Houseplant of the Month: Easter Lily

Did you know that Easter lilies are the fourth largest potted plant crop grown in the U.S.? With Easter approaching, no doubt many homes and churches will soon be graced with the fragrant and lovely white trumpet-shaped flowers, symbolic of spring, purity and the Lord’s Resurrection. But how can you enjoy your fragrant flower long after the holiday? We have some helpful tips.

Caring for Your Potted Easter Lilies

To keep your potted Easter lily as its best, it prefers a cool daytime temperature of 60° to 65° F. and nighttime temperatures 5 degrees cooler. To keep the flowers from wilting, avoid placing the potted plant in direct sunlight. Most plants will lean toward the sunlight. To keep the plant growing upright, turn the pot every two days.

Keep the plant moist, but not soggy. Most Easter lilies are sold commercially in pots covered with decorative foil jackets. No water should be left standing at the bottom of this covering or the life of the lily will be ruined. Remove the pot from the foil covering every time the plant is watered. Once the water has soaked into the soil, return the pot to the foil covering.

Also, to help your potted lily thrive, do not place the pot near a direct source of heat. Lilies thrive in a humid climate, more so than a dry one. To create natural humidity, fill a saucer with small pebbles and water and set beneath the potted lily.

How to Transfer Easter Lilies to the Garden

Your Easter lily plant can be introduced into your flower garden for annual enjoyment. Transplant it outdoors once all danger of frost has passed and when the flower stops blooming.

The plant needs to be in well-drained soil, just as it did when it was potted. To provide the needed drainage, add peat moss and perlite to rich organic soil.

Plant the lily bulbs, roots down, 3” inches beneath the surface of the soil and water. If planting more than one bulb, position them at least 12” inches apart. Cut back the stems once the plant appears dead. This will cause new growth to begin and possibly another bloom this summer. Next year, look for a June or July bloom.

Why We Garden

Gardeners tend to be optimistic. The simple act of planting a tree shows vision, creativity and yes, even hope. Sowing seeds is an act of faith, a fundamental belief in the natural world. One knows that with fertile soil, water and light, anything is possible. Gardens of contentment are borne in cities and in the country, in grand designs and in simple windowsills. The fact is, we garden because it makes us feel good.

Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect who was the creative force behind the design of New York’s Central Park observed that viewing a scene in nature “employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest.”

This observation could be judged to be more true today than when Mr. Olmsted was quoted back in 1865. In a day and age when work has become more stressful than ever, where daily lives are played out in an environment with higher levels of noise, crime and intensity, it’s understandable that people feel a general fatigue. Even work here at the nursery takes on an almost frenetic pace during the spring season. Where do we turn for relief? A quiet greenhouse or sales yard in the early morning hours. Like you, we turn to the garden…we connect with nature. Whether it is for five minutes or hours spent transplanting seedlings, we emerge refreshed, rejuvenated and somehow inspired.

There is something to be said for stopping to take notice of the world around you. It may seem trite, but taking the time to stop and smell the roses can lead to better health, a sharper mind and reduced stress. While we are force fed advice on how we should reduce our fat intake, increase our non-impact aerobic workouts, and oh, yeah….spend more quality time with the children, we’d like to present an alternative available right in your own backyard.

The Warm-up-

Start by taking in the morning air. Pulling weeds can be your opening stretching exercise. Comb your landscape and lawn for any and all invaders. Take your time, enjoy whatever is sprouting. Your neighbors will think you are strange, but they’ll be amazed by your weed free (all-organic, by the way) garden.

20-minutes to a leaner, greener you!

In the time it takes to rake your yard, or mow your lawn you can achieve quite an enjoyable aerobic workout. The great part is, you feel better from the results you’ve achieved, and from the physical activity that goes into it-a natural high!

A lush, green lawn, an exquisite flower, the sight of a cardinal…these acts of nature that make us feel good. They lift the spirits and improve people’s general feeling of well being. A garden can be just the right medicine for what ails you.

Gardening is a great opportunity to connect with yourself, your natural environment, and your inner creativity and self-expression-and it’s an activity you can enjoy as a family. Tend your garden daily. Planting the seeds for tomorrow’s blooms could just improve your health at the same time!

Houseplant of the Month: Shamrock

What is a Shamrock Plant? The potted shamrock plant (Oxalis regnellii) is a small specimen, often reaching no more than 6 inches. Leaves are in a range of shades and delicate flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. Leaves are clover shaped and some think the plant brings good luck.

It has clover-shaped leaves that grow in variable shades of green and purple tones. Shamrock plants bloom periodically, with delicate white or pink flowers which peek out from clusters of leaves throughout their growing season. These whimsical, living good luck symbols can be enjoyed during the fall, winter, and spring months.

