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Monthly Archives: March 2014

  • Why Won't My Hydrangeas Bloom?

    Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 8.28.30 PMWe get more questions from people about why their hydrangeas aren't blooming than about almost anything else. When hydrangeas bloom there's nothing prettier. When they don't, there's almost nothing more frustrating.

    The secret to success with hydrangeas is fairly straightforward:

    Know what type of hydrangea you have and care for it accordingly.

    There are many different types of hydrangeas (23 species), including hardy, mophead (also known as bigleaf), oakleaf, smooth, lacecap etc. and so on. It is helpful if you know what type of hydrangea you have so that you will know whether it blooms on old or new growth.

     

    Hydrangea coming out of dormancyOld growth: Last year's growth (that survived the winter). In the picture, right, the old growth is brown and looks like dead twigs. You can just see the green leaves of buds breaking at the tips of some of the stems.

    New growth: This year's growth. The new growth is green. You can see entire new stems sprouting at the bottom of the shrub near the ground.

    A shrub that blooms on old growth will not bloom if you cut off the old growth in the winter or spring prior to bloom.

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    When a shrub looks like nothing but sticks (and everything else has already leafed out), the temptation is great to hack it all back to the new green leaves sprouting from near the ground. DON'T DO IT! Let the plant leaf out. Once it is nice and full and green, THEN you can assess damage.

    The twig pictured, left, most likely has some winterkill on it. The buds on the top of the twig have turned brown and/or fallen off. About four inches down, the buds have started to break.

    I won't prune the dead out of this shrub until is is nice and fully leafed out.

    So, just because you managed to resist the urge to prune your hydrangea back to the ground when the weather warmed up doesn't mean you're in the clear.

    Even if the entire plant isn't killed back to the ground during the winter, the flower buds can be damaged by late spring freezes. Bigleaf hydrangeas (mopheads), in particular, suffer from this type of damage. If the plants break dormancy during a warm spell that is followed by a cold snap, flower buds can be damaged, which will cause the plants to have fewer flowers. (Or no flowers, depending on how significant the damage is.)

    Other Issues Disrupting Blooming

    Let's Dance® Blue JanglesIn addition to cold damage, improper pruning and lack of light can affect hydrangea blooms. The best time to prune any plant is right after it flowers. If you prune right after flowering, you can't cut off the flowers. Hydrangeas are no exception.

    Even hydrangeas that bloom on old and new growth (such as the Let's Dance® series-Blue Jangles pictured, right) are safe to prune right after flowering. If a hydrangea blooms on new growth, it's possible that you could prune in early spring, but it is safer to prune after blooming.

    Sunlight is another contributing factor in lack of bloom. Most hydrangeas grow best in partial to full shade, and need more shade the hotter the area where they're planted. Panicle hydrangeas, such as the Limelight Hydrangea, need more sun in order to flower. They don't like full hot afternoon sun, but plant them in the shade flowering will be greatly reduced.

    Have questions about hydrangeas? Ask them on our Facebook Page!

  • Loving Lilacs

    Are there any spring-blooming shrubs with as much tradition, as many memories attached as the fragrant-flowered lilac? When you drive through the country, you can see lilac shrubs blooming around tumbled down old porch steps. You'll sometimes see lilacs standing at either side of old cemetery gates. But the lilacs we have at Shrub Source aren't your grandma's lilacs. They are re-bloomers, compact-growers, and more resistant to problems that plague older varieties. Here are our new favorite fragrant flowering shrubs.

    Bloomerang® Purple Lilac (Syringa)

    Bloomerang-purple

    Bloomerang® Purple Syringa is a compact blooming shrub reaching a mature height of 4-5 feet and spread of 5-6 feet. The shrubs are covered with flowers in the early spring, but the plant re-blooms in the summer and keeps blooming until frost. They're hardy in zones 3-7 and are resistant to powdery mildew and root rot.

    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Lilac

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    This deer-resistant re-blooming lilac starts the show in early spring with tightly-closed plum purple flower buds that open to fragrant flowers beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds. Keep these shrubs looking their best by giving them a light pruning after they bloom. Fertilize after the spring bloom to encourage reblooming later in the summer.

    Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink Lilac

    Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink

    A truly unique lilac, Scent and Scensibilty™ Pink Syringa, has a compact, mounding growth habit with a height of 2-3 feet and a spread of 4-6 feet. It grows best in full sun in moist, well-drained soil. It will re bloom sporadically throughout the summer, but not as reliably as the Bloomerang® lilacs.

    Lilac Care and Maintenance

    If you have older lilacs, the way to keep them blooming beautifully is through renewal pruning. This is the practice of removing one third of the old growth back to the ground each year.

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    Keeping lilacs pruned helps promote airflow and reduces problems with powdery mildew.

    Newer varieties benefit from light pruning for shape after the spring bloom and application of a liquid fertilizer. Always plant in full sun and well-drained soils to avoid problems with root rot.

    Deadhead (remove spent flowers after bloom) to encourage re-blooming.

    Still grows the vivacious lilac a generation after the door and lintel and the sill are gone, unfolding its sweet-scented flowers each spring, to be plucked by the musing traveller; planted and tended once by children's hands, in front-yard plots,--now standing by wall-sides in retired pastures, and giving place to new-rising forests;Mthe last of that stirp, sole survivor of that family.
    ~Henry David Thoreau

  • Early Blooms Get the Party Started!

