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Monthly Archives: April 2014

  • Wildlife Gardening with Shrubs

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    You might think that you garden just so that you can enjoy the pretty flowers. Or so that you have nice landscaping around your house. You might plant shrubs for privacy screening or as a focal point next to your front door. When you plant shrubs, though, you're also giving a leg up to wildlife--something that's sorely needed in this day and age of rampant development.

    Whether you specifically intend to create a wildlife garden, or welcoming wildlife is a secondary benefit to your landscaping, when you plant shrubs you do the following:

    • Provide a place for birds to nest
    • Provide food for birds, butterflies, and caterpillars
    • Provide cover for birds and other animals
    • Create corridors through which wildlife can safely pass in urban areas

    Birds with food, water, and shelter will fledge (raise) more chicks to maturity. And it's as easy as selecting the right plants!

    Gardening for Birds and Butterflies

    Water

    Before we get to the plants, let's think about water. The National Wildlife Foundation recommends these types of water supplies for habitat gardens:

    • Birdbath
    • Lake
    • Stream
    • Seasonal Poolilex_berry_poppins
    • Ocean
    • Water Garden/Pond
    • River
    • Butterfly Puddling Area
    • Rain Garden
    • Spring

    Food
    Planting shrubs increases the amount of food available to birds in a variety of ways. Some birds eat berries, and will benefit from holly plants and viburnums in the landscape.

    Butterflies and hummingbirds sip nectar from flowers. If you want to lure these winged wonders into the garden you need to plant nectar plants such as butterfly bushes and abelia.

    Shop All Butterfly Shrubs >>

    Shop All Bird Shrubs >>

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    Shelter

    Another important part of wildlife gardening is shelter. Birds need places to build nests. Small mammals need cover. One of our favorite shrubs for shelter is the Beautybush. This lovely native shrub does double-duty with gorgeous purple berries that feed the birds in the fall.

    Don't forget the evergreen shrubs, too! They work hard for you and for your feathered and furry friends in the winter, providing good cover when deciduous shrubs are bare.

    Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 10.11.28 AMGo Away Deer!

    There's one type of wildlife that pretty much nobody wants in their garden because they'll eat your plants to the ground: deer. And while there aren't any plants that are 100% deer-proof (a hungry deer will eat anything), there are lots of deer-resistant shrubs. These are shrubs that either don't taste good or don't feel good (thorny) for deer to eat.

    Shop all deer-resistant shrubs >>

    (Pictured, right, get deer to steer clear by planting Sunjoy™ Mini Saffron Berberis as a landscape border.)

  • Container Gardening with Compact Shrubs

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    Shrubs might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to container gardening. Once you start using them, though, you'll find that they offer just as much color and interest as annuals or perennials while cutting down on the work required to maintain your containers.

    Benefits of Container Gardening with Shrubs

    • Four-season interest
    • Less "changing out" required
    • Perfect place to "nurse" along smaller shrubs before planting in the garden
    • Unique texture
    • Lower maintenance

    Four Season Interest with Shrubs

    There are two different ways you can use shrubs for four-season interest.

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    1) As the thriller or anchor in a single container planting. You can see in the picture to the right there's a gold and green variegated shrub in the container on the left side. Around the shrub million bells are planted. In the winter those annual flowers can be removed and replaced with pansies for cool weather, which can be switched out again for summer flowering annuals. Instead of needing to replant the entire container, you can just replant the flowering annuals. (The container in the foreground has an ornamental grass performing the same "thriller" function that the variegated shrub does in the back container.)

    "Steal the look" with Wedding Ring Boxwood.

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    2) As color or texture in a multi-container grouping. I like to use the container filled with liriope (pictured, left. Again, not a shrub) as an example of how a plant with interesting form or texture can fill a container all by itself--without needing to be combined with additional plant types.

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    Group a few containers filled with one type of plant together (or, when you're using a shrub, you're usually filling the container with just one plant) and you have a true little garden of containers.

    This grouping (pictured, right) was on display at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. It includes two containers planted with shrubs or small trees and one container that incorporates a trailing juniper spilling over the edges of the container while colorful coleus plants provide vertical interest.

    Nursing Smaller Shrubs

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    When you order from Shrub Source you can choose two different sizes of shrubs--a landscape-ready (Gallon) sized shrub or 1 qt size.

