6 Reasons to Plant Arrowwood Viburnum

It sits quietly at the intersection where the bottom of one hill becomes top of the next. It’s on the side of the house I don’t visit too often because, well, nothing goes on over there. Wildlife has an undisturbed area to inhabit.

However, branches hang into the neighbor’s yard. I walk closer with my trimmers to see why they’re hanging. And there they are – the most beautiful little blue black berries in clusters weighing down the branches of Arrowwood viburnum! I leave them alone. Instead I make a note to trim back the bush after it flowers next spring.

Features

1. The shrub Arrowwood viburnum or Viburnum dentatum is native to the eastern part of North America.

2. It thrives in Zones 2-8.

3. Arrowwood has multiple trunks. The largest are about one inch in diameter. The name arrowwood is attributed to the use of stems by Native Americans. Straight stems became shafts for arrows.

4. It grows about ten feet high and five feet wide. The leaves are heart shaped with slight ridges throughout. Their edges look as if they were cut with decorative scissors. Leaves are green until fall then turn yellow, red or red-purple.

5. In late spring and early summer unscented lacy white flowers cover the bush. Blue black berries form and remain on the branches as food for birds in winter.

6. Birds like the berries. Bees and butterflies are frequent visitors.

Care

This viburnum couldn’t be easier to care for:

  • Plant in full sun.
  • Tolerates many types of soil including clay, but best in an equal mix of clay, sand and humus.
  • Water needs are average to moist. Likes a well-draining location. Tolerates the occasional super wet weather, including the runoff from the roof of the house next door.
  • Prune after flowering in spring.

Pests

The Viburnum leaf beetle can be a problem. According to Cornell University’s website for viburnum leaf beetles the best way to control their spread is to look for infested branches from fall through spring. Remove the diseased branches and place them in a plastic bag and into the garbage. Do not compost diseased plant material as it will spread the problem.

Uses

Grow one as a specimen or grow them as a hedge.  Cut some branches with leaves and berries in fall and add to an indoor bouquet.

Easy care, spring flowers and fall berries make the Arrowwood viburnum a joy. No hard work needed to have a little beauty in the yard!

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

A Gardener’s Never Done

Evergreen needles (top) greet spring-only Hyacinth flowers.

 

“A gardener’s never done,” a seasoned gardener said to me.

I was just starting out as a gardener designing one space in my yard. I studied the plants that would fit best in that spot. My plants were going to have the right light and right amount of water as well as look wonderful in that spot. My imagination was running wild with the vision of what the space would look like finished.  Then I asked for advice from the veteran gardener. Never done? Huh?

“Yeah,” this seasoned gardener continued, “Something won’t look right or it won’t grow well or another plant would be better in that spot or it dies…any number of things.”

The list of negatives was not very encouraging. Uncomfortable thoughts were going through my mind. Even the idea of giving up – maybe.

Later that day a nearby neighbor saw me standing in the yard eyeing the space.

He ventured over, listened to my idea and told me, “You might want to use that space one day for something besides plants. Then you’d have to dig it all up.”

My beautiful vision – well, I almost felt defeated before I started.  And I had to start somewhere. Huh!

Several garden projects later I have to admit the seasoned gardener knew some things. I have moved many bushes and perennials to other locations for most of the reasons given by my gardening friend.

Some plants didn’t do well in a spot despite my best efforts to put a plant in the right place for its light and watering needs. A plant either barely survived until I could relocate it or it died rather quickly.  In a few cases, a plant was dug up because its service was needed in another area.

But the neighbor’s thought about using a space for something else besides a garden bed after I planted? Not interested in starting over! I made sure the area I chose to plant would be only for plants. My neighbor’s observation helped me think hard about how I was going to use my garden.

Now my yard is at a reasonable capacity, but I can still find a new place to tuck in another plant. Today I went to the garden store for a replacement annual. In addition, I bought six perennials and a fairy garden planter. All on sale. Couldn’t resist. Yet another reason this gardener’s never done: falling in love with new plants!

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Knotweed’s Appeal: Variegated Leaves and Tiny Flower Orbs

Striking leaves of Knotweed/Persicaria virginiana.

