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Aphids

One of the most common insects, and one of the most potentially plant-threatening, is the aphid. There are actually many types of aphids – more than 4,000 in all. Some feed on specific plants and others are not so choosy. They all attack the newer plant growth and suck sap from a plant’s internal circulation system, the phloem, in stems and leaves. This can decrease the plant’s growth rate, discolor or disfigure leaves, cause galls to form and transmit plant diseases. Strong aphid infestations can lower produce yields and eventually kill plants altogether.

Recognizing Aphids

Aphids – also called plant lice, blackflies and greenflies – are easy to recognize. They’re about one-eighth to one-third of an inch long, usually pale green but can be almost colorless, pink, black or brown. Their pear-shaped bodies have six legs, small tail-like structures and long, jointed antennae. Aphids are soft-bodied and are mainly found in dense groups on the underside of new plant growth, where they leave behind a sticky residue called honeydew. Ants are attracted to aphid honeydew, so a nearby ant infestation or very active ant colonies may also indicate that aphids are present. Aphids are most common in spring, and die off rapidly in the hot temperatures of summer.

Controlling Aphids

Fortunately, controlling aphids is fairly easy. Most full-spectrum chemical insecticides kill aphids. Other, less strenuous products include plant extracts, neem oil, plant oils and insecticidal soap water sprays. A regular spraying with strong blasts of water or hand picking will control many infestations, especially when just a few aphids have been noticed. Many gardeners release ladybugs (lady beetles) to eat the aphids or parasitic wasps to lay their eggs in the aphid, but because these natural predators will quickly spread out, large applications of hundreds of predators may be needed to effectively control an aphid infestation. Another option is to encourage insect-eating birds to visit the yard – chickadees, titmice and warblers all especially love aphids and can provide superior natural pest control. Even hummingbirds will happily munch on aphids.

It’s best to control aphids early. As their numbers increase, the drying leaves begin to roll over them, thus protecting the aphids from controls such as soaps, oil and water sprays, and making it harder to effectively eliminate these pests. If you think you have aphids or you’re not sure what you have, bring in a sample. We’ll take a look and suggest the best way to eliminate the problem and help you protect your plants.

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Soil 101

How well do you understand your soil? It’s more than just dirt, and the more you learn about soil, the better you’ll be able to care for it to ensure a stunning landscape, healthy lawn and productive garden.

All About Soil

The four elements of soil are minerals, water, air and organic matter. Different combinations of the four elements create the four main categories of soil: sand, silt, clay and loam. Of course, we all want loam – that rich, vibrant soil thriving with beneficial bacteria and with a smooth but crumbly texture ideal for root growth. Unfortunately, true loam soils are rare, especially around homes where topsoil was removed and heavy machines compacted the remaining soil during construction or renovation. Most of us have clay soil, which has finer particles that compact easily into a dense mass. Clay soils also retain more water and can easily become too soggy or waterlogged for healthy plants. But just because your soil may be clay, it doesn’t have to stay that way!

Improving Soil

Improving soil is actually quite easy. All soils are improved by adding minerals and organic material that help balance out the overall components of the soil’s structure.

Before adding minerals, test the soil to determine its pH (acidity or alkalinity) and determine any mineral deficiencies. Lime decreases soil acidity, gypsum adds calcium and helps break up heavy clay and sulfur increases acidity. Other soil amendments to add to a clay soil include sand, cottonseed meal and peat moss, all of which will help improve the drainage and structure.

Organic matter refers to plant or animal materials decomposed into compost or “humus.” This residue comes from leaves and other plant materials, as well as certain animal wastes. Grass clippings, paper and certain types of decomposing food can also be ideal compost. The quality depends on the origin of the original biodegradable matter. Many people make their own compost using bins in which materials are mixed until they decompose. Others purchase finished compost. When compost is added to soil, it releases nutrients that are vital for healthy plants, and healthy bacteria and microbes will thrive in organically-rich soil.

