Lawns & Landscapes

You want to make your lawns and landscapes — the places where your children play and your vegetables grow — as safe as possible. Our landscaping blog provides the ideas, information and practical experience, to help you do it.

Share tips and ask questions over at our Lawn Care Forum. Because, the grass doesn’t always have to grow greener next door!

Tips for Planting Bare Root Trees

Planting Bare Root TreesThe advantages of buying, and when to plant, bare root trees and shrubs.

Our far-flung correspondents have been sighting bare root trees coming in to nurseries and big-box stores. It’s still a little early for planting in many parts of the country, especially considering the brutal nature of winter 2015 back east.

But places in the prairie states and west, especially the Pacific Northwest, enjoying warm winters? Why not take advantage?

Bare root trees not only cost half or so as much as their potted counterparts, they take better to planting. And there’s reason for that. (more…)

Growing Self- Seeding Perennial Flowers

Perennial Flower GardenEasy-to-grow, beautiful perennials are an attractive way to fill-in landscape space.

Flowering perennials are a good-news, bad-news sort of thing when it comes to your flower beds. Most of the news about these attractive, inexpensive and easy-to-grow, self-sowing flowers falls into the “good” category.  More good news: the “bad” side of the equation can be tamed with a little advance planning.

Flowering perennials are perfect for filling space in your garden. If you’re sowing them directly into the soil, they’ll come up in a crowd that gives a nice, natural contrast with the annuals we set out as single plants. (more…)

Best Direct Sow Flowers

Flower GardenLots of annual flowers take to seeding right in the ground.

We’ve made no secret that we intend to start more of our annual flowers indoors, under lights, to set in our landscapes once temperatures cooperate. And as we were putting together a list for an impending order, we realized that we should also consider the flower seed we’ll order to sow directly in the ground.

Direct seeding works well in places like borders or other patches where a number of plants are desired. And the best flowers for these borders are ones that germinate and mature quickly like cosmoszinnias, or marigolds. (more…)

The Art of Outdoor Container Growing

Growing in ContainersChoosing pots, plants and places to create beautiful landscapes with containers.

With a porch, a deck and a semi-covered patio, I’ve got as lot of good places for potted plants. I spent sometime this weekend going through some favorite books, getting ideas and reviewing principles that will not only improve my growing but also the aesthetic of potted plants. Here are some of the things that attracted me. Let’s hope they expand your thinking on container growing in the outdoor landscape just as they did mine.

Container Garden Idea Book put together by the editors of Fine Gardening magazine was one of the more browseable gardening books to come out in 2011.

It doesn’t really spend a lot of time discussing soil, drainage and moisture control, and what kind of pots to use for successful gardening. And that’s fine with me. I figure I know enough to grow climate-appropriate plants in containers. It’s the aesthetics that challenge me. I don’t have a good visual eye. Luckily, the Container Garden Idea Book helps me see how pots and plants come together for visual appeal. (more…)

Landscape Design: Building, Planting A Trellis

Landscape TrellisesVertical gardening with roses, grapes and other vines on arbors and trellises.

Well into his winter garden planning, your friendly Planet Natural blogger is thinking of vertical growing, both in the garden and around the yard. Maybe an arbor at the entrance too, well, I’m not sure yet. Or vines, heavy with trumpet blossoms, trailing up over a trellis placed against a fence. This could be a winter project, the way to get through a cold January and February, maybe even March (knowing how I proceed), then, come spring, set the thing outside and plant climbing vines.

I had youthful success doing this once before in the friendly climate of Venice, California. In fact, too successful. My trumpet vines and bougainvillea grew so thick and so far — and so heavy — that they eventually pulled down the slat fence that largely supported them. (more…)

Growing Holly for the Holidays

Winter HollyFind the right kind of holly for your landscape and grow it!

We love the ever-green, natural plants associated with the holidays: the firs and pine trees celebrated in song, the poinsettia, mistletoe  (actually a parasite that attaches itself to trees from which it draws water and nutrition). But our favorite, despite the fact that no presents go under it, is holly.

We had a large holly bush growing against the south side of one of our out-buildings when we lived on a small hippie homestead in the Pacific Northwest. Partially shaded a couple hours each day by two very large Douglas firs that were several yards away, the bush grew up to the roof and supplied a bounty of sprigs and red berries each year without any care from us. (more…)

Conifers In the Winter Landscape

Snowy ConiferGrowing evergreens takes planning, care … and water.

Our latest cold snap here in Bozeman is breaking and the forecast says that tomorrow the temperature will rise above freezing for the first time in, well, I don’t even want to think about it. As winter sets in more than a month before its calendar arrival, it reminds us how much we love evergreens. With the leaves dead and mostly gone from the deciduous trees, we never lack in our favorite color. Luckily conifers of all types keep us in green through the long winter.

We in the West love our pines and firs and spruce and junipers. Not only are there native varieties to plant, but grafted or otherwise naturally altered evergreens will also do well in cold and colder environments.The native conifers tend to be water-wise plants, able to exist in your natural xeriscape. (more…)

Late Season Bulb Planting

Flower BulbsTips for planting your favorite fall bulbs.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger is on the record saying that, depending how severe your winters, the best place to store any extra spring-blooming bulbs you might have is in the ground. Bulbs generally don’t store well inside and even those you carefully pack in containers of sawdust or peat moss and kept in the garage or basement (if it’s cool enough) aren’t all going to make it. Those that do will be something other than the bulbs you started with.

The common wisdom on planting bulbs in fall — tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinths, crocus, and others — is that they should be planted at first frost. Some hardy bulbs, like the crocus colchicum, take to earlier planting than others, They need at least five weeks before the ground freezes hard to develop. In some northern and high elevation areas, that five-weeks is drawing to a close. Timing your planting, of course, depends on your particular conditions. (more…)

Your Grandfather’s Apples

Heirloom Apple TreeHeirloom apple trees yield treasures from the past.

This time of the year, when cider presses across the country are squeezing day and night, is a good time to consider the bounty of apples we enjoy. We’re not talking about the stacks of Gala and Fuji and Granny Smith that decorate the produce sections of our local supermarkets. We’re talking about the heirloom apples we find in farmers markets and produce stands, and in our backyard gardens or those of our neighbors, apples with names like Grand Alexander, Cornish Gilliflower, and Macoun (pronounced “McCowan”), apples that taste nothing like the commercial fruits flooding grocery stores. These apples, with various origins and histories, are a link to our past as well as a direct connection to a heritage that may have been lost if not for some persistent and skilled fruit growers. (more…)

Koi Ponds and Water Gardens

Koi PondTips for designing and maintaining garden water features.

Koi ponds and water gardens have been popular for hundreds of years because of their beauty and serenity. Koi are traditional symbols of good luck in Chinese and Japanese culture, with each variety representing different aspects of life such as love, wealth, or happiness. These fish are hardy and do very well in controlled environments like backyard water gardens. Keep reading to find out more about how to put together a healthy environment for these stunning fish.

History of Koi Ponds

With their playful demeanor and rich history of bringing good luck, koi are the perfect addition to any backyard water garden. Dating back centuries to China and Japan, these fish were originally kept as pets by emperors because they were thought to transform into dragons. (more…)

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