Wayside Gardens Voices


Our latest press release is the inspirational story of a Wayside Gardener (Molly Gill of Pratt, West Virginia) who planted a small tree in her front yard in 1996. The tree was only supposed to get 8 feet tall, but to her surprise it kept growing and growing until it towered around 20 feet tall! Gill donated the overgrown tree (appropriately from the variety ‘Fat Albert’) to be displayed outside of the Capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia. Click here for the full story.

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Photo by VladUK.

Praying Mantis Guards Tomato. Photo by VladUK.

When holes or spots start appearing on plant leaves, a lot of gardeners’ knee-jerk reaction is to reach for a chemical spray, and set out to eradicate the pests. But this “solution” doesn’t really address the systemic issues that led to infestation in the first place. Natural methods of pest control are not only better for the environment, but they are more viable in the long run. An unhealthy garden will continue to be plagued by problems and require more and more chemical help, while a well-designed and healthy garden will keep pests and diseases at bay the natural way, with little need for help from you.

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Garden space is a rare commodity today—so few of us are operating out of our patio with little or no land to work with, which makes it more important than ever to make use of all your garden space. The best way to do this is to grow your garden upwards, filling that Y axis with fine flora.

A vertical garden has many advantages over a traditional (flat) garden. First and foremost, it lets you fit many more plants into a small space. Vertical gardens also put plants right up to eye level, which makes their beauty and fragrance easy to admire. And bonus—this also makes them easy to inspect for pests, easy to tend, and easy to harvest. Since they don’t require stooping or hunching to deal with, they are easy on the gardener’s back and perfect for the elderly or disabled. 

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Adventures in Composting

Adventures in Composting

Posted on Aug 13, 2014 | 0 comments

A lot of you might be considering composting, but just haven’t committed to it. You’ve got plenty of kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and old cardboard—isn’t it silly to send that all to the landfill when you could use it to make plant food instead?

That’s what I was thinking about a year ago when I started my own pile. So I started collecting my kitchen scraps (except for meat and dairy products) and heaping them up with cardboard, twigs, and yard trimmings. I sprinkled some soil on the pile, to introduce soil micro-organisms, and I let the pile start working.

Delicious Compost

Delicious Compost

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When you are shopping for fertilizer, the main thing to compare is the N-P-K ratings on the front of bag. The N, P, and K are all elemental symbols for the three primary nutrients: N for Nitrogen, P for Phosphorous, and K for Potassium. The numbers represent the total percent of the fertilizer’s weight in those available nutrients. For example, a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer contains 10% Nitrogen, 10% Phosphorous, and 10% Potassium by weight.  Fertilizers have different compositions based on what they are trying to achieve. For example, tomato food is usually 3-4-6 (3% Nitrogen, 4% Phosphorous, and 6% Potassium), while lawn fertilizer is 4-1-2 (4% Nitrogen, 1% Phosphorous, and 2% Potassium). To know whether your plants need more Nitrogen, more Phosphorous, or more Potassium, we have to understand a little about how plants feed.

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“Don’t cripple your Clematis! Make sure that you are pruning your vine properly based on its blooming habit. Clematis can either bloom on old wood (Group I), new wood (Group 3), or both (Group 2), and you must be sure to prune accordingly, because improper pruning can set your bloom show back a year or more!”

Read more of this Wayside Gardens Press Release to learn proper Clematis pruning techniques.

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Echinacea (Coneflower)

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Did you know that the root of Echinacea angustifolia was originally used to treat toothache, tonsillitis, and pain in the bowels? The story goes that Native Americans discovered the healing powers of this flower when they noticed that sick Elk would seek out and eat the plant. Ever since then, Echinacea has been a popular natural remedy in America, revered for its immune-boosting effect. It has been used to treat everything from the common cold all the way up to rattlesnake bites! 

Scientific analysis of Echinacea has found that the  fat-soluble alkylamides in the plant have an immunomodulatory effect, increasing our immune system’s ability to fight antigens. The chemical basis for this is complex, and the exact chain of cause-and-effect has not been determined yet, but the prevailing wisdom is that Echinacea can temporarily boost your immune system, which makes it a great thing to take when you first feel a tickle in your throat, or when someone in your household comes down with a cold. I personally wouldn’t rely on Echinacea to save me from a snake bite, but I have found it effective so far at keeping the cold and flu at bay.

