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Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

A beautifully manicured green lawn takes a lot of watering and fertilizing, not to mention mowing. It’s truly not easy being green.

In speaking with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, it turns out, this is something very much on her mind, too.

“I’ve been slowly edging out my own lawn in favor of native plants and flowers,” says Vultaggio. “A lawn is a high-input plant that requires a good deal of water and fertilizer to stay green, so it’s a good idea, say on Long Island, to reduce the amount of lawn we preserve.”

Vultaggio suggests, instead, planting more native perennials and shrubs.“Over time, after the planting stage, these will require much less irrigation. Perennials are pretty self-sufficient in searching for water on their own. Plus, their fertilizer requirements are at a minimum.”

Adding native plants is also a great help to local wildlife, who thrive when they can feed, find cover, and raise their young around familiar flora. “In fact, The National Wildlife Federation has a program (see fact sheet) devoted to reducing lawns and introducing pollinators to the garden through native plants,” says Vultaggio.

Mid-Late Summer Blooming Plants

For those who are eager to save some money, time — all while helping local wildlife — Vultaggio suggests the following native plants:

 

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Monarda (Bee Balm)

1. Monarda (Bee Balm):

Native to North America, this beautiful flowering plant is from the mint family. It’s easy to grow, is deer resistant, and attracts pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

It’s tubular flowers come in a variety of colors (pink, white, violet, red) and bloom in high summer through early fall. Bee Balm takes to full sun or light shade, and prefers a well-drained fertile soil. It needs some protection from excess moisture in winter.

 

 

 

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

2. Violet-colored Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather):

Gayfeather (tall purple plant on the left) is an extremely easy plant to grow.

It blooms in late summer and grows from corms that sprout in spring. Part of the sunflower family, it, too, is native to North America. It likes full sun, well-drained soils; it attract birds and butterflies, and is an ideal perennial.

Because the Gayfeather often grows to a robust 2-4’ feet tall, it may require staking or some other support.

 

 

 

3.  Nectar and pollen-rich Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed):

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milkweed is native to eastern North America and blooms in clusters of orange flowers from mid-late summer. It is drought-tolerant and attracts birds and pollinators. It is a particularly good source of nectar for Monarchs; plus Monarch caterpillars feed off its leaves.

This plant thrives in poor dry soils, likes full sun; it is deer resistant, and is nicely fragrant.  These two photos are of Vultaggio’s own garden and are courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.

 

 

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

4.  Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker):

This frequently bi-colored flower makes a dramatic statement in the garden and is an ideal plant for those who are new to gardening. In fact, this plant is so easy to grow it has been described as “tough to kill.” It is fairly drought-resistant, plus hummingbirds and butterflies love it. It is best planted in early spring or late fall.

When in bloom, the blossoms appear a bit like a hot poker or torch and for those feeling a bit of sadness saying good-bye to some of their lawn, note that these plants boast very “grass-like” leaves. This photo is of Vultaggio’s own garden and is courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.

(Note: the dramatic dark blue/black flowers in the foreground are Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ which bloom from late spring to early autumn.)

 

For those unsure on how Ito remove turfgrass, Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, offers the following tips:

 

 


Lawn Reduction: Initial Steps

— Decide where you want to reduce the lawn area

— Use powdered lime, flour, or spray paint to mark the exact section you wish to cut back;

— Water the area ahead of time and then ‘scalp’ the grass (cut it to expose the stems)

— Now you have two options: (1) The physically harder, but quicker, one is: Using a turf cutter or spade, dig out the turf. Add soil and plant right away.  (Note: keep the removed turfgrass. After the sod breaks down, the turf can help make nitrogen-rich soil around the roots of plants).

Or…(2) try an easier, but slower, alternative method: Cover the sod with about 7 layers of newspaper or thin cardboard. Add a minimum of 6 inches of compost or topsoil on top.  The grass underneath will decompose in due course. Planting can then be done without any cultivation of the soil. Of course, if starting this process now, by the time the area is ready, it would be time to put in fall plants. For some ideas on ideal fall plants, visit this earlier blog.

