Gardening Questions

  1. 9 Plants for Early Spring Color

    87-12739443078Swj   After a long, dreary winter, everyone is ready to start seeing flowers begin blooming in the spring. Enjoy these nine plants that will bring you fantastic spring color early in the season.

    Eastern RedbudEastern Redbud  

    Redbud - Cercis canadensis
    One of the most famous spring bloomers, redbuds are one of the earliest spring blooming tree species. Renowned for their delicate flowers that bloom before the leaves emerge, redbuds are one of the first plants to indicate the start of spring. Often found as multi-stemmed understory trees, redbuds can be managed into a single-stem or a large shrub.

    Notable characteristics:
    * 20-30' tall, 15-20' spread
    * Flowers in March and April
    * USDA zones 4-9
    * Best in full or partial sun  

    Varieties to consider:
    Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud - 10' in all directions, weeping form, purplish-pink flowers
    Pink Heartbreaker Redbud - 10' in all directions, dense canopy, pink flowers
    Royal White Redbud - 20-30' in all directions, white flowers

    Snowbelle Mock OrangeSnowbelle Mock Orange

    Mock Orange - Philadelphus spp.  
    Considered to be one of the most winter hardy plants, mock orange blooms with beautiful, fragrant white flowers in early spring. Enjoy the sweet scent and watch as pollinators flock to your yard. An incredibly low-maintenance plant, enjoy mock orange as it blooms year after year every spring.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * Large, fragrant white flowers in April
    * Green foliage
    * Yellow fall color
    * USDA zones 4-9
    * Best in full sun  

    Varieties to consider:
    Miniature Snowflake - more petite (1-3' spread, 2-5' tall)
    Snowbelle - Double flowers, 3-4' in all directions
    Bouquet Blanc - high quantity of double flowers, 5-7' tall, 3-4' spread

    May Day Tree May Day Tree

    May Day Tree - Prunus padus 'European Bird Cherry'
    Large white flower panicles emerge in late April-early May, near May Day. The fruits are small black fruits, adored by many birds. Enjoy the multi-stem quality of this tree, and the beautiful white spring flowers.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * 15 - 20' in all directions
    * White flowers become small black fruits
    * Yellow to red fall color
    * USDA zone 3-7

    Jane Magnolia Jane Magnolia

    Magnolia - Magnolia spp.
    Renowned for its large floral display, magnolia trees are the stars of the spring blooming period. Following the floral display, shiny green leaves emerge and become yellow in the fall. The large buds of the flowers persist all winter, providing some interesting texture during the winter.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * Large flowers in early spring
    * USDA Zone depends on the variety
    * Shiny green foliage in the summer
    * Size varies based on variety  

    Varieties to consider:
    Butterflies - Yellow flowers, zone 4-9
    Little Gem - White flowers, zone 7-9
    * Jane - Pink flowers, zone 3-9 

    Kousa Dogwood Kousa Dogwood

    Flowering Dogwood Tree - Cornus florida
    This plant's spring beauty is found in the delicate four-petaled flowers that unfurl in early April. It provides some interest every other season too, from brilliant green foliage in the summer, to red fall color, to unique gray twigs in the winter. But the show-stopping flowers are the real stars of this spring bloomer!  

    Notable characteristics:
    * Large flowers in the early spring
    * USDA zones 4-9
    * Size varies based on variety  

    Varieties to consider:
    Satomi Dogwood - pink flowers, bird-friendly berries, dark red fall color
    Milky Way Dogwood - white flowers, bird-friendly berries, bright red fall color
    Kousa Dogwood - white flowers, edible berries, unique branching structure

    Hot Shot Girard Azalea Hot Shot Girard Azalea

    Azalea - Azalea spp.
    One of the most brilliant spring bloomers, azaleas are covered in flowers in the early spring, followed by green leaves in the summer into the fall. Beloved by many pollinators, having an azalea in the yard will help dispel those winter blues early in the season.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * Variety of colors to choose from
    * USDA zones vary based on variety
    * Adaptable
    *Can be evergreen in some zones  

    Varieties to consider:
    Autumn Coral Encore® Azalea Tree - Tree form, pink flowers, rebloomer
    Ashley Marie Girard Azalea - rose pink flowers, abundant blooms
    Hot Shot Girard Azalea - scarlet-orange flowers, more compact form 

