April– Plants Of The Month

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Spring has sprung and it is time for fragrances and flowers! In this first edition of April, we will focus on three vibrant plants within the landscape. Spicebush, Fothergilla and Eastern Redbud will be the three plants/trees.

Scientific Name- Lindera benzoin

Common Name- Spicebush

The tiny, showy yellow flowers on the Spicebush are in full bloom in the month of April. The shrub can mature to be 10′ tall and wide. Its fragrant flowers and foliage alike attract butterflies and birds and thrives in full sun to part shade.


Scientific Name- Fothergilla gardenii

Common Name- Dwarf fothergilla

This common landscape shrub has white, fragrant flowers and is in bloom from April to May. This shrub is plant resistant, while reaching heights and spread of up to four feet.


Scientific Name- Cercis canadensis

Common Name- Eastern redbud

There are not many trees that put on a show in April like the redbud does with its pink flowers. This tree can range up to 30′ tall and thrives in full sun to part shade.

eastern redbud

March–Plants Of The Month

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As we march on, the snow is melting and plants are ready to go in the ground again. Now is time for some early spring bloomers to begin appearing within the landscape.

Scientific Name- Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Variety’

Common Name- Forsythia

Depending on what micro-climate you are in, the yellow blooms of Forsythia can put on quite a show from March to April.


Scientific Name- Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’

Common Name- ‘Arnold Promise’ Witch hazel

From February to March, the Witch hazel has yellow flowers that can be fragrant as well. This plant thrives in full sun and can tolerate part shade, reaching heights and spreads of 15′ feet.

witch hazel

March– Plants Of The Month

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The worst of winter is done with. Now we can start looking forward to refreshing colors and not necessarily spring time, but the anticipation of spring time.

Scientific Name- Illex x meserveae

Common Name- Blue holly

This holly is evergreen and has glossy dark green foliage to go along with thorns on the tips of the leaves. The blue holly also features red berries that attract birds. It can grow up to 10′ tall and wide.

blue holly winter

Scientific Name- Polystichum acrostichoides

Common Name- Christmas fern

This fern is an evergreen that can handle part to full shade and is deer resistant. It can be a nice accent piece in a naturalized/woods setting.

christmas fern

February–Plants Of The Month

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March is almost here. We need to grab whatever color we can out of a landscape to help get through the worst part of winter. The following plants can help brighten up what has been a long winter and remind us that spring is not far away.

Scientific Name- Perovskia atripliciolia ‘Little Spire’

Common Name- Russian sage

While this plant can put on a show with its impressive flowers during a different season, in the winter this plant can show off its silver foliage. Russian sage can grow up to 3′ tall and wide and is deer resistant.

russian sage winter

Scientific Name- Hydrangea quercifolia

Common Name- Oakleaf Hydrangea

During the winter season, the characteristic of interest is the Oakleaf’s bark and potentially its flower from last season depending on how its weathered the season.

oakleaf bark oakleaf winter

February–Plants Of The Month

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Welcome to February, the heart of winter, where most likely everything in the landscape is snow covered and or frozen entirely. Here are a couple plants to cherish in this time period due to much needed color in the landscape when not much is present.

Scientific Name- Illex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’

Common Name- Winterberry Holly ‘Red Sprite’

It is quite clear why this shrub can be a focal feature during the winter months, as the berries on it can put on a show. It attracts birds, but is also deer resistant. This plant can grow up to 10′ tall and wide if desired.

winterberry holly

Scientific Name- Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Sheen’

Common Name- Pachysandra ‘Green Sheen’

This groundcover can be a fantastic way to eat up unused space in a landscape and a nice way to add lasting color throughout the winter months.


January–Plants Of The Month

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Here are a couple more examples of two plants that have certain characteristics all year round, but are not fully appreciated until there is not much else in the landscape that attracts the eye.

Scientific Name- Buxus sinicia var. insularis

Common Name-‘Wintergreen’ Boxwood

Boxwood is one of the most popular landscape shrubs. This particular species is an evergreen and continues to add interest through the winter months when not many plants do.

wintergreen boxwood

Scientific Name-Acer griseum

Common Name-Paperbark Maple

This species of maple adds significant interest with its cinnamon colored and peeling bark. It enjoys full sun to part shade and can grow  up to 30′ tall.

paperbark whole paperbark maple

January–plants of the month

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Although many of us are not walking our gardens during the winter months, there are a great number of plants earning their merit with simple characteristics that are often overlooked during the growing season.

This month we will look at a few plants serving different purposes in the winter landscape.