 

What’s so appealing about this Knotweed? Is it the green and cream or white leaves with pale peach to dark red splotches on top? Is it the flowers – many tiny red or dark pink orbs on a long stem that appear above the leaves? Knotweed means tall, friendly color growing throughout the bed. Easy care makes it a keeper.

Features

  • Persicaria virginiana commonly called knotweed is a herbaceous perennial found in the U.S., Japan and Korea. It thrives in Zones 4-8.
  • The leaf is oval. Green is the main color. Then it’s color on color:  cream or white splotches topped by pale peach to dark red splotches. No two leaves look alike.
  • Knotweed grows to about 24 inches tall. Its spread is one and a half to two feet wide.
  • Bloom time is late summer, early fall. Tiny flower “knots” in red or dark pink bloom on a tall stem giving it the name knotweed. The second part of the name “weed” doesn’t apply to the variety Persicaria virginiana as it is not invasive. It spreads by rhizomes – thick looking roots that grow horizontally underground. It is also self seeding as the “knots” or flowers when dry, fall off and germinate. Pets sometimes sport little pink knots in their coats after brushing up against the stems. Where will the knots land?
  • Attracts butterflies.
  • Deer and rabbit resistant.

Care

  • Full sun to part shade is required for good growth.
  • Soil is average, well drained.
  • Water needs are medium which is to say they tolerate some dry weather, but biweekly watering keeps them looking their best.
  • Maintenance is low. No cutting back. No dead heading the flowers. No significant pests or diseases. After winter the stems look like dry sticks coming out of the ground. These can be removed or crushed in place. New growth covers them up as they decompose.

Problems are Small

Sometimes knotweed winds up in places where it’s not wanted. Pulling it out is easy.

As a group they’re not dense enough to keep weeds from growing in between. If the weeds are below the height of the knotweed, they can’t be seen until closer inspection.

Another type of knotweed called Fallopia japonica is invasive in the U.S.  It chokes out native plants and should not be grown.

Uses

Naturalizing is the easiest way to enjoy them in the garden. Variegated leaves and an easy growing habit fill in a space with good color. Knotweed contrasts well with the green of nearby bushes. They can also be used in container plantings if kept well watered. Cut stems of leaves and flowers to add an unusual twist to a bouquet.

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Hostas: Appealing and Practical

Hosta leaves catch sunlight in the shade.

Hostas always make the top ten list for shade plants. They are appealing and practical. Planted in groups, hostas are graceful, lovely. Under trees and bushes they make a floaty fringe. Some arrive early in summer and leave late in fall. Long stems of their tubular flowers add charm to a bouquet. They’re easy to care for returning every year larger and wider with one feeding. They should make the top ten list for almost-perfect plants!

Appealing

Many of my hostas are inside a wood privacy fence. Protected from deer and too much wind, they grow larger and showier every year. Leaves are smooth or have a ribby texture. Some hosta leaves are just one or two shades of green. My favorites are variegated leaves. Their edges are white, cream, yellow or gold.  The rest of the leaf is green, pale green or blue green.  The reverse is true: edges in shades of green with light colored centers.  Variegated leaves gleam in a shady area by day. At night they catch and reflect porch light or moonlight.

Tubular flowers climb tall stems and are usually white or lavender in color. Depending on the variety they can bloom from early summer into fall.  Plant tags list bloom times and are a handy guide for planning a succession of blooms. Hostas are more beautiful the larger they grow.

Practical

Hostas are reliable, durable. They have shallow roots enabling them to grow in many places without disturbing their neighbors’ root systems. They fill in the areas where they’re planted shading out weeds and functioning as ground cover. As perennials, they return every year sending pencil-like shoots out of the ground before unfurling their leaves.