— Dave Stockwell

 

 

By | 2017-07-13T12:26:31+00:00 July 13th, 2017|Ask the Experts, Gardening, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes, Unique Ideas, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

April Gardening is For the Birds: Some “To Do’s” and “Not To Do’s”

Today’s garden planning goes well beyond simply color and texture. Some of the delights of outdoor living are the amazing creatures our gardens and water features attract.

With that in mind, below are some “to do” and “not to do” lawn/garden ideas for the month of April that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

April “To Do’s”

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already en route to our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

 

Oriolefest feeder

Oriolefest feeder

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

 

 

“When it comes to bees, which have been on the decline in alarming numbers, some suggest that we leave dandelions in our lawns for them,” says Vultggio. For while hummingbirds, etc. are going after nectar, the bees are in search of pollen,” she says.

This means it’s a good idea to cultivate both pollen and nectar producing plants, adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Indeed, we recommend sufficient seasonal plantings so that the right blooms appear from early spring into late fall. We also suggest that you plant them in clusters to provide havens for birds and pollinators.”

Dave says that early April is also a great time to clean and repair any bird houses so they’ll be ready for birds to nest.

 

April “Not to Do’s” 

 

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” adds Dave Stockwell.


 

Finally, Vultaggio says that doing a few things — and not doing some others — will help attract all the beautiful creatures we want to enjoy when outdoors. In fact, right now, she is daily tracking the 2017 migration of hummingbirds to our area in the Northeast.

“I went to hummingbirds.net just this morning. And guess what? They were already in Virginia.”

 

 

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

This photo of a Baltimore Oriole was taken by Sandra Vultaggio last spring. Note: yellow/orange Helianthus and pink Zinnias in her garden make a perfect spot for her feeder. “The feeder is actually a hummingbird feeder,” says Vultaggio, “but Orioles will feed from it as well.”

 

When To Start Planning a Backyard Retreat

When landscaping firms such as Deck and Patio recommend planning an outdoor retreat before spring arrives, it isn’t self-serving. It is because, if left too late, it may not be possible for a client’s dream backyard to be completed for the year’s outdoor season.

“It’s best to begin in late winter,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. “Beginning early not only allows time to come up with a design plan that isn’t rushed, but it also provides sufficient time to check on local variances and secure permits. Many towns and villages on Long Island, for example, have different codes and requirements, and delays in approval are common.”

Other key parts of the design/bid process, says Dave, include pulling together those needed for every aspect of the project. Starting early ensures each team will be available at the right time to work in a way that doesn’t slow the job down.

Deck and Patio at work

Deck and Patio at work

Choosing the Right Designer/Builder

Choosing the right designer/builder is perhaps the most important decision you have to make when planning your outdoor retreat. Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:

—  Will your design/build firm be using subcontractors and if so, are they licensed and insured? Who will be responsible for any repairs during the warranty?

—  Will your design/builder obtain town codes and zoning information or will you be doing this? Some firms such as The Deck and Patio Company can introduce you to an expeditor to help in the permit process, if required.

—  Take the time necessary to verify the references of your designer/builder and how many workers will be on the site at any given time. Will there be a supervisor there, for example.

—  Review any contracts carefully before signing on. Ensure you have all the warranty information that was promised.

 

Deck and Patio brochure

Deck and Patio brochure

 

“In fact, there are so many important things to consider early in the process that we have created a booklet, “10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Landscape Contractor,” says Dave.

“This brochure spells out in detail a variety of things to be considered before you begin. You can get a copy by stopping by our design center, or just call or email us for one.”

