new jersey landscape

When Should You Plant Trees & Shrubs?

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It's True Folks, Fall Is For Planting!

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

In the world of gardening, there is a huge misconception that the leaves changing color and the temperature dropping signals the end of the growing season. This is false; the growing season doesn’t end until the plants enter their dormant period. What most people don’t know, is that it is actually more beneficial for your trees and shrubs to be planted in the fall as opposed to the spring. Planting your trees and shrubs in the fall gives encourages them to establish a stronger root system before the heat of the next summer.

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Fall technically begins late in September – the best time to plant your trees and shrubs is about six weeks before the first sign of a hard frost. September through November is the perfect time for planting because even though the air is getting cold, the ground is still warm. This allows the root systems to become more established before the dormant period resulting in a stronger and healthier plant for next season. With the cooler temperatures and the increase in precipitation, less watering is required and there is no need to worry about damage from the summer heat. The stable air conditions also allow for rapid root development; rather than focusing all its energy on foliage or flower production, the tree puts its energy into establishing a stronger root system and in storing nutrients for dormancy.

These fall plantings will become better equipped to handle summer heat and drought due to their strongly established root system. From a designer perspective, being able to see a plants fall interest before putting it into the landscape is always a plus. There are some species you should avoid planting in the fall however, broad-leaved evergreens such as rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwoods and hollies require extra care through the winter months. They will need protection from winter winds and should be treated with an anti desiccant. We also recommend that you stick to zone hardy plant material – Schip laurels for example, don’t tolerate winter winds very well at all, the key is to plant them where they can be guarded (for example, as a foundation planting where the house combats the wind).

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When planting in the fall, there are three things you should keep in mind. Make sure to plant high, the soil will settle leaving your tree or shrub susceptible to root rot or disease. Don’t amend the soil around your new planting – you want to allow the roots of your new tree or shrub to grow into the native soil. With the amended soil, the roots are more likely to experience reduced growth resulting in a smaller root system and a weaker plant. We suggest you break up any clumps in the soil and remove any rocks to allow the root system to travel as it pleases. Make sure to add mulch to your new planting. You can use around 3 inches of mulch or organic matter around your plant. The organic matter should be shredded leaves or ground bark/nuggets. Adding this layer will help protect the root system during the cold weather and allow for better water retention.

If you’re looking to plant a tree this fall, here are some species we recommend: maple, spruce, pine, crabapple, linden, elm, hackberry, hawthorn and honey locust. Planting these trees and shrubs this fall will prove for healthier, happier and hardier plants for the next growing season. Studies show that trees and shrubs planted in the fall, when compared to those planted in the spring, have a more established root system and stronger overall health. A strong root system leads to a strong plant! You should also keep in mind that garden centers and nurseries are trying to clear their stock for the season – who doesn’t love a good discount? 

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Chelone lyonii: Lyon’s Turtlehead

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Late Blooming Beauty For Your Fall Garden

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            Chelone lyonii also known as Lyon’s turtlehead or pink turtlehead is a great way to add wonderful color and a unique twist to your garden late in the season. The turtlehead’s name stems from a story in Greek mythology where a nymph (named Chelone) refused to attend the wedding of Zeus and Hera, the gods punished her by turning her into a turtle. However, I’m sure she would be honored to have such an interestingly beautiful flower named after her! The turtlehead adds seasonal interest to your garden with not only its unique blossoms but its thick foliage as well. As the flowers of summer start to fade, this beauty is just getting started.

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            The turtlehead features rose-pink flowers set on terminal spikes piping out of thick, deep green lustrous foliage. The name “turtlehead” refers to the flowers that slightly resemble a turtle’s head, similar to the hooded flower of the snapdragon. They have pink corollas that have lower lips covered in a slightly yellow beard. The foliage is ovate and coarsely-toothed – the leaves are about 3 to 6 inches long with slender petioles, rounded bases and pointed tips.

