Category Archives: Landscaping

Take Time for Refreshment!

Over and over, we have to go back to the beginning.

We should not be ashamed of this. It is good. It’s like drinking water.

~Natalie Goldberg


So often I am asked by our clients how to care for their new landscapes. When to water is always one of the most frequently asked questions… and for good reason!  Irrigation is extremely important and key to a healthy start and long life for your plants. So how do you know when your plants need a little refreshment?

Surprisingly, a new landscape is more susceptible to disease and insect problems than a mature landscape. Undeveloped root systems cause new plants to be very weak, making the first season of your new landscape critical. As a landscape designer and installer, it’s difficult to recommend a ‘standard’ watering program for new landscapes because of the variations in soil conditions, natural precipitation, temperature and a plant’s moisture. All of these factors MUST be considered. Oddly enough, though, over watering is the most common cause of death for newly planted trees and shrubs!

Rest assured that if you have correctly planted and watered a new plant, it shouldn’t need additional water for several days.  When in doubt, here’s a quick test to determine if you need to water your new gardens. Start by digging carefully six to eight inches near the root zone and squeeze a handful of soil. If it is damp enough to form a ball, no water is necessary. If the soil falls apart easily, it is definitely time to water! Don’t be concerned if the top few inches of soil are dry. Keep in mind that roots need just as much air as they do moisture. Over watering will saturate the soil and suffocate the roots.

Leaves that turn yellow and wilt may have too much water but appear like they are thirsty. Deep, infrequent watering encourages roots to grow deep into the soil for maximum plant growth and health! Remember, to prevent fungus and disease, always water the soil at the base of the plant not the leaves.

To keep soil moist, I LOVE mulch!  Mulch not only helps to retain moisture, it minimizes weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. All new plants should be mulched because it protects their young, shallow roots during the cold, harsh winter months.  Following are a few of our best “mulching” practices:

  • Mulch is always layered 3″-4″.
  • Never lay mulch against a tree truck or any woody ornamental shrubs. The mulch should be at least two (2) inches from the trunk.  It is best to create a “well” around the tree truck to capture and hold in water.
  • Life & spread. Always lift the plant material so you can spread mulch under it.
  • Do not let mulch sit on top of plant leaves, branches, etc. because it will burn them.

Use these handy tips to get your new plants off to a healthy start and remember: take time for refreshment in the gardens!

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Limelight Hydrangea

Light Up Your Gardens!

The ‘Amen!’ of Nature is always a flower.

~Oliver Wendell Holmes

I simply adore this time of year when hydrangeas make their stunning debut and steal the show in the garden!  This is exactly what I wait for all season long!  The beauty of all hydrangeas take my breath away…but the exciting and unique ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea paniculata brings out the giddy gardener in me!

‘Limelight’ hydrangea’s soft lime green blooms held above the dark green foliage resemble a triple scoop of soft-serve ice cream. To me, the luscious tapered blooms just scream “Summer time!” The impressive flower heads can get up to 12 inches long and stand upright on the shrub for an extraordinary and lovely display with no drooping! It’s a strong shrub with flower power! Another thriller with this beauty… as autumn approaches, the blooms gracefully change to a rich deep pink that lasts through late fall and offers wonderful winter interest.

Of all the hydrangeas, the ‘Limelight’ is the most adaptable to different soil types and prefers full sun to light shade. In fact, they are extremely hardy and very tricky to kill…oh yes, my kind of ornamental shrub! The beautiful ‘Limelight’ can be easily maintained as a small shrub or trained into a small tree. I prefer pruning my ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas in early spring by simply cutting off the spent flowers to make way for new ones! Bonus: the spent flowers add great winter interest and are a constant reminder of what’s to come. A hard pruning in spring will produce larger flowers…just cut the shrub back by 1/3 to 1/2. I will prune my ‘Limelights’ back very hard this spring and as a result the foliage will be much denser.

Interested in attracting attention to your landscape and gardens with an outrageously gorgeous effect? I recommend planting the ‘Limelight’ in groupings or masses. Hands down you’ll not be sorry and you, too, will wait for their coming out party each season like I do!


Botanical name: Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’
Common name: ‘Limelight’ hydrangea
Hardiness: USDA Zone 3 -8
Bloom Time: Begins in late July – early August. Blooms last through late fall.
Height: 6′-8′
May all  your gardens grow!



Incrediball Hydrangea Bloom

We’re Still Standing!

There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.

