Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Late Winter, Early Spring Garden Chores

photo credit

Spring is here according to our calendars and the nice weather, although I’ve heard rumours the colder stuff will return for a bit soon. There are many garden or yard chores that should be done this time of year and not put off until the last frost date.

Late winter is considered to be approximately 6 weeks before the beginning of the spring thaw, so will depend on where you live. If you are not sure, count backwards from your area’s last frost date. To me (in zone 4 or 5) this means early April is (usually) late winter or early spring. I can always hope earlier.

It is much easier to see the “bone structure” of your trees before they leaf out, so pruning shade trees like oak and maples now, while they are still dormant, is perfect timing.

Pruning is done for several reasons, even cosmetic ones.

Dead, Broken, Diseased or Crossing Branches

Dead, broken, diseased or crossing/rubbing branches can be cut back at any time during the year. This applies to trees and shrubs. Cut right to the next branch, without leaving a stub.

In the case of crossing or rubbing branches, decide which of the crossing branches lends best to the overall shape of the tree or shrub and remove the other. Keep in mind branches should grow upwards and outwards for optimal shape.

Heavy snow falls and winter winds can snap even the healthiest of branches. These broken branches should be removed for aesthetic purposes as well as for the continued health of the tree or shrub.

Although it may be difficult to determine if branches are dead or diseased yet, you can mark any suspicious ones for pruning later if this is the case. There is no wrong time to remove dead or diseased branches.

Shaping or Rejuvenating

Trees and shrubs always look nicer and tidier when shaped properly and not overgrown. Now is the time to do this, before new growth begins blurring the shape. This is especially true if you have a hard time cutting out perfectly healthy branches.

Pruning to enhance the shape will encourage and stimulate new growth in spring, which is when you want to encourage new growth. Pruning in fall however, encourages growth when future cold weather could kill it off.

Overgrown shrubs and trees also benefit from drastic rejuvenating this time of year. Again, this is because the new growth that will be stimulated has a better chance of survival heading into spring rather than winter. I have had particular success drastically cutting back overgrown dappled willows and forsythia in my business. Even though forsythia is on the list of shrubs not to trim back early, this one was so overgrown my client just wanted it reduced in size, willing to sacrifice the blooms that year.

Evergreen Trees and Shrubs to Prune now

If removing the lower branches of evergreens in your landscape is something you have been considering, now is the time to do so. This is a great way to drastically change your landscape and even improve the condition of your lawn that tries to grow under them.

Boxwoods, yews, holly and other evergreen shrubs should be trimmed now, while dormant, and before new growth appears.

Spruce and firs can be trimmed back now, but pruning pines should wait until June or July, after their first growth of what are called candles (new shoots at the tips). No earlier and no later. With pines, prune (delay growth) by cutting back the candles by half or remove dead, diseased, broken (or unwanted lower) branches to their main stem.

Shrubs or Trees You Should NOT Prune Now

There are exceptions to the “most trees and shrubs” that benefit from spring pruning. These would be the ones that flower early and prefer pruning after they flower. They include:

  • Lilac
  • forsythia
  • bridle wreath spirea
  • mophead and oakleaf hydrangea
  • spring blooming clematis
  • rhododendrons
  • magnolia
  • wisteria
  • flowering almond
  • mock orange
  • weigela
  • nine barks
  • viburnum
  • witch hazel
  • spring flowering trees like plum, cherry, pear or dogwood

The general rule of thumb is “if it blooms before June, prune after flowering. If it blooms after June, prune in spring.” That is because spring bloomers do so on older (last year’s) wood, while later flowers come from new (spring generated) wood.

Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses and Perennials

If you left your ornamental grasses to sway in the winter winds, cut them back as soon as you can get to them, even if you have to wade through some lingering snow. Ornamental grasses should be cut back to four to six inches from the ground. It is much easier to do this now than to wait until new growth starts when you will have to pick the dead and crispy brown stalks from the tender new green shoots. I did mine a few weeks ago when I was itching to do something garden related.

This applies to other perennials you left over the winter. Bird lovers often leave seed heads and pods for their fine feathered friends to snack on. Some leave perennial stalks for their beauty when covered in snow or some variation in an otherwise bleak-looking winter garden. For whatever reason you have left yours intact, now is the time to cut (snap off) the brown and crispy stalks down to ground level.