Care

  • Hostas are perennials native to Japan and China. In the U.S. they grow in Zones 3-9.
  • Plant in part shade to shade.  Bushes and trees provide a perfect spot beneath their branches for just the right amount of light. New hostas have been developed for sunnier places.
  • Soil should be rich, well drained but hostas can tolerate most soil types. Add compost yearly to provide nutrients and help keep the soil moist. Hostas like it more on the wet side than dry. Because hostas’ roots are shallow, water more often during the growing season. Under a tree they compete with the tree roots for water.
  • Size varies from miniature 8 inches tall to 25 inches tall. Width varies from a few inches to 4 feet or more. It’s important to check the plant tag to find out how big they will eventually grow so you know how much space they’ll need. In a year or two, you can divide them to share with others. Maybe there are more places in your garden for the divided plants. They are great at limiting weeds.

Pests

Biggest pests in my neighborhood are slugs and deer.  That’s right: small mollusks and large animals.  Slugs make holes in the leaves which don’t bother me. I used to put gravel or egg shells in a ring around hostas to keep slugs at bay. Slugs don’t like rough textures to crawl over. Not a chore anymore. Instead, birds and toads do a pretty good job of protecting the hostas by eating the slugs.

Deer like hostas – not for their beauty but as a food source. So far deer have not been a problem. In our older suburban neighborhood deer sometimes come to visit. Hostas rescued from the super sunny front of the house and planted on the shadier side of the house have not been bothered.

Attract Hummingbirds

I have met a hummingbird every summer sipping from the hostas’ flowers blooming at the side of the house. Despite the fact that the flowers’ color is not the hummer’s preferred red, hummer has figured out that the tubular lavender blooms have desirable nectar.

Again – Appealing and Practical

There are some plain green hostas in my enclosed backyard that I dug up from an old store property that was to be demolished. The owner allowed the community to take the plants they wanted. These plain, green reliable hostas are first to come up in spring, stay green all summer. In late August after other hostas’ flowers are long gone, the plain green ones produce lavender flowers that are translucent in the late afternoon light. The flowers also have a little scent. Surprise! They are the last of my hostas to leave the summer party.

 

Interesting info on slugs:

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/pests-and-problems/insects/slugs-and-snails.aspx

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Rose of Sharon – Giant Summer Bouquet

Rose of Sharon bush blooms mid to late summer.

A mid summer giant size bouquet grows right outside my dining room window.  Many fuchsia pink flowers appear on leafy green ends of each branch all around the bush.  Love Rose of Sharon this time of year for its wow factor. While planting, I was hoping for a spray of color outside the window. I more than got my wish!

Beauty

The fuchsia pink bloom is similar in shape to the rose. It begins as a rose bud look alike before opening to a layered-petal flower. Blooms are abundant. Other bloom colors available are blue, lavender, purple, red or white.

No scent for humans.  Occasionally bumble bees and butterflies alight to enjoy the flowers’ nectar. A hummingbird inspects the blooms from time to time.  But the hummingbird prefers a tubular flower and moves on. Birds rustle leaves all day pecking at insects on the multi stemmed bush.

Come winter it is a show piece for fallen snow.  Its many grey branches catch snow on the topside becoming a frosted vision. Winter resident birds don’t mind the snowy perch and rest there.

Care

This shrub is easy to care for. Planted six feet away from the back of the house, it soaks up water that comes down the slight incline of my yard. It gets all day sun. At ten feet tall it shades the back of the house from the western sunlight. In fall, after flowers fade, I prune to keep it at ten feet. Rose of Sharon can grow 12 feet tall by 10 feet wide. I think keeping it a little lower keeps it bushier. Leaves and flowers tend to be sparse near the bottom.

Originally from eastern Asia, it is cold hardy in Zones 5-8.  Rose of Sharon tolerates poor soil such as the clay found in my yard. Enrich the soil with compost once a year as that’s what it prefers. I aim to please to keep it healthy! Regular watering during dry spells keeps it happy also.

Pests

Apparently Hibiscus syriacus (its botanical name) can be a magnet for the Japanese beetle. This might affect the appearance of the bush, but not the health. There are some organic ways to control the beetle such as picking it off the bush and destroying it. Use decoy plants such as zinnias or white geraniums where you can pick the beetle off and destroy it.  Toads eat them. Attract toads by placing a broken clay pot with an opening, on the ground for a house.  Moles eat them including the larvae which develop underground.  Skunks eat them. A skunk had a run-in with my dog so I won’t recommend attracting skunks. Just be aware that they also eat the Japanese beetle.