The Magic of Mulch

Mulching is a simple way to add biodegradable materials to the soil. Evergreen needles, tree leaves, lawn clippings, chicken manure, etc., can be worked into the soil to decompose. This process improves the air spaces between the soil particles and rearranges the sand, silt and clay to produce optimum soil structure, improving the water retention and drainage balance and making nutrients available to plants.

When soil has proper structure and sufficient nutrients for healthy plants, optimum health has been achieved, and great soil will lead to great landscaping, turf and gardens. Congratulations and keep on growing!

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Scented Geraniums

Unmatched for fragrance and beauty in the garden, scented geraniums are undoubtedly showstoppers. With many to choose from, each with its own distinctive habit and fragrance, scented geraniums are also great for hanging baskets, window boxes or any type of container. Although the colorful flowers are small, the leaves of the scented geranium are the most spectacular part of this unusual herb.

A Bouquet of Scents

Scented geraniums come in a wide range of distinctive aromas. Some of the most popular varieties include…

  • Rose Geranium: This cultivar has spicy rose-scented foliage with small clusters of pink flowers among the dark green leaves.
  • Peppermint Geranium: This is a fast growing geranium that spreads to a 4-6 foot mound with clusters of white flowers appearing in summer. Leaves are lobed and medium green. This is a particularly good one for hanging baskets.
  • Lime Geranium: This geranium shows off beautiful lavender flowers in summer and its leaves are serrated, round and light green. These can become quite bushy.
  • Apple Geranium: Apple-scented geranium is another good one for a hanging basket. Clusters of white flowers appear on trailing stems and leaves are round and ruffled.
  • Lemon Geranium: This geranium has tiny purplish flowers and small wrinkled leaves. This one features a nice clean lemon scent that freshens a room quickly.
  • Coconut Geranium: This plant has a trailing habit that works nicely as a ground cover or in a hanging basket. Its flowers are in small clusters and its leaves are round and dark green.

Other popular scented geraniums include chocolate, nutmeg, orange, apricot and almond.

Growing Tips

Scented geraniums are not particular about soil, as long as it is drained – they do not tolerate wet roots well. These plants enjoy full sun and cool climates, with partial shade in warm areas. Pinching off end leaves will encourage bushiness to help keep a fuller, more compact form.

The leaves can be harvested any time and used fresh or dried.

Harvesting and Use

One of the real joys of scented geraniums is harvesting the leaves and using their fragrance in a variety of ways. The leaves can be harvested at any time, and they may be used fresh or dried, though the fragrance may change somewhat or its potency may change as it is dried. Experiment with both fresh and dried leaves to find the aromas you like best.

Scented geraniums can be used in some jellies, puddings, stuffing, punches, teas and vinegars. The oils in leaves are often distilled to make perfume, and the leaves make a sweet addition to sachets and potpourris. No matter how you use them, or even if you simply enjoy them in the garden, these lovely plants are sure to be a welcome addition to your garden and landscaping.

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Plants for Wet Soil

More water is always good for plants, right? Wrong! When water stands in the soil, air is displaced, which in turn smothers the plant roots. Once the roots are damaged many symptoms appear on leaves and shoots including wilting, marginal and inter-veinal browning of leaves (scorch), poor color and stunted growth. But the excess water isn’t always coming from overwatering, it may be the result of poor draining soil.

Poor drainage is often produced in disturbed sites when heavy clay soil is compacted by construction machinery or other excessive use, such as yards where several children are often playing. Areas cultivated for plantings, such as flowerbed or borders, then collect water running off the compacted ground – this is called the teacup effect. Wet areas may also be the result of swales, drain spout runoff and low areas even when soil percolation is adequate in most of the site but when general moisture levels are routinely high.

To check for a potential drainage problem, dig a hole at least 2 feet deep, fill it with water and note how long the water remains. If it doesn’t drain completely away within 24 hours a severe drainage problem exists.

