Archive for October 2012

How to Kill a Tree or, Tree Care 101

Photo/Illustration: Beverly Colgan

No one sets out to subject their tree to a slow and painful death. But many of the “helpful” things we do to our trees are actually responsible for their downfall. Be sure to avoid the following mistakes if you want your tree to live a long and healthy life.

  • Cut off the top branches of the tree to dwarf its size. (It encourages thin branches to grow straight
    up from the cut.)
  • Prune offending branches too close to the trunk.  (It invites massive decay of the trunk.)
  • Attach a birdhouse or other ornament with nails or wire. (It wounds and girdles the branches.)
  • Leave broken branches unpruned. (It provides an entry point for pests and diseases.)
  • Leave the ball lacing and synthetic burlap in place when planting. (It impedes root expansion.)
  • Bury the tree deeper than it was planted in the nursery pot. (It smothers the plant crown.

Call us at Urban Gardens if you need assistance in seasonal tree care, or tree planting.  410-833-4930. Do it right, and Save The Trees!

Trees That Please

Surefire investments in some standout varieties

When choosing a tree, it’s important to make sure it is a four-season performer.   And a tree should be largely pest- and disease-free and not require tons of pruning.  Here are some recommendations for a few trees that you will never regret planting. Whatever you choose, it will be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

Name: Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia),   Zones: 5 to 8

Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia)

Japanese stewartia is known for its camellia-like flowers in late spring and early summer. The white blooms have a bright orange center and open sporadically over a two- to three-week period.

It has a spectacular fall display—sporting yellow, red, and mahogany-colored leaves all on the same plant. The new leaves emerge a bronze-purple in early spring, turning dark green throughout the growing season; even the new twig growth is a reddish color. After the flowers are gone, a decorative seedpod remains. As a final note of interest, Japanese stewartia has reddish tan and gray-brown exfoliating bark that exposes a creamy white layer underneath. This tree has a dense, upright, pyramidal habit at first, then forms an open, rounded crown as it matures. It likes full sun to partial shade and prefers moist, well-drained soil. Japanese stewartia is also relatively slow growing until established.

Name: ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’),  Zones: 5 to 8

'Wolf Eyes' kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Wolf Eyes')

One look at this small tree and you’ll understand why it got its name. Its showy white flowers cover the tree in late spring; with their bright green centers, they almost appear to be staring back at you. Some trees will bloom for several weeks, extending into late summer. ‘Wolf Eyes’ is upright and vase-shaped as a young tree—some say it is rather stiff looking. But with age, it develops into a broad, spreading tree with a horizontal branching habit. These trees are happiest in partial to full shade and moist, well-drained soil. After several years, ‘Wolf Eyes’ kousa dogwood develops a beautiful, well-defined, exfoliating bark of grays, tans, and rich brown tones. The bark patterns are more evident when the trunk is wet. Its fall leaf colors range from orange to mahogany. Large raspberry-shaped fruit appear in late summer and are a great food source for birds but are also edible to humans.


Name: Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), Zones: 5 to 8

Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica)
Persian ironwood is a deciduous tree with a distinctive spreading habit, similar to witch hazel (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9). Most of these trees have a single, relatively short trunk that forks near the ground, and a rounded crown composed of wide, arching—or even drooping—branches. Persian ironwood’s best trait is its brilliant autumn foliage, which can include yellows, reds, and oranges; it reminds me of a parrot’s feathers. The exfoliating bark peels and flakes, creating a mottled patchwork of green, beige, white, and gray blotches. Unlike other trees that rely on just their bark for winter interest, this tree flowers in late winter, producing a plethora of small spiderlike, ruby red flowers. Persian ironwood is a slow-growing tree that is virtually free of pests and diseases and tolerates acidic to alkaline soils. It is also tolerant of drought, wind, urban air pollution, and soil compaction. The best fall color is produced on plants growing in acidic soil in full sun.

Our nursery has several of these trees in stock.  Call Urban Gardens at 410-833-4930 to inquire about availability on these and other great varieties we have!

