Monday, January 6, 2020

Winter Plants for Visual Interest

We all know that springtime brings beautiful new growth. In many cases, buds soon become beautiful new blooms. Spring is surely a sight to behold. However, we forget about all the beautiful shrubs that add winter interest to our gardens and landscapes.
When most people think of winter shrubs, they automatically think about evergreens. However, many shrubs maintain their visual interest after they lose their leaves as well.
When choosing plants to include in your landscape, it is always a good idea to look ahead. Familiarize yourself with its hardiness to your zone, and its visual properties through the winter. Not every tree, shrub, or annual can be beautiful in the winter. You can find the perfect combination to provide cold season beauty.

Winterberry Hollies and Needlepoint Hollies

These hollies are such a gorgeous example of the beauty that winter has to offer. Their vibrant green foliage and bright red berries, they are the epitome of winter beauty. Winterberry hollies lose their leaves for the winter. However, the berries stay around until almost spring and provide a winter food source for the birds that overwinter here.

Red Twig Dogwood and Yellow Twig Dogwood

These shrubs are deciduous. They are noted for their bright fiery red, or golden yellow limbs after their leaves are gone. Their personality adds dramatic contrast to a very dreary winter backdrop.
Red Twig Dogwood and Yellow Twig Dogwood are spreading, suckering shrubs that grow 6 to 9 feet tall. In the spring they bloom with tiny, white, flat top flower clusters. This shrub is also known to attract birds and pollinators.

Corkscrew Willow
The visual interest created by these trees is most evident in the wintertime after they lose all of their foliage. The bark of the younger growth has a bright gold tone. Each branch twists and turns in random directions creating a contorted shape. They can create interest in a floral arrangement. This can be an aesthetically pleasing feature added to your yard or garden. However, as with most willows, they can grow quite large. Bear this in mind when you choose one for your landscape. These trees only have a life span of about 25 years.

Coral Bark Japanese Maple
These maples offer four seasons of interest. In the early spring, as the new foliage begins to unfurl, its bright palmate leaves emerge as bright, neon green. Then, as the season progresses, the foliage turns to a much deeper green through the summer. In the fall the foliage offers a vibrant mixture of oranges and yellows. As the color of fall winds down, and the foliage drops to the ground, the beautiful red bark is left exposed. When viewed against the grey backdrop of winter, it certainly becomes the star of the landscape.

Harry Lauder Walking Stick
This deciduous plant really shines in the winter. After all the foliage has fallen, its bare and the contorted limbs are exposed. Early spring showcases its beautiful yellow catkin type blooms. Each one growing to 2 to 3 inches long. Spring and winter are the times for this shrub to show off. Though this shrub is considered a hazelnut, it rarely produces nuts. When it does, it is in September or October, but most likely the squirrels will get them before you do.

Forever Goldie Thuja     Thuja is known for its hedge and privacy screen uses. But, some varieties, such as Forever Goldie are also ornamental. With their bright yellow color in the winter, how can you go wrong adding it to your landscape? During the spring, Goldie will surprise you with bright green new growth that quickly becomes a very vibrant yellow. Then, in the fall it becomes a beautiful golden yellow.
This shrub will definitely bring some cheer to the cold grey winter.

 Sasanqua variety Camellia

Camellias not only offer green foliage throughout the winter, but they also offer up some gorgeous blooms, yes, blooms- flowers in the winter. Sasanqua varieties bloom primarily in the fall and winter, while japonica varieties bloom in the winter-spring. With their green glossy foliage and cheerful winter blooms, you can't go wrong with a camellia

Helleborus  (Lenten Rose)

Helleborus is a low growing winter bloomer. It has dark green, leathery evergreen foliage. The blooms can be found in many different colors, from white to black with shades of pink, purple, yellow and green in between. In late winter it is good practice to cut back the old foliage just before the new growth emerges in the early fall.
These are well suited for hillsides and raised beds to fully enjoy their downward-facing blooms. The heat of summer will force the hellebore into dormancy. Fall and winter are when these beauties really shine.

While it is easy to automatically assume that conifers and evergreens are the way to go for winter interest, keep in mind that sometimes what lies under the leaves is more beautiful and interesting than what you see in the spring and summer. These are just a small representation of some of the beauty that winter has to offer.
Every plant on the earth has its own personality and beauty. Much like people, beauty isn't always in obvious places. Remember to look beyond the surface for the true wonderment of plants and people.