 

 

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Landscape Planning Should Begin in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Even if there’s snow on the ground, a good design/build firm is able to see underneath it to plan an outdoor retreat. “We use surveys and Google Earth, etc. to plan any backyard refurbishment,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

 

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

Planning Landscape Projects in 3-D Animation (Long Island/NY):

As we highlighted in last week’s blog, it is great if your designer/builder can show you through computer animation what your backyard upgrade will look like before you commit to the plan. Everything in this project, including the house (unseen here) patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen and expanded pond were shown clearly in the animation — even the natural gas campfires.

 

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

Home Contractor and Landscaper Cooperation (Long Island/NY):

These homeowners brought Deck and Patio on board early on when they were designing their home. This helped create a seamless integration of the landscape and nature with the home’s architecture — the architect even changed his design of the home’s turret in order ensure views from within would capture the various outdoor vistas. (Note: The town involved had strict setback requirements; we brought our 3-D animated landscaping plan to the town which aided in getting the permit granted quickly.)

 

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

Natural Vanishing Edge Pond (Long Island/NY):

This serenely beautiful vanishing edge pond belies the challenges (town codes/design planning) that were required to bring it all about. Being located on a bluff on a highly regulated area of Long Island’s north shore (Eaton’s Neck), there were lots of regulations regarding building near the cliff’s edge. Deck and Patio came up with a natural vanishing edge pond design instead of a pool which satisfied the code regulations. But it took early planning to not only get permits but to also create the pond’s complex natural biological filtration system that maintains the pond’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Water Features (Long Island/NY):

Planning glorious backyard water features takes time, especially if you want a man-made feature like this to appear as if Mother Nature designed it herself. This requires ordering and installing the perfect-sized rocks and boulders that urge the water to flow in natural spills into either a pond or pondless-reservoir.

 

 

How to Plan a Landscape Garden

 

audrey-hepburn-1405117__480

 

Audrey Hepburn once shared her love of beautiful gardens and landscapes in a television documentary series, “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

The episodes celebrated such delights as tulips and spring bulbs, perennials, flower borders, mixed planting styles, trees,  tropical plants, stroll gardens, etc., and nature in general.

“As landscapers, we draw on the same elements when planning each landscaping project,” says Deck and Patio owner, Dave Stockwell. “It’s just a matter of smaller scale.”

 

 

 

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Deck and Patio Landscape Rendering

The First Step in Designing a Landscape Garden

Whether Deck and Patio is planning the landscape for a water garden, stroll garden, or just landscape borders, we always begin with a detailed plan, says Dave.

“For the initial drawings, we frequently use a property survey and topographical map. From there, we create sketches which eventually turn into a final rendering.”

Dave adds that landscaping plans are often part of a wider project that can include a new patio, deck, swimming pool, pond, spa, or other outdoor living amenities.

 

 

Insert 3Once we get the fixed areas detailed and sketched (home, sheds, cabanas, etc.), including any new hardscapes like a patio or deck, the needs and preferences of our clients are weaved in.

“For example, will they need deer-resistant plants,” says Dave. “How much entertaining do they expect to do — will they require space for adding tables, etc.? How much will they use their property at night? Are they the type to garden on a regular basis themselves, or do they prefer plantings that are low-maintenance?

Sometimes there are young children to consider, so we might plan for a sand box or other play areas, along with sitting areas, contemplative quiet spaces, etc.”

Dave adds that once all this is known: the fun begins:

— Designing seasonal color, texture, fragrance, even fruits, etc. as part of their landscape gardens. Plants can also serve to delineate spaces  within the property as well as define where it ends.

— Sounds are also important, e.g., where should the sound of any fountain be, or a bird house to attract chirpers?

— Plantings, along with moss rock, etc. can add the strength to a natural and beautiful retaining wall.

— Plus groups of plantings to create focal points to sitting areas.

— What water source will be used to maintain the landscape gardens (town water or will they harvest rainwater)?

“Of course, planning for the passage of time is also key. Plants grow differently; some rapidly, some slowly. You need to know how it’s all going to look in six months and a few years down the line.”

