5/25/2012 10:00:00 PM Column: Landscapes make first and last impressions
Courtesy photo The Adonis Blue English butterfly bush, with rich purple flowers on a bush that only grows hip-high, is new this planting season.
Ken Lain The Mountain Gardener
Most homeowners recognize the need to remodel the inside of their homes but don't realize that their landscaping also benefits from an occasional updating.
A front landscape covered in junipers and rocks screams out: "Look how old and outdated I am!" Remodeling your landscape is quicker, easier, and cheaper than remodeling any other part of your home, and updating it is important because the landscaping is the first and the last impression guests and neighbors will have of your home.
When remodeling a landscape, keep in mind that some plants can be used to highlight the yard. An excellent plant to fill this bill is the knee-high autumn sage. It loves our summer heat and thrives with minimal water. Hummingbirds drool over the blazing red cone-shaped flowers and their super-sweet nectar. This sage will happily take to the hottest spots in the yard; it also does well in containers, raised beds and borders. Except for the hummers, it is not attractive to wildlife; even deer do not care for the taste.
Landscape plants occasionally need to be trimmed, shaped up or cut down. For example, hedges are meant to accent your home, not hide it. Now is a good time to cut back overgrown hedges. If necessary, cut them back by a third. They'll be shorter and look kind of ugly but will grow back quickly. Give them a good plant food right after pruning and bright new leaves will emerge within a few weeks.
My loose definition of a weed is any plant in the yard that is unwanted. So, I say, don't be afraid to clear out and replace old tired-looking plants with fresh new ones. That goes for trees, shrubs, flowers and ground covers. In gardening this is much like an interior designer changing the paint on the walls. Remodeling a landscape refreshes the outside appearance of your house, and it's surprising how much better the gardener feels, too!
A seasonal transition has taken place at your favorite garden center. Spring plants like lilac, forsythia and quince have been replaced with selections of showier summer shrubs. Butterfly bushes, hibiscus, evergreen jasmine, Russian sage and native yucca have taken prominence, and all are in bloom. Each loves the warmth of our late spring weather and all transplant well despite our high temps.
When planting you will always need three components for success ... mulch, all-purpose food and Root & Grow. To keep the soil loose and to introduce some organic matter, add composted mulch to your yard's crummy soil. An all-purpose transplant food will encourage more growth in the first season, while a soaking of Root & Grow reduces transplant shock and stimulates new root formation. Use these three soil additives and your spring planting success will skyrocket.
Many plants sleep through the winter season, don't respond to the spring season, and much prefer the heat of summer to show their stuff. Butterfly bushes fill the air with summer-long fragrance, and their blooms are irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds. Most butterfly bushes are expected to grow well past the average gardener's height, but not anymore.
The Adonis Blue English butterfly bush is new this summer. It is a relative to the taller Dark Knight variety, beloved for its dark velvety purple blossoms, that easily reaches a height of over 10 feet. With the Adonis Blue English variety, the same dark velvety flowers can be had on a ball-shaped butterfly bush that only grows as high as a gardener's hip. This selection from the compact English Butterfly series is extra-bushy and loaded with fragrant colorful flowers all summer long. It is easy to grow and is well adapted to our mountain climate. The compact form also makes it a good candidate for a container garden placed in the hotter spots of a patio or deck.
New plant tip: Dry native soil can wick away moisture from newly planted trees and shrubs. Supplement your irrigation system for plants that have been in the ground for less than a year. Once per week, hand water your new plants so the surrounding soil becomes saturated. The additional water adds moisture to the soil surrounding the root ball and maximizes your gardening success.
The U.S. Forest Service just completed an interesting study showing that trees and gardens are influences on reducing crime. Quoting from the results: "A 10 percent increase in leaf canopy was associated with a 12 percent drop in crime. The neighborhoods that had more trees and gardens seemed to have less crime."
The study connected the dots to conclude that the more trees, the more shade ... the more shade, the more that people want to spend time outdoors ... and the more people spending time out of doors, the more eyes on the street to deter crime.
Maybe we should start a new local campaign with the slogan: "Plant a tree, stop a crime."
Until next week, I'll see you at the garden center.
Ken Lain, owner of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, is a master gardener and certified nursery professional who has gardened extensively throughout Yavapai County.