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Awesome Astilbe

Astilbes are the drama queens of the shade garden.  You cannot help but admire these ‘no-fuss’ divas for their beauty and grace. Flowers can be delicate and frothy or stiff and compact.  Blooms range in color from red, burgundy, white, purple, rosy-purple, peach and various shades of pink. The handsome, fern-like foliage is a delightful contrast to heftier leaves like those of Hosta and Rodgersia. Leaves can be shiny, matted or coarse.  I like to insert additional zing to the garden by incorporating Astilbe with foliage that is bronze or burgundy tinged (‘Delft Lace’, ‘Fanal’, ‘Maggie Daley’), chocolate (‘Chocolate Shogun’), chartreuse rimmed in red (‘Amber Moon’) or chameleon-like (‘Color Flash’) – the leaves start out brilliant green and then morph to burgundy-purple before closing the season in blazing orange, red and yellow.

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Ann Mendez


Even though Astilbe is typically known as a shade perennial, it tolerates full sun, as long as there is enough moisture.  Those in the chinensis species are best suited for drier conditions.  These beauties also make wonderful container plants. Hardy in Zones 4 to 9 (many references claim Zone 3), pollinator-friendly Astilbe provides four seasons of appeal (leave the dried flower stalks up for winter interest) with little effort on your part!

Astilbes flower for three to four weeks but by mixing early, mid and late season cultivars, you can enjoy glorious blooms from mid-June until mid-August. These deer and rabbit resistant workhorses range in height from only around 8” (‘Lilliput’) to spectacular back of the border giants that can reach 4’ (‘Purple Candles’, ‘Mighty Pip’).  Astilbe ‘Pumila’ makes a terrific, weed-smothering ground cover with low, overlapping leaves and late season, lilac-pink flowers that top out at 10”.

Photo courtesy of Kerry Ann Mendez


Astilbe does best in organically enriched, moisture retentive soil.  You can achieve this by simply amending soil – or mulching – with compost, aged manures or similar materials.  Further boost the floral display by fertilizing with Plant-tone, a slow release, organic fertilizer. Astilbe prefers an acidic soil (pH in the high 5’s or low 6’s).  Check soil pH by taking a sample to your local extension office or use a do-it-yourself-kit such as Rapitest. To lower pH apply Espoma’s organic Soil Acidifier (elemental sulfur).

About the author: As an award-winning garden designer, author and lecturer, Kerry Ann Mendez focuses on time-saving gardening techniques, workhorse plants and sustainable practices.  She has been on HGTV and in numerous magazines including Horticulture, Fine Gardening, Garden Gate and Better Homes & Gardens.  Kerry Ann was awarded the 2014 Gold Medal from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society for her horticultural accomplishments.  She has published four popular gardening books, her most recent being, The Budget-Wise Gardener (February 2018). In 2016 Kerry Ann introduced National Gardening Webinars that are attended by thousands.  For more about Kerry Ann visit www.pyours.com  

Plant your Window Boxes Like Garden Answer

Dressing up window boxes can add so much beauty and curb appeal to your home. They instantly greet you the moment you walk up to your home, brightening every day.

If you don’t have window boxes, just put a good sized container next to your front door and make the same combination in a smaller form.

If you have old soil in your window boxes, it’s best to remove it and start with fresh Organic Potting Soil from Espoma. In this case, Laura is only replacing half the soil because it was only used briefly in her window boxes last fall. Pour the new soil in until your planters are half full.

For these early spring window boxes and containers, you can take liberties with spacing and sun and shade preferences. The plants won’t actually grow much in cool climates, except for the daffodils. As you will see this combination contains both sun and shade-loving plants.

This gorgeous combination begins with Lenten rose, Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’. Their burgundy pink buds open to ivory with a pink blush on the back of the petals. These are the tallest plants in the combination and are planted in the back. Next, plant Martin’s spurge, Euphorbia ‘Tiny Tim’. The emerging foliage is deep red and picks up the reddish tones in the Lenten roses. A miniature Narcissus called ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is placed in between the spurge and will add a bright pop of yellow when they flower. Two varieties of pinkish apricot primrose are planted next and are interspersed with deep blue perennial violets.

This design is awfully clever for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it shows that it’s possible to create a sophisticated early spring display that can withstand very low temperatures. Secondly, it’s extremely economical. All of the plants in her palette, with the exception of the primrose, are perennial and will be planted out in her landscape in late spring. Having your plants do double duty is brilliant and saves money.

Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, get creative and try out different combinations or add branches for another design element. Have fun.

