Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's Your Garden Style?

Thinking about a new landscape, but really don't know what exactly it is you might be looking for? Certainly not an uncommon problem, but one we encounter on a regular basis. Your landscape should reflect your own interests and lifestyle. There are so many different styles to choose from that trying to decide on one specific style may seem a little overwhelming to the novice.

An Asian/Zen garden many not exactly suit your Colonial style home, and if there is anything you need to understand, it's the idea that the garden surrounding your home needs to complement the style of your home. Before making a decision, drive around some neighborhoods and take note of what you like or don't like. Look through magazines and cut out the pictures that particularly appeal to you.

If you're still having trouble trying to determine your gardening style, take this quiz.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Small Space Landscaping

Not everyone has a sprawling yard to release their creativity and gardening desires on, especially in today's world. But that shouldn't deny someone the right to a beautiful landscape that showcases their distinct taste or the varieties of plants they love. Even if you own a condominium or a townhouse, you can create a space that will become your personal oasis. It all comes down to utilizing basic design technique.

A few things to keep in mind when creating for a small outside space:

  • Color - Place your bolder, brighter colored plantings up front. Putting them in front, will allow them to first catch your attention. The plants placed in back will seem to fade a little, making the space feel larger.
  • Frame It - Use a small arbor, pergola, tall shrubs, a small tree or garden art to create a frame for your small landscape. It gives a small landscape a noble appearance.
  • Cozy Things Up - A tiny back yard full of lush green shrubbery, that screens out the view beyond your space, can create an instant feeling of coziness.
  • Perspective - Long, straight lines give an illusion of space. A small fence or a small hedge can create this illusion.
  • Create Interest - The addition of pavers, a small retaining wall or some stone can add enough visual interest to make you forget the small size of the space.
  • Places to Go - Giving your space a destination, whether it be a hammock or sitting area in the corner, helps the area feel more spacious.

There are so many options when creating your landscape for a small space. Be creative. Tiny doesn't have to mean bold with your choices.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Growing a Hodgepodge of Herbs

There's a reason the food at the best restaurants has so much flavor. Most good chefs know that fresh tastes best, and fresh herbs are quite often the reason for the additional flavor you don't always find at home. Not only do fresh herbs add flavor, but the aroma they produce
tantalizes the senses, subtly urging you to want more.

Most of us, at one time or another, have grown the traditional parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Nurseries and seed catalogs are offering so many more selections today, with new varieties of the old standards and more exotic selections, as well.

Herbs can be grown in containers, small garden plots or mixed into existing beds. Not only are they a beautiful addition to a garden, adding color and texture, but they also give fragrance to your outdoor spaces.

A few herbs you may be interested in trying are:

  • African Blue Basil - Purple leaves that turn green as the leaves grow to full size, with a distinctly sweet flavor.
  • Genovese Basil - Most common of the basil varieties, the flavor is slightly peppery and somewhat sweet.
  • Holy Basil - Pale green or purple leaves with pinkish flowers, it has a strong clove flower and is used in many Thai recipes.
  • Spicy Globe Basil - Smaller leaves, with a sweet and slightly peppery, but strong flavor.
  • Lime Basil - A citrus scent and flavor that's great with poultry and fish.
  • Chives - A member of the onion family, chives are the perfect addition to soups, salads and omelets.
  • Dill - Bluish-green stems with yellowish flowers, dill adds flavor to fish, lamb, pork, poultry, cheese, eggs and vegetables.
  • Crinkle Leaf Marjoram - A low, mounding marjoram with golden, crinkled leaves and a scent of oregano. It is heat and drought tolerant.
  • Greek Oregano - Extremely drought tolerant with white flowers, the flavor is hot and peppery.
  • Apple Mint - Tall sturdy stems with large, fuzzy leaves that smell slightly of apple. A mellow flavor that is perfect for fruit salads.

We've only listed a few, but there is an endless variety available. Visit your nursery, look over the catalogs and pick a few new plants to try.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Backyard Living Spaces

With creative landscaping, homeowners are turning their under-used yards into extensions of their interiors for additional entertaining or relaxation spots. One of the bonuses of taking this directions is that you acquire more livable space at a fraction of the cost of a true room addition. Creating an outdoor "room" is an asset to our home, whether you are improving for yourself or for additional resale value. The possibilities are endless, and homeowners are quickly realizing that their exteriors can be so much more than a visual aesthetic, but can also be a functional space.