 

 

 

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

 

 

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

 

 

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

 

 

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

 

 

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available as well as the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available and the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

 

 

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

 

 

 

 

Ms. Hepburn fell in love with beautiful gardens when living in the English countryside during World War II. She learned that no matter what happens in life, no matter how harsh the winter, spring always comes, and life blooms again.

“At Deck and Patio, we also believe that if you plan your landscape garden well, its ongoing renewal will inspire and uplift all of us, just as it did Ms. Hepburn,” says Dave Stockwell.

 

 

 

 

Proper Snow Removal: How to Keep from Being Snowed In

insert-snowflakeFor obvious reasons, during snow storms, it’s important to keep stairs and walks free of snow and ice. But it’s also critical to ensure water cut offs are accessible and that your driveway is ice and snow free.

If you plan to take care of all this yourself, make sure that your snow blower, generator, roof rake, deicers, etc. are all placed where they can be easily retrieved. Alas, snow and ice storms are occasionally accompanied by a power failure. So do plan ahead, including putting fresh batteries in your carbon monoxide monitor. Also, have emergency telephone numbers near the phone.

 

innoplast-dmDriveway Prep

Even before you hear of any storm approaching, it’s important to “prep” your driveway and walkway by installing fiberglass stakes (sometimes called “plow stakes” or “snow stakes”). Note: wood plow/snow stakes aren’t as strong as fiberglass and can be easily damaged.

Position the stakes to indicate where any costly Belgium Block or other edging could be damaged from snow plows. One end of the stake is pointed for easy insertion in the ground. Also, they come in different colors and you can let a particular color indicate, for example, where a fire hydrant is, the regular curb, your driveway entrance, etc.

If your driveway is straight, you won’t need as many markers. But if it’s curved, it’s important to mark key points at every turn. In addition, if you will be doing the snow removal yourself, chances are you’ll be doing it before or after work, when it’s dark. In this case, consider reflective snow stakes, which, while more costly, can be alternated with less-expensive non-reflective ones. This way, you’ll be sure to see all the important areas.

When placing the stakes, consider placing them further back from the driveway than the 2 inches often recommended. This allows for the opening of car doors, piling of shoveled snow, etc. without dislodging or covering a key stake.

 

 

insert-2Roof Prep

Snow can cause a lot of pressure on your roof. One of the best ways to remove it is with a roof rake, so it’s good to have it readily on hand. Also take a look at your gutters to make sure ice doesn’t dam them up and cause leaking into your home or attic.

Some experts recommend stringing heat cables through them, or on the roof just above the gutters. This should be done, of course, before major snowstorms to avoid any Clark Griswald-like ice rockets from a frozen gutter fail.

 

 

insert-3Snow Blowers, Shoveling

Even an inexpensive snow blower is preferable to shoveling by hand.

But if you are going to shovel, here’s a tip: coat the scoop of the shovel with non-stick cooking spray. Be sure, whether you are using a snow blower or shoveling, to remove the snow in small increments at a time — don’t try to do it all at once.

 

 

 

insert-4Professional Snow Removal

Of course, the easiest way to handle some of this is to contact professionals like Deck and Patio’s Dix Hills Snowplowing.

In speaking with our own Office Manager, Linda LaRose, if you live in our corner of Suffolk County (Huntington/Dix Hills) and wish to have us take care of your snow removal, you can contact us with no obligation (631-549-8100).

Once we hear from you, Linda will email a contract to review and you can always call her with questions before signing on, or incurring any expense. When you make this initial contact, this would be the right time to let us know if you have any special requirements: e.g., early service, service at 1-inch (ours usually begins at 2”), sand service, if garage doors need to shoveled, mail box cleared, etc.

We can also stake the driveway for you, if you ask for it. (Note: For snow removal from roofs, you should contact a roof contractor for their specialized service.)

 

Holiday Gift to You from Our Blog

And as a little gift to all our BLOG readers, below are a two adult coloring pages for you to enjoy during our first big snowstorm:

 

 

Adult Coloring Art-Snowflake: Just click on this piece of artwork, print, then color… or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

 

Adult Coloring Art-Snowflake: Just click on this piece of artwork, print, then color… or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc. (When you click on the snowflake the black background will disappear.)

