Monthly Archives: March 2023

Tips for Layering Bulbs

Bulbs are some of the easiest and most dramatic flowers you can add to your landscape and containers, and you can make them even more spectacular when you create layers of bulbs for lush growth and bursts of brilliant color. But how can you go about layering bulbs for the best results?

Why Bother With Layers?

Bulbs are already easy and productive, but they can be so much more when you create bulb lasagna with multiple layers. Layering creates thicker foliage that can serve as great ground cover, and incorporating different types of flowers adds more color variety and textural diversity to the landscape. Layers ensure there are no gaps in your flowerbeds, and can fill in difficult spaces such as tight corners, small pots or narrow areas. This maximizes the use of space in your yard, and when you choose bulbs with overlapping bloom periods, you prolong the flowering season to enjoy beautiful bulbs for many weeks.

Best Bulbs for Layering

Any bulbs can be incorporated into layers, but you will have the best results when you choose bulbs with similar preferences for moisture levels, sunlight exposure and soil type. Depending on the planting depth or size of container you may be using, you can create 2-4 layers, positioning the largest, latest blooming bulbs on the bottom layer and the smaller, earlier bloomers on the top layer closest to the soil’s surface. Popular bulbs for layering include…

  • Bottom (Deepest) Layer: Larger tulips, later daffodils, various lilies
  • Mid-Season Layers: Daffodils, tulips, allium, grape hyacinths
  • Top (Earliest) Layer: Crocus, freesia, snowdrops, scilla

When choosing bulbs for your pots or landscape layering, consider the flower colors and opt for coordinating hues, bearing in mind that the earliest bloomers and latest bloomers are not likely to be seen at the same time. This is a good opportunity to create a color-changing arrangement that will offer continual thrills as the seasons change. At the same time, opt for flowers of different heights for even more textural interest.

Tips to Create Beautiful Bulb Lasagna

When you’re ready to start layering bulbs…

  • Use a deep pot, at least 10-14 inches for two layers of bulbs, and up to 18 inches deep for a triple-layered pot. If you’re planting bulbs in your landscape, be sure the hole is deep enough for all the bulbs you’ve chosen.
  • Amend the soil well with compost, bone meal or bulb booster fertilizer to ensure strong growth for each layer. Because so many bulbs will be competing for the soil’s nutrition, good fertilization is essential, but do not over-fertilize or you may burn delicate bulbs.
  • Space each individual layer slightly wider than you would typically pack bulbs to give lower layers room to grow around upper bulbs, but don’t worry – they will find spaces between each layer and grow through with ease.
  • Provide good drainage in your pot or at the bottom of the hole with sand or gravel so excess water can drain away quickly. This will minimize the risk of root rot, even though a layered pot may require extra watering to hydrate a greater number of bulbs.
  • Deadhead flowers as their blooms die off, but leave their foliage intact. The growing leaves will continue to photosynthesize, adding nourishment to the bulb so it can rebloom the next season. Once the leaves dry and die off naturally, they can be removed.

Layering bulbs can be a great way to create a colorful, long-lasting display. Fast and easy to arrange with little care needed to look its best, you won’t be sorry you experimented with bulb lasagna!


What Is the Difference Between an Annual, a Perennial, and a Biennial?

All living creatures, including plants and flowers, have expected lifespans. Recognizing the differences between annuals, perennials, and biennials can help you determine the life expectancies of different garden center plants so you can choose the varieties that will work best in your garden, landscape, and containers.

Annuals

Annual plants are fairly straightforward. These plants complete their entire lifespan in just one year or growing season, from first sprouting from seeds and growing foliage, stems, and blooms to creating seeds to continue the next generation. After the plants die, they will not regrow from their initial roots, but must restart from seeds again as completely new plants. Annuals are generally faster growing and have longer bloom seasons, making them colorful showstoppers in the garden and landscape.

Common and popular annuals include…

  • Begonias
  • Cosmos
  • Impatiens
  • Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Zinnias

In addition to many popular flowers, most garden vegetables are also grown as annuals, though some of them would botanically be classified as perennials if they were allowed to remain in place for multiple years.

Perennials

Perennial plants are those with a lifespan that lasts at least three years, though they can live significantly longer as well. Perennial foliage may die back during the winter months but will regrow from dormant roots the next season. These plants often take longer to mature and may have shorter blossom times than annuals, but they can provide many years of beauty in the landscape.

