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Crape Myrtles

No yard or landscape should be without a crape myrtle, or two, or three or… many! How wonderful to have something that blooms so profusely during that time of year when most other plants are looking tired and worn from the summer heat and drought. The versatility of this plant makes it suitable for many types of yards and many uses, and once established, they will go on to add charm and delight to the landscape for many years.

About Crape Myrtles

Crape myrtles bloom in late summer and can be found in flower colors of pinks, lilac, white, reds and purples. Requiring very little maintenance once established, crape myrtles need a full sun location to thrive and they do not like wet feet. Keep these needs in mind when selecting a site to plant them. They will require some supplemental watering for the first year or so to get off to a good start and develop good roots. Crape myrtles are also pretty much pest-free, except for aphids on occasion and these are easily controlled with an insecticidal soap spray. Some varieties are more susceptible to powdery mildew than others but most of the newer varieties are more resistant to this fungus problem.

Planting Crape Myrtles

Although tolerant of a wide range of soil qualities, crape myrtles grow poorly in wet locations so be sure to select a well-drained planting site. Late spring to early summer is the best time to select and plant your new crape myrtles while they are actively growing and can settle in quickly. Plant at or slightly above ground level, spreading the roots out slightly and using mulch to protect and shelter the roots after planting. They do prefer a slightly acid soil.

Crape Myrtle Types

Crape myrtles can be found in shrub, multi-stem tree and single trunk tree forms. For best results select a cultivar whose growth characteristics and ultimate mature size fit your intended use. Planting a shrub- or tree-like crape myrtle in an area of limited space will require yearly pruning to keep it from outgrowing its place. Single- or multi-stemmed tree-form crape myrtles are ideal as flowering specimen trees or as small, flowering shade trees near patios, walkways and entrances. Shrub forms make an excellent accent in a shrub border when planted in groups. Dwarf plants are effective as large groundcovers, perennial bedding plants or container plants providing vivid, summer-flowering interest.

Pruning Crape Myrtles

If adequate room is provided, little pruning is required except to maintain shape or remove any dead or crossing branches. Remove any suckers or water sprouts to maintain tree forms and elegance. Blossoms are produced on new growth so you can prune anytime the plants are dormant through the winter.

With so much to love about these plants, there’s no reason not to add one to your yard this year! And next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…

Succulent Container Garden

Have you noticed how a container garden can really jazz up a front entryway, back deck or porch? Perhaps you’ve thought twice about including this addition to your plantscaping because you just don’t have time every day to water. 

Cheer up! You can plant a container with succulents (plants with fleshy or thickened leaves, stems or roots) and you will not have to worry about watering frequently. Succulent container gardens are relatively carefree, and they’re so easy that you don’t have to limit yourself to just one. If one container makes a statement, several will create a conversation! 

Succulent Container Garden Tips and Tricks

To have the greatest success with your new succulent container garden, consider… 

  • Exposure
    Full sun is a must for all succulents and will help show off their subtle colors and textures. If your viewing location has less than adequate sun, place your succulent garden in a full sun area for the majority of the day and move to your desired location when you have company or time to enjoy it yourself. Remember to move it back out into the sun when company leaves.
  • Containers
    Because succulents do not have extensive root systems, your chosen containers may be shallow. Too much soil can hold excessive water causing the succulent’s roots to rot. Perhaps a strawberry pot would make the perfect focal point at your front door, and many front doors look great with a single shallow round planter sitting on the stoop. If you have several steps to the door, try a pot on each step. How do you want your front entrance to say “hello”?
  • Height
    Think about varying the heights of your containers. Perhaps your containers will require a pedestal or something else for elevation. This could be an inverted pot, a table, shelf or even pot feet. You may even consider hanging your container for elevated elegance. Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember succulents require excellent drainage. Therefore, the containers must have holes.
  • Soil
    All succulents need fast draining soil. Pre-mixed soil is available that is specifically blended for succulent container plantings. You may also use a general all-purpose potting mix and add perlite, coir or sand to increase the drainage sufficiently.

Plants for Your Succulent Container Garden

When making your plant selection, it is fun to let your imagination go wild and embrace the full range of amazing succulents available. As a good container gardening rule of thumb, Use a thriller (something stunning to catch the eye), a filler (a sturdy, reliable choice to fill in bare spots) and a spiller (a trailing plant to blur the container edges) and you’ll never go wrong. 