Decks and patios have become so much more than a table and four chairs. Outdoor furniture selections are as varied and personal as interior furniture, giving homeowners the opportunity to individualize their new "room." Additionally, outdoor carpets add color, interest and a comfortable feel to the areas. Outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and fire pits will extend both the functionality and season of your deck or patio.

Adding an element of height to your patio or deck area will bring the eye upward and beyond. A custom designed pergola or trellis can be used in a variety of ways. You can hang sheer curtains from your pergola that can be let down to create added shade or form a more private area for dining. With the right lighting, your new "room" will carry you into the evening.

Beyond the creation of a new room, there are so many more things you can do to turn your backyard into your own special refuge.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February Tips for Container Gardening

We love container gardens. Love them! Nothing says welcome like a piece of pottery bursting with colorful booms and interesting foliage. Placed by your front door, the curb appeal of your home instantly improves by leaps and bounds. Container gardens also give you an opportunity to show off your creativity.

February is a great month to start planning the look container gardens can add to your overall landscape and design of your home.

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding on a direction:

Decide on your style. Modern? Country? Whimsical? Traditional?

Choose your containers. It's important your containers match or compliment one another. Too much variety will take away from your plants and create a chaotic look.

Determine the locations. Will they be in shade? In full sun? A mix, depending on the time of the day?

Select your plants. Choose things that bloom, things with leaf interest, assorted textures, a variety of heights and growth styles, things with interesting scents. A herb added to a container of annual color gives purpose to your container, as well as beauty. Make sure the plant matches the placement of the pot. Pay attention to sun exposure.

Color. This is important. Choosing a color scheme will ensure your containers give your yard a cohesive look and are attractive from a distance.

When choosing a color scheme, use the color wheel. For more info on using the color wheel CLICK HERE.

Listed below are some of the basic color wheel principles:


Triadic Colors

red, yellow, blue
orange, purple, green
blue violet, red orange, yellow green

Complementary Colors

red, green
yellow, purple
hot, cool
dark, light

Analogous Colors

two, three or four colors next to each other on the color wheel

Monochromatic Colors

various shades and variations of one hue

Hot or Cool Colors

all warm colors or all cool colors


focusing on texture and variations of dark and light rather than color

Container gardening is a fun, easy way to get involved with plants and a great way to develop or continue a love of plants and flowers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February Fruit, Vegetable and Herb Tips

The edibles! What fun! Who doesn't get excited thinking about a garden overflowing with fresh vegetables, fruit tress that give you an abundance of plump, fresh fruit, or the taste of fresh herbs to season your favorite meals. Nothing can give you greater satisfaction than harvesting your own food. Start planning now to get the best garden of your life.

Your fruit trees, garden areas and herbs all need some attention in February. You can start purchasing and growing seeds, begin tilling a new space and collecting recipes for your harvest. And it won't be long before you can put some of the cooler weather varieties into the ground.

Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Prune fruit trees and grapes at the end of this month, before any growth starts.
  • Fertilize fruit trees before blossom time.
  • Choose at least one vegetable that you've never grown before and add it to your garden this spring.
  • Apply dormant spray to fruit tress before new growth starts.
  • Contain aggressive perennial herbs by planting in buried pots.
  • Check any vegetables you have stored for spring planting. Discard the spoiled ones.
  • But your vegetable garden basics: plant labels, stakes, supports, etc.

Have fun with your own "farm" and enjoy this season's harvest!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Perennial and Bulb Tips for February

As February draws to a close, you want to make sure you start focusing on your perennials and bulbs. One thing you may want to think about is what new perennials you might want to plant in your yard. It's important to understand the growing habits and shapes of perennials before you plant to ensure they occupy the space properly and give the effect you want to achieve.