Fortunately, you can correct drainage problems in different ways. Easy options include…

  • Divert water past plantings using drainage pipes, splash blocks or rain chains.
  • Plant in mounds or raised beds so water will run off and away from the plants.
  • Install drain tiles in saturated areas or use French drains to contain excess water.
  • Amend the soil with organic matter such as compost to improve its structure.

An even easier solution is to simply select plants that tolerate wet sites. The following trees and shrubs tolerate wet sites and flooding better than most. Few tolerate standing water for long periods (those that grow in truly swampy conditions are marked *), but all will do better in wet areas.

Shade Trees

  • *Acer rubrum/Red Maple
  • *Betula nigra/River Birch
  • Liquidambar styraciflua/Sweet Gum
  • Alyssa sylvatica/Sour Gum
  • Platanus occidentalis/Sycamore
  • Quercus phellos/Willow Oak
  • *Salix spp./Willow
  • *Taxodium distichum/Bald Cypress

Flowering Trees

  • Amelanchier Canadensis/Serviceberry
  • Magnolia virginiana/Sweetbay Magnolia

Evergreen Trees

  • Calocedrus decurrens/Incense Cedar
  • Ilex opaca/American Holly
  • Thuja occidentalis/Pyramidal Arborvitae

Deciduous Shrubs

  • *Aronia arbutifolia/Chokeberry
  • Clethra alnifolia/Summersweet
  • *Cornus spp./Twig Dogwoods
  • Enkianthus campanulatus/Enkianthus
  • Ilex verticillata/Winterberry
  • *ltea virginica/Virginia Sweetspire
  • Lindera benzoin/Spicebush
  • Myrica pennsylvanica/Bayberry
  • *Rhododendron viscosum/Swamp Azalea
  • *Salix spp./Pussy Willow
  • Viburnum spp./Viburnums

Evergreen Shrubs

  • *Andromeda polifolia/Bog Rosemary
  • *Chamaecyparis thyoides/White Atlantic Cedar
  • *llex glabra/Inkberry
  • Kalmia atifolia/Mountain Laurel
  • Leucothoe spp./Leucothoe

Perennials

  • *Arundo donax/Giant Reed Grass
  • Aster nova-angliae/Asters
  • Astilbe spp./Astilbe
  • Chelone/Turtlehead
  • Cimicifuga racemose/Snakeroot
  • Helenium autumnale/Helen’s Flower
  • Hibiscus moscheutos/Hardy Hisbiscus
  • *Iris kaempferi/Japanese Iris
  • Iris siberica/Siberian Iris
  • *Lobelia cardinalis/Cardinal Flower
  • Lobelia syphilitca/Blue Lobelia
  • Monarda didyma/Bee Balm
  • Myosotis scorpiodes/Forget-me-nots
  • Tiarella cordifolia/Foam Flower
  • Trollius europaeus/Globe Flowers
  • Viola spp./Violets

Ground Covers

  • Gallium odoratum/Sweet Woodruff
  • Gaultheria procumbers/Wintergreen
  • Hosta spp./Hosta
  • Mentha spp./Mint
  • Parthenocissus quinquifolia/Virginia Creeper

Annuals

  • Cleome hosslerana/Spider Flower
  • Myosotis sylvatica/Forget-me-nots
  • Torenia fournien/Wishbone Flower
  • Viola wittrockiana/Pansies

Not sure which water-loving plants to choose? We’d be happy to help you evaluate your landscape moisture and other conditions to help you choose the very best plants for your yard!

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How To Succeed At Seed-Starting

It’s easy to buy seedlings, but there are many reasons why you may wish to start your own plants. By starting your own seeds, you have a much greater selection of flowers, vegetables and herbs to choose from. For example, old favorites like hollyhocks and less common varieties of herbs and perennials as well as heirloom vegetables might not be available as plants, or stocks may be limited. Plants with fine seeds should also be started indoors because they can easily wash away in the rain and they may have a difficult time competing with weeds. Starting your own seeds can also help you extend the growing season so you can enjoy a longer, more productive harvest. So why not get started today?