 

 

 

Adult Coloring Art: If you need to think of Spring at any time during a snow storm, just click on this artwork, print, then color…or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

 

Adult Coloring Art: If you need to think of Spring at any time during a snow storm, just click on this artwork, print, then color…or use your smart pen (stylus) on your iPad etc.

Happy holidays, everyone!!

 

 

Garden Color for Fall and Winter — a ‘Berry’ Good Thing

Around this time last year, our blog highlighted some great ideas for fall/winter garden color in the Northeast. Now that our evenings once again have a chill in the air, we thought it the perfect time to update that information.

unspecifiedThe previous blog included a fairly comprehensive list of what would “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

Red Twig Dogwood

Working with her again, we’re updating the list by highlighting different species of shrubs and have even included a new beauty not on last year’s list at all — the glorious Red Twig Dogwood.

“The Red Twig Dogwood boasts bright red branches that make a very attractive landscape shrub in  winter,” says Vultaggio. “You can cut twigs from the bush to add décor in the home — creating centerpieces and wreathes, etc.”

Chokeberry

Another gorgeous shrub that was actually on last year’s list under “Berries and Seedheads,” but not highlighted with a photo and further info, is the stunning Chokeberry. We also think that it deserves to appear under the list’s heading “Late Season Foliage” because of its lovely red fall foliage.

Plus, during spring, the Chokeberry offers up delightful light pink flowers. Of course, we’re really highlighting it because in winter it provides dramatic color through its berries.

“Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa is native to the northeast,” adds Vultaggio, “so it is a great choice for gardeners looking to plant natives. It also is a host plant to the Coral Hairstreak butterfly, in addition to it’s winter berries providing food for wildlife.”

Winterberry Holly

Another beauty we are highlighting this year is Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata, which happens to be one of Vultaggio’s favorites.

“Also a native, its bright red fruit is eaten by more than 48 species of birds. It is also a good choice for a shaded site,” she says.

 

Red Twig Dogwood:

Red Twig Dogwood:

Making our list for the first time, this bush has a reputation for attracting bluebirds along with other birds and butterflies. It grows as both a perennial and as an ornamental, and will be most enjoyable after about 3 years. Note that it likes partial sun and lots of water so it’s great around water gardens — something Deck and Patio specializes in (ahem), so, naturally, it’s a favorite of ours.

 

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

The beautiful chokeberry requires only medium moisture with full sun to partial shade. And don’t forget its stunning fall foliage.

 

Winterberry:

Winterberry:

This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast. A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more need be said.

 

Callicarpa:

Callicarpa:

In last year’s blog we highlighted the beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa. They begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Skimmia:

Skimmia:

As we wrote last year, “these evergreen shrubs sport bright green leaves and, in spring, bring vibrant white flowers; in fall, they offer up crimson red fruits (berries) that last all through winter and are especially fine in December,” says Vultaggio. “They make great Christmas, holiday, or Thanksgiving hostess gifts “as they are slow growers that are ideal starting out in pots and containers.”  Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia

 

 

By | 2017-01-21T16:34:29+00:00 November 17th, 2016|Ask the Experts, Gardening, Landscaping, Seasonal Landscapes|2 Comments

Preparing Ponds for Winter

 

We are not alarmists at The Deck and Patio Company, but our job requires that we pay attention to credible weather forecasts. And according to Accuweather, the Northeast may be in for an extended snowy winter, stretching into spring of 2017. If you have a backyard pond, there are a few things you can do to get ready for this onslaught.

Pond Fish in Winter

First, let’s deal with the misconception that you can’t leave your fish in the pond during winter months. Actually fish do just fine in winter. They go dormant and hibernate. However, our pond expert, Bill Renter, does add that it’s well to be especially alert to their needs once water starts to freeze. Should ice, for example, completely cover your pond, the fish could become starved for oxygen.

