February 2011

Denny Schrock

pruning with confidence

Written on February 25, 2011 at 11:06 am , by

Remove branches by pruning just outside the swollen branch collar at the base of the branch, where it attaches to the main stem.

Remove branches by pruning just outside the swollen branch collar at the base of the branch, where it attaches to the main stem.

Late winter is a great time to catch up on pruning deciduous trees. With leaves off the tree, it’s easier to see the branching structure. And pruning now minimizes disease problems because pruning cuts will seal before most diseases become active. (There’s no need to apply pruning paint to the wound.)

I did all my tree pruning last weekend. Of course, my trees are only 6 years old, so it wasn’t much of a chore! However, just because your trees are young is no excuse to avoid pruning if they need it. In fact, it’s much better  to correct problems when the tree is young rather than to wait until it’s full grown, and pruning becomes a major operation.

Start by removing dead, damaged or crossing branches. Also prune out watersprouts (strongly upright growing shoots on side branches) and suckers (upright growing shoots from near the base of the tree). Correct structural problems evident in the branching pattern of the tree. These might be double leaders (2 branches of nearly equal size dominating as the main trunk) or branches with narrow crotch angles. Both of these conditions lead to weak branches that are likely to split later in the tree’s life.

This dead branch stub should have been removed long ago. Note the narrow crotch angle it forms with the branch to its left. This weak branch connection will eventually split apart.

This dead branch stub should have been removed long ago. Note the narrow crotch angle it forms with the branch to its left. This weak branch connection will eventually split apart.

If you have old overgrown trees in need of pruning, consider hiring a certified arborist rather than trying to tackle a job that’s too big for you. Don’t attempt to dangle from a ladder or climb a tree to prune without proper safety equipment. Leave that to trained professionals. The International Society of Arboriculture can tell you whether the arborist that you’re considering is certified or not. And whatever, you do, DON’T top your trees! Doing so weakens the tree and sets it up for failure. For more details about why to avoid topping trees, check the Plant Amnesty website.


James A. Baggett

My Friend Tovah

Written on February 18, 2011 at 2:43 pm , by

Of course I was a big fan of the not-so-big Tovah Martin long before I met her. I knew her garden writing from Victoria magazine and from both of her works on author, illustrator, and gardener Tasha Tudor (Tasha Tudor’s Garden and Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts). I remember being a bit nervous about our first meeting at one of Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd’s first garden symposiums up in Vermont back in the early 90s. Tovah had given a lecture on fragrance and passed around little posies of the flowers she talked about so we could indulge in an olfactory sensation featuring some of her old-fashioned favorites like pinks and sweet peas and heliotrope. When it was time for our box lunches out on the lawn, I insinuated myself with Tovah (Terra Nova’s Dan Heims has referred to me as “the friendliest steamroller”) and we ended up picnicking together in the shade.

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Now, almost 20 years later I’m tickled to call Tovah my friend, colleague, and mentor. Her good work appears in every single issue of Country Gardens as it has in every garden single magazine I’ve ever edited. That’s us, above, during a photo shoot about a dozen or so years ago with Richard Felber on cyclamen. Which is why I’m so psyched about the Spring 2011 issue of Country Gardens, which hits newsstands on March 1st: It features for the very first time an exclusive photo shoot of Tovah and her perfectly charming cottage garden in Roxbury, Connecticut, along with her cobbler’s shop and goat barn and her pair of Swiss Valley goats. The task of putting Tovah’s garden into words went to the masterful Anne Raver. Here’s a sneak peak of one of Rob Cardillo’s lovely images of Tovah’s indiosyncratic garden.

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Denny Schrock

you make me blush

Written on February 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm , by

'Raphael' blushing bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae)

'Raphael' blushing bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae)

Blushing bromeliads are low-maintenance tropicals that make colorful, easy-care houseplants. The plants have serrated straplike leaves which create a cup in the center of the rosette that they form. To water the plant, simply pour water into the cup. (Note the standing water in the cup of ‘Raphael’ at left.) Immature foliage is green, often striped with white or chartreuse, but when the plant is about to flower, the leaves develop a rosy hue, giving rise to the common name. Small purple flowers develop in the cup, but they’re secondary to the colorful leaves.

The photos in this post show some of the varieties of blushing bromeliad available. While ‘Raphael’ has deep green leaves with a narrow white margin, ‘Ardie’, below, is the reverse: white leaves with a narrow green band along the edge of the leaf. New foliage on ‘Cookie’ emerges green and creamy white, but quickly develops a pink cast. And ‘Green Apple’ glows with its magenta pink leaves merging to an apple green base.

'Ardie' blushing bromeliad

'Ardie' blushing bromeliad

'Cookie' blushing bromeliad

'Cookie' blushing bromeliad

'Green Apple' blushing bromeliad

'Green Apple' blushing bromeliad

My blushing bromeliad has been going strong for the past 4 years. The original central plant died back after it bloomed, but two side shoots or “pups” quickly took its place, and now are developing their own flush of color. The only care the plant gets is bright light and occasional water in the cup. I could use more houseplants like it that thrive on neglect, yet always look great.

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Denny Schrock

orchids are in

Written on February 11, 2011 at 9:52 am , by

Roses may be the traditional flower of choice for Valentine’s Day, but from what I’ve seen at local flower shops, grocery stores, and big box stores, orchids are definitely gaining ground. Moth orchids (Phalaenopsis spp. and Doritaenopsis spp.) are the most widely available types, partly because they are relatively easy to grow, and partly because they last a long time.

Choices within moth orchids are expanding. Mini-moth orchids, such as those pictured at left grow only about 1 foot tall, so they’re ideal for decorating smaller spaces in the home. And with the smaller size comes a smaller price tag, making them an elegant but affordable extravagance.

If orchids are on your Valentine’s gift radar screen, perhaps you’d be interested in a heart-shape moth orchid. This requires an orchid with 2 blooming stems. While the flower stalks are young and pliable, the grower bends them into a heart shape with the help of a pliable stake and orchid clips. The deep purple example, below, demonstrates the technique. Another dramatic orchid display comes from cascade types. These full-size phalaenopsis orchids are trained to tumble and flow in a stream of color sure to delight your sweetie.

Heart-shape mini-moth orchid

Cascading Phalaenopsis orchid


Justin W. Hancock

Sneak Peek!

Written on February 9, 2011 at 8:01 am , by

One of the coolest things about my job is that I get to see new plants before they hit the market. Here’s one I’m really excited to try — Verbena ‘Estrella Voodoo Star’. This variety has the potential to add some real zing to my mixed containers!
What do you think? Do you like it or is it a little over the top for your tastes? Post a comment below!

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Justin W. Hancock

Hot New Variety

Written on February 7, 2011 at 6:18 am , by

We’ve mentioned how rich, dark colors are a trend in the garden — and here’s another wonderfully trendy plant. It’s called Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Blackberry Punch’ and it’s a new variety for 2011 from the folks at Proven Winners and we think it’ll be an exciting new way to add drama to your mixed plantings.

What do you think? Let us know!

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