Monthly Archives: February 2017

  1. Health Benefits of Aronia Berries

    Aronia Shrub also called Chokeberry

    Aronia Shrub (also called Chokeberry)  

    Aronia plants are known as chokeberry plants. We know that name is not very appealing. On the contrary, Chokeberry plants offer multi-seasonal interest with flowers, fruit, fall color, and fruit that persists all winter long.Aronia plants make killer landscape plants, and are most desirable because they are wildly adaptable to sun or shade, and tolerate almost all kinds of soils, even those that don't drain well. Aronia plants have super glossy leaves all season long. In fall, they burst out into shades of red, purple, and orange putting on quite a show.


    Aronia Shrub Fall ColorAronia Shrub Fall Color  

    The Red-fruited Chokeberry plants from our nurseries include Brilliantissima, and Erecta. 'Erecta' is an upright form. Both have white flowers born in clusters, with red aronia berries that persist, and a fall color of beautiful orange and red.

    Red Chokeberry FruitRed Chokeberry Fruit 

     The Black-fruited Chokeberry plants from our nurseries include the Black species (native melanocarpa), Autumn Magic (compact form), Viking (excellent for fruiting) and Low Scape Mound (the hot new compact ground cover type). The black fruited varieties are prized not only for the great landscape value, but more recently everyone has discovered the amazing health benefits of the fruit.  

    Autumn Magic Black Chokeberry Fruit 2 rectangular for articleAutumn Black Magic Chokeberry Fruit.

    Aronia berries resemble blueberries in size, and they are born in clusters. They become fully ripe in mid-late August when the sugar content is the highest. The fruit is quite astringent and resembles the flavor of a dry red wine. The fruits have been tested as having incredible amounts of anthocyanins, and the highest amounts of antioxidants of any fruit tested, which aids in eliminating inflammation in the body. The health benefits from the fruit are amazing and Aronia berries are being used in many interesting new ways. You can find them fresh, dried and sweetened, or in juices and concentrates. Use them fresh whenever you can as you would a blueberry and add them to fruit salads, baked in cookies, pies or other confectionery while they are available. Throw them in the freezer to add to smoothies or baked goods, or in baby food preparations. Once you read all the health benefits from this amazing berry, you will want a steady supply of the fruits.   The Midwest Aronia Association has included some excellent information regarding all facets of Aronia and the health benefits of Aronia berries. It is worthwhile reading at your convenience: Aronia Berry: What is it?   Why Aronia?

    * Outstanding multi-season landscape plant that is very adaptable
    * Many different forms of the plant to fit your landscape
    * The incredible super berries reduce inflammation in the body and have many other attributes
    * Super hardy, relatively pest free plants, native in the upper tier of states


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  2. Valentine's Day Easy Elegance Mystic Fairy Rose Giveaway

    Enter to win 1 of 5 Easy Elegance Mystic Fairy rose shrubs. From, National Garden Bureau, and Easy Elegance Roses! Easy Elegance Mystic Fairy Rose
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  3. 9 Perennials to Use in Cut Flower Arrangements


     Bringing flowers in from your yard will be sure to have guests consistently asking you "who's your florist?". Consider these nine species for eye-catching, dramatic arrangements that will spike conversation and be one of the beautiful focal points of your entertaining space.

    Millenium AlliumMillenium Allium

     Millennium Allium - Allium senescens Millennium 

    For a fun addition to your arrangement, consider using Millennium alliums, the purple 1.5-inch globes add a touch of whimsy. In the landscape, this perennial has strap-like leaves and is fairly small, making it a spectacular addition in the late summer when it blooms. The flowers look great dried or fresh and will continue to persist for quite a while.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * USDA zones 4-8
    * Purple blooms in summer
    * 6-inch height and spread
    * Full Sun
    * Deer resistant

     White Clips BellflowerWhite Clips Bellflower

     White Clips Bellflower  Campanula, White Clips 

    For some delicate white flowers to use in arrangements, consider planting White Clips Bellflower. The cup-shaped blooms arrive in the late spring and early summer and can persist for over a week in an arrangement indoors. A prolifically flowering plant, White Clips Bellflower provides a seemingly endless supply of delicate white blooms.    