Succulents come in an extensive variety of colors, striking shapes and varying sizes. As when planting any container, evaluate plant color, texture and shape when making your selections. You may feel overwhelmed when choosing your plants. If you can’t decide, here is a simple “recipe” for planting one 16″ container to be seen from all sides. Maybe it will give you some ideas: 

  • 1-thriller (Euphorbia tirucalliSticks on Fire‘) planted in the middle.
  • 3-fillers (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) to surround the thriller and provide texture or color contrast
  • 5-spillers (Sempervivum arachnoideum) to drape over the container’s edge.

As an extra bonus, many succulents bloom, adding extra unexpected beauty. Blooms can be few and far between, however, but they will be exciting and rewarding when they are spotted. 

The Importance of Topdressing 

After planting, gently brush off any residual soil from the succulents’ leaves. Add more interest by topdressing the container. This is a layer of material will give your container garden a finished appearance. Desert type plants look great with a thin layer of light tan-colored gravel or red lava rocks. Create sparkle with sea-glass toppings or add a clean, contemporary look to Zen-like or Asian inspired plantings with smooth black river stones. Other popular top dressings include glass marbles, colored aquarium gravel or tiny seashells. You might even add a fairy garden surprise in the container, such as a miniature hut, hidden gnome or other quaint character who will call your succulent garden home.

Most importantly, have fun!

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Rose Care Basics

Beginners often become confused with the many recommendations and suggestions for growing roses. However, it is important to start with the basic guidelines for successful rose growing. Roses can thrive under many conditions, but they are sure to grow better, with more luxurious blooms and fewer problems, when you follow the basics. 

Prepare the Soil 

The proper soil is essential to nourish roses so they can grow to their full potential. To make the soil ideal for roses… 

  1. Take a soil sample to test the pH, either with a home testing kit or through your local extension service. Roses like a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. You may need to add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it to the optimum rose range.
  2. Incorporate composted cow manure or other healthy compost into the soil. This will provide superior drainage and excellent organic material for roses to absorb.

Planting Roses

If they aren’t planted properly, roses won’t thrive as well as they could. Improper planting could even damage roots and destroy a rose bush. 

  1. Select a sunny spot with good soil drainage – roses require at least 6 hours of full sun daily. Early morning sun is preferred because it dries the leaves, which helps prevent disease.
  2. Dig a wide, shallow hole that is 2-3 times as wide but not quite as deep as the root ball (about 1 inch shallower). The plant should sit on solid ground so it doesn’t sink when the soil settles.
  3. Remove the plant from the pot and loosen any circling roots. If you can’t pull the roots apart, use a knife to make 4-5 vertical cuts in the root ball. This will allow new roots to grow out into the surrounding soil as the plant becomes established.
  4. Place the plant in the hole slightly elevated above ground level. Backfill with soil until the hole is half full.
  5. Soak the root ball with a mixture of a Root Stimulator & Transplanting Solution.
  6. Fill the rest of the hole with soil and water thoroughly. Apply mulch to a depth of 2 inches, being careful not to mound mulch against the trunk of the plant, which could encourage rotting or insect damage.

Pruning Roses 

To look their best, roses must be properly pruned. This can be intimidating for rose-growing novices, but once the basics are mastered, the techniques for pruning roses are not difficult. 

  1. In spring, remove winter mulch when new grow appears. Prune out all dead wood and twiggy growth and cut back to sound wood with a clean slanting cut, just above a good bud eye.
  2. During the growing season, remove fading roses promptly, cutting just above a five-leaflet leaf. This will help encourage reblooming on many cultivars, and will help prevent rot or disease infestation.
  3. To winterize, remove all fallen leaves and debris from the base of the plant, cut back to 10-12 inches after the ground freezes, then apply a mound of mulch over the canes to protect them from temperature shock. 

Food and Water 

Roses need the proper nutrition – water and fertilizer – to bloom well and develop stunning colors and fragrances. 

  1. Roses thrive best when given 1 inch of water weekly. A thorough soaking from rain or hose will keep roses blooming all season. Try not to overhead water unless it is early in the day, as the damp leaves can promote disease.
  2. Fertilize monthly with Espoma Rose-tone or similar products specially formulated for the nutritional needs of roses.

Treat for Disease and Pests 

There are times when roses will succumb to diseases and pests. Quickly recognizing these problems and treating them properly will help minimize outbreaks that can damage several rose plants at once. 

