April E-News from Viette's                                Volume 10: No. 4

Lori Jones, Editor                                                                                            April/2014

Spring at Viette's
Happy Spring!

April is a wonderful time to be out working in the garden.

Plant a new tree or shrub,
prepare a new perennial bed,
plant your potatoes, but don't get
too ambitious and set out your
tender annuals or tomato plants,
there are bound to be some
cold nights still ahead of us!
Quick Links
Plant of the Month
Viburnum flowers are often sweetly fragrant.
The flowers of the sweetly
scented Viburnum carlesii 
Viburnum spp.
Beautiful spring blooming shrubs
The viburnums are an extremely diverse group of shrubs and small trees that includes over 150 different species and many amazing cultivars. In the words of the great plantsman Michael Dirr,
"A garden without a viburnum is akin to life without music and art."
They are that good!

With the diversity of species and cultivars available, you can find a viburnum to fit almost any space. They range in size from the dwarf cultivars such as Viburnum opulus 'Nanum' which grows only about 2' tall to small trees like V. sieboldii which can reach up to 30' tall. Many are in the 5' to 15' range.  
Viburnum cassiniodes
V. cassinoides has flat-topped flower clusters

In the Garden
Though the viburnums are most known for their lovely spring bloom, they are beautiful through all seasons and make wonderful shrubs for the landscape. They have attractive foliage through the summer and come fall, many cultivars display colorful foliage in beautiful shades of red, deep burgundy, and purple. The fruit that develops in the late summer and fall adds more color to the landscape and also provides tasty treats for the wild birds.  
Colorful fruit of V. lantana
Colorful fruit of V. lantana;
Haruta Ovidiu, University of Oradea,
The Spring Flowers
Spring and early summer is when Viburnum really shines. Beautiful clusters of flowers range in color from white to blush pink to rosy pink. Many species like the Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii) and V. x burkwoodii 'Mohawk', have incredibly sweet smelling flowers. These are a delight in the spring when their lovely fragrance wafts through the air. Heavenly! The fragrant varieties should be planted near a deck, porch, patio, or window so you can enjoy their sweet fragrance while they are blooming.
Fragrant Viburnum x carlcephalum
Viburnum x carlcephalum has a wonderful fragrance.


The flower clusters range in size from small, 1" diameter blooms to the huge, round, hydrangea-like inflorescences of Viburnum macrocephalum which can be up to 8" in diameter. Some viburnum flowers, like those of V. plicatum var. tomentosum, resemble the flowers lacecap hydrangea with flat-topprd clusters of tiny fertile flowers surrounded by a ring of showy open petals. Such a wonderful diversity in this group of plants!

Viburnum macrocephalum flowers
V. macrocephalum has flower clusters up to 8" wide.

Colorful Fall Berries
Another burst of color comes in the late summer when the fruit of most viburnums turns a beautiful, striking red or pink which then often matures to rich black or bluish-black color in the fall. This combined with their colorful fall foliage provides a spectacular show!
Viburnum marcocephalum in the garden
V. macrocephalum in full bloom.
Viburnums can be planted in full sun to light shade. They prefer moist, well-drained soil but many species are adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions.
Fertilize in the fall and early spring with a quality organic fertilizer like Espoma Plant-tone or Holly-tone.
Prune summer flowering varieties in late winter. Prune evergreen species and spring bloomers in the spring after they finish blooming. When you prune viburnums, prune to maintain an attractive shape. Remove wayward stems, weak branches, crossing branches, and any dead or broken branches.
The taller varieties can be trained to a multi-trunked tree by choosing a few of the strongest stems and cutting the rest to the ground. Remove the lower branches on the remaining trunks up to the height you desire. Keep pruning out any lower branches and stems that may pop up at the base of the tree.
Most viburnums are hardy in zones 4-8.    
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More About Mulch
Majestic oak
Proper Mulching Protects Garden Beds
Any substance that is used as a top dressing for soil to enhance the root environment of plants is considered a mulch. This includes gravel, rocks, and rubber mulches as well as more traditional organic materials like shredded bark and pine needles. Though rocks and rubber mulches are long-lasting and make adequate mulches, these mineral and synthetic mulches do not contribute beneficial organic matter to the soil like organic mulches do when they breakdown.
Many soil amendments such as mushroom compost, composted manure, and grass clippings are also used as mulch. Although these organic materials do provide nourishment to the soil, they decompose too quickly to help retain moisture and moderate soil temperature.
Shredded bark mulch; Andrew Koeser, International Society of Arboriculture,
Shredded bark makes a good organic mulch.
The best plant mulches are shredded pine bark, pine needles, or hardwood bark. Not only do they look attractive, but they allow water and oxygen to get through, they breakdown slowly, add organic matter to the soil, and they do not cause mineral deficiencies in the soil.
Most plants benefit from a cover of mulch, however, some perennials, such as peonies, delphiniums, and iris should not be mulched close to the crown as this can lead to rotting. Instead, make a habit of mulching only the root zone of the plants - do not push the mulch right up against the stems.
Mulch volcano; Gary Watson, Morton Arboretum,
Mulch volcanoes can kill trees as evidenced here.
Avoid "mulch volcanoes" around your trees!
This practice is seen a lot in landscaping and is one of the worst things you can do to a tree!
Mulch should be kept at least 3" away from the base of your trees.

