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Gardening Blog

We Have Some New Faces

By | What You Grow Matters | No Comments

Visitors to Himmel’s Landscape and Garden Center this spring will notice some fresh new faces in the lot and behind the register! Our Mission is ‘Helping our neighbors build a better, healthier and more beautiful world’. We believe that training young people in the field of horticulture is a great way to bring that mission to fruition, and so we have hired 5 high school students to help out.

These students will learn about composting, how to start vegetables and herbs from seed, and how to nurture vegetables and fruits to harvest in our demonstration raised bed gardens. They will learn which plants are best suited for sun to shade, the differences between evergreen and deciduous and annual and perennial, and other important tips for helping customers make the best selections for their yard. If interested and motivated, they will have the opportunity to help out on landscape and hardscape installations and participate in special trainings and seminars to build their knowledge and skill set.

Specific training on the importance of native plants and instruction on building pollinator-friendly and Bay-friendly gardens will help our new employees understand the positive impact that gardening can have on our environment. It will also help us achieve our vision which is ‘promoting the value of life by building a stronger sense of community, encouraging young people to connect with nature, educating our neighbors on the beauty and significance of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, selling more native plants and trees, and demonstrating commitment to making the world a better, healthier and more beautiful place’.

Most importantly, they will learn the skills to be successful in the workplace and contribute to society in a meaningful way. During each interview I asked these students what they are looking for in a leader. They all responded in a similar way. They want managers / authority figures who will treat them with kindness and provide them with the guidance they need to be successful and do an excellent job. I am so excited that Himmel’s leadership has the opportunity to mentor young people in our community. I look forward to seeing you at the shop this season – and let me know what you think of our new team members!

What does spring look like to you?

By | What You Grow Matters | No Comments

What does spring look like to you? Is it the sight of the first robin with its perky red breast and lively antics? The hint of warmth in the air and the sight of new buds on trees? Perhaps it’s the smell of the soil warming; a rich and earthy scent that delights the gardener in all of us. When I was a girl, there was a tiny patch of crocus near our driveway. When I saw those little purple and lemony-yellow gems peeking out to greet the sunshine, sometimes from a cover of snow, I knew that spring was approaching. I loved to observe them closely to see the rich pollen on their stamens and trace the delicate veins of color in their gossamer petals. Although the blooms were fleeting they awoke a sense of excitement in my heart.

Now – spring means truckloads of plants arriving daily, and the anticipation of new vegetable and herb varieties, unique new shrubs and trees, a mix of old-fashioned and exotic annuals and perennials, and beautiful statuary and pottery. It means greeting my neighbors who, like myself, have spring fever and are itching to get their hands dirty.

What projects do you have in mind for 2019? Are you a first-time gardener looking for advice? Perhaps you are thinking about starting vegetables from seed?  Do you have a plan to revise your landscape and maybe install a new patio? Whatever it is – Himmel’s has the cure for your spring fever, and the expertise to guide you.

We were busy over the winter making a few changes to the lot, learning new tips and tricks, and hiring new employees, all within the framework of our mission to help our neighbors build a better, healthier and more beautiful world. We welcome you to visit us this spring and find out more. See you soon!

Winter Gardening Tips and Enhancements

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The winter landscape provides beautiful color in warm and cool tones, fascinating texture, and architectural interest. You can enhance the aesthetics of your winter garden with a clean-up. Prune away dead or unsightly branches, rake any remaining fall leaves away, and install a light mulch cover to retain moisture, prevent weeds, and insulate soil around tender perennials and evergreens. Save those clippings for a winter arrangement! Use pine boughs, holly branches laden with berries, interesting bare branches and other clippings in summer’s leftover hanging baskets or artfully arranged in a festive vase.

Enhance with lights. The bare branches of deciduous shrubs and trees will glow beautifully with the addition of fairy lights, seasonal-themed string lights or other decorative lighting. Swathes of golden and bronze-toned ornamental grasses, with their beautiful plumes and seed heads that provide winter food and cover for songbirds, look outstanding lit from below. Try solar LED landscape lights, or low voltage selections like well or bullet landscape lights. Evergreen foundation or statement plants will look beautiful enhanced by net or string lighting. Solar lanterns are very popular and come in a wide variety to suit your unique taste and space.