Conclusions

For more ideas on what you can tackle in your garden this early, check out last year’s post at this time of year.

I’ve got my ornamental grasses cut back already and my lawn raked and seeded, with edging next on my agenda. Garden cleanups will have to wait a few more weeks.

Posted in gardens, loreeebee.ca, weather

Itching to get Gardening? What you Can Do Now.

Photo Credit

Is spring looking promising in your neck of the woods? The warmer, sunny days here (Ottawa, zone 4/5) are making me itch to get into my gardens.

Use Caution!

It is still (at least it is here) early to get into the gardens to clean them out as many (most) hardy perennials and shrubs are still dormant. I know it is tempting when you start seeing green shoots, but hold off a bit. At least until the soil is not mushy.

The same cautionary rule applies to your lawn. If the snow is gone, wait until it is no longer squishy to walk on before raking, aerating, top dressing etc. I have been aerating in the fall for the past few years, so I am one step ahead.

You also should beware of overwintering bees and other beneficial insects. Gardening too early will disturb them before they are ready to come out of their cozy spots under the debris in your gardens.

Also be on the lookout for nests belonging to our fine feathered friends. Spring is nest and baby season for birds. If you discover one being used, avoid it for a while, until babies have left.

Rabbits have their babies in burrows or holes in the ground in a protected area. I came across one a few years ago when weeding a client’s garden. I was pulling weeds, when I spotted movement. The only way I could distinguish that they were baby rabbits was by their big feet. They had no hair yet. I replaced the weeds to protect them and moved onto another area of the garden.

What can You Do This Early?

Prune Trees

You can prune trees now, in fact this is the best time to do so, before the leaves come out. Just do not prune anything that blooms early, like lilacs or forsythia, as you will cut off the spring blossoms. And, if you have to trample all over your soggy lawn to get to the trees to prune them, perhaps you better wait for a few weeks.

Use a good quality, sharp set of loppers to prune branches. This is one of those times it pays to purchase quality. Choose a set you can handle, as some are quite heavy and create a workout for your arms.

If cut branches are diseased, wipe lopper blades with disinfectant (rubbing alcolol or hydrogen peroxide) between cuts.

Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

You can and should cut back ornamental grasses that were left tall for the winter. By now they look weather-beaten. Cut them back to 4 to 6 inches from the ground. This will ensure the new green shoots (when they appear) wont have to compete with the dead brown ones.

Use a sharp pair of garden shears to make the job of cutting back the ornamental grasses much easier.

Plan and Dream

This is also a great time of year to plan. Make a list of things you want to do, even if they seem far-fetched. Sometimes dreams become reality!

Get Ahead of Crabgrass

If crabgrass is making an appearance in your lawn, treat it quick! As soon as the snow is gone crabgrass germinates, so the earlier you get to it the better. The snow is always gone from my south facing lawn first, so I have to get on the crabgrass now. You can recognize the sprouts as they are bright green in an otherwise drab lawn, and whorled like spokes on a wheel.

I have tried corn gluten, a preemergent, with varying results; the biggest problem is finding it in the stores so early. Scotts has a product out with good reviews for treating crabgrass. I have yet to try it.

This year I poured boiling water on the germinating sprouts, will let you know how that works.

Disinfect Tools and Pots with Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an environmentally friendly alternative to bleach for cleaning and disinfecting in the garden.

If you use containers on your patio, deck or in your gardens, a warm sunny day is a great time to clean them out. Rinse them out and spray with undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide to disinfect them. Let the pots sit in the hydrogen peroxide for at least ten minutes. Rinse again, then fill them with new soil so they are ready to fill with annuals when your last frost date arrives.

If you intend to fill any containers with perennials (I have some with ornamental grasses in them) you can do that now. Contact your local nurseries to see what they have available, my favourite here is Ritchie Feed & Seed.

Hydrogen peroxide is also an effective way to clean your tools. Spray or soak them, let them sit for a minimum of ten minutes, then rinse and dry.

