We have all heard the phrase ‘April Showers bring May Flowers’ but there are a few things we need to do to freshen up our gardens. April is the perfect time for spring clean-up! Start with simple raking and going for a clean slate in the garden. Prune any broken branches, and fix any uneven ground by adding Van Wilgen’s Topsoil or Compost.

Next, is the all-important new layer of mulch. Mulching is a great way to start off your garden for the season and give it a refresh. Apply a 2-3” layer of mulch to the base of your plants. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 3’’ away from the stem of any plant. Not only does mulch help to settle in the roots, but it also provides warmth, holds in moisture, suppresses weeds, encourages growth, and makes your beds look beautiful!

We understand that everyone has their own personal style when it comes to mulch. Whether it’s the classic look of Black Mulch, a fragrant Cedar Mulch or something in between, Van Wilgen’s has something just right for your landscape. One of the biggest questions we get is “How much mulch do I need?” Make sure you know the dimensions of your bed and how thick you would like it, and our mulch calculator will do the work for you! Plus, you can order mulch online and schedule delivery right to your home.

Not quite sure what you are looking for and need a visual to get your creative juices flowing? Stop by the store to see a sample of our mulches. Need a bag or two to finish up a big project? Our Van Wilgen’s bagged mulch is a perfect match for our bulk mulches. Choose from our Cedar, New England Pine Bark, Hemlock, Black, and Dark Bark mulches.

You’d be amazed at what a fresh application can do for your landscape. Once applied, it’ll look like you have a whole new garden.

Shop Bulk Mulch

Winter is on the way, which means it’s time to prep your plants for snow, cold weather, and pesky winter critters. Lucky for you, protecting your plants takes just a few easy (we promise!) steps.

Rose Care

Some roses are more hardy than others. If you see a root graft at the base of the plant (you should see this on your hybrid tea varieties) you’ll want to give your rose a little extra protection. Apply a woody mulch, compost, or Sweet Peet in a mound around the base of the plant.

Evergreen Care

During the winter months, evergreens can be vulnerable to desiccation, or over dryness of the foliage. You can combat this by applying Wilt-Pruf, an all-natural pine resin, to the tops and bottom of your foliage. Apply the first coat before temperatures are consistently in the freezing zone, typically around Thanksgiving, and then reapply when temperatures peak back up to the ’40s.

Perennial Care

As the temperatures drop, most of your perennials will start to look a little sad, with foliage turning yellow and dropping to the ground. But don’t worry, your plant isn’t dead. For perennials, you’ll want to cut that foliage down to about two inches above the ground. This step will prevent that dead foliage from developing diseases like blackspot and clears the way for new plant growth. Come spring you’ll have a whole new plant!

Note: There are some plants you’ll want to avoid cutting back in the fall. When in doubt, feel free to ask us. We’re here to help!


Fruit Tree Care

For fruit trees, you’ll want to apply horticultural oil. This “seals in” the plant and gets it through the winter months and also helps prevent scale and other insects. You can also use horticultural oil on holly, boxwood, and rose, and hydrangea cane.


Fall Fertilization

It’s a good idea to fertilize your plants in the fall to set your plants up for success in the spring. Roots will hang on to the fertilizer you apply now and come spring your plants and lawns will get that extra boost they need to push out new growth, especially following a harsh winter. For additional tips and to find out what type of fertilizer you should use, be sure to check out our article on fall fertilization.


Vole Prevention

Voles will happily girdle roots, gnaw on bark, and munch on bulbs. They tunnel freely in the soft earth and snow, damaging trees and shrubs all the way up to the snow line. To help to prevent those pesky critters, apply a granular mole & vole repellent right before the first snowfall.


Deer Prevention

Arborvitaes and other evergreens can be especially vulnerable to deer in the winter months when their food is in short supply. If deer are prevalent in your area, apply a granular deer repellant (liquid repellents will freeze) to your plants in the winter.

Spring has officially sprung! As you start to spend more time outside, you’re bound to notice your plants waking up and pushing out fresh new growth for the season, which leaves many of us wondering, “should I be pruning that right now?” We’ve rounded up some of our most asked about plants to put to rest the age-old question; to prune or not to prune?


Hydrangeas are a tricky set and one we get asked about most often. Your panicle hydrangeas can be cut back as much as 50 percent right now, but your traditional hydrangeas should be left alone. Don’t prune them now but rather tackle them at the end of the season to make sure you get the flowering you want. Wait until they flush through growth in the spring and then do your pruning and deadheading after that.

