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A Gardener's Toolbox

Gardening is a multi-purpose activity.  It adds value to your home, puts food on your plate, is great exercise and can be very enjoyable.  The best way to make the most of gardening is to have the proper tools. With the following ten items, you will be prepared for almost anything that will come your way in the garden.

1.       Gloves:  Before starting any garden work, you need to have a good pair of gloves.  These don’t have to be expensive, but a durable pair of gardening gloves makes working with plants, dirt and tools much easier on the hands.  Dirt not only gets under your nails, ladies, but can dry out your skin. Plants may have thorns that could prick you, and using tools without gloves can cause blisters.  They don’t have to last for years, mine typically last a season and then its on to the next pair.  But, as they always say: a gardener can always use another pair of gloves and a tub of hand crème.

2.       Pruners: Almost as essential as gloves, is a good set of pruners.  This tool makes deadheading and cleaning a much quicker task.  Compact pruners are a smaller sized blade, but just as effective on most plants as the larger set.  Keep in mind what you have planted to determine how large of a pair you will need for cutting things back. (The bigger the stem, the larger the pair)

3.       Watering Wand/Gun: This may not seem essential to a lot of new gardeners, but the pressure your water is coming out can make a difference with soil erosion. Using a watering wand over just a watering head is also good in the fact that it will help you water the hard-to-reach areas. IT is important to water plants at their base, and the extended wand will help you get there.

4.       Hand Trowel:  This tool is indispensable for container gardening and any smaller scale gardening.  When you have a flat of annuals you want to plant in a bed, digging the small holes with a big shovel is a little ridiculous.  Hand trowels get the work done and are very useful when it comes to digging up your root-bound containers at the end of the season.

5.       Shovel: While a hand trowel is necessary for smaller jobs, it definitely can’t do the work on larger jobs.  Planting perennial gardens, shrubs, trees and even aiding in soil preparation for the season, is left to larger shovels. 

6.       Knee saver: Knee savers come in a variety of styles.  You have your basic knee pad to lean on when planting, and fancier stands that have built-in pads and handles to lean on when standing up.  This last style is great, because most of them also turn into small seats to use when in the garden.  Whichever style you go with, your knees will thank you at the end of the day if you have one to kneel on.

7.       Weeder: Weeders are just what they sound like.  They help pull out the weeds that attack your beautiful garden.  Some are smaller hand weeders, which are great for small-scale jobs.  Others are stand-up weeders, that use the force of your whole body to help remove the weed and its roots.  This useful tool will keep your garden weed-free for the season.

8.       Quality   Plants: It may seem like a no-brainer, but starting with strong, healthy plants in your garden is important.  You don’t want to bring something with disease or bugs into your home, and you want the best results you can get. Starting with plants you know have been taken care of and that are known to last long is the best way to go.

9.       Systemic Granules: Unfortunately, bugs happen. Even with quality plants, the hot, humid summers encourage bugs and other diseases to attack your plants.  Using a systemic granule is a great way to treat just about any plant.  They have indoor and outdoor types to use, but these little granules of insecticide will get taken up through the roots and help bring your plants back to life.

10.   A Plan: Again, this may seem strange, but before stepping foot at a garden center, you need to know what you’re working with.  Look at the amount of sun you have, the type of soil you have and the size of the beds you have.  These will help you determine the type of plants that work best.  If you need help or ideas in what you would like to do, try using an online planner like this one



Roses: Getting to the Root of the Problem

 June is National Rose Month and with everyone’s roses in full bloom, it’s hard to imagine why they would not be enjoyed this month.  Roses are beautiful flowers and easy shrubs to have in your yard.

They are also fairly easy to diagnose when they have issues.  All the problems you encounter are generally a direct relation to its environment. Whether it’s bad drainage, too little water, poor soil, insects or diseases, these can generally be remedied or prevented.

Using the following information, you should be able to treat your roses and keep them healthy and happy. If you have a problem that doesn’t appear below, you can always ask Dan, our rose expert, and he will definitely be able to diagnose your problem.

*It’s important to note that when using insecticides, follow the product’s directions accordingly. In general, it is most effective to get the entire plant soaked with the product, including under the leaves.

Symptom: Bugs on the buds and leaves
Cause: Aphids which are green, red or black soft bugs about ¼” long, found on the new growth
Insecticidal sprays or systemic granules can help treat and prevent future infection. You can spray the bugs off of them

Symptom: Blooms are shredded or discolored
Cause: Thrips which are light brown insects that are about 1/8” inch long. You will find them on the inside of the rose petals, moving quickly.
Systemic granules with acephate are best for treatment because the thrips live in the soil.