    Notable characteristics:
    * USDA zones 3-8
    * White blooms in late spring
    * 8-inch height, 24-inch spread
    * Partial to full sun
    * Deer and rabbit resistant

    Other varieties to consider:
    * Pearl Deep Blue Bellflower  dark blue flowers
    * Dickson's Gold Bellflower  blue flowers, chartreuse foliage

    Big Bang Cosmic Eye CoreopsisBig Bang Cosmic Eye Coreopsis

    Big Bang Cosmic Eye Coreopsis  Coreopsis, Big Bang, PPA

    Big Bang Cosmic Eye Coreopsis provides a big bang of color in your arrangement. With yellow and red bi-color coloration that persists through the  summer and into the fall, you can't miss these flowers in any arrangement. Relatively long-lived in arrangements, they add a touch of quirkiness to any arrangement they are used in.  

    Notable Characteristics:

     USDA zones 5-9
    * Bright yellow and red bi-color flowers
    * 15 inches height and spread
    * Full sun
    * Deer and rabbit resistant

    Other varieties to consider:
    * Zagreb Coreopsis   yellow blooms
    * Coreopsis Early Sunrise   Double yellow blooms

    Tomato Soup coneflower Tomato Soup coneflower

     Tomato Soup Coneflower  Echinacea, Tomato Soup,  PP19,427

    For a bright red that cannot be beaten, Tomato Soup Coneflower is the perennial of choice. This perennial's 3.5-inch flowers stand tall on sturdy stems and will last for quite a while in an arrangement. Beyond the beautiful blooms being well suited for cut flowers, they're favored by many pollinators. In the winter, the spent flowers will persist, adding an interesting aspect to the landscape.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * USDA zones 4-8
    * 3.5-inch bright red flowers
    * 32 inches height and spread
    * Full sun
    * Deer and rabbit resistant

    Other varieties to consider:
     Green Envy Coneflower   yellow and pink bicolor blooms
    * Hot Papaya Coneflower   double orange blooms

    Blue Glitter Sea Holly Blue Glitter Sea Holly

    Blue Glitter Sea Holly - Eryngium, Blue Glitter

    For an interesting, spiky addition to your cut flower arrangement, Blue Glitter Sea Holly will thrive both in dried arrangements and in your yard. With unique, spiky flowers and blue foliage, this plant is sure to be a stunner, both in your landscape and in your arrangements.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * USDA zones 4-8
    * Bright blue flowers
    * 6-8 inch basal height, flower scapes up to 36 inches
    * 8-12 inch spread
    * Drought tolerant plant

    Fire Dance Red Hot Poker Fire Dance Red Hot Poker

     Fire Dance Red Hot Poker - Kniphofia hirsuta 'Fire Dance'

    With blooms that start yellow and become orange, Fire Dance Red Hot Poker is a beautiful addition to height in an arrangement. As the flowers age, they shift from a bright sunny yellow to a dark reddish orange,  adding some unusual color to any arrangement. Known for its cold hardiness and drought tolerance, adding this perennial to your garden will not only be a pleaser in a vase but also along a walkway.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * USDA zones 4-9
    * Drought Tolerance
    * Orange and yellow flowers
    * 16 to 20 inches high and wide
    * Deer and rabbit resistant, pollinator friendly

    Blue Lace Delphinium Blue Lace Delphinium

     Blue Lace Delphinium  Delphinium elatum, Bue Lace

     Delicate lavender blue flowers perch on a tall stem, perfect for arrangements that need some vertical structure. It will rebloom in the late summer if spent blooms are removed, making it a multi-seasonal sensation. Best planted in nutrient-rich, alkaline soils, Blue Lace Delphinium has one of the strongest stems of the delphiniums, meaning it will stand up to stiff breezes and in vases.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * USDA zones 3-7
    * Lavender blue flowers
    * 1 to 2 feet spread
    * 5-6 feet high
    * Deer and rabbit resistant

    Other cultivars to consider:
    * Delphinium Summer Blues  bright blue flowers, compact
    * Delphinium Pink Punch  intense pink flowers

    Flame Sundaze Strawflower Flame Sundaze Strawflower 

    Flame Sundaze® Strawflower - Xerochrysum bracteatum 'Sundaze Flame'

