Fall is here which means cool weather and frosty mornings are headed our way. Unfortunately for your plants, there’s no heater or jacket that can help keep them warm, and as a result, some of your plants will begin to look a little sad once temperatures start to drop. If you’re like many gardeners, that means it’s time to hack everything back! Well…maybe not. If you have any of these plants listed below, you’ll want to avoid cutting them to the ground later this fall, or in some cases, cutting them back at all.
- Azaleas: prune these once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Rose of Sharon: likes to be left alone for the coming winter and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
- Lavender: Wait until March! Cut out any dead wood at the end of winter to ensure the best new flush for your lavender plants.
- Montauk Daisy: (Nipponanthemum) Cut this woody perennial back to six inches from the ground this fall, rather than all the way to the ground.
- Russian Sage: (Perovskia) If the shape or health of the plant has been compromised, cut it back aggressively this fall, to roughly six inches. If not, leave it alone until early to mid-spring, removing any dead wood and cutting back to where you see new growth emerging. Remember, it’s a late-breaking plant, so give your sage a little extra time to start growing.
- Rhododendron: like azaleas, rhododendrons can be pruned once they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Roses: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and instead cleaned up in the early spring.
- Geum: Remove any damaged or dead foliage now, but leave the majority of the plant for the winter. You can repeat this process again in April, removing any leaves with winter injury, and even divide it around April or early May, every three to four years, but if you need to cut it all the way back, wait until after it’s past flower.
- Perennial Hibiscus: cut this plant back to about six inches from the ground this fall… not because it will grow from the stump, but rather to keep a marker for you to remember you have this plant. Perennial hibiscus won’t be back in your garden until at least June!
- Summer and Fall blooming Clematis: Wait until spring to clean up any dead wood on these plants, once you start seeing a little new growth.
- Ornamental Grasses: Keep these around all winter to protect the base of the plant, where the new growth will emerge in spring. Don’t cut them back until March at the earliest, or April at the latest.
- Panicled Hydrangeas: like to be left alone for the coming winter, and cleaned up in the early spring.
- Lilacs: prune after they’re past flower, but before the fourth of July.
- Evergreens: can be pruned in mid-spring after the plants have begun to flush lush new growth.
One of the most common questions we get here in the fall at Van Wilgen’s is, “Why are my pines turning yellow? Are they sick?” The answer is, thankfully, no. All trees and shrubs renew their foliage annually in the spring and summer and shed old, unneeded foliage in the fall. While this is most apparent on deciduous trees and shrubs, such as maples and hydrangeas, which shed the entirety of their foliage annually, evergreens like pines, spruces, and holly shed as well as a part of their regular life cycle. Most evergreens hold their needles or leaves for two to three years before shedding, so what you are seeing is actually evidence that your tree is growing, thriving, and aging normally.
It’s always a good day for the team when we can take a minute to talk about some of our favorite plants. Fall is a fantastic time to plant, and an even better time to admire the landscape. We put pen to paper and came up with a few of our favorite Autumn plants. If you don’t see yours let us know, we love to know what you are planting!
• American Dogwood- Native tree with fantastic red fall color and interesting fruit set.
• Annual Mums- Everybody’s favorite fall flower that come in a wide range of colors and shapes.
• Japanese Anemone- Long blooming, deer resistant, clumping perennial at home in sun or shade.
• Little Quick Fire Hydrangea- the best fall foliage color of any panicled hydrangea, with long-lasting blooms persisting through the fall.
• Ivory Halo Red Twig Dogwood- Bright variegated foliage gives way to yellow fall color and blood-red branches in late fall and winter.
• Fothergilla- Unbelievable fall foliage display, showcasing the full palate of fall color- orange, red, yellow, and even purple hues in sun or shade.
• Montauk Daisy- Long fall-blooming daisy that stands up to salt spray, heat, and tight planting conditions in a cottage garden setting.
