Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Four Easy To Grow Ferns

Northern  maidenhair fern
Ferns add a delicate touch to your shade garden. Their foliage is very fine textured. Group three or more ferns 2-3 feet apart. Select the specific fern for the garden site, e.g whether it is likely dry or moist soils. Some grow surprisingly well in full sun, but most prefer partial to full shade. Select ferns according to their light and soil moisture requirements.

Here are four species which are easy to grow:
  • Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
  • Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)
    Autumn fern
  • Lady fern (Athryium felix-femina)
  • Northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) - (pictured)
All four ferns prefer a well-drained, highly composted soil and supplemental moisture during long summer dry spells. Keep soil near pH 7.0 (neutral) by occasional liming every few years if soil pH drops.

All four are not finicky, demonstrate good drought tolerance and grow in soil with little to no additional soil prep. Ideally, you should grow ferns in a richly composted garden soil along with adequate moisture over long dry spells. Bi-monthly feeding with a water soluble fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro™, Jack’s™, or Nature’s Source™ from April thru August will get all off to a good start in the first year.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Keep Your Eye on Red Buckeye

Spring blooming Red buckeye
Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia) is a large shrub or low branched tree maturing to a 15 - 20 feet in height and spread. This southeastern U. S. native is becoming more recognized as a good selection in small urban landscapes.

The red buckeye tree flowers young, either in full or partial sun. Numerous 5- to 9- inch long floral heads sit at the ends of branches like decorative candles in late April and May. Flowers open just before the leaves begin to emerge. Flower color on individual trees varies from dark pink to scarlet red. A yellow flowering form is known to exist. Hummingbirds arrive to pollinate the individual funnel-shaped blossoms.

Lovely dark green, palmate compound leaves clothe the branches in the spring and early summer months. The polished dark buckeye seeds fall from the tree beginning in late September, quickly grabbed up by squirrels and others. Seeds are poisonous.

Disease and insect problems are of little consequence in the spring and early summer months. Disease blotched foliage that may also be scorched on the edges, the result of dry summers, results in a premature leaf drop by late August and September. Expect little to no autumn foliage color as branches are typically bare.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Growing Blueberries In Your Garden

Both highbush and rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are hardy in most regions of the U.S. Hot humid summers are problematic for highbush varieties and extremely cold winters can be injurious for rabbiteye blueberries.

Blueberry bushes grow 8-15-feet tall, requiring annual pruning. The soil pH should be in the range of 4.2 to 5.5. Their dark green summer leaves turn scarlet red in the fall. Pale pink flowers appear in the spring followed by the berries which start out as pale-green and ripen to dark bluish-purple.

Blueberries are very shallow rooted and must be irrigated regularly over the growing season. Space blueberry bushes 5 to 7 feet apart with rows 8 feet apart. As a base mulch use fabric matt and cover it with an additional 3 to 4 inches of sawdust, wood chips or pine needles. 

Feed each bush annually with a slow release organic-based sulfur-coated fertilizer. A newly blueberry plant starts out with one ounce of ammonium sulfate to a maximum of 8 ounces of ammonium sulfate for a mature bush per year. Bushes reach full production in 5-6 years and should yield annually for 20-30 years.

For northern gardens (USDA hardiness zones 3-7), highbush blueberries ('Duke', 'Bluecrop', 'Bluejay', 'Jersey', 'Blueray' are favorite cultivars) are harvested.
In Southern gardens, rabbiteye blueberries (zones 7-9) yield best. Varieties include: ('Tifblue', 'Premier', 'Climax', 'Powderblue', 'Brightwell',  'Montgomery'). Consult the local Extension office for recommended blueberry varieties for your area.

Acclimated to southern climates (zones 6b-9), rabbiteye blueberries bloom in early spring and may be injured by late spring frosts. Varieties with a high chilling requirement may yield poorly in deep Southern areas.  Both kinds of blueberries require cross-pollination; a few varieties are  self-fruitful.
Birds love ripe blueberries as much as people do. Cover your bushes with netting to protect against birds during harvest time. Blueberries should be pruned annually.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Multi-Purpose 'Evergold' Sedge

'Evergold' sedge
Japanese sedges (Carex oshimensis)  are fine-textured variegated sedges that typically grow as low, grass-like mounds or clumps. They are found in woodlands and rocky slopes throughout Honshu Island, Japan (USDA hardiness zones 6-8).

Japanese sedges are long-living and foliage is evergreen through most of their growing range. Narrow grass-like variegated leaf blades are upwards of 16 inches long by 5/16 inch wide. Brownish flower spikes appear on triangular stems in spring and have zero ornamental value. 

There are many fine cultivars. I recommend starting with an outstanding cultivar named 'Evergold'. It grows 12 - 18 inches high and 12-18 inches in spread in full shade to partial sunlight and in moist to average soil well- drained soil. Water well after planting and regularly until established after one year. Foliage color is richer in part shade. Plants spread slowly by short rhizomes and can be propagate by rhizome division in early spring.

Space plants 10 inches apart. Group or mass as a ground cover for edging along paths or sidewalks. Utilize as a specimen accent plant in a woodland or a rock garden. Evergold sedge can be planted in low spots and along the edges of a stream, pond, or a water garden. Evergold sedges make perfect additions to mixed containers and window boxes. The leafy mounds spill over the edge of containers

Trim back all last year’s growth around the start of spring. No serious insect or disease problems trouble sedges and are deer resistant.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Select These Ornamental Crabapples

For those gardeners tired of Bradford pear problems, go shopping for ornamental crabapples (Malus spp.). Selected cultivars mature into lovely small spring flowering trees. Most fit under utility lines. Be careful which cultivars you choose.

