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  1. 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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  2. You Can Change the Color of Some Hydrangeas

    There are many kinds of Hydrangeas available today. Maybe the plant breeders went a little crazy introducing new selections recently. The good news is there are a lot of Hydrangeas with new color options, smaller plants, and more flower power!

    Nature Hills offers many options with some of the newest and the best.

    There is one group of Hydrangeas with pink or red flowers that can be changed to blue or purple flowers by altering the soil pH. This group is called Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) and the flower color can be changed by growing the plants in a lower soil pH.

    There was a breakthrough with this species of Hydrangea that opened the door to growing them in colder regions. Then the plant breeders went to town introducing many new varieties with many new shades of reds, pinks, purples and blues. Some are mop head types with rounded flowers, and others are lace-cap flowers that are flat topped and the flowers open in a circle.

    In general, these hydrangeas really prefer a slightly acidic soil higher in organic matter, mulch over the roots, and protection from the hot afternoon sun. Soil pH is the measure of alkalinity (higher) or acidity (lower) of the soil. You can buy pH test kits, or you can get soil from your local ag extension office to find out the pH and fertility levels - if you are interested in trying to change color at home.

    Most of the production nurseries are growing these plants by treating the soil with aluminum sulfate or soil sulfur. The flowers that are produced in the lower soil pH are lavender, purple, or blue – or even a mix of these colors.

    Some areas of the country naturally have a lower soil pH and those same Bigleaf Hydrangeas exhibit the blue and purple colors naturally. Maybe those same Hydrangeas are more pink and red at your home? If that is the case, then you can change those colors by treating the soil of your Hydrangea macrophylla.

    Have you seen all the amazing selections available today? Smaller plants that re-bloom, and bloom for longer periods of time are leading the pack. Remember that only Hydrangea macrophylla types are the ones that you can change the flower color. In Hydrangea arborescens types (like the old-fashioned Annabelle types), flower color is not affected by the soil it is grown in. The same holds true for Hydrangea paniculata selections that are so popular, as well as Hydrangea quercifolia. These plants are not affected by the soil pH, but the flowers all do a bit of changing as they age and eventually dry and remain on the plants.

    A simple way to change the color of your Hydrangea macrophylla selection is to add 1 tablespoon of aluminum sulfate mixed with a gallon of water and use that to water your plant throughout the growing season - a couple of cups each week or so. This simple method will help keep the soil pH lower and the blue and purple flowers coming on. When watering your plants with this mixture please be sure that your plant is not completely dry when you apply the aluminum sulfate as it could burn the roots. Keep your hydrangea roots watered and then apply the solution the next day to prevent any issues.

    Amazing Hydrangeas! Click here to check out all the incredible selections our production team is pumping out!

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  3. Please Don’t Roll Your Lawn

    Each spring, we see people having their lawn rolled. One of the biggest problems of growing most plants - whether roses, trees, or even grass – is soil compaction.

    Lawn rolling uses a heavy weight to roll over your grass area to eliminate bumps or imperfections. But please do not compact your soil.

    If you have imperfections in your lawn, you are better off raking topsoil into the lower areas and filling them in, INSTEAD of rolling and compacting your soil.

    Leave the lawn rolling to the amateurs and allow your lawn the opportunity to breathe!

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  4. “Un-wintering” your roses

    Those of you lucky enough to be growing roses in the warmer regions of the country, you don’t have to be so concerned about getting your rose plant to survive the winter season.  Your plants are already actively growing, and some are already seeing flowers. 

    In areas where roses go completely dormant and need protection, those roses are just starting to wake up. 

    We have found the best way to over winter Hybrid tea, Floribunda, Grandiflora, shrub roses, and climbers is to mound up the base of the plants with at least a foot of arborist wood chips, or mulch of any kind.  This covers the bottom foot of so of the canes protecting the plants.  Climbing roses that are not hardy should be carefully laid down and those canes covered with wood chips or mulch too.

    Now that winter has finally receded from the northern areas it is time to pull that mulch away from the bottoms of the rose canes and get them pruned!  Wear some good heavy gloves to protect your hands.

    Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas, and many shrub roses all make flowers on NEW GROWTH.  That means that these roses you are uncovering really do need to be trimmed so the plants produce the best flowers. 

    In these colder regions, we do not trim roses in the fall.  We leave the rose branches (canes) alone until early spring just before they start to grow. 

