Hydrangeas are hardy perennials, most commonly recognized for their lush and abundant flowerheads. The fluffy flowerheads of hydrangeas consist of numerous star-shaped flowers that are packed closely together, giving them their unique and exuberant appearance. The Hydrangea genus contains 70-75 different species, the most popular being Hydrangea Macrophylla. Although most species of hydrangeas produce a white flower and bloom mid-late summer, certain species of hydrangeas bloom at different times and vary in colour.
Quick Facts About Hydrangeas:
- Indigenous to Southern and Eastern Asia
- Plant type: Deciduous or Evergreen (the cultivated species grown in Canada are all deciduous)
- Exposure: Full sun – partial shade
- Appearance: shrub, bush, tree or lianas
- Watering: Deep watering 1x week
- Size: average height of 1-3 meters
- Spacing: Give 3-6 feet proximity around each plant
- Pruning: Best pruned when the blooms have ceased (fall). Some species of hydrangea flower from ‘old wood’, ‘new wood’, or both; therefore pruning needs to be specific to that species.
Top 10 Most Popular Hydrangeas
1. Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Annabelle’
2. Hydrangea Macrophylla ‘Incrediball’
3. Hydrangea Macrophylla Cityline Series
4. Hydrangea Macrophylla Endless Summer Original Blue & Pink (color changing)
5. Hydrangea Macrophylla Endless Summer ‘Bloom Struck’
6. Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Lime Light’
7. Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Little Lime’ (Compact Version of ‘Lime Light’)
8. Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Quick Fire’
9. Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Pinky Winky’
10. Hydrangea Paniculata ‘Phantom’
Did you know?
Do you know what the difference between the Hydrangea species Macrophylla vs. Paniculata is? Hydrangea Macrophylla have larger leaves and rounded flower heads, they are sometimes called ‘Mopheads’ or ‘Big Leaf Hydrangeas’. Hydrangea Paniculata have smaller, thinner and rougher leaves with flower heads that resemble more of a cone shape.
Colour Changing Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas are fascinating and unlike most plants because the colour of their flowers can change dramatically. Most species of hydrangea have white flowers, however, in some species including hydrangea macrophylla, the flower heads can be blue, red, pink, light purple or dark purple. In these species the colour of the flower head is effected by the pH of the soil. The pH of the soil is determined by the amount of aluminum ions.
- Acidic soil (low pH)- will have available aluminum ions = blue-purple hydrangea flowers
- Alkaline soil (high pH)- no available aluminum ions = pink-red hydrangea flowers
Therefore, you can actually change the colour of your hydrangea plant by altering the pH of the soil.
To make soil more acidic, sprinkle ½ cup garden sulfur over the soil beneath the hydrangea, and water it in. To make it more alkaline, do the same with ground lime. There are also products that can be bought at your local nursery to change the pH.
– Jenna Monk
Why are succulents so trendy?
Succulents are one of the trendiest accent pieces for your home, garden or planter. These ornamental plants have been showcased by interior designers and stylists, in dozens of Home & Garden magazines recently, making them of the hippest plants to own.
Succulents have been around forever; so why are they so popular all of a sudden, and what are they?
What is a succulent?
Succulent plants are sometimes known as drought resistant plants, perfect for arid climates or soil conditions, since they retain water to survive unfavorable weather periods.
Succulents are plants that store water in their leaves and stems, giving them a strikingly unique appearance, with unusually thickened and fleshy structures.
As an outdoor plant, succulents require hot temperatures and low precipitation. Therefore, the Canadian climate is not ideal. However, they are great as ornamental house plants because they thrive in a range of indoor conditions. Succulents are very adaptable and hard to kill if they are potted properly.
Top 10 Reasons to Love Succulents
- Succulents are perfect for the forgetful gardener, since they require less watering
- They are ornamental plants with a striking and unusual appearance
- They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours
- They attract fewer pests due to their thick, waxy leaves and lack of water
- It’s very difficult for them to become overgrown
- Nearly indestructible
- You can grow more succulents from their cuttings
- Gravity doesn’t affect them, so they can be used to create plant walls
- Succulents can be used in hanging arrangements
- They’re inexpensive!
