Author Archives: Ben Martin

Getting Started Growing Fruit

by Kathy Torres

Peaches have been grown in South Carolina since the 1860s and are designated as the official State Fruit.   SC peach farmers grow over thirty varieties, ranking second in the United States (behind California) in production.  Other than the occasional late frost and freeze that may occur, a peach tree is a good bet for your landscape, and there is nothing better than a ripe, juicy peach on a hot summer day.  In addition to peach trees, many other fruiting plants and trees will flourish here in the midlands.  You can enjoy beautiful, often fragrant, spring blooms, and fresh, delicious fruit from your own yard. Dwarf varieties even make it possible to harvest from a container on your patio!

There are a few basics you should be aware of if you are considering fruiting plants and trees…

POLLINATION:  Most strawberry, raspberry, grape, blackberry, peach, nectarine, sour cherry and apricot varieties are self-fruitful, which means they do not need a pollinator.   Generally, blueberries, pears, apples, plums and sweet cherries must have a different variety planted nearby to cross-pollinate and ensure a good harvest.  Most citrus are self-pollinating (except tangerines). For more pollination information, check out the charts provided HERE.

CHILL HOURS are the minimum hours below 45 degrees F that a plant is exposed to during dormancy. Reaching the needed chill hours sets off the plant’s internal alarm clock to wake up in the spring instead of summer or fall, so that it can take advantage of the warm weather to blossom, set fruit, and finish the seed cycle before the coming of another winter’s nap. A fruit tree may grow well where winters are mild, but if there are not enough chill hours over the course of winter, the tree will not fruit properly. Some fruit trees need as few as 100 chill hours, others need as many as 1,000 chill hours or more. Average chill hours for Lexington are 370-490 according to AgroClimate.org.

COMMON PROBLEMS:

  • Peach scab is a fungus that attacks twigs, leaves and fruit of peaches, nectarines and apricots. Proper pruning that allows good air flow into the tree helps to prevent and manage the disease. The second step is application of fungicide sprays, from the time petals fall until about a month before harvest.
  • Fire Blight is a bacterial disease that attacks apple, crabapple and pear trees. It’s best known for making leaves look like they’ve been burned. Treatment includes planting a resistant variety, avoiding high nitrogen fertilizers, and gathering and destroying fallen fruit, leaves and twigs. Copper and antibiotic sprays can also help control the disease.
  • Suckers are stems that grow from the root system and steal nutrients from the main stems and branches. To remove suckers, dig down to find the origin, and cut it cleanly. Clip a sucker at soil level, and next year two or more stems will appear at that same location.
  • Codling Moth, Aphids, Borers are three common pests that create problems for fruit trees. Treatment is necessary immediately to minimize the damage to tree and fruit.

The absolute best way to avoid issues with disease and pests is a preventive plan.  Ask for Wingard’s Fruit Tree Care plan on your next visit and get ahead of potential problems. 

TRAINING and PRUNING: Untrained and unpruned trees become entangled masses of shoots and branches that produce little or no fruit and harbor insects and diseases. Light pruning can be done throughout the growing season to remove broken, injured or diseased branches and to improve air circulation to control diseases. Major removal of twigs and branches should be done during the dormant season, before active growth begins in the spring.  Clemson has a great Factsheet on training and pruning apple and pear trees HERE.   

FERTILIZING: Spring is the best time for fertilizing fruit trees because spring is when trees need plenty of energy to push out new leaves and nurture baby fruit. Feed the trees before they break from dormancy, during bud-break, or during the growing season.  If it’s July or August already – you’re too late – wait for next spring.  It’s always a good idea to test the soil every 2 or 3 years to ensure the pH is right.

This blog is entitled Getting Started Growing Fruit because we have “touched” on some basics. There is really a lot to learn to be successful growing fruit, so continue to research and dive in to the subject.  Check out Wingard’s blog on Growing Citrus in South Carolina HERE and these Clemson fact sheets that may be of interest:

Peach Diseases | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Fig | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Blueberry | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Pomegranate | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Growing Strawberries | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Muscadine Grape | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

Of course, the first order of business is to decide which fruits you love to eat and take it from there!

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Aquatic Plants

by Kathy Torres

The sights and sounds of water provide a relaxing, soothing atmosphere in the garden.  An extra reward is the attraction of pollinators, frogs, butterflies, and other beneficial wildlife.  As water gardens and ponds have gained popularity, so has interest in plant life to enhance the natural appearance of these landscape additions.  There are many aquatic plants for use in natural, as well as man made water features that, in addition to just being beautiful, add oxygen, help to control algae and provide a home or hiding place for wildlife. 

Different aquatic plants require different depths of water, so it is important to do a little research and choose plants that will best suit your particular conditions.  Some aquatic varieties just like to have wet feet, as in a bog situation. Other plants need to be fully submerged, and some float on the surface with their roots hanging in water.  You can achieve the proper level for one or multiple plants by placing bricks, cinder blocks, etc. under the pots. 

Specialty pots, soil, gravel, and fertilizers are available for aquatic plants.  Soil should be loamy and heavy so that it won’t float away when the pot is placed in water.  Potting mix is not suitable, as it will float out of the pot and muck up the water.  Aquatic or pea gravel can be added on top of the soil to hold it in place.  Some water gardeners also plant completely in gravel.  It’s good to experiment to see what works best for you. It may be appropriate to plant bare root directly into the pond or water feature, using rocks to hold the plant in place.  Just be sure to remove all the dirt from the roots before it goes in the water. 

An aquatic garden will require some tending, as far as plant growth is concerned.  Because many water plants are bulbs that will multiply, it will likely be necessary to divide them as they outgrow their space.  Avoid cultivars that are invasive.  Go to https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/aquatic-shoreline-plant-selection/ for a listing of nuisance (and illegal) water plants in South Carolina. 

With any plant, it is key to be aware of the mature size as you make plans to include it in any part of the landscape to make the most of your space and avoid overcrowding.  Plant a variety of heights, leaf shapes, and blooming specimens to give dimension and interest to your water garden. Also key, is the sunlight requirement. Many aquatic plants like full sun to part shade, but make sure before you put them in place.  Of course, one really great benefit in a water garden is the ability you have to move plants around!  Make sure taller plants don’t block sunlight to smaller ones.  Know which plants are vulnerable to colder temperatures in the winter months; you may need to take them out and keep them in a warmer place.

Consider the following categories and examples when making your selection of aquatic plants:

BOG &  MARGINAL AQUATIC PLANTS – These specimens bridge the gap between water and dry land.  Bog plants enjoy moist soil around the edge of ponds, with water just covering or slightly below the soil.  Marginal aquatic plants, the most abundant of water plants, thrive in the shallow waters at the inside edge with an average water depth up to 6 inches over the crown.

