Monthly Archives: October 2016

  1. Russian Sage, Salvia, and Veronica: How to Tell Them Apart


    Little Spire Russian Sage Little Spire Russian Sage

    Russian sage, veronica, and salvia can appear to be very similar at first glance, but there are so many nuanced differences that will make one better for your space compared to the others. Flowers can be a key indicator in this situation. Salvia and Veronica have similar coloring, which can range from dark purple to rose pink to white. Russian Sage, on the other hand, always has purple flowers. Russian sage also has more airy blooms, instead of the more dense flowers of the other two plants.  The flower spikes of the salvia bloom profusely through the summer with larger flowers than Veronica. Salvia has lipped and lobed petals create a "landing zone" for pollinators - making it one of the top stops for pollinating insects. Veronica blooms mature from the bottom up, sometimes resulting in the tips of the blooms appearing green while the lower flowers are blooming.  

    East Friesland Salvia

    East Friesland Salvia

    Bloom times and regions are another factor in identifying these plants. Salvia blooms June through September, and has the potential to re-bloom. Russian sage follows about a month behind from July through October. Veronica usually blooms in early summer and lasts until autumn. Salvia and veronica thrive in zones 3-8, while Russian sage is suited to zones 4-8. The foliage and branching habits of these three plants can also help tell them apart. Both Russian sage and salvia are in the mint family. With square stems and opposite blue-green leaves, it's easy to see that they are related in some fashion. Russian sage differentiates itself with foliage that is more fern-like than the salvia leaves, which are more round with slight serrations. Veronica, in contrast, belongs to the plantain family and has round stems with bright green, glossy leaves. The leaves of veronica do not produce a noticeable minty aroma when crushed as they do with salvia and Russian sage as well. 

    Royal Candles Veronica Royal Candles Veronica

    The size of these plants can be a determining factor as well. Veronica tends to be a little smaller in stature than the rest, ranging from 8 to 15 inches tall depending on variety. Salvia will range from 12 to 24 inches tall. Russian sage is a shrub that can get much taller, reaching heights of 3-5 feet in many cases. While these three plants have similar flowers that can often be misidentified, it should be clear now that there are some easy to spot key differences between them. If you would like to see and learn more about the salvia, veronica, and Russian sage plants, follow the links to see the many different varieties available.

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  2. Deterring Home Invasions - With Plants!

    Deterring home invasions are one of the many features that landscapes can provide when being designed. Using plants that have thorns or cause irritation can help deter would-be-intruders.

    Washington Hawthorne

    Washington Hawthorne

    Washington Hawthorne Having a shade tree is ideal for homeowners, but having a thorny shade tree that prevents entrance into second stories is even better.  Washington Hawthorne is a tree that meets that requirement. Don't let the thorny nature of this tree deter you though, its brilliant white flowers in the spring and delicate orange fruits speak for themselves. Best of all, this tree is resistant to fire blight, a disease that is known to affect many hawthorne trees. Best planted in zones 4-8, it will thrive in any soil, reaching 25-30 feet tall and 20-25 feet wide with a very round, dense shape.

    Black Locust

    Black Locust

    A large, deciduous tree that makes it difficult to climb due to the thorns. There are thornless varieties available, but when trying to deter home invasions, thorns are the perfect defense! Reaching over 70 feet into the air at maturity, this tree has beautiful white flowers that attract pollinators. Come fall, dark purple-brown pods develop and are favored by many bird species. The green foliage turns to a clear yellow, before dropping for the season. One of the hardiest trees available, black locust thrives in zones 4-9, and will adapt to most soil types. Between the birds that may become territorial in the canopy and the thorns that develop along the branches, black locust is a great home-invasion deterrent tree, especially if you have multiple stories. 

