Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Attracting Butterflies With Buddleia

The butterfly bush (Buddleia species) is a traditional old-fashioned favorite beloved by many.  
Buddleias are ideal flowering shrubs with many excellent qualities, and for continuous flower from July to October, they are without equal.  Butterfly bushes grow rapidly, have attractive woolly or smooth foliage, are richly scented and are easy to grow and care for.  They grow from 2-15 feet tall, produce wonderful flower spikes of white to pink to purple (as well as yellow) and are hardy in zones 5-10.  
As the name implies, butterfly bushes attract butterflies (and hummingbirds!) - often in astronomical quantities!  Because butterfly bushes are so dense and versatile, there is sure to be one to fit into almost any garden!

Buddleias are very forgiving plants.  They tolerate any well draining soil - lean, rich, mildly acidic or alkaline.  Although they flower best in full sun, they bloom well in light or filtered shade.  Variegated types should be grown only in shade since full sun will scorch the leaves.  Most buddleias tolerate drought.

If never pruned, some butterfly bush cultivars may reach up to 15’ in height.  But leaving butterfly bushes un-pruned is NOT recommended.  Buddleias need proper pruning and deadheading to sustain maximum flowering and to prevent them from literally ‘flowering themselves to death.’  How and when to prune and deadhead depends on the type your grow and your climate.

The most popular type of butterfly bush is Buddleia davidii - the ‘orange-eyed’ butterfly bush.  This  buddleia produces flowers on new wood - or shoots that will be produced in the current year.  
Buddleias davidii is often very slow to show signs of life in the spring.  This is normal.  Do not panic if your butterfly bush does not appear to be growing.  When warm temperatures arrive it will rapidly catch up with other shrubs and trees in your yard.

In our Zone 6, we recommend that ‘orange-eyed’ butterfly bushes be cut back to about 10 inches tall each  spring before new growth begins (or by 1/2 for dwarf types).  This hard pruning will result in better foliage, larger flowers and increased longevity for your plant.  After this initial cut, feel free to prune as heavily as needed during the growing season to control shape and size; flowering will not be affected because new buds are constantly being formed.  As flowers fade, be sure to deadhead to encourage new shoot and flower growth. 

NOTE:  Another less popular type of butterfly bush, Buddleia alternifolia (fountain Butterfly Bush) forms flower buds on old wood - or shoots produced in the previous year.  This type of buddleia should not be pruned in early spring.  Instead, prune lightly immediately after bloom period in late spring.

Newly planted butterfly bushes should only be fertilized with a starter fertilizer/root stimulator such as UpstartTM.  Fertilize at planting time and once a month up through August.  Thereafter, fertilize 
established buddleias each spring as soon as new shoots appear.  Avoid over-fertilization, for if treated too well, buddleias produce large amounts of soft shoot growth at the expense of both flowering and hardiness.  Try a slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, to promote early shoot and leaf 
development without delaying flower formation.

Buddleia davidii cultivars are relatively trouble-free and have no major diseases.  The only notable insect pest is the two-spotted mite, which can render leaves speckled gray-green.  Healthy unstressed, vigorous garden plants that are sited properly have minimal problems.  (Please avoid use of chemical insecticides, they are highly toxic to butterflies and hummingbirds!  Learn to appreciate natives beautiful creatures and overlook slight plant imperfections).

Butterfly bushes can fill a variety of garden landscape niches.  Butterfly bushes are great in groupings, as background plants in the herbaceous border or mixed with other shrubs.  Their wonderful fragrance makes them a superb plant to enjoy near patios or other outdoor living areas.  In a sunny garden spot, butterfly bushes will be the focal point of a butterfly garden with lantanas, verbenas, spireas, salvia and other butterfly favorites.  Try training butterfly bushes into small, mop-headed trees or espalier them onto a fan trellis.  Consider planting a butterfly bush as a nostalgic heirloom and tribute to the good old days!  Use dwarf varieties in rock gardens and as ground covers!

Buddleia davidii - Cultivars of this buddleia are among the most popular and easy to find.  They have a wide color range of white to all shades of lavender and purple.  Hardy to Zone 5, they can reach 3 to 15 feet, depending on variety.  Larger cultivars are informal spreading shrubs best suited for the back of the border.  Compact varieties are great for massing, edging or ground cover.  Leaves of all cultivars are dark green or blue gray with felted undersides.