The trunk and root flare should be left exposed to prevent
moisture from being trapped against the bark. Excess moisture around the bark can cause cankers and splits that could allow disease and pests to attack. Apply the mulch over the root zone (out to the drip line) but taper the mulch to about 1" as you approach the base of the tree and stop at least 3" from the trunk.
Gardening Questions?
Andre  answers a listener's question during a broadcast of 'In the Garden' 
Listen to Andre on the radio every
Saturday morning
from 8:00-11:00 on
"In the Garden
with Andre Viette"
or listen live from our flagship station WSVA.

You can also listen to podcasts.  


Viette Discussion Board
Having trouble getting through on the radio?
isit our Discussion Board for answers to your gardening questions. Use the convenient search key to see if we have already addressed your problem!


Don't see the answer?


Post your question!


It's EASY, just register as a member.  


Don't forget to tell us where you live (city and state) so we can provide a more accurate answer to your question.  


Tip of the Month
Summer Garden at Viette's
Planning the Perfect Perennial Garden 


There are many great tips for growing and maintaining an outstanding perennial garden. Some of the best involve ...
  • Choosing the best plants for your conditions
  • Creating the best "environment" for your plants
  • And most importantly, choosing quality plants 

Know your site conditions

Is your garden area in sun or shade? 
  • Hosta are great companions with other beautiful shade perennials.
    There are many beautiful perennials for the shade 
    Sun - at least six hours of direct, intense sunlight any time between 10am and 6pm
  • Light (Bright) Shade - you can see your shadow.
  • Semi-shade - two hours of direct sun or dappled all day sun; indirect sun resulting from heavy tree canopy.

Remember -

  • Warm morning sun and afternoon shade = Shade (choose shade plants)
  • Morning shade and hot afternoon sun = Sun 
    (choose sun plants)
Pay attention to microclimates
Taking advantage of the different microclimates that exist on your property will allow you to expand and diversify your landscape plan.
Prepare your soil "just right"
As I mentioned in my March newsletter, most of the nutrients needed for the growth and development of plants are absorbed from the soil by the roots. Over the seasons, these soil nutrients become depleted and must be replenished or our garden plant health will decline.
  • Creating a new garden bed from scratch requires some extra preparation.  
    • Taking time to amend the soil at this point will go a long way toward the establishment of a superior perennial garden with beautiful blooms and luxurious foliage.
    • Follow the Viette recommendations for starting a new garden bed.
  • What about my established perennial bed? 
    • If your garden soil was prepared correctly at the outset, a spring and fall application of Espoma Plant-tone (sun gardens) and Holly-tone (shady gardens) according to the rate recommended on the bag should normally be all you need. 
    • Every 3-4 years supplement your bed with additional rock phosphate (or triple phosphate for shade gardens) and green sand at the rate recommended on the bag. 
  • Adding new perennials to an existing bed 
    • Get your new plants off to a good start by amending the planting hole with Plant-tone or Holly-tone, rock phosphate (or triple phosphate), and green sand. 
    • Watch Mark's video tip on amending the planting hole for your new perennials.  
Choose the very best quality plants
Healthy potted perennial
Healthy, vigorous Astilbe
Starting off with healthy plants will make your garden shine! Learn how to choose the very best plants!
  • Plants that are full and have a good root system will thrive in the good garden soil you have created for them.
  • Always purchase your plants from a reputable garden center. These stores have more invested in their plants and will spend more time caring for them and watering them.
  • Watch Mark's video tip on choosing good plants. 
Did You Know?
Spring garden 
Mulching your garden beds and garden paths dramatically reduces garden maintenance    
Mulch gives a finished look to your bed while it conserves water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps the soil at a more constant temperature - good stuff!

