Hinoki Cypress Wreath with Elkhorn Cedar. Love the little cones on the Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) and the undersides of Elkhorn Cedar (Thujopsis dolobrata) are fabulous!
Mixed Greens Wreath. Dwarf Blue Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Montgomery’), Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus sinica ‘Justin Brouwer’), plus several cultivars of Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa cvs. ‘Confucious’, ‘Crippsi’, and ‘Jade’)
Mixed Greens Wreath with Golden Berried Blue Holly (Ilex meserve ‘Golden Girl’), Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus sinica ‘Justin Brouwer’), Various Hinoki Cypress
Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus sinica ‘Justin Brouwer’) with Blue Holly (Ilex meserve ‘Blue Princess’ ) plus wreath making supplies
After 25 years of planting unusual evergreens on our property, I feel like now our plants have enough growth to afford plenty of interesting options for creating winter wreaths. This year’s crop provided me with lots of interesting material, and while I was taking cuttings I was also pruning at the same time.
I hate making the same composition twice, so each wreath has a character of its own. I’ve used various wreath making forms in the past, but this year I went back to using wire forms which I covered with moistened long fiber sphagnum moss secured with a 22 gauge florist wire.
Here are a few tips:
- You will need a lot of material for even a small form, especially if you want big fat full wreaths. The amount shown in the silver pan was just about enough to create a 16″ wreath.
- If your base is 12″ wide, expect the finish sized to be about 18″ (or more in diameter, depending how far out your branches extend).
- Broadleaf greens such as Boxwood, Holly and Rhododendron desiccate quickly, especially if they are placed in a warm space or in a sunny spot. Using a base that has moistened sphagnum and tucking in the branch tips of the little bunches helps keep them hydrated. Mist or soak your boxwood or holly wreath often. Also, applying an anti desiccant helps prevent the leaves from drying out.
- Holly berries are often tucked along the inner lower branches. Try to position the cuttings so you can see the berries, then trim back as necessary.
- Repetition of your assorted bundles helps you create a balanced circle.
- After you create your wreath, hang it and step back to see where it may need editing. You can always trim back or tuck in more cuttings.
- Weather resistant ribbons add a touch of color to simple wreaths made from one or 2 plants, such as boxwood or holly. I prefer not to use ribbon when I have a lot of interesting leaves and cones to admire.
As much as gardeners quickly express frustration about weather, insect pests, or deer browsing, we really are a thankful lot. We are thankful more often than we acknowledge : for sunshine, rain, snow cover, good bugs, birds, rich earth….Most importantly, I think we are grateful for the plants which grace our gardens.
After yesterday’s much needed torrential rainfall (thankful!), this morning’s view from my window is tranquil except for the activity at the bird feeders. I’m viewing a corner of our garden which is designed with plants that provide winter interest: Hinoki Cypress Chamaecyparis obtusa, Japanese Forest Grass Hakonechloa macro, Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Blue Heaven’ , Hellebores Helleborus ‘Golden Lotus’, a beloved Japanese Maple Acer palmatum ‘Katsura‘, a Wheel Tree Trochodendron aralioides (recently planted, fingers crossed…putting it through the hardiness test) plus the showiest plant right now, Winterberry, Ilex verticillata ‘Berry Heavy’ which like all of the hollies this year is heavy with fruit.
Soon the birds will pick off the winterberry fruit, and this picture will change as it will again and again throughout the year. I am reluctant to see blossoms fade and watch leaves fall, but then I realize I am truly grateful that this picture from my window is always changing. A new day, a new season awaits which will provide new gifts to be thankful for.
We’ve been asked recently if we had ever written a post on wintering over tender plants in cold climates. The answer is yes, we have, but it certainly would be convenient if we posted easy access links to the 3 articles for those who may have missed the postings or for those who want a quick refresher.
We plant up some pretty large non winter hardy succulent containers here at Avant Gardens, and we are always asked ”Do you move that big pot inside for the winter?” Our answer: “No, we just take it apart and repot the plants which we especially want to save.” Yes, space is always an issue, and we have greenhouses.
Most home gardeners do not have a greenhouse, but have a sunroom or a bright indoor space that is south or southwest facing. Non hardy succulents do not need a lot of heat, and will be fine in spaces that stay above 35-40F degrees. This could mean a space in a cool attic, basement or in a garage that stays above freezing. Because available space is often limited, you may want to select the choicest, slower growing specimens (such as a large Echeveria or Aeonium) and not save every small clump of sedum or string of pearls.