    Older rose bushes that have been in place for many years you should take a bit of time with each plant eliminating any dead or brown and dry canes right down to the ground with a nice sharp pruning shears.  Any nice green stems that are not broken and look healthy should be reduced to about 6-8 inches in height. 

    The new growth that develops from those 6-8-inch canes will produce nice strong stems with large and healthy flowers. 

    Any of the older shrub rose types that bloom on old stems should not be pruned now.  Know what kind of rose you have before you prune.  Some of these older native roses that bloom on last years growth will flower in June and when that stem flowers you cut it down to the ground and new stems arise from the ground.  Those stems make next year’s flowers.

    Climbing roses are a bit fussier in the more northern climates for sure.   Very formally trained climbing roses that are trained over arches or trellises may need to have some professional advice based upon the variety to best know how to prune them. 

    In most cases Climbing roses will bloom on the stems from last year.  Then the newest shoots from the ground may also produce roses on the tips of those newest canes later in the summer.  When the oldest, fattest stems are done blooming after their first set of blooms, those stems can be removed as far down as the ground allowing new stems to take over that arise from the ground.  In some cases, if you are trying to maintain cover of an entire rose arbor you may decide to leave more of the older wood in place, so the plant does continue to cover the entire trellis or structure it has been trained on. 

    The key is removing older and/or diseased stems leaving clean and healthy stems each year.  Winter damage may make pruning decisions for you. 

    Clematis vines make and incredible companion plant that can be planted among climbing roses allowing the Clematis vines to mingle with the rose canes adding complementary or even contrasting colors to the rose blooms.  Both the Clematis and the Rose can co-mingle quite nicely neither overtaking the other making them perfect companions to co-exist. 

    Roses love sun.  The more sun, the more flowers you will see.  Sun makes strong canes and sturdy flowers, and initiates reblooming roses quicker.  Water the roots, do not water the leaves.  Keeping the leaves dry will lessen the chance of foliar diseases.  Mulch over the soil up to the rose canes will not only look nice, also reduces the incidence of soil born diseases.

    Treating roses for insects can be done with organic options or if not many.  Or if you are in an area that has a lot of pressure from insects you may want to consider using a systemic rose care option.  Granular systemic rose care is applied to the soil, watered in, and the plant takes up the active ingredient to prevent bugs from chewing on those plants. 

    With all the incredible options of shrub roses today, be sure to check out the many amazing colors, smaller sizes, and re-blooming and everblooming options that make shrub roses so popular for today’s color injectors to your landscape.

    If you need help deciding which roses are for you, be sure to let us help.  Don’t forget to cut a few and include them on your nightstand or at your dinner table. 

    Check out the many pages of pictures of the roses that we offer at Nature Hills Nursery by clicking here.

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  5. Southern Magnolia Trees Drop Leaves in Spring

    If you are a new owner of an elegant, white flowered Southern Magnolia, you should know this …

    Glossy, dark green, leathery leaves on the Magnolia are incredible, but when spring rolls around, those beautiful leaves turn yellow and spotted and fall off the tree. This is perfectly normal and is expected each year.

    Even though Southern Magnolias are evergreens, in spring, new leaves push off the old leaves - but not all at once.  Most deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, but Southern Magnolias will drop the older leaves in the spring - every spring.

    Fresh new foliage replaces the older, discolored leaves, giving your plant a fresh new look each spring!  Enjoy.

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  6. Plants or Fence? You Decide

    Arborvitae make an excellent backdrop for your perennial or shrub border and at the same time eliminate the neighbor next to you. Natural, unpruned plants are maintenance-free and offer cover for wildlife year-round. Much better than a fence, don’t you think? NO painting, no maintenance, and a friendly way to eliminate a neighbor’s camper or messy yard that you can both enjoy (maybe even split the cost??). Watch them get better each year. Arborvitae available today can be found by clicking here.

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  7. Why Buy From Nature Hills?

    Nature Hills Nursery’s main office is in Nebraska, but did you know that we have contracted with over 16 of the best growers across the country?  Most other online plant stores ship from one location, and all the plants get shipped to that location.

    As Nature Hills has expanded each year, we have added classic lines of plants from growing regions that do that plant palate well.  When it comes time for you to receive that plant, it arrives directly from our grower who knows best how to grow that plant.  Not everyone can grow everything in one location under one set of growing conditions.  This is the reason we reach out to other areas across the country.

    Nature Hills saw a need to put some of the challenges of growing these different crops of plants in the hands of the growers that know best how to produce them.

