All posts by Kelly Smith

The Buzz About Pollinators

Summer is in full swing, the gardens are full of luscious plants and beautiful blooms, and you probably have seen a wealth of insects, birds, and butterflies buzzing around your yard and beds. These small creatures, also known as pollinators, play a crucial role in plant reproduction and sustaining our ecosystems. In fact, 75% – 95% of flowering plants need help with pollination, relying on animals like birds, bats, bees, butterflies, and beetles to transport their pollen as they move from flower to flower.

In recent years, these hard-working helpers have seen a decline in populations due in large part to loss of feeding and nesting habitats. Pollution, chemical use, and changing climate patterns also play a role in affecting the pollinator population. Luckily, through public awareness, community programs like “No Mow May”, and helpful gardening techniques, there has been a strong movement to save our pollinators and their habitats, ensuring the continuation of healthy ecosystems and plant reproduction.

Positively impacting the pollinator population is easy to do in your own yard, too. Incorporating blooming plants for each season, reducing pesticide use, and choosing pollinator-friendly perennials in your landscape are all small ways to make a big impact in creating a thriving environment. Many of the plants that pollinators like best also boast long bloom seasons, giving your yard a long season of gorgeous color, as well as bringing attractive wildlife like butterflies and songbirds to your home.

Incorporating pollinator-friendly perennials into your landscape is an easy step, and we’re here to share a few of our favorite varieties. Read on for our top 5 perennials, sure to bring a wealth of pollinators, not to mention seasonal color, to your yard!

Bee Balm (Monarda)

Bee Balm is a native favorite for attracting bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, and for good reason. This hardy perennial boasts vibrant red, pink, purple or white flowers (depending on the variety) that will last for a good portion of the summer season. Growing 3′ – 4′ height, it is a beautiful backdrop for beds or a great stand-alone in the landscape. Bee Balm prefers most soil a sunny location, although it can tolerate partial shade. Leave the seed heads intact after the blooms are spent, as they’ll attract songbirds in the fall and winter season!

Anemone

With bright, yet dainty, blooms and attractive, wiry stems, the Anemone is an attractive statement perennial in any landscape. Originally native to Asia, varieties of anemone have been cultivated in Japan for centuries and are available in an expanse of colors and bloom seasons. The Anemone is an appealing perennial, as well, thanks to its deer, rabbit and insect resistance. Most varieties will grow to an average height of about 2′, making it an attractive border planting or front focal point in flower beds. Anemone will benefit from a good layer of mulching, as it enjoys a rich, evenly moist soil. Don’t be deceived by the delicate blooms – Anemone is a resistant, low maintenance perennial once established, and you’ll be enjoying its beauty for many seasons!

Russian Sage

With grey, fragrant foliage and delicate lavender flowers, Russian Sage is a versatile perennial to use as a standalone, ground cover, or backdrop in beds. This sun-loving plant thrives in drier soil and is deer and pest resistant. Most varieties will grow to 3′-4′, and requires little maintenance outside of pruning. Since it has a tendency to spread, gardeners are encouraged to shear the top 1/3 of spreading stems to encourage upright growth and prune any unwanted growth. Spent blooms can also be trimmed to promote new buds, ensuring that you’ll have a long season of color. Despite its name, Russian Sage isn’t actually related to the sage herb. It was coined the name because its crushed leaves emanate a sage-like aroma!

Speedwell (Veronica)

Ranging from creeping to upright, Speedwell is another versatile perennial that comes in a range of blue, purple, pink or white hues and will bloom all summer long. Speedwell is a truly hardy perennial, tolerating a range of soils and preferring sun to partial sun light levels. Upright varieties can grow up to 4′ height, and make a beautiful addition to cut flower bouquets. This low-maintenance plant is a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, while tending to be deer resistant. In Ireland, Speedwell is traditionally pinned on the clothes of travelers to keep them safe from accidents!

