The Health Benefits of Gardening

The Health Benefits of Gardening

Did you know that digging in the dirt is good for your health?  Gardening is a life-giving giving hobby that has a broad range of physical and mental benefits.  It’s no surprise that the use of horticultural therapy to treat medical conditions is growing in popularity.  Gardening activities are widely used to help people cope with anxiety and depression in addition to improving physical health. 

Gardening is also a versatile hobby that can be enjoyed by young and old alike.  Most people can participate in a gardening activity at some level.  Having kids plant seeds in a pot and watch them grow is easy, fun and educational.  Container gardening is also an easy activity that people of all ages can enjoy.  Gardening workshops are surfacing all over, even in bars and restaurants.  Gardening is a worthwhile hobby to pursue, especially considering all of its health benefits.

Physical Benefits 

Spending time in the garden gets you moving and off the couch!  It provides the opportunity for exercise, helping to prevent heart disease and many other illnesses.  Spending just 2-3 hours of time gardening per week can make a big difference in your overall well-being!  Research has shown that gardening can help:

  • Reduce the risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes by providing moderate exercise.
  • Boost immunity by exposing you to “friendly” soil bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) which has been found to alleviate symptoms of allergies and asthma.
  • Promote weight loss since it provides a great whole body workout that feels more like fun than exercise. Gardeners have a significantly lower body mass index and less chance of obesity.
  • Improve fine and gross motor skills and improve hand-eye coordination. This is especially important for seniors since they have diminishing dexterity and strength in their hands.

Mental Benefits

Gardening also has a number of mental benefits and has been proven to significantly lower depression. Studies have shown that it improves mood and cognitive function.  Gardening can give you a deep sense of well-being and an opportunity to connect with nature.  In addition to lowering depression, it has also been shown to:

  • Improve self-esteem – it gives the opportunity to learn and accomplish tasks. Gardening gives personal satisfaction by allowing you to work on a project, however small.
  • Encourage socialization – local gardening clubs and community gardening projects encourage fellowship and teamwork. Gardening activities help draw people out that are isolated and need companionship.
  • Spark creativity – gardening challenges the mind to solve problems and be creative. You need to decide what to plant and where.
  • Improve brain health – people that garden have a reduced risk of developing dementia later in life.
  • Stimulate the senses – gardening gives a chance to connect with nature and interact with the environment. Plants are great to look at, touch and smell.
  • Provide stress relief – caring for plants gives pleasure and reduces stress. Research has shown that gardening lowers cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Due to its widespread benefits, gardening is an activity that is being used for interactive health and healing.  Gardens are popping up in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, and in community centers for the homeless and at-risk youth.  Spending time in the garden provides a sanctuary from stressful living and generally helps people feel better.  So, what are you waiting for?  It’s time to get outside and dig in the dirt!

 

For more information about Floral & Hardy of Skippack gardening workshops, contact us at 610-584-0797 or click here to see our events: http://floralandhardyofskippack.com/upcoming-events/

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Plants for Fall and Winter Interest

Plants for Fall and Winter Interest

Enjoy color in your gardens all year long by adding plants that are attractive in fall and winter!  You can easily mix these plants in your gardens to achieve year round interest. Place the plants strategically in spots where you can view them through your window during colder months.  This will allow you to enjoy your gardens even during stark winter days.

There are many plants that can add color and texture to your landscape during fall and winter.  Some produce colorful berries, leaves or bark while others develop cool looking seed heads.  Listed below are examples of perennials, shrubs, grasses and evergreens that can add appeal to your gardens during multiple seasons.

Perennials 

  • Hellebores. Commonly known as the Lenten Rose, hellebores are some of the earliest perennials to bloom from late winter into spring and have long lasting flowers.  They’re trouble-free plants with evergreen foliage, making them attractive all four seasons.

 

  • Amsonia. This plant is known for its beautiful true blue star-shaped blooms which form on dense clumps of thick upright stems.  The stems are covered by narrow, lance-shaped green leaves that turn bright golden yellow in the fall and last a long time.

   

  • Baptisia. Commonly known as false indigo, baptisias have something to offer every season.  They have thick, asparagus-like stalks in the spring with beautiful dark blue/purplish flowers.  They develop blue-green leaves and seedpods that add interest to the remaining seasons. 

