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My puffy bears

There is nothing else more beautiful than May in North Europe, when warm and wet weather finally arrives and all the plants sprout just in one night.  Mother nature press a magic button, and all the greenery starts to change it`s garment into the eyes. It`s the time when I always keep something in my hands – or my hoe (weeds are also growing in a cosmic speed), or my photo camera, because after a hour or two some of delightful moments may already be gone.

I hope i won`t upset perennial plant lovers, but more than flowers in May i like conifers, growing their new shoots  and replacing an “old fur”. All the conifers, even the simplest tree in the woods,  dress much brighter and softer  in spring. I love this time, when hedgehogs transform into wonderful puffy bears!

Please check some shots of my conifers. Click on a pic to make it bigger.

Sitkin? egl? Papoose Tenais Baltoji egl? Blue Planet Tikroji metasekvoja Goldrush Dygioji egl? Waldbrunn
Dygioji egl? Glauca Pendula Europinis kukmedis Repens Aurea Paprastoji egl? Nidiformis Pilkasis k?nis Compacta
Subalpinis k?nis Compacta Menturinis sk?tk?nis Paprastoji egl? Pumila Kalnin? pušis

© Giedra Bartas, 2015

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Pine candling

Cool and rainy weather chased me inside.So I decided to take up this opportunity to remind you of a very important task before it is too late. About this time of a year, most pines would have already produced long new shoots, often referred to as candles, which are smooth and soft. This is a perfect time for candling pines – pruning them to retain their compact form.

There are certain rules to pruning pines. If your purpose is to make a pine thicker, make sure you do not cut into old wood or remove any mature branches produced last year or earlier. This would only produce holes in the crown. Pines do not have any dormant buds, therefore no new branches will be produced in this place and the plant will not get any thicker. Perhaps in due time neighbouring branches will disguise the hole, however, the general outline of the plant will be ruined for good. Older branches can only be removed when sick, dry or disfigured. Candling is applied only to young pine shoots.

Miniature or half miniature pines normally require no pruning. They are compact and slow growing by nature, so it doesn‘t make much sense to prune them (and often there is nothing to prune). Other pines, especially mountain pines, of which there are so many cultivars, are fair play, especially if they are planted in a wrong spot or are too large to be replanted. My alpine bed is a perfect example of a perfect plant in a wrong spot, when a few years ago I planted a few species mountain pines hoping for a faster result.

So, back to candling. At the end of branches pines produce several (sometimes one) new shoots. Depending on the eventual desired size of pine, the shoots can be shortened by a third or a half. If you want the branch to grow sideways rather than lengthways, remove the dominant (central) shoot altogether, and shorten the secondary ones by a third or a half. If, however, you wish for the pine to produce a long straight branch, leave the dominant shoot and remove the secondary ones. I personally shorten all candles in the same manner – just snap them in half. This way the pines retain their rounded and pleasing form, growing thick and compact. You will not need any secators for the job, your fingers will suffice.

New shoots

Candle shortening

The job is done

Dominant central shoot

© Mygarden.lt, 2015

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A knee-high birch

Silver birch (Betula pendula) `Trost`s Dwarf` attains 1,5 m height and similar width only when fully mature, within several years from planting. Its growth rate is exceptionally slow. It eventually forms a shrub or a  multistemmed tree. Tiny leaves are deeply incised and remind of the foliage of Japanese acers (A. palmatum dissectum), while its thin and elegant branches arch gracefully downwards. Viewing from afar, the foliage looks rather lacelike. It is very suitable for planting in Japanese style gardens as replacement for Japanese acers because of its similar appearance and complete resistance to sun or cold. It is also well suited to growing in rockeries, provided soil is sufficiently fertile and water-retentive. It looks best when planted among stones (granite), or paired with ornamental grasses at the edge of a small waterfall or a stream. Do not plant it in the vicinity of vigorous shrubs or large scale perennials where it would soon be overwhelmed.

In autumn its foliage turns yellow. `Trost‘s Dwarf` does not require any pruning, however, if you must do this, prune it in summer, after the leaves have [banner] fully developed. When pruned in spring, the tree bleeds profusely, which might weaken the plant or kill it altogether. It is best grown in moist fertile soil, in sunhine or semi-shade.

© Mygarden.lt, 2015

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Threads instead of leaves

Alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is a rather undistinguished small tree or shrub. It is very common in our woods and fields, and normally one would not even consider planting it in the garden.  However, its ornamental form `Asplenifolia` is fit even for the most discerning gardener. It is an airy, compact shrub, 2m tall and 1,5-2 m [banner] wide shaped like a upright umbrella. Its leaves are very deeply incised, thin and irregularly threadlike. Its general appearance reminds more of a large papyrus sedge than of a buckthorn.

It is not particular about growth conditions, however, it grows best in sun or semi-shade, in fertile and moisture retentive soil. It is completely hardy, and does not require any winter cover. Its growth rate is slow and it does not need any pruning.

The crown is wider at the top, so this buckthorn cultivar can be grown together with other compact shrubs or herbaceous perennials, which would not overwhelm the plant, while at the same time providing with some ground cover. It looks very distinguished when paired with ornamental grasses and bulbs.

© Mygarden.lt, 2015

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Fragrant tots

During last few years the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) has become very popular in Lithuania. Although they are not fully hardy here, and in cold and severe winters sometimes die, large fragrant inflorescences and profuse flowering compensate for all shortcomings. Butterfly bushes flower in waves, from July to late autumn, and their flower heads smell strongly of honey and are a true butterfly magnet. Unfortunately, in dry weather the flowering is over soon, so the spent, unsightly flowerheads should be removed promtly. The plant itself soon looses attractive shape, and therefore needs constant pruning and shaping. The best way to go about this is to remove all growth in autumn, leaving a small stump close to ground level and draw the soil around it. As a rule of thumb, all butterfly bushes left unpruned and unprotected for winter die down to snow level (or to soil level). A plant, coppiced to the ground level, will produce shoots and flowers a little later than usual, however, the leaves will be lusher, while the inflorescences will grow larger and more intense in color. It grows 1,5 to 2 m tall. Unpruned and unshaped butterfly bushes grow taller, more airy, and inflorescences are smaller. It is best not to use these plants in a mixed border, since for the majority of the year there will be an unsightly hole in the planting, and they also are not a good choice for flowerbeds due to their size.

[banner]However, the brand new cultivar ‚Blue Chip‘ is perfect for planting in mixed borders. It is a compact plant with a shapely crown, growing no more than 60 cm tall (40 cm in our climate). Younger plants flower for a few weeks, while mature specimen provide flower show from mid-July to frosts. Inflorescences are lavender colored and compact, just like the plant itself. The spent blooms are soon hidden by the new ones, therefore there is no need for deadheading. It does not produce any seeds or a very few ones.

‚Blue Chip‘ needs to be grown in a sunny spot, fertile and free draining soil. It can be grown in rockeries, flower borders, is also suitable for planting as a part of urban landscape due to its resistance to drought. It is suitable for growing in pots, containers or baskets alongside other drought resistant plants, such as verbenas or coreopsis. Looks especially impressive when planted in groups of 10 or more plants, and hence is suitable for using in large plantings. Flowers are a true magnet for butterflies, bees and other insects. In autumn branches should be reduced leaving a compact framework. Alternatively, you can leave the growth over the winter, cutting them back in spring, as soon as plants show any signs of life.

© Mygarden.lt, 2012

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The smallest of the small – `Silverstone`

Fortune’s spindles (Euonymus fortunei) are quite popular in Lithuania, and there are plenty of these semievergreen, ground-hugging colorful shrubs in our gardens. However, one of the new introductions really makes us to lean in and have a better look – is it really a spindle, or maybe it is a moss?

`Silverstone` is a very small, dense, compact plant, growing no more than 10-15 cm tall and 20-30 cm wide. Leaves are tiny, oval, dark green, splashed with white variegation, while the new ones appear entirely white or white with some green sprinkling. Although leaves and branches give an impression of being fragile, they really are quite robust, while the shrub itself is rather sturdy.

`Silverstone` is not fussy regarding its planting site, but it would prefer semishade and moist fertile soil, where its growth would be faster, and the leaves would be brighter shade of green. It cannot handle waterlogged soil. It is recommended to water them during drought, especially if grown in sandy soil.

[banner]This miniature spindle looks perfect in Japanese style gardens, rockeries (add some rich, moist compost before planting), at the edge of a water feature or a stream, under standart plants, at the front of mixed plantings. They are ideal for growing in containers (especially the tall ones) alone or alongside other moisture-loving bedding plants. When growing in containers in sunshine, make sure soil does not turn bone-dry, or else keep them in semishade, to be on the safe side.

They usually overwinter under snow cover. Should winter turn out to be snowless, mulch around the shrub generously, and remember to provide some protections for the plant from scorching sun, come spring.

During dry autumn weather water plants generously a couple of times, and prepare them for winter just like all other evergreen plants. Single branches that remain visible above the snow cover may die down, just like other Fortune‘s spindles, however, this does not reflect much on overall health and appearance of the plant. Simply remove dead growth in spring.

© Mygarden.lt, 2012

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`Canadice` – the pick of the bunch

From the seven grape vines varieties that I grow `Canadice` is the one, which really stands out. Firstly, it is very suitable for vertical gardening – this is a very fast-growing and completely cold-hardy vine. Secondly, the grapes are seedless. They are small, yellowish red when ripe (bright red, if autumn has been long and warm), transparent, arranged into medium sized, heart-shaped clusters. The first berries on a vine, planted on the southern side, start ripening by the end of August, with the rest folowing 2 to 3 weeks later. Their flavour is very pleasant, sweetly acidic, and tastes distinctly of wild strawberries.

Although it is commonly thought that `Canadice` is a disease-resistant variety, it is not quite true, at least not in Lithuania. Surely, given dry, hot summer and mild autumn, all vines are less susceptible to diseases. These plants suffer badly from excessive moisture. Last summer had been very wet, therefore all vines subjected to constant rain looked worse for wear, their foliage disfigured by disease, with grapes succumbing to rot (Botrytis). The same cultvars grown under some protection fared much better – healthier and larger berries, foliage free from disease. During dry autumn grape vines, cultivated both in the open and under some protection grow healthy and bountiful.

