Posts Tagged ‘Spring’

purple crocus in snow

After a record-breaking winter of snow, many Boston-area gardeners and homeowners are wondering what they will find when the snow and ice melt. Here’s a glimpse into what you can expect for spring 2015, and how to repair winter damage in the landscape:

  1. Hardscape cracks – Paved surfaces like driveways, walks and patios may have cracked concrete and popped up paving stones. Pavers and stones can easily be re-leveled, but concrete may need to be patched or replaced. If you are replacing a driveway or walkway, consider using concrete pavers, which are easy to shovel and to repair after winter. And if you’ve had it with the snow blower, invest in a snow-melting radiant heat system under your paving — works for concrete, brick, and pavers!
  2. Frost heaving – Newly-installed plants can heave out of the ground if left unmulched, so make sure to replant these to their correct depth as soon as the ground can be worked. Water regularly to compensate for root loss due to exposure.
  3. Salt damage – De-icing salts from roads and walkways burn the leaves and needles of nearby evergreens. Prune out any serious damage, and provide extra water to these plants in spring, as salt accumulated in the root zones may cause ongoing dehydration.
  4. Broken branches – Heavy snow from roofs and shoveling damaged many shrubs and even the lower branches of small trees. Prune broken branches back to the nearest branch union, making it easier for plants to recover.
  5. Winter burn – Unless covered by a protective layer of snow, evergreen plants such as rhododendrons and boxwoods can be damaged by cold, dry winter winds. Often, leaves die while the branch remains viable, so observe plants for new growth, then prune out any dead branches.
  6. Lawn damage – Lawns and plant roots were well-insulated by the snow, which should minimize cold damage. However, the snow made a nice burrow for voles and other small mammals, leaving holes in lawns and nibbling the bases of woody plants. Edges of lawns may also have been harmed by salt and plow trucks. Plan to rake out clumps, add compost, and reseed bare areas in spring, but wait for late summer for complete lawn renovations.
  7. Weeds – Moist conditions from melting snow combines with warming spring temperatures are going to create perfect germination conditions for weed seeds, so consider applying an organic preemergent such as corn gluten to minimize the number of weeds in the lawn. Mowing high and overseeding regularly are also important to inhibit weeds.
  8. Insects – The extreme cold may reduce hemlock wooly adelgid, but will not have a significant impact on winter moth, so schedule treatments as normal for maples, crab apples, and other favorite foods of winter moth caterpillars. Also, ticks thrive after winters of heavy snow, so use good gardening practices to keep ticks out of the yard, and begin checking yourself and your children as soon as snow melts and temperatures are above freezing.
  9. Bulbs & Perennials – Friends have asked, “Will my spring bulbs still bloom when they’re covered by 2′ of snow?” Yes! Bulbs respond to light and temperature, so even early bloomers like snowdrops and crocuses will stay “asleep” until uncovered and exposed to warmer spring air temperatures. Likewise, perennials will thrive after a winter well-insulated under the snow. Before new growth starts to emerge from the ground, cut back the messy crowns of grasses, coneflowers, and other plants that you may have left standing in fall to provide winter interest.
  10. It’s all just a mess! – Squashed plants, lumpy lawn, rubbish poking out of melting snow… We know. Breathe. A proper spring clean-up, some grass seed and a fresh coat of mulch are going to make everything look 100% better. Add some pots of pansies and narcissus, and you’ll be ready for spring!

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Frost Warning for the Boston AreaTonight – Tips from Mahoney’s Nurseries:

The weather forecast is calling for overnight temperatures in the low 30’s (possibly upper 20’s) and the probability of frost for many Massachusetts towns.

If you have purchased and planted any tender plants, you’ll want to protect your investment by moving them inside if at all possible, or covering them if they’re already planted. It’s always best to move plants inside (especially tender plants like veggies and annuals) because frost damage can still sometimes occur event if a plant is covered.

For covering plants, most anything will work, but old sheets, blankets or burlap sacks work best in preventing frost from forming on flowers and foliage. When covering plants, drape them loosely and secure the cover with stakes, rocks or bricks. If necessary, use stakes or wire to support the weight of the cover to prevent the plants from being crushed. For taller, more fragile plants, an upside down trash barrel can be placed over the plant. Just be sure to secure it or weigh it down so it doesn’t blow over and crush the plant. Also, remember to remove the covers when the sun comes out the next day.

Fruit Trees: Fruit trees that are currently in bloom should if possible be covered if you are planning on harvesting their fruit later this year.