Dogwood & Crabapple Trees

The same goes for plants like dogwoods and crabapple trees. If you have a broken branch or some other minor trim to make, you can do that at any time and it won’t impact the plant, but you’ll want to save your serious pruning for later.

Flowering Shrubs

For your spring and summer flowering shrubs, like lilacs, rhododendrons, and azaleas, you’ll want to wait for them to start to bloom before pruning.


It’s still a little too early for evergreens and hedges. If you sheer them back now and we get a cold snap, you could damage the plant.

For larger evergreens, like white pines, the timing for pruning needs to be very specific. Wait until you see them flushing out new growth – what we call “candles” – to take on the task. You can pinch off the candles completely for a heavier sheer or cut them in half for a more subtle look.


With all pruning, the amount to trim depends on the size of the plant, but as a good rule of thumb, you want to prune it back by about one-third. There are some plants that are the exception to this, such as the summer flowering butterfly bush, which you can be very aggressive with and cut down to about a foot and allow it to flush back and regrow.

The goal of pruning is to leave the plant looking as natural as possible. If you do over prune, don’t panic! Plants are more resilient than you might think.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’re here to help!

Want to stay on top of spring gardening tasks? Be sure to check out our Spring Checklist.

As we head into the fall, and as temperatures start to drop, it means closing up those beautiful outdoor spaces we’ve spent all spring and summer creating. (Raise your hand if you’ve had your own staycation in your personal patio paradise.) One silver lining to this situation is that any houseplants which had been relocated outdoors (to perfect those tropical getaway vibes) will soon need to come back in. If you tend to collect houseplants like a lot of us here do, that means the inside of your home is about to get a LOT cozier with houseplants. You still have a little time, but once the temperature starts to drop into the 50’s you’re going to want to start transitioning your leafy friends indoors. To keep your plants happy, we’ve compiled a few easy tips you can follow when bringing them inside.


Insect Control

Before you bring any plants in, spray them down from top to bottom with horticultural oil or Neem oil to suffocate stowaway insects (and their eggs) including mealybug, scale, and aphids.

You’ll also want to treat the soil for fungus gnats which won’t harm the plant but can be a huge nuisance to people. Punch holes in the soil with a pencil and sprinkle Mosquito Bits on top of the soil to stop them in their tracks! You can also use Sticky Stakes to catch some of the adults and stop them from mating. If Mosquito Bits don’t work, you can apply Diatomaceous Earth in the same way to get rid of other soil-dwelling critters from mealybugs to ants to sow bugs.



Give all your plants an appropriate fertilizer as a last hoorah for the season. Just remember most houseplants can take a little break from fertilizer through the coldest winter months, so you won’t need to fertilize again until the spring.


Acclimate Slowly

If possible, bring plants in slowly over a week’s time. If the pot isn’t too heavy for you to move around, bring your houseplants in during the cold nights and back out during the day. Once daytime temperatures reach 50 degrees, bring them in full time. If one of your houseplants is used to the full sun, slowly get them used to a little shade before bringing them right inside. The light inside is quite different from the sun outside. In other words, don’t shock your houseplants!


Wash Your Windows

Do a little fall cleaning and clean up the dirt and dust on your windows. In this case, a little dirt can hurt. For those houseplants that need a brightly lit space, like succulents, you would be surprised how dusty windows can really reduce sunlight inside.



There are some plants that are really fond of lots of moisture and sometimes they need a little extra care. For plants such as Easter lily and Gardenia, place a saucer filled with pebbles and water underneath the pot so they can soak up the evaporating water.


Don’t Overwater

Too much water is a common cause of the demise of houseplants, so water on the side of caution. For most plants, allow the soil to dry out a little bit before watering it all the way through again. ZZ, Ponytail Palms, and Begonias would greatly benefit from this practice.


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.

Can you overwinter your tropicals? The answer is yes!! If you think about it, what do you have to lose?
Here are a few of my Favorites.
Hibiscus, palms, mandevillas, bougainvillea, elephant ears, and canna lilies. To get started let’s break them down into two different categories. The tree category will be your hibiscus, palms, mandevillas, and bougainvilleas. And your bulb or tuber category, those will be the elephant ears and the canna lilies.
Let’s begin with the tree category since that’s the one I get asked about the most. When the nighttime temperatures are consistently in the mid to lower 40’s it’s time to get them ready to overwinter.
*First hose down the entire plant. *Next spray the plant with insecticidal soap and then add a systemic to the soil. This will help with any bug issues you may have going on with your plants. Now it’s time to choose what method of over-wintering is right for you. There are two different but equally effective ways.
* First is the dormant method. With this choice, you will place your tropical plant in a frost-