Change up Your Outdoor Decor

Remove your winter arrangements (the evergreens that are not so green anymore) and replace them with harbingers of spring. Nothing says spring like pussy willows (I saw some at Farm Boy yesterday) or forsythia branches!

Start Some Seeds

Non-hardy seeds should be started at least six weeks before your last frost date, so this is a great time to get them going. I have learned a few tips over the winter regarding seedlings. Stay tuned for a future post on that subject, coming soon.

Conclusions

While it is still too early to really get started, there are a few things you can do to scratch that gardening itch.

Stay tuned for a more detailed post next week on the next steps in spring cleanups.

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.wordpress.com

Mid September Blooms in Gardens4me

Cooler days and nights in mid September makes for much easier gardening. One of my favourite perennial plants this time of year are the cool season ornamental grasses. There are so many varieties to choose from these days, but my favourite is still what I call “fireworks,” for obvious reasons. Its real name is Maiden Grass Silberfeder or Miscanthus Sinensis. Whatever you call it, it is gorgeous!

 There is not much new in Gardens4me this time, but many perennials are still looking dapper. For example, the roses, coneflowers (I love its seed heads too), geraniums and butterfly bushes just won’t quit, not that I’m complaining, and the Turtlehead I mentioned at the beginning of the month has produced even more unique blossoms…

Oh, and my hibiscus is finally making an appearance, a bit later than usual.  I figure my magnolia tree has shaded the hibiscus too much so I plan to trim a few of the lower branches from the magnolia to restore the full sun conditions in that bed.

I’m feeling left out; everyone elses’s hibiscus have been blooming for weeks now.

The coleus I planted are also still beautiful in containers at my local hospice and in my own garden. I love the way the vivid colours appear to be randomly splattered across the leaves…

 

With frost in the forecast a few nights this week, who knows what next week will bring……..stay tuned!

Posted in family, gardening, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.wordpress.com

Early September in Gardens4me

Although the calendar says early September, the summer weather (heat and humidity) is still going strong. That means many of the perennials blooming last month are still looking good…

Coming into their own this month are the seedheads of the fall grasses that look awesome in the garden or in containers on a deck or veranda…

…as well as another perennial called Turtlehead (I had never heard of it, but it looked promising at the nursery), and an annual vine called Cardinal Climber…

I have lots of roses thriving in Gardens4me, in many different varieties and colours. I love the roses because they bloom off and on all summer and well into the fall. They are also (believe it or not!) relatively low maintenance. Last month I posted a picture of one such rose just starting a second bloom. Here it is (first pic) this week with (just) a few more of its thorny cousins…

My two and a half year old granddaughter loves to play hide and seek in Gardens4me. Now that she has discovered the stepping stones leading into each corner and was taught how to gently move the plants out of the way, she runs from one corner to the next. She is still young enough to think that if she can’t see all of me I can’t see her. So precious!

One of my clients was disenchanted with the statues in his garden, (at least his wife was) so I brought them home and added them to mine knowing my grandkids would love them. The black bear is a favourite; this granddaughter likes to pet it and give it a bath with the hose while my three-and-a-half year old, bug-loving grandson searches for the bugs hiding underneath the bear!

The frog (a mothers day gift from my son years ago), the racoon family (from my father’s garden), and the heron are well loved too. The rabbit hiding in the hostas is pretty banged up now as this same granddaughter used to carry (and drop it) it around everywhere.

Coming into focus soon are the fall favourites such as sedum “Autumn Joy” and more grasses. Although this grass is an annual, I plant it in containers each year and am never disappointed with its pinky-purple plumes this time of year.

Stay tuned for more pictures later this month!

Posted in gardening, gardens4u.ca, ontario, weather

Gardening? Today? Who would have thunk it!

This might not seem too outrageous in your part of the world, but in mine gardening today is definitely pushing the season. After all, we still have lots of snow and today is the first day our temperature has risen above the freezing mark.

So, for those of you also lamenting the late arrival of spring here in Ontario, I will give you the exciting details of what gardening chores I was actually able to accomplish today. The rest of you can yawn in boredom as you mutter “been there, done that already.”