Containers for Starting Seeds

Traditionally, seeds are started in flats or peat pots. There are various sizes of plastic trays, cedar flats, peat pots and the popular Jiffy-7, a flat, peat-moss wafer, available. When moistened, the Jiffy-7 expands to form a small, self-contained pot of soil into which a seed is sown directly. This is an excellent choice when sowing seed of plants that do not like their roots disturbed during transplanting. You might also use eggshells or folded newspaper pots to start your seeds.

Seed-Friendly Soil

It is best to use a light, soilless mix when starting seeds. These mixes are sterile, meaning young seeds do not have any weed seeds to compete with, and there are no harmful bacteria, insects or other pests in the soil right away. Good seed mixes also contain adequate nutrients to carry seedlings through until transplanting. Do not use garden soil, as seeds will not germinate well in the heavy soil, and a fungus disease called damping off is common.

Temperatures for Seeds

Most seeds require warm soil in order to germinate. You will need to heat the soil of the seedling flats with a heat mat, heat tray or heating cable. Seed trays can also be placed on top the refrigerator or hot water heater. Do not put seed-starting trays on a windowsill; nighttime temperatures are too cool to allow for good germination. Seeds need consistent warm temperatures of 75 degrees or warmer for optimum germination.

Seed Watering Needs

Seeds need to be kept constantly moist in order to germinate. Moisten the soil thoroughly before planting. Water when the surface is dry with a misting nozzle or plastic spray bottle until the soil is saturated. The medium should be constantly moist, but not soggy. It is important not to overwater, which could drown the seeds and tender seedlings, but also not to permit the flat to dry out.

Sowing Seeds

Seeds should be sown 2-10 weeks before the last spring frost date. Your seed packet will provide this information as sowing dates can vary for different plant varieties or even cultivars of the same plants. Fill your containers almost to the top with moist growing mix. Tamp it down gently and smooth it out. Gently press the seeds into the mix or simply set them on the surface of the soil and place milled sphagnum moss over the top to prevent damping off. Cover the container loosely with plastic wrap or a clear dome, which will help preserve moisture and warmth. Be sure to label your containers with plastic or wood plant stakes and write the plant name and the date sowed. Set trays in a warm spot and check daily to keep evenly moist.

Seedling Care

Once seedlings have grown a half-inch or so, you should water less frequently. Let the soil dry slightly between watering, which will help the seedlings stretch and develop a strong root system. Seedlings will also need light and the best method is to use the traditional fluorescent fixtures or the new energy-saving LEDs. Suspend lights just an inch or two away from the plants. Lights must be on at least 14-16 hours a day. As your seedlings grow, raise the lights accordingly so they do not bump into the lighting fixture. If your seedlings do not get enough light, they will become weak and spindly. Fertilize seedlings weekly with half-strength, balanced, organic fertilizer. A fish and seaweed blend works well. Thin seedlings if they become overcrowded, choosing the healthiest, strongest seedlings to save.

Hardening Off and Planting Out

When the weather is warm, move your seed trays outside gradually over a 5-7 day period. Start by putting them out just for a few hours during the late morning to mid-afternoon, and then gradually increase until they are left out all day and night. Keep them in a lightly shaded, protected spot during the day to prevent sunburn. After a week or two of this transition, gently transplant seedlings into the garden. Try not to handle the root ball too much, as they are quite fragile. Water thoroughly after transplanting and again every day for about a week. Newly set out plants will look sparse at first, but they will grow and fill in quickly, leading to bumper crops and a lush, delicious harvest!

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Seedling Box Tray in Greenhouse

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Damping Off Disease

Arguably the most common, and certainly the most frustrating, seedling disease has to be damping off. Damping off is a common term used for several fungal diseases that cause sudden seedling death. Seedlings get very thin where the stem meets the soil. Young seedlings will then fall over, shrivel up and die. The loss of an entire seedling crop can devastate your gardening plans and set you back several weeks. If the infection is severe enough, you may lose entire types of seedlings because there will not be enough time left in the growing season for new seedlings to reach maturity.