sum sale

free garage, basement, or attic. You will water sparingly every 3 to 5 weeks. This is enough to keep the plant’s roots from drying out. It’s surviving but not thriving. That’s just what dormancy means. This method will also have the plant losing most if not all of its leaves so it takes a little more time to get it going again in the spring.
*The second way is the active growing method. This is my favorite way to over-winter. By using this method, I believe it gives your plant the best chance for a faster start in the spring by allowing the plant to retain most of, if not all of its leaves, so if you have a nice sunny spot in your home this will be the ideal place. Just water and lots of suns are what is needed to keep your plant happy. You might need to water a little more than normal during Jan and Feb, as these are the months when the heat in our homes really starts making the air much drier. So remember when your skin starts getting drier it’s time to up the water for all your plants.
* Now for the tuber category.
This one is pretty simple. For your elephant ears and canna lilies, all you have to do is carefully dig them up without causing damage to the bulbs themselves. Lay all the bulbs out on some newspaper and let dry for a few days. This gets all the moisture out of the bulbs to ensure they won’t rot during storage. Then all you do is place them in a brown paper bag with either peat moss or sawdust and then store them in a cool dark spot for the winter.
With all these overwintering ideas, you may put your tropicals back outside for the year once the treatment of cold weather has passed in the spring. We encourage you to give us a call, we will be happy to walk you through it all.


(Products that are good for your lawn and garden in the summer heat!)

“It is sooo hot!” This is what I have been hearing a lot of this summer. Fellow employees are hot,stacey tips art 1 customers are hot, dogs are hot, kids are hot, everyone is hot! We are able to express our feelings and even whine about the heat. What about our poor lawns and gardens. They are hot too. They are just a little quieter about it. Sure, hydrangeas may droop in the afternoon sun, herbs may not be standing at attention, tomato leaves may be curling a bit, and our lawns may be looking a little crispy but at least they are not making a lot of noise about the hot agony they are in. Since they are being such troopers, shouldn’t we give them a little summer treat?! Van Wilgen’s has some delicious treats that will really help your plants make it through this hot, dry spell.

Let’s talk about our newest Van Wilgen product…ROOT BOOST. Root Boost is great any time of the year but its’ summer benefits are off the chart. Root Boost is as organic as you can get. It is an organic powerhouse filled with every essential plant element, beneficial bacteria, and mycorrhizae (beneficial fungus). It is also a balanced fertilizer with a ratio of 6-5-5. I do not want to get too nerdy, technical about this product but I do want you to know how great it really works to increase the root system of any plant. The beneficial fungus and bacteria literally attach themselves to the roots of plants and increase the roots network system. Roots, in turn, can absorb more water and nutrients. Here is the kicker! Root Boost will never burn a plant even in this summer heat. In fact, the added kelp will actually help plants to retain moisture and give them a little breather from the hot sun. Use it on every plant from veggies to houseplants. They all will benefit from all it has to offer. Give your summer plants a boost with Root Boost!

Let’s move onto a little smellier but awesome summer product…FISH & SEAWEED. This is another awesome summer fertilizer that can be used any time of the year. Root Boost has no odor and comes in a powder form that you mix with water. Fish & Seaweed is in a liquid form that gets diluted with water. It works really well in a hose-end sprayer if you have a lot of gardens to cover. Fish and Seaweed is a nice balanced fertilizer that keeps plants strong, helps them retain moisture, and keeps them productive even under the stress of heat. Van Wilgen’s Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer can be used in conjunction with Root Boost and WOW! your plants will be beyond happy.

Do not forget your lawn. Love your lawn this summer with DR. EARTH SUPERNATURAL LAWN FERTILIZER. It comes equipped with a hose-end sprayer so all you do is attach it and go. One bottle covers 5,000 sq. ft. and fills your lawn with prebiotic microbial food, humic acid, and aloe vera to moisturize that stressed summer lawn. This can be used in conjunction or alternating with the tried and true Milorganite. Milorganite is a mainstay for lawn fertilizers that will not burn your lawn even when everything and everyone is suffering in the summer sun.

It is okay to complain about the heat but remember your plants can’t utter a word. Give them a summer treat.

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

As the days get shorter it is now time to start thinking about what we need to do to over-winter our plants. While your plants have enjoyed being outside this summer they need to come in before the temperatures dip below 50 degrees.

The proper way to handle the transition is to slowly inch their way back inside, from being out in full sun to under a tree or a covered porch. This will give your plant time to acclimate slowly to the changing temperatures.

