Peonies

Walk-About Wednesday: A Cut Above

A Cut Above

Centerpiece

Back in the day, and by that, I mean long before I was born, people grew plants with a purpose. Some for medicinal reasons, some for seasonings. And if those plants looked pretty, it was a bonus. Back in my mother’s day, when they could easily buy herbs and medicines at the supermarket, our mothers and grandmothers grew flowers simply for their beauty. They grew cutting gardens, specifically planned for bringing outside beauty inside, making flower arrangements and centerpieces from their garden’s bounty.

Hostas & greens

That brings us to this day. Not many people plant a cutting garden. I get it, it’s a lot of work. And I admit I don’t have a cutting garden myself. But I do cut flowers from our peony and rose bushes, leaves from our hostas, I cut the flowers off chives, collect boxwood greens, wild flowers, pine boughs, and whatever else I find and bring them inside to enjoy. You don’t need to commit to a specific plot for your floral arrangements.  The whole yard is fair game.  It’s the cutting garden for the 21st century.

Tiny roses

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

puddle

Walk-About Wednesday:Drain, Drain. Go Away

Drain, Drain. Go Away.

Those poor folks along the gulf coast! We’ve had our share of rain this year, but thank God not as bad as all that. This summer’s record rainfall has led to some very happy hydrangeas, ferns and frogs. Kids love puddles, too. But it has caused other problems. Like too much of a good thing there are downsides: wet basements, puddles that don’t go away, and breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

puddle in driveway

We’ve been busy helping homeowners with their drainage issues. No, we’re not magicians who can make water disappear, but we do have some tricks up our sleeves. Like creating swales, dry wells, sheet drains, surface drains, French drains, pop-up drains, channel drains, rain gardens, and more.

The steel floor drain, running water from the meadow in garden

The steel floor drain, running water from the meadow in garden

Civil Engineering 101 – the water must go somewhere. Drainage systems do not make the water disappear. And by law we cannot have your water drain off your property and become your neighbor’s problem. Instead, drainage systems are made to improve your situation and divert water to an area where it’s less of a problem.

channel drain

channel drain

And whoever’s been doing the rain dance this summer can stop now.

 

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

Sweet pea

Walk-About Wednesday: Mother Nature

Room for Improvement?

For years, humans have been trying to improve on Mother Nature. Farmers benefit with bigger crop yields. Gardeners enjoy an immense variety of plants and flowers that would never occur naturally in the wild.  As landscape designers, we use modern-day cultivars that are quite different from their original forms.

On a recent walk in the woods, I encountered some gorgeous plants, not grown in a lab, not fertilized or sprayed or pruned, but just as Mother Nature intended. Delicate, beautiful, natural, and no reason to try and improve on Mother Nature. She’s old, but she’s still full of natural beauty.

 

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

maple tree roots

Walk-About Wednesday: Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is the Best Policy

or How I do my best to imitate Mick Jagger

Today we’re talking about one of the most frequently asked questions…

How can I grow grass under my maple tree?

maple tree roots

The conversation usually starts something like this:

“I can’t get grass to grow under my maple.”

OR

“The roots of my maple keep sticking up in my lawn. What can I do to fix it?”

My answer is always the same. You can have a lush lawn, or you can have a large maple tree. You can’t have both. And here is where I do my best impression of Mick Jagger,

“You can’t always get what you want.”

you can't always get what you want

Then, people offer suggestions to me, like:

“How about if you use a shady seed mix?”

For those of you who’ve tried this, and I include myself here, you know what happens…the seeds germinate, grow in thinly like old man hair, then die. Not the old man, the grass.

 

“How about if you thin out and trim the canopy to let more light in?”

This never works, so why spend the money to trim the tree?

 

“How about if you add soil on top of the roots?”

Roots need air, and if you add soil, you will suffocate the tree, or the roots will rise up again to get air.

“How about if you cut the roots that are sticking up?”

