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We Need Plant Suggestions for English Style Gardens

February 4th, 2016

English Cottage Style GardenMy husband and I are set to close on our first home in the Pensecola Florida area. Our house sits on a third of an acre, and for the first time ever we will have a back yard! We plan to build three large planter boxes and begin growing our own vegetables. We would like to purchase many plants to adorn the remainder of our backyard in an “English country” style. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for perennials that you feel would be suitable to our area. I cannot tell you how excited we are to get started! Having our own yard and garden has been a dream of ours for years! Thank you so much for your help! Lauren D

Answer: Lauren, congratulations on your new home! Your area is either Hardiness Zone 8b or 9a. Your planting timing for vegetables is going to be much earlier than many parts of the country. Your season almost ends for most cool-season vegetables about the time it begins in climates farther north. Your local extension office should be able to provide you with a planting guide for what to plant, and when.

Since our plants are grown in the Midwest, we have to maintain a shipping schedule that’s consistent with their growth and readiness to be transported to their new homes.  Also,  we ship all over the U.S., so we shoot for averages when we determine best shipping dates.  We work hard to ensure the healthiest plants available anywhere, and we hope the extra wait won’t deter you from entrusting us to furnish your young plants as you begin your landscape and garden projects.

As for the English country-style landscaping, there are several things to think about. While cottage gardens may look random, they are far from it.  First is the hardscape to think about, such as rocks, walls, buildings, pergolas, etc. Then you need to look at large plants as anchors, like your trees and any large shrubs. From there you can add in the filler plants, the perennials, vines, smaller blooming shrubs and annuals. The blooming periods are carefully staged so there is always something in bloom. You can add in your local palms, azaleas, and ferns as filler.

We have a large selection of perennials and shrubs on our website; however, many of the plants that are typical in the cottage gardens are not fond of the heat and long growing season of your area without a lot of protection. Northern full-sun conditions would be more like your partial shade. Some plants will not be happy with the soil structure of the Pensacola area. There are many plants that are considered annuals in cooler regions that would make great perennials for your location and would help you emulate the look and feel of a cottage garden–so be sure to take a look at our Annuals offerings. Plants like Bougainvillea, Colocasia, Mandevilla, and Coleus all would do great in your area and potentially grow as perennials.

As you peruse the large selection of plants we have available, make sure to check their Zone ranges and soil requirements, all listed under the details of each plant. And if a plant has a different soil requirement than your native soil, try growing it in a pot. Big colorful pots filled with small shrubs are a perfect accent in this type of a garden. A cottage garden is about flows of color and texture that make you want to move from garden space to garden space.

Check out our Perennials, Shrubs, Annuals, and even herbs, like lavender and rosemary. In your area, they make marvelous borders. If you have questions about a specific plant suited to your area, please let us know. It's helpful to also know your light situation, full sun or shade, what direction the location is facing and the relationship to the house. Feel free to send photos. These are important in helping to determine if a plant is right for that location.

Happy planning and creating your new dream gardens, Karen

Why Are My Pepper Plant Leaves Turning Yellow?

September 15th, 2015

Pepper plant leaves that are diseasedI bought habanero plants at a local greenhouse and planted them around Memorial Day. They are not looking good. Their leaves are yellow with small holes throughout. There are brown spots around the edges of the leaves and many leaves are falling off. Recently I have been watering them more often because they appear to be burnt up. I’m not sure what to do or what is wrong. Any suggestions?  Jessica

Answer: Jessica, I am sorry you are experiencing problems with your peppers.

Yellowing leaves on peppers usually denotes a lack of nutrients, such as iron, calcium, sulphur, etc. It can also mean you have an excess of nitrogen, something that can happen with too much watering. It’s hard to tell since under-watering and over-watering generally present similar symptoms. Over-watering will be displayed by lower leaves being the first to turn yellow while the veins are either green or dark brown. Chlorinated water can also cause yellowing of the leaves.

The holes could be caused by small sucking insects, usually flea beetles or white fly on peppers. You can use an insecticidal soap or Neem Oil on your vegetables at the first sign of infestation. The beetles will only attack the leaves but a large infestation that defoliates the leaves will weaken the plant. If it’s white fly, you will be able to see the little white flies on the underneath side of the leaves. Many insects overwinter in brush surrounding your garden, so it’s best to keep your garden area clear of debris.

