Growing and Maintaining Itoh Peony

Peony Bartzella Itoh 2018

Itoh Peony Bartzella

HISTORY: After may years of experimentation, Japanese horticulturist, Dr. Toichi Itoh, successfully created seven peony hybrids from a tree peony in 1948, which were known to became the first Itoh peonies. Itoh Peony are derived from a cross breeding between herbaceous and tree peonies, forming a stronger, longer blooming variety over its predecessors. Similar to tree peonies, members of this cultivar have large, long lasting blooms and strong stems that do not require staking. The deeply lobed dark green foliage on a 3-4 foot high by wide plant lasts all summer and into fall, making an attractive addition to the garden. Itoh peonies are also known to be more disease resistant and are not preferred by deer.

Itoh Peony 'Bartzella' in Perennial Border

Itoh Peony ‘Bartzella’ in Perennial Border

GROWING AND MAINTAINING: Itoh peonies prefer to be placed in full sun to partial shade in a rich, well-drained soil. Feed in spring with a low nitrogen fertilizer to promote blooms. Fertilization is not recommended in late summer to fall when the plant is going into dormancy. Once blooms have completed in late spring, Itoh peony can be deadheaded by removing spent flower stalks, leaving its attractive foliage to remain for the rest of the growing season. In autumn, once the foliage turns brown, cut back plants to about 4-6 inches up from the soil level. It is recommended to mulch around the plant to insulate the roots from freezing temperatures. Once spring comes around, your peony will emerge for another growing season. Itoh peony can also be divided in autumn as you would herbaceous peonies.

I discovered this wonderful peony a few years back and have enjoyed its beautiful, sturdy, and disease resistant blooms in the garden. You may find them to be a nice addition as well!

For more gardening tips and design ideas:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9
Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2018. All Rights Reserved.

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Contagious Fungus Attacks Ornamental Pear Trees on Long Island

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Pyrus (Ornamental Pear) Spring Blooms

Ornamental Pear trees have been recently under attack from a hard to treat fungus known as Trellis rust. Originally from Europe, Trellis rust or European Pear Rust is caused by the rust fungus Gymnosporangium sabinae. The disease may present a serious health threat to members of the Pyrus species, including both ornamental and fruit pear types. Ornamental Pear trees have been popular trees planted for decades noted for their fast growth rate, tolerance of urban conditions, fairly compact shape and white blooms that appear in early spring. Unfortunately, hundreds of trees have been noted dying in Rockville Center and the disease has been spreading to the Nassau and Suffolk County areas of Long Island. The fungus has spread from the mid-western states to upstate New York and Connecticut over the past several years and seems to be getting progressively worse. According to horticulturists, part of the problem is that the trees have been over-planted, resulting in a rapid spreading of the disease.

Symptoms to look out for are yellow-orange leaf spots (see photograph), which develop into spores in late summer. The spores can be spread to other host plants by wind or to the roots if the trees are close enough together. The secondary host during the winter months is juniper, allowing the fungus to survive when the pear trees drop their leaves; hence, continuing the cycle in the spring.

If you spot damage on your tree, remove and destroy the infected leaves to prevent spores from spreading. If caught early enough, systemic and spray fungicides can be applied to inhibit the spread of the disease. Best preventive measures are to be alert in monitoring your trees, and when in doubt, call a tree professional.

Constructing a Retaining Wall: How To Guide

Constructing a Retaining Wall

This past summer, I re-designed a raised planting bed that was constructed out of an old railroad tie retaining wall that was decaying and crumbling over time. I had the opportunity of watching the crew at work, so I figured I would share the installation process with you. There is a correct method of installing the wall to ensure that it is going to be functional and permanent. I used the Nicolock Firma Wall System Toffee/Onyx stone for this particular project, but if you are using another material, such as natural stone, the process is similar.