[banner]Just like all vines, `Canadice` does not handle waterlogged soil well. When planting in heavy, poorly drained spot, it is best to site the wines on a slope, ideally on the southern side of a house, fence or pergola, which would privide them with some shelter. It is worthwhile enriching poor, sandy soil with fertile compost, but generally wines are not too fussy. In eight year I never had to water the vines, even in droughts. Their roots go deep, looking for water, and need watering only in their first year. Do not go over the top fertilising them, an annual application in spring along with the rest of woody plants will suffice.

`Canadice` is cold resistant, however, young immature branches can be damaged by frost. Young plants should be given some winter protection in the first two years after planting. Cover plants with agricultural fleece and shredded bark the first year, while in the second simply mulch the roots thickly.

I prune vines, which are grown for producing grapes, twice a year. In August I shorten rampant current year‘s growth in order to encourage branches to mature and preserve nutrients which will be necessary for ripening of the grapes. I remove some of the canes, which overcrowd the plant and make it too dense for grapes to rippen properly. In late autumn, when plants have shed foliage , or in very early spring, before buds start swelling, I shorten even more canes, aiming for a two-tiered or bilateral cordon shape.

For the vines, which are grown for lush foliage,  I simply thin out shoots lightly, removing overcrowded growth, training the remaining canes to grow as horizontally as possible.

This cultivar has only one shortcoming: some of the individual flowers self-pollinate poorly, which results in a number of tiny berries, which do not grow fully and never rippen. Depending on a year, the number of such grapes in a cluster may vary.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Pineapple guava – the taste sensation


Pineapple guava (also known as feijoa) is a compact tree, reaching 2-4 m in height, with irregular crown. Its bark is light green, leaves are ovoid, dark green and glossy above, and silvery on reverse. It flowers on the current year’s growth. Flowers are very beautiful, with fleshy red and white petals and long red stamens. The tree yields green, rough-skinned fruits, weighing 30 to 120 g.

The species, most commonly grown indoors, is feijoa (Acca sellowiana), which is native to the forests of South America (Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentine). Feijoas are especially popular in India and Japan. In countries with subtropical climate they are grown outside as fruit trees, or used for hedges or topiary. Although feijoas withstand brief frosts down to -5-14C, it is not possible to grow them outside in our climate.

Feijoas are popular houseplants due to their spectacular flowers and tasty reddish green fruit (4-6 cm in diametre and 10 cm long). Although the fruits contain a lot of seeds, they do not distract from the taste sensation – soft whitish pulp of fruit suggests a combination of bananas, strawberries and pineapples. Unripe fruit are unpalatable.

Propagating  feijoas

Feijoas are easily propagated from seed. Ripe berries are cut in half and the soft jelly-like pulp is squeezed out. Seeds should be rinsed in week solution of potassium permanganate, dried and sown into a soil mix, made of leaf mold, peat and sand (2:2:1). Shop bought peat-based seed mixes are quite adequate, only the seedlings will have to be transplanted earlier.

[banner]Sow the seeds in trays or flats in January – February. Press the seeds into the soil 0.5cm deep and water well. Keep the seed trays on a windowsill, in 16-19C temperature. Feijoas germinate within a month, and it takes another 1 to 2 weeks for seedlings to develop their first true leaves. After the seedlings have grown 4 leaves, transplant them, using a planting mix, made of loam, leaf mold, compost and sand (6:4:1:1), or any ready-made universal potting mix for houseplants.

The feijoas are rarely propagated by cuttings, though cutting-raised plants retain all the qualities of the parent plant, which seed-grown plants do not. The cuttings are difficult to root, since they require high humidity and warmth, and strike best in mist propagator.

The feijoas can also be propagated by grafting and runners. However, their bark is very thin, so grafts are often unsuccessful, while runners weaken the parent plant, so this method is more commonly used in industrial horticulture. The feijoas can be propagated by air-layering – wound the current year’s branch, stuff some moss inside the wound and wrap it around with some plastic. The branch will root in 1.5-2 month time.

In the first 2-3 years feijoas should be transplanted every year. They grow and fruit best when grown in slightly acidic soil. In their native habitat feijoas are cultivated in poor growing conditions, so they do not need fertile soil. Larger specimen should be transplanted every 2-3 years, keeping the rootball undisturbed, and moving the plant into a larger pot every time. Roots which have extended through the pot drainage hole should be reduced, and branches which have grown too long, should be shortened.

After the seedling have reached 25-30 cm height, its branches should be shortened by two thirds in order to shape the tree. No pruning will be required later, except for removal of weak, dead or crossed branches. Seedlings start yielding fruit in 5-8 years. The feijoas are sun-loving plants, and grow best on southern or south-western windowsills. Come autumn or winter, they shed a lot of leaves, but this is to be expected. The plants will retain their leaves though, if given additional light. The feijoas dislike drought – they will drop their leaves, and their branches and roots will die back. Plants should be watered generously in summer, while watering should be reduced in winter. If air is very dry, the feijoas should be sprayed in winter. Optimum winter temperature is +12+14C.

Feeding and watering

The feijoas should be fed every 2-3 weeks with complete fertilizer compounded for citrus or exotic fruit trees. Prior to fertilizing, plants should be watered with clean water. In order for feijoas to fruit well, it is best to have two plants which would flower at the same time. This is not easily achieved, since most feijoas may flower spectacularly for a number of years, yielding only one or two seedless fruits. The self-pollinating feijoas are most suitable for indoors culture. Their seeds are available from seed shops abroad.

Special thanks to Irina Kanzyuba for her great picture.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Overwintering lewisias under pots

Lewisias (Lewisia) of various species interbreed easily. This accounts for the multitude of magnificent hybrids, which have become so popular in the gardens all over the world. Their flowers come in a range of rainbow colours, decorated with brushstrokes of different hues or brightly outlined veins. The most popular lewisias are those with blooms of white, cream, pink, peach, salmon, yellow, orange and scarlet. Flowers come singly or in inflorescences of several blooms on long stalks. Flowers of some lewisias are sessile, growing straight from the basal rosette.

Lewisias are most comfortable growing in alpine gardens, on slopes, retaining walls or hillsides, where water drains freely after the rain or during a winter thaw. They prefer being given eastern or western exposure, since they scorch easily in full sun. If you intend to grow lewisia on a heavy and waterlogged soil, dig a planting hole about 0.5 metre deep, spread a layer of well-draining material and top up with porous and fertile soil (e.g. a mixture of well-rotted compost, peat and sand at the ratio of 3:1:1). Mulch with gravel, since the leaf rosette is very prone to rotting, especially when water gets inside the rosette and stays there for a period of time (after a long rain, etc.). Mature lewisias dislike transplanting, so plant them in a position, where they are to flower. In winter lewisias tolerate cold, but not winter thaws. Use conifer branches or clean, dry leaves to insulate them, and cover up with a pot or some other kind of shelter.

[banner] Lewisias can be propagated by seeds, which are sown in trays, and later transplanted into pots, while seedlings are very small. Seedlings can be potted on into larger pots or into their final growing position. Stratified seeds germinate best. Seedlings are tiny, but low-maintenance. They are first planted into 7cm pots. They grow fast in favourable conditions, and they need to be transplanted into larger pots several times during the growing season. Use neutral peat-based potting mix, or any other porous and clean media. Seedlings start flowering in their 1-3 year.

Most species of lewisias, especially the Siskiyou lewisia (Lewisia cotyledon) hybridize easily and tend to mutate, therefore a seedlings of a pink flowered plants can easily burst into white or pink flowers. If you are after a ‘carbon copy’ of the parent plant, propagate lewisias by offsets, which are cut off and rooted. Sometimes all offset rosettes are in flower, and therefore unsuitable for propagating. In such case, remove all flowering stems as soon as possible, so that the rosette puts a spurt of growth, until it can be divided and rooted. Plants are best divided in late June, and within 4 to 6 weeks they will be rooted.

Lewisia brachycalyx cultivars do not produce any side shoots, but they grow several replacement leaf rosettes from the underground rhizome. These lewisias are easily propagated by rhizome divisions, provided each piece has at least one bud. Divisions should be dipped into rooting hormone and potted. Sometimes these particular lewisias are very slow to produce any replacement rosettes. In such event, the professional growers nip off the top of the main plant, and wound or pierce the thick root in several places. It might take a whole year for the new offsets to grow, but they are usually numerous.

Although lewisias prefer moist soil and warmth during the period of active growth and flowering, they will tolerate drought and heat. During an extended dry spell plants may go dormant, bursting into new growth only the following spring. Do not try to revive them by watering or transplanting – they will most likely rot. With the onset of cooler weather, lewisias might break dormancy and start growing again. If plants are container-grown, they can be simply moved into a shadier position.

Lewisias grow well in pots or miniature portable rockeries, since this way they can be moved under the roof and kept dry during winter. Pots have to have drainage holes. A planting mixture of fertile compost and sharp sand (4:1) is ideal. Container-grown lewisias should be transplanted every year, replacing potting soil each time, and given liquid feed a couple of times during the growing season.

Saw-toothed lewisia (Lewisia serrata) grows best in a permanently moist situation, but it dislikes winter thaws. Its seeds germinate easily, and seedlings are low-maintenance. Leaves are deeply serrated, and leaf rosettes are beautiful even when out of flower.