  • Echinacea (Purple Coneflowers).  Purple coneflowers are a favorite summer blooming plant that produce large, daisy-like blooms with a spiky center.  They have seed heads which stand out in winter gardens and attract goldfinches and other birds.    
  • Rudbeckia. Black-eyed Susan flowers (Rudbeckia hirta) produce multiple dark seed heads after flowering and are also favored by seed-eating songbirds.  They’re hardy plants and a common beautiful sight in meadows during summer and early fall.
  • Solidago (Goldenrod).  Goldenrods have feathery, branching clusters of bright yellow flowers that stand out in fall gardens and are beautiful in floral arrangements.  Some varieties are spreaders but other hybrid types are more compact and non-invasive.
  • Sedum. The genus Sedum contains hundreds of species from small ground covers to upright varieties like the popular ‘Autumn Joy’ and ‘Autumn Fire’.  They bloom mainly in the fall with clusters of flowers that remain attractive in the winter.
  • Asters.  There are a variety of asters that bloom mainly from late summer to late fall.  Asters are a popular perennial with bloom colors ranging from white, pink and red to purple.  They’re drought tolerant and add a splash of color to fall gardens.
  • Chrysanthemum. These plants are a main-stay of fall gardens and are available in a variety of vibrant colors.  They’re dense, sturdy plants that love full sun and well-drained soil.

Shrubs

  • Beautyberry (Calicarpa americana). This plant is known for its beautiful cluster of small purple berries along drooping branches. It has yellow-green fall foliage and the berries provide food for all different types of birds during fall and winter months.

 beautyberry

  • Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) brightens up winter landscapes with its vibrant red berries.  This is a native shrub that loses its leaves each autumn but has thousands of brightly colored berries clinging to each stem.  Winterberry stems look stunning in winter container arrangements and holiday floral arrangements.  

  • Heavenely bamboo (Nandina domestica) is a semi-evergreen shrub that displays lacy, scarlet foliage in the fall.  It also produces sprays of graceful red berries in fall and winter, attracting wildlife.

 

  • Viburnums are hardy shrubs that have great fall color leaves, ranging from yellow to red or purple.  Viburnums have profuse white to pink flowers in spring and lovely midsummer berries which turn a darker color in fall.  There are many different types and some have beautiful spreading branches that stand out in a winter landscape.
  • Fothergillas are native, low maintenance shrubs that don’t require pruning. They have abundant showy white blooms in spring and summer with a sweet fragrance.  Fothergillas also have fiery fall foliage with vibrant colors of purple, red, yellow and orange.  
  • Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) has four seasons of interest, featuring fragrant, tiny white flowers that cover the shrub in late spring/early summer.  Its oval, dark green leaves turn pretty shades of red and gold in fall. The leaves often stay on the plants until early winter.
  • Ninebark (Physocarpus) The traditional foliage color of ninebark is a stunning deep purple. This plant produces pretty pink and white flowers in the summer. Ninebark is more well known for its interesting bark in the winter.  As the bark of the older stems age, they peel back in layers, creating a cool exfoliation effect.
  • Caryopteris/Blue Mist Shrub produces clouds of blue flowers in late August through fall and has aromatic foliage. The shrubs are drought tolerant and deer resistant while attracting many butterflies and bees.  
  • Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is a hardy, native type with oak-shaped leaves that turn a lovely red/deep purple color in fall.  During winter, the blooms remain dried on the stalks and can be used in flower arrangements. 

  • Lava Lamp’ Candelabra™ (Hydrangea paniculata) is another type of hydrangea that’s attractive during fall and winter.It has brilliant red/pink flowers in fall and stems that turn bright red during winter. 

Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses add color, structure and movement to fall and winter gardens.  They produce elegant feathery plumes and seed heads that attract wildlife.  They can grow very tall and stand out in the snowy landscape, creating an interesting contrast when planted near evergreens.  There are many different grasses with varying colors such as:

  • Red October’ Big Bluestem (Andropogaen gerardii) has attractive foliage all four seasons – gray-blue in spring which deepens to blue-green in summer and turns a brilliant scarlet color in fall/winter. It’s also drought and deer resistant! 

    ‘Standing Ovation’ (Schizachyrium scoparium). This grass has spikey bluish-green stems and leaves that transition to a striking display of oranges, reds, and purplish-browns in fall.

  • ‘Little Miss’ (Miscanthus sinensis) is a dwarf grass that has slender green foliage which takes on reddish, purple tones in summer and fiery shades in fall. It’s an ideal accent plant for small gardens and containers.
  • Japanese Blood Grass ‘Red Baron’ (Imperata cylindrica) has stunning foliage that starts green at the base and changes to burgundy red further up the blade. It provides a brilliant seasonal display in both fall and winter seasons.

Evergreens

Evergreens include cone-bearing trees and shrubs (conifers) that come in all sizes, shapes and colors.  Conifers have foliage that is needle-like in pine trees and flat or scale-like in an arborvitae.  They provide great all season interest and the dwarf and miniature versions are becoming very popular. In addition, broadleaf evergreens such as boxwood, hollies and rhododendrons keep their leaves and provide color throughout the winter. 

