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Loropetalum tolerates pruning, but it’s better to wait for spring

Q: May we prune our two huge loropetalum bushes severely? They are enormous and I’m ready to have them be short and low to ground.
Shelley Medders, Calhoun

A: Different loropetalum varieties vary widely in size, from 18 inches tall to 15 feet high. If you mistakenly plant one without knowing how big it gets, you might soon regret your choice. In my experience, loropetalum is very tolerant of pruning. Even so, it will put out new leaves much quicker if you wait until spring to do major cutting. There’s no reason you can’t do some thinning or topping now but my preference would be for you to wait until late February if you need to prune severely at one time.

Q: Our established daylilies were hit with a string trimmer. They are now little 2-to-3-inch stumps. What can we do to help keep them alive?
Clarke Weeks, DeKalb County

A: If the daylilies were healthy before they were damaged, I would expect them to come back just fine next year. They may not produce much new growth this fall but the roots in the ground should have plenty of energy to make new leaves next spring. Fertilize twice each year, in March and May.

Q: Are you supposed to cut mondo grass? How frequently do you fertilize and with what?
Marc Cochran, email

A: Mondo grass makes a very nice evergreen, shade tolerant, grass-like ground cover. The only time I might mow it is when it’s had freeze damage. I would set my mower just high enough to take off the brown, tattered tips. It does not need fertilizing much unless you want it to spread rapidly. In that case I would use Holly-tone or Milorganite in spring

Q: I have a bermuda lawn. I did not put out a pre-emergent in spring, hence I’ve got lots of weeds. I’ve put out a double dose of pre-emergent in September.
Joseph Schlachter, Tucker

A: This is a situation where reading the label is very important. Some of the pre-emergent products cannot be used on a lawn twice in one year because they inhibit root growth. Putting a double dose of chemical on at one time could be self-defeating. Consider applying a lawn fertilizer now at half-strength to give the grass a chance to store some energy in the roots before it goes dormant.

Q: Is there a weeping crape myrtle?
Missy Garrett, Decatur

A: I don’t believe there is a crape myrtle that could be truly called “weeping” but “arching” could describe the form of several cultivars. McKinney, Texas, “America’s Crape Myrtle City” ( has a collection of more than100 varieties, ranging in size from 18 inches to 40 feet, some more “weeping” than others. How the crape myrtle is pruned is also a shaping factor. Plants that are cut severely in winter produce thin branches that arch more than branches on unpruned plants. Visit the website mentioned above to learn more about crape myrtle selection and care.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.

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Tim’s Tips: Protect your soil from the wind with winter rye

Sometimes in the winter, we get very little snow or the snow that we get can drift around the yard. When this happens, you can have bare ground in your vegetable garden. As the wind blows, the soil is stripped away little by little. Over a period of years, you can lose inches of soil in your garden.

There is a way to protect your garden from winter soil loss. You want to apply winter rye seed onto the surface of your soil when you have taken the dead plants out of your garden.

Winter rye and many other plants are used as cover crops. As the name implies, winter rye is used to cover the soil in your garden. Once the plants are removed from the garden, you will loosen the soil and apply the winter rye seed onto the surface of the soil. You can slightly cover the seed by lightly raking the surface of the soil. If Mother Nature doesn’t supply you with water, you should water the soil as needed to keep the surface moist.

The good news is that winter rye will sprout quickly. As the seed sprouts, the winter rye will put out a wide-spreading root system in the soil. The seed will put up thick-bladed, grasslike leaves. As time goes on, the winter rye will form a dense mat of these blades of rye.

Once the ground freezes, the thickness of the rye will keep the wind from blowing away the soil in your garden. Come the spring and the thawing of the ground, the winter rye will spring back to life and continue to grow.

Once the soil has dried a bit from the winter/early spring moisture, you will till the winter rye into the soil. All that green growth will give you free organic matter that will provide nutrients to your garden.