“This can be remedied by ensuring the pond has at least two feet of water for them to swim in,” says Bill. “It’s also key for the water to remain oxygenated by keeping a little hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler, and an aerator. We use products from Aquascapes Inc. — pond experts from St. Charles, Illinois.”

Aquascapes’ designs manager, Gary Gronwick agrees it’s important to use a pond de-icer. “This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“

Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.

These things done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring. The fish do not need to eat during this time and, in fact, shouldn’t be fed at all.

We’ve included in our photo captions below more tips on preparing your pond and fish for winter and how to watch over it all. Happy ponding.

 

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Prepare Ponds in Fall for Winter:

Before winter sets in, carefully look over your plants and remove any dying material. These materials rot and build up poisonous gases that can’t escape through ice when it forms. Such conditions might mean the koi are no longer simply hibernating, but are in a dangerous state of torpor.

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Keeping any waterfalls running during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form. But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.

 

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

Contented Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc)

This pond has been cleared of excessive plant material and ice does not cover over the pond so the fish are happily hibernating.

 

Water Plants in Winter:

Water Plants in Winter:

Hardy water lilies (shown here) that float on the water’s surface and have a short blooming period can withstand the cold winter months nicely. Lotuses also can withstand the cold winter months because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter. Note that frost kills water hyacinths; water lettuce, which fights algae, should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.

 

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

Prepare Pond Fish for Winter:

To be on the safe side, take water temperature regularly once it hits 55 or lower. If your pond jewels are hungry and moving about and you haven’t fed them, they will find something in the pond to eat and soon will be dormant anyway.

 

 Pond Caves for Fish:

Pond Caves for Fish:

Ask your pond designer/builder to create a small cave, or caves, where the fish can hide from predators in warm weather, and where they can also lie dormant during the winter months. Caves are easily made from the way rocks are positioned in and around the pond.

 

 

Fall Maintenance Tips

Fall foliage is glorious. That is until the leaves fall. Indeed, clearing away fallen leaves from key outdoor areas is one of the most important chores you can do this time of year. Here’s some tips from Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell and Bill Renter on fall outdoor maintenance.

 

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Photo: Aquascape, Inc.

 

Tip 1: Tree Trimming:

Before leaves fall, Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter suggests looking up your trees to see if any branches are completely bare of leaves.

“This is a good indicator of what needs to be cut off. Also, look to see if any low-hanging branches are near power lines; trim these so the weight of winter’s ice or snow won’t pull them down into the wiring. Also, falling limbs can result in accidents to people, cars, and homes, so this is an important step in fall maintenance.”

 

 

 

 

 

insert-2Tip # 2:  Leaf Piles Are Unhealthy:

Forgive our paraphrasing an old adage, but when it comes to DIY fall maintenance: Don’t let the leaves fall where they may.  “Too many leaves settled on your grass not only suffocates the lawn below, but piles of damp leaves breed insects and germs,” adds Deck and Patio owner, Dave Stockwell. “However, used correctly, collected leaves do make great compost or mulch.”

Tip # 3 Wet Foliage Can Stain:

“Fallen leaves also have tannin,” adds Bill. “The tannin can stain concrete, pavers and decks. People often don’t realize that it’s preferable to simply remove the leaves than to seal your deck or patio.”

Sealants, Bill explains, need to be regularly redone, which is a lot more maintenance than just getting rid of the leaves. (Indeed, some new deck materials such as Trex Transcend, don’t require sealants and it’s a good idea not to use them at all on these types of decks.)

 

 

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Tip # 4 Fall Pond Maintenance: 

We are nearing peak season for fall foliage here on Long Island and many backyard ponds are positioned near deciduous trees. Even if there aren’t trees hovering immediately around your pond, fallen leaves from nearby trees can also make it into the water.

