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!
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.
It seems straightforward enough, right? Water your plants and they will grow. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as that, but at the same time it’s not all that complicated either. There is not a handbook for watering, but keep a few simple things in mind and you’ll get the results you are hoping for. Using the right tools: soaker hoses, lightweight hoses, sprinklers, rain barrels and irrigation timers can help make your job easier. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.
The Best Way to Water
• Focus on the root zone. Daily light sprinklings encourage the roots to grow near the surface making them vulnerable to drying out instead of growing a deep, healthy root ball. Remember that it’s the roots that need access to water, not the leaves. Wetting the foliage is a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. There is no value in watering if the water runs down the outside of the root ball or pot leaving the roots of the plant dry. Slower watering, especially at first, will help make sure the water soaks in to the root ball.
• Water only when needed. If we are in a stretch where we are getting frequent rain, which is not the case in the Lakes Region at the moment, then it’s ok to cut back on watering. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little. Plant roots need a fairly constant supply of both air and water. Too little water and the roots die from lack of moisture. Too much water and the spaces between soil particles remain filled with water, suffocating roots. Both situations reduce a plant’s ability to deliver enough water to stems and leaves, resulting in wilting. The only way to tell if lack of water is causing wilting is to check soil moisture.
• Water deeply and thoroughly. Lawns and annuals don’t need to be watered quite as deeply as perennials, shrubs and trees. Move the soil away with your hand or a garden tool to be sure that the water is actually soaking down to the root system. Watering at the base of the plant instead of from overhead, loses less water to evaporation.
• Water in the morning. If you do get moisture on the leaves, this gives them time to dry out. It’s much more difficult for plant diseases to get a foothold when the foliage is dry.
• Mulch everything. Mulch reduces surface runoff and slows evaporation from the soil.
Use the right tool. For efficient watering at the root zone, use a soaker hose or an even more precise drip irrigation system instead of a sprinkler.