Monthly Archives: August 2016

Tips Growing Blueberries that Outshine Store

Growing blueberries takes planning, but it pays off with yummy, good-for-you fruits. Learn how to grow juicy, delicious berries no matter where you live.

Choose the Right Blueberry Bush

Some people call them blueberry trees, but blueberry plants grow as bushes. Variations of wild North American natives can grow in a wide variety of climates and conditions.

When you grow blueberries, begin by choosing the right plant. Consider its chill hours, the number of hours it takes for plants to stay in cold dormancy below 45 degrees F; how cold/heat tolerant it is; how you want to use the berries (fresh, baking, landscaping, etc.); and how many days it takes to set and mature fruit.

Although most people grow blueberries for the fruits, the bushes are terrific landscape plants with outstanding red fall leaf color.

Here are the four basic types of blueberry shrubs, with many choices within each type.

Highbush Blueberries
Vaccinium corymbosum plants grow 4 to 12 feet tall and wide, depending on the type. Many cultivated varieties accent specific traits, such as how many days the fruits need to mature, size of the fruits, and size of the mature bush. They’re generally less cold-hardy than lowbush blueberries but are more heat-tolerant.

Northern highbush blueberry plants grow best in colder climates and need 800 to 1,000 chill hours. There are more than 100 named varieties, including ‘Aurora’, ‘Bluecrop’, ‘Bluetta’, ‘Bluegold’, ‘Bluejay’, ‘Blueray’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Darrow’, ‘Draper’, ‘Duke’, ‘Elliott’, ‘Earliblue’, ‘Hardyblue’, ‘Jersey’, ‘Legacy’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Northland’, ‘Patriot’, ‘Reka’, ‘Rubel’, ‘Spartan’, and ‘Toro’.

Southern highbush blueberry plants include breeding from a blueberry species native to the southeast United States. They need 150 to 800 chill hours to set fruits. Named varieties include ‘Emerald’, ‘Jewel’, ‘Jubilee’, ‘Misty’, ‘Southmoon’, ‘Oneal’, ‘Sharpblue’, ‘Star’, and ‘Sunshine Blue’.

Lowbush Blueberries
Vaccinium angustifolium species are native in the northeastern United States. As their name implies, they’re a short groundcover plant that grows from underground rhizomes. They reach 6 inches to 2 feet tall and need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Their petite size makes them a good choice for containers. Named varieties include ‘Brunswick’, ‘Burgundy’, ‘Ruby Carpet’, and ‘Top Hat’.

Half-High Blueberries
Vaccinium corymbosum x V. angustifolium plants are exactly what they sound like: a cross of highbush and lowbush blueberries. They’re also called high-low blueberries. Half-high blueberries are extremely cold-hardy and grow about 4 feet tall. They need 1,000 to 1,200 chill hours. Named varieties include ‘Bluegold’, ‘Chippewa’, ‘Northblue’, ‘Northcountry’, ‘Northsky’, and ‘Polaris’.

Rabbiteye Blueberries
Vaccinium ashei plants are popular selections for Southern gardens as they need few chill hours. They get their name because the early fruits are whitish-pink, like the color of a rabbit’s eye. They’re the largest and most vigorous of blueberry types, growing 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide or larger. Rabbiteye blueberries are more heat- and drought-tolerant than other types and adapt to more soil pH ranges. Named varieties include ‘Brightwell’, ‘Briteblue’, ‘Climax’, ‘Delite’, ‘Garden Blue’, ‘Premier’, ‘Sharpblue’, ‘Tifblue’, and ‘Woodard’.

Japanese Blueberry Tree
Elaeocarpus decipiens is a completely different plant. This evergreen tree grows in warm climates, reaches 40 to 60 feet tall, and produces blue-black fruits that resemble olives. Despite the name, it’s not a blueberry.

How to Grow Blueberries
Growing blueberries has become popular in home gardens. They can be challenging to grow, but you’ll be successful if you meet their needs.

Soil is one of the biggest factors in growing blueberries. Blueberries require a soil that is acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.0. Test your soil first so you know exactly what type of amendments are needed and in what amounts. Test again after you’ve made adjustments. Blueberries need well-drained soil rich with organic matter.

Blueberries should be grown in full sun.

Planting Blueberries
Buy two- to three-year-old blueberry plants from a reputable nursery. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but many need a different blueberry cultivar planted nearby for cross-pollination to ensure a better harvest. It’s a good idea to plant two different kinds even with self-pollinating types.

