Archive for 2004

The Traditions of Christmas

Icon Written by Geoff on December 1, 2004 – 8:24 pm

Christmas is a season of cherished family traditions and memories. Whether the traditions center on the birth of the Christ Child or other secular activities, Christmas is a time of reflection and celebration. Christmas is a time for family, friends, and sharing, be it as simple as a kind word, a Christmas card or note, or a box of home-made cookies. 

Last December we talked about our families traditions, sharing our treasured moments with you. Each season we build upon those moments of warmth and joy. While all are important to us, selecting and decorating the Christmas Tree brings the warmest glow. Selecting just the right tree is a family event, we take our time and enjoy the moment. 

We have had live trees, cut trees, and now even an artificial one. Our trees have had short needles, long needles, and everything between. Do not be afraid to experiment with different species of trees, after all Cherry and Hawthorne trees were once very popular Holiday trees. Weeping Figs and Norfolk Island Pines are often used today as Christmas Trees. Table top trees have become very popular in the past few years. These are great for the young family starting out or the senior citizen, being easy to decorate and ideal for the small home or apartment. 

Some of the most popular evergreens used as Christmas Trees according to the University of Illinois Extension Service are: 

Deodara Cedar – Cedrus deodara 
– Short, bluish-green needles; branches become pendulous at the tips. 

Eastern Red Cedar – Junirperus viginiana 
– Leaves are a dark, shiny, green color, sticky to the touch and has good scent but can dry out quickly, lasting just 2-3 weeks, a southern Christmas tree. 

Leland Cypress – Cupress ocyparis leylandii 
– foliage is dark green to gray color; has upright branches with a feathery appearance and light scent, good for people with allergies. One of the most sought after Christmas trees in the Southeastern United States. 

Balsam Fir – Abies balsamea 
– Short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip with a nice, dark green color with silvery cast, very fragrant. 

Douglas Fir – Pseudotsuga menziesii 
– Good fragrance, holds blue to dark green, the needles have one of the best aromas among Christmas trees when crushed. 

Fraser Fir – Abies fraseri
– Dark green, flattened needles with good needle retention, nice scent; pyramid shaped strong branches which turn upward. 

Grand Fir – Adies grandis 
– Shiny, dark green needles, the needles when crushed, give off a citrus smell. 

Noble Fir – Abies procera 
– Bluish-green needles with a silvery appearance, it has short, stiff branches which are great for heavier ornaments, keeps well. 

Concolor Fir – Abies concolor
– Blue-green needles with a nice shape and good aroma, good needle retention. 

Afghan Pine – Pinus oldarica 
– Soft, short needles with sturdy branches with a open appearance and mild fragrance, keeps well. 

Austrian Pine – Pinus nigra 
– Dark green needles which it retains needles well. 

Red Pine – Pinus resinosa 
– Dark green needles , a big and bushy tree. 

Ponderosa Pine – Pinus ponderosa 
– Needles lighter colored than Austrian Pine and has good needle retention. 

Scotch Pine – Pinus sylvestris 
– Most common Christmas tree with stiff branches, dark green needles which it holds for four weeks, needles will stay on even when dry. 

Virginia Pine – Pinus virginiana 
– Dark green needles in twisted pairs with strong branches enabling it to hold heavy ornaments, strong aromatic pine scent, a popular southern Christmas tree. 

White Pine – Pinus strobus
– Soft, blue-green needles, which it retains throughout the holiday season, very full appearance. 

Black Hills Spruce – Pinus glauca var.densata 
– Green to blue-green needles stiff may be difficult to handle for small children. 

Blue Spruce – Picea pungens
– Dark green to powdery blue very stiff needles, good form, will drop needles in a warm room. 

Norway Spruce – Picea abies
– Shiny, dark green. Needle retention is poor but has a strong fragrance and nice conical shape. 

White Spruce – Picea glauca 
– Green to bluish-green, short, stiff needles which when crushed have an unpleasant odor, good needle retention. 

While I do not think we have ever had a bad Christmas Tree, the species we recommend are the Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Concolor Fir, and White Pine, all of which can be seen on our Plant Data base. We are trying a Black Hills Spruce this season and are very happy with it’s shape and structure. 

Whatever species of tree you choose, make the selection a happy time, even your failures can bring fond memories. We still laugh about the tree we bought, when we were first married, that would not fit up the stairs to our top story apartment. We ended up throwing a rope out the front window and pulling it up. You can even make disposing of the tree an event. We decorate our old trees with treats for the birds and squirrels.

