Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goldenrod or Ragweed Causing Your Allergies


I hear people blaming Goldenrod for their allergies all the time. I used to do the same. In fact I was on a trip to Atlanta, GA in the late summer of 1998 when I had a bad reaction. We were looking for a house when we passed a beautiful field filled with Goldenrod and shortly after I had a horrible headache. When I told my allergist about it later he said it was the ragweed that was the problem not the Goldenrod.


Many people with allergies blame plants for their misery because it is so often the case, and summertime can be tough for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever is an allergic reaction that certain people have when they inhale pollen from specific plants. During late summer and fall one of the most colorful plants we see blooming in roadside ditches is goldenrod (Solidago sp.), and since hay fever symptoms seem to be worse when it is in bloom, it is often blamed for causing hay fever. the true culprit is ragweed. Both plants begin blooming in late summer, and fall and they can both be blooming in the same field but you may only notice the Goldenrod because of the showy flowers.

Goldenrod flowers

Although these plants bloom together they are very different. Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers on single-stemmed plants, and has relatively large, heavy pollen grains that are intended to be carried off by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads which produce copious amounts of pollen that is  carried by the wind rather than insects for pollination. Ragweed flowers are not showy which means these plants are often easier to recognize by their stems and leaves and why Goldenrod is often blamed for seasonal allergies. Look for branching purplish stems that are rough and hairy, and leaves which are smooth,
but deeply divided into lobed portions when identifying Ragweed.

Ragweed stems and flowers

Since about 75% of  Americans who are allergic to other pollen-producing plants are also
allergic to ragweed, it is important for homeowners to control/remove of this pest plant is important. Luckily this shallow-rooted plant  can be controlled  best by hoeing, hand-pulling, or mowing while plants are still young,  before their flowers begin to form. Select herbicides for  use on broadleaf weeds can also provide control. But should be used with caution and should not be used in right-of-ways and ditches where other wildflowers are likely present. Remember that bees and other pollinators for food!

Hopefully this will clarify the differences between Goldenrod and Ragweed and help you to identify ragweed in your yard or property as it did for me, and will allow all of us to breathe a little easier this time of year.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Perennials


When asked which is your favorite season in the garden I say fall! I know it seems like it should be spring when everything comes alive and starts to bloom. But fall weather is a great time to access your garden's needs. Is there a corner or planting bed that needs some color or is there a dead spot? The time is also right for planting perennials!

Shasta Daisy

I reworked a bed 2 years ago in September, making it into a perennial bed. The weather is perfect for planting and getting perennials in the ground in the south. Planting now will give perennial roots a good start. This is also a good time to pick up bargain plants. At the end of the season you can find great discounts on plants that are past their peak. You will often find these plants reduced 50 - 75%. This is when I like to get my perennials. I check the clearance rack before looking at fresh plants! The plants are super cheap because they look so pitiful and are often at deaths door! If a plant looks like it has a hint of life left I will bring it home as long as it looks bug and disease free. I will occasionally find a plant I can't bring back to life but the price can't be beat!

Hibiscus moscheutos 

Frost is not the problem you might think it would be in Fall. Especially here in the south, where frost don't come until around Thanksgiving and the soil doesn't freeze until much later. Even if frost kills the tops of the plants it won't affect root growth. Roots will continue to grow until the soil freezes. In the spring it takes a while for the soil to warm up so the roots of plants grow very slowly. In the fall the soil is still warm allowing the roots to grow faster. Since they aren't using energy to produce flowers all that energy can go into root development. You can get your plants off to a good start by planting in good soil and keeping watered during dry spells.


To give your bargain plants a fighting chance give them a good soaking when you get them home. Set them in a tray or saucer to catch the water that runs through the pot, allowing the roots to soak up the water. Then plant as you would any healthy plant. They will need less water because of the lower temperatures and shorter days in the fall. But if rain is really scarce keep them watered until the soil freezes. Remember the roots are still growing.