With the arrival of fall, the mice will be looking for a home for the winter. Often, the mice wind up in your home.

Many people don’t like using the snap traps because they don’t want to deal with the setting of the traps and the disposal of the dead mice. Most people would be happy to just have the mice not wanting to come into their home.

There is a product called Mouse Magic that looks like a very large tea bag. It is filled with a material that is infused with several types of mint oils. Mice hate the smell of mint and will avoid areas where they smell mint.

Mouse Magic slowly releases its mint scent over a period of 30 to 45 days. It is meant to be used indoors or in protected locations outdoors.

You want to put the packets in places where mice will come into the house, like the bulkhead, inside the garage door, and places where pipes or wires enter the home. All you need to do is to place the packets close to those entry points.

As the mouse checks out these entry points, it smells the mint and will go away. By replacing the packets every 30 days or so, you make it an environment that will make the mice not want to enter your home.

Mice also tend to build nests in stored lawn mowers, snowblowers, motorcycles and even the car you use every day. The damage that the mice can do can cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. If you place one or more of the Mouse Magic packets in or on the stored equipment, you will save yourself a lot of grief come the spring.

Don’t forget to put the Mouse Magic packets in the shed and in the summer camp when you close it up. We have been selling the Mouse Magic for many years and have had many success stories told to us.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.

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KATHY RENWALD: Neighbourly garden tips from Stinson | TheSpec …

Pink cleome is in bloom, artemisia frames rocks and hostas appear all over the garden.

“Here’s a tip for you,” he offers. “I leave the hostas in pots, I upsize them every other year. The pots retain water longer so the hostas don’t dry out.”

Anton also collects leaves from around the neighbourhood. They get packed around hostas in the fall and, later, lightly packed on top. The leaves are a good insulating blanket.

“As they decay, they’re a worm farm,” Anton says. “Worms love rotting leaves. But it means you gotta clean up in the spring. No doubt about it.”

Against some of the craggier rocks, silvery kale appears to be growing in crevices. Look closely and you’ll see the kale is in pots and trimmed up like standards. I thought it was intentional but Anton says it’s not.

“I grew kale from seed for the first time, four types, and it got too leggy so I had to trim off the lower leaves.”

The garden will be better in about two weeks, he tells me. The angle of the sun will highlight the autumn-coloured coleus, and the centres of the kale will develop a richer colour. Oakleaf hydrangea will start turning purple, red and apricot.

“This is a good neighbourhood; we admire each other’s gardens. The lady across the street is 87 and still gardens. I like to cut flowers and take them to her.”

That’s Anton the anonymous gardener sharing tips and flowers from the Stinson ‘hood.

Update: The dahlia pals I wrote about last week had a good showing at the Harrogate Autumn Garden Show in England. John Mooney won a bronze for his red seedling and had three seconds overall.


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10 tips on preparing your garden for winter

If you want to, that is.

RELATED: She brings the outdoors inside with the cutest Mason jar herb garden we’ve ever seen

1. Clean up the garden beds

This can be an overwhelming project, but it is necessary. It’s easier if you break it up over time and work through the garden a bed at a time.

Remove all the dead vegetation and add a 1-2 inch layer of finished compost, then lightly mulch. Once the ground freezes, add another layer of mulch to perennials.

2. Get a soil test

Soil test results will tell you the pH levels, the level of important elements such as potassium and calcium, the level of organic content and more. This test will recommend how much lime and fertilizer (organic or chemical) to add to improve your soil. Lime helps adjust the soil pH, and adding it in the winter is beneficial because it has all winter to dissolve into the soil.

3. Plant garlic

Garlic has a unique growing season. Planting it in the fall lets the roots to begin growing. When winter comes, the plants go dormant, then start growing again in the spring, right where they left off.

RELATED: From softening butter to peeling garlic, here are 10 time-saving kitchen hacks you need to know

Pick a garlic bed that did not grow alliums this year and plant next year’s garlic crop. Add in a generous amount of compost and some organic fertilizer.

