Monday, March 3, 2014
What a long cold Winter it's been. It's March 3rd and here in the northeast, we just had another major snowstorm come through the region. This one skirted us to our south just a bit so we didn't get it with both barrels but, we got enough to turn everything white again. This winter has been 180 degrees different from last year where we only had approximately 1 foot of snow all season. This one we are on the edge of moving 2014 into the third snowiest winter on record. I think this blog makes it evident that I like snow, but being someone with a horticultural background and large interest in specifically evergreens, I also understand the need for clear season breaks from one to another. All plant life needs the change of the seasons to properly maintain their internal life-cycles. Evergreens are a great example, they put forth new growth in the spring only. When the new branch shoots emerge they are tender like the wings of a newly hatched butterfly and as they progress they harden off and look more like their older counterparts behind them. If winter hangs on too long it can throw their internal clock out of balance so that the new shoots appear later than usual. Evergreens depend on those cooler spring months to get off to a good growing period. Once Spring is over evergreens don't really add too much new growth. I don't know how much more snow mother nature has planned to send our way, but the way this Winter has been going I would not be surprised if we get some more before it's over.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I've been away from my blog for a while and am taking a renewed interest in updating and going in new directions with it. Just to get my feet back in the snow again I have to talk about this past Winter or more the lack of it. I live in Eastern Pennsylvania and Winter here has eluded us this season. After two banner years for snowfall, we have come up considerably dry this time around. This type of
Winter is hard on plants because they lack the truly cold spell that triggers a deep winter sleep. Typically their growth is stunted the season following an unusually warm winter. For conifers Spring fertilizing is very important. In a future post I will provide information on the best types, timing and how often. In the future I would also like to set up a forum to answer questions from you and offer up advice in your landscape designs. I would also like it to become a centralized place of communication and information exchange. Please, comment and let me know if you think this would be helpful. I'll leave you with a picture from Winter 2011.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
It's late fall now and the thoughts of the holidays begin to take hold. Many are still raking up the leaves in our yards and may be noticing that our evergreens are getting some brown spots towards the inner needles. This is Fall Cast-Off. Like deciduous trees, evergreens react to the changing sunlight exposure that fall and winter bring. Since there is chlorophyll in the needles just like in deciduous leaves it needs a certain amount of light to be maintained. When the light decreases the tree will shed or cast-off some of the older inner needles. this helps it to conserve the available energy that it has. There is no cause for alarm, this is as natural as the leaves falling off the trees around it. The  reason the tree loses the inner needles is because they are not as exposed to the open sunlight as the surface needles. That is why when you look at an older tree, you will notice that it grows out like an umbrella.
Do not mistake cast-off for other diseases that can materialize with similar symptoms. The one thing that will set cast-off apart from other diseases is that only the innermost needles will be cast, not the ones at the surface. If there is uniform browning of the needles you need to look to other sources.
Cast-Off is common to all species of conifers. Spruces, Firs, and Pines all produce some cast-off each Fall season. Do not attempt to prune off these needles they will fall naturally. They will help to richen the soil beneath the tree. Just a little note: All pruning should be done in September to October. If done later the tree is in a weakened state and cannot scar over the cuts properly to keep out disease.
Enjoy your evergreens.
                                                                        Pine Exhibiting Fall Cast-Off
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
In one of my earlier posts I stated that the "Firs" were my favorite of all the conifers, but, the true soldiers of Winter are the "Spruces". Their shape and branch structure differ slightly from the Firs in that they are a more dense tree. Their conical shape is more defined and consistent. There are less gaps in their branches. The needles are evenly distributed at 360 degrees around each branch. Typically Spruce needles are prickly to the touch. The cross-cut of a needle is shaped like a cross. In the valleys of the cross running the length of the needle is a thin white line. This feature tends to make the tree present with an overall lighter shade of the main color. One species that does not have this additional color is the Colorado Blue Spruce. All other Spruces have this. Their trunk bark is generally smooth with small randomly scattered ulcers approximately 3mm in diameter. The true calling of these green giants is in creating a privacy line or a wind break. They have deep running roots that help them tame all that the winter winds can throw at them. They are slow growing but have long life spans. They are a welcomed addition to any landscape project. when it comes to the different species, they are as follows: Colorado Blue Spruce, Norway Spruce, White Spruce, Englemann Spruce, Sitka Spruce, Black Spruce and the Red Spruce. All are similar in appearance, but, they differ in color shade and there are some subtle texture differences. One in particular The Englemann Spruce has needles with a more rough appearance. I talked more about textures in an earlier post "Textures" and I will go into more detail at a later date on how textures can be used to achieve effects in your landscape. If you have any questions about these great plants, do not hesitate to contact me in comments or E-Mail.

