Kansas City Landscaping and Lawn Care Ideas

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

Kansas City Landscapes need to have Ornamental Grasses trimmed back once per year!

 

Ornamental grasses are a favorite in Kansas City’s Landscapes…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 Spring 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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Clean-Up in the Spring Garden – Trimming the Knock-Out Roses

Knock Outs are almost Maintenance Free

 

Taking care of Knock-outs in Kansas City gardens is a little like parenting a very well behaved child.  Most of the time they are darling and beautiful and very well behaved.  However, occasionally you need to show them some tough love.  The tough love is not fun, can be a little prickly, and may even draw some blood.  However, your tough love will be rewarded with continued beauty and good behavior.  Put off your tough love – and it only gets harder.

The tough love that Kansas City gardeners need to show their roses is a good hard pruning in early Spring.  By hard I mean almost tot he ground. We call this rejuvenation pruning.  In most situations I suggest doing this every year.  You might get away with skipping the first year after you them.  However, after that – they do best if pruned every year.  I think my parenting analogy still could apply here, don’t you?

The nice thing about this hard pruning is that you really don’t need any special training – if you can cut with a  pair of scissors you can prune knockout roses.  You don’t need to know the details of growing points and inward facing canes like you would if we were doing in-season pruning of a hybrid tea rose.  All  we are going to do is cut every cane off about 6 – 12” of from the ground.

Step 1: Gather your supplies

The first step to trimming your roses is gather your supplies. I suggest that you have

  • Long sleeved shirt and pants to protect you from thorns.  (my attorney would also say I should probably suggest you wear eye protection too….but life is more fun with a little risk involved).  You’ll also want some nice heavy leather gloves.
  • A decent set of pruners.  No need to run out and buy a  $50 pair of Felco pruners.  Instead I would suggest a nice pair of  $10 pruners for this job and save the Felco’s for the important pruning.
  • Some twine to tie up your bundles.  After you cut down the roses canes – you are going to need to dispose of them and tying them in bundles works well for that.

Step 2: Approach the Naughty bush and begin cutting

Knock Out Rose that needs to be trimmed

You should now see your ugly Knock out rose Bush in your yard.  It is not pretty and it needs to be rejuvenated.  Your going to do this task most likely sitting down on your bum so that you can scoot in under the and cut each cane about 6-10” off the ground.  Notice I did not include a ruler in your needed supplies.  No need for that amount of exactness.  The canes you cut off are not going to grow any more.  However new shoots will branch off these existing canes and be your new branches. 

 

 

Knock Out Rose cut back

 

 

 

Step 3: Check your Work

 

Your newly ‘parented” roses should look like this.   All the canes are cut off approximately 10” off the ground. 

 

 

 

 

Step 3: Wait for Growth

Soon your cut off rose will begin to appreciate the tough love it ahs given and begin shooting up some new growth!  This will be the start of this summers beautiful plants!

New Growth on Knockout rose

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Top 10 Kansas City Landscape Plants

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

This 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 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 plants 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 plants.  However, this one has and always will be my  favorite for planting in Kansas City landscapes.  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 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 is a that grows VERY well in Kansas 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 July.  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 spring.  The more protection you give them the bigger they will get the following year because you will protect more of the – giving it a head start on next years growth. I try to protect several of the biggest plants so they will grow as large as possible the following Spring.  I protect them by building 4’ tall  cages around them and filling them with .  This si the secret to really big plants.  However, even unprotected plants will reach 10’  

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

 

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

I would choose this 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 has small bluish green that are highly fragrant that smells like mint.  The 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 summer.  The blooms are a pale lavender and spread across the 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 since the first time I saw it in full bloom when driving past a very neglected baptisia false indigo in the middle of July.  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 plants. 

I was not immediately impressed.  The 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 plants 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 to use in designs.  It does have it quirks though.  Number one – it is a that you have to 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 plants. During one of these ‘experiments’ I was spraying a mixture of compost tea and iron on  few in my around the Baptisia – and it turned black over night – the entire .  The 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 that fits into almost every kansas city in some part.  In order for a 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 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 spring until the first , 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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Kansas City Landscaping dodged a bullet

Kansas City gardeners can breathe a sigh of relief that we did not reach the forecasted lows last of week of -20. For many years, we have been lulled into thinking that we may have shifted into zone 6. However, it only takes one very cold night to ensure that we are truly a area. The hardiness zones are based on the average lowest temperatures for a 10 year period. We are about to reset those if we approach -20 degrees. Plants are rated to their zones based on laboratory tests as well as the experiences of growers in the fields. Plants rated as hardy to generally survive low temperatures of -10 to -20 degrees. Zone 6 plants are only expected to survive to -10 degrees.

