Three Seasons of American Cranberry Viburnum

American Cranberry Viburnum begins its change to orange red.

Spectacular fall color is everywhere! Trees and  bushes almost become new plants when leaves change color. Fresh autumn flowers pick up where summer blooms slowly leave off. Gourds and squash such as pumpkin give new geometric shapes, textures and colors to work with in decorations.

Orange red leaves of Viburnum opulus var Americanum add fall color to this symphony. Go backwards to summer: orange red berries complement green leaves. Backwards again to spring: lacy white flowers appear all over the bush. How’s that for three season interest? Winter’s not so bad either when brown gray branches capture snow and support busy sparrows.

Viburnum opulus variation Americanum is the the most current name of this shrub. The new name may be more difficult to ask for at the nursery or garden center, so keep these other two common names in mind.

One is Viburnum trilobum because the leaf has three oval parts or lobes. The other is American cranberry – a name used to separate this Viburnum from a similar bush that grows in Europe. While it has berries that can be made into jam, this bush is not related to the cranberry plant that grows in bogs and provides us the large tart red berries we have at Thanksgiving dinner.

This Viburnum is native to the region along the Canadian/U.S. border. In Canada it grows from Nova Scotia to British Columbia. In the U.S. it grows from New York, along the Great Lakes to South Dakota and west to Oregon.

Features

Not only does it provide three season color, it soaks up water. Planted in a berm to protect the house from water that runs into the yard from neighbors’ yards it receives the moisture it needs without sitting in water.

  • Zone: Cold hardy in 2 – 7.
  • Soil:  Moist that is also well drained, not standing water.
  • Sun: Full sun to part shade.
  • Average height: 8 – 12 feet.
  • Average width: 8 – 12 feet.
  • Location: Consider the height before planting. Place it where it can grow to its full height of 8 – 12 feet otherwise prune it to a shorter size every year. It expands in width when new shoots grow out from the ground near the original bush. A branch touching the ground will take root to produce a new plant that gets larger every year.
  • Bloom: In late spring and early summer, flat white lacy flowers appear all over the bush.
  • Leaf:  Green with three lobes in summer which turn orange red in fall.

Care

Water: Considered medium, but since it is native to low wet areas, watering well during hot dry spells will keep it healthy.

Fertilize with compost once a year in the fall to feed the roots.

Prune: After it flowers.

Pests

An insect called crown borer can cause dieback of the bush. The bottom of the trunk is where they do their damage. Larvae drill under the bark and feed on the inside of the trunk. They also feed on branches and roots. This weakens and destroys it.

Keep the plant healthy. The insect is less likely to be attracted to it. Water during hot dry spells and fertilize in fall with compost.

Uses

Borders, hedges and any place that water collects temporarily. Just make sure the water drains off.

Arrange cut branches with berries in a tall vase as a background for other flowers or use alone in a container.

 

Viburnum opulus var Americanum is an enduring shrub in the yard.  It’s easy to care for when planted in a spot that meets its needs. It’s interesting in three seasons and attractive to songbirds. It’s worth planting!

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

 

 

How to Improve Clay Soil As You Plant

The best kind of soil amendment: compost with earthworm activity.

Soil

Other than that’s what a plant grows in, I didn’t give soil much thought in my early years of gardening. Too busy touching, smelling, trimming and watering what grows above. Add a little compost on top of the soil in fall to feed the plant and done.

I discovered that if I put a little more effort into the soil when planting something new, then add compost to the soil yearly while the plant is growing, my plant thrives. Makes me feel like a successful gardener!

My yard has three to four inches of topsoil with clay below that. Plants don’t grow well in clay. It is made of compressed particles that leave no room for air or water to circulate. It does have nutrients but plant roots have trouble making their way through the compressed clay.

New rule for my yard: When digging a hole for a new plant – amend or change the soil.

Tools Needed:

  • Measuring tape
  • A large shovel or spade
  • Gloves
  • Wheelbarrow

Digging the Hole

Before you begin you need to know how deep and wide to dig the hole. Caution: math skills at work here!

How Deep

To find out how deep the hole should be, measure the height of the new plant’s root ball (the batch of dirt surrounding the roots whether round or not).  With the measuring tape begin at the top of the ball where the stem goes into the soil and continue to the bottom of the ball. That measurement tells you how deep to dig the hole.

How Wide

Dig the hole two times wider than the root ball. Measure across the root ball from side to side. Multiply that number times two.  Dig the hole that width all the way around. This will give your plant roots plenty of room to stretch out and grow.

