Fine Gardeners Blog

Spring Bulbs

Paul Marini - Monday, April 29, 2019
Fine Gardeners, Brookline, Newton, Needham, MA

Where are my tulips!? A question many gardeners ask themselves every year, and although many different species are readily available, they all have one thing in common: a frustrated gardener.

Tulips are sensitive to many variables, such as changes to weather patterns, soil health, hungry deer, location and competition with nearby plants for necessary nutrients. Although some species may be “more likely” to bloom in future years, the strength of the bulb tends to deteriorate after the first year due to the bulb breaking down in attempt to reproduce. In this case the broken down bulb cannot store as much energy as necessary for growing a nice strong bloom the following year. It is also important to keep in mind that greenhouse bulbs are grown in “perfect” conditions which do not come close to mimicking “actual” conditions.

The fix? There are many other Spring bulbs available which are not only deer resistant, but will also multiply year after year, thus yielding a much greater return on investment when it comes to time, money and ultimately, enjoyment! For a consistent display of blooms, layering and mixing various bulbs can be a fun experiment, but not when they must be disturbed during the removal of those soon to be lackluster tulip bulbs.

Set yourself up for success! Tired of the excitement and letdown of seeing leaves come up with no blooms after spending hours planting bulbs? Baffled that the only tulip blooms are from bulbs buried in the woods by squirrels? There are always daffodils and crocuses, but why not try one of these fun options instead:

Chionodoxa

Beautiful, star-like flowers in blue, white, pink and lavender. An eye catcher in multiples.

Grape Hyacinth

A perfect mini purple/blue “bunch of grapes” with somewhat drooping leaves.

Fritillaria

Larger, bell-shaped flowers with a checkered pattern and various color options make these often overlooked bulbs intriguing to the eye.

Scilla

Petite, slightly drooping blue/purple flowers - a classic and reliable bloomer for years to come.

Allium

Taller than the average Spring flower, these large, globe like bright purple puffs really stand out.

Snowdrops

One of the first flowers to bloom in Spring. Very sweet, bright white, downward facing blooms.

Anemone

Many varieties in various colors that are lower growing and will make your garden pop with character.

For more information on spring gardening, contact Paul at Fine Gardeners.

Black Knot

Paul Marini - Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Fine Gardeners, Brookline, Newton, Needham, MA

If you have plum or cherry trees, beware of this unsightly growth!

Be on the lookout for hideous growths that could be infesting your precious plum or cherry tree and can also infect apricots and peaches. Now is the time to scout for Black Knot which is caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa. Say that backwards three times and ye will turn into a newt! The obvious hard black elongated swellings (knots) vary in length from 1 to 6 inches or more and can form anywhere along the branches. Knots can be scattered throughout the tree with numbers increasing each year if left untreated.

The spores of this fungus are spread to other branches and susceptible trees by wind and rain during warm spring weather. The disease can limit the production of fruit trees or ruin the esthetic value of ornamentals. Twig dieback is common and when the infestation becomes severe it can be fatal. It takes several years for symptoms of this disease to become obvious.

The best approach to control Black Knot is to prune and destroy all knotted branches during the dormant season before April 1st in the Northeast. Prune at least 6” below the knot into the healthy wood to remove all fungal material. Remove diseased branches from your property or you may burn them. Also, it’s best to remove any infected wild cherry or plum trees surrounding your property as they will infect the plum and cherry trees in your landscape. After pruning out the diseased material, it is often advisable to follow-up with several fungicide treatments.

If the infestation is severe, it is usually best to remove the tree. Since this is a very serious disease, it’s best to consult with a certified arborist to confirm the diagnosis and to prune the knots from the tree. In most cases, this is not a job for the homeowner. Removal must be thorough and needs to be done carefully to prevent contamination to healthy branches.

Contact Fine Gardeners for a consultation or a local certified arborist in your area.

Happy Holidays from Fine Gardeners

Paul Marini - Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Happy Holidays from Fine Gardeners

Our warmest Holiday wishes from the entire team here at Fine Gardeners. Calendar year 2018 was, and continues to be, a truly remarkable year and we take this moment to recognize the joy that each and every one of you has brought to our personal and professional lives. We exist because of your faith and trust in us.