Lewisia brachycalyx leaf rosettes and flowers dislike wind and water, so they tend to rot when grown outside and hardly ever flower. Therefore they are best grown in pots, where they can be overwintered inside, somewhere cool and light. Leaf rosettes disintegrate (leaves roll up and turn jelly-like) after plants have finished flowering, and new growth appears only next year. They need some moisture in autumn and winter, when they produce underground buds. Once a month a pot should be submerged into water for half an hour, and left to drain afterwards.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Plants for the white garden

A good choice for planting near the very fence is Cornus alba `Elegantissima` , weeping silver pear (Pyrus salicifolia pendula) or profilic spring bloomers such as Spiraea cana `Grefsheim` or Spiraea x vanhouttei,  while smaller Abelia grandiflora `Confetti`, Buddleja davidii `Harlequin` and cultivars of  `Zebrinus`, `Strictus` miscanthus would look great planted in the middle of the border.    Euonymus fortunei `Emerald Gaiety` and various variegated sedges, such as Carex ornithopoda `Variegata`, would soften the edges of the flower bed nicely, provided the growing conditions are suitable. You could also consider growing carpet sedum (Sedum lineare) and Geranium macrorhizum `Variegatum`.   

A shady spot would be perfect for the variegated cultivars of Hosta, such as `Patriot`, `Fire and Ice`, `Fireworks`, Pulmonaria `Roy Davidson`, `British Sterling`, `Excalibur` and `Silver Streamers`, the sunny one – for variegated Polemonium `White Ghost` and `Carol Wallace` and also tiny  Euonymus fortunei `Silverstone`.   

You could also consider including conifers as accent points for your white garden – Chamaecyparis pisifera `Snow`, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana `Snow White`, Tsuga canadensis `Moon Frost` or Cryptomeria japonica `Albospicata`.   

When planting the white garden, select plants with at least two different types of flowers that would flower at the same time. For example, some of white tulips, lilacs and bleeding-hearts (Dicentra) bloom in early to mid May, while columbines (Aquilegias) start flowering in mid to late May. June stars with Potentilla fruticosa ‘McKay’s White’,`Abbottswood`, `Farrers White`,`Mount Everest` and continue with the candles of Lupin `Noble Maiden` and `Polar Princess` (dwarf), `Fraulein`, `Gallery White`, peonies `Festiva Maxima`, `Auten`s Pride`, `Avalanche`, `Charlie`s White`, `Cutie`, `Elsa Sass`, `Laura Dessert`, `Florence Bond` and also irises (Iris).

Rose `Mme Hardy`

Wintercreeper `Silverstone`

Rose `White New Dawn`

Lupin `Noble Maiden`

Hosta `Patriot`

Silver maiden grass `Morning light`

Weeping silver pear

Vanhoutte Spirea

Shrubby cinquefoil `McKays White`

Come July, Delphinium `Innocence`, `Double Innocence`, `Green Twist`, `Lightning`, `Centurion White`, `Green Twist`, `Pure White` and roses `Boule de Neige`,`Mme Hardy`,`Vierge de Clery`,`White Jacques Cartier`,`White [banner] New Dawn`,`Lykkefund`,`Snowdon`,`Iceberg` mingle with sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica), lilies `Casa Blanca` or white cosmos. A great many plants flower in summer so unsurprisingly this is the time when the white garden is brimming with blooms – butterflies hover around Buddleja `White Profusion`, while spires of tall perennials – hollyhocks, goat‘s beard (Aruncus) and veronicas – reach for the sky. 

If you remove spent delphinium flowerheads, they will rebloom in autumn, alongside Anemone hybrida `Honorine Jobert`, `Whirlwind`, `Andrea Atkinson`, large flowered japanese windflowers and Echinacea purpurea `Jade`, `White Swan`, `White Double Delight`, `Pow Wow White`, `White Luster`, `Meringue`, `Lucky Star`. 

Filler plants with grey or bluish foliage make perfect companions in the white garden. Silver artemisias (almost all of them), such as `Powis Castle`, `Valere Finnis`, `Silver Brocade` always look pristine, while blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius) adds some cooling blue tints. Ornamental grasses, such as Panicum virgatum `Cloud Nine`, `Dallas Blues`, `Heavy Metal`, Stipa pulcherrima, Sesleria nitida, hostas `Blue Angel`, `Hadspen Blue`, `Halcyon`, `Krossa Regal`, also Eryngium giganteum are great fillers.  

© Mygarden.lt, 2011


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The white garden

Whether you are a real pro or just a beginner, there comes a time when every gardener embarks on a new project – something more exiting or more challenging. As experience, expertise and confidence grow, projects that seemed interesting a year ago no longer keep their hold. A novice gardener is usually busy getting to know the new plants, tracking them down, mixing and matching them. The plant world is inexhaustible in terms of shapes and colours, however, harmonious compositions do not come easy. The monochromatic gardens are most challenging to design – it requires some effort to amass a collection of plants, which would be consistent yet not boring, stimulating yet not patchy. And, what is most important, which would insure continuos show from spring till autumn.

[banner] One of the most elegant and challenging of the monochromatic gardens is the white garden. Shades of white, green, grey, blue and their combinations become important elements of the design, while variation in size, color, and leaf shape creates lots of textural interest. Clever balancing of textures is very important, if you want to avoid your white garden looking like a pale and flat blob.

Start building the white garden from a small fragment – a group of 3 or 5 plants. Move the plants around until you achieve a satisfying effect. Proceed to adding more plants only after you master the principle. A few years down the line, most probably you will still be moving plants around and raplacing them with new ones – but not for the lack of knowledge. Quite opposite, this is a sign of a true gardener, who is searching for harmony and is not afraid to admit a mistake.

Apart from the flower shape and colour, other significant criteria, when building blocks of plants is their bloom time, and height and width of the clump. Plant width is especially important when planting small divisions or seedlings, since these tiny things may eventually spread to an extent where they will start encroaching upon neighbouring plants. Bear in mind the ultimate height of the clump when grouping the plants – the tallest ones are normally planted towards the very back. This is especially true when planting at the foot of a fence, a housewall or other tall screen.

When planting an island bed, consider planting the tallest plants in the middle of the bed, so that the composition would be well visible from all sides. The bloom time is an important issue to keep in mind so as to have as little as possible of days or weeks when no flowers are present among the sea of greenery. Since all these objectives are not easy to combine, plant several variegated or long-blooming plants, such as Gaura lindheimeri `Whirling Butterflies` and Centrantus ruber `Albus`.

To be continued..

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Propagating japanese spiraeas

Japanese spiraeas tend to form round or sometimes oblong mounds, which are not completely tidy. If left unsheared, they can expand up to metre tall and wide, therefore I suggest  – be ruthless and shear them back on a regular basis. As a result their foliage will be brighter, while flowers will be larger. I personally value colourful foliage above flowers. Flowering of trees and shrubs is fleeting, while cultivars with colourful foliage often produce very few flowers, if any at all.

Having said that, golden-leaved Japanese spiraeas are breathtakingly beautiful in flower – their flowerheads appear just as the spring foliage fades. The flowering continues for 10 to 20 days (depending on weather – in hot and dry weather the show is very fleeting). I remove spent flowerheads promptly, before they fully finish flowering. At the same time I prune the plant into shape, since by midsummer it often becomes quite lax. Pruning is a very straightforward process – I grab a handful of branches and shear them back by 5-15 cm (yes, that much, especially in the rock garden). I go this way all around the bush.

After I shear spiraeas,  I normally end up with a barrowful of cuttings. They can be disposed of, or alternatively they can be rooted. End of June or beginning of July is ideal for propagation by semi-woody cuttings, besides japanese spiraeas root easily. For this purpose take 7-15 cm long non-flowering branches, remove their soft tops, and insert them into pots with fertile moist garden loam. Keep the pots in a shaded place (I keep them on the north side of the house under hostas). Do not forget to keep them evenly moist. I usually forget the cuttings until the autumn, however, this is not an example I suggest you follow. The success rate of this lazybones way is around 70 percent.

Like I mentioned, these are very tenacious plants. I have planted and transplanted mature spiraea bushes numerous times, moved them from one place to another at a wrong planting time, forgot to water them – but they invariably take root. The only thing that I do after transplanting spiraeas, is to shear back bushes by 2/3rds. I simply remove all growth to within some 20 centimetres from the shrub centre. This way plants loose less water, and as a result they root easier. A year or three later spiraeas spring back to their normal size.

Spiraeas can be propagated by woody cuttings – in late autumn (after the leaves have fallen) or early spring, before buds break dormancy. Collect 10-15 cm long cuttings, remove their soft tops, and insert them into a pot with ordinary garden soil. Keep in the garage or cellar. The only thing important is that the room is frost-free. Insert the cuttings into the soil so that two leaf nodes were covered and compact soil around them.

I use this method to propagate spiraeas in autumn, since spring is extremely busy time in the garden. I keep the soil moist, and take care to throw some old rags on top (my garage is unheated) or move them into the cellar if hard frost is forecasted. The cuttings require no light until spring.

If only 1-5 new plants are necessary, the easiest way is to produce them by layering. In early spring, before plant breaks dormancy, choose a young flexible branch. Make a shallow trench close to the mother plant. Lay the branch into the trench, pin it down with wire or plastic pegs to keep it in place. Cover with some more soil, and compact it gently. 1 or 2 buds or bud pairs should be covered with soil, leaving the tip of the branch above the ground. Normally, there is no shortage of moisture in spring, but in summer do remember to water before the soil dries out. In autumn pull at the branch gently – if it does not give easily, this means that the branch has rooted. Cut the branch from mother plant, however, wait until spring before removing it and planting it elsewhere.

[banner] As for planting site and soil type, spiraeas are very obliging.  However, if you have a colourful spiraea cultivar, make sure you plant it in a sunny spot, where it would receive at least half a day of direct sunlight. When grown in shade foliage will not be as bright, and the plant may even revert to green. In contrast to majority yellow leaved plants, spiraeas almost never burn in strong sunlight, unless they are grown in pure sand. As for soil type… unfortunately, I do not have any experience of growing spiraeas in sandy soil, I can assure that anywhere else – be it rich compost or heavy clay – they simply thrive. I do not additionally fertilise them during the season – in spring all my trees and shrubs (apart from conifers) get their ration of slow release combined fertiliser, and that’s about it. True, I amend soil with well-rotten grass clippings (sprinkling them around plants), but I am not so generous with spiraeas. As a matter of fact, they thrive on neglect.


© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Cleaning the pond

May is brimming with warm weather, sun and the promise of summer. It is also the time when nasty blankets of green filamentous algae appear on ponds. The mere sight of these algae drives into desperation owners of water features, and especially of the smaller kind.

The green algae are not all bad – they absorb quantities of water-soluble nitrates and phosphates before other aquatic plants spring into action. But they look slimy, they cling to water plant stems, they get in the way of fish, and so they need to be removed. Best way to do this is by using a garden fork or a rake – when hair-like colonies of algae get stuck between the thongs of the rake, twist it around a few times and pull the algae onto the pond edge. Be careful not to get into the water, seeing as the algae are quite heavy.

Leave them for a few hours on the edge of the pond so that all tiny creatures, such as beetles or small frogs, have time to disentangle themselves and return back into the water. Often algae contain small fish fry, so pick out the larger fish and put them back in the water. After a few hours, move algae to the compost heap, since this is an excellent fertiliser. But bear in mind – when out of the water and drying, the algae become a source of very unpleasant odour.

As soon as spring arrives and the weather warms up, green algae start appearing on all natural and artificial water features, which do not have water filters installed. This is only natural, and there is no need to despair. However, you do have a problem if algae keep growing all throughout the season. This indicates that natural balance of your pond is destroyed. Green algae also develop fast in brand new water features, which have not been stocked yet.

Warmth, sun, pH of water, water-soluble nutrients and shortage of oxygen – these are the main causes that encourage growth of algae. To prevent green algae and to keep their growth in check, plant a lot of aquatic plants, which are natural competitors of algae for absorbing nitrates. The common reed (Phragmites australis), broadleaf (Typha latifolia) and narrowleaf bulrushes (Typha angustifolia), sweet flag (Acorus calamus), reed manna grass (Glyceria maxima), species of pondweeds (Potamogeton) and Canadian waterweed (Elodea canadensis) are choice plants for the purpose. They are much better looking than the green filamentous algae, and they also help to keep water clear. Another group of important plants are the water lilies (Nymphaea). Their lush foliage provides ponds with shade, which inhibits growth of algae. It is also known that a warm and sunny spring is conducive to growth of algae. Besides, the water lilies assimilate great quantities of nutrients.

The moving and oxygen-enriched water discourages the growth of algae, so presence of underwater springs, fountains and fish helps. But be careful when introducing fish – too many of them, and their excrements will only increase quantities of nitrates in the water. So the biological balance of the water feature is all-important. The problem might also go away, provided the gardener has a little patience to wait for a few months, refraining from using any chemicals.

A number of other plants are useful oxygenators – waterweeds, spikerushes (Eleocharis), water soldiers (Stratiotes) and floating frogbits (Hydrocharis). The growth of algae is discouraged by soft water, so small water features are best filled with the rainwater.

The water always becomes clearer after the rain, which cools, softens the water and enriches it with oxygen. Special biological additives are also useful (Penac, Septic Gobbler) – they disintegrate organic substances and help to form active sedimentary mud. However, unless you eliminate the underlying causes, the algae will reappear sooner or later. Therefore biological water filters are recommended for small artificial water features where natural balance is difficult to maintain. [banner]

Preventative measures against algae in an established pond: 

* remove all fallen leaves and dead vegetation from the pond in autumn;

* do not fertilise soil around the pond;

* control numbers of fish and aquatic plants in the pond;

* remove any blankets of green algae from the water as soon as they appear.

Preventative measures against algae in a new pond:

* the prime task is to stock the pond with aquatic plants. Marginal aquatics absorb nitrates; deep-water plants assimilate nitrates and oxygenate water; and water lilies provide with surface cover.

* introduce fish only after the plants become well established. Do not overdo with the number of fish – both the common and Crucian carps need little encouragement to multiply fast.

* do not use ordinary herbicides to fight algae, they will only worsen the situation, besides, they are detrimental to aquatic fauna.

* keep small water features topped up with rain water during the hot days of summer.

* if you do not have time or willingness to fight algae, use water filters. They are important even if the pond is only to be used for keeping fish rather than plants.

Repotting marginal aquatics

There is no need to divide aquatics which are planted in the soil at the bottom of the pond, unless you need to prevent them from spreading too aggressively. Aquatic plant, grown in open-sided plastic baskets, should be lifted and repotted every year or every 2 to 3 years, depending on the size of the basket. Draw the basket with the plant out of the water and wait until the water drains. Remove an entire plant and divide into several pieces so that every portion has some healthy roots (or a piece of rhizome) and several growth buds. Fill the basket with heavy loam, and top it with a layer of gravel to prevent soil disturbance. The planting basket with wide-meshed sides should be lined with a piece of hessian or similar material.

Having planted the baskets, lower them slightly into the water and wait until the air bubbles stop surfacing. Move the baskets into their final planting position.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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My favourite kind of plant

 I have always had a soft spot for shrubs with colourful foliage, especially the kind which tend to form bushy mounds and respond well to pruning. This is why Japanese spiraeas take pride of place in my garden. These are excellent plants for low growing formal or informal hedges, shrub borders or used as accent plants in mixed borders (middle or front range) and rock gardens. Spiraeas can be successfully grown in containers on terraces or balconies, being very resilient plants with shallow root system. I would like to mention here, that my borders are planted predominantly with woody plants – deciduous trees and shrubs or conifers (low-growing and miniature selections, suitable for growing in small gardens). Herbaceous plants make for a minor part of the planting, and are mainly used for filling up gaps between trees and shrubs.

Foliage of many colourful japanese spiraeas undergoes spectacular colour changes through the season. Shoots on some of them appear red, eventually turning green, others start of yellow turning into orange. Other selections are lime green to begin with in spring, softening to dark lemon shade as summer progresses. However, all colourful japanese spiraeas have one feature in common – the new shoots on all of them appear very bright, turning into lighter shades as midsummer approaches. When spiraeas burst into flowering, their bright pink flowers steal the show from pale and slightly tattered leaves, bringing new colours into the garden. After the spiraeas have finished flowering and have been sheared, there is a 2 to 3 week long ‘ugly duckling’ period, while dormant buds are triggered into action. A short while later new bright shoots appear (which is exactly what I mean – not only leaves but shoots and flower stalks as well) and flower repeatedly at the end of August.

Not so profusely though, and the leaves are not as bright as they are in spring, but nevertheless quite a sight after the green period in June. Come autumn, spiraeas change their foliage colour again – even green leaved cultivars turn yellow or pink. Exact shade depends on autumn weather. In cold and wet weather foliage of spiraeas (just like any other plants) looks worse for wear, more brown than yellow. In warm and dry autumn they earn their keep with orange and red shades, as well as an occasional flower.

New foliage of spiraeas appears relatively early in spring, in April. This year winter has been long (snow melted only in mid-March), and my spiraeas broke dormancy on April 22nd, their bright new foliage a perfect contrast to the very first bulbs.

There are 3 cultivars of japanese spiraeas, which I heartily recommend and which you will be able to find in every nursery.

`Golden princess`


`Magic fire`

`Golden Princess` – grows 1 m tall and wide, however, eventual size can be easily managed with the help of pruning shears. New shoots and leaves are bright yellow in spring, softening to deep yellow later. This selection flowers abundantly, with pink flowers in flat inflorescences. By midsummer golden leaves bleach to soft green, giving way to flowers. In August they draw attention once again, with appearance of new shoots. In autumn all foliage turns light yellow.

`Goldflame` is another handsome selection. In spring its foliage appears dark orange, sometimes shaded in bronze. Thereafter, leaves soften to yellow, turning pale by midsummer (at this point it closely resembles ‘Golden Princess’). In August new pink shoots reappear turning the plant into a star attraction again. In warm dry autumn foliage turns orange, and sometimes red. Some sight to behold!

`Magic Fire` is not exactly a very recent cultivar, however it is fairly unknown in Lithuania. Since it is relatively new, you might not be able to get hold of it easily (but keep looking, you will find it eventually). Come spring, new shoots unfurl bright red – a wonderful sight indeed! Later leaves turn lighter to dark orange and pink, eventually turning green. But the new shoots and top leaves keep their red or pink colouring at all times, so I strongly recommend – do not be afraid to prune spiraeas. The inflorescences are pinkish red. In autumn leaves turn pink with shades of yellow, or occasionally red.

(To be continued)

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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How to rake the lawn

Over the years, even a well-maintained lawn produces thatch. It is made of undecomposed grass stems, blades, roots and rhizomes, which collect between the green vegetative part of the lawn and the soil. Several factors make for a faster build-up of thatch – heavy, compacted soil, inadequate soil preparation prior to seeding, excess of undecayed organic matter, grass sown too densely, incorrect fertilisation and mowing. The build-up of thatch starts when dead grass and other organic remnants accumulate faster than they decompose naturally.

A thin layer of thatch causes no particular damage, quite on the contrary – it traps moisture thus reducing the need to water the lawn. It also reduces soil temperature fluctuations. However, an excessive layer of thatch prevents water from penetrating the soil, absorbs nutrients, impedes growth of new grass, all of which affects the lawn, and it often stays yellow for a very long time in spring. If the soil is very heavy and compacted, thatch only worsens the situation – it sticks to the soil thus creating a solid layer, which is impermeable to water and air. Grass roots start to grow more shallowly, lawn becomes susceptible to traffic damage, frost, drought and riddled with diseases.

An excessive layer of thatch must be raked and removed every year. Special rakes or scarifiers (electric, petrol) are used for this purpose. These are compact machines, which resemble  lawnmowers, and are often wrongly referred to as aerators. Special blades rake out thatch and moss, cutting up any lumps in the process.

Rake the lawn in early spring, depending on the weather (late March to early April) before the growing season. This must be done in dry weather, since wet grass sticks to the rake tines or the scarifier blades. If grass was not mown in the autumn, now it has to be cut on the lowest setting. The scarifier blades have to be lowered so that they would remove thatch and slice the soil simultaneously. Lawns are almost never completely even, so the height of blades must be constantly monitored and adjusted. The raked out thatch is collected into a special scarifier container, so if thatch is very thick it fills up quite quickly. It might be a better idea to rake out thatch without collecting it and leave to dry for a while. Raked out and dry thatch can be easily collected with an ordinary garden rake. Collect it into bags and remove from the garden, or else you can put it on a compost heap.

