Winter Planning

As a professional landscaper, I am no stranger to the benefits of the winter months. It is a perfect time for us to gather our thoughts from the previous season and assess how we would like to make things better for ourselves, our company, and our clients.

This winter allowed us to attend the New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association (NJNLA) and New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association (NJLCA) awards dinners. For the NJNLA, we received an Award of Merit for the Design/Build category and an Award of Excellence for Residential Maintenance. For the NJLCA, we received an Award of Merit for Commercial Maintenance and two Awards of Distinction for Residential Maintenance and Design/Build. The NJNLA and the NJLCA are the two biggest professional landscaping associations in NJ and we were very pleased to receive these honors. We have many exciting projects on our calendar this year and hope to be contenders once again for the 2017 awards.

During the winter months we are busy with new planting designs and other projects our clients request for the upcoming spring. It is also a perfect time for professional development and continuing education. I am currently taking two winter classes at Rutgers University studying Landscape Plants and Landscape Architecture Design. I graduated Rutgers with a degree in Professional Golf Turf Management and worked as an Assistant Superintendent on a golf course for over 10 years. My knowledge of turf grass and turf grass diseases is extensive. Yet, to better serve Siciliano Landscape and our clients, I wanted to make sure I was proficient in understanding any needs, requests and expectations that could come my way this year. I signed up for classes at Rutgers because they are the grandfathers of agricultural studies.

 My Landscape Plants class is all hands on. Lecturing about specific trees and shrubs is only one third of the class while the other two thirds are spent outside at the Rutgers Gardens. The primary focus of this class is identification. Getting to know the plants on a physical level while learning the pros and cons of each, helps me better understand what a client wants and how to design a landscape accordingly. This brought me to the idea of taking Landscape Architecture Design. This class has not only renewed my passion for conceptual design, but has allowed me to express those ideas when I do virtual design. Much of my time in class is spent hand drawing and sketching. It is very helpful to have an idea in mind and be able to portray it quickly on a piece of paper and then perfect it on the computer. Realtime Landscaping Pro is an excellent product that helps us bring our designs to life. It has always been a passion of mine to work and design with clients who love their property and want to make it distinctly their own. I am excited to begin another season with Siciliano Landscape and look forward to making everyone’s property pristine.

Above: Epimedium plant

Above: Epimedium plant

Winter is an essential time of year for a landscaper.  This is a great time to rest from the previous season, but also start planning for the coming spring.  In addition to meeting with customers and preparing planting designs, I’m busy doing research.   I like to think about what we have planted in the past that worked, what didn’t work and why.  I also look for new plants that come on the market.  There are so many new plants being introduced all the time.  Although not all may be available in our area, it is interesting to learn about them. 

We took a trip to MANTS (Mid Atlantic Nursery Trade Show) this January.  It was a large trade show in Baltimore, Maryland.  There were between 900 and 1000 nursery and supply vendors.  It was a bit overwhelming but it was a great opportunity to see new plant introductions and make some new nursery contacts.

One of the vendors I spoke with specialized in Epimediums.  Epimediums are a perennial ground cover with an array of different leaf colors and almost orchid like flowers.   Epimediums are not usually used in regular landscape work, but they should be utilized more often, as they require very low maintenance and can tolerate dry conditions.

Heucheras or Coral Bells are another type of plant that has many new introductions.  Heucheras are generally grown for their foliage, but some have been bred to have more showy flowers.  Heucheras are good for part sun to shade and are available in reds, purples, burgundys, lime greens and multicolors.  New introductions of coral bells for 2017 include “Pink Pearls”, “Lime Ricky”, “Forever Purple” and “Fire Chief “.

One of my concerns for the future is planting plants that will be beneficial to bees.  Colony collapse disorder and other diseases have caused bee populations to decline.  I feel it is important for everyone to do whatever they can to help save the bees.  Bees and other pollinators are essential to growing the food we eat.   I am researching more native plants that could be used in my landscape designs to help with this effort.

Winter Tips for Your Garden

You made it through leaf season!  All your perennial beds are put to sleep.  You might assume you don’t have to think about your landscaping for a couple of months. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Winter weather can have an adverse effect on our landscaping but there are some things you can do to prevent damage to your favorite plants. 

If you haven’t done so already, putting additional mulch around the base of your shrubs and trees will protect the root system by providing insulation.   Be careful not to mulch too closely to the trunks of trees. 

When snow arrives, be sure to knock heavy snow off tender limbs of trees and shrubs where possible.  This will help avoid limbs breaking under snow load.  This is especially important to plants like arborvitaes that are multi trunked and tend to separate and bend outwards.  If the limbs are covered in ice do not try to knock it off; you may cause the branches to break in the process.  Ice should be allowed to melt off naturally.

Ice melt products can be damaging to your hardscaping as well as landscape plants.  Research the type of material you are putting down.  Be sure not to over apply any product.  Ice melt products contain salts that can build up in the soil thus causing plants not to be able to absorb water, and die. Flushing the beds with water in the spring may help reduce the amount of accumulated salts.  Boxwoods are especially sensitive to salt damage.  If you cannot avoid using ice melts, choose plant material for those areas that are more salt tolerant such as junipers.    Some products are very corrosive to walkways and driveways, so use sparingly or look for another product that is less corrosive.  Calcium chloride for example may be less corrosive to concrete and asphalt than sodium chloride (rock salt) but may cause damage to landscape plants.  Some products can be toxic to pets.  If you have pets, be sure to use a product that is labeled as pet safe.