• Red Sprite Winterberry- the dwarf cultivar to have among an old-time Van Wilgen’s favorite plant. Large glossy red berries come out in fall and last well after the foliage has turned bright yellow and fallen off.
• New England Aster- Purple or pink flowers emerge in early September and brighten up any garden border
• Tree form Limelight Hydrangea- The only choice for a dwarf foundation tree with blooms that continue to be stunning through the fall.
• Itea- Deep red and even purplish tones emerge in the fall, helping this native shrub stand out in the woodland border.
• Sedum- Huge, almost broccoli-like flower heads that bloom from August to October are the favorite choice of bees and pollinators in the fall.
• Ornamental Grasses- The star of the fall landscape, with so many great colors and styles that we could devote a whole list just to them.
• Black-Eyed Susan- Classic native perennial that provides non-stop yellow blooms from late summer to mid-fall.
Labor Day is here. Let’s get out there and put a little bit of labor into our lawns. The summer heatwave has kept us sadly looking at our stressed-out lawns from the inside out. I know, it has been too darn hot to think about doing much in the yard, except for sitting under the shade of a tree with a cool drink in your hand. I myself have felt much less productive but I promise the cooler weather is on its way. Don’t delay.
September is the ideal month to care for and improve your lawn. You think you struggled in the heat and humidity!? Your poor lawn has taken a beating. It has nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. There is so much you can do to help your lawn right now. Take a break from the AC and get out there.
Of course, I am always going to push you to throw a little grass seed at your lawn. There is nothing better than filling in thin or bare spots or starting fresh with new grass seed. A thick lawn is the best defense against weeds and crabgrass. If you are just not up to seeding this fall, at least put down some fertilizer. Give your lawn a good organic fertilizer like Espoma’s Summer Revitalizer or Milorganite. I also love Greenview’s Lawn Food. Apply either of these in the Month of September. You will see a big improvement. Note: You are not off the hook after this application. A Fall application should follow sometime in October/November.
Back to seeding. September is a beyond-perfect month to seed. The nights are getting cooler but the soil temperatures are so warm for quick germination. You do not need to water as often and weed competition is not as big of a deal. You could start small and do some simple patch seeding or take it to the next level and over-seed your entire lawn. Whatever your fancy, I encourage you to do a little seeding.
If seeding is going to be your focus, let’s get going. Get your supplies: Van Wilgen’s Grass Seed, Starter Fertilizer, Chopped Straw, and do not put away those sprinklers. If you want to rent a core aerator and aerate your lawn before seeding, I will go to sleep with a big smile on my face. You should core aerate your lawn every two years. It is the best at relieving compaction, letting water and oxygen flow through, and giving you a healthy lawn. If used right before over-seeding, your results will be so much better.
Time to do a little labor on your lawn. Your lawn is calling you outside.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
*Espoma’s Organic Summer Revitalizer (the yellow bag)
Fourth of July is often used as a marker for pruning some shrubs, perennials, and annuals. Knowing when to prune is an important step in keeping your plants healthy and thriving. Now is the perfect time to prune the following :
Evergreen trees and shrubs
Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils
Montauk Daisy (halfway)
The perennial department at Van Wilgen’s lives at an interesting crossroads. We watch as the nursery yard fills up with evergreen interest, and the Greenhouse loads up on pansies, and we poke and prod our plants, waiting for the day that they too might be in bloom. Then the evergreen gives way to the spring bloomers, and the greenhouse starts whispering about veggies and herbs, and perennials…. While, we proudly display four or five perennial plants that bloom early (here’s to you, hellebores, and columbine) and continue to wait. Until now.
The perennial season is finally in full swing, and our humble department is about to go off like the fourth of July. From catmint and salvia in full bloom to coneflowers, yarrow and coreopsis just about to break open, all our favorite plants are finally arriving on the scene. Red Hot Poker? Budded. Delphinium and Heliopsis? Buds and blooms! Bellflower and Iris and Bee Balm, oh my! It’s June- the best time of year to be a perennial gardener. Come enjoy it with us.
