1. Your Plants Need Water, But Not Too Much!

    Did you know that you can kill some plants just as easily from too much water as not enough water?

    The confusing thing is that a plant that is being overwatered even looks like a plant that does not have enough water – wilting, brown leaf tips, yellow leaves, and leaves that fall off the plant. 

    Factors that can cause overwatering

    Soil type makes a huge difference in the frequency that additional water may need to be added. 

    • In sandier soils, you will need to water your plants more frequently, as the rain or irrigation drains away from the soil quickly. 
    • Heavier clay soils will not allow the water to percolate as quickly and will hold the water in place for a longer time.  Adding water to clay soils too frequently can cause big problems. 
    • Plants grown in containers depend upon you to supply the proper amount of water.  Make sure the pots you use have holes in the bottom, so excess water can drain away from the soil if too much water has been applied. 

    Why don’t plants like lots of water? 

    Well, some plants will grow in water or at the water’s edge. However, most of the plants you are using around your home are not water plants. 

    Roots are not dumb - they will grow to wherever they find food, oxygen, and water. Roots do not always just grow out in all directions all the same distance from the plant like you might think. 

    If the roots are waterlogged, they will not have enough oxygen. This can lead to stress or root rot, which will weaken the plant, or cause it to die. The plant roots may respond by growing closer to the surface and away from the areas that remain wet. 

    Ironically, if roots grow close to the surface to escape negative effects of overwatering, your plant will be more vulnerable to times of drought. You want your plants to firmly establish themselves in your garden with deeper root systems.

    New plants versus established plants

    Newly planted plant materials need you! Don’t install new plants and go on vacation. You need to be there for them. Newly planted bare root or container grown plants will need extra water the day you plant, and more frequent watering’s to keep the plant moist enough to start making new roots into YOUR soil they were planted into. That is the key! 

    Plants all respond a bit differently, and timing will depend upon the temperature and weather at planting time – but being attentive to the water needs is crucial for the first couple of weeks. 

    How do you know if your newly planted plants need water?

    Use your finger by sticking it into the soil up to the 2nd knuckle at the roots.  Feel the soil.  If moist – skip watering that day.  If dry – then give a good drink that day. 

    After a couple of weeks, you will notice that your newly planted plants are needing less frequent watering. That’s because the plants have established some by growing new roots into your soil finding their own food, oxygen, and water on their own. Yay!  After they have established, your plants become less dependent upon you to supply any additional water. 

    How often do you water older and established plants in your yards? 

    It is almost impossible to make a blanket statement about watering with so many variables like soil types climate, and temperatures. Most older and established trees will not need you for a lot of help. With that in mind, watch your weather patterns and if you are not seeing rainfall for longer periods of time that is normal for your area – it would be worth your while for dropping a hose under your Birch tree or other Genus of plant that might needs some additional soil moisture in your area.

    Use the finger method for feeling the soil at the roots to feel if plants are needing water. Use mulch over the top of the roots around your plants without mounding any mulch up against the plant stems or the trunks of your trees. Mulch will help to maintain and hold better moisture where it is needed. 

    It’s better to water your established plants longer and less frequently, rather than for short, frequent “sprinkles.” Again, you don’t want your roots to grow shallowly near the surface where they can dry out quicker.  A larger volume of water applied to the roots will allow more roots to continue to grow down deep into the soil, where moisture may be more readily available.

    Also, water the roots of your plants, and not the leaves or flowers. You’ll keep your plants cleaner and less susceptible to foliage problems. 

    The finger test…don’t forget!  It works on house plants too. It’s so simple. 

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  2. Tips and Tricks to Establish your New Plants in Spring and Fall

    Nature Hills offers plants two ways, container grown plants and dormant bare root plants.  Let’s take a look at tips and tricks to ensure success.

    Establishing Bare Root Plants

    Bare root plants are shipped dormant and without any leaves and no soil on the roots! They are dug in fall after they have been exposed to frost and the plants have started to go dormant. Garden experts shake off all of the soil from the rootsBare root plants remain dormant until they are shipped to you.