Here is a brief photo essay demonstrating the dismantling of a big planter. Be sure to have on hand an array of different sized containers and a sharp draining succulent potting mix to pot up your specimens.
Your planters are probably looking spectacular in September, before nights start dipping into the 30′s.
Last October we were surprised one morning when temperatures dipped below freezing the night before, and realized it was time to bring our plants indoors.
Transfer the lifted plants into a handy wheelbarrow or cart.
You don’t want to use pots that are too big. Remember you probably do not have a lot of room, plus the pots (roots) will stay drier if there is not excess soil.
Do not fertilize during the winter, and water only as needed. The frequency will depend on how warm and sunny a space you have. Check for pests periodically. Mealybug has a way of suddenly appearing on plants indoors. A simple cure is using rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip or piece of cloth and rubbing off the offenders. Rotate the pots so that your plants do not lean in only one direction towards the light.
If at the end of the winter you have rather awkward, leggy plants, do not be afraid to cut them back sharply. The plants will respond with new tighter growth as longer days provide more sunlight. If you want more babies, let the cuttings heel and then stick on a slightly moist propagating tray of sand and perlite. Begin a light fertilizing program in March or April, as when plants and or cuttings show new growth. We recommend an all purpose seaweed/fish emulsion for succulents.
I have always thought that what makes great visual art is when an object or painting compels you to look at it again and again. I feel the same way about plants and gardens, and containers. Of course, plants are constantly changing, so plantings are ephemeral compositions. Perhaps that’s why we want to take in their beauty all the more.
Here are some planted containers that have looked good all summer, and still do in mid September.
We did a posting of some planted containers in early July. A number of these containers sold, and we hear they still look smashing.
As you can see, it’s mostly about foliage. What are your favorite container combinations from this season?
Our Succulent Wreath Workshops on Saturday June 16th were a great success. I promise we’ll do another one before the summer is over, but we need to get more growth on all of our stock plants because of the tremendous number of cuttings needed. In the meantime, for all those who asked, here’s a quick “how to” in case you have a supply of cuttings on hand from your own garden and containers.
First, gather lots of cuttings. Select a variety of sizes and shapes: rosettes from Sempervivum and Echeveria, filler plants such as cuttings from low growing hardy and tender Sedum. Remember that these plants will take root and begin to grow in the sphagnum wreath form, so you don’t want to select from plants that want to reach tall proportions. It seems all succulents mix and match well, but try to select light medium and dark tones so your wreath has dimension and contrast.
Begin by soaking a sphagnum moss wreath (we used a 9″ premade form) in water. Start by using the larger rosette forms if you have them, distributing them equally around the wreath. Use a pencil, bamboo skewer or other pointed utensil to poke a hole for the succulent stems. Remove any lower leaves off the stems if necessary to position your rosette in the hole. Use topiary pins to help secure your cutting in place, but try to make the pins discreet.
Be sure to tuck creepers on the inner and outer sides of the formso that they take root and hide the moss.
Continue to use up your cuttings. It’s really hard to screw up here. If you still see moss when you run out of cuttings, don’t worry, these babies will take root and spread. If the cuttings spread more than you like, snip them back (which you will have to do eventually).
Carefully move your wreath into a sunny warm spot where it can remain undisturbed until the cuttings root. When the sphagnum form feels dry, you can soak the form in a basin or spray with water (in the morning or at the end of the day, so water spots don’t sunburn the leaves) . It will take approximately 4-6 weeks for the cuttings to root in. Do not over water. Wait until the cuttings are rooted before you fertilize. Do not over fertilize. We recommend using a Seaweed/Fish Emulsion. If you hang your wreath, you will want to rotate it occasionally so that the plantlets don’t all start reaching for the sky. You can also periodically lie the wreath flat in a sunny location to prevent “stretching” from occurring. Enjoy!
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It’s about to begin. In a couple of weeks here in southern New England, (late November), we’ll start to notice clouds of dull gray brown moths fluttering about at night, attracted to the glow of porch and street lights. Mating season for the Winter Moth, Operophtera brumata, is about to begin as both male and female moths emerge from their pupae. They will procreate into December, or as long as mild enough temperatures prevail.
