Christmas wish

Wishing you life this Christmas.  Andre holds these pieces of Hemlock and it reminds me, what evergreens symbolize.  The symbol of everlasting life.  I hope you have evergreens around you – real fresh branches as a symbol that though the earth looks dead and void….there is LIFE – life abundant.  The life comes in the form of a baby…who came to rescue us.  Rescue us!  I don’t know about you, but I sure need rescued.  Thank you Lord for the gift of your son, Jesus.  May we remember, we have been saved and given if we choose to receive it – everlasting life.


It’s golden

It is wreath and swag making season in the Ciccotelli workshop.  Oh, how I LOVE golden mop cypress added to a sea of deep green!

Lunch today

The lettuce crop June 13, 2011

Despite the tiny kitten climbing up my back, I had an awesome lunch today! My first salad from the garden, Sesame Tuna (thus the cat issue). My son planted Butter crunch, Crisp Mint and Drunken Woman lettuce on April 15. No, he won’t eat lettuce, but loves to plant. Drunken Woman is a light green with a tinge of red in the ends of the leaf and was my favorite. Crisp Mint has a hint of bittery mint taste, great mixed with the others! Butter crunch is just so mild – it was almost lost among the other flavors of my salad. I just had to post, as it is always a celebration when you get that first bite of your harvest! How is your garden growing?

The newest addition to our family....

Schedel Arboretum and Gardens – My First Visit

We stared ahead at the large metal gates across the road. We always wanted to visit Schedel Gardens, yet we sat there assessing. Quickly our eyes identified treetops Beech, Oak, Nootka Cypress as we examined the deep grey sky. Getting out of the car I wondered to myself, if last May 17 I was clothed in long underwear and three additional layers.

Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’

Yet the moment I saw the first notable tree – a Columnar English Oak.   I forgot if I was cold, wet, hungry or thirsty. You plantaholics know what I mean. We get so absorbed in the plant material that all is forgotten.

My family headed down the stairs to the Japanese Garden.  Large concrete urns – though empty -greeted us as we entered the garden. The first thing Andre said was “Wow, this is cool!” I lagged behind to be certain I did not miss a plant or photo opportunity.  I thought.  “It must be good if it impresses my eight year old, who thought this day might be boring.” It was the cascading waterfall he referred to, it almost made you feel as though you stepped into an Ansel Adams photograph (the grayness of the day helped too).

As we followed the streams and additional waterfalls we met Hinoki Cypress, Redbuds, Sedum, Bloodgood Maples, Threadleaf Maples and the Torii. Our first walk through I was so looking down at all the plants and water, I didn’t even photograph the Torii!

We meandered through until we left the garden, the Japanese Kerria and a sending us off toward the Dawn Redwood Grove. These sixty-year old trees stand tall as “living fossils”, once thought to be extinct.

As a distracted child in Toys-R-Us, I zigzagged to the Summer Cottage, around the lakes. My favorite area was more “behind the scenes”. A screen really that acts as a backdrop for the Peony and Iris Gardens. If you walk behind the Redwoods, a hill slopes toward the P0rtage River. At the top of this hill Cutleaf, Tricolor and Purple European Beech have made there home. The side of the hill houses the Lilac collection, in full bloom on this May day.

I could have stayed under the canopy of the Beeches all day, but my family lured me out into the Peony and Iris Gardens. The where both fully budded and ready to show off…

As the rains began we walked toward the Bonsai Shelter, finding the most amazing view of the Japanese Garden along the way. Finally I photographed the Torii.Torii Close up

In the Bonsai shelter the tiny leaves intrigued me, as I shot photo after photo of one-fourth inch leaves. It reminded me of my sister, years ago she had a miniature collection and back then I was enthralled with here tiny treasures.

Just as drops finally feel from those dark clouds, we ducked into the greenhouse. Exiting with more plants then the four of us could carry back to the car (thank you staff at Schedel for ferrying our plants directly to the car).

A final stroll through the perennial garden in the rain left Andre talking to the woman in “The Cloak”.   I guessed he told her she was warmer than him, but I may never know what they talked about that day!  I can tell you the eight-year old was not bored.

Thank you Schedel. We look forward to visiting again soon.

Andre's conversation with Woman in the Cloak

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Random December thaw thoughts


Water drenching the Serviceberry drops off  as tiny dangling light bulbs.


My Morning Light grass in winter it is the color of warm sand lit by a sunset.  It is as if the color screams life.  
Not a dull brown or even tan.  The grass against the cobalt fence is perfect.
Last night I looked at my Adirondack chair to see its arms white with hardened snow – just hours later its weathered gray arms hold nothing.

More blooms, more often

Flowers. I want flowers, you say?

It is what everyone wants, right?  Ok, let me rephrase.  It is what every gardener wants, right?  I think the most difficult concept for new gardeners to grasp is cutting back your perennials produces more flowers.

