Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Favorites: Homestead Gardens

If you're a gardener and live in Anne Arundel County, you've probably been to Homestead Gardens.  Homestead Gardens is easily the best nursery in the county.  They have a huge selection of plants, most (all?) of which are raised locally by Homestead Growers in a no-runoff facility.  They also have a huge selection of garden supplies and accessories, ranging from basics like mulch and seeds to things that are questionably garden-related (like Troll Beads or Laura Ashley accessories).

I love visiting Homestead Gardens.  However, up until the last few years, I didn't really buy much from them. 

Mainly because they are NOT cheap.

I mean, they're really, really NOT cheap.

But I still buy plants there.  This year I've probably bought more than I ever have before.  This is silly, right?  Why not just buy the flat of marigolds from Walmart or Home Depot?  Why would I spend more money to buy the same plants at Homestead Gardens?

Recently, I've been trying to support locally owned businesses, especially when it comes to plants.  I've found locally grown plants perform better.  I also feel better knowing my hard earned money is staying in the county/state, rather than being sent up to a big-box store CEO's pockets.  But the most important reason is:  I think Homestead Gardens is a great local resource and I want them to stay in business.

It is wonderful to visit a nursery filled with employees who know about gardening and care about plants.  Homestead Gardens has a diagnostic center, where you can bring in samples and get advice about your pest, disease, or other plant problem.  The staff is also happy to answer questions about how to plant, prune, and otherwise care for the plants you purchase at Homestead.

Photo from www.homesteadgardens.com
The variety of plants available at Homestead is astounding.  They have plants I have never seen anywhere else, either in person or online.  I think this has contributed to some of my flops from Homestead -- I buy something exotic on a whim without researching whether it is appropriate for the spot I end up planting it in.  This is the downside of having access to a wide variety of plants...you have to know what you're doing.  I guess I should have consulted the greenhouse staff!

Homestead Gardens constantly hosts events: Winter workshops, a Flower show in March, a Perennial Affair in June, the Crapemyrtle Festival in July, the Tomato Festival in August.  And that doesn't even include the random guest speakers who visit Homestead throughout the year.  It seems as if they have something going on every weekend, which brings me to...the holidays.  Every single year we visit Homestead gardens at least once in December.  They have a light display outside and deck out the greenhouses with trees, Christmas ornaments, enormous stuffed animals and set up a huge model railroad/village display.  This is truly a family tradition for us.

Photo from www.marylandlife.com
Regular customers can look into joining their garden club, which gives you access to an e-Newsletter, specials and discounts.  Senior citizens can join the Golden Spades gardening group, who meet monthly at the garden center.  If you're not confident with the design aspect of gardening, Homestead has a garden designer on-staff.  The designs aren't free, but you do receive a 10% discount on any plants you use from Homestead.  If you're not local, they have a great blog with a ton of gardening advice, seasonal recipes, and information about what is happening at the gardening center.

Finally, the weirdest reason I love Homestead is they have a herd of over 30 llamas at the garden center available for visitors (or for sale).  The llama barn is open daily and you can even schedule a birthday party there.

Photo from www.homesteadgardens.com

Homestead recently opened a new garden center in Severna Park last year, but I prefer to visit the original.  Do you have a favorite local garden center?

Homestead Gardens
743 West Central Avenue
Davidsonville, MD  21035

Monday - Friday: 9:00am - 8:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am - 8:00pm
Sunday: 9:00am - 6:00pm

Monday, June 6, 2011

Look what I found: Rhododendron indicum 'Satsuki'

Just when you thought the azaleas were done, a whole new area starts blooming.  These azaleas are Satsuki azaleas -- Satsuki is the Japanese word for the fifth month in the Asian lunar calendar and refers to the late bloom period for these plants, typically May or June.

The most interesting thing about these azaleas is the variety in color patterns and flower forms.  As you can see in the picture above, it is not uncommon to have different colors or patterns on the same plant.  This variety makes them very popular as bonsai plants.

