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Clean-up the Spring Garden – Cutting back the Ornamental Grasses

need to have Ornamental Grasses trimmed back once per year!

 

Ornamental grasses are a favorite in ’s …and for good reason.  They provide beauty throughout the year with relatively little maintenance.  The one "chore” required in order to keep them looking their best is that they need to be cut back each so that the new growth can grow and the old stuff can be composted.  If you leave the old and stems – The grasses will still grow and the old will slowly fall off and spread themselves around your yard!

This video shows a few hints when you are cutting down the grasses in your yard.

 

 

 

 

There are a few things I wish I would have shown more clearly on the video.  First – what the grasses looked like once they were cut down.  I like to cut them about 6” off the ground.    They should look like this.

 

ornamental-grass-done-trimming

 

Any other questions – let me know how I can help.

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Who will win a FREE landscape design?

A contest is underway at our Facebook Fan page to see who will have a FREE design created for them by Custom Landscaping. 

Visit us and cast a vote for who you would like to see win!

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Top 10 Kansas City Landscape Plants

1. Allegheny Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’)Viburnum-x-'Alleghany'

This plant works great when you need a large shrub to add structure to the back of a bed or as a screen in the back yard.  it is not tidy enough to be used as a specimen plant or in any highlighted position With care it can grow to 12 feet tall in less than 5 years.  I have several planted as a screen against a shed in my backyard and I have pushed them hard – but they are over 15 feet tall in just 5 years. 

The shrub has thick 6” that are thickly textured and beautifully colored.    It has a surprising delicate white flower that persists for Most of May and then ripen into bright red fruits by October.  I call it semi-evergreen because about 1/2 the stay attached for most of the .

This is one of my favorite and I recently used it in a  very fun project that turned out very well (despite the quality of the photographs).  These will grow beautiful and provide the perfect screen for this deck and offers an alternative to the overused juniper and arborvitae.  

Kansas City Landscape planting of Viburnum 

 

2. Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweet Bay Magnolia in Kansas City

Magnolias often come and go as peoples favorite .  However, this one has and always will be my  favorite for planting in City .  It is better suited than many for our zone and grows luxuriously well.  My favorite form is when it is grown as a multi-stemmed shrub.  It has a striking upward growing habit that gives it a strong architectural presence and lends itself well to be a focal plant in planting. 

I have two of these planted as pillars on the front corners of my house.  They have performed very well for about 4 years now and have grown taller than the roof of my raised ranch. 

 

 

 

 

3. Hardy Banana  ‘Musa Basjoo.

The Hardy Banana plant is a plant that grows VERY well in City.  I have had them growing at my house for going on 4 years and a customer has had them successfully growing for over 8 years. 

These pictures show them growing in my yard in early .  By September they had pushed higher than the roof of the porch you can see there.  That is approx 18 feet high. 

Musa Basjoo in Kansas City P7090106 Phone 036

 

Although these look very tropical they are easily grown  even in our unpredictable KC winters.   They will die back to the ground in the and begin to grow again in the .  The more protection you give them the bigger they will get the following year because you will protect more of the plant – giving it a head start on next years growth. I try to protect several of the biggest so they will grow as large as possible the following .  I protect them by building 4’ tall  cages around them and filling them with .  This si the secret to really big .  However, even unprotected will reach 10’  

Another bonus – they reproduce madly.   You will easily triple your number of every year as new pups sprout around the base of the mother plant.

 

4. Walker’s Low Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)walkers low catmint 2

I would choose this plant as one of my all time favorite perennials to use as a llandscaper.  Not because of how showy it it or how rare it is  or for any ONE attribute.  Rather,  because it has so many very good uses and it has never let me down.

This plant has small bluish green that are highly fragrant that smells like mint.  The plant grows in a mound about 1 foot high and 2 feet across.  however after its first season in the bed you will not be able to tell its shape because it will have spread through runners and be taking up much more space than that.  In fact this may be the only time I would not use catmint – is if you need it to stay perfectly contained because it is so hardy and likes to spread.  The flower begins blooming in June.  If about 3 weeks later you shear off the old blooms you can easily extend its blooming into late .  The blooms are a pale lavender and spread across the plant like a purple mist.

