News

Our Annual Annual Plant 50% Off Sale

June 10th, 2011

annual plantsNow is the time to take advantage of the fantastic prices that we are offering on every single annual plant in our greenhouses. Summer is starting to heat up and many of your perennials may be fading soon, which is what God created annual plants forto supplement the blossoms of their perennial cousinsadding color to a landscape that has become mostly green.

Many gardeners plan their annual beds in advance, knowing exactly what they will plant where, but annual plants offer a great opportunity to change things up year to year. Just as you decorate your indoor space, your outdoor space can also be a reflection of your personality, your moods and what makes you happy. Searching for and trying new annual plants offers not only a change of pace, but gives you the chance to really shine, to take a risk, to try something new and different that may very well become your new favorite, but will certainly have your friends, family and neighbors sitting up and taking notice.

We also suggest planting containers and just setting them in amongst your perennials, grouping them in naked corners or hanging them from your pergola, the eaves of your house, or even from tree branches throughout your yard. Planters also enable you to move things around, just like you do your furniture and since annuals are only here for the current season, you can try something new in the same planter next year! How cool is that?

Our three top sellers are the Calibrachoa, Fuchsia and Ipomoea plants:

  • Calibrachoa look similar to petunias, but have smaller blossoms that literally overflow their containers! We have a collection of Calibrachoa plants from four different award-winning producers: Candy Shop, Million Bells, MiniFamous and Noa. These beauties are completely self-cleaning, which means you don't have to deadhead. They will produce blossoms over and over again!
  • Fuchsia plants are an exotic beauty, also called Lady's Eardrops. Its blossoms hang gracefully, and will gently move with the slightest breeze. Available in a variety of colors, from deep jewel-tones to feminine pastels, even the blossoms can appear quite different from plant to plant. The tropical scent is nothing short of heavenly!
  • Ipomoea plants are better known as Sweet Potato Vines, though they will not produce one single sweet potato. In varieties that include black and bronze colors, the leaves are also not the same from plant to plant, some being spade-shaped, while others are lobed and veined in contrasting colors. Ipomoea is most often used in combo plantings with blooming plants or are used as an annual groundcover.

But don't stop there! We have a huge selection of ANNUALS available and every single one of them is 50% offbut only for a limited time!

The sale starts Friday, June 10th and ends Friday, June 17th.

Choosing a Quality Garden Hoe

June 9th, 2011

garden hoeWe know that when you buy a garden hoe, you have a choice. We just think that your choice should be an educated one, with you having all of the facts in front of youbefore making a choice on which garden hoe to purchase.

We carry Rogue hoes because we consider them the absolute best on the market, for a reasonable price and because they are made by a family-owned company, right in the heart of the good old U.S.A, in the Ozarks, in Missouri.

In researching this article, I looked at those hoes available at Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Home Depot, the three most common places for people to shop for garden hoes. I saw all kinds of hoes, in all different colors, and in many different shapes and priced from a cheap $3.98 to a whopping $153.00!

The one for $153.00 claimed to be non-sparking but did not tell you what it is made of. It also claimed to be non-magnetic, hmmmm, maybe made of aluminum then? Corrosion resistant and Beryllium-free. I think that aluminum probably fits the bill for the corrosion resistance, but Beryllium is a naturally occurring element that has been used for years as a hardening agent in metal alloys. If the metal here is aluminum and is not a Beryllium-aluminum alloy, its strength should be called into question. It also claims to be made in the U.S., but when you scroll down to the Specifications part, right under the shipping weight, which is specified in pounds, it says Assembled in Country of Origin: USA and/or Imported, and on the next line it says, Origin of Components: USA and/or Imported. Would you trust that this item is made in the U.S.A. by American workers? Or do you just buy it because it must be a magic hoe since it costs so much and the fact that it costs so much must mean it really IS made in the U.S.?

So, after looking at all of the other garden hoes, I decided to point out the features that are not present on any given hoe, all at one time but that are all standard features of every Rogue garden hoe; in fact, all garden tools made by Rogue Hoe are superior in their handcrafted craftsmanship, are loaded with well-thought out features that make gardening and work-sense and are 100% made in the U.S.A.

First and foremost is that every single hoe blade is made with recycled agricultural disc blades. These are the blades that are used in commercial farming operations and are made of high quality tempered steel. They are strong and made to hold an edge, and the fact that these are re-purposed to make Rogue garden hoes is impressive. Every hoe blade is sharpened on three sides, not just one. You can flip each hoe to either side to reach into smaller spaces with the same cutting ability as the full-sized front blade. All grinding, welding and sharpening is done completely by hand.

The handles are all made of Northern White Ash, which is 2% harder and 26% more stable than Northern Red Oak. It also has exceptional shock resistance and remains smooth under friction, which means you won't be getting splinters in the palms of your hands. Then, the hoe blade is attached with both a pressure fit and epoxy bond, with the handle being firmly inserted inside a steel sleeve. Rogue hoes have been handed down through generations, having never had the blade become separated from the handle. You also have your choice in most models, of both a 54 and 60 handle, which means short and tall people alike, can more comfortably use this hoe without choking way up on the handle or unnecessary stooping, thereby losing much of the leverage that is built into this garden hoe.

