THE BLOG: let's talk gardening

JANUARY
31
2014

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Winter Weather Gardening Tips

Mother Nature has sure sent us some wintry weather over the past two weeks. Springs flowers will much be appreciated and we will wait with anticipation for the groundhogs report. With all the snow and wintry weather, we assembled a few tips from our garden guru’s to give you a little garden guidance in the coming weeks.

The good news is that this cold weather has come well into the winter season. As we move deeper into winter, plants develop much of their cold hardiness and as it gets colder the plants become more hardy. In other words, 5 degrees in early December can be devastating to a plant, however, the same 5 degrees in mid January with a slow cool down will have much less negative effect.

More good news is that a good snow cover is like pulling a warm blanket over the plants. The extra insulation holds the earth’s natural temperature down and protects the plants from wind and cold.

This snow was texturally rather light and it did not stick heavily to the foliage and stems of plants. We recommend removing any snow that is bending branches to help eliminate broken branches. Once the snow melts, there still may be some broken branches and we recommend pruning them out as soon as the plants are thawed out. To do this, make clean smooth cuts with an angle so that they shed water.

It will be early April before we can identify much of the cold damage that has occured over the past few weeks. Broad leaf evergreens are the most susceptible. While the roots are frozen the leaves are exposed to cold, dry winds that draw the moisture out. The desiccated leaves have no way to replenish the water and die. This often does not show up until it is time for spring growth. A soon as these branches are identified remove them. It is best to cut as little as possible at first and then cut again until you reach stems that are all green under the bark. During snowy weather back in the 70’s, we saw Ligustrum, camellias and figs killed to the ground. When cut to the ground you will be surprised at how quickly the big strong root system can re-grow the top foliage.

Plants in containers above ground are the next most susceptible. It is best if they can be placed in a protected location out of the sun and screened from the wind. Once frozen, they are best left untouched until Mother Nature thaws them naturally.

JANUARY
28
2014

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Invite Birds To Your Yard

HOW TO MAKE A BIRDSEED WREATH

Invite the birds to your yard and bring song, color and life to your home. Bird watching is one of America's fastest-growing hobbies, and backyard bird feeding is a convenient way to enjoy these fine-feathered friends. Their colorful and entertaining presence is fascinating to observe, especially through the long, dreary days of winter. It's always a delight to see the variety of birds that drop by for a nibble or a rest. Providing food for birds can make birds' lives easier too. Winter is a difficult time for birds and finding food can be especially challenging during periods of extreme cold. Here is a simple activity to make your own birdseed wreath to feed your backyard friends.

MATERIALS

  • Grapevine Wreath
  • Crisco
  • Birdseed
  • String or Twine
  • Berries

HOW TO MAKE IT

  1. Tie string or twine to the wreath making about a 4-inch loop.
  2. Spread Crisco on the wreath form.
  3. Sprinkle birdseed on the wreath as desired.
  4. Decorate with berries from your yard.
  5. Hang near a window so you can enjoy watching the birds!
JANUARY
26
2014

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Backyard Birding

Invite the birds to your yard and bring song, color and life to your home.

  1. Plants as a food source. Birds are attracted to seeds, berries, fruits and nectar. A successful bird garden includes plants that bear these foods. Remember that a variety of plants attract the greatest diversity of bird species. Some plants to consider include black-eyed susans and sunflowers for their flowers and seeds; tubular-shaped, nectar-producing flowers to attract hummingbirds; trees and fruiting plants such as crabapples, dogwoods, serviceberries, sumacs, and viburnums.
  2. A Place for nesting and protection. A variety of bushy shrubs, canopy trees and groundcovers provide the nooks and crannies birds need to nest and find food. These plants provide shade from the sun and protection from wind and rain. Conifers such as pines and spruces provide cover, sap, seeds, and nesting sites; and deciduous trees such as oaks, chestnuts, and hickories provide nuts and good nesting locations.You can also provide man-made shelters like houses and roosting pockets as seen above.
  3. Water. Wild birds need a continuous supply of fresh clean water at all times of the year, for both drinking and bathing. During the colder months, fresh unfrozen water is just as important. A source of water can dramatically increase the number of wild birds you attract in your backyard.
  4. Supplemental Food. Plants may not always supply sufficient food for our fine feathered friends. By placing seed or suet in a feeder you can attract a wide variety of birds to your garden. Place your feeders in a quiet area where they are easy to see and convenient to refill. Place feeders close to natural cover, such as trees or shrubs, which offer refuge to birds as they wait their turn to feed. Evergreens are ideal, as they provide thick foliage that hides birds from predators and buffers winter winds.
  5. Groundcover. Many birds such as sparrows, thrashers and thrushes find their food among fallen leaves and groundcover. Low, spreading groundcovers that provide berries are good choices.
JANUARY
22
2014

