Spring Maintenance of Birch, Boxwood and Hydrangea

Once mid-late spring rolls around, you may notice that some of your landscape plants are in need of some tender loving care. After the lack of snow in some parts of the northeast and prolonged frigid temperatures in the single digits this past winter season, certain plants have been more affected than others by the lack of insulation from snow cover and extreme cold. Another factor affecting the vitality of your plants could the abundant rainfall amounts hitting the eastern seaboard.

Winter Die Back on Weeping Birch

Birch trees are one species that the winter has especially taken a toll on. By this time in June, Birch trees should have pushed out most of their new foliage, but you may notice some bare branches and empty spots on your tree. If that is the case, gently scrape the bark or cut a tip off bare stems to see if there is any sign of green. If the cambium growing layer underneath the bark is green, give the tree a little more time to see if it will push out any new growth from those branches. If the layer below the bark is brown, remove the dead branch from the tree to help direct growing energy to where it is needed. Give the tree a good feeding (preferably a deep root application) and some time. The tree should gradually show signs of recovery and continue to regain its health.

Iron Deficiency on Boxwood

Boxwood is another plant which has been affected by the recent weather abnormalities. If your boxwood is looking a little paler than usual with some yellowing in the leaves, it could be a sign of iron deficiency. The abundance of rain here in the northeast has literally “washed” away much of the iron in the soil. Iron chlorosis can develop under conditions that reduce the availability of iron to the plant, such as a combination of cooler than normal temperatures and poor root aeration or soil drainage due to constant moisture. To remedy the lack of iron, apply a liquid iron solution to the soil around your plants. Most supplements will work over time to restore the plant back to good health.

Winter Die Back on Hydrangea

Hydrangea are another plant showing signs of winter damage over the past several years here in the northeast and over other parts of the country. If your Hydrangea is still showing bare stalks above new growth now in June, and stems appear dead, simply prune off the damaged wood to beneath the line of new foliage. As with most flowering plants, application of a plant food that is high in phosphorus in mid-late spring will encourage buds.

Routinely checking your garden in springtime can catch early signs of plant distress and help in avoiding more serious issues down the road. During springtime and throughout the ongoing growing season, early detection of plant issues is a worthwhile practice, After all, a little preventive care can go a long way!

For more gardening tips and design inspiration along with personal musings…

Visit my Author Page/Purchase My Books:
A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Landscape Design Combinations
Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener

Lee Miller@Landscape Design By Lee 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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Growing and Maintaining Alocasia (Elephant Ear) Plant

Growing Alocasia Elephant Ear Plant

Alocasia, also known as The Elephant Ear, is a large tropical looking plant displaying large, deep green arrow-shaped leaves, resembling the ears of an elephant. Planted as a tuber, the magnificent foliage of the plant can reach up to 9 feet (3 meters) in height with leaf spans up to three feet long! Alocasia are warm climate plants, cold hardy in USDA  hardiness zones 7 through 11, depending on the species. They are commonly grown as annuals in colder climates and make wonderful focal points in the garden, serving nicely as accent pieces, especially when grown in containers.

Alocasia Tuber

Growing Elephant Ear plants is simple with very little maintenance necessary. Most of these plants prefer rich, moist soil and can be grown in full sun, but they generally prefer partial shade. The tubers can be placed directly outdoors once there is no threat of frost or freezing temperatures, which occurs around mid-April here in my zone 7a garden. Plant the tubers about 2 to 3 inches deep, blunt end down in a rich, organic potting soil. I use a large container (at least 16-20 inches in diameter) and plant just one plant. It will take several weeks for the first foliage to appear, but once the roots are established, the plant will rapidly grow throughout the summer months.

Alocasia Elephant Ear Plant Mid-Summer

Your Elephant Ear plant will continue to grow to its maximum size, which will occur around July or August.  It is recommended to keep your plants well-watered and to feed them once a month with an organic slow release fertilizer (such as bone meal) to maintain their vigor. As the plant matures and older foliage fades, simply remove any undesirable stalks at the base and new shoots will form. Planting around the perimeter of your large planter will add additional interest. In this planter I used a combination of Sweet Potato Vine and Morning Glory surrounding the large leaves of the Alocasia.

Alocasia Elephant Ear Plant Late Summer

Elephant ears cannot survive winter outdoors. When autumn arrives, along with freezing temperatures, the plants must be dug up and stored indoors. After the first frost, cut the foliage back to about a couple of inches and carefully dig up the plants. Allow the tubers to dry out for about a day or two and then store them in peat moss or shavings in a cool, dark area such as in a garage or basement to overwinter. Repeat planting the following year!

For more gardening tips and design ideas: 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.

June Garden Blooms and Design Elements

3 garden 13When designing I like to incorporate elements into the garden which will give interest all year round, and especially enjoy a burst of color in spring, as do many of my clients.  In the above garden I have incorporated colorful evergreens, deciduous shrubs and perennials together to form a flow of color.

Color WheelAccording to the color wheel above, colors opposite one another, referred to as warm or cool colors, complement one another best.  When laying out your garden try to combine warm colors (such as yellows, reds and pinks) with cool colors (including purples, blues and greens) and repeat the theme by using the same color combinations throughout the garden. This creates unity and flow throughout the landscape.

15 garden 26  In this driveway planting the cool blue hue of the Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar complements the warm hue of the Golden Oriental Spruce along with ‘Royal Burgundy’ Barberry, Nepeta and Coreopsis,  The nepeta (cool blue-purple) and coreopsis (warm yellow) will bloom profusely throughout the entire summer against the burgundy foliage of the barbery.

8 garden 23 Here Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is used along with a backdrop of evergreens and Gold Mound Spirea. Again the combination of warm and cool colors is used along with evergreens, which provide structure in the garden.2 garden 16In order to supply additional interest in spring and summer bulbs can be used to incorporate large blooms, such as these giant Globemaster Allium, which display eight inch blooms on top of two foot stalks and rising above the other plants in the garden.  A tip on planting bulbs would be to incorporate them along with other perennials that have full foliage as to hide the yellowing foliage of the early bloomers.  Here I masked the bottom foliage of the Allium with the lush green foliage of Daylily, which will jump into bloom afterwards.

These are just a few design tips that I am passing along. Until next time…

Happy Gardening.

You may also enjoy June Garden

  2015 Lee@ A Guide to Landscape Design & Maintenance.