When doing snow removal, be careful not to pile snow onto shrubs.  The use of a snow blower is a good alternative to shoveling. Not only is it less physically strenuous, but it deposits the snow more gently and over a farther distance causing less damage to plant materials.

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season!

Brace Yourself, Winter is Coming

Preparing your garden for winter is a very important part of landscape maintenance. 

Removal of leaves:   If there are only a few leaves, they can be chopped up with the lawnmower and left on the lawn.  This will add beneficial organic matter to the soil.  When there is an overabundance of leaves they will have to be removed.  Leaves can be piled or put in an enclosed bin to be composted.  The addition of green plant material such as kitchen scraps and garden debris will create compost that is an enriching soil amendment for your plants.  Leaves can also be used to protect half hardy shrubs such as figs.  A wire or burlap wrap can be put around the plants and filled with leaves.  This provides insulation in the cold winter months.  Leaves, if chopped up finely can also be used as mulch for flower beds and tree rings.  Pine needles should be left around the trees; however excess pine needles can be used as mulch for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

Cut back perennials:  Perennials that have turned brown should be cut back.  Some seed heads may be left to provide food for birds over the winter.  This is a good time to save any seeds you would like to replant for next year.  Seeds should be dried thoroughly before storing.  They can be labeled and put in plastic bags and stored in the freezer until planting time.  This provides stratification that  some seeds require in order to germinate properly.

Dig up summer bulbs:  Cannas, Dahlias, caladiums, elephant ears and gladiolus bulbs can be dug up after the first frost.  Bulbs should be cleaned and dried and stored in a cool dark place.  They can be stored in peat moss or wrapped in newspaper.  Do not store bulbs in plastic bags. 

Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs:  Tulip, daffodil, alliums, hyacinth and crocus bulbs should be planted now. 

Remove dead wood from trees:  Removing dead wood from trees in the fall is a great safety precaution.  This reduces the possibility of branches falling on houses or people during winter storms.

Mulch:  After all the beds are cleaned and leaves have been taken away a fresh layer of mulch can be added to beds.  Mulch not only gives a neat appearance to the winter landscape, but provides additional insulation to plant and tree roots.

Protect evergreens from winter burn:  Hollies, Laurels, and boxwoods are just a few of the evergreens at risk for winter burn.  Winter burn is caused by moisture loss through the leaves.  As they are “evergreen” they continue to carry on photosynthesis and transpire in the winter. When moisture is lost through the leaves and the plant cannot absorb water from the roots, the leaves will dry out and turn brown.  One way to combat this is to spray an anti-transpirant on susceptible trees and shrubs.  Anti-transpirant sprays coat the leaves to reduce moisture loss.  They must be sprayed as the temperature cools down but before freezing.  Plants may be sprayed again mid winter if necessary as long as temperature is above freezing.

Congratulations!  All the hard work is done.  There is nothing left to do but relax for the next couple of months!

November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.

 

With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket,

And frost by the gate.

 

The fires burn,

And the kettles sing,

And the earth sinks to rest

Until next spring.

 

Clyde Watson

To Plant Bulbs In The Fall Is To Have Hope For The Coming Spring

Fall is the time to plant your spring bulbs.  We are all familiar with the usual tulips, daffodils and crocuses but there are many different varieties of bulbs available to plant in the fall. Red or Yellow crown imperials and Globemaster Alliums are large and showy additions to the spring garden, whereas grape hyacinths, anemones and snowdrops will create a lush ground cover.

Wherever you plant bulbs, they should be planted en masse (the more the better).  Imagine a large swath of daffodils on a hillside or red tulips lining a front walk.   Snowdrops are the first flowers to bloom in the spring and look beautiful planted in a woodland setting.  To create a magnificent display, try under planting taller varieties with shorter ones, like daffodils and grape hyacinths. Fall pansies and bulbs can be planted at the same time. Pansies should still be blooming in the spring (depending on the winter) and create a colorful backdrop to your spring bulbs.  You can also extend the season by choosing bulbs that will bloom at different times. Bulb flowers are usually categorized by early, mid, and late bloom.  Some catalog companies will offer mixes that include different bloom times taking out the guess work for you.

Bulbs can be planted along with your fall mums.  Dig a hole a little deeper than needed for the mum.  Fill the hole with bulbs, cover with soil and place the mum on top.  Once the mum has faded for the season, cut it back or pull out pushing more soil into the hole.  The bulbs will be ready to bloom in the spring.

The Dog Days of Summer

July 3 to August 11 is the time of the season known as “the dog days of summer”.  The phrase has an interesting origin.  In ancient times it was the period extending 20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the Dog Star) and the sun.  The Romans believed the star radiated heat because it was so bright and coincided with the hottest part of the summer.

You might be sitting in your lawn chair this summer, looking over your lawn.  Are you starting to notice brown patches or weedy spots? Is the overall vigor of your lawn not up to par?  It may be time to start planning to renovate your lawn.  The months of September and October are the best times to do a lawn renovation.  Aeration and over seeding are recommended for some lawns, whereas a total renovation may be required for others.  Choices for establishment of new turf are seed or sod.  Although seeding is less expensive than sod it will take time to germinate and fill in.  Sod, on the other hand will give you an instant, green and weed free lawn.

