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.
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!
Most people cover their roses for the winter too early. Wait until your rose plants have been exposed to several killing frosts and some good colder weather to help them go dormant BEFORE covering if winter protection is needed in your area.
All across the midsection of the states, typically the right time is about Thanksgiving time to protect your roses. In the more northern states still time if you have not, and as you move into the more southern areas if winter protection is needed it may be a bit early still.
Hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, and of course all the new shrub rose types can all benefit from some additional mulch added right on the plants about a foot deep.
Wait to prune your roses until late winter or early spring so any winter damage is removed when being pruned. And for roses that bloom on last year’s wood - they don’t get pruned until after the June bloom is done.
Any kind of shredded mulch (bags may still be available near you), or compost works great too. Dump the mulch right where the canes come out of the ground piling it up about a foot thick. It will protect the canes from dying back. The exposed parts will discolor and may die back but those parts get cut off in spring anyway, and the covered portions will remain green and viable.
Many used to use the styrofoam rose cones and many times those plants would rot underneath the cones so if you are using them, be sure to cut the tops off the cones to allow moisture in and out during the winter months.
A pile of mulch is such a simple way to insure winter success in areas that do get cold, and now is the time!
Photo (left) shows a foot of mulch piled on the canes covering the crown of the plant for the winter for simple success.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.