  1. Fungus diseases cannot be cured, so a regular spraying schedule is very important. Keep an eye on plants that were infected last year and spray with a fungicide to prevent outbreaks this year.
  2. You may also need to use an insecticide for severe insect problems. Minor problems can be handled with less harsh methods, but diligence will be necessary to keep pests from taking over the rose bushes.
  3. Many rose lovers find it convenient to use an all-purpose insect and disease spray once a week or a systemic control every 6 weeks.

It may seem like a lot of work to cultivate roses, but when you wander through your rose garden or see your favorite rose bush in full bloom, that effort will be well rewarded.

Spraying the roses

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Garden Fence, Pink Roses

Beetle Mania

It’s hard to forget the years that we’ve been plagued with Japanese beetles. These ravenous creatures can destroy your lawn, garden and good nature in one season by eating away precious time and money invested in our landscapes. As they know no boundaries, Japanese beetle control methods are most effective if neighborhoods band together in their efforts. So, rally the troops! 

Identification & Damage 

Japanese beetles are a problem at two stages of their life cycle: larvae and adult. The larvae, called grubs, are actively feeding from August through October and again in April through May. It is during this time that the grubs are closest to the soil surface feasting on plant roots, especially grass roots. A heavy grub population will result in dead patches of turf that can be lifted like a carpet. Japanese beetle grubs are 1 ½” long, C-shaped and white with a brown head. When gardening, you will almost always find some grubs in the soil. Small populations of grubs can be present in the soil without significant damage to the lawn. If you notice more than a dozen per square foot, however, this constitutes a problem that should be dealt with. 

Adult Japanese beetles have a hard-shell body that is about ½ inch long. They are metallic-green and copper-colored. At this stage, beetles can decimate a plant in record time by skeletonizing the leaves – nibbling off all the foliage between the veins. Adult beetles start to emerge from the soil with a frenzy of feeding, mating and laying eggs. You will find adults feeding in groups in full sun, and they feed on over 300 different species of plants. These insects maintain this frantic level of activity through the first half of August. The females lay their eggs on the ground. When the eggs hatch they dig their way into the soil to feast on plant roots in preparation for winter. As soil temperatures decrease the larvae move deeper into the soil only to resurface and feed on plant roots again in spring. 

Beetle Control Methods 

There are several methods to control both Japanese beetle grubs and adults, some environmentally-friendly and some more harshly chemical. Always read pest control labels in their entirety even if they are listed as organic or environmentally-friendly. These labels are meant for the protection of you, your plants and the planet. 

Environmentally-Friendly Adult Beetle Control 

Effective options for controlling adult Japanese beetles with the least harm to plants and the landscape include… 

  • Manual Removal – Pick off and destroy the feeding adults even if you see just a few. Japanese Beetles produce pheromones that will attract many more to your property, so it is best to pick them off and destroy them right away.
  • Use Non-Attractive Plants – If you have a shade garden you will not have a problem with Japanese Beetles. In sunny areas, choose plants that beetles don’t like.
  • Trap – Pheromone traps lure adult beetles, sometimes hundreds a day, and trap them in a disposable bag. Replace the bag as necessary. Place trap at least 20 feet from the plantings that you are trying to protect to lure the beetles away.
  • Row Covers – Floating row covers of reemay fabric may be placed over plants to avoid beetle damage by keeping the beetles from accessing the plants.
  • Pyrethrins – These insecticides are naturally derived from the pyrethrum daisies. Pyrethrins attack the insect’s central nervous system, producing a rapid knockdown. The residual effect, however, is only 5 days, so several applications may be needed to control severe infestations.
  • Insecticidal Soap – This soap is a contact kill with no residual control, but can be useful for smaller infestations or few beetles.
  • Neem Oil – This oil is an organic control that repels Japanese beetles. Spray early in morning or on an overcast day. Because neem is an oil, you may burn plant leaves if spraying in full sun. 

