Category Archives: Flower Gardening

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All About Roses: ROSE PRUNING

As rose bushes grow they will need to be maintained so they remain healthy and provide optimal blooms. Rose pruning is the act of trimming and maintaining your rose bushes. Don’t worry that a pruning mistake will ruin the look of your beautiful rose bushes, as they will most likely grow out within a short period of time.

Equip yourself with clean and sharp tools and thick gardening gloves. When you start pruning you’ll want to start at the base of the plant and move your way out and up.  Cuts should be made at 45-degree angles and about ¼ inch above buds facing the outside of the plant.

You will want to remove all stalks that are broken or dead and any diseased or dying wood. Additionally you’ll want to prune to open the center of the plant, which will further provide air (space) and water to the plant.

Pruning is done at various times depending on which gardening hardiness zone you reside. Mostly gardeners will prune in the spring, and a good indicator of proper pruning time is when forsythia is in bloom. Check your hardiness zone information for any variations of pruning you should be aware of.

Rosa 'Zéphirine Drouhin' image via missouribotanicalgarden.org

All About Roses: ROSE VARIETIES

There are over 6,500 rose varieties of the Rose species, which allows gardeners a wide range to choose from. The rose variety, or varieties, you choose to grow should depend mostly on your gardening zone and climate. If you’re not sure which gardening hardiness zone you reside in, check out our January article where you will learn all about defining your zone and what it means for you.

Which varieties should you try? Check out this list of ten popular rose varieties to plant this year:

  1. Carefree Wonder – An award-winning cold hardy that is known for both its excellent disease resistance and season-long blossoms. Be sure to give this shrub a location of full sun.
  2. Iceberg – Generous blooming capabilities and signature pure white petals continue to keep this variety a gardener’s favorite. Use Iceberg roses for decorative use like draping over fences and rock walls.
  3. Knock Out – With a remarkable resistance to disease, this rose variety is a tough flower with a rare almost-immunity to blackspot.
  4. Golden Celebration – Like its name implies, this gorgeous yellow variety offers a sweet honey toned scent. Repeat-blooming, strong disposition, and mid-sized blooms make this variety popular.
  5. The Fairy – Twice wide as it is tall this dense rose plant does well in small gardens. Season long dwarf blooms and a tough hardiness attract this variety to northern gardeners.
  6. Zephirine Drouhin – Thornless stems and strong fragrance showcase this variety as a top contender for social settings. Combined with exceptional climbing skills, these characteristics allow trellises and pergolas to be great homes for the Zephirine Drouhin.
  7. Penelope – With heights reaching 6 feet this variety is a great addition to any garden background. Clusters resembling bouquets create gorgeous focal points.
  8. Gallica – Simple cultivation and semi double pink flowers reward a gardening fan base for the Gallica variety. Color ranges have been seen in white to pink to deep purple.
  9. Alba – A white rose hybrid whose ancestry dates further back than the Roman Empire. Upright schrubs and blue-green foliage combined with white blooms create a pretty addition to any garden.
  10. Fragrant Plum – The name really spells out this variety’s benefits – a gorgeous lavender blush color and a very sweet scent. Growing as a large shrub, about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, make this a great garden focal point.

Have you determined which varieties you’d like to try? Become familiar with your gardening hardiness zone and make sure your chosen variety will manage well with your region’s moisture and temperature averages. Not sure what your hardiness zone is? This Love Your Yard blog post will help!

Image: Rosa ‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ image via MissouriBotanicalGarden.org

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Your Garden Planning: Flower Garden

Planning a flower garden is not so dissimilar than planning a vegetable garden. You’ll want to start by deciding your goals – are you gardening for color, for scent, for a specific theme? Depending on your goal, or goals, you can begin to gather inspiration. We enjoy creating a large “mood board” full of ideas for our garden and appreciate being able to see a visual of what we are hoping to accomplish.

After you have a mental picture of what you’d like to include in your garden you can take it to paper and pencil. Using the Avant Garden Décor Garden Planner you can map out exactly how you’ll want your garden to look, including what patio area, furniture, fountains, and more you’ll have included.

Make a timeline regarding when to plan the various seeds and the approximate amount of time they’ll need until bloom. You will also want to note whether plants are perennials that bloom multiple times in a garden season or if the flower is an annual that can be replaced once its life cycle is complete.

Next, you’ll want to head online or to your favorite local gardening center to stock up on plants and seeds. Some of our favorite online seed shops include:

Finally, using your timeline and garden tools you’ll want to get started! All your planning hard work will pay off when you can bring your drawings and inspiration to life on your very own property.

Take photos of your planning process for us and share with our community on Facebook. We can’t wait to see them!

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Seed Paper Ornament Instructions

Seed Paper Ornaments are the perfect holiday tree accessory turned garden planter!

Take colorful scrap paper and tear into pieces. Place the paper pieces in your blender and cover with enough water to create a pulp. Blend the paper using a pulse setting. Remove the pitcher from the blender and add wild flower seeds. You’ll want to use the large spoon to blend the seeds in, not the blender itself.