Espoma Products for Early Spring Window Boxes

 

Webinar: Powerhouse Perennials That Work Overtime… So You Don’t

The Espoma Company is excited to sponsor an exciting new webinar – Powerhouse Perennials That Work Overtime… So You Don’t  — on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 11 AM EST.

Kerry Ann Mendez, author of The Right Size Flower Garden, will share tips to help all levels of gardeners make gardening a little bit easier. Mendez is an expert in all things gardening, a nationally renowned speaker and an acclaimed author of three popular gardening books. She also hosts in-person lectures nationwide.

The webinar features superhero perennials for sun and shade, ranging in hardiness from Zones 3 – 9.  Many natives (and nativars) as well as new introductions are included. Attendees will learn about top-rated sources for these plants, including local garden centers.

In addition, the webinar offers detailed lecture notes and a free replay. Master Gardeners and Landscape Architects can also fill out and submit a form for continuing education credit hour approval.

Included with the webinar are detailed lecture notes that complement the presentation.

You do not need to be present for the live webinar on January 26 at 11 AM. All participants will receive a download link for the lecture following the presentation. That way you can watch and listen to it at your convenience and replay all or parts of it on demand.

The registration fee for this webinar lecture is $12.

For more about Kerry Ann and her business Perennially Yours, visit www.pyours.com.

5 Flowers for Halloween

With Halloween just around the corner, it’s time to start decorating. While some enjoy   spooky and scary décor, others delight in the whimsical side of Halloween. Planting orange plants will provide some living décor for a Happy, and not so scary, Halloween!

 

These plants provide an instant festive flare and grow well in containers on your porch, deck or patio. Place them alongside pumpkins and other décor. You can bring some of these inside, to add to your own haunted house! Try a few of these for a fun, floral twist this Halloween:

5 Orange Plants for Halloween

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Bracteantha

These beautiful flowers will elevate your space with their pumpkin orange petals and bright yellow centers. While they are an annual, they work well for the fall season without having to commit all year long. Plant them in full sun to watch these foot-tall stems steal the show. Use Espoma’s Organic Flower-tone when planting to keep the vibrancy of these flowers through the Halloween holiday.

Marigolds

The bold color and wonderful scent set marigolds apart. Known for sparking strong emotions in people, this flower works well for the occasion. Since they are easy-to-grow and require full sun, you will see marigolds all season long. Plus, they start to bloom in the spring and will continue through the end of autumn – they are worth the work. They are hardy and will grow in zones 2-11.

Goldenrod

While this is not exactly the bright orange Halloween suggests, goldenrod is still one of the most visually stunning plants to put in your yard. It is debated often whether it is a weed or a wildflower, so if you are on the fence about it, plant it in a container or a garden bed to contain where it will go. It grows well in full sun and just about anywhere.

Dahlias

As a fan favorite, your neighbors will be checking out your garden every chance they get! This might be the easiest bloom to grow on the list. They are a flowering bulb, so in the spring or early summer (once the ground stops freezing) sprinkle a little Espoma Organic Bulb-tone and water them in. They are available in all shapes and sizes. Be sure to pick out your favorite orange varieties to make a stunning fall appeal. In zones 8-10 simply plant and forget them (though you won’t forget the flowers!).  In cooler zones grow them as annuals or dig them up in the fall and store dry indoors.  You can divide them and replant the following spring.  Be sure to use some Bio-tone Starter Plus when planting!

Helenium

Sometimes known as sneezeweed, this vibrant orange bloom will not affect allergy sufferers. It will however, brighten up your space and attract all kinds of pollinators. They come in shades of orange, yellow, dark red and golden brown with a prominent center and stiff skirt-like petals. Plant them in full sun with a well-draining soil. Helenium grows well in zones 3-9.

 

Want to add more fall flair to your yard? Laura from Garden Answer shows us how to create a fall container. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRLpppMogWk

 

Products mentioned:

 

How to Plant Hydrangeas

In the video below, Laura from Garden Answer demonstrates how to plant hydrangeas using Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus and Holly-tone.

Can’t wait to learn more about hydrangeas?
Check out our Hydrangea Growing Guide

HYDRANGEA
Growing Guide

 


 

6 Beautiful and Deer Resistant Perennials

A beautiful garden that returns year after year and repels hungry deer sounds like a dream, but it can be real! Create an entire deer-resistant garden using plants these creatures strongly dislike.

Of course, a hungry deer will eat just about anything. These plants repel because they are fragrant, prickly or sap-filled. Utilize them strategically in your garden to keep deer away from favorites such as garden phlox or hosta.

