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.
 

Recent Blog Posts

Sep 06
FALL MUMS  

May 23
SPRING PRUNING  

Apr 20
Spring Flowering Trees  

Apr 17
The Great Perennial Divide  

Apr 06
Pruning Lilacs   (1 comment)

Mar 22
Creative Landscapes for Country Settings  

Feb 13
Valentine’s Blooms  

Nov 13
Helpful Tips for Overwintering Plants  

 

 

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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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Creative Landscapes for Country Settings
by Leesa Metzger - posted 03/22/18

Landscaping a farmhouse is all about an appreciation of the vistas and the pastoral settings of a rural area. Yet even if you don't live in the country, you can still landscape with an eye towards that relaxed country style.

 

 

The most important thing in designing for a country house is recognizing the specifics of your own architecture and setting.  Having grown up on a farm and still loving the country life, as well as creating beautiful landscapes for over 20 years; I’d like to share some professional tips for creating a gorgeous country-style garden.

Dos:

·         Do look for lines in the architecture and land that can be repeated through the landscape. For example, the swoop of a roofline can be mimicked in the lines of a pathway to give the sense that home and landscape fit together seamlessly.

·         Do use a soft color palette in your planting and décor. White, light blue and the natural tones of foliage highlight the country theme best. Also, try to reflect the colors from your interior and architecture within the landscape for a cohesive look.

·         Do make the most of your views. Plan your landscaping to enhance and draw the eye towards any pastoral scenes, beautiful trees, or rolling hills that may be visible from your property, both from inside the house and out.

·         Do choose local materials and stone. A country home reflects its natural surroundings, so adding boulders, rock outcroppings, stacked stone walls or irregular flagstones native to your region will give your rural home the easy elegance that comes from fitting with the environment.

Don'ts:

·         Don't neglect cultural requirements when choosing plants.  It's been said before, but still rings true, “choosing the right plant for the right place is key in successful planting design."  Paying attention to whether you have sun or shade, wet soil or dry, and then picking plants to suit can make all the difference in having a healthy, thriving landscape.

·         Don't spend your weekends weeding. While topdressing with compost can help keep down weeds, the best weed control is mass plantings of ground cover, or a fresh layer of quality mulch.

·         Don't select elements contrary to the farmhouse theme. Rustic elements like Adirondack chairs, built-in benches with cushions, and even old-fashioned oak barrels will fit better than sleek, modern décor.

The most important place to start in any design is with solid design principles. Pay attention to how people will move through the space, and concepts like form, line, texture, balance and rhythm all play a part in that sublime sense that the landscape just feels right.  While many people start planning a landscape by thinking about plants, a designer first considers issues of structure such as what is happening in the architecture and on the land. This results in a landscape that both looks beautiful and functions well. If you’re not sure where to start, hire a landscape designer, you’ll save time and money in the end if you start with the right plan.

In the last 20 years as a professional landscape designer, I have created a variety of custom landscapes perfectly suited to their surroundings. While each of the built landscapes by Metzger Landscaping shares similarities in the principles used to create them, each has its own character which comes from observing and acknowledging the specifics of the site. Along with installing unique plants and hardscaping such as patios, paver sidewalks and retaining walls, Metzger Landscaping in North Manchester has a nursery specializing in high-quality perennials, trees and shrubs as well as annual bedding plants and hanging baskets.  The garden center is stocked with everything a gardener needs from plants, tools, fertilizers, flower and vegetable garden seed packets as well as fun things to add color and variety to the garden such as garden iron, trellises, lanterns, garden shed décor, and decorative pots. Pick-up bulk mulch, topsoil, stone, and landscape edging to start your next landscaping project. 

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