Monthly Archives: July 2015

3 Plants You Need to Shade Your Garden This Summer

shade with crepe myrtleAs the summer rolls on into some of the hottest months of the year, it is becoming increasingly important to find ways to cool your garden down. One of the most effective measures you can take to keep your plants healthy is adding shade to your garden by introducing plants that can block out the sun. There are plenty of different options, from smaller shrubs to towering trees, that can provide your yard with the shade it needs. Here are three of the best plants that will give your garden some much-needed summer shade.

1. Muskogee Crape Myrtle Tree

This small tree can grow up to 30 feet and provides excellent shade to mid-size gardens. It features thick foliage and lavender-pink flowers that block the sun’s rays from creeping through, while still adding some light color to your yard at the same time. This plant is also deciduous, meaning that it will eventually lose its leaves, usually sometime in the fall. You can place the tree wherever you feel needs the most shade.

2. Victoria California Lilac

This shrub grows up to about 9 feet tall and is a great alternative to a larger tree. The shrub grows straight up and its foliage is also incredibly dense, which makes for a perfect sun-shield. The Victoria California Lilac needs large amounts of sun exposure to grow, and its bluish-purple flowers begin to bloom in the spring. This mid-size shrub can give your garden the shade it needs during those summer months.

3. Nuttall Oak Tree

These massive trees can grow up to 50 feet tall and are commonly known as “shade trees.” They grow relatively quickly, and their leaves can provide towering protection to the sun for your garden. Due to their size, they are more suited to larger gardens. The Nuttall Oak’s red leaves can add color to any garden, and they also produce a steady supply of acorns.

 

These shrubs and plants are great for providing you and your garden with optimum shade when the sun is out. Looking to add these plants to your garden and need expert help? Give the professionals at Blue Tree a call. For more tips and plant recommendations, stay tuned for future posts on our blog!

5 Creative Games to Play in Your in Ground Pool

GAmes in poolIn ground swimming pools can entertain children for hours…and thank goodness. We all love our kids, but letting them play in the pool gives us much-needed adult time. Unfortunately, however, pool time does have a limit. What happens when the kids are done in the pool, but  you’re not finished having an ever-needed adult conversation?

To keep the swimming pool festivities going, we’ve put together a number of guaranteed fun-extending games:

1. Marco Polo

Let’s start with the time-held favorite, Marco Polo, because let’s face it—if you haven’t yelled “Marco Polo” in a pool, you didn’t have a pool-filled childhood. This simple game is like non-visual tag, where the person who is ‘it’ needs to blindly find the other by calling “Marco” as the other responds “Polo.” It’s a bit like kiddy echo sonar.

2. Water Dodgeball

The rather aggressively named water ‘dodgeball’ (we might all be flashing back to high school gym class) is a surprisingly tranquil game. This game is comprised of two teams on either side of the in ground swimming pool. You tag a player out by hitting them with the (soft) ball. If someone catches the ball, another player gets to re-enter the game. This game has a marked difference from dodgeball, as the ball should be softer (and water-soaked).

3. Deep-End Ring Dive

This age-old game is super simple: you throw submersible rings that children have to dive for. It encourages them to head below ‘sea level’ while maintaining their ‘eye on the prize.’ This competition-fostering game can be best accomplished by rewarding the winners with a prize, like a candy or a round of high fives.

4. Sharks & Minnows

This game for decent swimmers is quick but fun. Put all the kids on the deck surrounding the pool, then nominate one ‘shark.’ Have the other kids swim from one edge to another…with the shark trying to ‘tag’ them. The ‘winners’ are those who make it to the other side without being ‘bitten’ by the shark.

5. The ‘Money’ Dive

Nothing is a better motivator than cash. For this game, throw a bunch of change in the pool and wait for the kids to treasure-dive for it. Note: you’ll never get the money back (but the cost of this entertainment is definitely worth it).

 

Of course, none of this is possible without a pool fit for company. So if your in ground swimming pool needs a little help getting into ‘swimsuit season,’ call the professionals here at Blue Tree Landscaping.