Every time I pull in my driveway these days, I am reminded of how sick I am of seeing the brown and crispy fall/winter arrangements that looked so green and lush last fall and for most of the winter…

Today the sun is shining and the temperature above freezing so I pulled out my garden gloves and secateurs…

gardening today
gardening essentials

First I tackled the evergreen arrangements that are an eyesore, at least I attempted to. Even though the temperature is warm today, the soil these branches are sitting in is still frozen in one of the containers. (One gets full sun all day, the other only a portion of the day) What is left of the one is just the blue spruce branches that are still a beautiful bluey green color. I know, they look kind of lonely without anything else to complement them, so I will have to find something to add, even if the plants are fake. The other container will have to wait until the soil thaws sufficiently enough to remove the branches and ornaments.

By the way, the ornaments (red dogwood branches, pinecones on spikes, etc) spend the summer in my gardening tool organizer, AKA a plastic shoe storage unit, that hangs on a wall in my garage…

gardening today
gardening tool AKA shoe storage

Another thing I tackled in my brief gardening stint today is the ornamental grasses I could reach. I like to leave them over the winter so the fronds can blow in the wind, but by this time of the year they are either broken (from the weight of the snow) or the seed heads have blown off. Before they send up new growth, and as soon as you can access them, cut them back to a few inches from the ground.

I have several in my back yard, but they are still buried under at least two feet of snow, so will have to wait for their trim. I do however, have one large clump beside my lamp post in my front garden that is accessible and several as experiments in pots on my front veranda.

As this veranda is always bathed in full sun and protected from the wind, I can get away with less hardy plants there. This year I tried leaving the ornamental grasses I planted in pots last summer on the veranda over the winter. Each time it snowed, (quite often this winter) I covered them with snow for some moisture.

The general rule of thumb for perennials in containers is that you have to (should) use plants that are hardy to two zones below your gardening zone. It appears I was successful in my experiment though as I see some green inside the trimmed shoots. That’s a sign they did not die, exciting news to me.

Earlier this week I helped a friend stage her house. She wanted fresh, live pussy willows and spring blossoms for her front porch, but as the temperature was still close to -20C overnight, we settled for plastic. Plastic flowers have come a long way; not the plastic flowers your grandma used to have!

gardening today
spring blooms

Perhaps I will go back to the dollar store and pick out some plastic flowers for my front containers.

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com

Blue grass beauties

My new favourite ornamental grasses these days are the blue tinged beauties.  Every year there are more and more ornamental grasses available to choose from in the garden nurseries, but my eyes seem to be increasingly drawn to the blue grass varieties.  I love the way the soft, steely, blue hue compliments the color of other perennials.  While other ornamental grasses are grown for their attractive seed heads, the blue versions are chosen more for their attractive coloring.

These are blue oat grass, one of my favourites…

 

This is a newer variety, called Blue Lyme Grass…

blue lyme grass

Most ornamental grasses like full sun, but there are a few that tolerate some shade.  Be sure to check the labels before purchasing for sun requirements and hardiness zones.

 

 

 

 

Posted in gardening, lorieb.com, weather

Latest garden project by Gardens4u

.As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, Gardens4u took on another garden project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  This client wanted a smaller footprint for the new garden with plants that require no maintenance and stay tidy looking all season.  I started by removing all of the existing plants, leaving the large rock as the focal point…

"Gardens4u

Gardens4u after the clean out
after the clean out

 

I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden.  I added heuchera in various colors around the perimeter of the garden to define its new edge, including around the outer edges of the rock. Both of these inclusions make it easier for the lawnmower, removing the chore of trimming around the tree and rock.  The large and overgrown clump of Solomon’s seal was dug out from around the rock.  It was overpowering the rock and looked messy.  In its place, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass.  These were strategically placed around the edges of the rock.  Two tall ones went at the corners closest to the house and a shorter one at the front, outer edge.  This will draw the eye to the rock, making it an integral part of the garden.

New plants included the heuchera, a dwarf shrub rose, a varigated and reblooming weigela, as well as several colorful and long blooming perennials.  I reused a few daylilies, some (a very small portion) of the lamium, and none of the aggressive Solomon’s seal.  Unused plants have been potted up in my ICU (home inventory of plants) for recycling (use in someone else’s gardens).  Grass seed was sprinkled on the bare spots where the garden used to extend to.  The grass seed should be well watered after the past few days of rainy weather.  If the mild weather holds, the grass may even grow before spring.