Perennials typically fall into the following "shape" categories:

  • Mats: Perennials such as lamium, bugleweed and plumbago form low carpets suitable for ground covers or the front of the border.
  • Mounds: Nicely rounded perennials such as coreopsis and hostas provide a soft look.
  • Vase Shapes: When in bloom, plants such as garden phlox and Shasta daisies grow in an inverted triangular shape.
  • Flower Sprays with Low Foliage: Perennials such as yarrow, sea thrift and coral bells sprout taller flowers, but low foliage. Height can be reduced when the old flower stems are removed.
  • Spikes: Plants such as lupines, salvias, and delphiniums have slim, vertical flowering stems that contrast nicely with the horizontal growers.

Once you've selected your new perennial species, then you may want to focus on the maintenance and planting of some of your perennials and bulbs:

  • Check your stored tender bulbs every two weeks. Discard any that may have rotted over the winter. If they appear withered, then mist lightly with water.
  • Cut back liriope and ground covers
  • Lift and divide perennials carefully
  • Fertilize spring bulbs
  • Order perennial plants and bulbs now for cut flowers this summer. Good choices are phlox, daisy, dahlia, cosmos, aster, gladiolus and lilly.
  • Plant spring flowering perennials now. Alstromeria, bleeding heart, coral bells, campanula, euryops, and dianthus.
The days are getting longer, allowing for more time outside. Evaluate your landscape and start making plans to ensure your yard looks its best ever this spring and summer.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February Tips for Trees and Shrubs

Wondering what to do during the month of February when it comes to trees and shrubs? February is a great time to prune, plant and completely evaluate the condition of your trees and shrubs. Luckily, we've had a mild winter but there's still some cold weather left, and even a small snap of frigid weather can effect what's going on.

People often ignore February when it comes to their landscape, but it's actually one of the more important times of the year, particularly if you want to ensure your yard looks it's best during the the spring and summer months, and well into fall.

To help you out, we've come up with a list:

  • Cover all your tender plants before a freeze.
  • Prune trees or shrubs damaged by winter storms and freezing temperatures.
  • Leave winterized roses covered until the danger of a hard frost has passed. (A hard frost, also called a radiational freeze or frost, occurs when the winds are calm and the sky is clear, allowing in inversion to form because of rapid radiational cooling at the Earth's surface. When this happens the ground gets below freezing, and can damage or kill plants.)
  • Prune summer flowering shrubs now. If they are spring bloomers, the produced their buds last fall, so pruning them now will result in the loss of flowers. Prune the spring flowering shrubs AFTER they have finished flowering.
  • Prune fruit trees prior to the start of new growth.
  • Transplant deciduous shrubs and trees that are still dormant. Do not wait for the buds to swell. Do it now.
  • Plant new trees.
  • Plant new shrubs.

It may be February, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do. Take a walk around your yard this weekend and make a list, or give a landscaper a call and let them help you evaluate what needs to be done this month.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February Clean Up & Maintenance

Yes, we've had a couple of chilly days this past week, but we've moved on and are ready to get those clean up and maintenance items checked off our February lists.

These are the items we feel need to be addressed:

  • Avoid using salt on frozen driveways.
  • Start up power tools, such as your lawn mower, chainsaw, or weed trimmer.
  • Sharpen and oil garden tools.
  • Don't forget to water!
  • Start seed flats indoors.
  • Feed the birds. They will help control insects when the warm weather arrives.
  • Create a garden calendar to help keep track of items that need to be completed.
  • Till your garden soil and work in amendments.
  • Read garden magazines and blogs to find ideas for your spring landscape.
  • Repair and paint window boxes, lawn furniture, and other items.

And most importantly, enjoy your outdoor space. Even if the temperatures are cool, bundle up, head outside and take a walk around your yard. You might be surprised to see what's already popping up.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February Lawn Tips

Don't let the last couple of days of cooler weather fool you into thinking that there's nothing to be done in your outdoor areas during February. There is PLENTY to do!

Today we're going to touch on lawns and address some items that should be on your February list.

  • Use post-emergence herbicide on growing weeds (yes, some weeds are growing right now).
  • Apply pre-emergent crabgrass control when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees for 4 or 5 days.
  • Try to time applications when the soil is moist and there is no rain in sight for a least 8 hours, preferably 24 hours.
  • Late February or early March is a great time to overseed your lawn to make it thicker or to cover bare areas.
  • Although we've had a pretty warm winter, there's still time for a freeze. Never walk or drive on frozen grass.

