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.
 

 

Helpful Tips for Overwintering Plants
by Leesa Metzger - posted 11/13/17

Did you recently drag some of your favorite plants indoors to “save them” from Mother Nature’s cold snap? Not exactly sure what to do with them now? Many plants grown as perennials in warm climates are not hardy enough to withstand the freezing temperatures in Northern areas. Northern gardeners can leave these plants outdoors to die at the end of the season or they can overwinter them until the next growing season. Many gardeners have great success with overwintering annuals such as geraniums, tropical mandevillas, hibiscus and a whole host of other great patio plants.

 

Overwintering involves protecting the plant from the cold, either in the garden or in a sheltered place. There are many overwintering techniques, ranging from covering dormant plants with a thick layer of mulch to moving plants to coldframe, sunny windowsill, or cool basement. What works for one type of plant might be fatal to another.

 

An easy way to overwinter some plants is to grow them in containers year-round and use them as houseplants or on the sun porch during winter. Slow-growing woody plants such as lavender, rosemary, and tarragon make the transition from outdoor plant to houseplant and back very successfully and can thrive for many years.

 

You can hold many types of nonhardy plants, often called tender perennials, indoors over winter. Cutting back, digging up, and potting plants growing in the garden is one option for overwintering, but this may cause transplant shock, especially if the plants are large. An easier way to save tender perennials is to take and root cuttings, and then keep the cuttings indoors over winter. Many summer bedding plants, including impatiens, begonias, geraniums, and coleus can be overwintered this way. Rooted cuttings take up less space indoors than entire plants, and there is less chance of inadvertently overwintering diseases and insect pests. Take cuttings from your overwintering plants in late winter to propagate more transplants to move outdoors once the weather warms. To keep them from getting leggy as winter progresses, pinch them or keep them under plant lights.

 

Fleshy roots of cannas, dahlias, and even four o'clocks (Mirabilis jalapa), along with tender bulbs like caladiums (Caladium spp.) and tuberous begonias (Begonia spp.) can be dug and stored over winter.

 

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Saving Seeds
by Leesa Metzger - posted 11/06/17

You've met the tomato of your dreams…but you don't know his name.  Do you let cindertomato slip away? Saving our favorites through seed collection seems like a simple process. Walk through the woods or eat a few blackberries - seeds stick to our socks or between our teeth with little forethought from us.

However can you save seed and get the same plant next season? It all depends. Depends on the parent's genetics and whether the pollen came from the family or the mailman. Generally in order for seeds to develop, pollen has to be transferred to the female part of the flower either by insects, wind or gravity. If the parent's genetics are fairly stable through generations of inbreeding and the pollen comes from the family and not the mailman, then the seeds can be saved and then planted next season to produce a plant very similar to last season's plant.

The flowers of peas, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are self-pollinating and saved seeds come with predictable outcomes. Many older cultivars and heirlooms are open-pollinated. Even though they cross-pollinate the genetics is fairly consistent. Saving seed from self-pollinated or open-pollinated plants will yield a similar plant; that is unless they are hybrids.

The tricky part to saving seed begins when the plant is a hybrid or the parents naturally cross-pollinate with other relatives. Any saved seeds from hybrids will produce wildly different offspring from their parents. If you are into the unpredictable, seeds saved from hybrids are your dream come true. Keep in mind some varieties are patented and therefore illegal to propagate.

If you are  willing to embrace any deviations, here are the basics to seed saving: For dry fruits such as marigold, zinnia, spider flower (cleome), most flowers, beans, peas, and herb seeds allow the seed to mature and dry as long as possible on the plant. Generally seed color changes from green to white, beige or brown when they mature.

 Complete the drying process by spreading on a screen in a single layer in a well-ventilated dry location. As seed dries the chaff or pods can be removed by hand or wind. For extremely small or lightweight seed such as dill put the dry seed heads into paper bags to catch seed as it falls.

For fleshy fruits such as tomatoes allow the fruit to ripen on the plant. Keep in mind vegetables will be past prime for eating if seeds are to be saved. Cut the fruit open and spoon the pulp and seeds into a glass container. Give the family an impending gross alert and set the pulp and seeds aside for one or two days to ferment and then spray water into the fermented solution. Healthy clean seeds will drop to the bottom of the container. Pour off the sediment. Several rinses may be necessary. Then spread the seed on paper towels to dry.

 After seeds are thoroughly dry, package in envelopes, label and date for storage in a cool, dry location. Generally, plants grown as annuals do not require freezer storage to encourage germination.

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Use Perennials to Paint the Landscape
by Leesa Metzger - posted 03/23/14

Many homeowners are interested in saving time and money in the garden.  Perennials are one of the best deals you can find.   Perennials are always a good value because they come back year after year and some varieties like hosta, daylilies and iris, even multiply over time!

 

Even without these time and money saving qualities, perennials play an important role in garden design.  They serve as the “paints” that will help create a colorful display in the landscape.  Just as there are special techniques to applying paints to a canvas, over the years we have learned a few lessons about designing with perennials in the landscape.  Metzger Landscaping often  strives to add color to our landscaping projects through the use of low maintenance, colorful perennials.  In fact, the two  most-often requested wishes by our clients are “low maintenance” and “color”.   By using the “right” combination of perennials, we can create both.  This is why we say at Metzger Landscaping, “We Turn Gardens into Art”.

 

Perennials need space, so when designing always plan for growth.  Because perennials live for more than one season, they're constantly growing and enlarging their borders. It's this changeability that gives a perennial garden its charm. Avoid the temptation to overcrowd young plants; plan for plant expansion. You'll also need to increase the volume of plants if you want season-long color. When you arrange a planting that combines individual perennials into a harmonious blend of color, texture, and bloom, you'll savor the beauty and discover the inspiration only perennials can give.   Using perennials in the landscape design along with the structure of flowering shrubs, evergreens for winter color and ornamental grasses for texture can  turn a landscape into a work of art.

 

Try These Top 10 Tough Perennials

·         Daylily; Hemorocallis, ‘stella de oro’ & ‘rosy returns’

·         Variegated Hosta, ‘widebrim’ & ‘francee’

·         Black Eyed Susan,  Rudebeckia, ‘goldsturm’

·         Purple Cone Flower, Echinacea, ‘Kim’s knee high’ & ‘white swan’

·         Coral Bells, Huechera, ‘cherry splash’, ‘palace purple’, & ‘caramel’

·         Russian Sage, Pervoskia, ‘little spire’

·         Maiden Grass, Miscanthus, ‘sarenbande’

·         Coreopsis, ‘moonbeam’, ‘route 66’

·         Agastache ‘blue fortune’

·         Salvia ‘purple rain’, ‘blue hills’

 

To see more great photos of perennials used in our landscapes, find Metzger Landscaping & Design, LLC on Facebook.

 

 


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