All posts by sunrise-guide

May Houseplant – Spathyphyllum

The Peace Lily is a favorite houseplant. In the spring, it produces long-lasting white blooms. The plant itself has glossy oval leaves with a striking point that emerge from the soil. They are tropical plants and do exceptionally well when potted indoors under the right conditions.

Of all the flowering house plants, Peace Lily care is probably the easiest. In fact, it tolerates average indoor conditions better than many house plants. It’s good for you, too. This is one of the best plants for improving air quality indoors. It has one of the top removal rates of toxins such as formaldehyde, ammonia and carbon monoxide from tainted indoor air.

Blooms usually appear in early summer and last for weeks. The pale green spathe turns white as it opens and surrounds the protruding spadix that is densely covered by its tiny, true flowers.

When flowers start to fade, cut off the flower stalks as close to the base as possible.

No blooms? Plants that fail to bloom usually aren’t getting enough sunlight. Move your plant to a brighter location, but keep it out of direct sun, which can scorch leaves. Got an older plant that refuses to bloom? If you haven’t divided it in several years, divide it in spring. This is one of the few plants I know that blooms better after dividing it.

 

Dark-green, glossy leaves are strongly veined and arch away from the plant’s base, making this an attractive foliage plant when not in bloom. Keep its leaves dust-free by wiping them with a damp cloth.

When caring for peace lily plants, remember that its leaves will indicate any problems. Brown leaf tips are likely caused by overwatering. Water thoroughly, but don’t allow the soil to get soggy. It could also be caused by direct sun. Move it to a shadier spot and be careful not to overwater. If the leaves become shriveled and dry, the humidity is too low. You can increase humidity by misting the plant or placing it on a tray of wet pebbles.

2019 Perennial Plant of the Year – Stachys ‘Hummelo’

The Perennial Plant of the Year® (PPOY) program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year®

Since the Perennial Plant of the Year® was introduced in 1990, the Perennial Plant Association has received frequent inquiries about how the Perennial Plant of the Year® is selected. The selection process is quite simple – PPA members vote for the Perennial Plant of the Year® each summer. At that time, in addition to the vote, each member may also nominate up to two plants for future consideration. The Perennial Plant of the Year® committee reviews the nominated perennials (more than 400 different perennials are often nominated each year) and selects 3 or 4 perennials to be placed on the ballot.

Nominations generally need to satisfy the following criteria: 

  •  Suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions
  •  Low-maintenance requirements
  •  Relative pest- and disease-resistance
  •  Ready availability in the year of promotion
  •  Multiple seasons of ornamental interest

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 8, foliage may remain evergreen in warmer climates.

Light: Full sun to part shade.
 
Soil: Well drained soil; water as necessary.
 
Uses: This colorful and compact winner makes an excellent addition to the full sun perennial border.  Terrific in combination with ornamental grasses, Echinacea purpurea, and Asclepias tuberosa (2018 Perennial Plant of the Year®).  Wiry stems make for a great cut flower as well.
 
 
Unique Qualities: Pollinators can’t resist the striking midsummer spikes of magenta flowers rising above bright green, trouble-free foliage.  ‘Hummelo’ was the highest rated Stachys in the Chicago Botanic Garden Evaluation Trials for its strong flower production, vigor, habit, quality and winter hardiness.
 
 
Maintenance: Spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes.  May benefit from division every few years.  Strong stems and seed heads add to winter interest.  Considered deer-resistant!

Rediscovering a Classic – A Variety of Hydrangeas

Certain plants have the ability to conjure up memories, emotions and feelings of special times and special places. For many the hydrangea’s fairy-tale blue clusters remind us of carefree summer days spent lazing on the Cape, where the showy blooms dress up cottage gardens. We plant hydrangeas in our own beds for the restful feelings they inspire, as well as for the beauty of their opulent midsummer blooms.