Spacing between plants varies by type. Highbush blueberries need 4 to 6 feet between plants. Lowbush types are spaced 1 to 2 feet apart. Plant half-high blueberries 3 to 4 feet apart. Rabbiteye blueberries should be spaced 6 feet apart or closer if you want them to form a hedge.

Blueberries have shallow root systems and need 1 to 3 inches of rain or water each week, enough to moisten the soil 12 to 16 inches deep throughout the growing season. It’s best to water deeply less frequently than to water often but lightly.

To conserve moisture and reduce weeds, mulch with a 4- to 6-inch-deep layer of pine needles, sawdust, composted leaves, bark, or other organic materials. If you use sawdust or bark, apply extra nitrogen fertilizer, because the mulch depletes the nitrogen in the soil.

Blueberry Fertilizer
Although you should avoid placing fertilizer in the planting hole, blueberries can benefit from fertilizers suitable for azaleas or rhododendrons. Apply in early spring according to package directions in a circle 15 to 18 inches away from the base of the plant. Or apply half in early spring and the rest four to six weeks later.

Organic gardeners can use cottonseed meal, which has low pH and high nitrogen levels, bloodmeal, or well-composted manure.

Blueberries should not be overfertilized, which can lead to excess growth, or fertilized after spring. Increase the amount of fertilizer used every year until the plant is four years old.

Pruning Blueberries
Blueberry bush care includes pruning. Hold off on pruning the first two years, and — as hard as this may seem — pick off all fruit blossoms. This allows the blueberry bush to put all of its energies into new growth instead of fruit production.

In late winter, just before spring growth begins, prune weak or dead branches. Make the cut where the branch meets a sturdy limb.

Remove any lower limbs that might touch the ground when bearing heavy fruit.

Check the center of the plant and remove vertical upshoots to allow more sunlight and air circulation to reach the center of the plant. It also encourages the growth of side limbs that are easier to reach.

Once plants are six years old, remove the oldest few stems. Avoid overpruning or your harvest will be much lighter. Mature blueberry plants should have a variety of healthy stems (also called canes) varying in age from one to six years old.

Harvesting Blueberries
Blueberries begin to produce fruit in their third year (remember, you are removing the blossoms during the first two years) and increase production every year until they’re five years old. They take eight to 10 years to mature.

Pick blueberries when they’re fully ripe on the plant; they don’t ripen after picking. Watch the ripening fruit carefully, and harvest berries one to two days after they begin to turn blue. Not all of the fruits in each cluster ripen at the same pace, so use care in moving off the ripe berries and leaving the immature ones.

Refrigerate blueberries immediately after picking to keep them at their freshest. Keep the berries dry; to prevent mold, don’t wash them until immediately before eating.

Growing Blueberries in Containers
Many of the smallest varieties of blueberries perform very well in containers, where it’s easy to control the soil pH and water.

Tips to Care for and Choose Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas can generally be broken down into two main groups: mopheads and lacecaps. Each group contains a gorgeous assortment of species and varieties. We’ll discuss some of our favorites and give you ideas about how you can use them in your garden. We’ll also show you some other great selections in the hydrangea clan, including oakleaf, paniculata, and climbing hydrangea so you can pick the best ones for you, and give you tips on how to care for hydrangeas, too.

Learn more about hydrangeas in our Plant Encyclopedia.
Video: More on Hydrangeas
Watch our video on hydrangeas to learn more about these beautiful flowering shrubs.
Mopheads
Mophead hydrangeas offer big dome-shape clusters of flowers in blue, pink, or white. Most mopheads bloom in late spring or early summer but make their flower buds the year before you see them. As you care for this type of hydrangea, know that it is best to prune them is in early summer, right after the flowers fade.

Most mopheads grow best in a spot with moist, well-drained soil and a bit of afternoon shade.

Order mophead hydrangeas now for your garden.
Learn more about getting your hydrangeas to bloom.
Big Daddy
One of the showiest mophead hydrangeas you can grow, Big Daddy Hydrangea macrophylla features huge (14 inch-wide) clusters of blue or pink blooms. The long-lasting flowers are great for cutting because they have strong stems. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

One note: Because the flowers are so large, the stems can flop if you grow the plant in extra-rich soil or too much shade.