There are many options for adding evergreens to create four seasons of interest in gardens. Listed below are some examples:

  • Cypress: ‘Gold Thread Cypress’ (Chamaecyparis pisifera) – hardy brilliant evergreen conifer that forms delicate lacy mounds with yellow, threadlike new growth. 

  • Boxwood: ‘Little Missy Boxwood’ (Buxus microphylla) is a compact boxwood that’s great for borders, standing out with small glossy dark green leaves.
  • Hollies:

1.‘Sky Pencil’(Ilex crenata) is a Japanese Holly that has a sleek, stylish look with a tall, narrow columnar shape. It grows no more than 2 feet wide and you can prune it to a smaller width.  Height ranges from 5 to 10 feet.

2. ‘Blue Prince/Princess’ (Ilex meserveae). Blue Prince and Blue Princess combine to produce famously festive holly berries. In early spring, little white flowers appear and it keeps beautiful blue-green foliage throughout fall.

3. ‘Helleri’ (Ilex crenata) is a slow growing cultivar that has tiny, glossy evergreen leaves.  The plant only reaches 2 to 4 feet tall.

For more information about plants that add fall and winter interest, contact Floral & Hardy at 610-584-0797.

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Spotted Lanternfly Identification and Control

Spotted Lanternfly Identification and Control

What is Spotted Lanternfly?

Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, is an invasive pest that’s native to China. It was first detected in 2014 in southeastern Pennsylvania. SLF has spread since then and is currently under quarantine in 13 Pennyslvania counties (see map below). SLF doesn’t bite or sting humans but poses a serious threat to our agricultural industry.

Which plants are affected?

The pest feeds primarily on tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) but also feeds on other plants such as grapevine, hops, maple, walnut, fruit trees, etc. SLF has a wide host range and can also attack the plants in your backyard! It can cause serious damage to host plants that it feeds on. This pest has a piercing-sucking mouthpart that’s tapped into the plant like a straw. It sucks sap from the plant, eventually weakening and killing it.

Identification and Life Cycle

SLF completes its life cycle within one year. Adults lay 1-inch-long egg masses in the fall on hard surfaces (trees, decks, houses, outdoor equipment, vehicles, firewood, etc.) The eggs are protected with a mud-like covering and hatch in the spring. They go through four nymph stages and can be seen as early as April. Nymphs are black with white spots during the first three stages and appear red and white during the last stage. The adults emerge in July and are about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide at rest with eye-catching wings. The SLF adult remains active until winter and can fly whereas the nymphs are only able to hop. However, the adult’s wings often remain closed since they tend to jump more than fly.

SLF Quarantine PA Counties  

                                                

                                                 

4 Steps of SLF Management

What can you do to help control and eradicate SLF? Follow these five simple steps:

  1. Stop the Spread. You can help stop the SLF from spreading by checking for egg masses from late fall to early spring and removing them. Also, check for nymphs and adults and keep car windows rolled up when you park. Remember to check your car and outdoor hard surfaces for signs of them, especially if you’re travelling in and out of the quarantine zone. Feel free to remove and crush the SLF.
  2. Scrape and Destroy SLF Eggs. Inspect your property for egg masses on a regular basis. You’ll most likely find them from September to June. You can scrape off egg masses from surfaces by using a plastic card or putty knife. Scrape them into a bag or container filled with isopropyl alcohol to kill them.
  3. Remove Tree-of-Heaven. The tree-of-heaven is a favorite host of the SLF and an invasive species of tree. Remove the tree from your property by getting rid of the entire root system. After cutting the tree down, treat the stump with herbicide to prevent re-growth.
  4. Use Chemical Control. Contact insecticides (bifenthrin and carbaryl) kill SLFs when the chemical contacts the pest as a direct spray or if it walks over a surface with the chemical residue. Systemic insecticides, (dinotefuran and imidacloprid) are absorbed by the tree and the SLF is killed as it feeds on it. Other more environmentally friendly solutions such as Neem oil and insecticidal soap also provide some control.

Another recommended strategy for controlling SLFs is to band trees with sticky tape in order to trap the nymphs in spring.  However, the downside to using tape is that other animals such as birds are also trapped.  it may be best to try the other control methods first.

What is Floral & Hardy Doing to Control SLF?

As a garden center, it’s our responsibility to control SLF to the best of our ability. We have taken the following measures:

  • Inspecting plants. We have plants arriving daily and check them for SLFs.
  • Destroying SLFs. The SLFs that are found on our plants are destroyed, using various methods.
  • Chemical Control. Our trees have been treated with dinotefuran which is a systemic insecticide that has proven to be effective (see above).