Symptom: Leaves have holes in them, only leaving the skeletal structure of the leaf. 
Cause:  Japanese Beetle which are a metallic brown color with a green metallic head
Unfortunately, there is not a lot you can do to prevent these guys. You will need to pick them off the plant and kill them or spray them when you see them. There are different traps available that you place away from your roses that work to attract the beetles and keep them off your plants, but it is hard to prevent them altogether.

Symptom: Fuzzy-looking leaves that are a yellow color. Webbing , red specks and spider-like insects moving about. 
Cause:  Spider-mites which are microscopic in size. They thrive in hot weather
Insecticidal sprays, oils, miticides are the best treatment. You can also wash the plant off with a high pressure hose to thoroughly clean the plant.  Be sure that you get the underside of the leaves.

Symptom: Leaves and buds are discolored with a powdery, white or gray look to them. The leaves fold at mid-rib and are distorted.
Cause: Powdery Mildew which is a fungal disease that happens to a variety of plants. It is caused by cool nights and warm, humid days.
Make sure plants have good air circulation and ample sunlight to prevent this from happening.  Once it has occurred, you can use a spray with a fungicide containing neem oil or sulfur.  There is also a home remedy of mixing 1 tablespoon of baking soda, ½ teaspoon of liquid soap and 1 gallon of water.  

Symptom: Brown spots on petals and brown dieback of canes. Lighter colored roses have red-pink spots
Cause:  Botrytis Blight is caused by high humidity and rainy cool periods. These weather conditions encourage fungus growth
Remove the damaged stems and clean up debris around the plant to prevent the mold from starting on those areas and spreading to other plants. Spray with a fungicide but this fungus can quickly become resistant to fungicides.  Keep good air circulation around the plant to help prevent the blight from coming back.

Symptom: Dark black spots appear on the leaves and they eventually start yellowing and dropping off the plant.
Cause: Black Spot is a fungus caused by rainy weather and improper watering
Remove any debris from the plant. Spray with a Neem oil or fungicide that is sulphur-based. More than one application will most likely be needed.  Be sure to spray the underside of the leaves, which is where the fungus thrives.  To prevent this, try to avoid watering the foliage when you water the plant.

We carry some great 3-in-1 products for roses at the greenhouse that are miticides, insecticides and fungicides. These are great for general issues. If you have additional questions or are having trouble diagnosing your rose, feel free to bring a photo or a leaf in for Dan to take a look at.


Season-Long Blooms


You spend a lot on your flowers and dedicate a lot of time to planting and watering your garden. You want to enjoy its beautiful blooms as much as you can, so how can you get the most bang for your buck? Believe it or not, there are little tricks you can use to keep your annuals and perennials blooming all season long.

The first and one of the most important things to look at is where you’re planting your annuals.  Geraniums are one of the most popular annuals that people use because they have great big blooms and are low maintenance.  However, without sufficient sunlight, geraniums will stop blooming.  The plant will keep on living, but will just be very green. So when you choose your annuals and perennials, make sure you are choosing flowers that require the type of light you have.  If you don’t have a lot of sun, you’ll want to choose a begonias or impatiens rather than a geranium.

Once you have selected your plants, you’ll need to make sure you know how to take care of them. The biggest trick to use to encourage re-blooming is deadheading or pruning. Deadheading is when you remove the flowers that are done blooming. Plants have flowers for one reason, to attract pollinators.  The goal in a plant’s life is to reproduce and create seeds to do so.  By deadheading flowers, you are preventing plants from going to seed, thus keeping their need to produce flowers.

When it comes to pruning, each plant is different, and even annuals and perennials differ.  For instance, geraniums need to be popped off where the stem meets the stalk of the flower while marigolds just need to have the spent flower heads popped off. Some newer varieties of petunias claim to not need to be deadheaded. While this is true, due to the science behind breeding those plants, deadheading can be done to help keep the energy of the flower towards making new blooms and to keep a cleaner appearance. 

Annuals are great, because they will bloom all season long. Perennials are great for coming back year after year, but they only bloom during a specific point during the season.  There are a few varieties that you can trick into re-blooming for you by deadheading them as the blooms start to die off.  This will prevent the perennials from producing seeds, much like with annuals, so they are forced into setting a second set of blooms. Some perennials that this trick will work on includes coneflowers, Shasta daisies, gaillardia, delphiniums, spiderworts, coreopsis and yarrow.