Protecting Seedlings From Damping Off

The wisdom of Ben Franklin applies well to protecting seedlings: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The more steps you take to minimize the risk of damping off, the better you will be able to protect all your delicate seedlings. Popular and effective techniques to prevent damping off include…

  • Sterilizing all seedling containers with a 1:10 bleach solution between every use, and sterilizing them again if they’ve gone unused for a long period of time.
  • Use a sterile seed starting mix so there are no fungal spores or other contaminants in the initial soil.
  • Plant seeds on the soil surface and top with vermiculite, milled sphagnum peat moss, chicken grit or sand to minimize fungal invasions.
  • A one-time sprinkling of cinnamon or charcoal on the soil surface will act as an anti-fungal agent. This should be applied after seeds are planted.
  • Water containers from below allowing the surface of the soil to dry slightly between watering. This prevents moisture on tender leaves and stems that can lead to rot.
  • Provide good air circulation around seedlings with a fan on a low setting. This will help leaves and stems stay dry and firm.
  • Spray seedlings with a cooled ounce of strongly brewed chamomile tea added to a quart of water. This is a mild anti-fungal home remedy.

If you notice seedlings start to succumb to damping off, it may be best to quickly thin them out or sacrifice the infected part of a tray rather than attempt to save the seedlings and risk spreading the disease to more young plants. While this will reduce your crops somewhat, it is better than risking the loss of an entire flat of seedlings. If you catch the symptoms quickly enough, it may be possible to sterilize the planting containers and start again to regrow the seedlings you have lost.

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A Feast for the Eyes

Traditionally, when planning a vegetable garden, the focus has been primarily on function with aesthetics as an afterthought – a productive harvest has usually been more important than any visual appeal. This year, why not try a new approach? Thoughtfully combine beauty and performance to create an edible garden that will explode with a variety of color and an abundance of produce. It can truly be a feast for the eyes as well as the table!

Planning a Beautiful Vegetable Garden

Color, texture and form are characteristics we keep in mind when combining plants in the flower garden. We plan flowerbeds so that plants enhance each other, repeating colors and shapes for continuity and flow. We add a variety of texture and form for diversity and interest. Vegetables, herbs and fruits can be just as vibrant, exciting, diverse and easy to combine as annual and perennial flowering plants are.

To begin, provide structure. Placing a picket fence around your garden offers instant structure and visually sets it apart from the rest of the landscape. If you plan on planting along the outside of the perimeter, you will create the allure of a garden within a garden, with a hint of secret places. Place a straight pathway through the center, starting at the entrance. Divide the larger garden into smaller square planting beds using pathways to separate the beds. This will enhance the structure of, and provide easy access to, the garden beds as well as lead your eye through the garden. If desired, you can also used raised beds for this formal structure.

Next, focus on plant selection. Begin with a plant plan or layout. Initially, base your selections on what is pleasing to your individual tastes. Consider unusual varieties of vegetables and herbs that come in unique colors. Repeat colors, both horizontally and vertically, to add depth and dimension to the garden. Don’t forget to add brightly flowering annuals such as zinnias and marigolds to mingle amongst the edibles. Another consideration is edible flowers like nasturtium and calendula. Contrast colors for a striking, eye-catching effect. Keep in mind, also, texture and form. Bold textures add drama and are often combined with fine-foliaged plants for a softening contrast. Short, stout plants anchor the garden bed while tall, willowy plants raise the eye and lead you farther down the garden path. Take all these characteristics into account when planning and place plants in geometric patterns to create a quilt-like garden tapestry.

Finally, your spring edible garden will emerge invoking a feeling of calm, displaying a variety of cool greens, purples and blues found in peas, lettuce, cabbage and broccoli. Shortly after, the summer edible garden will be completely transformed at harvest time with an explosion of vibrant shades of red, purple, orange and yellow. With so many stunning options to combine, you can truly create a feast for the eyes that will be beautiful in every season!