4. Expand your garden

Many garden centers have sales on garden soil and compost in the fall, as well as stone or treated lumber that can be used to frame a new garden bed. It’s a great time to get creative with raised beds or square foot gardens. Fill your new bed with fresh soil, add a layer of mulch, and you’ll be ready for next spring.

5. Gather leaves

Leaves falling from the trees aren’t just pretty – they’re enormously useful for gardeners. They can be used for mulch, compost and for creating a rich humus layer.

A layer of shredded leaf mulch over the soil will help suppress weeds and retain moisture. Maintaining a carbon and nitrogen balance in your compost pile is important, and dead leaves bring plenty of carbon. As the leaves break down over time, they break down and can be incorporated into soil to improve the moisture holding ability.

6. Take notes

As you prepare your gardens for winter, take some time to think about what you grew and how it did.

Take notes on how many plants you grew, what did well, and how much you were able to harvest. Did you have pests? Was there a bed that didn’t perform well?

Writing down these details can help you frame your plans for gardening for next year and inform how you’ll treat your beds now.

7. Plant cover crops

Planting cover crops such as hairy vetch or cereal rye will keep the soil microbes alive and active during the winter months, giving your garden a boost at planting time.

While these crops are tilled into the ground — or even rolled down to form a mat — in the spring before they go to seed to add organic material to the soil, they also do a great service in the fall, winter, and early spring months, including suppressing weeds and reducing erosion that carries away valuable topsoil.

8. Keep certain plants in place

Vegetables in the brassica family, including cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and radishes left in the ground now and until pre-planting time in early spring can act as pest lures.

As spring hits, the plants release cyanide compounds that can kill off nuisance wireworms.

Leave some stalks standing in your flower gardens, too, especially local native plants and those with seeds and berries. They’ll attract birds, adding life and color to your winter landscape.

9. Support your trees

Trees are among the things you grow on your property, and they need help too. The wind can be a lot stronger in the fall, so create some tree supports to make sure young saplings have a strong enough base to make it through the fall and winter.

10. Enjoy the fall

Take time to enjoy the crisp cool weather. Low humidity makes outdoor work more comfortable, and the warmth of fall sunlight and colorful foliage makes fall the ideal time to be outside.

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Fall Lawn And Garden Tips

The sunny, dry summer is now behind us and with fall weather setting in, a local lawn and garden expert wants to offer a few yard care tips for this time of year.

Duayne Friesen says by now you should have spread your last lawn fertilizer application for the year. The growing season is over and by adding fertilizer now, you are encouraging growth, which gives your lawn a mixed message. Friesen says applying fall fertilizer was once done in Manitoba but he says it is no longer relevant.

“Our lawn fertilizers do not contain phosphorous,” he says. “Which is really what you are trying to get into the soil for the plants to build up the roots.”

According to Friesen, this is a great time of year for planting. He says the ground is warm, roots are active and there isn’t much watering required.

“I’d be surprised if you wouldn’t have one hundred percent success in any of your planting at this time of year,” says Friesen.

Having said that, he says it is still a little early for transplanting. He notes it is still warm which can cause stress to your plants and suggests waiting for cooler weather.

When it comes to trimming down perennials before winter, Friesen says there are two schools of thought. He cautions against doing this too early, noting the plant must be dormant. Friesen says some gardeners like to do it in fall already. By trimming perennials in fall, Friesen says you are not allowing those plants to trap snow in winter. Especially in open areas, locking in that snow can help add moisture in spring. But, if you leave the perennials uncut through winter, Friesen says you run the risk of giving unwanted pests and insects a place to hide in winter.

Meanwhile, Friesen says the dry summer definitely left its mark on trees this year. He notes you probably noticed trees turning colour earlier than normal and says some trees took on unique colour schemes.