Other diseases, like bacterial leaf spot, can cause both the yellowing and brown spots on the leaves. There is no cure for this but it can be treated with a fungicide that is labeled for Leaf Spot, it’s best to apply the treatment at the first sign of the disease. The copper will not kill the fungus but it controls the spores from spreading.

Southern blight could also be a culprit. You will see a sudden wilting of the foliage, yellowing of the leaves, then browning of the stems. There can also be a white fungus mat that will appear around the base of the plant. With any fungal disease, be sure to completely destroy any affected plant matter, and throughly clean any tools that have been in contact with the affected plants with a bleach solution. If you have a fungal infestation, do not plant any other members of the food nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplants) in the same area the following year, as the fungus can remain in the soil and affect these plants the following year.

You can find lots of images on the Internet to help you determine which problem is affecting your plants and the best treatment to proceed with.

The unusual weather has presented many new growing challenges for gardeners. Peppers and most garden plants do best in loose, well-draining soil with thorough watering. Controlling fungus problems means not overwatering, allowing the soil around the plants to dry before watering again, and watering at the soil level without splashing water on the leaves. Allowing water to stand on leaves or in the surrounding area can introduce fungus to your plants. Remove and discard the yellow leaves and do not let them stay on the soil below the plant. Mulch around the plant with straw or other loose material to help keep the soil evenly moist, but do not use something like hardwood mulch, that can dry and become hard, causing the water to run off and not down to the plant.

Apply a good balanced vegetable fertilizer at recommended times to ensure new growth and bloom development.

Good luck with your plants and have a wonderful harvest.

Karen

I Would Like To Plant Wildflowers In My Meadow

July 17th, 2015

Prairie Grass Growing In A MeadowHi, I have a meadow behind my house with really long prairie grass. I am in the process of killing the grass to make way for a wildflower meadow. My wife wants me to buy live plants so we get blooms right away.  I will supplement with seeds. I live in Wisconsin. I am hoping for a variety of colors and sizesideally taller flowers. What would you suggest? What is the most aggressive growing plant that you sell (not seed) that will have a high yield?  I have a large area to cover so I will need to buy a lot. Thanks in advance for your help.

Answer: First thing to consider is your Hardiness Zone, to make sure your choices will survive. Since you didn't mention where in Wisconsin you live, it could be anywhere from Zone 5a to 3b. You will also need to understand the soil situation in the area you want to convert. Does it stay consistently moist or dry, is it rocky or a clay mixture? This is known as the ecoregion and the success of your plantings will depend on knowing more about it.

Wildflower meadows will consist of both annual and perennial varieties but will also include native grasses that help to anchor the plantings. In addition, you will want to choose as many natives as possible to ensure they can survive the winters and have sufficient summers for flowering and seeding. The function of a wildflower meadow is to help feed your native bird and insect populations; the survival of many species of these populations is dependent on these types of plants. There are many cultivars of native species that are still beneficial to wildlife. Your local native plant society or your local extension office should be able to help.

Many annual flowering plants will grow and flower the same year from seed. It is their specific goal in life, so don't discount starting from seed. Planting of plugs will help to get perennials growing faster, for sure, but most perennials want at least a year or two in the ground before they really start to put on a show.

So, for seeds, you might want to consider one of our wildflower mixes. There are several varieties, and most of these are a combination of annuals and perennials. In some Zones there will be more that act as annuals, with some of the annuals reseeding themselves. Look through the listing of the mixes and compare the plants to our available annuals and perennials to purchase potted versions of the plants. Some definite perennials to consider are achillea (yarrow), amsonia, aquilegia, asclepias, baptisia, echinacea (coneflower), coreopsis, eupatorium, gallardia, lobilia, salvia, monarda, lupine, penstemon, phlox, nepeta, rudbeckia, and veronica.

For your annual options, look at the salvias and verbena. Most prairie or meadow-type annuals are best started from seed, so you will find most of those in the seed section. Check out ammi, calendula, centaurea, cosmos, gypsophila, larkspur, nicotiana, physostegia, poppy, salvia, sunflower, and veronica.

Don't be afraid to add in some native grasses, specifically the different cultivars of switch grasses: Pannicum virgatum. We carry several and they offer fabulous fall color and winter interest.