These are just a few tips to get you started. Our next post will address additional items that will need to be taken care of during the month of February.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Curb Appeal Counts

How can you improve your curb appeal?

Our top favorites:

Green it up! If your front yard has bare spots, weeds or an overall rough appearance, then invest in a new seeding. If the condition of your lawn is particularly shabby, then sod may be the best investment for you.

Add Color! Is your yard looking dull and lifeless? Adding color is definitely the answer. Enhance your beds with annual or perennial color. Annuals will need to be replaced each year and are more economical initially, but perennials, even though they cost a bit more, come back each year and typically increase in size each season.

Plant a Tree! There are so many varieties to choose from, with appealing color and size choices to suit any yard. A tree can add a splash of color, and even some height interest to your overall landscape.

Open Things Up! Trim back tree limbs. This will open things up and allow people to see your home and the landscaping surrounding it. It's also important to keep any walkways free of overhanging branches.

Shrink the Shrubs! Give your shrubs a good trimming. Allowing them to cover your windows will keep the natural light from filtering inside. If a shrub is too large or too mature, it might not be a bad idea to remove an older shrub and replace it with a young, smaller growing variety.

Expel the Expired! It it's dead, remove it. Get rid of any dead trees, shrubs and plants.

Increase the Inventory! Landscaping looking a little thin and lacking? Add some new shrubs to those barren areas. Shrubs with an assortment of texture and color always add more appeal. Groups of three are always more interesting than shrubs planted in groups of two.

Renew the Mulch! A layer of mulch always spruces things up.

Invite People In! Make your front entry inviting. Put a new mat by the doorstep and add a container of seasonal color.

Giving your home's curb appeal a makeover is one of the easiest ways to show everyone the pride you take in home ownership. Increasing your home's curb appeal can also help if you are selling your home. Most buyers can't visualize the changes a new landscape will bring to a home. Sometimes it's up to the seller to give them that vision that will be their new home.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Crawling with Camellias

You may have noticed the abundance of these gorgeous beauties during an afternoon walk or a drive through the neighborhood, and you can thank the mild weather we've been experiencing for that! But what do you really know about the camellia?

They are natives of eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalaya east to Korea and Indonesia. There are between 100 to 250 described species, but the exact number has created some controversy between horticulturalists.

The Japanese varieties are the most prominent and well-suited camellias to the Hampton Roads area. Camellia growers favor the japonica varieties because they are much hardier and produce the showiest blooms. They bloom almost the entire winter and give us a welcome burst of color on a dreary February day. Sasanquas produce smaller, single-petal flowers and bring their color to the region in the fall. Planting both types will ensure a colorful landscape.

Numerous varieties are available locally, and camellias have recently seen a boost in popularity. Although a native to Asia, they have an old-fashioned southern charm that fits perfectly into any Hampton Roads landscape.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can you trust a groundhog?

It's February 2. We're all awake, waiting for that one groundhog to give us the info on what's in store for us the next six weeks. You have to wonder why, right?

Take a look at the calendar. There really ARE six more weeks of winter. We can't change the calendar or the official start of spring, can we? Rather than dread the next six weeks, why don't more people embrace the calendar and use the next six weeks as a count down to spring? Because seriously, it's not that far away. And with the winter we've had thus far, we have no reason to fear the season!

Take a calendar, any calendar will do. Find March 20 on your calendar, whether paper or on your computer, and count back to today. Write numbers backward from March 20 and you'll know every single day how many days it is until spring.

Here are some ideas:

Create a garden wish list - list the plants you'd like to see in your garden
Find out what gardening zone you're in
Determine your gardening budget
Visit your local botanical gardens
Stop by your library and research plants
Start seeds indoors
Buy a new bird feeder and feed your feathered friends
Go to the market, buy some fresh veggies and make a favorite spring recipe for dinner

The ideas are endless. Just have fun with it, and enjoy the countdown to spring. It will be here before you know it.