    For flowers that will retain their beautiful yellow hue fresh or dried, Flame Sundaze Strawflower is the plant you need. Though not a perennial in all zones, this plant shouldn't be overlooked. Even though it is compact, it is covered with flowers that never lose their luster, even weeks after blooming. It is also great at tolerating those hot, dry spots in your yard, working through the hot summer days to bring you beautiful flowers that will last indefinitely when cut.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * USDA zones 3-11 (perennial in zones 9-11)
    * Bright yellow flowers
    * 12-18 inches tall
    * 10-14 inch spread
    * Drought tolerant

    Pink Muhly GrassPink Muhly Grass

    Pink Muhly Grass - Muhlenbergia capillaris

    Even though pink muhly grass isn't a flower by conventional definition, it's interesting pink seed heads deserve mention for use in floral arrangements. A multi-season plant, this grass provides structure in the spring and summer, an exciting show in the fall, and persistent seed heads into the winter. Be sure to enjoy these seed heads in a vase to bring a bit of the fall beauty into your home.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * USDA zones 6-11
    * Pink seed heads, blueish green blades
    * 2-3 feet tall and wide
    * Deer resistant
    * Drought tolerant

      Using some of these flowers in your indoor arrangements will bring a bit of the outdoor beauty inside, along with the pride that you grew them! Enjoy the long-lasting nature of these attractive flowers all year-round, both in the yard and in the house.

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  4. Juniper 101: Discover the Basics of Juniper Shrubs

    Mini Arcade Juniper Mini Arcade Juniper

     Nature Hills offers many different Juniper selections, and the forms vary greatly. If you have a hot, dry, sunny area,we have a Juniper for you. Once established, Junipers require very little additional water in most areas, and care is quite simple. Look at the different Junipers that our nurseries grow and see where you can work them into your landscape.

    Blue Point JuniperBlue Point Juniper

    The larger, upright growing forms are excellent for screening, windbreaks, and make great backdrops for shrub and perennial borders. Many selections produce small berries that the birds cherish and become an important source of food for birds. The midrange spreading varieties are great for snow fencing, and even in the background of a perennial border. The low spreading types are outstanding evergreen ground covers that never need pruning, and need very little care. The trend is to use Junipers that will allow the specific selection to grow naturally without having to trim or shear it back to fit into a spot. Many people used to shear them into round or square plants, but this is not as common any more. The natural form is feathery and soft looking and often much more desirable. The foliage color offers many greens, yellow and blues, and when some go dormant they can change color to purplish hues. Don't let the winter color turn you off as they can be very striking. We have three different upright growing varieties, sometimes referred to as juniper trees.

    Blue Point, Blue Arrow, and Eastern Redcedar (red cedar is a Juniper). All three of these are excellent for screening, windbreaks or shelterbelts, or a great backdrop to a shrub or perennial border. They prefer well drained sites that are in full sun. Once established, you will need to do very little with them.

    Kallay's Compact Juniper Kallay's Compact Junipe

    The midrange Juniper types include Kallay's Compact, Sea Green, and Grey Owl which are in that 3-4' height range and spreading to 5' or more. Excellent plant for larger landscapes where they can be used in mass plantings. Good barrier plants in the back edge of a property making an outstanding backdrop to a perennial border. Sometimes use as foundation for larger homes or buildings. The shorter groundcover type Junipers are excellent xeriscape plants to be used with rock mulch or in landscapes where grass in not needed. Some of these varieties are excellent plants spilling over walls or larger boulders. These include Blue Rug, Blueberry Delight, Mini Arcade, Bar Harbor, Blue Pacific, or Wisconsin Juniper selections. These selections create solid masses of evergreen foliage where it is hot and dry. Buffalo Juniper grows a bit taller, but it is typically used as a ground cover. Blue Star Juniper likes to stay in a 2' chunk of blueish foliage making them great for foundation plantings and individual plants mixed in the border for some winter substance.

    Blue Rug JuniperBlue Rug Juniper

    When selecting the right Juniper for your home, be sure to pay attention to the size and select the right plant for the right spot. Minimal pruning by heading back excessive new growth can be done in spring before they start to grow or anytime during the growing season. Use a hand-held pruner and only selectively head back the longest stems and allow the branches close by to remain. It is always a good idea to water all evergreens well before winter comes, as evergreens do transpire water all winter long even if the soil is frozen. Junipers offer food from the small berries produced, and cover to small birds and animals. Check out our Junipers!