Chemical Adult Beetle Controls 

When using any chemical controls, read the product label completely and follow application instructions meticulously. It is a good idea to use a spreader sticker so that the chemical will adhere to the plant for the greatest effect. Popular chemical options to control adult Japanese beetles include… 

  • Sevin – This chemical is absorbed through the skin and will kill beetles on contact. It has a 7-10 day residual effect but must be reapplied after a rain. Consult label for recommended time that fruit and vegetables may be consumed after application.
  • Pyrethroides – Synthetic pyrethrin-like insecticides kill on contact and have an 8-10 day residual effect. Fruits and vegetables may be consumed in a shorter time period after application than Sevin.
  • Acephate – This systemic control works by poisoning the plant. The insect dies when the plant is ingested. Must not be used on edibles.
  • Malathion – This chemical must be ingested by the insect, however, this product may be used on edibles. Check label for number of days between last application and safe harvest.
  • Imidacloprid – Sold as a liquid form of Merit, this product is systemic and must be applied at least 20 days before anticipated adult Japanese beetle feeding. Only one application is needed per year. Use only on ornamentals.

Environmentally-Friendly Grub Control 

For truly effective Japanese beetle control, it is also necessary to control the grubs. This can be done in a number of environmentally-friendly ways, such as… 

  • Milky Spore – This biological control effects only Japanese Beetle grubs. Once this bacteria is established it can last in the soil for up to 20 years. It is completely harmless to people, pets, birds, fish and beneficial insects. Apply anytime the ground is not frozen.
  • Beneficial Nematodes – These microscopic worms kills grubs by feeding on, and reproducing in, the grub’s body. This is an excellent choice for a vegetable garden and should be applied after the soil is warm. Late summer/early fall application is best. 

Chemical Grub Control 

Chemical controls can also be effective at minimizing the harm from Japanese beetle grubs. Good options include… 

  • Merit – The granular form of this chemical is a systemic, season-long grub control with a 4-month residual effect, though it must be ingested by the insect. It is applied 3-4 weeks before grubs are actively feeding, mid-May through mid-June. Must be watered-in within 24 hours of application.
  • Dylox – This compound is absorbed through the grub’s ‘skin’ and will kill within 24 hours of application. Use only in late summer through early fall while grubs are still close to the soil surface. Must be watered in. It is active for up to 7 days in the soil.
  • Sevin – In its granular form, Sevin is a contact kill and will not remain active in the soil longer than 7 days. This product is used most effectively from mid-August through mid-October. Must be watered in.

With so many options for effectively controlling these pernicious insects, there is no reason why you need to keep being bothered by Japanese beetles. Once you know more about these insects and their habits, you can easily keep them away.

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Growing Grass in the Shade

Cool season turf grasses prefer to grow in the sun. To establish a thick, healthy lawn of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial rye, you will need at least six hours of full sun daily. Fine and tall fescues are more shade-tolerant and require a minimum of four hours of full or eight hours of filtered sun a day. When plants do not receive enough sun, they cannot manufacture food (photosynthesis) effectively to support growth. As a result, plants that do not receive adequate sun are less heat- and cold-tolerant and more susceptible to disease and insect damage. When it is a tree or shrub that is causing the shade, there is also competition for soil nutrients and water. 

What does this mean for those of us with less than optimal light on our lawns? If it is grass that you wish to grow, it is not impossible, but you will have to settle for thinner turf. It doesn’t have to be any less healthy or hardy, however. Your chances of maintaining a healthy, thin lawn in a shady area is increased when adopting the following guidelines: 

  • Increase the amount of light and air circulation, if possible, by thinning tree canopies or removing the trees altogether.
  • Test your soil pH. It should read between 6.0-6.5 for growing fine fescue grasses.
  • If drainage is poor, improve it. Most turf grasses prefer well-drained soil.
  • Use a shady grass seed mixture with a high percentage of fine fescue grasses.
  • Do not sod. Most sod on the market is Kentucky bluegrass, which requires full sun.
  • Sow seed in late August to avoid heat and drought stress, weed competition and suffocation from falling leaves. Early spring is the second best time to seed.
  • During periods of drought, provide deep soakings to encourage a deep root system. Water early in the day to allow leaf blades a chance to dry and therefore reducing the possibility of disease.
  • Mow grass high, 3-4 inches. More leaf surface is required to increase photosynthesis in the shade.
  • Limit foot traffic in shady areas. This grass is already growing under stressful conditions and high use will contribute to its decline.
  • Fescue requires less nitrogen than other grasses. You may allow the grass clippings to stay in place. As they break down they will provide nitrogen to the soil. A spring and fall application of a high phosphorus fertilizer should also be used.