Conclusion

The Spotted Lanternfly is not a pest that can be ignored! It’s everyone’s responsibility to try to contain the spread of this invasive and destructive insect. Unfortunately, it’s already been spotted in neighboring Pennsylvania states such as Delaware and New Jersey. Researchers are working tirelessly to find a solution which may include using biocontrol and microbial control agents. In the meantime, let’s do our part!

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Hydrangea Basics and Care

hydrangeaHydrangea plants have beautiful clustered blooms that are available in a variety of colors and shapes.  Their stunning flowers provide a great addition to both gardens and floral bouquets.  Hydrangeas are popular deciduous shrubs that stand out in landscapes due to their showy flowers.  Colors range from frosty whites to vibrant blues and pinks.  Caring for hydrangeas is relatively easy once you understand some basics.

1. Planting Your Hydrangea

Hydrangeas will thrive if planted in the right location!  Some varieties such as the Oakleaf type get very large and need a good amount of space.  Most hydrangeas also prefer part sun/part shade conditions.  Ideally, they like morning sun and afternoon shade.  Hydrangeas also need porous and moist, well-drained soil. Simple planting instructions include:

  • Dig a hole that’s as deep as the root ball and about 2 times as wide.
  • Set the plant in the hole and fill it half full with soil. Water. 
  • After water drains, fill the rest of the hole with soil. Water again thoroughly. 
  • Add compost to amend poor soil (optional).
  • Finish with a layer of mulch to help retain moisture.

Hydrangeas can be planted any time of the year except when the ground is frozen.  After planting, keep your hydrangea well watered until it’s established and check for signs of wilting.  

2. Pruning Hydrangeas

Many people are confused about when to prune their hydrangeas.  Pruning at the wrong time can prevent a hydrangea from producing flowers. There are generally two different types of hydrangeas with respect to pruning – “Old Wood” and “New Wood” bloomers.  

Old Wood Bloomers

Hydrangeas that bloom on old wood start developing their bloom buds the summer before the current season.  Prune them only after they bloom in the summer!  Pruning them in fall or later will remove the bloom buds for next year and they won’t flower.  However, feel free to deadhead the plant and remove old blooms after they fade.  Cut them off with a short stem so that you don’t disturb any new buds.  You can also remove dead or weak stems by cutting them to the ground.  

Popular types of “Old Wood” bloomers include:

  • Hydrangea macrophylla – Mophead, Big Leaf and Lacecap
  • Hydrangea quercifolia – Snow Queen, Ice Crystal, and Ruby Slippers
  • Hydrangea serrata – Bluebird and Kiyosumi

New Wood Bloomers

The “New Wood” bloomers set flower buds on the current season’s wood.  They can be pruned in fall or winter which makes the timing of pruning less critical.  You can remove dead stems and prune to retain the shape of the plant.  Typical varieties of “New Wood” bloomers include:

  • Hydrangea paniculata – Pee Gee, Limielight, Pinky Winky, Little Quick Fire and Lavalamp Candelabra
  • Hydrangea arborescens – Annabelle, Invincibelle and Haas Halo

Old and New Wood Bloomers

‘Endless Summer’ is a new variety of big leaf hydrangea that produces flowers on old and new wood.  It starts blooming in early spring and produces flowers continuously all summer long.  You can prune ‘Endless Summer’ any time of the year and it should still flower.  This plant is better for cold climates since it will flower on new wood even if the old wood suffers cold damage. Tuff Stuff (hydrangea serrrata) is also a variety that blooms on old and new wood.

One final note about pruning – it’s a good idea to remove about one-third of the oldest stems each year to revitalize older hydrangea plants. This will result in fuller and healthier hydrangeas.  

3. Altering Hydrangea Color

You can change the color of Bigleaf hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) by modifying the soil pH.  This includes the Mophead and Lacecap types.  Acidic soil (pH less than 5.5) will produce blue flowers and more alkaline soil will produce pink flowers.  Sprinkle aluminum sulfate over the soil to make it more acidic and lime to make it more alkaline. 

Altering the color of your hydrangea takes time so don’t expect instant results.  It may take months! Also, it’s easier to change blue flowers to pink than pink to blue.  You may get purple flowers if the soil is slightly acidic or neutral (pH of 6 to 7). Sometimes a combination of blue, pink and purple flowers will bloom on the same plant!  White flowers aren’t affected by soil pH so you won’t be able to change their color.

