» Archive for March, 2015

Growing Beautiful Azaleas

Friday, March 20th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and peas grow best in the spring and don’t mind a little frost. Set out plants now and grow your own!
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.
    • Summer flower bulbs can be planted now. Choose from gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, lilies and more.
    • Plant artichokes now. Fill a hole with one part humus and two parts soil and set out plants in full or part sun.
    • Last call for bare root fruit trees. This is the most economical way to plant an orchard, so choose your trees now.

Growing Beautiful Azaleas

Some of our loveliest spring flowers bloom on compact plants called azaleas. These garden gems are evergreen and easy to grow given the right conditions. They cover themselves with beautiful flowers each spring and live for many years in gardens or in containers.

Azaleas should receive partial shade, or filtered shade all day. Plant them with rhododendrons, pieris, Japanese snowball or Japanese maples for a harmonious garden design.

Azaleas are fairly hardy plants, however they have a reputation for being difficult to grow. Most azalea deaths occur from faulty planting. In their native habitats they are found growing in loose, porous soils. So it is best to plant azaleas in a well-drained site with cool, moist, acidic soil.

The planting hole should be 18 to 24 inches wide but only as deep as the root ball. Use peat moss, planting mix, or ground bark to amend the soil up to 50%. Plant the azalea higher than the surrounding ground level and build up to the sides with the soil mixture. One of the quickest ways to kill an azalea is to bury the plant by putting soil on top of the root ball. The surface of the root ball should still be showing when you are done planting.

Too much fertilizer will also kill an azalea. These plants have tender fibrous roots which are easily burned by high-nitrogen fertilizers. Use a non- burning organic fertilizer like cottonseed meal or a chemical fertilizer labeled for azaleas once a month in April, May and June. Then switch to a 0-10-10 fertilizer for the months of July, August and September.

Azaleas are often the victims of overwatering. Water the plants as you would any other plant to get them established, and then check the soil to keep it moist but not soggy wet. If kept too wet, or grown in poorly drained soils, azaleas can be killed by root rot fungi. The leaves will wilt and then dry up on the plant.

Not all azaleas are hardy to the cold temperatures in our area, but there are varieties that can take temperatures down to 5°F. Look for names like Kurume and Satsuki to be sure you are buying a cold-hardy plant. Belgian Indicas and Southern Indicas will grow where temperatures don’t fall below 20°F. Below that the bark will split and the plants will die.

Kurume azaleas have very dense foliage and small flowers that completely cover the plants in spring. They come in all shades of red, pink, lavender, purple and white. Satsuki azaleas have a looser form and large flowers in white, pink or red that are sometimes striped or have multiple colors on one plant.

With a carefully chosen plant and proper planting and care, azaleas will live for many years, in the landscape or in containers, showing off their colorful flowers each spring.

Elegant New Roses

Sunday, March 15th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Plant potatoes! St. Patrick’s Day is a traditional day to plant potatoes, so the season is upon us now.
    • Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce and other cool season crops should be planted this month for delicious spring harvests.
    • Apple trees are still available as bare-root trees, but only for a short while longer. Start your orchard now!
    • Last chance for asparagus roots this year. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.
    • Thin raspberry canes to 4-6 inches apart. Cut back remaining canes to 3 feet tall.

Elegant New Roses

Oh My! Wait till you see the new roses. Yes, one of the new roses this year is named ‘Oh My!’™ and it’s a beauty. This velvety red Floribunda is loaded with clusters of 3 to 4-inch ruffled flowers that look gorgeous against the glossy dark red-green leaves, which have very good disease resistance. Plant it as a flowering hedge or as a single handsome shrub and enjoy its rich red flowers in the vase.

If you think roses are too much work, try the new rose ‘Take It Easy’™. You won’t have much work to do in the garden with its wonderful disease resistance. This classic red shrub rose has elegant pointed buds that open into 3½-4 inch velvety dark red blooms with lighter pink reverse. The plant’s excellent vigor and the naturally self-maintained habit are other reasons to enjoy this beautiful rose.

The warm colors of ‘Sedona’ are reminiscent of the craggy red bluffs and high desert sunsets of the Southwest. The pointed, sculptured buds spiral open to reveal layers of reds, corals, and orange tones in the stunning 5-inch blossoms. Add a strong, fruity fragrance and you have a tower of jewels on these tall Hybrid Tea bushes. The large, full flowers on straight, sturdy stems are excellent for cutting.