“I saw one plant that had a really orange look to it, it wasn’t dry it was orange and it was normally yellow,” he says. “It kind of looked nice but it was dropping its leaves probably three weeks earlier than it should have.”

Friesen says there are pest concerns every year and this year aphids were a real problem.

“I seem to think that when we have dry years like this we don’t have these hard driving rains that can in a sense wash the plants off,” he says. “They can knock a lot of insects off the plants, onto the ground and even injure them.”

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Top Tips to Prepare Your Garden for the Cold

Our local expert’s best tips for prepping your garden for fall and winter.


Before beginning any cold-season gardening projects, you need to know the approximate depth of the frost line and date of first expected killing frost for your zone. Which zone is Westchester, in?

Zone 6. Mid-October is usually when the first frost happens but it could come earlier or later than that. There is a month wide window that we could expect the first frost to come in, which will kill any remaining summer plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. Luckily, the depth of frost isn’t too much to worry about for gardening in our area.

What are the best practices for gardening in Zone 6?

Keeping the soil covered with mulch in between plants such as tomatoes. Usually you will plant your tomatoes four feet apart, and then plant shorter, quicker growing crops such as radishes, arugula, etc. underneath the tomatoes to keep the soil covered, which yields a better crop. Most natural soil doesn’t have all of the minerals that most vegetable plants need to survive, so it’s a good idea to get a soil test to see what minerals your soil is deficient in. If your soil is deficient in needed minerals, your plants will have problems with diseases because they’re not getting the proper “food” needed to thrive. Also, when you buy fertilizer and soil from the store, it won’t always have everything that the plants need. 

What are the best fruits and vegetables to plant in September and October?

October is too late for planting. Daylight hours are limited in the Fall so around Oct 15th is when plants stop growing so make sure your plants are ready to harvest before October 15th. If your plants are protected, you can pick them throughout November and December while they’re dormant. Some vegetables such as arugula, mizuna, radishes, and other leafy greens only take a month to grow so you could plant them in September and harvest them in October. The later you get into the fall, the less options you have for plants but August has plenty of options such as beets, carrots, broccoli rabe, bok choy, spinach, onions.

Why is mulch so important for winter gardens?

Mulch is important in every season but especially helpful in the wintertime. When you go for a walk in the woods, you rarely see bare dirt, you always see leaves on the ground, which is the “natural mulch” that you want to mimic. Mulch helps retain moisture so the plants roots don’t dry out. Mulch will provide a better microclimate for not only the roots of the plants, but also the microbiology in the soil such as bacteria and fungi. Bacteria and fungi depend on a stable climate underneath the leaves and the soil. They work with the plants to provide nutrients for a healthy plant which will provide more nutrient rich foods.

What are some tips for watering your plants when the ground is frozen?

You don’t need to water your plants when the ground is frozen because plants are dormant in the winter.


What about getting the timing right when planning and planting a winter garden?

A great book to reference is The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. Eliot Coleman is a farmer in Maine who pioneered winter gardening techniques. You can grow plants in the fall and keep them covered and protected so that you can pick them all winter long even if the plants aren’t still growing. You can still harvest plants for weeks after they’re done growing.

Which covering/protections work best for your winter garden?

For instance, if you’re growing carrots in the fall, instead of digging them up when it gets cold, you can leave them in the ground and cover them with 6 inches of leaves or hay and that will protect the plants and keep the ground from freezing. Whenever you want to pick the carrots, you can dig them up all winter long because the soil won’t be frozen thanks to the mulch covering. This technique works with root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, and sunchokes.

What can you do to protect your plants before a big snow storm?

In substitute of hay or leaves, farmers also use a thin white fabric sheet to cover their crops in the case of early frost or if they want to prolong the farming season. Sunlight and rain can still go through the sheet but it protects from insects and also provides frost protection, which makes it a great alternative to mulching. A great brand that farmers use is called Reemay.  

What should gardeners do to protect their bulbs in the winter?