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My Favorite Perennial Mums

Icon Written by Geoff on October 1, 2004 – 7:09 pm

Last season we tried a new hybrid mum called My Favorite Mum. The My Favorite Mums series is a joint venture of Ball Horticultural Company of West Chicago, Illinois and Anthony Tesselaar International of Melbourne, Australia, both renowned horticultural innovators. 

These mums are bred for hardiness, thriving in the hot humid South as well as the frigid North. Although we have only grown this variety one season we think it is going to be a winner. While probably not replacing the traditional garden mums they do offer a great alternative. 

My Favorite Mums will reach about 12 inches in height and grow to around 16 inches in diameter in the first year. In year two, look for another 2 inches in height and another 6-8 inches in diameter. With ideal growing conditions they will grow not only three feet high but also five feet around. 

These easy to grow and maintain plants produce masses of 2 inch flowers over the entire plant. You can expect over 1,000 flowers the first year and up to 5,000 in the following years. All this without pruning or pinching. On top of this they attract butterflies and are great as a cut flower. 

You can also enjoy the mum in containers on a porch or patio, although, like all perennials, it will not survive the winter out of the ground. This is a great plant to add to existing perennial gardens as you would other mums. It is a great source of replacement color for annual beds that have gone out of bloom. 

The My Favorite Mum is a long bloomer, flowers last 4-5 weeks. They start flowering in Mid-August and continue blooming well into September. Newer flowers generally bloom above older flowers which hides older faded blooms. 

These mums are truly perennial, bred to survive temperatures down to -30 F. A well established plant is the key to keeping My Favorite Mum beautiful. It is best to plant your mum early in the Fall season so it can establish a good root system before winter. 

In the Fall of 2001 ‘Autumn Red’ was introduced with Coral, White, Twilight Pink, and Yellow Quill following in 2002. They are available in pots from area garden retailers, either in bud or bloom. While the selection is somewhat limited we do expect more varieties to be introduced into the market in the coming years. Unfortunately, these mums cannot be sold through catalogs or on line. This is probably the biggest drawback we see to the My Favorite Mum. They are worth the extra effort and we do recommend you give them a try.

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Rudbeckia in the Border Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on September 1, 2004 – 7:16 pm

We find that there are some plants that you just cannot have too many of, in our case it is the Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susans. The showy character of this plant make them particularly useful in bold masses, especially around outbuildings, fences, and where unsightly objects are to be hidden. We find that they work particularly well with ornamental grasses and mallows. In some form, Rudbeckia are used in every one of our sunny beds and borders. 

An extremely hardy native of our tall grass prairies, they are both drought and pest resistant. Even the great herds of buffalo, that once roamed the great plains, could not kill this tough critter. Black Eyed Susans not only survived the great prairie fires and “dust bowl” conditions of the 20’s and 30’s but actually expanded their range. 

There are approximately twenty native species, annuals, biennial and perennial varieties, growing in the Midwestern region. Most species like a lean well drained soil in full sun or light shade but will also do well in moist locations. This hardy soul has even been found growing on clay bluffs and limestone ridges of Missouri. 

All varieties of Rudbeckia have golden yellow flowers with a dark, usually raised, central cone. They bloom for 6-8 weeks, beginning in late June. You can prolong the blooming period by deheading or cutting the plant back. Please be sure to stop early enough to allow some of the cones to mature for Winter bird feeding. 

By planting several species, you can have Black-Eyed Susan blooming through late Fall. All Rudbeckia serve admirably as cut flowers, for their stems are long and the flowers long lasting. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds all like these high centered flowers. We use the taller varieties, with Joe Pye Weed, New England Asters, and Mountain Mint in our butterfly gardens. 

Although all but one species can be grown from seed, we find division in early Spring works best. Being such a hardy plant, simply dig up the root ball, cut into sections with a sharp knife or trowel, and replant as we would a hosta. Actually digging up the plant helps to keep them under control for while not invasive they are extremely vigorous. 

Rudbeckias are equally at home on the prairie, in the border garden, for attracting birds and butterflies, or in the formal flower arrangement. We find them growing in the home rock garden or moist country swale. Even fire and wild animals cannot kill this plant. Little wonder why we use it so often in our gardens. 

