Preparing your landscaping for winter

It’s hard to believe that summer is behind us and we need to start thinking about the winter. Now is the time to start getting your yard and landscaping ready for the cold months.

A lot of damage can occur during the winter if steps are not taken to prevent the harsh weather from impacting your yard. Make sure that wooden surfaces, like patios and decks, are sealed, painted, or coated. This will prevent snow and ice from damaging the wood. Concrete surfaces should be prepared, too. Make sure that cracks are filled and that the surface is sealed. This will protect the surfaces not just from water damage, but it will be protected from salt and other de-icing materials.

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The Creative Gardener – Gardening Q & A

Since I began writing these columns, I have had amazing feedback, questions, and comments. I thought starting a question and answer segment would be nice way answer multiple questions and inform each reader on the answers.

QUESTION: I’m hoping for some advice as to what to put in my front garden that faces south and gets all the sun there is to get. The garden is in front of my brick porch that can reflect a lot of heat onto anything planted out there. I would like to put in something that will not take a lot of maintenance because we are moving. I might add, the soil there is wonderful. After 15 years of amending the soil, I can grow anything. Any suggestions? I’m going to wait until the fall before I plant anything. Karen T, O’Fallon

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Creative Gardener – Fall mulching is a great idea

Should you mulch plants in the fall? The short answer is: yes! Mulching around plants in autumn has all kinds of benefits. I mulch my gardens to retain moisture, suppress weeds, nourish the soil and prevent extreme soil-temperature fluctuations. In the spring, the first two reasons are most important. In autumn, the last two, especially the bit about temperature changes, are what makes it worth the effort.

All the reasons listed above are in play year round. But the special demands of fall and winter, different than the growing season, guide how we mulch and what we use. Ground doesn’t just freeze solid three months of the year here. It’s in a constant cycle of freeze and thaw, something that particularly stresses even dormant plants.

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Creative Gardener – Ways to keep deer from feasting on your garden

If parts of your garden or plants in your landscape are disappearing overnight, you may have a deer problem without even knowing it. Deer are most likely to feed during the early morning, dusk, and at night, so unless you’re outside, you’re unlikely to catch them in the act.

Your beautiful garden may be the ultimate deer buffet. That’s not to say you need to completely redo your garden, but you may need to take extra precautions to ensure that these plants make it through the year in one piece. A few plants that deer love are: Roses, Hydrangeas, Azaleas, Holly, Daisies, Hostas, Daylilies, Pansies, Yew, Rhododendrons, Tulips and Firs.

While it’s tempting to search out the perfect solution to deter deer, using a combination of methods is your best bet. You might also find that rotating methods is an effective strategy.

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The Creative Gardener – Tips for Fall Shrub Pruning

Last week I discussed how and when to cut back or trim your perennials for the fall. This week I will discuss what to do with your shrubs. The most-asked question I get about pruning shrubs in the fall is “When?” The rule of thumb is to prune immediately after the fall bloom for flowering shrubs, and in late winter or early spring for non-blooming shrubs (particularly for heavy pruning).

But as in all rules of thumb, there are special cases. Damaged or diseased areas should be pruned whenever the problem is noticed. Shrubs prone to ice damage like crape myrtle and butterfly bush might be reduced in late fall or early winter to avoid breakage.

Light thinning or shaping can be done almost any time, including fall, on shrubs that have developed uneven growth since their last shaping. This can be seen on many types of shrub and is the result of vigorous summer growth. These stems look like they’re sticking out of the top of an otherwise nicely shaped shrub, and often the growth habit does not match the rest of the shrub.

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The Creative Gardener – Getting to know the Dwarf Burning Bush

Keeping with the fall theme, The Dwarf Burning Bush is one of the most colorful shrubs out there. A brilliant, fire red illuminates off the shrub, catching everyone’s eye. The best part about this shrub is the colorful display that will last for months! Not only does the shrub have great fall color but in the spring and summer it is covered in a beautiful shade of green. While the color adds great appeal to the Burning Bush, there are many other attractive qualities. This no maintenance, no headache shrub is easy to grow and extremely hardy. The Burning Bush is a fast-growing shrub that will reach 10 ft. in height and a 6 ft width at maturity. You could use the Burning Bush in a variety of ways, making it easy to place in any landscape. Be warned that it is sure to steal attention from all others around it and make your yard the talk of the neighborhood. Learn some tips and tricks to burning bushes

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The Creative Gardener – It’s time for fall mums

It’s hard to believe we are already on the door steps to fall. One of the most popular fall plants that you see popping up in local garden centers now are the fall mums or garden mums. Garden mums are available in a wide range of colors for purchase now and a great way to add late season color to your garden. You may also see the terms hardy mums or chrysanthemums when shopping for mums.

Garden mums are short season plants and begin flower buds in response to the day length, temperature and age of the plant. Different mum varieties will flower at different times in the fall, based on their responses to day length. Early season varieties can be expected to flower in early to mid September, mid season varieties from middle to late September, late season varieties from late September to early October and season extenders from early to mid-October. Most mums are purchased and planted in late August through September.

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The Creative Gardener – Trees to watch for great Fall colors & why Fall is a great time to plant trees

With every passing summer day, we inch a little closer to fall. One of the pleasures of fall is watching the leaves of certain trees turn from the green of spring and summer to the bright colorful leaves of fall. This change is caused by the green chlorophyll pigment breaking down in the cool night weather and with shorter days.