The potent medicinal value of this timeless perennial  is one of many reasons that the National Garden Bureau named 2014 the “Year of the Echinacea”!

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(Note: This is Part 3 in a series. First you should read Part 1 and Part 2).

If your problem is not too much rain, but too little, again we can look to nature for solutions. In nature you don’t see lush tropical plants trying to grow in the desert. Rather, the fauna follows the climate, with plants growing only as full and lush as the local water sources allow. We can learn from nature’s wisdom by adapting our gardens to suit our climate and by making good use of every raindrop the sky gives us! We can mimic the water cycle by carefully conserving and re-using our water supplies. We can mimic deserts and prairies by landscaping with drought-tolerant native species rather than “thirsty” turfgrass and ornamentals. And for those of us that are really ambitious, we can mimic the way that forest landscapes hold onto rain by utilizing techniques like Hugelkultur and swales.

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One of the numerous negative ecological effects of urban development is a higher rate of soil erosion. Forests naturally hold on to soil with their roots. Trees slow the fall of raindrops to keep them from disrupting the soil. The natural bumps and hillocks in the landscape break up the flow of water, giving it more opportunity to be absorbed by plant roots and filtered through the soil before it winds its way into creeks, streams, and rivers. These natural soil-defense mechanisms do not exist in developed land, where rain falls on rooftops, asphalt, and flat lawns covered in relatively sparse, shallow-rooted plants. All this means that on developed land, wind and rain carries off much more top soil, dumping it into storm drains and into the water table. This not only degrades the soil quality, but also dumps soil into the local water supply, along with oils and often-toxic pollutants.

For the sustained health of your garden and your community, you should try and minimize erosion and runoff as much as possible with careful garden design. Where downspouts empty onto your yard or where storm waters flow through it, you should take every effort to absorb and filter this water. A well-designed garden will capture water effectively, keeping plant roots moist much longer while also holding on to the soil’s nutrients and keeping pollution out of the local water table.

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The Fussiest Perennials

Posted on May 11, 2014 | 0 comments

We gardeners know how hard it can be to raise living things. It seems like some plants are just too fussy to live–you plant them at the right time of year, you do your research and carefully amend the soil, you water them religiously, you fertilize them at the appropriate time, and still they wilt and drop their pouty leaves to the ground. It’s enough to make you want to yank them out and toss throw them in the compost!

Well, being a mother must be like that, only approximately a million times more challenging and frustrating. Children are the fussiest perennials. Children grow and blossom year after year, but they also need their diapers changed. They also learn how to say ‘no’. They learn to walk around and get into trouble–they get in fights at school and run away from home.

The fact that you and I are still alive is purely because we had a mom that was always patient, that always took care of us, and that never gave up hope. So, here’s to those mothers that never stopped nurturing us, no matter how fussy we were!

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Why Bareroot?

Posted on May 7, 2014 | 0 comments

Comparison of Bareroot Hibiscus (left) and 1 Quart Monarda (right).

Comparison of Bareroot Hibiscus (left) and 1 Quart Monarda (right).

The dry, sparse appearance of bareroot perennials can be alarming to the novice gardener, but in reality ordering bare root is often the smarter choice. Foliage and blooms can be seductive, but the health and long-term potential of a plant truly lies in its roots. Bareroot plants have several advantages over plants in containers—bare roots are less expensive to ship, they are less likely to be harmed in the shipping process, their timing is easier to control, and they are field-grown for larger, healthier root systems. This is why Wayside Gardens has had great success with bare root plants, and you can too!

Shipping plants bare root makes more economic sense for several reasons. Container plants are costlier because the nursery has to supply a pot and soil as well as a large box and lots of inserts and packaging to protect the plant’s foliage. These larger, heavier boxes are significantly more expensive to ship.