For a more subtle beauty in a new rose look to ‘Crescendo’™. The elegant, creamy white, pointed buds open to reveal enormous, 5-inch blooms are that are white, blushing to light pink at the edges. The strong spicy fragrance of this shapely Hybrid Tea rose, with superb disease resistance and an attractive, medium-tall form, provides a perfect ensemble of beauty, elegance, and outstanding garden performance.

‘Above All’™ is a new hybrid with large clusters of salmon-orange blooms that cover the branches of this tall climber. The old fashioned style flowers, 3-4 inches in diameter, are produced in large clusters. With a nice fruity fragrance, good disease resistance, and continuous blooming from spring to fall, it will brighten up a fence all summer long.

If fragrance means the most to you in a rose, add ‘Perfume Delight’ to your rose garden. This bright pink Hybrid Tea rose has large, full flowers with a strong, damask fragrance. Introduced in 1974, it is still a beautiful rose with excellent form and good disease resistance. Established plants will produce blooms up to 6 inches across. Try that on your table!

‘Midnight Blue’™ brings us a dark, velvety purple rose with a spicy clove fragrance. The 2½-3½ inch blooms come in big clusters on this shrub rose that is grown on its own roots. The compact rounded plant will lend itself to smaller spaces and enrich any landscape.

It’s time to add a new rose to your garden and enjoy their classic beauty.

Plant a Tree for Arbor Day

Sunday, March 8th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Mouth-watering strawberries should be planted now for delicious berries this summer. Plant them in a sunny, well-drained bed.
    • Potatoes can be planted any time now. Choose from red, white, yellow and blue varieties.
    • Prune Hydrangeas now by removing old flower heads down to the first new leaves. Don’t prune stems which have no old flowers, and they will bloom first this summer.
    • Spring vegetables love cool, moist weather and don’t mind a little frost. Set out lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach and Swiss chard starts now.
    • Plant sweet peas for bouquets of delightful blooms.

Celebrate Trees!

Luther Burbank, California’s famed horticulturist, was a legendary figure in his own time. Born in Massachusetts, on March 7, 1849, he made his home in Santa Rosa for more than fifty years and it was here that he conducted many plant breeding experiments that brought him worldwide fame. His life’s labor produced hundreds of plants and trees that have contributed to the natural splendor and food production in our state.

In 1909, seventeen years before he died, the state legislature designated Burbank’s birthday, March 7, as Arbor Day in California. And every year since then, school children and others have celebrated the event by planting trees.

The idea of an Arbor Day began in Nebraska in 1872, when J. Sterling Morton convinced the Nebraska state board of agriculture to set a day for tree planting and name it Arbor Day. Since then, most states have declared an Arbor Day which is appropriate to their climate. National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.

The value of trees can hardly be overstated. Trees solve problems by cooling the house in the summer, reducing the force of the prevailing winds, screening out undesirable sights and reducing noise. They improve water and air quality, provide habitats for animals and plant life and prevent flooding and erosion. In addition, trees have many aesthetic advantages offering pleasant fragrances, beautiful colors that change with the seasons, fruit in abundance, and even a place to hang a swing.

Shade from trees can reduce room temperatures in poorly insulated houses by as much as 20 degrees in summer. To be most effective, trees should be planted on the west and southwest sides of the house to block the hot rays of the western sun. If you plant a deciduous tree which will lose its leaves in the fall, it will let in light in the winter months when it is most desired.

Trees and large shrubs make excellent windbreaks if they are properly chosen and pruned to do the job. The most effective and safest way of planting a windbreak is to combine trees and shrubs over a considerable distance to create a wedge which lifts the wind up and over the tallest trees. Bushy shrubs are planted on the windward side and among the trees with the tallest trees nearest the house. Such a wind break will greatly reduce the wind-chill factor and thereby reduce the cost of heating buildings.

Trees also make the most attractive screen between you and the neighbors, whether they are just next door, or 20 acres away. They can block bothersome glare from artificial lights and make your home environment more to your liking.

For beautiful spring flowers, consider a beautiful weeping flowering cherry with double pink flowers, Krauter Vesuvius flowering plum with its red leaves and light pink flowers or one of the flowering crabapples with flowers ranging from white to pink, red or purplish-red.

October Glory Maple with its brilliant fall color makes an excellent, tall shade tree. Purple Robe Locust offers dark pink flowers in spring and a fast-growing, full tree for shade in summer. Fruitless Mulberry and Raywood Ash are also fast-growing trees for summer shade, and flowering pear trees are beautiful in spring, summer and fall.

For beauty and comfort, celebrate this Arbor Day by planting a tree!