Fall is also a great time to apply lime to your turf if required.  Lime is an amendment that helps raise the ph of the soil.  Turf grasses prefer a neutral 6.5 to 7.0 ph. Most soils in our area tend to be more acidic (below 7).  The ph of the soil determines how many nutrients are available in the soil to be taken up by plants.  Before adding any ph altering amendments, you should have your soil tested.  You can do this yourself or ask your landscape professional to test the soil for you.  The test results will reveal if any amendments are required and how much to apply. 

 Question: “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Answer: “20 years ago. The second best time is NOW!” We have lost a lot of trees in the last couple of years due to Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events.  Whether it is to replace one that has died or add a new point of interest for your landscape, one of the best things you can do for your environment is to plant a tree.  Trees are beautiful to look at, but have many benefits as well.  Trees provide shade in the summer, a wind break in the winter, food and shelter for wildlife and oxygen we all need to survive. 

When choosing a tree, there are many things to consider.  Is your site wet or dry, sunny or shady?  Do you need a small ornamental or a large shade tree?  If you have a small property, or overhead electrical wires, a large tree may be out of the question.  There are a number of lovely ornamental trees that will be more in scale with small spaces.  Trees such as Crape Myrtles, Star magnolias, crabapples, Dogwoods, Redbuds and Yoshino Cherries provide beautiful blooms while others like Japanese Maples offer interesting bark and foliage and stay small in stature.

Larger trees such as Maples, Oaks, Sweetgums, London Planes and Zelkovas, when planted near the southwest corner of a house, can keep the house cooler in the summer months, thus saving on energy bills. Evergreens can provide year round screening from unsightly views or provide privacy.  This group would include; arborvitaes, hemlock, pines, firs and spruces. River birches and weeping willows will thrive in problematic wet areas where other trees may suffer.  A consultation with a horticulturalist or a reputable landscape professional will help to insure you get the right tree to enjoy for years to come.

Water, Water, Water

It’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s summer.  It’s obvious that our landscaping needs watering, but how much and how often seems to be a mystery to some.

Newly installed trees and shrubs:  Take extra care now to make sure they are watered well and often.  Follow instructions from your landscape professional as to what types of plants you have and the watering requirements for each of them.  Newly planted trees and shrubs do not have a very large root zone and will need to be watered more than established plants.  It is also helpful to know the type and characteristics of your soil.  Sandy soils do not retain water as well as clay or loam soils and need to be watered more often.

Established plantings:  The rule of thumb is 1 inch of water per week is needed for established plantings.  The use of a rain gauge or a tin can help you determine the amount of water that is being used.  It is much better for the plants to be watered deeply once or twice a week than to water a little bit every day.  It is also important to let the soil dry slightly between waterings.  Do not let the soil become waterlogged or have standing water near the plantings.  Deep watering helps promote stronger root systems thus creating healthier plants that are more drought resistant.  When possible, make sure you are watering at the base of the plant.  This will save water that may be lost to evaporation and directs the water to the root zone where it is needed.

Lawns:  Lawns need the same amount of water as established plantings per week however timing is a bit more critical.

Lawns should be watered early in the morning, so that the leaves will dry quickly during the day.  Never water lawns at night.   Turf grass is susceptible to many types of fungi and proper watering is crucial in the prevention of diseases. 

Perennials:  Most of our popular perennials, such as daylilies, catmint, lavender and irises are drought tolerant and do not need a lot of water.  Be careful not to overwater perennial beds as too much water could cause the plants to rot.

Annuals:  If you have annual flowers in pots, you may have to water them every day, depending on the size of the pot and how much soil it holds.  Keep an eye out for wilting and check soil medium.   If the potting soil becomes too dry it can become hydrophobic, meaning it may repel water.  Take extra care to ensure soil is thoroughly soaked when watering.

“And since all this loveliness cannot be heaven, I know in my heart it is June” - Abba Gould Woolson

There is no debate that June is a lovely month, but it can also be a busy one.  June brings weddings, Father’s day, graduations, the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.

Parties will be held outdoors this time of year.  Is your back yard ready for summer entertaining?  Pools, spas, and outdoor kitchens provide a place where family and friends can gather to celebrate life’s important events.  Specialty items such as wine refrigerators, kegerators and pizza ovens can enhance and personalize your space.  The addition of fire pits and fireplaces will create a warm, cozy environment to enjoy into the cooler months.  Well-designed outdoor living areas not only maximize usable space, but can be an extension of your home’s interior.  Choosing similar building materials or color palettes will create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor rooms making your home feel larger.   This can be an advantage when you decide to sell.  Homes with well- designed outdoor living areas and landscaping will stand out against similar homes that do not have that advantage.

When buying or selling a home, landscaping often plays a large role.   In addition to considering curb appeal and usable space, you should consider having a landscape inspection.  A landscape inspection addresses things like tree health, hazardous trees, insect or disease issues, watering issues, soil fertility, and drainage problems.  If you are a seller, a reputable landscape professional can offer solutions to make your property more appealing such as tree removal, flower planting, pruning and lawn renovation.  If you are a buyer, an inspection is crucial, as it may save you from costly problems in the future.   A dead or dying tree, if not identified and removed, may fall causing considerable property damage or injury to someone.  Your landscape professional can give you an estimate for replacement costs of trees or shrubs.  An estimate for monthly landscape maintenance charges is helpful as this is an ongoing expense and should be considered in your home buying budget.  Siciliano Landscape Co. offers free property inspections and estimates; call us today!