As with any wildflower planting, please check with your local county extension agents on what might be considered an invasive in your area. You don’t want any plants behaving like thugs and completely taking over your wildflower meadow.

This sounds like it will be a wonderful view once completed and established.

Happy planting,

Karen

Help Needed With Planning A Perennial Flower Garden

April 2nd, 2015

My spot for a flower gardenI live in Indiana and would like to add a lot of color using mainly perennials for the back corner and sides in this area, but I am happy to add some annual flowers.  I was also looking for some climbers or taller plants and grasses to go in the back, as well. I’m looking for this area to get bigger and brighter every year!

The picture was taken around 1:00 in the afternoon yesterday.  I was facing south when I took it. The semi-circle planter area on the left holds two large lilac bushes that did wonderfully last year! The fence in the back does reflect a small area of shade/shadow on the area.

I’m looking forward to your recommendations. Please let me know if you have any questions for me!

Myra M.

Answer:

Myra,

It's very hard to suggest plants since there are a few things you should consider before choosing. The basic question of any landscaper would be, what is your use for the space? Do you have children who need space or is this an adult area? Are there elements in the view from the house that you want to hide or distract your view from, such as the play equipment in the neighbor’s yard or perhaps some utility boxes? How much time do you have to devote to maintaining your landscape beds? Perennials, while not needing to be replanted each year, still require maintenance like pruning, watering and fertilizing. Do you have any water problems, such as soggy areas from water run-off from the house, or the oppositea place that is very well drained and stays dry? With the power lines, can you install trees, perhaps some low growing varieties?

Your six-foot fence is creating a micro-climate of shade, so the movement of the sun on those areas is particularly important. Full-sun plants will require a minimum of 6 hours of sun to perform well. Some plants are happy with morning sun and afternoon shade; others want it hot, hot, hot!  You’ll need to actually determine how much sun those specific areas get during the growing season, and then choose plants that have those light needs.

After you've determined all those aspects then you can start thinking about a focal point for the garden and various heights, textures and colors of plants. One way to get your plans flowing is to create a Pinterest board of ideas. Even if the plants are not hardy, it's pretty easy to match texture and color for your Zone 5 landscape garden. You can even go tropical if you want to deal with strictly annuals and wintering-over plants inside or replacing each year.

Look at the Google map view of your home and yard and think about the shapes of the areas you want to create. Nature never plants in straight lines, so get out your garden hose and figure out what you like and use some spray marking paint to draw it out. Make sure you don't create mowing obstacles when you line it out:  that's why the paint helps! When you create planting areas it's best to always enrich the soil with compost and organic matter first, before you’ve gotten all your plants in.

We have a huge selection of plants, so you can choose what fits best for your color palette and moisture and light conditions. Each plant description includes the conditions that suit it best, as well as the mature size and growth habit. If you want plants that will spread to fill in space, allow them generous room when you plant them. This is very important because many new gardeners tend to plant too close together and then wind up with an overcrowded area in a couple of years.  Choose from foliage you like and a floral color theme that fits your tastes.

Unless those lilacs are the dwarf variety, they will outgrow that small planter within a year or two. Lilacs will ultimately reach seven or eight feet in height and four or five feet across. Think of this when planting near a tall fence since planting too close will cause the plant to not be able to grow on the one side (no sun) and potentially become weak and decline! Bring your plants out far enough from the fence that they can reach their full width potential.

I hope this information has helped you feel confident in selecting plants you like and that will work in your growing conditions.

Happy spring and plant planning!

Karen

How To Keep My Petunias From Becoming Leggy

March 5th, 2015

Petunias growing in a patio containerHello. I love petunias and last summer I planted my patio planters strictly
with petunias. They looked gorgeous until the end of June, when the centers
of the plants (obviously the older part of the stems) became bare, resulting
in the tops of the planters looking bare and ugly. Is there a petunia variety that stays bushy, not leggy, and flowers continually? I’d like to know if there is.    Thank you, Susan M.

Answer: Most petunias need to be pinched back during the growing season and they need regular fertilization to keep them blooming all summer long. If you purchase them pre-planted in a basket, they have been pruned regularly to branch out and are constantly fed to be at the peak of blooming when you purchase them. If you have planted the basket yourself with individual plants, such as the ones we offer in our Annual Flowering Plants, trim off the top inch or so when planting. Be sure they are receiving a full 6 hours of sun to keep them blooming. Feed them once a month with a water-soluable fertilizer, and keep them evenly moist. As they start to become leggy, prune off about half of the stem, making sure you leave some of the leaves on the plant. This will rejuvenate them and encourage more growth and blooms. Some recommend doing this to a third of the plant on a weekly basis so it's constantly regrowing.  This should help to keep all the varieties flowering vigorously.