I will definitely not take part in this. When you cut a root, you damage it in one or more of the following ways: Open the tree up to insects, disease, rotting, or de-stabilizing the tree structure by cutting into buttress roots, making it more likely to tip over.

tipping tree

“But it wasn’t like that 15 years ago when I bought the house.”

That’s probably true. The tree has grown. The roots have grown. A mature maple has countless tiny hair-like roots that are all over your lawn just under the surface, plus those big roots that you see. Your large maple can suck up 100,000 gallons of water in a season. 100,000! Between the dense shade, and the roots sucking up all that water, your lawn doesn’t have a chance. Maples are aggressive plants. In the battle between your maple and your lawn, the maple is going to win, every time.

My suggestion is to have a ring of mulch around the base of the tree for a tidy look that’s also good for the tree. Ground covers such as pachysandra or ivy also work well.

So, you have to decide, which is more important to you the tree or a lush lawn. You can’t have both.  Let me hear you sing it with me,

“You can’t always get what you want.”

say what

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

 

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea

Walk-About Wednesday: Hydrangea Heartbreak

Hydrangea Heartbreak

Annabelle Hydrangea

Annabelle Hydrangea

In my dream garden I picture lush, abundant hydrangea hedges. The reality is a bit different. Ok, a LOT different. And I know I’m not alone. Lots of folks have the same hydrangea vision, only to be disappointed by a reality of lots of healthy-looking leaves and few or no blossoms.

Hydrangea Hedge

Hydrangea Hedge

Are we being deceived by the pictures in magazines and on our plant tags? Is this some kind of conspiracy by the Chinese or Russians or North Korea to sell us defective plants? Or is our atmosphere so polluted that the delicate blooms wither on the vine? What’s really going on?

Here’s what I hear: “My plant looks healthy, but no flowers. I fertilize, and prune it, and take care of it, and still no flowers.”

Fact: If you fertilize, you encourage lots of growth in the leaves, and not flowers.

Fact: Hydrangea buds are hiding in the tips of the dead-looking stalks. If you cut back those dead-looking stems, you’ve cut off the buds.

Fact: Our winters can be dreadful. And the extreme cold temperatures can kill those little flower buds in the tips of the stems.

The solution: a little benign neglect. Don’t fertilize. Don’t cut them back. Do protect them from extreme cold and wind. Don’t give up on your hydrangeas. Because they’re worth it.

Nikko Blue Hydrangea

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

Longwood hedges

Walk-About Wednesday: Shear Madness

Shear Madness

Disney topiary

If you are a person who maintains your landscape, good for you! It’s good, healthy exercise, but as they always caution before starting an exercise program, “check with your health care professional”.  And, check with a landscape professional, too.

When it comes to your landscape, we have the professionals on staff to maintain it for you, if you like. Or you can do your own shearing and pruning.

Sheared shrubs

Selective pruning is a kinder, gentler way to shape your shrubs. But if you must shear, please, please, please ensure that you water thoroughly a few days before and after. Especially in this heat. Why? Each of the hundreds or thousands of cuts you make with the shears lets moisture escape and opens up the plant to wounds, insects, disease, and dehydration. I have seen people accidentally kill a plant by shearing it while it’s bone dry on a hot day. Shear madness!

Spiral juniper

Spiral juniper

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

Petunia

Walk-About Wednesday: Speckle-tacular Mutants

Speckle-tacular Mutants

When is a flaw not a flaw? The word “mutant” has a bad reputation. Here’s evidence that mutants can be a good thing.

Impatiens

Lots of the plants we know and love are far, far from how their ancestors appeared in their original natural state. Gardeners, hybridizers, plant geeks, scientists and hobbyist have taken naturally-occurring mutations and cultivated them, cross-bred them, and experimented until we have the abundance of colors and varieties we know and love today.

Poinsettia

One of my favorite looks is multi-colored foliage, with spots and splatters of color. Simply speckle-tacular!

Coleus

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

Bikes

Walk-About: It’s a Jungle Out There

It’s a Jungle Out There!

We thought we’d encounter deer and squirrels, maybe. Mosquitoes and those annoying deer ticks, for sure.