    Fothergilla Mount Airy Fothergilla Mount Airy

    Mount Airy Fothergilla - Fothergilla major 'Mount Airy'
    If fragrant white flowers are what you're looking for, Mount Airy Fothergilla is the plant you need. In the early spring, this shrub is covered in flowers smelling like honey and vanilla. After the profuse blooms fade, gray-green foliage is revealed, turning red, yellow and purple in the fall.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * Fragrant white spring flowers
    * USDA zone 5-10
    * Brilliant fall colors

    Brunnera Jack Frost Brunnera Jack Frost

    Brunnera - Brunnera macrophylla
    Favored for its beautiful leaves, brunnera also has beautiful blooms in the spring. Delicate blue flowers erupt above the green and silver leaves and persist for a few weeks before receding. Enjoy the small flowers and the beautiful foliage of this plant from the spring into the summer.  

    Notable Characteristics:
    * Small blue flowers in the spring
    * USDA zones 3-9 (species dependent)
    * Green and white variegated foliage
    * Deer resistant  

    Varieties to consider:
    Jack Frost Brunnera - Green margins, white centers on leaves
    Emerald Mist Brunnera - Silver edging on the leaves
    Brunnera ‘Variegata’ - White band with green centers on the leaves 

    Dianthus Coconut Punch Dianthus Coconut Punch

    Dianthus - Dianthus spp.
    For a perennial of a smaller stature, consider using dianthus in your garden. Spicy, fragrant flowers erupt in the spring and persist all summer long. Dead-heading this plant results in a longer bloom period, and the foliage is considered to semi-evergreen, depending on what USDA zone you are in.  

    Notable characteristics:
    * Wide variety of flower colors
    * Spicy fragrant flowers
    * Semi-evergreen
    * USDA zones 3-9, depending on species  

    Varieties to consider:
    Coconut Punch Dianthus - Burgundy flowers with white markings
    Fire Star Dianthus - Brilliant red flowers
    Fire and Ice Dianthus - Bright pink with lighter petal margins  

    Each of these plants will help you chase away those winter blues with their bright flowers in the early spring. Consider using them in spaces to surprise your neighborhood and yourself when they come into bloom and watch them usher in the glorious springtime season! 

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  2. Ash Trees in the Urban Landscape

    Common Ash Tree Common Ash Tree

    Why is it that Ash trees became so popular to plant anyway? Green, Black and White Ash are native over a large portion of the US and Canada. Many nurseries have some incredible selections from the native species that are seedless, have great fall color, and beautiful upright and rounded forms. Municipalities, homeowners, and Landscape Architects began noticing the beautiful seedless selections that were coming on the market. They began being used on most all the projects not only because of their varied forms and fall color, but because of their adaptability of different soil types, and hardiness. If you have ever seen an Autumn Purple Ash in fall color, you know just how unbelievably and intensely gorgeous they can be. Too much of a good thing maybe? You would think we would have learned from our past mistakes by lining so many streets and urban plantings of American Elm only to see the demise of such a stately tree from Dutch Elm Disease that has wiped out so many trees. Thus, plant hybridizers and nurseries have developed so many different new Elm selections that are Dutch Elm Disease resistant and we are now able to grow many different cultivars once again. 

    Damage Caused By Emerald Ash BorersDamage Caused By Emerald Ash Borers

    The same thing has happened with the way we were using (or I should say overusing) Ash trees in the landscape. Who would have guessed that we would import a bug that bores into the trunks of all the different kinds of Ash trees and eventually kills them all? What no one really expected is that borers typically only affect trees that are stressed or not healthy, but the difference with this bug is that it wildly attacked every single healthy Ash in its path. Movement was slow and eventually we figured out the movement of dead Ash firewood was being transported to many campgrounds and people moving infected wood to their cabins and summer homes in heavily wooded areas that contained many native Ash trees. Many years later, we have yet to introduce a resistant Ash tree to the market. The bug continues to spread slowly and in all directions taking out all Ash in its path. What is the answer? Diversity is the key when it comes to all urban landscapes. A healthy urban forest includes many different kinds (many different Genus) smartly planted without a monoculture of any one kind of tree. Planting many kinds of trees alternating with different Genus is the key. Should I treat the Ash I have in my yard? Treatment is available and if you have a very important specimen in your yard, you may want to consider having it treated. What many are finding out in areas that are infected, they are spending their money on replacing those Ash trees instead of treatment.