 

For more information about other perennials, succulents and houseplants, please visit Floral & Hardy’s Garden Blog: http://floralandhardyofskippack.com/blogs

Please visit our Facebook Page for the latest details about our plant specials: https://www.facebook.com/floralandhardy/

 

 

 

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Butterfly Bush Benefits and Care

butterfly bush The Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is a nectar rich plant that attracts dozens of species of butterflies in addition to hummingbirds, bees and beneficial insects.  It produces masses of beautiful fragrant flowers from June through September and is hardy in USDA zones 5 – 9.                        

Butterfly bushes are magnets for butterflies since they can reach the plant’s nectar easily. The flowers have shallow receptacles that harbor a high percentage of sucrose, an energy fuel.  They also emit a honey-like fragrance, making them irresistible to butterflies.  Unlike other summer plants, butterfly bushes provide a food source late into the growing season.  Wildlife can feast on them after other supplies have been depleted.

Benefits

Butterfly bushes are viewed by some as invasive plants since they aren’t native and can spread.  However, it’s easy to control their growth with a little pruning.  Their pros definitely outweigh their cons.  They have many virtues, including:

·         Easy to grow

·         Drought tolerant

·         Long panicles of fragrant flowers

·         Profuse blooms until fall

·         Valuable food source for wildlife

·         Deer resistant

Types and Care

There are currently over 100 varieties available in different hues of purple, red, pink and white colors.  Sizes now include dwarf types (‘Blue Chip’ and ‘Pink Chip’) for small gardens and containers.  Larger sizes are typically planted as a backdrop in gardens since they can grow up to 6 – 12 feet high.

Butterfly bushes should be planted in full sun (minimum of 6 hours/day) and well-drained soil.  They will tolerate periods of drought but not wet soil. They need plenty of extra room to grow so plant them a distance of about 5 to 10 feet apart.  When planting, follow these simple steps:

1.       Dig a whole that’s twice the diameter of the plant container.

2.       Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is the same level as the soil surface.

3.       Mix a layer of compost in the soil to lightly fertilize. 

4.       Water the plant thoroughly. 

5.       Cover with a 2 inch layer of mulch for moisture retention and winter protection. 

Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood each year and should be pruned hard in early spring (after the last frost and before new buds appear).  Cut them down to almost ground level in order to encourage new growth.  Also, remove spent blooms during the growing season for a longer lasting flower display.

For more information about butterfly bushes, contact Floral & Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797

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Growing and Harvesting Lovely Lavender

growing-lavenderPeople have been growing lavender for centuries, dating back to the ancient Egyptians.  They soaked shrouds in lavender to embalm their mummies and keep the flies away.  Later on, the Romans used lavender for purifying baths and actually gave lavender its name.  Lavender is derived from the Latin work “Lavare” which means “to wash”.

The Many Uses of Lavender

The use of lavender has grown in popularity over the centuries.  Lavender is an herb, well known for its medicinal benefits and beautiful aroma.  In medieval Europe, people fastened a sprig of Lavender to their wrists to keep the Bubonic plague away.  During World War I, it was used as an antiseptic to treat wounds and burns. 

Today, the plant is widely known for it’s therapeutic benefits.  Lavender helps elevate mood, reduce stress and alleviate pain from migraines.  Lavender is also a popular scent for sachets, soaps, lotions, perfumes, etc.  It has culinary benefits as well and is used as an ingredient to make honey, beverages, cookies and other edibles. 

Growing Lavender Plants

Lavender is a great pollinator plant, attracting many bees and butterflies to gardens. It’s a perennial for most zones in the U.S. and should be planted in full sun in a spot where there’s well -drained soil.  Lavender needs to be watered deeply but infrequently (when the soil dries out).  The plant doesn’t do well in wet conditions and likes hot, dry weather.  It should be pruned in early spring by cutting about 1/3 off of the tops of mature plants. 

Types of Lavender

There are many different types of lavender and they vary slightly by habit, color and fragrance.  Popular types include:

  1. English (Lavandula angustifoilia). This is common lavender and there are about 100 cultivars of this type available.  This plant has narrow leaves with short, cracked stems and barrel shaped flowers.  It forms mounds that are about 2 feet tall.  English lavender has traditionally been a great choice for English gardens.  Popular types include Munstead and Hidcote.
  2. French (Lavendula dentate).  French lavender is native to Spain and can’t tolerate cold climates.  It’s often grown in the U.S. as an annual.  Its’ leaves have square shaped teeth along the edges and are narrow with flowers that have a fragrance similar to rosemary.  Like other annuals, French lavender is a continuous bloomer with flowers that are shades of purple, blue and white.  Examples include Fernleaf French & Goodwin Creek (a hybrid that does well in cold climates).
  3. Spike (Lavendula latifolia).  This is a broad leaf lavender with wider leaves.   The aroma is more eucalyptus like and is commonly used in soaps and room sprays.