In our recent research for the best methods to combat this destructive pest (Winter Moth caterpillars devour new plant growth on many of our most highly desirable ornamental trees and shrubs), we came across great news! University of Massachusetts Entomologist Joe Elkinton and his team have solid evidence that a parasitic fly, Cyzenis albicans, is an impressive natural control for Winter Moth. At four test sites where the parasite has been released throughout southeastern MA (Seekonk, Hingham, Falmouth and Wellesley) populations of winter moth have dramatically decreased. Here is a link to an article.
Isn’t that fantastic to read? However, while we are waiting for this helpful parasitic fly to move into our neighborhoods, we must begin preventive measures. It is necessary to understand the Winter Moth lifescycle to plan and time your defense. The first meaure is to apply sticky tree bands around treasured specimens, which trap the females as they adhere and climb up tree trunks, emitting their sex pheromone to attract the males. After the mating scene has occurred, female moths continue to climb to the top of trees and shrubs and then lay their eggs in the bark and crevices near branches. Adult moths die at this stage.
Other types of botanical controls can be applied over the winter and early spring. In late winter, dormant oil spray can be applied to branches to suffocate the eggs. In early spring, Bacillus thuringiensis a.k.a. BT, a beneficial bacteria, can be used to effectively control the caterpillars as they emerge from their egg sacs and seek nourishment from the young unfurling foliage. Spinosad is another bio insecticide, and is available to homes owner under product labels Monterey Garden Insect Spray and to licensed pesticide applicators as the product Conserve. Care should be taken to avoid applying Spinosad when bees are active.
I’ll confess. I had avoided repotting (for almost a year now) what had become one very sad looking Agave. The older leaves had become brown and ugly, and obnoxious weeds had taken root. The piercing tips and teeth on the leaves looked ferocious, and I didn’t want to give blood. So there it sat, in a neglected corner, a woeful sight indeed.
As we were gathering all the tender plants to bring inside for the winter, it was time to make a choice about whether to save or toss the misbegotten Agave. A decision was made: yes, save it. A plant that has the will to carry on despite such neglect deserves not only respect; it deserves admiration. And as it turned out, grooming and repotting wasn’t a big deal after all. Here’s how we went about it:
The first thing to do is put on some protective gloves. Carefully remove the Agave from its pot, standing over a wheelbarrow or large receptacle to catch the debris. Tilt the plant so you can get at the base of the crown with your clippers and remove the dried up foliage. Next, loosen up the soil around the roots and remove any weeds that may have established, teasing out their roots so they won’t make a comeback.
Use a very well drained soil mix amended with sand and perlite, and if you have access to grit or gravel, add some too. (We don’t add fertilizer, since Agave are very light feeders. Instead, we liquid feed with fish emuslion/seaweed 2 or 3 times a year.) Position the Agave in the center of the pot, and then backfill. The repotting is accomplished, and we can now place the Agave in a spot where it merits attention.
We’ve been asked recently if we had ever written a post on wintering over tender plants in cold climates. The answer is yes, we have, in the fall of 2010, but it certainly would be convenient if we posted easy access links to the 3 articles for those who may have missed the postings or for those who want a quick refesher.
It’s the third week in May, and the Wisteria floribunda “Blue Eyes’ that covers our pergola has begun to drip with fragrant blossoms. It’s certainly a sight, and elicits ooh’s and ahh’s from nursery visitors. Conversation immediately turns to pruning advice, and the question we hear over and over again, “Why hasn’t my Wisteria ever bloomed?”
We’ll cover extensive pruning Wisteria advice in a later blog posting, but let me address the flowering question. Wisterias often take several years to bloom after transplanting as it is concentrating on establishing a firm root system, but there are other points to consider. First, plants should receive a good 6 hours or more of sunlight. Also, do not fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Wisterias are in the legume family, and fix their own nitrogen from soil. Select a fertilizer with a high phosphorus # (the middle number) such as 5-10-10, 5-10-5, or Espoma’s FlowerTone which is a 3-4-5.
It is advisable to select named clones which have been propagated from productive flowering stock. Wisterias grown from seed are quite variable in their blossom production, and some have been known to never produce a bud. Another thing to consider is that Wisteria sets buds on old wood, and should be pruned in late spring after flowering (or when it should have flowered) to about 6″ from main branches. One other trick is root pruning in early spring. Using a sharp a spade, dig in about a 2′ radius from the base of the vine. This will sever the roots and may shock the plants into flowering.