“It’s advisable, then, if you haven’t already put up netting to catch falling debris, we suggest you tend to that soon in order to maintain your stream or pond’s water. Once all the leaves have dropped, you can pull up the net and get rid of the leaves. You’ll be delighted come spring how much cleaner your water will be and how much less maintenance will be needed.”

 

 

NY’s Central Park in Fall

NY’s Central Park in Fall

If you are fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of deciduous trees, you already know that fall foliage is a beautiful sight. So take your photos of the blazing colors, trek along your favorite orange-and-red-crowned paths, canoe beside vibrant vistas, and sometimes just stop to sit and ponder Nature’s majesty.

Just don’t let the beauty of it all make you forget the above chore tips. Whether you perform them yourself, or call a trusted landscaper, you’ll be happy you did.

 

 

Get Your Heart Pumping with Some Fiery Fall Foliage

 

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When the weather gets cool, some really like it hot…fiery red hot, that is. The heat we’re talking about is blazing red foliage — bursts of color that some find ease the pain of the outdoor season coming to an end.

In fact, experts say the color red goes beyond sensual pleasure. It stimulates the human system — even increasing pulse and heart rates.

 

However, brilliant red foliage outside our very own windows requires planning. To get all the dirt on what trees to plant, we spoke with Angelo Puleo, Nursery Division at Bissett Nursery (Holtsville, NY).

“One of the most popular and widespread deciduous trees that produces bright reds in autumn is the beautiful Maple tree,” says Pueleo. “In particular, we recommend Sugar Maples, and, of course Oaks for great fall red color.”

 

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Note: Be sure to ask experts at an established nursery or landscaping firm which variety of maple, etc. will produce red leaves in fall, as some varieties offer up a blazing yellow instead. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…it’s just for another blog post.

 

Cleveland Select Pear

Cleveland Select Pear

 

 

Puleo also recommends the Cleveland Select Pear for robust color. Like the Oak and Maple, it is also hardy and can withstand most winds and storms, including ice storms — a real plus in our neck of the woods (the Northeast).

“In spring, the Cleveland Select bursts awake in beautiful white flowers, and in the fall, its leaves offer up a deep orangey-red blaze of color,” he says.

 

 

When it comes to smaller trees, Deck and Patio designers often consider Japanese Maples in landscaping plans; red-leafed versions of this beautiful tree offer degrees of red from spring through fall (see last photo). Planting them in early fall allows for new root growth in time for spring.

 

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Another option is the Crape Myrtle tree (immediately below), which, as Puleo admits, is not quite as brilliant as the other trees, but it does offer an attractive reddish-orange color.

In addition, when the Crape Myrtle finishes flowering in fall, it pods-up with berries, and attracts such delightful visitors as the Yellow-rumped Warbler, a sweet little visitor who feeds on these berries after insects are gone.

 

 

 

 Crape Myrtle Tree:

Crape Myrtle Tree:

The Crape Myrtle tree that thrives on Long Island is a hybrid of other Crape Myrtles that flourish in warmer climates such as the Southern United States. Clusters of pink blossoms appear in late spring (shown here) which are so delicate and crinkly they look like they are made of crape paper. In fall, it showcases bright red-orange-y leaves.

 

 

Red Maple in Fall:

Red Maple in Fall:

A beautiful shade tree in summer with brilliant color in autumn, the Red Maple can be planted any time of year, including fall. Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball, place it in the ground, and fertilize and water well, says Angelo Puleo of Bisset Nurseries.

 

 

 Mighty Oak:

Mighty Oak:

The oak grows rapidly, making it an ideal choice. Like all the trees mentioned in this blog post, leave about 10 feet between each one when planting. Note: For those who keep horses, the oak’s acorn and leaves can be toxic to animals such as horses.

 

 

Cleveland Select Pear Tree in Spring:

Cleveland Select Pear Tree in Spring:

This tree brings forth three great seasons of leaves; white blossoms in spring (shown here), lively green leaves in summer and bright reds in fall (see above).