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Nurturing Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs faithfully reappear at the most advantageous time – after a long, cold winter, just when we’re longing for bright colors to relieve the monotony of winter snow and ice. Most spring bulbs are perennial and multiply in number every year, bringing more beauty to the flowerbeds each spring, but some problems can destroy a carefully planted bulb bed. Seemingly carefree, bulbs do require a bit of nurturing to ensure they perform their very best for years to come.

Tips for Bulb Care

  1. Good soil drainage is important to prevent bulbs from rotting so plan your site accordingly. Do not plant bulbs near areas where downspouts let out or large snow piles may build up and spring melt can drown bulbs.
  2. When planting bulbs in the fall, add a high phosphorus fertilizer to the planting hole for the development of strong roots. This will help the bulbs establish well so they can renew themselves each year.
  3. Bulb foliage will often break through the soil after a few warm winter days. This vegetation is hardy and its exposure to the cold will not damage your plants or prevent them from blooming. There is no need to cover, wrap or otherwise protect this initial foliage.
  4. Fertilize bulbs as plants are emerging from the ground. Do not fertilize once flowers appear. Use a 5-10-5 granular fertilizer to assist in foliage and flower development, ideally one that is formulated especially for bulbs.
  5. After blooming, cut back the flower stalk. This will force the plant to put its energy into the bulb for next year’s flowers and not into seed production that would dampen the strength of the bulb.
  6. Allow the leaves to die back naturally. The leaves are vital for producing food that is stored in the bulb for next year’s growth. Cut leaves, never pull, once they have turned yellow – pulling can damage the bulb. Do not tie leaves as this reduces the leaf surface required for adequate food production.
  7. When the foliage has completely died back the bulb is dormant, and this is the proper time to dig and separate bulbs if necessary. Flowering will often be reduced when bulb beds become over-crowded. If division is needed, bulbs should be dug and stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place and replanted in the fall.
  8. Fertilize bulbs again in the fall with a high-phosphorus, granular fertilizer.

With thoughtful care, you can easily help your bulbs reach their full potential and they will thrive for many years.

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Growing Under Black Walnut

If you have a black walnut tree on your property, you know how difficult it can be to find anything that will grow anywhere near this plant.

Black walnuts release a substance called juglone into the soil, which is toxic to many ornamental and edible plants and can stunt their growth significantly – in fact, juglone is used as a herbicide in some areas! A mature black walnut tree can have a toxic zone with up to an 80-foot radius, depending on the tree’s size and age. Every part of the walnut tree contains juglone and this substance remains in the soil long after the tree is cut down, continuing to inhibit anything that may be planted in its place.

Fortunately, there is a wide variety of plants that are less affected by juglone and can still thrive in contaminated soil. When choosing to plant in an area where a black walnut is located or where one once stood, it is safe to make your selection from the lists below.

Vegetables

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Melons
  • Squash

Fruit

  • Black Raspberry
  • Cherry
  • Nectarine
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum

Annuals

  • Pot-marigold, Calendula officinalis
  • Begonia, fibrous cultivars
  • Morning Glory, Ipomoea
  • Pansy, Viola
  • Zinnia species

Perennials

  • Bugleweed, Ajuga reptans
  • Hollyhock, Alcea rosea
  • European Wild Ginger, Asarum europaeum
  • Astilbe species
  • Bellflower, Campanula latifolia
  • Leopard’s-Bane, Doronicum species
  • Sweet Woodruff, Galium odoratum
  • Cranesbill, Geranium sanguineum
  • Common Daylily, Hemerocallis
  • Coral Bells, Heuchera
  • Plantain-lily, Hosta
  • Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica
  • Balm, Monarda didyma
  • Sundrops, Oenothera fruticosa
  • Summer Phlox, Phlox paniculata
  • Polyanthus Primrose, Primula x polyantha
  • Lungwort, Pulmonaria species
  • Showy Sedum, Sedum spectabile
  • Lamb’s-Ear, Stachys byzantina
  • Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana
  • Horned Violet, Viola cornuta