Shamrock plants differ from most house plants in a few ways. For one, Shamrock plants grow from tiny bulbs that may be planted outside in fall or early spring, depending on the hardiness zone in which you live. They also fold up at night and re-open when light returns. These plants require a dormant period in the summer time, and will begin to shut down, which Shamrock plant owners sometimes mistake for the plant being dead.

Shamrock Plant Care Tips

  1. Place the plant in an area that is room temperature and receives good air circulation and bright, but not direct, light.
  2. Soil should be kept lightly moist. Water sparingly and allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
  3. Fertilize with a balanced houseplant food every few months.
  4. When leaves begin to die back in late spring or early summer, the plant is telling you that it needs a time of dormancy to rest. At this time, move the plant to a cooler, darker location, away from direct light and do not water of fertilize it. The dormant period varies and may last anywhere from a few weeks to three months, depending on the cultivar and the conditions.
  5. After the first couple weeks of dormancy, check your plant for new growth every week or so.
  6. When new shoots appear, the dormancy period has ended. Move the plant back to a brighter location and resume the recommended regular plant care.

How to Read a Grass Seed Label

If more is better, than a lot should be great! That seems to be the logic when buying grass seed. To get the best results when seeding this spring, it might help to understand a few of the basics. Let’s take a look at a typical seed label:

First of all, what do those names mean? They are usually proprietary varieties that were specifically bred for optimum results. With improvements in seed breeding and technology in the past 7-10 years, these new varieties are more disease and pest resistant. However, over half the lawns in North America are over 7 years old. Newer varieties have definite advantages.

How about germination? The second set of numbers is the germination rate of the seed. Like anything else there are different grades and qualities of grass seed. Watch out for this number. The higher the number the better. Why pay for seed that won’t grow.

What is “other crop seed?” The seed listed here is for the “off types” of seed that can detract from the quality of the lawn. These are usually fillers used in lower priced mixes. The lower the percentage, the better.

Why is there weed seed listed? If there is any weed seed present it is listed by percentage of weight. While you don’t want any weed seed, it is difficult and expensive to keep them out. Similarly avoid those listing obnoxious weeds.

What exactly is “inert matter?” Inert matter is just what it sounds like. This is substance in the box or bag that is not capable of growth. Usually it is filler added to take up space. The lower the percentage the better.

How much seed do you really need? In depends on your application. In full sun, figure about 4-5 lbs for 1000 (M) sq. ft for a new lawn and about 1.5 lbs/M for overseeding. In deep shade your numbers shuld be more like 3 lbs/M for a new lawn and 1.5 lbs/M for overseeding.

Ready to get going? Measure your area. With an understanding of the basic facts, area, conditions (soil, sun, shade) and a better understanding of how to read a seed label, you’ll have greater success with your next seeding project and save time and money! We’re here to help!

Preparing Your Roses For Winter

As winter approaches we turn our attention to preparing the garden for slumber. Beds are mulched, perennials are cut back, tender bulbs are lifted and stored, and we prepare to protect our roses from winter’s chill. The timing of your winter rose care will be determined by your area, however, a helpful reminder is to use Thanksgiving as a deadline for zone 5, earlier for zone 4, and later for zones 6 and up.

Step 1. When cutting back your roses bear in mind that roses die from the top down. When pruning your roses in late fall or early winter, plan on cutting back to about 2 1/2 to 3 feet. This will give you some latitude when it comes to winter kill. This is a general rule that can be applied to hybrid teas and most floribunda roses. Climbers and ramblers should not be cut back to this extreme, but rather tied back to trellis or fencing in order to keep the canes from snapping in the wind.

Step 2. When pruning, take care by using gloves. Using sharpened, clean by-pass pruners make a cut at an angle. General removal of deadwood or crossed branches can be accomplished at this time. Strip and remove all remaining foliage.

Step 3. Many will recommend removing all but the strongest four to five canes. This is a good technique for hybrid teas, especially those used for cut flowers. This is a judgment call. Your pruning will depend on the type of bush you are looking to create. When pruning we will often recommend filling your cuts with either a clear nail polish or even white glue. This serves to seal the cut and prevent pests such as cane borer bees from nesting in your roses. These insects are dormant in the winter and the cuts will generally seal themselves over time.

Step 4. Winter damage to rose bushes most often occurs when severe winds, or snow loads, rock the plant or shift it so it is loosened from the soil. This can expose roots which then dehydrate and produce severe damage to the plant. For this reason we encourage you to stake your pruned rose. This will help stabilize your plant and prevent damage from freezing and thawing. Place the stake while you can still drive it into the soil. After the ground freezes it will help anchor the plant.

