1. Snow: Natural Insulation, and its Free

    It’s only natural for us plant nerds to like to try growing things that may or may not be perfectly hardy in our yards. Or, maybe you have some rose bushes or other plants that might benefit from having some additional winter protection.

    For those of you who live in the colder regions where you get snow throughout the winter… keep this in mind when you are out moving that snow out of the way of your sidewalks and driveways.

    Snow makes the perfect insulation for your plants. Roses for instance will love having the snow piled up and covering as much of the stems as you can beneath the snow! Just be careful not to pile heavy snow on top of plants that might get crushed. 

    The rose bushes in this picture welcome the addition of piled up snow protecting the cold and wind off the canes closest to the ground. The parts that stick out an are exposed will be trimmed down anyway allowing the new growth to grow from the protected parts under the snow. 

    The snow is a great insulator for groundcovers and perennials too. Give it a whirl!

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  2. Brighten Winter With Bloom Pads

    Bloom Pads from Nature Hills will make spring arrive early inside your home.  Brighten the bleak winter days with bursts of colorful flowers and super fragrance!

    Bloom Pads are spring flowering bulbs that are placed between two pieces of biodegradable paper.

    Here is how to best handle them:

    Your Bloom Pads were just delivered!  Simply put the bulbs in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.  Keep them in the pads they came in, and don’t store them with apples or fruit.  Chill them in the fridge for 12-16 weeks.  Bring them out of the fridge, planting the entire pad just under the soil surface.  Be sure to use a good potting mix, and water well.  Keep the soil moist and place the pots in a cool and sunny location until they begin to grow. Watch them burst into color.

    You can extend the indoor bloom by bringing in newly planted pots each week over several weeks for a succession of bloom.

    Hurry, time is running out.  Great gift idea for yourself or anyone on your list.

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    Bare root still good to ship until mid-June.

    Bare root plants are dormant and are shipped without any soil on the roots and no leaves on the stems. The roots are wrapped in a medium to keep them moist during shipping however. The plants will start to grow once they are planted into warm soil and catch up to the plants in your landscape before you know it. 

    Bare root plants are kept dormant in our coolers so the plants still think it is winter until they are taken out and planted. Look at a cherry tree recently planted and notice the new growth coming.  

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  4. The Cottonless Cottonwood

    What are all those fussy things floating around in the air?  They are plugging up the screens in our house.  They are plugging up your air filters. 

    The Dandelion plants are kind of done showing their fussy seed heads so it can’t be those.

    In most cases, you are seeing the seeds from Cottonwood trees.  They are those large, stately trees that you most commonly seen in the western states.

    Nature Hills sells two different kinds of Cottonwood trees that are seedless and do not produce any of the messy, fuzzy seeds that you see at this time of the year: the Siouxland Cottonwood and the Hybrid Poplar.

    Why plant a Cottonless Cottonwood tree?  They are wildly fast growing, have great form, tolerate most any kind of soils, are hardy and tougher than nails. 

    Check out Cottonless Cottonwood trees from Nature Hills.  Our tip of the day is to plant one of these seedless beauties with no mess, no volunteer seedlings, just a fast growing, tough and long lasting options for your property.

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  5. Deer Damage

    Deer browsing on only the green foliage of the Arborvitae is very common in areas where there is a lot of deer pressure.  Many times, customers are confused about the damage being a disease or other problem other than deer eating the foliage off the bottoms where they can reach it. 

    Get to know what plants are magnets for the deer in your area.  Ask your local ag extension office if they have a list of plants that deer prefer in your area.

    Keep in mind that deer may prefer different plants in different areas.  The other factor to keep in mind is that if deer do get hungry, they may eat most any plants

    The other thing to know is that any time you do introduce new plants into an area, the very first day deer may sample that new plants that you just put in place (whether the deer like it or not, they may try it to see how it tastes).

    Do your homework and see what others in your area are saying about which plants deer prefer.   Don’t take a chance on letting deer damage your new plants.  Buy some inexpensive deer repellent and spray your new plants the day you install them just to be sure. 

    Remember too that in the fall of the year the male deer (bucks) may rub their antlers on the trunks of trees so it is always a promising idea to protect the trunks of young trees so they do not harm the bark.  White or lighter colored trunk protection is best to reflect the heat in winter. 

    Trees that you may want to try on your property might need to be fenced until they get large enough that the deer can’t reach the bottom branches. 

    Remember that deer repellents do work, but the rain and weather will wash off the effectiveness and must be re-applied occasionally.  A little persistence with the repellents is worth the preservation of the plants in your landscape.

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  6. Check Your Roses Please

    You overwintered your roses.  You cut back your roses this spring before they started to grow.  The new growth is pushing out, and the foliage looks great. 

    Bam…. that is just the time that bugs start to eat that clean, beautiful foliage.  Get out and check your rose bushes to see if there are any holes in the leaves, any bugs chewing or crawling on the tops or the undersides of the leaves.  If you are in an area that has Japanese Beetles, it is probably too early yet, but be on the lookout for them too.  Aphids, chafers, beetles and anything else… be on the lookout.     

