It’s that time of year again. During the hustle and bustle that accompanies the holiday season, we somehow manage to find the time to continue the time-honored tradition of selecting and decorating the perfect Christmas tree. But after we’ve found that perfect tree, what should you do next? How do we make sure that our “perfect” tree continues to look perfect through the holiday season? This is a common question for us here at Van Wilgen’s, and I would like to go over some very simple steps for keeping your cut tree looking great.
It’s important to note that this article deals specifically with cut trees. We would be more than happy to assist you with any live tree (roots still attached) care at any of our locations. Before I list the steps that I recommend for keeping your tree looking its best, it may help to think of a cut tree like a large bouquet of flowers. Many of the practices we employ with the care of a vase of freshly cut flowers transfer over to our care of cut Christmas trees. Try these tips and I have no doubt you’ll be enjoying that perfect tree through the holiday season!
- Choose a stand that is large enough for your tree. Shaving down the bark to get the tree to fit is bad practice. Those outer layers of bark are the best at absorbing water, which is the most important part of keeping our tree fresh!
- Have a fresh cut done before putting the tree into the stand. This increases the water absorption capability of the tree.
- Get your tree in water AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after making this cut. Keep the cut free of dirt. This is the most critical point. The sooner you can get the tree into the water, the better.
- If you’re not putting the tree into a stand immediately after the fresh-cut, it’s ok! Just be sure to put that tree into a bucket of water until you’re ready to put it up!
- After your tree is in the stand, keep it full of water. Your tree will generally “drink” the most water within the first few days of being set up. It’s critical that the stand remains full of water so check often! At the very least, check daily throughout the holiday season.
- Drilling a hole in the base of the tree does NOT help with water intake.
- The temperature of the water that is added to the stand does NOT make a difference. Also, never add anything to the water to preserve freshness other than products that are specifically formulated to do so. Prolong is a good example of one. Using home remedies or solutions found on the internet have no effect at best, and at worst may hasten the decline of the tree!
- Try to keep the tree away from direct heat sources whenever possible. For example, away from heat vents/registers, fireplaces, direct sunlight, space heaters, etc. Also, use lights that produce less heat such as L.E.D.’s. This has the added benefit of less energy consumption and longer life. Both of which are better for the environment!
In the end, it is all about maintaining and keeping moisture in your tree. If you take the steps to get your tree into water as soon as you can after the fresh-cut and keep the water in your stand full at all times, you will have that perfect Christmas tree looking its best through the holiday season! We hope you have the very best and brightest holiday season! And we look forward to seeing you soon!
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.
Planting and caring for a veggie garden can be quite a game. It can be challenging, relaxing, frustrating, rewarding, educational, but most importantly…delicious! Who or what is to blame for the problems we may encounter with our veggie gardens? Let’s blame someone or something, shall we? Let’s blame some of the key players in the veggie garden game. The key players that we are going to use as scapegoats are; temperature, soil, light, and water. Sometimes it’s an insect, sometimes a disease, occasionally Mother Nature plays a part, and often the gardener is the guilty one. Let’s face it, folks, none of us are perfect gardeners! We try. We try so hard but sometimes our schedules get in the way or we are just not sure what to do. Should this stop us? Never! Gardening is one of the healthiest and rewarding hobbies we can ever have.
Let’s place some of the blame for a poor performing veggie garden on temperature. Temperature is a key player in the veggie garden game. If it is erratic, too cold, or too hot, it can foul up the game.
If the soil and air are too cold…
•Vegetable seedlings may grow very slowly and turn yellow.
•Tomatoes may stay “greenback” and fail to ripen at the stem end.
•Flowers may prematurely bolt and bloom.
•Leaves may brown and melt away at the tips due to frost.
If temperatures are too hot…
•Leaves may turn brown along the edges and tips from leaf scorch.
•Crops may be stunted.
•Produce can be strongly flavored.
•Beets can develop a bull-eye pattern.
•Onion bulbs may turn gray on the outer layers.
•Flowers may prematurely bloom.
Gardeners don’t have any control over temperature but we can pay attention and be sure not to plant veggies too early in the season.
Soil is a very important player in the game. Without good soil, you will not have good vegetables. Soil deficiencies can throw the veggie garden game completely off.
Here are some examples of what you may come across…
•Lower leaves turning yellow and not falling off the plant may be a sign of low nitrogen.
•New leaves turning yellow while the veins stay green is often an iron deficiency.
•A potassium deficiency shows up as yellow leaf edges with brown spots.
•Purplish leaves and veins indicate a phosphorus deficiency.