This type of buddleia can retain a significant portion of its foliage over the winter.  Flower fragrance 
varies in strength from cultivar to cultivar.  Flowers appear on spikes 6-30 inches long!  The largest flowers are produced early in the season on new vigorously  growing shoots.  Later flowers are 
generally smaller, but cultivar, degree of pruning, water and fertility will all strongly regulate the size of the spikes.  Bloom time is July to frost.  Prune back to 10 inches in early spring.

Buddleia alternifolia - The ‘fountain’ butterfly bush has a graceful weeping habit.  It has inch wide 
lavender flower clusters arranged along the previous years stems.  This Buddleia type flowers only once a year in late spring, but does so for a long 4-6 week period.  It is a bit hardier than orange-eyed butterfly bush.  Since B. alternifolia can grow 10 to 15 feet tall, use it as a specimen plant or give it room at the back of the border.  Both the species and a silver-leaved cultivar can be trained to a single stem, using a stake for support, to enhance the fountain-like appearance.  They also can be espaliered in a fan shape to a south-facing wall.  Prune back lightly immediately after flowering.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Growing Clematis

Clematis is a wonderful climbing vine that produces many large, beautiful flowers. To have a continuous flush of color from spring through fall, be sure to plant a mixture of early, mid season and late season bloomers.  Some clematis varieties will grow up to 20 feet in length, all the while wrapping around anything that will support it’s branches.  

How To Grow Clematis
Clematis do best when their roots are cool and their foliage is in the warm sun. About 4” of mulch will help keep the roots cool. Most Clematis need at least 5 to 6 hours of sun everyday. 

Prepare your planting site right!  In heavy clay soil, dig a hole at least 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide for the best drainage. In light or sandy soil, a smaller hole about 18 inches wide and deep, will work. Amend your soil with organic material like compost or well-aged cow manure. Gently remove the Clematis rootball from its container and plant it in the hole so that the base of the plant is sunk in about 3” below the soil level. Be sure to support the plant so the stem does not break.

Clematis require regular fertilizing to perform their best. In spring, once the Clematis buds are about 2 inches long, start fertilizing. Feed them every 2-4 weeks, only when they are not blooming.  Do not fertilize while clematis are blooming.

Water your Clematis plants regularly.  Always water thoroughly and deeply during the hot summer months. Remember, if the soil under your Clematis is shaded it will not dry out as quickly as a sunny area. Don’t keep them too wet, especially in the winter when they’re dormant. 

Clematis need support to grow. Growing them on an arbor or up a trellis, onto other shrubs, on a fence, a wall or a light pole.  

Clematis are divided into 3 groups, based on the pruning techniques that encourage blooming.  Your clematis will survive without pruning, but it may not grow as vigorously or offer the best yield of colorful blooms without it.  Please be sure to NEVER prune clematis in the fall.

Group 1 (A)
- Flower is less than 2 inches across but offers a high yield.
- Blooms early spring on old wood.
- Prune after the main flowering has finished.  Don’t prune too early - you may cut off buds.
- Cut out damaged wood when you spot it.
- After the vines bloom, prune the stem tips to keep the vine in bounds with its support if desired.
- Thin spots can be addressed now by pruning a few side branches near the thin area and re-
directing new growth to fill in holes.

Group 2 (B)
- Large spring double flowers and re-bloomers.
- Flowers open in spring on old wood.
- Most grow 10-12 feet tall and make excellent covers for arbors, fences and trellises.
- As the plant emerges in spring, remove any stems that have died back.
- In late summer, the new wood produces smaller flowers.

Group 3 C)
- Easiest to prune.
- Blooms in spring, summer or fall depending on variety. 
- Great for growing on trellises.
- Large variety of height, color and flower size.
- Can be used as a ground cover.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Beautiful Lilacs

Lilacs came to America from Europe and went west with the pioneers as reminders of homes left behind.  The common Lilac (syringa vulgaris) thrived almost everywhere, and was appreciated for its vigor, colorful blossoms and sweet fragrance.

Modern lilacs offer a wealth of choices for the garden.  Sizes range from 4 - 20’ tall.  There are early and late flowering cultivars that can extend the flowering season from late April through mid June or longer!  There are 8 distinct colors:  white, violet, blue, lilac, pink, magenta, purple and pale butter yellow (the yellow budded cultivar ‘Primrose’).  There are also bicolors such as ‘Sensation’, which has purple flowers edged in white.