Have A Colorful May!

When we think of the month of May, we think of flowers.   Many trees and shrubs are blooming now but that won’t last long.  To have continuous bloom throughout the summer season we plant annuals.   Annuals are flowering plants that live their life cycle in one year or one season.

They can quickly grow from seed to maturity, flower and then set seed all in the span of a few months.  In our area, annuals planted now will continue to flower until the first hard frost, which is usually October or November.

Annuals are very versatile. They can be planted in containers or hanging baskets, used to edge a walk, or accent a mailbox.  Wherever you plant them, they will give season long color.  There are numerous varieties to choose from, begonias, impatiens, geraniums, marigolds, salvias, etc.  Some annuals are not grown for flowers, but have colorful foliage like coleus, amaranthus, dusty miller and ornamental grasses. When choosing your annuals, consider the site where they will be planted.  Is the area sunny, shady, wet or dry?  Do you have deer, rabbits or groundhogs living in the area?  This information will dictate what types of flowers you should buy.   Another consideration is the color palette you prefer.  Colors such as red, orange and yellow are considered hot or warm colors, and can be seen from a distance. Colors such as blue, purple, pink or white are cool colors and better viewed up close.  A complimentary color palette may be a mix of warm and cool colors. 

For an interesting tropical display plants such as palms, ferns, banana trees, hibiscus, orchids and elephant ears can be used as annuals. They can be brought into the house or a greenhouse for the winter and re-used the following year.

Annual flowers can be used in vegetable gardens.  They not only provide color but can be useful companion plants as well.  Marigolds, geraniums and chrysanthemums will repel insect pests, whereas cosmos, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias will attract pollinators.  A few annuals are even edible and will make a colorful and nutritious addition to salads, such as nasturtiums, pansies and calendula.

Whichever annuals you choose to plant, have fun with it! Experiment with different color combinations and take notes, you can always change it up next year!

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Even though spring may be rainy, now is the time to start thinking about how your garden will get watered in the hot dry summer months.  Do you already have an irrigation system? You may want to call up and have it activated now.  The best time to activate is after threat of a hard freeze is past.  If you are planning to add additional plantings this season or were not happy with coverage last season, adjustments and additions may be done now.

If you do not currently have an irrigation system there are many reasons you should think about getting one.  A professionally installed irrigation system protects your landscape investment by offering consistent and convenient watering of plants.  Plants that receive regular irrigation are healthier and have less drought stress than those that do not.   Hand held hoses or sprinklers are not a reliable source of irrigation and take time to set up.  Wouldn’t you rather be spending your time doing other things?

There is a new generation of irrigation controllers on the market now that will automatically adjust watering depending on the weather.  It will take data like temperature, wind, exposure, and soil type and determine the proper watering for your site.   These controllers will guard against over watering, thus saving you money in the long run. 

How do I Love thee?  Let me count the ways….

There is so much to love about mulch.  Mulch is a work horse in the garden.  Maintaining a layer of 1-3” of mulch around trees and in planting beds conserves water, protects root zones, suppresses weeds, adds organic matter to the soil, prevents soil erosion,  andkeeps beds looking neat and tidy.

There are many different types of materials used for mulch, each with its advantages and disadvantages.

Dyed mulch, either red or black, is sometimes popular for its contrasting color in the landscape. The problem with dyed mulches is that many of them may contain dyes or questionable wood products that could be harmful to your plants.  In addition, the dye fades over time.

Licorice root mulch, sold at many garden centers, is a nice choice. It is a natural product and has a nice dark brown or black color.  Licorice root mulch is mostly sold as a bagged product. There are some suppliers that sell it in bulk, but it can be more expensive than other mulches. Consequently, if you are mulching a large area, it may be cost prohibitive.

Cocoa mulch is also sold in garden centers. This product is NOT recommended, as it contains theobromine, the chemical found in chocolate that is extremely toxic to pets.

Cedar mulch is a natural insect repellant and does not break down as quickly as other natural mulch.   Cedar mulch is usually more expensive, and can be lighter in color.

Pine straw is great around evergreens and other acid loving plants.

It is not as attractive as wood based mulches and may not be appropriate for all plantings.

Triple shredded hardwood mulch is highly recommended; we use it almost exclusively.   It is a natural product, has a nice dark brown color, adds organic matter to the soil and is budget friendly.   

Early spring is a great time to apply mulch.  After a good spring clean up of the beds, mulch right away to inhibit weed growth.  

One day warm and blowing, the next day cold and snowing…

Winter burn on Boxwood

Winter burn on Boxwood

March weather can be unpredictable, but spring is on its way. Friday, March 20th marks the spring (vernal) equinox.  The equinox has long been celebrated as the time of rebirth.  The robins are returning and the plants are waking up from their winter slumber.