    Carissa Holly

    Carissa Holly 

    Carissa Holly For plantings near windows on the first story, "Carissa" Holly " Ilex cornuta 'Carissa' " is a wonderful choice. At first glance, it seems innocuous. But upon further inspection, it's obvious that this plant has protection in mind, spines at the tip of the leaves have a bite. Evergreen through all the seasons, it makes an ideal backdrop for other brightly colored flowers to be planted in front. It stays round and fairly low, reaching a mature size of 3 feet tall and 3 ' 4 feet wide. Best planted in zones 6-9, this plant should be placed in front of a window for an optimal deterrent.  

    Rosy Glow Barberry

    Rosy Glow Barberry

    Rosy Glow Barberry Another under-the-window plant to deter home invaders is Rosy Glow Barberry is a small compact shrub (3 feet at maturity) that looks fantastic as a hedge. Like the name suggests, the ruby-tinted leaves make a statement when planted with other plants. The color only intensifies in the fall, before falling and leaving a thorny mass of branches. Best planted in zones 4-8, and tolerant of many soils, this slow-growing shrub will protect and deter from potential invaders.  

    Twist of Pink Oleander

    Twist of Pink Oleander

    Twist of Pink Oleander When stems are broken off, Twist of Pink Oleander releases a milky substance known to irritate skin and, in severe cases, cause blistering. Reaching 6-8 feet tall, its uses are limited with its size, but it works amazingly well as a hedge, especially in dry, arid environments. The variegated evergreen leaves persist all year-round, and bright pink flowers bloom in the summer, contrasting with other landscape beauties. A relatively low-maintenance plant, Twist of Pink Oleander is another tool at your disposal for home-invasion peace of mind, especially since it thrives in zones 8-10 in most soil types.    

    Rugosa Rose

    Rugosa Rose

    Rugosa Rose Finally, we come to one of the prettiest home-deterrent plants available: roses. Known for their thorns and their prolific flowering, there is a rose for almost every need. Height and flower color are species dependent, but choosing something like Rugosa rose will be key to helping deter would-be home invaders with their prolific thorns. As a bonus, you get to enjoy the simple blooms throughout the growing season. Ranging in hardiness from zone 2 to zone 8, many of the rugosa roses are extremely reliable and tolerant of many soil types.   These six plants can help deter would-be home-invaders from entering your house with thorns and irritants. Even though plants are no substitute for other good practices (locking your doors and other techniques), they can be one tool in the toolbox for house safety.Washington Hawthorne

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  3. The Complete Guide For Taking Care of Boston Ivy

    Boston Ivy On Brick Wall

    Boston Ivy Care

    Many people use boston ivy plants to cover walls, fences, pergolas and more. Being a very low maintenance plant, it is easy to care for but some upkeep is still needed for a beautiful looking vine.

    Planting Boston Ivy

    When choosing a location it is best to find an area that is sunny and has good soil. These conditions will help get better results with the plant growing faster and healthier. Boston ivy should be planted 18 to 24 inches apart. Plant them closer together if you want faster coverage on a wall or trellis. Boston Ivy should be planted 12 inches away from the wall to allow the roots more room to grow. The best time to plant Boston ivy is spring or fall. This is a hardy plant that will be able to grow even if planted in the summer; however, will need plenty of water and well drained soil.

    General Boston Ivy Care

    Boston Ivy Growing on Building

    Sunlight - Boston ivy can take a wide range of sun exposure, from full sun to partial sun, but it does best in full sun.

    Watering - These plants should be well-watered when first planted in order to get established. Once the plants get going, there is no need to worry about watering unless there is a severe drought.

    Mulching - Use mulch to help conserve moisture for the plants. This helps prevent weeds from growing around the vines and protects the roots in the winter.

    Fertilizing - Fertilizing is not necessary but feel free to use all-purpose granular fertilizer in the spring. Don't overdo it since too much could hurt the plants.

    Winter Care- The main thing for caring for Boston Ivy in the winter is pruning. There is more information about this below. It is best to prune in late winter once the leaves have fallen off and the plant has gone dormant.  