It is highly unlikely that you will have success when attempting to grow lawn in deep or heavy shade. The one exception is Poa trivialis, commonly known as rough bluegrass. This type of lawn is very shade-tolerant, but must have consistently moist soil. Without both heavy shade and constant moisture, you will not be able to grow a rough bluegrass lawn. 

Turf Alternatives 

Alternatives to turf in a shady area include: 

  • Shade-Tolerant Evergreen Ground Covers

Though not quite the same as grass, these groundcovers provide a green landscape without needing plentiful sunlight. They can also be lower maintenance and don’t require mowing. Selections include common periwinkle, pachysandra, purple wintercreeper, English ivy and lilyturf.

  • Perennial / Annual Shade Garden

Why not remove turf entirely in favor of other shade-loving plants? There are plenty of stunning perennials and annuals that don’t mind a bit of darkness. Visit our garden center and speak with our knowledgeable staff. We have an extensive selection of shade plants available and can help you make choices that will best suit your landscape conditions.

  • Mulch

Mulch is an excellent turf alternative for shady areas especially under a shallow-rooted tree where it can be difficult to grow anything. Mulch can also help you define paths to walk through the shade garden and will prevent mud from becoming a problem on those paths. You can opt for wood nuggets, shredded bark, gravel, river rock or even artificial mulches in a variety of colors. 

It can be a challenge to grow grass in the shade, but if you choose the proper type of grass and care for it well, you can cultivate shade-loving turf. If you’d rather not fuss with it, there are plenty of amazing alternatives that can make even the darkest corner of your landscape shine more brightly.

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Green Gardening

Planting a vegetable or flower garden seems like the perfect thing to do when you are looking for ways to adopt a greener, more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Some traditional gardening practices, however, may not be quite as “green” as you might think. Planning your gardens with the environment in mind and choosing some practices that maintain healthy ecosystems can help you create a truly “green” garden. 

Tips for a Green Garden 

There are easy, effective steps you can take in your garden to go green, including… 

  • Plant local and native species of trees and shrubs which are naturally adapted to the conditions in your area, thus requiring less watering and having natural defenses for local insect pests and plant diseases.
  • Collect rainwater for watering your container gardens and new transplants, and adjust your irrigation schedule to compensate for whenever Mother Nature does the watering for you.
  • Use organic compost and mulch to improve soil health and reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers. Better yet, make your own compost so you can adjust it to exactly what your plants need while keeping more waste out of landfills.
  • Opt for disease-resistant and pest-resistant plants rather than trying to force plants into an unfriendly area where they will need chemical assistance and extra maintenance to thrive.
  • Try to use natural products instead of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Use traps, parasites and natural predators such as ladybugs and lacewings. Plants that repel insects – basil, chives, mint, marigolds or mums – mixed in with other plants can help keep pests away.
  • Choose wildlife-friendly plants such as flowerbeds that will attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators, and don’t be upset to share some of your garden space with other critters.

These are just a few of the simple changes you can make in your gardening practices that will benefit the environment.

Green Products 

More and more “green” products are readily available to help you maintain the natural health of your garden. Before using a product, however, be sure it is suitable for your situation, and follow all application and use instructions. Even organic or eco-friendly products can become toxic contaminants if they are improperly used.

Popular options for green gardening products include… 

  • Dr. Earth contains probiotic beneficial soil microbes, plus ecto- and endo- mycorrhizae which feed the fiber of the living soil by releasing natural organic matter. People and pet safe.
  • Dr. Earth pest controls are organic controls for all of your pest problems, including all types of unwanted or troublesome insects. People and pet safe.
  • Espoma Organic Traditions line of products includes bone meal, kelp meal, garden sulphur, potash and garden lime for helping to improve your soil without artificial chemical compounds.
  • Bonide offers organic fertilizers as well as organic formulas for pest and plant disease control, such as fruit tree sprays.
  • Scotts Organic Choice lawn care products provide more environmentally friendly choices for your yard.

Developing “green” gardening practices benefits you and your family, your garden, your native plants and animals, your water supply – our world, all of us.

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Conserving Water Through Proper Planting

Worried that you may have to give up color in your landscape to save on maintenance and water? Afraid that watering restrictions in your area will put a damper on your colorful flowerbeds, borders and shrubs? It doesn’t have to be that way! Many brightly-colored trees, shrubs and flowers don’t require as much water once they become established, which generally takes about a year. The key is knowing which plants to select and how to treat them for that year. 

