We’d like to take a moment to remind folks to continue watering landscape plants prior to ground freeze. If the heavens have provided this is not as big an issue, but should we wind up with a dry November and early December, many plants can be handicapped by a deficit of water in their tissues. Winter burn, discoloration, desiccation, and dieback can all result from inadequate winter hydration. Once the ground freezes, whatever moisture is in the plant has to be enough to last until the thaws of spring. While dormant deciduous plants have limited water requirements in the depths of winter, this is not so for evergreens, especially broad-leaved evergreens (e.g. Rhododendrons, Hollies, Boxwoods). All that lovely greenery we enjoy throughout the dreary winter months needs moisture to stay vibrant. One more good drench of water from a bucket (or hose if you haven’t put them away quite yet) around Thanksgiving can be a real help to evergreens for the rest of the winter. This is doubly true for newly planted evergreens which have yet to fully establish their root systems. Even newly planted deciduous plants appreciate late fall watering. So remember, the neighbors may look at you strangely, but go out between the turkey and the football games and water your plants one more time prior to ground freeze!
November is a great time to remulch your gardens. Firstly, it will provide a protective ‘blanket’ for your plants’ root systems, limiting stressful temperature swings in the soil. Secondly, the recent frosts have left most perennials in a fully dormant state, and they are ready to be cut back — this makes the actual spreading of mulch that much more efficient. Thirdly, don’t we all have enough to do in the spring already without worrying about mulching? We can get one thing checked off the list early, and the plants will benefit from the mulch all winter long. Refer to the ‘Mulch’ tab in the navigation bar above to learn more.
Fraleighs Gift Certificates are an easy choice for those ‘difficult to buy for’ folks on your list. Our gift certificates can be used in a number of ways: Your gift can be used to buy plants from the retail nursery with the help of our expert staff, used for an on-site landscape consultation, or applied towards our professionally installed design services. Fraleighs Gift Certificates are issued on artfully hand-stamped card stock, and never expire.
See the ‘Gift Certificates’ link in our navigation bar (above) OR call in your order today to have gift certificates mailed to you or directly to the recipients. (734) 426 5067 x10
Remember, Fraleighs recommends an application of HollyTone fertilizer twice annually to maintain and enhance your gardens and landscapes. April Fool’s Day and Halloween are the approximate dates we set to help folks to remember to feed their plants. HollyTone is a great organic low-analysis (4-3-4) acidifying fertilizer well suited to our alkaline soil types. The HollyTone formulation also contains beneficial organisms — helper microbes — that complement and enhance healthy root systems. Perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses, evergreens, and trees can all benefit from a twice-annual application. Stop by today — our staff would be glad to help you calculate how much you need, explain the simple application process, or arrange for our crews to make the application for you.
Beginning in 2012, Espoma tweaked the formulation of HollyTone. The product is now an even better soil acidifier with 5% instead of 2% Sulfur. That’s great for most of us contending with high soil pH. Most ornamental plants prefer a neutral-to-moderately-acidic soil, and HollyTone is now an even better way to mildly acidify gardens. Likewise, their new production method is providing a more ‘crumbly’ texture to their fertilizer, and this means less dust and hence a little less of HollyTone’s characteristic organic ‘aroma’.
Click here to learn more about the product.
This Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 10AM-3PM
Bring your Dumptrucks, Pickup Trucks, Trailers, & Rubbermaid Tubs:
Woodchip Mulch $10.00/cubic yard
(regularly $20/cubic yard)
We load, you haul*. See ‘Mulch’ link in navigation bar above to learn more about our Woodchip Mulch.
*The same discount pricing is available on Woodchip Mulch deliveries of 8 or more cubic yards ordered on or before 11/2. Standard freight fees apply. Maximum of 15 yards per truck/freight fee.
The onset of chillier weather reminds us that another season of deer damage is upon us. Specifically, the buck rub is beginning — the time in which adult male deer scrape the itchy velvet off their antlers. For scratching posts, they usually choose clear-trunked deciduous trees of small-to-medium size — about the same size of newly purchased, planted, and establishing landscape trees. What the general public may be unaware of is that bucks tend to be excellent appraisers of tree value — they always seem to choose the most expensive and beautiful young trees to maul! At best a buck rubbed tree is wounded and disfigured, at worst it can be girdled and wind up dying. It is important to note that deer are territorial and creatures of habit — if you see one of your prized trees rubbed lightly, it is critical to take immediate measures to prevent subsequent rubs from occurring.
Fraleighs stocks a number of products that will fend off buck rub, the most effective being trunk guards — sturdy tubes of black plastic mesh that can be affixed around the trunk of small-to-medium sized trees using zip-ties. While some find the trunk-guards unsightly, they are cheap and effective insurance versus a wounded or dying tree, AND they needn’t be left on year-round; just in the fall and early winter.