Lilacs are versatile.  In bloom, they make glorious single specimens, and look beautiful when 
surrounded by spring blooming dogwoods.  Lilacs are especially dramatic when massed in groups of 1 or more variety.  Of the 23 known species and 1800 varieties available, there is sure to be a lilac for every landscape!

As their popularity and longevity suggest, lilacs are easy to grow.  They are rugged, cold tolerant plants for hardiness zones 3-7.  (Most actually require a period of minimum winter chill in order to flower).  Plant in early spring through fall in an open, sunny spot with good air circulation.  To grow and bloom well, lilacs need unobstructed sunlight for at least 6 hours daily.  Plant in loamy, organic, near-neutral to alkaline soil (pH 6-8) with excellent drainage.  (If you find earthworms when you dig, your soil is probably fine!)  Although lilacs are very tolerant of a wide range of soils after they are established, excessive acidity, infertility or dryness will inhibit growth and flower production, so enrich your soil as needed before planting with composted manure, and top dress annually in early fall or spring with a 1-2 inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost salted with bonemeal.  Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, for excessive nitrogen encourages lush, leaf growth at the expense of flowers.  If you choose to use inorganic commercial fertilizer (on established lilacs only please) remember - conservative spring feeding is the rule.  You may apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer or 10-6-4 every other year according to direction.  Please do not over fertilize.  Be sure to check your soil pH periodically and adjust as needed with lime to maintain a nearly neutral soil.  Established lilacs are drought tolerant but water new plants well the first 1-3 years.  Be particularly careful to water during extended dry periods and when the lilac is in bloom - but do not drown your plantOverwatering is just as harmful as 

Good drainage is crucial!  If drainage is suspect, plant in a raised bed or on a hillside.  Use a 2-inch layer of bark mulch to control weeds and conserve moisture.  Spread mulch from the drip line to within a few inches of the trunk.  Be careful not to mound mulch around the base of your lilac.

Lilacs are easily maintained after they are established.  Apply dormant oil in April, before leaves 
appear, to prevent infestations of scale - tiny, sap sucking insects.  Space plants far enough apart in good light to assure good air circulation.  This will reduce the incidence of powdery mildew, a leaf 
disease which coats foliage with an unsightly pale film that is more unsightly than harmful.

Occasionally in late June you may notice small holes and sawdust at the base of lilac trunks.  These are signs of Lilac borer.  Borers will attack injured spots on your lilac, such as those made by mowers and string trimmers.  Simply cut back damaged wood and seal cuts with Elmer’s Glue.  Avoid problems by using more caution with your power tools.

PRUNING - Please dare to prune your lilac!  Proper pruning is one of the single most important steps to encourage healthy growth and vigorous flowering.  It discourages fungal and viral disease by improving air circulation in the plant and stimulates strong vigorous growth of young twigs and buds.

Thin out and shape your lilac each year immediately following the bloom period.  If spent blossoms are not removed; flowering will be severely stunted the following year, for the lilac will expend energy into seed production at the expense of next season’s flower buds.

Begin to deadhead as soon as flower petals start to fall.  Pinch just below the withered blossom and take care not to damage tiny, new buds that are already forming.  Flower buds for the next season will be in place by mid summer - they form on old wood (the current seasons growth) - so you cannot deadhead (or prune) in late summer, fall, winter or early spring without removing them and spoiling next years floral display.  After pruning, always sterilize your tools with a 10% solution of bleach and water.

PATIENCE PLEASE - A newly planted lilac usually takes 3-6 years to settle down and produce full size, true to type, true to color flowers in abundance.  Numerous factors play a role in the development of a lilac and its flower color.  Keep in mind the following facts as you wait for your immature lilac to grow up and bloom for the first time.

•  After planting, a lilac needs time to set down roots and establish itself in its new home.  Even if a small lilac is in bloom when you purchase it, it may not bloom again for several years.

•  Young, immature lilacs will bloom in lighter shades than older ones; lilacs will not show their true 
colors for 4-6 years.

•  The flower color of lilacs grown in lighter, gravelly, sandy soils will be more subtle and faded than the flower colors of lilacs grown in richer, loamier soils.

•  Hot, dry sunny weather at bloom time will cause lilac flowers to fade.  Cool damp weather will intensify flower colors.

