Creeping phlox is a great rock garden plant and a great ground cover. It’s a native plant that is deer-resistant and required part to full sun.

At Van Wilgen’s, we carry four colors: white, purple, pink, and blue. What I love about this plant is how easy it is to grow. Just use a topsoil peat moss compost mix when planting it.

It’s a low-maintenance plant that can cover difficult areas of your landscape that also livens up a walkway or flowerbed edge. It’s a great early season pollinator plant as the bees are first waking up – its blooming serves as a wonderful early season nectar source.

Creeping phlox is good for erosion control and you can dig it up and split it every few years. There is no need to deadhead the flowers and as they go by you’ll have a nice, green mat for the fall.

Fertilize it in the spring and fall and you’ll have beautiful creeping phlox blooming again the following year.

Fertilize in spring and fall to have a great year the following year, plant tone.

Plant screening trees for privacy and beauty

If you’re looking around your yard this season and have decided it’s time to for a little more privacy, right now is the perfect time to plant some screening trees.

There are a few different options, the most common of which is the Emerald Green arborvitae. These trees grow to between 10 and 12 feet tall and three to four feet wide. They require full sun, which is 6 hours or more. Their tall, slender growth makes them great for tight property lines. Plant them on a 3-foot center and at their maturity, they’ll be a nice, solid wall.

The one thing to keep in mind about the Emerald Green is it is not at all deer resistant. If you have a deer issue, you should look at other alternatives, the most popular one being the Green Giant arborvitae. This variety grows much taller and wider than the Emerald Green, and also much faster.

These trees really are giants, growing to be as tall as 30 feet at maturity and 10 to 12 feet wide at their base. If you’re looking for looming trees that will gain height quickly, the Green Giants grow more than three feet a year. They can be side-sheered if you’re concerned about them getting wide, so you can control that growth and just let them get taller.

Evergreen options include the Blue Spruce, Fat Albert Blue Spruce or Baby Blue Spruce, which grow about 20 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide at the base. There is also the Vanderwolf Pine, which has a nice steel blue color, softer look, and grows about 15 to 20 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.

You do still need full sun for these trees. If you have a shady area you’re looking to screen, you’ll want to look at evergreens like the Norway spruce. These large growing evergreens get up to 60 to 70 feet tall, so you need a large property for something like that.

There are also upright varieties of Boxwood, Japanese Holly, and a variety of larger growing rhododendron or Mountain Laurel that will offer an intermediate screen of six to eight feet tall and look more natural.

One other option is a Privet Hedge, which is an old-fashioned hedge plant that drops its leaves in the wintertime but can be manicured and hedged and grow as tall and wide as you let it. This one, in particular, is great for our area because it’s very tolerant of seashore conditions.

Make a few choices about the type of living fence you think will be right for your landscape, and you’ll have a beautiful view and a private space that thrives in your yard for years to come.

Lilacs are a feast for the senses in the spring garden!

Everyone loves the beautiful, fragrant lilac and the wonderful way it brings spring to life in your garden. They have so much nostalgia – everyone remembers going to their grandparent’s house where grandma had a lilac.

The most important thing when it comes to planting lilacs is to make sure they are in the right spot. Lilacs require full sun of six hours or more. They don’t like shade or root competition, so don’t plant them along a wood line with existing trees – they like to be center stage in their own area.

Make them a foundation plant on the end of your landscaping along with your home or do a hedgerow border planting of lilacs along your property line. Make them a standalone plant in the middle of your backyard. Just don’t shoehorn them into an existing, well-established area.

Lilacs need well-drained, neutral soil. They don’t like to be in a wet, boggy, poorly-drained situation, and they don’t like acidic soil. Because a lot of soil conditions in Connecticut are more on the acid side, you’ll want to remedy that by feeding lilacs with garden lime.

If you aren’t sure if your soil is neutral or acidic, we offer test kits for pH or you can get your soil testing done at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.

When it comes to caring for your lilac, pruning is important. If a lilac goes some years without routine maintenance, it can start to show signs of that as suckers start popping up from the ground level and they need to be removed. When a lilac is healthy it shows six inches in growth and the width of these shoots will be pencil thick. If you’re seeing thin and spindly growth, that’s a sign that the plant is not healthy and needs some fertilization.

Remove small branches and diseased canes each year and prune 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest branches which will make the plant more apt to producing lots of flower buds. Leave a strong main stem to the plant so it has plenty of air circulation around the base.

If you’re going to sheer it, make sure you do that after it flowers. If you go out today and cut a third of it down you won’t get any flowers this season. Remember to deadhead the plant after it flowers and as soon as those flowers turn brown – before the Fourth of July. If you wait too long, you run the risk of impacting the flowering for next year.

Finally, lilacs don’t like a lot of overhead watering, so make sure to always water the base.

Even young lilacs get flowers on them and add beautiful color and fragrance to your garden. Treat them with care and you’ll have happy, healthy plants brightening up your yard.

You’ve probably seen it: Nature’s Yellow Flag.

When the yellow Forsythia bush blooms you’ve been given the best indicator that it’s time to get out and get working in the yard. The soil temperature is now warm enough that things are actively starting to grow.

The blooming of the yellow forsythia can vary from town to town, but if you see it starting to bloom in your neighborhood, it’s time for you to do your first really good lawn application of fertilizer and crabgrass control. Crabgrass control, in particular, has to be well-timed, so this sign from nature is helpful.

At Van Wilgen’s, we offer both a synthetic and an organic choice – GreenView Crabgrass Control Plus Lawn Food and Espoma Organic Weed Preventer, respectively. Try to apply this application a little before it rains or instead you can water it in for best results.

This is also a good time to put down Preen – a granular weed control for flower gardens that can be put around your plants. This product will suppress weed germination and keep them under control a bit more.

Ideally, when your plants are three inches up above the ground is a good time to mulch and put Preen on top of the mulch. If you’re not mulching, put Preen right on the soil. The sooner you get a jump on weeds the better off you’ll be. Those weeds are busy germinating so don’t delay.

For people who are focusing this season, not on weed control but on seeding the lawn, the blooming yellow Forsythia is also a sign that it is warm enough for grass seed to germinate.

We do a lot with lawns here at Van Wilgen’s and offer our own custom Van Wilgen’s grass seed, which is locally sourced in small batches. The ideal course of action to grow the best lawn is to put down Van Wilgen’s grass seed, starter fertilizer, and then put down a straw cover.

Although the window is a bit forgiving, the few-week period when Nature’s Yellow Flag is in bloom – roughly a solid three weeks – is the best window to get started. Seeding can continue long afterward, but crabgrass pre-emergent is best to get down from when the yellow forsythia blooms to when the lilac blooms.

The yellow Forsythia will wave that yellow flag for several weeks, giving you plenty of time to get outside, get some fresh air, and get started!