Having removed the thatch, fertilise the lawn, which is best done just before the rain. If the soil is very compacted and heavy it is advisable to aerate it as well. A household scarifier costs in the area of 600 lt, and since it is used only once a year, budget-minded gardeners might consider renting scarifiers and aerators. Most companies trading in garden tools and machinery often offer them for rent.

 © Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Rhododendrons: sun or shade?

The larger leaves the evergreen rhododendron has, the shadier location will it require. The small-leaved evergreen rhododendrons adapt well, grown in exposed locations, as long as they receive ample moisture. Deciduous rhododendrons feel comfortable growing in open, sunny positions. Although the leaves of Catawba rhododendron (Rhododendron catawbiense) and Rhododendron smirnowii are evergreen and large, they can take quite a lot of sun, provided they get sufficient moisture. In the wild they usually grow on the edges of moist, deciduous forests, in blazing sunshine, yet in damp soil. The native habitat of Rhododendron caucasicum is high in the Caucasus mountains, where large groves flower profusely every year in full sun. The rhododendrons of this species flourish in similar conditions in our gardens, too.

[banner] Several species of rhododendrons (Rhododendron degronianum ssp. yakushimanum, Rhododendron decorum, Rhododendron ponticum, etc.) are native to the areas, where damp and cool period is far longer than the sunny period. The plants of these species feel more comfortable planted in light shade in our climate.

 Rhododendrons, which receive sufficient light, grow stronger, set more flower buds, and are less vulnerable to winter freeze, diseases and pests. When grown in full shade, their shoots grow lanky, the leaves become sparse and they flower less. On the other hand, too much sunlight will cause their leaves to turn yellow, and numerous brown spots will appear along the veins and the edges of the leaves.

 The evergreen large-leaved rhododendrons are best planted on the north side of buildings, in a sheltered position. The areas on the east and west sides are also suitable, since these locations are shaded for a part of the day. The rhododendrons set the flower buds for the next year in summer. In our climate, this usually occurs in July or August, so plenty of water and sunlight are essential during this period.

 To provide rhododendrons with light shade, plant them adjacent to the trees and taller shrubs. Any plants with deep roots make good neighbours for rhododendrons. Large trees with surface roots will inhibit growth of rhododendrons with their shallow roots, and they will go into decline. Rhododendrons dislike being planted near any species of limes, beeches, poplars, bird cherries and maples. Crowns of these large deciduous trees are very dense, which subjects rhododendrons to an unwelcome protection from rain.

 Rhododendrons grow well alongside pines, hemlocks, fir, oaks and other deep-rooted trees. Since all rhododendron species need varying light levels, there is a variety to suit any location – sunny, semi-shaded or fully shaded. Evergreen large-leaved rhododendrons will grow well in semi-shade; deciduous varieties with small leaves will tolerate exposed sunny conditions, but prefer cool semi-shade; and deciduous rhododendrons are best planted in open sunny locations, but will adapt to growing in light shade.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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Chocolate trees

Chocolate treeCocoa (Theobroma cacao) is native to tropical forests of Central and South America. It eventually attains the height of 12 m, and continues cropping for 100 years. The cultivated varieties of cacao are much smaller and more fertile. Recently cocoa trees have been introduced to Africa, where they keep flowering and cropping year round due to favourable growing conditions.

The fruit of cocoa resembles a large pod and weighs from 0.5 to 1,5 kg. The seeds, which are called cacao beans, are used to produce chocolate. When fresh, they are whitish, odourless and acrid. After picking, the pods are left to ferment. During this process, the fruit, which surrounds beans, softens, while beans harden. After fermentation, beans are separated, sorted and air-dried. After that they are picked over, cleaned and roasted. The husks are removed during roasting. Then the beans are ground and solid cocoa oil or butter is extracted, which is the main ingredient for chocolate production.

More than 22 species of plants belong to the genus Theobroma. One plant of the genus, known in Brazil by the name of [banner] Capausu (Theobroma grandiflora), can be grown as a houseplant. It is a small evergreen tree with bright green leathery leaves, which are up to 35 cm long and 10 cm wide. It produces flowers all year round. The flowers are large, star-shaped, held singly or in racemes of 3-5 flowers, and are normally pollinated by bees and other insects. If you want to have a lot of fruit, it is best to grow at least two plants at home, and to cross-pollinate them, which will ensure that the plants produce fruit. Pods are large and heavy, weighing around 2 kg, and measuring up to 25 cm long and 15 cm wide. Their skin is semi-woody, reddish brown, and the pulp, holding some 20-40 seeds, is juicy and fragrant. In native habitats, the seeds are distributed by birds or monkeys which are very fond of the fruit. When grown as houseplants, they bear smaller fruit, and it takes 4 to 5 months from flowering to ripening. A 4 to 5 year old plant can yield from 10 to 30 pods a year.

The fruit of the Cupuasu are valued not for the seeds, but for the juicy and fragrant pulp, which comprises about a third of a fruit. Its taste is exotic and very aromatic. It is used to produce juice, jams, yoghurts and delicious ice cream.

In their native range Cupuasu crops all year round, yielding the majority of fruit in the period between February and April. Ripe fruit fall down from the trees and rot fast, so they should be picked regularly. Unripe fruit, when picked too early, usually do not fully ripen – they either rot, or loose their taste and fragrance.

The seeds of Cupuasu make a fifth of a fruit. After fermentation there is no way to tell them apart from the true cocoa beans neither by the taste nor by the smell. However, chocolate produced from these beans does not melt in the mouth, and is considered to be inferior, and therefore cheaper. Traditionally, when making chocolate, no more than 10% of cocoa butter can be replaced by the butter of Cupuasu.

Cupuasu trees dislike full sun, since it scorches their leaves. Young plants are especially vulnerable. When grown as houseplants, they should be kept lightly shaded by curtain and at some distance from the heat source. They feel most comfortable when temperature keeps around 22-27oC all year round. Cupuaçu thrives when planted in fertile and free-draining soil, and responds well to generous watering, but it should not be left in standing water. Starting with spring, feed the plant with diluted or liquid complete fertilizer containing microelements. This plant dislikes dry air, which results in browning of leaf edges, so it grows best when kept in a damp conservatory or next to an electric air humidifier. For the best results, spray plants with water often or keep the pot on a tray with a layer of clay granules on the bottom.

Propagation is from seed, by cuttings or grafting. The seedless cultivars are normally propagated by cuttings. These plants grow more compact, they adapt better to being grown inside, and some of them are self-pollinating. Seeds are available from the seed shops abroad. Prior to sowing, they should be soaked for a few days in water (changing water every day) and kept warm. Most seeds will normally germinate in 2-3 weeks at temperatures of 25-30oC, but it may take up to several month for some of them. Transplant seedling into individual pots without delay.

© Mygarden.lt, 2011

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In the shade of the coconut palm

Borneo wild beachThe coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) instantly evokes visions of golden beaches and azure skies – as seen in postcards or experienced during exotic holidays.  This is a true epitome of ultimate holidays. Most of people, who dream to stretch out on golden sand underneath this majestic palm, know very little about this plant – all they know, is that the palm casts a welcome shadow on a beach, while the coconut provides sweet “coconut milk” and the edible white flesh.

Coconut palms grow up to 18 m tall and truly belong to distant beaches – where the air is damp and the sunlight is plentiful. They are immune to salty water, and they do not mind poor growing conditions. Miniature coconut palms can be successfully grown indoors.

When we come across coconut palms sold in garden centres, the coconuts are usually planted on their side. However, American growers advise to plant them vertically. According to them, the coconut should be planted with its pointed end down, while the end which was attached to the tree should be left above the surface by a third. Other coconut palm growers maintain that the coconut should be laid on a flat surface or floor – it is supposed to roll on the side, whichever is the most appropriate for planting.

The planting mix should be light and well-drained – a mixture of compost and sand (1:1) is ideal. The pot should be by 5 cm larger than the coconut, and sufficiently deep. Prior to planting, soak the coconut in water for 2 to 3 days. Having planted the coconut, keep it warm (23-30oC) and moist. Spay the coconut often, or place a plastic bag around it to ensure humidity. Water the soil as necessary – it should be constantly moist, not too dry and not too soggy. If too dry, the coconut will not germinate; if too wet – it will rot. If the air is very dry, the coconut may burst. Do not exclude light, since it encourages germination.

[banner] Fresh seeds germinate in 3 to 4 months, but sometimes it may take half a year or even more. At first, cotyledons appear through one of the three “eyelets” of the nut. If conditions are warm, damp and sunny, the true leaves will soon replace them. Usually, the leaves grow first, and only then the roots sprout (they at first develop inside the coconut, just like the leaves). In the first year the seedling is fed by nutrients which have been accumulated inside the nut, but later it will needs additional feeding. It grows relatively fast, and in some 5 to 6 years it starts developing trunk. In 5-6 years time, the coconut palms growing in their natural environment, start flowering and bearing fruit. Most of the fruit will fall, while small. One palm usually yields up to 50 coconuts.

Penang spicy gardenMany cultivars of coconut palm have been introduced, which differ in their growth rate, yield and purpose of cultivation. Some of them are grown in plantations for coir, while others – for coconuts. Compact, up to 2-3 m tall self-pollinating coconut palms are often grown as houseplants (e.g. `Red Spicata Dwarf`, `Fiji Dwarf`). Their coconuts differ in taste, fragrance, “hairiness” (whether they have husk or not), size and colour (green, yellow, orange, brown). They are readily available from seed shops abroad. The shop-bought coconut palms usually do not flower, and even if they do, they do not bear fruit. Coconuts sold for food have their husks removed; therefore they germinate poorly or do not germinate at all.