Other than pruning and planting, your basic care of the plants can help with re-blooming as well. Making sure your plants are getting enough water will help them from going through any type of stress that will distract them from their purpose. They put a lot of energy into making these blooms, so by giving them enough water, they will thank you by continuing to bloom and looking beautiful.

The final trick to getting your flowers to re-bloom all season long is fertilizer.  This will help give them nutrients to keep the blooms coming and look flush and healthy.  The best fertilizer to use for the purpose of creating more flowers is one with a high amount of phosphate, the middle number. One we recommend to our customers is Miracle Gro’s Bloom Booster which is 10-52-10.

As long as you keep your plants watered, fed and cleaned, you will enjoy blooms all summer long.


Dan on the Mike Nowak Show

This past Sunday, which also happened to have been his birthday, our very own Dan Kosta was on the Mike Nowak radio show on WCPT.  Dan and Mike discussed the winter burn that is plaguing everyone's landscapes this year after such a hard winter.  If you don't know what winter burn is, it's the brown, dead patch on your boxwood, roses, evergreens and other perennials.

In case you missed it, listen to the show here 


Thinking Outside the Flower Box

Working at a garden center, we hear many of our customers say they are bored with their containers. They plant the same thing every year, and while it works for them, they want to mix it up a bit.  This is when we like to direct them to some not so traditional plants that are amazing in containers.  Sure the spike, geranium and vinca vine combination is beautiful, but sometimes you need to think outside the flower box.

The first great container plant is Diamond Frost.  This plant is from Proven Winners and has been around for several years already, but it is now becoming more and more popular. It is an airy plant with white flowers that bloom all summer long.  It’s low maintenance and is a great filler plant because it grows in whatever spaces it can find.  It is drought tolerant, doesn’t need deadheading and helps lighten up any planting.

OxalisA great container plant for shade containers oxalis, more commonly known as shamrocks.  They are available in a wide variety of colors, from lime green to deep purple and more.  They also bloom in a variety of colors like yellow, white and lavender.  They mound and are a great filler plant. When they are not blooming, they are beautiful for their foliage and for adding texture to your containers.

Mexican Heather is an amazing plant that works best in full sun, is drought tolerant and is low maintenance.  The delicate lavender flowers bloom all summer long with the lacy leaves that have great structure for containers.  They don’t get too large and they do not trail, so once again, they are an amazing filler plant.

Iresine is a great plant to use for height in full sun or part shade. Like many of our favorite plants, it’s low maintenance and provides a splash of color in the center of any container. Whether you go with the lime green and white plant or the blood-red leaf to give your pot height,you can’t go wrong with iresine.

ScaveolaChleome or spider flower is a great plant for sunny containers.  It’s airy blooms look like a firework exploding in the center of your containers.  They grow fairly tall and look beautiful when paired with other tall, airy flowers like verbena bonariensis (the tall purple variety).  The unusual bloom also gives great texture to your containers.

Succulents like sedum are another way to add texture to your containers.  They generally make great trailers, creeping over the edge of your pot and contrasting against the rest of your container.  There are many to choose from, varying in shapes from round pedal-like leaves to thinner, needle-like foliage, as well as colors, from a bright green to a gray or purple.  They are very drought tolerant and can handle a good amount of sun, and many even bloom at some point during the season.

Laurentia is a great filler plant, used in sun to part sun containers. Many of our customers refer to it as the blue star flower for its beautiful sky blue, star-shaped flowers. It has unusual leaves as well, giving you lots to look at.  It has a mounding habit and grows to be fairly thick. Adding these to a red, white and blue summer container is a must.

SedumScaveola is another great blue flower that many people don’t know about.  It is a trailing flower that likes the sun and is again, low maintenance.  They come in white as well, but the blue is definitely the most popular.  Maybe try skipping the petunias and grab one of these this year.

Finally, shade containers can seem like a real challenge for some people.  We encourage our customers to use houseplants like variegated rubber tree plants, ferns or crotons in their shadier spots.  These plants can give you textures and colors in your containers that you thought you could only use impatiens and some ivy.  Make your shade pots look just as fun and unusual as your sunny spots by mixing up annuals and houseplants alike.

These are just a few of the non-traditional flowers we have in stock and love to use in our containers. If you want help mixing up your containers this year, be sure to stop by our Design with the Experts Nights. These are every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in May from 6-8 p.m.

Happy Planting!