Monday, July 25, 2016

Coral Bells do great in the shade!

With their colorful foliage, Coral Bells (Heucheras) , will make a statement in your garden, all season long. These perennials feature a wide array of foliage color, texture and shape.
Grown mainly for their colorful foliage, heucheras do bloom. Their  dainty bell-shaped, little flowers extend high above the foliage, nodding in the wind. The flowers are what gives this native plant its common name, Coral Bells.  You'll find Heuchera and Heucherella grouped together on the same display tables. That's because they are virtually the same plant in characteristics and behavior. Heucherella is a cross between Heuchera (Coral Bells) and Tiaella (Foam Flowers) and are commonly called Foamy Bells. Easy to grow, Heucheras and Heucherellas are one of the best ground cover plants for your shady perennial garden. Heucheras and Heucherellas are both rated hardy for Zones 4 through 9 (here on the plains, we are typically rated Zone 5). Coral Bells grow naturally in wooded areas, so you'll want to plant them in a spot where they are shaded from the sun.
They do best in well-amended soils, so plan to incorporate organic material into the planting site soil. 
Once the site is prepared, add some Root Stimulator, before planting. There are many hybrids and cultivars to choose from. Some examples of these are:

Heuchera 'Citronelle'

Heuchera 'Fire Alarm'

Heuchera 'Marvelous Marble'

Heuchera 'Rave On'

Heucherella 'Solar Eclipse'

Heucherella 'Sweet Tea'

Once established, Coral Bells and Foam Flowers require little maintenance and will brighten up the shady spots in your garden for many seasons to come.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hardy Hibiscus

This is the time of the growing season that one of the most spectacular flowering shrubs begins to bloom. Hibiscus x moscheutos or hardy Hibiscus are tough, resilient garden shrubs that  can take our winters and come back strong. Sometimes called rose mallow, these hibiscus were developed  from native plants and are now hardy down to Zone 4. Hardy hibiscus are fairly easy to grow. They like their place in the sun, so select a site in the garden where they'll get as much sun as possible. They can be grown in partial shade, such as an East-facing location, but the flower production may not be as great.
Once established, hardy hibiscus can easy grow 6' high and 6' across so keep this in mind when you're choosing a planting spot. There are dwarf varieties of hardy hibiscus that only get about 3' tall and 3' wide, if you don't have room for a full size shrub.
Hardy hibiscus like well drained soils, so prepare the planting site by adding compost or peat moss to your existing soil at the rate of about 50:50.
Add some Root Stimulator to the planting hole to ensure good root production. Planted now, you should get flowers yet this season Hardy hibiscus flowers only last a day, but the flower production will go on all season, right up to first frost. In our area, the canes will die back after the first hard frost. When they do die back, cut the canes to the ground. Water the root ball occasionally during the winter. Hardy hibiscus are among the last plants to emerge in the spring, so give them plenty of time. To often, people think the shrub died over the winter when in fact it's still alive, just dormant and slow to emerge. Some of the spectacular color choices in hardy hibiscus shrubs include:
'Copper Queen', 
'Mocha Moon',
'Pink Clouds'. Planting hardy hibiscus will add unique color to your garden landscape for many seasons to come.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Plant Perennials Now

Summer is great time to plant perennials. Whether it's filling in an empty spot in the garden, moving a plant from one location to another or maybe you just moved into a new home and want to get your landscape started, or you've got the week off and want to work in the garden. The simple answer is yes, you can plant perennials this time of year.  Your plants will survive and thrive if you keep these things in mind. Do your actual planting during the coolest part of the day. Early morning is usually best, though late afternoon into early evening will work, if it's cloudy. Do the hard work in advance. Get the planting spot ready by digging the hole as deep and twice as wide as the container your plant is in.
Improve the planting site by adding  organic material such as Sheep, Peat and Compost, peat moss, compost or coconut coir  to the hole and to the dirt you just dug out. Mix the organic material 50:50 with the existing soil or roughly half. This is called "amending the soil" and  products such as compost, peat moss, coconut coir, aged manures are called "soil amendments". Adding amendments will make our typical clay soils more useable to the plant. Amendments allow the clay soil to drain better and frees up nutrients in the soil. Once the hole is dug and amended, fill it with water and let the water drain. Do this twice, before you plant. This will ensure the soil around the plant's root ball is wet. If you want to add some Root Stimulator, now is the time to do so. Water your plants thoroughly before planting or transplanting them.
Now that the ground is ready take your plant out of its container and take a look at the root ball. If it is really tight, break it up a little before you plant it. Place the plant in the center of the hole and fill in the hole with the amended soil. If you're transplanting an existing plant, dig as large a root ball as possible.
Use a garden fork (digging fork), not a shovel to dig the old plant up. The digging fork is less likely to damage the plant's roots. Use burlap or an old nursery pot to transport the plant to its new location. Once you're done planting or transplanting and you've filled in the hole, water thoroughly. Heat and drying winds will be the biggest challenge to anything you plant or transplant now.  Check your plants in the morning and evening to make sure they're well hydrated.
A moisture meter is a handy tool to have at this point. You can easily check the moisture level at different depths and add water accordingly.
Another trick is to set up some temporary shade in the form of cloth Seed Guard or burlap to shade the plant while it gets established.  Good soil preparation and keeping an eye on the watering will ensure your new summer plantings will take off quickly.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Is Dog Tuff™ grass right for your lawn?

African dogtooth grass was discovered by Denver Botanic Gardens’ Panayoti Kelaidis in the early 1980's. In the late '80's, Colorado horticulturalist Kelly Grummons recognized the grass might have a use in Colorado lawns and through his extensive testing, developed Dog Tuff™.
The resulting grass, Dog Tuff™ was recognized in 2015 by the trade group Direct Gardening Association and in 2016 by Plant Select. Dog Tuff™ is a warm weather grass, so the time to plant it is now as opposed to Kentucky Blue grass and Perennial Rye, which are cool weather grasses and are planted in the spring and fall. Dog Tuff™ doesn't produce seeds.
It is grown from cuttings or clones. Dog Tuff™ is typically low-growing, so it doesn't need to be mowed. This grass is more drought tolerant than buffalo grass, so it takes less water. It doesn't need to be fertilized and it does okay in our clay soils. If you decide to plant Dog Tuff™ you'll need to get rid of your existing lawn. You can do this by covering the area with a dark tarp and letting the sun kill it off (solarizing),by applying 20% acetic acid (horticultural vinegar) or citric-based Avenger™.  Plan to water the area thoroughly before planting.
You'll buy Dog Tuff™ in plugs, such as these. Plugs are typically planted 12" apart at the same depth as they came out of the container. Once established, you can apply corn gluten to prevent weeds from coming up between the plugs. Corn gluten also releases a small amount of Nitrogen into the soil as it breaks down. Some things to consider before planting Dog Tuff™. This is warm weather grass, which means it won't green up before May and it will go dormant and turn brown with the first frost in fall. The other thing to be concerned about is  Dog Tuff™ can be very aggressive, spreading it's roots into gardens and neighboring lawns. At the very least, you should plan a 3' to 4' open space between the Dog Tuff™ and other areas where you may not want grass.
In the end, Dog Tuff™ may be best used in a small, well-controlled space such as a dog run, rather than an entire lawn.