Houseplants, tropicals, and citrus are the plants that require this method. By transitioning slowly, you will help your plants in a big way. They are less likely to stress out and cause leaves to drop from your treasured plants. Before bringing them inside there are a few things you should do.

Now that covers most plants. But, there is one plant that over-winters very differently.

The fruit-bearing fig tree you will over-winter completely the opposite from those plants we discussed above.

Follow these simple rules.

1)Let the fig tree get hit by the first frost or two.

2) Once the frost has done its job it’s time to take the remainder of the leaves off and trim up your fig tree. You basically want to make your tree look like a stumpy stick figure by trimming the branches way back.

3) next wrap it up loosely in some burlap and place it in a cool dark spot for the winter. Usually, an attached garage or attic works best.

4) Now that your plant is ready for its long winter sleep, you will give it about 1 cup of water every month during this time. It’s enough to keep it alive but not letting it come out of dormancy.

We are always here to help, any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to call or email us.

stacey tips art 1Your houseplants enjoyed a wonderful, long Summer vacation out on your deck, patio, front step, etc. They got to enjoy bright sunlight, warm temperatures, and many admirers. Sorry houseplants, but it is time to make your way inside. The days are becoming shorter and temperatures are getting colder. Most of your summer vacationing plants cannot handle the temperatures when they dip down below 50 degrees at night. Plants may show signs of damage if the nights get too cold consistently. Leaves may turn yellow, wilt, and drop off. Entire branches may die back or the plant may even meet its’ demise. We can take a lesson from snowbirds, chasing the warmth. They have been doing it right for years! Summer vacationing houseplants will be very happy that you are paying attention to them and not abandoning them out in the cold. However, if you take them too quickly from the bright, outdoor sun to inside house conditions they may not show you all of their gratitude. If you can transition houseplants slowly from outside to inside, they will be so much happier. For instance, take a plant that has been in the full sun and move it to a shadier part of the yard, under a tree, onto a covered patio, or even a screen porch. The longer your plants can transition outside before coming into your home, the happier they will be. If plants are light enough, you can bring them in at night and put them back out during the day. This way they get the best of both worlds, sunlight during the day and warmth at night. Being the “bug lady/terminator” that I am, I must talk to you about insect control for summer vacationing plants. Not only, can the move from outside to inside be difficult but often they have to deal with unwanted stowaways moving inside with them. Certain insects are very happy to make their home on your houseplants. While your houseplants are enjoying a nice summer break, insects are busy laying eggs on leaves and branches, hiding in cracks and crevices of the bark, or burying themselves in the soil of the pot. As you are moving your plants inside, it is very likely that you will not see these unwanted hitchhikers. Once the insects get inside with your houseplants, they have got it made! We turn the heat up in our homes. Bugs love this. The plants are a permanent food source for insects. They love this too. It is important to get rid of these stowaway insects before they become a big winter problem on your houseplants. The most common houseplant pests are aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, scale, mites, and fungus gnats. They are all in the “sucking” insect category except for fungus gnats. This means they suck the good juices out of our plants and excrete them in the form of honeydew. This honeydew can make leaf surfaces, floors, and furniture below the plants shiny and sticky. Plants will become weak. Leaves may turn yellow and drop. If the insects are not taken care of, the plant will struggle to survive. Sounds dire but it really is not! The solution is easy. You need to build your arsenal of insect control with Neem or Horticultural Oil, Bonide’s Systemic Houseplant Insect Control, Safer’s Houseplant Sticky Stakes, and Mosquito Bits. These are the perfect products to keep stowaways from becoming a problem. Use Neem or Horticultural Oil while plants are still outside and give them a really good spray down. This will help to smother any of those unwanted pests or pest eggs. If you have already brought the plants inside, no worries, you can spray them inside as well. Once inside, apply Systemic Houseplant Insect Control to the soil in the pot. Water it in slowly and your houseplant will happily absorb it into their entire system, protecting it from the inside out from damaging, sucking insects. Sticky traps work really well if you are being bothered by flying whitefly or fungus gnats. Mosquito Bits work organically and like a charm on annoying fungus gnats. There is always so much I could tell you but I am going to leave you with one last piece of advice in regards to overwintering houseplants… DO NOT OVERWATER THEM, FERTILIZE THEM & MOST OF ALL…ENJOY THEM!

Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!

(Why beneficial insects really are beneficial!)

Release the hounds! Not literally, but I do want you to release the Ladybugs, Lacewings, 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, Japanese beetle 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.

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.

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.