Plants for Tough Sites: Dry Shade

I grew up with a yard that had a slope facing east, shaded by a mature tree with miniscule amounts of good fertile soil to grow any type of plant. I have also inherited this site in my new garden.  This area is too steep to mow easily and the grass is so thin it’s mostly weeds.  I’m a gardener so I’m not opposed to removing the lawn in favor of perennials and shrubs. Continue reading

Stunning Black Gum for Home Landscapes

As a horticulture nerd, I am always a bit perplexed why we get stuck in tree and shrub ruts. Maples, pears, dogwoods…that’s the tree rut I’m talking about. There are so many other trees worthy of a spot in our yards and landscapes.  Here’s one very much worth it.

Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) displays all the things desirable in a tree for home landscapes: clean, glossy foliage, brilliant fall color, unique thick bark, and few insect and disease problems. Continue reading

A Messy Winter Garden Makes Good Wildlife Habitat

You worked hard turning some of your property into wildlife habitat. You planted nectar and host plants for butterflies and pollinators. Trees and bushes offer shelter and habitat for birds, squirrels, and other small creatures. Perhaps this summer, a box turtle took up residence in your back yard or you heard tree frogs singing in your own trees! Now, after all your hard work, why would you destroy that wonderful ecosystem by cleaning it up for winter?

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Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

Decorating with greenery during the holidays is a time honored tradition. Like the song says, the evergreen most people choose when they “deck the halls” is holly. Holly greenery can sometimes be hard to find and is often expensive. But if your landscape has the space, green thumb gardeners can plant their own holly trees and shrubs for an instant and cheap source of holly boughs. Continue reading

Hydrangeas – Blue or Pink? You Decide.

Hydrangeas grace the landscape with beautiful flowers in the spring and summer. The most colorful hydrangeas are bigleaf hydrangeas, Hydrangea macrophylla. Their flowers are usually either pink or blue. Flower color depends on the pH of the soil, a measure of soil acidity. Soil pH can be raised by applying lime. Some hydrangeas will respond to a higher pH (between 6.0 and 6.5) with pink flower color. To lower pH, apply aluminum sulfate. A lower pH (between 5.0 and 5.0) often results in blue flower color. A soil test will determine the existing pH and you can change your soil with the appropriate amendment to get the resulting flower color you want. Continue reading