Ferns

  • Crested Wood Fern, Dryopteris cristata
  • Senstitive Fern, Onoclea sensibilis
  • Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

Bulbs

  • Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa luciliae
  • Crocus species
  • Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis
  • Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis
  • Spanish Bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica
  • Grape Hyacinth, Muscari botryoides
  • Siberian Squill, Scilla sibirica

Trees

  • Japanese Maples, Acer palmatum
  • Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis
  • Canadian Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis

Vines and Shrubs

  • Euonymus species
  • Rose of Sharon, Hibiscus syriacus
  • Honeysuckle, Lonicera species
  • Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
  • Arborvitaes, Thuja species

Black walnut can be a challenging plant to have in your landscape, but if you understand the unique characteristics of this tree you can easily pair it with other plants that don’t mind its toxic effects.

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Eastern North American Native Ferns

Ferns are magnificent, whether in the wild or under cultivation. Among the oldest plants on earth, ferns can be traced back to the Coal Age, over 300 million years ago. Today, ferns are one of the most overlooked and under-utilized perennials in the garden.

Types of Ferns

Eastern North American native ferns are available in a vast array of sizes, forms and textures and thrive in a variety of habitats. Many ferns present a combination of both fertile (with spores) and infertile (without spores) fronds that add an additional element of interest to their growth and texture. Some ferns prefer sun, some shade. Some prefer moist soil, some dry. Some spread quickly, some stay put. Some are easy to grow, some… not so much. You get the picture – the versatility of this plant group ensures a selection for every gardener and every garden situation.

With so many ferns to choose from, which is right for your landscaping needs? Consider the following popular varieties, or come in to consult with our landscaping experts to find the perfect fern to complement your landscape.

  • Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) – Grows 24-36 inches tall. The stiff fertile fronds appear in spring, first green and later turning cinnamon-brown. The plant grows neatly in a symmetrical clump. This fern does best in a shady site with moist soil.
  • Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) – This is one of the few evergreen ferns native to the eastern United States. The leathery fronds of this durable fern reach 18 inches in height. The Christmas fern is not an aggressive spreader and is easy to nurture in a moist, shady garden.
  • Hay-Scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) – This lovely fern grows to about two feet in height and spreads rapidly. Spreading may be controlled by pulling out some of the growth in spring. This fern does best in full sun to partial shade and will tolerate somewhat hot, dry sites. Hay-scented fern produces lightly scented, apple-green, lacy fronds that add delicacy to the garden.
  • Interrupted Fern (Osmunda claytoniana) – This fern is unusual for its sterile, three-foot tall fronds that have brown spore cases in the middle of the frond with pale green leaflets both above and below. Interrupted fern grows best in a shady site with moist soil. This fern will tolerate more light and drier soil than most, and it is remarkably easy to grow.
  • Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) – This fern can reach up to 36 inches, although its height can be quite variable. This easy-to-grow fern is an excellent choice for beginners. In the spring, Lady ferns produce a hearty flush of reddish-green growth. This is when the plant is most beautiful. Lady fern does best in shady conditions with slightly acid, moist to wet soil.
  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) – At 18 inches tall, this specimen is the daintiest of the Eastern North American native ferns. The fan-like leaves are borne on delicate, curving, black stems. This fern does best in filtered light and well-drained, cool soil. This fern spreads fairly slowly.
  • Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) – This fern produces light-green, gracefully arching fronds that reach up to 40 inches or more. This is an excellent choice for background planting. Underground runners extend in all directions and will colonize large areas, so it needs abundant space. The early spring fiddleheads are edible. Ostrich fern does best in sun to partial shade and moist soil. It is native to marshy areas.
  • Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) – This fern forms a three-foot, vase-shaped clump of bright green fronds. Light brown spores are borne on the top of the fertile fronds. Royal fern does best in shade or sun and a moist organic soil.
  • Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) – This fern makes a spectacular ground cover of 18 inch high, light green fronds. The fronds emerge in the spring tinged pinkish-purple until maturity. This fern prefers average moisture and part sun.