January E-News from Viette's                        Volume 10: No. 1

Lori Jones, Editor                                                                                         January/2014

  Welcome to Viette's!
Happy New Year
from Your Friends
at Viette's!

Here's to a great year
full of good gardening weather, beautiful blooms, and bountiful gardens!

Be sure to plan a visit to our
nursery and gardens this spring
for some exciting new ideas for
your 2014 gardens! 
Quick Links
Plant of the Month
Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Panicum 'Northwind' - Photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden
2014 PPA
"Plant of the Year"
Each year members of the Perennial Plant Association choose an outstanding perennial to be their "Perennial Plant of the Year". This year, the beautiful, upright growing switch grass, Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' was selected. This attractive ornamental grass provides a lovely vertical effect in the sunny garden.
Panicum 'Northwind' was introduced in the early 1990s by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm. Its upright growth form is unusual among switch grasses which normally have a more arching growth habit. It grows from 4 feet to 6 feet tall with the flower stalks.
'Northwind' has beautiful blue-green foliage which matures to a brilliant golden color in the fall. This striking ornamental grass can be used as a beautiful accent plant in the garden or it can be planted en masse to create an attractive screen. It also is perfect for planting along a stream or pond. 
Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Golden yellow fall foliage

Delicate, airy flowers 
One of the finest attributes of Panicum is the billowy panicles of flowers that appear in the late summer. While some cultivars produce "clouds" of tiny silvery pink or purplish flowers, 'Northwind' is topped with delicate panicles of yellow flowers. The seed heads mature to a light tan in the fall and persist into the winter creating a beautiful accent in the winter garden.
Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Panicum 'Northwind' is a beautiful accent plant even in winter.
Panicum 'Northwind' tolerates a wide range of soils from dry, sandy soil to clay soil. It can even stand periods of wet soil which makes them an excellent choice for incorporation into a rain garden. This grass performs best when planted in full sun but will tolerate some light shade. As with most taller ornamental grasses, though, it can become a bit floppy if grown in too much shade. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
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Mark Viette
Join Mark Viette at the MAC Events Home & Garden Show

A little bit of Spring in the midst of a cold winter! 

MAC Events Home & Garden Show
February 7th - 9th
Three days full of great ideas for your home and garden including remodeling solutions, landscaping ideas, the latest in interior design trends, and ideas to make your home more environmentally friendly! 
ll under one roof at
the Greater Richmond Convention Center!
Save Time & Money!
Begin your home project in one place and save yourself loads of time by meeting various types of companies in one convenient location. Speak with dozens of businesses that provide a huge variety of products and services for your home.
Home Improvements

Meet many top home improvement professionals offering products and services for your home including kitchen cabinetry, air conditioning and heating systems, security systems, hardwood floors, custom closets, plumbing, insulation, painters and so much more!
Home & Landscaping Improvements

Looking to spice up the curb appeal of your home or creating the backyard oasis you've always wanted? We've got experts for landscaping, siding, roofing, decks, outdoor patios, pools and spas, fencing, awnings, pavers, garden design, ponds and so much more!
Trees in Winter
Trees are beautiful through all seasons but in winter they have a special, often overlooked beauty.

In 1913, Joyce Kilmer wrote his popular poem, "Trees".  
"I think that I shall
              never see 
A poem lovely as a
              tree. ..."
I find it interesting that the poem was written in early February - a time when the leafless trees would have been his inspiration.  
Last winter I wrote 2 blog posts that were inspired by the beauty of the bare trees in winter.
Perhaps worth a second read on a cold winter day?
Tip of the Month
Tips for January 


Spring Bulbs:
If you have leftover bulbs that didn't get planted in the fall, get them in the ground this month if the soil is workable!

  • Frost heaving
    Soil freeze and thaw caused these late planted Siberian iris to heave 
    Check your perennial beds for signs of heaving. If plants have heaved, heel them back in.
  • If you needed to cut lower branches off your Christmas tree, lay them over your perennial beds as a winter mulch.
  • Take some time on those snowy winter evenings in front of the fire or under a warm blanket to read your gardening books and catalogs. These are great places to get great new ideas for your perennial gardens and landscaping.
Vegetable Gardening:
  • Tomatoes are one of the most popular garden vegetables to grow. Start planning your vegetable garden. Look through your seed catalogs and online and start making a list of the seeds you need and pick some new varieties to try this year. Then don't forget to place your order!
  • In mapping out the plan for your vegetable garden this year, remember to rotate your crops to minimize soil-borne pests and diseases.
  • Order seed starting supplies if necessary. Be sure to use a high quality sterile seed starter mix.
Beautiful white phalenopsis orchid Fertilizing
  • In fall and early winter when there is little or no growth, fertilize at every fourth watering.
  • When plants are blooming & actively growing or after Jan 15th, fertilize at every second watering.
Have your lawn mower serviced and the blades sharpened now during the slow season. That way you will be ready to roll in spring!

