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.

When people think of lilacs, the first thing that comes to mind is the wonderfully fragrant flowers. Follow these three requirements to ensure your lilacs are the rock stars of your spring garden:

Drainage / Soil

Lilacs are found growing naturally on hills and edges of mountain woodlands, so they prefer fertile, well-drained soil with a neutral (pH of 7) to alkaline soil. When in doubt, add garden lime. Flowers are produced from new shoots each year, so poor soil will lead to poor growth and in turn affect flower production. If your lilac is established in good soil, new growth will be at least 6″ long and about as thick as a pencil; this type of shoot will give you plump flower buds next spring. It is best to enrich the soil with good organic material instead of traditional fertilizers.

Sun Exposure

Lilacs require full sun, which means at least 6 hours or more of direct sunlight each day. Lilacs are known to be selfish and don’t like to compete with other tree roots that could be growing nearby, so give your plant plenty of space. If you’re not sure how much sun your location gets, we can help with that!

Thoughtful Pruning

Lilac pruning can be the most intimidating requirement for beginners, but it’s easier than you think! Remove any diseased or declining canes, suckers, and small branches each year; small growth and suckers are signs of poor growth. Prune out 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest branches each year and be sure to leave a strong main stem. Deadhead immediately after flowering (before the fourth of July).

Troubleshooting tip: If new growth is longer than 18″ and thinner than a pencil, your lilac is most likely either planted in acidic soil, isn’t getting enough sun, or needs to be pruned.

By following these steps, we’re confident you’ll enjoy your lilacs for years to come!

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.

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










Mock orange


Veronica (halfway)


Bleeding Heart


Spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils

Montauk Daisy (halfway)

Painted Daisy

How to plant has always been a frequently asked question at the garden center. What do I do if my plant is in a pot…How do I plant a burlap tree? Does the basket stay on or do I take it off? These are all questions we will cover in this Planting Guide.

Regardless of whether your plant is in a pot or balled and burlap, big or small the first step is to dig a hole 2-3 times the width of the root ball. Your hole should be no deeper than the root ball is in height. This is very important. If any plant is planted too deeply it may lead to failure. If your plant is in a container remove the pot and score the roots with a sharp knife or scratch the roots with a 3 or 4 pronged hand cultivator. Now add Van Wilgen’s Premium Planting mix to your existing soil from the hole. Place your plant in the hole making sure the top of the root ball is either at ground level or just slightly higher. This step will ensure the plant isn’t too deep or over-mulched. Now it is time to apply either apply Van Wilgen’s Jumpstart or Organic Root Boost directly to the root system of the plant. The next step is to backfill the hole with your mixture of Van Wilgen’s Planting Mix and existing soil. Lightly tamp the soil to remove any air pockets. If you are planting a balled-in burlap tree or shrub follow the same steps as mentioned above. Instead of removing the container take off all burlap and the wire basket. This will ensure your plant doesn’t develop girdled roots.

Once your plant is backfilled you can apply a 2-3” layer of mulch to the base of your new planting. Be sure to keep the mulch at least 3’’ away from the stem of any plant. Mulching will not only give your planting a beautiful finished look but it will help retain moisture for the root system.

The last step is to thoroughly water in the plant. Typically, infrequent deep-watering is better for root development than short infrequent watering. Please ask a Van Wilgen Team Member for a Van Wilgen Watering Guide for more detailed directions on watering.

JASON SCIRE, Nursery Manager



If only trees & shrubs could talk to us. Oh, the things they would tell us! They could let us know when they need some water when they have had too much to drink, if an insect or disease is bothering them, and especially if they are hungry. We could be much better caregivers to our natural friends if only they could speak to us. Ah, but they do. They let us know when they are happy by becoming big, full, lush, and colorful. They also communicate their aches and pains to us through stunted growth, yellowing leaves, oozing sap, and so many other ways. If we pay close attention, we actually might be able to hear what they are saying. But, sometimes we just can’t! A lot of gardening is just trial and error. It’s often about just going for it, experimenting, and seeing what works.

If you know me, then by now, you know I am a huge fan of fertilizing trees and shrubs. Some might even say I am a fertilizer pusher! It is only because I want what is best for your plants. If trees & shrubs could speak or even yell at us, they might shout…”Gimme some food!” Everyone in the plant world knows that early spring and spring are excellent times to give your trees & shrubs a healthy dose of fertilizer but do we all realize how truly important it is to fertilize them in the fall? I KNEW IT WAS IMPORTANT BUT NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS I THOUGHT! I learn new things every day.

I always knew that it was important to give our trees & shrubs a half dose of fertilizer in the fall to help them recover from the heat and drought stress of summer. I also knew that the reason we suggested feeding them at ½ the amount we do in the spring is to promote recovery but not encourage too much new growth before winter. We always thought that fertilizing our trees & shrubs late in the fall would make it so they could not harden off and get damaged from winter weather. WELL GUESS WHAT GUYS? THIS IS NOT EXACTLY TRUE ANYMORE!

The new truth is that we can fertilize trees & shrubs late into the fall. We can fertilize them a full month after the first killing frost. We can fertilize them after all the leaves have fallen off the trees. Yes, guys, this is the new thing I learned and wanted to pass onto you. Logically, this makes so much sense. I have been encouraging customers to put down Fall Lawn Food after their last mow of the season for years, why not trees & shrubs too! The rationale is…trees & shrubs significantly slow growth in late fall. After they lose their leaves, they have practically stopped growing up top for the year, but they do not stop growing down below. It is not only okay but it is great to give trees and shrubs the right fertilizer late in the fall. The food you give them at this time will just promote wonderful, deep root growth and store itself inside the root system so it is immediately available to the plant right away in the spring. How cool is that you guys!

So, here I go again, pushing fertilizer on you. We learn new things every day. Fall fertilizer for trees & shrubs is more important than we ever imagined. So go for it! Your plants are talking to you. Listen.

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


*Espoma Tree-Tone

*Espoma Holly-Tone

*Espoma Plant –Tone

*Van Wilgen’s Control Release

It’s hard to believe that we are talking about too much water given a year ago all we talked about was how to water! What a difference a year makes. The symptoms plants show when too dry and too wet mimic each other closely. Here are some tips to help you determine if your plants are showing signs of too much water.


Jason Scire, Nursery Manager