•Black circular lesions on the blossom end of veggies is usually due to a lack of calcium.
•Forked and twisted carrots and potatoes mean the soil is too rocky or compact.
Veggie gardeners, you have a lot of control over your soil. Start out right and you will be rewarded with beautiful produce. Simple steps such as; turning over your soil, alleviating compaction with Encap’s Gypsum, fertilizing with Espoma’s Garden-Tone, adjusting your pH with Limestone, and adding rich compost can make all the difference in the world.
Do not downplay how crucial of a player light is to the veggie garden game. Without proper sunlight, issues can occur.
Issues such as…
•Vegetables get sunburned just like people. If you see larger brown, burnt patches on your leaves and/or fruit, the culprit may be too much sun.
•Leaf scorch will cause leaves to turn brown at the tips and edges.
•If leaves are pale green and plants are spindly, they are not getting enough sun and they are desperately reaching for it.
We obviously cannot move the sun but we can help our veggies get the right amount of light. As a rule of thumb, most vegetables that produce fruit can bake in the sun. Veggies such as; tomatoes, peppers, and squash love it. Consider putting your leafier vegetables in the less sunny part of the garden. Salad greens, broccoli, peas, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radish, chard, collards, spinach, and mustard will all tolerate a little less sunlight.
I don’t know if I can label water as the star player of the veggie game but it sure is one of the most important.
Here are some examples of water-related problems:
•Wilted veggies & bone dry soil means too little water.
•Wilted plants & soaking wet soil means too much water.
•Wilted vegetables in a container that recover quickly when watered & wilt quickly again are root-bound.
•Wilted veggies in the ground that have soaking wet soil are poorly drained.
•If leaves turn yellow & drop at the base of the stems first, the plant is getting too much water.
•If leaves turn brown at the tips & edges, they are getting too much sun and too little water.
•Stunted and strongly flavored vegetables may not be getting enough water.
•If tomatoes look scabby they probably received too much water.
Gardening friends, you have so much power when it comes to watering. If Mother Nature is not giving your veggies enough water, it is your job to take over. Plants need consistent, even watering to keep them healthy. Your vegetables would be happier if they were watered at the base as opposed to overhead and please do not let them dry out for too long.
Take good care of your veggies and they will take good care of you.
Come see us at Van Wilgen’s. We would love to help!
It’s the time of year to start talking about Christmas Trees. Although given the unseasonably mild weather we are having it may tough for some to get into the spirit. Let’s give it a try! Here is a guide to help you select the perfect tree for this Christmas from Van Wilgen’s.
- Needles are short dark green with a silver underside.
- Soft to the touch.
- Very fragrant with excellent needle retention.
- Branches are strong, great for heavy ornaments.
- Needles are long light green in color
- Soft to the touch
- Very full in shape
- Extremely fragrant- it smells like oranges!
- Best needle retention
- Needles are deep blue in color
- Sharp to the touch…Kids & Pets be careful!
- Strongest branches…Perfect for heavy ornaments
- Pleasant fragrance
- Good needle retention
- A Van Wilgen Favorite!
- Needles are dark green with a silver underside.
- Needles are larger and showier than the Fraser Fir.
- Soft to the touch.
- Best fragrance and needle retention.
- Sturdy branches are perfect for heavy ornaments.
(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, 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!
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)
With Father’s Day just around the corner, do you think it’s finally possible that mother nature will turn the heat up and let the sunshine? I think we are all ready for summer to arrive.
I absolutely love being the annual greenhouse manager. Every day I come to work and get to enjoy all the summer color annuals provide throughout the summer and well into the fall season.
Early spring, we have show stoppers like nemesia, osteospermum daisies, petunias, snow princess allysum, and of course the number one favorite PANSIES!!
But, once the summer heat arrives so do the full-on summer colors.
For the best of all summer color, you can choose from a wide array of thriller plants such as:
- Hibiscus, mandevilla, lantana, jasmine,and cannas.
Next, choose a great filler plant:
- Angelonia, verbena, pentas, gazanias, vermillionare, ageratum, geraniums, lantana, new guinea, and sun impatiens just to name a few. Oh, and we can’t forget diamond frost my all-time favorite.
And last we need a great creeping/spiller plant.
- Petunias, million bells, verbena, lantana, vinca flower, bacopa, lobelia, and even though they don’t flower also Lysimachia and sweet potato vine add great contrast in color against the foliage of all the flowers.
Whether the annual color is in your garden or in pots on your patio any combination of the plants mentioned above will have you saying, IT’S FIVE O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE. “ L.O.L “
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!