Contact our deer-damage abatement experts to learn more!
ORIGINALLY POSTED AND UPDATED IN PREVIOUS HOT (HOTTER) SUMMERS, BUT STILL APPLICABLE DURING THE CURRENT JULY 2013 HEATWAVE:
July 2011 in southeast Michigan has proven itself to be dry and beastly hot. Fraleighs has been receiving a number of questions about drought stress and watering, so it might be time to summarize a few things:
With recent daytime high temperatures topping out in the nineties and marginal rainfall totals, just about the entire landscape would benefit from supplemental irrigation. This is especially true for newly planted and establishing plants. Plants selected for ‘drought tolerance’ will not exhibit this trait until their root systems are fully established. How long it takes for a plant to become established depends a little on what type of plant it is and a whole lot on how large it is at the time of planting. Smaller perennials and shrubs may only need one growing season to become established in their new environment, whereas a large tree may take several years to become fully rooted-in to the point where supplemental irrigation is a luxury rather than a necessity. It is up to the conscientious gardener to provide the additional water to ‘even out’ nature’s deficits until a plant is established.
The next question we regularly are asked to address is the frequency of watering. How often? This is never a question we can answer with a glib ‘once a day’ or ‘once a week’. Too many variables exist to have a pat answer, other than to say ‘monitor your soil moisture.’ We’ve found that a trowel and a dollop of common sense are as useful for watering as is a hose. Frequently checking the soil moisture 6-8 inches below the surface is the single best way to determine how much (or little) supplemental irrigation needs to be applied. ‘Evenly moist’ is the target for most plants, especially newly establishing ones. ‘Moist’ means neither soaking wet nor bone dry but comfortably in between. ‘Evenly’ means don’t let the soil dry out completely between waterings either. The common sense part comes in the form of ‘the hotter, windier, and drier that it has been the more frequently I need to monitor the soil, and the more frequently I’ll probably need to water’. Theprobably part kicks in because not all soil types are the same in how they retain moisture — sand dries out much faster than loam, and clay can sometimes retain irrigation too well, leading to situations of over-watering for some plants. That’s where the appropriately frequent soil moisture monitoring becomes so critical to determining how much and when supplemental irrigation is needed.
How should the supplemental irrigation be applied? Again, there is no single answer, but whatever means are used should result in ‘evenly moist’ monitored to a depth of 6-8 inches. Will an automated irrigation system make this happen? Probably, but it must be adjusted to compensate for weather and soil conditions. Will a hand-held hose work? Yes, in capable hands a hose can be very precise, but time consuming. How about a compromise (heck, even the politicians are considering it these days!) — maintain an automated irrigation system and supplement with a manually activated sprinkler on the thirstier beds? We even sell special hydration bladders (TreeCOVErs &ArborRain systems) to assist in the spot-watering of establishing larger shrubs and trees. It is also worth noting that slower, lower volume irrigation is more effective than quick, high volume waterings that tend to run off rather than soak in to the soil.
Lastly, it is worth acknowledging that severe conditions (such as the recent heat) take their toll most heavily on marginal plants; otherwise established plants that are poorly suited to their environment will be the ones that perish. If that sad outcome befalls one of your plants, be sure to mention it to our staff as you select a replacement – we’ll be glad to help you find an option better suited to your site conditions.
Update: for further information from Michigan State University on the topic, visit:
Update: for even more insight into watering techniques and hydration biology:
Hydrangeas have long frustrated Michigan gardeners due to their sometimes confusing diversity. Specifically, one showy but temperamental species has caused many folks to swear off the genus entirely, and that is a shame considering all the great cultivars in other hydrangea species that are available today. In an attempt to ‘lift the veil’ on the mysterious clan that is the genus hydrangea, here goes:
The bad actor: the Big-leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla cvs) These are what many folks conjure up when they think of ‘hydrangea’: big, round inflorescences of ecstatically blue flowers. Sadly, due to climate, soil type, and the species’ biology this ideal is hard to come by in most of Michigan. Our winters tend to fry the old growth (including the following summer’s flower buds) unless extensive measures are taken to protect the plant’s tissues. Newer introductions try to get around this by flowering on old and new wood, but the new wood flowers appear rather later in the season than most people would like. Lastly, our soil pH makes a true-blue hydrangea coloration an uphill battle. Big-leaf Hydrangea are pH sensitive — in acidic soil with available aluminum ions, they bloom blue. In alkaline soils, such as in much of Washtenaw County, they bloom pink. Heavy feeders to begin with, Big-leaf Hydrangeas must have a steady stream of acidifying aluminum sulfate fertilizer to have any hope of blooming blue around here. This all adds up to heartbreak for a lot of folks hoping to grow a true-blue hydragea, but not willing or able to provide the rigorous maintenance required by the species. It is worth noting that Big-leaf hydrangeas come in lace-cap flowering and exclusively pink forms, but these cultivars all still possess the same stringent requirements as the blue fellas. Hardy variegated-leaf cultivars are at least effective as a foliage plant, and they may even flower sporadically, depending on the preceding winter.
