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

Serviceberries Are Great for Small Landscapes

Serviceberries, Amelanchier spp., are an ideal sized tree for most landscapes. Sometimes considered large shrubs, serviceberry trees are usually grown in clumps with many upright branches, although they can be trained to a single trunk. They reach sizes of 25 feet tall by 15 to 20 feet wide. Amelanchier is one of those trees whereby the common name can sometimes make it difficult to identify. In addition to serviceberry, these trees are also known by Saskatoon, shadblossom, shadbush, shadwood, Juneberry, mountain blueberry, or sarvis-tree. Being a native tree to woodland borders and hillsides in eastern North America, settlers who encounter and admired Amelanchier contributed to the multiple common names it now carries. One name, serviceberry, originated because branches were collected in mid-winter and forced into bloom for church services. Continue reading

Pruning Practices For Trees & Shrubs

Savvy gardeners use February and early March to examine limbs and branches of woody plants. This is the time of year to make pruning cuts to improve the scaffolding of the canopy of a tree or shrub. In the February to March timeline, before the buds begin to break, is the best time of the year to prune deciduous trees and shrubs. Limbs in poor shape, crossing over, rubbing and such issues are best removed now, in February to mid-March. Proper pruning practices should be followed. Continue reading

Mechanical Damage to Trees

We talk a lot about insects and diseases that can wreak havoc to our landscape trees, but many times people are a tree’s worst enemy – especially people wielding lawn mowers and weed trimmers. And while a slight bump from a mower’s frame or a quick zip of trimmer line around a tree trunk may seem insignificant, it can create an injury that leads to disease or death. Continue reading

In Praise of Trees

If you’re reading this newsletter, you probably already appreciate trees. Did you know that trees contribute to your well being in ways you may not have considered?

Not all trees are equally well-suited for every planting site or in every climate. Tree
selection and placement are two of the most important decisions a homeowner makes when landscaping a new home or replacing a tree. Many trees have the potential to outlive those who plant them, so the impact of this decision can last a lifetime. Matching the tree to the site benefits both the tree and the homeowner. Continue reading

Black Walnuts

While growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I had elderly next door neighbors who had lived all of their lives in the country. They moved to Louisville to be closer to their children. This couple brought all of their farm ways with them to their urban home. They raised chickens for meat and eggs way before chickens were in vogue. Standard size fruit trees and a vegetable garden was their backyard. Continue reading

Fall Gardening Cleanup Controls Spring Diseases

You can reduce the risk of some common problems next year by getting rid of leftover plant debris in vegetable, flower and fruit gardening areas this fall.

Several disease-causing fungi and bacteria spend the winter on plant debris, and can cause diseases the following growing season. Proper garden sanitation can combat such diseases as early blight, mildews, gray mold fungus and various root rot and wilt problems. Continue reading