Happy Growing, Karen

How Do I Grow My Pampas Grass Seeds Indoors?

November 4th, 2014

Pink Pampas Grass PlantHi, can you please tell me the best way to plant and grow my Pampas grass seeds indoors this winter in order to get a head start and also be able to select the hardy ones for transplanting outdoors in the spring? Thank you, Scott

Answer:

Pink pampass grass can easily be started from seed. Depending on your location, you might want to check if it's listed as an invasive plant.

Use a mixture of equal parts peat moss and sand or a sterile seed-starting mixture in a 4-inch container. The soil needs to remain evenly moist, loose and well-drained. In the 4-inch container, plant five evenly spaced seeds on the soil surface, and leave the seeds uncovered. Seeds will require 4-6 weeks before the last frost of the spring for complete germination.

Moisten the soil and then cover the container with a clear plastic bag, leaving enough room for sufficient air circulation. Straws can be inserted around the perimeter of the pot to help hold the plastic up off the soil.

Place the container in a sunny location receiving around 6 hours of sun, and with an average temperature of 65-70 degrees. A seed warming mat or a spot near a vent will work. Water or mist daily to keep it evenly moist. Seeds should germinate within a week or two.

Grasses can be transplanted outside after they reach 3 to 4 inches and the last chance of frost had passed.

Good luck on your seedlings.

Karen

Can I Put Coleus In An Inside Window Box?

July 15th, 2014

I am interested in buying Coleus for indoor window boxes.  I live in Manhattan, NY, and the window boxes are directly inside north-facing windows. The apartment gets full filtered sun all day, since there is also a skylight in the room.  I am hoping to find a coleus plant that will grow well in these conditions.  If possible, a trailing variety.  Humidity is very low, since I keep air conditioning on all the time in the summer. Can you offer some guidance?  Thank you! Sandie

Answer: Sandie,

Coleus could be a challenge for the conditions you describe since they tend to like warm tropical climates and you want to keep them in an air-conditioned space. Coleus were originally found in shaded areas but in the past few years new varieties have been hybridized that are fully sun tolerant. Your conditions would be considered full shade, so you would want to choose varieties that best tolerate shade; no coleus will do well without some sun exposure. As for temperatures, they will offer their best color performance in the 80- to 90-degree range but will grow well as long as the temperatures aren't sustained in the low to mid-60s and without draft from a vent.

So, that said, I am always one to experiment and push a plant’s comfort zone a bit, knowing full well that the experiment might succeed but if it doesn't, well that opens the window to try again!

Growing Coleus InsideSome of the ones you might try are:

Dark Star

Gold Lace

Mariposa

But experiment with any that we have in stock. None of the Coleus are cascading plants. They are all upright, so you might want to add one of our Hedera Ivy plants for the spiller plant. Play with the wild color combinations and leaf textures available with Coleus to create a stunning arrangement.

Coleus do not like a wet soil, so keep the soil evenly moist. They do best if you keep the blooms trimmed back and are easily trimmed and shaped to keep the plant shorter and fuller. A monthly dose of a water soluble fertilizer will also help keep them growing to their fullest.

Happy Gardening,

Karen

Why Are My Bell Peppers Rotting?

July 8th, 2014

Green pepper rotting on the plantI am staying with my daughter for a month and she has a Bell Boy Pepper plant that was getting too big for the small pot it was in, so I transferred it to a larger pot. I used Miracle Grow potting soil and put it outside on the covered front porch. Within days it shot up 2-3 inches and it is now covered with little buds. The directions said to keep well watered, so I water it every day. The problem is that the 3 fairly good size fruits are starting to rot before they are full grown. Also, they are not turning red as specified on the tag. Can someone please tell me what I should do to prevent this from happening to the rest of them? P.S. I have also had this problem with large size tomatoes in the past. Thanks, Lori.

Answer: Lori, you did not specify where the rot begins, so there are a couple of things that could be happening.