Choosing Plants That Tolerate Drought 

The key to keeping your color while losing the water is to opt for plants that aren’t quite so thirsty. Fortunately, there are all types of beautiful drought-tolerant plants to choose from, with more cultivars being developed every year. 

Dry soil tolerant plants include: 

Annuals

  • Cosmos
  • Nasturtium
  • Portulaca
  • Strawflower
  • Verbena

Perennials

  • Achillea (Yarrow)
  • Anthemis (Golden Marguerite)
  • Artemesia (Wormwood)
  • Asclepias (Butterflyweed)
  • Baptisia (False Indigo)
  • Echinops (Globe Thistle)
  • Gallardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Hemerocallus (Daylily)
  • Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)
  • Salvia (Sage)
  • Sedum (Stonecrop)
  • Stachys (Lamb’s Ear)

Shrubs

  • Berberis (Japanese Barberry)
  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
  • Chaenomeles (Quince)
  • Cotinus (Smokebush)
  • Hamemelis (Witchazel)
  • Hypericum (St. John’s Wort)
  • Juniper
  • Ligustrum (Privet)
  • Myrica (Bayberry)
  • Potentilla
  • Rhamnus (Tallhedge)
  • Pyracantha (Firethorn)
  • Vitex (Chastetree)
  • Yucca

Establishing Drought-Tolerant Plants 

To be sure drought-tolerant, water-saving plants get the good start they need, it is important to plant them in appropriate locations. Some do well in full sun, others need varying amounts of shade. Also pay close attention to soil needs, including pH values – the chemical composition of the soil affects its water retention and the ability of plants to absorb that water effectively. If your plants are in the right spot, they will flourish with the best foliage and flowering possible, even with little watering. 

Plant drought-tolerant plants as early as possible so they can begin growing strong, absorbent roots well before the driest days of summer, and use drip watering systems, mulch and windbreaks to protect delicate plants from too much heat stress. Grouping plants with similar watering needs together can also help minimize water loss by avoiding irresponsible watering. 

More Watering Tips 

To make the most of every drop of water you offer to your garden, flowerbeds or landscape… 

  • Water in the very early morning when the air is still cool and less water will evaporate before it soaks into the soil.
  • Water deeply but infrequently to help plants stretch their roots deeper into the soil seeking moisture.
  • Check your irrigation system regularly for any leaks or other problems that could result in poor watering practices.

With thoughtfulness and care, you can easily enjoy beautiful, colorful flowerbeds, gardens and landscaping even without a great deal of water.

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Get Your Mint On!

And, they’re off!

As the iconic Kentucky Derby approaches, there’s no better time to refresh your mint knowledge and prepare for a thirst-quenching round of flavorful mint juleps.

The Early Times Mint Julep Recipe

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Sprigs of fresh mint (spearmint is the favorite)
  • Crushed ice
  • Early Times Kentucky Whisky

Make simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight to allow the mint flavoring to infuse.

Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

(Recipe from www.kentuckyderby.com/party, with permission)

Growing Your Own Spearmint

Want to add a personal touch to your mint juleps – or any other mint recipes – by growing your own spearmint? Nothing could be easier. However, there is one word of warning – containment. Mints quickly become invasive when left to their own devices so it is imperative to plant mint in a container or an area from which it can’t escape. Growing mint indoors is the ideal solution and ensures it is easily at hand whenever you have a recipe that calls for mint’s refreshing taste.

Easily grown from seed scattered on a moist surface, mint also transplants easily from purchased pots or from a friend’s garden. It thrives in moist shady areas and grows to 3′ tall. A light application of compost or a well-balanced fertilizer improves the quality but be careful; too much adjustment can also affect the overall flavor of the mint.

Harvesting is also easy. Whenever you want to use your mint, just wait until after the dew dries then cut the plant 3″ from the ground. Preserve by drying, freezing or storing in salt, sugar syrup, alcohol or oil. This method allows the mint oil’s distinctive taste and aroma to infuse the medium for future use.

Aside from mint juleps, varieties of mints flavor a wide assortment of foods from salads to sauces and cookies to ice cream. In the upcoming hot months, put spearmint in your lemonade (or beverage of choice). Of course, fresh mint has the strongest taste, so just pluck some, put it in a glass, and pour in the lemonade for a cool delightful thirst quencher with a sprig of freshness infused in every taste.

