So the winter damage has been fixed and spring cleanups are about finished. Which means that many homeowners, and landscape companies, are now turning their attention to pruning.
I understand the importance of pruning but one of my pet peeves is pruning shrubs into shapes that are contrary to their natural form. This is especially true of forsythia.
Too many people trim them into “meatballs” figuring, I guess, that a round shape is good.
Forsythia is a naturally graceful arching shrub and training it into a ball, in my opinion, is like asking a ballerina to dance in clogs.
The best time to prune forsythia is in the spring, right after blooming and then I like to remove ¼ to 1/3 of the largest stems to the ground. If you have a very old forsythia you can cut it drastically to within 4” of the ground and it will come back. This type of pruning is referred to as renovation or rejuvenation pruning.
Pruning forsythia later in the summer will likely result in fewer flowers as you will undoubtedly remove buds that have already set. Check out Garden Seeker for a great guide for pruning shrubs .
If you have not yet pruned your forsythia consider skipping this year. Just let the ballerina dance.
And if you must have meatballs, make spaghetti.
It was truly an honor to present to the Wareham Garden Club this month. I had a blast chatting it up with the members while I created three container gardens. Members seemed to enjoy the hints and suggestions I brought along to help them learn to make truly outstanding, one might say ‘jaw-dropping’, container gardens. As always, I encouraged the members to think creatively and with an eye to the art of mixing plants and other elements.
I was thrilled to receive this note from Wareham Garden Club member, Nancy:
I so enjoyed your presentation yesterday, I was especially taken with your attention to detail.
The sticks that you added to that huge yellow and brown bucket matched exactly.
I would not have thought of that!
Also the birch branches were perfect. I am NOT ignoring the great choices of flowers- just that I have never put sticks into any arrangement, and will start doing it!
Your personality and humor kept us on our toes not to miss anything.
You were my choice for the best arranger yet- good choices well explained.
Nice tips on loosening soil or chopping off bottom whirl of roots. That was helpful to us all!
Dividing a potful of plants – a good trick.
I wish you the very best in your business-
I just had to thank you again…
Years ago, a very wonderful friend of mine was espousing the virtues of hostas. Conjuring up an image in my mind of the cemetery variety, I replied that they were nothing but slug bait.
Thankfully my friend did not slug me! As a former president of the New England Hosta Society, she must have looked at me as a challenge and over the years kept pointing out unusual varieties. Her persistence paid off, and now I’m hooked. Having already mentioned that my favorite color is green, hostas already have one thing going for them. And the more I use them the more I love them.
There are really only three problems when growing hostas:
Bambi. Thumper. Slugs.
If the deer and rabbits in your area treat your hosta like a salad bar, be vigilant.
You need to interrupt their dinner and train them to look elsewhere. As soon as the hostas start to emerge in spring, spray with a repellent. There are many on the market and your local garden center can suggest one. There are also numerous homemade remedies on the internet – everything from Irish Spring soap to red pepper spray. I have had tremendous success with Deer Defeat. I purchase it online and apply according to package directions…more often in the spring as plants are actively growing. It’s all natural, does not have to be re-applied after rain and only smells really bad for a few hours.
If slugs are more your problem taking action NOW will prevent the chewed leaves that show up in July.
As soon as the hostas start pushing up through the earth, sprinkle a little bit of slug bait around. (Iron phosphate is my preferred method as it does not rely on chemicals that can be hazardous to people and pets.) Not too much – no need to go crazy.
Since slugs can have many litters (is that what you call them?) it’s important to get them under control before they start producing.
You can choose to set beer traps – basically a small tin filled with beer will attract the slugs and they fall in and drown. To me, that just seems like a waste of good beer!
I also read that using leftover coffee, sprinkled around the plants, will deter the slimy creatures. Apparently the caffeine tastes bitter and the slugs don’t like it. I have not ever had a real problem with these shell-less terrestrial gastropods in my garden and now I wonder if it is because I sprinkle my used coffee grounds in the garden to improve the soil. Of course you can limit slug damage by growing your hostas in containers. Many of you know I am a huge fan of using unusual foliage plants in containers and hostas are one of my favorites.
So let me just apologize to Mary right now. I was wrong and you were right. Hostas are beautiful. And you have recommended some great ones. ‘Winter Snow’, ‘Fat Cat’, ‘Grand Marquis’, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’. These are no cemetery varieties. For more information, and some great pictures, visit the Hosta Library.
“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt.
True words. Especially nowadays with all the opportunities social media provides to make you feel inadequate.
Anyone besides me compare your life, marriage, kids to all those trumpeting their successes on Facebook?
Another interesting quote from Steven Furtick, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
Wouldn’t life be so much better if we stopped comparing and just focused on doing our best? Give each day, each opportunity, 100% without worrying about what everyone else is doing? I find that when I do that I end the day feeling profoundly grateful for what I have.