    How? They are stored in a cooler with no soil on the roots (at a controlled very high humidity) just above freezing. So bare root plants can be shipped from November through the winter (in milder climates) all the way into June.  All bare root plants will be carefully wrapped to keep the roots covered and moist at all times during shipment.

    Soaking your bare root plants in a tub of water overnight before planting really improves success to near perfect.  

    Fall Planting of Bare Root Plants

    Establishing a bare root plant in the fall is simple.  Soak, plant, water to settle the soil in around those roots, and keep an eye on soil moisture.  Remember that fall planted plants will not grow until the following spring, but the big secret is those fall planted bare root plants will produce new roots in the fall before winter comes. 

    Initial watering at fall planting, then a good soaking the next day, and then using the finger test to feel if the soil needs additional moisture at the roots is the BEST WAY to know if the roots are kept moist. 

    Plants that dry out after transplanting will actually cause some of the smallest roots to die which reduces the chances for the plants to take up the water needed to support the top of the plant.  Keeping even moisture at the roots is the key to a successful transplant.

    Don’t Overwater Plants – Use the Finger Test

    If you just add water every day to your plants, it could cause those roots to rot which can kill the plant too.  Even soil moisture is best achieved by what we call the finger test – stick your finger up to the 2nd knuckle into the soil and feel.  If it feels moist – skip water that day and if it feels dry then give a good drink. 

    Fall and winter bare root transplanted plants will need much less water than spring and early summer bare root plantings.

    Establishing Container Grown Plants

    Plants that have been grown in pots can be shipped to you dormant or actively growing, depending upon the time of the year they are shipped and the region they are grown in.  Container grown plants can be shipped anytime as long as we are shipping to your area. 

    Container grown plants are easily slid from the pots they were grown in and can be carefully planted in the ground.  Dig the hole no deeper than the pot it was growing in – but twice as wide or even more.  Loosening the soil wider than the size of the pot allows the new roots to easily develop as they spread and re-establish the plant in its new home. 

    Getting your newly planted container plants established as quickly as possible is to your advantage: 

    • Upon arrival at any time of the year – completely submerge your plant into a tub of water until it stops bubbling. 
    • Then take the plant out and allow to drain while you plant.  Gently loosen the soil on the bottom of the root ball to separate circling roots. 
    • As you backfill around the root ball with the soil that was excavated from the hole be sure to again completely saturate your plants right away. 
    • Then, use the finger test to know if your plant needs watering or not. 
    • Know that your container plants will need much more water (attention to frequency) when the temperatures are warm and sunny in spring and summer compared to fall shipments. 

    Soil type, temperature, and time of the year all makes a big difference as to how much water a plant will take up.  But it is not just about how much water the plant will take up – it is about keeping the roots of your newly planted plants just moist without over watering or mistakenly letting the plant dry out too much – so that your plants can start making new roots. 

    Roots eventually will grow to find food and water on their own.  Once they start to do so, your plants become less dependent upon you for additional water when needed.  It can happen in a little as a week or sometimes as much as a month or more.

    New roots are most easily initiated with you being highly attentive to the soil moisture at the roots of your newly planted plants.  That does not mean you just water it every day or once a week.  It means you use the finger test to feel the soil daily at the start, so YOU KNOW WHEN your plans are needing additional water.  As new roots form you will notice the plants will need you less frequently and that is the key. 

    Happy planting!



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  3. Small Plants, Color are trending…

    Are you are out looking for a new home?  New construction or perhaps an existing home?  What do you notice about the older homes?  In many cases, the older homes have big, overgrown plants in their landscapes. 

    It is pretty amazing how you can change the look of an older home by updating or renovating the landscape.  Many older homes have landscapes that “date” them.  Like clothes, or hairstyles or eyewear…landscapes are designed differently today than they were even a short while ago.  Not only an older landscape design, but older plant selections that have really outworn their stay.  After a while, pruning may not be the answer.  Maybe it is time cut off or tear out those outdated shrubs and start over with a fresh new look. 