Planting bulbs to the right depth is very important. Bulbs need to be 4-6 inches deep so they can survive the winter.

What is the best way to protect young trees and shrubs from damaging frost?

It’s important to pick the right trees and shrubs for your climate and area. You should plant trees in the spring so that they have a chance to grow their roots and establish themselves before they go dormant for winter. For example, it’s better to plant fruit trees in the springtime. People also cover their young trees and shrubs with burlap for the winter for added protection.

Which plants should be brought inside during the winter months?

Fig trees and citrus trees are usually brought inside during the winter or wrapped with sheets to keep them from freezing.

For more information or to sign up for a class at Hilltop Hanover visit their site

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It’s Garden Thyme! with Natalie Gentry, of Chesapeake City

This month I had the pleasure of visiting the home garden of Natalie Gentry of Chesapeake City. Natalie has been gardening her entire life with the guidance from her greatest inspiration — her mom. When this vibrant and charming lady is not hosting large family gatherings by her pool or helping to organize community events, she can be found tending to her magnificent gardens at her childhood home she now shares with her husband, Jeffery, their dog, Colby, and cat, Cookie.

Natalie and I spoke a little about what she has growing throughout the seasons, a new project she hopes to accomplish and the tools most useful to her. Additionally, she shared a few tips to help you in your home garden. I hope you enjoy Natalie’s garden story!

Tell us a little about what inspired you to begin gardening.

My mom has always been my greatest inspiration and nurtured my love of gardening. She got her love of gardening from her grandmother who was from the Ukraine, who later moved to Chesapeake City. My great grandmother was a wonderful gardener and was known as the “Queen of Hydrangeas” and is the inspiration for our gardens.

Growing up, my mom and I worked side-by-side creating the very gardens I tend to today. When my mom moved 10 years ago, I dug up most of the yard and shipped a lot of the plants to her in Tennessee and brought all the other plants to our house in town.

When my husband and I moved back to this house a little over two years ago there were not many plantings left, so we dug up all our favorite plants from the old house and brought them home again. I’ve enjoyed recreating all the garden beds with the help of my mom. She always has new ideas for projects and has a good eye for what works in the garden. She frequently offers advice and is always right. We still talk about gardening on a daily basis. She will always be my inspiration!

What would we find growing in your gardens throughout the seasons?

Throughout the seasons you’ll find many perennials, such as tulips, snowdrops, daffodils, hypericum berries, hosta, Chinese anemone, cleome, peony, foxglove, phlox, lilies, clematis, hydrangea, coneflower, black-eyed Susans, sedum and knock-out roses. Later in the season the elephant ears are stunning. They fill up the landscape and add a tropical feel to the garden beds and the planters around the pool.

I also plant a nice variety of annuals in pots and in the ground, such as coleus, impatiens, zinnia, sweet potato vine, popcorn plant, dianthus, purple hyacinth vine, petunias, portulaca, hibiscus, concord blue streptocarpella and bougainvillea vine. The herbs I have planted around the pool are sage, rosemary, lavender and basil. A few of my absolute favorite plants are my hydrangeas because of the memories they bring, the dahlias — especially the one named “Natalie G.”, the white lily because I received its bulb while I was in the audience during a screening of “The Martha Stewart Show” more than 10 years ago, Persian shield for the interesting color, dragon wing begonia for nibbling the leaves which have a nice lemon taste and lambs ears, ferns and dusty miller for their texture and color.

To attract butterflies and hummingbirds, I favor statice, salvia, honeysuckle, mandevilla and lantana. I also have planters brimming with interesting varieties of succulents. The boxwoods, hollies and magnolias lend green all year long and offer a nice supply of materials for making holiday wreaths for friends and family.

Do you have any new projects planned for next season?