The Ponytail Palm

It isn’t hard to see how the Ponytail Palm gets its name. Stunning fountain like leaves appear to burst out of it's bulb like base. This easy to grow plant is native to the desert of Mexico and is a somewhat curious plant. Since it thrives in dry climates, it's the perfect houseplant to survive winter indoors when your house is very dry. The Ponytail Palm doesn’t need a lot of water either, just mist when the top inch or so of the potting mix is dry. It does love bright light to full sun, however it will tolerate less light. Since this slow growing plant requires very little water and attention, we love using this plant to create a hanging string garden. By wrapping its roots with moss, this plant can be hung vertically indoors... making quite the conversation piece!

Tip: If the leaf tips turn brown, simply clip off the brown piece from the leaf.

Join us this Saturday, January 25 at 2pm and create your own hanging string garden using a ponytail palm! STRING GARDEN WORKSHOP >>

JANUARY
21
2014

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Cold Hardy Citrus

SATSUMA ORANGE TREES

Satsumas are sweet, juicy mandarin oranges that are easy to peel and are virtually seed-free. The traditional season for this cold hardy citrus is mid to late October through February. Satsuma trees are small, reaching a height of 4 to 6 feet and are cold tolerant to about 26 degrees F. Satsuma trees will grow in the landscape or in containers. First introduced from Japan in 1878, Satsumas produce fragrant white blossoms in March and April, with the fruit turning bright orange as it ripens in late October. So, celebrate the New Year by peeling open a nice, ripe satsuma! Once you start snacking you won’t be able to stop.

JANUARY
15
2014

Squeeze this one inside and out

MEYER LEMON

Who wouldn’t like an endless supply of sunshine, especially this time of year? Well, what if we told you that we knew where you could find a splash of sunshine all year round…that’s easy - the Meyer lemon!

A cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange, the Meyer lemon has a smooth golden, edible skin, and a high volume of juice but none of the bitterness of a regular lemon. These evergreen beauties have lush, vivid green foliage and fragrant blooms. The striking fruit and glossy foliage are perfect both indoors and out. In containers, tuck these gems around your house during the winter months and enjoy their beautiful foliage and sweet smelling scent. Once the warmer weather arrives, move them outside and enjoy them all summer long. Most citrus trees are hardy to 38°F, but we recommend keeping them indoors during the cooler months and moving them outside once the mercury begins to rise in late spring.

Meyer lemons were once known only for their looks, but now they are a culinary must-have. Its aromatic, slightly sweet quality enhances desserts, sauces, salads and roasts. Squeeze a little Meyer lemon on fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit desserts as a low calorie seasoning. Its juice also helps to reduce browning on cut avocados and apples, and vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower and turnips will remain white when cooked in water with a little lemon juice added. So, be sure to use a Meyer whenever you want a burst of lemon flavor without the acidic bite. So, pucker up and add little burst of sunshine to your home this winter.

JANUARY
7
2014

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Breath Easy

Having clean air is more important than ever, and houseplants can help. Indoor air pollution is an increasing problem today, but improving your indoor air quality can be easy and inexpensive. Houseplants not only make indoor spaces more attractive, but they also help to purify the air. Research studies have found that houseplants can help you live a healthier and happier life... so breath easy and incorporate some of these plants around your house.

SNAKE PLANTS add style and modern charm to any room with their upright, sword-like foliage. These plants help remove a variety of chemicals from the air, including nitrogen oxide and formaldehyde. Snake plants are very easy to care for and will even tolerate some neglect. They like bright light, but will grow in everything from direct sun to shade. Allow the soil to dry before watering.

ENGLISH IVY has been shown to help remove benzene from the air while adding healthy oxygen. It likes medium light and is easy to trim, train and shape. Enjoy ivy cascading out of a pot or train it into a topiary and enjoy for years. Hot or cold, inside or out -- you'll love all the different varieties.

SPIDER PLANT – this is one of the first plants shown to help clean the air, working best on formaldehyde. This member of the lily family prefers to hang as it sends out its runners and little offset plants that look like pretty little green and white spiders.