The classic: Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens cvs) If folks think of another type of hydrangea at all, they think of the ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea that grew in their Grandmother’s garden. Stout, reliable, and unswervingly white, this hydrangea is about as simple as you can hope to get. A moderate size mound of pale-greenish-turning-white flowers is perfectly situated for shady situations. This species likes its moisture, and will engage in “hydrangea calisthenics” if they are in a overly dry or sunny situation. That is to say, they do slow-motion jumping jacks with their wilting and recovering leaves. Since they bloom reliably on new growth, this species circumvents the winter-kill issue that plagues the Big-leaf hydrangea. Newer introductions of this species include ‘White Dome’ (lacecap flowers), ‘Incrediball’ (larger inflorescences), ‘Invicibelle Spirit’ and ‘Bella Anna’ (pink-blooming forms). Smooth hydrangea: reliable for the shade.
The sun-lover: Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata cvs) These plants tend to be larger, woodier and more robust than the other members of the genus. They bloom on new wood, and have upward-pointing grape-cluster shaped panicles of flowers. Most cultivars bloom mid-summer, starting white and blushing pink as the season progresses. Adaptable to moderate shade, this species flowers best in full sun. Different cultivars provide a range of eventual sizes from medium-sized shrubs to small trees. Likewise, the timing of the blooms varies from mid-June into September based on the individual varieties, so with a suite of cultivars (e.g. ‘Quickfire’ (early), ‘Pinky-Winky’ (mid), and ‘Tardiva’ (late)) one can have three months of continuous blooms in southeast Michigan. This versatility and ruggedness makes the Panicle Hydrangea cultivars some of our very favorites.
The autumn rebound: Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia cvs) No, they don’t really bloom in the fall, but what other hydrangea species offers a nice fall leaf color? Reliably burgundy, the oak-leaf-shaped foliage makes for an elegant finish to the shade garden’s season. Oakleafs have similar growing requirements to Smooth hydrangeas, but have a mid-summer grape-cluster shaped inflorescence rather than a round flower arrangement. The stems provide a hint of winter interest at maturity, showing off some shaggy strips of tawny-to-cinnamon colored exfoliating bark. Wintertime is also a dangerous time for this species, too, but not because of hardiness. Of all the hydrangeas we sell, the Oakleafs are by far the most susceptible to deer and rabbit browse. Caveat emptor! Oakleaf hydrangea cultivars range in size from the dwarf ‘PeeWee’ and ‘Sike’s Dwarf’ varieties to the massive ‘Alice’ introduction. ‘Snow Queen’ is the industry standard for both eventual size and flowering performance.
The vine: Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) The oddball of the group, this dear plant is a reliable-if-slow-growing vine that climbs rough shaded surfaces. The vine grows slowly, attaching to rough surfaces such as stone, brick, mortar, or bark by small root-like holdfasts. It does best in semi-shaded to shaded locations, and blooms midsummer with white, lacecap arrangements of dainty flowers held away from the surface it is climbing. The spent flower arrangements are even effective in early winter as catchments for the first dollops of snow. There are now even variegated-leaf cultivars such as ‘Mirranda’ available, however we hasten to add the variegation may make them grow even slower than the species! Likewise, there are ‘Hydrangea Vines’ that are actually Schizophragma hydrangoides, that express similar characteristics and habits to the ‘true’ climbing hydrangea, with the added thrill of pinkish flowers and dissected leaves.
I hope this rekindles someone’s interest in the genus Hydrangea. In this case, one ‘bad hydrangea’ shouldn’t spoil the bunch!
Attract pollinators to your garden!
Available at Fraleighs now, add any of the following plants to your landscape to attract pollinators, including several species of native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more:
- Bee Balm (Monarda)*
- Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)*
- Wild Indigo (Baptisia)*
- Ironweed (Vernonia)*
- Joe Pyeweed (Eupatorium)*
- Obedient Plant (Physostegia)*
- Beardtongue (Penstemon)*
- Lavendar (lavendula)
- Russian Sage (Perovskia)
- Nepeta (Catmint)
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)
- Sage (Salvia)
* = native
The Xerces Society advocates for the conservation of pollinators and other invertebrates worldwide. Here are some of their tips for attracting beneficial pollinators:
- Use local native plants (see above list). Native plants are 4 times more effective at attracting native pollinators than other, more exotic, selections.
- Use a combination of colors. Blue, purple, white, and yellow are preferred.
- Mass each flower type. Larger masses of the same plant have greater impact in drawing pollinators to them.
- Provide flowers of different shapes. The mouth parts of each pollinator have evolved over time to better access nectar of specific plant shapes.