Plant Combinations for a Fabulous Fall Garden

Take advantage of fading foliage to create a stunning fall garden

Fall color is often the result of leaves turning before they drop, a benefit all enjoy but few use to their benefit. The always-attractive ‘Madame Emile Mouillère’ hydrangea adds a glorious touch of rosy red to its leaves in autumn. Rather than marvel in this beauty by itself, I enhance the seasonal gift with plants that complement the color and shape of the hydrangea. This shrub and the sedum below it offer flower heads that form a large mass. The crimson tinges in the hydrangea flower only strengthen the connection between the plants. A Japanese forest grass planted at the feet of the elegant hydrangea will echo the color and shape of the soft yellow veins in the shrub’s foliage. As the colors of these plants continue to change and fade in late fall, the whole combination takes on new dimensions.

1. ‘Madame Emile Mouillère’ hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillère’, Z 6–9)
2. ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Z 3–11)

Click to enlarge image

Hillside Landscaping

Ideas for steep slopes and hillsides must consider erosion control as well as designstone stack wall

The methods of landscaping steep slopes and hillsides must simply address creative ways to hold the property in place.   While designs may vary depending on location, materials, and other circumstances, the basics are pretty much the same for most.

One of the most common methods of erosion control on steep slopes and hillside landscapes is in terracing with either stone or retaining walls. A common practice in farming and landscaping for thousands of years, terracing levels out the steep ground by cut and fill methods of transferring the soil and holding it in place with hardscapes.

Retaining Walls
Since retaining walls are some of the most common methods of terracing steep hillsides, we’ll look at this first. As you’ll see, most of these walls are made of pre fab concrete blocks that can be faced with stone, or are built with paver blocks.

Rock Garden Walls
Rock garden walls are another popular option fro erosion control and drainage.  These low walls are built from natural stone and also serve as natural seating with the landscape.

The Importance of Fall Landscape Maintenance

fall maintenance

fall landscape maintenance

As a homeowner, it’s important to consider your landscape’s maintenance in the fall.  Fall landscape prep plays a pivotal roll in how well your yard bounces back next spring, and unfortunately for the “time-crunched” folks, this preparation involves much more than sending the kids out to clear the fallen leaves.

Just because the leaves are turning doesn’t mean your lawn is done growing. In fact you’ll want to make sure your lawn and shrubs are getting ample water until it goes dormant. So how do you know when your grass has become dormant. Here’s a handy tip: Set the mower to 2 inches, keep mowing until there are few or no clippings after wards. This is the signal that the grass is done growing for the year.

Treating your yard with a pre-emergent herbicide is important to control weeds come spring. Once the leaves are gone and the trees are bare it’s time to fertilize the lawn. Basically it’s like sending a bear into hibernation with its belly nice and full…so that come spring it will awaken fresh and ready for healthy growth. which will encourage growth and thickness in the spring.

Fall is also the ideal time to take a look at your perennials. October is the ideal month to plant your spring flowering bulbs. If your considering new trees and shrubs, cooler temperatures make an ideal climate to create less strain and allow them to establish over the winter. For any new plantings this fall, it will be important that you cover the root systems with at least a good 2 inches of mulch.

Sprinkler system & irrigation winterization: This is a critical step and many times overlooked. By not winterizing your sprinkler system you’ll probably have a hefty repair bill come spring if w

fall landscape maintenancee have a cold winter. Water in the lines during a freeze will mean cracked sprinkler heads and pipes. Your sprinkler system lines will need to be flushed out and shut down for the winter.

Ponds and water features are another important aspect of fall maintenance. Fish or no fish you’ll want to take this time to clean filters and vacuum all dead and decomposing material in the pond to avoid algae bloom come spring.

Here at Urban Gardens Inc.  we specialize in fall landscape maintenance and winter yard preparation. Give us a call!

Outdoor Fire Pit

fire pit & blue stone patio

outdoor fire pit

outdoor fire pit
fire pit & river rock patio

Perfect time to have an outdoor fire pit built in your backyard.


fire pit

sunken fire pit & boulder seating