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August 2018

Chesapeake Gardens #3 History, Care and Maintenance of Crape Myrtles

By Chesapeake Gardens, Gardening Blog No Comments

This week I would like to talk about one of my favorite summer flowering trees, Crape Myrtles, and how one man changed our landscapes forever. Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) were introduced to the U.S. from China and Korea in the late 18th century. They were not very cold tolerant and cold winters would kill them to the ground or kill them out right. The species also suffered from powdery mildew which is a fungal disease that would damage both the leaves and flowers. In drier areas of the south Crape Myrtles were used as street trees and as summer flowering landscape plants but they were tough to use in the Mid-Atlantic due to their disease and hardiness issues. Then a wonderful thing happened, Dr. John Creech of the United States National Arboretum (USNA) brought back a new species of Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia fauriei) from Japan in the 1950’s and Dr. Don Egolf (also from the USNA) began to hybridize these two Crape Myrtle species in order to breed the cold-tolerance and disease resistance of L. fauriei with the flowers and landscape appeal of L. indica. During the ensuing thirty years until his untimely death Dr. Egolf worked tirelessly on this breeding program eventually introducing more than 20 cold hardy and disease resistant hybrid Crape Myrtles. All of these USNA introductions bear Native American names in a nod to Dr. Egolf’s home state of Oklahoma.

I want you now to think about all the fabulous Crape Myrtles that are planted in our landscapes and gardens, along our streets and in our parks. These are all the results of the work of one man. Without the efforts of Dr. Egolf and the USNA we would not have the great diversity of hardy and disease resistant Crape Myrtles we enjoy today. Few of us will ever leave such a lasting mark on the world.

After his passing many individuals and companies continued the work of Dr. Egolf and today we are blessed with a multitude of new types, sizes and colors of Crape Myrtles including ones with dark colored foliage and variegated flowers. These new introductions continue to broaden the appeal of this landscape plant. If you have a sunny location and are looking for a summer flowering deciduous tree or shrub (from 3’-40’) there is a Crape Myrtle for you. Thank Dr. Egolf when you plant one.

– Tait

Help Your Garden Flourish with these Summer Gardening Tips

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The heat of summer time is great for beach trips and barbecues with family but can be a real stressor on plants. This season, the combination of torrential rain followed by periods of intense heat and drought has had a negative impact on many plants, even those that are well established.

Review the tips below for efficient watering and plant care to help your garden flourish through the summer!

When watering, use the correct technique. You can reduce your water consumption up to 60% by using proper watering techniques. Slow-drip and deep-root watering and properly installed irrigation systems will help to conserve water.

Water early in the morning, usually before 9:00 AM. This helps keep the water from evaporating too quickly, and the plants won’t stress because of a lack of essential water. Watering less often but for a longer time will promote deep root growth. If you have an irrigation system, check it frequently to make sure it works properly. Make sure you water just your plant material and avoid spraying sidewalks, driveways and patios; this is a waste of water.

Make sure you cut your lawn to a proper height and let it grow to 3-4 inches between cuttings. Longer blades of grass means going three to four days longer between watering and promotes a healthier and stronger root system.

Weed control in your lawn and in your gardens will help reduce competition for water, so even though it’s hot, try to get out early in the morning to pull weeds and check for any pests or fungus.

Place container gardens and baskets in partial shade to keep them from drying out too quickly on very hot days and in windy areas.

Once you have the watering down, the next step is feeding! All plants require fertilizer to prolong their lifespan and ensure the biggest blooms and best performance. However, summer is not the best time for feeding lawns or nursery stock. Wait for the cooler weather of fall for that.

For annuals and perennials, feed once a month throughout the growing season to keep them healthy and blooming for the spring, summer and into the fall.

Of course, the plants depend on healthy soil for optimum growth. Summer is a good time to amend beds with a layer of leafgro or other organic compost. A thin layer of mulch is recommended to help retain moisture and reduce weeds. Apply to shrubs, trees, annual and perennial beds and borders, and even vegetable gardens.

Proper watering, feeding and mulching will keep your landscape healthy and attractive year-round.

As always, please feel free to call or, even better, come by the shop with your questions, comments, or just to visit! I’ll see you soon.

 – Dotti

Hydrangea Care

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Hydrangeas like moist, rich soil, but can not live in standing water. They are big drinkers. On hot days, the fleshy leaves and stems call for lots of water. Make sure they get it! The best place to grow hydrangeas is where they get morning sun and afternoon shade. This will keep the heat stress to a minimum and ensure the best blooms.

Hydrangeas are acid-loving plants. Feed hydrangeas in spring or fall with Holly Tone. Mophead hydrangeas have large lush blooms that change color depending on the soil ph. If you like blue flowers, use soil acidifier; if you prefer pink use garden lime.

Pruning is required to keep your hydrangeas performing to the best of their ability. All hydrangeas can be pruned for cut flowers, and they like to be pruned during bloom time to promote healthy growth. Outside of bloom time, seasonal pruning will ensure a longer life span and beautiful plant architecture. The process for seasonal pruning depends on the variety.

Hydrangea macrophylla (mophead) – Nikko Blue, Forever Pink, and other mophead hydrangeas bloom off last year’s wood (old wood). Pruning should be done only when necessary to improve shape. When new growth begins in spring, prune away dead branches, fertilize with Holly Tone, and enjoy the beautiful blooms to come.

Hydrangea paniculata (panicle hydrangea) – Pee Gee, Limelight, and other panicle hydrangea varieties bloom on new wood. This means old wood can be pruned off late fall or very early spring. Prune them aggressively so that new growth will be clean and compact and the plant will be lush with blooms.

