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As winter approaches we turn our attention to preparing the garden for slumber. Beds are mulched, perennials are cut back, tender bulbs are lifted and stored, and we prepare to protect our roses from winter’s chill. The timing of your winter rose care will be determined by your area, however, a helpful reminder is to use Thanksgiving as a deadline for zone 5, earlier for zone 4, and later for zones 6 and up.

Step 1. When cutting back your roses bear in mind that roses die from the top down. When pruning your roses in late fall or early winter, plan on cutting back to about 2 1/2 to 3 feet. This will give you some latitude when it comes to winter kill. This is a general rule that can be applied to hybrid teas and most floribunda roses. Climbers and ramblers should not be cut back to this extreme, but rather tied back to trellis or fencing in order to keep the canes from snapping in the wind.

Step 2. When pruning, take care by using gloves. Using sharpened, clean by-pass pruners make a cut at an angle. General removal of deadwood or crossed branches can be accomplished at this time. Strip and remove all remaining foliage.

Step 3. Many will recommend removing all but the strongest four to five canes. This is a good technique for hybrid teas, especially those used for cut flowers. This is a judgment call. Your pruning will depend on the type of bush you are looking to create. When pruning we will often recommend filling your cuts with either a clear nail polish or even white glue. This serves to seal the cut and prevent pests such as cane borer bees from nesting in your roses. These insects are dormant in the winter and the cuts will generally seal themselves over time.

Step 4. Winter damage to rose bushes most often occurs when severe winds, or snow loads, rock the plant or shift it so it is loosened from the soil. This can expose roots which then dehydrate and produce severe damage to the plant. For this reason we encourage you to stake your pruned rose. This will help stabilize your plant and prevent damage from freezing and thawing. Place the stake while you can still drive it into the soil. After the ground freezes it will help anchor the plant.

Step 5. After the ground does freeze (in cold weather climates) apply some method of providing a retainer for mulch, soil, or shredded leaves. This can be a rose cone, peach basket, or in this case a rose collar. Protect the bud-union by applying 10-12 inches of organic material. Most areas can winter protect with soil from the garden. Take care when using rose cones or baskets. A plastic pail will often “cook” a rose bush, especially one situated in a southern exposure. In colder climates this original mounding up can be supplemented with pine boughs or chips. Take care to mulch in plants after the ground has frozen, for done too early can only provide a safe winter habitat for field mice or rodents who will then feast on the roots over the winter.

Step 6. Spring removal. Generally your roses can be uncovered around the first week of April. If you are in a warmer climate, clean them up earlier. An adage was to uncover your roses just before you prune your forsythia (which is just after the bloom fades). At this time you can remove most of the soil by hand and then using full water pressure, remove soil from the crown by spraying it with a strong spray. When the buds break in the warm weather apply a fungicide and begin feeding in May.

Norfolk Island Pine Plant Features

An easy-care houseplant, Norfolk Island pine is a festive holiday plant you can enjoy all year long! During the holidays, its needled branches look right at home decorated as a Christmas tree. After the holidays pass, remove the decorations and enjoy its classic look (and air-purifying powers) anywhere in your home.

Though it’s called Norfolk Island pine, it’s not a pine at all. Rather, this stately tree is a tropical plant native to the South Pacific. Indoors, it’s relatively slow-growing, but over the course of several years, this adorable little plant can grow to 6 feet tall or more.

Small, young Norfolk Island pines are perfect for decorating mantles, tabletops, and desks. As this long-lived houseplant grows, it’s becomes better situated as a floor plant and can be used to fill bright corners, flank furniture (such as entertainment centers), or stand alone as a stunning focal point.

If you want to encourage faster growth from your Norfolk Island pine, move it outdoors to a shaded or partly shaded spot during the summer. Because it’s a tropical tree, wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving it out, and bring it back in before the first frost in fall.

Norfolk Island Pine Growing Instructions

Grow Norfolk Island pine in a medium to bright spot in your home. The less light it gets, the slower it will grow. But avoid very low-light situations. If it doesn’t get enough light (natural or artificial), your Norfolk Island pine will be weak, spindly, and unattractive.

Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet. The roots will rot if they stand in water. If the plant stays too dry, the tips of its branches will turn brown and crispy. Fertilize Norfolk Island pine once or twice during spring and summer to keep it growing well. You can fertilize more often if you want your plant to grow faster! 
Note: After the holidays, take your Norfolk Island pine’s pot out of the festive foil pot cover (if it has one). Pot covers trap excess moisture around the roots and can cause your plant to suffer rot if it stays too moist.

