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Plant of the Week: Perennial Hibiscus

When most people think of hibiscus they think of a tropical plant that grows in warm climates like Hawaii or Florida. Well, if you love the look of hibiscus but think it can only be grown in very warm climates don’t fret. If you crave a touch of the tropics, perennial hibiscus is a must. The perennial hibiscus should not be confused with the tropical hibiscus, which will not survive a winter freeze. Perennial varieties are true, cold hardy shrubs that die back each winter only to reemerge in the spring even bigger and better! And best of all, these beauties are easy to care for. Provide them with sun, decent soil and some pruning now and again and once established, they’ll provide your garden with years of fabulous color. There are many varieties of perennial hibiscus to choose from with plant heights ranging from 3 feet to 8 feet tall with giant, dinnerplate size blossoms in an array of colors. Make room in your garden for one of our favorite perennial hibiscus plants in stores now:

Summerific 'Cranberry Crush': A naturally compact selection that works well in large containers. Large 7-8”, deep scarlet red flowers are produced all over the dense, rounded clump of deep green, leathery, maple-like leaves. Garden Height: 36 - 48 inches.

Maintenance Tips: Perennial Hibiscus should be cut back to 4-6" from the ground in the spring. Since this plant doesn't leaf out until late, any time in spring before the new growth appears is fine. The stems are quite woody, so a saw or strong pair of loppers is necessary to cut through the thick stems. If you want to get really bushy and full plants, when the shoots start to come out of the ground and are about 6-10 inches tall, pinch them in half. The pinch should be made just above a set of leaves, this will improve branching. Improved branching will yield more flowers. Each time you pinch, take no more than half of the stem and pinch just above a set of leaves. You will get fuller plants doing multiple pinches. It is also perfectly acceptable not to pinch at all. The plant will have fewer branches, but it will perform perfectly well.

Check out more of our favorite plants! OUR PLANTS OF THE WEEK >>

Plants for Waterfront Living

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

Having lived on some kind of waterway for 25 years, I’ve learned much about the good and bad of waterfront gardening.

The good is that plants are often tougher than you think they are. Our yards have been though numerous saltwater tidal floods and most of the plants thrive just fine. Happily for me and the plants, refreshing rains typically follow flooding and wash away much of any salinity in the soil.

The bad is that shallow-rooted plants like azaleas and dogwoods are not the best for waterfront gardening, especially along the water’s edge.

Our current property is designed to tolerate flooding at its worst. I find that roses, hydrangeas (blue Nikko my favorite), wax myrtles, nandinas and camellias survive occasional tidal flooding. Perennials and bulbs, too.

Our Tifway Bermuda lawn, with some St. Augustine at the point, never blinks, just keeps on growing.

So far, our three crape myrtles (dark purple my favorite color) have been through a couple of minor floods without any damage. If there is no rain after the floods, I saturate their root zone with fresh water from the outdoor faucets. Other salt-tolerant trees include most maples, ginkgo, American holly (we have a 40-year-old one that’s been flooded numerous times), sweetgum, sweet bay magnolia (got that one, too, right on the shoreline), black gum (beautiful fall color), London plane tree, oaks, bald cypress (got two that love wetness of any kind) and lacebark elm.

Coastal waterfront living also means trees must contend with winds and possible damage. Proper pruning to remove sharp v-crotches helps reduce limb breakage. Winds blowing against trees with dense foliage can push the plants over, so some light pruning to open the canopy will allow the wind to pass through without harming anything.

When and if a storm uproots one of your prized trees, especially smaller ones, you can right the tree and stake it on three sides. Odds are the tree will reset its roots and continue to be healthy. The key is to get it done quickly and keep the root system well watered, especially if it’s still hot and somewhat dry. Here’s hoping none of us have to do that anytime soon.

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Living Fences - The Best Screening Evergreen Shrubs

Living Fences

The Best Screening Evergreen Shrubs

Gardens are a sanctuary from our everyday, busy lives; a place to sway in a hammock and enjoy the peace and quiet, or share a cool beverage and conversation with a family member or friend. Fences are typically the first options homeowners think about when it comes to creating privacy in their yards. And, even though fences are an attractive option, they require on-going maintenance that can be expensive in the long term. One of the most cost-effective ways to give your garden greater privacy is by growing green walls. Evergreen shrubs are not just useful, they are also beautiful and require little or no maintenance and are ideal for gardens of all types and sizes. Not only do shrubs provide privacy, but they also offer additional benefits such as, shade, fragrance, cooler summertime temperatures, and an environment for attracting birds and other wildlife to your yard. With so many options available, you can choose the perfect shrub to fit with your garden and create the degree of screening you require. Here are a few of our recommendations for the best screening, evergreen shrubs.

Chindo Viburnum - is a beautiful evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green leaves. Beautiful white flowers appear in spring followed by red berries in fall providing year-round interest in the landscape. Chindo is a fast grower, so it should be placed somewhere that has enough room to accommodate its full growth. Shrub reaches a mature height of 10-15 feet. Pruning should be done after flowering is completed in the spring. Prefers full sun to partial shade. Attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

Waxleaf Ligustrum - this evergreen shrub boast dark green, lustrous foliage with a dense, upright growing habit. Fragrant creamy-white blooms appear in both spring and summer. . Growing quickly during the summer months, Waxleaf Ligustrum will fill in any spot quickly. This tough, drought tolerant shrub works equally well sculpted into topiaries, trained as a small tree or grouped as a flowering hedge. Grows to 8 feet in both height and width, although modest pruning will allow you to shape this plant into any shape you desire. Prefers partial sun to full sun.

Bayberry (Southern Waxmyrtle) – is a large shrub or small tree, often multi-trunked, with gray-green aromatic foliage reminiscent of bayberry candles. Clusters of waxy, bluish gray berries prevail through winter. Wax myrtle makes an effective and attractive tall screen or specimen tree. This heat and drought tolerant evergreen is a fast grower, reaching 15-20 feet at maturity. Prefers full sun or partial shade. Deer resistant.

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