Plant a flowering bush like the Rose of Sharon outside a window you often walk by or spend time near. It is wonderful to see the flowers in bloom or watch the birds and insects move around its branches. Nature is almost in the house!

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

 

Hellebores Thwart a Dismal Winter Day

Hellebores
Hellebore flowers open to five petals.

What flowers in the cold? Whose leaves are green all year but are especially noticeable in late grey of winter? Well the title gave it away. Hellebores. Not a very pretty name but the name is as memorable as the flowers. The flowers are cup-shaped to start and open to five petals. Some have a prickly looking circle of stamens in the center. They almost look like the flowers you draw in kindergarten.

Hellebores are evergreen perennials that grow in Zones 4-9. Depending upon the species and which zone they’re growing in, they may bloom anywhere from December to April. They generally bloom for four to six weeks. That means no matter how ugly the weather and how anxious you are to see spring arrive, Hellebores are in bloom.

Growing Hellebores

  • Most prefer a well-drained soil rich in humus. Most prefer an alkaline soil over acid soil.
  • Location requires you to think about winter and summer. Planting under a deciduous tree (leaves fall off before winter) gives them the sun they need to bloom in winter. Once the leaves grow on the tree or bush, Hellebores are protected from the heat of the summer sun. So – winter sun, summer shade.
  • Protect from wind when choosing a location to protect the leaves from wind burn.
  • Some will self-seed and add new plants to your garden.
  • Please Note: All parts of this plant are toxic to humans and pets. We normally eat only the fruits and vegetables we grow ourselves or that are sold in stores and markets. We know not to eat the flowers, bushes and trees that we grow in our gardens – that would make us sick. However, some plants have a special warning and Hellebores have that warning. Find a place to grow these plants where a curious child or pet won’t chew on them.

Caring for Hellebores

  • Water regularly when you water other flowers in the summer.
  • Add compost around plants every fall to feed them.
  • Possible pests: slugs, aphids. Possible diseases: fungus – Botrytis. Well drained soil and good spacing between plants should help prevent these problems.

When I first began gardening, the only kind of Hellebore available was one that had green flowers and supposedly smelled bad. I didn’t plant any, even though having an early flowering plant outside of my house was tempting. Now there are hybrids in many different colors from green to cream to pink, red and purple. No bad smell.

My Hellebores are planted in an area that I can see from my back door. I enjoy their green leaves and pale-colored flowers without opening the door to the cold.

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Green Gardening

Branch of Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple leaves are what I see when I open the back door. There are two Purple Leaf Sand Cherry bushes across the patio. They screen the neighbor’s wood privacy fence – an extra layer in the spring, summer and fall. They provide a little shade during the day. The sunlight that comes through the leaves change their colors. Some appear purple. Some are red. Others bronze, rust, and green.

Since the name of the bush begins with purple leaf, I chose that for the name of this site. I could be lofty and say that the leaf color is inspiring; there’s probably a metaphor for life. Maybe there is. But I chose it because I like the colors.

Green gardening is what I do. When we first moved here, I was partially going green. I made the change to all green when a next door neighbor came to me with a request. I had applied some weed killer on the lawn that adjoins her property. She asked if I would not do that again. She said she had some serious health problems and using weed killer was harmful to her condition. In fact, she said it was harmful for my family and even our dog. We were breathing it in, it was on our skin and clothes. She was such a great person, caring for others every where she went, including me and my family. How could I turn her down? And that’s how I began green practices.

I find it’s not hard to do.  No huge change because I was already doing those things in many ways. Forgoing toxins on the lawn was not a big deal. I am still working on reducing the dandelion population in a non-harmful way. Not harvesting leaves for my salad yet. There are cats, raccoons, possums, skunks and the occasional dog off the leash walking through my yard. This does not make dandelions appealing. What I do have are a lot of birds, bees – especially native bees, butterflies and dragonflies. Lots of cool visitors to my yard. And all because of a request by a great neighbor!

 

Copyright 2017 Juli Seyfried