Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Cold tolerant annuals

Tooling around town, I noticed quite a few gardens with salvia, begonias and marigolds lining walkways and garden beds.  It makes me exceptionally angry that growers encourage homeowners to purchase tender annuals long before the final frost of the year.  Gardening is a continual education process.  Many people simply don't realize that annuals cannot withstand the cool soil temperatures and frost of the Maryland spring.

With that said, let's look at a list of annuals that can tolerate cool weather to provide some spring color in the garden.  These plants probably won't survive the summer without some assistance provided by you.  But if you're chomping at the bit to tidy up and beautify the landscape, give these plants a try.

Pansies offer an array of colors to brighten the spring garden.  These tough little plants just might last through the summer with plenty of water and a slightly cooler location.  For now, plant pansies in a sunny or partial sun site and enjoy the show.  Clip blooms back for arrangements and prune foliage to keep the plant bushy. [Image Credit: Kevin Rosseel, Morguefile]


Snapdragons also thrive in cool weather and can add immediate interest to the landscape.  Add a few to the planters on your porch or patio while you wait for the trees to flesh out with foliage.  Snapdragons will last through the summer with regular pruning, plenty of water and regular pruning.  These plants come in an array of solid colors as well as variegated flowers like the pinks/yellow/purple combination shown in the photo.  [Image Credit: Xandert, Moreguefile]

Verbena can tolerate the cooler temperatures of spring.  This trailing plant comes in red, peach, white and salmon to add just the right touch of color to the spring garden. Verbena grows to about 14 inches and is considered a half-hardy annual.  Verbena can be used in the garden and in containers.  Plant verbena in the sun to really see the full production of flowers on this beautiful plant. [Image Credit: mrmac04, Morguefile]

Remember that all annuals benefit from a good turning over of the garden soil.  Add peat moss to the mixture as you loosen the top 8 inches of soil with a shovel.  Cultivation allows annual roots to spread easily through the soil for better establishment in the garden.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wake up those geraniums

If you're one of those industrious gardeners who salvaged your geraniums from the garden, now's the time to wake them up in preparation for moving the plants outdoors.  You'll need roughly two months to stabilize the plant before planting the geranium back into the garden.

How to clean a plant pot

Yes, there's actually something else in this world that you need to clean.  But this part is much more fun than laundry or bathrooms.

Dump any remaining soil out of the plant pot.  Run water into the pot and scrub the sides with a scrub brush to remove dirt build up and white mineral scale.  The mineral scale can be stubborn so chip it off with a butter knife if necessary. Apply a few drops of liquid dish detergent to a scrubber sponge and clean the inside and outside of the pot.  Remove the drainage tray and scrub that too.  Don't forget the bottom of the pot. 

Rinse the pot thoroughly until all soap residue disappears.  You're now ready to plant!

Landscape Design for Beginners

The home landscape is a work of living art. It changes with the seasons, reflects the preferences of the owner as well as the whims of change of the designer. Landscape becomes the frame for a home. Landscape design for beginners may seem like a daunting task of thousands of choices of trees, shrubs and flowers. DIY landscape design for beginners includes having a grand plan for the entire landscape that forms a pleasing environment for the family.

Scaled Drawing

Measure the house and any hardscape, permanent features in the landscape. Hardscape includes the driveway, sidewalk, porch, front steps, retaining walls, decks, patios, pool decks or fencing. Use a measuring tape and create an accurate drawing. Before you balk at this, imagine the incredible perspective you will have with this blank slate drawing.

Tips for removing unwanted shrubs and vines

Rampant plants in the landscape are a fact of life for homeowners. The former owner may have planted English ivy as a ground cover that currently covers the nearest tree or one side of the house. An older shrub sits in the perfectly wrong spot for the installation of a new deck or patio. Whatever your reasons for removing unwanted shrubs and vines, these plants have graduated from ornamental beauties to nuisances in the landscape.

Using chemical treatments to remove unwanted landscape plants isn't always the best option. While manufacturers and horticulturists say these products are safe, many homeowners prefer to skip topical herbicides in favor of manual removal of plants. Limiting the use of chemical treatments on your property makes a safe environment for your family, pets and local wildlife. Better yet, you'll be saving the local watershed from unwanted chemicals.

How to plant landscape trees

Planting a landscape tree differs from the method used to plant shrubs, annuals or perennial flowers. Trees require careful placement in the landscape and in the planting hole to ensure successful growth. Every time you add a plant to your landscape, you're making an actual transplant that shocks the plant. This is very much the case with trees.

The best plants to use around a patio

The best flowers to plant around a patio include those plants that appeal to the gardener. Flowers add a special appeal to an outdoor living space. Flowers serve as the decorative touches to the landscape much like pictures and knick-knacks do inside the home. Planting flowers around a patio area involves some basic considerations to create a garden with long-lasting appeal.

Low maintenance landscape plants

Landscaping a home can be one of the most rewarding experiences for a homeowner. Designing, planting and nurturing this investment provides untold satisfaction to garden enthusiasts. DIY landscapers often choose to select plants that require little maintenance to limit water use as well as upkeep. Selecting low maintenance plants for landscape gardens requires careful planning and the realization that every plant at some time will require some regular care.

Ornamental Grasses

Few plants equal ornamental grasses for the combination of stunning foliage display and low maintenance. Ornamental grass ranges in size from low-mounding varieties such as variegated liriope to towering stands of pampas grass. The plants offer foliage-centric focus in the landscape without the high maintenance of continual trimming to remove spent flower blooms. Most varieties of ornamental grass requires a single haircut in the early spring right after new shoots appear.

