#ProPlantTips

  1. 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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  2. 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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  3. Do Deer Resistant Plants Exist?

    Is there such a thing as plants that deer will not eat? Not really, but there are plants that deer prefer not to eat – if given a choice.

    Let’s say you live in an area with lots of deer and you want to add some new plants from Nature Hills to your landscape. To start, choose some plants that deer do not prefer. On the day you plant them - before the end of the  very first day - spray on some deer repellent.

    Why spray the first day? Deer will move through an area and if there is a plant that was not there previously, they will sample it just to see if they like it. 

    If you have sprayed the leaves and stems of that new plant that makes it taste bad, deer will move onto something they like better. Re-apply as needed every few weeks. Fencing is another option.

    Homemade deer repellent spray

    • ½ gallon water
    • 2 raw eggs
    • 2 tablespoons milk
    • 2 crushed garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

    Put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth (may need to do in 2 batches). Strain through mesh screen and put in spray bottle. Apply to the leaves and stems of your new plants. Store in fridge.

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  4. Flowering Shrubs to Punch Up Your Landscape

    Maybe it has been a while since you went shopping for some new flowering shrubs. Maybe the last time you looked for any new flowering shrubs was at one of the big box stores that seem to roll out the same old plants from the same old growers year after year.

    Now is a great time to browse Nature Hills Nursery for some of our great, new, dwarf and reblooming shrubs from the comfort of your own home!

    Perhaps it’s time to cut out those old, tired, overgrown shrubs and revive your landscape. There is no reason you must be stuck looking at old overgrown shrubs for another year when you can easily transform your landscape with some of these incredible new and reblooming plants. These new options offer color for extended periods, and many are much smaller growing - reducing the need for pruning as they age in your landscape.

    Here are a few “gotta have” new shrubs that you may not have been exposed to before.

    New, smaller growing and re-blooming or extended blooming Hydrangeas are the ticket! Wee White and Limetta re-bloomers offer lime green blooms that mature to classic white before drying and remining on the plant for winter interest. Fire Light, Little Lime, Little Quick Fire, Diamond Rouge, and Bobo are all super hardy, start out white, and age to pinks (some to reds) before drying and remining on the plant for the winter. The Cityline Hydrangea is a whole series offering dwarf selections that don’t need pruning and have pink, blue, red, fuchsia, and purple colors. The Everlasting series is also dwarf, and the blooms transform themselves through white, pinks, blue, purples, and greens. How about our new favorite Cherry Explosion, which offers amazing red flowers that cover the plant? Try and find some of these at a big box store.

    The new re-blooming Azaleas are absolutely incredible in the spring, summer and again in the fall. What more could you want? Check out the Bloom-A-Thon Series offering pink, purple, red, white and lavender. And let’s not forget the new dwarf Encore Azalea Series with over 30 color options, including pinks, white, reds, oranges, salmon, purples and various shades of these colors. Our availability of the series changes as they are hard to keep in stock.

    Nandina Firepower has become the hot, new, red shrub that stays small and is as winner.

    Let’s not forget the months-long color from The Black Diamond series of Crape Myrtle, which offers a rainbow of colors for the more southern states. The flowers come in white, pink, purple, and red, and they have amazing deep purple colored foliage as a backdrop. These are big shrubs for screening and massive color displays that last and last. You may not be able to grow Lilacs in the south, but you are lucky to have Crape Myrtles that offer color for a much longer period of time.

    Butterfly Bushes love the heat and sun, are dwarf, and have tremendous color summer into fall - and many of the new ones produce no seed. A simple no-brainer to grow for sure. Many purples, pinks and whites dominate this group and are the flowers are huge magnets for pollinators. Simply cut these down each spring and sit back and watch them pop into action for summer and fall color.

    Weigela shrubs have had the interest of plant breeders and the new selections bloom with a heavy bomb of flowers in June, as well as a recurrent bloom later in summer into fall.  Check out our vast assortment in white, pink, purple, red, and even yellow. The new selections have deep purple foliage as a great backdrop to the flower color. New selections are much smaller. 

    You want more?

    How about the showiest woody shrub for summer into fall? Rose of Sharon is a woody Hibiscus that has the interest of the breeders for double flowers and being sterile plants. The flowers resemble carnations on a larger shrub. Amazing blue, purples, pinks, white, and bicolor plants are showy and hardy. 

    Lilacs galore! Nature Hills has some beautiful, colorful and fragrant shrubs in many sizes for those of you who can’t plant Crape Myrtles in the north. Lilacs rock and come in blue, lavender, pink, purples of many shades, white, and even a pale yellow.

    Check out everything that we have to offer. Punch in your zip code to find out which hardiness zone you are in so you know which plants will work for your home.

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  5. How to Prune Hydrangea Paniculata Tree Form

    Nature Hills sells several different single stem tree form Hydrangea paniculata types. They are all hardy and easy to grow, but each spring it is best if you spend ten minutes pruning them before they start to grow.

    It is best to remove about 1/3 of the length of each of the stems leaving a somewhat irregular “ball on a stick.” Pruning should be done before the new growth starts each spring.

    The photo shows a young plant that is only a couple of years in the ground and how it should look once you are done pruning it.

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  6. Time to Trim Ornamental Grasses

    Ornamental grasses start to grow as the weather warms. 