The best mulches for garden use are those that are slow to breakdown, stay in place, and allow good water and air penetration to the soil. Using a long-lasting mulch will save you time and labor!

Benefits of mulching your gardens
  • Mulching conserves soil moisture. A 2"-3" cover of mulch forms a protective layer over the soil that slows the evaporation of water and keeps prevents the soil from drying out too quickly. This saves water by significantly reducing the amount of water required and the frequency of irrigation.
  • Mulching greatly helps with weed control. In general, weed seeds that drop on mulch are less likely to germinate. You will find that the time you spend weeding your beds will be greatly reduced. Mulches that breakdown quickly will act as soil for weed seeds and are not as effective for weed suppression.
  • Mulching moderates soil temperature. A layer of mulch will help maintain a more constant soil temperature. Summer soil temperatures will be significantly lower in a mulched garden bed that one with just bare soil.
  • Mulching with an organic mulch improves soil structure. As organic mulches breakdown, they add organic matter back into the soil. This improves the soil not only by adding nutrients to the soil, but also increasing the water and nutrient holding capacity of your soil.
  • Mulch puts an attractive finishing touch to the garden!
Do it right! 
There are many benefits to mulching your gardens but it is important that you do it correctly. Over-mulching or using the wrong type of mulch can be detrimental to your garden. 
  • Mulch should be applied to a total depth of 2"-3". If you are replenishing mulch on an existing bed, be careful not to over-mulch - the 2"-3" layer should include any mulch still present on the garden.
  • Over-mulching can cause soil compaction which reduces aeration of the soil and keeps the soil too moist. This can lead to root rot and other disease problems.
  • Pine needle mulch
    Pine needle mulch
    Pine mulches
    , which include pine bark, shredded pine bark, or pine needles (a.k.a. pine straw), are the longest lasting natural mulches. These mulches can last 14 months.
    A common misconception is that pine mulches will lower the pH of (acidify) your soil. Research has shown that this is not the case. In order to affect the pH significantly, a mulch has to breakdown quickly. Pine mulch breaks down slowly and the change in soil pH is negligible.
  • Hardwood bark mulches are good but do not last as long as the pine mulches.
  • Wood chips, such as you might get from chipping trees and branches, are not a good garden mulch. These are mainly composed of heartwood and sapwood which break down quickly and rob the soil of nitrogen as they decompose. If you use wood chips you will need to add replenish the nitrogen by adding extra fertilizer to the bed.
  • Raked leaves are great for the compost pile but not the best as a mulch because they mat down blocking soil and water penetration to the soil and can smother your plants. Shredded leaves breakdown too quickly and make a great place for the germination of weed seeds.
  • Straw is also quick to breakdown and is often filled with grain seeds that will sprout throughout your garden.
Early spring is a great time to mulch your beds. 
Mulching in the spring before your perennials and bulbs come up makes the whole process much easier! Beds can be mulched later but it takes more time to work around your plants.        
Be sure to put down your spring application of fertilizer before you apply your mulch.
Watch Mark's video tips on proper mulching, tips for mulching spring bulbs, and what to do if your plants are damaged by your mulch.   
Andre is On the Road this Month!
Saturday, April 5th & Sunday, April 6th
The 28th Annual Daffodil Festival  
Main Street, Gloucester, Virginia 
Andre VietteJoin Andre for an informative gardening talk on Saturday, 
April 5th at 1:00 pm
"Everything You Need To Know
To Have the Very Best Garden"
Andre will discuss lawns, trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables, insect and disease problems, garden maintenance, and creating new gardens. Following the lecture, Andre will be happy to answer your gardening questions.
Andre's talk will be held in the Colonial Courthouse.
Click for more information about the Daffodil Festival 
Saturday, April 12 - 1:00pm
The Great Big Greenhouse - Richmond, VA 
Made Easy"


Beautiful summer gardens at Viette's Simple solutions to have a picture perfect garden.

Andre will talk about some simple gardening practices that will help you grow beautiful flowers, delicious vegetables, lush lawns, and bountiful fruit crops. He will discuss ways to deal with different plant issues including how to control pesky insects and diseases in your flower beds, vegetable garden, orchard, lawn, or container garden. Andre will also provide tips on lawn care, including fertilizing, watering, and weed control.