Here are some of the more popular Rudbeckia that you my wish to try in your garden: 

Rudbeckia fulgida VAR. Sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
It is a compact 2-3 foot selection of Black-Eyed Susan that blooms for 6-8 weeks in mid-to-late summer. Numerous golden yellow ray flowers with black central cones cover this plant in a profusion of color. 

Rudbeckia grandiflora ‘Black-Eyed Susan’
It is a species of the dry prairie, a truly giant Black-Eyed Susan. Long-stalked leaves, hairy stems, robust form and gold daisies with dark eyes are characteristic of the species. Each stem yields a single bloom, but with many, many flowering stems, flowers mature to showy tall cones on 3-4 foot plant. 

Rudbeckia maxima ‘Cabbage Leaf Coneflower’
It is a dramatic Black-Eyed Susan 6-7 foot that adds vertical drama to the natural landscape as well as in the cultivated sunny garden. We grow this Rudbeckia for its eye-catching large, coarse foliage that resembles oversized cabbage leaves. 

Rudbeckia speciosa v. Newmanii ‘Compact Black-Eyed Susan’
It is one of the shortest and latest blooming. Flowers are slightly smaller than most Rudbeckia but abundant on compact 2 foot plants. 

Rudbeckia triloba ‘Three-Lobed or Thin-Leaved Coneflower’
It has small but numerous brown-eyed flowers that appear from late summer through early fall on 3-5 foot plants. It tolerates light shade, poor soils and drought. 

Rudbeckia missouriensis ‘Missouri Coneflower”
It is an attractive, long lived perennial wildflower excellent for cut flowers. It provides natural color when planted in the butterfly or rock garden. Missouri Black-eyed Susan is equally at home in formal flower beds or naturalized in a prairie meadow. 

Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Sweet Black-eyed Susan’
It receives its common names from the flower’s sweet anise scent. Numerous 3 inch flowers consisting of yellow petals around dome-shaped central disks provide nectar for butterflies and seed for Goldfinches. This sweetly scented flower occurs naturally in low meadows, open slopes, stream banks, and prairies. 

Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Gold Drop”
It is a free flowering, hardy Black Eyed Susan with double, 2 inch, yellow flowers on 2-3 foot stems. Very attractive used in cut flowers arrangements. 

Some other Rudbeckia worth considering for your garden are: 

  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Irish Eyes’
  • Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Marmalade’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Gloriasa Daisy’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Toto Lemon’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sonora’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Indian Summer’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chim Chiminee’
  • Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’
  • Rudbeckia laciniata ‘Goldquelle’
  • Rudbeckia occidentalis ‘Green Wizard’
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Attacking Slugs in the Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on August 1, 2004 – 12:01 am

Ask any gardener, who grows hostas or other broadleaf plants, for their candidate for one of the most distasteful garden pests and they will say the slug. With our wet Spring weather and humid Summers slugs are a problem in this area. 

Slugs are simply snails without shells, we will refer to the two of them interchangeably throughout our discussion. The most common slugs encountered by the home gardener are the grey garden slug, the greenhouse slug, and the banded slug. Slugs and snails lay their eggs in clusters under rocks, mulch, and other garden debris. All slugs require moist wet conditions and in fact will quickly die during extended dry spells. During Winter, snails and slugs hibernate in cracks in the topsoil, under mulch, or leaves and dead plant matter. 

Slugs are usually nocturnal, they hide in the mulch during the day, so you rarely see the pests only the damage. They eat irregular holes in all kinds of foliage but love hostas. A sure sign that slugs are present is when a plant’s lower leaves have been chewed or the silvery trails snails leave as they move about. 

Slugs feed on a variety of plants as well as ripening fruit and tender bark. They prefer succulent foliage plants or flowers. They can consume several times their own body weight each night. Slugs tend to avoid plants with hairy leaves or those with a milky sap. Some plants like artemisias, astilbe, baby’s breath, columbine, coralbells, coreopsis, dianthus, lupines, peonies, rudbeckia, and sedum are resistant to them. 

Snails and slugs do have some natural enemies, including some beetles, toads, turtles, and birds also feed on them. Ducks, geese, or chickens will readily feed on them. Unfortunately, we have found that these also like to dine on young tender plants and berries. 

Fortunately, we have not had a problem with slugs and snails even though we grow hundreds of hostas and other succulent plants. Even with all the ground cover we have, slugs are all but non-existent. This was not always the case but, once we began completely cleaning up all Fall garden debris and cut back spent foliage, they just seemed to disappear. All of our compost piles are kept far away from the rest of the garden. 