Step 1: Excavate soil and build base

Step 1: Excavate soil and build base

First, the original railroad tie wall had to be demolished and removed, while the soil around the perimeter area had to be excavated. It is important to dig down the equivalent of one course of block (eight inches in this case) and use a leveling device to obtain an even base. Add a recycled concrete layer under where the wall stone is going, approximately two-three inches at a time, and use a tamper to compact it. (If starting from scratch, it is recommended to use the recycled concrete as a base under the entire area where the topsoil is going and also use a layer of fill in between the topsoil and base to ensure proper drainage.) Select your wall blocks and lay them out across the base. Continue laying the stone block by block until the entire perimeter is created. Measure and make cuts with a masonry saw to complete any angles needed to fit the pieces together at the corners. This first step in construction takes the longest and is most crucial in determining the success of the rest of your project.

Step 2: Continue Adding Second Course

Step 2: Continue Adding Second Course

Continue with the second course. Select your wall system blocks and stack them in a staggered pattern on top of the base course so that the seams are overlapping. Dry-fit each block first so that the vertical joints are staggered as seen above. This creates a stronger and more stable wall.. Remove the block and apply a layer of mortar on the first course. Add the next course and tamp the block into place with a mallet, and repeat.

Step 3: Mortar the Layers

Step 3: Mortar the Layers

Continue building courses. At the third level, insert a drain pipe, while leaving an exit point for the drainpipe at one end of the wall. This will ensure proper drainage once your wall is complete. Continue the process while carefully aligning the block in a staggered pattern and mortar the layers until the desired height is obtained. Note that the final and top layer is the wall capping, a more decorative layer that prevents moisture from running down into the  open cracks of the lower layers and which adds the aesthetically pleasing finishing touch! Mortar the wall cap in place as you did for the other courses.

Constructing A Retaining Wall: Finished Project

Constructing A Retaining Wall: Finished Project

Depending on the size of the wall, a project like this can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week or more, but it is worth the while to take your time and have good results. Once your wall is constructed, bring in new organic topsoil and plantings to complete the project.

For more gardening tips and design ideas, see my books on Amazon:

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9
Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2018. All Rights Reserved.2c425-page2bdivider

Snow Warnings and Care of Landscape Plants

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March Snowstorm

The seasons have been shifting in the northeast, leaving many homeowners in much dismay when it comes to winter garden maintenance. Winter storms can hit late winter into early spring, causing more distress to plantings once they have experienced warmer than normal temperatures. As we await another winter storm, there are some precautions you can take to ensure the vitality of your landscape plants and protect them from possible damage.

SNOW WEIGHTED TREE BRANCHES: Most evergreen trees and shrubs can handle snow build-up on their branches, but in the instance of a heavy snow, the branches may become weighted down. Certain Arborvitae are susceptible to the weight of snow pulling down on them and may have already experienced sagging branches. Further damage can easily be avoided by wrapping the branches together with arbor tie. The cloth tie cannot be seen from the outside, will prevent future damage from another snow, and the tree will look unscathed.

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Arborvitae and Snow Care

BROKEN OR DAMAGED TREE BRANCHES: Before an approaching storm, try to walk outside and inspect trees and shrubs on your property for any broken or damaged branches. If you do spot a damaged branch, tie the two split halves together by wrapping them tightly together with arbor tie. Start by wrapping the two halves tightly together and continue wrapping above and below the crack for extra support. If caught in time, the cambium (or growing layer) of the plant will repair itself and fuse the two parts of the damaged branch together. I have personally saved split branches on holly, azalea and arborvitae using this technique and the plants have recovered beautifully. Identifying these issues now and tending to them prior to the snow can mean the survival of your plant.

arbor tie

Arbor Tied Split Branch on Holly

SNOW REMOVAL: While it is tempting to go outside and start removing snow from weighted branches it is also a good time to exercise caution. Under the snow-covered branches could also be a frozen layer of ice.  Any manipulating of the frozen branches could result in easy breakage and permanent damage to your tree.  A helpful tip is to very carefully dig snow from around trapped branches and allow them to spring back up on their own. Never shake branches with ice.  It is best to let nature take its course and allow thawing to occur. The branches will gradually regain their shape as the ice melts preventing any harm to your landscaping.

