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Choosing Bedding Plants

Choosing bedding plants for your garden is like choosing paints for an artist’s palette. The one big difference, however, is that the plants are alive.

Bedding plants can be annuals or perennials or a combination of the two. You might even include some small shrubs in your beds. In addition to selecting plants for their color, you have to select them for their hardiness and the growing conditions they like. After all, the garden’s main purpose is to provide color, brightness and pleasure, rather than hours of maintenance.

Some people have a natural affinity for colors. They can select just the right combinations. Others have difficulty coordinating colors. A color wheel might help. Many garden stores have them, or a staff member can help. Paint stores also have color wheels.

I went to the Internet and Googled “Color coordinating flowers” and got 10,800,000 results. The first one was The Oregonian newspapers’ oregonlive.com site and its garden tips page. A color wheel was the first thing up. Other sites were by gardening magazines like Better Homes & Gardens and Fine Gardening.

While it’s possible to randomly plant bedding plants and let flowers pop up whenever nature tells the plants that it’s time, most gardeners prefer a bloom sequence. This means planting so you have an ongoing sea of color. When the first blossoms fade, the next plants flower and continue the color until the next group is ready to take their place.

After you’ve decided on the color mix of plants that you want in your beds, you then have to research such important concerns as their hardiness in our zone 5-6 climate and their susceptibility to insects and diseases.

As you can see, planting beautiful, colorful garden beds takes a bit more research than painting your house where color is the only consideration. If you want the garden of your dreams without taking the time to do all the necessary research, turn it over to our professionals. Our designers know how to coordinate colors and how to create bloom sequences. They also know plants that are hardy and pest resistant, and those that aren’t.

Design is the first step. Installation is the second, and we have landscape crews who install beautiful planting beds every day.

You can make one call and then sit back and enjoy your garden.


Why Plant Health Care Is So Important This Year

Imported, invasive pests are coming at us in droves. Last week, I wrote about the emerald ash borer, but this is only one invasive pest that came from abroad. Granted it’s getting most of the attention because it’s the most active invasive here.

Last month, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County held a first detectors seminar to train arborists and other professionals on how to detect the hemlock woolly adelgid and Asian longhorned beetle as well as the EAB. We’ve treated for some hemlock woolly adelgid but we have fewer hemlocks than ash trees in our area.

The Asian longhorned beetle is the real bad guy. This pest isn’t fussy about what it eats as long as it’s wood. Fortunately, it has been contained in a small area on Long Island. However, a few outbreaks have been reported in other places and authorities moved in and dealt with them quickly. So, they have been able to eradicate it in these locations. Like the emerald ash borer, the Asian longhorned beetle’s principal means of transportation is in illegally moved firewood.

In addition to the foreign invaders, we also have a number of home grown pests that we still need to control. These include aphids, scale and various other bugs. Every once in a while, gypsy moth will rear its ugly head and we have to take swift action to keep it from gaining a foothold again.

A Plant Health Care program assures you that a trained professional will visit your property at least once a month during the growing season and can take appropriate action while insects are most vulnerable. This approach often allows us to use less aggressive treatment methods than if you called us after you see a target insect. At that point, many have already done their damage.

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Emerald Ash Borer Preparing To Make Its Annual Appearance

While we were nestled snugly away in our homes during the harsh winter, emerald ash borer larvae were snuggled

Emerald Ash Borer

Emerald Ash Borer

inside ash trees feasting away. Right now, they’re in the final days of pupation.

Soon metamorphosis will be complete and the little, metallic green adults will chew “D” shaped holes to the outside. The adults have only one purpose. That’s to mate and start the next generation on its road to destruction. After the female has made indentations in the bark of an ash tree and deposited an egg in each indentation, she will die. The male dies right after mating.

As soon as the eggs hatch, the new larvae begin boring into the tree, disturbing the tree’s vascular system that’s so vital to its life. The xylem transports water and nutrients from the roots to the crown where photosynthesis takes place. The phloem distributes the food made by photosynthesis all around the tree.

