Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ornamental Peppers


This annual ornamental pepper is usually available from late summer into fall and provides traditional color during the fall season.

The cone-shaped miniature peppers change color as they ripen.  Yellow, red and purple 1-inch fruits are sometimes 
found on the plant.  The fruits are not edible -- but very hot!   The peppers should remain attractive for 2 to 3 months with care.  Some direct sunlight is essential, and the soil must never be allowed to dry out.  White flowers precede the fruit.  Remove shriveled peppers to keep plant looking its best.

TEMPERATURE - Cool or average warmth; not less than 55°F.

LIGHT - Bright lit spot with morning or afternoon sun.

WATER - Keep soil moist at all times.

AIR HUMIDITY - Mist the leaves frequently.  Hot dry air will cause fruits to fall.

FERTILIZER - Feed monthly with mild liquid fertilizer.  Cease when fruit appears.

POTTING - Use standard potting mix.

PROBLEMS - Attacks of aphid and red spider mite are a possibility; also white flies.  Treat with horticulture oil or soap.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Butterfly Day At Ashcombe!

Saturday, August 2nd 2014 




* Food Sampling
* Melissa Jacoby Thomas with 'Veggication - 
Garden To Gourmet' Winning plates and minds with homegrown produce and veggication
* Toni Albert, author from Trickle Creek Books
will be signing and selling children's books.
* PA Honey Queen Kaylee Gilgore - from the PA 
State Beekeepers Association will be on hand to share her beekeeping knowledge. 


* 11am - FREE Tour of our Butterfly Garden
* 1pm - Caring for your Butterfly Bush - FREE
* Fairy Garden Classes - $20 Fee includes 
 container, soil, plants, stones and a 
 butterfly. Must pre-register. 9:30am  1:30pm  10:30am   2:30pm

Informational displays on butterflies, 
caterpillars, moths, hummingbirds and bees.

Butterfly merchandise, products, info and more!

Monroe Fire Company will have their delicious chicken barbecue meal for sale today!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

5 NEW Crapemyrtles at Ashcombe!

Double Feature (shown) 
Enduring Summer 
Coral Magic 
Plum Magic 
Purple Magic 

Common crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is a beautiful 2’ - 15’ shrub or small tree, originally 
introduced to the United States in 1747 from China.  With its lovely, colorful, summer flowers, showy, flaking bark and flaming fall foliage, crapemyrtle became popular in the southern states.  Until the mid 1950’s, however, this beautiful plant was rarely grown north of Washington D.C. (zone 7), for it was not reliably hardy below 10° and often suffered winter damage.  But in the mid-twentieth century, Dr. John Creech, of the National Arboretum in Washington returned from Japan with a newly discovered species, Lagerstroemia fauriei.  Numerous cultivars of this “new” crapemyrtle, many named after American Indian Tribes and are now readily available to Pennsylvania’s ‘Zone 6’ gardeners!

For success with your “northern” crapemyrtle, choose an appropriate site and plant with your shrubs needs in mind!  Crapemyrtle requires full sun and loves a hot spot.  Plant in slightly elevated sites with southern exposure to promote flowering, control mildew and prevent winter tip dieback.  Soil should be moist but well-drained with a ph of 5-6.5.  The best time for planting is between mid-spring and mid-August to allow plenty of time for root establishment before winter.  Plant as you would any woody shrub.  Remember to plant at the proper depth, backfill soil firmly around roots and water well to settle soil.  Use only root stimulating fertilizers on your new planting.  Please no granular or water soluble fertilizers until next season or until your plant is well established!  Use a mulch to conserve moisture and protect crapemyrtle’s shallow, fibrous roots, but keep it several inches away from the base of your plant.  Water regularly and deeply as needed for the first two years.  Do not count on rain to water any new planting.  To prevent mildew on foliage, always soak the soil under your crapemyrtle and avoid the use of overhead sprinklers.  Avoid excessive mid to late season watering to avoid lush vegetative growth that may not harden off well for the winter.  