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Snow Removal From Branches

SPRING BULBS AND SNOW:  Just as your spring bulbs are emerging, a late winter snow storm in March can cause much distress and uncertainty. Besides having to tend with the snow, there is some reassuring news!  While mulch protects dormant bulbs from cold, once they start blooming, a covering of snow will act as an insulator. The snow will help to hold in the natural warmth from the soil and provide protection. Once the snow is gone, you can continue to enjoy your bulbs!

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Spring Bulbs and Snow Cover

As mentioned previously, plants are very resilient, and with a little care can bounce back and recover nicely after a major snow. With a March snow on the way, warmer days may not look promising at the moment, but Spring is right around the corner!

Informational Links:

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My Published Books: 

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer

Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2017. All Rights Reserved.page-divider-autumn

Book Launching: Introducing My Second Book-Landscape Design Combinations!

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I am very excited to be officially announcing the launching of my second book, Landscape Design Combinations! Fifty something years ago, I developed a passion for all things green and started digging in the soil by the age of five. In the 1980’s, I entered the field of education and after sixteen years, with the encouragement of friends, started up a landscape design business in 1996. I took up an interest in blog writing and photography in 2010, and after retiring from 32 years of teaching in 2013, I decided to put all my experiences into a published work. I had quickly realized that writing and publishing a book was not an easy task, but persisted in accomplishing what I had started. By 2015, I published my first book A Guide to Northeastern Gardening. 

The thought of starting the process all over again was the furthest thing from my mind, but to my own astonishment, the desire to write within me grew even stronger. There was still so much I wanted to share. As I started to write, the words came easily, and a second book started to materialize.  Now, two years later, I have completed Landscape Design Combinations, which takes the first book a step further by going much deeper into the design process, while offering numerous landscape designs with labeled photographs and descriptions. One can say that it completes what I had started. I am now thrilled to be able to share my love of gardening and design with you through a second book.

What does this book have to offer? 2-sample-6-borderLandscape Design Combinations is a comprehensive guide to help you plan your outdoor space. If you have ever felt overwhelmed by “what to plant where” in your garden, or have spent months, or even years, not knowing where to begin, Landscape Design Combinations will help to facilitate the process. The first two chapters deal with the basic principles of landscape design and color coordination. You will get ideas for the desired function of your space and discover your own personal sense of garden style and color preference. Throughout the book, each chapter builds upon the one before it, discussing foliage combinations, then types of and proper placement of evergreens, followed by flowering shrubs and finally, perennials.

perennial-borderNumbered and labeled photographs are supplied throughout the book with information on each plant, such as common or scientific name, plant descriptions and cold hardiness. Once plant usage and placement is covered, the remaining chapters discuss hardscape, with directions on how to build a simple stone walkway or patio, along with more information on garden styles. Each chapter will incorporate plants discussed earlier and create designs starting from simple perennial combinations to full landscape designs.

4-sample-1-borderDiscussion of evergreens and flowering plants will focus on placement and interest provided, while perennial combinations will include bloom time for each plant discussed. As each chapter progress, more detailed design plan layouts will be provided as a guide to assist you in planning your space. In the later chapters, topics covered include designing for seasonal interest, container combinations and hardscaping, with easy to follow designs. The book ends with “Garden Inspiration”, which discusses garden styles throughout the centuries and how various design elements have developed over the years. Finally, a glossary is included with definitions of design terms used throughout the book.

About the Book:book-coverLandscape Design Combinations provides the necessary tools to help you easily plan your garden, while offering a multitude of design plans with labeled photographs and detailed descriptions. Topics such as landscape design principles, color in design, the use of foliage, designing with deciduous and evergreen plants, planter combinations and landscape planning are discussed. Additional topics include designing with hardscape with “quick and easy” landscape designs and garden styles throughout history, with colorful illustrations. The information presented is applicable to both novice or professional gardener alike, and is all based on Lee Miller’s personal experience as a landscape designer for over twenty years. Lee Miller is also the author of “A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer”, initially published in 2015.