It can grow to be 2 to 4 feet tall and is easily groomed to have a bushy habit simply by practicing regular pinching. It can also be kept slightly shorter if you pinch back the stem ends in the spring. Being deer resistant, a pollinator favorite as well as being adored by butterflies, makes the turtlehead a late season perennial favorite. When designing your shade garden, accompany Chelone with Heuchera Americana, Polystichum acrostichoides, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Lobelia siphilitica and Conoclinium coelestinum for a true late season combo.

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            Chelone thrives in moist soil and light shade, however it can become slightly drought tolerant once it’s established. They prefer humusy soils along with well-composted leaf mulch – this will come in handy if you are growing you’re Chelone is growing in a sunnier spot. If you are decide to plant your turtlehead in a full shade area, keep in mind that your plant is more likely to need staking for support due to its build and mature height – however if planted in optimum conditions, staking will not be needed. Chelone spreads by slowly sending out rhizomes that will form large clumps – it is not considered to be invasive but it will self-seed in moist soils. It can be propagated by division, cuttings and by seed.

            Chelone isn’t badly susceptible to most insects or diseases. It can succumb to mildew if it’s grown in soils that are kept mostly dry or if the air circulation in the surrounding area is poor – but when planted in its optimum environment Chelone can be an incredibly successful plant. It makes a great addition to shade and woodland gardens as well as bog gardens or surrounding a shaded pond. It can be used as a border plant and will make a fantastically interesting cut flower. When the weather grows colder and the bright colors of summer being to disappear, Chelone blossoms will pop and bring life back to your late season landscape. 

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The Colorful Science Behind Autumn Foliage

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Why Do Leaves Change Color In The Fall?

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

 

            As we inch closer to the fall and the hot summer heat turns into a cool autumn breeze, all eyes gaze upon the trees in anticipation for their bright seasonal color show. When the bright blossom colors of summer begin to fade and plants begin their transition into dormancy, the trees push out one last seasonal spectacular burst of color before their leaves drop. There’s no question that people everywhere admire the fall for this beautiful transformation, but why and how does it happen? The science behind the colorful changing leaves of fall is actually quite remarkable.

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            During the growing season, the leaves act essentially as a small factory; this is where the nutrients essential to a tree’s growth are manufactured. The cells within each leave contain chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. Chlorophyll absorbs the energy from the sunlight that is used to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates like sugars and starch. Aside from the green pigment in the foliage, there are also yellow to orange pigments (carotenes and xanthophyll pigments) that are overpowered by the green coloring during the growing season. These pigments, for example, are what make carrots orange.

            When fall arrives it brings with it shorter days and cooler temperatures causing the leaves to stop making food for the trees as they prepare for dormancy. As a result, the chlorophyll begins to break down and the amount of green color deteriorates leaving the yellow to orange pigments free to shine. But not all trees are coated with the same dazzling colored foliage and that is because there is a miniature art class that’s taking place within the leaves! As the chlorophyll breaks down, red anthocyanin pigments are developed which create the beautiful reds and purples. The pigments mix and mash to create that brilliant array of autumn tones. Some mixtures create the red and purple colors seen on dogwoods and sumacs while other mixtures cause the sugar maple to adorn that beautiful orange. Other trees will show mostly yellow leaves while still others, like oak trees, will show mostly browns. This varying color pallet is all due to the pigments mixing together in different amounts.

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            Weather also can affect the intensity of the fall foliage colors. Factors like temperature, light and water supply can impact the degree and duration of the fall color show. Low temperatures that are above freezing will aid in anthocyanin formation, creating the bright reds more commonly seen in maples. However this bright red color could be weakened by an early frost. A significant number of rainy or overcast days could increase the brightness of the leaf color. The best time to observe this incredibly beautiful transformation is on a clear, dry and cool (not freezing) autumn day – make sure to seize the moment because before you know it, those colors will fade as well with a chilly breeze whispering, “winter is coming”.

 
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