Worldwide, there are over 400 cultivars of crabapples in nursery commerce. Most are susceptibility to one or more serious foliar diseases that include fire blight, cedar apple rust, apple scab, powdery mildew and frog-eye.  All 19 listed below are rated with above average disease resistance.

Ornamental crabapple fruits add ornamental beauty in fall and winter seasons. Fruit size is small, less than 5/8 inches in diameter. An extra bonus is that small birds are attracted to the fruits from late fall thru winter.  There is no mess on lawns, walkways or cars.

Consult experts at your state's land grant university for an updated listing which may also additional cultivars. Varieties 'Prairifire', 'Sugartyme', Japanese flowering crabapple (M. floribunda) and M. x sargentii are popular at garden centers nationwide.

Here is your shopping list of 18 of the best.
Adams - 20 x 20ft. (magenta flowers & red fruit)                            
Adirondack - 18 x 10 ft. (white flowers & orange-red fruit)
Cardinal® - 16 x 22 ft. (pink-red flowers & red fruit)
Centurion® - 20 x 15 ft. (pink flowers & red fruit)
David - 12 x 12 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)
Donald Wyman - 20 x 20 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)
Doubloons - 18 x 16 ft. (double white flowers & yellow fruit
Firebird® - 8 x 10 ft. (magenta flowers & red fruit)
Japanese flowering crabapple (M. floribunda) - 20 x 20 ft. (light pink flowers & dark red fruit)
Louisa - weeping 10 x 12 ft. (pink flowers & yellow fruit)
Pink Princess™- 8 x 12 ft. (rose pink flowers & red fruit)
Prairifire - 20 x 20 ft. (red-purple flowers & dark red fruit)
Purple Prince® -   20 x 20 ft. (rose red flowers & maroon fruit)
Royal Raindrops® - 20 x 15 ft. (pink red flowers & red fruit)
sargentii - short spreader 8 x 14 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)
sargentii ‘Tina’ - dwarf 5 x 6 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)
Sugartyme® - 18 x 15 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)
White Cascade® - weeping 15 x 15 ft. (white flowers & lime-yellow fruit)
zumi ‘Calocarpa’ -  20 x 24 ft. (white flowers & red fruit)

* Thanks to J. Frank Schmidt & Sons Co., Boring, OR for their cultivar height and width data and foliar disease ratings. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Diseased Resistant Flowering Dogwoods

'Appalachian Joy' at NC Arboretum, Asheville, NC
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a small spring flowering tree that typically grows 15-30 feet tall. It is generally  low-branching, and with a flat-topped canopy.

This beautiful native tree grows best in a moist well-drained soils in 3/4 day sun to light shade. Maintain a 2-4 inch mulch layer around the tree to keep roots cool and moist. It rarely requires pruning, except to remove a broken or dead limb.

Concerns about planting flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) have calmed over the years  with the introduction of five disease resistant dogwood varieties from the University of Tennessee. Spring availability should be good and come in larger landscape sizes in containers and balled and burlapped (b&b).

Anthracnose resistant cultivar: 'Appalachian Spring'
Powdery mildew resistant cultivars: 'Appalachian Snow', 'Appalachian Blush' and 'Appalachian Mist'.

Additionally, 'Cherokee Brave', with dark pink flower bracts, has proven to exhibit exceptionally good powdery mildew resistance.

Flowering dogwood performs best in southern New England and mid-Atlantic states, eastern Mid-west states (Illinois to Ohio), and southeastern U.S.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Best Annuals To Try in Your Garden

Canna 'Toucan' series
If you are designing your spring/summer flower garden, here are some of the very best annuals that you should shop for at garden centers. Most bloom heavily through late spring through the summer months. They are very heat tolerant and demonstrate exceptionally good disease resistance.


Alternanthera 'Purple Prince', 'Plum Dandy'
Angelonia Serena™ series 

Begonia Megawatt™ - whole color series were impressive

Begonia Whopper® series green and bronze leaf types 

Canna Toucan™ series

Canna Cannova™ series

Celosia 'Arrabona', 'Fresh Look', 'Dragon's Breath', 'Prestige Scarlet', 'Intenz'

Coleus FlameThrower™ Habernero, Salsa Verde

Hypoestes Hippo™ Rose

Impatiens New Guinea Divine™ Red, Lavender Improved, Orange 

Lantana Bandana™ series

Lantana Luscious® series

Marigold Taishan™ series Gold, Orange
Salvia 'Mystic Spires Improved'
Marigold Antigua Gold

Marigold Dune Gold, Yellow 

Marigold Moonstruck Orange, Yellow 

Marigold French Bonanza Bolero Improved, Orange, Yellow 

Ornamental Pepper Midnight Fire

Pelargonium (Geranium) Pinto series

Pentas Lucky Star™ series

Petunia Supertunia® Bubblegum, Vista Fuschia, Lovie Dovie 

Petunia Red Velour

Petunia Headliner™ Banana Cherry Swirl

Salvia Rockin'™ Playin' the Blues™
Salvia 'Mystic Spires Improved'
Scaevola Whirlwind™ series 

Thunbergia A-Peel® Lemon, Orange, Tangerine Slice 

Vinca Titan series 

Vinca Vitesse

Zinnia Profusion™ series 

Zinnia Zahara™ series

Zinnia Profusion Double™ series 
Zinnia Zahara Double™ series