Elephant on PathElephants and seals were not what I expected on our bike trip along the Lehigh Valley trail.  But that’s the fun of finding new roads. Or in this case, new bike paths. In over fifty years of exploring Rochester and the Finger Lakes area, I think I’ve seen everything and seen some things multiple times. So it’s nice to be surprised with this little bit of animal whimsy sitting next to the bike trail in the middle of nowhere.  Whoever is responsible, Thank you! You made me smile.Seal on Bike Path

For more information on some easy, flat bike paths, and to see the our old town in a new way, check out railstotrails.org

These folks convert old rail lines into walking and biking paths, and maintain much-needed green space in our urban areas and surrounding towns.  So many trails, so little time!

Bike trail

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

kitty

Walk-About Wednesday: Talking Trash

Talking Trash

Garbage Mountains. That’s what I’ve named them.  There’s Garbage Mountain West a.k.a. Mill Seat Landfill that I pass by in Riga on my way to work, and there’s Garbage Mountain East, a.k.a. High Acres Landfill, not far from the office in Fairport. My commute is book-ended by these giant piles of trash.

They are way taller than the tallest trees, and sometimes very smelly. It’s fair to say I don’t like seeing these giant heaps of trash on the horizon. But I also must take some responsibility, being an active participant in conspicuous consumption.

I mean to change my ways, starting with composting. All the potato peelings, raked leaves, veggies gone bad, these don’t need to end up in a landfill. In fact, if I keep them and turn them into compost, I am reducing trash, and the compost will improve my gardens.

kitty

This should have been a win-win, until I was walking around our yard one day and I noticed our cat pulling corn cobs out of the compost pile and eating them. Is that weird? Is that a problem? According to our cat, it’s a win-win-win. Less trash.  Healthy plants. Happy cat. Win, Win, Win!

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional

 

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brian Rasic / Rex USA ( 114653a )
MC HAMMER
MC HAMMER PERFORMING AT WEMBLEY ARENA, LONDON, BRITAIN - 1991

Walk-About Wednesday: Hammer Time

Hammer Time

By now most of the fallen trees from that crazy wind storm in March have been cleaned up. And now we’re left wondering about the fate of the surviving trees. They took a beating, too. If a tree is tipping or leaning more than it used to, it may have roots that were broken by the violent winds. Not good.

Fallen hollow tree

Fallen hollow tree

Rotted trunk

Rotted trunk

 

Many of the fallen trees were already damaged, had “included” bark, or were hollow and rotten on the inside. So how do you know if your tree is a problem?

 

Break it down:

Is the ground mounded up on one side? Is the tree tilted? Are the roots exposed and damaged from mowing? Is there a girdling root? Is the trunk twisted? Are there holes or hollow areas where branches were removed or the tree was damaged? Are there dead limbs? Fruiting bodies? Are there holes from woodpeckers, indicating insect infestation? Are there little piles of sawdust on the ground? Are carpenter ants crawling all over? Are there wounds that have not healed?

Hole in log

And how to tell if it’s rotten or hollow on the inside? That’s when it’s “hammer time”. Take a hammer and tap around on the tree trunk.  Does it sound hollow?

Look around at the “fall zone”. If the tree fell, would it hit your house, your car, your pool, your play area? Your neighbor? That tree could hit so hard. Makes me say, “Oh my Lord”.

Broken rotted tree

Broken rotted tree

What’s worse than having an MC Hammer ear worm stuck in my head and humming, “U can’t touch this”? Maybe having a tree fall on me.

If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, it could indicate a problem. And depending on the type of tree, it could be a big problem.  My, my, my.  U can’t touch this.

Before the next big storm, look at your trees, and tap them with a hammer. Hammer time! Or, have an expert help you evaluate them.

 

 

U Can’t touch this. Great, now I feel like dancing in parachute pants.

mc-hammer-02-435

Brenda Sunseri, CNLP

Lead Designer, Twin Oaks Lawn & Landscape

New York State Certified

Nursery & Landscape Professional