Here are a few of Trevor’s favorite’s that look fantastic right now!
Echinacea Lemon Yellow– Sunny, lemon yellow blooms sure to brighten a summer border! A must-have for a cutting garden, this drought-tolerant perennial was bred for cold hardiness and compact form with prolific flowering over an exceptionally long season.
Gaillardia Spin Top Yellow Touch-Each plant is bathed in big, flat, solid, medium red daisies with just a touch of yellow at the tips of each petal that blooms from late May through early July.
Geranium – Johnsons’s Blue-Large, blue-violet flowers appear continuously from spring to fall above finely cut, divided leaves. Use in borders, rock gardens, and containers.
Perovskia- Crazy Blue-A compact and colorful, easy-care perennial for use as an accent, border, or mass planting. Violet-blue flower spikes arise from the lacy, gray-green aromatic foliage, adding an airy feel to the landscape. Hardy and heat tolerant, and sturdy, interlacing branches do not fall open in wind and rain. Deer and rabbit-resistant.
Delphinium – Blue Butterfly -This little beauty stands at a height of 14″ and forms compact mounds of well-branched foliage. It puts on a spectacular show from early summer to fall, with 1.5″, deep blue flowers that cover the lacy leaves. Though it is short-lived, it is worth using as edging, a bedding plant, or in containers combined with brightly colored annuals.
Every spring our gardeners tell us they want to expand their perennial gardens to offer new colors and plants to make them fresh. For those of us that work in the Perennial department, it’s no different. We are always on the lookout for something different or even ‘new to us’. Here are a few Perennials that we think are a must-have in the garden to give you season-long color and interest.
Silene – Early spring bloom of pink on low mounding thick green leaves. Cut back by half after the first flush of flowers wanes in June, to encourage repeat blooming. Attractive to butterflies
Panicum ‘Northwind’- Wow! An unequivocally upright steel blue panicum. ! Wide, thick leaf blades a golden yellow color in the fall, topped in September with attractive narrow plumes.
Veronica Venice Blue – Gorgeous blue spikes of color late spring to mid-summer. Features large, deep blue flowers in spring over bright green, toothy leaves. Benefits from a good hard trim after flowers are finished, in order to maintain a nice tight habit.
Standing Ovation Little Bluestem- A warm-season grass that does well in poor, dry soils. Spikey bluish-green stems and leaves transition to a sizzling display of oranges, reds, yellows, and purplish-browns in the autumn. Also provides winter interest before cutting back in early spring to make way for new growth.
Oenothera Fireworks- Deep bronze foliage and red stems are contrasted by red buds opening to canary yellow blooms in June. The individual flowers may not last for more than a day or two, but they open in succession leaving the plant in continuous bloom. Burgundy rosettes in winter.
Heliopsis Burning Heart – Dynamic yellow-orange flowers are offset by their deep purple foliage. As attractive to butterflies and bees as it is to people, we’ve found this plant really deserves a place in a beautiful border, a cutting garden, or in massed swathes. She stands 4’ tall with dark red-purple foliage and abundant contrasting yellow daisy-like flowers with orange centers. The plant begins blooming in its first year and blooms from June to mid-October.
Echinacea Adobe Orange – Carefree color from a profusion of bright orange blooms that will add excitement to the summer garden. A must-have for sunny beds and borders. Drought tolerant and bred for cold hardiness and compact form with prolific flowering over an exceptionally long season.
Monarda Jacob Cline – Whorls of scarlet red tubular flowers blend perfectly with prairie wildflowers and herbs. Single plants make a great show, but groups heighten the effect. Dark green leaves have an aroma of mint and basil. Hummingbirds love it!
There’s no doubt that hydrangeas can hold their own in the garden. With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.
But, why not pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers, or subtle ornamental grasses for more variety? If you’re looking for ways to make your hydrangeas pop, even more, try these companion planting tips.
When planting hydrangeas, be sure to use Espoma’s Organic Soil Acidifier for best results.