And, take a look at the swan neck. This is a signature of the Rogue hoe. A wide, swan-shaped neck, as opposed to a thin tube-like form of attachment not only lends additional strength, but increases the leverage, making the Rogue garden hoe more effective, with less exerted energy. Hoeing can be a tough job! Rogue hoes, by design, make it much easier.

So now the decision is yours. We invite you to shop and compare! We are confident that you will find that Rogue garden hoes are an exceptional value with a life-expectancy that will not only surpass your own, but that of your grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. And it costs no-where near $153.00!!!! Not even close. In fact, Rogue Hoes are less expensive than about half of the hoes I saw advertised on those other sites, but with many more features that make them what we consider to be the best garden hoe on the market!

Caring for Your Coleus Plants

June 8th, 2011

coleus plantThe Coleus plant is, by far, one of the most popular house plants ever, but is also fast becoming a sought-after annual, one that provides amazing color and contrast for perennial beds past their bloom and for those partially shaded areas for which color is hard to come by. However, Coleus is a somewhat fragile annual; one that requires a bit of TLC in order to reap its colorfully impressive rewards.

Transplanting Your Coleus

Your Coleus plants will arrive in a 3-inch pot. We have carefully nurtured your coleus plant in our greenhouse, providing it with the proper amount of sunlight and nutrients in order to ensure it grows the best root system possible. Your coleus plant, however, has not been subjected to wind and full sun, so should be hardened off before actually being planted in the ground or in a fully exposed area in a pot.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating a plant to its new habitat. You do the same thing for vegetable seedlings you've started at home, moving them outside for longer and longer periods of time where they are exposed to the elements and can therefore survive more easily when first transplanted into the garden. The same method is wisely used for any new transplant. Start by moving them into a partially shaded area that is protected from the wind, gradually moving them to an area with the same conditions as the one they will be planted in. Be weather-aware and be sure to provide shelter or bring them inside if the nighttime temps are expected to drop below 40°F and if high winds, driving rain or hail are expected. This whole process should take no longer than a week to a week and a half, but will virtually guarantee the most beautiful and healthy Coleus plants possible.

We recommend transplanting your newly acquired Coleus into a pot with good quality planting soil within a couple of days of its arrival. Immediately upon receipt, remove the plant(s) from the shipping box and put them in a shallow glass baking dish or some other suitable container and make sure that the soil stays moist, but that the shipping pots are not sitting in standing water for any length of time. We also suggest that you mix water with our highly concentrated Neptune's Harvest and just pour a little into the container at a time until the plants have soaked up the water. Pour off any excess and leave them for 15 minutes before potting, or leave them like this for up to three days, but no longer. When we shipped them to you they were most likely already starting to outgrow their shipping pots. Neptune's Harvest helps your plants to more quickly overcome the stress of shipping and will give a boost of essential nutrients to get them off to a great start.

Potted Coleus Plants

If transplanting to a permanent pot or container, the process is quite simple. Choose a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom, or one of any number of decorative hanging baskets. Of course, the ultimate destination for that pot, be it inside or out, will determine your container needs. One or two coleus will fit well in a 6 to 8 diameter pot, while a larger pot may hold three or four. The best potting soil will have lots of organic material and may even contain a slow-release fertilizer. If you live in a particularly hot area and your coleus plant(s) will be hung or placed outside, you may water crystalsalso want to consider adding water crystals to the soil. They expand, holding 100s times their weight in water, releasing it as the soil starts to dry. Using these will reduce your household water bill and keep your coleus hydrated, even on the hottest days.

And never place your Coleus plant where it will have all day direct sunlight! The newer cultivars are much more sun-resistant, but Coleus will not thrive well in all day sun throughout the summer. The best combination is full morning sun, as sun seems to produce more colorful plants, and then afternoon partial shade, especially in the heat of the summer. If you have your plants in pots, you can even move them in and out of the sun as necessary, most easily accomplished if you have them on a rolling cart or trolley. You will know that your coleus plant is getting too hot when its colors seem to fade and it wilts, even when well hydrated. Coleus recovers quickly from wilting once watered, but too much repeated water deprivation will result in a faded, unhealthy plant over time.

Garden Bed Coleus Plants

For your Coleus plants that will be going directly into the ground, we strongly recommend you transplant them into a larger pot in order to harden them off and then ultimately put them directly into your flower beds. Again, location is important. If you are not quite sure that an area is suitable (morning sun and afternoon partial shade), you can either monitor your planned area throughout a couple of days, or get an inexpensive light tester to measure the amount of sunlight an area receives, even if indoors. Also keep in mind your geographic location. Full sun in Texas or Arizona is much stronger than full sun in northern climes.