       Leather Leaf Viburnum

leather leaf viburnum

Arborvitae ‘Green Giant’

green giant

Where to use these shrubs:

Viburnums and Arborvitae are wonderful plants to naturalize as part of the landscapes’ backbone. They should be allowed enough room to grow into their mature size to reduce pruning requirements and to enjoy their natural growth habit.

When placed along borders or transition areas of the garden they are terrific sources of privacy and screening. Most importantly, these plants add considerable substance to the winter landscape.

Jan plants (11)

Arborvitae and Viburnums planted together at edge of property line.

Spring… Where Are You?

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What a difference a year can make. The winter of 2012/2013 has not been one for the record books in terms of snowfall accumulation or extreme cold temperatures but it has made an impression.

As of the second week of March the National Weather Service has accounted for nearly 50 inches of snow in the Pittsburgh area. This is above the average of 42 inches that typically falls each winter.

So if we are only 8 inches above normal why has this winter felt so long?I’m sure we all have our own opinions but the truth lies in the small and persistent doses of precipitation and cold that frequented the area. Aside from a few plowable snow events that accumulated over 3 inches the remainder was accumulated in very small amounts. Another legitimate reason could be that is has been harsher in comparison to last year which was very mild and very deep-rooted in our memory of how winter ought to be.

Not only did we receive less snow last year it was much milder for longer periods of time. March 2012 was essentially the start of spring. Grass needed to be mowed and plants were leafing out and flowering up to 4 weeks ahead schedule in some situations. While some of the usually suspects are flowering right now most plants will be on schedule for normal blooms this spring.  Hopefully this article is not updated to report any record St. Patrick Day storms that require overblown news coverage of people stocking up on green beer and bread.

Does Your Landscape Suffer the Winter Blues?

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Do you generally feel tired, eat more comfort foods and sleep more in the winter? Well, that probably has nothing to do with your landscape, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try and spice up your grounds so they’re a bit more stimulating from December to February.

It certainly would be unrealistic to think that winter could rival spring in terms of excitement but that doesn’t mean that the winter landscape needs to be barren. Orchestrating a winter landscape with lots of interest doesn’t necessarily have to involve the same steps as the other seasons when we buy flowering perennials, bulbs and countless annuals for that extra punch of color. With a little luck and planning you can make your winter landscape a bit richer without spending any money.

“Luck is the residue of design.”
― Branch Rickey

In order to realize this element of interest that may have been overlooked, winter is a great time to take an inventory and determine what you have to work with. Below are some ideas of how to enhance the look of your winter landscape with the existing components and a few slight adjustments to your maintenance or planting program.

  • Substance: Selectively leave perennial plants with decorative features that will show well when it snows. (Purple cone flowers, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Russian Sage, Hydrangea flowers, Ornamental Grass, etc.)
  • Texture & Structure: Prune unwanted branches to accentuate decorative bark and/or architecture of the plant. (Birch, Kousa Dogwood, Spirea, Red/Yellow Stem Dogwood)
  • Evergreen plants generally serve as the backbone of the landscape. Although this is not the time to plant them it is usually very apparent where they are needed for future planting projects.
  • Evergreen Boughs and Decorative Branching: Create displays to provide focal points throughout garden. These are best used in highly visible areas. If you cannot get cuttings from the garden they can be bought at floral centers.
  • Benches and site amenities: Instead of storing all of the outdoor furniture under a tarp, consider leaving the cedar bench or yard art outside. If a pink flamingo is part of your collection please proceed immediately to the ‘Get in Touch’ section of our website for a consultation.
  • Wildlife: Don’t forget about our friends that visit us in the winter.

If you find that you are missing some of these necessary plants and components for the winter now is a good time to plan and add them to your bucket list for next season.

Holiday Lighting

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The Holidays are here whether you are ready or not. Regardless of your preparation or hectic schedule I highly recommend the Phipps Conservancy Winter Flower and Light Display to enhance your holiday fever. The show runs through January 6th and I especially encourage a visit at night for the Candlelight Evenings. A leisurely stroll through the gardens will transform the biggest Scrooge or over-shopped mom into the most grateful George Bailey.

Here are some of my highlights from the display:

  • Holiday lights done right- All of the lights are incorporated in the landscape so that they are part of a plant and displayed to supplement it. It’s a nice break from snow globes sitting in front yards.
  • Great flowers displays as always. Seems like more poinsettias than normal this year which makes for a rich show.
  •  Art- I especially like the remaining Chihuly glass incorporated into the holiday setting.
  • Garden Railroad- Cool World’s Fair Theme along with fun use of common plants to create its landscape
  • Most importantly, I always find this show to be the big energizer that gets my juices flowing for spring planning.

Happy Holidays!