Additionally, it is safer to ship plants in bareroot form because there is no risk in harming new growth, and therefore the plant actually has a better chance of making it safely into the customer’s garden.

And thanks to refrigerated storage, the timing of bareroot perennials can be precisely controlled. “(Bareroot perennials) are dormant,” explains JPPA Lead Horticulturist Benjamin Chester, “But as soon as they leave the refrigerated storage they’ll begin breaking dormancy.” And once the plant ‘wakes up’, it is ready to begin the growing season in earnest, which means it will quickly catch up to the level of container plants.

The most important benefit of bareroot perennials is that they can be field grown rather than confined to containers. The bareroot Cherry Cheesecake Hibiscus pictured here perfectly illustrates the difference between a field-grown perennial and a containerized one. Wayside Gardens used to offer this variety in a quart container, like the Monarda next to it. But the Hibiscus was simply too cramped in that space, so Wayside switched to growing it in the earth and selling it bare root. The result is a thick, fibrous mass of roots that used to fill up several cubic feet of soil and which, even in its bare, pruned form would be too large to fit back into the 1 Quart container. What a difference a little space makes! While small and slow-growing cultivars can start well in containers, large and vigorous cultivars like Cherry Cheesecake need more room to stretch out and develop a solid root system.

For more information on planting and caring for perennials, visit waysidegardens.com or contact us directly by calling our public relations department at 1-864-941-4521.

Happy gardening!

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Cherry Blush Rodgersia doesn’t mind wet soil.

The arrival of spring means it is finally time to get back in the garden, but for a lot of the US the soggy conditions are making this impossible. The combination of spring rains and the melting of this winter’s substantial snow has led to a lot of flooding and standing water, which means that for most of us, our soil is too muddy to work with right now. In these soggy months, take this opportunity to evaluate the movement of water through your property and design a garden that goes with the flow rather than against it.

Don’t let your yard become a bog; manage rainwater wisely with this 3-step process: First, observe your property during rain storms and get a feel for how water is flowing through it now. Second, deal with your lawn’s storm runoff and boggy areas by creating a rain garden. Third, improve your land’s dry areas by creating swales and/or xeriscaping.

1. Get the Lay of the Land.

There is no one right answer for how to make the most of rainfall. The answer is always “it depends.” It depends on how much slope there is on your property. It depends how compacted or how well-draining your soil is. It depends how deep your local water table is. It depends how much rain you get. It depends how much water your gutters or driveway are dumping on your lawn. Every situation is unique, so you have to pay careful attention to your yard and find the problem areas that you want to address.

Smart garden designers always evaluate the area and come up with ways to work with the existing water flow rather than imposing their own vision. If you try to add a rain garden or a swale where it doesn’t belong, you might end up with an unattractive mud pit. So be sure to figure out the natural flow of water on your property and develop your plan from there.

The first thing you will probably notice is any areas of standing water. These are usually dips or low-lying areas of the landscape that retain water. These are potential sites for rain gardens or at least good sites for water-loving plants. Look at step 2 for instructions on how to create your rain garden. Next, take a look at areas that are more dried out, where plant growth is sparse. This often happens on the slopes of hills, where all the water quickly drains after rain. Here you can try to improve water retention with a swale, which I will explain in step 3. Xeric plants, which tend to originate from desert-like conditions, are also great for these areas because they are highly drought tolerant. These plants can replace water-thirsty lawns with beautiful perennials that, most years, won’t need a drop from you!

You need to determine two other things about your land that might not be immediately obvious: 1. How good the drainage is, and 2. How high the local water table is. You can determine both of these things with a very simple test: just go out to your back yard and start digging a hole. Make this hole about 1’x1’x1′.

The spot.

1. The Spot.

The Hole (Note the Red Clay)

2. The Hole (Note the Red Clay).

If you hit water, or if the hole begins to slowly fill up, then your water table is obviously very high, and this means it can be extremely difficult to achieve good drainage in this spot. In this case, you could either try and rise above the water table with raised garden beds, or you could simply plant water-loving plants that don’t mind wet feet, like Japanese Water Iris , Rodgersia, Calla Lily, Weigela, Astilbe, Lobelia, and Joe Pye Weed.