Planting your Coleus plants into a peat or organic material pot will preclude your having to stress the plant further when transplanting, though once you've given them a couple of weeks in a pot and have hardened them off properly, this shouldn't be an issue. The choice, of course, is totally yours. Many people save their nursery plastic pots, just for a purpose such as this, which makes perfect sense. You have re-purposed the pot without spending any more money, and have probably also proven to your significant other that you weren't at all out of your mind when you decided to save them in the first place!

Additional Care for Your Coleus Plants

Amazingly, Coleus plants don't respond well to over feeding. Besides adequate moisture, you will find that your Coleus' colors are much more vivid when the plants are just a little neglected. If you fertilize, use a slow release or feed at half the recommended strength. We also highly recommend mulching your Coleus plants if planting in the ground, especially in hotter climates. This not only retains life-giving moisture, but will inhibit the growth of weeds and grasses. If you water with a sprinkler or hand-held nozzle, make sure to water after the full sun has left your plants, but with enough time for the leaves to dry before it turns dark. Wet nighttime foliage on any plants can lead to fungal diseases, mold or mildew occurring and wet leaves in full sun can burn the plant.

Growing coleus plants in the flower gardenFinally, pinching the growing tips of your Coleus plants will encourage fuller and bushier growth. For blooming Coleus, you can pinch the bloom or allow it to remain, though Coleus blossoms are mostly insignificant and do not noticeably add or detract from the beauty of the plant. You may find that in mid-summer pinching will help the plant to maintain its bushy appearance and keep its shape, but that is largely a personal preference as well, just as are the colors you have chosen.

Speaking of colors, these annual plants are available in just about every color of the rainbow! Though it may be tempting to buy some of every color, planning in your head for the mixture of textures and colors will result in the most beautiful indoor and outdoor decorating and the personal satisfaction that comes from a job well done!

Happy Planting!

The Dracaena Spike – A Perennial?

June 7th, 2011

Yes, my eyebrows arched as my eyes widened in surprise! Long considered an annual staple for container gardens to add height and architectural interest to both blooming and non-blooming arrangements, we are now hearing reports of the Spike Dracaena being taken out of the container and moved right into the garden, even surviving unscathed throughout the winter in places like Prince Edward Island, Canada, which is in zones 5a and 5b. Some gardeners put protection over or around them, like fall leaves or commercially made plant covers, but the gardener from Prince Edward Island said that hers had no protection, besides the insulation from the snow.

For a plant that looks particularly tropical in nature, in addition to being remarkably cold tolerant, Spike Dracaena are also relatively drought tolerant. Widely adaptable, once they are well-established, normal watering will usually suffice, especially if they are mulched or planted with foliage plants that help to retain moisture.

So, when you buy the Dracaena Spike plant, you are getting a two-fer! Use it first in your containers, either putting it in the back of your container if it is against a wall or in a corner, or in the center if your container can be viewed from all sides. Surround them with lower growing foliage or blooming plants, adding a cascading variety or two, and you have a beautiful, yet inexpensive artful arrangement. Here’s a suggestion for what to use:  Start with the Spike Dracaena in the middle or the back of the planter. Then add a mid-height flower or foliage plant, such as Tickseeds, Stellar or Regal Geraniums, all of which have the same moisture requirements of the Dracaena. Finally, add some MiniFamous Calibrachoa or Lobelia plants to cascade over the edges. You can also use something like Dichondra to fill in the spaces or English Ivy as a non-blooming, yet cascading accent. The possibilities are absolutely endless and much better than succumbing to the average garden retailer’s idea of a fashion statement, whose container gardens all feature the same plants, over and over and over again. Chances are that your neighbor next door or down the street will have one of these.

Dracaena SpikeDracaena PlantsDracaena Tricolor

Then, when your Dracaena Spike has outgrown the container, simply remove it from the container and put it in a place of honor in your garden. You will want to keep the height in mind, planting it behind lower growing perennials or annuals, though it is not too picky about sun. It will tolerate full sun when the weather is cool or in the northern climes, but prefers partial shade in hotter areas. The Spike Dracaena is widely adaptable to the type of soil. Keep in mind that it will grow somewhere between 18 and 24-inches tall and just as wide. They seem to do really well when planted along your foundation at the back of your flower beds; the warmth retained by brick or stone will help it to survive some of the coldest winter temperatures with ease.

As with all plants, proper nutrition will ensure healthy and prolific growth. We recommend using a soil amendment when transplanting and then feed on a regular basis. If you compost at home, an additional fertilizer will not be necessary.

All in all, the Spike Dracaena is a versatile plant that is easy to care for and easy to decorate with. With its returning popularity, let’s keep our fingers crossed for even more colorful hybrids!

GHS Guide to Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

June 3rd, 2011

how to attract butterflies to your gardenWant to attract butterflies to your garden? Just plant some asters in a sunny place and you're on your way. Other good plants to draw the colorful critters are buddleia (butterfly bush), blazing star (liatris), echinacea (coneflower), monarda (bee balm), rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan) and lantana. A mix of bright colorsespecially purple, orange, yellow, and redworks best.