•  The blossom age of flowers affects their color.  A daily color change occurs as flower buds swell, open and age.  This ‘unfolding of the colors’ is captivating and magical.  Often buds, the reverse of the petals or the outer petals are deeper or an entirely different color from the open floret.

Remember any combination of the above factors can give the same lilac slightly different shades from year to year.

TROUBLESHOOTING - If your lilac is mature enough but doesn’t want to bloom, review this checklist:

√  Does your lilac have at least 6 hours of unobstructed sunlight daily?

√  Is your soil near neutral to alkaline, well-drained, fertile but not too high in nitrogen?  Do you 
topdress with organic matter and use a mulch?

√  Do you deadhead yearly immediately after the bloom time?  Do you prune and thin out at the 
same time?

Ok, try this shock treatment!  Scrape a 2-3 inch spot in the bark of your lilac near the base of one heavy branch immediately after the expected bloom time.  A boot scrape seems to work great!

LANDSCAPING - Use lilacs in mixed borders of shrubs, in masses, as screens or backgrounds and be sure to place them in sites where their wonderful fragrances can be appreciated.

A single lilac looks lovely as a specimen if placed against a wall or wood fence.  A grouping of lilacs with just 4-6 feet between plants will create a favorite haven for nesting birds.  For a hedge, place lilacs about 4 feet apart and choose compact, small leaf types like Syringa ‘Miss Kim’ or Syringa meyeri.

Several species of butterflies appreciate lilacs as a nectar source.  Include a lilac or two in your butterfly garden to attract Tiger Swallowtails and Frilillaries.

Extend the flowering season of lilacs in your landscape by choosing a new, compact variety called 
Bloomerang!  This lovely 4-6’ cultivar blooms in the spring with an abundance of lavender flowers, then repeats again in mid summer and fall with 2 more rounds color and fragrance!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Growing Beautiful Roses

Tips from Ashcombe's Nursery staff

Roses bring many years of enjoyment.  With their colors, fragrances and forms, its no wonder they are 
considered the Queen of the Flowers.  Here are a few of our suggestions for happy, healthy bushes:

LOCATION:  To do their best, roses need a minimum of 5-6 hours of sun daily; 7-8 hours or more is even better.  Good air circulation is essential to help reduce potential problems.  For best results, plant roses in a spot where morning sun will quickly dry dew and moisture off of foliage, for water on rose foliage can result in leaf diseases like blackspot and mildew.

SOIL:  Roses must be planted in soil that is well drained.  If drainage is questionable in the spot you’ve selected for planting, make a raised bed that will elevate your roses to a more favorable drainage position.  Soil should be loamy and not compacted.  To improve compacted soil, incorporate decayed leaves, well rotted manure, natural humus or a soil builder such as ‘Bumper Crop’ into soil and work in to a depth of 1 foot or more.  
Incorporate these materials into your entire rose bed or planting area - not just the planting hole.  When soil is loose, it absorbs water better, drains excess moisture faster and allows plant roots to get oxygen.  Amending soil in the enitre bed - not just the planting hole, encourages roots to grow deeper and wider, thus better 
preparing your roses for drought and other stress.  Ideal soil pH is 6.5.  For pH below 5.5, apply ground 
limestone at the rate of 3 to 5lbs. per 100 square feet.

PLANTING:  Dig your planting hole at least 2-3’ wide and just deep enough that the rose will sit in the hole with its graft or bud union right above the ground level.  Don’t plant too deeply!  If the graft is buried, the rose could die.  Mix 1-2 part organic matter into 3 parts of the soil you’ve removed from the hole.  Place rose to proper depth, then backfill until the hole is 1/3 full.  Firm soil down with your hands, be sure no air pockets are left in soil - for they will dry out roots.  Water enough to fill up the hole and let it drain away to settle soil well before you finish back filling.  After filling hole to top with soil, water again thoroughly.  Making a little trench around the newly planted rose will help hold water near the rose roots until it soaks in.  Use a mulch to conserve soil 
moisture (but do not mound it around the graft at base of rose or you may kill rose).

FERTILIZING:  Newly planted roses should not be fertilized the first year except for a root stimulator used at planting time.  Fertilize established roses after spring pruning and twice after that at about 7 week intervals.  Fertilize no later in the season than August 15 in our area to avoid a late season flush of growth which could be damaged by fall frost.  There are many available fertilizers to use.  In general, the best way to fertilize is to get your soil tested and follow test recommendations.  The alternative is to observe your roses growth pattern.  In general a 5-10-10 fertilizer is good for roses (follow directions on package).