The same can be said of our gardens. Instead of lamenting a small city lot, be grateful and incorporate dwarf plants that will be beautiful in your space. Instead of complaining that your green thumb is being thwarted in your small apartment, use containers on your balcony to grow everything from perennials to veggies. If you are overwhelmed by a large garden, create “pollinator habitats” and leave some areas alone.
Your garden should bring you joy.
If it’s not, spring is the perfect time for an adjustment.
Any of you who know me know that I LOVE sharing my passion for gardening with others. Whether I am talking about container gardening or designing for pollinators or creating a rooftop garden it is always a thrill to share what I have learned.
I have also been blessed to speak at some great Flower Shows over the years and this year I will be returning to one of my favorites – The Philadelphia International Flower Show.
The theme for 2017 is “Holland: Flowering the World.”
I am very excited to walk through the entrance which will feature an overhead floral canopy created with over 6,000 blooms! Talk about a grand entrance!
The Philadelphia Flower Show is the world’s oldest and largest indoor event of its kind and attracts over 250,000 people from around the world. I will be speaking on container gardening on March 16. I have also been asked to be a part of the container garden challenge on the same day.
According to the Flower Show the container challenge is a friendly competition where three designers will be on stage at the same time, creating a container planting using a myriad of plants. Upon completion, the audience will be able to “vote” for their favorite. Sounds a bit like “Chopped” to me!
If you are in the neighborhood please stop by and say hi! It would be wonderful to see some familiar faces. For more on the show visit The Philadelphia Flower Show website.
This spring my hands may be holding a microphone as often as a trowel as the lecture schedule is filling up!
It’s Valentine’s Day and love stories abound.
The one between me and my garden is one of my favorites.
And like love, it has its seasons.
The spring garden is ripe with promise.
Yet, like new love, it is fragile. A time of emptiness surrenders as an opportunity for hope springs up, like the snowdrop bravely pushing itself through the snow. Or the crocus straining towards the sun. Still, the spring garden can be full of worry and concern.
Will that late cold snap kill ripening flower buds? Will the deer munch the tulips? Will the snow load prove too much for the small snowdrops? Anything too weighty, at this point in the development, could prove disastrous. So much promise, yet so much risk.Read More»
A client’s recent party had us feeling citrus-y.
It’s always nice to complement what’s blooming in the beds.
Container gardens can turn front doors, back decks and intimate patios into more welcoming places. We have created hundreds of custom container gardens for clients throughout New England. Your empty urn, window box or container is an opportunity to see what we can do for you. It will always be beautiful, never typical. We promise.
Did you know that, in addition to residential clients, The Captured Garden has many commercial clients as well?
Having commercial clients comes with its own unique set of challenges. We are tasked with creating beautiful one-of-a-kind window boxes or containers that must look good 24/7. On top of that, they need to stand up to an often tough urban environment and lack of regular watering.
One of our favorite commercial clients is Pine Straw in Wellesley, and more recently, Waban. Pine Straw features a great collection of items that you don’t see everywhere from clothing and jewelry to decorations and home goods. I’ll admit it’s often hard to plant outside because I am distracted by all the cool stuff I see in the windows! Despite a tough environment, we often find the window boxes at Pine Straw are the best-looking in the neighborhood. Hats off to Tracy Cranley and her crew for doing such a great job!
Why not visit PineStraw and check out The Captured Garden’s work yourself?
If you come to the Wellesley store on May 10 at 6PM you can even see me!
I had so much fun creating containers last year that I am doing it again. “Contain Yourself” is a mini-demo where I will plant some of the neat containers at the shop (think galvanized metal…sigh). Pick up some container gardening tips and enjoy some wine and cheese at the same time. Sounds like a win-win, right?
Think about that expression for a minute. Yes, it’s May. It’s an extremely busy time of year: end-of-school field trips, graduations, first communions, bridal showers, weddings, first vacations of the summer, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to catch a breath.
Now consider the phrase “busy as a bee”. From the minute they are born worker bees, ironically all female, have a job. They work together for the good of the colony. In the beginning they might work in the nursery, later they could work as house security, protecting the hive, or as undertakers, removing dead bees. Once they mature bees are promoted to field agents to forage and collect nectar and pollen to feed the colony. All this busyness is beneficial to you because honeybees and other pollinators are directly responsible for every third bite of food you take. Imagine what life would be like without apples, almonds, or avocados? And that’s only the A’s. And did you know it takes 154 trips out to forage just to make one teaspoon of honey? Talk about busy! There is never a glass of wine on the porch or a game of badminton on the front lawn.
You may have heard huge numbers of colonies have been dying lately. This decline has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder and while the definitive causes are still unknown there are steps we can take to help the bees. Plant flowers that are good forage sources for the bees like summersweet, coneflower, milkweed and sedum, to name a few. Limit or abstain from using pesticides which have been shown to be detrimental to bee health. The tastiest thing you can do is buy local honey.
Spring is a busy time of year but make sure to take some time to smell the flowers. And appreciate the honey bee that might be working in the center of them.