Butterflies like to feed on the nectar of these and other flowering plants. But if you want to make your acrobatic friends' happiness complete, also provide them with host plants such as asclepias (milkweek), dill, parsley, and fennel.  These are plants on which the butterflies can lay their eggs and that will nourish the resulting larvae.

Making Your Garden Butterfly Friendly

There are a lot of resources on the Internet to help you plan a butterfly-friendly garden, but one site really makes it easy: Gardens With Wings. All you do is type in your ZIP Code and you'll see photos of the different kinds of butterflies that pass through your area. You choose those butterflies you are interested in attracting, and the site will generate a list of the best nectar and host plants to do the job.

One additional step you'll want to take is to determine which plants on that list are native to your region. Using native plants is important because, as the National Wildlife Federation explains, many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction. You can easily find a list of plants native to your state by visiting the Plant Native site. The ideal plants for your butterfly garden will be those that appear on both the Gardens With Wings list and the Plant Native list.

We carry nearly all the nectar and host plants that will show up on these lists, no matter where you live.  We're proud of this, not only because we have a larger inventory than any other plant-seller online, but because the butterflies really need these plants, especially the host plants.

The Plight of the Butterfly

Over the last fifty years, the butterfly population has dramatically decreased because of habitat loss and our flittering friends are having a tough time.

A Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plantThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists more than a dozen butterfly species as endangered or threatened. What's more, all species have been decreasing, mostly because the host plants they depend on have often been cut down or paved over.

Consider the exquisite Monarch: the only plant it will lay its eggs on is asclepias (milkweed). This plant is native to nearly all of the U.S., is hardy from Zones 3 – 9, and used to be found all over the place. Yet, today it is difficult for Monarchs to find, and their numbers have dropped to dangerously low levels. If you plant asclepias in a region through which the Monarchs pass, you'll be providing them with a nursery!

You might like to grow dill, parsley, and fennel for culinary reasons, but did you know that Black Swallowtail butterflies need them as a place to lay their eggs? By including these plants in your garden, you'll be helping the Black Swallowtails to be more plentiful.

Creating a Safe Butterfly Environment

One thing to understand before you start planting is that butterflies and pesticides do not mix. Butterflies are very sensitive creatures and even natural pesticides and herbicides can cause problems and even kill the eggs they've laid on the host plants you've provided. Instead, when it comes to both the nectar and host plants, use the old-fashioned method of picking pests off by hand. You can also release ladybugs to go after the pests for you. That is what they do at the Smithsonian, and it will work for you, too.

But be sure you don't squish the larvae, thinking it's an infestation of something pesky. To be sure you know what butterflies look like at every stage of their development, watch this beautiful slideshow produced by the University of North Carolina School of Education.

Perfecting Your Butterfly Garden

Provide the butterflies with opportunities to bask in the sun by placing a few flat stones around the garden. As for water, just keep your garden irrigated: the butterflies will use any tiny puddles as watering holes.  If you live in a windy area, position your butterfly-attracting plants along a hedge, fence, or wall. And, again, be sure there is no pesticide or herbicide residue around the area where the butterflies are going to be eating and laying their eggs.

Butterfly Garden

 

Expanding Your Knowledge
As with everything else concerning gardening, there's always more to learn. To view a comprehensive list of plants that attract butterflies, try Gardening for Butterflies, from Iowa State University. How to Make Butterfly Gardens from the University of Kentucky also contains a good list and a lot of helpful information. For a nice video introduction to the subject of attracting butterflies, check out this short video by P. Allen Smith.

If You Plant It, They Will Come

We wish you much success in attracting butterflies to your garden, and please don't get overwhelmed by the amount of information in this newsletter. All you need to do to get started is to plant some butterfly-attracting plants in a sunny place and use non-chemical methods of pest control. Enjoy yourself, and know that your butterfly friends will appreciate your efforts.

How to Harvest Asparagus

June 1st, 2011

Second Year AsparagusIf you are growing asparagus crowns for the first time, then you probably have some questions about when to start harvesting and how to go about it. If you've forgotten everything your grandma taught you, or you were just too young to remember anything past that wonderful taste, we hope this will help.

The very first rule is patience! An asparagus bed, if established and maintained properly, can produce asparagus spears in excess of 15 years. In fact, some asparagus beds have been producing for 30 years! So, the first year you want to avoid harvesting, except maybe to get a very tiny taste of what's to come, and concentrate on growing the healthiest and strongest root system possible.

The First Year

We recommend babying your asparagus through the first year. Invading perennial grasses are young asparagus' worst enemy, so keep them under control as your young plants are becoming established. Depending upon where you are planting, you may want to install a barrier, keeping it in place through the first year, to be removed at a later time if you choose.or not. The root system of asparagus goes deep and becomes quite extensive, but the plants need that first full year to really take hold and to survive the winter, especially in the coldest regions. You should provide 1 to 2-inches of water per week during the first two years and feed well. After the second year, you can water more infrequently. You might want to use a soaker or drip hose through your asparagus bed, rather than watering from the top as this will allow the water to soak deeper, instead of settling on the tops of the plants; there will also be less evaporation, resulting in less water use. Applying mulch around your plants will also conserve water, as well as inhibiting weed and grass growth.

