Posted on September 15th, 2009 No comments
The most commonly used spring flowering bulbs are the ‘major bulbs’ such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. However, there is a whole group of ‘minor bulbs’ that provide such reliable color that most gardens would benefit from including them when planning for early spring color. The bulbs are tiny and the plants are small, rarely more than six inches in height, so a large number of bulbs are needed in order to make a visual impact.
The term ‘bulb’ includes a variety of plants with a large storage root (or stem) from which the plant grows every year. These little wonders of nature require only moisture and rising temperatures to end their dormancy and begin to grow. This means that bulbs are generally an easy and fool-proof garden plant. Minor bulbs also tend to be very resistant to deer and rabbit damage.
Minor bulbs should be planted during the fall, in drifts or masses, about 3”-4” deep. They can be planted in flower beds or shrub beds where they’ll emerge and bloom before the perennials get started and before deciduous plants leaf out.
Some of the prettiest minor bulbs, listed in order of the appearance in a garden, are:
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) Snowdrops do well in our area and emerge very early. The small three-segmented, drooping white flowers are 5” tall and stand out dramatically above their silver-green foliage. (March)
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is another early bloomer. The solitary, yellow buttercup-shaped flowers grow 6” tall and are surrounded by bright green bracts that look like a collar around the blossom. (March)
Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxas) are low growing plants, reaching 4-6” high with grass-like leaves that appear the same time as the flowers. The blue star shaped flowers face upwards and has a central white eye, lasting two weeks or more. (March/April)
Crocus (Crocus) naturalize exceptionally well, creating an expanding carpet of bright colors as the years go by. Their purples, lavenders, whites and yellows are a clear signal that spring in on its way. These are the only minor bulbs that we’ve listed that the rabbits eat. (March/April)
Scilla (Scilla siberica), also called ‘Squill’, this vivid blue flower is about 5” tall. You can see some strikingly beautiful and very large drifts in many North Shore gardens where they have been naturalizing for many years. Some varieties are available in pink and white, but the blues are spring time knock-outs. (April)
Windflower (Anemone) is a charming border plant with daisy-like flowers that comes in a variety of blues, pinks, violets and white. The foliage resembles parsley and the plant stands about 6” tall. (April)
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is the largest of the minor bulbs with tiny deep blue flowers densely clustered like miniature grapes on a firm stalk. The flower cluster is about 5” long and the plant grows to 7” or 8”. They are long lasting and produce a striking effect when planted in drifts. (April-May)
Posted on September 15th, 2009 No comments
Trying to figure out why you have brown, dying patches in your lawn? It’s possible that you have a white grub infestation. White grubs are insect larvae that feed on the roots of sunny, well-watered lawns during the spring and fall months. They do considerable damage to the root system, causing large, brown areas of dead grass. Untreated lawns will never recover from a severe infestation.
Grubs are the C-shaped larvae of various beetles. Fully-grown larvae are one-half to three-quarters of an inch long. Early indications of grub infestation are irregular patches of dry grass, flocking birds, or entire areas of turf being torn up by raccoons, possums and skunks looking for a tasty treat. Damage can be witnessed by tugging on the grass surface. If grubs have been eating the root system, patches of turf will come up easily from the soil surface, like pulling up a corner of carpeting, and the soil will be full of grubs.
White grubs eventually turn into beetles, e.g., Japanese beetles. If you treat for grubs when they’re smaller, in late summer to early fall, they’re easier to eradicate. White grub life cycles are simple. During summer, adult beetles fly around. Some species (like Japanese beetles) buzz about during the day, while others (like chafers) fly around at night. After these adult beetles mate, they head down into the soil to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the tiny grubs start to feed on your lawn. This is when they’re so small you often don’t see them or their damage. During September and October, grubs continue to feed and grow. In November, grubs stop feeding and burrow down 3 to 12 inches and make winter cells.
Once spring comes around, the grubs work their way up to your fresh springtime grass to feed on your turf’s tender roots. By this time the grubs have matured, so they can really do significant damage.
What should be done to stop these insects? Typically we recommend a grub-specific insecticide applied as soon as damage is noticed. We recommend following up with a second application at the appropriate time. An organic approach would be to apply beneficial nematodes prior to any infestation. This is not a curative option, but can be used preventively.
Posted on September 14th, 2009 No comments
Along with the milder temperatures and beauty of fall comes an excellent opportunity for landscaping for your yard. The cooler weather is a signal for plants to stop growing new shoots and leaves above ground, but not below. Trees and shubs continue to extend their root systems, making fall an ideal time to plant. The cool weather reduces the risk of ‘transplant shock’, or dieback, giving newly installed plants the time to acclimate themselves to their new home and set out new feeder roots before winter arrives. As the soil temperature cools and seasonal rain adds moisture, plants continue to establish themselves. This means that new plantings are less reliant on you (or your irrigation system) for their watering needs when next summer rolls around.
Trees, shrubs, and perennials planted in fall have plenty of time to develop before the wintry weather sets in. When the long, cold winter ends, you will have a new look in your garden and your plants will be ready to embark on a new season of growth.
The fall season is also great for landscaping with spring flowering plants. Because they set their buds the season prior to the flower, fall-planted trees and shrubs will display their glory in the spring season in your garden. A few of our spring-flowering favorites are Crabapples, Redbuds, Serviceberry, Azalea and Viburnum. Or, add to your garden’s fall display by choosing Maples, Cherries, Burning Bush or Sweetspire.
Autumn is also a terrific time to install the new patio or walkway you’ve been thinking about. With the addition of a new patio or sitting area, you can expand your outdoor living space and enjoy the wonderful fall season the Midwest has to offer, as well as having the use of your new space when spring arrives.