Yes I do! We have a tree in the front yard that has a circular bed planted around it filled with daffodils. I’d love to remove the tree, rototill the ground to create a larger circular bed and fill the space with more unusual flowers and plants that bloom with each season, such as dahlias, alliums and cosmos. A couple of other goals I have are to concentrate on adding a few evergreens to the landscape and to learn more effective ways to deer-proof the gardens.

A good tool can be a gardener’s best friend. Which are must-haves for you and your mom?

One of my favorite tools for digging in a container or the ground is a sharp square-metal garden hoe, hand forged in Montana by Tuli Fisher. His products are really nice and make great gifts. My other must-have tools are a small child’s spade which is good to have on hand because it gets into nooks and crannies and is easy to maneuver. Having a good shovel and a wheelbarrow (I have three) help to save the back. A good hose is also very helpful.

My mom’s must-have tool is a pickaxe. She finds it useful to dig new garden beds. She also keeps a shovel in her car because “you never know when you are going to come across a great plant to dig up”.

Would you like to pass along any tips to help other gardeners succeed in their home gardens?

Plant what you like and select a location where it would do best. Mix annuals and perennials. To get more bang for your buck, buy plants that reseed themselves or multiply, such as cleome, phlox, hosta and iris. Buy at the end of the season even if the plants look horrible, by next year they’ll be beautiful. Consider adding interest to your garden by including plants with different textures and shades of green. Think of your plants as an investment and don’t give up on them if they are ravaged by deer, pests or weather, just move them to a new location and give them time to recover. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to design a garden. Think of your garden as a painting and “paint” with the colors of the plants.

Dee Marotta travels the Cecil area in search of gardeners to feature for It’s Garden Thyme! She asks about their methods and shares what she learns here. If you’d like your garden featured, Dee would love to hear from you. You can reach her at: or 410-287-5816. You can also find her on Facebook: It’s Garden Thyme.

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Gardening: Create a Texas-style cottage garden with these tips – Austin American

While a cottage garden contains many different plants, it should include groupings of the same plants to provide interest and impact. Repetition adds sophistication, pattern and rhythm. Pleasing arrangements and groupings of colors create harmony in the garden. Avoid chaos by planting in odd numbers — landscape design principles advise the use of 3, 5, 7 plants, with exceptions for large, focal-point specimens.

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PROPERTY: Tips for attracting wildlife to your garden

DEVELOPER Barratt Homes is encouraging householders to make their gardens a haven for wildlife.

The builder is working with groups such as the RSPB to help encourage wildlife in urban and rural areas, and it has these tips to share:

– Planting herbs like lavender, marjoram and thyme will help attract butterflies and bees to your garden.

– A small pond or water feature can be key to encouraging pollinators like birds and dragonflies, plus small creatures such as frogs. A birdbath is another, easier option; a broad and shallow one is best.

– Collect cuttings and seeds from willing friends and family and also from plants that have already flowered in your garden. Plant up in beds, in pots and up walls and water every day.

– Deadheading will promote the growth of new shoots and buds. Some summer shrubs, including varieties of rose, may bloom a second time, providing more pollen for wildlife. At the end of the season, leave the seed heads standing – they will look great through winter and will offer seeds just when birds need them.

– Delay hedge cutting until September to ensure any nesting birds have flown. Consider planting hardy evergreens such as conifers, as a haven for birds such as blackbirds, robins and greenfinches.

For more about Barratt Homes’ developments at Quernmore Park, Lancaster, and Riverside View, Lancaster, visit

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Make a statement: Alan Titchmarsh’s tips to create a garden featuring modern art

Stately gardens use terraces, outbuildings, pergolas and walls to divide green spaces into a series of views and focal points.

The stonework forms the year-round architectural backbone of the garden, with flowers providing fine detail and seasonal variations.

Hard landscaping works on a small scale, too, and most gardens have some architectural features, such as patios, paths, decking, walls and fences.

Tubs, arches or a pergola are good ways of adding to the picture, and a summerhouse or gazebo makes a focal point.

But for real impact you need a few character pieces.

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