    Learn more about our shrub sizes here. 

    While you can plant the quart sizes directly into the landscape, a quart sized compact-growing shrub is also a great choice for container gardening. You can plant the shrub in the container and let it grow for a year or two, providing interesting height and color in your container plantings, and then you can move it out into the landscape once it's bigger. You get double for your money--a container plant for a few years and a larger, fuller shrub that plugs right into the landscape once you pop it out of the container and into the garden.

    The elderberry pictured will be right at home in the container for a few years, but can be planted as a specimen shrub next to the front porch or in a landscape bed once it outgrows the container.

     

    Creating a Unique Sense of Style with Container Shrubs

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    This picture shows shrub plantings at the Dallas Arboretum. You might be saying to yourself "Well, of course they can have lovely trimmed boxwood in giant urns. They have a huge staff."

    Well, the great thing about Sprinter™ Boxwood from Shrub Source is that it is compact, slow growing, and has a fine leaf texture. You can steal this look and make it your own on a much smaller scale. The key to this look is repetition of the same shrub and the same container along the walkway. You don't need twelve of these shrubs, but you could plant four or six to create the same formal look.

    Dare to Thrill

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    Planting a hibiscus in a container is a quick and easy way to add drama. You don't have to wait to get the big beautiful blooms.

    In Naples, FL, their "5th Avenue" of shops is planted from end to end with gorgeous container gardens that change with the seasons. Hibiscus shrubs are a staple for the larger containers. They can be underplanted with "fillers" and "spillers."

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     We love Lil' Kim™ Hibiscus for thrilling container gardens.

     

     

     

  • Reblooming Shrubs: Get More Mileage in the Garden

    Shrubs are the foundation plants of the landscape--they're what connects the lawn at ground level to the trees above our heads. They fill the space in between and serve as anchors for foundation plantings around the house. Often they are overlooked or chosen simply because they will top out at a particular size, or because they can be trimmed into a hedge. They're not always chosen for their spectacular blooms or the pizzazz they can add to the garden, which is a shame. If you choose shrubs wisely you can enjoy as colorful flowers all summer long from shrubs as you can from flowering annuals.

    And--bonus--you don't have to re-plant shrubs every year!

    To get the most bang for your buck, plant reblooming shrubs. Here are some of our favorites.

    Reblooming Shrubs from ShrubSource

    Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia

    Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia

    This is one of our favorite little shrubs. You can plant it as a border plant in landscape beds or as a specimen plant in the perennial garden. Lo & Behold® Blue Chip Buddleia is small enough to serve as a thriller plant in a large container, or as a stand-alone specimen in a smaller container.  It blooms continuously throughout the summer, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and is deer-resistant.

     

     

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    Bloom-A-Thon® Lavender Azalea

    You can enjoy azalea blooms throughout the entire season with Bloom-A-Thon® Lavender Azaleas planted in your shrub border or landscape bed. These shrubs have evergreen foliage and bloom on old growth. You can lightly prune after flowering, but they are rather compact in their growth habits so they need little pruning.

    These are the perfect plants for your shade gardens. They need some sunlight, but prefer not to bake in hot afternoon sun.

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    Let's Dance® Rhapsody Blue Hydrangea

    Let's Dance® Rhapsody Blue Hydrangea blooms with huge pom poms of flowers on a compact plant. The flowers are naturally pink but can be turned blue by lowering the pH of the soil. This Bigleaf Hydrangea blooms on new and old growth, so it's virtually impossible to cut off the flowers.

    It also ensures that you'll enjoy big and beautiful flowers throughout the summer and into fall.

     

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    Sonic Bloom™ Pearl Weigela

    Sonic Bloom™ Pearl Weigela is a gorgeous flowering specimen plant that blooms from early spring through frost. Weigela plants are another shrub that is underutilized in the landscape, and it's a shame because few other flowering shrubs provide such a showy bloom for so long.

    This fast-growing, trouble-free shrub can be pruned back after the first spring bloom to control size and encourage re-blooming.

     

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    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Syringa 

    Bloomerang® Dark Purple Syringa is a re-blooming lilac. Yes-you read that correctly! You can now enjoy the fragrance and beauty of lilacs all summer long. This lilac has a compact growth habit, topping out at 4-5 feet in height, so every garden has room for one (or three)!