7 Perennials to Plant in the Summer

summer perenialsSummer brings beautiful blooms…if planting is planned. As every gardener knows, good garden design doesn’t just happen. So, to have beautiful blooms right now, and for summers to come, plant the following perennials:

1. Garden Phlox

Garden phlox truly shine in July. These perennial favorites are a long-standing garden staple and provide ample foliage and color. Garden phlox will bloom all summer (and all next summer). Mildew-resistant types are best, as the white-film from mildew can distract from their overall look.

2. Stella De Oro

This daylily is a perennial heavyweight, as it requires little-to-no care and blooms early and often. Its strong-growing green foliage combined with its beautiful yellow lily flowers makes it a stunning addition to any garden…without the effort required for other similarly bright garden flower options.

3. Shasta Daisy

The ‘shasta’ daisy is the typical white-petaled daisy we all grew up with. While it’s not the most eloquent bloom, it is easy to grow and blooms for most of the season. The shasta daisy’s endurance has made it a strong perennial option. If you’re looking for a brighter color, it also comes in brilliant reds.

4. Salvia

Salvia is not only a summer-blooming and long-blooming plant—it’s also popular for a number of other reasons. For instance, the plant is a favorite among those with allergies and those growing edible plants, as it doesn’t have any pollen but still attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. This beautiful blue/purple flower grows in almost any location.

5. Lavender

Lavender has a distinctive smell that makes it popular with, well…everybody. This sweet-smelling perennial isn’t just used to made homemade potpourri sachets; it also adds a beautiful, rich, purple color to your garden. Note: if you’re planting salvia it will look similar to lavender, so plan your garden design accordingly.

6. Ice Plant

The ice plant is a double garden whammy. It provides great ground cover but also blooms delicate-looking flowers in varying colors. Anybody can grow it—and it grows all summer.

7. Coneflower

The coneflower is a butterfly- and bee-friendly plant that is great for overall ecology. The plant is beautiful and offers an iconic look, and as an added bonus is extremely easy to grow.

 

For more tips on summer (and seasonal) garden design and landscaping tips, keep following our blog! For professional help planning your landscape and garden design, give us a call.

 

 

 

How to Replant Irises

irisIrises are an elegant, resilient bunch: they endure the hottest of grasslands and sidewalks, and even with minimal care or water, they thrive in environments that could easily wilt their posy friends. They’re also resistant to droughts and deer. It’s these traits that put irises among our favorite plants, whether we’re doing landscape design for a suburban park or installing an in ground pool. We’d like to think that’s what makes them endearing to painters like Van Gogh, too.

Hardy as they are, irises do have their unique challenges. Overcrowding is probably the most common issue. The iris rhizomes—the underground stems that serve as storage bins for leaf-made food—will become too overcrowded if not divided and transplanted every three years or so. Not only does overcrowding prevent irises from producing effervescent blooms, but the lack of air also promotes the spread of diseases like soft rot and borers.

To better guide you on routine iris care, we’ve listed down helpful tips on how to best replant irises.

Sanitize

Before you start digging, make sure that you’ve cleaned up all dead leaves and foliage in the area, as both soft rots and borer damage can escalate quickly if not resolved before transplantation. This is best done during the spring, when larvae hatch and begin to chew their way down to the rhizomes. Be sure to inspect both the iris beds and the plants themselves, and peel the irises down to the rhizomes.

Dig In

Prepare the bed where you’ll transplant the iris. Good drainage is a top priority, as excess moisture turns roots fleshy and makes them prone to rot. For this, we recommend creating a slope or a mound to lay the rhizomes on.

Note too that irises, especially the bearded ones, thrive better in limed soil.

Choose an area that receives direct sunlight for six hours or more per day, and fertilize it. Avoid fertilizers that have high amounts of nitrogen, as this can lead to rot.

The Great Divide

Dividing your irises is best done during the summer or six to eight weeks after flowering; typically from July until August. Irises transplanted before flowering season have blooms that only last throughout that season. Be careful not to divide in the winter either. This is a stressful time for the sun-loving perennial, when all energy must be spent on surviving.

A fork or a spade can be used to dig into the clumps. Carefully lift them out of the ground and remove dirt from the roots with a hose.

