Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Interest

Contorted Filbert

Baby it's Cold Outside! Winter is the perfect time to be planning for spring gardening, but also gathering ideas for your winter garden. As you are driving through your neighborhood, observe landscapes, taking note of plants that stand out. Look for interesting bark, berries and evergreen foliage. Evergreen leaf texture and shape helps define a winter garden, as does the architecture of deciduous shrubs and trees. A well balanced garden design will always take winter interest into consideration.

Edgeworthia papyrifera
Red twig dogwood

Camellias  are a great winter bloomer, Edgeworthia Edgeworthia papyrifera has got to be a favorite.  After it drops it's leaves for winter, these awesome little flower buds are at the ends of the branches.  When they bloom in late winter, the smell is incredible.  Much like a gardenia.

Rachel Griffith is a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Monday, January 3, 2011

Post Snow To Do List

Hello and Happy New Year to you all!  Hope everyone survived the holidays and our third largest snowfall on record.  Now that normal weather has returned, it's time to get outside, walk around our yards and look what the snow left behind.  It's also time to catch up on your winter clean-up, including the leaves piled in the corners of your fence and around your heat pump.  (You didn't think I saw that did you?) 
Anyway, let's walk and see.  First to notice is any perennials that haven't been cut back are probably looking bleak.  Daylillies are easy because the leaves will just pull up that easy and go right in the leaf bag. Winter is a great time to prune; insect and disease pressure is minimized, and the plant architecture is visible. Hydrangeas should be trimmed back now, as well as your knockout roses.  The roses will put on a much better show for you next year if you cut them back over the winter.  With the roses, make each cut just above an outward facing bud so the new branches that form will grow out from, rather than into, the center of the shrub.

Winter is the perfect time to cut back ornamental grasses. It can be fairly easy to cut back grasses with a pair of pruners, loppers or shears, but you can also secure the top growth with a bungee cord or piece of twine and cut grasses back with electric or gas powered hedge trimmers. This method can be particularly useful on cutting back large sized grasses. Just be sure it's not very windy, or you'll have a mess on your hands!

As you're looking around, you may see damage caused by the weight of the recent snow.  I have seen Pine trees, some pittosporum, wax myrtles and even a Little Gem Magnolia that have suffered from the snow.  Evergreens have more damage because there is more surface area for the snow to pile on.  You need to do some corrective pruning to keep your plants healthy and vigorous.  For tree damage, you should consult an I.S.A. Certified Arborist for proper practices to help mitigate damage from broken limbs. 

Have a great New year and get out there and get to know your garden.  You will enjoy it much more when you know what is going on out there!

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist, ISA Certified Arborist,  and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall Is For Planting

Ok, so I borrowed that line from a friend.  But the main premise is what's important.  This video explains it well.  Planting in Summer is the most stressful on your plants, but fall planting gives plants the head start they need to be prepared for next Spring and Summer!  We still have planty of time, so get out there and plant that garden you've been wanting.  Now is the time to plant spring bulbs too.  If you plant them at different depths, they will give you blooms for weeks.  Happy Gardening.

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist, ISA Certified Arborist,  and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Friday, November 5, 2010

Irrigation tips

Hello all!  I wanted to take a moment to discuss your irrigation with you.  We have been on several jobs lately where plants seemed a little less then spectacular, and the soil felt wet.  Having an irrigation system is awesome, but while too little water is a bad thing, so is too much.  Roots need air to survive, that is why they are only in the top 18" or so of your soil.  Overwatering reduces air pore space in the soil, creating anaerobic conditions that favor root rots, fungi, and can drown out your beneficial organisms.  Only when germinating grass seed should the irrigation run every day, and even then, only long enough to get the seed damp.  Once the seed starts to show some growth, it's time to adjust.  In the heat of the summer it is good to water several days a week, depending on your soil structure.  This should be done in the early morning hours, rather than at night.  This will help reduce the time droplets sit on leaves, thereby reducing fungus.  Deep soaking watering.   That means water less frequent for longer time intervals.   This encourages deep root growth because the plants will "seek out" moisture, increasing their drought hardiness.  As temperatures coll, as they are now.  You can drop it back to one or two days a week and for less time, as less water in being removed by evaporation.  Before the freeze, you need someone to come and "winterize" your system.  This involves blowing compressed air back through to eliminate any water trapped in the system that may damage it when it freezes.  If you need assistance setting your  irrigation timer, or clock, please contact a landscape professional.  Your landscaper should be able to handle things like setting the time, and replacing parts.  Happy Watering!!

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist, ISA Certified Arborist,  and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Garden Care

Hello all!  It's been a busy time here at the Nautilus Garden designs Household.  We welcomed the newest member to the team Zephaniah Lucas Griffith on October 15th.  He and Rachel are doing great.

