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A Fine Gardener Digs into the Truth About Soil

It’s tough for soil to get any respect. To most people, it’s just dirt. But the truth is, soil is a miracle, a universe unto itself right under our feet. It may seem weird at first, but the soil is essentially a living thing, teeming with bacterial life (mostly in a good way) and tiny critters that enable plants to thrive in a wide variety of conditions and environments.

Topics: Ecological and Sustainable Landscapes Landscape and Garden Maintenance Seasonal Garden Interest

How to Deadhead an Astilbe

Astilbes are one of those garden plants that are just so easy to love. Originating in Asia, there are now a number of hybrids available worldwide, providing gardeners with a wide range of choice in size, color, and growth characteristics. There are so many different species and presentations -- from short to tall, rigid to droopy, and even wispy to bushy.

Their striking good looks complement just about any garden, especially when planted with variegated hostas, grasses, and a variety of ferns. Astilbes in general are gorgeous when they are in flower and the blossom can last for quite some time. Once done flowering, their seed heads also can last a long time, adding texture and visual interest to many gardens with their vertical, bottle-brush, feathery shape. Colors range from white to pink to reds. Astilbes do well in shade to partial sun but they need moisture, so the more sun you offer, the more important it is to have a moist soil profile that enables them to handle it.  

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Deadheading: How to manage spent flowers in the summer garden

After bursting forth in a riot of color and greenery in the spring, our gardens can use a little “freshening” during the summer to keep them looking their best. That means removing the crusty brown flower petals and heavy seed pods that are now weighing down our plants and making our gardens look a little untidy.

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance Landscape How-To Videos

How to Prune your Knock Out and Drift Roses

Roses can be intimidating for many gardeners. After all, roses, in their seemingly infinite variety, attract the most ardent flowering plant enthusiasts, bolstered by an enormous body of literature full of detailed advice about how to best grow and care for these ancient and treasured blooms.

The truth, though, is that roses are tough customers that can stand up to a good pruning and even tolerate mistakes more readily than many other plants. There are several types of roses to choose from, each blooming slightly differently:

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Garden Editing: A great way to re-invigorate your landscape

This may seem obvious, but it bears stating here: there is a direct correlation between how long you let your landscape go without maintenance and the increased amount of work it takes to restore it.

While many folks might shake their heads and say, “well, DUH!” it’s funny how many still tackle the out-sized problem of an overgrown landscape with ineffective, status-quo pruning and trimming. The fact of the matter is, a seriously overgrown landscape needs some seriously major work. The first question is where and how to start.

Topics: Horticulture In The Garden Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Why Every Landscape Needs a Fine Gardener

There comes a time in many a property owner’s life when he or she looks around and realizes that their landscaping is boring. Same old boring shrubs that need to be trimmed every year. Same old trees that need to be pruned, beds weeded, grass mowed. Boring, boring, boring.

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Assessing Your Landscape - How to avoid big money renovations

Every landscape – both natural or managed – is dynamic. Nothing is frozen in time. Without proper, ongoing care, all built landscapes and managed environments will experience a slow and steady degeneration until the only remedy is complete renovation. Even with care the maturing and aged landscape of 15 plus years can start to outpace the space.

What’s needed to avoid major landscape surgery is periodic, year-round assessment that enables you to see and gage your landscape’s performance and determine what needs focused, more proactive attention and what can coast along with minimal care. Take notes and photographs to refer back to later in the year. Use them to review progress at each new phase and season and to act as a baseline for change. Keep in mind, that you can only put off care and change for so long. If you see an issue, address it as soon as you can.

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Watering in the fall - why it’s good for your plants

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is “when do I stop watering in the fall?” For some that might seem like a relatively simple question to answer – “summer is the season for growing and fall is when everything starts to die, so when autumn rolls around it’s time to stop watering, right?” Well, no, not really. The question – and answer – is a little more complicated than that.

Different plants have different needs. Fall is when shrubs and perennials get busy growing their roots. After spending the summer putting all their time and energy into leaf and flower growth, and then fruit and seed production, they use autumn to take better care of their root systems.

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Stepping Back: Tips for when life calls you away from gardening

Let’s face it. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Family and work issues crop up. Turmoil happens. And when life gets in the way of your gardening you need to be prepared to deal with it.

The good news is, if your landscape was well-tended before that unexpected surgery, parental crisis, or another unplanned event, your garden would be just fine for a period of time. Mother Nature will cut you a break because you've been so conscientious about tending to your landscape. BUT….her patience will only last so long. She waits for no one, including you, and that means that plants will continue to grow and that means ALL of them - even the ones you don’t want. It’s called succession.

Regardless of what’s going on in your life, some minimal threshold of care has to be provided to your landscape on a regular basis. Look at it this way – good dental health requires daily tooth-brushing. You may be able to periodically skip more involved and lengthy professional dental care, so long as you floss and brush. But you have to at least brush!

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance

Spring into Summer Action: Completing Your Garden Plant Assessments

Here in New England, the growing season is in full swing after a cool, wet spring. For gardeners, the challenge has always been when to truly dive into active garden editing. In other words - when can we start tweaking in the form of digging, dividing, moving, adding and even chucking plants? Once the hint of warm weather arrives, many gardeners succumb to the urge to do everything at once and end up making rushed and often bad decisions…including buying plants with no plan of where they’ll be planted.

Here’s One Golden Rule of Gardening: Spring garden assessments should happen in the latter half of the season. In New England, that means after Memorial Day. Period. This timing gives your garden a chance to rebound from winter so you can see both the plants and the full composition of your garden. Trying to assess in March, April, or even May can lead to bad decisions.

Topics: Landscape and Garden Maintenance