    How to treat the bugs on your roses?  Choose the weapon that works for you.  Maybe you can physically just remove the bugs with your fingers?  Insecticidal soap can work and needs to be re-applied as rain washes it off.  Other insecticides that are labeled for roses can also be used.  Another option is to use a systemic insecticide that is taken up by the rose plants and protects the plants from all chewing bugs from the inside of the plant.  It does not wash off.

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  7. Mockorange Overhaul Due?

    Classic Mockorange plants of the past had kind of dull and not so attractive foliage and little fall color.  The plants were large and leggy and not so very attractive in the landscape as they got just too large. 

    Why Mockorange?  The flowers are wildly intoxicating and smell like sweet orange blossoms.  The other reason people planted Mockorange is because the elegant white flowers come at a time when there are not a lot of other shrubs blooming.  They typically start blooming in June after all the spring lilacs, Quince or Forsythia have finished. 

    Maybe you still have one of the old fashioned Mockorange shrubs in your yard now.  As soon as the flowers are done blooming, you can severely prune them as soon as the flowers are done blooming.   You can even cut all the stems down to the ground and new growth comes from the base and still get up several feet before the season ends.

    Even the newer, smaller growing selections should be renewal pruned AFTER the flowers are done.  You can simply cut out the fattest stems out to the ground, or if it needs a complete update, cut off all the stems down to the ground and let all of the new stems come from the roots. 

    Mockorange selections are far improved over the old versions of the plants…and the flowers are welcome at a time when little other shrubs are in flower.  The size is much more manageable, the foliage is improved, and the flowers profuse with the incredible fragrance you won’t forget.

    Mockorange, they’re not just for old landscapes anymore.  Prune now for great flowers next year too.

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  8. Peony Care After Flowering

    Peonies are amazing perennials.  Interesting how you even see them growing on abandoned farmsteads without any attention.  Simple care of full sun and well drained soils is all you need.

    Once the plants are done blooming, it is well worth your while to deadhead the old flower heads.  You do not want the plants to produce seed so removing the spent blooms it does not allow the plants to waste its food making seed, but storing food instead.  

    The other thing deadheading does is prevent fungal disease from affecting the plants. 

    Lastly, removing the old flower heads really cleans up the plants appearance and make them a nice green plant in the perennial or shrub border for the balance of the season. 

    Keep your Peony plants looking good, continue making food, and prevent disease simply by cutting off the old flowers with a sharp knife or pruners.  If you haven’t done so, it is not too late.

    Peonies are best dug or divided in the fall if you are planning on moving any.  Wait until fall to do so. 

    After deadheading looks great and is best for the health and vigor of the plant.

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  9. Pick your color…

    Annuals are a terrific way to put some color in your landscape.  You don’t have to go crazy overboard to really punch up the front of your home. 

    Pick plants that work. Select plants that don’t need a lot of fussing with deadheading or have problems with disease or insects.  Annuals planted in the ground will need less watering than the ones in containers as the season progresses.  But in all cases, be consistent with food and water for the best show.

    Then, pick your color palate.  What color is going to show up nicely against the color of your home?  Is your home dark brick, earth tones, or white?  Will your plants be in sun or shade?

    White and green can be very elegant.  White and blue are a classic combo.  How about white blue and yellow together?  Red and yellow together is very showy and used a lot.   Stick to colors that will complement and show up against the color of your home.

    There are not any rules when it comes to adding color, but pick what colors you like.  Then pick the plants that will work based upon that exposure.  And last, be sure to fertilize your annuals as you plant them.  Remember they have been bottle fed in the greenhouse, so they will be hungry once you plant them in the ground.

    Deadhead, water, and fertilize for fresh looking annuals all season long.

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  10. Pruning Pine Trees

    You would think you might need a pruning shears to prune your pine trees…but not the case at all.

    When the new growth elongates like it does at this time of the year on Pine Trees, it looks like “candles” stuck on the tips of each branch.  Usually there is one center longer candle in the center surrounded with several shorter candles.

    The best time to prune all pine trees is when the new candle growth expands and before any needles have started to from on those candles – typically 6” or so.  That new growth is tender and very easily shortened up by breaking that new growth back by about half way with your fingers leaving the longer candle the longest on the tip of each branch, including the very top of the tree.

    Do not cut the new growth with pruning shears as you will also cut the newly emerging needles, but if you BREAK back the new candle growth the needles will not be harmed at all and each tip will make a new bud on the tip for next year.  The needles that emerge from the candle that was broken back will be perfectly formed as they emerge and develop.

    Why shorten up that new growth?  By “candle pruning” as it is called, you reduce the amount of growth that will expand after breaking them back by about half.  Instead of the new growth being two feet or even more, it will only be about a foot reducing the distance between the next set of branches.  This reduction of new growth will affect the overall form of the pine while keeping a very natural appearance.

    Candle prune your pine trees when they are young so that they will already have a dense and uniform outline.  It works with all pines including dwarf and Mugo.





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