Flowering Shrubs: Recently purchased or planted any shrubs with tender new growth should be protected. Also, if you purchased any shrubs this spring that are in bloom right now, covering them may help preserve their flowers.

Please note that few flowering shrubs actually have flowers on them right now. If you leave them uncovered, the plant will be fine. Only the flowers that are on the plant at this moment could potentially be damaged.

Perennials and Roses: Any newly purchased or planted perennials or roses that have tender new growth should be protected.

Final Note: If you are concerned that a plant may be damaged by frost, it is probably best to be safe and protect it.

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Gardening, done well, is at least 50% preparation. Once you realize what you should have done, it’s probably too late for this year. So, having a garden journal is invaluable to for successful planning for next year.

Here are a few things to look out for this spring, and steps to make next year even better:

  1. A Blank Slate – By fall when the bulb catalogues arrive, it’s easy to forget where you planted what. Take photos and use inconspicuous plant markers to remind yourself where you have clusters of daffodils or where you meant to add that globe allium. (Geek tip: If you use Evernote to capture random ideas on your smartphone or tablet, the Skitch app lets you easily annotate photos right on your device.)
  2. Color Me Beautiful – Love it or hate it, flowering shrubs give spring in New England a distinctive palette. Yellow forsythia, mauve ‘PJM’ rhododendrons,  lilac magnolias, scarlet quince, and a range of cherry-blossom pinks. If you have mature flowering shrubs on your property, take note of the color and bloom time, and build bulb and perennial planting around a similar color family. For instance, forsythia could take tulips in loud, saturated reds and oranges, or contrast with more subdued purples and blues of scilla, hyacinth, and periwinkle.   tulips, hyacinth, squill and forsythia forsythia, parrot tulips, hyacinth, ranunculus
  3. The Grass Is Always Greener – After doing a spring clean-up and seeing bare patches where last year’s crabgrass died out or there is too much shade, one’s inclination is always to want to rip up the whole yard and start from scratch. Don’t. Spread some compost and grass seed now, but wait to do major renovations until late August, when  the grass seed will stand a chance against weeds. The one exception: if you have a shady area where grass is patch, and you are ready to develop it into a planting bed, its easiest to do it in spring while you are edging and mulching beds.
  4. Seedy Characters – Want to start a veggie garden, but don’t want to wait to buy expensive seedlings at the farmer’s market? Plan ahead next winter so that you can start your seeds in time. Here’s a nifty seed starting calculator from Margaret Roach at AWaytoGarden.com to tell you when and how to start what in your zone.

toddler & mom planting seeds

What did you remember to do this spring? What do you want to remember for next year? Let us know in the comments!

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garden seating area in springTwo-plus months in to the year, how are you doing with those New Year’s resolutions? Luckily, the gardening year in the Boston area is just starting, so you have a chance to start off on the right foot with your outdoor plans. Doing a thorough and careful spring clean up lays the groundwork (no pun intended!) for a year of trouble-free gardening:

  1. Prune dead and broken branches from ornamental trees and shrubs, repairing any snow damage.
  2. Prune roses and renew over-grown shrubs before new growth starts. This will ensure vigorous growth, and improved flowering and shape for the rest of the year.
  3. Remove leaf litter from around trees and shrubs to prevent the spread of disease.
  4. Rake lawn areas. Assess bare areas, and either overseed or plan new planting beds if lawn is not the best choice. If possible, postpone new lawn installations until late summer.
  5. For a clean look, hand-edge beds before mulching. This keeps mulch from spilling out onto the lawn, and discourages grass from rooting into the beds.
  6. Add compost to planting beds. If you shredded and piled leaves last fall, this is the time to add that good organic material back to the soil.
  7. Add well-composted mulch to planting beds, to a depth of 2-3″. This will reduce weeds and add organic material to the soil. Do not use mulch that has a sour smell, as it may harm your plants.

For more maintenance tips, see our Yard Maintenance Owner’s Manual (PDF).

Get more inspiration for spring gardens on our Spring Forward Pinterest board.

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layers of spring bulbs in a pot

This weekend promises to be beautiful weather for some final gardening chores. Guarantee yourself weeks of spring blooms by making “bulb lasagna.” Line the bottom of a 14″ or deeper container with gravel for drainage. Then layer potting soil and bulbs in 3 layers, starting with the largest bulbs on the bottom. Choose bulbs which will flower at different times to make your planting really work.  Keep in mind that there will likely be some overlap in bloom times, so choose a color scheme that will be pleasing, such as monchromatic, contrasting, warm or cool colors.