Saururus cernuus AKA Lizard’s Tail – Deep green heart shaped leaves.  Gracefully arching spikes of tiny white flowers 4-6 in. shaped like a lizard’s tail.  Will flower even in dense shade. The plant grows to height of 3-4 feet. Plant in a medium pot with water from 1-6 in. over crown of plant.  

Lobelia fulgens ‘Queen Victoria’ AKA Cardinal Flower provides interest all season with rich burgundy foliage.  Upright stalks can grow to heights of 2-3 ft.  Striking red flowers in late summer.  May be planted in 1-3 inches of water. Grow in sun to part shade.

Juncus effuses ‘Spiralis,’ commonly known as Corkscrew Rush has attractive corkscrew stems which are both upright and prostrate, cylindrical, green, and smooth.  They grow in 1-6 inches of water over the crown into a clump 12-18 inches tall and wide with late summer yellowish-green flowers.  Full sun is best but some shade can be tolerated. 

Juncus effusus / Soft Rush – Soft, grass like stems grow in clumps that rarely intrude upon other plants.  Each stem bears a cluster of very small, greenish brown, scaly flowers that bloom in July through September from a point on the stalk near the top.  Grows to a height up to 1 ft. tall.

DEEP WATER PLANTS – These water plants flourish in the deeper recesses of the pond. With the crown fully submerged beneath water, many (such as Water Lilies) produce foliage on long stems that float at the water’s surface.

Water Lilies are a group of plants containing about 70 known species. They are either tropical or hardy and grow in water 3 inches to 2 feet deep. Larger plants need larger water gardens or ponds. They prefer non-moving water without fountains or currents. Most prefer full sun but some will tolerate shade. The flowers are showy and usually fragrant with showy lily pads for leaves.

Nymphaea ‘Georgia Peach’ is a hardy, free-flowering, showy water lily with a long bloom season. Blooms stand 3-4 inches above the water surface. It is very adaptable to different growing situations. Use in medium to large water gardens.

Nymphaea Pink ‘Sensation’ is considered one of the best hardy pink water lilies. Blooms are held above the waterline, stay open later in the day, are free-flowering and have a slight fragrance. Use in any size water garden.

Nymphaea Albatros has beautiful, star-shaped, snow white flowers. A free flowering hardy white water lily, it will perform well in full sun or partial shade. The new foliage is deep burgundy and turns a deep olive green as it matures. Flowers stay open later in the day.

Thalia Dealbata AKA Hardy Water CannaPurple flowers on top of tall, graceful stems.  Large blue-green leaves.  Will grow to heights of 4-6 feet.  Do not allow crown of plant to freeze during winter. Plant in a medium pot with water from 1-2 ft. over crown of plant.  

SUBMERGED OXYGENATORS will create a healthy pond with well oxygenated water, essential for fish and wildlife to flourish. Many submerged aquatic plants are sold as bunches of stems that can be weighted or planted into pots to anchor them at the bottom of the pods.

Vallisneria americana AKA Water Celery is an evergreen perennial with clusters of ribbon-like leaves, about 1 inch wide that can grow up to 3 ft. long, producing single white flowers that grow to the water surface. After pollination, the flower stalks curl into spirals and pull the flowers underwater, where they form capsules containing many tiny seeds.  Very fast grower, able to reach full height in 2 months.  Performs best in full sun to light shade in water 12-48 inches deep.

Come in and check out the inventory of aquatic plants and supplies at Wingard’s.  We’re showing them off in a brand new display! 

There’s always something blooming at Wingard’s!

Top Five Plants for Beginner Vegetable Gardeners

by Kathy Torres

April is the official start time for planting many summer vegetable plants in the midlands of South Carolina, even though we may have to cover and protect tender new plants when a late frost or freeze occurs.  For first-time vegetable gardeners, it’s a good idea to start with those veggies that are EASIEST and give a BOUNTIFUL HARVEST.  It is so easy to go crazy and purchase an enormous selection of plants with a vision of a regular farmer’s market flowing from your garden, but, our recommendation is that you start slow and easy to afford yourself the best chance of success.  Then, next year, you can go crazy!

So…we came up with a short list of five, along with recommended cultivars, that are great for starter vegetable gardeners:

  1. SNAP BEANS:  Rapid growing, early maturing and productive, bush and pole (vine) form snap beans are a popular choice for the home garden.
     
    Blue Lake
    274 (bush) –
    A string-less, bush variety, there is no need for staking.  The beans are long and straight, with superior flavor, color and texture.  They can produce large yields within a few weeks, leaving time for a second crop, and are typically low maintenance (resistant to bean mosaic virus). To harvest beans, break off the stem above the cap. Quality is best if beans are harvested in early morning hours. Bush Blue Lake is an heirloom variety and has been around since the early 1900s.  

    Kentucky Wonder (pole) – Because they grow upward, pole beans are a great space saver in the garden. A sturdy trellis is required for support, at least 6-8 feet tall. Kentucky Wonder is a green pole bean with seven to nine inch long, fleshy pods that can be slightly stringy. They are curved with seeds filling to the tip and edge but not crowded, very reliable and rust resistant. Harvest beans every three to five days once they start producing, removing all bean pods when they are plump and you can see the beans in the pods. (For less stringy beans, harvest before they mature).  Also an heirloom variety, Kentucky Wonder was first sold commercially in 1877.

  2. TOMATOES:  Hundreds of tomato cultivars are available, so make it easy on yourself and start with these, which are all fairly disease resistant. Staking, caging, and trellising are good ways to keep the plants and fruit up and off the ground, providing easier access for picking and spraying, and allows airflow to prevent disease.  Pinch off suckers growing between the main stalk and branches.
     
    Determinate
     tomato plants grow to a certain size, set fruit, and then decline. Most early-ripening tomato cultivars are determinate and won’t produce tomatoes throughout a South Carolina summer. Indeterminate tomato plants continue to grow and produce for an extended season. Fruit production may continue until the first frost.     

    Better Boy is indeterminate and one of the most popular tomatoes grown in the US. It’s actually in the Guinness Book of World Records for the amount of fruit produced from a single plant. Superior flavor, large size, disease resistance, and high yields make this cultivar one of the easiest slicing tomatoes to grow.  Not suitable for containers, Better Boy must be caged or staked.

    Better Bush is a semi-determinate tomato plant growing to 4 ft. This is a great choice that bears sizeable fruits on a very compact plant that works well in containers and small gardens. Strong, bushy plants produce tasty, medium-sized tomatoes great for sandwiches and slicing. The heavy foliage of this hybrid helps protect tomatoes from sunburn. 

    Sweet 100’s are vining cherry tomatoes and do best growing on a trellis. Early maturing, these sweet gems are great for snacking (right off the vine) and salads, and will produce large clusters of tomatoes all summer long up until frost.  What do you think…indeterminate?  Yep!

    TIP:  Add Stout Ollie compost and Calcium Nitrate to the soil when planting tomatoes to enrich the soil and reduce the risk of Blossom End Rot, a nasty disease that ruins the fruit.  Also, be sure to water consistently, not allowing the soil to totally dry out between waterings.