Step 5. After the ground does freeze (in cold weather climates) apply some method of providing a retainer for mulch, soil, or shredded leaves. This can be a rose cone, peach basket, or in this case a rose collar. Protect the bud-union by applying 10-12 inches of organic material. Most areas can winter protect with soil from the garden. Take care when using rose cones or baskets. A plastic pail will often “cook” a rose bush, especially one situated in a southern exposure. In colder climates this original mounding up can be supplemented with pine boughs or chips. Take care to mulch in plants after the ground has frozen, for done too early can only provide a safe winter habitat for field mice or rodents who will then feast on the roots over the winter.

Step 6. Spring removal. Generally your roses can be uncovered around the first week of April. If you are in a warmer climate, clean them up earlier. An adage was to uncover your roses just before you prune your forsythia (which is just after the bloom fades). At this time you can remove most of the soil by hand and then using full water pressure, remove soil from the crown by spraying it with a strong spray. When the buds break in the warm weather apply a fungicide and begin feeding in May.

Houseplant of the Month: Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pine Plant Features

An easy-care houseplant, Norfolk Island pine is a festive holiday plant you can enjoy all year long! During the holidays, its needled branches look right at home decorated as a Christmas tree. After the holidays pass, remove the decorations and enjoy its classic look (and air-purifying powers) anywhere in your home.

Though it’s called Norfolk Island pine, it’s not a pine at all. Rather, this stately tree is a tropical plant native to the South Pacific. Indoors, it’s relatively slow-growing, but over the course of several years, this adorable little plant can grow to 6 feet tall or more.

Small, young Norfolk Island pines are perfect for decorating mantles, tabletops, and desks. As this long-lived houseplant grows, it’s becomes better situated as a floor plant and can be used to fill bright corners, flank furniture (such as entertainment centers), or stand alone as a stunning focal point.

If you want to encourage faster growth from your Norfolk Island pine, move it outdoors to a shaded or partly shaded spot during the summer. Because it’s a tropical tree, wait until all danger of frost has passed before moving it out, and bring it back in before the first frost in fall.

Norfolk Island Pine Growing Instructions

Grow Norfolk Island pine in a medium to bright spot in your home. The less light it gets, the slower it will grow. But avoid very low-light situations. If it doesn’t get enough light (natural or artificial), your Norfolk Island pine will be weak, spindly, and unattractive.

Water it enough to keep the soil moist, but not wet. The roots will rot if they stand in water. If the plant stays too dry, the tips of its branches will turn brown and crispy. Fertilize Norfolk Island pine once or twice during spring and summer to keep it growing well. You can fertilize more often if you want your plant to grow faster! 
Note: After the holidays, take your Norfolk Island pine’s pot out of the festive foil pot cover (if it has one). Pot covers trap excess moisture around the roots and can cause your plant to suffer rot if it stays too moist.

If you wish to prune your Norfolk Island pine, you can do so at any time of the year.

Like most houseplants, Norfolk Island pine benefits from being repotted every couple of years.

Thanks to – http://www.costafarms.com/plants/norfolk-island-pine

Balsam vs. Fraser Fir? How to choose.

Fa la la la! It’s the most wonderful time of the year–and our favorite part of the season! It’s time to head out with your family and wander amongst all the beautiful types of trees, looking for just the right one. As you’re searching, do the fresh test! Run your fingers along the needles, grab the branches and bounce the tree a little. If many needles fall off, the tree was cut long ago and has not gotten enough water, so find another! Also, the hunt for the perfect tree will go much smoother if you already know the type of tree you want.

Picking out a perfect tree isn’t all about looks—the tree’s scent, strength of branches, and needle retention all matter, too. So before you head to the tree farm or lot to select yours, lets compare the two most popular Christmas trees.

Balsam Fir –  3/4″ to 1 and 1/2″ short, flat, long lasting needles that are rounded at the tip; nice, dark green color with silvery cast and fragrant. These needles are 3/4 – 1 and 1/2 in. in length and last a very long time. This is the traditional Christmas tree that most Americans grew up with. This tree has a dark-green appearance and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Christmas season.

Fraser Fir – The Fraser fir may be the perfect holiday tree. Its attractive 1-inch needles are silvery-green and soft to the touch. Because there is space between the branches, the Fraser is easier to decorate than some trees. The firm branches hold heavier ornaments. The trees grow to almost perfect shapes, and as long as the cut tree is kept properly watered, the Frasier fir has excellent needle retention.

Everyone has their favorite. We hope you have fun selecting this year’s perfect tree!