The end result was a smaller, tidier garden between the rock and the tree.  The client will have to wait until next summer, unfortunately, to fully appreciate the new look…

Gardens4u after pictureGardens4u after picture

 

Unfortunately, this current week looks like our great weather is behind us.  That means Gardens4u will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning after it warms up a bit.  Cleanup is not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden project!

Posted in gardening, gardens, gardens4u, gardens4u.ca, lorieb.com, weather

Latest project by Gardens4u

As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, I (GARDENS4U) took on another (small) project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  The client wanted a smaller footprint for the new garden with plants that require no maintenance and stay tidy looking all season.  I started by removing all of the existing plants, leaving the large rock as the focal point…

20171026_140658
before

20171026_154158
after the clean out

 

I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden.  I added heuchera in various colors around the perimeter of the garden to define its new edge, including around the outer edges of the rock. Both of these inclusions make it easier for the lawnmower, removing the chore of trimming around the tree and rock.  The large and overgrown clump of Solomon’s seal was dug out from around the rock.  It was overpowering the rock and looked messy.  Instead, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass strategically around the edges of the rock, with two tall ones at the corners closest to the house and a shorter one at the front, outer edge.  This will draw the eye to the rock, making it an integral part of the garden.

New plants included the heuchera, a dwarf shrub rose, a varigated and reblooming weigela, as well as several colorful and long blooming perennials.  I reused a few daylilies, some (a very small portion) of the lamium, and none of the aggressive Solomon’s seal.  Unused plants have been potted up in my ICU (home inventory of plants) for recycling (use in someone else’s gardens).  Grass seed was sprinkled on the bare spots where the garden used to extend to. After the past few days of rainy weather the grass seed should be well watered.  If the mild weather holds, the grass may even grow before spring.

The end result was a smaller, tidier garden between the rock and the tree.  As it is currently late in the season, the client will have to wait until next spring and summer to fully appreciate the new look…

20171027_14335520171027_143411

 

Unfortunately, this week looks like our great weather is behind us so I will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning (after it warms up a bit)…not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden!

Posted in lorieb.com, nature, Ottawa, weather

Awesome autumn

The best part of autumn is the awesome display of color in the trees and gardens.  Our weather here in Ottawa has been spectacular, in fact so spectacular that I have put off preparing garden beds for the winter.  All of my clients’ gardens are looking great with their late season displays…

…annuals are still going strong, in containers:

annual-containerscoleus-containers-3coleus-containerspig 1

 

and in the gardens:

 

late blooming perennials are still glorious:

 

and ornamental grasses are at their showiest:

 

I hope we have a few more weeks of this awesome weather to enjoy the gardens before the cold weather hits.

Posted in business, gardening, lorieb.com, weather

Gardens4u season opener

Today was a beautiful sunny day here in Ottawa Ontario, a perfect day to start my GARDENS4U season.  Although 6C (43F) is still a bit cool and the ground is still frozen in some spots, I was able to get some things done.  Here is a list of garden chores that can be done as soon as the snow is gone:

  • cut back ornamental grasses to a few inches from the ground
  • cut off any broken, misshapen or unwanted branches on trees and shrubs.  Before the leaves come out on the trees the shape or framework of the branches is easier to see.
  • cut back any overgrown shrubs that flower in summer.  Even if you do not want to reduce the size of the shrub, old wood that no longer flowers can be removed now
  • cut out old wood that no longer flowers on early spring blooming shrubs back to the ground.  You can tell the old wood from the new wood by its color.  The old wood is usually duller in color and thicker in diameter
  • trim, shape or prune evergreen shrubs
  • cut back group 3 (summer or fall blooming) clematis to 1 foot from ground
  • rake leaves out of garden
  • remove winter covers from shrubs and trees
  • treat lawns with a fertilizer and pre-emergent weed preventer combination
  • rake lawn hard, but be sure to wait until it is no longer spongy to walk on

 

Happy gardening!