It’s time to get out and start looking at our landscapes.  You may notice your broad leafed evergreen shrubs and trees may have some browned leaves and branch dieback.  This is what’s called winter burn or winter injury. Plants such as hollies, rhododendrons, laurels and boxwoods may be affected. Winter burn is caused from the inability of the plant to draw moisture up from the frozen soil.  Most evergreens continue to transpire, even during the winter months.  The plant will lose moisture through its leaves and not be able to recover that moisture from its roots.  You may notice more browning leaves on the side of the plant facing the sun or unprotected windy exposures.  Browning leaves may also be a sign of salt damage.  Using salt on sidewalks or driveways may end up in planting beds and lawn areas. 

Other types of winter injury are broken branches from snow load, frost cracking, and animal foraging.   Most plants will recover from minor winter injury with no intervention; however some may need a little extra help.   Pruning out any dead or damaged branches, spring fertilization and proper irrigation will ensure recovery over the growing season.  Some trees or shrubs may be damaged by animals feeding that could be fatal.  Mice will eat away at the bark of some trees at ground level, causing girdling.  The plant will not be able to move water and nutrients up and down the trunk causing death.  Unfortunately, those plants will need to be replaced. 

Roses will benefit from pruning and fertilizing now also.  Most roses should be pruned now, with the exception of a few varieties that should be pruned after flowering.  Pruning out weak or damaged canes and thinning to just the strongest canes will improve vigor and flowering.

Spring is a great time to fertilize all your planting beds.  Trees, shrubs and perennials will all be pushing new growth soon.   Applying fertilizer now will ensure that the proper nutrients are available to your plants as they begin to leaf out and flower.  We recommend a good quality organic fertilizer that will not only provide necessary nutrients, but will help maintain a healthy soil profile.

The Grass Is Always Greener

Grass, turf or lawn, no matter what you call it, it’s a large part of our landscapes.

Who doesn’t love to walk barefoot on a soft green living carpet?

Some lawns are for playing sports, or hard worn by little feet on the playground.  Other turf areas are meant for viewing from a distance, or as a transition between landscape planting beds.  We all enjoy a beautiful, lush, green, weed-free lawn, but it doesn’t just happen that way naturally.

Great looking lawns start with a good quality sod or seed.  Compacted or clay soils will have to be properly prepared and amendments added prior to sod or seed being installed.  When deciding whether to install sod or seed, there are a couple of things to consider.  Sod can be more expensive than seed, but can usually be installed anytime as long as it is properly irrigated.  When seeding a lawn, it is always more successful when installed in the fall.

Successful lawn maintenance requires proper cutting height, regular irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticide applications.  Proper cutting height is 3 inches. This height helps maintain soil moisture and reduces competition from weeds. Cutting grass shorter than 3 inches may result in injury to the plant, drought stress and weed growth. 

Lawns need to be watered to keep them healthy and green. A professionally installed irrigation system is recommended for ease and consistency of watering.

A good quality turf fertilizer should be applied four times a season.  For fertilizer to be effective, the soil’s ph should be kept in the range of 6.0 to 7.2 (neutral).  If the soil is too acidic (below 6) or too alkaline (above 7) nutrients will not be available to the plants.  A soil test should be performed to find out what the soil ph is before adding any amendments to adjust it.

First Impressions Are Lasting Impressions

A recently completed project by Siciliano Landscape Company

A recently completed project by Siciliano Landscape Company

First impressions are as important for houses as they are for people. When considering a landscape project, consider this: A professionally designed landscape that is well thought out and executed can add as much as 15 percent to the existing value of your home. Whether you’re looking to update or add foundation plantings or looking into larger projects such as patios, walkways, or a swimming pool, the importance of a coherent and well thought out design plan is critical.

Hiring a Professional

Siciliano Landscape Company is licensed by the state of New Jersey to practice the profession of landscape architecture, a distinction which sets us apart from many of our competitors. Unlike a landscape designer, a landscape architect must have a degree from an accredited university, have experience under a licensed landscape architect, and must have completed the LARE or Landscape architecture Registration Examination. We will assess your property’s topography, soil, existing plant material and create a comprehensive and detailed plan that fits your property and goals.

Establishing Project Goals

If you’ve determined that you’re in need of our services the next step is to gather your ideas of what you’re looking to do. Is it your goal to have a great outdoor entertaining area, a kitchen garden, or curb appeal? Establishing your goals at the beginning of the design process can help us put together a more coherent design. One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is a piecemeal approach. The end result is a hodgepodge of plantings and gardens that give your property a disorganized look. A clear set of goals at the beginning of the design process will create a well prepared plan, with a polished look, that remains within your budget.

Establishing a Budget

One of the biggest fears our new customers have is providing us with a budget. Establishing a budget however, gives us a realistic framework in which to work. When it comes to how much one should invest, the American Society of Landscape Architects recommends that a general rule of thumb is between 5 and 10 percent of your home value. Although this may seem like a large chuck of change, research from Virginia Tech University shows that the value of a well designed landscape grows over time. The same can’t be said for traditional home improvements, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Final Thoughts, Landscape Trends

Because Americans are becoming more drawn to adding outdoor rooms to their properties, the ASLA conducted a survey to identify the top trends for 2016. Among the most popular living features of an outdoor landscape were fire pits, outdoor kitchens and seating, and dining areas. Some of the most popular recreational features included custom pools and spa features. If you’re interested in incorporating any of these items into your property, be sure to first schedule a free consultation with Siciliano Landscape Company. A good plan is a good investment.