    What do you notice about new homes that have been newly landscaped?  Not only are the plants smaller but you might notice more color, ornamental grasses and perennials have been included in the design. Color is huge, and smaller plants that rebloom are the landscape architect’s dream!

    Plants that put on less growth in a season are so popular the plant breeders are always looking for plants that remain smaller as they mature.  Plants that don’t grow as tall or wide need less pruning which is huge for those of you who have better things to do with your time than to be to be out pruning.  If you have someone maintain your property, dwarf plants can cost less to maintain. 

    Smaller flowering shrubs can still put out tons of flowers and fruit just like their larger parents.  Some shrubs produce flowers that are showy for an extended time.  Hydrangeas for instance bloom fresh flowers, age a bit to another color, and actually can remain on the plant well into fall.  Hydrangea flowers can be showy all winter long as they remain on the plant and dry. 

    Some shrubs rebloom so you not only get that one round of flowers, you get subsequent sets of flowers that are produced.  Invincibelle Wee White or Invincibelle Limetta are two fine examples in the Invincibelle series of dwarf Hydrangea selections that continue to produce new flowers once blooming begins.  Some other Dwarf and Reblooming Hydrangeas include the Let’s Dance® series, Tuff Stuff® series, some of the Endless Summer® series, and the Forever & Ever® series all are worth checking out for your new foundation planting. 

    Have you seen or read about the reblooming Azaleas series of plants?  Bloom-A-Thon® and Encore® series of include some incredible smaller versions of Rhododendrons that flower not only for weeks in spring, but most again summer and fall with weeks and weeks of bloom!  Many color options and check the mature sizes to pick the right one for the right place.  These Azaleas are game changers, photobombing your landscape with color throughout the season.

    Another group of plants that have been bred to be smaller, produce massive amounts of flowers in June, and then continue to bloom throughout the season right into the fall season is Weigela!  As a bonus many of these newer selections have some pretty incredible leaf color.  Then the plant breeders not only included longer bloom, more rebloom, great foliage but all wrapped up in a smaller overall size.  Brilliant!

    The same breeding is going on in perennials and grasses for smaller overall size without sacrificing the bang.  Sterile plants are hugely important too.  Plants that will not reseed or become invasive is also priority.  Many times sterile plants are so dumb, they keep making flowers because they are trying to make seed, so you become the beneficiary with a huge flower display!

    Finally, let’s not forget that edibles have worked their way into today’s landscapes – and why not? Newer dwarf selections of Blueberry plants are wildly ornamental sporting flowers, fruit, incredible summer foliage and don’t forget that great fall color too.  But we are also seeing raspberry, goji, honeyberry, rhubarb and even grape vines all being utilized in today’s design.

    Smaller plants with more color, and less pruning maintenance is all the rage.  Check out the many options from Nature Hills online nursery!

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  4. Crabapple used as a screening plant?

    You bet! Larger or smaller growing deciduous ornamental trees like Crabapples, Ornamental Pears, Ornamental Cherry trees all would work to do something like this. Pick something like this disease-resistant Red Jewel Crabapple shown here for an unbelievable pink bud-white flower cloud of bloom, followed by green and disease-free foliage all summer.

    Let’s not forget the jewel like red fruits that are showy from late summer and persists all winter long. Show-stopping red fruit then feeds the migrating robins, cedar waxwings and a whole lot more in late winter and in the spring.

    Beautiful backdrop to anyone’s backyard with plenty of privacy and a beautiful way to create an incredible outdoor room.

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  5. White Pine Windbreak

    Soft, feathery needles are born on a fast-growing Pine tree that will grow large in a short period of time.

    Trying to cut down on that wind? A quick solution to reducing wind and snowdrifts would be the addition of a natural, elongated planting on the north and/or west side of your property.