Familiar perennials include…

  • Coneflowers
  • Coral bells
  • Daylilies
  • Peonies
  • Phlox
  • Sedum

In addition to these elegant and popular flowers, hedges and trees are also perennials. These plants are staples in the yard and provide a foundation for any landscape.

Biennials

Biennials fall between annuals and perennials with a two-year life cycle. During their first year, these plants establish leaves, roots, and stems. Though they may die back slightly over the winter, they will rejuvenate in the spring and grow flowers in their second year, maturing to seeds before the plants die completely.

Familiar biennial flowers include…

  • Canterbury bells
  • Columbine
  • Dame’s rocket
  • Forget-me-nots
  • Foxglove
  • Hollyhocks

Because these plants do not bloom in their first year, patience is essential to enjoy their beauty in their second year. Planting biennials in two successive years can ensure the plants enhance the landscape in multiple years.

Choosing Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials for Your Yard

Once you understand plant lifespans, you can more easily choose the plants that will give you a landscape you love. When choosing plants, larger perennials can create a stunning foundation or border for your yard, including showstopping specimen plants and shade trees. Smaller perennials can fill in larger spaces in flowerbeds and edging, while annuals add brilliant color to pathways, edges, and very visible spaces, including porch pots and containers.

Biennials can be spectacular transition plants, particularly if you may plan on expanding your landscaping beds in the future, or want to fill in a space temporarily before adding a new deck, porch, or otherwise expanding your home or outdoor living space. Biennials are also great choices if you want to enjoy a changing landscape without as much work each year, because you can enjoy the plants for two years before they need replacing. Many biennials are self-seeding making them great additions to the cottage garden.

Ultimately, a landscape that includes a thoughtful mix of annuals, perennials, and biennials will showcase different colors, textures, and growth patterns for stunning visual interest. New cultivars are developed every year, and greenhouses often have the latest plants and newest showstoppers on display. If you plan a mixed landscape, you will have the freedom to enjoy new plants as they are introduced and you will always have new plants to be excited about.

Caring for Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials

While the differences between annuals, perennials, and biennials may seem clear, different plants can have different lifespans based on the exact cultivar, gardening zone, climate variations, and even microclimates within an individual landscape. Furthermore, the care plants receive can ensure they reach their maximum potential for the longest, most productive life. YOUR GARDEN CENTER (insert IGC here) experts can provide recommendations and guidance for the best plants based on your preferences and needs and assist you in choosing plants that will thrive in the conditions of your yard, including soil type, sunlight levels, fertilization, moisture levels, and other needs. To provide each type of plant the best care, consider…

  • Annuals – Provide nourishing fertilizer formulated for the type of plant, and weed around them carefully so these fast-growing plants don’t need to compete for moisture and nutrition. Soaker or dripper hoses can also provide great watering as these plants flourish.
  • Perennials – Be sure these plants have adequate space in the landscape to reach their full size. Good quality mulch can help protect the roots each winter so the plants remain healthy for the next spring.
  • Biennials – Take care to provide appropriate fertilizer for these plants in their different life stages, and mulch around those with basal leaves to provide good winter protection during their dormancy.

Adding annuals, perennials, and biennials to your landscape will not only help you learn about plant lifespans, but you will enjoy a more varied and richly diverse landscape, with plants that provide beauty through the years.






Early Spring Gardener’s Calendar

* Plan your summer vegetable and herb garden. We offer a wide selection of seeds that include all of your favorite annuals, perennials, vegetables and other novelties as well as many hard-to-find selections. Inventory your pots and flats and discard unusable ones. Make a list of the supplies you will need. Have your garden soil tested for nutrient content. We offer a variety of do-it-yourself soil test kits.

* Prune woody plants while dormant, including fruit trees, summer- and fall-blooming shrubs and vines. Limit pruning of spring-blooming trees and shrubs to the removal of sucker growth and rubbing or broken branches. Spray trees and shrubs with year-round horticultural oil to reduce insect population.

* Sharpen, clean and oil tools and lawn mowers. Begin heavy annual pruning of shrub roses as new leaves appear.

* Plant pansies, English daisies and primrose as soon as the earth is workable. Plant strawberry plants. Sow cool-season vegetables and herbs in the garden.