Fun Fact: Almost all cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti
For more on succulents, check out these creative DIY succulent Terrariums!
– Jenna Monk
SUMMER 2017 LAWN CARE
Lawn care in the spring is all about getting your lawn healthy and green, and this year, it has been great to actually have experienced the first “real” spring we’ve had in quite a few years. The prolonged wet weather and cooler temperatures have done their bit in creating healthy turf, and now that the weather has warmed and dried out (hopefully), summer lawn care is all about keeping it that way!
Summer weather can often bring about quite a lot of stress to your grass. Hot temperatures and drought conditions can damage your lawn, as can the slower natural growth of the grass and even lots of activity on high traffic areas. That is why it is important to take the following steps to best care for your lawn during the summer months.
7 Tips For a Better Lawn This Summer:
- Mow your lawn correctly, and that doesn’t always mean cutting it short! Set your mower blades higher (3” or more) as taller grass is far more tolerant to drought, grows deeper roots and can reduce weed growth.
- Mulch your grass clippings to help keep moisture levels steady.
- Keep your mower blades sharp to minimize stress to the turf, you want to cut the grass blades, not tear them.
- Water your lawn wisely by watering deeply and less frequently to encourage drought-tolerant roots. Water earlier in the day to reduce evaporation and fungal growth.
- Do not over-saturate when you water, this can promote disease in the turf. Most lawns will require about an inch (2.5 cm) of water per week to maintain good health.
- Don’t over fertilize your turf; applying fertilizer in the heat of summer can burn your lawn, so if you are going to apply, make sure to use a slow release product. Or wait until the fall to fertilize again!
- Weed your lawn regularly to remove them before they bloom and send out more seeds for next year. Hand (or tool) removal is still the best option for most residential lawns.
The summer is also a great time to make adjustments to your irrigation system settings if an automatic system is being used. The ability to “fine tune” the amount of water being used, at the optimal time of day is of utmost importance to increase the health of your turf.
– Ken Jorgenson
THE BACKYARD BIRDCAM
I recently came across an innovative product that seems perfect for a fun, interesting and educational project for the yard; quite literally, a photo booth for birds!
The various “birdcam” feeders are affordable ($60 – $180), can be set up quickly & easily, and will take professional quality images of the birds from just inches away. Available at Bird Photo Booth, there are two options for setup.
Option 1 uses their 4k motion-activated, wi-fi bird camera that is specifically designed for their Bird Photo Booth weatherproof enclosure.
Option 2 uses your own IOS / Android phone (or GoPro) inside the weatherproof enclosure with a Bluetooth remote control, or even your phones own motion detector App.
By adding water and different types of bird seed (to attract different types of birds) to the feeder, and having positioned the feeder in an attractive, safe location, the camera will automatically take photos of the birds that you attract. Photos can be accessed at any time with your phone or tablet, and the camera is quickly charged when necessary with your own charging cord!
There is plenty of information and helpful tips on the company’s website, along with a selection of photos and videos to illustrate what the bird cams are capable of. I have ordered one for myself, and will let you know how it all turns out (hopefully with lots of photos too).
– Ken Jorgenson
THE CONTINUED DEVASTATION OF THE EMERALD ASH BORER
The emerald ash borer (EAB) is a highly destructive insect (originally from Asia) that feeds on ash trees, usually killing them within 2-3 years. The EAB was first discovered in the GTA around 2005 and has continued to devastate the ash tree population ever since. It is estimated that the City of Toronto will eventually lose almost all of its 860,000 ash trees (source: Landscape Ontario) and the outlook for York region is not much brighter.
The Emerald Ash Borer
The emerald ash borer’s worm-like larvae feed between the sapwood and bark along the entire length of the tree’s trunk, and on branches more than 2 cm in diameter. Larvae can be found under the bark during the summer months, although some can be found all year round. It is the feeding by the larvae (there can be hundreds even thousands of larvae in a single tree) that cuts off the flow of nutrients, which eventually kills the tree. The larvae leave an “S-shaped” or “zigzag” gallery of damage behind as they feed.
As the larva grows, it moults four times. At the end of the fourth moult, before becoming a pupa, the larva is J-shaped and has a slightly thicker and shorter body. This stage is called a pre-pupae and is first observed in September. An “exit” hole in the tree bark indicates when an adult has dug itself out to fly away and infest other trees.