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Coneflowers are a classic favorite amongst perennials, and for good reason. This tough, native plant is drought resistant and thrives in well-drained soil and bright sun. It is available in a variety of colors from soft, muted tones to vibrant, show-stopping colors and will bloom from mid-summer all the way until a frost. When flowers begin looking ragged, gardeners can simply snip them back by about 1/3, encouraging another burst of colorful buds throughout the fall. Appealing to butterflies, bees and birds during the warm season, coneflower seed heads will also attract songbirds during the fall and winter months.

Planting a pollinator-friendly yard is not only beneficial to animal habitats and plant populations, its also a low-maintenance, sustainable way to bring long-lasting color to your home! To learn more, stop in to our garden center to speak with our team of knowledgeable, dedicated horticulturists. They’d love to talk plants with you!

Common Fungal Issues in Early Summer

Early summer brings with it the excitement of watching your beds bloom, your vegetables sprout up, and your trees blossom. But the unwelcomed presence of fungus can put a damper on your yard, affecting your garden’s yield, damaging foliage, and inhibiting growth. The good news is that most fungal problems can be solved and prevented with a bit of knowledge and early planning. Here are a few of the most common fungus we see in the early summer, and how our experts recommend handling them:

  1. Powdery Mildew- Powdery Mildew is a common fungus that produces whitish spots on plant leaves, making foliage look like it was dusted with flour. The spots will primarily appear on the tops of leaves, although they can pop up underneath or on stems and flowers. Powdery mildew appears in warm temperatures with a fair amount of humidity, often occurring when days are warm and nights are cool. There are many plants that can be potential targets of powdery mildew, but a few of the most common include begonias, mums, roses, dahlias, melons, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, lettuce, pumpkins, peppers and tomatoes. Here are a few tips for treating and preventing powdery mildew from burdening your garden yield:
  • Thin garden vegetables to provide adequate space, circulation and sunlight for individual plants
  • Remove infected or dead foliage from all plants
  • Treat powdery mildew infestations with an organic fungicide

2. Cedar Apple Rust– This type of fungus requires two hosts (located within about a mile of one another) in order to complete its life cycle. The first family required is a juniper species or eastern red cedar; the second is an apple, crabapple, hawthorn, quince or serviceberry species. The symptoms of Cedar Apple Rust vary widely depending on the species infected: apples, hawthorns, and serviceberry will typically show orange and red spots on their foliage, which gradually develop black spots on the tops of leaves and small, fungal tubes on the bottom. Apples and crabapples are most susceptible. Juniper and red cedar, however, will develop woody galls on their small branches in the fall. Come spring (especially in wet weather), these galls will produce a gummy, orange growth that shrivels as the weather dries out. There are ways to prevent this interesting fungus… here are a few of our recommendations:

  • Don’t plant juniper/red cedar varieties in close proximity to apples, crabapples, hawthorns, etc.
  • Inspect junipers and red cedars in the late fall and early spring. Remove woody galls that you may find; this will prevent the formation of the orange growth that spreads spores to apple varieties
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties of crabapples and apples
  • Remove infected leaves and branches from apples and crabapples

3. Apple Scab– Apple Scab is a fungus that affects apples and crabapples. It will first appear as pale yellow or olive green colored spots on the top leaves, with dark, velvety spots spreading to lower leaves. In severe cases, foliage will become twisted, puckered, and eventually fall off the tree. On fruit, it creates scabby, sunken spots that start light in color and become larger, darker, and cork-like in texture. Eventually, the fruit will become distorted and cracked. Apple scab starts over the winter in fallen leaves and soil, developing in wet, cool weather. The best ways to treat it are:

  • Make sure to rake under trees in the fall and dispose of the dead leaves
  • Plant disease-resistant varieties when possible
  • Keep trees well-pruned, keeping an open canopy for air circulation and sunlight, and remove upright suckers from tree bases
  • Use a sulfur plant fungicide in early spring, applying as leaves just begin to emerge

Fungal issues can create problems across your landscape but remember: knowledge, proper care, and early-season planning can be your best tools in prevention and treatment. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to our team of garden experts and horticulturists to learn more!