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.
Shinrin-yoku is a term that means “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers primarily in Japan and South Korea have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.
The idea is simple: if a person simply visits a natural area and walks in a relaxed way there are calming, rejuvenating, and restorative benefits to be achieved.
Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything. Don’t effort.
I subscribe whole-heartedly to this concept.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity for a forest bath (walk) in the woods of Ohio while visiting my daughter. I can definitively tell you, I feel better!
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.
I have a distinct memory last summer of enjoying a meal with a friend in her newly constructed screen house. I kept thinking it was raining due to the incessant pitter patter on the metal roof. When I later realized that it was gypsy moth poop, I had two thoughts. First, gross! And second, thank goodness for a roof! Gypsy moths seemed to be everywhere.
If you thought last year’s invasion of gypsy moths was of biblical proportions hold on to your hat. According to experts, this year could be just as bad, if not worse.Read More»
I was at a Speaker’s Bureau recently and was meeting with various garden clubs. I had created a container to have on the table that would showcase my work. A woman stopped and admired it, “Dear, that is just beautiful. But it doesn’t go outside?” I assured her that all my containers were meant to go outside. “But, that’s a houseplant” she gasped, pointing at the sansevaria. I thought for a bit and said, “It’s time for summer camp!”
Which leads me to an often overlooked component in great container gardens. Houseplants.
There is one very important thing you should do before starting any garden design project.
Stare out the windows. I mean it.
Really stare, or at least look very closely.
Too many designers start outside the home with no thought given to how the garden will look from inside. For many of us in colder climates a good deal of time is spent enjoying the gardens from inside so designing from the inside out just makes sense.Read More»
This has been, according to the meteorologists here in Boston, a pretty warm winter.
Despite a few cold days and a bit of snow, it hasn’t been horrible. And while this may be good news for us, it’s not necessarily good for our winter containers. Driving around town I notice that many greens have “browned” with the warm temps and sun.
Many beautiful containers, once the pride of the neighborhood, have given up the ghost.Read More»
My winter pots remind me of Friday nights. Why Friday nights you may ask? One word…leftovers. Also known as GYO, as in Get-Your-Own. I tell my kids to open the fridge and see what’s left and make something good out of it. And that’s what ends up happening for me when I am designing my winter pots sometime towards the middle of December.
My clients’ homes are all decked out for the holidays so I take stock of what greens, twigs and ornaments I have left and try to determine a cohesive way of tying all the remaining material together. Anyone who has heard me lecture knows that I often come up with some kind of a theme before starting the winter pots. This helps me make sure all my clients’ pots (and sometimes there are upwards of 20) reflect a cohesive look regardless of whether they are by the garage, pool or front door.
This year after looking through the leftovers of Winter 2016 I realized two things:Read More»