Planters make a wonderful statement year-round but can really enhance the winter landscape. You can find interesting planters at antique and consignment shops, online, or at your local garden center. Make sure containers have good drainage so plants don’t drown in soggy soil. Go bold! Arrange a series of planters on your patio filled with evergreen shrubs, tiny arborvitaes, small trees, and perennials. Shrub and tree selections include camellia, Gold Cone juniper, Fairy Lights arborvitae, Sky Pencil holly, Gulfstream nandina, and Don Egolf redbud. Ornamental grasses and perennials like heuchera and verbena work well too. A pair of festively lit holly or dwarf Alberta spruce planters at your door will welcome guests with the holiday spirit.

Add some unique outdoor décor! Garden décor trends include whimsical figurines in all shapes and sizes, decorative stones and cairns, and bold statuary. Water features, fountains, and benches are other great choices.  And don’t forget the birds! By using a selection of native trees, shrubs and perennials you can transform your yard into a bird habitat and enjoy sightings year-round! Keep birds coming all winter long by providing fresh water and seed or suet.

Finally, use the gift of winter’s peace, quiet and dormancy to plan for the garden of your dreams! Peruse seed catalogs and read up on the newest perennial and shrub selections coming to your local garden center in 2019! See you soon!

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
    needs

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.

New Weekly Email Series | Chesapeake Gardens

By | Chesapeake Gardens | No Comments

I’d like to welcome you to Chesapeake Garden, a weekly blog about plants, gardening and the world around us. I am hoping you will find my ramblings to be informative, interesting and maybe a little irreverent. I have been a plant lover my whole life. From growing vegetables with my family, to taking trips to The National Arboretum, to learning all I could about edible and poisonous native plants – my life has revolved around plants. More than thirty years of my life have been spent as a professional Horticulturist and I just don’t know where the time went. It’s like I just wandered off the well-marked path to look at some interesting trees (something I’m known to do) for a few minutes and here I am decades later, still learning all I can about the plants around us (and still wandering off the path into the woods as often as I can). Well – enough of that! Let’s get this party started.

It is currently mid-summer here in Anne Arundel County, that means both the weather and the crabs are hot and steamy. Most days just breathing causes you to sweat and the relief from the thunderstorms only lasts until the sun comes out and turns the rain into a steam bath. We have had a strange year so far weather-wise. A long, deep cold period in late winter delayed many of our spring plants and damaged many others. If you are wondering why so many of the Crape Myrtles look half dead this year, late winter cold weather is to blame. Our late spring was very wet with some areas experiencing rain of historic proportions (Ellicott City may never be the same). And then just to show that the weather in this area is completely perverse the rain stopped, and the temperature soared, baking the ground as hard as pavement and stressing our plants severely. Now the tap is turned back on and it looks like it may rain for a week straight. To quote Rafiki from the Lion King “the weather, very peculiar”. Peculiar indeed. As a person who spends a good portion of my life outdoors I will tell you that this “very peculiar” weather is to be expected in a region that experiences four true seasons. I am often reminded of the old saw “If you don’t like the weather in Maryland, just wait five minutes”.

So how do you help your beloved weather stressed plants in this bizarre weather? In a word, water. I know you know that already, but here is the secret gleaned from many years of experience; you are probably watering your plants wrong. I don’t mean this as an accusation I am only trying to help. Just answer this one question. Do you have a spray nozzle or anything that requires you to squeeze a handle at the end of your hose? If so, then you are certainly watering your plants wrong. Just look around at the Garden Center, you will notice that all our hoses have a “water breaker” on the end. These “water breakers” are designed to deliver the full volume of water from the hose at very low pressure (for those of you who are already using a “water breaker” you may skip to the last paragraph). By comparison most “sprayers” (yes even the ones that have several settings including “shower”) are designed to provide low volume but high-pressure water, just the opposite of what you want. In fact, most “water breakers” provide ten times the volume of other types of nozzles in the same amount of time. This means that while I am watering my plants at a rate of five gallons per minute, you may be only providing half a gallon to yours all the while wondering why you are spending so much time watering without the plants looking any better. When it is hot and dry, newly planted and any plants showing signs of stress (wilting, dropping leaves) need five gallons of water per week, preferably in two waterings, three or four days apart. Trees and larger shrubs may need several times this amount. This means if you use your nozzle to water ten newly planted shrubs you may have to spend an hour watering twice a week. Who has that kind of time? Just get a water breaker and spend one minute per shrub and you will be good.

Next week I promise to talk about plants. I will feature one of our great native perennials -Hibiscus moscheutos. Talk to you next week and in the meantime try to keep cool and dry.

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