Of course, zones are only part of the answer to how your plants will during this cold snap. Zones define large areas, but not small microclimates that exist around your home. If your plants lie in a low lying area or out on a windswept plain, they are going to have considerably more exposure to cold temperatures than if they are nestled in a protected courtyard, along a south facing wall or on the wayward side of a hill.

That being said, many plants in Kansas City are going to suffer from this cold. Dan Simmons of Show-Me Horticulture and I were talking about what effect this could have on plants. We both agreed that a few of the standouts are plants that have started being popular at retail nurseries lately despite being unproven (or proven poorly) to thrive with very cold winters such as this years. A few plants that are going to be strongly affected are southern Magnolias such as Bracken Brown Beautys, , azaleas, rhododendrons and other broadleaf evergreens. These are all plants better suited to Zone 6. They may have done quite well in Kansas City the last several years, but will be well-tested this to see if they have enough protection to survive the extremes.

Even a few proven plants will still be stressed. Boxwoods, yews, and many broadleaf evergreens will likely show some damage come next spring from the prolonged cold weather combined with dry winds that we have experienced over the last several weeks. Another group of plants that will very likely show some signs of stress will be some of the ornamental grasses such as the ornamental fescues, the Japanese Silver grasses and the fountain grasses. Some of the larger such as Zelkova, Golden Tree, dogwoods and redbuds could suffer some superficial damage to outermost branches as well.

Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to protect your plants now. If your plants went into the relatively healthy and unstressed they will have a much better chance of survival than if they were stressed already. Newly planted plants will have a harder time than older, more established plants. The that is insulating the ground is the biggest protection we have right now and this can be bolstered if you are inclined to pile around the crowns of your most valuable plants. Another option that can be helpful is to build a windscreen around broadleaf evergreens to help protect them. Lastly, to help plants bounce back as much as possible, give them a good slow soaking of water as soon as the ground thaws and repeat at least monthly throughout the . This will help immensely as your plants begin to heal their wounds.

This spring will be quite revealing as we learn a lesson of what plants truly are able to survive Kansas City’s coldest temperatures. We will be better gardeners if we observe and learn from what nature teaches this week and choose plants that will thrive in Kansas City even during when it is at its coldest.

If you have any questions, please feel free to visit me at www.HamonsLandscaping.com or posting questions as a comment to this blog post. I enjoy talking to other lovers and answering any questions you might have.

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Preparing for Early Fall Freeze for Kansas city Landscape

coming to Kansas City 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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A Gradual Start to Spring for Kansas City Landscaping

This year, Kansas City Landscaping has seen a Spring that was more gradual than in past years.  This has been good for the plants and lawns in Kansas City .  Consistently cool Kansas City temperatures with only rare and short warm-up have allowed us to gradually slip into Spring and avoid the landscaping pitfalls of moving too fast.  Landscapers like slow springs because very few plants have been hurt by April freezes this year and although it has been fairly dry the plants 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 Kansas City homeowners. 

Blue and Fescue lawns 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 spring lawn seeding.  The 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 Spring seeded lawns since it simply will not have the time needed to grow before summer heat sets in.  However, if my inside sources at NBC Action News are accurate, we may have a cooler than normal Summer which would be good for all of Kansas City’s lawns. 

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Watering Kansas City Landscapes

Quick, look out your window! Your Kansas City lawn is inhabited by exotic residents from faraway lands. They have come from all corners of the globe and they plan on staying. They will require you to take care of them. No use complaining, after all, you not only invited them, you planted them. If you are like most homeowners in Kansas City, you have a full of exotic plants. Your bluegrass lawn is from Europe, your beautiful Dogwood is from Japan, your lush impatiens can trace their roots back to Africa and even Kansas City’s favorite , the yew, can trace its lineage back to Ireland. Although all these plants can survive Kansas City’s heat and cold, they need supplemental watering to thrive. Watering each can seem overwhelming, but with a little knowledge and a few tips you can have a beautiful, well-watered .

By dividing your into four categories, you will better able to manage your watering needs.

Turf

Your lawn is one of the thirstiest parts of your . Most lawns require 1” of water per week. This can either come from rainfall or supplemental watering. The most important (and most often broken) rule of lawn watering is to water deeply and infrequently. Kansas City’s most proud gardeners, with their spirits blinded by the glory of our lush spring, begin watering their lawns religiously. Convincing themselves that if they can get their lawns green enough now – they will stay green through the summer. Unfortunately, every ounce of excess water they throw on the in the early spring is deadly. If the soil in the lawn is not allowed to dry between watering, the roots of the grow very shallow, encouraged by the ample water and warmth at the surface. However, Kansas City’s glorious spring is only the opening act to our reliable, but dastardly summers. Shallow roots are a death sentence to your lawn. By watering only when the top 6” of soil have dried out, you will be dispensing some tough love that will result in your lawn being able to survive the summer.