* Start spring cleanup and begin major lawn work. Remove debris, dethatch your lawn or aerate compacted areas to improve water penetration.

* Spray needles and limbs of Arborvitae, Cryptomeria, false cypress, fir, hemlock, Juniper, pine, yew and spruce (except blue spruce) for spider mites with year-round horticultural oil.

* Apply fertilizer to perennials and roses. Feed berry bushes, grapevines, rhubarb and asparagus a balanced fertilizer before new growth begins. Fertilize trees and shrubs.

* Apply crabgrass preventer with fertilizer to feed the lawn and control crabgrass. Do not use on newly seeded lawns.

* Continue spring cleanup. Cultivate to remove winter weeds and debris from the planting beds. Apply corn gluten or a pre-emergent herbicide with fertilizer specified for gardens and scratch it in to prevent future weeds. Do not use in gardens where you will be direct seeding.

* Reseed bare spots in established lawns. Keep the area moist until seedlings appear, then mow when the new grass is 3″ high.

* Prune forsythia and other spring-flowering trees & shrubs after the flowers fall.

* Dig and divide crowded early spring bulbs after they finish blooming. Enrich the soil with bone meal.

* Plant and transplant trees and shrubs, including roses, ground covers, and perennials.

* Transplant cool-season seedlings into the garden. When the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees, sow warm-season vegetable and herb seeds.

* Place gro-thru sets over peonies, grasses or any other perennials in need of support.




Growing Under Black Walnut

If you have a black walnut tree on your property, you know how difficult it can be to find anything that will grow anywhere near this plant.

Black walnuts release a substance called juglone into the soil, which is toxic to many ornamental and edible plants and can stunt their growth significantly – in fact, juglone is used as a herbicide in some areas! A mature black walnut tree can have a toxic zone with up to an 80-foot radius, depending on the tree’s size and age. Every part of the walnut tree contains juglone and this substance remains in the soil long after the tree is cut down, continuing to inhibit anything that may be planted in its place.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of plants that are less affected by juglone and can still thrive in contaminated soil. When choosing to plant in an area where a black walnut is located or where one once stood, it is safe to make your selection from the lists below.

Vegetables

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Melons
  • Squash

Fruit

  • Black Raspberry
  • Cherry
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum

Annuals

  • Pot-marigold, Calendula officinalis
  • Begonia, fibrous cultivars
  • Morning Glory, Ipomoea
  • Pansy, Viola
  • Zinnia species

Perennials

  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • European Wild Ginger, Asarum europaeum
  • Astilbe species
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • Leopard’s-Bane, Doronicum species
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera
  • Plantain-lily, Hosta
  • Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica
  • Balm, Monarda didyma
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Polyanthus Primrose, Primula x polyantha
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana
  • Horned Violet, Viola cornuta

Ferns

  • Crested Wood Fern, Dryopteris cristata
  • Senstitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis
  • Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

Bulbs

  • Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa luciliae
  • Crocus species
  • Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
  • Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Siberian Squill, Scilla sibirica

Trees

  • Japanese Maples, Acer palmatum
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis

Vines and Shrubs

  • Euonymus species
  • Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus
  • Honeysuckle, Lonicera species
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
  • Arborvitaes, Thuja species

Black walnut can be a challenging plant to have in your landscape, but if you understand the unique characteristics of this tree you can easily pair it with other plants that don’t mind its toxic effects.

Tree Peony: The Ancient Empress

From the ancient palace gardens of China comes an elegant empress, the tree peony. Native to China, the tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) has been grown by Chinese herbalists, gardeners and nobility for more than 1,500 years. In 1994, China named this beauty as its national flower, giving it a treasured place in history and sparking more interest in its botanical nature worldwide.

In recent years, tree peonies have become increasingly popular and more readily available for landscape use. This plant is distinctly different from the herbaceous peony that we are so familiar with in our American perennial beds. The tree peony is a deciduous woody plant with fern-like foliage that produces larger flowers two weeks earlier than its perennial partner. These blossoms come in a wide range of shapes, colors and fragrances depending on the cultivar, providing great variety to suit any landscape.

Tree Peony Particulars

Not sure if the tree peony will be best for your landscape? Learning more about these exotic beauties can help you decide if you want to welcome one to your yard.

