Justin W. Hancock

Planting Pansies

Written on January 15, 2013 at 5:40 am , by

Though we’re still a couple of months away from planting time here in Iowa, I was thinking about pansies yesterday. Their cheery blooms in jewel-like colors never fail to make me smile. Pansies make me especially happy in spring, when those I planted the previous fall overwinter and burst into bloom alongside the bulbs. Most years, overwintered pansies are some of the first flowers to show up in my yard.

Even though I prefer to plant them in autumn so I can get a fall, then spring show out of them, I usually can’t resist planting some in the spring, too. The frost-tolerant plants are a great way to add early color while my perennials are still waking up. And, of course, they’re perfect for early-season planters to add a dash of color next to the front door or in a window box.

New varieties are even more versatile. Cool Wave and Wonderfall pansy varieties both have a trailing habit, making them ideal for hanging baskets or spilling over the edge of a big terra-cotta pot.

How about you? Do you usually plant pansies in the spring, fall, or both? What’s your favorite color in pansy?

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Justin W. Hancock

New Plants for 2013

Written on January 10, 2013 at 5:05 am , by

My favorite thing about January is when I start to receive plant catalogs and get to learn all about all the wonderful new plant varieties for the year. Plant breeders are always working on upgrading our favorite plants — and creating whole new types never before seen by gardeners! Upgraded varieties may come in new colors, offer better disease resistance, offer a bigger or smaller habit, or any other number of features that make them perfect for your garden.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I love putting together the new plants stories you see here on BHG.com. This year I had the pleasure of working with my friends Doug Jimerson and Karen Weir-Jimerson on the lineup. (I had the easy job: picking the plants; they did the fantastic writing.) Are you interested in learning about the must-have plants for 2013? Check out the links below!

New Perennials for Sun

New Perennials for Shade

New Blue/Purple/White/Pink Annuals

New Orange/Yellow/Red Annuals

New Roses for 2013

New Fruits and Vegetables

New Trees, Shrubs, and Vines

Comment below and tell me which ones you’re most excited about!

 


Justin W. Hancock

Happy New Hibiscus

Written on December 13, 2012 at 5:36 am , by

I love perennial hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos hybrids). I know some gardeners think they’re garish and too flashy, but the tropical feel they endow to the garden be so much fun. And they’re so easy to grow! Few perennials tolerate the range of conditions — from hot and dry to wet soil — that perennial hibiscus do.

And it’s really exciting that plant breeders are continuing to work on them, giving gardeners more choices than ever to add to the landscape. One variety I’m particularly excited about is Hibiscus ‘Hypnotic’. This stunner offers 11-inch-wide pale pink flowers with deeper stripes that radiate from a glowing red throat. It’s accented by finely cut purple-tinted foliage that looks great all summer and autumn.

Another exciting aspect to the plant is that it grows only 42 inches tall — so it’s easier than ever to tuck into the garden. Pair it with pink coneflowers, coreopsis (such as ‘Cosmic Evolution’), and Rozanne perennial geranium for a combo that flowers all summer long, no matter what the weather’s like.

Look for ‘Hypnotic’ hibiscus at your local garden center this spring!


Justin W. Hancock

Start a Hydrangea ‘Revolution’

Written on December 6, 2012 at 5:34 am , by

The first time I saw Everlasting Revolution hydrangea, I knew I was looking at something special. It was a couple of years ago and I’ve patiently waited for this plant to make it to garden centers. Happily, in 2013, the wait is over! Want a sneak peek of something you’ll just have to have this year? Read on!

What made such an impression on me was the plant’s constitution. The leaves were thick and almost leathery to the touch. The blooms were thick, too, and almost rubbery so you know they’ll hold up a good long while. I had guessed the thickness of the leaves meant the hydrangea would hold up better to drought than your typical bigleaf hydrangea — and the baby trial plant I grew in the summer of 2012 did hold up impressively to our hot summer temperatures.

Being a plant geek, I pay attention to the way the plant performs. Those qualities excited me. But most of my friends were much more interested in the blooms and the fact that the flowers go through a color-changing phase. They start out pink or blue (or purple), depending on the pH of your soil and gradually take on green highlights, giving them an old-fashioned look. I do have to admit it’s pretty fun.

Another thing that caught my eye is that Everlasting Revolution hydrangea is a rebloomer, so it blooms on new stems and old. That’s really important to me here in Zone 5 Iowa, where harsh winters kill the flower buds before they open. That means we’ll get to enjoy this plant’s lovely blooms all summer, no matter how harsh the winter is.

Look for Everlasting Revolution hydrangea in a garden center near you this spring!

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Justin W. Hancock

Fall Garden Checklist

Written on November 9, 2012 at 7:45 am , by

┬áHere in Iowa we had a terribly hot, dry summer. Autumn wasn’t much better; it was still very dry. If your area is like ours, one of the most important things you can do for your fall garden is to water your plants in well, especially those evergreens. Keeping evergreens well-hydrated going into winter is one of the best things you can do to prevent them from browning.

Another perfect thing to do is wrap the trunk of young trees in tree wrap. This protects them from critters — such as rabbits — that may gnaw the tender bark.

Now is the perfect time to combat clay soil, too. In my last garden, which had the worst clay soil I’ve ever seen, I would cover my garden beds in an inch of compost every spring and every autumn. I started to see improvement after just a couple of years. If your lawn is struggling, you can do the same thing to your turf. Compost has the same beneficial effects on the soil, meaning your grass will grow thicker, hold its own better against weeds, and stay greener longer during periods of drought.

Get more ideas on what you can be doing now from our Fall Garden Checklist!

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Justin W. Hancock

There’s a New Fertilizer in Town

Written on October 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm , by

Today my fellow BHG garden editors and I had a special guest: The folks from Sustane popped down (from my home state of Minnesota) to talk about their line of natural, organic fertilizers. Sustane has been around for a while, but mainly in the professional arena: Golf courses, commercial agriculture, etc.

For spring of 2013, the company is releasing a couple of mixes designed specifically for home gardeners like you and me. The product is made from turkey litter, the company representatives told us, and fully composted at about 150 degrees for about half a year. That makes the nutrients available almost right away when you go to use it.

They talked a lot about organic fertilizers, of course, and their benefits: They help build the soil profile, they’re much less likely to run off into our water supply, and it’s tough to burn your plants by using too much. Organic matter, especially compost like this, also encourages beneficial microorganisms in the soil — and they can help your plants resist disease better.

I like that the company is using a waste product — turkey litter and droppings — and turning it into something useful. And I like the idea of using a natural product that’s not overly produced.

Happily, they provided samples so this spring I’ll get to try it out!

What do you think? Do you fertilize your garden? If so, does organic or synthetic matter to you? Comment below !

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