    Many of the early blooming shrubs at Shrub Source are newer varieties of old favorites. Flowering quince, lilacs, azaleas, and forsythias factor into many a childhood memory. These are some of the first shrubs to bloom after a long winter. They welcome spring, indoors as forced branches and outdoors when they burst into color. These shrubs have the flowers that serve as centerpieces for Mother’s Day celebrations and graduation parties.

    If your garden doesn’t kick into gear until June, chances are good that you need a few early flowering shrubs to extend the season. Here are some of our favorites.

    Fantastically Fragrant

    Viburnum Spice Ball

    In warmer areas, Spice Ball Viburnum blooms as early as mid to late March. This is a specimen shrub to plant near your front door or back porch so that you can enjoy the wonderful scent of the flowers when it is in bloom.

    Unusual Beauty

    Calycanthus

    Calycanthus is a lesser-grown shrub, but one that everyone should make some room for, if possible. Dark burgundy flowers appear in greatest numbers during the spring, but the shrub will sporadically re-bloom throughout the summer. When not in bloom, glossy green leaves serve as an excellent foundation, screening, or backdrop plant in the landscape.

    Spring Cheer

    A few of the early bloomers are excellent for forcing. You can cut branches from these shrubs in February and bring them inside to put on a spectacular floral display long before the snow melts outside.

    Two of our favorites are forsythia and flowering quince.

    Older varieties of forsythia were huge and rangy, but newer varieties, such as Show Off™ Starlet are more compact growers. This one is also absolutely covered in blooms each spring.

    Forsythia Show Off Starlet

    Double Take™ Pink Storm Flowering Quince always gets lots of appreciative glances when it shows off hundreds of rose-like blooms when everything else in the landscape is still deep in winter slumber. Plus, the Double Take™ series are thorn-less. It cannot get any better than this.

    Double Take Pink Flowering Quince

    Don’t Forget Roses!

    Oso Easy Italian Ice RoseWe are big fans of the Oso Easy™ roses for their, you guessed it, easy care attributes. These are some of the latest of the early bloomers, but they fill the gap nicely between extreme earlybirds such as forsythia and the summer blooming hydrangeas and crape myrtles. These roses will also re-bloom throughout the summer. For unusual color in the garden, plant Oso Easy™ Italian Ice (pictured, yellow center with pink blushing petals), Oso Easy™ Cherry Pie (bright pink single flowers), and Oso Easy™ Paprika—with bright orange blooms.

     Maintenance Considerations

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    Most of these plants are fairly low-maintenance, but timing on what little maintenance that's required is crucial. Here are some tips to keep early-flowering shrubs looking great!

    • Prune right after the plants are finished flowering in the spring. Early bloomers set flower buds for next year during the summer. If you prune them hard in late summer, you'll cut off all of the flowers. If you make no other change to your gardening habits, MAKE THIS CHANGE!
    • Fertilize after blooming. Most of the spring flowering shrubs will push new growth immediately after flowering. (Pruning can make this new growth bushier and fuller.) Fertilize shrubs with the proper fertilizer at the same time that you prune. (Azaleas, rhododendrons, and hollies all benefit from Holly-tone or holly fertilizers.)
    • Water shrubs after pruning. Whenever you do something that could stress a plant or require it to use more reserves than usual, it's a good idea to water it. (That is, unless you're having higher than usual rainfall.) So, after pruning and fertilizing, make sure to water!

    Following these tips will help you keep your early bloomers looking gorgeous!

  • Evergreens: Never-Ending Beauty

    ilex_berry_poppins If this winter has helped you realize nothing else, it’s that a few evergreens can go a long way in the garden. While the rest of the garden is barren and covered with snow, evergreens provide a respite for your eyes and a promise that everything else will, eventually leaf out.

    There are more reasons to plant evergreens beyond the fact that they have color when nothing else does. Here are some reasons why you’re going to want to make room in the garden for some new plants this year.

    Welcoming Wildlife

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    Development and construction have eliminated much of the naturally existing cover that wildlife, from birds to mammals to reptiles, rely on. You can make a big difference in the health of wildlife populations by planting trees and shrubs in the garden. While some birds need taller trees for nesting, a lot of favorite songbirds derive more benefit from eye-level cover from shrubs. Birds that have access to shelter will fledge (raise to maturity) more chicks. So, it’s not just food (in the form of berries) that shrubs with winter interest can provide. These plants also provide a welcoming home.

    Enjoyment Indoors and Out

    “Winter interest” doesn’t have to mean green leaves. The berries on deciduous hollies such as Berry Heavy ®, Berry Heavy® Gold, Berry Nice®, or Berry Poppins® are beautiful, in part, because they are the stars of the show, with no leaves to distract from the bright color.

     

    basketPorch pot with Evergreens

    The red twigs of Cornus Arctic Fire ™ make stunning and statuesque arrangements without any other flowers. They can also serve as the structure for more elaborate creations.

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    You can use branches and twigs from these and other, evergreen, plants to make porch pots and floral arrangements all year long.

    Privacy and Screening

    Less exciting, but no less important is the important function evergreens have in creating natural privacy and screening. While putting up a fence is a faster way to block out your neighbors, a beautiful row of Thujas is nicer to look at.

    When planting a privacy screen, it’s better to go for Evergreens than deciduous shrubs, even shrubs with dense canopies, because you’ll lose some of the screening benefits in the winter when the shrubs lose their leaves. American Piller Thuja is one of our favorite evergreen shrubs for screening.

    Thuja-American Pillar

    You can plant close together and hedge the plants or allow them to grow to their natural conical shape.

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