If you wish to prune your Norfolk Island pine, you can do so at any time of the year.

Like most houseplants, Norfolk Island pine benefits from being repotted every couple of years.

Thanks to – http://www.costafarms.com/plants/norfolk-island-pine

Fa la la la! It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and our favorite part of the season! It’s time to head out with your family and wander amongst all the beautiful types of trees, looking for just the right one. As you’re searching, do the fresh test! Run your fingers along the needles, grab the branches and bounce the tree a little. If many needles fall off, the tree was cut long ago and has not gotten enough water, so find another! Also, the hunt for the perfect tree will go much smoother if you already know the type of tree you want.

Picking out a perfect tree isn’t all about looks—the tree’s scent, strength of branches, and needle retention all matter, too. So before you head to the tree farm or lot to select yours, lets compare the two most popular Christmas trees.

Balsam Fir –  3/4″ to 1 and 1/2″ short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. These needles are 3/4 – 1 and 1/2 in. in length and last a very long time. This is the traditional Christmas tree that most Americans grew up with. This tree has a dark-green appearance and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Christmas season. 

Fraser Fir – The Fraser fir may be the perfect holiday tree. Its attractive 1-inch needles are silvery-green and soft to the touch. Because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some trees. The firm branches hold heavier ornaments. The trees grow to almost perfect shapes, and as long as the cut tree is kept properly watered, the Frasier fir has excellent needle retention.

Everyone has their favorite. We hope you have fun selecting this year’s perfect tree!

More and more gardeners are anxious to plant a bee garden. By planting a bee garden, you too can do your part to help the bees by adding to the shrinking inventory of flower-rich habitat in your area.  In return, the bees will pollinate your flowers, providing a bountiful harvest of fruits, seeds and vegetables as well as the joy of watching them up close. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind as you grow your bee garden:

RETHINK YOUR LAWN

Replace part or all of your front lawn grass with flowering plants, which provides food and habitat for honey bees, bumble bees, solitary bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

SELECT SINGLE FLOWER TOPS FOR YOUR BEE GARDEN

…such as daisies and marigolds, rather than double flower tops such as double impatiens. Double headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for bees to access pollen.

SKIP THE HIGHLY HYBRIDIZED PLANTS

…which have been bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen for bees.

PLAN FOR BLOOMS SEASON-ROUND

Plant at least three different types of flowers in your bee garden to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible. This will provide bees and other pollinators with a constant source of food.  For example:

  • Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac provide enticing spring blooms in a bee garden.
  • Bees feast on bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta in the summer.
  • For fall, zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod are late bloomers that will tempt foragers.

BUILD HOMES FOR NATIVE BEES

Leave a patch of the garden in a sunny spot uncultivated for native bees that burrow. Some native bees also need access to soil surface for nesting. For wood- and stem-nesting bees, this means piles of branches, bamboo sections, hollow reeds, or nesting blocks made out of untreated wood. Mason bees need a source of water and mud, and many kinds of bees are attracted to weedy, untended hedgerows.  You can also support our Sponsor-a-Hive program, which places solitary bee homes (and honey bee hives) in school and community gardens across the U.S.

ONLY USE NATURAL PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS

Avoid using herbicides or pesticides in the bee garden. They not only can be toxic to bees but also are best not introduced to children or adults that visit your garden. Ladybugs, spiders, and praying mantises will naturally keep pest populations in check.

CREATE A “BEE BATH”

Bees need a place to get fresh, clean water. Fill a shallow container of water with pebbles or twigs for the bees to land on while drinking.  Make sure to maintain the container full of fresh water to ensure that they know they can return to the same spot every day in your bee garden.

LIVE IN A HOME WITHOUT A GARDEN?

You need only a small plot of land for a bee garden—it can even be a window container or rooftop—to create an inviting oasis for bees. Every little bit can help to nurture bees and other pollinators.

https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/plant-a-bee-garden/

MILKWEED BASICS

Milkweeds (Asclepias) get their name from the sticky white sap that oozes from the leaves when they are damaged. More than 100 species of this herbaceous perennial are native to the U.S. and Canada. Many have adapted to different regions of the country and a wide range of climates and terrains, from deserts and rocky areas to marshes and open prairies. Some species grow exclusively in specific regions while others will thrive in just about any habitat.