As the spears are left to grow past the point of harvesting, the tops will open up and become fern-like. They are actually quite pretty, but also a very important aspect to the continuing good health of your asparagus bed. Using photosynthesis, these ferny tops will send food throughout the spears and into the crowns below the surface, ensuring the perpetual harvest that this perennial vegetable provides.

When it comes to cutting back your asparagus plants, there are basically two schools of thought. Some gardeners cut them back to the ground once they turn brown, going dormant, usually after the first heavy frost. In fact, some people just mow them down as close to the soil as possible, either adding the foliage to their compost bin or discarding it. The other half of asparagus growers will leave the ferny tops to catch the snow and to protect and insulate the plants, while providing necessary moisture throughout the winter and into early spring. Cut them back in March or early to mid-April, depending upon your climatic zone. Besides helping your plants to survive the winter, the brown, feathery ferns will add a bit of winter-time interest to your stark garden landscape, especially when coated in layers of sparkling hoar frost.

Harvesting AsparagusThe Second Year

Finally, your patience has paid off!  The spears are growing and you can start harvesting, but only for a little bit and only a little at a time. At no time should you harvest spears that are not at least as big around as your little finger. For this second harvest year, we suggest that you only harvest for the first 2 to 3 weeks. Heavy and continual harvesting past this point may weaken the plants, meaning that your asparagus bed will not continue to develop well for subsequent years. Just a little more patience is required. Time flies and a little patience now will reap huge rewards in three, four, five..fifteen or twenty years!

In most areas of the country, you will be able to start harvesting in May and continue into June. Asparagus is considered a cool weather crop and will be one of the first vegetables ready for harvest, even before your lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower. However, in more temperate climates, like that of southern California, you may have to treat your asparagus a bit differently, keeping track of the normal growing cycle for this perennial and allowing the ferny tops to grow and develop, rather than harvesting for an extended period just because you can. And then cut the plants back in late fall or early winter to encourage dormancy that occurs naturally in other climates.

As in all things gardening, gardeners have different ideas on what is the best way to harvest. Some prefer to use their thumb and forefinger to snap the spear at ground level, while others will use a sharp knife or asparagus harvesting tool to cut the spear one or two inches below the soil. It is our belief that using the asparagus knife to cut below the soil allows the plant and crown to be protected by that layer of soil, from both the hotter summer temperatures and marauding pests. A clean, sharp tool will also ensure that the plants are not stressed from the cutting. Pulling and tugging while snapping the spear can result in damage to the crown below the spear, which is already developing new buds for next year's harvest.

Don't forget! Only harvest this second year for 2 to 3 weeks! Your patience will be well-rewarded.

The Third Year and Into the Future

Now that your asparagus bed is well-established, you can harvest spears that are emerging which are 3/8 or larger (about the size of one's little finger). Also, don't submit to the myth that the larger the diameter of the spear, the less tender they are. That is just not the case at all. What IS true, is that as the season progresses, the part of the spear below the ground and possibly 1 or 2-inches up, may become somewhat tougher. This is just a fact of life when it comes to asparagus and one easily remedied by just cutting off the tougher part. You will still have plenty of tender asparagus spear above this point. If you've missed harvesting some spears and the tips are no longer tight and closed, you will be a little disappointed in the quality, so allow those spears to open and become ferny. You won't be wasting them, just allowing them to become next year's harvest.
harvested asparagus spears in a basketAs a rule, you will harvest every other day when the spears are between 4 and 8-inches tall and usually for a period between 6 and 8 weeks, depending upon your geographical location, and also depending upon the weather for that particular year. Hotter weather will shorten your harvesting season, while cooler weather will extend it.

Again, once you notice that the emerging spears are smaller than your little finger, quit harvesting and allow the ferny tops to develop, effectively perpetuating the cycle that will have your grandchildren and great-grandchildren harvesting the asparagus bed you plant today. Early summer mornings, working by grandma's or grandpa's side, will be a perennial memory!

Yellow Leaves on Magnolia Tree

May 25th, 2011

I have a magnolia 4 years old in a pot in a conservatory. Its leaves have started turning yellow in patches. Can you tell me what is wrong with it?

Answer: Without more information I cannot really give you a definitive answer. There could be multiple reasons why the leaves are yellowing.  Lack of water or too much water can cause similar reactions so be sure you are keeping it evenly watered and not over-watered, especially. If the yellowing is occurring in the tissue portion of the leaf and the veins remain dark green, then your plant could be experiencing chlorosis, where the plant is lacking iron because the pH level of the soil is too high (above 6.5). You should test the soil pH to confirm this. You say this plant has been in a pot for 4 years, so it’s possible that it’s simply pot-bound. As a tree that prefers to have its feet planted firmly in the earth, it could be that it isn’t receiving sufficient nutrients after 4 years in the same soil and it might be as easy as repotting in a slightly increased size of pot to accommodate the expanded root growth. If repotting, give it some acid/iron-based fertilizer like our Hi-Yield Azalea Fertilizer to give it the required nutrients for acid-lovers.

