Get Your Hands Dirty!

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‪Autumn Flowering Cherry‬ / Prunis subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’

… Spotted in Central Square by our Lead Designer, Maryellen on this warm December day!! This cherry tree is famous for its ability to produce lovely pink buds and white flowers off and on during a warm autumn season and then fully flower in the spring. In addition to the sporadic fall bloom, the foliage turns bronze, yellow, gold or deep-red tinged to contribute to the beauty of the winter season. Also, the tree has an attractive bark which adds winter interest. Who doesn’t LOVE CHERRY BLOSSOMS IN DECEMBER?! Keep your eyes peeled for the good cherry blossoms of Cambridge!

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Dahlias! (step-by-step instructions on dealing with the tubers)

Now that we’ve had our first few frosts here in the Northeast and November is fast approaching, it’s time to bring your dahlia tubers in for the winter months. If you haven’t already, you will need to cut the plant back so that only 6 inches of a stem stub remains. Using a pitchfork, pierce the soil about a foot from the stem stub and begin to loosen the soil by gently rocking back and forth with the pitchfork. Once unearthed, the tubers can be stored in paper bags (mark the variety on the bag) in a cool dry place.

May is a good time to plant the tubers back into your garden beds. Select a spot in your garden with well-balanced and composted soil that receives full sun throughout the day. I use tomato cages around the dahlias to support the plant as it grows. Some varieties can reach up to 8 feet in height! Tag each cage with the name of that particular flower. Do not water as there is plenty of moisture in the soil at this time of year. Over watering will cause the tubers to rot in the ground.

The first leaves of the plant should poke through in a week or two. When the first set of leaves is about eight inches to a foot high, I pinch out the center bud to encourage the plant to form multiple stems. This will produce a greater quantity of flowers per plant. As the plant grows, delicately train the stems to grow within the tomato cages.

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Now that we are all dahlia experts here, I thought I’d provide a brief history and some fun facts…

The dahlia is national flower of Mexico. Dahlias were first spotted in Mexico in the 16th century. The flower was used by the Aztecs to treat epilepsy and the hollow stems were used as water pipes. In later years, the Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent “plant parts” to the Royal Gardens of Madrid. From there, the plant made its way to Belgium, Italy and England where other species were developed.

The dahlia is is not scented but like most plants that do not attract pollinating insects through scent, they display brightly colored petals in a vast range of hues. One of the greatest joys of gardening is harvesting and arranging the fruits of your labor. Dahlias make excellent cut flowers and look radiant alone in bud vases or alongside zinnias, celosia and snapdragons. Happy gardening!

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Autumn Window Display, 875 MAIN ST

Here at Jean Brooks Landscapes, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of Boston culture and design.

TIPI’s in the garden = the new place to hangout! Here’s our version in our “woodland children’s garden” window display at 875 MAIN STREET. We’ve had 2 tipi commissions from clients since this went on display in late August. coincidence? I think NOT!

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Franklinia at The Arnold Arboretum

….Planted as a CUTTING in 1908! Franklinia or The Franklin Tree. You can find this sprawling tree in bloom right NOW on the Chinese Path/Explorer’s Garden at the top of Bussey Hill at the Arnold Arboretum. This shot reminds me of a Dutch still life with the ants!

The first reported encounter with this tree on the continent was in the British colony, Georgia. John and William Bartram first observed the tree growing along the Altamaha River in 1765:

“We never saw it grow in any other place, nor have I ever since seen it growing wild, in all my travels, from Pennsylvania to Point Coupe, on the banks of the Mississippi, which must be allowed a very singular and unaccountable circumstance; at this place there are two or 3 acres of ground where it grows plentifully” (W. Bartram, 1791).

While it’s difficult to transplant, once established Franklinia can survive a century or more like the one pictured here. The tree is now extinct in the wild for a number of reasons but mainly due to overcollection by plant collectors and a fungal disease introduced with the cultivation of cotton plants. Because Franklinia does not tolerate compacted clay soil (which, unfortunately are the conditions in Cambridge) or any disturbance to its roots, the tree is a bad candidate for urban environments. True, it’s not planted much in Cambridge or Boston yet, it looks so familiar…At Jean Brooks Landscapes, we love planting  Stewartia which is in the same family as Franklina and has a VERY similar look. Both have the colorful exfoliating bark. Both have the same red leaf in autumn and the same fried-egg- looking flower. Stewartia has a smaller, more delicate flower than the Franklinia which has a heartier, rubbery, magnolia-like petal.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting the Arboretum in the new few days. Foliage color is at its peak AND the Franklinia atop Bussey Hill, the miraculous survivor from a 1908 cutting is still in bloom!

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Fall Foliage

This is a Sourwood tree.  There are two on Mass. Ave in Harvard Square.  They have amazing fall color!

Sourwood (Oxydendron) is a nice, small, native tree with long panicles of pretty bell-shaped flowers and has vivid red fall foliage.

Keep your eyes open for them. Your eyes will thank you!

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Putting the garden to bed

It’s always a sad time when the last of the leaves have fallen. And while nearly everyone has experienced the joy of raking the leaves and then jumping in piles, it’s not all fun and games.

 

Properly putting your garden to bed is essential if you plan on having a lush and healthy garden when spring comes back around. In our gardens, we cut back perennials. We reduce the roses by cutting back long branches and diseased areas to avoid wind or snow damage. Wait until just before bud break in March to cut all the way back for a finer pruning. We lay down a top dressing of compost or light mulch for insulation to protect roots from freezing and thawing. We spray anti-desiccant on all broad leaf evergreens like rhododendrons, holly and boxwood. Along with rooftop trees, boxwood will be wrapped in a layer of burlap to shield from winter burn. All pots are emptied and irrigation systems are blown out. Lawns are over-seeded. This promotes grass growth but prevents the bad weeds from creeping in. Now, your garden is ready for holiday decoration!

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Fall Pots with JBL

Time to plant kale, cabbages and grasses. Plant asters, sedum and chrysanthemums (if you like) for some color. But the best part of all…

…PANSIES are back in season!

Stay tuned for some more of our favorite fall creations…