We also use only course wood chips and pine needle mulch, this is renewed yearly before the plants began to leaf out. While we do not raise ducks and chickens, although I would like to, we do entice birds into our gardens with many feeders, birdbaths, and nesting areas. We particularly encourage ground feeding birds such as robins, towhees, blackbirds, and thrushes to feed in the garden. 

Slugs can also be controlled by a variety of other means which we have listed in the “Tips Section “. Most of these are time consuming or require the use of chemicals, the former we do not have enough of and the latter we try to avoid. We do not doubt that they work but we suggest that you review your gardening practices first. We have found a clean garden is also a slug free garden.

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Athyriums (Lady Fern) in the Garden

Icon Written by Geoff on July 1, 2004 – 6:31 pm

Athyriums have long been prized by the home gardener not only because they were very easy to grow but, because of their color and texture. Lady ferns, particularly look good when grown in clumps or mass plantings. We use these ferns throughout our shade gardens. Actually, this is one down right spectacular plant. 

Lady Ferns are a highly variable species, with numerous varieties in cultivation. More than 300 varieties, in shades of grays, greens, and burgundy, have made their way to the home garden. Some, like ‘Frizelliae’ are extremely odd in appearance. This delicate, finely cut deciduous perennial fern is at home in the garden as the woodlands and meadows. The plant can even be used as a ground cover or on a wet hillside. 

Athyriums are relatively sun and soil tolerant, compared to many other ferns. Despite its delicate appearance, lady ferns are quite rugged and adapt well to cultivation. In the woodland setting they even do better with an occasional burning. For best growth plant them in partial shade in soil that is rich and moist. Give them a little shelter from wind to protect fronds from breaking and they will perform well for years. 

These ferns need a neutral to acid pH soil which drains well. A mixture of equal parts of loam and leaf mold is suitable growing medium. Lady ferns require no fertilization. Athyriums grown in a greenhouse or home should be planted in peat and loam with a bit of sand. 

Propagation is by division in the spring, although spores may be sown in Summer. Division is most successful and by far the easiest method for the home gardener. Simply divide the clumps every few years, with a sharp spade and replant crowns at soil level. 

In the wild, lady fern often occurs on wet sites but can colonize cracks in rocks and crevices if roots are protected and in constant contact with water. We use them, with hostas and other broadleaf plants, along trails, naturalized on banks, mixed with grasses, or bordering walks. They work well at the base of sculptures, garden benches, and potted plants.

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Butterfly Gardening

Icon Written by Geoff on June 1, 2004 – 4:55 pm

We have discussed, in past Yard Talks, how rewarding it is to have at least one Butterfly Garden in your landscape. There is just something soothing and peaceful about watching butterflies drifting from flower to flower collecting nectar. What better way to relax after a stressful day than to sit and observe nature at it’s best. In today’s fast paced world, everyone should have a Butterfly Garden. 

Butterfly Gardens are even easy and fun to make. The first step is to take a leisurely stroll through nature to find out just what butterflies live around you. There is no sense spending time trying to attract those that are not natural to the area. Visit a local park or take a drive through the countryside on a sunny day. Keep track of not only what species are found but, their location, such as wet meadows, sunny fields, partial shade, or riverbanks. This will help you not only in deciding what species to try attracting but, where to locate your garden. The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths is an excellent field guide to take along, small and easy to use. 

You need to also make note of what type of plants the butterflies are flitting around. It also would be very beneficial if you can find the plant species the butterfly’s larva are feeding on. Butterfly larva eat very specific plants and female butterflies will only lay their eggs on these. No eggs mean no larva, that translates into no butterflies. 

Almost everyone knows that the Monarch Butterfly’s larvae (AdultLarvaePupae) feed on the milkweed and the Cabbage Butterfly’s larvae (Adult,LarvaePupae) feed on members of the cabbage family. Lessor known is that the Black Swallowtail’s larva (AdultLarvaePupae) feed only on members of the dill family and that the Zebra Swallowtail’s larvae (AdultLarvaePupae) will only dine on the pawpaw. If you cannot find where the larva are feeding, there are many excellent butterfly books, such as, Barbara Ellis’s excellent book, “Attracting Birds and Butterflies.” 

When providing plants for the larva, remember the purpose of these plants is to be eaten. This means no pesticides or insecticides. In fact, no insecticides should be used anywhere near a butterfly garden and this includes your lawn. You will be amazed how many more butterflies you will see just by eliminating insecticide usage. 