  3. CUCUMBERS:   Cucumber plants grow in two forms: vining and bush.  Vines need a trellis to keep them off the ground, and produce more fruit the more you harvest. To remove the fruit, use a knife or clippers, cutting the stem above the fruit. Pulling them may damage the vine.  Don’t let the cucumbers get oversized or yellow on the end or they will be bitter.
     
    Burpless Bush Hybrid
    is excellent in small gardens and containers.  A space-saving form with short vines growing about 2 ft. long.  Fruit is smooth-skinned, dark green, straight and approximately 10-12 inches long. Enjoy high yields, great for pickling or slicing.  

    Boston Pickling is a popular American heirloom cucumber first marketed in 1877 by the pioneering Detroit-based seed company, D.M. Ferry & Co. A favorite of gardeners for high yields of short, straight “cukes” with thin, green skin. Vines bear continuously and should be trellised.  Flesh is crisp and very receptive to pickling spices. May be harvested at sizes from 3 to 7 inches, depending on your pickling needs. Plants resist scab and are tolerant to cucumber mosaic.

  4. YELLOW SUMMER SQUASH are harvested when immature, while the rind is still tender and edible.
     
    Crookneck squash
    are named for the slight curves in their narrow necks. These fast-growing plants can spread 3 to 4 feet across with leaves that are 1 to 2 feet wide, so leave plenty of space for them to spread. Their yellow fruits, which form underneath the leaves, can have smooth or bumpy skins.  Because they’re bushy plants, crookneck squash don’t have to be staked and can grow in large containers or in the ground. Use a knife or garden shears to cut the fruits off the plant when they are 5 to 6 inches long.  If you harvest fruits regularly, the plants will bear until frost. 

    Straightneck squash have a tapered, straight neck with creamy yellow, mildly sweet, tender fruit of excellent quality early in the season. This squash grows on vined plants that thrive in mild weather. The straight shape makes it perfect to slice into lengths for grilling.

  5. BELL PEPPERS are a warm-weather fruit, appreciated for cooking and eating raw. Crunchy, sweet bell pepper plants lack capsaicin, the active component in hot peppers that gives them their heat.  The fruits can be harvested when they are green, to increase the yields.  Alternatively, the fruits can be allowed to ripen to red, leaving them time to develop flavor with smaller yields.  Provide support for the limbs, to hold the weight of the peppers by caging or staking.
     
    Big Bertha
    is the largest elongated bell pepper available! Thick-walled, 7-inch long fruit, plants are disease resistant and ideal for giant stuffed peppers.

ALL OF THE ABOVE need the following to flourish and produce high yields:

  • Good, fertile, well-drained soil.  Add compost when preparing the soil and fertilize regularly after planting.
  • Sun, a minimum of 6 hours, but all day is even better.
  • Regular, consistent watering, sometimes twice a day when temperatures get above 80 degrees.  Avoid overhead irrigation; use soaker hose to decrease chances of fungus.
  • Insect and disease control.  Be on the lookout for leaves/fruit with spots or holes and contact Wingard’s to get advice on the best solution. There are many products available for edibles.

For more information on vegetable gardening, visit our Blog:  “Vegetable Gardening”

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

 

To Prune or Not to Prune… Hydrangeas

Header_Hydrnageas-Pruning As we survey our landscape in anticipation of the upcoming spring season, and notice that the weathered blooms remain on our hydrangeas, the question arises… Was I supposed to cut those off in the fall?  Before you grab your pruning shears, there are a few things you need to know about caring for this beautiful southern shrub.  There is not one rule for all hydrangeas, and if you prune at the wrong time, you will ruin your chance to enjoy the gorgeous blooms.

Within the scientific plant family Hydrangeaceae, common name Hydrangea, are many species and within each species, many cultivars/varieties exist.  Each species has its own characteristics and requirements for pruning.  It sounds quite complicated, but it’s simply related to whether the blooms appear on old wood, new wood, or old AND new wood.  In the species available to our region of the world, this factor varies.  The plant tag may provide this information when you buy; if not, identify the botanical name to determine the group in which the hydrangea belongs, and this will help to answer the pruning question. 

Here is a brief description of the species of hydrangeas (indicated by the second word in the botanical name) that are available in our region:

macrophyllaHydrangea macrophylla Bigleaf or French Hydrangeas bloom in mophead or lace cap form.  Bloom color is determined by the soil pH (relative to aluminum in the soil) and is typically blue or pink, however, there are some cultivars with white blooms.  A few popular cultivars are Endless Summer, Big Daddy, Mini Penny, Twist-n-Shout, and Fuji Waterfall.  Buds are set on old wood from last year’s growth and should be pruned soon after flowering.  Waiting until the following spring to prune or dead head will eliminate the new buds. The EXCEPTION to this rule is the Endless Summer® Collection.  These macrophyllas bloom from old and new wood. The first blooms develop from old wood and should be pruned after flowering.  New stems will produce another round of buds and blooms and should be pruned after flowering.  Endless Summer® hydrangeas will repeat bloom throughout the summer.

Oakleaf HydrangeaHydrangea quercifoliaOakleaf Hydrangeas are native and produce conical white blooms next to large leaves similar to those of an Oak tree.  The foliage becomes the star of the show in fall as it morphs from green to bronze, orange and red as temperatures cool down.  Flowers develop on old wood from last year’s growth and should be pruned or deadheaded soon after flowering to allow time to develop flower buds for the following year.

Climbing-hydrangea Hydrangea anomala Climbing hydrangea is a woody vine that produces a multitude of white lacecap blooms in early to midsummer. The vine establishes itself slowly, but once the roots are established, the vines can climb quickly. Climbing hydrangea requires only minimal pruning to keep the vines under control and remove dead wood. Buds are set on old wood.   Pruning or dead heading can be done after blooming occurs.

Hydrangea-paniculata Hydrangea paniculata – While most hydrangeas prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, these can hold their own in full sun.  Limelight, Little Lime, Little Lamb, Quick Fire and Pinky Winky boast striking cone-shaped blooms.  Limelight is known for long-lasting blooms changing from chartreuse in summer to shades of rose in fall.  Panicle hydrangeas develop flowers on new wood during the growing season.  Prune while dormant in late winter or early spring before new growth appears. 

Hydrangea-arborescens Hydrangea arborescensCommonly known as Smooth or Wild Hydrangea, arborescens are loosely and widely branched, often with large, heavy, round blooms.  Annabelle is a noteworthy cultivar, with clusters of white blooms up to 12 inches wide. Collections of arborescens offering white, cream and pink blooms include Incrediball and Invincibelle. Like paniculata, this hydrangea group sets buds on new wood and can also be pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.  

To Simplify:

If buds are set on old wood, prune or dead head soon after blooming to allow time for next year’s buds to set.

If buds are set on new wood, prune or dead head in late winter or early spring before new growth appears

If buds are set on old and new wood, prune after first blooming, then after repeat blooms occur.