    You have enjoyed the movement of the dormant tan and brown leaves all winter long, but now it is time to get rid of last year’s leaves as the new growth begins at the roots. You can tie the old leaves together and then take your shears and trim off the stems down to about six inches or so 

    Warm season grasses take much longer before you will see new growth, and cool season grasses will start showing signs of new blades of grass emerging as soon as the weather warms.

    Just like your lawn, early spring is a great time to cut off the old dry brown blades of grass to make room for all new green growth from the roots.

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  7. Keep Bird Feeders Clean During Winter

    Perhaps you’re not in an area that gets snow, but rain and other elements can cause your bird seed to need some attention.

    Wet birdseed can spoil quickly. Bird feeders need to be cleaned to prevent any disease from spreading. Check to see if the seed you offer is dry and make sure the trays have the hulls cleaned off. Add fresh seed if needed. ⠀

    The best approach is to spray diluted bleach and water solution on the feeder, let it dry, and then refill. Keep your feathered friends happy and healthy with fresh seed and water! 

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  8. Plant Shade-Loving Perennials in Lieu of Grass

    Do you have trouble growing grass? Some trees cast a lot of shade and can make it difficult to grow grass beneath.

    Instead of fighting the shade and trying to keep an attractive lawn beneath, why not eliminate the turf area and include some of your favorite shade loving perennials?

    As you can see in the photo, we eliminated grass and included some Ferns and Brunnera. Then with the available colors and sizes of Hosta varieties, you can create an interesting Hosta glade underneath your trees. A 2-3” layer of shredded mulch around the plants will finish the look and keep the weeds down. The mulch will also help to retain moisture.

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  9. Winter Landscape: Brown Is a Color Too …

    Most of us think of the winter landscape in many parts of the country as bleak or boring and just brown. Keep in mind that brown is a color too … and so many different shades of brown that can be accented by many other colors in the landscape for some beautiful results.

    One of the most obvious dormant winter plants are the native and ornamental grasses. The grasses turn brown in many parts of the country for the winter months. Grasses are wildly popular and continue to grow in popularity mainly because of the whole new dimension they add to the dormant winter landscapes. The dramatic fall colors that precede the dormant winter color of grasses vary and can be wildly showy with reds, purples, oranges and many shades of brown.

    Native and ornamental grass selections have become a staple in most all residential and commercial landscapes. They offer interesting substance in the winter landscape not only with color, but movement. The attractive seed heads and feathery dried flowers wave in the wind and look amazing when lit with some landscape lighting during the growing season and when dormant too.

    Mixing broadleaved evergreens - like boxwood and hollies - works well in combination with all grasses. Backdrops of pines, fir and spruce really set off the beauty of dormant grasses. Using grasses with Japanese Yews, Distylium, or some of the many different Junipers create some nice harmony in your plantings.

    Let’s think about how Hydrangeas add to the dormant landscape. The newer Hydrangeas are shorter, offer more flowering and many colors, but turn brown when dormant. Those dried, dormant flower heads make very bold statements in the landscape and they last forever. Dried Hydrangea blooms are incredibly useful for decoration, and they catch and sculpt the snow beautifully in the landscape.

    What about those perennial borders? Don’t be in such a hurry to cut all those beautiful seed heads offering many different shades of brown. Coneflowers and Blackeyed Susan offer not only attractive seed heads, but are nature’s bird feeders. Those perennial borders with all their brown and dormant mounds of leaves and stems are home to many beneficial insects and offer some winter protection for birds and other wildlife as well.

    Some plants like the Russian Arborvitae (Microbiota) go dormant in the fall by transforming the soft green and fluffy ground cover to a beautiful brown color. Now think about a beautiful green evergreen ground cover used in a more natural setting that morphs into the color of a cedar sided home blending into the landscape like no other plant. It’s brilliant and looks amazing.

    Probably our favorite plants that turn brown during the dormant months must be the family of Oak trees. Oak trees are strong, long lived, and many have amazing character. There are many new introductions that have improved forms and hybrid vigor. 

    Now, we can hear you saying … “Oak trees grow so slow” … au contraire! Young transplanted Oak trees may take a year or a bit more to re-establish in your yard, but once they get past that break in period, Oak trees grow quite rapidly. They soon become a favorite in everyone’s yards.

    The other interesting thing about many Oak trees is young trees many times hold their leaves into spring. Holding their brown foliage offers interest, screening, and beautiful backdrops to other plants in your landscape. Even as these beautiful trees get larger, they many times hold the bottom third of their foliage in winter. It does add some interest to your winter landscape, and is something to take note of. Check out this young Oak (left) with its leaves holding tight in early winter. 

    We are just talking “browns” today … but just imagine what the fruit of a holly, crabapple, Viburnum or Hawthorn can do to your winter landscape! 

    Look around the landscapes in your area and see which plants provide some winter interest near you. Send us a picture if you cannot identify a favorite plant kicking up the interest in the landscape near you, and let’s see if we can help you find out what plant you are liking these days. 

    Your homework is to look for year-round interest, cover and food for birds and beneficial insects, and diversity of plants and trees - all things that keep your landscape the envy of the neighborhood. Now is a great time to find the plants that will increase the aesthetics of yard and home. 

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  10. 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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