  • Understanding Hydrangea Choices

    Hydrangeas are some of the most beloved garden shrubs, but are also among the least understood. Does the Hydrangea bloom on new growth or old growth? Should you prune it in the spring, summer, or fall? Why is it pink when it is supposed to be blue?

    Before we can answer the questions about pruning and color, it helps to understand a bit about the types of Hydrangeas you can buy.

    Hardy Hydrangea

    Limelight HydrangeaMany Hydrangea shrubs set flower buds in the fall for a bloom the next spring. This means that the flowers have to live through cold weather, not be pruned at the wrong time, and survive spring temperature swings.

    The Hardy Hydrangea group is newer but much beloved because these shrubs form flowering buds at the beginning of the summer. It is almost impossible not to enjoy a gorgeous bloom from these shrubs each year.

    These shrubs grow well in full sun to partial shade in zones 3-9 and have flower clusters in shades of pink and white. The popular Limelight Hydrangea is part of this group.

    Lacecap Hydrangea

    Lacecap hydrangeaLacecap Hydrangeas are so named because of their flowers. Typical Hydrangea flowers with large petals or bracts form a ring around smaller lacy flowers to create a unique and beautiful bloom. These plants bloom on old wood, so do not prune after August.

    Plants can be leggy when you purchase them, so spend some time pinching back the shrubs to achieve a full, branching growth habit.

    Lacecap Hydrangeas grow best in gardens in zones 5-9. They are susceptible to cold weather, so take care to plant in a protected spot. Most Lacecaps reach heights of 2-4 feet and flower in shades of pink and white.

    Mophead Hydrangea

    Let's Dance® Blue JanglesEveryone loves Mophead Hydrangeas. In fact, when you picture a Hydrangea flower, you're probably picturing a Mophead. They have the large, pom-pom sized flowers in shades of white, pink, blue, or purple. They're popular as part of bridal bouquets and wedding flowers.

    The flower color of many of these plants is dependent on the pH of the soil where they live. Alkaline or neutral soils will produce pink blooms and acidic soils will produce blue blooms.

    Mophead Hydrangeas grow well in zones 5 – 9 and will produce well in sun to partial shade. They need moist soil and bloom in mid summer through late fall.

    Mountain Hydrangea

    Mountain hydrangeaMountain Hydrangeas give lots of flowers from a little package. These small wonders are 2-3 feet in height and spread with lacy purplish-white blooms. Gardeners with limited space love these petite powerhouse bloomers. The small shrubs are covered in flowers from summer through fall.

    Currently we offer two varieties for sale. They both grow well in full sun to partial shade. They rebloom throughout the summer, including on new growth so you can't possibly cut off all of the flowers.

    Perfect for landscape beds and containers!

    Oakleaf Hydrangea

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    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are native summer-blooming shrubs that truly stand out in the landscape.

    Unlike other Hydrangeas, Oakleaf Hydrangeas need drier soil in order to thrive. Do you have a woodland garden? It isn't complete without at least one Oakleaf Hydrangea.

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas are hardy in zones 5 – 9 with average to dry soil. The average height at maturity is 5 – 6 feet while some varieties can get as tall as 10 feet.

    Don't miss the new "Gatsby's" series Oakleaf Hydrangeas. Gatsby's Star™ Oakleaf Hydrangea has truly stunning star-shaped flowers.

    Smooth Hydrangea

    Invincibelle™ Spirit HydrangeaThis large and lovely Hydrangea has pink blooms at the end of erect stems. It is a rebloomer and flowers on new wood, so you can't cut off the flowers.

    Hardy in zones 3-9. Prune after flowering or in the early spring if you need to control size.

    How about Flower Color?

    A big mystery of Hydrangeas is flower color. How do you get blue flowers if you live in the west or pink flowers in the east? Some hydrangea varieties' flowers are not affected by soil pH, but others are. Read the description of the plant you're buying to see if the one you want is affected by pH. Soil pH affects the amount of aluminum the plants can take up and that affects the color. More aluminum = more of a blue color. Aluminum is more available to plants at a pH of 5.2-5.5. You can lower the soil pH by adding Aluminum Sulfate. You can raise the pH by adding garden lime.

    White hydrangea flowers will not turn colors. Only pink or blue flowers can be changed. (And then, only some of those flowers can be changed.)

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