They're quite low growing and ours were virtually lost among the pachysandra.  I'd like to clean out the groundcover underneath of the azaleas so they're more like specimen plants.  Satsuki azaleas are prone to petal blight, which thrives during warm, wet weather.  Early blooming azaleas aren't usually affected by it, since the weather is fairly cool during their bloom period.  An older gentleman I know who grows and sells Satsuki azaleas recommends spraying with a fungicide containing Bayleton as soon as the blooms show color and then again a week later.  I didn't spray this year, but I haven't seemed to have any issues.

On Saturday, I was talking about timing the bloom period of plants.  These azaleas really extend our spring flower display into summer and from what I've read online, there's a chance they'll bloom in the fall as well.  So far, they are my favorite azaleas.  What's your favorite azalea?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A plant I fancy: Itea Virginica 'Henry's Garnet'

Phew!  What a weekend...I feel like we've packed two days of stuff into the past 12 hours.  We did: gymnastics, a birthday party, and a play date.  Right now, I'm laying exhausted in bed and my three year old is pretending to be a kitten in her bed.  At 9:00pm.

While my daughter and I were running around, my wonderful husband decided to check out our irrigation system.  We were told the house had one when we bought it, but we haven't given it much thought and even with all of the digging we've been doing, we've only run across one sprinkler head.  With the hot weather we've been having lately,  we decided to see if it worked.  I was expecting the worst, but it seems like everything is working, even though it doesn't look like it's been used for over five years or so.  We're going to schedule it to run tonight and see what happens.

Ok - now onto the plant:

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Scientific name: Itea Virginica 'Henry's Garnet'
Common name(s): Virginia Sweetspire
Height x Width: 3-4' x 4-6'
Growth rate: unknown
Hardiness: Zones 5-9
Soil: Prefers well-drained soil, medium to wet, but can tolerate a range of soil conditions
Light: Full sun to partial shade

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

After the past few weeks,  where I've been talking about sun perennials and exotic plants, I'm back to my old standard: shade tolerant native plants.  Virginia sweetspire is a native shrub with a lot going on.  It blooms in the early summer and then the foliage turns a deep burgundy red in the fall.  The variety 'Henry's Garnet' is known for superior flowers and autumn foliage.

Reasons I like it:
  • Attractive, rounded habit
  • Multi-season interest
  • Deer resistant
Where would I put it?
  • Side bed?
  • Backyard understory
  • Possibly even front island, if I wanted to add shrubs out there
The only drawback I've seen about all Itea Virginica cultivars is that they tend to send up a lot of suckers.  In all of the spots I'm considering for this plant, it wouldn't be a big deal.  In some spots, naturalization would even be welcome (side bed - I'm looking at you).

The big draw for this shrub is the fall foliage, obviously, but I also like the fact it is an early summer bloomer.  My ultimate dream is to have a perfectly timed landscape, with items of interest  popping up across the garden as the season goes on.  With the bazillion varieties of azaleas we have, Spring is covered, but Summer and Fall could use a little attention.  I think 'Henry's Garnet' fits the bill perfectly.

Do you take "timing" into account when you buy a plant?  If so - how do you keep track of when everything blooms/gets interesting?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Look what I found: Liriodendron tulipifera

Also known as the tulip tree, yellow poplar, or tulip poplar (even though it's not related to tulips or poplars).

Tulip poplar is native to the eastern United States and is one of the largest eastern hardwoods.  According to the Maryland State Champion Tree List (who knew there was such a thing?), the largest tulip poplar in Maryland is in Anne Arundel county with a  height of 126' and a circumference of 23'.  That's pretty darn big -- there were only a handful of other trees on the list that were taller. 

I've always admired this tree from afar.  I love the unique shape of the leaf and the orange/light green coloring of the flowers, but I've shied away from planting it because the tulip poplar gets a bad rap in this area.  Since the it is so tall, it doesn't always fit into the suburban landscape well.  It's fast-growing and tends to be a little weak wooded, so it's prone to falling in bad storms.  Tulip poplar trees also attract aphids, which can leave a sticky mess beneath the tree.

We have at least three in the woods, but I don't think ours are anywhere near 126'.  They're far enough away that they won't fall on our house and if they get aphids, it shouldn't bother us.  I can't wait to see what the leaves look like in the fall.

Are there any trees you've admired from afar?