Whenever the appropriate time for pruning, remove up to a third of the total growth of the plant to improve shape and density, otherwise, just dead head the blooms.  

While this may all seem a bit complicated, knowing when to prune your hydrangea is simply knowing if the blooms are set on old wood, new wood, or both.  An easy way to determine the answer to that question is knowing the botanical name.  Let’s face it, nature is complex and we (gardeners) are drawn to plants because of it.  Enjoying the variety of hydrangeas available for the landscape makes it well worth the challenge of learning a little about them, don’t you think?

The varieties of hydrangeas mentioned above are just a sampling.  Spring is the very best time to find a full inventory of hydrangeas at Wingard’s.  Come in soon!

To learn more about hydrangeas, go to https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/hydrangea/

There’s always something blooming at Wingard’s!

Northern Cardinal – The Infamous Red Bird

Chances are you have probably received a Christmas card illustrating a snowy white landscape as the backdrop for a barren tree or fence post holding a bright red cardinal.   The Northern Cardinal, AKA Red Bird, is common throughout the eastern United States from Maine to Florida, continuing north into Canada, and west to southern Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, and the eastern half of Mexico. It’s hard to take your eyes off the male Northern Cardinal, with its brilliant red feathers, black mask, and orange/red beak.  The female is a buff golden-tan with a red tinge to the wings and tail, with a smaller, less distinct mask.  Both genders have a prominent head crest that can be raised and lowered to indicate the bird’s mood. 

When spring arrives, one of the first songbirds noticed is the Northern Cardinal. Males, in particular, may sing throughout the year, though the peak of singing is in spring and early summer. Males often sing to scare away the competition when courting.  Few female North American songbirds sing, but the female Northern Cardinal does, and often while sitting on the nest. This may give the male information about when to bring food to the nest. A mated pair shares song phrases, but the female may sing a longer and slightly more complex song than the male. The cardinal repertoire includes sounds like what cheer, what cheer, what cheer or purty, purty, purty.  For a sampling, click HERE.

Cardinal couples typically mate for life and produce up to 3 clutches of eggs in a season.  These birds bond over a feeding courtship ritual in which the female bird mimics the behavior of a nestling and the male bird offers her seeds or berries in a kiss-like gesture.  The male becomes aggressive in his protection of his territory and is known to engage in a battle with his own reflection.  If you ever see a cardinal hitting a window over and over, that’s what is happening.  The female cardinal builds the nest, usually 3-10 feet above the ground in a dense tree or shrub. While the female tends the nest, the male cares for her by bringing food and guarding against predators.  Both parents tend to the cardinal chicks, and even after the chicks have matured, they stay together as a family.

When given the opportunity, cardinals will feed on a wide variety of insects, however 90% of their food intake is sourced from weed seeds, fruits, grains and berries.  Many of the foods contain carotenoids, the source of phytonutrients like beta-carotene and lutein.  Cardinals have an enzyme that converts yellow carotenoids to red before depositing them in the feathers.  Some cardinals have a defect that fails to convert the carotenoids, causing the birds to have yellow feathers instead of red.  Cardinals will forage while hopping on the ground or in low bushes, and sometimes higher in trees.  They readily come to bird feeders, where they favor sunflower and safflower seeds. Because they do not migrate, it is likely your cardinal visitors will return to the same feeders.

An interesting fact about the Northern Cardinal….it is the State Bird in 7 states in the US.  Those states are: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Northern Cardinals are also associated with a great deal of folklore, legends, and spiritual beliefs in many different cultures. It is common folklore that a visit from a cardinal represents a sign from a loved one who has passed.  Birds have often symbolized heavenly visitors, messengers to the gods, or even the gods themselves in feathered form. This belief has been part of ancient Egyptian, Celtic, Maori, Irish, and Hindu spiritualism, as well as the lore and legends of many Native American tribes.  Cardinals are often associated with romance, and it is believed that if you are single and see a cardinal, romance is in your near future. At the same time, if you are in a relationship and a cardinal crosses your path, it is said to be a reminder to honor your partner and remember the romance that brought you together. 

If you haven’t been charmed by the Northern Cardinal or another of the birding community in your yard, you’re missing out.  Get acquainted by installing a feeder somewhere in a spot that you can view from your porch, deck, or window.  You’ll be in awe when you see that male cardinal sitting on the bare tree branch or the fence post…so beautiful, with or without the snow!

Visit Wings & Things, the Birding Department in the Wingard’s Produce Market, select a feeder and grab a bag of Cole’s Birdseed.  While Cardinals will eat a variety of seeds, safflower is one of their favorites.  Safflower is also a lifesaver for those having trouble with squirrels or large “nuisance” birds. Since most squirrels and blackbirds don’t like the bitter taste, it is an easy way to send a message to any undesirable visitors. 

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

Keep Holiday Plants Looking Their Best

Poinsettias, Christmas Cactus, Amaryllis, Paper Whites and Cyclamen add a special touch to your home during the holidays, however, keeping them looking Merry and Bright can be challenging. Here are a few tips:

#1 The most common problem occurs with overwatering. Avoid drenching the soil when you water and let the soil dry out between waterings.

#2 Poor drainage will cause the roots to rot. Make sure the pot has drainage holes and if the plant sits in a foil sleeve, remove it when you water and allow it to drain adequately.

#3 Keep plants near a window that receives morning sun, making sure the leaves/petals don’t touch the windowpane. The cooler temperature from outside can penetrate and shock the plant causing leaves to drop.

#4 Maintaining a constant temperature between 65 and 75 degrees is ideal. Avoid placing plants in drafty areas near doorways, or near fireplaces or heat vents.

#5 Applying a fertilizer on a regular schedule will encourage root health, growth and blooming.

Most holiday plants are exactly that… holiday plants, and when the fraser fir comes down, they typically go out the door along with it. Christmas Cactus, however, can thrive inside year round, and with proper care, can last for years. Poinsettias, on the other hand, are more difficult in the long term. If you’re interested in more information on keeping Poinsettias after the holidays, go to Poinsettia | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu).

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!

How to Choose a Japanese Maple Tree

Are you awed by Japanese Maple trees? Have you come into the garden center to pick one? Did the varieties overwhelm you? Let us make it easier for you by explaining Japanese maple differences. Then, when you come in, you’ll know exactly what you want.

The native species of Japanese maple (native to Japan and other South Pacific Islands), Acer palmatum, grows moderately to a 20′ by 20′ multi-trunked tree. The leaves have 5-9 finely cut lobes giving them a more delicate look than other maples. Red spring leaves turn to green in the summer and blaze with yellow, orange and red in the fall. All do best with protection from drying winds and hot overhead afternoon sun. During their centuries of use in gardens around the world, gardeners have discovered and propagated those selections with unusual growth habits and bark patterns, as well as leaf color and shape. With hundreds of Japanese maple varieties available at garden centers, we feel a little simplification is in order.