Place a fine mesh colander in your sink and pour the paper pulp to drain. On a flat service place a towel underneath a large piece of felt. Pour the drained paper pulp contents on to the felt and, using your hands, spread evenly into a thin layer. Take a second towel and lay over the thin layer of paper pulp. Dab gently to soak up excess water. Remove the towel and allow the layer of seed paper to dry over night.

The next day, when the seed paper is dried and ready to be shaped, choose which shapes you’d like. Cut the seed paper into stars, flowers, and other shapes to be used as ornaments. Punch a hole in the shape and create a loop for hanging using Gardener’s Blue Ribbon® twine. To distribute, place on Christmas trees of friends or family or add it to a holiday card with instructions to use!

Seed paper ornaments can be placed in the ground in spring and watered to bloom wild flowers in the garden!

Image via CraftIdeasWeekly.com.

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Year-Round Composting

Although our gardens are not highly dynamic during the winter, a great amount of activity occurs below the surface. This is important to keep in mind when composting through cold winter months, as you will want to replenish and build up your stock of nutrients for the gardening season to come!

Remember that compost is the mixture of decaying organic matter that is used to improve soil and provide nutrients. The decomposition process does slow down in winter due to low temperatures, but an essential core of heat helps the process to continue.  Microbes and good bacteria in the compost pile account for a majority of the decomposing, and the decomposition gives off heat – so the process helps itself.

If you find that your compost pile is not keeping, or producing, enough heat try adding some nitrogen rich substances, like chicken or rabbit manure, to the pile. Nitrogen generates heat and will create a solid foundation for over-winter compost.

Not sure what all can be composted? Remember that more than 25% of the typical household’s waste is yard trimmings and food scraps that are compostable. Fall leaves and pine needles, corn stalks, dryer lint, eggshells, and seaweed are all compostable items you may find in use at your home.

Check out an overview of composting, and vital stats to get familiar with, in this composting infographic courtesy of Avant Garden Décor!

Repelling Animals from Your Garden

Repelling Animals

The damage may vary, but there are similarities on how to keep animals from spending time in your garden. Two common options are exclusion and repellents.

Exclusion is an easy tactic to keep your garden from falling victim to hungry animals. Fencing is an effective option for all critters that venture where they are not wanted. Putting up chicken wire or hardware cloth gets the job done. Be sure to place it two to three feet high (so a rabbit standing on its hind legs cannot reach the plant being protected) and bury it two to three inches into the ground.

You may also opt to use an electrified exclusion method. Use an electrical fence kit made for garden protection to deliver a small but memorable shock to any animal that’s looking for an easy meal.

Repellents using powerful scent and taste deterrents work to irritate the animal immediately when it smells, touches, or tastes your plant. This unpleasant experience drives the animal away unharmed and encourages them to not return to the treated area.

Common ingredients used in repellents include oil of black pepper, piperine, and capsaicin. These ingredients, combined with a brand’s recipe, work by immediately irritating nuisance animals after they smell, taste or touch areas that are treated with the solution. To humans, it would be like eating a hot pepper on steroids. The unpleasant, peppery experience is one the animal will remember and won’t want to occur again.

When using repellents, be sure to employ a formula that is OMRI Listed and compliant with organic gardening. These substances will be on or around your fruits and vegetables and can be washed off your crops when you’re ready to eat them.

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Attract Birds with Hanging Baskets

Themed gardens are a popular among gardeners. There are tons of themes that can be put to use, but one of the most common is a garden to attract birds. A hanging basket garden designed to do so will allow you an up close and personal look at your feathered friends.

A few plants to include in your basket are:

  • Zinnias – birds appreciate the seeds from this bright purple flower
  • Bee Balm – hummingbirds appreciate these purple pom pom shaped blooms
  • Aster – any variety of this common flower will beautify your baskets
  • Cornflower – enjoy a gorgeous pop of color with this bright blue flower
  • Coral Bells – a gorgeous flowing pink plant that will add texture and length to your baskets

It is important to make sure your hanging basket is located in a place where birds will not feel threatened. For instance, if you have cats at your house you shouldn’t place a bird-friendly basket in a location where cats can’t bat at birds or attempt to jump at them. Birds will not visit the basket if they feel that their safety may be compromised.

Which plants will you use to create your bird themed basket? Share with our community by commenting on this post or visiting our Facebook wall!

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Why Line Your Hanging Baskets?

Hanging baskets are just that – a type of basket. The use of baskets provides lots of open space for adequate air circulation and sets the stage for proper drainage. With that in mind, it is important to line your hanging basket with materials that will help keep the soil, plants, and roots protected, in addition to keeping water from just pouring through.

There are a few options that work well for lining your baskets. Some gardeners use moss to line their hanging baskets. Other gardeners turn to coco and pre-manufactured liners that are made to fit a certain size basket.

Coco liners have a long and interesting history. They are fabricated from the shell, or outer covering of a coconut, hence the name coco liner. The first steps of the coco liner’s production are primarily done in Sri Lanka and Indonesia where the hull is shredded into fibers and baled. These bales are shipped to China where they are dried, sprayed with pesticides and latex, and then cut into squares for easy handling so they can be molded into the shape of baskets.  The molding process also involves additional latex spraying. It is a highly manual process involving unnecessary chemicals.