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  6. Green Giant Western Arborvitae as a Tall Screen

    New housing developments many times do not have many trees or natural areas in which they were carved out of.  That doesn’t mean that you must put up with all that wind, or even neighbors that are encroaching upon your home retreat.  In a short period of time, look what Green Giant Western Arborvitae can do for your property!

    This planting has only been in for a little over 10 years.  Even when the plants were smaller, they were trapping snow, blocking wind, or blocking unsightly views.  No pruning was done but these Green Giant were allowed to just grow naturally and why not?  Beautiful and natural.

    Each year they get a bit taller and wider and become more valuable as they age.  You can’t say that about a fence…lol.

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  7. Mulch is where it is at …

    It’s sold in bags at the gas station or grocery store.  It’s sold at box stores.  It’s sold in bulk at lumber yards and landscape companies.  There are all different kinds of mulches available.  Bark chunks, shredded hardwood, double shredded, chipped and dyed mulches are available in different colors, and let’s not forget arborists chips that are available for free in many areas. 

    Why mulch? 

    Plants benefit greatly from a layer of mulch over the roots of new and existing plants.  Arborist wood chips are preferred because not only does it help retain moisture, but it actually absorbs moisture and helps to prevent runoff and the water ends soaking into the soil.

    Mulch applied to the soil surface helps to moderate the temperature keeping it cooler during the hottest times of the season and of course holding the heat a bit when the temperatures dip.  Mulch applications are excellent for new plantings in the fall as it will encourage new roots to develop later in the season in colder regions. 

    Let’s not forget that applying mulch to the soil surface around your plants will prevent weed from germinating.  Less chemical use and less physical weeding it not only better for the plants but saves you time and money.  As soon as you have your plants installed and you have bare soil, if you cover that bare soil with about 4-6 inches thick you won’t see any weeds.  Remember that you should never pile any mulch up against the trunks of trees or stems of the plants. 

    Remember that mulch put around your ornamentals will keep your plant cleaner from the mud from splashing up on the plants preventing soil borne fungus like black spot, mildew and rust on plants that are susceptible.  That alone is an incredible reason alone to make sure you get your mulch around your plants. 

    Applying mulch over the soil around your landscape plants really adds the finishing touch.  It ties the whole landscape together.  It really completes the look that we all love.  

    There are other options available when it comes to mulching plant materials.   Many times in commercial landscapes smaller rock or stones are used in various colors.  Most of the stone mulches are applied with a landscape fabric or plastic beneath and some type of edging to keep the stone confined to the beds.  Stone is not always the best for plants as the stone heats up and hold heat in colder climates and may mess up the plants going dormant in winter or heating up causing them to start growing.  Some commercial landscapes use a mix of stones or gravel in some areas and chipped or shredded wood mulch closest to the plants for an interesting mix. 

    Some mulches being sold are actually chipped up rubber tires that may be dyed various colors.  This mulch will not decompose but they may be extremely flammable so be careful using a rubber product. 

    There are wood mulches that are options.  Bark chunks do not absorb the water and can easily move from the area that you want to keep them.  Chipped and dyed mulches are many times used for those that want a red, brown, yellow or other colors showing up in landscapes too.  Many landscape companies use shredded hardwood mulches. 

    The interesting thing is the arborists wood chips that chips needles, leaves, stems, twigs, branches and whatever else that gets chipped up is one of the best mulches you can use – and best of all it most communities it is free!  There is even a website you can check out to see if they do free arborist wood chip drop right to your door locally.  Check out here:

    Help to keep your landscape plants weed free with fewer chemicals, stress free with better moisture retention, and reduce the runoff from your property. 

    Happy mulching!

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  8. Success with Summer Planting

    Planting continues all season long with high quality container grown plants from Nature Hills with great success!

    As the season changes, so do our care suggestions for the types plants being delivered during the heat of the summer.  Water is crucial for the plants survival right at the start. 

    The key to understanding container grown plants is that they only take water from the soil that we shipped with the plants.  The plants are growing full speed now with heat and longer days at the nursery.  The roots have now filled the pots and have infiltrated all the soil within that pot. 