One other possible cause could be a soil fungus, Verticillium wilt, but you would want to take a sample leaf and a sample of the soil to your county extension office to verify.

If this does not remedy the problem, then please provide more information, such as your location, a photo of the tree and a problem leaf, and information about its environment.

Happy gardening,

Karen

Great Begonia Plants, Thanks!

May 24th, 2011

Hi, I received my 4 charm begonias and 2 double red begonias today and was quite amazed at the quality and size of the plants. I was expecting much smaller ones, but these are 4-5 inches tall and quite full. I have planted them in their pots and will keep them protected until they recuperate from their trip. But anyway, great plants and clever packaging, too. Thanks….Helga G

GHS: You are welcome Helga, thanks for being our customer. Happy Gardening!

How to Grow Goji Berry Plants

May 20th, 2011

Goji berries growing on a plantThe Lycium barbarum variety of Gogi Berry Plants are a perennial in zones 3 to 10, they are actually quite remarkably heat and cold tolerant. Bearing slightly elongated, red fruit, about the size of a raisin, Goji plants are deciduous, which means they drop their leaves every year, usually after the first frost. You can read about pruning below.

Goji Berry plants are very adaptable, but for the very best results, test your soil, and then adjust the pH to between 6.8 – 8.1. You can add lime to raise the pH if necessary or aluminum sulfate to lower it.

GROW GOJI BERRY PLANTS IN CONTAINERS

Gogi Berry plants can easily be grown in containers on your deck or patio. Goji plant roots like to grow deep, but the plant itself will stop growing once the roots touch the bottom of the container, so they won’t grow as large as the plants grow in the ground. One advantage is that you may very well see goji berries in the first or second season, rather than the third, which is normally the case when they are grown in the ground.

It will take approximately 15 plants to feed one person for one year. Nutrition experts recommend eating 10 to 30 grams per day, which equates to about 1/3 to 1 ounce. One ounce is about the size of a single-serve box of raisins.

Your bare root plants will survive for a while without being planted, but we recommend you plant them as soon as possible. We also suggest that you get them established inside, in a sunny location, before moving them outdoors to a sunny location. Your Goji plant will appreciate some afternoon shade if you live in a very hot climate (temps above 100°F).

  • Place the bare root plants in a jar or container with room-temperature water and allow them to soak for about 15-minutes.
  • Prepare your container. We recommend a pot at least as deep as a five-gallon bucket, but it does not have to be wide. Your container or pot should have drainage holes in the bottom (if it doesn’t make some), so you may also want to provide a drain pan for the container to sit in.
  • Mix about 1/3 sand to 2/3 soil in order to provide the best growing medium and drainage, though any good potting soil will work. Fill the container, leaving 2 to 3-inches at the top.
  • Dig a hole in the middle of the container a couple of inches deeper than to the crown of the plant (where the roots meet the stem), pushing loose soil back in until with the roots lightly resting on the soil in the hole, the crown is level with the top of the soil.
  • Push the soil back in, filling around the roots and up to the crown, gently tamping as you go.
  • Water well and push more soil around the plant if necessary, watering again to let the soil settle.
  • You should continue to keep your Goji plant moist, but not overly wet, until you see new growth sprouting, usually in about 2-3 weeks.
  • Apply an inch or two of mulch in order to help with moisture retention (and because it looks nice). If you mulch, you will depend upon touch to check soil moisture, or water into a large reservoir under the planter so it is wicked from the bottom up.

You may see flowers, after which fruit will follow, depending on when you plant. It could be the first season but more than likely it will be the second season. Remember that containerized plants will feel the heat and cold more because their roots are in soil above the ground. Be weather-aware, providing adequate moisture when it is extremely hot and dry, as containerized plants will usually dry out quicker. Provide protection for your plants if the temperatures become really cold.

GROW GOJI BERRY PLANTS IN THE GROUND

You can grow Goji Berry plants in the ground in any relatively sunny location, as long as you have room for expansion. Adult Goji plants can grow up to 8-feet high and wide, though some gardeners prune their Goji plants to keep them within a desired size range. You can even grow Gogi bushes as a hedge or you can train them to a trellis, in which case, they can get as tall as 10-feet.

We recommend you start your Goji plant in a container, though you don’t need a 5-gallon size. In fact, you can buy a 4- to 6-inch peat pot and not even have to worry about taking it out of the pot to transplant it. This will greatly reduce the stress involved with transplanting, further ensuring your Goji plant will thrive. If you are starting it in a container, just follow steps 1 through 7 above, after which point you can transplant your Goji plant into the ground. Goji plants growing in the ground will sometimes start to produce fruit the second season but will not go into full production until the third year.