It was named Perennial of the Year in 2007 for its versatility and hardiness.

5. False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

 

I have been in love with this plant since the first time I saw it in full bloom when driving past a very neglected baptisia false indigo in the middle of .  Everything else in the had died including what looked like remnants of stella d’ oro’s and some poorly placed care-free roses.  I quickly took a mental note and the next time I was at my favorite nursery I bought a couple

I was not immediately impressed.  The plant just stood there for the entire season.  The next year it was about the same.  But, by the third year it had really taken off and is now one of the people always notice when they walk around and see that part of my .

Baptisia has since proved its worthiness in many designs and ahs often become a favorite plant to use in designs.  It does have it quirks though.  Number one – it is a plant that you have to plant and leave it alone.  it does not transplant well once it is established in your bed because of it unique rooting structure (which is also responsible for its durability.  Secondly – I have found it is incredibly sensitive to any kind of sprays.  In my incessant meddling I am always trying things that will supercharge my . During one of these ‘experiments’ I was spraying a mixture of compost tea and iron on  few plant in my around the Baptisia – and it turned black over night – the entire plant.  The plant recovered fully – but it took a while.  I have since learned that any foliar spray will have varying degrees of the same effect.

6.  Little Henry Sweetspire (Itea Virginica)Henry's Garnett Sweetspire

This shrub is a great plant that fits into almost every city in some part.  In order for a plant to become a favorite of mine, it has to be versatile, tough and at least interesting in sweetspire fall foliageall season.  Sweetspire does this.  It is deciduous shrub that can grow up to 5 foot tall in a roughly globular fashion.  There is a very similar variety call Little Henry’s Sweetspire that is nearly identical – but more compact.  This shrub has two times of the year that it is a knockout.  One time is in early June when it shows off its long beautiful blooms.   It is equally beautiful in the fall when the foliage turns into a striking shade of crimson…and…the persist well into mid .  

 

7. Drift Roses (Rosa ‘Meijocos’)

drift rosesI will have to admit that although I hate to admit it I do love Knock Out Roses.  I was one of their first big proponents and had a bush that was kind of secretly handed to me before they were publicly being sold.  However, in the last 10 years they have become victims of their own success and are now way over planted and used in every subdivision entrance, every front yard bed and around every park sign.  Now I feel a little guilty when I  reach out for the knock-out rose once again for the customer that says they want low maintenance year-round color.  There just is not another plant that can match up in those situations – unless – you were looking for something smaller.

From the same breeders who gave us the knockout rose we now have the Drift rose.  This is essentially a groundcover rose (around 3 feet high) with all of the great benefits of the knockout rose, but in a  smaller package.  It blooms from early until the first frost, it is disease resistant, and it is extremely cold hardy. 

I find it works great to line a walkway with when you do not want the height offered by a knockout rose.  It can also work great planted at the edge of a rocky wall.

 

 

I am going to continue this list – so check back soon – or better yet sign-up here to get regular updates.

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Snow is good for Kansas City’s Lawns and Landscapes

has had a record storm this week. Gary Lezak reports that most areas received between 10 and 14 inches in . Although can be a hassle for traveling and moving around in, it is GREAT for .

Not only does the insulate the crowns from widely swinging temperature extremes, it also will add important moisture applied slowly and evenly.

You can even help your out with extra moisture by choosing where you toss the when shoveling your walks and driveways. By piling it on flower gardens and around trees you will be giving them extra moisture. However, if you used any kind of deicer or melting product, be very careful as concentrating these in one area could be harmful. Here is a great article on using deicers around your plants.

About the only time can be damaging is if it stays around for weeks and weeks without melting it can cause some disease issues. However, in we rarely see stick around for longer than a week before it melts away.

