The garden in winter doesn’t normally get a lot of attention. However, with a little time and energy during the growing season you can add some ornamental grasses that will give life to your wintertime garden as well. We know ornamental grasses accent a garden at any time of year, but they just might be at their best in the dead of the winter. They provide texture and movement in the winter landscape – elements often lacking when the rest of the garden has gone to sleep. When the rest of your landscape is taking a visual rest, the colors, textures and movement of the grasses has a beauty all its own. Many varieties do double duty by attracting birds to your winter garden providing shelter and food. Maintenance is simple – cut back in the spring before new growth appears. Honestly, we think they’re worth growing for their winter interest alone!
Why we love ornamental grasses
- Natural appearance
- Deer resistant—white-tailed deer do not eat most ornamental grasses
- Few insect or disease problems
- Low nutrient requirements
- Little maintenance, except spring cutback
- More than one season of interest
- Fast growth—most are mature size by three years
- Varied texture, from fine fescues to coarse giantMiscanthus
- An array of foliage colors from many shades of green to blue, yellow, bronze, and red, as well as several variegated forms
- Movement with the wind provides visual and audio interest, susurration—a whispering or rustling sound—that is pleasing and unique
- Beautiful effect when planted en masse
Two of our favorites that are super hardy zone 4 grasses are panicum Northwind and calamagrostis Karl Foerster. Try them in your garden this year!
AND THE WINNER IS… 2017 PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR
The Perfect Perennial for Lakes Region Gardens
Asclepias tuberosa – butterfly weed
With all the ”buzz” about bees and butterflies, BUTTERFLY WEED is an excellent plant choice for the 2017 Perennial of the Year. Known for its ability to support insects and birds and serve as the primary caterpillar food for the beloved North American native Monarch butterfly, it puts out 3 months of tangerine/orange blooms on perfect little upright shrubs 24” tall and wide.
Hummingbirds, bees, beneficial insects, and other butterflies also love the flowers, which are laden with pollen and nectar. They grow best in full sun, are deer resistant, and tolerant of wet or dry soils. They are hardy to zones 3-9, and native throughout almost all of the Eastern states.
Since Asclepias tuberosa is a native prairie plant, butterfly weed is quite comfortable in meadow gardens, native plantings and wildlife sanctuaries but is finding its way into more formal to semi-formal urban gardens. Plant it in large masses, for an unrivaled display of eye-popping orange. Butterfly weed pairs well with summer blooming Phlox, Hemerocallis, Liatris, Echinacea, Salvia, and most of June/July sun-loving perennials.
The Perennial Plant of the Year showcases a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year™ archive list. At Miracle Farms we often chose plants on the list of past Perennial of the Year winners to be reliable bloomers year after year.
Here is the list we often choose from:
Previous PPA Perennial Plant of the Year winners:
- 2016 Anemone × hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ (windflower)
- 2015 Geranium ‘Biokova’ (dwarf cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2014 Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (tall switch grass)
- 2013 Polygonatum odoratum variegatum (Solomon’s seal)
- 2012 Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss)
- 2011 Amsonia hubrichtii (blue star)
- 2010 Baptisia australis (blue false indigo)
- 2009 Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese forest grass)
- 2008 Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (cranesbill, hardy geranium)
- 2007 Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ (catmint)
- 2006 Dianthus ‘Feuerhexe’ (aka ‘Firewitch’) (cheddar pink)
- 2005 Helleborus x hybridus (hellebore, Lenten rose)
- 2004 Athyrium niponicum pictum (Japanese painted fern)
- 2003 Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ (shasta daisy)
- 2002 Phlox paniculata ‘David’ (garden phlox)
- 2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (feather reed grass)
- 2000 Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ (pincushion flower)
- 1999 Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ (black-eyed Susan)
- 1998 Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ (purple coneflower)
- 1997 Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ (aka ‘May Night’ ) (wood sage)
- 1996 Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ (beardtongue)
- 1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian sage)
- 1994 Astilbe ‘Sprite’ (dwarf astilbe)
- 1993 Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ (speedwell)
- 1992 Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ (threadleaf coreopsis)
- 1991 Heuchera micrantha diversifolia ‘Palace Purple’ (coral bells)
- 1990 Phlox stolonifera (creeping phlox)
japanese beetle damage on roses
So one day your roses were covered in colorful blooms and then the next day… gone! Chances are the culprit is the dreaded Japanese beetle. It’s late in the season for beetle damage here in the Lakes Region, but my knock out roses are still being devoured. The telltale sign, along with an extreme lack of blooms, are skeletonized leaves and even complete defoliation. Usually, the demons can be caught in the act. Japanese beetles also love to eat rosebuds – every last one that you’ve been anxiously awaiting.
If you are unfamiliar with Japanese beetles, they have shiny, metallic green and copper colored bodies – kind of pretty in the worst sort of way. They are roughly 3/8-inch long and 1/4-inch wide.
WHAT DO I DO ABOUT THEM?
The best defense is a good offense. Japanese beetles are the adult stage of grubs that are found in your lawn earlier in the season. A good lawn program to control grubs applied early in the spring before the beetles emerge is your best bet. Watering, fertilizing and general good horticultural practices will also help reduce the damage caused by Japanese beetles.