  • Leaf Shape
    The variation Dissectum or Laceleaf Japanese Maple has leaves are deeply cut and finely lobed giving a lace cutout look. These varieties generally grow best in shady locations as the leaves easily burn or scorch. The leaves of non-Dissectum varieties are much less lacy. They resemble the leaves of native maples but are smaller and more deeply cut.  These are the two ends of the leaf-shape spectrum.  Many varieties lie somewhere in between.
  • Leaf Color
    The leaf color of different Japanese maples also varies. Many have red spring growth changing to green in the summer. However, some retain the red through the growing season. Some varieties have variegated leaves with white, cream, gold or pink. Variegated leaves burn easily in the sun but can revert to all green in too much shade. Green leaves tolerate more sun than red. Autumn is when Japanese maples really put on a show with a riot of blazing colors.
  • Tree Form
    Non-Dissectum varieties grow more quickly into upright forms. Some varieties remain less than 10′ tall but others can grow to 25′ tall by 20′ wide. Laceleaf (Dissectum) maples slowly develop a weeping form approximately 8-10′ tall and 8-12′ wide. However, ‘Seiryu’ is an exception, growing into an upright form.
 

Laceleaf (Dissectum)

Non-Dissectum

Location Requires more shade Tolerates less shade
Size Smaller 10-25′ tall depending upon variety
Tree Form Weeping Upright
Leaf Shape Lacy, fine cut Lobed
Leaf Color Red, green Red, green, variegated

Now that you have identified a suitable planting location and the type of Japanese maple you prefer, come see us and let our friendly staff show you the varieties that meet your requirements.  Japanese Maple Varieties that we typically keep in stock:

Variety Exposure 10 Yr Height Growth Habit Spring color Summer color Fall color Leaf type
Baldsmith Sun to part sun 5 ft Weeping Orange/Red Bronze/Green Orange Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Bihou Sun to part sun 7 ft Upright Yellow/Green Green Orange/Yellow Non-Dissectum
Bloodgood Sun to part sun 12 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Non-Dissectum
Crimson Queen Sun to part sun 5 ft Weeping Red Red Bright Red Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Emperor I Sun to part sun 8 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Non-Dissectum
Kurenai jishi Sun to part sun 3 ft Dwarf Brown/Red Brown/Red Yellow/Red Non-Dissectum
Moonfire Sun to part sun 8 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Non-Dissectum
Oshio Beni Sun to part sun 15 ft Upright Orange-red Bronze-green Scarlet Non-dissectum
Peaches & Cream Part sun 8 ft Upright Cream/Rose Green/Rose Yellow Non-Dissectum
Pixie (Dwf Bloodgood) Sun to part sun 6-10 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Non-dissectum
Purple Ghost Sun to part sun 8 ft Upright Red Red Orange/Red Non-Dissectum
Radiant Sun to part sun 8-12 ft Weeping Green/Rose/Salmon Green/Rose/Salmon/White Orange/Red Non-dissectum
Red Dragon Sun to part sun 4 ft Weeping Red Red Bright Red Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Rhode Island Red Sun to part sun 6 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Non-Dissectum
Sango Kaku Sun to part sun 10 ft Upright Green Green Yellow/Orange Non-Dissectum
Seiryu Sun to part sun 10 ft Upright Green Green Orange Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Shishigashira Sun to part sun 6 ft Dwarf Green Green Orange Non-Dissectum
Skeeters Broom (Dwf Bloodgood) Sun to part sun 4-6 ft Upright Red Red Bright Red Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Tamuke yama Sun to part sun 5 ft Weeping Red Red Bright Red Dissectum (Laceleaf)
Source: Maplestone Ornamentals

Backyard Birdscaping

As wildlife habitats are threatened by incessant development, the creation of a bird-friendly environment, or “birdscaping”, is crucial to the existence of our wild bird population. A well planned birdscape will provide our fine feathered friends with a dependable source of food, water, and shelter while affording an enjoyable and educational activity for the entire family.

Benefits of Wild Birds 

Birds, the perfect backyard guests, provide more benefits than many homeowners realize. Wild birds can..

  • Control insects by feasting on both flying and crawling insects as well as slugs, snails and other creepy-crawlies.
  • Pollinate plants by flitting from flower to flower as they seek out insects and seeds to eat, all the while spreading pollen amongst the blooms.
  • Manage weeds as they consume copious amounts of weed seeds before the seeds ever have a chance to sprout.
  • Control rodents when raptors visit the yard in search of mice, rats, gophers, voles or other unwanted pests.

Attracting Backyard Birds

Fortunately, it is easy to attract a wide variety of backyard birds when you offer them what they need most – food, water and shelter.

Food

Wild birds rely on both natural and supplemental food sources, so it is important to consider both when birdscaping. Feeding the birds is most important in the winter when natural food may be scarce, but they will visit feeders at any time of year. Migratory birds require additional food in the spring and fall as they pass through the region. Nesting birds rely on full feeders in the summer.

Wingard’s Market is proud to carry Cole’s Wild Bird Company products! A family busines (just like us) built on specialty blends that Richard and Nancy Cole originally produced in their home. The results were stunning as wild birds flocked to their feeder in record numbers. The neighbors took notice, and the rest is history.

All birdseed is not equal. Cole’s seed mixes are based on solid research of the dietary needs of birds and formulated to attract the most birds to the feeder with less waste. Give Cole’s seed blends a try today and see the difference for yourself.  Learn More!

Would you like to purchase on-line or in-store? Click here. Wingard’s makes it easy!

Some food tips:

  • Provide a variety of natural foods for birds by planting berry bushes, seed-bearing flowers, and nectar-rich flowers.
  • Leave imperfect and fallen fruit on the tree and ground for birds to nibble.
  • Minimize pesticide use so birds can count on insects as a secure food source.
  • Add supplemental feeders to your yard, such as seed, platform, suet, and nectar feeders. Clean all types of feeders weekly to avoid mold that can be dangerous to birds, and be sure feeders are full when birds need them most.

Water

Improve your backyard bird habitat by adding water. Birds require a constant supply of clean water for drinking and bathing. This is especially important in late summer, when water is generally scarce, and in the winter, when it is frequently frozen.

Some water tips:

  • Place bird baths in a protected location safe from predators, and keep the baths filled at all times so a fresh supply of water is constantly available.
  • Thoroughly scrub algae off of bird baths as soon as it appears. Clean your bird bath weekly to minimize bird waste contamination.
  • Provide motion for greater attraction by using a bubbler, wiggler, dripper or fountain. Birds will see the sparkles and hear the splashes of the moving water encouraging them to visit.
  • Use Mosquito Dunks to safely prevent mosquito larvae in warm weather. A clean bird bath with moving water will also harbor fewer insects.
  • Add an outdoor-safe submersible heater to the bath in winter to keep the water from freezing or consider using a fully heated bird bath during the coldest months.