  • This slow-growing woody shrub grows 4-10 feet tall with distinctive, silken blossoms in a multitude of shapes, colors and fragrances.
  • Flowers best with most vigorous blooms in dappled shade with 3-4 hours of filtered sunlight per day.
  • Tree peonies require a site with good drainage amended with plenty of organic matter. Space plants at least 4 feet apart to provide good air circulation.
  • Prefers a soil pH range of 6.5-7.0. Use organic mulch or added sulfur to lower the pH level if necessary for the best nutrition.
  • Tree Peonies are heavy feeders. Do not fertilize the first year. Foliar feed in the spring of the second year when the leaves emerge with an organic fertilizer. Fertilize again after blooming and again in the fall before dormancy. Spread organic material (compost or manure) around the base of the plant each spring and gently work into the soil for slowly-released nutrition.
  • Virtually pest- and disease-free if planted in a good location with organically-rich soil to feed from.
  • Deadhead after blooming and clean up fallen leaves in autumn to keep the tree looking its best in every season.
  • Prefers to be transplanted in the fall if moving is necessary, or plant new specimens in fall to allow them to establish before winter.

Once your tree peony is established it will reward you each year with an abundance of glorious blooms, bringing exotic flair and distinction to your landscape.

Seed Starting

Starting seeds indoors is a rewarding gardening experience and can help extend your growing season to include more plant varieties than your outdoor season may permit. Furthermore, a larger selection of seed varieties doesn’t limit your opportunities to growing only those transplants that are available at planting time. The key to success in growing seedlings is in creating the proper environment.

What Seeds Need

Seeds are generally hardy, but to start them properly they do need gentle nurturing so they can produce healthy, vibrant plants. In general, seeds should be started 4-6 weeks before the recommended planting time so the seedlings will be large and strong enough to withstand the stresses of transplanting. Use a sterile growing mix which is light enough to encourage rich root growth. Sow the seeds thinly and cover lightly with sphagnum peat moss. Water using a fine spray but do not soak the seeds – they also need oxygen to germinate, and if they are overwatered they will drown. Cover the container with clear plastic to hold the moisture and increase humidity. Place the containers in a warm (70-80 degrees) spot and watch daily for germination. The top of the refrigerator is often an ideal location. When the first seeds germinate, place the seedlings in bright light or under artificial lights (tube lights should be 2-3” from seedling tops) for several hours each day, since late winter sunlight will not usually be sufficient to prevent weak, leggy seedlings. Daytime temperatures should range from 70-75 degrees. Night time temperatures should range from 60-65 degrees.

As Seeds Grow

When the seedlings develop their first true sets of leaves, add half-strength water soluble fertilizer to their water – organic fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizers are great to use. Repeat every second week to provide good nourishment. Thin the seedlings or transplant them to larger containers as they grow. Before planting outdoors, harden-off the plants at least one week before the planting date. Take the transplants outdoors in the daytime and bring them in at night if frost is likely. Gradually expose them to lower temperatures and more sunlight. The use of hotcaps and frost blankets to cover early plantings will also aid in the hardening off process so the seedlings can adjust well to their new outdoor environment.

Transplanting Seeds

Transplant seedlings into the garden after the safe planting date on a calm, overcast day. Pack the soil around the transplant with as little root disturbance as possible. Sprinkle the plants with water, keeping the soil moist until the plants become established.

Popular Indoor Seed Start Dates

The exact dates you want to start seeds will vary depending on your local growing season, the varieties of plants you choose and what their needs are. In general, dates for the most popular produce include…

Vegetable Seed Starting Dates

  • February – Asparagus, celery, onion
  • March 1 – Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, lettuce
  • March 15 – Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes
  • April 1 – Summer squash
  • April 15 – Cantaloupes, cucumbers, winter squash

Flower Seed Starting Dates

  • January/February – Begonia, carnation, geranium, impatiens, nicotiana, pansy, rudbeckia, salvia, snapdragon, verbena, vinca
  • March 1 – Ageratum, dahlia, dianthus, petunia
  • April 15 – Aster, calendula, celosia, marigold, zinnia

Use seed starting dates as a general guide to ensure your seeds have plenty of time to reach their full harvest potential before the weather turns in autumn. At the same time, consider staggering seed starting every few days to lengthen your harvest and keep your favorite vegetables and flowers coming even longer during the growing season. As you gain more experience with starting seeds, you’ll be able to carefully plan your seed calendar to ensure a lush, rich, long harvest season.