Although the most familiar, the blue hydrangea, or more properly, Hydrangea macrophylla, is just one of over a hundred known cultivars of Hydrangea. Along with Hydrangea macprophylla, other varieties that do well in our area include H. paniculata grandiflora and H. anomola petiolaris. Hydrangeas are generally easy to grow, are hardy to zone 6 or in areas of temperate winters, and require little care or maintenance.

Hydrangea macrophylla is divided into two main groups: hortensias, which feature the globular blue, pink, red and white blooms of Cape Cod fame, and lacecaps, which are distinguished by flatter clusters of sterile, papery petallike sepals. Both types can be propagated by suckered division. They are long-lived plants that are relatively trouble free.

As a group, hortensias feature thick, erect, and unbranched stems that easily reach full height in just a single season. Their glossy foliage is striking in its own right, but the plant is characterized by its showy round clusters, which range in color from blue to white to pink, the color varying with the pH level of the soil. Here in the Northeast, our acidic soil (pH range of 5.5 or lower) gives blooms a blue tone. As the soil pH neutralizes, the color of bloom graduates to white, then pink and finally to a near red shade. Adding aluminum sulfate to lower the soil pH results in blue blooms, while raising the soil pH with ground limestone produces pink/red hues. The plants prefer a sunny to partly sunny location, with moist soil that is rich in organic matter.

In recent years, lacecaps have seen a resurgence in popularity as an old-fashioned favorite. Like hortensias, they prefer a sun to part sun and rich, moist soil. The plants benefit from having the stems, that have flowered, removed while the plant is dormant. A more vigorous thinning (as opposed to pruning, or cutting back) will produce larger flower clusters.

Another old-favorite is the Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora or “pee gee” hydrangea. This fast-growing treelike shrub features a mop-head-like flower cluster in mid-to-late summer. The flowers open to white in summer, turn a pinkish hue in September and fade to tan by fall. They are outstanding as a dried flower, sometimes lasting years in dried arrangements. Because pee gee hydrangeas bloom on new wood, prune hard when the plant is dormant to produce larger flowers the next summer. An easy to grow plant, it is extremely long-lived and has been a favorite of gardeners for generations.

The climbing hydrangea, or Hydrangea anomola petiolaris is another versatile performer. Clinging to tree trunks or brick by aerial roots, it can grow to 60 feet, and once established, this plant takes off! Its fragrant white flowers nearly cover it in summer and it does well in the shade of most deciduous trees. Planted at the base of an elm or an oak, this climbing hydrangea will wind its way up the trunk and provide spectacular color all summer long.

Improving Soil Drainage

The rising temperatures of Spring are right around the corner, and with it comes the thawing out of frozen ground. The remains of winter will melt into a quagmire interspersed only by early crocus.

This is the perfect time to come to understand the draining capacity of your soil. Why is this so important? It can make the difference between life and death for some plants.

Take, for example, Roses. Good draining soil is a must for success. Poor drainage can also lead to fungus diseases in lawns, perennials and many annuals.

So how do you know if your soil drains well? There are a few simple tests you can take to give you an idea of how well your soil drains. An easy, accurate and effective test would be to take a shovel full of soil. This can be done as early in the season, (or whenever you want to know), as the soil can be worked. Take a shovel-depth amount of soil, set it aside and fill the hole half-full with water. Come back in an hour or so.

If there is water remaining in the hole you have a drainage problem. If there is nothing left in the hole, or a small amount remaining then your problem is less dramatic.

The next step is the solution(s). The answer is going to be different for each situation, i.e., in a container garden, in a lawn, or a garden bed. Soil composition is very important. In a container garden, when using a whiskey barrel, clay pot or urn, you can provide a custom soil mix easily-it comes ready mixed in the bag. Make sure the mix has either perlite, vermiculite or some sort of soil conditioner.

As easy as it is to get perfect soil in a bag (for your potted pots), it is sometimes as daunting to produce similar results in a lawn or garden bed. It is not feasible to tear up your lawn to amend the soil mechanically, nor is it a good idea to try to displace an existing perennial bed.