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The Creative Gardener – What are Rain Barrels and should I use them?

Rain barrels have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity. This demand is driven by the rising price of city water sources as well as water restrictions required in drought-stricken areas. Rain barrels allow homeowners to harvest this valuable natural resource for their own use, which in turn extends and conserves city water supplies.

Why are homeowners turning to rain barrels? They are inexpensive to construct, a rain barrel is a rainwater-harvesting system typically made from a 50-85 gallon drum. The rain barrel sits underneath a downspout and collects water that would ordinarily flow into storm sewers and streams. If you wanted to construct your own rain barrel out of a leftover plastic drum or barrel, you would also need to buy vinyl hose, PVC couplings and a screen grate to keep out debris and insects. Pre-made rain barrels are increasingly available at hardware stores, garden centers and online.

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The Creative Gardener – Getting to know Crape Myrtles

With literally hundreds of sizes and colors available, crape myrtles are a terrific, low- maintenance choice for blooms during hot, humid summers. Many varieties are hybrids that maximize the colorful blooms of the common crape myrtle and/or the distinctive bark, cold hardiness, and disease-resistance.

Crape myrtles bloom in midsummer, with common colors including white, lavender, purple, pink, magenta, and red. After blooming, they develop distinctive seed heads, and then the leaves tend to fall toward the end of autumn, leaving the colorful, exfoliating bark for the winter.

Crape Myrtles truly come in every possible size and shape, from knee-high shrubby dwarf plants to towering tree forms(more common in the south), so it is possible to choose a variety that exactly fits your purpose. When choosing crape myrtles for your yard, there are several factors to consider including: height, natural shape, flower color, bark exfoliation, and disease resistance.

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The Creative Gardener – Native plants and their importance

With the growing awareness of the effects of climate change, many gardeners are considering important roles that native plants can play in your home garden and landscapes. But just because a plant has been growing somewhere for as long as anyone can remember doesn’t mean it’s a native plant to your area. In today’s column, I will discuss what native plants are and how to use them.

Native plants are those found in a specific region that began growing there naturally, without being introduced either directly or indirectly by nonnative people or conditions. These regions can be as locally as a specific town, region, or state. The closer to the region they grow naturally, the better they will adapt to the conditions of your lawn or garden.

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The Creative Gardener – Dealing with Japanese Beetles

If you have not noticed by now, the Japanese beetles are back and back with a vengeance. Of course these insects always destroy most gardener’s favorite plants. In this article, I will give you a few tips on how to identify, control, prevent, and safe sprays to use to kill Japanese beetles.

Japanese beetle damage is pretty easy to identify. Usually their damage can be caught in the act. The signs of Japanese beetles include leaves that have been skeletonized or stripped down to their leaf stems or total defoliation of the leaf. Japanese beetles love to eat rosebuds from the inside out. Japanese beetles are roughly 3/8-inches long and ¼-inches wide. They have a shiny, green metallic body and copper colored wing shells.

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The Creative Gardener – Boxwood Blight

Earlier this year, a client asked me to have a look at a boxwood planting at a residence in O’Fallon. He indicated that it was looking poor and dropping some leaves. I have seen boxwood with various problems in the past, so I was already guessing what it could be. I use over 300 boxwoods in my landscaping designs because of their dwarf growth and very hardy growing habits. More often than not, boxwoods that look poor or are yellowing and drop leaves is usually a sign of pet urine. However, upon my arrival, I noticed this was not caused by pet urine, but the dreaded Boxwood blight fungus.

Since then, I have found boxwood blight in other locations here locally. All have been traced to nursery stock that came from a source that was not in Illinois; this is good. The Illinois Department of Agriculture is hopeful that these are isolated incidents that can be contained soon.

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The Creative Gardener – Little Henry Sweetspire

Most gardeners are just too busy to spend all of their time in their gardens or landscapes anymore. I get asked multiple times, whether I am working in my garden center or designing a landscaping for a client, to include dwarf type plants that require little to no maintenance. I will be the first to tell you there is no such plant that requires no maintenance. However, I will tell you about a plant that is pretty close to no maintenance and provides you color multiple times per year.

Little Henry Sweetspire, the exciting dwarf version of Sweetspire, is covered with scented white flowers that shoot off like a sparkler in early summer gardens or landscapes. Its unique compact and low mounding growth habit, reaching a 2 to 3 feet in height, and is hardy in our zone, makes this little shrub perfect for use in mixed perennial gardens or mass landscape plantings.

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The Creative Gardener – Endless Summer Hydrangeas

Are you looking for a re-blooming Hydrangea? Are you looking for a shrub that gives you color throughout the summer when everything else is stagnant? You are in luck! An endless Summer Hydrangea fits the answer for both of these questions. These hydrangea typically bloom from late spring all the way until fall. They come in multiple colors but the most common are blue, pink and white.

Endless Summer Hydrangeas bloom from old and new wood which means if Mother Nature wreaks havoc with spring frosts, they should still bloom. What sets the endless summer series apart are that they re-bloom from spring to fall unlike other hydrangeas that usually bloom only once or twice.

 

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