    Rather than having the many kinds of plants shipped across the country to one big shipping yard like the other online e-commerce nursery companies do, we let our professional growers who are growing, trimming, fertilizing and watering the plant ship their product to your door.

    Why do we ship from different locations?  Simple – it lets us offer the widest variety of plants to the greatest area, without sacrificing our quality.  Imagine trying to hold southern plants and northern plants in the same location as other online e-commerce companies do.  No wonder there is disappointment with the finished product shipped from our competition.  We follow strict guidelines regarding quality and only work with growers who meet and exceed our standards.  When we say “from the fields to your door”, we mean it … literally!

    As Nature Hills continues to expand, we are broadening our offering with the new series of plants, new dwarf selections, new fruit and berry selections, new re-blooming shrubs, and longer blooming shrubs.  We are always bringing on the newest perennials, newest roses and new trees too.  We continue to grow the plants that are tried and true and the ones that receive the most positive feedback.  Our growers keep us updated on the newest plant material available so that in turn we can offer them to you!

    This is what sets us apart from other online nurseries - premier growers who are bringing new plants to market, growing and caring for them, and shipping them directly to your home.

    Our team has also engineered the best method of boxing plants to prevent them from becoming damaged during the short time they ship to you.

    Nature Hills is able to offer various sized plants, many that are nice sized landscape quality sure to please.  The days of the old “mail order” companies shipping many very small plants in the same box (the size of a shoebox) are long gone.  E-commerce purchases from Nature Hills brings a new level of quality and size to our customers who prefer shopping from the comfort of their own homes 24 hours a day.  

    Working with leading growers keeps us current with the nursery industry trends, keeps us compliant with invasives and other plant issues that arise across the country.  We have three top horticulturists on staff to assist us and you with everything from tropical plants, annuals, perennials, vines, evergreens, fruit trees and small fruits, citrus trees, and shade and ornamental trees that work in 48 states.  Our full-time, on staff compliance officer insures that we are on the front end of doing things right.

    We are constantly tweaking our plant offerings, making sure our plant descriptions and pictures are accurate.  Care and growing tips are detailed and user friendly.

    We are America’s largest online plant nursery.

     

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  8. Do Deer Resistant Plants Exist?

    Is there such a thing as plants that deer will not eat? Not really, but there are plants that deer prefer not to eat – if given a choice.

    Let’s say you live in an area with lots of deer and you want to add some new plants from Nature Hills to your landscape. To start, choose some plants that deer do not prefer. On the day you plant them - before the end of the  very first day - spray on some deer repellent.

    Why spray the first day? Deer will move through an area and if there is a plant that was not there previously, they will sample it just to see if they like it. 

    If you have sprayed the leaves and stems of that new plant that makes it taste bad, deer will move onto something they like better. Re-apply as needed every few weeks. Fencing is another option.

    Homemade deer repellent spray

    • ½ gallon water
    • 2 raw eggs
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • 2 crushed garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

    Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth (may need to do in 2 batches). Strain through mesh screen and put in spray bottle. Apply to the leaves and stems of your new plants. Store in fridge.

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  9. Flowering Shrubs to Punch Up Your Landscape

    Maybe it has been a while since you went shopping for some new flowering shrubs. Maybe the last time you looked for any new flowering shrubs was at one of the big box stores that seem to roll out the same old plants from the same old growers year after year.

    Now is a great time to browse Nature Hills Nursery for some of our great, new, dwarf and reblooming shrubs from the comfort of your own home!

    Perhaps it’s time to cut out those old, tired, overgrown shrubs and revive your landscape. There is no reason you must be stuck looking at old overgrown shrubs for another year when you can easily transform your landscape with some of these incredible new and reblooming plants. These new options offer color for extended periods, and many are much smaller growing - reducing the need for pruning as they age in your landscape.

    Here are a few “gotta have” new shrubs that you may not have been exposed to before.

    New, smaller growing and re-blooming or extended blooming Hydrangeas are the ticket! Wee White and Limetta re-bloomers offer lime green blooms that mature to classic white before drying and remining on the plant for winter interest. Fire Light, Little Lime, Little Quick Fire, Diamond Rouge, and Bobo are all super hardy, start out white, and age to pinks (some to reds) before drying and remining on the plant for the winter. The Cityline Hydrangea is a whole series offering dwarf selections that don’t need pruning and have pink, blue, red, fuchsia, and purple colors. The Everlasting series is also dwarf, and the blooms transform themselves through white, pinks, blue, purples, and greens. How about our new favorite Cherry Explosion, which offers amazing red flowers that cover the plant? Try and find some of these at a big box store.