    Pruning Boston Ivy

    Boston Ivy Growing on the Fence

    The vines will grow aggressively if given the right soil, water, and sun conditions. Sometimes it is necessary to trim these plants back to a more desirable size, especially around doors and windows. The best time to prune Boston Ivy is in the winter. Even though this is a very tough plant, you can prune anytime during the year if you are careful not to trim too much. If you want to remove Boston Ivy, be careful not to rip the vines off of walls. This could damage the wall, take off the paint, or remove chunks of wood as well. To do this without damaging anything, first cut the vines off at the base of the plant and let the vines die, then the vines should come off the walls easily and without damaging anything. You will also want to kill the roots. To do this naturally, we recommend using white vinegar, but be careful to put the vinegar only on what you want to kill.

    Why is Boston Ivy Famous?

    You may have heard about Boston Ivy, but do not know why or in what context. The Ivy League was named after this plant and refers to the vines found on buildings at Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth colleges in the Boston area. The Chicago Cubs baseball field, Wrigley Field, has also helped make this plant widely known. The outfield brick walls are covered with Boston Ivy for a truly unique stadium. [Boston Ivy Growing on Wrigley Field Brick Wall Photo Credit to jimcchou on Flickr

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  4. The Difference Between Rhododendrons and Azaleas

    At first glance, rhododendrons and azaleas seem to be nearly the same plant. Classified into the same genus, Rhododendron, and with very similar flowering and growing habits, it's easy to say that it was some sort of confusion between common name and scientific name when discussing the same plant. Azalea Leaves (left) Rhododendron Leaves (right)

    In reality though, they are completely different species. Rhododendrons (common name) are those that remain evergreen into the winter with bell-shaped flowers. Azaleas, in contrast, are deciduous - losing their leaves in the winter - with funnel shaped flowers. Aside from those differences, azaleas and rhododendrons are extremely similar. Both prefer well drained soils with an acidic pH between 5 and 5.5. Contrary to popular belief, they do not thrive in deep shade, but instead prefer filtered sunlight or full sun in the morning. Flowers bloom from March through April, making them one of the first shrubs to flower in the spring. Azaleas are more adapted to drier conditions, and are able to tolerate more sun than rhododendrons. Depending on the cultivar, azaleas and rhododendrons are capable of thriving in zone 4 to zone 9. Come winter, the azaleas are more tolerant of colder conditions than rhododendrons, especially in climates where it tends to dip into freezing temperatures with wind. In deciding which cultivar to choose, consider what colors you wish to have in your garden in the early spring. Klondyke Azalea bursts with bright yellow blooms, and will mature to 6-8 feet tall and wide, and is best grown in zones 5-8.

    bloom-a-thon_lavender_azalea Bloom-A-Thon Lavender Azalea

    For something with a longer bloom period, consider Bloom-A-Thon Lavender Azalea. It blooms in March and April, then again in the summer for 12-16 weeks up until frost, and is covered with beautiful lavender flowers.

    PJM Rhododendron PJM Rhododendron

    P.J.M Rhododendron is a standby favorite of many gardeners; the pink flowers engulf the shrub in the spring, and the evergreen nature provides some character into the winter months. They are also one of the most hardy rhododendrons, thriving in zones 4-9.  

    Autumn Coral Encore Azalea Tree takes the familiar shrub and converts it into a tree form, ideal for a focal point in any garden. The delicate pink flowers cover the shrub in the spring, drawing immediate attention to it. Even when it is not covered in flowers, it makes a statement as a tree form, and is a stunning beauty, regardless of season.

    Autumn Sunset Encore Azalea Autumn Sunset Encore Azalea

    Autumn Sunset Encore Azalea shrub blooms with orange flowers in the spring, and continues on into the later seasons. Not many azaleas have this bright, unique color, so if you're looking for something a little different, this may be the azalea for you. Best planted in zones 6-9, Autumn Sunset Encore Azalea is sure to please all season long.     Regardless of whether you choose to plant an azalea or a rhododendron, the bright spring colors that last into the summer are sure to please and dazzle. With well-drained, acidic soil, your Rhododendron species will thrive and bring you cheerful color wherever you need it.

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