It’s hard to go wrong when choosing a color for companion plants. Try pairing hydrangeas with foliage in different hues of the same color. This adds subtle dimension and almost creates a 3-D effect in the garden.
If your hydrangeas are pink, pair them with Rose Glow Barberry shrubs. The deep pink and purple foliage emphasizes the pastel pink flowers and contrasts perfectly with the green leaves. Try planting Blue Star Juniper alongside blue hydrangeas for a beautiful display. This low-maintenance shrub provides beautiful bluish-green foliage that complements any blue flowering plants.
When planting flowers with flowers, timing is everything. Be sure to choose a summer-blooming flower that will blossom around the same time as your hydrangea. You can choose to plant similar hues or bright contrasting colors. If you’re looking to create a dramatic contrast in the garden, choose a flower that comes in a variety of colors.
Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades, making them a perfect companion for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias.
If you want the focus of your garden to be mainly on hydrangeas, opt for more subtle ornamental grasses that simply enhance their beauty. Most ornamental grasses are low-maintenance and easy to grow, giving you more time to spend perfecting your hydrangeas.
Fountain grass is one of our favorites because it provides pretty feathered plumes that dance in the wind. Green and yellow Japanese forest grass also complement hydrangeas very nicely.
(Why beneficial insects really are beneficial!)
Release the hounds! Not literally, but I do want you to release the Ladybugs, Lacewings, Praying Mantids, and Nematodes. They are fantastic hunters and a huge benefit to your lawn, flower garden, and veggie garden.
These beneficial hunters have many things in common. They are meat-eaters. They never eat your plants. They only eat bad bugs. Ladybugs and Lacewings will eat aphids, whitefly larvae, mealybugs, scale, mites, and many other soft-bodied insects. Ladybugs can easily eat over 50 aphids a day. Lacewings are voracious and eat as many as 1000 per day. Nematodes are power eaters of bad bugs in the soil. They will eat over 200 insects such as cutworms, armyworms, grubs, sod webworms, fleas, fungus gnats, etc. They are the best hunters ever because you do not have to care for them, feed them or train them. Their instinct is to go where the food source is.
There are a few things you can do to make these beneficials even more beneficial. Be sure to release them all at night. Ladybugs fly away in the day. Lacewing eggs and nematodes can dry up in the hot sun. Water the garden. The first thing Ladybugs do when you release them in your garden is drink. Lacewing eggs like the moisture for hatching. Nematodes spread more quickly when kept damp. Release these hunters at the source of their food. Place Ladybugs and Lacewings at the bottom of plants. Ladybugs naturally crawl up. Lacewing eggs will hatch and the larvae will immediately eat insects dwelling on the plant. Nematodes need to be in the soil, where they can attack their unsuspecting food source. Praying Mantids can hatch right in the container but you have to release them right away so they don’t gobble each other up. Otherwise, place the Praying Mantis egg case in the crutch of a plant outside and wrap it with dental floss or thread to hold them in place.
Ladybugs don’t always stick around for a long time but this is ok! Ladybugs will feed for a little bit but most importantly, they quickly begin laying eggs on your plants. Those eggs will hatch and give you voracious Ladybug larvae. The larvae are very cool. They look like mini black alligators with orange spots and they are hungry for bad bugs in your garden. When the Lacewing larvae hatch from the eggs you released, these Aphid Lions have serious munchies and eat over 1000 bad insects per day. Lacewings can have multiple generations in one season. How awesome is that!? Nematodes have been known to hang around in the soil, eating plant damaging insects for 2 years straight. Praying Mantids will mate and lay more egg cases on your plants for next season hatching.
These hunters are so easy to have around the yard. You will barely notice them but they will be very busy helping you eliminate plant damaging insects. Let them go and they will reduce your need to use pesticides in your gardens, they will keep your plants healthier, and they will become an integral part of your garden community.
Note: The Ladybugs that you buy from Van Wilgen’s are not the ones you see inside your homes. The beneficial Ladybugs are native to the USA and do not invade homes.