Types:

Three species of milkweed are good all-around choices for gardens in most regions of the country: common milkweed (A. syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). The last two are highly ornamental and available in a variety of cultivars. To help sustain monarchs and other butterflies, you should plant at least a few milkweed species that are native to your area. Download this milkweed information sheet from Monarch Joint Venture for regional recommendations.

Flower characteristics:

The petite, star-shaped flowers of milkweed are exquisitely designed for pollination. They grow in clusters of five nectar cups, each with incurved horns above the petals. When an insect lands on a flower, its feet slip between the cups and the pollen sacs attach themselves to the legs. When the insect moves to the next flower, the horns collect the pollen. Equally well designed are the large, fluff-filled seed pods that develop from the fertilized flowers. In the fall, these proficient self-sowers split open to release hundreds of seeds borne on silken parachutes.

Height:

2 to 5 feet, depending on the species

Zones:

3-9

Why it’s a must for monarchs:

Milkweed is both a food source and a host plant on which the monarch lays its eggs, depositing them on the underside of the leaves. The larvae then feed on the leaves after hatching, but cause no permanent damage to the plant. In turn, the toxic chemicals contained in the sap of milkweed plants make both the caterpillars and adult butterflies unappetizing to predators. “[During monarch migration] flight is fueled by nectaring on the flowers and is punctuated by laying eggs on milkweeds. To grow and sustain each generation, milkweed is the only food needed,” says Agrawal.

Milkweed’s highly fragrant and nectar-rich flowers are an enticement for other pollinators as well. Frequent visitors include native bees, honey bees, many other types of butterflies, and hummingbirds. Read more about the best perennials for pollinators.

GROWING MILKWEED

Where to plant:

Most milkweeds require full sun (at least 6 to 8 hours a day). Because they self-seed readily, locate your plants in a part of the garden where you can better control their rampant spread, such as at the back of the border or in a corner. A spot that’s protected from the wind will also help prevent the spread of seeds while providing a more hospitable environment for butterflies.

When to plant:

If you’re planting milkweed from seed, sow the seeds outdoors in the fall, which will give them the period of stratification (exposure to cold, moist conditions) they need to encourage spring germination and ensure a good display of flowers the following summer. If you purchase starter plants, plant them in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.

Soil:

The best soil type for milkweed often depends on its native habitat. Most varieties are extremely forgiving and will grow well in average garden soil. Swamp milkweed is an exception and requires moist, humus-rich soil.

How to plant:

To ensure successful germination of milkweed seeds, plant them in a smooth, clump-free soil bed worked to a fine consistency using a rake or rototiller. After you’ve sown the seeds, compact them into the soil (but don’t cover them) to provide good soil-to-seed contact. Keep the planting bed moist until the seedlings become established. As your plants begin to take off, thin out any plants that are spaced too closely together so they don’t compete for sun and soil nutrients.

Spacing:

To attract multitudes of monarchs to your garden, plant milkweed in groups of six or more, spacing plants or thinning seedlings to about 6 to 24 inches apart, depending on the species. Monarchs are very good at finding a milkweed plant, but the more you have in your yard, the more likely they will find it and lay their little eggs all over it. Plant as many plants as you have room for.

Propagating:

Many milkweed species can readily be grown from root or rhizome cuttings as well as by seed. Take the cuttings during the late fall or early spring when the plant is dormant and has more energy reserves. New sprouts will form from the cuttings when the weather warms and will often produce flowers the first year.

MILKWEED CARE

Like most wildflowers, milkweed is easy to grow and requires very little pampering. Most species are not seriously bothered by heat, drought, deer or other pests. And because milkweed is a native plant that tolerates poor soils, fertilization isn’t necessary.

Mulching:

You can mulch milkweed if you want to control weeds or retain moisture, but not all varieties will benefit. Swamp milkweed will appreciate your water-retention efforts, but milkweeds that prefer dry soil, such as common milkweed and butterfly weed, are usually better off with no mulch.

Pruning:

As with many flowering perennials, pruning the flowers soon after they have withered will result in new buds and may extend the blooming period for several weeks. Clipping spent flowers to stimulate new growth will also prolong the availability of nectar for monarchs and other pollinators.