Winter Tips for Your Garden

You made it through leaf season!  All your perennial beds are put to sleep.  You might assume you don’t have to think about your landscaping for a couple of months. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Winter weather can have an adverse effect on our landscaping but there are some things you can do to prevent damage to your favorite plants. 

If you haven’t done so already, putting additional mulch around the base of your shrubs and trees will protect the root system by providing insulation.   Be careful not to mulch too closely to the trunks of trees. 

When snow arrives, be sure to knock heavy snow off tender limbs of trees and shrubs where possible.  This will help avoid limbs breaking under snow load.  This is especially important to plants like arborvitaes that are multi trunked and tend to separate and bend outwards.  If the limbs are covered in ice do not try to knock it off; you may cause the branches to break in the process.  Ice should be allowed to melt off naturally.

Ice melt products can be damaging to your hardscaping as well as landscape plants.  Research the type of material you are putting down.  Be sure not to over apply any product.  Ice melt products contain salts that can build up in the soil thus causing plants not to be able to absorb water, and die. Flushing the beds with water in the spring may help reduce the amount of accumulated salts.  Boxwoods are especially sensitive to salt damage.  If you cannot avoid using ice melts, choose plant material for those areas that are more salt tolerant such as junipers.    Some products are very corrosive to walkways and driveways, so use sparingly or look for another product that is less corrosive.  Calcium chloride for example may be less corrosive to concrete and asphalt than sodium chloride (rock salt) but may cause damage to landscape plants.  Some products can be toxic to pets.  If you have pets, be sure to use a product that is labeled as pet safe.

When doing snow removal, be careful not to pile snow onto shrubs.  The use of a snow blower is a good alternative to shoveling. Not only is it less physically strenuous, but it deposits the snow more gently and over a farther distance causing less damage to plant materials.

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season!

Brace Yourself, Winter is Coming!

Preparing your garden for winter is a very important part of landscape maintenance. 

Removal of leaves:   If there are only a few leaves, they can be chopped up with the lawnmower and left on the lawn.  This will add beneficial organic matter to the soil.  When there is an overabundance of leaves they will have to be removed.  Leaves can be piled or put in an enclosed bin to be composted.  The addition of green plant material such as kitchen scraps and garden debris will create compost that is an enriching soil amendment for your plants.  Leaves can also be used to protect half hardy shrubs such as figs.  A wire or burlap wrap can be put around the plants and filled with leaves.  This provides insulation in the cold winter months.  Leaves, if chopped up finely can also be used as mulch for flower beds and tree rings.  Pine needles should be left around the trees; however excess pine needles can be used as mulch for acid loving plants such as rhododendrons and azaleas.

Cut back perennials:  Perennials that have turned brown should be cut back.  Some seed heads may be left to provide food for birds over the winter.  This is a good time to save any seeds you would like to replant for next year.  Seeds should be dried thoroughly before storing.  They can be labeled and put in plastic bags and stored in the freezer until planting time.  This provides stratification that  some seeds require in order to germinate properly.

Dig up summer bulbs:  Cannas, Dahlias, caladiums, elephant ears and gladiolus bulbs can be dug up after the first frost.  Bulbs should be cleaned and dried and stored in a cool dark place.  They can be stored in peat moss or wrapped in newspaper.  Do not store bulbs in plastic bags. 

Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs:  Tulip, daffodil, alliums, hyacinth and crocus bulbs should be planted now. 

Remove dead wood from trees:  Removing dead wood from trees in the fall is a great safety precaution.  This reduces the possibility of branches falling on houses or people during winter storms.

Mulch:  After all the beds are cleaned and leaves have been taken away a fresh layer of mulch can be added to beds.  Mulch not only gives a neat appearance to the winter landscape, but provides additional insulation to plant and tree roots.

Protect evergreens from winter burn:  Hollies, Laurels, and boxwoods are just a few of the evergreens at risk for winter burn.  Winter burn is caused by moisture loss through the leaves.  As they are “evergreen” they continue to carry on photosynthesis and transpire in the winter. When moisture is lost through the leaves and the plant cannot absorb water from the roots, the leaves will dry out and turn brown.  One way to combat this is to spray an anti-transpirant on susceptible trees and shrubs.  Anti-transpirant sprays coat the leaves to reduce moisture loss.  They must be sprayed as the temperature cools down but before freezing.  Plants may be sprayed again mid winter if necessary as long as temperature is above freezing.

Congratulations!  All the hard work is done.  There is nothing left to do but relax for the next couple of months!

November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.

 

With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket,

And frost by the gate.

 

The fires burn,

And the kettles sing,

And the earth sinks to rest

Until next spring.

 

Clyde Watson

Oh Dear, Its the Deer

Fall has arrived.  The weather has started to cool down heralding the start of football season, bonfires, sweaters, and “the rut”.  The rut is the mating season for white tailed deer.  If you are a hunter or know a hunter this, term is very familiar to you.  The rut will probably peak around the first week of November, but activity may already have started in your area.  The effect it can have on our landscaping can be devastating.   

Male deer can destroy small trees and shrubs by “rubbing”.   Early in the fall the deer will use the trees to remove the velvet coating from their antlers.  Later on in the season they will rub the scent glands from their foreheads onto the tree trunks to mark their territory and to establish dominance.  In the winter months they will use trees to help remove the past season’s antlers.