Harvesting & Drying Lavender

Lavender should be cut when the flower just opens in spring and blooms are tight with plentiful buds.  To harvest lavender, cut bunches at least 2 inches above the woody growth. The plant is rooted to the ground with woody growth which you don’t want to injure.  Also, harvesting the entire plant will typically allow you to gain a second harvest in late summer.

Dry lavender in bunches by hanging them upside down in a cool, dark spot for about 2 to 4 weeks.  The flowers should then fall easily off of the stems and can then be used for a variety of purposes.  You can also keep the lavender bunches intact and display them in a vase. 

The best thing about lavender is its’ versatility.  It’s relatively easy to grow and has so many benefits! Take a lesson from our ancestors and use it in to improve your health and well-being.

For more information about lavender plants, contact Floral & Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797. 

 

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Simple Tips to Grow Healthy Roses

roseThe rose is known as the “Queen of Flowers” and has been a symbol of love and beauty throughout history.  It was designated the official flower of the United States in 1986, playing an important role in myth and poetry from ancient times until the present. 

Roses come in every shape, size and color imaginable.  There are over 13,000 varieties available to choose from!  Rose petal numbers range from five-petal blossoms to full flowers of 100 petals or more.  Different rose types include climbers, shrubs, miniatures, Hybrid Teas, etc.  With so many options, there’s a rose that can fit any gardener’s need.

How to Make Rose Gardening Easy

Roses are among the most fragrant and showy of all garden plants.  Yet, many people shy away from growing them since they have a reputation of being difficult to care for.   Anyone can become a successful rose gardener if they follow some simple steps:

  1. Choose the right type – select varieties that grow well in your climate and are hardy.  Disease resistant types such as Knockout roses thrive more easily and have a long bloom cycle.  Other hardy examples include David Austin English roses.  They have a wonderful fragrance with beautiful old rose-type blooms. 
  2. Select a good site – roses need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day and the soil should have good drainage.  Avoid placing roses in very windy, exposed areas.  Strong winds may cause the base of the rose to loosen which can damage the plant.
  3. Ensure proper planting – dig a hole that’s about 2 feet wide by 2 feet deep.  Mix compost and peat moss with the excavated soil which you’ll use to backfill the hole.  Place the plant in the hole so that the rose’s bud union is about 2 inches below the surface of the ground.  Add the soil mixture and make sure it’s firm around the roots. 
  4. Use mulch for protection – add a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch around your roses to retain moisture and provide protection.  In late fall, mound some more mulch and compost around rose plants to protect them against harsh winters.  Remove the mound in early spring.  Also, trim tall canes down to 2 feet so that they’re not damaged by the wind. 
  5. Water thoroughly – the rule of thumb is to make sure roses get about 2 inches of water per week.  Deep soakings are much better than frequent, shallow watering.  Using a watering wand will allow you to water more precisely and deeply at the base of the plant.  It will also help keep the foliage dry, preventing fungal disease.
  6. Fertilize during the growing season – roses should be fertilized starting in early spring (when the first few leaves sprout) until the end of the summer. You can purchase fertilizer that’s specifically formulated for roses and follow the directions for frequency of application. 
  7. Prune regularly– pruning roses keeps them healthy and beautiful, preventing rotting and disease.   In the late winter, trim down roses to promote healthy new growth, using sharp pruning shears.  Also, trim away dead canes and suckers (small offshoots of the main plant).  When pruning, make a down-slanted 45 degree angle cut about a ¼ inch above an outward-facing bud eye (looks like a small circular swell above the surface of the cane). 
  8. Deadhead flowers – remember to deadhead your roses by removing spent blooms.  Deadheading encourages new flowers to grow so that your roses keep blooming into the fall. 

Give roses what they need and you’ll be rewarded with beautiful blooms and healthy plants.  For more information about rose selection and care, contact Floral & Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797. 

 

 

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Spring Checklist for Prepping Your Gardens

spring garden prepSpring is finally here and your gardens are waking up!  It’s time to plant, prune and prepare your beds for the growing season.  Listed below are some important steps to follow when getting your gardens ready for spring:

1.  Shape up your tools

  • Clean tools– this is necessary so that you don’t accidentally spread a fungus, insect eggs or diseases throughout the garden. 
  • Sharpen tools – sharpen pruners, shears, loppers and other gardening tools that are dull. This allows you to make clean cuts when pruning, keeping your plants healthier.  It also saves time with garden clean up if your tools are in shape.