The Return of the Impatien

Impatiens, grown from seed, have been a favorite for shade beds and understory beds. However, in the past few years, they have been hard to find due to their lack of resistance to Downy Mildew. Large numbers of impatiens were lost by growers everywhere. It became such a problem that for many years they just were not suitable to be grown for bedding plants. Mitchell's quit growing them for years and did not recommend planting them.
Downy Mildew is caused by the fungus-like water mold Plasmopara abducens. Say that three times, fast. It can be introduced to your soil by infected plants or by airborne spores called sporangia. Once it gets into the garden, it can be spread by wind or even rain splashing. Cool, wet, humid weather creates perfect conditions for the mildew to thrive. Downy mildew can potentially overwinter in the garden by specialized spores called oospores. These spores are usually left behind in infected plant debris. 

Symptoms of Downy Mildew often begin at the tips of leaves and include yellowing of the leaves. The affected leaves often curl downward. As the disease progresses the leaves will often dry and drop off. The most obvious sign of the disease is the presence of a fuzzy white material on the stems and often on the undersides of the leaves. This is actually the organism responsible for the disease. 
Plants infected by the Downy Mildew are unlikely to recover from being infected. These plants should be removed from your garden, roots and all. DO NOT compost these plants as this disease will then be spread wherever you use the composted material. 

Now, for the good news. Impatiens are making a comeback! Through breeding, new varieties are coming to the forefront that have proven to have a higher disease resistance than those of the past. So, we could see those beautiful impatiens beds adorning yards everywhere once again. 

Many people turned to the New Guinea impatiens when they were unable to find their favorites. These are naturally disease resistant but aesthetically speaking, they do not quite offer the mounds of blooms that are so sought after in the world of impatiens. 

We hope you are able to find your favorites here at the nursery this spring. Come on out and take a look at our Beacon Impatiens. We trialed them last year and have found them to be fantastic in the shade. 

What pairs well with geraniums?

The geranium season is just around the corner. Now is the time to plan your pairings so you can launch an effective search for the right ingredients. You may be asking, wshat pairs well with geraniums?
First, you need to decide if you want a formal look or a more natural and wild look.
For a more formal look, I suggest a glazed pot or a more ornate concrete urn. Bacopa is an excellent choice to pair with a white or red geranium for a formal appearance. An all-white container is best placed in an area where evening viewing is prominent. The evening light highlights the contrast between the blooms and foliage. The variegated foliage and the flowing texture of the spider plant add a complementary contrast to your container and a touch of elegance for an all-white mix. However, the spider plant does not fare well in full sun. If you are looking for something with a draping habit, to trail over the sides of your pot, asparagus fern or vinca major are two very solid choices.
 If your preferences lean more toward the pink geraniums, may I suggest lime greens and yellows, accented by some dramatic purple or splashes of white? Ipomoea or sweet potato vine is an excellent choice for some ebb and flow within your container. If you have a smaller container, golden creeping jenny or dichondra, are also very attractive options. Add a bright green spike for height. For a bit more drama, you can add some dark purple wave petunias. Going into the new decade, the contrast seems to be the trend.  Pairing your pink geraniums with some orange calibrachoa or cuphea or even a bright orange gerbera daisy is an excellent choice.
Red geraniums are the tried and true favorite among the masses. You really cannot go wrong. Just about anything will pair with these bright beauties. Yellows, purples, whites, and greens, all seem to accentuate their bold color. More formal plantings should focus on a monochromatic scheme, leaving the red to be the wow factor. Variegated foliage tends to really make the color pop. If you like to be a bit brighter with your containers and do not fear color, I believe you cannot go wrong pairing your red geranium with yellows and/ or purples. Nothing greets the springtime louder than this combination. Focusing your efforts on blooms, rather than foliage in these planters, will definitely be a conversation piece. Wave petunias, calibrachoa, verbena, and even some varieties of lantana, are all great team players in these mixes. Foliar choices could be variegated to lend to the bright and happy vibe.
 In today's world, salmon-colored geraniums are growing in popularity. However, pairing them for workable contrast can be a bit challenging. Surprisingly enough, these shades pair well with bright yellows, dark blue, purple, and dark pinks. Wave petunias, calibrachoa, vinca, dichondra, dusty miller, are some of the most popular choices available.
 Now that you have your information, it's time to find the perfect geranium. You are on your way to achieving the mixed container of your dreams.

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

1 lb ground beef (ground turkey can be used for a healthier version)
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1  14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 head of cabbage chopped coarsely
1 1/2 cup water
1 cup instant rice
1 cup shredded cheddar or cheddar jack cheese
chopped parsley

Brown ground beef. Drain
Combine all ingredients and pour into a casserole dish.
Preheat oven to 375
Bake for 35 minutes
Add shredded cheese to the top and return to oven until the cheese is lightly brown.

You may want to add some french fried onions to the top as well for added flavor,
 or chop and fry bacon until crisp and add for a twist.
Add chopped bell peppers and celery for an additional flavor burst.