    At the nursery they are getting watered once, maybe twice each day possibly including a cool down watering during the heat of the day. This container grown plants need to be completely saturated and if you take the time to do just that, the success rate is beyond belief. 

    Here are a few tips for summer and fall:

    • Summer container grown plants need to be rehydrated as soon as you can open the box!  You need to get your plant caught up on the moisture it requires to sustain the plant, and the best way to do that is to fill a large bucket with enough water so when you put that container plant into the water, it will completely cover the soil and pot completely.
    • Now let that pot sit under water until it stops bubbling (which means it has saturated the soil completely), pull the plant out and let any excess drain away. 
    • Now, plant your new plant by digging a hole no deeper than the pot but twice as wide.  Backfill with the soil you excavated from the hole, and one more time fill the hole with water completely saturating the soil of the plant and the soil around it.  We see a huge amount of success with this planting method! 
    • After planting, how do you know if your plant needs water or not?  Use the finger test.  Stick your finger into the soil up to the 2nd knuckle right at the roots.  If it feels moist- skip watering that day.  If it feels dry – water thoroughly.  As soon as the roots grow out to find their own food and water they become less dependent upon you for water.  Rain does not usually generate enough moisture unless it was a soaker.  Remember that temperature, wind, and soil type will all affect how quickly a new plant dries out.
    • Lastly, water the soil (not the leaves) of any plant.  Watering the soil and keeping the leaves dry lessens the chance of leaf spotting, foliar disease, or bacteria on the plant.  Putting mulch over the roots maintains better moisture and prevents soil borne disease on the leaves.

    Nature Hills is shipping quality, completely compliant plants across the U.S. all summer long.

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  9. Big & Beautiful Perennials

    Have you ever heard the garden saying regarding establishing perennials: “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap”?  Nature Hills is making it easy to make the leap and create big impact with well-established perennials for your backyard oasis.

    Last year, we geared up our perennial production and started growing beautiful specimen perennials in big #1 container size that are 6-8 inches across and hold about a gallon of soil.  This crop is now ready for your landscape.  These #1 perennials are going to present well in your landscape and will “leap” much sooner for you.

    Growing perennials a year ahead gives these plants time to multiply and grow to a nice size in our pots.  Many other growers pot up small liners and force them out in a greenhouse then ship them in the same season.  These #1 plants were grown last year, overwintered, and shipped now.  Our big robust perennials travel well in our beautifully engineered boxes, arriving at your door healthy and ready for planting. 

    When you receive your #1 perennials, pull the root ball out of the pot, lay on its side, and cut off the bottom inch or so of soil and plant for perfect success.  Give these larger more established plants more space in your landscape because we grew them an extra year for you!

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  10. When to Prune Flowering Shrubs

    It is important to know when to prune your flowering shrubs, so you get the most flowers.   Timing your pruning is the key to success. 

    Many early spring flowering plants already made their flowers all hidden and tucked away in the growth from last year.  Pruning at the wrong time will eliminate those flowers.  Here are some tips to keep you in the know.

    Let’s take a Lilacs for example…

    If you are out in the yard and your Lilac looks large and you have a pruner in your hand, it is late summer - and you just cut off the tips of the branches – your lilac will not bloom in the spring.  Let’s say you pruned them in fall, the same thing would happen in spring – no flowers.  Let’s say you prune your Lilacs in early spring before they leaf out - same scenario because you are removing the flowers that formed in the growth that developed last year. 

    There are many different kinds of Lilacs, and the bloom times are common and hyacinthiflora types, then the French Hybrids, then the Miss Kim & Dwarf Korean types, the Canadian hybrids, and lastly…the Japanese tree Lilacs.  As each of these kinds of lilacs finish bloom – that is the perfect time to prune each of those lilacs without affecting next years flowers.  Older and overgrown Lilacs can be renewal pruned (removing the oldest stems out to the ground) and again right after bloom is done.