5 (N) - 10 (P) - 10 (K)
5 Nitrogen (N) - promotes green growth, good stems and leaves.  Too much N results in too many 
leaves at the expense of flowers.
10 Phosphorus (P) - promotes good root growth and flower production
10 Potassium (K) - promotes vigorous, strong growth.

Sprinkle fertilizer around rose, cultivate it in only lightly so shallow feeder roots aren’t damaged.  Be sure to 
water in granular fertilizer to activate it.

WATERING:  Never allow your roses to get overly dry but remember that they cannot tolerate soggy or poorly drained wet soil either.  Dig down in soil 2 inches.  If soil is dry, it is time to water.  In dry weather, it is a good idea to soak the ground once a week with a drip or soaker hose.  Do not use sprinkler or overhead watering  do not spray rose foliage with a hose.  (Wet rose foliage is susceptible to fungal diseases).  Water in cool morning or late afternoon hours.  Avoid watering too late in the evening or in the heat of the day.

PRUNING:  Groundcover or bushy types of roses should be pruned in spring when new growth is starting to show.  Push aside winter insulation (see section on winterizing) and prune back canes to 6-10”.  Cut canes 1/4 inch above a bud faces outward so that new shoots will grow outward from these points.  Make cuts at a 45 
degree angle.  Remove all dead, diseases, weak or crossing branches.  Climbing roses (tall roses with long 
flexible stems) should be left to grow for several years with no pruning other than what is necessary to remove weak or damaged wood.  After that, prune 1/3 of old canes out each year so you have older canes to produce flowers and newer stems to produce vigorous growth.  Shorten long stems as needed to keep roses the height you want.  

DEADHEADING:  Many roses on the market today are everblooming or repeat bloomers.  This means that they will produce a flush of late spring flowers, then rest and form buds for a second (or more) or more period of bloom.  To ensure abundant rebloom, many roses benefit at this point from some cosmetic pruning called deadheading!  Cut each rose stem that flowered back to 1/4 inch above a growing point that supports 2 sets of 5 leaflets (multiple leaflets indicate a strong growing site).  Pruning stimulates new growth so new shoots and buds will grow back rapidly at this spot to produce a fresh display of flowers.  Some hedge, shrub and other landscape roses rebloom beautifully with no deadheading but as a general rule, this cosmetic pruning is instrumental in the rebloom of many roses.

PESTS AND DISEASES:  In general, roses can be afflicted by a variety of diseases and pests (mildew, blackspot, aphids in particular), but you should not let this scare you away from a roses’ beauty and fragrance in the garden.  A simple routine of simple controls will take care of rose problems which usually are more unsightly than deadly.  Use a rose spray or dust every 7-10 days to prevent and control problems.  (Spraying is easier 
because you will get good coverage above and below leaf surfaces, which is necessary for good results).  To control fungal leaf diseases and insect pests, start your routine as soon as you see spring growth and continue throughout the summer.  Remember that good cultural practices are stil the best ‘cure’ for rose problems.  Keep vigor high with proper fertilizer and watering, plant in morning sun, don’t crowd roses into spots with poor air flow, keep dead leaves cleaned up and prune aggressively as needed to thin dense plants out and keep roses happy and healthy.

WINTERIZING:  Many roses benefit from a bit of cold weather protection.  To winterize, cover the bud unions of graft with a winter mulch such as peat moss/soil mix (4 parts peat, 1 part soil), pine needles, leaves or 
mushroom soil.    After the first really harde freeze, protect groundcovers or iniature roses with pine needles and an upside down bushel basket.  Wrap canes of climbers in burap or plastic for protection from cold and winter breakage.  Use a plastic collar or bottomless bucket around rose crowns to hold winter mulch in place.  Covering bud union or graft protects it from freezing damage - for this is the vital growing point for spring shoots.  In spring however, as temperatures gradually warm up it is critical that winter mulches be slowly pulled away from this graft.  Failing to unmulch your rose will result in its death.

ROSES AS CUT FLOWERS:  Cut your roses on an angle with sharp pruners or knife.  Cut when the outside petals first start to unfold.  Cut 1/4 inch above a bud or growing point and always leave at least two sets of five leaflets remaining below the flower of the plant.