Next, divide the rhizomes into 3-inch pieces. Select rhizomes that are firm, plump, and have roots and a fan. Throw away soft and limp rhizomes, as well as those that don’t have leaf fans on them. It’s up to you to keep already-bloomed rhizomes. They won’t produce flowers again, but they produce what we call “increases.”

You can separate rhizomes with your bare hands, but a small knife would make cleaner cuts. Air-dry them in a shaded area for two days.

Move and Transplant

While moving irises to their new “homes” is best done in the summer through early fall, make sure not to move them when it’s 90 °F or above. Trim the leaf fans to up to just 9 inches to reduce weight on the rhizomes.

Create a hole to lay the iris down a little below the ground. Space them about a foot away from each other, and keep the roots spread out before covering them with soil. Again, the key is to plant them just below the surface to keep them from getting too moist. You could even leave a small part of the rhizome exposed.

For a month, irises should be deep-watered weekly.

Finally, now that you’re done, it’s time to wait for those beautiful irises to bloom! Just a little note, though: “mother” rhizomes produce only one flower in their lifetime. After that, they simply create new rhizomes. This is why it’s important to continue dividing and replanting. You could have hundreds of increases in a couple of years competing for soil nutrients, and transplanting the right way is the only way to ensure healthy, thriving irises.

4 Tips for Deadheading Your Plants This Summer

deadheadWe aren’t the only ones feeling the full force of Philly’s summertime heat. Hot summers can be rough on your plants, and sometimes even your best flowers can begin to fade. This isn’t the end of the world for your garden, however, and you can keep your plants looking healthy with one easy technique: deadheading. Deadheading is the removal of fading or dead flowers in order to encourage more blooms and keep your plants looking their best. All you need are your fingers, or a sharp blade, to remove the dead flower heads or petals. While deadheading may seem tedious and time-consuming, the results make the effort well worth it by promoting stronger growth.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re out snipping your flowers:

1. Become familiar with your plants

In a diverse garden, there are many different plants that will fade and change in unique ways. If some of your plants fade more quickly, then you can try to keep your focus on them. The deadheading process will become much more efficient and will make your life much easier.

2. Be precise

Think of deadheading your plants like administering a haircut. Try not to rush the process, and make sure you’re cutting the stem below the faded flower but above the healthy leaves. Accurate deadheading gives your plants a tidy look and allows them to grow stronger and faster.

3. Start Early

A simple way to minimize the amount of time you’re out deadheading is by getting started as soon as you start to notice fading flowers. If you wait too long, then the job can become a lot more of a burden. Managing a small amount of dead flowers is exponentially easier than working with the whole garden, especially in the summer sun!

4. Deadhead often

The best routine to follow is to check your plants and their flowers often. Deadheading every couple of days is a good rule of thumb, and eventually it will become second nature for you. This will also ensure that your garden is consistently looking at its best.

 

Next time you’re out in the garden, keep an eye out for some fading flowers and give deadheading a try. For all your gardening needs, give the Landscaping pros at Blue Tree a call.

8 Summer Garden Watering Tips to Help Your Plants Thrive

Summer Garden WateringAny seasoned gardener knows that gardening is hard: there’s a serious science behind all of it, from planting the right plants in the right places to giving them the correct amount of water. The science behind proper watering is why professional irrigation sprinkler systems have become so popular.

When it comes to watering, more isn’t necessarily better. A professional irrigation sprinkler system that targets the right areas might be a great solution to look into. But in the meantime, to help you water in the most efficient way (for your plants, your budget, and the environment) we’ve put together our 8 top watering tips:

1. Don’t Water Too Often

Healthy plants require healthy roots—and watering too often is inefficient for the root system. Allowing the roots to dry out a little before watering encourages their growth, which makes for healthier plants. So, don’t water everyday (unless it’s one of our scorching hot Philly summer days, and the earth is bone dry). Generally, watering 2-3 times a week is plenty.

2. Water Well

The above point recommends not watering everyday (especially for flower beds), but when you’re watering a few days a week, be sure to water thoroughly—although don’t create an impromptu swimming pool.

3. Time your Watering

Whether you’re standing there with a hose or have an automatic irrigation sprinkler system, time your watering correctly. Ideally, you want to water early in the morning or late in the evening. Avoiding watering midday will keep the majority of the water from evaporating, and you’ll keep your leaves from burning.

