Eric Liskey

Feeding the birds

Crabapples are a great source of food for winter birds. I’ve noticed, some years, that my crabapple has a huge crop hanging on its bare branches, and it seems to go unnoticed by the birds for many weeks. Then suddenly, it’s discovered and within a day, the fruit are gone. Starlings seem to love them especially.
It takes a lot of a tree’s energy to mature a crop of crabapples. Some varieties hardly grow any new foliage or branches in years when they have a heavy crop. Conversely, if there’s little crop (for example, after a late freeze destroys the bloom), a tree can really grow like crazy.
I would never seek to eliminate crabapple crop because of its value to birds, and because the plant growth regulator that does that (Florel) is applied when the tree is in bloom, causing the flowers to drop. Seems pointless to grow a crabapple when you eliminate its two most attractive features!
Florel is great for eliminating true nuisance fruit, though. Liquidamber pods, those spiking things that you used to play with as a kid, are a good example. Few homeowners use Florel, because they have trouble getting a sprayer that can reach up into a tree. So most people ask a yard servicer to do it.

Crabapple fruit

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Eric Liskey

Straight and narrow

Arborvitae are popular for good reason — they’re useful. Easy to grow, they are great screening plants with dense foliage, and they’re evergreen. One issue that arises, however, is their tendency to flop when it snows. This is a problem with a simple, which is not necessarily to say easy, solution. Arborvitae send up multiple leaders (shoots that grow upward and compete with the main, central shoot), which get spindly and weak. So the solution is to clip out the competing leaders to maintain a single, strong, central leader. This is actually great advice for many kinds of evergreens, such as firs, spruces and many pines. Even when a tree naturally grows with a strong central shoot, it will occasionally send up a competing shoot, resulting in a structurally weak fork, and degrading the beautiful conical form that’s so attractive on many of these specimens. When you spot them, these competing shoots should always be removed (or in many cases simply cutting off the terminal bud will suffice). The trouble with arborvitae is that this means a lot of trimming because they send out so many of these shoots. But it’s worth the trouble, IMO. The end product is a strong, nicely formed plant that won’t make you worry every time it snows.

Trim arborvitae by removing shoots that compete with the central leader.

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Eric Liskey

King of Color

As you see here, there’s a reason why sugar maples have the reputation of being one of the very best trees for fall color. Autumn foliage varies year to year, but maples in general, and sugar maples in particular, are among the most consistent—and spectacular. Green Mountain is probably the most planted variety, because it grows faster than the typical sugar maple (which is a little on the slow side), but still has the prized fall show. This is worth having in your yard!

A sugar maple doing what it does best.

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BHG Guest Blogger

Oh My Deer!

The following is a guest blog post from Scott Jamieson, Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts.

Deer, they are so cute—who doesn’t want to see a deer? One in the landscape can be a fantastic sight, at first. In many places in the country deer have overpopulated their natural habitat and have moved into the urban and suburban landscape. Many communities that have never seen a deer are being overrun by the doe-eyed creatures.

An adult deer eats about six pounds of plant material each day which adds up to about a ton of plant material each year for every adult deer. When they are feeding in the forest that is not a problem but it is when they find the delectable food of our landscapes it becomes a serious issue.  Landscapes that have been nurtured for years can be stripped clean in one winter if hungry deer find their way to the previously undiscovered gourmet dining spot. Our landscapes can contain plants that deer absolutely love and once they find a spot to dine, they will be back for more.

Keeping deer out of your landscape is also a health concern. Besides denuding the landscape, deer harbor ticks that can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A single deer tick can introduce 450,000 tick larvae a year into its territory.

Deer are most effectively managed by keeping them out of the landscape physically. This typically involves putting a fence around the entire property or certainly the areas you want to protect. A deer fence must be tall enough to keep leaping deer out—at least 7 feet tall. You can also install products such as the Shrub Coat on smaller plantings that will keep deer from feasting on the plants while also protecting the plants from cold temperatures.

Many property owners spray deer repellents on valuable plants.  No repellent is foolproof but several have proved to be quite effective in reducing deer damage if used regularly and with the correct timing.

