Sunday, November 6, 2011

Plant of the Day: Blechnum spicant

Our first fern for a Plant of the Day post!  This fern has two types of emerald green foliage that can give a garden a woodland feel.  The upright foliage is spore producing and eventually dies back in late winter but can add height to an otherwise low lying plant as well as showcase the beauty of unfurling fronds.  The fronds closer to the ground are sterile and more plentiful on older plants and last all year round keeping your garden green even in the winter.  As the spore producing fronds turn brown they can be cut back to allow for new growth and a tidy plant.
Latin Name: Blechnum spicant
Family:  Polypodiaceae
Common Name: Deer Fern
10-Year Height: <6' (can get up to 3' wide clumps)
Best Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

1. Upright fertile fronds that die back and low lying sterile fronds.

2.  Dark green foliage, smaller than a sword fern.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Plant of the Day: Cornus mas

Cornus mas is one of my favorite trees in a landscape.  With it's yellow flowers that bloom on leafless branches and edible ruby red berries that appear with glossy green foliage, this tree makes for great interest in the garden all year round.  Also, if you're looking for a plant that attracts wildlife this is a great choice since the flowers provide early food for bees and the berries are eaten by a variety of birds.

Latin Name: Cornus mas
Family: Cornaceae
Common Name: Cornelian Cherry
10-Year Height: >10' (Can get up to 20' or slightly larger)
Bloom Time: March/April
Bloom Color: Yellow
Best Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade

1. Exfoliating bark on a small rounded tree

2.  Yellow flowers that bloom in early spring and olive sized red fruit.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Plant of the Day: Phyllostachys aurea

Today's plant is in the grass family and one of the most common bamboos in the United States.  Golden Bamboo is often used for screening and hedges because of the height and density it can reach.  Be careful planting this beauty though, it's a runner.  If the roots escape it can be almost impossible to remove the bamboo.  Make sure you plant this in a well contained area so it doesn't take over your garden.  Because of Phyllostachys aureas aggressive nature it is considered an invasive species in many areas in the southern U.S. so check you local invasive list before any major plantings.

Latin Name: Phyllostachys aurea 
Family: Poaceae
Common Name: Golden Bamboo
10-Year Height: >10' 
Bloom Time: N/A
Bloom Color: N/A
Best Exposure: Full Sun

1. Crowded joints at the base of the culm.  Creates a tortoise shell appearance.
2. Culms are green but turn to yellow with direct sunlight and age.

Raking Leaves

I was raking leaves today, and everyday since the beginning of fall, when it hit me.  Do a post on raking leaves!  To me, fallen leaves provide a natural mulch for the plants in your bed.  A nice layer of debris can insulate the soil keeping temperature fluctuations to a minimum and protecting the ground and the plant's roots from frost.  They can also provide a source of nutrients.  As the leaves are broken down by microorganisms nutrients are released back into the soil.  Plus, the beauty of autumnal colors lying in a garden bed can be simply beautiful.

There may be some reasons why leaves should be raked.  Like anything in excess piles and piles of leaves can be bad. We don't want to create anaerobic conditions that could end up killing the organisms that help the plant or even the plant itself in extreme cases.  This condition occurs when the leaves have created an especially thick layer combined with excessive moisture preventing oxygen from reaching the soil.  Another reason would be if a plant has a disease, pest issues, or a fungus.  This rule applies year-round since many of the problems that can effect a plant lives on or in the leaves.  Picking up the infected leaves helps reduce the problem population and can, through time and dedication, end the cycle of infestation that plagues the plant.

So leave the leaves! Well, almost always.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

How can I get through today without posting some pictures of pumpkins in honor of halloween?

I can't.

Plant of the Day: Rhus typhina 'Lacinata'

This Second Plant of the Day's leaves currently have a fine fall color and interesting fruits that persist through winter.  The trunks and structure of this particular species can also create interest in the landscape.  I personally find that the seedlings and suckers can be a little time consuming to get rid of.  But, if you can handle a little extra maintenance and want something woody, unique and grows easily this can be a great plant option.

Latin Name: Rhus typhina 'Laciniata'
Family: Anacardiaceae
Common Name: Cut-Leaf Staghorn Sumac
10-Year Height: >10' (can get very wide if suckers allowed to grow)
Bloom Time: May/June
Bloom Color: Greens, Yellows
Best Exposure: Part Shade to Full Sun
Deciduous Shrub

1. Leaflets deeply divided so that they almost look like some fern fronds.

2. Branches have a velvety coat - look like antler of a deer.


It's that time of year to start thinking about planting your hardy bulbs.  Planting bulbs now will give you flowers in early spring.  Plus, with all of the rain you don't have to worry about providing the moisture they need to grow.  Daffodils, tulips or hyacinths are just some of the examples of bulbs that can add color and an interesting change to a garden.

Planting bulbs is easy.  Most books suggest, as a general rule, a planting depth of three times the size of the bulb.  Bulbs can be grouped and planted together to create pockets of multiple flowers or even planted in fields to conjure up an idyllic prairie setting.

Leaving the foliage up until withered, brown and easy to pull out will help the bulb replenish its energy and establish itself in the garden for years to come.  When bulbs have been in the ground for a long time and aren't putting out as many flowers as they used to, it may be time to dig them up and divide them.