Bee Balm

Bee balm repels deer with its minty scent, but pollinators can’t get enough. Bee Balm blooms in violet blue, red, pink or white from July through August and grows relatively tall, 2-3 feet. Boost your Bee Balm with Espoma’s Organic Flower-tone fertilizer for big, healthy flowers. Best suited for zones 4-8.

Lavender

Besides being a garden must-have, lavender deters both mosquitoes and deer. Its fuzzy and fragrant leaves just do not appeal to deer. Most varieties flower between June and August. Lavender prefers full sun with well-drained soil. Feed with Espoma’s Plant-tone throughout the growing season. Hardy in Zones 5 through 9.

Black-eyed Susans

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susans thrive in the sun. Because its covered in course hair, deer and rabbits stay far away from it. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for a late summer or fall bouquet. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Grow in full sun in zones 3-9.

Yarrow

Yarrow is a vibrant yellow perennial with fuzzy foliage that deers hate. It has a lengthy flowering time from June through September. It is a relatively tall flower with an average growth height of 2.5-3 feet. Give your flowers a strong soil base to help them thrive with Espoma’s Organic Garden Soil. Best suited for Zones 3-8.

 

Foxglove

The colorful bell shaped flower with freckles on the inside is lovely addition to deer-resistant gardens. This plant earns its deer-resistant label because it’s poisonous to deer (and humans). Many foxgloves are a biennial, so flowers don’t show up until the second year in the ground. Newer hybrid varieties are perennial, though. They are self-sowers, so if you leave the stalks in, they will continue to bloom year after year. Use Espoma’s liquid Bloom! to keep the flowers coming. Grow in Zones 4-9.

 

Bleeding heart

Known as a classic cottage staple, bleeding heart has a sap that deer find disagreeable. Beautiful blooms develop quickly in late spring and will last throughout summer and foliage stays lovely into fall. It’s easy to see why their floral pendants, in shades of rose pink and white, will pack a punch. You can never go wrong with a bit of romance. Hardy in Zones 4-8.

 

 

 

 

Espoma products for Deer–resistant perennials:

 

If you’re looking for the basics, learn how to plant veggies in containers!

 

7 Flowers for a Sun-Kissed July Bouquet

Summertime brings plenty of sunshine, relaxing days outdoors, fresh veggies ready for harvest farmers markets — and best of all, fresh flowers from your garden. The season’s hot weather makes it perfect for enjoying outdoor blooms and snipping a few off to create your own sun-kissed bouquet. Check out the below varieties that will add a big burst of color from late summer into fall.

Sunflowers

Nothing says summer quite like a bright and cheery sunflower. Choose dwarf varieties which typically have smaller blooms and reach about 1 foot in height. They are perfect for small space gardening and children love planting these bright flowers. Grow in full sun or partial shade in Zones 1-10. Start sunflowers indoors in Espoma’s seed starting mix for extra flower power.

Dahlias

A classic favorite, dahlias dazzle with blooms from mid-July until September. Available in a variety of sizes, colors and designs, it’s hard to plant just one. These dazzling beauties will add style to your garden anywhere you plant them. While they are technically a tuber, you plant them the same way you would plant a bulb. Dahlias are winter hardy in zones 8-11, but gardeners in zones 2-7 can plant them in the spring.

Zinnias

Find zinnias in a variety of bright and beautiful colors. These heat-tolerant plants bloom quickly from mid-summer until frost and are easy to grow. The more you cut your zinnias, the more flowers the plants will produce. While these flowers are deer resistant, they are monarch butterfly favorites. Grow in full sun in Zones 1-10.

 

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas embody everything we love about gardening. They have billowy texture, come in bright colors and are easy to care for. With their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage, they can be planted anywhere from container to flower bed. Check with your local garden center to find the best hydrangea variety for your zone.

Lavender

Perfectly purple lavender is a garden must-have. Their flowering period covers the summer months of June to August. As a bonus, their scent is known to deter pesky mosquitoes. Use lavender in a bouquet just on its own or as filler with other summer blooms. Best suited for zones 5-8.

Roses

Roses are the most classic flower to include in a garden. They’re prolific bloomers, fragrant and colorful. They are hardy in zones 4-9 and with the right care, can come back to thrive year after year. Feed your roses monthly with Espoma’s Organic Rose-tone to ensure proper growth.

 

Gerbera Daisies

With a bright and cheery demeanor, gerbera daisies have quite a bit of flair. They will have single, double or even multiple petals, which can add some texture and contrast to your garden. They will withstand the summer heat with their sturdy stems and big blooms. Feed regularly with Flower-tone to give their stems a boost.