2.  Test and amend soil

Soil testing is recommended in order to ensure the best growing conditions for plants.   The test is cheap and easy to perform.  The results will help you discover if your soil is lacking nutrients and direct you towards the appropriate fertilizer combination.  It will also determine the pH of the soil and give recommendations about how to amend the soil if needed.  Soil test kits are available from your local county extension office for a small fee.  They can also be purchased from commercial garden centers.

3.  Clean up garden beds

  • Pull weeds – get rid of weeds now before they spread.  They’re easier to pull in early spring since their roots are shallower.  Weeding isn’t a fun job but more endurable if performed on cooler spring days.
  • Rake debris – rake leaves, twigs, fallen branches and old plants such as annuals leftover from the previous season.  You can add the debris to your compost pile but be careful not to mix in old plants that are diseased.

4.  Prep perennial beds

  • Add organic matter – this includes compost, peat moss, rotted manure, etc.  Work the matter into the top layer of the soil while loosening up the old winter mulch.
  • Mulch the beds – add a layer of mulch (usually 2 to 3 inches) to prevent weed growth and retain moisture.   Apply the mulch around the sprouting root mass of each plant and not over the top of it.
  • Divide perennials – you can divide and re-plant perennials such as daylilies as soon as green stems emerge.

5.  Prune and cut back plants

As the old saying goes, “When forsythias bloom it’s time to prune…”  Prune back perennial plants in early spring to shape them and to encourage healthy new growth.  This includes roses, butterfly bushes, lavender and other woody perennials that bloom on new branches.  Be sure to remove any dead, diseased or damaged stems and suckers.   Ornamental grasses can also be cut back to several inches off the ground, using garden shears. 

Wait to prune hydrangea bushes that bloom on old wood until mid-summer so that you don’t destroy this year’s flower buds.  This includes the traditional big leaf group and oak leaf type hydrangeas.   Some other varieties that flower in the summer can be pruned in early spring.  Examples are smooth leaf ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas and panicle hydrangeas that have large cone flowers. 

6.  Plant early spring vegetables

Veggie garden soil is workable and ready for planting if it crumbles and is dry.  Wait to plant if the soil is too wet and easily compacted (forms a ball in your hand).  Once the soil is ready, you can plant transplants for early spring vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and cabbage.  Carrots, radishes and peas can be grown from seed and sown in the garden at this time.  Don’t forget to protect your seedlings if a hard frost sets in.  Cover them with a milk jug, overturned bucket or a large flower pot.

7.  Perform basic maintenance

Winter can be hard on the infrastructure of your garden including raised beds, fences, containers and trellises.  Now is a good time to fix anything that’s been damaged.  It’s also a good idea to inspect and clean porches, decks and patios.

Taking the time to prep your gardens is a worthwhile effort.  Your plants are more likely to thrive and your gardens will look better aesthetically.  It’s also a great excuse to get outside and enjoy the fresh air after a long winter. 

For more information about vegetable and flower selections for spring planting, please contact Floral and Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797.

 

 

 

 

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Easy Steps for Successful Seed Starting

Seed starting seed-startingis a great way to get a jumpstart on the spring growing season.  It’s an enjoyable activity and an inexpensive way to grow a wider selection of plants.  Just one pack of seeds will produce a lot more plants per penny, compared to buying them as full-grown plants.

Another reason for starting your own seeds is that more varieties of plants are available as seeds.  Seed starting gives you the flexibility to decide which variety to grow for each vegetable and flower.  You can grow that rare heirloom tomato that you can’t find at a garden center.

Seed Starting Basics

Before you begin, follow the directions on the seed packets so that you know when to start your plants indoors. They’ll need to be at the correct stage of development when it’s time to move them outside after the last frost.  Many vegetables typically need to be started indoors in early spring, usually six weeks before the last frost date. 

Next, gather your supplies for seed starting which typically include: seeds, potting mix, containers, labels/markers, plastic bags, water, bottom heat, light source.  You can use biodegradable pots, plastic pots, or flat trays for the container.  Also, make sure that your container has adequate drainage at the bottom.