    Look at how far the Emerald Ash Borer has moved across the US. Scary. Look at how far the Emerald Ash Borer has moved across the US. Scary.  So, what are some trees that are taking the place of Ash? What should I plant in my yard? There is not one single tree that is taking the place of Ash for the exact reason mentioned earlier; diversity within the landscape. Nature Hills sells trees across the entire U.S., so specific trees that do best in your area will automatically come up for your hardiness zone to best assist you with your selection. It is not a good idea to line your driveway or lot with all the same kind of tree. Strategically planted deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves) on the southwest side of your home will produce shade from the hot afternoon sun. In the winter months, those trees lose their leaves and allow the sun to warm your home in the afternoon. Some trees that might be used to replace Ash in the landscape or street trees keeping in mind a tree similar in size include the following:

    Maples (Norway types, Red maple types, Sugar Maple types, Silver Maples, and many hybrid types), Buckeye, River Birch, Catalpa, Hackberry, Yellowwood, Ginkgo, Honeylocust, Kentucky Coffeetree, Tulip tree, Ironwood, London Plane tree, Poplar, Oak varieties, Black Locust, Sassafras, Linden (especially American Sentry), and Elm (many Dutch Elm Disease resistant varieties available).

    There might be some smaller trees that you should consider using in place of an Ash:

    Lilacs (tree form), Mountainash (not an Ash, but does need a cool moist soil), Callery Pear, Flowering cherry, Flowering plum, Crabapples (many excellent and clean growers), Magnolia, Hawthorn, or Beech selections.

    However you choose to handle your existing Ash trees in your yard (treat or remove) if your Ash trees do become infected, just be sure to select trees that are hardy for your area, will work in the soil type you are planting them into, and one that has some interest. Keep a mixed urban landscape by including plants that are not in your neighborhood or overplanted in your area. For specific help, please let us know if we can assist you with selection for your area.

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  3. 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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  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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  5. Top 5 Winter Interest Plants

    Winter is the ever-returning friend and foe of gardeners.  You may rue the arrival of Jack Frost every year, driving you inside and sapping all the color from your garden.  But did you know that there are a number of plants that can keep your garden pretty all through the cold season? Looking to liven up your white-washed winter landscape?  Dust the dreariness with one of these winter interest plants:  


    #5 Arctic Fire Dogwood

    During the summer, Arctic Fire Dogwood is your everyday deciduous shrub. Round and green and merry, it is a cute little puffball. When winter comes, its leaves fall away, exposing its fiery red-orange branches.  They spray upward from the snow like fire, boldly defying the cold. 


    #4 Oakland Holly

    Holly is a timeless winter tradition. Stalwart, it stays green all year long.  Its iconic spiney leaves and evergreen cone shape make it a great pop-up in any garden location. It's beautiful as a border, framing an entrance, or simply standing in a field of snow.  The best part?  Its berries arrive in late winter!  Consider them an early burst of color to herald the coming spring.    



    #3 Winter Glow

    Bergenia Winter Glow's leaves don't fall off or die, they simply shift from frog green to deep red.   Want a garden that changes with the seasons?  It's simple: plant a bed of these greens to surround your flowers.  As the cold rolls in and the flowers die back, the Bergenia will start to glow.  


    #2 Fire Chief Arborvitae

    If you're a wildlife lover in a temperate climate, Fire Chief Arborvitae is your friend.  This little red-tipped evergreen grows in sun and shade, a naturally round hedge.   During the winter, it is a valuable source of food and shelter for your garden's visitors.  It'll make your yard a popular spot for migrating birds as well as deer and other non-hibernating herbivores.  


    #1 Cardinal Candy Viburnum

    Taking the crown for winter wonders, Cardinal Candy Viburnum is the full package.  It's cold-hardy (of course), ornamental in every season, and panders to the local wildlife. During the warm seasons, it grows tall and wide and features white flowers.  As autumn falls, its leaves turn burgundy and its flowers turn to bright red fruit that birds love.  The fruits persist throughout the winter, always shining ruby bright.     Winter doesn't always have to win.  Fight back with garden color it can't beat!