- Provide a continuous buffet of plants that bloom at different times throughout the season. These different bloom times coincide with the life cycle of different pollinator species and the time of year when they emerge.
Next time you’re at the nursery, give a big salute to Larry, our resident (and harmless) carpenter bee who likes to greet everyone who visits the nursery.
Mycorrhizae: Our Favorite ‘Fungus-Among-Us’
Following is part 2 of Feed Your Soil: Mycorrhizae.
In the drought-stressed summers that have become the new normal in Michigan, it is more and more essential to promote strong root growth early on for new transplants. This allows plants to reach deeper into the soil to obtain needed moisture during times of inadequate rainfall, along with the nutrients present there. Mycorrhizae aids in strong root development to help plants better withstand periods of drought.
What are mycorrhizae?
For those of you lucky enough to experience slinging compost or mulch onto your garden, you may have noticed white powdery patches as you forked or shoveled through the material. This is an indicator that mycorrhizae is present.
For healthy soils that contain it, mycorrhizae is the fungus among us, and one of hundreds of beneficial microorganisms that help plants absorb needed nutrients and fend off diseases.
How do mycorrhizae benefit plants?
Mycorrhizae are one of nature’s many miracles. Once you understand how it works, you will be amazed at how clever Mother Nature can be.
Essentially, it is the symbiotic relationship that exists between this useful fungus and its host plant that is so beneficial. Mycorrhizae attach to the plant’s root structure and feed off the sugars the plant produces and actually extends the plant’s roots deep into the soil to pull up nutrients that the plant can absorb. As the plant grows more vigorously, it produces more sugar for the fungus to thrive.
As you may or may not know, healthy roots are key to promoting healthy, vigorous growth and strong immunity to disease in plants. So, you can see how this relationship soon “blossoms”—each one helping the other to become stronger and more robust.
How do I get mycorrhizae into my soil?
Like most fungi, mycorrhizae propogates by producing spores. When applying fertilizers containing mycorrhizae to new plantings, remember to work the ingredients into the base of the planting hole. This encourages the plant’s roots to reach deeper to access these nutrients.
Fraleighs recommends . . .
Fraleighs recommends and sells the following organic fertilizers that contain myccorhizal spores:
Dr. Earth Products
- Starter (N-P-K Analysis: 2-4-2 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
Helps new transplants become established more quickly.
- Life All-Purpose (N-P-K Analysis: 5-5-5 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
Formulated for use as an all-purpose fertilizer, providing balanced and fast nutrition for all plants.
- Organic 7 All-Purpose (N-P-K Analysis: 4-4-4 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
Same as above with 7 strains of beneficial soil microbes added.
- Rose and Flower (N-P-K Analysis: 5-7-2 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
Formulated for new transplants.
- Bud & Bloom (N-P-K Analysis: 4-10-7 | Mycorrhizae: 233,174 propagules/lb of 8 species)
Formulated for established plants. Provides an extra boost of phosphorus to promote flowering.
- Metabolic Transformer (N-P-K Analysis: N/A | Mycorrhizae: 2,331,740 propagules/lb of 8 species)
For use in problem areas such as where diseased plants have been removed.
- Biotone Starter (N-P-K Analysis: 4-3-3 | Mycorrhizae: 1,341 CFUs/g of unspecified mycorrhizal strains) Formulated for new transplants.
- Holly-tone (N-P-K Analysis: 4-3-4 | Mycorrhizae: 895 CFUs/g
of 7 species)
An all-purpose organic fertilizer that neutralizes the pH of our native alkaline soils with additional acidity. This is beneficial since most plants prefer the pH to be more in the middle range. Fraleighs recommends two applications per year: April Fools Day and Halloween.
- Plant-tone (N-P-K Analysis: 5-3-3 | Mycorrhizae: 895 CFUs/g
of 7 mycorrhizal species)
Same as the Holly-tone, but without the additional acidifying agents.
How do I get mycorrhizae to thrive in my soil?
Once your soil is inoculated with mycorrhizal spores, over time, mycorrhizae develop into larger and larger colonies. These colonies form a structure, much like a coral reef. The more intact these colonies remain, the more effective they are in benefiting your garden’s plants. So, the more you can avoid disturbing the soil through rototilling or churning up the soil mass, the better.
This is why many gardeners promote adding amendments through “top dressing.” This method consists of layering soil amendments on top of established garden beds, rather than mixing them into the soil. This method minimizes soil disturbance.
Soil amendments that will add beneficial organic matter include shredded bark, wood chips, shredded leaves, or compost. These amendments provide the organic matter that helps to build healthy soil by creating the optimal environment for thriving mycorrhizal colonies as well as the many other microorganisms beneficial to plants.
As you garden your plots, consider the relationship you have with your land and soil. Continue to nurture it by feeding your soil, and both plants and soil will blossom together.