Archive for the ‘shrubs’ Category

Hazel the Witch Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Yellow-flowered witch hazel

I made a note to double check my modest little witch hazel. They bloom about this time and I hadn’t crouched down to double check that it was indeed blooming – sure enough. Quarter-sized yellow spidery flowers had opened up right off the older parts of branches.

It’s quite wonderful that a shrub of this name blooms around Halloween in our neck of the plains. Probably the latest blooming shrub/tree there is in these parts. If I still had my toad lilies, those would also be blooming about now.

Witch hazel is either a big shrub or small tree – 10 feet in height. I planted mine on the west side of our house amongst iris, poppy, daylilies, coral bells and columbines. It gets the hotter sun of the day. Though it prefers more acidic moist soil, it is somewhat tolerant of other types. I’ve added compost, manure and leaves to the surrounding soil. I plan on using some extra straw around it as well for a little insulation. This is its third year – it’s scruffy looking with its highly textured leaves, gnarled branches and rough dead-gray bark. But I like the interest it gives this time of year – just hope it grows up a ways so I don’t have to crouch and dig for its interest.

Perennials put in place Saturday, May 15th, 2010

I’ve picked up a handful of perennials in the last couple weeks. The first one I won by drawing at a Parkview Nursery event where they were introducing some new species. I let my daughter pick my prize from a variety of perennials. She went with the biggest and pinkest:

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Twist-n-Shout'

  • Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Twist-n-Shout’ is a lace cap hydrangea vs. mophead. It’s blooms are clusters of small and tiny petaled flowers. In more acidic soil a periwinkle color comes through the blooms but in alkaline (which we have) the blooms will undoubtedly be pink. If you want to try for bluer blooms adding aluminum sulphate will change the soils pH to more acidic. this is easier to do if you leave your hydrangea in a container instead of straight it the garden. I planted mine on the east side of my house so it will be protected from the hot afternoon and evening sun. I added a good dose of my home compost to the planting hole. This plant will be a heavier feeder so I’ll probably need to add more until mid-summer.

Lychnis 'Orange Gnome' Maltese Cross

  • Next I picked up Lychnis ‘Orange Gnome’ also known as Maltese Cross. The dark green to burgundy leaves and electric orange flowers will add a lot to my almost completely green perennial bed. Most of my flowers now are purple so I wanted to add some pops of other colors here and there to up the interest. It’s stalks were tall and top heavy so I braced it with a cut-off tomato cage so it doesn’t just flop to the ground. I planted it on the south side of my house between catmint and a perennial grass so it’ll be a mid-height plant in that area. Hopefully it will tolerate a full day’s worth of sun, which is what the tag says. I can also pinch it back if I’d like a more compact growing habit.

Ajuga reptans 'Black Scallop'

  • Another color pop I purchased is an Ajuga with dark purple/black scalloped leaves. It’s brighter dainty purple/blue blooms are very cute. It’s a ground cover that should be highly adaptable to most conditions – as state on the accompanying tag. We’ll see. It also is planted on the southside in the front of my perennial border between some sedums and liatris.
  • I was able to find an Ash Leaf Spirea. I have high hopes for this one. Spirea are highly adaptable shrubs

    Sem Ash Leaf Spirea - Sorbaria sorbifolia.

    that are great for foundation planting and xeriscaping.They are low maintenance and black-thumb proof. This particular one is of interest because of its unique foliage. limey greens and pink tips with a fern-like quality.

Super excited to have these specimens in my garden! Even more excited for a spell of good weather.

easter bunny damage Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

Rabbit damage through the winter. Note the tell-tale litter of "raisins" underneath.

I’ve heard a bit on area-person’s bunny damage. Nipped branches, chewed bark ringing tree trunks at different levels depending on where the snow height was during that particular snack time, and piles of droppings under the most tasty and gluttonous of rabbit-dining experiences (at least they are leaving a very good fertilizer behind).

Today I took note of one of my own. An old cotoneaster bush at the SW corner of my house – a couple whole branches stripped of bark. This is minimal damage at best. So far I’m happy to report there have been no other casualties to note. My youngest trees/shrubs: a catalpa seedling, larch, forsythia and witch hazel don’t show any damage. I took extra care last fall to protect them. I utilized old circular tomato cages and set inside an additional lining of chicken-wire fencing or green plastic mesh. I made sure to go up to a good height knowing bunnies will skip along the tp of snow drifts and snip off any branches poking out from the protective icy layer.

The most noteworthy damage I’ve heard by a rabbit came from my parents. They’d just gotten back from a trip to find their internet connection down. After assistance from family and a call to the cable company followed by a technicians visit, it was determined that a rabbit had chewed through their cable in the crawl space under the house. Now that’s a hungry bunny.

Monday, February 15th, 2010

MARCH 13, 2010

Registration—8:45 A.M. Registration fee- $5


  • 9:00 A.M.:  PRESERVING YOUR HARVEST – Marjorie Zastrow, SDSU Extension Educator—FCS
  • 10:15 A.M. TREE AND SHRUB PRUNING MADE EASY – Aaron Keisz, Aberdeen City Forester
  • 1:00 P.M. TIPS FOR DIVIDING AND MOVING PERENNIAL PLANTS – Glenda Oakley, Extension Master Gardener
  • 2:00 P.M. SMALL COMMERCIAL GARDEN, MAKING/USING COMPOST – George Piper, Extension Master Gardener
  • 3:15 P.M. FLOWER ARRANGING – Cindy Carlson and Renita Kainz, Lily’s Floral Design & Gifts

Angerhofer Concrete Products; Beadles Floral and Nursery; Gary’s Engine and Repair; Harvest Garden Center; Lily’s Floral Design and Gifts; Parkview Nursery; Boston Fern; RDO Equipment; Scentsy; The Happy Gardener; Prairie Partners Master Gardeners

Prairie Partners Master Gardeners
South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service

Budgets, building up and barrels Friday, January 29th, 2010

The minimal time I’ve been gardening at my home (7 years) I’ve learned to have, if not a strict budget, at the very least a focus of what I wanted to accomplish that season. The first year or two I was buying and collecting with abandon. It was a good start (but I did burn a hole in my pocket book). The best choices I made didn’t come from nurseries but through collecting and trading. I’ve acquired some tried and true specimens that I already knew would work well in this corner of our world. Hostas, daylilies and iris from my mom, roses I’d known grew well from childhood memories at my grandmothers’, native grasses, mints, sedums and thyme.