Most butterflies like sunny locations protected from the wind. A sunny area close to a wood line or hedgerow is ideal. A fence can be used also to provide an artificial windbreak. If there is a creek or other water source near by, so much the better. 

If no natural water is close by, we would suggest providing an artificial source for moisture such as birdbath with flat stones, for landing, or a small garden pond. The pond should be shallow, 1-2 inches, with many resting places, and of course no fish. A quick and easy butterfly pond can be made by taking a plastic garbage can lid, inverting it, weight it down with bricks, and fill it with water. 

Butterflies feed on plants high in nectar. We have found species of nepata and eupatorium are excellent sources of nectar. In fact, many of the culinary herbs, such as borage, sage, and the oregano’s can be used in the Butterfly Garden. 

Flowers with short petals, plumes, or flat tops, like most of the sedum’s, are butterfly favorites. Also, butterflies are attracted by bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, and purple. Here some of the annuals such as cosmos, four o’clocks, or cleome are very useful. 

Make sure when you plan your garden you include some creature comforts such as, a comfortable bench or chair. Bring along a good book, such as Grace from the Garden by Debra Landwehr Engle, sit back and feel your cares melt away. Butterfly watching is very relaxing and habit forming.

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Care of Garden Roses as Cut Flowers

Icon Written by Geoff on May 1, 2004 – 7:39 pm

There is no mystical secret in making your fresh cut garden roses last a long time. All it takes is a little planning and preparation on your part. Commercial growers do it every day and so can you. 

The evening before you plan to cut your roses, water them well. This will give the plant more substance and lasting power. Early morning is the best time to cut roses, while the stems and petals are full of water and sugar. 

New rose plants are especially sensitive to the loss of leaves so try to avoid cutting long stems as this weakens the plant. We always try to cut stems back to a five-leaflet bud joint. If you do not cut back this far, a replacement bloom is often not produced. Cutting short stems is particularly important in Late Summer as the plant is then building up reserves to carry it through the Winter. 

Select flowers with petals that are just starting to unfold, when they are just beyond the bud stage, as these will last the longest. Always make a nice, clean cut with sharp pruners, at a 45 degree angle, to reduce damage to the cane. Carefully strip off any leaves that might be submerged in the vase. Be sure not to peel back the skin as this will prevent water absorption. Try to keep the cut stems in water at all times or they will absorb air. This disrupts the flow of nutrients to the flowers and leads to an early death. 

Make sure that the pitcher or vase is clean. Bacterial growth and fungus will prevent the roses from drawing water up the stem just like air. A 5% solution of household bleach and water should be used to disinfect the container. We always follow this with a hot washing in our dishwasher. 

After you have cut your roses, bring them indoors and place them immediately in a large container of lukewarm water. Make a second cut underwater, about an inch up the stem. This prevents air bubbles from plugging the stem, then move the stem quickly from the cutting bowl to the vase. Allow the cut blooms to stand in room temperature for several hours before arranging them for display. 

Soft or distilled water works best as it has very little salt content. The water temperature should be warm to the touch, between 100 and 110 degrees. For best results add a cut flower preservative to the water in the vase. A good floral preservative serves three functions, it kills bacteria, acidifies the water, and it provides sugar. The most common problems when working with floral preservatives is not using enough. Dissolving aspirin in warm water makes an excellent preservative. You can also fight bacteria by immediately removing any flowers that are past their prime. 

Every morning cut the stem back another inch, change the water, and add new preservative. Your cut roses will keep longer out of direct sunlight, drafts, and hot areas, such as around oven, stoves, televisions, and even computers. Following these steps, your roses should easily last 7-10 days!

Growing Roses in Containers

Icon Written by Geoff on April 1, 2004 – 7:41 pm

In our previous Yard Talk on Old Roses we mentioned that we dug up all of our Hybrid Tea Roses and moved them across the garden. We jokingly said how much easier this would have been if the roses were in containers. Faced with the task once again the joke just may be on us. 

There definitely are some advantages in growing roses in containers. In our case we could have easily moved the plants as the growing conditions changed, namely the trees got bigger and the sunlight less. We could simply pick up the plants and plop them down in a new spot. 

Not everyone has room in their yard for a rose garden, but most gardens have room for at least a few containers, even apartment and condominium dwellers. Container-growing is great for people who love to grow roses, but only have pavement or gravel surrounding their homes. If you need to move to a different apartment or even city, you can simple pack them and bring them along. 

