Vande Hey Design Center

Monday, January 5, 2015

January: What do you mean there is nothing to do?

Don’t let the calendar fool you into thinking that there is nothing to do in the garden.   January is a great time to plan, dream, and learn for the growing season yet to come.  I would suggest you investigate all the new and old varieties of plants being recommended for 2015.  Did you know 2015 has been deemed the “Year of the Coleus?”  The Perennial Plant Association has named the perennial geranium ‘Biokovo’ as its 2015 plant of the year and The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association has named Musclewood its woody ornamental plant of the year for 2015?  All are great plants for our area and great additions this spring.

It is also a great time to learn new techniques and new garden styles.  Classes are regularly offered at places like the Green Bay Botanical Garden to help hone your gardening skills.  Vande Heys will be offering a talk there on January 30th regarding the use of edibles in the home garden.

Saturday January 24th is the date and Oshkosh the location for the Wild Ones annual symposium entitled “Toward Harmony with Nature”.  Many ideas and interesting seminars can also be found at the Brown County Home Builders Association Home Expo which runs January 15th -18th at the KI Center in Green Bay.  Of course, Vande Heys is always ready to help with an idea, provide a new plant suggestion, answer a question, or create a new landscape design.  Stop by or e-mail us at any time.

Finally don’t forget to take the time to peruse the many seed and plant catalogues that that arrive in your mailbox.  What a great way to relax on a cold winter’s day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Living Christmas Tree

Each year many people choose to bring a living tree into the home for Christmas.  Smaller potted and even some balled and burlapped evergreens make great candidates for a living Christmas tree.  Living Christmas trees should only stay in the home for 2-3 weeks and prefer cool room temperatures.  Lighting the tree with cool LED lights instead of warmer incandescent bulbs is a big help.  Treating the tree with an anti-desiccant spray such as Wilt-Stop will also slow down moisture loss.  Water the tree every day as it can never be allowed to dry out.  Once the decorations are removed, plan on planting the tree immediately.  This means that you need to plan ahead and prepare a planting hole now to receive the tree in January.

Choose a proper location in your yard to be the final home for your Christmas tree.  Take into consideration the ultimate size of the tree as well as its soil and light requirements.  Dig the hole before the ground freezes.  The size of the hole should be as deep as the root ball and 2-3 times as wide.  Amend the soil with leaf compost and store the soil in a location where it will not freeze and will be easy to access in January.  Now fill the hole with straw to slow down the frost.  At planting time, remove the straw from the hole and install the tree using the saved, unfrozen soil.  Water the plant heavily and much around the tree using the same straw that once filled the hole.  Plan on watering the tree again in the early spring once the soil has thawed.  What a great holiday tradition to begin the next year and to remember for many years to come as the trees grow and flourish.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leaf them alone

Right now we all have an abundance of leaves collecting on our lawns and in our landscapes.  In time we begin to see large piles of leaves collecting along our curbs but is this the best way to utilize the annual leaf drop?

There are alternatives besides raking to the curb.
- Instead of raking, considering leaving the fallen leaves on your lawn to be chopped up by the lawn mower.  A modest amount of leaves shredded by the mower can provide a natural, organic boost to the lawn.  Just make sure the layer of chopped leaves is not so thick as to bury the lawn or create a mat of leaves on top of the grass.
- Shredded leaves from your mower or shredder make a great organic winter mulch for your perennials.  A thin layer spread over the perennials once the ground has begun to freeze is a great way to protect sensitive plants or shallow rooted perennials such as coral bell and Shasta daisy.
- Consider working in a layer of shredded leaves to the vegetable garden or annual flower garden providing an organic boost in the spring.

The annual drop of leaves from our deciduous trees is nature's way of returning to the soil what it used during the summer.  We can help in the task by using this bounty of organic materials ourselves in our own yards or encouraging our cities to compost the leaves we rake to the curb.

Monday, October 13, 2014


Recently a starting quarterback for a local green and gold football team implored his fans to relax.  Well I want to implore you to relax when it comes to preparing your yard and landscape for winter.  We all want to make short work of our remaining outdoor chores but in many cases it’s still just too early.

Let’s discuss a few examples:
•    Your lawn:  No you cannot put the lawn mower away just because it’s October.  You need to keep mowing and it will benefit your lawn to do so until it stops growing.  In some years that’s the end of October but in others it could be the end of November.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Winter mulches:  These mulches which are designed to help your perennials or tender plants shouldn’t be applied until the ground has cooled or even begun to lightly freeze.  Applying too early may trick your plants into making the wrong assumption that the cold weather is still weeks away.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Cannas, dahlias and other summer flowering bulbs should not be dug until the foliage has died down and been hit by a hard freeze.  Digging too early will only make them harder to overwinter inside our homes.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.
•    Delay any pruning of woody plants from now until they are fully dormant.  Of course you could also just decide to hold off on any pruning until March or April.  Fall pruning can leave wounds that simply will not heal at this time and this increases the chance for disease or winter damage.  Remember, relax and let Mother Nature dictate the pace.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Think Spring!