If you have an ash tree, we urge you to take preventive action by having us apply a systemic treatment now. This is when the treatment is most effective, and it will last for two years. If you wait until after the emerald ash borer strikes, you’ll need an annual application to control the pest. Inaction will result in a dead tree in those communities where this pest is active. It would be much better to welcome this new generation of larvae with a Treeage cocktail while they’re young and vulnerable.

Remember, too, if your good weather activities include wood fires, buy your firewood only where you’ll burn it. Not only does it reduce the spread of this insidious pest; it’s the law.

Emerald ash borer control is not a do-it-yourself job. The most effective control material is restricted to state licensed pesticide applicators, and using anything else is a waste of money. So, if you have ash trees, call now to discuss scheduling treatment.

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Celebrate Arbor Day This Weekend

Arbor Day is this Friday, April 24. Few people can observe this day on Friday, however, due to work, school and other commitments. So, why not celebrate Arbor Weekend? Trees don’t care if they’re planted on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or any other day for that matter.

Make your Arbor Weekend a family affair. Look through books or on the Internet and get family consensus about what kind of tree to buy. It might be a good idea to agree on several choices because the planting area you select may not be suitable for your first choice.

Before you go to your garden center, do some homework. Take photos of the proposed planting area and take these with you to the garden center. Is the site in full sun all day? Full shade? Partial sun? Morning? Afternoon? Which way does the prevailing wind blow? Is it a high spot in the yard or a low spot? Is it close to structures? To walkways or the driveway? Or electric wires?

The reason you took that little test is to be sure you select the right plant for the right place. You don’t want to buy an expensive tree that likes full sun and then plant it in shade or partial sun. 0r a tree that needs lots of water on top of a hill or one that doesn’t like wet feet in the lowest spot in your yard.

These are all things that you need to check out before swiping your card. Many answers will be on the nursery tag attached to the tree. If any information you need is not on the tag, ask one of the horticulturists at the store. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend buying trees at local garden centers. They employ professional horticulturists who can answer your questions and help you select a good tree for your site.

Also, local garden centers buy from nurseries that grow plants for our climate. While a tree imported from the south or west may be hardy in our zone 5-6 climate, many are not acclimated to weather like we just experienced, and they may not survive.

When you get your tree home, follow the planting guidelines that we have shared several times. Dig the hole two to three times the diameter of the tree root but only as deep as the root. Place the tree in the hole and backfill, tapping down the backfill just enough to remove air pockets.

Take a break several time while backfilling and water the backfill. This will also help prevent air pockets. Don’t stake unless you absolutely must to keep the wind from blowing the tree over. For the first year, be sure the tree receives at least an inch of water either from rain or irrigation.

This will be a weekend well spent, and the tree you plant will keep growing year after year. Even when they’re grown up, your children will look up at that tree and remember the great time they had buying and planting it.

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Making Spring Gardening Easy

A good starting point for planning your 2015 gardening and landscape work is to consult your journal. Last May, I suggested that you manage your landscape by keeping a garden journal. If you did that, you’ve probably already consulted the journal to schedule this year’s activities.

If you didn’t start a journal last year, consider it this year. Referring back to last year’s blog will give you some pointers on how to start a journal, the form it should take and even how to do it electronically.

This would be a good year to start journaling after our long, hard winter. However, I suggest you include, prominently, information on the winter severity and any late start to the growing season. This will alert you to the reason why the growing season may appear to start early next year. It won’t actually be early, it will be at a more normal time.

While journaling is good for scheduling planting, fertilizing and other annual gardening tasks, it is the only way to conduct an environmentally sound Plant Health Care (PHC) program. If a certain pest invaded your plants last spring, you need to check this spring to be sure they aren’t back, or to take action if they have returned.

Our PHC professionals all keep electronic journals for each of our customers. They consult it before their monitoring visits so they know to pay particular attention to certain plants for specific pests.