For the first winter or two, it is a good idea, but not necessary, to secure a wind barrier of burlap filled with leaves around your crapemyrtle, after all of the foliage drops in the fall.  Freeeze dieback is not uncommon the first year, so don’t worry if you find some tip damage in the spring.  Wait until mid-May to remove your protective barrier.  Crapemyrtles are late starters.  They usually remain very dormant until late spring and won’t show signs of life until day and night temperatures are consistently warm.  If you are worried about your crapemyrtle, do the “scratch test”.  Use your thumbnail or a knife to scratch a stem or two.  A “living but sleeping” shrub will show green tissue under the bark.  When you see this healthy color, you can feel assured that your plant is fine.  Sometimes tip ends will die back, especially the first season, so scratch further down these stems toward their bases.  Mid to late May is the usual time to prune, right before new growth begins.  All pruning should be done at this time.  Trim back damaged tips and shape up leggy stems to stimulate seasonal growth and beautiful flowering.  Established crapemyrtles may be fertilized at this same time with a granular 10-10-10 fertilizer.  Spread it around your plant but keep it away from stems and foliage.  Water it in well - never leave behind dry fertilizer.  Please do not fertilize past the end of June.  In general, nutrient requirements for crapemyrtle are minimal, so fertilize sparingly.  Remember, use only root stimulating 
fertilizer on newly planted crapemyrtle.

In sunny, Zone 6 landscapes, enjoy crapemyrtles as specimen, or summer hedges, or use in mixed borders, massings and foundation plantings.  The colorful pink, white, rose or lavender 
flowers of these beauties add a punch to the landscape when few other shrubs are in bloom.  In 
addition, enjoy fall foliage colors of vivid red, orange and maroon, and beautiful, mottled bark on mature 
specimens 5 years and older.  Crapemyrtle is incredible long blooming!  Some flower 100 days or more!

Our favorite cold hardy crapemyrtles are described below.  ENJOY!

Dynamite  Give your landscape a big bang with this 8 x 8 foot firecracker!  True red flowers bloom July-September!  Enjoy red green summer foliage and pumpkin red fall color!  Blooms well from a young age.

Hopi  This exceptionally cold-hardy, mildew resistant variety withstands winter temperatures up to -25°F.  Clear pink blossoms form on this 5-10 foot shrub and bloom for 100 days, from late June through September.  Bright orange-red autumn color!  Blooms well from a young age.

Pink Velour - Intense shocking deep pink flowers are the highlight of this lovely 8-10’ shrub, especially when set off by maroon to rust green summer foliage.  This long season bloomer flowers well from a young age.  Fall foliage is orange!

Pocomoke  This dwarf variety only reaches 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide.  It has small shiny, dark green leaves, deep rose flowers and the most wonderful mounding globe shape.  Beautiful maroon fall color.  Takes a year or two to bloom well.

Red Rocket  The very bright ruby red flowers on the 10 foot beauty bloom July-September.  Summer foliage emerges red and ages to dark green.  Fall color is bronze-red.  Blooms well from a young age.

Violet Filli  This fabulous dwarf grows only 11/2 feet tall and wide!  Super hardy to Zone 5.  This mini has lovely violet colored blossoms July-September.  Blooms well from a young age.  Look for Red and Coral Filli as well.  Newer and still harder to find!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

How To Plant Trees and Shrubs

Before you plant - we recommend that you have your soil tested.  If you do not know your soil ph, soil type and soil limitations - you cannot make a good plant selection.  Simple soil test kits are available at Ashcombe or your local agricultural extension office.

Remove shrub or tree from its container.  Check the root ball.  If the roots have grown into a thick mass or are growing around the inside of the container it is crucial that you tease them out of their entangled mass.  Pot-bound roots that are not teased apart will continue to grow as they are and will never be capable of sustaining the plant that relies on them.  We suggest that you set your plant in a bucket of water to which a liquid root starter has been added.  Soak 10-15 minutes or until the soil mass has softened up.  Use your fingers or a garden pick to carefully pull the roots apart.  Don’t worry about breaking off a few - just cut the ragged ends with sharp 

Dig out a planting area only as deep as but as least twice as wide as your plant root ball.  The wider the area dug - the better.  If soil is poor, add up to 50% organic matter - such as well-rotted compost, rotted leaves or soil builders such as “Bumper Crop”.  (Ask our staff for details about this fabulous organic product!) 

It is okay to use a little bit of peat moss as a part of the organic matter - but too much peat can make soil dangerously soggy during wet periods and dangerously dry and hard during drought.  Organic matter is always beneficial to soil, for it improves flow and availability of oxygen, water and nutrients to plants.  If your soil is not too poor and you do not want to take time to amend a large area around each planting hole, it is best not to amend average soil at all.  Pampering plant roots in a planting hole of rich soil does not encourage them to grow out into your native soil.  Your plants will actually grow better and be more self-sustaining in un-amended soil because roots have been forced to be tougher and more wide spreading in their search for water and nutrients.