So enjoy the and rest well knowing that your are well taken care of while you enjoy them from the outside.

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Preparing for Early Fall Freeze for Kansas city Landscape

Frost coming to Landscaping

Frosted Grass and Leaves

For your plants — the transition into winter is a dramatic and often sudden one that is dictated by the first frost or freeze. As the caretaker of plants, there is very little you need to do in order to protect your plants from a frost or freeze unless you are simply trying too eek out a few more days/weeks before the inevitable end.

This may be true if we have a particularly early frost or freeze. Most plants can be best protected by erecting a tent around a plant. The ideal material for the tent is a thick insulating cloth that covers the plant completely all the way to the ground. It is important NOT to use plastic because it does not insulate well and can further damage by trapping moisture close to the plant therefore increasing damage caused by forming frost crystals.

Many of the plants we love to plant in the fall are chosen especially because they are fairly frost tolerant. Flowers such as pansy, kale, ornamental cabbage, Hardy Mums are all frost tolerant and can extend the beauty of your garden by several weeks. A complete list of frost tolerant plants

Your lawn will not be so strongly affected by the frost. Its correlation with lowering soil temperatures will have an effect but the actual grass tissue will likely not be harmed by the frost in any way. The only caveat to this is that if you walk on frosted turf you can damage the grass blades and they will turn brown if conditions are just right. This is because when you step on the turf while frost is on the grass, you can explode the frozen tissue causing it to die away. This is just cosmetic damage but can stay visible for a long time until next Spring when new growth replaces the killed tissues.

My primary suggestion when dealing with fall frost is to allow nature to decide when its time for this years growing season will end — knowing some seasons will be longer and other will be shorter.

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Why do they insist on piling it on?

There has been a near media blitz this year informing Gardeners.  However while looking at an Overland park last week I saw more mulch volcanoes. 

I can fin no excuse that there are professional landscaping companies out there who still continue to pile mulch around trees.  It make me very sad to know that there continues to be companies and residents who are having there landscaping ruined by either ignorant or careless landscapers.

 

Overland Park mulch tree ring 

 

Here you can see the results

 

Tree ring in Kansas City Landscape 

Notice how the bark has already started to rot away.  The darker color indicated the bark that was dying and ready to peel off.  Additionally, the picture doesn’t show it well.  However there were also multiple insect holes in the bark under the mulch.

Kansas City landscaping shows results of mulch volcanoe

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Landscape in Kansas City gets Wedding Make Over

One of the landscaping projects I am most excited about this year is the remaking of a new clients complete backyard in Brookside.  These clients called me in April, looking to have the work done by their wedding in May.  In order to get things done in time I knew we would have to work fast to be able to schedule, plan and get everything ready.  Right now, we are on track.

The Landscaping Plan

The plan was fairly simple and drawn out on the spot since we were going to have to move fast.  Essentially, we will be removing all the existing shrubs in the back since they were not part of a cohesive plan.  New beds would be created around the perimeter of the property and then new sod would be installed.

 

The

Here are the that we will be using in this landscaping project.

 

 

The Dirt

Dirt is quite a misnomer.  I don’t use dirt for many of my City Landscaping Projects.  This is 8 yards of pure compost.  Generated organically from a local yard waste recycling center.  It is the single most important thing to the the I plant not just surviving, but thriving.  This dirt will be spread out and tilled into all bed and new lawn areas.

Kansas City Landscaping Compost Compost in Kansas City Landscape Project

 

The Removal

A lot of had to be removed before anything else could be accomplished.

Once all the shrubs were removed.  This is what it looked like as it filled my trailer! P5090347 There is a lot of plant material in that trailer !

Moving the Dirt

Here are progress shots as the

compost is trucked around to the back.  Because of the layout of this yard, the dirt could only be moved by wheelbarrow.  10,000 – 12,000 pounds of compost was used for this project.

 

P5100348 P5100349 P5100350 P5100351 P5100352

That was the stage 1 of the project.  Next, will be the more exciting part of preparing the beds and installing the .