For a coconut palm to thrive it needs a sunny position, as close to the window as possible, and plenty of space to spread its leaves. They dislike dry air, therefore should be sprayed every day. Ideally, air humidity should be no less than 60% (these palms feel best near air humidifier). They should be transplanted every 5 years.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Pomegranate on the windowsill

In the olden days the fruit of the pomegranate was considered to be divine, since the calyx, which holds the fruit, resembles a crown. The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is native to the region from the Caucasus Mountains to the eastern China, and nowadays is commonly cultivated in the horticultural industry as a valuable fruit tree.

Pomegranate will crop abundantly only in long, dry and hot summers. Therefore even a reasonably warm climate does not ensure a substantial harvest. Just like our apple or pear trees, pomegranates grow into tall trees. According to scientists, when climate was warmer in ancient times, pomegranates were evergreen and yielded fruit year-round. Now they are deciduous trees, which shed their leaves in autumn and break into new growth in spring. When grown inside a house or a warm conservatory, pomegranate retains its leaves all throughout the year.

Pomegranates, grown from seeds collected from a consumed fruit, are not likely to flower, or they may start flowering very late. Their fruit are unpalatable; some even do not ripen because of the shortage of warmth and sunshine. On other hand, there are cultivars of compact-growing pomegranates (e.g. ‘Nana’) whose seedlings start flowering in 3-4 years. They grow into relatively small trees (1-1.5m), which flower and fruit profusely.

In warm climate the flowering of the pomegranates extends between May and September. When grown as houseplants, they may start flowering any other time. At times they may keep producing flowers all year round, provided they get sufficient warmth and sunshine. However, most growers recommend to give pomegranates some rest, to let them shed their leaves in autumn, and to move plants to a cellar or somewhere cool (2-6C) for 2-3 months. When kept on a cool windowsill (8-12C) or in an insulated balcony, the pomegranates will drop their leaves only partially, while in a warm spot they will stay evergreen throughout the year.

Pomegranates love spending summer outside – this way they naturally get prepared for overwintering, shedding leaves in due time, and all that remains to be done is just to move them to a cellar. Flowers of species pomegranate are usually red, while those of cultivars can be variable – fully double, scarlet, edged in white, pink and white. The tree yields fruit – pomegranates. They are full of seeds, surrounded by sweet and juicy arils, which are edible. Pomegranates, which are cultivated industrially, are classified according to their taste – sweet, semi-sweet and sour. Sweet fruit are consumed fresh, while others are used for juice making. If fruit are picked in dry weather, they can keep in the fridge for several months. The skin of pomegranate fruit, bark of the stems and roots are used in pharmaceuticals industry.

Unfortunately, pomegranates cannot be grown outside in Lithuania. When temperatures drop to -12-15C, tree tops and the first-year branches of mature trees suffer freeze injury, while young plants die altogether. However, it may be possible to cultivate them in a greenhouse, swaddled in horticultural fleece and heavily mulched for winter.

Pomegranates prefer well-draining, fertile, acidic soil. Young plants are transplanted each year into  narrow and deep containers, using fresh potting mix.

Propagation is by cuttings and from seed. The softwood cuttings are normally taken in June-July. They root best when planted in moist peat and kept sheltered from strong sunlight. They are very reluctant to root, however, the hardwood cuttings strike readily. A cutting taken from a flowering pomegranate may start flowering within 1-2 years. Seeds should be stratified before sowing – mix them with dry sand and keep in the fridge for a month or two. If you have freshly collected seed, sow them immediately. Use porous and moist medium for seed starting, and keep them warm. Germination is erratic, extended over a period of 1-1.5 month.

Compacts cultivars of pomegranate are very suitable for being grown as houseplants, the most popular of which is ‘Nana’. It feels most comfortable on a sunny windowsill, and it does not require a dormancy period. It starts flowering and cropping at an early age. This cultivar is often used as a subject for bonsai training. The ‘Nana’ pomegranates in fruit are readily available in major shopping centres or flower shops.

Pomegranates need copious watering, when grown in warm and sunny location. Reduce watering slightly in winter, but the soil should never dry out. After the leaves drop, pomegranates should be moved to a cellar or somewhere cool. The watering should be minimal only to keeping the soil damp, and usually one watering a month is enough. Pomegranates hate being kept bone-dry. Whiteflies and scales are their worst enemy.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Heathers extend the season into autumn

Heathers are native to the Baltic countries, Scotland, Germany, Poland, Russia and Belarus, where they can be found growing in pine forests, dry birch woods or wastelands. They grow a mere 1.5-2 cm a year, and live for 30 years. Garden forms of heathers are faster-growing, so leave enough space for their expansion when planting – miniature heathers are best planted at 20cm intervals, while taller ones need to be spaced at 30-50 cm.

Currently, there are more than 500 heather varieties with light to dark green, silver, yellow, grey or purple leaves, and flowers, which are as colourful, often frilly and fully double. Their flowering extends from July to November. Frilly flowers resemble tiny roses, and carry on blooming for a very long time – up to 10 or 12 weeks. The flowers may turn brown but they still remain on the plants over winter, keeping the planting ornamental all year-round.

Heathers look particularly good grown in groups among stones, in alpine gardens, but they are at their best planted alongside ericas and conifers. They are melliferous, so insects swarm around them all the time – bees, bumble bees, various flies and butterflies. These are sun-loving plants, which dislike neighbourhood of more vigorous plants. Avoid planting them under trees and even next to the trees, unless the trees are small-leaved or sparse-crowned, and do not cast heavy shade.

Colourful groupings of heathers attract attention, looking like colourful islands in flowerbeds. They associate well with low-growing carpeting plants: pinks, thymes, fescues, Chinese astilbes. Compact or matt-forming conifers and deciduous trees (mountain pines, dwarf forms of Norway spruce, creeping junipers and cotoneasters) and rhododendrons make perfect partners as well. By the way, species pinks, thymes, fescues and junipers make the best of neighbours to heathers in the groves of Dzukija (south region of Lithuania with beautiful pine woods), where they enjoy the same growing conditions. Heathers can also be paired with taller plants, such as yarrow, sages and asters. [banner]

Ornamental heathers are often confused with ericas. They both belong to the same family of ericaceous plants, but heathers normally flower in the second half of summer and autumn, while ericas bloom in spring. The most widely planted ericaceous plants in Lithuania  are various cultivars of spring, cross-leaved, grey and tree heaths with pink, red, lilac or white flowers. Cross-leaved ericas and several other species flower in autumn just like heathers.

Heathers and heaths prefer slightly acidic (pH less than 6.5), poor soils. Mycorrhizal association with soil-born fungi is essential to these plants: they receive water enriched with mineral salts, while fungi benefit from the organic matter synthesized by the green leaves. If there the relevant fungi are absent from the soil, heather will perform poorly. They are best planted in a mixture of acidic peat, compost and sand from pine wood.

Anyway i didn`t make any special conditions for heathers, only mulched with minced pine bark. And they are growing well. They are planted with the conifers. 

Spring heaths can be grown in neutral planting soil made of compost, sand and neutral peat. When grown on heavy clay soils, heaths grow poorly, unless the planting site is improved with an addition of sand and compost.

It is advisable to mulch ericaceous plants, since in their natural habitats they grow under a thick layer of leaves, bark chips, twigs and conifer needles. Mulch helps by preserving moisture and warmth, therefore plants get sufficient moisture even in very dry summer. This also helps plants to overwinter and prevents from being overtaken by weeds. Mulch heathers with a 3-5 cm layer of spruce and pine needles, soaked pine bark chips, or wood shavings.

Trim plants in autumn, removing spent, diseased or dry twigs, so that they would flower next year even more spectacularly. Newly planted plants are best left undisturbed.

 © Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Moving cacti to a rock garden

Hardy OpuntiaCacti and succulents, growing outside, are a common sight in warmer climates, however, they are still very exotic here. But perseverance of gardeners is legendary, as they take pains to grow plants which by default cannot be grown in particular climate. And so it happens, that cacti are moving from cozy window sills into the flowerbeds. Cold hardy cacti become increasingly popular, and the number of amateur growers is on the up, too.

Most cacti and succulents are fairly cold hardy, and easily withstand temperatures down to -20C, or even -30C. But only provided they overwinter completely dry. Continuous winter thaws and cool damp summers are lethal to cacti – low temperature and soggy soil will finish them off in no time. The rule of thumb is simple – if weather is warm, moderate moisture is fine; is weather is cold, cacti should be bone-dry. These are the main requirement for growing succulents outside, and ‘warm’ means 25-30C, rather than 16C.

Cacti should not be planted in a hollow, and planting on a flat surface is not a good idea either (there should be a slight slope from the plant). They grow best in rock gardens, dry walls, on slopes or in large flat containers with a southern exposure. Even in ideal conditions a thick drainage layer is required (about 20-30 cm). The planting mix, made of garden loam and sharp sand at a ration of 1:1, is spread to a thickness of 30 cm. Cacti are planted into small planting holes without disturbance to their rootballs. When planting, leave the neck of the cactus exposed, and then fill the gap with sharp sand or gravel to ensure perfect drainage, so as water could drain freely away from the plant to prevent it from rotting.

During summer showers or wet autumn and/or spring cacti are best covered with miniature cloches, made of plastic or glass. There should be a 10-15 cm space between the cover and the plant. You will not need any cloches, if the plants are robust, the summer is dry, and winter is snowy and cold without any thaws. If winter thaws or prolonged showers in summer are forecasted, the cloches might come useful. If plants are less robust, the cloches should stay during the whole winter. In a cold but snowless winter, glass or plastic should be insulated. After a heavy snowfall, remove snow from the cloche to prevent it from caving in. In spring cacti, growing outside, should be protected from scorching sun, just like the evergreen conifers or deciduous plants would be. When subjected to cold, opuntias soften, wrinkle and lay flat on the ground, which makes them very easy to cover for winter even in an advanced age.

Lithuanian summers are not sufficiently sunny and warm for cacti and succulents, grown outside. Plants feel best, planted with southern exposure, on a slope or a hillside, next to the house wall, hedge or other vertical surface, which reflects warmth. A choice planting site is next to stones, which absorb heat; the soil around cacti could also be mulches with dark bark chippings.