Colorado Blue Spruce

Norway Spruce

White Spruce

Englemann Spruce

Sitka Spruce

Black Spruce

Red Spruce
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Solemnly they stand, unwavering under a frozen blanket, the soldiers of Winter. God's sentry's over the forest as it sleeps. The wind blowing through their branches, transformed into the whispers of the ages."
Thomas R. Marcucci

Saturday, May 15, 2010
Today I had the privilege of putting out flags on the grave sites of our veterans to prepare for the memorial holiday. It was part of my sons Tiger Cub Scouts Project. Every year they get together with our local V.F.W. and help them. It was a great chance for me and my son to do something together. He had no trouble understanding why we were there and how important they were. We were there for about 3 hours. There were plenty of volunteers. In all total 1500 flags were placed. When we were done we looked across the cemetery and the first word that came to mind was...sobering. This was the local cemetery in my home town of Bensalem. There was a sea of flags. Add up all the cemetery s of our country and the picture would be staggering. I told my son that this is what it took for our family to be able to live the life that we live. This Memorial Day will be particularly important for us as our nephew has just deployed with the Marines to Afghanistan, this is his first one. For the rest of the month when you drive past a cemetery take note of the amount of flags you see. Freedom is not free.   
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Hollies, one of my favorite berrying evergreens. They are comprised of both evergreen and deciduous versions. There are many variations of holly available to the home owner. First we'll discuss the evergreen version. Typically they have tough glossy green foliage that has sharp points to help discourage foraging animals from eating all the fruits (berries). Varieties that grow in the northern regions tend to be tougher to survive harsher climate levels. The scientific classification is: Illex, the most common specimens available is Illex Meservae, sometimes called "China Girl" and "China Boy" its male counterpart. Another popular version is called Illex Opaca, it comes in two different berrying colors, red and yellow. Their common name is "American Holly", the yellow version has an additional common name, "Canary Yellow". Illex Opaca has been depicted in countless Christmas representations. Holly is found throughout the globe. There are over a 1,000 different species of holly that grow in all climates. For our purposes I will focus on species that are available in our country. All holly trees are Dioecious, that means that in order for berries to be produced there must be a male plant somewhere in close proximity to the female tree, usually 30-40 feet.
Now I will describe the deciduous versions of holly. These species lose their leaves in the fall but leave behind crimson berries for visual appeal throughout most of the winter months. One of the most commonly available is Illex Verticilata or Winterberry. It is native to our wetlands and is commonly seen in low lying areas usually in close proximity to water. In the Fall the plants leaves will yellow and fall off leaving behind the best seasonal appearance the plant has to offer. You are left with clusters of crimson berries clinging to bare branches. They provide a splash of color at a time of the year when it is most needed.
I felt it was important to mention the variegated hollies, Illex Aquifolia. they have green and white leaves in varying patterns. while they are striking plants, they are not as strong a species. They tend to be more prone to diseases and less tolerant to less than optimal conditions.
I would recommend holly trees as part of your winter landscape. They will provide texture and color that will compliment your design nicely. Holly trees grow slowly and can be pruned and shaped quite nicely. I will provide a post that goes into more detail closer to pruning time.
Later in the season I will do some spotlight posts on specific species to give a more detailed introduction. Please enjoy the photos I have included and see if you can picture them in your own winter garden.

Illex Opaca "American Holly"

Illex Opaca "Canary"

Illex Verticilata "Winterberry"

Illex Aquifolia "Variegated Holly"

Evergreen Color

Evergreen Color
Pyracantha "Firethorn"

Evergreen Color

Evergreen Color
Illex Opaca "Canary"

Evergreen Color

Evergreen Color
Dammeri "Cotoneaster"


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Thomas Marcucci
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