Shelter

It is important to offer safe and comfortable shelter for your wild birds to nurture their young, protect them from predators, and shield them from the elements. Planting trees and shrubs and providing bird houses, along with roosting boxes and pockets, are all beneficial additions to your birdscape.

Some shelter tips:

  • Landscape with both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs to offer birds different types of shelter in all seasons.
  • Minimize pruning to give birds denser, more secure shelter to take advantage of when they feel threatened.
  • Plant in layers and create thicket-like pockets or corridors in your landscape so birds can move around freely without feeling exposed.
  • Supplement the shelter in your yard with good quality bird houses, winter roost boxes or nesting pockets to give birds even more options to stay safe and secure.

When you meet birds’ needs for food, water and shelter, your birdscape will soon be home to a fun & friendly flock of Backyard Birds.

QUESTIONS?

Our friendly and knowledgeable staff can help you determine which plants and products are best suited for your backyard birdscaping.

Strike a Pose… Focal Point Shrubs & Trees for your Landscape

In home decorating, we use a focal point to provide something striking that immediately stands out, something that sets the tone or theme for a room, or serves as the foundation for color, texture or form.  Whatever it is… a painting or print, flower arrangement, sculpture, pottery, or a collection of some sort, our eyes move immediately to it.    The same idea applies to landscape design, and by adding strategic “eye catchers,” will enhance the outside beauty of a home.

A focal point can be part of the “big picture” when we consider the curb appeal of a home, for example… a large shade tree with foliage that changes to a bright orange or red in fall, or a flowering specimen tree offering colorful blooms in spring or summer.  Large shrubs, like Camellia, Hydrangea, and Fragrant Tea Olive, flanked on opposite corners of a home provide an anchor and establish a pattern or continuity in the design.  Many Japanese maple tree varieties have dramatic burgundy or chartreuse foliage, and make a delightful focal point in an entryway.   This large plant material accentuates the architecture of the home.

Often, an outdoor living space serves as a focal point in the landscape, and can be as simple as a garden bench, or as elaborate as a stone patio with a garden furniture ensemble and fireplace.  To enhance the area, add evergreen plant material to soften edges, container gardens and hanging baskets for color, but be careful, not to overdo it.  Hardscapes speak for themselves and what you don’t want to do is overpower them and lose the simple beauty they bring. 

In a supporting role of landscape design, other smaller types of focal points are effective as accents in individual “garden rooms” created here and there throughout the property.   Choose a stand-alone plant, or create a grouping (odd numbers are best) according to size, color, texture, form, etc., that will contrast with the neighboring plants.  Container gardens, bird houses and bird baths, as well as yard art, can add interest and provide an eye-catching centerpiece. 

Fall is the ABSOLUTE BEST time to plant in the Midlands of South Carolina.  The weather is starting to cool off and although growth is beginning to slow down above ground, the roots below will have time in fall, winter and spring, to establish prior to the next season of hot weather.  Watering is required less frequently due to the mild temperatures and insects/disease issues are almost nonexistent.  If you’re ready to get busy and start planting, here are a few recommendations for focal point plants:

Camellia, Japonica & Sasanqua:   Evergreen, shiny foliage, great for areas that receive morning sun, afternoon shade, (Sasanqua varieties can take more sun).  Many grow 8-10 ft. tall, however, smaller varieties are available.  Sasanquas bloom in fall; Japonicas bloom December to March.  

Here’s just a sampling – new shipment (approximately 30 different varieties) just arrived at Wingard’s.

Kanjiro

Dawn

Yuletide

Lime Light Hydrangea:  This is simply a gorgeous hydrangea that can take the sun!  Large, cone-shaped blooms beginning green, changing to white, then to rose color in the fall.  Drops its leaves in late fall/winter, 6-8 ft. tall, and fast-growing. 

Fragrant Tea Olive:  Every home should have at least one of these evergreen shrubs.  Small, fragrant, white blooms appear in spring and fall, and sometimes in-between.  Plant it near an outside living space, or somewhere you are going to walk by, so that you can enjoy the fragrance.  Growth can be 10-12 ft. and it can handle full or part sun.  In natural form, Fragrant Tea Olive is a dense, large shrub, however, feel free to prune out the bottom branches to create a small evergreen tree. 

Autumn Fern:  For contrast in form in a shady area, try Autumn Fern.  This evergreen fern provides interest year-round, but especially in spring when the brown fern stalks reach out and open.  Very drought tolerant, growing 3-4 ft. tall and wide.  Plant individually or in a group.

Maiden Grass:  These perennial grasses with long, graceful blades blowing in the breeze, offer another interesting plant form in the landscape.   White plumes appear in summer adding to the effect.  Plant individually or in a group.   Take a look at these two varieties…. Adagio, reaching 3-4 ft., and Gracillimus, 5-6 ft. Other than size, their characteristics are the same.

Adagio

Gracillimus

Japanese Maple:  Whether grouped in an oriental garden, standing alone near the entrance of a home, or in a wooded natural tree area, the unique foliage and growth habit of a Japanese maple stands out and makes a beautiful statement.  Appropriate for shade or sun, these specimen trees offer many options with deep burgundy, green or bright chartreuse leaves, weeping canopies, and even stems that turn red in winter.  Shop for the mature size that fits in your space, but keep in mind that even the largest varieties are still considered relatively small trees. 

Crimson Queen

Sango Kaku AKA Coral Bark

October Glory Red Maple:  One of the most striking of the Red Maples, October Glory lights up the landscape in fall with bright orange/red foliage.  Fairly fast growing, drops leave in winter, reaches 30-40 ft. in height.  Thrives in full sun.

Natchez Crape Myrtle:  This lovely southern tree accents the landscape with a weeping growth habit, full of elongated white blooms in summer.  Deciduous (drops leaves in winter), sun-loving and fast-growing, it will reach 20 ft. in height.  Don’t prune, unless you need to shape it a bit; let it grow naturally to its mature size. 

Mediterranean Fan Palm:  Any palm makes a great focal point, especially near a pool or the lake.  One of the most interesting is Mediterranean or European Fan Palm, due to its multiple trunks.  Palms love sun and humidity, but many are susceptible to freezing temperatures.  This variety is one of the MOST cold-hardy and can hold its own around here in the winter.  Slow-growing, it can eventually reach 10-15 ft.  

Mahonia: For a striking show in the middle of winter, check out Mahonia.  Great for a shady spot, however, a few hours of morning sun encourages the bright yellow blooms.  Soft Caress is a low-growing variety (2-3 ft.) that creates a show when grouped together.

If you want some professional help, Wingard’s Market offers a landscape design service.

Click here for more information.

There’s always something blooming at Wingard’s!

Landscape Design Made Simple

The word “design” can be a bit daunting to most of us.  We immediately think of complex rules and requirements, scientific and/or architectural aspects, and then there’s the artistic element, which can be most intimidating.  There is certainly much to learn in the area of landscape design, and if you are in the mood to do some research, we will provide a few resources at the end of this blog just for that purpose.  But, before you jump in the deep end, let’s start with a few simple, basic principles.