Now that I’d found some stuff to work with I moved onto more foundation plantings like shrubs and trees. Having all of ours wiped out by dutch elm, blight and scald those became the focus the next couple years. To save money we went to the nearly-annual city surplus sale and donated to the Arbor Day Society – for a minimal donation you get quite a few trees, though tiny, it’s worth it even if only a couple survive. We only splurged on the two trees planted the day our kids were born. Investing in perennials, trees and shrubs will always be a better deal as they, hopefully, come back year after year needing less and less maintenance as they become established.

Last year (and the year before) we put up a fence to enclose the backyard both for our kids’ and dog’s sake and to keep rough-n-tumble kids from breaking, beating and stomping the stuff we had planted. There is just something way too appealing about breaking branches.

Bringing us to this year’s focus:

  • Dirt — basically building up the veggie garden, raising or mounding the beds. This will help them heat up faster, drain better and hopefully provide more of a path to get to things. I’d love all raised beds as it would make the work easier but the building materials would probably be out of our range. By bringing in a mix of compost, dirt, peat etc. we will improve the soil quality. Before all of this I should finally get soil samples sent into the extension office so that I know where I’m at as far as pH and basic nutrient needs.
  • Water conservation — rain barrels and soaker hoses. Our old soaker hoses need replacing and they really are the smartest way to water. I’ve been talking about rain barrels for a few years and have never tackled the project. To buy one premade will cost a minimum of $150 from what I’ve perused in catalogs, but there are easier ways to make your own. I just need to find large plastic food-grade barrels that have never held any chemicals. They could be used as is by dipping watering cans into, or I can add spigots and drain hoses for greater ease with some strategic holes, faucet and hose attachments. Not only do you end up with free water, it’s actually much better water for your plants. City water around these parts is more alkaline and will increase soil pH. Just remember a couple mosquito dunks to kill the larvae.
  • Lastly, another tree splurge as there is another Pharris on the way to make his/her appearance in April. We haven’t nailed down the type of tree we want yet but I’m leaning towards an evergreen of sorts or an oak. I’ll have to call the nurseries and check on the availability of bareroot vs. container in early April.
Black thumbs Monday, July 6th, 2009

heucherablack7-2009For those who think they CAN’T GROW ANYTHING, take a waltz around some city or business property. 9 times out of 10 the plantings and landscaping methods used are for minimal, if any, care. I saw this beautiful black-leaved heuchera and it’s dainty moon-yellow flowers – Granted parks & rec does have regular ground maintenance, they aren’t going to plant stuff that needs to be babied. Other good choices for the black thumbs:

  • Russian Sage – medium height plant, good for rugged and SW-style settings, it is drought tolerant, heat tolerant and has lovely flecks of purple flowers most of the season.
  • Stella d’Oro daylily – miniature and standard form they are prolific beacons of sunlight.
  • Potentilla – once scraggly backdrops there are now many varieties from dark green to modeled lime and with blooms ranging from pink to yellow to white.
  • Contoneaster – tough shrub, can be left to sprawl or takes well to trimming
  • Shrub roses – these should grow well, but any trimming gets a bit prickly
  • Mints – Great ground covers especially for large, or contained areas. Smell good. Spearmint, cat mint, or regular – great additions to sauces, teas, lemonade.
  • Snow on the Mountain – variegated foliage, easily and quickly spreads. Best for large areas or contained areas.
  • Hostas – Shadey spots scream for hostas. They take a variety of soils and are quite adaptable
  • Lily of the valley – also good shade. Early summer blooms bring a sweet scent.
  • Stonecrop or sedum – I’ve written about before. Come in wide variety of shape, size and color – just make sure they are for zone 4 and you should be good to go (and neglect).
Witch Hazel found! Thursday, April 30th, 2009

witchhazel2009witchhazeltagHamamelis virginiana, or American Witch Hazel is a shrub I’ve been after for the past few years. I’ve never been able to find them at local nurseries or X-Mart store nurseries. Requests for special orders have been blown off and last year I tried one through the Arbor Day society but the stick that came didn’t make it. Most likely my fault for not babying it – not something I do with most outdoor plants.

But I found some while on a reluctant trip through Brookings at Medary Acres. Reluctant simply because the gardening itch hasn’t quite hit and I was trying to pace myself and not get too excited in April – in past years I’ve blown my budget by now. But, I just happened to walk through the few shrubs outside of the greenhouse and saw the usuals: lilac, dogwood, barberry, etc. and then witch hazel. Wah? Nice beautiful specimens, with leaves and color and lushness?! So for the mere $19.99 for a healthy looking shrub I was finally feeling the need to scratch.

Doing a bit more research I found that the American variety is hardier – a native all the way to Canada. It’s definitely a zone 4, possibly 3 with cover. the yellow, fragrant, flowers offer great late fall/early winter appeal. I’ve found that it may need more soil amendments, liking some humuus in it’s soil configuration. Some homemade compost or aged manure should do the trick.

I planted it a couple days ago and with yesterday’s rain it should be off to a good start.