Don’t be confused by the title.  This really is a new entry for October!  Now is the time to think of spring and the beautiful displays of hyacinth, tulip, and daffodil that will fill your yard.

Here are a few tips to remember as you plan:

- If planned properly, spring blooming bulbs can add color from April to June.
- All spring blooming bulbs require well-drained soils.  If this is not the case in your yard, now is the time to work in plenty of compost, peat moss, and pulverized topsoil before you plant.
- Bulbs look their best in masses.  I like to recommend no less than 25 tulips or daffodils be used and no less than 50 of the smaller bulbs like crocus be used for the biggest "Wow!"
- Spring blooming bulbs do best in full sun.  However, that doesn’t mean that bulbs cannot be planted under some trees.  Remember that the early bloomers would be at their best long before the tree leafs out.
- When planting bulbs the proper depth is 2.5 – 3 times the diameter of the bulb.

We’d love to see pictures of your bulb displays next spring.  Peak bloom time is only 6 months away so get your camera ready.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's out of control...

People often tell me that they previously had a wonderful garden but due to something in their lives, it "simply got out of control."  They desperately want to find a way to bring the old landscape back.  Sometimes this is easily done and sometimes it is simply not possible.  In either case, all you need is a plant.  Attack, be patient, and be ready for some hard work.

Last year portions of my yard got out of control following a prolonged illness.  Aggressive weeds like Creeping Charlie and nightshade took over large areas once planted with perennials, small fruits, and flowers while shrubs became much too tall.  This year my health has improved and my goal was to once again gain control of these areas.  It's been almost 4 months since our growing season started and the battle is almost won.  So, how was it accomplished?

Attack: From early spring on, this area of my year received special attention.  I walked it daily looking for the weeds that once dominated.  By spraying or pulling something every day, the weeds were not allowed to go to seed or to grow so large that they force out more desirable plants.  As new weeds germinate, they were quickly removed with the hope that no other seeds remained.  I had pruned back many plants to once again allow the sunlight in where it had become shade.  With the return of space, sun, and water, I've been able to replant lost plants and bit by bit the look I once had is returning.

Be Patient: It had taken 4 months of diligent work to clear the area of weeds and to reshape the trees and shrubs.  One weekend of work wasn't going to do it, nor was a week or a month.  In fact, the job of regaining control continues today as every day seems to grow another crop of those persistent weeds.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still pulling weeds as the snow falls.

Hard Work: I think you've alreay figured this section out.

If you feel your yard is out of control, now is the time to develop your plan for the rest of the year.  Start the attack today and make it a daily habit.  Be patient, as it will take time.  Continue to work hard to make it all happen.  In time you will be back in control and enjoying the fruits of your labors.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weeds: Can't Live With Them

What is a weed?  My plant taxonomy professor made us commit to memory that a weed is "an aggressive invader of a disturbed area."  This is very true but probably not what came to mind as you started reading.  For the sake of this article, let's call weeds "and plant out of place."

So, what is the best way to control these rogue plants in our gardens or landscape?  Plan A is to never let them get out of control in the first place.  The easiest time to control any weed is when it is small.  The key is to eliminate the weed before it becomes deeply rooted in the soil, which can be done in a number of ways.  Small weeds can easily be controlled by hand pulling, hoeing, or chemical application of herbicides.  The best example of such an herbicide is Round-Up.  A weekly inspection and weeding of the landscape will effectively control weeds with the least amount of effort.

If your property is large or your weeds are already out of control, consider yourself beyond Plan A.  Let's discuss Plan B. Plan B will depend entirely on on the weed we are discussing.  Weeds that develop a strong central root (like dandelion) or root along their stems (like Creeping Charlie) have the nasty ability to regenerate themselves from even the smallest portion of the root or stem left behind from pulling.  This means that herbicide applications are your Plan B.  Remember that most over the counter herbicides will also kill your desired plants.  Pre-mixed spray bottles with directional or foaming nozzles, sponges, or even paint brushes can be used to apply the chemical to only the leaves of the offending plant.  This will effectively kill the weed and leave your landscape plants untouched.  Some weeds, even when large, can still be controlled by hand weeding.  Purslane, Plantain, and even crabgrass can be effectively removed by hand pulling even when large.  A slow, even, and upward pressure applied at the base of the plant is the most effective.  If the soil is dry and clay-based, try watering the area the night before to make removal easier.

Once your beds are weed-free, consider and organic mulch to limit future weed growth.  Organic mulches are convenient and an aesthetically pleasing way to control weeds.  A deep layer (2" for perennials and up to 4" for trees and shrubs) will help eliminate most weeds.