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  6. The 4 Main Types Of Hydrangeas

    Hydrangeas! Everybody loves them. They are at home in almost any garden, and gardeners know it. Their lush greenery and long-­lived flowers make them a favorite among landscapers and amateur gardeners alike. Hydrangeas bloom year after year, stay in bloom from early spring to late autumn, and some of them have the ability to change floral color like magic. Because hydrangeas are such a favorite, they tend to be a big seller. Retailers offer a range of different types of hydrangeas. It's important to know what you are getting, because there's a lot of variety. Some are different species, some are merely different cultivars. Cultivars are different ­looking plants of the same species (think: dog breeds.) Gets a little confusing, right? Well, here's a quick guide to the most common types of hydrangeas you can buy for your garden.

    Hydrangea Macrophylla

    Hydrangea macrophylla

    Macrophylla is by far the most widely distributed kind of hydrangea, with many cultivars available. It has triangular leaves and bursts of floral color arranged in either  'mopheads,' which are groups of flowers shaped like pom­poms, or 'lacecap hydrangeas,' which are flat-topped groups of flowers.

    These are the iconic color-­changing hydrangea. They can grow in pink, red, purple, or blue. The color of the flower depends on the acidity of the soil, which the gardener can control with fertilizers.

    Hydrangea Arborescens

    Hydrangea arborescens

    Arborescens is native to the eastern United States, and can be seen growing wild in forested areas. It's commonly known by wilderness enthusiasts as smooth hydrangea or sevenbark. Unlike its foreign relatives, arborescens is on the home team.  As such, it's hardy and cold-resistant and it doesn't deter native wildlife.

    Hydrangea Paniculata

    Hydrangea paniculata

    If you're looking for something a little different, paniculata may be for you. Its flowers are a little more spread out, grouped in cone shapes instead of balls. Paniculata's flowers are small and white, or sometimes light pinkish.

    Hydrangea Quercifolia

    Hydrangea quercifolia

    Also known as oakleaf hydrangea, quercifolia has gorgeous lobed leaves that look like that of an oak tree. Like paniculata, its flowers are arranged on long cone­-shaped structures. Oakleaf hydrangeas makes a nice accent to a woodland-­style garden, but anyone looking for the color-­changing effect would be disappointed. Oakleaf's flowers are white as snow no matter what soil they are planted in.

    So, there you have it. If you are thinking of getting some hydrangeas for your garden, have at it! Just make sure you know what you're getting. For more information, please check out the United States National Arboretum *Pictures taken from Wikipedia

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  7. Tapping Maple Trees for Syrup

    How to Tap a Maple Tree for Syrup:

    Learn how to use a "Spile" to tap into your maple tree to harvest syrup from the tree and make your very own delicious home made syrup.
    1.  Get a syrup spile, drill, and the correct size of drill bit.
    2.  Drill at an upward angle into the tree, deep enough for the spile.
    3.  Hammer in the spile and attach the bucket.
    4.  Cover the bucket to protect from the elements.
    5.  It is best to do this early winter when daytimes are above freezing, and nighttime is freezing.

    Transcript: Here I am, I'm about to install some maple spiles, which here is one of them right here. I'm going to install this into one of my silver maple trees which is on my property.

    I'm going to use a drill with a 3/8" bit. You want to take the drill bit, and drill into an angle that is facing upward, and drill into the tree. Put the drill down.

    There is the hole and we are going to hammer the maple spiles. So most of them have a hook on them at the bottom, to hang the bucket. And aluminum foil to make a makeshift cover, since I don't have a proper cover for the bucket, to keep the rain, water, and snow from coming into the bucket.

    I'm going to use a leatherhead hammer to hammer the spile in. Nice and secure. Take the bucket and hang it from there. Put some Reynolds wrap over it (excuse my filming while I do this). Its wrapped around the edges pretty well and has a decent seal.

    And hopefully we will start getting some maple syrup. From my understanding, the best time to start tapping your maple trees is when the daytimes are warm, above freezing. And the night times are freezing. And that causes some sort of pumping action inside the tree, and allows the sap to flow up and to flow down through the maple spile and into the bucket.