Until recently, these textured and messy liners were the only option available on the market. The EcoLiner™ has changed the hanging basket liner landscape with its durability, performance, and eco-friendly construction.

What is EcoLiner™:

CobraCo® has developed a solution that dramatically outperforms the coco liner. Meet EcoLiner. EcoLiner is a paper mache liner; fabricated from recycled corrugate. The benefits of using EcoLiner in your hanging baskets include:

  • Biodegradable materials; without the chemicals used in coco liner production
  • Twice the moisture retaining capability of a coco liner
  • Reduced effort required to maintain plants – less watering on your part
  • Resists fading caused by sunlight due to natural colorfast pigment dye

EcoLiner is truly better for your plant, better for you, and better for the earth. Made with a paper mache material that starts with recycled cardboard to create a slurry, EcoLiner®’s material is not the art class paper mache you’re familiar with. This mixture is made with biodegradable ingredients necessary to create durability and moisture retaining features of EcoLiner. With this proprietary formula, EcoLiner can be made in just about any shape or color you can imagine!

Using a liner for your basket will save you time and water and will help the longevity and health of your plants. CobraCo® plant liners are available at your local garden center or can be purchased online in our Plant Liner Shop!

Garden Mulch

Mulching 101

When we think of the word mulch we tend to envision brown, bark-like material applied to a flowerbed, but did you know mulch exists in many forms? Let’s explore why mulch benefits your gardens and what options are available for your home and budget.

Applying mulch to your garden reduces weed growth, which will have a beneficial impact on your plants. Weeds deplete soil of nutrients and moisture when they grow and therefore limit the supply to the plants you want in your garden. They also have the ability to choke the root systems of your plants and cause them to die.

Water evaporation is slowed significantly from soil when mulch is applied. Watering a flowerbed that is mulched will result in up to 50% less evaporation than one that is uncovered. Mulch that is applied shortly after new plantings can increase the ground’s moisture and promote healthier root growth.

Various types of mulch are available for your garden. You may be familiar with:

  • Shredded bark mulch – an inexpensive and easy-to-find option
  • Pine bark nuggets – does not break down as easily as other mulches, but also don’t stay in place as well
  • Wood chips – often a free option from local tree trimmers. Be sure to find out if the source tree had poison ivy to prevent infecting your garden.
  • Cocoa hull mulch – A fine texture and rich color make this non-fading mulch a favorite for gardeners, although it is one of the most expensive
  • Did you also know you can use alternative natural materials as mulch? Consider using:
  • Grass clippings – a cheap and readily available material
  • Decaying leaves – helps to retain more moisture than average mulch
  • Compost – a material that will supply your garden with an abundance of healthy nutrients as it breaks down
  • Hay – although cheap and easy to apply, it is less ornamental than other mulch options
  • Rubber (shredded reusable materials) – extremely long lasting but does not provide any nutrients to the soil
  • Decorative Stone – a very long-lasting option that also holds heat or stays cold much longer than alternative mulch materials

Whether you use a traditional or nonconventional material for mulching your garden, your plants will appreciate you taking steps to keep them well-watered. With benefits like less weeds and a more uniformed looking garden, what are you waiting for? Get started this weekend!

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Dig In! – Get Kids Involved with Gardening

Gardening is a constant learning experience. Whether it is a planning, planting, maintaining, or harvesting phase there is always something to learn. Kids can benefit hugely from being involved in your next garden, plus it is a wonderful experience to share as a family.

Delegate Tasks

Children appreciate having a sense of purpose. It builds their self-esteem and gives them confidence. Make a list of duties for your kids to complete in the garden. Simple tasks like weeding, watering, or picking ripe tomatoes is a great way to get started with the simple, but necessary facets of caring for plants.

Complete Research

Take this educational experience to the next level by researching the plants you’ll grow. Give your children points of information to collect such as:

  • Planting times and harvesting times
  • Time to maturation
  • Amount of water and sunlight recommended
  • Uses for the plant (i.e. herbs, medicinal, etc.)
  • Is it a perennial, biannual, etc.?

Get to Know the Visitors

Take time to observe who is visiting your yard and gardens. Are certain animals attracted to your plants? Are butterflies or hummingbirds drawn to a specific flower? Take note of these with your children and look into why they are fans of one plant over another.

You also have the option to plant gardens with attracting certain animals in mind. A butterfly garden, or garden to attract hummingbirds, is an excellent way to create a learning theme for your kids. They can plan the plants in advance, care and maintain them, and study the behaviors of certain animals.

Connect with Nature

Kids today more than ever are spending more time indoors in front of screens, whether it is a computer, tablet, or tv. Get them outside and digging in the dirt. Fresh air in their lungs, fresh dirt between their toes, and the smells and sights of a garden are beneficial to everyone, especially young folk.

Not only will the educational experience and time outdoors benefit your kids, but so will the memories your family is sure to make while spending time in the garden together.