For irrigation systems in and other cities, you should be watering every as little as possible but as deep as possible.  I usually start by suggesting that homeowners try to water 3/4″ for each zone on two consecutive days.  So they will water on Monday and Tuesday and not again for the rest of the week.  This long deep and infrequent watering si the kept to healthy all summer long.  If you cannot quite make it through the whole week without looking wilted then you can give another 3/4 inch on Friday.  To get 3/4″ of water from an irrigation system usually requires atleast 40 minutes on rotors and 20 minutes on spray heads.  However, every sytem is differnt and you should ideally measure how long it takes for yuor sytem to apply that amount of water. Use a straight sided container placed out in the middle of the sprinklers zone and turn it on and let it run until it has fille dup with 3/4″ of water.  That is how long it will need to run.

Trees/shrubs

and are often ignored when it comes to watering because of the perception that such a large must be able to pull water from deep down in the soil. However, most of a tree’s roots are in the top 3 feet of the soil. Although can and will survive in Kansas City, supplementing their water just few times through the year will reward you with increased growth, enhanced beauty and bolstered resistance to disease and stress. Typically, will need a little extra water in the middle of the and a couple times during the hottest part of the summer. Watering for should be done by observation, not a schedule. When you see signs of stress such as wilted or dropping , apply 3” of water to the area under the braches. This can be done with a well-adjusted impact sprinkler or a soaker hose. The method of application is not as important as making sure ample water is applied where and when the needs it.

Perennials

Perennials have widely varying watering needs based on species and type. It is important to know the specifics for your plants when watering. These can generally be learned by talking to your favorite landscaper or nursery. However, there is still a guideline that will lead you to the healthiest and most beautiful flowers – water only as much as your plants need and not a drop more.

Annuals

Watering annuals is different than watering other types of plants. Annuals tend to be shallow-rooted and need ample watering to thrive. Annuals should be watered when they first show signs of stress. In the heat of the summer, may mean every day. If you water annuals from overhead, do so early in the day. this This allows the to dry out preventing disease from hurting your plants.

Water is the most important gift you can give the exotic residents of your . You will be rewarded with beautiful, healthy plants that can thrive year round in Kansas’ foreign .

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Kansas City Landscapers Dream

This spring has been a landscaper in Kansas City’s dream.  All the plants are doing well with mild temps and ample .  The only negative so far has been that all the has made it nearly impossible to do landscaping or work.  It is just been too wet.

As Charles Dickens would have said “It has been the Best of Springs – It has been the Worst of Springs”

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Crabgrass annihalated from Kansas City Lawns

I have great news! Crabgrass has been eradicated from the state of Kansas. Absolutely annihilated every single ! Not a single growing in anyone’s yard anywhere in the state or Kansas City. Ok here is the bad news, this is not a result of any miraculous event or secret government work. Instead, since crabgrass is a warm season annual, it all died after the first hard .

However, there are literally billions of small crabgrass seeds laying in wait for the soil temperature to rise to 55 degrees for 10 consecutive days. Each crabgrass in your yard last year produced upwards of 180,000 seeds and flung them into the air. Even if you didn’t have a single in your yard last year your neighbors did and they generously shared their crop of invasive weeds with you guaranteed. Don’t worry though you can outsmart the crabgrass and keep it from ruining your otherwise pristine yard. Here’s how.

The battle against crabgrass is two pronged. One uses chemical warfare to initially suppress the onslaught and the second uses good cultural practices to make your lawn uninviting and able to fight off the crabgrass gremlins before they get a chance to grow.

Before you can fight the enemy you have to know the enemy. Read the rest of this entry »

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Aeration Essential for Kansas City Lawns

Look out your window. Do you see the millions of gasping, choking organisms yelling for help? You didn’t do it on purpose, but slowly you have contributed to the painful suffocation of your prized Kansas City lawn. The incriminating activities have seemed innocent enough; children playing on the lawn, weekly mowing, and diligent fertilization. However, the traffic of people and mowers has compacted the soil and eliminated all of the small spaces found throughout healthy soil. Without these spaces, oxygen has not been able to penetrate into the root system of the . Additionally, the use of chemical fertilizers has dramatically reduced the amount of living microorganisms naturally oxygenating the soil. To verify that your lawn suffers from compaction problems, take the largest flat tipped screwdriver you have and push it into the ground. If it does not go down at least 3” with ease, then your lawn is in serious trouble. Luckily, you don’t have to continue to watch your lawn suffer. You can give it CPR and revive it with core aeration.

To core aerate your lawn, Read the rest of this entry »

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