Unpruned Goji Berry PlantIf you are putting it directly into the ground:

  • Choose a sunny site if you live anywhere but in the desert southwest, where you will either want to have shade or be able to put up a shade cloth during the hottest part of the day.
  • Follow step 1 above, and then prepare your soil, testing and amending it if needed.
  • Mature Goji Berry bushes can reach up to 8 feet high and wide unless they’re regularly pruned, so space accordingly. We recommend not closer than 48 inches between plants and 8 feet between rows.
  • Skip to step 4, and continue through step 8 above, applying mulch immediately, rather than waiting, and carefully monitoring soil moisture. It is critical that it not be allowed to dry out until you see new growth start to sprout, usually in about two weeks.

Once the average daytime temperature drops below 50 degrees, your Goji plant will start going into dormancy. It will stay dormant until the springtime temps are up above 50 degrees. If you live in an area that does not get that cold, keeping your plant pruned back to new growth is the key to keeping the berries coming.

PRUNING YOUR GOJI BERRY PLANTS

Pruning is normally done in the winter, but they can also be gently trimmed throughout the season to shape the canopy and to improve berry yield, though pruning incorrectly or over-pruning can reduce your yield dramatically. It is also important to have the right tool for the job. A dull or inadequate pruner can do more damage than good.

You will not want to prune them heavily the first year. You first need to identify the largest, healthy shoot, which will be the main trunk. Then, gradually remove the lower lateral shoots, with the goal of keeping the trunk clear for the first 15 inches, and then when your Goji plant reaches 24 inches, remove the growing tip to stimulate the growth of additional side branches.

To prune adult plants, just remove the branches above the maximum height you want. You should maintain clearance from the ground up of about 15 inches. You can also identify any ineffective branches. These usually grow very fast, straight and smooth and will not be very productive, so if they aren’t essential to the overall look, they can simply be removed. Goji Berry plants grow similarly to a weeping willow. If allowed to grow un-pruned, you can end up with a mighty wild look.

We hope this has helped you to understand the needs of the Goji berry plant.  Fertilizer is not necessary as excess nitrogen will kill the plants.

For preparing this amazingly healthy superfood, we have discovered a cookbook, written by Dr. Donald R. Daugs, called, Goji and Wolfberry, Superfood Cook Book for Health, Flavor and FunIt’s filled with illustrations and 93 recipes for everything from breakfast to main dishes and even includes a chapter on appetizers!

We wish you much planting success and good health! Happy Gardening!

How to Prune Hydrangea Plants-Expert Advice for the Novice

May 17th, 2011

The easiest way to avoid having to prune is to always plant your hydrangeas where they can grow au naturale and won't need pruning, except to clean out dead stems or to deadhead the blossoms as they fade, both of which can be done at any time of the year.

But, if you have established hydrangeas, the first thing you must do is attempt to identify them. If you already know the type of hydrangea you have, just skip down to the How to Prune Your Hydrangea section. Different types of hydrangeas have different pruning requirements and improper pruning can literally mean a bloomless seasonor worse.

How to Identify Your Hydrangea

There are four common types of hydrangea:Mophead Hydrangea Flowers

Mopheads & Lacecaps (macrophylla) are considered one group. The leaves on this species are usually heart-shaped or ovoid with serratededges and are about 4 to 6-inches long and 3 to 5-inches wide, though some varieties will be larger. The leaves are somewhat thick and semi-shiny. The leaf stems are the biggest clue to your hydrangea's identity, especially when combined with the type of flower it produces. The leaf stems (petioles) on a mophead or lacecap will be short, meaning that the leaves hug the main stem. On a mophead hydrangea, the blossoms grow in round and oval mounds of tightly clumped individual flowers. On the lacecap varieties, the flower head shape is almost the same, but you will have itty-bitty, lacy-looking flowerbuds in the middle, surrounded by larger, fully developed flowers. The buds are the fertile flowers, while the full blossoms around the edges are infertile. Though considered one group when it comes to their pruning requirements, each of these look quite different when in bloom. It is also interesting to note that mopheads are the ONLY hyrdrangea that has colored blossoms when they first open. All other species will be white, so that may be the first hint that you don't have a mophead, unless you have a white mophead cultivar, which is relatively uncommon. Photo is courtesy of Ginger.

Oakleaf Hydrangea Plant

 

Oakleaf hydrangeas are so-named, just for that reason; they have leaves that are shaped  similar to the leaves on a red oak. The size of the leaves can range from 4-inches to 10-inches long and wide, and will often stay on the plant most of the winter. They are not really considered an evergreen though because after several freezes they are not very attractive. They also have cones of flowers, as opposed to mounds or balls of flowers and ALL oakleaf hydrangeas will bloom white before changing color. It should be very easy to identify this species if you have it. Photo is courtesy of RPOP.

