Leesa Metzger is a landscaper in Northern Indiana and a former agriculture, botany and horticulture teacher. Leesa owns Metzger Landscaping & Design LLC, where her company’s mission is “We Turn Gardens into Art”. To learn more about their services visit metzgerlandscaping.net Leesa is a garden writer, authors the “Ask the Landscaper” newspaper column and serves on the North Manchester Beautification Committee.
 

 

Spring Flowering Trees
by Leesa Metzger - posted 04/20/18

I'm a Hoosier girl, and spring is one of my favorite times of the year. In the springtime in Indiana bodacious blooms abound. From tulips and daffodils to crabapples, every plant appears to join me in a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of a new season.

I get the most enjoyment out of all the small trees showing off and vying for our attention. Every vista is picture worthy. Crabapples adorn every branch with a flurry of flowers. Hundreds of crabapple cultivars exist so if a crabapple is in your planting future do your homework to make sure the tree and fruit size, flower color and disease resistance fits your needs.

The flowers of Redbud are a sure sign spring in the Midwest. Redbud, Cercis canadensis, grows as a native under story tree throughout the forests of the eastern US. It can grow to 30 feet tall and a bit wider at maturity. Redbud also blooms at an early age of 4-7 years. Even the trunks of older trees show off in spring as they parade their pink-purple flowers.

 

I would rank Flowering Dogwood as the most commonly desired spring flowering tree. The large white bracts (those actually aren't flower petals) of Flowering Dogwood flowers are held at the ends of branches like chalices waiting for spring rains. Flowering Dogwood, Cornus florida, is native to a large range of the eastern US.  Dogwoods are understory trees so they like afternoon shade, wood mulch, plenty of organic matter and moist well-drained acidic soil. Flowering Dogwoods hate to be too wet or too dry.  We have a great selection of spring flowering trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals at Metzger Landscaping in North Manchester. We invite you to stop by our nursery Monday-Friday 8-5 and Saturdays 8-4!

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The Great Perennial Divide
by Leesa Metzger - posted 04/17/18

Most gardeners have a spring ritual that includes walking their garden in search of emerging plants. We begin to get an idea of which plants have expanded well beyond their borders. The quick use of a sharp spade now is better than attempting the eradication of a full-blown invasion later. Thus, it is time for the great perennial divide!

April is the time to divide perennials for many reasons: plants have outgrown their space; plants aren't doing well in that site because of sun, shade or moisture requirements; plants got way too big; flowers were not the color you anticipated; or maybe you have decided it would look so much better in another spot. Or maybe you just feel like digging. Remember the adage: "Every good garden has been in a wheelbarrow at least three times."

Dividing can be an invigorating process for plants in which the center tends to die out. Some such as yarrow, aster, perennial sunflower, obedient plant and black-eyed Susan perform better if they are divided every few years to keep them in bounds.

April is an ideal time to move/divide most perennials. However, peonies should be divided only in September. Bearded irises are divided in July and August. Plants that form underground rhizomes or multiple crowns are easy to divide.

Everyone has their favorite method of dividing perennials and their favorite implement of destruction. I prefer a small sharp spade to divide large clumps. Shove the spade into the soil on the outside of the planting and continue around in the size of sections you want. I often have to jump on the spade to get through thick stems. .

Some gardeners prefer digging around the clump and using two garden forks to pull the clump apart. Divisions can be as large as you want, but four-inch diameter sections work well for most plants. Smaller divisions may not bloom as well for a couple of years.

The whole clump does not have to be lifted. Sections from the outside of the planting can be removed to reduce the size of the planting or to leave the mother plant intact. For many perennial plants the most vigorous shoots are on the outside of the clump. This method works well for space invaders such as beebalm, mint and anything that spreads by runners to form a colony (or in the case of mint, its own country).

Some plants such as daylilies, catmint, and astilbe have more of a central crown. Dig out the whole plant and make divisions using a spade or garden knife or in the case of ornamental grasses an axe works well.

Replant divisions immediately, plant into pots, heel into a pile of moist mulch for planting later or put on your neighbor's doorstep. Be sure to water plants thoroughly after replanting. Before replanting, amend soil with compost if needed. Most perennials do not flower as well the year they are divided, so don't be discouraged.

Some plants do not like to be moved or divided. These include baby's breath, old fashioned bleeding heart, balloon flower, monkshood, blue indigo, gas plant, sea holly, lupine and butterfly weed.

Other April gardening activities include removing last year's perennial stems, trim butterfly bush, caryopteris and Russian sage back to 6-8 inches and remove any winter mulch from perennials and roses. Ornamental grasses should be cut down before new growth emerges.

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Pruning Lilacs
by Leesa Metzger - posted 04/06/18

Spring has sprung and the phone in our office is ringing off the hook! Spring clean-ups are in full swing, beds are getting a fresh layer of mulch and we are looking forward to planting beautiful landscapes.  Several clients have asked this week, “When is the right time to prune lilacs?”

 

The traditional lilac, Syringa vulgaris, is known for its wonderfully fragrant flowers. A lovely bouquet will easily fill a room with fragrance. Unfortunately that's their only real ornamental attribute. They tend to look gangly and unkempt most of the year. Throw in a little powdery mildew on the leaves and lilac shrubs leave much to be desired. It's probably best to tuck a few traditional lilacs into a shrub border or grouping in the landscape. They are definitely not good foundation plants.

The recent estimate is that there are 2000 cultivars of common lilac. Most are in the pink, purple, blue or white range of flower colors with a few creamy yellows. There are a few listed as powdery mildew resistant such as 'Charles Joly' (magenta), 'Madame Lemoine' (pure white), 'President Lincoln' (true blue), 'Primrose' (creamy yellow) and 'Sensation' (purple and white bicolor).

Because lilacs tend to be long lived in the landscape, they may suffer from poor blooming eventually. The usual causes are:

1.      Too shady a site. All lilacs grow and flower best in full sun and well-drained soil.

2.      Pruning too late in the season and therefore removing the next year's flower buds. Common lilacs should be pruned immediately after flowering to keep them vigorous.

3.      Shrubs are in need of renewal pruning. Lilacs tend to bloom best on younger branches. Prune by removing about one third of the older branches down to the ground each year after flowering.

4.      Poor shrub vigor due to scale or borers. Usually removing the older stems will help to control these insects. Oystershell scale may require a spray of insecticidal soap or summer oil in late May. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.

Although the common or French hybrid lilacs are magnificently fragrant, there are superior lilac species for the landscape. In my opinion these landscape plants do not have quite the heady fragrance of common lilac, they are far better looking shrubs after they flower and tend to be free of powdery mildew. If you don't have much landscape space, these are better choices.

'Palibin' lilac is a neat, tidy shrub at five feet tall. The dark green leaves are smaller than common lilac. It may flower when quite young with pink lavender fragrant flowers. 'Miss Kim' lilac is a little larger at six feet. It makes a nice rounded shrub. It flowers a little later than common lilac with blue lavender flowers. The flowers are small but prolific. 'Miss Kim' usually develops a nice burgundy fall color, which is non-existent in common lilac.

Littleleaf lilac 'Superba' is also about six feet tall and like the other landscape lilacs forms a nice twiggy shrub. It has red buds that open to dark pink. 'Tinkerbelle' lilac might be worth growing just for the name. It has pink flowers on a five feet tall shrub. It has nice green heart shaped leaves.

 

To send a question for Ask the Landscaper, contact Metzger Landscaping at 260-982-4282, visit www.metzgerlandscaping.com to send a question, or find us on Facebook.

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