Pink Shira
A relatively new mophead variety, Pink Shira Hydrangea macrophylla is a favorite for its strong stems, compact habit, and long-lasting blooms. Its flowers start out a lovely shade of lime green then turn pink or lavender (this one doesn’t go blue. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Cityline Paris
Cityline Paris Hydrangea macrophylla is another recent mophead introduction that stands out because of its upright stems and compact habit. It features bright fuchsia-pink flowers that last a long time then fade to a lovely shade of green in summer. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Cityline Berlin
A sister to Cityline Paris, Cityline Berlin Hydrangea macrophylla offers larger flowers on the same tight habit and strong stems. The flowers on this mophead aren’t as brightly colored as its sister, but they last just as long. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. 5-9

Black-Stem Hydrangea
Black-stem hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Nigra’) has beautiful mophead flowers, but as its name suggests, the stems are what stand out. They are a dark purple-black color that contrasts against the green foliage and pastel blue or pink blooms. It grows 6 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9

Sun Goddess Hydrangea
Flowers aren’t the only reason to grow hydrangeas; some have stunning foliage, as well. Sun Goddess Hydrangea macrophylla is one great example; this mophead features bright golden-green foliage that lights up the shade garden. Sun Goddess grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9 Other hydrangeas that feature golden foliage include Lemon Daddy and ‘Lemon Zest’.

Lacecaps
Lacecap hydrangeas give the garden a more delicate look. Instead of producing a one big rounded cluster of showy florets, they form a flower head composed of a ring of colorful florets surrounding a lacy cluster of small florets. Lacecap hydrangeas have similar cultural needs as their mophead cousins, mainly differing in flower form.

Bits of Lace
Bits of Lace Hydrangea macrophylla features lacecaps of large white florets that are strongly blushed with pink. The large florets surround a lacy group of smaller pink ones. This selection also offers sturdy stems and dark green foliage. As you learn how to care for hydrangeas, make sure to understand their hardiness zone restrictions. This one grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

‘Lanarth White’
Considered one of best lacecaps, Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Lanarth White’ shows off large clusters of white florets faintly blushed with blue or pink. Its stiff stems keep the spectacular flowers standing upright. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

Rough-Leaf Hydrangea
Rough-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea villosa) is a favorite of gardeners in areas of the South and Northwest and is a little more exotic-looking than your average lacecap. It features long, narrow, hairy foliage and blooms in late summer and fall. It’s also much larger, growing to 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 7-9

Light-O-Day
You’ll love this hydrangea’s beautiful foliage, even if it doesn’t bloom for you. Light-O-Day Hydrangea macrophylla features rich green foliage broadly edged in white. The white lacecap flowers are an attractive complement to the foliage. This shrub grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

‘Mariesii Variegata’ also offers white-edged foliage; ‘Lemon Wave’ features a wide banding of mottled white, cream, and yellow around the leaves.

Reblooming Hydrangeas
A handful of mophead and lacecap hydrangeas have the ability to produce flowers on new growth. Because of this, they tend to rebloom throughout the summer and into fall. They’re a good choice for gardeners in Northern regions because you don’t need to worry about cold temperatures killing the flower buds during the winter.

Learn how to turn hydrangeas blue.
Endless Summer
Endless Summer Hydrangea macrophylla is one of the most famous rebloomers. Introduced in 2004, it allowed gardeners in Northern climates to be able enjoy hydrangeas in their gardens. It features big mophead clusters of blue or pink flowers and grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9 Note: There’s also a lacecap version available; it’s called Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout Hydrangea macrophylla.

Spreading Beauty
A low habit and ability to rebloom in summer and fall sets Spreading Beauty Hydrangea serrata apart. This lacecap hydrangea offers pink or blue flowers in late spring or early summer. The blooms are great for cutting. It grows 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Blue Bunny
Blue Bunny Hydrangea involucrata shows off blue clusters of lacecap flowers from midsummer to frost. It’s a strong grower with slightly hairy foliage and unique acorn-shape flower buds. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9 Note: Because it blooms on new wood, the best time to prune this lacecap hydrangea is in late winter or early spring.

Let’s Dance Starlight
Like Endless Summer Twist-n-Shout, Let’s Dance Starlight Hydrangea macrophylla is a lacecap that produces showy flowers for months. It also has rich, dark green foliage and a compact habit. This variety grows 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9

About Flower Color
Mophead and many lacecap hydrangeas are sensitive to soil pH, and the blooms reflect this. In acidic soils, flowers tend to blue; in more alkaline soils, blooms tend toward pink. So if you’d like to change the color of your blooms as you learn how to care for your hydrangeas, know that you have to add soil sulfur to make them more blue and lime to make them more pink.

