Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Buy Healthy Plants for Your Garden

If you are a gardener your favorite place to visit is a garden center or nursery. You can't resist all those beautiful plants and you will most likely go home with several new plants for your garden. When nursery stock arrives at the garden center it is at it's best in growth and appearance. The plants are displayed in an attractive way to encourage you to buy them. But how do you know that you are getting a healthy plant that will thrive in your garden when you take it home? Here are five simple steps in selecting plants at the nursery to ensure that you are getting a healthy plant.
1. Pick a plant that has buds rather than open flowers. If the plant is already flowering, those flowers will soon be gone and if you have buds you can enjoy the flowers longer.
2. Consider buying fall blooming plants in the spring rather than the fall. Your plants will have more time to establish during the growing season and will be ready to go dormant by winter. I prefer to buy smaller mums for my garden in the spring and in the fall I have nice large plants that are full of blooms and that are established in the ground before the first snow comes.
3. Always purchase a plant with a plant label. You need to know how much sun or shade your plant will need, water and soil needs and most important how tall and wide a plant will grow. It's also important to have the full botanical name for the plant and zone information. Always read the plant label for proper planting and follow those recommendations.
4. Take a look at the root system. Carefully remove the plant from the pot and inspect the roots. If the roots are badly discolored, mushy or the pot is very full of roots this may not be a plant for you. When the pot is overly full of roots and you can hardly see the soil, the plant is root-bound. Roots should be healthy looking with some roots being white in color. Avoid plants that have excessive amounts of roots coming out of the drain holes of the pot.
5. Look for plants that are full and healthy looking. Always inspect the plant for disease and insect damage. Look for good branching of the plant and new growth. If you buy plants at the end of the season always inspect them carefully before buying. They may not look as healthy or may be showing some signs of stress from being in a garden center all season.
If you choose healthy plants with flower buds and a good root system from your nursery, then you can be confident that you will have a good plant for your garden.
Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hellebores for Early Garden Color

I always know that spring is on the way by the blooming of the hellebores. On winter days you can find their leaves and flowers peeking up and out of the snow. These perennials are wonderful plants for the shade garden. My favorite Hellebores are H. orientalis (Lenten Rose) and H. niger (Christmas Rose). The Christmas Rose grows in zones 4-8 and has white flowers and shiny dark-green foliage that stays on during the winter for winter color in the garden. It grows from 12 to 18 inches high and blooms during January or February. The Lenten Rose grows in zones 5-9 and it blooms in early spring. It comes in many different sizes and colors with foliage that is oval shaped with a serrated edge. Both plants keep their foliage in my garden during the winter, but by spring the foliage does show winter damage which can be easily pruned away. Hellebores prefer rich soil that stays moist but is well drained. They are slow to establish, but once they do, they can tolerate some dryness. They can be propagated by seed or division in the fall or early spring. Be aware that seedlings may not come true to parents. Hellebores are deer resistant for all you gardeners who have deer problems. If you have not tried growing hellebores, I would suggest both the Christmas Rose and the Lenten Rose for early color to the garden.
Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener
The gardening season has finally ended for me and it is time to get back to gardening writing again. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday season!

'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood

Years ago, I purchased a very small tree that was only 6 to 8 inches tall. It was a 'Golden Shadows' Pagoda Dogwood. It had beau...