree is an investment in your property value, and in bettering our world. If we all planted one tree each year, think of how much beauty we would reap as they mature and enrich our environment. Countryside Landscape can guide you through the process of choosing, buying and planting your new tree.