~Franklin D Roosevelt

As we all know, life sometimes has a way of bringing us down. Some say those situations make us stronger; others say they make us weak. It is my belief what matters most is that in the end, we’re still standing!

Perhaps that was my huge attraction to the Incrediball™ hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’ ppaf). Any offspring of ‘Annabelle’ that doesn’t flop is on the top on my list! This exhilarating hardy hydrangea bestows colossal 12-inch blooms that open lime green, turn snowy white, and then gradually fade to different shades of pale green. Bravo Proven Winners®!

Big attraction: Unlike its parent, ‘Annabelle’, sturdy thick stems thwart flopping in blustery weather! This Midwest gardener can attest to it because I planted three Incrediball™ hydrangeas last year. Admittedly, I am hooked – line and sinker! I would never hesitate and would happily recommend this hydrangea to any of my clients.

The Incrediball™ is very adaptable and thrives best in rich, well-drained, moist soil. Plant this beauty in groupings/masses, create a stunning hedge, or add to a garden or perennial border – the options are endless!

Bonus: butterflies cannot resist them either!

Double bonus:
The blooms make lovely fresh or dried flower arrangements. For a stunning display, I will adorn my holiday tree and trimmings with spent Incrediball™ blooms this season. (That’s another article!)

Maybe you will consider planting an Incrediball™ (or two, or three). The next time you feel down, gaze up at your Incrediball™ hydrangeas. If they can weather any storm, then so can we!  Happy planting!


Botanical name: Hydrangea arborescens ‘Abetwo’

Common name: Incrediball™ Hydrangea

Hardiness: USDA Zone 4 to 9

Bloom Time: Summer

Height: 4’ – 5’

Spread: 4’

May all your gardens grow!

Ornamental Trees for the Landscape

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

~Joyce Kilmer, 1914

When my mother passed away many years ago, I had an overwhelming desire to plant a tree in her memory and honor, and so I did. Today, I still love my very fragrant Miss Kim lilac tree planted near my front entrance. Each spring I marvel at the unforgettable fragrance and beautiful blossoms that so lovingly remind me of my mother!

Trees are planted for many reasons, usually with a unique purpose and intent. Tall trees with large canopies offer shade, dense trees serve as windbreakers, and fruit and nut trees provide food production. But there is something very special about a small specimen tree in a landscape that becomes personal and treasured for many years!

There is a wide selection of fabulous small ornamental trees to choose from and it can be quite overwhelming…the possibilities are endless! No matter what reason you wish to plant a small ornamental tree, plant survival, longevity and landscape value will be enhanced if you first consider site conditions along with the tree’s physical and ornamental traits. Below are helpful tips to consider the next time you make a small tree purchase!

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides an excellent hardiness zone map which is a great resource and will give you an idea of how well suited a small tree is to your area.
  • Don’t forget about soil conditions! Many ornamentals require specific soil conditions to maintain healthy growth. When in doubt, get a soil test to determine the texture, pH and nutrient levels of your soil.
  • Drainage is also a very important factor for plant health. Most trees grow best in well drained, moist soils. Poor drainage will eventually cause trees to die because of insufficient oxygen levels in the soil.
  • Light requirements are imperative! When I first started gardening, I was certain plants intended for full sun would likely survive in part shade. Wrong! Trees need light to grow…some more than others. Remember that light affects the amount of flowering, fruiting, and fall leaf coloration which are significant attributes.
  • Wind and air circulation play key roles in plant survival. Always try to evaluate the amount of wind a small tree will be exposed to. Another one of my gardening blunders was planting a small Japanese maple on a northern exposure. After four years, the small tree could not survive the forceful northern winds and it eventually died.

Selecting a small ornamental tree can be just as much fun (if not more!) as visiting your favorite mall!  Remember to do your homework and then shop til’ you drop!

May all your gardens grow!

Thinking PINK in Royal Oak!

“…change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn,

and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.”

~John Steinbeck

Anyone that knows me will confirm that I am hydrangea crazy and my favorite color in the garden is pink. Well, my dreams have come true! Have you seen the first ever PINK-flowered ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea, the Invinicibelle® Spirit ( Hydrangea arborescens ‘NCHAI’ ppaf, cbraf) by Proven Winners?! This rugged beauty blooms every year on new wood, even after the harshest of winters, making it the most reliable pink hydrangea yet. At full maturity, it can produce over 100 large pink blooms from midsummer until frost! In my opinion, Proven Winners has definitely out-performed themselves!