If you’re a casual gardener who doesn’t want to be bothered journaling and would just rather enjoy your landscape, we have the professionals who can take as much, or as little work off your plate as you want.

Gardening should be fun. If it isn’t fun for you but you enjoy the results, that’s when it’s time to call in the pros.

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How To Apply Your Newfound Knowledge

If last week’s blog inspired you to expand your horticulture knowledge, I’d like to make some suggestions on how you can share that knowledge. There’s a real need for this knowledge beyond the confines of your own, private garden.

The Webster Arboretum and Rochester Civic Garden Center were two suggested sources for horticulture-related educational classes. Chances are you joined the organization you chose for your classes, and they’ll never be at a loss for ways to help. They would certainly appreciate your assistance.

As I explained last week, the Master Gardener program requires volunteer outreach work. Cooperative Extension hopes, however, that you won’t limit your volunteer service to the minimum number of hours. They would like you to continue volunteering for the task you undertook originally or a different task. The Master Gardener program couldn’t survive if everyone just worked the minimum. They depend on people continuing to volunteer and moving up the ranks in the organization. Much of the program is led by volunteers.

Sustainability is today’s buzzword and we have a number of cooperative, sustainable farms that practice “community supported agriculture.” These farms operate with minimal staff and many volunteers. If you enjoy fresh vegetables and don’t have the space for a sizeable garden, a CSA membership might be just right for you. Volunteering at a CSA might also be a way to apply the horticulture knowledge you acquired or are acquiring.

The ideas above are just a few of the abounding opportunities to volunteer or to work professionally in the gardening or landscape field. Don’t forget the reason you sought to expand your horticulture and gardening knowledge – your own landscape garden. Budget enough time to be sure it receives the tender loving care that it deserves. And, don’t forget that we’re here to provide any assistance you want or need.

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Where To Learn More About Horticulture

Horticulture and gardening seem to be shrouded in some kind of a mystique. Too many people believe the proverbial “green thumb” is an actual indicator of whether or not a person can grow plants.

I believe that the green thumb myth is based on our agrarian forebears who could grow plants without any real knowledge of how they grew. This approach came about by trial and error and those said to inherit the green thumb simply observed what their parents and grandparents did, copied them and passed the information on to their descendants.

The fact is that knowledge of how plants grow and how to care for them can be acquired, and there are many sources of this knowledge available to people of all ages and socioeconomic status.

This knowledge can be acquired from the many books available at the library or local bookstore. You can also go online, but the information you’re seeking may not be as reliable as a published book that has been fact-checked, edited and, possibly, even peer reviewed.

Here in our area, we have excellent gardening education resources. In our hometown of Webster, we have the renowned Webster Arboretum that conducts classes on various gardening and horticulture subjects. In Rochester, the Rochester Civic Garden Center publishes a whole seasonal catalog of courses. This catalog is available online (www.rcgc.org) and in paper form. Both of these organizations are membership organizations so the discounted member fees for their educational programs can more than make up for the membership cost.

Each state has a cooperative extension service within its state agricultural college and each operates a Master Gardener program. There’s no charge for the excellent, comprehensive educational program that Master Gardeners receive. In exchange, however, you have to volunteer for at least a minimum number of service hours. This service may take the form of answering questions on the phone at the Cooperative Extension office, talking to garden clubs and other interested organizations, writing for the newsletter or a variety of other outreach activities.

While botany and horticulture are subjects that can be learned, good landscape design requires a certain amount of “God-given” talent in addition to sound horticulture knowledge. Also, the best horticulture knowledge cannot prepare you for the physical labor needed to install a new landscape or maintain large trees.

The most important lesson you can learn is to know what you can do well and identify your limitations. Do those tasks that you are able to do and want to do and hire the best people you know to do the other stuff. That’s why we’re here. We really like to work in partnership with knowledgeable property owners to create and maintain beautiful landscapes. Visit us at www.birchcrestlandscape.com.


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