Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brrrrrrr!! Help Protect Your Plants from the Cold.

It's gonna get chilly tonight! Here's a few tips for protecting plants when temperatures dip below 32 degrees F:
1) Hopefully, you've brought in any annuals you want to try to overwinter, as well as tropicals such as houseplants, hibiscus, etc. If not, do it before this evening.
2) Cover pansies, blooming camellias, and any plants with tender foliage, and try to do it before dusk. Old blankets and towels are good, sheets aren't bad. DON'T use plastic to cover. Other options: cardboard boxes, paper bags, buckets, newspaper, old nursery pots. (By the way, pansies are cold hardy. They'll just look better if you cover them.)
3)You may need to put up some supports if the weight of the cover threatens to damage the plants, and you may need to secure the coverings to keep wind from blowing them away.
4) If you're really into it, you can rig Christmas lights onto sturdy plants for added warmth and then cover them. Note: LED lights will not work. They don't generate heat.
5) Container plants are more susceptible to cold. Protect them by moving them against the house, preferably on a south or west facing side. Mulch over the top of the soil in the container to protect the roots and huddle the plants together. You can add bales of straw around them for more insulation. If the tops of the plants have blooms, like camellias, or tender foliage you should also cover them with a blanket or similar (again, not plastic.)
6) The following morning, if temperatures are above 32 degrees F, remove coverings, ESPECIALLY black plastic nursery pots and buckets which can retain a lot of heat.
7) Don't worry about the foliage on emerging bulbs. They can hack it.
8) Steve, our nursery dept manager, says don't forget to feed the birdies (but feel free to kick the squirrels). Steve does not like squirrels.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk Sittin' on a Limb

Did you know that Homewood Nursery is a Certified Wildlife Habitat? Apparently someone did.Monday was made a little bit more interesting than usual here at Homewood by a large, feathered visitor. A lovely red-tailed hawk flew in for lunch (quite literally, she found herself a tasty shrew amongst the ivy by the nursery office) and landed on a nearby dogwood.
She sat there for at three hours or so while I took her picture from every angle and never seemed to mind all the attention she attracted.
I managed to get within 15 feet of her to capture some of these images.
For a few mintues during the siting, a brave (or maybe just stupid) squirrel actually taunted her but she never moved to strike him!
As the sun began to set she decided to find a new vantage point and on the way she stopped in at the courtyard pond for a drink.
From her perch in another dogwood overlooking the parking lot she sat, warmed by the evening sun and seemed to pose for me by looking this way and that.
Believe it or not, there are some days when it's not all about plants :)

Christina, Assistant Nursery Manager

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All the colors of fall

So we haven't written in a while and we're sorry. But that's because we've been so darn busy with all the new plants that arrive in autumn.
My absolute favorite fall plant has to be the fall blooming Camellia (C. sasanqua and its hybrids). Anyone who visits Homewood in October has probably seen me stalking the camellia bed, camera in hand, hunting for new blooms to shoot. Every year we manage to get our hands on at least a few varieties we've never had before from our fabulous local source, Cam Too in Greensboro. This year there were three.

'Winter's Sunset' has a soft peachy-pink bloom that isn't terribly exciting but the flowers aren't why you grow this one anyway. The small, toothy leaves are a striking combination of dark emerald green and lighter green variegation that provides a good deal of interest long after the flowering season has ended.Camellia 'Winter's Sunset'

I'm not sure what 'Mikuniko' means in japanese but it could easily translate to "abundant coral pink blooms". When this cultivar arrived in late September it was already blooming its head off and four weeks later it shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Camellia 'Mikuniko'My top pick for this year has to be 'Hienko'. Its newly opened flowers look almost like a rosebud and though the blooms are fairly small they have a charming semi-double form.Camellia 'Hienko'
'Hienko's best feature is its awesome purple overtones. It has got to be one of the richest purple Camellias I've ever seen in person. It's so tasty, I could it eat it.Camellia 'Hienko'

Although I love to meet the new Camellias on the block there are a few varieties that I enjoy seeing year after year.

There's 'Chisato-no-aki' with its formal double, cream-colored blooms and slightly weeping growth habit.Camellia 'Chisato-no-aki'
Or 'Autumn Sunrise' with its bold, pink-stained flowers.Camellia 'Autumn Sunrise'

I've recently rediscovered 'Winter's Snowman' which I dismissed at first because it's white (it's quite closed minded of me but I tend to find white camellias boring). But the relatively large bloom size and the super-cool anemone form have changed my thinking.Camellia 'Winter's Snowman'
I have always been impressed with 'Long Island Pink' not necessarily for its flower shape or color but for the amazing quantity of blooms it produces and its very dense, very vigorous growth habit. Camellia 'Long Island Pink''Pink Goddess' may have been one of the first cultivars I fell for here at the nursery. It's a not-too-obnoxious shade of peachy-pink and the blooms are somewhat cup-shaped which is just fun. It's also a heavy bloomer and very upright; good for narrow spaces.Camellia 'Pink Goddess'
One of the cultivars that the N.C. State arboretum has deemed worthy enough to grow is the adorable 'Leslie Ann'. The flowers are small but each one is a formal-double work of art. Camellia 'Leslie Ann'
Lastly I must mention one of the most unique varieties I've encountered, 'Moon Festival'. It looks a bit like a piece of paper you balled up and then unscrunched. Or maybe a wrinkled shirt that needs a good ironing. The flowers are huge for a sasanqua camellia (up to 5 inches across) and each petal has that neat crinkled look. Most of our customers either love it or they hate it. There's not many in between feelings for this one. It's pretty clear which side I'm on.
Camellia 'Moon Festival'

Ah Camellias! How I love thee.