Yes, visiting your homes in the last two weeks I have repeated the phrase “Cut it back!” more often than any other.  To which I hear, “I was afraid my plant (perennial) would die.”

What you don’t understand can be scary.  I am here to calm your fears.  First, let’s define the word ‘die’.  I find it strange, but very true, that this word needs defining, but let’s.  A dead perennial would be a plant without any live roots, stems or leaves.

If you were to cut your perennial back, even all the stems and leaves of your plant – guess what?  The roots are still alive!  So cutting back your perennial does not kill your entire plant, it puts it in a dormant state until the roots push out new stems and leaves.  Now, if you pour Round-up on your perennial, the leaves, stems and roots would die, giving you a dead plant.

Second, an herbaceous perennial by definition is a plant with soft, green stems that die back to the ground and grows again.  Cool, so even if the top growth is cut, slightly dries out or is killed by winter, the roots are alive to give your plant the opportunity to REGROW!

I hope you are starting to feel a little bit better about cutting back your perennials.  If you are still unsure ask ANY greenhouse or garden center (not a box store) what they do with their tired perennials in July and August.  I will not keep it a secret.  We cut them back – most to within 2” of the soil and fertilize them with root stimulator (high phosphorus).  When we do that the plants are AMAZING and beautiful by September 1ST, EXACTLY when you are ready to plant!  This works in your home gardens, just as well as for us.

I promise!

Now for the details, here are some of the most common perennials that we sell at Colorscapes that benefit from cutting back.

Astilbe:  Prone to dry out come July and August.  You will know they are drying out, if the leaves are crispy.  If you plan to water them or if nature begins to give us more rain,  cut them back 2” from the ground.  You will soon see a flush of new bright green leaves.  A sporadic bloom may pop up in September when the weather is cool too!

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia):  Some varieties are floppy.  If yours flops over to the point where it looks bad, cut it back to 3-4”, fertilize with root stimulator and then water only when very dry.  Blanker flower will rebloom in 2-3 weeks.

Coneflower (Echinacea): Here at ColorScapes the wind plays havoc on our plants.  As you can see by the picture below.  Yes, even though it had many flowers, I cut it back HARD. I will update the progress as it flourishes again, but by mid to late September it will be beautiful – a bit shorter and sturdier, but full of flowers.

Before. Bent over coneflower.
After. Did this 10 days ago, plant at this moment have buds!

Coreopsis Threadleaf:  I have a love/hate relationship with Coreopsis.  As it seems to either look fabulous or terrible. (Ha! Sort of like the ups and downs of my life). When it is full of black seed heads I first cut 2-3” off the top of the plant.  Many times at that point it will revive itself, but sometimes a hard haircut is needed!  Here is a picture of some at ColorScapes after a hard haircut and then 1 week later!  Blooms!

A sheered back Coreopsis (NOT a dead Coreopsis). Pic below is one week later.

Dianthus:  Many new varieties of Dianthus will bloom more than once a season, but remember their best bloom is ALWAYS in April and May.  As soon as that first bloom is over, grab your hedge sheers (my favorite gardening tool, of course) and set the blades just above the foliage and cut.  If your dianthus leaves are raggedy or brown (usually a sign of over-water) you may cut into the leaves as well.  Keep doing this all summer, probably 3 or 4 times throughout the summer to promote MORE FLOWERS!

Nepeta:  I do like this plant!  It blooms so well and needs so little care.  As soon as your plant flops open and looks like a circular flopped over mop that is a sign to cut it back.  Often when it flops you will already see a nice new tuft of leaves in the center.  Keep those new leaves and cut the old foliage.  At my place I easily cut Nepeta back four times a summer.  Keep those sheers nearby!

Nepeta is a fast grower with in 4-5 days of cutting. You will see this.

Salvia:  A great perennial that MUST be sheered for rebloom.  This is plant that I cut back the most in established landscapes. I sheer back Marcus after it blooms down to the basal foliage (the group of leaves very close to the ground).  Caradonna and other taller varieties, on the first sheering I cut back by about half, then after that I will sheer these to the basal foliage as well.  No basal foliage?  Don’t worry, cut to about 3” regardless and you will soon see basal foliage and flower buds forming.

It is important to remember not to over water when your plant is cut back.  After cutting back, water when it is dry, but then wait till you see leaves before you water it.  Remember how a plant uses water…it transpires off the LEAVES on hot days.  Now if the plant has no leaves, it uses very little water.  When new leaves begin to form, the water needs will then go up.  I tell you this only because here at Colorscapes our cut back plants sometimes get watered daily (too much) by a “Happy Waterer”. If this occurs the roots which were alive will rot!  Then you WILL have a dead plant!

You can do this!  Got questions?  Stop in ask us…we want to see your tired garden revived and GORGEOUS this FALL!