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  1. 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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  2. 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:  https://getchipdrop.com/

    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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. 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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  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. “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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  9. 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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  10. 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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