Spot the Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms are indicators of insect attack. A sign is physical damage to a tree, such as a gallery, a hole, or a feeding notch in the leaf, resulting from attack by the insect. A symptom is a tree’s response to insect attack and includes premature yellowing of foliage, dead branches, thinning crowns, or bark splits and cracks. It is important to be aware that similar signs and symptoms can be caused by other pests, drought, or cold stress and therefore you need an expert to verify that emerald ash borer is present in the tree.
New infestations of emerald ash borer are very difficult to detect. Usually by the time you detect these signs and symptoms, the tree is already heavily infested. However, if you identify these infested trees, there may be time to protect lightly infested trees in the area or slow the spread to other areas. This is why early detection is so important.
What are my options?
If you have an ash tree in your yard or on the city owned property in front of your home, you should learn about your options before taking any action. Visiting the website of your municipal and/or regional forestry departments will inform you of any programs that exist surrounding the control of EAB, and will indicate what measures are in place regarding trees planted on publicly owned land, including boulevard trees.
If your tree appears to be healthy…TREATMENT
While heavily-infested ash trees will ultimately succumb to the pest, healthy ash trees that are not yet infested or in the very early stages of infestation, can be treated. Currently TreeAzin, derived from the neem tree, is the only product registered for use in Canada against EAB. It is injected into the tree near the base and must be done by a licensed applicator. If your ash tree appears healthy, consider treatment with TreeAzin injections.
If your tree is infested…REMOVAL
If you decide to remove a tree on private property, you will have to incur the cost yourself. There may be removal permits required — check with your municipality. In many municipalities, infested trees that are located on the city-owned property in front of homes will be removed by municipal/regional forestry staff and replaced at no cost to homeowners.
REPLANTING. We encourage everyone who has space to plant new trees to replace those that have been or will be lost to EAB. Even if you haven’t personally lost a tree to EAB, planting new trees can help maintain the overall urban forest canopy.
– Ken Jorgenson
Do you have an Emerald Ash Borer Infestation?
Click HERE to learn about MPS’s Tree Care Services
While the beloved robin used to represent the first sign of Spring, now, unfortunately, it is the pesky and prodigious dandelions that ushers in the season…
For those who love a well-manicured, lush, green lawn, there is nothing worse than seeing the towering, yellow weeds slowly (then rapidly) taking over every available green space and destroying the turf in the process. Producing copious amounts of seeds which blow around everywhere, the dandelions grow rapidly from a single, deep “tap root” and flower in the spring. With all of the cool, wet weather we have seen this year, dandelions have managed to have two cycles of abundant growth, and have become a real nuisance for landscapers. We have seen dandelions pop up and grow twice as high as the grass within just 1 or 2 days of mowing, producing an unfortunate and frustrating unkempt look.
Dandelion growth only 2 days after cutting!
With the provincial pesticide ban in place, there is very little that can be done to effectively control dandelions and other weeds. So-called “green” or alternative products just don’t work, producing results that range from being totally ineffective to only slightly effective on dandelions. These products are also prohibitively expensive, and require multiple, repeat applications that actually lead to a deterioration of turf strength and quality. In other words, they can actually make the problem worse!
Digging out each & every dandelion by the root is great for a small section of turf, but would require a tremendous amount of labour (and cost) for a significant area. So, what can be done to manage the dandelion problem?
The simple answer is to keep your turf as healthy as possible and maintain it at that level as long as possible. The thicker & healthier your grass is, the more successfully it can withstand the inevitable dandelion invasion.
• During peak dandelion season, cutting the grass twice weekly will improve its appearance
• Don’t cut the grass too short – keep it at t least 2 ¾ – 3 inches long (7 – 7 ½ cm)
• Topdress & overseed your lawn annually to replenish the soil and encourage new turf growth
• Aerate at least once per year to improve nutrient/water flow, root growth and general health of the turf
Finally, please understand that without a change in provincial legislation, dandelions are here to stay. The battle now is to limit their population by doing everything possible to increase the health of your turf.
– Ken Jorgenson