As calendar year 2019 approaches, we reflect upon the foundational recognition that "your success is our success". Our New Year’s wish for 2019 is to nurture our positive and ever strengthening partnership and to deliver ever increasing value to you, your business, and your family through the entirety of 2019.

Throughout this Holiday season may you be blessed with health and surrounded by friends and family. All the best! Cheers!

Garden Center Impulse Buying, Resist The Temptation, Part II

Paul Marini - Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Fine Gardeners, Brookline, Newton, Needham, MA

For many of us, visiting the garden center in the Spring can be worse than a kid in a candy shop. The selection and choices are overwhelming. So shouldn’t it be an easy task to fill up your car with beautiful plants that are all flowering and plop them in your yard? It’s easy to purchase them, but is this the right approach?

The antithesis to impulse buying is designing a garden area before you go shopping or at least have a list of plants that are well-thought out as part of a plan. With this approach, you won’t be tempted to buy everything that is being marketed to you. The most common mistake most novice gardeners make is to do all the plant shopping in the Spring. They usually end up buying plants that are flowering without knowing how long they will bloom or what the plants will look like after they are through flowering. This will result in a garden that is full of color, perhaps too much color, in the Spring and not much going on the rest of the year.

It’s best to either consult with a designer or have a sketch and a list prepared by a designer before you go shopping. Your designer can choose a combination of plants that will provide color throughout the season and will complement each other while staying within specific color schemes. Of course, there will be an initial cost for this service, but it is a worthwhile investment. You will enjoy your garden while avoiding years of expensive mistakes and frustration.

Here is a short list of things to consider before you go shopping:

  • Prepare a plant list.
  • Stay within a specific color scheme.
  • Give your plants the appropriate space they need. It’s best to plant most perennials in groups of 3 or 5 or more.
  • If you have rabbits or deer, choose plants that are less appealing to them.
  • Consider what the plant will look like after it has flowered. Is the foliage attractive? Is the form pleasing? Does it go dormant during the summer? Is it invasive?
  • Do some research to find the best varieties for the type of plant you are looking for. For example, if you are looking for Penstemon, common name Beard Tongue, ‘Dark Towers’ is one of the best varieties available. Check it out and you will see what I mean.
  • Choose plants to provide color and interest throughout the year.
  • Consult a garden designer who can help you with this list. Experience and plant knowledge guides the designer to choose the best varieties for your garden.

Happy Shopping!

Garden Center Impulse Buying, Resist The Temptation

Paul Marini - Monday, October 22, 2018
Fine Gardeners, Brookline, Newton, Needham, MA

Have you ever gone to a garden center with a specific plant in mind that would look perfect in your garden only to come home with a bunch of pretty plants that were not on your list? To quote Andy Rooney, “Well, I have!” It’s important to know that garden centers are no different than any other retail store in that they market to the vulnerable shopper who cannot possibly pass by that pretty flowering plant which is at the peak of the season. This type of eye candy is usually displayed prominently at the entrance to the retail area or near the cash register where it will definitely be noticed and hopefully purchased.

The problem with buying these little gems is that they don’t always have a very long shelf life, or they may be annuals mistaken for perennials. A perfect example of this is a beautiful ornamental grass named Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’, common name Purple Fountain Grass. This is an annual grass which will not hold up to a frost in the Northeast. If I only had a dollar for every client I had to disappoint by telling them they purchased an annual grass and not a perennial. Beware of this plant for it is likely on display at a garden center near you this Fall. Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ is a great plant to purchase in late Spring/Early Summer where you can enjoy it all season, but if you purchase it now, it may only last a few weeks.

The same is true for many other annuals sold in the summer where the consumer hopes the plants will come back the following year only to be disappointed when they don’t reappear the next season. Always read the labels carefully and don’t be afraid to ask a salesperson at the garden center. The Spring season is the most popular time of year for impulse buying. Look for our next blog where we will discuss Spring impulse buying.

For more information on fall gardening, contact Paul at Fine Gardeners.

Fall Container Gardens: Creating Season Containers

Paul Marini - Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fine Gardeners, Brookline, Newton, Needham, MAContainer gardens offer four seasons of pleasure, fun and creativity. Fall is here and the holidays are fast approaching. Make use of this opportunity to be creative and plan on changing out the plants in your containers. Gorgeous containers bursting with colorful arrangements are a focal point and should always look their best.