There are some soil amenders you can add that work their way into the soil. For example, garden gypsum, an organic material that aids drainage, can be applied with a spreader and gets good results. You can use it on lawns as well as garden beds. Coarse sand can be added and scratched into the top two-three inches of soil. This is best used in garden beds.

In annual beds, or in planting situations, entire beds can have their soil re-worked. It’s best to add as much organic material as possible. Peat moss, manures and humus based top soils can do wonders in a planting situation. Remember to neutralize your soil with a bit of ground limestone to reach an optimum pH of 6.5-7.

Lawns, or mature beds, can be top dressed with organic material that will eventually work its way into the soil structure. A simple drainage test can go along way to answer your gardening problems.

A Greener Lawn Is In The Bag!

Fertilizing Your Lawn

A greener lawn just seems to make you feel better. It makes your home and gardens more beautiful. But how do you keep it green? Just as you and I need our three square meals a day, utilizing all the food groups (of course), a lawn has similar nutritional needs. Your lawn’s needs are simple…it needs nitrogen for lush, green grass, phosphate for strong, deep root development and potash for growth and drought resistance. These elements are known as N-P-K for Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potash. To keep it straight, just remember N (for nitrogen) is for everything above ground (grass leaf)-P (for phosphate) is for everything below ground (roots) and K (for potash) helps the lawn interact with the soil. These elements are present in most balanced fertilizer products. The percentage of each element might differ, but these percentages are listed on every fertilizer product. They are the three numbers listed in the formulation; i.e., 25-5-5 would 25% of the bag weight would be available nitrogen, 5% phosphate and 5% potash.

If you were to buy a 50 pound bag (10,000 sq ft coverage) of 25-5-5 fertilizer, then 25% or 12.5 pounds would be nitrogen, 2.5 pounds would be phosphate and 2.5 pounds would be potash. To finish the equation, you then divide the total pounds by the coverage area. In this case you would apply about 1.25 pounds of nitrogen. An average lawn needs 4 pounds of nitrogen (per 1000 sq ft or M), 2 pounds of phosphate (/M) and 1 pound of potash (/M) annually. Your lawn might differ from the average, but if you are looking for a “green-up” then look for high nitrogen fertilizers. If your lawn seems to wilt under the stress of summer heat waves, consider a fertilizer higher in phosphate and potash.

Now you know how to fertilize like a pro. There is an easier way. Most fertilizer companies now offer “four-step” programs for your lawn. It is usually sold as a set of four bags in 5-10,000 or now even 15,000 square foot sizes. It pre-packages everything your lawn needs for the year. Simply apply at rates shown on the bag at the times recommended. This ensures the proper amount of nutrients are applied at optimum timing.

Most folks like to see a quick green-up, but be careful, as too quick a top growth can occur at the expense of good root development. A good solution to this problem is WIN or W (ater) I (insoluble) N (itrogen). It allows the nitrogen to be released over a longer period of time. It is usually coated so that it is broken down over natural weathering process.

A great lawn is in the bag…literally. Knowing what’s in the bag should keep you and your lawn in the green! Stop by with any questions.

April’s Featured Houseplant: Calathea

The Calathea plant is a popular plant used for indoor office decoration purposes. It is often used in homes and businesses as well. It is a type of plant that prefers indirect lighting, which means makes it perfect for indoor usage and office buildings. Calathea plants are popular for indoor purposes because they are generally easy to care for and they look great, offering bright green plants to liven up indoor spaces. 

The genus Calathea includes some of the most beautiful and striking tropical foliage plants in the world. Calathea species generally have boldly marked, upright, oblong leaves in a dazzling array of colors held on long, upright stalks. Because of the plant’s bold markings, it goes by nicknames such as zebra plant, peacock plant, and rattlesnake plant, that reflect that. 