    The new re-blooming Azaleas are absolutely incredible in the spring, summer and again in the fall. What more could you want? Check out the Bloom-A-Thon Series offering pink, purple, red, white and lavender. And let’s not forget the new dwarf Encore Azalea Series with over 30 color options, including pinks, white, reds, oranges, salmon, purples and various shades of these colors. Our availability of the series changes as they are hard to keep in stock.

    Nandina Firepower has become the hot, new, red shrub that stays small and is as winner.

    Let’s not forget the months-long color from The Black Diamond series of Crape Myrtle, which offers a rainbow of colors for the more southern states. The flowers come in white, pink, purple, and red, and they have amazing deep purple colored foliage as a backdrop. These are big shrubs for screening and massive color displays that last and last. You may not be able to grow Lilacs in the south, but you are lucky to have Crape Myrtles that offer color for a much longer period of time.

    Butterfly Bushes love the heat and sun, are dwarf, and have tremendous color summer into fall - and many of the new ones produce no seed. A simple no-brainer to grow for sure. Many purples, pinks and whites dominate this group and are the flowers are huge magnets for pollinators. Simply cut these down each spring and sit back and watch them pop into action for summer and fall color.

    Weigela shrubs have had the interest of plant breeders and the new selections bloom with a heavy bomb of flowers in June, as well as a recurrent bloom later in summer into fall.  Check out our vast assortment in white, pink, purple, red, and even yellow. The new selections have deep purple foliage as a great backdrop to the flower color. New selections are much smaller. 

    You want more?

    How about the showiest woody shrub for summer into fall? Rose of Sharon is a woody Hibiscus that has the interest of the breeders for double flowers and being sterile plants. The flowers resemble carnations on a larger shrub. Amazing blue, purples, pinks, white, and bicolor plants are showy and hardy. 

    Lilacs galore! Nature Hills has some beautiful, colorful and fragrant shrubs in many sizes for those of you who can’t plant Crape Myrtles in the north. Lilacs rock and come in blue, lavender, pink, purples of many shades, white, and even a pale yellow.

    Check out everything that we have to offer. Punch in your zip code to find out which hardiness zone you are in so you know which plants will work for your home.

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  10. The Methley Plum, One of Nature's Best

    In the world of Plums, there are hundreds if not thousands of varieties worldwide that are available for the home gardener. All have their own distinct characteristics - but none so distinguished as the Methley Plum. This variety has it all; it is widely adapted throughout the U.S. from zone 4 to 9, offers heavy production on a naturally small tree with medium to large rich flavored red-fleshed fruit and is self-fruitful!

    The Methley plum actually has a very interesting history in that it is believed to be a Hybrid between an American Plum variety (Prunus cerasifera) and the Japanese Plum (Prunus salicina). This happened unintentionally as a select seedling in South Africa around the turn of the 20th century.

    How it found its way back to the States is anyone’s guess, but the impact that Methley has had on plum growing in the United States is undeniable.

    Like other Japanese x American hybrid Plums, the Methley is adapted to a wide range of climates and weather conditions. It is reported to grow well in zone 4-5 throughout the east coast and upper midwest, 5 to 7 throughout the midwest and along the coastal regions of zones 8-9. It is adapted to the extreme cold, moist coastal regions and produces well in regions with less than 250 hours of chill. The Methley Plum has proven to be one of nature’s best plum creations.

    Along with being a highly adaptable variety, the Methley’s growth habit make it a first choice for the home gardener. A naturally low-growing tree with a wide spreading canopy makes size control of the Methley a breeze. Keeping the tree to a height below 10 feet requires very simple pruning - mostly to keep the canopy open for good air circulation and light penetration along with keeping the width in check.

    The spring bloom is also a real treat as the Methley is a profuse bloomer with fragrant blossoms. This adds to the plant's value in the landscape when used as a medium size accent plant. Plant the tree along with other early blossoming varieties like Santa Rosa and Shiro to improve production on all.

    The dependable harvest of delicious red/purple skinned fruit with dark red flesh is an absolute treat. Methley is tops for fresh eating with a unique and rich sweet plum flavor. Methley Plum is also renowned for wonderful jellies and preserves created with its wonderful fruit. With the abundant fruit set that the Methley produces, there will be plenty fruit to work with.

    In this world of hybrids and new and improved, here is a variety that nature took total control of and produced one of the best all-round fruits for us to enjoy; the Methley Plum.

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