Come armed with your plant problems - Andre can help with some simple, easy to understand solutions.


Come armed with your plant problems - Andre can help with some simple, easy to understand solutions.

Great Big Greenhouse is located at: 
2051 Huguenot Road, Richmond, VA 23235   
Phone: (804) 320-1317  Click for details! 


Andre's appearance brought to you by Bonide 

Saturday, April 26 - 1:30pm
Merrifield Garden Center - Gainesville, VA
"The Exciting World of Perennials"
Here's a great chance to hear Andre, an accomplished perennial grower, radio host, author, and lecturer. He'll inform and inspire you with great ideas to incorporate into your own garden. 
Garden Center, Gainesville is located at:

6895 Wellington Road, Gainesville, VA

Phone: (703) 368-1919  Click for details! 


Andre's appearance brought to you by Bonide 


If you enjoy our newsletter, please pass it along to your gardening friends!


On the Viette's Views Gardening Blog 

Daffodil foliage pokes out of the snow 03-17-2014 20:58:04 PM

What happened to spring? The day before yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, 63o day and then less than 24 hours later, the temperature tumbled and it started snowing! This morning we were buried in over 6" of snow! CRAZY! I guess winter wasn't quite done with us yet. Actually the precipitation started out as rain [...]...�


mason bee house 03-14-2014 19:08:32 PM

Who are they? They are great little native bees called orchard mason bees or blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria) and they are one of the most prolific pollinators of early spring flowers. These bees, which are native to the US, are solitary bees. They don't have a complex social system or live in hives like [...]...�


American beech retains leaves through most of winter. 03-07-2014 16:01:04 PM

Last November, I wrote about why the leaves of deciduous trees drop in the fall. Now as I survey the trees in our woods and around the yard, I am reminded that a few deciduous trees hang on to some or all of their leaves through the winter. Our little Japanese maple and many of [...]...�

April Lawn Tips!
Weeds, insects, and disease can quickly turn a beautiful lawn into an eyesore. The best defense against these problems is to maintain a healthy, vigorous lawn by keeping your grass adequately fertilized, properly watered, and mowed at the correct height. Here are some tips to get your lawn off to a great start and to keep it that way ... 
A healthy lawn starts with a good fertilizing program. Feeding not only results in lovely, thick green grass but it also encourages the development of a dense root system that penetrates deep into the soil. Grass with deep roots is better able survive drought conditions because the long roots can tap into water that is available deeper below the soil surface.  
Espoma Organic Lawn Program
The Espoma Company has recently developed a simple annual organic lawn feeding program. This program involves four applications over the season, each one formulated specifically for the time of season it is put down; early spring, late spring, summer, and fall. Each step in the program puts down the nutrients that are required at that particular time. The nutrients are available in an all organic, slow release formulation that feeds slowly over time. And since they are not water soluble, they won't wash out during a rain storm or when you water. 
he new Espoma all organic lawn feeding program produces a beautiful, lush lawn that stays green longer with fewer fertilizer applications while also maintaining a healthy soil environment. The program includes Espoma's Bio-tone microbes which add all important mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial bacteria to the soil. 

To Lime or Not to Lime  
The ideal soil pH for turfgrass is around 6.5.  
In the Shenandoah Valley, our limestone based soils are naturally alkaline and may not require a yearly application of lime - in fact they may need to have the pH lowered!
Have your soil tested just to be sure. Your local extension office can help you with the soil test. 
The pH of your lawn soil should be adjusted when the grass is not in full active growth.

Henbit is a common lawn weed
Controlling lawn weeds  
Keeping your lawn healthy and mowed at the proper height is the best way to discourage lawn weeds. Mow high! Grass mowed to a height of 3" to 3�" will both shade out and crowd out most lawn weeds. However, sometimes you need a little help to control some of the more persistent weeds that invade your lawn.
  • Have trouble with crabgrass and other broadleaf weeds like dandelions? Apply a pre-emergent broadleaf herbicide before the petals on the forsythia drop to help control them.  
    • The first step in Espoma's new organic lawn program contains corn gluten meal as a pre-emergent and can be applied February through April. Read and follow label directions.
  • Wild onion and wild garlic come up from small bulbs.
    Wild onion and wild garlic come up from small bulbs.
    Have wild onion and other weeds like henbit, creeping charlie, or speedwell springing up everywhere? Apply a post-emergent weed killer when they are actively growing.  
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