About Fall Foliage
Mophead and lacecap varieties of Hydrangea macrophylla typically feature attractive fall foliage in shades of red and burgundy. The coloration varies from type to type, so if a fall show is important to you, shop in autumn or research which selections color up the best at the end of the growing season.

‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea
A cousin to mopheads and lacecaps, ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’) is one of the hardiest types. It blooms in summer, producing large snowy-white clusters of showy florets. For that, it’s sometimes called snowball hydrangea. ‘Annabelle’ is also one of the best hydrangeas for deep shade. It blooms on new wood, so the best time to prune it is late winter or early spring. It grows 4 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-9 Note: Hydrangea arborescens is native to areas of North America.

White Dome Hydrangea
A unique variety, White Dome Hydrangea arborescens features flowers that look like fluffy clouds floating above dark green foliage. Like ‘Annabelle’, it blooms in summer on new wood. It grows 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Zones 4-9

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Another beauty native to areas of North America, oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) offers cone-shape clusters of creamy white flowers in summer. But the show goes on — the lobed leaves create wonderful texture in the garden and the peeling, cinnamon-color bark provides winter interest. It grows 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Snowflake Oakleaf Hydrangea
A standout among oakleaf types, Snowflake Hydrangea quercifolia shows off large heads of double flowers. The flowers often turn rosy-pink before maturing to a rich brown in fall. It grows 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Vaughn’s Lillie Oakleaf Hydrangea
Bold only begins to describe stunning Vaughn’s Lillie Hydrangea quercifolia. This selection features exceptionally full flower heads. It also tends to bloom more profusely than the average oakleaf hydrangea and has a compact habit. It grows 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 5-9

Fall Color on Oakleaf Hydrangeas
Oakleaf hydrangeas tend to be the most spectacular types for putting on a brilliant show of late-season color. In autumn, their leaves turn shades of crimson, burgundy, and purple. They seem to glow when backlit by the sun.

Discover other plants with beautiful fall foliage.
Hydrangea Paniculata
Have sun? Don’t worry — Hydrangea paniculata doesn’t mind. In fact, it blooms better in full sun. It also tends to be large; some varieties can grow 25 feet tall. This summer-flowering hydrangea blooms on new wood, so it’s best pruned in late winter or early spring. Zones 4-8

‘Limelight’ Hydrangea Paniculata
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is unique because its cone-shape flowers open a lovely shade of chartreuse then fade to rich pink in fall. It’s a vigorous shrub that’s great for informal hedges, as well as a top-notch cut flower. It grows 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9

‘Tardiva’ Hydrangea Paniculata
A fast-growing selection, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ features pointed clusters of white flowers that fade to pink as they mature. It’s great for cut flowers, and the blooms hold up well if left on the plant in the winter. It grows 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 3-8

PeeGee Hydrangea Paniculata
One of the largest hydrangeas, you can grow PeeGee (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’) as a small summer-flowering tree. It grows to 20 feet tall (or more, if really happy) and 8 feet wide. The large clusters of blooms appear in summer and often fade to pink in fall. Zones 4-8

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Pinky Winky Hydrangea Paniculata
Pinky Winky Hydrangea paniculata bears large clusters of white flowers in mid- and late summer that quickly fade to a rich rose-pink color. The strong stems hold the flowers up, even in heavy rains. It grows 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

Don’t miss out! Buy Pinky Winky from our Garden Store.
Fall Color on Hydrangea Paniculata
Most types of Hydrangea paniculata offer attractive fall color. Their leaves usually turn shades of gold (often suffused with purple) at the end of the season

Climbing Hydrangea
Most hydrangeas are shrubs, but climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) is a large vine with clusters of fluffy flowers in summer. This variety establishes slowly, so be patient. It may take a few years, but once it’s ready, the vine puts on a big show. It climbs to 50 feet. Zones 4-9

Best Small Garden Ideas

Create an Outdoor Room
Turn a tiny patio into a gorgeous outdoor room by adding a freestanding pergola. Here, a small wooden pergola was constructed over a gravel patio and enhanced with a teak seating arrangement. The pergola creates a sense of enclosure and makes the patio seem a lot larger then it actually is.

Go Gravel
Crushed brick or gravel is a beautiful and low-maintenance paving option for small gardens. It’s also easier to use and less expensive than brick or flagstone. Just be sure to spread a layer of landscape fabric underneath the gravel to keep weeds from popping through. On this California hillside, the gravel also allows rainfall to percolate through to the soil instead of running off down the hillside.