GOLDEN POTHOS help remove formaldehyde and carbon dioxide from the air and their abundance of leaves yield freshly cleaned oxygen every day. This tropical vine is one of the most tolerant plants for low light. Don’t be afraid to cut the vines if they get too long. Remember, cutting plants stimulates growth.

PEACE LILIES are celebrated for their ability to remove chemicals like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide from the air. This easy to grow plant with its large leaves and interesting white flowers uses a lot of water and adds humidity to dry winter homes. It will tell you when it wants another drink by drooping its leaves.

To improve your indoor air quality, try using:

· 1 - 8” or 10” sized houseplant per every 100 square feet
· 1 - Small 4” or 6” sized houseplant in your personal breathing zone (6-8 cu. ft.), for example: placed on your desk or night stand.
· 15 - 20 houseplants for 1500 sq. feet

In addition to the plants on our list, all plants take in carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, and add moisture to the air, which helps prevent dry skin and sore throats in the winter. You can live happier and healthier by simply adding houseplants to your indoor environment.

Check out more of our favorite HOUSEPLANTS >>

JANUARY
6
2014

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Take the frost out of frostbite…

WINTER CARE TIPS

Though cast stone consists of a high density mixture designed to produce a strong and durable product, proper maintenance is recommended to protect your product from the freeze-thaw cycles that occur this time of year. Any piece which can hold water, snow or ice, such as a planter, birdbath/fountain top, and any piece which is placed directly on the ground, such as a statue, birdbath/fountain base, planter or bench leg, can be damaged by the winter freeze-thaw cycles. To minimize any possible winter damage, please follow the simple suggestions listed below.

Cast Stone Planters:
If a planter is to be left planted over the winter, it should be raised up off the ground by placing two pressure treated wood strips underneath the planter, making sure not to block the drainage hole. This will allow the soil to drain and will prevent the planter from freezing to the ground. If a planter is placed directly on the ground and goes through several freeze-thaw cycles, drainage may be blocked. This may cause an expansion of the soil inside the planter, which in turn may cause the planter to crack or crumble. We always recommend that drainage materials such as small stones or terra cotta chips be placed at the bottom of the planter before filling with soil to ensure proper drainage.

If a planter is not to remain planted over the winter, we suggest that it be stored in a covered area where it will be protected from the elements. If a planter must be left outside unplanted, we suggest that you empty the soil and turn the planter upside down onto wood strips. Cover or wrap the planter with burlap or any absorbent material (old blanket/towel) and then wrap with dark plastic. This will prevent moisture from accumulating in the planter. Please note that even if a cast stone container is raised off the ground, there is always the risk that the container will absorb water through its surface which, when frozen, can cause the planter to crack or break.

Birdbaths, Fountains, Benches & Statuary:
We suggest that birdbath/fountain tops not be left outside in the winter. Once the top fills with water/snow and freezes, the top may crack. All birdbath/fountain bases, bench legs and statuary should be raised up off the ground in winter so they will not freeze to the ground surface.

Ideally, a fountain should be stored indoors in the winter away from the elements. However, if a fountain bowl must be left outside, remove all pumps, rubber stoppers, drain pipes, finials and small components, and cover the top in accordance with the planter instructions above, making sure that water does not accumulate in the basin and freeze. Fountain pumps, finials, and other small components should be stored indoors. Check the fountain periodically to insure that the cover is secure and water is not accumulating in any fountain component.

Glazed and Terra Cotta:
Terra cotta and earthenware are always slightly porous. Although this allows plant roots to breathe, it also constitutes a risk in winter. When the temperature drops below freezing, any water present in the pot walls will freeze and expand. This will cause the pot wall to spall and can ultimately destroy the pot.

Whether this actually happens or not, depends on the quantity of water that can be absorbed by the fired clay. This, in turn, depends on the quality of the clay and the way it has been processed.

Machine-made terra cotta planters can absorb a lot of water and are the most vulnerable to winter damage. Hand-made containers, like those offered by Campania, absorb far less water because the clay is processed differently. They are frost-resistant if handled correctly. However, because any water held in a pot from rain or melting snow will freeze and expand, any pot made of a non-elastic material is at risk if left outside unprotected in winter.

Accordingly while the high firing temperature and quality of our glazed and terra cotta containers results in a durable and frost-resistant product, we still recommend that they be stored in a frost-free covered area in winter. If left out, water may accumulate in the container and freeze, causing the planter to crack and break.

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