Another sweet bonus: Proven Winners’ goal is to raise ONE MILLION DOLLARS for breast cancer research. $1.00 from every Invincibelle® Spirit sold will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. You can visit to make a donation.

Be sure to plant these amazing hydrangeas where you can enjoy their blooms from inside as well. I have three planted in the garden in front of a very large window and they are FABULOUS! Each day a new bud appears and the pink continues to intensify. They thrive in full sun to part shade so the plant combinations are endless! I’m giddy with excitement over the Invincibelle® Spirit and I know you will be, too. Go ahead, treat yourself today, and plant this gorgeous ornamental in your garden… and help prevent and fight breast cancer!

Think PINK!


May all your gardens grow!

A Trip to the Garden Center

Visiting my favorite garden center and gushing over the vast selections of plants, the vibrate colors, and unique textures is better than riding the Blue Streak at Cedar Point!

Plant shopping is always a joyful experience for me, especially when I discover a new hydrangea (but that’s another story)! Once I stop spinning from excitement and settle down to business, I immediately shift into “proper plant choice” mode. It is critical!

Often people make similar mistakes while selecting plants because they did not do their homework. Like most of us, we get caught up in the beauty and forget about practicality and purpose. As we all know, plant purchases can be costly, so it’s extremely important to make good choices. My best suggestion is to design your gardens at home and take a shopping list to the nursery. Designing while shopping is not recommended and can be as dangerous as grocery shopping with hunger pangs – both should be avoided!

Below are things to ponder before your next shopping trip and plant purchase. Keep in mind that each item listed is as important as the next!

  • Growth habit
  • Height and width at maturity
  • Plant characteristics
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Seasonal interest and color
  • Light requirement
  • Sun, shade, partial sun, partial shade
  • Heat and wind tolerance
  • Soil preference
  • Moisture tolerance
  • Drought tolerance
  • Insect and disease resistance

Plant shopping and trips to the garden center can be so much fun and should never be overwhelming. If you do your homework first, the rewards are plentiful! Just don’t forget your shopping list!

I am obviously drawn to hydrangeas…big time! What plants are you most drawn to while shopping at your favorite garden center?

May all your gardens grow!

Dwarf Fothergilla

Fothergilla gardenii – A Landscape Favorite

In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.



Fothergilla gardenii

We love adding this wonderfully textured native dwarf shrub to new and existing landscapes.  Delicate white, honey-scented, bottle-brush blossoms add fabulous spring interest to the garden.  The unforgettable green textured leaves change in autumn to outstanding shades of yellow, orange, and red!  Use in groupings, masses, or foundation plantings.  Plant in full or partial sun.

Height:   3-4′
Spread:  3-4′
Zone:     5-8

 May all your gardens grow!

Balance, Ease & Beauty

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Initial meetings with clients always begin with a request for a maintenance-free landscape and the response is always consistent – a maintenance-free landscape is virtually impossible! However, what is not impossible is a sustainable landscape that works with the environment and requires minimal and manageable maintenance.

Once explained, clients are excited and anxious for us to dig in…literally! After all, who doesn’t long for beautiful gardens that attract wildlife and require very little maintenance?

As you may know, there are many variations to the definition of sustainable landscaping. However, I define sustainable landscaping with three words: balance, ease, and beauty! Balance embraces local climate, site selection and resources; ease includes minimal inputs such as water, organic pesticides and fertilizers; and beauty, of course, is what excites all gardeners!

Sustainable landscaping begins with an excellent design that is functional, cost efficient, visually attractive, environmentally friendly, and easy to maintain. Believe it or not, sustainable landscaping is very simple to achieve!

Following are three key components to a viable sustainable landscape:

  • Promotes positive practices and minimizes negative impacts
  • Facilitates self-sufficiency
  • Conserves natural resources

How can you implement these ideas into your landscaping this year?

  • Water harvesting by attaching a rain barrel to a downspout
  • Utilizing a compost bin
  • Thickly planted garden beds with trees, shrubs, and ground covers
  • Beds planted along the edge of the road to slow and filter runoff
  • Terracing to slow runoff and encourage infiltration
  • Plant trees to create microclimates which reduce water usage
  • Learning good soil management which encourages rainwater infiltration
  • Mulching around tree trunks

Sustainability is an ongoing relationship between you, your garden and its surrounding eco-system. It’s not too late to begin making small changes toward a more sustainable garden now, with a goal of a more water-wise, environmentally-friendly garden in just a few months. You’ll be helping the earth and you’ll be rewarded with a lot less work creating and maintaining beautiful garden beds!

May all your gardens grow!