Steps to Success

Seed starting is relatively easy if you follow some simple steps:

  • Dampen the potting mix after placing it in a container (always water from the bottom) and sow the seeds. Depth placement is usually the depth of the seed.  Smaller seeds can be placed on top of the potting mix.
  • Place granite grit/chicken grit on top of the potting mix and seeds (optional step).  This is an excellent way to gauge when the seeds/seedlings need water and the grit may discourage airborne viruses.
  • Label each container or group of containers, using Popsicle sticks or other markers.
  • Place containers in plastic bags, cover with plastic wrap, or place a clear plastic cover over the container.  This creates humidity.
  • Place the containers with their plastic covering over some type of bottom heat (top of the refrigerator is a good spot).  You can also use a heated seed starting mat.
  • Remove the plastic covering once the seedlings emerge.  The bottom heat is no longer needed.
  • Place the seedlings in a light source.  They will need 12 to 18 hours of light each day.  Fluorescent lights are best but natural sunlight also works well.
  • Water the seedlings when the soil appears dry.  You can also give them an optional “feeding” with any plant fertilizer at the recommended dosage for houseplants.  As your plants start to grow, repot the seedlings if necessary by using a larger container.  Wait until the seedlings develop their first “true” leaves for this.
  • Harden off your plants.  Gradually introduce your seedlings to the garden after threat of frost.  Ten days to two weeks prior to setting them out in the garden, bring the plants outside into a shady area.  Gradually expose them to outdoor conditions and bring them inside if the temperature falls below 40 degrees. 
  • When your plants are large enough for easy handling and hardening-off is complete, plant them in the garden   Select a cloudy day for the task and dig a hole twice as wide as the plant. Carefully remove the plant (retain as much soil as possible) and set it in the hole at the same level it was growing in the container.

For more information on seed starting, supplies and seed packets, contact Floral & Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797..

 

Resources:

“Tips for Successful Seed Starting” presentation by Susan Doblmaier, Penn State Master Gardener.

Penn State Extension article: http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/news/2015/seed_starting_demystified

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How to Care for Houseplants with Confidence

houseplantsThere’s no reason to limit your gardening to the outdoors.  Houseplants offer a great way to bring the color and freshness of plants inside.  They provide a chance to interact with nature even if it’s a cold, winter day.

Benefits of Houseplants

Houseplants are good for your health and can brighten your mood. Growing plants is known to have many therapeutic benefits. The act of caring for them gives pleasure and reduces stress.  Houseplants also appeal to our senses with their fragrant smells and varying textures.

Keeping the air clean is another key health benefit associated with houseplants.  They absorb pollutants and trap particle matter through their leaves.  Examples of good pollutant absorbers include spider plants, English ivy, golden pothos, philodendron, sansevieria and bamboo palm.  Spider plants have even been used by NASA to absorb formaldehyde on the space shuttle.

Despite these benefits, some people shy away from growing houseplants since they’ve had little success with them.  However, anyone can grow beautiful houseplants by following some simple techniques.

Tips for Success

1. Choose a healthy plant

Inspect a plant before you buy it. What to look for:

  • Healthy leaves – make sure they’re the right size and color. Also, look for brown leaf tips which may indicate that the plant is stressed.
  • Bug infestation – check the entire plant, looking at the underside of the leaves. Be aware of sticky mold and sticky honeydew which are symptoms of infestation. 
  • Good soil quality – check to see if there’s mold or fertilizer salt buildup on top of the soil. Also, a sour smell may indicate root or crown rot from overwatering.

2. Find the right spot

Choose the right growing conditions. Factors to consider include:

  • Amount of Light – always read the label when you buy a plant so that you know how much light it needs. For example, flowering plants and succulents need more bright light.  Also, the amount of light a room receives varies since the angle of the sun changes as the seasons change.  South windows may receive up to six or more hours of direct sun in the winter and only indirect light in the summer.
  • Climate & humidity – your plant’s climate will change with the seasons.  In winter, the humidity is usually lower and plants placed close to heating vents may dry out faster.  Place plants that need high humidity (Boston Fern) in the bathroom during the winter.
  • Temperature –houseplants need a temperature between 60 °F to 75 °F.  Watch out for spots with cold drafts (near a window) and excessive heat (fireplace area).  Extreme temperatures could affect the health of the plant.

3. Pay attention to your plant

Keep an eye on how well your plant is doing.  Houseplants need a little care so be sure to:

  • Water when needed – determine how much and often your plants need to be watered. Brown leaf tips are usually signs that the plant is getting either too much or too little water.
  • Ensure proper drainage – use a container with a drainage hole. You can always slip the container into a more decorative pot and have it rest on an inverted saucer (prevents plant from sitting in water).
  • Perform maintenance – remove dead leaves and spent blooms. Keep plants looking pretty and prune overgrown plants when necessary.  You may also need to transplant plants that are root bound and need a larger pot.
  • Assess health – look for symptoms of disease, including leaf drop, wilting, discoloration, etc. Treat bug infestations right away, using insecticidal soap.

Follow these tips and you’ll be able to care for your houseplants with confidence.  For more information about houseplants, contact Floral & Hardy of Skippack at 610-584-0797.

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