On a recent trip to Denver Botanical Gardens, I observed the relationship between plants and water usage. As you may remember, this past summer we had many days of over 90 degrees with long stretches of no rainfall and restrictions on water usage. This type of occurrence happens every 8-10 years in NJ, but water usage could become more of a problem in the future if supply becomes limited. Some of the things that can be done in the landscape to conserve water are as follows:

1. Mulching of landscape beds.

2. Adding compost to soil prior to planting.

3. Drip irrigation for efficient use of water.

4. Proper plant selection.

5. Reduction of turfgrass usage.

Colorado receives less than 10 inches of rainfall per year; therefore, plant selection is key. Many of the plants growing in the botanical garden were native in nature and therefore, have adapted to low water consumption. In our state of NJ, we have wide ranging choices of native plants as well as exotic plants that grow successfully here. Both natives and exotics have adaptations for drought stress.

One group of plants that offer these special adaptations are ornamental grasses. Grasses offer a vertical element of varying heights, textures, colors, dimensions, and movement to the landscape. And with their deep root system, they are able to claim moisture below the soil profile.


Recycling in the Landscape

We're all familiar with the term recycling as we do it everyday with our newspapers, cans, bottles, etc. Part of the "green movement" is also recycling in the landscape. Carbon is the basic element necessary for all plant life to develop. Trees, shrubs, perennials, and vines all have varying percentages of carbon in their plant tissue. As these materials decompose the debris is generally broken down in the environment overtime. Recycling these vital nutrients into the soil, provides restoring nourishment for plants.
One common practice that can be done is to recycle the fallen leaves and other small debris that fall on the lawn at this time of year with the use of your lawn mower. Simply mow the leaves and debris into your lawn. This process accelerates decomposition by shredding organic matter into small pieces that infiltrate into the turf canopy. You are essentially feeding your lawn providing food sources for micro organisms and reducing the need to fertilize. So put your rakes away.


September is for rejuvenating the lawn

The heat is finally gone and the cool, crisp air of fall is upon us. This change in seasons ushers in a new set of landscape practices critical for the health of your landscape. First thing we need to do is aerate and fertilize that stressed lawn that probably looks like a burned out field by now. Aeration extracts and loosens the soil so as to decompact the lawn from all the abuse it took throughout the year. Aeration can improve root growth, increase soil microorganism, and help prevent fertilizer run-off. Aerators can be rented at any landscape supply store and are very easy to use. Along with aerating the lawn you should also apply fertilizer in the fall in order to help the turf recover from the summer stress and to store food supplies for the winter monthes. These are just a few things to consider when you stare out your window onto that once beautifully green lawn you used to have, but with a little work you can easily bring it back to life.


Tulips and Their Garden Use

One true sign that we are well into spring is the colorful display of Tulips, which represent the largest and most significant group of bulbs. Flowering from mid-April to mid-May, almost every color and bi-color forms are represented. What is confusing to many people is the classification of Tulips and how it relates to their longevity. For example, many of the hybrid forms that have resulted in controlled crosses such as
Single Early, Triumph, Single Late, and Darwin Hybrid types
need to be cultivated as annuals. They bloom for one season then the entire bulb is removed and you reorder new Tulips each fall for a new spring display. The above mentioned types are best used in bedding displays where they are planted in large masses in highly visible areas.
There are other native-origin forms of Tulips known as botanic types. They fall under the categories of Kaufmanniana, Fosteriana, Greigii, and Bakeri. These bulbs are used for their uniqueness and are less showy than the hybrid forms, but naturalize and provide years of enjoyment as perennials. The botanic types are best used in existing perennial gardens flowering in small drifts that disappear as the perennial garden unfolds later in the spring. When using Tulips it's important to understand the various classifications and how they can best be utilized in the landscape.


Camelias and Daffodils Perfect Together

Camelias were once associated with southeastern gardens where the winters are milder. Recently, advances in hybridization has led to introductions that are more cold tolerant and suitable for NJ landscapes. When thinking about Camelias, plant them as you would a Rhododendron (well drained, shady, acidic soils). These broad leaf evergreens grow 4-10' high depending on the cultivar, offer many color selections, and bloom from February to May. Daffodils are a great companion planting with Camelias as they provide a skirt to the landscape floor. As bulbs, Daffodils are planted in the fall and together with Camilias provide years of stability within the landscape. This blooming pair offers a breathtaking display.