    Let’s look at some of these other early spring blooming shrubs.

    Flowering Quince is an early spring blooming rockstar.  Orange flowers bust out early and last for more than a month.  Then the plant breeders went to work and introduced many new varieties and new colors and some re-current blooming as well.  Trimming Quince varieties is best done immediately after the early spring blooms finish.  Then all of the new growth will make next years flower so no pruning after the initial prune is done right after the flowers are done.  Those newer varieties can and will throw some additional flowers throughout the summer but keep the pruning to that time following the early bloom always.

    Forsythia varieties too have increased in number over the years.  Forsythia flowers are a welcoming sunny yellow or gold flowers arranged all along the stems in early spring before the leaves appear.

    Forsythia varieties are typically fast growing and are all basically treated the same way for pruning.  As soon as the flowers are done (with their sometimes month-long show) in early spring – that is the time to prune!  Older and overgrown Forsythia plants can actually be cut down to the ground right after the blooms are done and all new growth will develop and still bloom the following spring.  Many of the newest selections remain much smaller and easier to incorporate into smaller landscapes.

    Rhododendrons and Azaleas are treated the same when it comes to pruning.  Basically, Azaleas are considered Rhododendrons and are all included under the Rhododendron group.  Some are evergreen holding their leaves all year, and some do lose their leaves.  Reblooming varieties are being introduced all of the time but most of them are hardy in some of the warmer zones. 

    Pruning Rhododendron and Azalea varieties is sometimes hard for many to want to do – why would anyone want to reduce the size of a plant that flowers on every tip?  Well, in some areas they can get big or need a little tweaking to keep them looking like you want them to.  Pruning Rhododendron and Azalea varieties can be done right after the first round of flowers begin to fade.  A hand pruner selectively reducing the length of any branches back into the body of the plant will allow the plant to continue in its more natural form.  Do not be afraid to prune these amazing plants.  They will respond beautifully to pruning and still form more flower buds in the new growth that happens after the pruning is complete. 

    Magnolias are wildly showy and highly valued landscape plants.  Some Magnolias are grown as single stem trees, and many more are grown more like large shrubs with low branching or multiple stem plants.  Both methods of production are seen across the country, and preference is up to you.  Most Magnolias are larger growing plants and are used as a specimen plant or focal point in the landscape.

    Pruning Magnolias may be necessary to correct the structure, tweak the form, or reduce the size a bit.  Pruning should only be done right after the amazing flowers finish.  (kind of a theme here).

    Weigela plants have had extensive interest with breeders also.  New selections offer new form, smaller size, great and varied leaf color & flower colors, and reblooming capabilities stronger than ever.  Flowers in spring are best on last years stems so do not trim Weigela until that first round of flowers are done blasting off in June in many areas.  Waiting will allow your plants to bloom as heavily as Azaleas do, covering the stems with trumpet shaped flowers that the hummingbirds love. 

    Older Weigela varieties were much larger and most likely need more pruning then the newer, smaller selections.  Larger, older selections can be renewal pruned by removing the oldest stems out to the ground leaving the thinner and smaller stems to take over.  If very overgrown you can wait until the first round of flowers finish and cut the branches all down to the ground and allow new shoots to take over and bloom on the tips in fall and the following spring too.

    Birch and Maple trees can bleed sap if pruned early spring, so if you wait until they have leafed out, those cuts will not bleed and heal over quickly. 

    Spring Flowering Bulbs are so very welcome in the landscape.  Keep your bulbs happy and healthy by pruning them the right way.  Enjoy the flowers.  When the flowers finish, remove only any seed heads that might form leaving all other green parts of the plants remain.  These green leaves and flower stems make food for the bulbs and will keep your flowers next year larger and healthy.  Many people like to cut off the leaves when the flowers are done but wait to cut any of the leaves off until they turn yellow and they have done their job of making more food for the bulbs. 

    We hope this help you get the most flowers out of your shrubs!  If you have specific pruning questions, you can send them to [email protected], and we would be pleased to help you.

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