Stay tuned :)

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A Gradual Start to Spring for Kansas City Landscaping

This year, City Landscaping has seen a that was more gradual than in past years.  This has been good for the and in City .  Consistently cool City temperatures with only rare and short warm-up have allowed us to gradually slip into and avoid the landscaping pitfalls of moving too fast.  Landscapers like slow springs because very few have been hurt by April freezes this year and although it has been fairly dry the have faired well.  However, gradual will soon give way to rapid growth as soon as we get some heat.  Lawn Mowing will soon be the most common weekend chore for most City homeowners. 

Blue Grass and Fescue have thrived in this slightly cooler temperature.  They have been growing laterally and down for the last several weeks.  The imminent heat will spur rapid upward growth – we will soon be mowing VERY often!

One of the negatives of this low soil temperature ahs been for any new lawn seeding.  The grass has not grown much at all if any.  That is again due to cooler than normal soil temps.  This may not be a great thing for seeded since it simply will not have the time needed to grow before heat sets in.  However, if my inside sources at NBC Action News are accurate, we may have a cooler than normal which would be good for all of City’s

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Kansas City Landscaping sees Rash of Volcanoes

Its a purely human phenomenon – really. If you see a mistake repeated often enough then it becomes perceived not as a mistake, but as the way things should be done. This is being done in right now

This is the case with the dreaded Mulch Volcano. Mulch volcanoes are not a landscaping phenomenon, they effect cities all over the US

.

Despite recent public campaigns by The Johnson County Extension Office and the City of Overland Park, there are still instance found all over the city.

The above example was just yesterday ata very nice office park. I am sure that the manager of this office park paid good money to a “reputable” landscaping company to maintain their landscaping. However, what has now happened is that these trees have been forever weakened by this ignorant practice

When mulch is spread more than 2″ thick against the base of a tree several things happen — and none of the m are good. First, the mulch will hold moisture against the trunk pf the tree. This si dangerous because it encourages rotting and disease. It will also rot the bark away adding additional avenues for insects and disease to attack the flesh of the tree. Roots are also damaged by the moisture held in the mulch because they will grow upwards seeking this moisture. As they do they will begin to circle the trunk. These circling roots will eventually kill the tree byessentially strangling it.

How should trees be mulched then? Trees should be mulched 2″ – 3″ thick (about one finger deep) and all mulch should be pulled away from the trunk of the tree truck 2 or 3 inches. Think doughnut instead of volcano. How big you want the mulch ring to be is up to you. Ideally — it should extend to the drip line of the tree — but that is not always practical or aesthetically the best choice. However, a good minimum is a 6′ diameter.

Here is what a tree looks like when you peel away the mulch volcano after several years. This particular was at a new customer in Overland Park that I started working with this season. I did not pull the mulch away — it was done before he had moved in. You can see that this tree will NEVER be a beautiful specimen again and will likely die prematurely from earlier neglect.

Mulch volcanoo aftermath in Overland Park

Mulch volcanoo aftermath

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How NOT to Protect Landscape Plants from Freeze

A Hard freeze is coming up Monday night and will effect for sure.  However, I wanted to help people see HOW to protect the .  When you put a cover over the plant it needs to go all the way down to the ground and preferably be staked to provide air flow around of 1 –2 inches.

The reason is, by covering the plant you are holding in latent heat from the ground and sheltering from the wind.

This person, who I came upon my walk yesterday, had NOT done that.  She did everything wrong.  First she used plastic – a terrible insulator and second she didn’t help the plant out at all because the air in the bag is going to be just as cold as the air outside of the bag.  To cover this plant well she should have places something over the plant that would have gone all the way to the ground.  This would have helped keep the temperature around the plant just a couple degrees warmer and protected it from the blast of cold air we received.

Excuse the poor picture please – it was taken with a camera phone while holding a three year old and being pulled by a dog in a 30 mph wind.

image

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