Most tree damage occurs on small trees and with 1-3” diameter trunks. Newly planted trees are especially vulnerable.  The deer will rub off the bark and cambium layer.  This reduces the tree’s ability to move water and nutrients up and down the tree.  If the damage encircles the tree, it is known as girdling and will eventually kill the tree. 

To protect the trees, timing is crucial.  Physical or chemical barriers should be in place by the latter portion of September.  Physical barriers could be plastic trunk wrap, hardware cloth, drainage piping cut lengthwise or actually fencing.  It is important to cover the trunk up to 4’ high.  It may be difficult to protect low branches within this zone so a fence encircling the tree may be necessary.   Chemical deterrents may be used also, but will have to be reapplied a few times throughout the fall and winter seasons.

Deer can also inflict damage not related to the rut.  In the winter months when fresh food is scarce, the deer will start feeding on shrubs and trees.  If you have deer in your area you should keep that in mind when planting your landscape.  Although there aren’t too many things deer won’t eat at all, there are plants that are less likely to get eaten.   Boxwoods, Japanese barberry and forsythia will rarely be eaten by deer; however plants such as hollies, arborvitaes and yews will most certainly be browsed upon if there are deer in the area.   To protect your landscaping from deer, fencing in your entire property is an option.  Deer can jump up to 8 feet high so if you get a fence that is shorter than 8 feet there is a possibility that they may be able to jump over it.   Chemical deterrents are preferable, but must be applied regularly to be effective. 

For more information on deer resistant plants and strategies for protecting your landscape, contact your landscape profession or your local extension office.  

To Plant Bulbs In The Fall Is To Have Hope For The Coming Spring

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Fall is the time to plant your spring bulbs.  We are all familiar with the usual tulips, daffodils and crocuses but there are many different varieties of bulbs available to plant in the fall. Red or Yellow crown imperials and Globemaster Alliums are large and showy additions to the spring garden, whereas grape hyacinths, anemones and snowdrops will create a lush ground cover.

Wherever you plant bulbs, they should be planted en masse (the more the better).  Imagine a large swath of daffodils on a hillside or red tulips lining a front walk.   Snowdrops are the first flowers to bloom in the spring and look beautiful planted in a woodland setting.  To create a magnificent display, try under planting taller varieties with shorter ones, like daffodils and grape hyacinths. Fall pansies and bulbs can be planted at the same time. Pansies should still be blooming in the spring (depending on the winter) and create a colorful backdrop to your spring bulbs.  You can also extend the season by choosing bulbs that will bloom at different times. Bulb flowers are usually categorized by early, mid, and late bloom.  Some catalog companies will offer mixes that include different bloom times taking out the guess work for you.

Bulbs can be planted along with your fall mums.  Dig a hole a little deeper than needed for the mum.  Fill the hole with bulbs, cover with soil and place the mum on top.  Once the mum has faded for the season, cut it back or pull out pushing more soil into the hole.  The bulbs will be ready to bloom in the spring.

If you have a problem with rodents or deer in your area, you may have to protect flowers like tulips and crocuses from damage.  If you don’t want to go through the trouble of spraying or putting cages around your plants, choose a resistant variety. 

When planting bulbs, be sure to pay close attention to the depth they should be planted.  Large bulbs should be planted at least 6-8 inches deep whereas small ones can be planted less deep.  Be aware of your soil conditions, bulbs prefer a well drained soil.  If your site is too wet, your bulbs may rot.  Most bulbs, with the exception of a few also require full sun (at least 6 hours of sun a day).

To ensure your bulb plants will continue to bloom for years to come, a little maintenance may be required.  You can fertilize your bulbs when planting with bone meal or with a low nitrogen fertilizer in the spring.  Spent flowers should be removed, whereas foliage should be left on the plant until it turns brown.  Cutting the greens prematurely may result in reduced flowers the coming year.

Little known bulb facts: (1) The spice saffron comes from crocus sativus, a fall blooming crocus.  (2)Tulip bulbs are edible.  During World War 2 there was a great famine in the Netherlands and tulip bulbs were eaten to stave off starvation.  (3) Daffodil bulbs are so popular that currently there are over 13,000 different hybrid varieties.

The Dog Days of Summer

July 3 to August 11 is the time of the season known as “the dog days of summer”.  The phrase has an interesting origin.  In ancient times it was the period extending 20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the Dog Star) and the sun.  The Romans believed the star radiated heat because it was so bright and coincided with the hottest part of the summer.

You might be sitting in your lawn chair this summer, looking over your lawn.  Are you starting to notice brown patches or weedy spots? Is the overall vigor of your lawn not up to par?  It may be time to start planning to renovate your lawn.  The months of September and October are the best times to do a lawn renovation.  Aeration and over seeding are recommended for some lawns, whereas a total renovation may be required for others.  Choices for establishment of new turf are seed or sod.  Although seeding is less expensive than sod it will take time to germinate and fill in.  Sod, on the other hand will give you an instant, green and weed free lawn.

Fall is also a great time to apply lime to your turf if required.  Lime is an amendment that helps raise the ph of the soil.  Turf grasses prefer a neutral 6.5 to 7.0 ph. Most soils in our area tend to be more acidic (below 7).  The ph of the soil determines how many nutrients are available in the soil to be taken up by plants.  Before adding any ph altering amendments, you should have your soil tested.  You can do this yourself or ask your landscape professional to test the soil for you.  The test results will reveal if any amendments are required and how much to apply. 