What do you want to accomplish?  Home foundation planting for improved curb appeal?  Creating a quiet space or a gathering place for friends and family? Establishing a vegetable garden?  Whatever the goal, start with a rough sketch (use a pencil, because you will make changes!)  Look for pictures and shop for plants to get ideas on what you like and don’t like.  Take your time and don’t rush.  In your planning, think about symmetry and balance, texture and color, straight lines and curves, and focal points.

  • Symmetry and Balance:  We are most comfortable in landscapes that have a sense of balance.  Simply put, it’s just easy on the eye.  There are two major types of balance – symmetrical and asymmetrical.  Symmetrical balance is used in formal landscapes when one side of the landscape is a mirror image of the opposite side. These landscapes often use geometric patterns in the walkways, planting beds and even how the plants are pruned into shapes.  Think of a Charleston garden.   Asymmetrical balance, also known as informal balance, differs from one side to the other and appears to be relaxing and free flowing.  Think of an English garden.  Using a combination of shapes and sizes along with a strategy of placement will create the symmetry you choose.
  • Texture and Color:  Just as you decorate a room in your home, your landscape should contain a combination of textures and colors.  You certainly don’t want every plant in a garden bed to be small, round, and green.  Find plants that complement one another with different foliage colors and shapes, growth habits, and mature sizes.  For example, in a shade garden, plant ferns, next to compact evergreen shrubs, like azaleas.  In a more sunny location, plant perennials that bloom at different times to provide pops of color and interest, and, plant a mass of low growing annuals on the edge of a curved bed for a striking border! 
  • Straight Lines and Curves:  Lines are created in the landscape by walkways, patios and other hardscapes, fences and garden beds, just to name a few.  These provide the “backbone” for a landscape design.   By incorporating the lawn, trees, and plants, these lines are enhanced and united to create and complete the landscape.  It is important that it all looks like it belongs together, or flows from one area to the next, naturally.  A mixture of straight lines and curves works best in your landscape’s big picture.
  • Focal Points:  Hardscapes, such as a fire pit or fireplace, create the perfect focal point for a backyard gathering area.  Trees offer a stand-alone focal point in the yard and many provide color in the fall or blooms in the spring.   Other plant material, for example, Limelight Hydrangea, Adagio Perennial Grass, or Knock Out Rose are good for a garden bed.  Statuary, container gardens, trellises, and yard art add personality and whimsy to the landscape.  A bird bath and feeder or two creates a beautiful wildlife focus.  Remember that a focal point can be either a single object or a grouping.

Select and analyze the area in your yard where the project will take place.  Most important… soil, sun and water.  Have the soil analyzed (Wingard’s and Clemson can help you with this), so you can determine if you will need to amend the soil.  Map the sunlight for a day or two to identify how much sun the area receives.  Because the afternoon sun is SO HOT here in the summer, you must select plants that can take the heat if you plant in areas that receive sun all day or in the afternoon.   Select areas that get more shade for your outdoor gathering spots.  Likewise, choose plants that will flourish in shade for these areas.  Lastly, investigate and correct any drainage issues and determine how you will water. 

Plants and Planting.  The very best time to plant is Fall in the Midlands of South Carolina.  That being said, Spring planting is second best and the time when inventory at your local garden center is abundant.  The key to success is to be diligent in watering throughout the summer.  Choose plants that you like and are appropriate for the amount of sun or shade in the area(s) of the project.  If the plant tag indicates “full sun” it means all day or all afternoon.  Don’t be too concerned with the size of the plant when you purchase it, however, make sure you know how big it will get, and plan your spacing accordingly.  Knowing and planning for the mature size of the plants is an approach that will result in little or no pruning!  Appropriate spacing of plants will also contribute to better health and appearance.  Disease becomes a problem when foliage doesn’t have breathing room. 

It’s OK to change your mind!  Gardening is an on-going process and inevitably brings about change in the landscape, either because we “just don’t like it there,” we find something better, or, unfortunately, “it died”.  Be open to trying something else if you’re not satisfied with the results, or you didn’t have success.  Don’t be afraid to move a plant if it’s not happy where you planted it (just don’t transplant in the heat of summer).  When you plan a landscape project, leave room for additions as you get a new idea or see a “must have” plant.  Let it be a work in progress, and it will provide continuing satisfaction and enjoyment.

Stay tuned for our October blog where we will provide recommendations on great ideas for focal points in the landscape.

For additional information, check out these links:

https://www.clemson.edu  (Master Gardener Training Powerpoint Presentation
https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu  (University of Florida Basic Principles)
https://www.bhg.com  (Better Homes & Gardens Magazine Tips)

If you want some professional help, Wingard’s Market offers a landscape design service.  Click here for more information.

So, What’s A Succulent?

The word succulent comes from the Latin word sucus, meaning juice or sap. By definition, succulents are plants with leaves, stems or roots that are thickened, fleshy, and engorged, usually to retain water in dry soil conditions. Water-storing… what a fantastic characteristic for plants in summer in the south! Minimal watering… Oh yeah! There are over 10,000 plants that fall into the succulent category, from many different plant species, and they provide some of the most diverse forms, colors, and blooms for inside and outside use. These unique plants provide an interesting, low-maintenance pop of plant life inside in a small space, like your desk or kitchen table, as well as outside areas like a patio or rock garden. Combine several in a decorative planter or be extra creative and plant in a terrarium or maybe even an old pair of shoes! Anything goes with these garden gems, just poke holes for drainage.

Light and temperature requirements are not “one size fits all” for succulents. While most are not cold weather hardy, there are some varieties of Agave, Sedum, Sempervivum, Cactus, and Yucca that can survive the winter in South Carolina. Others may be considered annuals or will need to be moved indoors when cold weather arrives. Indirect light is necessary for succulents inside your home or office, either naturally or from a grow light. Outside, morning sun with afternoon shade is best. Many succulents do well in full sun, however, more water may be required. Do your research on the succulents you choose and provide the environment necessary for them to thrive.

A few examples of succulents that might surprise you are Ponytail Palm, Crown of Thorns, or Wax Ivy, each one, a great, “stand alone” plant for your home or garden. Different plant structures and appearances put these in a different group, but still they qualify as succulents. More common varieties like Echeveria, Stonecrop, and Sempervivum, have more typical characteristics and make a delightful container garden when combined.

An extra advantage that succulents bring to the table is very scientific. During the process of photosynthesis, succulents release oxygen while absorbing our respiratory waste (carbon dioxide), keeping our air fresh, pure, and clean. Some succulents even produce oxygen at night, such as the snake plant a.k.a. Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Aloe vera, and Christmas cactus. These succulents are ideal for the bedroom as they provide an extra boost of refreshed air during the night that ultimately leads to better sleep. Many succulents, such as Agave, Aloe, Stonecrop, Cacti and Yucca have healing properties and have been used throughout history to treat medical problems like cuts, burns, stomachaches and more.