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Try Something New: Pomegranates

Want to grow an exotic fruit that is delicious, nutritious, beautiful and incredibly hip? You really should consider planting a pomegranate! It’s not as difficult as you may think.

Why Pomegranates are Popular

Pomegranate is a stunning superfood rich in antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E. It has no cholesterol, and is also rich in fiber and potassium. Because of these nutritional advantages, pomegranate is showing up in a multitude of supermarket products like yogurts, juices, salad dressings, jellies and desserts. It can be added to sauces, fruit crisps, salsas, relishes, dips and more. You can even make a pomegranate martini! And, of course, it’s an extraordinary experience eating a fresh pomegranate. These are stunning, delicious fruits that are rarely seen in backyard gardens, but can make a great landscaping statement when properly grown.

Growing Pomegranates in the Landscape

Pomegranates grow as multi-stemmed, small trees or large shrubs. They reach 15 feet tall by up to 15 feet wide. In spring, vibrant, gorgeous orange-red flowers grace the branches of this plant. These beautiful blossoms develop into the luscious pomegranate fruit containing dozens of tart and tangy bright red seeds and pulp. The fruit ripens somewhat square in the early fall and has a leathery skin that can be yellow to red in color.

The cultivar ‘Wonderful’ is hardy to zone 7 and is easy to grow. Plant your tree in full sun. It will thrive in the summer heat and in most soils. Pomegranates are drought tolerant, however, the fruit is better and the seeds more plump with regular deep irrigation. Because this fruit tree is self-fertile, there is no need to plant a second one for pollination.

Enjoying Your Pomegranates

If you’ve never cut your own pomegranate, it can be frustrating to learn how to separate the juicy seeds from the husk and membrane. To access the seeds…

  1. Cut off the crown of the fruit.
  2. Score the leathery husk in quarters from stem to crown end.
  3. Set the scored fruit in a bowl of cool water and let soak for a few minutes.
  4. Hold the fruit under water and break scored sections apart with your fingers, separating the seeds from membrane. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Discard the skin and membrane.
  6. Drain the seeds on paper towels.
  7. Toss pomegranate seeds into your salad, mix them in your yogurt or smoothie or shake them into a martini and enjoy!
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Pink Muhley Grass

Ornamental grasses are becoming increasingly popular, and there is now an over-abundance of options available at garden centers. So many choices can make the selection process difficult, even overwhelming. There is one ornamental grass, however, that takes the cake. Pink Muhley Grass is arguably the most colorful ornamental grass around and it is sure wow your friends and neighbors.

About Pink Muhley Grass

Pink Muhley Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is a native grass that is deer, drought and salt tolerant. It is hardy in zones 7-10 and may be grown as an annual elsewhere. Broadly adaptable, this grass prefers sun but will tolerate part shade and will grow well in just about any soil type. ‘Regal Mist’, or also called ‘Lenca’, is a cultivar known for the deepest plume color.

Perfect used as a specimen plant in containers or in groupings in beds and borders as well as naturalized in a meadow garden, this fall bloomer is an outstanding ornamental plant. The pink-purple flower plumes that grow up to 4 feet are also exceptional for use in cut and dried floral arranging.

Proper Care

This ornamental grass is very easy to care for. Simply prune your Pink Muhley Grass clump back hard in late winter or very early spring before the attractive new growth begins to show. Although drought tolerant, the plant will be fuller and lusher with regular, consistent watering. It is especially adaptable to poorly drained soils, and can grow in full sun or partial shade locations.

In the Garden and Landscape

There are many stunning uses for this outstanding grass, whether you are cultivating a formal garden or a more relaxed landscape. Consider these popular options…

  • When not flowering, the green clump creates a textured mound acting as a groundcover or background for other smaller plants. It can also soften harsh garden corners, walkway edges or awkward intersections.
  • As a finely textured grass, plant Pink Muhley Grass with contrasting companions such as calla lilies, evergreen shrubs or low growing groundcovers to create interest in the landscape.
  • Plant in front of the larger smoketree Cotinus coggygria ‘Grace’ for an exquisite coordinating display of color and texture.
  • Plant where it will be backlit. It positively glows where it catches the early morning or late afternoon sun.
  • Use as a beautiful and unusual addition to floral arrangements.

Do you need another reason to grow Pink Muhley Grass? Oh, yes, the birds will thank you – they love the seeds!

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