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea) – Snow Queen, Queen of Hearts and other oakleaf hydrangeas bloom from old wood and look best left untrimmed. If you must, prune late winter and remove the entire stem. Do not prune tips in the spring time; this stunts growth and prevents future flowering.

Hydrangea anomala (climbing hydrangea) – This gorgeous, slow growing variety has woody vines that cling to structures with air roots. Blooms grow off old wood, so prune in late fall or winter to control shape and promote spring growth. Blooms are a wide, lacecap type of flower.

Hydrangea arborescens (Smooth hydrangea) – Annabelle, White Dome and other smooth hydrangea varieties bloom on new wood. Severely prune in late fall or winter and enjoy the flush of new growth and blooms in the spring and summer.

As always, please feel free to call or, even better, come by the shop with your questions, comments, or just to visit! I’ll see you soon.

 – Dotti

New Weekly Email Series | Chesapeake Gardens #2

By Chesapeake Gardens No Comments

Welcome back to Chesapeake Garden – my weekly blog about plants, gardening and the world around us. I promised to talk about plants this week so let’s get right to it. I would like to introduce all of you to one of my favorite native perennials, Hibiscus moscheutos. Hibiscus moscheutos or Rose Mallow grows locally on the margins of our wetlands and waterways. It is a member of the plant Family Malvaceae (or Mallow family). Other important members of the Mallow Family are Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum and others), Cacao (Theobroma cacao (cocoa and chocolate), Okra (probably Abelmoschus ficulneus (this plant has been it cultivation for so long its origin is not certain)) and Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis (yup, this is where Marshmallows originally came from!)).

Like all perennials this plant begins to emerge in late spring, grows to its full height, flowers in summer and dies back to the ground by winter. It blooms in summer with large pink, red or white flowers with a darker magenta center. While most of the wild Rose Mallows have flowers that are up to 6” in diameter, the cultivated varieties can have flowers that are 10”-12” in diameter. And while the native plants can reach heights of 6’ in a single season, most of the newer cultivars are bred to only grow to between 2.5’-4.5’ in height and may have multicolored flowers and even purple foliage.

That’s enough about what it looks like and who it’s related to. Let’s talk about using it in our gardens. Hibiscus moscheutos should be used anywhere where we have six or more hours of sunlight and plenty of moisture. Have a wet spot you can’t figure out? Use Rose Mallow. Pool water killing your plants? Use Rose Mallow because it doesn’t mind chlorine (or salt for that matter!). It’s great at the back of the perennial border and is a staple of Rain Gardens. It’s a wonderful native that everyone should know and use in their gardens.

Next time I want to talk to you about the Hardy Crape Myrtle trees and how one man’s work can effect great change. Talk to you then.

– Tait

What you Grow Matters #1: A Reflection

By What You Grow Matters No Comments
Make New Friends but Keep the Old;
One is Silver and the Other Gold’

I learned those lyrics 30 years ago as a Brownie Girl Scout in Miss Lynn’s troop at Lake Shore. Miss Lynn put a lot of heart and hard work into troop leadership and made sure we pondered the words carefully as we learned the tune. Around the campfire at Camp Whippoorwill, my fellow Brownies and I would sing that song along with other traditional Girl Scout tunes. For some reason, those lyrics resonated in my young mind, and I pondered at length the concepts of friendship, loyalty and longevity. Years have passed but that tune always comes flooding back, bringing with it sweet memories of old friendships and the innocent lessons of childhood.

Those were the good old days!

Around the same age I began to pay attention to the vegetables Dad planted in our huge garden, and the beautiful shrubs and flowers Mom tended in our front beds. I remember perusing seed catalogs, in awe of the beautiful flowers and amazing vegetables the catalog promised, if only we purchased their seed. Giant Watermelon! The sweetest corn you ever tasted! Big, juicy tomatoes! Colorful zinnias and dazzling cosmos! I wanted to try them all and dog-eared most pages. And what a great source of education; I memorized the names of flowers and learned about planting zones, planting times and other important tidbits that have remained with me since.

I’m certain many of you can relate to the excitement that a simple seed catalog can generate!

As the new owner of Himmel’s Landscape and Garden Center, I hope that your next visit to the shop will elicit the same sense of wonder and excitement that the seed catalogs inspired in me when I was a child. You will still see your old, gold friends here at Himmel’s – Dotti, Brenda, Tait, and others. Their work and expertise are invaluable, and I’m thrilled they all made this transition with me!

We will continue to stock the highest quality plant material at a great value – favorites you have come to rely on like the annuals in Dotti’s annual greenhouse, gorgeous azaleas at a great price, beautiful crape myrtles for traditional summer color, a dazzling assortment of perennials, and more!

We will work hard to bring you the latest trends in garden décor, and the newest plants featuring bold color, texture, and hardiness so that your garden will showcase the best blooms with the longest growing season.

You can also be sure to expect some surprises – things that have never been offered before at Himmel’s!

Finally – we will uphold our mission – Helping our neighbors build a better, healthier and more beautiful world – by

  •  joining community efforts to improve the health of the Bay and the watershed;
  • demonstrating leadership in the movement to restore pollinators;
  • offering a wider variety of native plants, shrubs and trees, and – quite simply;
  • developing a better relationship with you to learn how we can best meet your landscape and gardening

We can’t wait to get started! So, come visit us at Himmel’s and make some new friends. And remember, whether you are planting a few seeds or growing a forest, what you grow matters.