Click here for a list of deer-resistant plants from Bartlett Tree Experts you should consider for your landscape. Know, however, that under extreme populations deer will eat just about anything and you may find that a plant deer have never touched becomes their filet mignon the next year.


Scott Jamieson is Vice President with Bartlett Tree Experts. He leads Bartlett’s national recruiting and corporate partnerships efforts and also heads the Bartlett Inventory Solutions team in providing innovative and technologically advanced tree management plans to clients across the country. Prior to joining Bartlett in 2008, Scott was President and CEO of a national tree care firm.




James A. Baggett

The Richmond Schoolyard Project

While nosing around Richmond, British Columbia, looking for stories recently, I had the chance to spend a delightful morning with chef Ian Lai of the Richmond Schoolyard Society at the Terra Nova Rural Park Community Garden. The Richmond Schoolyard Project was founded in 2006 by Ian, a school instructor as well as a chef. He was frustrated by his students’ lack of knowledge about how the food cycle works, so he started this not-for-profit community-based project that connects elementary and high school students with the earth, the community around them, and agriculture at large. Working with adult volunteers from the neighborhood, students learn to grow, harvest, cook, and eat nutritiously. Letting nothing go to waste, chef Ian creates everything from dandelion wine (delicious!) to his own ground wheat bread onsite. Chef prepared us a lovely breakfast in the garden using ingredients from the garden. Look for a story on this impressive organization in a future issue of Country Gardens!

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BHG Guest Blogger

Chasing the Winter Blues with Lively Greens!

The following is a guest blog post from Katie McCoy Dubow.

The winter blues affects us all differently, but surrounding yourself with fresh, colorful plants all winter is sure to be the cure for what ails you.

With color, texture, drama and a touch of whimsy, indoor plants instantly liven up any room with their individual personalities and will help you beat the winter blues this year. Whether it’s a terrarium full of succulents or the bold colors of an amaryllis, there is an indoor garden that will fit your style, mood and taste.

Besides what they give back in aesthetics, one of the greatest things indoor plants do is provide much needed humidity in the winter months and freshen the air year round.

Here are four, easy indoor garden styles to brighten up your home this winter:

Craft a mini garden with maximum impact.
Terrariums are a popular garden style because they require little maintenance to flourish, yet have an endlessly elegant look.  The key to success is choosing the right plants. A great variety to start with is Golden Club Moss because it thrives in a low light, high moisture environment. Other great starter plants include water-retaining, light-loving succulents and cacti. They’re virtually indestructible and come in many colors, shapes and varieties.

Learn how to make your own terrarium.

Create inner peace.
Creating this indoor garden will help calm and relax your mind. Every aspect of a Zen garden — its nature, construction and upkeep — is designed for contemplation and reflection. Rocks and sand make up the basic elements, but beyond that it’s up to you. NativeCast’s dish containers work perfectly as a base for your Zen garden because of their size and shape.  Have fun with it and think of it as an ever changing work of art.

Photo credit: NativeCast

Even more Japanese garden inspiration.

Make your room come alive.
Greenery is growing in surprising places. Just look up and around. Now you can get your nature fix inside with your very own living walls or vertical gardens. If you have the time and resources, or want a visually dramatic look for a room, living walls are the ticket.

Garden expert at Costa Farms, Justin Hancock, says that living green walls are a great way to maximize the benefits of houseplants by purifying the air and beautifying spaces. Try hanging one in the kitchen planted with herbs for fresh kitchen flavors all year long.

With more and more companies selling these kits and supplies, it’s easy to re-create these gardens over a weekend.

Make your own living wall.

Pop a color that will last all winter.
Growing bulbs indoors in the winter lets you enjoy the colors and fragrance of spring even though it’s still months away.  But now’s the time to get started.

First, choose your bulbs. Amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus from Longfield Gardens are perfect for indoor gardening because they don’t require any chill time. I like to plant bulbs every week in the winter, so I can have blooming flowers all winter long.  Paperwhites will bloom in four to six weeks, amaryllis in six to eight.

Photo credit: Longfield Gardens

Here are my top 12 favorite ways to decorate with amaryllis.

Katie McCoy Dubow is creative officer at Garden Media, a PR firm specializing in the horticulture industry.