Full of Water.

3. Full of Water.

After 12 Hours of drainage

4. After 12 Hours of Drainage.

If, on the other hand, you get to a good depth without hitting water, then there is hope. Your standing water is probably just a drainage problem. Next do a drainage test: Fill your foot hole with water and then keep an eye on how long it takes to drain.  If it takes 4 hours or less (about 3 inches per hour), then your drainage is adequate for a rain garden or other planting. If a lot of water still remains after 4 hours, then you need to improve the drainage.

Above you can see my own results for this test. After 4 hours the hole was still about half full, which indicates some pretty poor drainage. If you look at the earth extracted, you can see the  culprit. My yard has that red clay that is prevalent in much of the South–good for staining your car, driveway, shoes, and carpet, but not great for growing plants. The hole  is on a sandier spot, as you can see from the shiny specks in the earth. This gives it SOME amount of drainage–by the next morning (~12 hours later) the hole was drained. To grow anything here, we need to improve the drainage more and add a lot more organic matter: hence the necessity of my compost pile you can see to the left of the hole.

Other ways to improve soil drainage are by adding gravel, pipes, or tile underground and/or by conditioning your soil. Sometimes soil is just compacted and needs worked with a spade or tiller to loosen it up and allow drainage. If the soil has a high clay content (like mine), then you should amend it with compost and/or sand. Another way to improve soil drainage is to add in some Garden Gypsum, which gathers the clay into pellets and allows water and air to flow through.

Next time we will talk about how to create a rain garden, and why you absolutely should!

Feature image courtesy of hdwallpapersuk.com

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Enter for your chance to win top cultivars!

It’s hard to believe I work for a company that is turning 94! Most of the time it doesn’t feel like it, but every now and then I come across an artifact that reminds me, like an ancient bulb catalog or an old plant culture library on Dewey-Decimal-style cards.

Well, to celebrate its grand old age, Wayside is doing a huge event featuring 7 giveaways as well as plenty of sales. So head over to the Giveaway Page to enter for your chance(s) to win some of Wayside’s finest plants and supplies! There will be something for everyone, from trees to perennials to planters!

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Is Your Garden Ready for Spring?

Posted on Mar 11, 2014 | 0 comments

Spring Garden Preparation Checklist

Spring is right around the corner, which means the gardening season is starting! Make sure you are prepared with this article from Wayside Gardens, including information like what plants to prune in spring, how to properly plant a tree, how to make the most of your compost, how to divide daylilies, and more!

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daffodils-at-Park-SeedWe here at Wayside Gardens (and Park Seed and Jackson & Perkins) are always thrilled by signs of spring in our little corner of the world. So it was especially nice today, after the deep freeze we experienced last week, to see one of the harbingers of spring, the daffodil, show its pretty head near the exit road of our place.

Just what color could they be? I personally don’t know as this will be my first spring with our fair establishment. So I’ll keep everybody up to date as the days wear on. Hang on, neighbors in the north! Hope springs eternal here at Wayside.

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An orange-inspired garden design with purple accents.

Click here to see the Pinterest board of the best orange varieties!

We’ve all got our favorite color, that one that just seems to “pop” for us more than all the others. For me, that color is orange; nothing seems quite so vibrant as a bright orange bloom on a sunny day. Whenever I come across a particularly beautiful orange specimen, I just think about how good it would look in a whole orange arrangement. That’s why I put together this garden design to serve as a planner for myself and the other orange-aholics out there.

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Year of the Echinacea

Year of the Echinacea

Posted on Feb 11, 2014 | 2 comments

The National Garden Bureau has declared 2014 the Year of the Echinacea, and I say it is about time! Echinacea is one of those rare perennials where the both the petals and the center of the flower are highly attractive, not to mention the fact that they are so easy to grow: these little troopers are so robust and healthy that they are about as close to invulnerable as a flower can get.

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Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with winter. The cold is one of the biggest killers of plants, but at the same time many plants have a chilling requirement—having adapted to a cold climate, they now require a certain length of wintery conditions to allow them to undergo the mysterious process of vernalization. 

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