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.
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!
This time of year we are all itching to get in the garden. All it takes is a few warm days, some sunshine and we are all ready to dig in the dirt. At the garden center we get asked all the time, what can I plant now? There are many choices for early spring perennials, and with proper planting, you too can have beautiful blooms this time of year. Just be sure to amend your soil with Van Wilgens Premium Planting Mix and add Jump Start to push root growth so your perennials have a healthy start. Top with mulch so your blooms stay nice and cozy and your good to go! Here a few of my early spring favorites.
- Hellebore- Great shade-tolerant deer-resistant perennial that comes in a rainbow of colors
- Candytuft (Iberis)- profuse white blooms and neat mounding habit make for a perfect early season edging plant
- Columbine (Aquilegia)- Eastern US Native with distinctive show-stopping flowers
- Creeping phlox- Gorgeous mounding groundcover with pastel flowers giving way to mossy green foliage
- Forget me not (Myosotis)- Long-lasting, true blue flowers make for an unforgettable plant
- Rockfoil (Saxifraga)- a super cold hardy plant with early blooms that’s at home in any alpine planter or garden
- Yellow Alyssum (Aurinia)- traditional cottage garden border plant that’s also at home in alpine gardens or as a border groundcover
- Windflower (Anemone)- The early spring entry in this broad plant family provides huge blooms in an array of colors to brighten up any spring landscape
Let’s face facts- there are way too many great ornamental grasses to hope to limit yourself to one type. Panicum, bluestems, miscanthus, Pennisetum- the list goes on and on. But after you’ve gone crazy and put sixteen of every type in your yard, how the heck do you tell them apart? It’s actually easier than you’d think.
Pennisetum, or the fountain grasses, have a classic, bottlebrush seed head that almost looks like a rabbit’s foot or pipe cleaner. As an added bonus, these will produce a seed head earlier than any other large growing ornamental grass.
Panicum, or switchgrass, is one of our native grasses. Its seed head is airy, loose, and almost transparent until you’re close by. Fun fact- One of the most popular varieties, Ruby Ribbons, was bred at UConn and features a great mix of purple and green colors to the grass.
Bluestems fall into two pretty self-explanatory categories- the dwarf little bluestem and the larger growing big bluestem. Both produce a long, wiry seed head that opens sporadically down the line while having the added benefit of being one of the only grasses to have vibrant purple to red fall color after the first frost.
Miscanthus, or maiden grasses, are often referred to as Zebra grasses, as many cultivars have a distinctive yellow stripe either horizontally or vertically along the grass. The seed heads have a braided texture and bright golden color that sways in the wind.
Muhly grass is the most unique of the bunch. Our current favorite, “Fast Forward,” has bright pink seed heads, but any and all varieties will produce a unique seed head that resembles a thick cloud of smoke and holds onto morning dew to create a shimmering show at sunup every day.
National Pollinator Week is a time to give bees, birds, and bats a little recognition. Pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, play a big part in getting our gardens to grow. Honeybees are directly responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat. They help fertilize flowers, carrying pollen from one plant to another in exchange for food.
This week, we’re helping to educate people on the purposes these pollinators serve. Keep reading for three ways to celebrate pollinators in your garden.
1. Plant a Pollinator-friendly Garden
To keep your garden beautiful, you can attract pollinators by planting flowers that appeal to them. Try adding native plants to an existing garden or creating a whole new garden specifically for pollinators. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year, providing long-term food and shelter. Follow this simple formula. Plant tall flowers 18-20” apart, medium flowers 12” apart and short flowers 8-10” apart, and then use Espoma’s Bloom! liquid plant food regularly for a boost.
Pollinators especially love these flowering plants:
- Bee balm
- Globe thistle
- Wild rose
2. Build a Bee Hotel
Solitary bees, bees that live alone and not in hives, need a place to make their nests. Welcome these gentle bees to your garden by adding a bee hotel. Solitary bees don’t make honey and rarely sting. Females lay their eggs inside a small hollow tube and then they patch the door with mud. DIY or purchase a bee hotel at your local independent garden center to encourage pollinators to check in to your garden.
3. Increase Feather Pollinator Population
Insects aren’t the only pollinators around town. Hummingbirds are also great pollinators. Build a Hummingbird feeder in your yard to encourage our furry friends to stop by. Ask kids to help to build a feeder that will attract these polite birds. The plants that are pollinated by Hummingbirds tend to produce more nectar than plants pollinated by insects, so penciling in some time to create a feeder will pay off in the long run.
This post is brought to you by Espoma
It takes a lot to get our experienced group of plant nerds excited about a new plant. When you spend as much time living, breathing, and handling plant material as us, you rarely get your socks knocked off. Last year, we planted Lil’ Bang Daybreak coreopsis, and man, did we fall in love. We planted five here at the garden center, and it bloomed from June all the way to frost, never needing any deadheading, pruning, or maintenance- just some water. So when Mark Sellew of Prides Corner Farms came to us this spring with a picture of a new member of the Lil Bang series –Radioactive- bred in Massachusetts and grown on his farm, we scrambled to get some for ourselves, and this week, we’ve finally got them on our benches, and right up front where they belong.