    In order to make maple syrup from this, you have to boil the maple syrup down for a very long period of time. Its about a 40 to 1 ratio in terms of sugar content. I'll do some filming of when we actually start boiling over a fire outside.

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  8. How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

    How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

    "How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?" This is a great question that we get asked all the time here at Nature Hills. People want to have a beautiful yard and want to make sure that they're spending their money on the right thing. We get it. In the end, the plants you pick are a personal choice of course. Some people love roses and their yard wouldn't be complete without them. Other people hate the upkeep and scent. Some people want one of everything they see in the garden center. Some people only want three types of plants in their whole landscape for a 'clean' look. To each his own.

    Here are a few suggestions, though, to get you pointed in the right direction:  
    1) For year-round interest or an ornamental and creative attraction, combine deciduous and evergreen species,  shrubs that bloom at different seasons, or add flowering perennial shrubs to a typically green border.
    2) Choose a variety of shrub shapes or create your own shapes with careful pruning.  You want to combine different shapes and textures - spiky leaves next to round leaves for instance.
    3) Add a 'star'. Provide a colorful focal point in your shade landscape by planting viburnumsrhododendrons, or azaleas, for instance.
    4) Shrubs are workhorses. Think about what you want the shrub to do. They can define the border of your property, hide an exposed foundation on your house, or block an unwanted view.
    5) Look for shrubs with multi-seasonal interest, especially for use as accents or specimens.  For instance, oak-leaved hydrangea has beautiful flowers all summer and interesting oak-leaf shaped leaves that turn purple in fall. Its showy clusters of off-white flowers dry on the plant and persist well into the winter, giving it a cool silhouette in the snow.

    How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

    Lots of plants look great year round. Some have berries instead of flowers. Once you have these few ideas thought through, then spend some time researching plants that fit the bill. You'll have an outstanding yard in no time!

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  9. Can I Plant A Sweet Pomegranate Tree In A Container?

    Pomegranate in a barrel planter

    Sweet Pomegranate Tree is suitable for a large container and is somewhat smaller than other varieties.  It grows to about 12 feet and has orange-red flowers in late spring, producing beautiful pink fruits in the fall.  The Sweet Pomegranate tree is a large fruit with light pink flesh, and the taste is sweet and juicy. This ornamental tree has glossy, leathery leaves that are narrow and lance-shaped.  The 'Sweet' Pomegranate is self-pollinated, as well as cross-pollinated by insects.  Cross-pollination with another pomegranate will increase the fruit set.  It will produce fruit in 3-5 years.

    Pomegranates should be placed in the sunniest, warmest part of the yard or orchard for the best fruit, although they will grow and flower in part shade on a deck or patio area.  It does best in well-drained ordinary soil, but also thrives on calcareous or acidic loam. The attractive foliage, flowers and fruits of this pomegranate, as well as its smallish size, make it an excellent container or landscaping plant.

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  10. The Life Cycle of Ferns

    Fern Spores

    Ferns, unlike some other plants, do not flower in order to propagate. Instead, they reproduce sexually from spores.  The life cycle of a fern is very different from the life cycle of many other plants. While many plants grow a mature adult form straight out of the seed, ferns have an intermediate stage, called a gametophyte, which then grows into a mature fern.  There are two distinct stages in the life cycle of ferns.

    The first stage is that of the gametophyte.  Spores are produced on the underside of mature plants. These will germinate and grow into small, heart-shaped plants called gametophytes.  The gametophytes produce both sperm and egg cells, and will fertilize itself, or others. Once the fertilization occurs, the adult fern will begin growing.

    Alternation of fern generations

    The second stage in the life cycle of a fern is the adult stage. The fertilized gametophytes begin to look like a mossy growth.  After some time, young fronds will appear, rising out of the moss. If direct sunlight falls onto the young fronds for an extended period of time, the plant may die easily. This is because the tiny stems are not strong enough to sustain direct light and will dry out.

    Fern Spore Close Up

    Once these tiny fronds grow larger, the plant has a better chance of survival. When the veins are matured, moisture from the ground will be transported easily to the outermost leaves and the plant can withstand periods of direct sunlight.  After the plant is large and mature, it will grow spores on the undersides of its leaves and the life cycle of a fern will begin again.

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