Snowball Hydrangea Flowers

 

Snowball hydrangeas (H. arborescens), the most common of which is ‘Annabelle', might remind you of lollipops. The flower heads are usually very large, but made up of tiny, individual blossoms. The leaves are usually thinner, though oftentimes heart shaped, somewhat similar to the macrophylla. They also tend to be a bit floppier than the ones on mopheads and are not shiny, instead having a matte finish. The leaf stems (petioles) are also long, holding the leaves further out from the main stem. The one single trait that sets this species apart is that the blossoms will open green, turn white for two or three weeks and then turn green again, which is when you can dry them. These humongous blossoms also tend to fall over in high wind and heavy rain, so you might want to plant them on the side of the house with the least wind, as long as it is not fully shaded.

hydrangea paniculata flower blossoms

 

Finally there is the PG hydrangea (paniculata). The leaves are normally smaller than other hydrangeas; they are also thinner and can either be finely or coarsely toothed. They have a rougher overall texture and are medium-green with a matte finish. The biggest identifying characteristic is that the leaves grow in a threesome from one stem node and are spaced around the node, in a whorl. This type of hydrangea can be pruned to grow in both a tree and shrub form and is also not easily identified by the type of flower heads. They can be cone-shaped or round, full or sparse, stand erect or droop. In fact, the name paniculata is derived from the panicle-type flower head that most of them bear. They, like the oakleaf, will first emerge white, turning pink as they age. These hydrangeas can grow to lofty heights of 8 to 10 feet and sometimes taller, matching their height in breadth. Photo courtesy of Alan Buckingham.

 

How to Prune Your Hydrangea

Now that you've identified your hydrangea(s), we can talk about how to prune to keep your hydrangeas healthy and beautiful. Please note that pruning and deadheading are two different things. Deadheading is just removing the old blossoms as they fade, while pruning changes the total appearance and form of the plant. There are two methods for pruning:How to deadhead faded hydrangea flowers

Method 1This method is for mopheads, lacecaps and for oakleaf hydrangeas. These hydrangeas bloom on old wood which means they develop buds on stems that have been on the plant since the summer before the current season. They develop these buds sometime between August and October the previous year, for the following summer's blossoms. Therefore, if you remove these stems in the late fall, winter, or spring, the flower-producing buds will be removed, meaning NO FLOWERS (or only a very few) this summer. So, prudence and patience is required when pruning mopheads, lacecaps or oakleaf hydrangeas:

  1. You can remove dead stems at anytime throughout the year and they should be removed every year.
  2. Once your plant is at least 5 years old, remove about 1/3 of the older, living stems, cutting them down to the ground in late June through early August. Try to choose ones not already blooming or that are starting to look a bit naked. Keep an eye to how this will change the shape of the current plant, stepping back once in a while to see how it's looking. Doing this will revitalize the plant.
  3. To reduce the size of a plant, it can be cut back in June or July without doing away with the following year's blossoms, but it won't take long for it to return to its original size, which is why planting where it doesn't require pruning is recommended.

Method 2This method is used for the snowball (H. arborescens) and PG (PeeGee or H. paniculata) type of hydrangeas. Both of these hydrangeas bloom on new wood, which means that you can prune them any time of year, except in the spring when they are setting buds, or in the summer when they are either preparing to bloom or are in full bloom. Some people even grow hedges of the snowball type, pruning them back almost to the ground in the fall, so as to present a neater winter appearance; but be aware that this type of drastic pruning can keep the stems from reaching the sturdiest size in order to adequately support the huge flower heads. If you do this, you may have to stake your flowers in the spring and summer, or grow them along a fence and use string across the front to offer support when in full bloom. When pruning PGs, we don't recommend pruning every year, but trimming out criss-crossing branches or those that detract from the overall form. These hydrangeas can be pruned from the bottom into tree-form. The developing trunk and the top branches should not be removed and you should also not attempt to make it look like the tree the first year or two. Patience is key here. Each year just trim a few of the lower branches in order to expose the developing trunk, and then late nature take its natural course. One note: if a tree-pruned paniculata's main trunk is broken close to the ground, it will grow back as a shrub unless the training process is started again from the new shoots.

Everblooming Hydrangea ShrubThough this may seem like a lot of work, it really isn't. Once you have the knowledge, the rest is easy. Butif you'd rather not worry about it there are a small group of mopheads that will bloom regardless of when they are pruned. These are called everbloomers and will bloom on both old and new wood. And if you want to amend your soil to change the color of your mopheads, it is also quite simple. Our Hi-Yield Agricultural Limestone will reduce the pH of your soil relatively quickly, resulting in blue coloration, while our Hi-Yield Aluminum Sulphate will increase the pH, giving you pink. You also might want to invest in one of our inexpensive soil testers to determine where your pH lies right now, especially if you are planting new mophead hydrangeas and want to be sure of a particular flower color.

We hope that this has provided some valuable information, as this is one of the questions that our Master Gardener sees on a regular basis. And if you still have questions after reading this, please contact Karen. Our goal is to help you to be the best gardener you can be! Happy Gardening!