Products:

 

 

 

 

Best Wildflowers for your Wedding Bouquet

Whether your wedding colors are blush and bashful or burgundy and navy, cut wildflowers from your own garden will go with almost any color pallet.

Did you know growing these bouquets of pastel-hued flowers or fiery reds and yellows can be done right in your own backyard? The important thing is to be creative, maximize your growing abilities and time your blooms with your big day.

5 Wildflowers for Wedding Bouquets

Sunflowers

Choose hybrid, pollenless varieties of sunflowers for bouquets and centerpieces. Varieties that are single-stem will produce one beautiful stem per seed or plant in a short amount of time. Choose from a variety of shapes and colors. Golden yellow sunflowers with dark-centers are classic, but ones with green centers or lemon-hued flowers make for unique looking bouquets. Grow in full sun or part shade in Zones 1-10. Feed blooms with Espoma’s Bio-Starter Plus when you plant for extra flower power.

Zinnias

Find zinnias in a variety of bright and beautiful colors. These plants bloom from mid-summer until frost and are one of the easiest wildflowers to grow. Plus, the more you cut zinnias, the more flowers the plants will produce. While these flowers are deer resistant, they are monarch butterfly favorites. Grow in full sun in Zones 1-10.

Cosmos

A popular cut flower, cosmos will add a pop of color to any bouquet. Their pink, crimson, white or chocolate flowers last until frost and are attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. Flowering non-stop, two to three inch blossoms grow on fern-like stems. Feed throughout the growing season with Flower-tone to get fantastic blooms. Grow in full sun in Zones 1-10.

Daisies

With their white rays and yellow centers, daisies brighten up any bouquet. They grow 1-3 feet tall and will not take up too much space in a garden or bouquet. Feed regularly with Bloom! liquid plant food for vibrant whites and beautiful fragrance. Grow in full sun in Zones 3-8.

Black-eyed Susan

Named for their dark brown centers peeking out of the gold or bronze petals, black-eyed susans thrive in the sun. These daisy-like blooms are perfect for a late summer or fall bouquet. They tend to grow to about 2 feet tall and handle high heat and drought conditions well. Grow in full sun in zones 3-9.

Directions

It’s time to make the cut once your wildflowers are in bloom.

Cut stems in early morning or late evening to prevent wilting from the harsh sun and heat. Strip any foliage  that will be placed directly in the water. Leave foliage near top of the stems for added interested and filler in your bouquet.

Thinking bulbs might be a better fit for your wedding bouquet? Find out how Garden Answer gets beautiful blooms.

https://youtu.be/qMDXnGYJUlc

Espoma Products for DIY Bouquets

Bloom! Plant Food

 

Bug OFF: Plants to Repel Mosquitoes

It is that time of year again when those tiny whining noises can be heard buzzing by your ear. Mosquitoes are back! You can keep these pests at bay by using nature’s own recipe for effective mosquito repellents.

It is a matter of comfort to keep the mosquitoes away, but it is also a matter of your family’s safety. By keeping the mosquito population around your house to a minimum, you reduce the risk of being exposed to mosquito-borne diseases.

Tell those mosquitoes to bug off by fighting them naturally. Avoid chemicals by planting a mosquito repellent garden. Read about our top choices for mosquito-repelling plants below.

Geraniums

These bright red and pink blooms have a fragrant lemon and citronella-like scent, which is delightful to humans but extremely repugnant to mosquitos. Geraniums prefer a warm, sunny, and dry climate and work in the garden or in pots. Hardy in Zones 3 through 9. Plant with Espoma’s Bio-tone Starter Plus to give plants the nutrients they need.

 

Basil

Basil is one of the handiest plants around. Add it to your favorite meal, drink or simply enjoy its wonderful smell. One of the biggest perks is that it emits a mosquito-repelling aroma without having to crush the leaves. Prevent mosquito bites by rubbing a handful of basil leaves on exposed areas of the skin. Research in the 2011 Malaria Journal found that basil was discovered to be up to 100% effective in preventing mosquito bites. Hardy in Zones 1 through 10.

 

Marigolds

Marigolds have earned the “most pungent” superlative from the plants on this list. Their smell has not only proven to be offensive to mosquitos, but also to rabbits, deer and some people. Despite the smell, their luminous orange and yellow petals brighten up your garden. They enjoy full sun and fertile soil. A major plus is that marigolds make great companion plants for tomatoes, protecting against other insects that eat the plants. Hardy in Zones 2 through 10. Fertilize with Espoma’s Bloom! liquid fertilizer for great looking marigolds.