Joe Pyeweed

Even if a few of your new plants don't make it, you can still come out ahead and it will give you a jump on spring gardening!

Garden Phlox

Here are a few Perennials to plant in the fall:

Balloon Flower
Bee Balm
Lamb's ears
Oriental poppies

Monday, August 18, 2014

Gardening for Hummingbirds

Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Pineapple sage

If you haven't gardened for Hummingbirds yet this year it may not be to late to help the little birds out. Now is when the little guys start to migrate. Hang out some feeders and make plans to garden for them next year. Or you may attract a Rufous Hummingbird to stay the winter in your yard like I did last year! 

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Mix I part white sugar to 4 parts water mix thoroughly, bring to a boil, and cool. Store extra mixture in refrigerator. You don’t need to tint the mixture red but having red on the feeder will help them locate the nectar. Keep it clean, sugar water molds quickly in hot weather. Put it in the open where it will be seen easily. More than one feeder may cut down on hummingbird fights. Hummer’s returning year after year will look for feeders and flowers in the places they were they were the previous year.

Rufous Hummingbird in February 2014

Unlike the Rufous and other hummingbirds of the western mountains, where freezing nights are common even in summer, Ruby-throats aren't well adapted to cold temperatures; they have a tough time below the mid-20s (F), and don't enter torpor (a state of physical or mental inactivity; lethargy) as regularly as their western cousins to conserve energy. To avoid the cold, and the scarcity of food when flowers stop blooming and insects stop flying, they go south. Some adult males start migrating south as early as mid-July, but the peak of southward migration for this species is late August and early September. By mid-September, essentially all of the Ruby-throated at feeders are migrating through from farther north, and not the same individuals seen in the summer. This is difficult to see, since they all look alike, but has been proven by banding studies. The number of birds migrating south may be twice that of the northward trip, since it includes all immature birds that hatched during the summer, as well as surviving adults.

Hummingbird gardening involves the planting of hummingbird attracting plants. It is just that simple! Hummingbirds consume 1-1/2 to 3 times their own weight in food per day. Their diet includes flower nectar, spiders, and small insects. Because hummingbirds rely on insects as a  source of protein, chemical insecticides should not be used in the hummingbird garden. Not only will insecticides kill insects which are essential to a hummer's diet, but they could sicken or kill the hummingbird that eats insects or flower nectar that is tainted with insecticides
Top Long-blooming flowers for Hummingbirds:
  • Columbine
  • Phlox
  • Bee Balm
  • Fuchsia
  • Salvia
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Verbena
  • Cardinal; Flower
  • Cigar Flower
  • Lungwort

Hummingbird Favorites:

  • Hyacinth Bean vine
  • Climbing Nasturtium
  • Cypress vine
  • Trumpet vine
  • Trumpet Honeysuckle
  • Salvia
  • Verbena
  • Phlox
  • Fuchsia
  • Cuphea
Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird on Black & Blue Salvia

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Webworms, the Tiger Month

This is the time of year is when we start seeing Webworm around the Lowcountry.

Webworms invade trees in the fall (late summer in our area) and build large brown, webby nests in the branches of trees. The webworm is the larvae form of a tiger moth and although they usually don't harm trees, they are unsightly.

The fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea, is a moth in the family Arctiidae known principally for its larval stage, which creates the characteristic webbed nests on the tree limbs of a wide variety of hardwoods in the late summer and fall. It is mainly an aesthetic pest.   The caterpillars  will feed on almost all shade, fruit and ornamental trees but true damage to the tree is minimal. Eggs are laid on the undersides of leaves in early to midsummer and hatch in about a week. The caterpillars feed for six weeks before dropping to the ground to pupate. There may be as many as four generations in the south.

One generation per year emerges in the northern part of North America, with larvae appearing in late summer through early fall. South of an approximate latitude of 40°N there are two or more generations annually, with webs appearing progressively earlier further south. The parallel 40° north forms the boundary between the states of Kansas and Nebraska. The parallel 40° north passes through the cities of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio; as well as northern suburbs of Indianapolis, Indiana and Denver, Colorado. 