Trees and Shrubs:
  • This is a wonderful time to look through books and catalogs to consider some new trees and shrubs to enhance your landscape.
  • Prune branches that become damaged by snow and ice storms. Wait until the snow or ice melts off naturally. Do not try to remove the snow as you may cause more damage tot he plant. This is especially important with a buildup of ice. Click for more tips on dealing with snow and ice damage. 
  • This is a good time to cut down dead or injured trees. Use the wood from deciduous trees for firewood. 
Did You Know?
Spreading Wood Ashes in the Garden 
A cozy fire is so pleasant on a winter's evening.A toasty warm fire in the fireplace or wood stove is a great comfort on cold winter days but what can be done with the wood ashes that accumulate over the winter season?
A common question that we get this time of the year is whether or not it's a good idea to spread these wood ashes in the garden.
The answer is ... it depends.
In many circumstances, wood ashes can be very beneficial to lawns and gardens by providing important nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and some trace elements to the soil. Good stuff, right?
Well - not so fast! 
Whether or not it is beneficial to YOUR garden depends a lot on the makeup of your soil and even what you are growing in the garden. 
You see, wood ashes are quite alkaline and unless they are used carefully, they can significantly raise the pH of your garden soil. This might be okay if your soil tends to be naturally acidic but for areas where the soil tends to be more alkaline like here in the Shenandoah Valley,
wood ashes can raise the pH to the point that it becomes detrimental to many garden plants.
Maintaining proper pH levels in your soil is as important to the overall health of your plants as fertilizing, watering, and pest control. Why?
Blueberries require acidic soil to perform their best.
Blueberries require acidic soil to perform their best.

Soil pH affects nutrient availability
for one thing. Certain nutrients like iron, copper, and aluminum become less available to plants in alkaline soils and other nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus become less available in moderately acidic soils.
The optimum pH for most garden plants is between 6.0 and 6.5 which is slightly acidic. Certain plants, however, prefer more extreme pH conditions. Shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and blueberries prefer a more acidic soil; between 4.5 and 6.0. That's why we often have a hard time growing beautiful, lush rhodies and azaleas in the Shenandoah Valley unless we add a soil acidifier; our limestone-based soil has a naturally high pH.
Before you spread any wood ashes on your lawn or in your vegetable or flower gardens, have your soil tested - at least for pH but knowing the nutrient content would be helpful, too.
Wood ashes provide potassium and other nutrients but can raise the pH of the soil.
Ashes provide good nutrients but can raise the soil pH.
If your soil is low in potassium, wood ashes can provide this important nutrient but in general, it isn't advisable to spread wood ashes in your garden if your soil pH is above 7.0 and you definitely should never spread them around acid loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas, and blueberries.
For use on the lawn, wood ash works much like lime except that it is more water soluble and thus works more quickly to change the soil pH. If lime is recommended, dry wood ash can be substituted at the same rate (or even a little higher) - just don't spread them on a windy day!

In the vegetable garden, wood ashes can be used sparingly around tomatoes which grow fine in slightly alkaline soil and the extra calcium in the ashes can help prevent blossom end rot. Root crops like carrots, beets, and turnips can benefit from the extra potassium that the ashes provide.

A few words of caution about spreading ashes in the garden:
  • Never spread wood ashes in an area where you plan to plant potatoes as they can raise the pH to the point that potato scab becomes a problem. Potatoes are less likely to develop scab if grown in acidic soil with a pH between 5.0 and 5.4.
  • Do not apply wood ashes at the time of seeding or around new seedlings. Excess salts in the ash can harm young seedlings.
  • Always spread the ashes out evenly and then work them into the soil. Never leave piles or clumps of ashes in the garden or on the lawn because excess salts from a concentration of ashes can leach into the soil and cause problems for the plants.
  • Wood ash in the garden Be sure to test your soil before spreading wood ashes in the garden or on your lawn.Ashes can also be added (sparingly) to your compost pile. Sprinkle them evenly in a layer and mix them into the pile. Don't add too many at once.
  • If a soil test indicates that your soil will benefit (or at least not suffer) from a slight increase in pH and some additional potassium and/or lime, then by all means spread your wood ashes! It's a great use for them and is certainly a cheap source of nutrients and trace elements.  
  • However, never use the ash from burning coal, pressure treated or painted wood, or from burned trash or cardboard in the garden as these contain harmful byproducts. 

The bottom line -        

Wood ashes can be a great soil amendment if used carefully and moderately. BUT, before you start spreading, be sure to have your soil tested! 

What can be done with wood ashes from the fireplace or wood stove?

On the Viette's Views Gardening Blog 

Decorated fir tree  12-20-2013 14:32:04 PM

Christmas is such a special time of the year and for many families, the selection of a Christmas tree is a "deep-rooted" Christmas tradition that often marks the beginning of the holiday season. Searching for and finding the perfect tree is always a lot of fun for "kids" of all ages. There are many different [...]...�


 12-13-2013 16:32:35 PM

A variety of birds gather around the water Winter is a quiet time in our garden except for the soft whisperings of the ornamental grasses as they rustle gently in the wind and the fluttering of bird wings as they flit around in the shrubs foraging for seeds and berries. The birds are hungry this time of year. We always set up several [...]...�


Natural wreath  12-06-2013 13:25:00 PM

This year, we spent Thanksgiving in beautiful Vermont with friends and family - what could be better! We even had a little snow and nice crisp, cold weather. Perfect! On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the kids (well they aren't kids anymore) went for a walk through the woods in search of interesting greens, seed pods, [...]...�

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