 

 

Lavender

Add vibrant purple to your garden by planting lavender. Lavender gives off a sweet aroma that is attractive to humans, but most definitely not to mosquitoes. You can rub lavender on your skin to use as a natural mosquito repellent, too. Lavender prefers full sun with well-drained soil. Hardy in Zones 5 through 9. Feed with Espoma’s Plant-tone throughout the growing season.

Rosemary 

Rosemary, a member of the mint family, will most definitely keep the mosquitoes away. This Mediterranean favorite is one of the most aromatic herbs you can grow. Grow in full sun and water when dry. Although you don’t need to prune, you can cut back branches to help your rosemary bush stay in shape. Both fresh cuts and dry cuts are effective in repelling mosquitoes. Add rosemary to your summer fire pit so when it burns it gives off incense that is offensive to mosquitoes. You can also make rosemary into oils, add it to meals, or even make natural repellents. Hardy in Zones 6 through 9.

 

 

Espoma Products for Plants that Help Repel Mosquitoes:

Bloom! Plant Food

 

Hydrangea Hype: Garden Inspiration

Beautifully flowering hydrangeas are a telltale sign of summer. The white, blue, pink or purple flowers paired with bright green foliage look gorgeous in every summer garden.

With big colorful blooms and beautiful green foliage, summer’s favorite flower makes a bold statement in any garden.

Hydrangea Basics

Besides their obvious beauty, there are some facts about hydrangeas worth knowing before embarking on your hydrangea garden journey. With many varieties of the hydrangea species, it is important to keep in mind which ones thrive in your zone and garden. For example, if you live in a cool zone, the Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens) is a great choice to add to your garden.

Hydrangeas are acid-loving plants. To keep your hydrangeas happy use Espoma’s Organic Holly-Tone to fertilize.  You can even adjust the acidity of the soil to change the color of some hydrangeas. Do you prefer blue to pink? It’s easy to enjoy a garden full of blue hydrangeas by simply decreasing (lowering) the pH of the soil. We recommend amending your soil with Espoma’s Soil Acidifier to help turn your hydrangeas blue.

Hydrangeas in containers

Short on space? No problem! There are several varieties that will thrive in your small space. Our Hydrangea Variety Guide will help find the right dwarf hydrangea to put in your containers.

Next, find a spot that matches the amount of light they need. Be sure to use a good quality potting soil such as Espoma’s Organic Potting Mix. Choose a container that is 1/2 or 1/3 bigger than the plant itself. It is important that the plant does not get crowded in its container. The last step is to water well and most importantly, enjoy the big beautiful blooms!

 

 

Don’t settle for bushes. Grow a tree!

While we’re typically used to seeing low growing hydrangea bushes, how great would it be to see hydrangeas on trees? Well, the good news is, you can! Hydrangea paniculata, also known as Grandiflora, produces white conical flowers instead of big spherical blossoms. With some pruning and proper care, it can grow up to 25 feet tall! Grandiflora, known among gardeners as Pee Gee Hydrangea, is your best bet for growing a hydrangea tree.  Check your hardiness zone, as hydrangea trees thrive in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 8a. Hydrangeas prefer full sun for most of the day and a bit of afternoon shade, so be sure to choose a generally bright spot.

One of the most important parts of growing a hydrangea tree is pruning. The main difference between a hydrangea shrub and a tree is training, pruning and proper care.

 

Friends that bloom together stay together

Hydrangeas make great companion plants. Pair them with delicate foliage, bold flowers or subtle ornamental grasses for an extra pop of color in your garden. Pair with shrubs, flowers and grasses for a look that pleases.

Begonias and geraniums are beautiful flowers that come in many different shades making them a perfect companions for hydrangeas. Create a colorful rainbow garden by pairing blue hydrangeas with pink geraniums or white hydrangeas with scarlet begonias. Whichever you choose, look for companion plants that bloom around the same time.

Photo courtesy of Proven Winners

Multi-size, multi-color, and just plain beautiful

When we picture hydrangeas — with their larger-than-life blooms and immense foliage — we naturally envision large plants. Believe it or not, hydrangeas come in not one, not two, but three sizes! Dwarf varieties are petite beauties that pack a powerful punch. Scroll through our Hydrangea Variety Guide to find the right dwarf or full-size hydrangea for you.

hydrangea care, hydrangea color, growing hydrangas

Hydrangea appreciation

Appreciate your hard work growing your hydrangea garden by putting together hydrangea bouquets to decorate your home, creative art projects, making a hydrangea wreath, or dry them out for year-round arrangements! There is no end to the beauty your hydrangeas will bring to your garden and your home.

 

Espoma Products Hydrangeas will Love: