July 2018       Volume 8, No. 3

Wow, it's been a busy Spring! And now it's Summer!

We're so excited to finally be getting your newsletter to you. This has been an unusual season.  Most of our Spring chores were finished a month later than last year.  May found us finally beginning the usual spring maintenance, and now that June is over, we are feeling more caught up.  Many perennials did not emerge until mid-May. It was quite a challenge to determine what had survived and what needed dividing or replacement for the new season.

There have been limited qualified professionals  in the industry to hire for our gardening team this year.  We have been short one entire crew per day since April!  In addition we experienced two supervisor injuries while keeping up with a record number of spring plantings.  We are thankful our Supervisors are handling the work load and helping out in any way they can.  

I'm happy to report that we have now hired five new people, to fill in our ranks and will now be returning to a normal field and publishing schedule.  Whew!  I hope you have been dipping into our on-line archives to review the to-dos from previous springs!   
We thank you for your patience in waiting for us to arrive at your garden for a small planting or weeding, edging and mulching.  This activity will wrap up during the next few weeks as we turn to summer pruning.
Methods to deter Rabbits and Chipmunks
There has been a lot of nibbling this year.  Everywhere I go, rabbits jump out of the undergrowth and chipmunks scramble about!  What to do?!

Try some of these plants to deter rabbits as suggested by our friends at Select Seeds in Union, Connecticut:  the perennials Yarrow, Foxglove, Bee Balm, Lavender, Salvia and Scabiosa; or annuals Ageratum, Forget Me Not, Lantana, Rosemary, Sweet Potato Vine and Verbena.  
Hummingbird on Bee Balm

For the chipmunks:  plant perennial Mountain Mint, Rosemary, Lavender; annual Marigolds or Geraniums.  In my yard, I notice that chipmunks are very busy gathering maple keys (seeds dropped from the trees in spring) and eating them.  So far, no plant damage.

As a potential barrier which has so far been successful in the rabbit-infested town of Lexington, we are attaching small pen-like "garlic clips" to lower stems of roses or on bamboo stakes near certain nibbled perennials.  When punched, the garlic clip emits a strong odor of garlic.  This device is good for up to 8 months.  We also use these against deer damage, usually in winter on hydrangea canes and shrubs.

A cage of
Pop-up Plant Protector
hardware cloth around the base of young woody plants, roses and larger perennials is also a good deterrent.  However, not so pretty, but the plant is safe!  T here are some new tent-like pop-up structures to anchor down over plants for pest or animal protection available on line.  Some of you are using them with good success.  Please let us know what is working for you! 
Winter Moth Numbers at Record Low Thanks to Biological Control from Dr. Joseph Elkinton's Lab at UMass
Data from Dr. Elkinton's research projects suggest that the winter moth population was at an all-time low in 2017.  This means that the 2018 caterpillar numbers in eastern Massachusetts should  be even lower.   

Defoliation of favorite plants such as maple, oak, apple, cherry, blueberry and rose has been common in our area since the late 1990s, eventually weakening and causing death of selected specimens.  The winter moth caterpillars usually emerged around May 1, just as plants were leafing out for the season.  It was very hard to detect feeding in the overhead canopy until the trees failed to leaf out at all.  We saw caterpillars dropping down to voraciously feed on the understory plants of choice.

How has control of this invasive pest happened?  Dr. Elkinton's lab has released a tachinid fly parasitoid of the winter moth as a biological control agent called Cyzenis albicans.  The female fly lays eggs on host plant foliage of the winter moth, and winter moth caterpillars will eat the eggs of the flies and never mature.  A new generation of flies emerges yearly from the caterpillar skeletons in the ground.  Cyzenis albicans has been released at 43 sites in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine.  The fly has been documented at 32 of those sites.

Research is continuing, and in the meantime, we can all enjoy healthy foliage on our shade trees and understory specimens this season.  PBOG will again supply winter moth bands for trees this November, just in case.
Plant Pick:  Clematis
Roses have been blooming so bountifully this month.  A classic pairing is to plant a clematis to share the trellis with your climbing rose, or at least to have a few clematis plants near the roses.

I'd like to highlight some of my favorite clematis varieties:  one that scrambles over the ground and blooms in August is called 'Mrs. Robert
'Mrs. Robert Bryden'
Bryden.'   This surprise pale blue bloomer is vigorous, requiring only a cutback to 3' length on its stems in early spring.  It will then sprawl in a delightful way down a small slope or can easily cover an area where bleeding heart or Oriental poppies are going dormant at this time of year.  By August, this kind of gap will be filled with blooming clematis!

Another is a newer bright pink variety called 'Princess Diana.'  With bell shaped flowers, it's a perfect vine for an arbor and harmonizes beautifully with paler pink roses. 
'Princess Diana'

I like 'Ville de Lyon' also, this  flower is the classic star shape,  an unusual shade of deep pink, almost maroon,  
' Ville de Lyon'
which blooms on and off all summer.  

Remember to plant the crown of all Clematis 2" to 4" below the surface of the soil.  Mulch the root zone to keep it cool.  Water regularly for best health.  One inch of water per week is perfect.  I like to topdress clematis in fall when I have more gardening time by simply dropping a partial bucket of compost on the root zone.
Upcoming Pruning Season Notes
Now is the time for summer pruning of all your spring blooming shrubs or your evergreens that were not pruned in early spring.  Once the flowers fade, new growth can arch out in odd ways.  If new needles and leaves have "hardened off" on evergreens, meaning thickened up and darkened in color, we can prune with our hand pruners.

We work to restore a naturalistic look to the plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs, winterberries, viburnums, weigelas, hollies, boxwoods, and small trees such as crabapples and Japanese maples.  One goal is to open up air circulation, creating more space for each branch and leaf to photosynthesize.  This practice also helps reduce incidence of disease and pest outbreaks.  We remove deadwood, broken and crossing branches when encountered, picturing in our minds the future growth habit of the wood we choose to keep intact.

Our Operations Manager, Kimberly Kuliesis, is happy to schedule a pruning visit. Email at:
Office 978-425-5531, Cell 978-302-8005
Summer Watering Reminder
If you have planted any woody plants during the past five years, please follow our summer watering instructions.  As the mercury rises, it is important to water deeply and more often to help newly rooting plants survive the temperature extremes.  

Drooping or curling leaves with off color are signs of underwatering.  Please contact us if you experience this situation and we will help you devise a remedial watering plan.  We have gator bags, watering wands, spike waterers, hoses and tripod stands available to purchase as needed.

We all hope for an inch of rain per week from the sky.  If this is not provided, please be sure to recalibrate (dial up) your irrigation system for a summer watering schedule or to hand water as often as local ordinances will allow.  When cooler temperatures return in early fall, this can be adjusted back to spring levels.

Remember that we offer a vacation watering service, a sort of plant sitting arrangement while you are away.   And we stand prepared to bring out tanks of water in our spray trucks to your plantings should a drought happen or if water bans do not permit you to use town water.
Priscilla's To-Do List for July
  • Keep up with weeding, carefully lifting leaves of perennials to scrape out weeds lurking beneath
  • Deadhead perennials and annuals promptly after bloom is finished to encourage rebloom or regrowth of foliage
  • Handle peonies, roses and phlox only on dry days to prevent potential spread of disease
  • Divide bearded iris mid-month and re-set divisions with tubers above soil line for best health
  • Finish fertilizing spring blooming bulbs and scoop up browned foliage in stages
  • Prune spring blooming shrubs or evergreens not pruned early this spring
  • Thin stems of phlox to 5-6 per plant to promote best air circulation and keep plants well watered at the base to help prevent humid weather mildew problems on foliage
  • Pinch tall Asters, Helenium and Boltonia (before July 4th) to encourage bushier growth that won't need staking
  • Allow lupine, poppy and columbine to self seed by refraining from deadheading; when seed is dark color it self-releases and NOW stalks can be cut down
  • Stake or cage tomatoes
  • Harvest all cool-season crops such as spinach, broccoli raab, lettuce and peas before they turn bitter or set seed
  • Replant empty space in vegetable gardens with heat tolerant lettuce varieties or another planting of summer squash, corn or beans
  • Hold off on transplanting or dividing any plant until cooler temperatures return in fall, as such plants will have trouble surviving summer heat
I look forward to seeing you in your garden and to enjoying some of the upcoming summer garden tours!

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