Many succulents are easy to propagate… the bigger the leaves, the better your chances of success. The first step is to water the plant well a day or two before you take cuttings, to make sure it is full of water and will not dry out. Twist gently to remove the whole leaf making a clean cut at the joint between the leaf and the stem. Allow the leaf wound to callus over (takes about a week, don’t water or expose to direct sunlight). Place the succulent leaf flat on top of the soil in a shallow tray, small pot, or container with drainage holes. Do not bury the leaf, especially the part that was previously connected to the stem. Place the tray in a spot where it will receive indirect light and mist it daily. New baby plants will emerge from the original leaf very slowly; transplant when new babies are significant in size.

The possibilities are numerous, almost limitless when considering succulents. They are great for folks who love plants but have little time for maintaining them. Their forms and colors provide an artistic medium for the creative gardener who desires something striking and different. Lastly, for the naturalist and/or environmentalist, succulents deliver!


Foxtail Agave

Aloe Vera

Sedum Donkey’s Tail

Echeveria

Sempervivum – Hens & Chicks

Ponytail Palm

Cactus – Prickley Pear

Stonecrop – Angelina

Sanseveria – Snake Plant

Christmas Cactus

Read more…
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/cacti-succulents/scgen/succulent-plant-info.htm

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s! 

Doctor, Doctor….my plant is sick!

Common summertime plant problems in the Midlands of South Carolina

Ok, so you’ve planted beautiful shrubs, trees, vegetables, annuals, and perennials…. and most are looking great!  Of course, there are always going to be a few exceptions, those plants that just might not be thriving.  You’ve planted correctly, fertilized, watered and done everything you should, so what gives???  Here are a few problems that we sometimes encounter, and solutions that will improve the “sick” situation:

YELLOW LEAVES – A very common problem when the weather gets hot and humid.  Yellow leaves can result from watering too much, or not enough.  In the Midlands, we are famous for sand and clay soils, neither of them being ideal for plants.  Hopefully, you added soil amendment when you planted, and that should help hold moisture (sand) or improve drainage (clay), BUT… overwatering in clay-based soil and not watering enough in sand-based soil can be disastrous.  The best way to stay on top of this, if you see yellowing foliage, is to check the soil moisture a day after you have watered, by digging down about 6-8 inches at the dripline around shrubs or trees, and 2-3 inches around vegetables, annuals or perennials.   Back off on watering if the soil is too wet, and increase if it’s bone dry.   When using an irrigation system, try measuring with a rain gauge or other measuring device to make sure the area is receiving an inch of water. 

Iron deficiency, soil pH, and fungus can also cause yellow leaves. It’s a good idea to have the soil tested by Clemson Extension Service to identify any deficiencies in your soil.  Sample bags and application forms are available at the Wingard’s checkout stations, and our staff will walk you through the process.  If you’re watering appropriately and confident that any soil issues have been resolved, come in and talk to a Wingard’s staff member to diagnose and treat the problem.

JAPANESE BEETLES – Thankfully, this little pest is creating havoc in the garden for only a few weeks, usually beginning mid-June, however, they can do quite a lot of damage in a short time, so it’s best to be on the lookout for them.  They especially love roses, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, and hostas.   The most effective approach to eliminate the Japanese Beetles is to use systemic pesticides and as the beetles feed, they ingest the poison in the leaves.  There will be some leaf damage, but not nearly as much as with no treatment.  Apply Ferti-Lome Tree & Shrub Drench in spring, or Bioadvanced 3-in-1 Insect, Disease & Mite Control in May before the beetles appear, and again in 30 days, if they are still hanging around.  If you prefer the organic approach, use Spinosad Soap at the first sign of Japanese Beetles.  DON’T use the traps/bags – they will attract beetles from your yard, as well as your neighbors’ yards, actually increasing the population. 

Japanese Beetles lay their eggs in the lawn, and grubs develop as the immature growth stage and remain in the soil for 3 years.  A good way to reduce the number of beetles in your landscape is to eliminate the grubs by applying Ferti-lome/Hi Yield Grub Free Zone to the lawn.

DISEASE/FUNGUS

BLACK SPOT – If you have Hybrid Tea roses, you are familiar with this fungus.  Because of the humidity in this neck of the woods, as well as overhead watering by sprinklers, Black Spot really gets going in the summer months.  Other plants such as fruit trees, annuals, and perennials are susceptible, too, however, roses are typically hit hard. 

POWDERY MILDEW – Not all, but certain varieties of Crape Myrtles are prone to this fungus.  Dogwoods and roses may also be vulnerable.  The white powdery spores are apparent as the new foliage matures in spring.  Powdery Mildew can affect the bloom cycle, and if allowed to survive from year to year, it may have an adverse effect on the overall health of the plant. 

Treatment for Black Spot and Powdery Mildew is the same. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Remove the diseased leaves or branches to minimize spread, including any that have fallen to the ground.  
  2. Treat with a contact fungicide (kills on contact) AND a systemic fungicide (works through the roots and foliage). We recommend: Ferti-lome Broad Spectrum Landscape & Garden Fungicide and Ferti-lome 2-N-1 Systemic Insect & Disease Protection.
  3. As a preventive measure for Roses, Crape Myrtles, and Dogwoods, apply Ferti-lome Copper Soap Fungicide (organic) in spring as soon as new growth appears.
  4. Prune interior branches to eliminate crowding. A little breathing room is needed to let in the air and sun; darkness and moisture provide a great breeding ground for fungus. 
  5. Use drip irrigation if possible, and water in the early morning, NOT AT NIGHT.

If watering by hand, aim for the ground, rather than the foliage.

If you’re dealing with either of these diseases on a tree that is too tall to reach with a ladder, call a pro…. Jim Dicker, Tree Care Services of Lexington (803) 206-2540.

BLOSSOM END ROT – The cause of this disorder is a calcium deficiency in the developing fruit. Extreme fluctuations in moisture, rainy or cloudy weather with high humidity, cool temperatures, insufficient soil calcium, root pruning from nearby cultivation, and excessive ammoniacal nitrogen, potassium, or magnesium fertilization can also increase the chances of blossom end rot, especially early in the season.  A soil test in January is advised for in-ground gardening to address the deficiencies; follow the recommendations for soil additives if needed and the soil will be ready for planting in spring.  For most container gardens, adding Calcium Nitrate at time of planting and 2 weeks after will prevent Blossom End Rot.  If no pre-treatment is done, and Blossom End Rot shows up on your first harvest of tomatoes, spray foliage with Ferti-lome Yield Booster, a liquid calcium treatment and the next round of tomatoes should be OK.  For more information on this and other tomato diseases, click here Tomato Diseases & Disorders | Home & Garden Information Center (clemson.edu)

There’s Always Something Blooming at Wingard’s!