The caterpillars are highly variable in coloration, ranging from a pale yellow, to dark grey, with yellow spots and long and short bristles. There are two cream stripes along the sides. The two races, one more common in the north, the other in the south, differ in head capsule coloration.The maximum length is 35 mm. Webs are progressively enlarged, and much messier looking than those of tent caterpillars (which occur only in spring and have shorter hairs and very little yellow on their bodies) also (webs from the fall webworm are concentrated to the tips of the branches, where as the tent caterpillar webs are largely found in the unions). Larvae feed inside the tents until the late instars. Very young larvae feed only on the upper surfaces of leaves. Later, they consume whole leaves. The larval stage lasts about four to six weeks.

The pupa stage overwinters in the bark and leaf litter at the base of the trees. It is dark brown and about 10 mm long. The thin brown cocoon is made of silk with bits of detritus ( non-living particulate organic material ) interwoven. This stage overwinters.

Tiger Moth

The adult is mostly white in the north, but in the south, it may be marked with black or brown spots on the forewings. It is quite 'hairy', and the front legs have bright yellow or orange patches. The underwings will have less marking than the forewings, and the abdomen often has a sprinkling of brown hairs. It has a wingspan of 35–42 mm.

Management techniques: Tents may be removed by hand, or an insecticide with residual activity may be applied to foliage and twigs. Chemical treatments work best on the youngest larvae and will not penetrate the nest. Both species have natural enemies such as birds, stink bugs, wasps, and flies. Use of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is also effective against young larvae. 
Systemic insecticides may be used on large trees, but use this insecticide with caution. remember  they usually don't harm trees,  but they are unsightly.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Toad Abodes for Your Yard

Why would you want to have more toads in your yard? We are in the middle of summer and in the height of bug season! My yard has seen almost 5" of rain this week and I expect to see a rise in mosquitoes in a couple of weeks. I've already battled or tolerated Japanese beetles, leaf hoppers and spider mites this summer season. I don't use chemicals in the yard because of my wildlife habitat. My backyard birds, fish, and dragonflies are a big help. But do you know how helpful toads can be in the fight against unwanted insects? 

After reading this you may want to consider encouraging a toad or two to take up residence in your backyard or garden. One toad can eat up to 10,000 insect pests over the course of the summer. Toads like damp, shady areas and need shelter. If you want to attract a toad, you should provide a good home, or “toad abode” for it. Toads need water, too, so you should leave a tray of water near their abode. Line the toad’s home with leaf mold or leaf litter.  Don’t bring toads from elsewhere and put them in your yard (or let loose pet toads). You can find toad abodes at garden centers or online.

You can make your own toad abode using a broken flowerpot or half-bury a large flowerpot on its side in a shady spot. Or arrange flat rocks with a toad-size space underneath. Situate your toad abode in the shade--say, under a bush--and in the dampest spot in your yard, near a gutter downspout, air conditioner drip or in a low spot that collects rainwater.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Japanese Beetles!!!!

There is hardly a gardener out there who hasn't encountered a Japanese beetle. The adult Japanese beetle is a shiny, metallic green with copper-brown wing covers and it’s about 3/8-inch in length. Not all metallic green or copper beetles are Japanese Beetles To be sure of what you’re dealing with, you can look closely at the underside of the beetle and you’ll also see 5 small, white tufts under the wing covers and an additional tuft at the end of the abdomen.

Japanese beetle,  (species Popillia japonica), an insect that is was accidentally introduced into the United States from Japan about 1916, probably as larvae in the soil around imported plants. Japanese beetles are known to feed on more than 200 species of plants, including a wide variety of trees, shrubs, grasses, and nursery plants. They are gregarious insects, often feeding in large groups upon a single tree. A swarm of Japanese beetles can denude a peach tree in 15 minutes, leaving nothing but bare branches and the fruit pits. Keep in mind that the adult Japanese beetles are only around for a little over a month, so don’t automatically reach for the sprayer unless they become a serious problem. Some years are better than others.

