Neighborly Garden News
Dear readers; please visit our website: www.countrysidelandscape.net for the safety measures we have in place during this pandemic.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.com
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’