Pest control:

Some plant pests such as aphids, whiteflies and milkweed bugs are immune to the toxic effects of milkweed and may feed on the leaves and seed pods, but they rarely cause significant damage. Also remove leaf litter and spent stalks in the fall to eliminate overwintering sites.

How to control spreading:

If you don’t want milkweed to take charge of your garden, remove the seed pods in the fall before they split open and release their contents or tie them closed with string. For plants with rhizomes, thin them out by hand by pulling the entire plant, including the roots, removing as much of the rhizome as possible. This will be easier to do when the plants are young and before the roots are well established.

Handling precautions:

Be aware that the toxic alkaloids in the sap of milkweed that help protect the monarchs from predators can cause eye and skin irritation and are poisonous to pets and other animals when ingested. Take the appropriate precautions and wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants when working with these plants.

https://www.gardendesign.com/plants/milkweed.html

If you live in a small-efficiency apartment, you probably don’t have the space for a showy, sprawling monstera or a towering ficus. You need something petite that can comfortably sit on an end table or windowsill. And unless you’ve been fortunate enough to find an apartment with an abundance of natural light, you probably need something that can survive in a sliver of sun. You need a peperomia.

Peperomia Varieties

Peperomia is a compact little plant that does well with a moderate amount of light. The low-growing, bushy foliage comes in a wide range of colors and shapes. Peperomia argyreia (watermelon peperomia), for instance, has fairly large leaves and a pattern resembling watermelon rinds while Peperomia clusifolia‘s leaves have pink edges. Peperomia griseoargentea’s leaves are dark green with deep veins that create interesting texture.

How to Grow Peperomia

Plant peperomia using a houseplant potting mix in a pot with drainage holes in the bottom. This plant’s roots require a lot of oxygen, so it’s a good idea to mix perlite, sand, or even gravel in with the soil to keep it from becoming too compact over time.

Watering Schedule

Peperomias hold water in their thick succulent-like leaves and stems, so they’ll be perfectly happy if you abandon them for a few weeks of vacation. In fact, they prefer the soil to dry out in between waterings, so as a general rule you can expect to water them only every other week.

Light Requirements

Peperomias do well in moderate light to partial shade. They can tolerate low light as well, though the plant won’t be as hardy and the beautiful look of the foliage may suffer.

The rising temperatures of Spring are right around the corner, and with it comes the thawing out of frozen ground. The remains of winter will melt into a quagmire interspersed only by early crocus.

This is the perfect time to come to understand the draining capacity of your soil. Why is this so important? It can make the difference between life and death for some plants.

Take, for example, Roses. Good draining soil is a must for success. Poor drainage can also lead to fungus diseases in lawns, perennials and many annuals.

So how do you know if your soil drains well? There are a few simple tests you can take to give you an idea of how well your soil drains. An easy, accurate and effective test would be to take a shovel full of soil. This can be done as early in the season, (or whenever you want to know), as the soil can be worked. Take a shovel-depth amount of soil, set it aside and fill the hole half-full with water. Come back in an hour or so.

If there is water remaining in the hole you have a drainage problem. If there is nothing left in the hole, or a small amount remaining then your problem is less dramatic.

The next step is the solution(s). The answer is going to be different for each situation, i.e., in a container garden, in a lawn, or a garden bed. Soil composition is very important. In a container garden, when using a whiskey barrel, clay pot or urn, you can provide a custom soil mix easily-it comes ready mixed in the bag. Make sure the mix has either perlite, vermiculite or some sort of soil conditioner.

As easy as it is to get perfect soil in a bag (for your potted pots), it is sometimes as daunting to produce similar results in a lawn or garden bed. It is not feasible to tear up your lawn to amend the soil mechanically, nor is it a good idea to try to displace an existing perennial bed.

There are some soil amenders you can add that work their way into the soil. For example, garden gypsum, an organic material that aids drainage, can be applied with a spreader and gets good results. You can use it on lawns as well as garden beds. Coarse sand can be added and scratched into the top two-three inches of soil. This is best used in garden beds.

In annual beds, or in planting situations, entire beds can have their soil re-worked. It’s best to add as much organic material as possible. Peat moss, manures and humus based top soils can do wonders in a planting situation. Remember to neutralize your soil with a bit of ground limestone to reach an optimum pH of 6.5-7.

Lawns, or mature beds, can be top dressed with organic material that will eventually work its way into the soil structure. A simple drainage test can go along way to answer your gardening problems.