Grow calathea in medium to low light. This beautiful tropical doesn’t like much sun on its leaves, so shield it from direct light to prevent sunburn. Water calathea enough to keep it moist, but not wet or saturated. This isn’t a drought-tolerant houseplant, but it is relatively forgiving if you forget to water it from time to time. Extended periods of dryness can result in brown leaf tips or edges. 

Cover It Up!

Cover Crops; repaying the soil for the benefits we reap

You may think that as the gardening season is winding down that it’s time to sit back and enjoy the harvest. Think again!

Consider the age old practice of planting a cover crop, which has been around throughout agricultural history. Many home gardeners assume that planting a cover crop is something that only farmers do. Not true! You too can grow more vigorous plants, harvest more fruit, pull fewer weeds and introduce beneficial insects to your garden plot with a small investment of your time and treasure. Let’s face it; one of the keys to having a successful home garden depends on good soil quality, and repeatedly growing plants year after year simply wears the soil out! Continue reading Cover It Up!

Thanksgiving Décor from Nature

If you’re short on time and funds, or just have a serious disinterest in plastic pumpkins and turkeys that you have to store for 11 months, Mother Nature can give you a Thanksgiving décor assist. If you have a
yard or garden you can gather supplies right outside your door, but plenty of materials can be found at the farmer’s market and produce sections for little money. Additional items can be scavenged from the
autumn debris at a local park. So you don’t get carted to jail for “shopping” at the park; be mindful of what and how you glean.

Once you get back to the dining table, mantle or sideboard, keep your arrangements simple and use a mix of forms, colors and textures for quick, eye pleasing displays. A bright, white birch branch down the
center of the table with fallen leaves and colorful gourds and/or apples, in random clusters along each side, is a perfect example. Three mini pumpkins, some acorns and a chunky candle work well for a
smaller space and can be given a more polished looked by placing them on a decorative tray or cloth napkin. For a bit more drama and vertical interest – use twiggy branches, single or multiple, in bottles or
vases set amongst your arrangements or on their own. For a nod to the cornucopia tradition, tip a basket on its side and arrange autumn fruit and forage in a colorful tumble from within.

Suggested Materials:

  • Pinecones & Acorns
  • Dried Flower & Seed heads
  • Leaves
  • Twigs and Branches
  • Pumpkins, Squash, Gourds, Indian Corn
  • Apples, Pears, Grapes
  • Bottles, Vases, Baskets
  • Platters, Cloth Napkins, Table Runners
  • Candles

Gardening for the Birds

A Partnership in Growing Greener

Gardening with birds in mind is a great way to bring additional beauty and balance to your growing space. These winged wonders not only help with pollination and spreading of seeds, but offer chemical-free insect control as well. Adding a few site-matched Native varieties (more green points!) to your plantings will help ensure your garden supports, and gets support from, a diversity of local birds. Continue reading Gardening for the Birds

Autumn Jack-o-Lanterns

For many of us, the crisp days of autumn mean a bounty of pumpkins for carving jack-o-lanterns or baking scrumptious pies along with the ingathering of all the other fruits of our labor. But for countless backyard gardeners, autumn is the time to ‘strut their stuff’ before the crowds that gather time again, at local or even national pumpkin growing contests, to see who has grown the most gigantic pumpkin to take home the prize. Continue reading Autumn Jack-o-Lanterns

Grow ‘em BIG

In pursuit of growing a ‘Prizewinning Pumpkin’

For many of us, the crisp days of autumn mean a bounty of pumpkins for carving jack-o-lanterns or baking scrumptious pies along with the ingathering of all the other fruits of our labor. But for countless backyard gardeners, autumn is the time to ‘strut their stuff’ before the crowds that gather time again, at local or even national pumpkin growing contests, to see who has grown the most gigantic pumpkin to take home the prize. If you ask any competitive grower what it takes to grow a huge pumpkin, they’ll sound off three key points: “Good seed, Good soil and Good fortune”. Continue reading Grow ‘em BIG