Potted roses can be easily moved about to change the design effect or layout. You can even move the containers around to showcase those which are now blooming or to complement another plant or setting. Roses grown in containers offer gardeners the flexibility of blending roses into their garden landscapes even as the seasons change. 

Container growing simplifies winter protection, where winter cold is a problem, you simply move the plant to the shelter of a porch, garage, or basement. This can greatly simplify Fall maintenance. Just think, no more cutting back, banking or installing those funny white Styrofoam Winter hats! 

When roses are grown in containers, water and food can be delivered to the rose alone, it does not have to compete with other plants or trees. Since the rose is off the ground and can be spun around allowing food and water to be applied more uniformly. You will find spraying easier too! Sickly roses can be moved quickly to another area for doctoring. 

Planting in containers provides us the opportunity to refresh the soil frequently. We can now repot roses as we would any other plant, thus assuring it of having the best possible growing medium. This is particularly important in growing roses which are such heavy feeders. 

Growing roses in containers can be done by gardeners with physical limitations. Pots can be elevated or placed on movable carts to increase accessibility. Where the gardener cannot go to the plant the plant can be brought to the gardener. 

Whether you decide to grow just one rose in a single decorative pot or a garden filled with beautiful container roses it adds a whole new dimension to rose gardening. We strongly suggest you give it a try.

Why Not Try Old Roses?

Icon Written by Geoff on March 1, 2004 – 7:47 pm

After trying to grow Hybrid Tea Roses for over fifteen years we have come to the sad conclusion maybe we should give up. Some years our roses have done very well; but for the most part they have looked pretty sick. One year we even dug them all up and moved them to a different location. 

The next season they did very well. We had finally found the answer to our problems! Well, three years later we are back to the same old up and down pattern. My mother-in-law grows the best Hybrid Tea roses in some of the poorest soil and location we have seen. She uses the same methods (my wife learned from her) that we do. Year after year she has wonderful blooms on strong healthy plants. Ours, for the most part, always looks like Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree. 

We hate to admit it, the problem is entirely our fault. Hybrid Tea Roses require a lot of just plain old fashion loving care, translation; “a Lot of Time.” On those rare years when we have time to spend with them they look great, unfortunately this happens rarely. Thus the performance of our Teas is directly related to how busy we are. 

With our busy schedule and many other gardens we just do not have the time to devote to Hybrid Teas. We are sure many rose gardeners have found themselves confronted with this problem. Fortunately for us, we have discovered Old Roses. 

Old Roses are time tested survivors of our mothers and grandmothers gardens. These are the roses found at abandon homesteads or growing wild along roadsides. Many trace their origins to the Old World Roses and were brought over by early immigrants. These old fellows, come in many forms and can be used in many ways. They climb, they ramble, they trail, and they form bushes large and small. We stick them everywhere and just forget about them. 

Yes, we said forget about them! If these roses can survive years of being on their own in the wilds they surely can survive anyone’s garden. If drought, wild animals, and hoards of insects cannot kill them growing in the landscape garden is a piece of cake for them. 

Old Roses are made for today’s busy homeowner. Sure, if you want to fertilize, prune, and water them, go ahead. While they respond well to a little care, they just do not need it. We try to fertilize ours in the Spring and Early Fall, prune after blooming, and water in dry spells. If we miss these times, so what, they just keeping on growing. 

Many old varieties display handsome foliage, flowers in soft pastel colors, and bare attractive hips in the fall. Most are extremely showy, especially when used as a background planting or on hillsides. They also have that true strong rose fragrance that can be smelled from miles away. 

While we have not entirely given up on Hybrid Teas we are close to it. No matter how busy you are you can grow these old varieties too! Give it a try, you will be surprised at the results.

Large Evergreens for the Landscape

Icon Written by Geoff on February 1, 2004 – 7:35 pm

We chose our family homesite because of it’s outstanding woodland setting. A meandering creek, majestic oaks and stately sycamores surrounding the home were hard to beat. “Buy Me!”the towering American Elm in the front lawn cried out. 

Unfortunately, all was not perfect, not a single conifer adorned the landscape. This was not only unusual, as evergreens have unlimited use in the home landscape, but intolerable. We immediately set out to correct the problem. Now all we had to do was decide on what evergreens to use. With hundreds of conifer species available this was not an easy decision. Should we start with small, intermediate, large, or some combinations of all? 