Capitalize on Trees
If you have large trees with bare spots underneath them, why not put the barren ground to use by creating an outdoor living space? In this small garden, several trees made growing a lawn or flower border impossible. So, the homeowners paved part of the area with flagstone and added a table and chairs.

Add a Pond
You don’t need a huge backyard to have a water garden. In fact, installing a water garden is a great way to handle low or wet spots in your garden. Just dig out the area, add a pond liner and pump, and you’re on your way. Even a tiny oasis will attract a wide range of colorful butterflies and birds. In this garden, Water Snowflake, Nymphoides humboldtiana, a small relative of water lily, provides color in tight quarters.

Learn how to create a small container water feature.
Double Your Pleasure
Get twice the flowers and vegetables in your small garden by adding a trellis or low fence behind every planting bed. That way, you can grow vine crops vertically so they don’t sprawl over their plant neighbors. In this narrow garden bed, a trio of rustic wooden trellises support flowering vines at the back of the perennial border.

Trees for Small Spaces
A small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have a gorgeous tree. See these shade-providing beauties that can squeeze into small spots.

Welcome Wildlife
Even a small garden can become a haven for birds and butterflies when you choose flowers they prefer. For example, this square bed is packed with bird and butterfly favorites, such as black-eyed Susan and phlox. A bird feeder and birdhouse add to the garden’s wildlife-friendly features.

Add a Mowing Strip
Keeping turf grass from encroaching in your garden beds is a lot easier when you install a mowing strip at the border’s edge. This mowing strip was specially designed to keep weeds at bay and act as a low-maintenance garden path. It also provides easy, mud-free access to the garden for wheelbarrows, mowers, and other equipment.

Eliminate Lawns
Put every square inch of your backyard to work by removing the sod to create useable outdoor living spaces. In this small courtyard, the turf was torn up and replaced by a gravel base that supports a gorgeous dining table and flower-filled containers. Plus, the homeowners have a lot more time to enjoy the space because they no longer have to mow.

Add Drama
Give small gardens a big boost of style by adding an oversize gate or arbor at one end to act as a focal point. It will draw the eye in and make the space seem larger. Here, a large-scale ornamental entry arbor gives this tiny side yard some visual heft. Plus, it supports a crown of climbing roses. White lilies in the center bed mirror the white roses and arbor.

Curve Walkways
One way to create a sense of space in a small garden is to put some curves into your garden paths. A slightly meandering walkway is always better than a straight path because it will give visitors the sense that they are traveling through a large landscape. Just be sure to make your path wide enough for two people to walk side by side comfortably. This curved concrete path is especially appealing because a ribbon of tile separates each slab of concrete.

Rely on Pots
Enjoy your own corner of paradise by packing your small garden with pots and planters overflowing with flowers and fragrant herbs. In this luxurious backyard, pots of geranium (scented and standard) and marguerite daisy provide the bulk of color surrounding a welcoming teak bench. A large terra-cotta bowl acts as a reflecting pool and birdbath.

Consider the Seasons
When you plan your garden, think about how it’s going to look in all four seasons. Many gardens look terrific in the spring and early summer, but by fall they fade. Choose perennials and annuals that offer late-season color and shrubs and trees that bear colorful berries or interesting bark in the winter. In this tiny front border, a bevy of tulips provide plenty of spring color. After they fade, they are replaced with summer beauties such as geranium and verbena. Holly shrubs, which flank the front door, develop showy red berries that keep the landscape looking good after frost.

Rehab a Shed
If the view from your backyard faces an ugly shed or garage, think about incorporating it into your garden design. On this narrow lot, the only view was of the homeowner’s ugly garage. But with a can of paint and an inexpensive French door, they turned an ugly duckling into a swan. In fact, they were so happy with the transformation, they added a Mediterranean style patio right up against the new garage doors.

Color Your World
Shady backyards are a great place to spend a hot summer afternoon, but too often, they can be a bit dark and dull. Brighten the view with colorful pillows, fabrics, outdoor rugs, and pots in a variety of colors and patterns. This shady deck is now a colorful spot for family fun.

Camouflage Trash
Nothing ruins the view in a small backyard faster than a set of garbage cans blown over in the wind. Instead of having your garbage in plain sight, build a wooden surround to keep them contained. Here, a set of stylish wooden panels camouflages the homeowners garbage with a little space left over for bags of potting soil and extra garden tools. When the gate panel is closed, everything is completely hidden.