Inevitably though, the beetles still come and there are a couple of options to hold the major damage at bay. Spray affected plants with a pyrethrin-based insecticide the minute you notice them. This is a safe and effective control that can be used on flowers and vegetables alike. It will help to control other pests as well. To make every effort to cause no harm to honeybees with these products, do not apply during hours when bees are actively visiting the flowers.
Neem oil is an “antifeedant”, which when used early on can be an effective tool to reduce feeding. Chances are you will have to reapply either of these options if the beetles last as late in the season as they are this year.
Another helpful, but disgusting option, is to hand pick them first thing in the morning when temperatures are cooler and they move a bit slower and drop them in a bucket of water containing one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent. If you are diligent about this it is a very effective way to clear your garden of these pests.
Japanese beetle traps are helpful if you have the ability to place them far from your garden. They actually have an aromatic chemical attractant that brings them to the trap so you don’t want to hang it near the plants you are trying to preserve.
Whatever option you choose – choose something fast! Timeliness and thoroughness of application are very important in controlling the damage or at the very least, keeping it to a bare minimum.
June 20-26, 2016 has been designated National Pollinator Week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior. Why should I care you ask? Here are some very good reasons why.
- About 75% of all flowering plant species need the help of animals to move their heavy pollen grains from plant to plant for fertilization.
- Most pollinators (about 200,000 species) are beneficial insects such as flies, beetles, wasps, ants, butterflies, moths, and bees.
- Pollinators are often keystone species, meaning that they are critical to an ecosystem. The work of pollinators ensures full harvests of crops and contributes to healthy plants everywhere.
The Pollinator Partnership has a series of guides that will help gardeners around the country select plants for their area by simply putting in your zip code. It does a good job of explaining the different types of pollinators and their habitat requirements. It takes more than flowers to keep these populations healthy. There are also many shrubs listed that will also get the bees buzzing.
We want to remind you not to freak out if you see a caterpillar munching on your plants. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to see butterflies, you need to let the caterpillars eat. Don’t get terribly concerned – in most cases a few nibbles on a leaf won’t kill your plants. Relax. Someday that caterpillar will be a beautiful butterfly.
Do your part. Plant something in your garden today that will benefit pollinators. Butterflies love yellow, orange and red, while hummingbirds are attracted to red, fuschia and purple.
Unusually warm Lakes Region NH temperatures
No, you’re not seeing things… my thermometer, on a fairly overcast February 25th, reads 60 degrees! If we feel confused by the record high temperatures this winter, just imagine how our gardens are feeling. Although I’m thrilled that my heating bill has been super low, I hate to think I’ll be paying for it with the loss of some of my favorite plants in the landscape. With the mercury creeping toward 60 degrees today here in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, you may actually see some spring bulbs beginning to poke their heads through the soil. Don’t panic, they should be fine even if Mother Nature drops another deep freeze on us. The foliage that emerges first is fairly hardy and can handle the cold temperatures while the flower buds remain protected underground.
We may however, lose plants to this freeze, thaw, refreeze pattern that we’ve been having lately, and the lack of snow cover doesn’t help at all. On one of these mild days take a stroll around your garden and check things out. If you notice any perennials beginning to push out new growth at this early date you can cover them with mulch or branches – a great use for the old Christmas tree! Check perennials and roses for signs of heaving when the weather is this warm. Gently press the crowns back into the ground and add a light mulch if possible. Be sure to uncover the plants when the temperature gets consistently warm to discourage the growth of mildew and fungus… you know… in the spring!
Native trees and shrubs usually survive these periods of extremely warm weather very well. If the dormancy requirements of the plants have been met then the warm weather may cause buds to swell or even flower. These could be damaged by another cold spell, which is certainly possible being that we haven’t yet turned the calendar on March!
And the winner is … Anemone Honorine Jobert!
Bobbing 3-4 feet above the neat 12-inch mound of foliage, this superb cutflower is also a garden standout, adding a lightness to the perennial border.
They begin blooming in late summer, just when colorful displays of most other perennials have left the landscape, and continue well into fall. Multitudes of big, bold, bright white, yellow centered flowers are beautiful in borders, cottage gardens, woodland gardens and very showy in mass plantings.
Ideal for the garden or the vase, Honorine Jobert performs best in rich organic soil kept consistently moist. A charming and prolific shade or part sun garden performer it is hardy to Zone 4 and is an attractive companion to astilbes and hostas.
The Perennial Plant of the Year showcases a perennial that is a standout among its competitors. Perennials chosen are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, require low maintenance, have multiple-season interest, and are relatively pest/disease-free. If you are looking for an excellent perennial for your next landscape project or something reliable for your gardens, make sure to check out the Perennial Plant of the Year™ archive list. At Miracle Farms we often rely on the list of past Perennial of the Year winners to be reliable bloomers year after year.
Here are some of our favorites:
Salvia ‘may night’
Nepeta ‘walker’s low’
Brunerra ‘jack frost’