Two times the width is a general guideline. The tag on the plant often has directions for planting depth and width. Another place to look is online. Gardening books have information too.

Now Dig

Knowing the depth and width of the hole to dig, it’s time to shovel.

First dig topsoil from the top layer of ground. Put it in a pile on the ground to one side of the hole you’re digging.

The clay from deeper in the hole goes in a pile on the other side.

This makes two separate piles of material from the hole. It’s time to mix up “new” soil in a wheelbarrow using the shovel.

Creating New Soil

Three ingredients go into the wheelbarrow one shovelful at a time:

  • Soil from the first pile.
  • Clay from the other pile.
  • Compost from your compost pile in the garden or a purchased bag.

How to mix it:

  1. Using the shovel chop the pile of clay into very small chunks, less than ½” large. Put a shovelful of that in the wheelbarrow.
  2. Add a shovelful of soil from the other pile.
  3. Add a shovelful of compost to the mix.
  4. Chop and mix this all together with the shovel until it’s loose and fine. It’s ready to use for planting.

Planting With the New Soil

Put a shovelful of the newly mixed soil in the hole and spread it out along the bottom. Set the root ball of the plant in the hole. Now fill in all around the root ball with the new soil. Press the soil gently as you add it to eliminate air pockets. Water can collect in air pockets and rot the roots. Not good!

Finish by pressing down on the top layer with your hand if it’s a small plant like a day lily. Use your foot if it’s a shrub or tree. Water thoroughly – until the water quits sinking in, puddles and runs off.

Add a layer of mulch on top to keep the soil from washing away. Mulch helps keep moisture in too. In the fall add a one inch layer of compost to feed the roots for next year’s growth.

Reward

Amending poor soil like clay when planting has long term benefits. The plant gets off to a strong start with roots that can move through the soil, take in the nutrients that are available in it and receive water that drains well. Plant the best you can once and enjoy years of beauty.

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Volunteer Tree Becomes a Member of the Yard

Forsythia (left) and Birch (right) remain close friends.

Forsythia bush finishes its display of yellow blossoms for the spring season. I’m planting flowers nearby. I happen to look up then stand up startled. I’m staring at a smooth reddish-tan trunk of a tree about one and one half inches in diameter. Whaaatt? My eyes follow the trunk up past branches, past the top edge of the six foot wooden privacy fence. Finally my eyes stop at the leafy summit five feet or more above the fence. Clearly a tree. And clearly I’m not paying enough attention in my small yard to know what’s growing in it.

I’ve been surprised many times before by volunteers. Usually seeds from other cultivated plants like begonias, cannas, maple trees, honeysuckle bush (the invasive kind), and cone flower catch me off-guard in places I know I didn’t plant them or expect to see them. Weeds of course are perpetual masters of surprise.

Depending on what the plant is I remove it or transplant it if I can find a spot. Or I give it to a neighbor – minus the weeds!

Volunteer tree gets by me for several years. Forsythia grows near our privacy fence. The grey wood provides a back drop to the beauty of forsythia’s yellow flowers, one of the first spring bloomers. It gives shelter to birds and soaks up the water that runs down from neighbors’ yards after a heavy rain. And within its branches it harbors a thriving little tree.

The bark on both the bush and young tree are similar. So are their leaves. The first year I feel concern when one of the branches doesn’t bloom in yellow flowers or leaf out like the rest of the plant in spring. Maybe it’s the lead branch because it keeps growing taller than the rest of the bush? A good thought. It seems healthy, getting its leaves a little later so I don’t cut it back. I just let it grow – for several years.

This early spring, again, no flowers on the branch and there are other non-flowering branches. I should take the hint, right? It still looks healthy so I let it grow. And later in the season – surprise!

Through identification sources I think it’s a birch. But I’m not sure. Maybe from a similar tree in a nearby neighbor’s yard? From a seed or maybe an outgrowth of a root reaching into my yard? The neighbor removed his tree while clearing his property edge for a fence. I admired the tree’s smooth bark and was sad when it was cut down. Young volunteer tree could be a replacement.

Since it continues to play on my sympathy this new tree gets a pass. It isn’t too close to the house. It won’t really give us shade but that’s okay because it doesn’t change the current design of the yard. Digging up forsythia and moving it a little further away, gives them both room to grow. They thrive near each other as friends. After all, forsythia covered for baby birch. Volunteer tree is a member of our yard.

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

 

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
Tiny knots of flowers appear in late summer to early fall.

 

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

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