How to winterize geraniums

Geraniums offer the gardener the option of a second season of bloom. Unlike many other annuals, geraniums tolerate the increased dryness of the home environment. Bring these annuals inside for the winter, treat it as a houseplant, and you'll have abundant blooms the following season. Geranium blooms add color and pizazz to the garden with clusters of blooms in pink, red and white. This beautiful plant is a must for the annual garden, container and hanging baskets.

Tips for Making your own Hanging Baskets

Hanging flower baskets add a special touch to a front porch or patio like nothing else can. Trailing vines and flowers overflowing the edges of the basket bring the garden right to the forefront. Purchasing hanging flower baskets from the garden center can be quite expensive. Not only are you paying for the cost of the flowers but also the cost of the container as well. It's so easy and enjoyable to make your own hanging baskets that once you do it, you'll never buy a prepared hanging basket again.


The choices for hanging containers abound for gardeners so decide which suits your outdoor dcor. Make sure the container drains properly to prevent waterlogged roots and dead plants. Punch a few holes in the base of the planter with a screwdriver and hammer to assure drainage. Don't make the holes too large since soil will drain out of the planter base.

Choose sturdy containers made of plastic, preferably those with an attached plastic base that allows drainage. Metal planters lined with coconut fiber provide the perfect hanging basket for creating a beautiful flower display. The coconut fiber keeps the dirt in and allows excess water to drain right out the bottom of the planter. Any container is acceptable as long as the plants have adequate drainage. If you simply can't put a hole in the hanging planter, add a 2-inch layer of rocks to the bottom of the planter to aid drainage.

The best time to plant flowers in Maryland

Each type of plant has specific requirements to thrive and grow in your garden. This begins with the decision of when to plant your flowers. Creating a healthy, beautiful garden requires thought and planning that includes choices of plants, evaluation of sunlight and soil drainage. There's isn't any single cared in stone best time to start planting flowers. Planting too early will strain the plants with exposure to heavy rain or frost. Planting too late will stunt growth.


Daffodils are popping out all over the Maryland landscape.  These traditional bulb flowers are some of my very favorite plants for two reasons.  One: little to no maintenance.  Two: daffodils are beautiful cut flowers that allow gardeners to bring some spring splendor inside.

Driving around Rockville, I seek out the largest bunches of daffodils planted by these wonderful souls who obvously have an affinity for the spring flowers just like I do.  One thing that bothers me is seeing daffodils planted in the yard.

(I'm guilty too see don't close this blog page!!) 

Tips for keeping daffodils healthy and blooming year after year:

  • Cut the flower stem down low for use in arrangements in the home.  Do not remove foliage.
  • Cut back spent flowers and stems.  Leave the foliage alone.
  • Watch your daffodils for diminished blooms.  This indicates a need to transplant the bulbs in the fall.
  • DO NOT under any circumstance allow your husband to mow down leftover daffodil foliage after the plants finish blooming.  The bulb grabs nutrients from the foliage for use in regeneration for the following year.  
  • Do not cut back foliage until it is completely brown.  Hide it in the garden with strategically placed annuals.
(Are you seeing the pattern of not cutting the foliage??)

Every year I kick myself for not planting more daffodils when springtime comes around.  The cheerful yellow simply brings out the happiness of springtime.

Drying Bulbs

If you're holding onto your spouses arm to prevent him or her plowing down the daffodils, this requires some serious quick action.  If you must remove the from a site before the foliage dies, dig the entire bulb up with the attached foliage.  Place the bulbs in an empty cardboard soda box and allow to dry in a cool, dry location.  Trim off the foliage after it completely browns and store in labeled paper bags until the fall.

[Image credit: Bosela, Morguefile]

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March Gardening Tips

The sun is shining.  It's hitting 70 degrees on some days.  The tulips, crocus and daffodils are 5 to 6 inches high now.  You've got that gardening bug but what can a gardener actually do in Maryland in March?


*Pick up all those broken branches from the yard that fell from heavy snow and wind during the winter.  Use twine or yard waste bags.  This jump start on cleaning up the yard helps immensely during that first mowing of the season. 

*Trim back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grass.  Perennials perform better when we allow the previous seasons foliage to die off naturally.  Break out the hand trimmers and clip foliage to 2 to 4 inches from the soil level. Tackle the ornamental grass with a tidy haircut to allow room for light to penetrate the interior of the grass clump.

*Make notes on the perennials that might need transplanting in warmer weather.

*Clean up all plant debris, branches and clippings for every garden.  No need to leave this task until later when you're wanting to plant your flowers. Dispose of debris in the compost pile or in yard waste bags.

*Leave any blooming bulbs alone for the time being.  You can cut stems and dead blooms only.  Allow foliage to die naturally and only prune at ground level after it's completely dead.  Foliage nourishes the bulb after blooming.

*Turn the compost pile.

 *Start your annual plant seeds for transplant in middle to late May.  Seed packets, soil and containers are readily available at Home Depot, Lowes or your favorite garden center.

*Remove mulch coverings from perennials after the nighttime temperature reaches the 40s consistently.  Just pull the mulch back from plant centers and be prepared to cover the new shoots if temperatures dip as they often do around Maryland in the spring.

*Fertilize trees, deciduous and evergreen shrubs.  Make a list of each type of shrub and visit the garden center to decide which brand will work best for your landscape plants.  Consider using organic options to limit runoff into the watershed.

*Get weeds early.  Juvenile weeds quickly mature to adults that produce seeds.  Catch these garden nuisances at 3 to 4 inches in height.  You just might get lucky and limit the spread of the seeds.