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  5. Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans & Animals?

    Holly Close Up Fruit on a Female Holly Shrub

    Wreath Made of Holly Wreath Made of Holly

    Remember there are two different types of Holly plants, the evergreen types, and the deciduous types (the ones that lose their leaves in winter). Most of the Holly plants have separate male plants and female plants, and only the female plants will produce the berries. The berries are very showy, and on most of the varieties produce red fruits, but some are blue, black, yellow, or white. The fruit production makes the plants very desirable and attractive to wildlife and people or children. Cut branches are many times used indoors for holiday and winter decorations. Holly branches are perfect indoors for people with allergies as they do not contain dust, pollen or fragrances. Once indoors, the berries may dry and fall off which may make them available to children or pets to find and sample.

    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Humans? It has been posted on many sites and written that the leaves, stems and berries may be poisonous to humans. Many of these evergreen types have very sharp spines on the leaves which would deter anyone from probably trying to eat many of them. There have been reports of Indians and early settlers making tea from the leaves and berries in the early years. For humans, the berries will taste bitter and may cause an upset stomach or act as a mild laxative, if enough are ingested. While health benefits of holly are elusive, significant health harms have not been documented.   

    Symptoms Include Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea

    Symptoms Include Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea.  Much of the following information is being taken from an article written by Dick Bir, North Carolina State University, and from the book "Plants That Poison". The berries of all species of Ilex are reported to be poisonous if eaten in quantity (and that is the key here). The toxic principle is ilicin. Although it's not considered to be very poisonous, the attractive red or other colored berries should be considered dangerous to small children -- symptoms listed include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If large quantities of the berries have been ingested, it is suggested vomiting induced followed by activated charcoal, and obviously medical professionals need to be involved as soon as possible. We checked for specific toxicity references from landscape selections and found almost nothing. Therefore, it seems that rather than panicking if holly berries or leaves are ingested, please should remember that fatalities are unknown. If there are poisonous properties, they are frequently overstated. No part of the plant taste good to humans so most would not be interested in eating more after tasting. If you're not watching what your toddlers are eating, you probably have much more to fear from common beverages, condiments and household chemicals than from Hollies in the landscape.  

    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Dogs, Cats, & Other Pets? What about pets like dogs, cats and horses: are the leaves and berries toxic to these animals? The leaves and berries are of low toxicity to these animals. Again, the taste of the leaves (and in some cases the spines on the leaves) and the berries just do not taste very good and they will probably not eat much of any part of the Holly plants. If these animals were to consume enough, the symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, and depression.  

    Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Bird? What about holly plants and songbirds and migratory birds in your yard? Feeding the birds is wildly entertaining and Nature Hills devotes so much of our production to growing so many plants that produce food for wildlife. Creating backyard wildlife habitats has become so popular to attract more songbirds, migratory birds and a whole lot more interesting landscape.

    Planting a good mix of evergreen and deciduous plants that produce food is where to start  and Holly plants are included in that mix to feed the birds.

    Birds Love Berries of Many Kinds Birds love fruit & berries of many different kinds.

    Eastern Red cedar, Arborvitae and American Holly make great cover and protection plants for the birds. Now add plants like Viburnums, Holly, Inkberry, Dogwood, Sumac, Black Chokeberry, Crabapples and Hawthorns and you have yourself the start of a good thing. Depending upon where you live, Cedar waxwings, swallows, bluebirds, robins, chickadees, finches, cardinals will enjoy what you have developed for them. Add a few bird feeders and keep the seed dry and the feeders clean and you will have a lot of visitors. Holly plants are excellent bird feeders and the fruits are very desirable to birds. Some fruits from plants like Viburnums and Holly plants may not be the first fruits to be taken by birds. The birds seem to know what is most desired at different times of the year. Sometimes the fruit on these plants need to hang on and maybe even go through the freeze-thaw cycle to make the fruits more palatable to the birds. You may see a flock of cedar waxwings come through your yard and clean up all the fruit on a tree in a matter of a day or two. Holly berries will not harm the birds feeding on them so do not forget to include them in your backyard wildlife refuge.  

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