Since the area was so big and open, we decided to start with large evergreens. the American Conifer Society, considers large conifers to be ones with over twelve inches of growth a year. This somewhat helped us narrow our selection. Since we were on a tight budget, we chose balled and burlaped trees from 36-48 inches tall. 

We next decided to plant a mixture of conifers, blending various textures, shapes and color. We also selected evergreens which were low maintenance and rapid growing. Priority was given to evergreens offering shelter for birds and wildlife. 

While conifers also work well as hedges, screens, and windbreak plants, this was not a factor in our selection as we were looking for a more natural look. We also wanted plantings to quickly blend in with the existing trees and shrubs. To be honest we choose to ignore or at least push the limits, on some of the cultural requirements. Visual effects won out over soil conditions and sunlight requirements. 

Fifteen years later, we can finally say that we made the right choices. We now have a very balanced landscape, one with four season appeal. This is not to say we are not making changes or additions, after all, this is what gardening is all about. 

Here are the evergreens we choose and recommend for the home landscaper looking to add immediate impact to their gardens: 

Abies concolor ‘Concolor’
– The Rocky Mountain White Fir needles are longer than most fir trees, averaging 2-3 inches in length and are quite soft while retaining a reasonable amount of stiffness. The broken needles and tree have a distinctive fragrance that is most frequently described as a mix of evergreen and citrus scents. 

Abies fraseri ‘Fraser Fir’
– The species is sometimes called Southern balsam or Southern balsam fir. Locally Fraser fir is known as “She balsam” because of the resin filled blisters on the tree’s trunk. Red spruce, often associated with Fraser fir, is called “He balsam” and lacks the distinctive blisters. Fraser fir is a uniformly pyramid-shaped tree.

Picea abies ‘Acrocona’
– Norway Spruce is a large conifer that is well adapted to much of the upper midwest. It is faster growing than many of the other spruces. It has a pyramidal form, developing long, pendulous branchlets with age. On older specimens, the lateral branches arise horizontally from the trunk, droop slightly and then have a slight upward curve near the tips.

Pinus strobus ‘Eastern White Pine’
– Eastern White Pine is an excellent ornamental conifer and is also an important timber species. When well established, it has a rapid growth rate when young, with long distances between the lateral branches. Its form is somewhat pyramidal when young and becomes broad with age. 

Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Douglas Fir’
– Douglas fir is a large conifer that makes an excellent landscape plant for accent and grouping. It has a dense pyramidal form. Needles are 1-1 1/2 inches long and range in color from dark green to blue-green. Cones are readily distinguished from spruce and true firs by the papery bracts extending beyond the tips of the scales.

Tsuga canadensis ‘Eastern Hemlock or Canada Hemlock’
– Eastern hemlock is a graceful pyramid shaped evergreen conifer. Young trees have a slender pointed top shoot that droops and waves in the breeze. Older trees have an irregular rounded crown. The bark is cinnamon-brown with deep ridges. 

Other trees which we added later and we also recommend are: 

Picea glauca ‘Conica’
– White Spruce is a densely pyramidal evergreen conifer. The needles are dusty green to blue green in color. This spruce is quite adaptable to difficult conditions such as heat, cold and drought. 

Picea pungens ‘Thomsen’
– Colorado Spruce is a stiffly pyramidal evergreen conifer. Horizontal branches reach to the ground, but form may become more open with age. Foliage occurs in a wide range of colors from green to silver-blue. 

Abies procera ‘Noble Fir’
– Noble Fir is one of the largest true first of Northwest Pacific coast region. Dark gray brown and smooth, becoming brown to red brown, furrowed and broken into irregular scaly plates. 

Abies concolor ‘Lowiana’
– The California White Fir is an attractive conifer and outstanding landscape plant. It has a formal pyramidal shape. Its silvery blue-green foliage makes it an ideal candidate for use as a specimen or accent plant in the landscape.

You can feel confident if you chose one or more of these evergreens they will do well in your garden. If we had to choose only one evergreen to use we would pick the Douglas Fir as it is so hardy and vigorous. Our second choice would be the Concolor Fir for it’s color and grace. Our sentimental favorite is Pinus flexilis ‘Vanerwolf’s Pyramid’, our Plant of the Month. An evergreen not listed above because it is not recommended for this area but someone forgot to tell it that. This tree has matured into a real eye catcher, we constantly get comments on it’s beauty.

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