[banner] The outside-grown cacti are plagued with numerous pests and disease, which do not trouble them when grown on a windowsill. One of the major irritants is the perennial weeds, which should be painstakingly removed prior to planting cacti. Mice are also partial to nibbling on cacti.

One of the more simple ways to have a planting of cacti outside is to plunge cacti in their pots in a designated spot. This method is especially convenient when cultivating less robust species of cacti. Come autumn, they can simply be lifted, pot and all, and moved under a roof or somewhere cool. Be careful, when lifting cacti from their place – if the plant enjoyed its summer outside, it may have developed roots, which extend through the drainage hole into the soil. If you plan to transplant the cactus, trim the roots carefully or cut the plastic pot and move the plant into a larger one. In other cases cut the roots and disinfect the wounds. If there has been a recent shower and the soil inside the pot is moist, keep the cacti under the roof in full sun so as the root ball would dry completely. Only then the cactus should be moved to its overwintering place. If you move a damp cactus into a cool location, it will certainly rot.

Grafted cacti can also be grown outside in summer, however, they are best moved inside for winter. According to their cold-hardiness cacti are divided into several groups.

The group of most frost-hardy cacti includes the majority of opuntias (Opuntia darwinii, O. erinacea, O. fragilis, O. howeyi, O. Imbricata, O. littoralis, O. macrorhiza, O. phaeacantha, O. polyacantha, O. rutila) and Maihuenia poeppigii.

The second group includes Austrocactus bertinii, A. hibernus, A. patagonocus, Echinocereus chloranthus, E. engelmannii, E. reichenbachii, E. triglochidiatus viridiflorus, Escobaria missouriensis, E. sneedi, E. vivipara, Mauhuenia valentinii, Opuntia arenaria, O. basilaris, O. clavata, O. nicholii, O. platyacantha, O. violacea, O. whipplei, Pediocactus knowltonii, P. simpsonii, Sclerocactus polyancistrus, S. whipplei.

A number of other succulent plants, which are much more adapted to our climate, can be grown outside – houseleeks, sedums, lewisias, acenas, yuccas and rhadiolas.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Wax begonias – modest and beautiful

Begonia semperflorens

Wax begonias (Begonia semperflorens Link et Otto) arrived to Berlin botanical garden from Brazil in 1821. They were propagated from seed and cultivated in parterre borders. They endeared themselves to the gardeners with their non-stop flowering. In warmer climates they truly are ever-flowering.

The first pink wax begonia was selected by the German gardener Russel in 1879. A year later the white flowering Schmidt’s begonia was introduced from Brazil. And since then, the spectacular hybrids of Schmidt and wax begonias have become the mainstay of gardens all around the world. In Lithuania these annuals have been named ‘lollipops’.

[banner] Many connoisseurs and hybridizers of wax begonias are based in Denmark and France, where these plants are especially popular. Currently there are listed more than 600 cultivars of wax begonias, which are divided into two groups: typical wax begonias with large, glossy, green or brown leaves and thick stems; and Gracilis group begonias with small, slightly drooping leaves, soft stems and larger flowers.

Leaves of these begonias are usually green, sometimes with a contrasting margin, or brown (at times muddy green). According to their height, wax begonias fall into 3 groups: tall (26-35cm), medium (21-25cm) and low (8-20cm) growing. Flowers come in a variety of colours, ranging from white to dark red, yellow being the only exception.

Wax begonias prefer being grown in full sun, or else they become straggly if planted in shade. Cultivate them on light, fertile, slightly acidic soil (pH 6.2). They do not perform well in alkaline conditions, where their growth is poor, and they become vulnerable to chlorosis and pests. The soil should be cultivated to the depth of 15-20 cm, since these plants have dense, although shallow, roots.

Poor soil should be enriched with peat, compost, well-rotted manure or leaf mold (20-25 kg per sq.m.). Heavy soil should be amended with sand (2-3 kg per sq.m.). Apply mineral fertilizers prior to cultivating the soil – 100-200 g of ammonium nitrate, 250 g of superphosphate and 100g of potassium salt per square metre, or alternatively use complete fertilizer in quantities as recommended on the package. When planting wax begonias in window boxes, use fertile universal planting mix. Since begonias respond well to the microelements boron and manganese, dissolve 2g of boron and 1g of potash permanganate in 10 l of water, and use this solution to water plants occasionally.

Wax begonias are usually planted outside or into containers in late May or early June, after all danger of frosts has past. Wax begonias should be planted in a way that their root necks are flush with the surface. Begonias are best planted in borders in 2 or 3 rows. The rows should be spaced at 13-15cm, with 10cm intervals between the plants. In island beds begonias look best when planted in groups. Tall plants should be spaced at 10-12cm, while 8-10cm is sufficient between the low – growing plants.

Water begonias with tepid water in the morning or in the evening. Mulch plants with peat to help conserve moisture within the ground. Feed begonias every 10 days with mineral fertilizers compounded for flowering plants.

Before the first frosts wax begonias can be transplanted into pots and moved inside. They will sulk for a couple of days, and may drop a few flowers, but later they will pick up and continue flowering for a long time. They can be grown as house plants – when fertilized continuously (a spoonful of fertliser to 10 l of water) wax begonias carry on flowering year-round, if only getting a little straggly in winter, when short of light. Begonias are transplanted in March or April, and their leggy shoots are shortened at the same time.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Lawn daisies

These are annual or perennial herbaceous plants. Their leaves are arranged in rosettes. The flower heads of species daisies are 1-2 cm in diameter, while those of the cultivars are 3-8 cm wide. They flower in April and May, but if lawn is regularly mown (which prevents plants from blooming in due time) the flowering can extend throughout the summer. Lawn daisies usually set seeds, and they often self-sow. Seeds remain viable for 3-4 years.

Many garden forms of perennial daisies (Bellis perennis L.) are widely cultivated, which are most often grown as biennials. The plants are 10-30 cm tall, with small ovoid or spoon-shaped evergreen leaves. In the first year daisies grow the leaf rosette, producing flowers in the second year. They send up 15-30 cm tall flower stalks with numerous yellow-eyed flower heads in white, pink or red, and sometimes in other colours. Leaves and buds, which have been set late in the season, overwinter well and start flowering in April, weather permitting, or in May. They flower most profusely in spring or early summer, however, if summer is cool and rainy, they will keep sending up flower stalks until the autumn frosts. During a very hot spring flowers will usually be smaller, and the flowering will be over soon.

Fully double daisies sometimes mutate and self-sown plants come back as single daisies.

[banner] Garden forms of daisies are numerous, and they are classified into groups by anatomy of the flower, and by fullness of their blooms – fully double, semi-double or single. According to the size of the flower, daisies can be small-flowered (2-4 cm wide), medium-flowered (4-6 cm) or large-flowered (6 cm and more).

Lawn daisies grow quite well in open sunny locations, but feel more comfortable and flower for longer in semi-shade, especially if the weather is hot. They are not particular about the soil, but they produce larger flowers when grown in fertile free-draining soil. Daisies can be transplanted even when in flower.

In dry weather daisies require additional watering, otherwise their flowers become smaller, and fully double forms start to mutate. If you want to prevent daisies from producing seeds and to extend their flowering, remove spent flowers. If daisies are grown in the lawn, feel free to mow them. Daisies grown in the lawn do not need additional watering or feeding, since they receive sufficient moisture and fertlisers along with the grass. These flowers dislike soggy soil in late autumn. If daisies are grown in flowerbeds, and the winter is snowless, or if the snow cover has been blown away, protect plants with dry leaves and conifer branches.

Daisies are propagated from seed, by cuttings and clump division. Seeds are sown in late June or early July directly into the flowerbed, and germinate in 7-10 days. Seedlings are thinned to every 10 cm, and are usually transplanted into the flowering position in August at 20 cm intervals.

Daisies suit large and small gardens alike. They are easy to cultivate as pot plants. Containers planted with daisies can be placed near a water feature, on lawn edge, next to hedges, or they can adorn a garden bench, a table or a patio. They can be used as an early accent to decorate balconies in May. In moist and fertile places daisies can be grown as lawn replacement, eventually spreading into a flowering carpet. They associate well with hyacinths, tulips, forget-me-nots and pansies.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Hibiscus in the lithuanian garden

Hibiscus, or rosemallow, is a large genus which includes more than 200 species of deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees, as well as annual and perennial herbaceous plants. Almost all of them are native to tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world (including the popular houseplant – the Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)); hence only very few of the genus can be grown outside in temperate climate. The common garden hibiscus (Hibiscus syriacus) is the most widely grown hardy species.

[banner] Hardy does not always means really hardy… Garden hibiscus may succesfully grow here for many years if winters are not very cold, and die back to the ground in a heavy winter like we had this year. Anyway new shoots grow fast and start flowering in late summer. Young plants are more frost-sensitive. Hibiscus feel good during our cool summers, they can be container-grown, moving them inside for the winter. Heavy mulching helps roots to survive the winter.

The common garden hibiscus (Hybiscus syriacus) is native to China and Western Asia. This species of hibiscus is well-loved and widely grown in Europe. These are compact shrubs of variable height up to 2-4 m. Flowers, which are smaller than those of true chinese hibiscus, come in a variety of colours – ranging from white to lilac, often bicoloured, single or double.

Garden hibiscus are widely used as landscape shrubs or small tress. They thrive in sunny, well-lit and moist locations. During hot weather, they require copious watering and feeding in order to extend their flowering from mid-July up to the first frosts. They tolerate shady position, but the flower display will be less spectacular. However in sunny position they overflower very fast.

Propagation is from seed (species), or by green and semi-woody cuttings (cultivars). Seeds are sown in early spring after the cold germination treatment.

Common hibiscus are not particular about the soil (they do need a well-drained spot though), but they strongly prefer full or half full sun, growing spindly in shaded location. They dislike strong winds. They are drought-resistant, but produce exceptional quantities of flowers, when regularly watered and fertilised. During cold spring with recurrent frosts, the young shoots of hibiscus should be protected (but mostly they sprout quite late, after the spring frosts are passed).