If they rot starting at the blossom end, it could be blossom end rot. On peppers, the affected area usually appears tannish in color in the beginning and then will turn dark as secondary molds appear. It can occur on the sides of peppers, but it’s generally at the blossom point. Blossom end rot is due to a calcium deficiency in the plant. This can be caused by various reasons, soil moisture fluctuations, or over-fertilization with a high nitrogen fertilizer. You mentioned using Miracle Grow soil and it comes with fertilizer built in, high in nitrogen, to make plants grow quickly. It’s a good practice to always check the soil moisture before adding water. It might be that it doesn’t need it or it could need moisture twice a day to keep it evenly moist. Container growing can be tricky, especially with the heat we’ve had this summer. A good fertilizer for peppers would be HyR-BRIX® Tomato and Pepper Fertilizer. In the future use a container soil mix that has no fertilizer added.

I suspect you are experiencing blossom end rot since Anthracnose Fruit Rot, a fungal disease, is a little less likely in container plants, but not impossible. In this disease, the lesions will develop as circular or angular sunken spots on developing fruits; you might also see spots on leaves and stems. It can be spread from overhead watering or watering late in the day when the plants do not dry before sundown. For this there isn’t a cure other than to remove and destroy diseased fruits and plants. You can compost the remaining soil if no plant debris remains and your compost pile does heat sufficiently.

As for the coloring, they will start green and stay that way until they reach mature size, then develop their red pigment somewhere between 10 to 28 days for full color. They, like their relatives the tomatoes, are sensitive to temperatures, so they might be waiting on some cooler temps to finish their maturation. The tag on the plant should give you an indication of days to maturity, which will give you an idea of when to start seeing color shift.

Good luck with your peppers, and happy gardening.

Karen

What Size Container For Peppers and Tomatoes?

June 30th, 2014

pepper plant growing in a containerI am putting together a container for Early Girl tomatoes and one for jalapeno peppers for a friend. My question is: what size of container and how many plants per container?  I would also like some watering and feeding instructions for each container. Thanks, Pam

Answer:

Pam, How many plants depends on how large the container. For an average 15-18 inch, lightweight pot I would not plant more than one plant per pot. When gardening in containers you have to remember that you are restricting the plants’ access to nutrients and moisture that are naturally occurring in the soil. If you over-plant you are putting your plants under stress because they compete with each other for very limited nutrients. It’s better to go with one plant with a slightly smaller pot and use several pots for multiple plantings. If you use square pots they will all nicely line up in a row like a garden!

Because they are confined, moisture will be an issue, unless you happen to live in a location that receives daily rainfall. If not, daily watering will most likely be necessary to keep the soil evenly moist. During periods of extreme heat they may require water more often. Growing plants are thirsty plants. If you have the ability to set up a drip system for each pot and can put it on a timer, then watering very early in the morning is ideal.

The confinement also limits the supply of essential nutrients to the plant, so more frequent feeding will be needed as well. Adding a slow-release fertilizer that is evenly balanced when you pot the plants is a good start. This will give plants the needed micro-nuritents not found in a sterile potting mix. Read our blog article Container Gardening for Tomatoes and Peppers for detailed fertilizing instructions.

Happy Gardening,

Karen

Why Is My Asparagus Not Growing Well?

June 19th, 2014

Asparagus Growing In Raised BedI planted my asparagus behind my garage that has a SW facing of 245 degrees.  The rear row, the one closest to my garage, is not faring well.  Soil prep for both rows was essentially the same.  I had tried to water a little more heavily for the row near the garage, thinking the foundation might be heating and drying out the soil adjacent to it and impacting that row of asparagus.

Pictures attached. Any suggestions?  This is the first year.

Thank you, Phil L.

Answer:

Phil, It is possible that the radiant heat from the concrete wall is keeping the bed too dry. Keeping consistent soil moisture is important. You want to make sure to keep all weeds out of the bed for the best production; asparagus hates any competition, and I would suggest mulching the bed with shredded leaves or straw to help maintain the moisture level. Also make sure your soil pH is above 6.0. It's possible the concrete or any pea gravel could be altering the pH near the wall. You might also try feeding the plants with a mild formula Vegetable Fertilizer. Be sure to leave the foliage over the winter and remove before the new growth appears in the spring.

For more helpful asparagus growing tips, read Just About Everything About Asparagus.

Karen

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