About the Author: garden clean up 2Lee Miller is a professional landscape/garden designer involved in the horticultural industry since 1996. Having started a gardening blog in 2010, she is the author of over 200 articles on general gardening, landscape design principles, gardening tips, planting, pruning, garden maintenance, feature plants and more. In addition, Lee Miller has donated her time as a contributing writer for the American Heart Association Gardening Blog, as well as Gardening Know How, and has been involved as a presenter at local gardening clubs.

To Preview Landscape Design Combinations, simply click on the link or icon below. I hope to inspire you!

Landscape Design Combinations

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Proper Planting of Trees & Shrubs in Burlap or Wire Basket

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Very often larger landscape trees and shrubs will arrive either wrapped in burlap or burlap encased in wire baskets. These allow the tree to be picked up by the root ball instead of the trunk and are used to protect the roots during transportation and handling. Also, on many occasions large tree spades are used by growers to dig the tree for transportation. These giant spades will cause surrounding soil to be pushed up higher around the trunk way past the flare. When planting, burlap or wire baskets should be removed completely or pushed down as far as possible below the soil surface to allow for the tree to develop new feeder roots, and the root flare should be visible. Care should be taken both during the arrival and planting of the tree to ensure its survival. Here are some recommendations.

burlap off

Some horticulturists recommend removing at least the top 12 to 18 inches (two or three levels) of wire from the root ball with larger trees, or the entire basket when possible. (Source: University of Florida Horticultural Department). Dig the hole the tree is being planted in wide enough so that the wire basket can be cut and folded down around the plant. Cut and remove any top burlap and do the same, pushing the burlap as far down as possible (if not removing it completely). It is alright to leave the bottom portion of the burlap or basket intact if the root ball does not appear stable enough to remove it. Wire baskets are known to degrade slowly in soil, and can be intact up to 20 years after planting; however, the welded joints tend to degrade sooner. Natural burlap typically tends to rot in the soil, with the exception of some of the drier parts of the country (regions receiving less than about 20 inches of annual precipitation).  Synthetic burlap does not decompose.  To distinguish between natural and synthetic burlap burn a small portion with a match. Synthetic burlap has a smoother feel and often smokes and melts. Natural burlap is coarser and usually burns with a flame and turns to ash, while synthetic does not.

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Photo Credit:  Garden Web

When positioning the tree check for the root flare (see diagram above) and remove any soil that may have been pushed up when digging.  The root flare is pointed out as the lower line on the diagram where the trunk gets wider. The tree will develop new feeder roots near the top of the root ball enabling the tree to receive water, undergo oxygen exchange and obtain minerals. It is not uncommon to see the tree’s root ball covered with additional soil. If not removed the tree will be buried too deeply and will often send roots growing straight upward where conditions are better. Over time this will cause the tree to stress and slowly suffocate due to a lack of water and oxygen or girdling root (roots wrap around the base of the tree and suffocate it).

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Photo Credit: Colorado State University

Now that the burlap and wire are pushed away from the roots it is time to plant.  Position the tree slightly above the grade (1-2 inches) to allow for proper drainage and mulching once the tree is planted. This will also ensure proper transportation of water, oxygen and minerals, as discussed above. As a general rule of thumb plant one inch above grade for each inch caliper of tree trunk.  For example, a tree with a one inch trunk caliper (diameter) should be one inch above grade, and so forth.

placement In a heavily clay soil it is recommended to plant even a little higher to allow for proper drainage,  If drainage does seem to be an issue, it may be in your best interest to dig pilot holes two to three feet down and add a gravel base so that water percolates downward, instead of having water sitting right at the roots.  Trees in standing water will lose their feeder roots due to suffocation and will quickly decline. treesFollowing these simple planting techniques will ensure the longevity of your trees for many years. The same guidelines apply to the planting of deciduous trees or plants in plastic containers. Remember it is important to mulch your tree to protect the roots but prevent the mulch from being right up around the trunk to avoid any issues.  I see way too much of this! (see articleNursery

Now that we have covered the proper techniques it is time to go out into the garden and get some trees planted!

As Always…Happy Gardening!

2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.7b6fd-blog2bdivider2bbird