Spring bulb bloom sequence (Boston area):

Iris & crocus

Iris reticulata ‘Gordon’ and yellow crocus


Dwarf Iris
Galanthus (Snowdrops)
Snow Crocus

Late March-Early April

Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow)
Kaufmanniana Tulips
Large Crocus
Eranthis (Winter Aconite)

Mid-to Late April

Daffodils & Muscarii

Narcissus ‘Sailboat’ and Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

Darwin Hybrid Tulips
Large-Flowered Hyacinths
Muscari (Grape Hyacinths)
Double Tulips
Lily Flowered Tulips
Single Early Tulips
Fritillaria (large and small)
Mid-season Daffodils
Triumph Tulips

Early to Mid-May
Bunch Flowered Tulips
Giant Allium
Scilla campanulata
(Wood Hyacinths)
Darwin Tulips

Flaming Parrot Tulips

Flaming Parrot Tuli

Parrot Tulips
Viridiflora Tulips
Fringed Tulips
Peony Flowered Tulips

Mid to Late-May
Dutch Iris
Single Late Tulips Dutch Iris
Small Alliums
Madonna Lilies

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Tree peony

‘High-ranking Official’ Tree Peony (Paeonia suffructicosa)

I had a brief window this afternoon between my last appointment and daycare pick-up, so I paid a visit to Mount Auburn Cemetary in Cambridge.  Opened in 1831, Mount Auburn bills itself as the oldest large-scale, designed landscape in the United States.  It is a great place to see mature specimen trees, and much of the plant material is labeled.  It’s also a quiet oasis right across the river from hectic Boston — this afternoon, all I heard were the cardinals and robins delighting in worms fleeing the moist soil.

Beech with lamiastrum

European beech (Fagus sylvatica) with yellow archangel (lamiastrum)

With their shallow, thirsty roots, beeches are notoriously difficult to plant under.  Lamiastrum can be aggressive to the point of weediness, so this is a match made in heaven.

Landscape scene of mature trees

Purple beech, Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata), and English holly (Ilex aquipernii)

Landscape scene

Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris) above slope of Russian carpet cypress (Microbiota decussata)

Hardy geranium

Hardy cranesbill (Geranium cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo’)

Spring blooming landscape

Lilac, azaleas, and native dogwood (Cornus florida) in bloom

Lilac blossoms

Lilac blossoms (Syringa vulgaris)

Azaleas in flower beneath a green Japanese Maple

Azaleas in flower beneath a green Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

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Each spring and fall we get calls to “fix my lawn!” Customers often have an idea of what they want: sod (I want it now) or seed (I want low cost). As horticultural professionals who want to provide the most sustainable solution and the best value over time, here are our “CUES” when recommending seed, sod, our something else entirely:

  • Cost – While it’s true that seed is less expensive than sod, keep in mind that much of the cost of a good lawn installation is in preparing the soil. Adding compost and correcting pH and nutrient deficiencies account for most of the cost. If the budget is tight, consider improving the lawn over time by aerating, adding compost, and overseeding.
  • Use – Do you want a new lawn as a play area, because you like the calming look of a big expanse of green, or because turf is the default landscape use in our country? Lawns are great if you have kids and/or dogs andfull sun. (Sun is important to help the grass survive the stress of constant foot traffic.) If this its not your situation, consider other options. This merits a post of its own, but suffice to say that a lawn alternative will be lower maintenance and provide greater aesthetic and environmental benefit than lawn.
  • Establishment– The best time to start seed lawns is late Aug-Sept. Weed seeds germinate and establish faster than grass in spring and early summer, so wait until fall to seed if you don’t want a weedy new lawn! If you have the conditions and budget for sod, you can install any time from April to October.
  • Sun – Sod is composed mostly of Kentucky Blue Grass, which spreads by runners and holds together well as rolls of sod.  Unfortunately, blue grass needs full sun (6+ hrs) to do well. If you bought a home with a shady lawn where they threw in sod to make the sale, you know what I mean. Starting from seed allows us to choose a more shade-tolerant grass blend in areas that get 4-6 hours of sun, or dappled shade. If your proposed lawn area gets less than 4 hours of sun, it’s likely to be an uphill battle to keep grass growing. Your landscape professional can offer other possibilities.

Want to know more? Check out The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey.

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