The amount of time and money you want to spend on your containers will determine how many times each year you want to change the plantings or add additional plants. It may mean completely changing some pots with each season or just changing a few plants in each pot.

Fall

Fall color schemes revolve around oranges, deep golds and rich reds. Mums are the classic standby, but calendulas, pansies, ornamental kales, diascias, snapdragons and edibles such as beets and Swiss chard make great fall containers.

Winter

In winter, seasonal container gardens can be filled with boughs of evergreens. Some foliage plants, such as springerii, can be left to dry in the containers making a decorative display all winter. Hardy trailing plants including vinca and ivy can remain in the container all winter. Woody plants offer interesting textures in winter and broadleaf evergreens such as holly, daphnes, boxwood, ivy topiaries and small conifers offer interest all winter. Arrangements of red twig dogwood and evergreen branches make a delightful seasonal display in urns near entrances.

Containers with Foliage Plants

Foliage plants and woody plants will work best for containers and planters used as screens and space dividers.

For more information on seasonal containers for your home or business, contact Paul at Fine Gardeners.

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Pruning Hydrangea Arborescens

Paul Marini - Thursday, August 09, 2018
Fine Gardeners - Pruning Hydrangea Arborescens
Fine Gardeners - Pruning Hydrangea Arborescens

Fine Gardeners - Pruning Hydrangea Arborescens
Fine Gardeners - Pruning Hydrangea Arborescens

Photo 1 is hydrangea arborescens before pruning which has become floppy and spread beyond its intended range. Many of the outer canes are bending and need to be removed. Photo 2 shows the same hydrangea after drastic reduction in height as well as diameter of the clump and thinning for appropriate spacing of canes. Many new basal shoots will emerge this season.

Photo 3 is a closeup shot from the other side before pruning. Notice the density of growth and the bent canes. Photo 4 is the same plant after pruning. The remaining canes are strong and straight. It should be noted that hydrangea arborescens will develop flower buds on this season's growth, so they can be pruned back as low as 6" and they will flower beautifully the same season. Some people cut them all the way to the ground, but I believe it's best to keep them at least 6" high for stronger cane development. Hydrangea macrophylla, comprised mainly of lacecap and mophead forms, cannot be pruned in this manner because they develop their flower buds on last year's growth.

For more information on pruning hydrangea arborescens, contact Paul Marini at Fine Gardeners.

Pruning and Trimming Flowering Crabapple Trees - C

Paul Marini - Monday, July 23, 2018


The client wanted this Flowering Crabapple Tree reduced, but it also needed thinning, dead wood removal and corrective pruning of rubbing and crossing branches. Photos 1 and 2 show the reduction and thinning that was executed. Photos 3 and 4 are close up shots of the inner branching. Note how congested the branching is in photo 3 where one can barely see through tree. Photo 4 shows the same close up after pruning. Several large branches were removed and many smaller, poorly positioned branches were removed to allow better air circulation and light penetration. Pruning a neglected tree like this is always a bit like solving a puzzle, but the end result is usually very satisfying.

For more information on flowering crabapple tree, contact Paul Marini at Fine Gardeners.

Boxwood Topiary Trees: Title - Creating Boxwood Topiaries for Better Curb Appeal

Paul Marini - Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Fine Gardeners - Boxwood Topiaries
Fine Gardeners - Boxwood Topiaries

Fine Gardeners - Boxwood Topiaries
Fine Gardeners - Boxwood Topiaries

Boxwoods are the most commonly used shrubs for topiaries because of their fine texture and ability to tolerate shearing to any form imaginable. We typically shear them twice per year to maintain their form, tweaking them a little with each trimming.

For more information on boxwood topiaries, contact Paul Marini at Fine Gardeners.

Fixing Damaged Rhododendrons

Paul Marini - Thursday, June 28, 2018


These rhododendrons were badly damaged during a construction project where the carpenters crudely tied the branches of the shrubs tightly resulting in many cracked and broken branches. Nearly fifty percent of the plant material had to be removed. In photos 1 and 3, we had finished pruning them and drove a few stakes in the ground to tie back certain branches to train them in order to expediate the recovery. We prune the shrubs at this property once per year by reducing, thinning and doing corrective pruning in order to encourage new growth and flower buds.

For more information on pruning rhododendrons, contact Paul Marini at Fine Gardeners.


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