 Question: “When is the best time to plant a tree?” Answer: “20 years ago. The second best time is NOW!” We have lost a lot of trees in the last couple of years due to Hurricane Sandy and other extreme weather events.  Whether it is to replace one that has died or add a new point of interest for your landscape, one of the best things you can do for your environment is to plant a tree.  Trees are beautiful to look at, but have many benefits as well.  Trees provide shade in the summer, a wind break in the winter, food and shelter for wildlife and oxygen we all need to survive. 

When choosing a tree, there are many things to consider.  Is your site wet or dry, sunny or shady?  Do you need a small ornamental or a large shade tree?  If you have a small property, or overhead electrical wires, a large tree may be out of the question.  There are a number of lovely ornamental trees that will be more in scale with small spaces.  Trees such as Crape Myrtles, Star magnolias, crabapples, Dogwoods, Redbuds and Yoshino Cherries provide beautiful blooms while others like Japanese Maples offer interesting bark and foliage and stay small in stature.

Larger trees such as Maples, Oaks, Sweetgums, London Planes and Zelkovas, when planted near the southwest corner of a house, can keep the house cooler in the summer months, thus saving on energy bills. Evergreens can provide year round screening from unsightly views or provide privacy.  This group would include; arborvitaes, hemlock, pines, firs and spruces. River birches and weeping willows will thrive in problematic wet areas where other trees may suffer.  A consultation with a horticulturalist or a reputable landscape professional will help to insure you get the right tree to enjoy for years to come.

Water, Water, Water

It’s hot, it’s dry, and it’s summer!  It’s obvious that our landscaping needs watering, but how much and how often seems to be a mystery to some.

Newly installed trees and shrubs:  Take extra care now to make sure they are watered well and often.  Follow instructions from your landscape professional as to what types of plants you have and the watering requirements for each of them.  Newly planted trees and shrubs do not have a very large root zone and will need to be watered more than established plants.  It is also helpful to know the type and characteristics of your soil.  Sandy soils do not retain water as well as clay or loam soils and need to be watered more often.

Established plantings:  The rule of thumb is 1 inch of water per week is needed for established plantings.  The use of a rain gauge or a tin can help you determine the amount of water that is being used.  It is much better for the plants to be watered deeply once or twice a week than to water a little bit every day.  It is also important to let the soil dry slightly between waterings.  Do not let the soil become waterlogged or have standing water near the plantings.  Deep watering helps promote stronger root systems thus creating healthier plants that are more drought resistant.  When possible, make sure you are watering at the base of the plant.  This will save water that may be lost to evaporation and directs the water to the root zone where it is needed.

Lawns:  Lawns need the same amount of water as established plantings per week however timing is a bit more critical.

Lawns should be watered early in the morning, so that the leaves will dry quickly during the day.  Never water lawns at night.   Turf grass is susceptible to many types of fungi and proper watering is crucial in the prevention of diseases. 

Perennials:  Most of our popular perennials, such as daylilies, catmint, lavender and irises are drought tolerant and do not need a lot of water.  Be careful not to overwater perennial beds as too much water could cause the plants to rot.

Annuals:  If you have annual flowers in pots, you may have to water them every day, depending on the size of the pot and how much soil it holds.  Keep an eye out for wilting and check soil medium.   If the potting soil becomes too dry it can become hydrophobic, meaning it may repel water.  Take extra care to ensure soil is thoroughly soaked when watering.

 

 

 

“And since all this loveliness cannot be heaven, I know in my heart it is June” - Abba Gould Woolson

There is no debate that June is a lovely month, but it can also be a busy one.  June brings weddings, Father’s day, graduations, the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.

Parties will be held outdoors this time of year.  Is your back yard ready for summer entertaining?  Pools, spas, and outdoor kitchens provide a place where family and friends can gather to celebrate life’s important events.  Specialty items such as wine refrigerators, kegerators and pizza ovens can enhance and personalize your space.  The addition of fire pits and fireplaces will create a warm, cozy environment to enjoy into the cooler months.  Well-designed outdoor living areas not only maximize usable space, but can be an extension of your home’s interior.  Choosing similar building materials or color palettes will create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor rooms making your home feel larger.   This can be an advantage when you decide to sell.  Homes with well- designed outdoor living areas and landscaping will stand out against similar homes that do not have that advantage.

When buying or selling a home, landscaping often plays a large role.   In addition to considering curb appeal and usable space, you should consider having a landscape inspection.  A landscape inspection addresses things like tree health, hazardous trees, insect or disease issues, watering issues, soil fertility, and drainage problems.  If you are a seller, a reputable landscape professional can offer solutions to make your property more appealing such as tree removal, flower planting, pruning and lawn renovation.  If you are a buyer, an inspection is crucial, as it may save you from costly problems in the future.   A dead or dying tree, if not identified and removed, may fall causing considerable property damage or injury to someone.  Your landscape professional can give you an estimate for replacement costs of trees or shrubs.  An estimate for monthly landscape maintenance charges is helpful as this is an ongoing expense and should be considered in your home buying budget.  Siciliano Landscape Co. offers free property inspections and estimates; call us today!