Efforts are being made to control the spread of this pest. Poisonous sprays control the adult beetles but differ in the length of their protection against re-infestation. Several of the beetle’s natural enemies—species of parasitic wasps and flies that in Japan were found to prey on the larvae—have been imported into the United States, where some of them have become established. Of even greater promise as a biological control is a disease-inducing bacterium, Bacillus popilliae, which causes milky disease in larvae; its use has reduced Japanese beetle infestations in some areas.

Least Toxic Japanese Beetle Controls

There aren’t many natural controls for adult Japanese beetles. Birds aren’t partial to them and although some predatory wasps and flies have been imported, their population isn’t large enough yet to control the Japanese beetle problem.

The most effective natural control is to go into your garden with a jar of soapy water and knock the beetles into it. Japanese beetles feed in groups, starting at the top of plants, so it’s actually pretty easy to fill a jar with them.

Insecticidal soap will kill adult Japanese beetles only if it is sprayed directly on the beetle. It does not have any residual effect, meaning that beetles that aren’t sprayed directly won’t be harmed.

A word of caution about the pheromone beetle traps. They will attract beetles, but you’ll probably wind up with more beetles coming into your yard than you would have without the trap. The original intention of the traps was to track when and how many Japanese beetles were in the area, not as a means of eradication.

Finally, if you have repeated intense infestations, you should check your soil in late summer to see if you have a large grub population. Lift a 1 sq. ft. section of turf. If there are more than a dozen grubs in this small area, consider treating your lawn with some type of grub control. However, not every garden that has a Japanese beetle problem is associated with a lawn full of grubs. The beetles can hatch in your neighbors lawn and find your tasty garden with very little effort.

More Toxic Controls, to be used with Extreme Caution

There are several insecticides labeled for use on adult Japanese beetles, including:

Bayer Advanced Garden Multi-Insect Killer Concentrate
Carbaryl (Sevin)
Neem extracts
Ortho Bug-B-Gon Garden & Landscape Insect Killer Concentrate
Orthene Turf, Tree & Ornamental Insecticide
Spectracide® Bug Stop Multi-Purpose Insect Control Concentrate
Spectracide® Triazicide® Soil & Turf Insect Killer Concentrate

These sprays will kill on contact and also have some residual effect. Keep in mind that these sprays will kill more than just the Japanese beetles, so use them only for extreme infestations. You will want to avoid these products if you have a wildlife habitat of any kind! And again, Japanese beetles are only a pest for a little over a month, so don’t over react. 

Always read and follow label directions when using any pesticide and Good Luck!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Over-seeding Centipede Lawns with Winter Rye

As I was riding my bike through the neighborhood this evening I rode past a house that used to have a beautiful Centipede lawn. In fact it may have been the nicest lawn in the neighborhood several years running. Then they started over-seeding with Winter Rye  in the fall about 2-3 years ago. My lawn was fully green by early May but I've been watching this lawn and the winter rye has died off but there is no sign of the Centipede coming out of dormancy.

June 5, 2014 (Over-seeded with Winter Rye)

Centipede grass often called the poor-mans grass, and boasts a number of benefits over other types of grasses, the most important of which for homeowners is its low requirements for maintenance. Centipede grass is able to grow, and often thrives, on sandy and clay based ground, needs little fertilization, and does not require frequent mowing. Centipede grass can prosper without watering in average rainfall years, making it ideal for busy homeowners.

I had never encountered Centipede grass until we moved to SC.It was the sod they put down on our new houses lawn. I'd gotten used to lawns going brown while living in Georgia so that wasn't an issue. But had to get used to the low maintenance needs. But some people enjoy green turf so much they will over-seed their Bermuda grass lawn with rye grass each fall to have a green front yard when Bermuda grass is normally brown. Although Bermuda grass tolerates over-seeding well, centipede grass does not. The fertilizer you give rye grass will stimulate the centipede grass out of dormancy too soon and make it susceptible to freezing. Also Rye grass growing on top of centipede grass holds winter moisture and can cause disease on the centipede grass. Rye grass will  also compete with centipede grass when the centipede grass is trying to green-up in spring.