 

 

Bradford Pear Tree: (Photo With Permission: Abrahami):

Bradford Pear Tree: (Photo With Permission: Abrahami):

A close cousin of the Cleveland Select Pear, the Bradford is pictured here as its leaves begin to turn from green to fall-red.

 

 

Japanese Maple Photo With Permission: Wikipedia 松岡明芳):

Japanese Maple Photo With Permission: Wikipedia 松岡明芳):

This beautiful Japanese Maple is native to Japan and other nearby Asian countries such as South Korea. It’s prized for the shape of its leaves and rich red color.

 

So, get your heart pumping every time you walk outdoors come fall. The fiery red scene will so take you away that you’ll forget you’re wearing a jacket.

 

 

 

 

Landscaping Ideas: Ending the Summer Entertaining Season with a Splash of Color

While Labor Day weekend (just two weeks away) is not the end of the outdoor season, it is the last of summer’s three big holiday weekends.

This means you’re probably either planning to host or attend one or more family barbecues, pool parties, summer movie parties, or just plain end-of-summer gatherings. There may be corporate shindigs happening as well. Not to mention kids will be begging for a last sprinkler cool-down with friends.

Those hosting such outdoor festivities have probably been looking over their property’s landscaping, with a view of how the yard will look when entertaining.

Sandra Vultaggio

Sandra Vultaggio

We are happy to report that it’s far from too late to add a splash of color and beauty right now that will last well into Fall. In speaking with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, she offered our readers some great landscaping ideas.

“Late in the season is actually a great time to add some perennials,” says Vultaggio. “And you can usually get good deals on them this time of year.”

As for which ones to look out for, she agreed with the beautiful Honorine Jobert Anemone (aka Windflower) that we showcased on Facebook this week as a great choice to add mid-to-late August.  The Windflower will bloom through October and it prefers shade-to-partial sun, and moist, well-drained soil.

Vultaggio offered several more perennial choices, e.g., Chelone, (aka Turtlehead). “This purple/red flowering plant does well in both shade and sun,” she says. “And Asters, as well as Sedums (the “upright” like Autumn Joy) are also great choices. These prefer sun and are available in many different varieties and shades of pink and purple.” For a sunny yellow option, Vultaggio suggests Solidago (aka Goldenrod) which also prefers full sun.

“I suggest getting them in the ground sooner than later,” she continues, “and because of the drought in the Long Island area, it’s important to soak the root systems thoroughly and keep them very well watered and mulched after planting.”

But what about droughts? Shouldn’t we be considerate and fair in how much water we use? As many of you know, Deck and Patio has a division completely devoted to rainwater harvesting  and we are available to give advice on how best to collect rainwater for use in maintaining water features as well as property landscaping.

“In the meantime, there are things we can do immediately to conserve water for our gardens,” says Vultaggio.

“Think about the water we throw away just when making a pot of pasta. Rather than let it go down the sink, simply let it cool and use it in your garden. The fact that pasta was cooked in the water will not harm your plants. I recommend keeping a bucket for water collection. Put your pasta water there and any leftover water in drinking glasses. Just be mindful of all the water we use that can be conserved. In a recent blog, Gardening in a Drought, I highlighted a variety of ways to ensure a healthy garden despite low precipitation.”

“So don’t feel guilty making a splash this Labor Day weekend with bright plantings around your property,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “Even if you don’t yet have a rainwater collection system, you can nourish your landscape by not wasting household water as outlined by Ms. Vultaggio.”

Below are photos of some ideal plants to add in time for Labor Day. These should add color and beauty well into Fall. And if you aren’t entertaining at home, these would make great hostess gifts. Happy Labor Day wherever you spend it!

 

Anemone Windflower -- or "Honorine Jobert

Anemone Windflower — or “Honorine Jobert

 

 

Chelone or Turtlehead

Chelone or Turtlehead

 

 

Asters

Asters

 

Sedum or Autumn Joy

Sedum or Autumn Joy

 

 

Solidago or Goldenrod

Solidago or Goldenrod