I want to give you all a couple tips as the weather cools and your tender perennials start to recede.  One of the first things to do is go through your irrigation and reduce the frequency of your watering.  Cooler temps mean less water loss through evaporation.    Less frequent watering encourages your turf roots to grow deeper seeking water.  This will increase drought tolerance for next summer.

Start cutting back some of your perennial flowers as they brown out.  For daylillies,  I always wait until all the green has gone out of the leaves.  This indicates that the plant has translocated all of it's energy and carbohydrates back to the root zone.  Then cut them to the ground.  Waiting like this will give your daylillies more energy to greet you with awesome blooms next year.

Last of all, mulch.  Mulching to a depth of 3 inches in the fall insulates your plants from the cold, protecting them from damage.  Mulch suppresses weed growth naturally, diminishing the need for chemical herbicides. Mulches also prevent sudden changes in soil temperature, which helps prevent tender premature growth during winter warm spells. Using a good hardwood mulch is best.  Dyed mulches will work, but sometimes the dyes can be an irritant to the microbes and earthworms that our garden need, so if you can, go for the natural hardwood mulches instead of dyed.  Buying Bulk is much more cost effective than buying bags, and you don't have the plastic to throw into landfills.  Bag mulch is usually just a couple of cubic feet for 5.00 or so.  Bulk mulch is sold by the cubic yard (27 cubic feet) and is usually around $30.00 a yard. (Delivery and installation add to this of course).  Be sure to keep mulch away from the root flare on your trees.  Piling mulch into "Mulch Volcanoes"  can harm trees by holding moisture against the bark inviting pests and diseases, so be sure to keep about a 1" space between  the trunk of your trees and the mulch.

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist, ISA Certified Arborist,  and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Caterpillars everywhere!

Fall webworm on a Cherry Tree
You may have seen them while you were driving, you may even have them in your trees.  It's the FALL WEBWORM.  This unsightly little guy is a communal caterpillar.  They live in groups in the webs that they form at the ENDS of tree branches. The fall webworm is known to feed on more that 100 species of forest and shade trees.  In the eastern U.S., pecan, walnut, American elm, hickory, fruit trees, and some maples are preferred hosts; in some areas persimmon and sweetgum are also readily attacked.  I have them every year in my River Birch (Betula nigra).  
The initial reaction is "Oh man!  I gotta do something about this!  It looks horrible!  The reality of the fact is that this is a mainly "aesthetic" pest.  That means that trees are seldom killed by the fall webworm but can they be unpleasant to deal with.  Trees can actually be defoliated by them, but as their name "Fall" weborm implies, they do this just before the trees are going to drop their leaves in the fall. Healthy trees can actually handle this happening and will recover just fine.

The key to identification is this:  Fall webworm build their tent at the END of branches and usually are more ugly then harmful.  Eastern tent caterpillars, which appear in the Spring, form their webs in the crotches of branches close to the trunk of the tree.

So there you have it.  They're ugly, but not harmful.  Don't waste a lot of effort and money trying to eradicate them.  Welcome them to your trees as a new food source for birds.

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do You Have This in YOUR Lawn??

  Yellow Nutsedge.  There, I said it.  I know I shared with you a month or two ago about this topic, but I think it is worth going over again.  With the droughty couple of weeks we had (killing your cool season fescues), followed by rain, nutsedge is taking hold in many lawns right now.  If you have an irrigation system, and you have a low spot in your yard, that is probably the first place you will see it.     Nutsedge is a great indicator of poor drainage, over watering or leaky irrigation, as it thrives in waterlogged soil.
     To identify this pest, the first thing you will notice is it is more yellow than your fescues or Bermuda grasses.  It comes up with leaves of three, and has a triangular cross-section.  It grows faster than turf grasses so it will be a taller area of your lawn, often growing twice as tall within a week.
     If you can, hand pull small plants before they have 6 leaves.  By the time they have 6 leaves, they are already spreading underground.  If you have a bad infestation, nutsedge will kill out your turf, allowing weeds, and common Bermuda to take over your lawn.  Chemical control is successful using SedgeHammer herbicide.  This will knock out nutsedge without injury to turfgrass, established ornamentals, shrubs, and/or trees.  SedgeHammer provides post-emergence control of both purple and yellow nutsedge.  SedgeHammer also controls many broadleaf weeds and suppresses kyllinga.  It should be applied by licensed chemical applicators.  Check with your landscaper to see that they have a applicators license from the VA Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, then ask them about treating your nutsedge.

Mark Griffith is a Virginia Certified Horticulturist and a lead designer with Nautilus Garden Designs in Hampton Roads