Hold your plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the existing soil level.  Look for the spot on your plant where the trunk flares out to meet roots and set this line level with or above the soil surface.  If the plant is heavy and may settle, place it one to two inches above  the existing soil level.  Fan out the plant roots you so carefully teased apart and begin to refill the hole.  Throw your shovel aside and use your hands to scoop and pack soil in around the roots.  It is important to fill in thoroughly.  Avoid leaving any air pockets behind, for they can dry out the roots.  Pack soil around the root ball until your planting hole is half full.  Fill hole up with water to which you have added root starter, let it drain down and settle the soil, then continue back filling the hole with soil until full.  Water to settle soil again.  Be sure not to mound soil up around the base of your plant any higher than it was in the original container.  Planting too deeply will kill your tree or shrub.  If your soil has too much clay or is not well drained, or if you have a plant that must have perfect drainage, it is a good idea to plant your nursery stock in a raised bed.  Create a raised bed by digging out a planting area - then adding more soil to create a mound higher than your existing soil level.  Planting in this small hill that you have created will position your nursery stock up a little higher than it would be in an un-raised bed and gravity will assure better drainage.

Mulch your plant to conserve moisture, keep roots cool, and add organic matter and control weeds.  Use only a 2 to 4 inch layer of well-aged material.  Avoid a heavy layer that impedes water and oxygen flow into the soil.  Avoid freshly chipped mulch, which produces acid that burns roots and young shoots.  Do not mound mulch around the base of your plant, keep it pulled back 3-4 inches or to the drip line.  Mulch or soil in contact with a woody plant stem often causes rot and insect damage.  Water again to settle mulch.

Monitor the progress of your newly planted shrub carefully during the first growing season.  Do not let it become an orphan!!  Hand water new plantings regularly as needed for the first year.  Do not rely on rainfall to water a newly planted tree or shrub!  After established, most plants need one inch of water each 7-10 days.  If rainfall is inadequate, be sure to hand water.  Water thoroughly and check the soil to ensure that moisture has penetrated down four to six inches.  Light and inadequate watering causes plants to form shallow roots and does more harm than good in the long run.  So water deeply but only about once a week or whenever the top 2 inches of soil are dry.  Be aware that overwatering can kill a plant as fast as underwatering.  If a container grown tree or shrub cannot be planted right away, it must be checked daily and watered as needed.  Again, do not count on rain to water your container plants.

Fertilize a woody plant with caution, especially during its establishment period.  For the first year or two we suggest that you use only root starter to stimulate strong root growth, and/or slow-release pellet fertilizers such as Osmocote.  Please do not use granular or water soluble “Quick Release” fertilizers (like Miracle-GroTM) on newly established trees and shrubs.  These fertilizers can easily burn off young roots, especially if used too heavily or in drought conditions.  Please, never use fertilizer as a “Quick Fix” solution for your plants health problems.  Fertilization will never be a good substitute for building up your soils organic matter, or for proper placement, planting, mulching, watering and pruning.  Know your plant and its needs.  Keep your plants healthy with your attention and good care.

Vigorously growing container plants sometimes develop pot-bound roots.  These roots must be teased apart and fanned out before planting of they will be stunted, never grow properly and never to able to sustain the plant that depends on them.

If you need to add organic matter to your soil amend an entire planting site - not just the 
planting hole.  Limit the use of peat moss - it can easily get too wet or too dry depending on weather conditions.  We recommend wonderful soil-building amendments like “Bumper Crop”, 
leaf compost or natural humus.

A woody plant should never be planted (or mulched) any deeper than it was in its original 
container.  It can “smother” and die fast or slow death.  When planting, the soil line should be where plant roots meet its stem or trunk.  When mulching - keep mulch pulled back 3-4 inches from the trunk or to the drip line.

When filling soil back into a planting hole, it is extremely important to make sure it is packed in tightly around the roots of the shrub or tree your are planting.  Air pockets left behind can cause roots to dry out.

For the first year or two use only root starter or slow released pellet fertilizer on newly planted shrubs and trees.  Please do not use Miracle-GroTM as it can burn roots, especially in drought