Winter thaws can be lethal to rosemallows, if their roots remain waterlogged for some time, therefore a thick layer of draining material should be spread at the bottom of the planting hole when planting hibiscus is clay soils.

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The great divide

Spring is the perfect time to divide and plant herbaceous perennials. After 2-5 years clumps of most perennials become overcrowded and their vigour deteriorates. As a result plants produce fewer flowers, and loose some of their ornamental value.

As a general rule, spring is the best time to divide and plant summer- and autumn-flowering plants (starting with mid-June), and ornamental grasses (miscanthus, reed grass, feather grass). This is best done at the time when new shoots appear, which makes it easier to see how the clump should be divided. Make sure you divide the plant before shoots become too tall – this way damage will be kept to a minimum.

Plants, which flower in early spring (up to early June), should be divided in autumn. There are exceptions, however. Primroses, as well as most of the flowering alpine plants (creeping phlox, aubrieta, basket-of-gold, several sedums) can be divided soon after the flowering is over. This does not harm these plants in any way. Daylilies can be divided at any time throughout the growing season; the best time for bearded irises is after flowering, while peonies are usually divided in autumn.

Here are some tell-tale signs that your herbaceous perennials need rejuvenating: clump becomes congested and contaminated by perennial weeds, which are impossible to remove. the plant produces fewer flowers each year, and goes dormant earlier in the season. the middle of the clump dies down, with new shoots growing on the perimetre.

Dig out the overcrowded clump, shake off as much of soil as possible and carefully divide into several portions, each with viable roots and strong shoots. Give away smaller portions to your gardening friends, or move into nursery bed (pots) for growing on. Discard dead parts of the plant and woody roots, carefully removing any perennial weeds. If you intend to plant the rejuvenated plant back into the same spot, replace some of the planting soil. Plant at the same depths as before, and water well.

[banner] Some plants are easily divided by hand, but a sharp knife will come useful while dividing others. Old clumps of miscanthus are notoriously difficult to divide. Clumps of deadnettle, lady`s mantle, lungwort, sea thrift, creeping jenny, coralbells, columbines, bugleweed, bleeding-heart, primula, creeping phlox, maiden pinks are easily divided by hand. But you will need a sharp knife to divide overgrown plants of yarrow, bellflower, rudbeckia, coneflower, bee balm, asters, hosta, goldenrod, catmint, astrantia, salvia, bugbane, some of the poppies, aconitum and perennials tickseed.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Rejuvenating conifer hedges

Thuja and yew hedges. The rejuvenation method, as described above, is not suitable for conifers, since they have very few dormant buds. Thujas and yews are an exception, since they respond well to sever cutting back. Old plants should be reduced by half, and lateral branches should be shortened by half or a third, so as to shape the hedge into a sloping form. Dead branches should be removed. The best time to rejuvenate conifers is summer, from the beginning of June to midsummer. You could also prune in the second half of summer to early winter, however, this period is less favorable. The rejuvenated plants should be looked after, fertilized, and watered in a prolonged dry spell.

Although thujas are an exceptionally die-hard genus, it is only next year that the hedge will start breaking into new growth. Thujas need a lot of sunlight, and they will turn spindly when planted in a shaded position, while yews can take some shade very well. The yew or thuja hedge can be sheared in early spring, or (and) several times during the summer. In order to keep the hedge dense, the tops and the sides of the plants should be trimmed regularly.

In regard to how well conifers take to shearing, junipers fall somewhere in between the yew or the thuja and the conifers of the pine family. While junipers do not take kindly to severe cutting back as thujas would, they respond well to regular trimming, especially Juniperusxmedia, Juniperus squamata or Juniper virginiana.

[banner] Hedges of other conifers. One should not even attempt to rejuvenate a hedge of hemlocks, spruces, firs or pines, since these conifers do not break into new growth from old wood. Therefore, it is important that hedges of these conifers should receive regular maintenance right from the beginning. A hedge should be trimmed every year, so as to avoid any die-back of branches. Best time to clip these plants is the summer (June to July), when the weather is warm and dry. Alternatively, pruning could be done in late winter or early spring, but this is less favorable time. Refrain from clipping conifers of these genuses in April and May, after the plants break dormancy, since the conifers will “bleed” too much sap and the wound will take time to heal, which will weaken the plants as a result.

One way of trimming conifers is to nip terminal shoots, leaving only lateral ones. This is an efficient way to keep the hedge in check, albeit one requiring a lot of time and patience. Alternatively, you could cut back young new shoots, which will reduce the growth rate of the hedge, ensuring its compact form and preventing any dead branches. Make sure, that there are still several lateral shoots to cover up the removed terminal shoot. This task is best performed in summer, however, it can be done any other time, provided you do not cut into old wood, and the tree does not loose too much sap. The shoots of pines have no lateral buds, therefore the cut should be made as close to side shoots as possible, so as to prevent dry stumps of cut branches sticking out.

© Mygarden.lt, 2010

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Shrubs in mixed borders

The flower borders require constant attendance from early spring to late autumn. There are bulbs to be planted and replanted, or herbaceous perennials that require dividing every 2 to 5 years. Then there is fertilizing, mulching, watering, thinning, pruning, deadheading. Besides, many herbaceous flowering plants look good only for a certain period of time, while they are in bloom. After the flowers fade, they only sit there providing with greenery or go dormant until the next season.

Ornamental shrubs are much easier to look after – they are long lived, resistant to drought and cold, and retain their shape well after their reach their full maturity, remaining ornamental throughout the season. Compact shrubs are well suited to being planted in mixed borders – they require little maintenance, they do not encroach upon neighboring plants, while providing the flower bed with good structure, height and shape. Generally, a shrub 60-120cm wide would take as much space as 3 or 7 perennial herbaceous plants.

While choosing shrubs for the borders, their ultimate size, bloom time or foliage colour are not the only criteria to consider. The growth habit of a shrub is an equally important element of design. This is one of then main rules to keep in mind when designing a planting composition.

Rounded shrubs

Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is a very popular plant. There are numerous cultivars offering blooms in a variety of colours. Their flowering extends from June to September and even later. They can attain height and width of 90cm, but more commonly they are kept smaller that this. The most beautiful varieties, although somewhat rare in trade, are ‘Red Robin’, ‘Orangeade’, ‘Mango Tango’ with scarlet, orange or bicolor flowers.

Japanese spireas (Spiraea japonica) are some of the most beautiful and maintenance-free small shrubs. They are compact, easy to prune and they retain their shape well. These spireas normally grow up to 60cm tall and 80cm wide, however, more often they are trimmed to a more compact shape. ‘Little Princess’, ‘Goldflame’, ‘Shirobana’, ‘Magic Carpet’, ‘Goldmound’ are all good choices for the flower borders. They all bloom abundantly, and cultivar ‘Shirobana’ is known for its bicolor flowers. ‘Goldflame’, ‘Magic Carpet’, ‘Little Princess’ and ‘Goldmound’ display colorful young shoots and leaves, which are especially prominent in spring.

The most recently introduced weigela (Weigela) cultivars ‘Minuet’ and ‘Midnight Wine’ grow no more than 1 m tall and wide. ‘Minuet’ leaves are edged in pink, and its flowers are pink. ‘Midnight Wine’ leaves are purple, while its blooms are dark pink. It flowers in June and reblooms again in August.

Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) prefer semi-shaded and sheltered growing spot.

Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus) ‘Rudy Haag’ is a fairly new plant, and therefore still rather rare in trade. It grows into a beautiful, dense, cushion-shaped plant up to 90-150cm tall.

Kalm‘s St.Johnswort (Hypericum kalmianum) grows 60cm tall and 90cm wide. The foliage is glaucous blue and its yellow blooms appear in July or August.

February daphne (Daphne mezereum) ‘Ruby Glow’ grows to 80cm high and wide. Its dark pink flowers appear in early spring.

Weeping  shrubs

Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) ‘Pleniflora’ grows 1,2-1,5 m tall and wide. Its fully double yellow blooms appear from June to August. ‘Variegata’ is a more compact cultivar, and it flowers less, but it is valued for the white-variegated leaves.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergiii) is also suitable for planting in mixed borders. A number of cultivars – ‘Atropurpurea’ (1-1,2m tall), ‘Rose Glow’ (about 1m), ‘Green Carpet’ (up to 50cm), ‘Red Chief’ (1,5m) – have pendulous habit. All, apart from ‘Green Carpet’ display red or purple foliage.

Cutleaf stephanandra (Stephanandra incisa) growth habit is arching – its branches bend downwards under their weight. In autumn the shrub excibits magnificent orange red tints.

Grefsheim spirea (Spiraea x cinerea) ‘Grefsheim’ achieves 1-1,5m height with the same width. Its gracefully arching branches are weighted down with abundant white flowers in April and May.

Upright shrubs

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) ‘Helmond Pillar’ (1,5m) and ‘Red Pillar’ (1,2m) grow into handsome, shapely columns, slightly wider at the top. Their foliage is purple. ‘Sunjoy Gold’ is also an upright shrub, but its leaves are bright yellow. Cultivar “Erecta’ exibits foliage which is green or lime green.

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) ‘Autumn Magic’ grows 1,5m tall and 1m wide. This is a wide upright-growing shrub, with white blooms in spring, which turn by autumn into black berries. The leaves are green and glossy during the season, turning brilliant red in autumn.

Mock orange (Philadelphus) ‘Miniatiure Snowflake’ grows no higher than 1,2m tall. It blooms in June with fully double white flowers.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) ‘Black Lace’ is a shrub or a small tree, which grows wider that it is tall. It usually attains 0,5-2m heigh. Foliage is purple and ferny. [banner]

Red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) ‘Flaviramea’ or ‘Arctic Fire’ are well suited to being planted in mixed borders, where they grow about 1,5m tall and wide. They are especially spectacular in winter, after the leaves have fallen, since their bright yellow or scarlet stems shine from afar.

© Mygarden.lt, 2009