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No Fuss Roses – REALLY!

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Ann Mendez

I used to consider growing roses a form of self-punishment. It was a tedious, never-ending job that more often than not, ended in disaster.   Thankfully there are stunning roses now available that don’t need pampering.  These game-changers require less water, fertilizer and pesticides – plus some are even ‘self-cleaning’ (no deadheading required). And if the thorns are a ‘thorn in your side’, there are thornless varieties.

As a garden writer and passionate gardener, I’ve trialed many roses. Praise-worthy contenders are held to high standards by this no-fuss gardener. Not surprisingly, I primarily evaluate roses grown on their own roots (not grafted) and hardy to at least Zone 5, if not colder.

Below are a few favorites:

‘At Last’  I was spellbound by this 30”-36”, fragrant, sunset orange rose with deep green, shiny leaves.  And I wasn’t the only one. Last year the garden center where I work sold out of this winner by mid-summer!

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Ann Mendez

Knock Out Roses  Knockout roses have become highly popular, given their superior performance requiring little input.  There are many cultivars to choose from. My personal favorites are Double Knock Out (red), Pink Double Knock Out and Peachy Knock Out – one of 2018 winners of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (A.R.T.S).

Courtesy of Star® Roses and Plants

Earth-Kind Roses  Roses earning the Earth-Kind award do well in a variety of soils plus they require minimum fertilizer, pesticides and water. These trials for sustainable roses began at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service but are now operational in 27 states. ‘Carefree Beauty’ is one of these exceptional performers. To discover others, click here.

Photo Courtesy of Kerry Ann Mendez



No matter how praiseworthy a rose is, if it is not sited in the right location, all bets are off. Roses like full sun (six or more hours, preferable mostly afternoon sun in hardiness zones 6 or colder). They also do best in well drained, organically enriched soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  Treat roses to Rose-tone, a slow-release organic fertilizer in spring and then 6 weeks later to boost the bloomathon.  Japanese beetles and rose sawfly (caterpillar-like larvae) can sometimes pester roses, even superstars mentioned above. Handpicking, as well as organic products containing Neem oil or Spinosad, will solve the problem.  The time to prune shrub roses is in late winter or early spring. Prune back canes by 1/3 to half their height.

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  

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  

Grass is always Greener: Different Types of Grass You Should Consider

Guest Post by Brian Rees of Bradley Mowers

Do you ever drive through a neighborhood and check out all the fellow homeowner’s grass? If a lawn is the perfect color and neatly manicured, you can’t help but take notice.

The Importance of Picking the Right Grass
Grass is divided into three types, cool season, warm season and transitional. The success of your lawn will depend on numerous things. The most important thing is planting the right grass for your area or zone. Those that live in the north need cool season grasses, while those that live in the south need warm season varieties. Those that live in the middle can use a transitional grass. Randomly picking a grass based on its color and promises is not wise. You may be purchasing grass that won’t grow in your climate.

Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are for areas that have cold winters and hot summers. They may experience a great deal of rain. These grasses can go for an extended period of time during drought periods. They do this by going dormant. These grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Rough Bluegrass, Perennial and Annual Ryegrass, Bentgrass and Red Fescue.

Transition Zone Grasses
Between the northern and southern turf regions, there is an area known as the “transition zone.” This area is in the lower elevations of North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, and Arkansas. In these zones, neither the warm and cool grasses will be successful.

Keep in mind that some of the cool season areas, the Kentucky bluegrass will do well best. In Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia, the Tall Fescue variety work well. Lower elevations do better with warm season grasses. For those that live in the transition zone, they should use Zoysiagrass, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, Thermal Blue, and Kentucky Bluegrass.

Warm Season Grasses
Those that live in the south find that growing and maintaining a lawn is a bit more involved than what it is for northern homeowners. Grass selection is much trickier. There are many turfs that will do well when started from plugs or sod, but they don’t do well started from seed. The key element is the soil.

A low maintenance yard in this region must have good soil. When cold temperatures arrive, almost all warm season grasses will lose their color and turn brown. To prevent having a brown yard, some southerners will add Rye-grass to their existing laws to help keep a green hue during the winter. The technical term for this is called “winter overseeding.” Warm season grass varieties include St. Augustine Grass, Zoysiagrass, Centipede, Carpet Grass, Buffalo Grass, Bermuda Grass, and Bahia.

Lawn Care
Establishing new lawns from seed or sod doesn’t have to be difficult. For the lawn to take root, you need to make sure it has plenty of water. This is especially true in warmer climates where the sun will suck the moisture away.

Try Espoma’s Organic Lawn Starter to help nourish the new lawn. The new lawn should be watered frequently until it has been cut at least two times. The ideal cutting height for a new lawn is roughly to about 3 inches tall. After those initial growing phases, regular water methods can resume.

Though it takes a little bit of work at first, having a gorgeous lawn isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and knowing the right products to help achieve your desired result.

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Brian Rees is a media relations representative for Bradley Mowers. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, music, and spending time outside.