Most experts recommend that you do NOT over-seed your centipede lawn with a winter rye grass.  It can in some situations result in thinning out (killing) of your lawn over time due to the added stress of early spring competition.  Fescue in general is a better over-seed variety to use (not rye grass). However in general the best recommendation is to do nothing to a centipede  lawn in the fall. Basically it’s a terrible idea to plant rye
grass into centipede grass to keep it green in winter. Let your centipede grass lawn go dormant in November and take a break from mowing!

June 5, 2014 (No over-seeding)

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Roses in My Yard

Once upon a time I had over 30 roses in my yard in the house on Carol Dr., in Melbourne, FL. Then I became involved in Little League, Youth soccer, Teaching Sunday school, Band parents and more. By the time we sold the house on Carol Drive only 7 roses were left! Most fell victim to Black Spot and mildew, a real problem in humid Florida.

I didn't try to grow roses in Georgia. The clay soil and a 4.5 year drought discouraged me. Shortly after we moved to South Carolina Jim bought me three unknown name roses for Valentine's Day. It was later identified for me as Mr. Lincoln. My mom loved this roses as it was a large bloom and so easy to see from our screened porch.

A very well-known hybrid tea. Long pointed buds open into large, well-formed, long stemmed, fully double 4" blooms (petals 24+) of velvety, deep red. The velvety texture of the bloom is almost unbelievable. 'Mr. Lincoln' has outstandingly strong damask fragrance that seduces the senses. A vigorous, tall, upright continual blooming bush with dark green foliage. Makes a good cut flower.The Mister Lincoln rose is a popular choice because of its hardiness, fragrance, and color vibrancy. The Mister Lincoln rose bears a famous ancestry, as it is named after President Abe Lincoln. Requiring surprisingly little care once its rose bushes are established, the Mister Lincoln rose is a great choice for beginning gardeners who are seeking a fragrant, delightful addition to their gardens.

After trying several different plants by my mailbox I decided to give the Knockout Rose a try based on the 'easy care' label. For me it has worked out to be an easy care rose. The biggest problem for me here are the Japanese beetles that seem to love them.  But they recover and keep on blooming. I prune mine heavily once a year and lightly as needed to keep them full and in check so thy don't take over the mailbox.

Knock Out™ is a compact, tidy shrub rose and resistant to black-spot.  Blooms are fire engine red in cool weather and a cherry red in the summer months. The foliage is a dark purplish green and turns to burgundy in the fall. Tough foliage and blooms. Knock Out™ is drought tolerant and If left un-pruned, The Knock Out® Family of Roses can easily grow to be more than 3-4' wide x 3-4' tall. Periodic trims will keep them maintained at a smaller size. A once a year cut (to about 12-18" above the ground) in early spring (after the last hard frost) is also recommended for maximum performance.

Having some success with these two roses I decided to try one of the noisette roses. You may not know about this rose, I only discovered them when I moved to Charleston. The horticulturist where I work  gave me one about a year ago. It didn't do a lot the first year but is taking off this spring. Not sure which noisette I have but it may be a climber. 

  • Bloom: heavy in both spring and fall, scattered flowers in summer
  • Range: all South--though some may be tender in Upper South
  • Light: at least six hours direct sun
  • Soil: any well drained
  • Water: Soak root zone with about 1 inch of water weekly during growing season.
  • Fertilizer: Apply a slow-release fertilizer (such as Mills Magic Rose Mix) at pruning times (usually February and August). Apply a liquid fertilizer (such as alfalfa tea or fish emulsion) every two weeks when rose is blooming heavily. Do not feed after October.
  • Nice to know: Noisette roses, while not impervious to black spot, thrive without being sprayed. 

A common rose trivia question is to name the only rose class that originated in the US. The answer is the noisettes around 1811. An American rose with a French class name. John Champneys was from South Carolina and liked to tinker with hybridizing. Allegedly he crossed the musk rose, Rosa moschata with a china, possibly Old Blush. From this he got a repeat blooming climber with clusters of pom-pom like blooms that was named Champneys' Pink Cluster. He soon lost interest in the rose, but a gentlemen (a friend or worker at his plantation) named Noisette sent seeds of this rose to his brother Philip in France. Philip bred several roses from the seedlings of Pink Cluster and the new roses caused quite a stir. They honored him by naming the class noisettes.

If I continue to have some luck with these 3 roses I may have to find a way to add more to my garden!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forcing Spring Bulbs

hyacinths-a bulbous plant of the lily family, with strap-like leaves and a compact spike of bell-shaped fragrant flowers. Native to western Asia, hyacinths are cultivated outdoors and as houseplants.

Forcing a hyacinth bulb will cause it to grow and bloom earlier than it normally would and allow it to grow in a different environment.  I Bought a vase and bulb for mom one Christmas and got it started for her. She enjoyed watching it develop roots and finally bloom. So I bought a "kit" last year at a discount store and wasn't sure if the bulb would bloom because it looked really dried out. I figured if it didn't bloom at least I would have another vase! But to my surprise it started to bloom while we were on vacation and now is in full flower.

Spring flowering bulbs add color indoors in late winter. Hyacinths also have a wonderful sweet scent. One of the simplest methods is to force the bulbs into a vase filled with water instead of soil. Special containers, called hyacinth vases, are shaped like an hourglass. The bottom portion holds water while the top supports the bulb as it grows. As the name implies, hyacinth bulbs grow well in these vases but you can also use them for crocuses or narcissus varieties.

Things You'll Need

*Hyacinth vase
*Bulbs (prechilled)

If your bulbs are not prechilled this process takes a little longer. Unless they are marked as "prechilled," most flowering bulbs require a period of 35-45 degrees F. order to root and flower.(This simulated winter is not required for amaryllis or paperwhites, which can be potted up according to package directions, watered, and set out in a bright spot.)  The length of time needed for chilling varies by type. In general, smaller bulbs like crocus, grape hyacinths, miniature daffodils, iris, and tulips are easy to force. Large, fragrant hyacinths are also easy. 

Although it's not hard to fool Mother Nature, you can't hurry the process. Forcing most spring bulbs into bloom requires eight to 15 weeks of chilling, though there are varieties that can be ready for prime time in just two to three weeks. When chilling bulbs in the refrigerator, store them away from fresh fruits and vegetables that can emit ethylene gas and damage the flowers developing inside the bulbs. Chill potted and bulk bulbs in closed paper bags.

Chilling and Blooming Times
  • Daffodils: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Tulips: 10-16 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Crocus: 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari): 8-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Iris reticulata: 13-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus): 15 weeks of chilling; 2 weeks to bloom after chilling.
  • Hyacinth: 12-15 weeks of chilling; 2-3 weeks to bloom after chilling.

Whatever type of flower you decide to force, buy the largest size bulbs you can find. The bigger the bulb, the more flowers. Also, be sure the bulbs are firm, free from nicks and bruises, and that the roots haven't sprouted yet. 

Fill a hyacinth vase with water to the waist. The waist of the vase is where the vase narrows near the middle.

Set the flower bulb in the vase so the bottom of the bulb is just touching the top of the water. The bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

Place the vase in a dark 50 degree Fahrenheit room for four to eight weeks, or until the roots develop. Add more water to the vase as needed to maintain the water level.

Move the vase to a 68 to 70 F room near a brightly lit window once the roots are formed and after the stalk begins to emerge from the top of the bulb. Continue to replenish the water level as needed.

Rotate the vase every two to three days so the stalk grows straight and doesn't lean toward the light. Move the vase away from the window so it receives bright, indirect light once the flowers open, as this helps prolong bloom.

You can use other vases if you don't have or can't find a hyacinth vase you can use another container, just be sure to position the bulb so the bottom of the bulb rests just above the waist of the vase.

My surprise bloom!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Late Winter, Early Spring Pruning

Here are some of my early spring gardening chores. Living in  Coastal  Carolina springs comes early often in mid to late February! Of course this year seems to be a bit of an exception.I did get a little done between ice storms!

Knock Out roses are ideally suited to the climate of South Carolina because they have been bred to thrive in heat and humidity while resisting the diseases that typically plague roses in those conditions. Knock Out roses are hybrid shrub roses that are self-cleaning and do not require traditional rose pruning, making them very low maintenance. South Carolina is made up of USDA zones 7 and 8 and Knock Out roses need little protection from winter weather conditions and can be pruned in the early spring.

Knock Out Roses do not require regular pruning but bloom production and plant vigor can be increased with moderate pruning in late winter (Prune mid-to late February near the coast to mid-April in the mountains, and light pruning in summer in Carolina climates). The best way to judge when to prune is to look at the buds; when they begin to swell, it's okay to prune.

Pruning keeps the plant healthy. It promotes new growth, removes dead, broken or diseased canes and trains roses to a desired shape. Pruning encourages flowering, either more blooms or larger blooms, and is essential to keep modern rose varieties blooming repeatedly all summer long.

Every three years prune excess foliage from Knock Roses in late winter or early spring. Concentrate on shaping the bush at this time. Remove small amounts of dying foliage all year long in order to allow the roots to concentrate on healthy growth.

Mondo grass and Liriope

Mondo grass is a popular ornamental plant used to border flower beds or function as its own dramatic focal point. Though not technically a grass, this plant is actually part of the lily family. Because mondo grass can outgrow its planting location, it is important to contain it before it crowds out other plants. Prune at the appropriate time of year to ensure reduced harm to your grass.

Mondo grass takes a couple of seasons to fully spread if you are planting the plant as ground cover. Typically, during this time the plant does not need any pruning unless you want to cut off any damages or diseased leaves.

The grass thrives in regions that have mild winter conditions. It is for this reason that it should not be pruned in the late fall or winter months. Pruning causes shock to a plant, which makes it more vulnerable to the elements. Choose a time in the early spring to prune. But don't wait too long. For newly planted mondo grass that you would like to promote growth, you can mow the grass once a season. However, the tips of the grass will have a ragged look that is generally not aesthetically pleasing. Mondo grass that grows out of its planting location can either be pruned back or transplanted.

Liriope is a mounding grass-like plant that also produces central flower stalks that are colored purple in the mid-summer months. It is a warm season plant that is heat-resistant and drought-tolerant. In the late fall or early winter some of the grassy blades will turn brown and die back. Trimming the liriope plants removes the dead portions and stimulates the remaining ones to develop new growth. Liriope plants should be trimmed at least once every year while they are still dormant.

Cold weather can leave liriope (monkey grass) in tatters. Flower bed edging & borders can become overgrown and unkempt if liriope is not kept compact. The best time to trim is January-March. If you can adjust a lawn mower to highest setting, it can be used to remove all of old greenery. New sprouts have not emerged yet and will not be harmed by mower. If you wait much later, trimming by hedge trimmer/shears after checking to see how tall new sprouts have grown. Make cuts just above these sprouts.

Cut the liriope back to 2 to 3 inches high using pruning shears, or by mowing it with a lawn mower set to the same height. Rake up all of the liriope trimmings and dispose of them in the trash or place the clippings into a compost pile to decompose. If the trimmings are infected with disease or pests, do not place them into a compost pile.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Winter Gardening

My husband loves my garden in the winter because he can "see everything".  But I still like to have things to looks at in my garden even in the winter. It's not easy to enjoy your garden in winter. When it's too cold to go outside, and your beautiful flowers have all died off, your garden is pretty much a no-go zone.  In lieu of summer's blazing color, many gardeners brace themselves for a winter of gray and brown, if not flat-out white. However, there are some ways of enjoying your outside space even in the colder months.

A winter garden provides many benefits and is a great addition to every home. Many believe that gardening must cease once the first frost hits, but that simply is not true. There are several ways that gardeners can enjoy the wonders of gardening year round including the use of greenhouses, growing plants indoors with containers, and planting crops that do well in outside, cool temperatures.

A variety of plants may be grown during winter and gardeners that take advantage of these opportunities enjoy many benefits.  No matter if your winter is just a little chilly or bone-freezing cold, try these tips to brighten your landscape...

1. Foliage, evergreens and ornamental Plants: One ideal way to make the most of your garden in winter is to put in plants that thrive even in the cold. Most flowering plants can't deal with cold conditions, so opt for foliage plants instead. There are lots that have fabulous, eye-catching foliage. You can also bring in ornamental woodies. Dozens of woody shrubs and trees add colorful stems, berries and/or bark. Evergreens that do well in my Coastal Southern garden are osmanthus fragrans, loropetalum, and Magnolia. When I lived in Georgia NE of Atlanta Leland Cypress, Pine trees, junipers, and  flowering Quince did well in winter.

2. Room With a View: You can also enjoy your garden by making the most of the view from the window that overlooks it. Try to design your garden so that the view is not obscured. Plant lots of interesting shrubs and cut back or remove anything that obstructs your view. Then even on cold days you can sit by the window and look out.

3. Fabulous Florals: Even in cold temperatures you can still have flowers, but you need to choose plants that can survive your local conditions. Cyclamen, snowdrops, pansies and primulas/primrose are just a few of the flowers that can cope even in snowy weather. Check out your local plant center for flowering plants that can cope in your local climate.


4. Plant for Wildlife: One way to get some color and something to view in your garden is to plant things in your garden to attract birds. Feeders, water source and roosting boxes will encourage birds in your yard. But planting berry producing plants for birds to eat and evergreens to provide protection from predators and from cold windy weather is another way to encourage birds in your yard.

5. Visit Gardens for Inspiration:  Pay your local public gardens a visit and you'll get lots of ideas about what to grow. They may even produce lists of the plants that you'll see in the winter season. Some gardens also sell plants, so you'll be able to pick up those plants that you most like.

6. Plan for other Seasons: The winter period is also a great time to start planning what you want to do with your garden in the coming seasons. Perhaps you want to completely redesign your garden and landscape it. Or you'd just like to plant something new in your flowerbeds. Whether your gardening ambitions are big or small, winter is a great time to note the 'bones' of your garden. You'll soon come up with some inspiration. Studying seed catalogs in the winter is also a great way to get ideas and spend cold winter days.

7. Preparation and Maintenance: Winter is also a useful time to prepare your garden for the spring and summer. Even in winter there are usually some jobs to be done. You won't need to cut the grass, but there are still trees to be pruned, compost to be spread and beds to be dug (as long as the ground isn't frosty). Get your garden into good shape for the coming season.

8. Hardscaping rules: In the uncluttered conditions of a winter garden, elements like the play of light and shadow and the curve of a walkway take on increased importance. Take advantage of this time to analyze the design of your landscape.

9. Plant colorful containers: Bring them close to a window where you can easily enjoy them from indoors. In areas with moderate winters, plants like heucheras, autumn fern, sedums and pansies keep right on going. In colder areas, conifers will accept the responsibility of colder weather. Before you plant, know how cold your plants and pots will go. Clay pots will not take to freezing weather.

10. Painting and Photos: There is one more way you can enjoy your garden during the winter. If you have some artistic abilities try painting your garden when it is at the height of it's beauty or try four season paintings of your garden. Painting is not my talent but I do enjoy taking photos of my garden and the birds that visit my garden. With the right camera they photos can be enlarged and framed. I've been lucky enough to have some of my garden photos show up on local TV in two cities!

Winter can seem a dull time of year for your garden, but with the right choice of plants and a little planning, you can make the most of that precious outdoor space. There is still much to enjoy even when it's cold, so get some gardening books visit some local gardens and start planning your perfect garden.