4. Avoid Watering the Leaves

Watering the leaves instead of the base/roots of the plant can keep them from burning, but it will also encourage mold and plant diseases. Plant diseases thrive in hot, moist environments—especially on the leaves themselves.

5. Don’t Water All at Once

If you have plants that require a large quantity of water, it’s better to water them in parts. So water the flowerbed, then move on to another section. Once the water has seeped into the soil you can return to water the flowerbed again.

6. Water Distribution

Be mindful of where you’re watering plants, as continually watering one side over the other will encourage lop-sided root growth. Lop-sided roots disrupt healthy nutrient absorption.

7. Use Moisture Sensors

If you want to be a high-tech, environmentally-conscious gardener, you can install water sensors that will alert you to the right density of water. Installing these on existing irrigation systems can make a big difference on your water bill (although it will take some time for them to ‘pay for themselves’).

8. Never Ever Over Water

More truly isn’t better with garden watering. Overwatering, aka ‘waterlogging,’ can deprive the roots of much-needed oxygen. Roots can drown in water.

Proper watering can enhance an already beautiful garden. If your garden and overall landscaping is lackluster, then call the pros here at Blue Tree Landscaping. Our professional landscapers in the Philadelphia area can help you plan your garden with the right plants for specific locations based on sun patterns, drainage, and a number of other critical factors.

How to Keep Pests Out of Your Yard This Summer

pestsPests are, well…pesky. The small little life forms that invade your beautiful plants and garden during the hot summer months can range from a simple annoyance to a danger to your beautiful flowers and landscaping. Of course, there are strong pesticides and other chemicals you can use, like organophosphates—but many of us prefer a natural approach.

Here is a breakdown of your options to help your garden stay pest free this summer:

Chemical Pesticides:

Chemical-based pesticides like organophosphates, carbamate, organochlorine (banned in many places due to health and environmental concerns), and pyrethroid work to adversely affect and disrupt insects’ nervous systems. These methods are generally quite effective, especially since sprayers tend to use a ‘blanket approach,’ but many homeowners have doubts about their safety for animals and small children.

Biopesticides:
Biopesticides are naturally occurring pesticides, derived directly from nature. These include microbial pesticides (like a bacteria, fungus, or virus), Plant-Incorporated Protectants (proteins and other elements that cause plants to produce their own natural pesticides), and biochemical pesticides (similar to chemical pesticides, but naturally occurring).

The Healthy Plant Approach

Many gardeners try to employ the ‘healthy plant’ approach to pests. That is, if a plant is healthy it is significantly less likely to attract pests and insects. Maintaining vigilance in your garden design with deadheading, the process of pinching off and removing diseased plants, can be an excellent first line of defense in the war against pests.

Predators

If you include plants in your garden design that attract insect predators, like ladybugs, bees, praying mantises, and spiders, you can create a natural pest-control plan.

The Targeted Natural Approach

There are natural deterrents to pests that are completely safe and highly effective. However, you need to know which insects to target:

  • Aphids hate strong-smelling plants and are vulnerable to nearly every predator. So, plant chives, basil, mint, and etc.
  • Slugs and snails can be controlled with broken eggshells (as they cause non-lethal pain, which causes the creatures to move elsewhere) and with beer (they drown in it).
  • Mosquitoes can be controlled naturally by spraying eucalyptol oil and/or by planting lemongrass.

 DIY Organic Natural Insecticide

If you’re bothered by an array of pesky insects but don’t want to blanket the whole garden with chemicals, consider creating your own natural insecticide. It’s easy, cheap, and you probably already have the ingredients in your home. For soft-bodied insects, spray a mixture of two tablespoons of biodegradable liquid soap and a quart of water. Aphids hate coffee and caffeine, so spread wet coffee grounds in aphid-affected areas.

For a more ‘all purpose’ spray, boil strong spices like garlic, onions, mint, ginger root, and cayenne pepper. Let the mixture sit overnight, strain out any solids, and pour into a spray bottle to spray plants and areas afflicted by insects.

 Planning

Controlling insects and pests naturally takes planning. If you’re in need of a holistic garden design, Blue Tree Landscaping in Philadelphia can help. Call us today for a plan for your landscape design.