Christina, Assistant Nursery Manager

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Little Pinch Can Be a Good Thing

Question: I read instructions on a type of plant that said for stronger growth you should pinch off a part of the plant. What does that mean?

Answer: Usually, the plant in question will grow tall and even somewhat leggy if it is left unpinched. Tall, leggy plants tend to flop over and need staking besides being oftentimes less attractive. The term "pinch" can be confusing to gardeners who aren't familiar with it because to pinch a plant is not to pinch it literally. However, many plants have soft, succulent growth during the growing season that is easily nipped off by "pinching" it between one's thumb and forefinger (nice if the pruners are all the way back in the garage). However, you are actually intending to remove growth here not just pinch it.

When you remove growth, you promote branching. More branching will mean bushier, more compact plants that resist flopping and often look better than unpinched plants. For example, many people grow 'garden mums' (a.k.a. chrysanthemums) for fall color. Without pinching, these plants will bloom earlier in the season because pinching delays bloom (so no fall color) and they will often be tall and leggy and prone to flopping over. You don't always have to pinch back plants. Some are either bred to be compact and bushy or are naturally that way. (or sometimes the pinching is done for you as when our customers come and buy bushy, blooming garden mums in fall. We've already done all the necessary pinching.)

The schedule for this usually starts in late spring once the plant has about 4-5 inches of growth on it. At that point, the tips of the plant are "pinched back" to the next set of leaves. You let the plant branch and grow 4-5 more inches and pinch it again (just to the next set of leaves not all the way back). Usually, you pinch back around 3 to 4 times in a season. Around mid-July, one generally stops pinching (depends on the plant) and lets the plant continue to develop.

-Tina Mast, Communications Director

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Edition of Vital Plant Reference Book!

Ok, this probably qualifies as one of those news tidbits that people in our industry are more likely to be interested in but serious plant lovers will want to know this, too. The new 6th edition of Dr. Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants has been published! For those of you who didn't get glazed over just reading the title and seeing the word "manual", this new edition has over 2,000 new species and cultivars listed as well as expanded descriptions of former entries. This plant nerd, at least, is excited! If you've never seen the manual but are really interested in trees and shrubs, you're welcome to come by and peruse our much-loved, much-abused 5th edition in the nursery office. It's a great reference for thousands of plants.

-Tina Mast, Communications Director

Monday, June 8, 2009

Help For Tomatoes With Brown Spots

Question: My tomato plants lower limbs are turning brown, otherwise the
plants look healthy with blooms and small tomatoes. I am doing nothing different
as I have always done as far a fertilizer and water. Can you help me with this
and what I can do?

It sounds like Early Blight which is a fungal disease that occurs early in the season. There are several diseases that affect tomatoes and they occur for different reasons which can vary from year to year. So, while you may not have had problems last year, that does not guarantee that the next year will be the same even if you are doing the same thing. For one thing, we've had a lot of rain and cloudy days which will always promote fungal disease. It is important to mulch your tomatoes well for several reasons, one of them being that it will help prevent soil-borne disease from splashing up onto the plants when it rains. Also, do not work around the plants when they are wet since you yourself can be a disease vector by touching and spreading it. It's a good idea, if you have the room for it, to plant the tomatoes in a different spot each year since diseases will build up in the soil from year to year.

Once you have the diseases, there is not a lot you can do but here's a few things that can help: Remove the affected branches right away when you see them, mulch the plants, do not water in the evening and try not to overhead water the plants. Instead water only over the root area. Increase air circulation in the area if possible by removing non-essential plants and weeds that might be crowding the tomatoes. You can try Serenade Disease Control an organic spray for diseases. It is better as a preventive than a curative, but it will probably slow the progression of the disease and help prevent the start Septoria leaf spot and late blight, two other tomato diseases that are prevalent. Lastly, if you smoke make sure not to do so near the tomatoes and wash your hands before handling the plants. Tobacco carries a disease that can easily jump to tomatoes.

-Tina Mast, Communications Director

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Plant a Row For the Hungry

We're headed towards that bountiful season of squash, tomatoes, and other summertime veggies. If you have a tendency to grow more than you can consume, consider donating the surplus to your local food bank or soup kitchen. You can also plan to plant an extra row or section of fruits and veggies and donate all the produce grown there. Want to go an extra step? Get with your gardening neighbors and have a small neighborhood Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign! The Plant a Row for the Hungry is a public service program of the Garden Writers Association. Since 1995, over 14 million pounds of produce providing over 50 million meals have been donated by American gardeners. For more information, visit the Plant a Row for the Hungry webpage.

- Tina Mast, Communications Director