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

Friday, May 8, 2009

Track Your Garden Online with myfolia!

Here's a fun new widget for the computer or iPhone, you can track your garden's growth and progress through the website Beyond being a handy online garden journal, it also allows you to use its timeline function in order to track the progress of each of your plants or crops as well as interact with other online gardeners. Let us know if you try it out and what you think!

-Tina Mast, Communications Director

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Working Color Into the Garden

A customer asked me this question yesterday,"Do I have to plant the same flowers everwhere? I feel like my garden is all green, green, green right now, and someone told me to plant flower but that I had to plant a lot of them everywhere for it to look right? Do I have to do that?"

"Absolutely not," I said, "You're talking to a nurseryperson and we're the Original Plant One of Everything type of gardener. The thing is there is an element of truth there about planting more than one of something, and it's that weaving a color throughout the garden will make the effect more cohesive and will pull it all together. Now, do you have to plant 20 of the same thing to achieve that effect? No! Take me, for example, I like plants with burgundy foliage. Do I plant 50 of the same burgundy-leafed heuchera around the garden. Nope. But, I look for other plants with the same color in them: loropetalum, purple wood spurge, coleus, alternanthera, etc. in order to bring that color through the garden without having to plant the same thing. So, just think of it that way and you can have variety without ending up with a complete hodge-podge in your garden."

-Tina Mast , Communications Director

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why the Phrase "Excavate the Root Collar" is Important if You're Planting

Sounds technical but it really isn't. The "root collar" is the part of a wood tree or shrub where the trunk meets the beginning of the roots. It's an important area because if it's planted too deep or a lot of mulch or debris rests against it, the plant can get stem rot and actually die from it. Death by mulch. That can kill a tree?? Sounds implausible but it's true!

So, if you don't plant the plant too deep, no problem, right? NOT necessarily. If the plant was grown in a container, it may have had soil or mulch added over the roots. The roots may have responded by growing up PAST the root collar into this area. Then, when you plant and make the soil from the pot even with the surrounding soil, something that you are always told to do, guess what? You planted it too deep! Unless, that is the root collar was already exposed when you planted it.

What to do? Check before you plant. You may have to actually excavate the area around the root collar. This may involve merely brushing away excess soil and/or mulch. Or, this may mean you actually cut away portions of the rootball. This actually seems more brutal than it is and the plant will be fine. The plant will be very happy you did that, in fact. A pruning saw works well for this or a very sharp knife.

So, now you know. Go forth and plant thy trees and shrubs...and don't forget the pine bark soil conditioner in your clay soils!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Device Allows Plants to Twitter

Forget about whether it's weird for you to talk to your plants (it's not, they like it) but what about your plants talking back? Well, we're one step closer with a new device called Botanicalls which lets your plants send you Twitter messages when they're thirsty (or, conversely, want you to slack off the overwatering, you worrywart).

Check it out:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sir Walter Wally don't know jack!

You just can't trust a groundhog to forecast the weather. I don't care if it's going to snow three more times this winter, I can still tell that spring is on its way. All I have to do is wait for the Okame cherries to bloom. And they have just exploded into gorgeous clouds of pink.
Every year we get tons of phone calls about these lovely specimens on Durant Road. Most people are more familiar with the bright white blooms of Yoshino cherries or the puffy, pink blooms of the Kwansan cherries, so the early-blooming Okames confuse the heck out of them. But, here at Homewood, we've known and loved Okames for years.

Also on our list of favorite, not-well-known bloomers is the Cornelian Cherry Dogwood (Cornus mas) that lights up the nursery courtyard each February like it did last year...
and this year
And I can't leave out the Golden Paperbush (Edgeworthia) whose furry silver buds tease us all winter at the tip of each branch, then open right about now to fill the air with a light, honey-like fragrance.

That groundhog in his hole just doesn't know what he's missing.

Christina, Assistant Nursery Manager

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Can You Plant Now? Yes, You Can!

We've been getting a lot of is-it-okay-to-plant-now questions, and the short answer is yes! (with an "as long as" to follow) You can plant hardy trees and shrubs in our part of NC any time of year as long as the ground is not frozen or saturated with water (like it is today). Our ground rarely stays frozen for long, so you can pretty much plant year round here.

What are the best times to plant? Fall is the best season to put in hardy trees and shrubs. Early spring (or even late winter) is the next best time. Non-hardy plants such as most flowering annuals (think petunias and impatiens)and warm season vegetables like tomatoes shouldn't be planted until mid-April or later.

If you do decide to plant and you have heavy clay soil, make sure you amend with Permatill or pine bark soil conditioner to break up the clay and help it stay aerated. Also, make sure when planting woody trees and shrubs that the "trunk flare" is exposed and is planted at or slightly above ground level. Sometimes, the flare at the bottom of the main woody stem or trunk can get buried under mulch or soil in a container-grown plant. It's absolutely vital that this part does not subsequently get planted below ground. This can greatly shorten the lifespan of the plant.

p.s. If you're in the mood to plant, Homewood just got in our first shipment of azaleas, rhododendrons, and pieris. And, there's plenty more to come in the next couple weeks including winter daphne and some "phat" camellias(according to Assistant Nursery Manager, Christina)

Tina Mast
Communications Director

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Get Your Garden Ready for the Cold Snap

Looks like we're going to have one those once-in-a-blue-moon-moon snaps that has the potential to do significant damage in the garden. You can help mitigate the damage by doing the following:

- Mulch over the root zones of trees and shrubs, and over the crowns of dormant perennials. A 4" layer should be adequate. (Make sure to remove mulch from plant crowns just before growth resumes in spring, and make sure mulch does not rest against the trunks and stems of woody plants.)

- Cover any damage-prone plants such as aucuba, oleander, euonymus, gardenia, ternstroemia, osmanthus as well as any that are in bloom or have buds that are opening such as camellia and daphne. Old blankets make good plant covers. Plastic is not the best choice but tarps are not bad. Sheets are fine but not as protective as a thicker material.

- Bring in container plants and store them in the garage or under the house. If you don't have room for that, huddle the pots together against the house, preferably on a sunny south or west side, and cover them up.

- If you have time, you can put Christmas lights on susceptible plants to add some warmth. These can go under a covering such as a blanket for even more protection.

- Water evergreen plants before freezing weather sets in. This will help prevent them from dessicating. Evergreens can't take up water when the soil is frozen but they continue to lose moisture through their leaves.

- Bring in hoses and glazed pots. Some glazes will crack and peel as a result of freezing weather especially if it rains. Hoses will last a lot longer if they don't get frozen and thawed all winter.

Tina Mast
Communications Director