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Understanding Choices - May 9th, 2020



You see bedding plants, shrubs and trees sold in garden centers in a variety of container sizes and shapes. Each of these has a purpose, some good, some maybe not so good. You see plants in quart pots, gallon pot and so forth.

Now comes the confusing part. A gallon pot is not a gallon, actually a gallon pot only holds three fourths of a gallon. To go even further there are some four or six, I forget which sizes of gallon pots. A three-gallon pot holds two and a half gallons. There is more than one size of three-gallon pots. And, to add to the confusion a west coast pot is shaped different and is taller than the pots used by growers in the eastern part of the country.

Now before you say this doesn’t sound quite honest, remember a two by four is not two by four. It's actually one and a half by three and a half. If you tried to buy a one and a half by three and a half at the lumber yard, they would not know what you wanted. If you asked for a two and a half nursery pot most nurserymen would not know what you were talking about.

There are round pots, square pots, deep pots and shallow pots and on it goes. In the trade you don’t buy containers by size, you buy by numbers. If you are in the business the number translates to the size you want to use to fit your purpose.

As a consumer there are a few things you want to watch for. Keep an eye out for a business selling two-gallon material a couple of bucks cheaper than the guy up the street selling three-gallon material. The plant in the three-gallon pot should be older and bigger and most important have a much bigger root ball. If the two wasn’t at least five dollars cheaper I would buy the three-gallon plant

In bedding plants, you see four packs and six packs. As a general rule I would always buy the four pack. The four pack has a third more soil thus you get a much stronger plant with a much bigger root ball. The plant in the four pack is much more likely to live and grows off much faster. Usually you find the two-gallon material and six pack bedding plants at the big box stores. That’s not knocking the box store it's just a matter of you get what you pay for.

One other thing to watch for are flats of bedding plants that are two to three inches tall with one bloom in the top of each plant. That is a sure sign the plants have been sprayed with a growth retardant. The plants are a week to two weeks old and then sprayed with a growth retardant. The plant will then open that one bloom and then it stops growing for four to six weeks. That bloom makes it look good in the store. You take it home and plant it and it just sets for six weeks and then one day it starts back to growing. You could have purchased a nice four pack that keep right on growing when planted and six weeks later it would be large plant that made a great show.

Just some tips to help you make good decisions when shopping for plants.

Spring Pruning - April 30th, 2020



Many spring plants have bloomed and are beginning to drop their blooms. Now is the time to prune those plants. Most if not all spring blooming plants start to produce flower buds, for next spring's bloom, within four to six weeks after they drop this year’s bloom.

Native dogwoods are through blooming and most of the blooms are off the tree. Many azaleas have bloomed, most camellias have bloomed, the small leafed rhododendron have bloomed. The sooner these plants are pruned the more likely you are to have plants covered in color next spring.

Kousa dogwood, some azaleas and large leaf rhododendron are yet to bloom so wait on those. As soon as they finish blooming prune that group of plants.

A question we get asked every spring is “why are my azaleas or other spring bloomers blooming so much earlier or later than they did last spring”. The answer is that they really don’t bloom per say by the time of year. They bloom by the length of daylight they get. Thus, if you plant the same variety of azalea in front of your house and in back of your house, one may be through blooming before the other the starts to show color.

Spring Bloom - April 9th, 2020



I have not done this for a while so I am trying to get back in the grove.  I plan on posting weekly through the growing season.  Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Anyway, here goes.

I saw a question raised in a Facebook post earlier this week that made me think about what to write today.  A lady had a nice picture posted of her coral bell azaleas in full bloom.  Her question was, “Why were they blooming two weeks earlier this year than last year”?

The answer is simple yet it can get long and complicated.  The simply answer is that it has been a warm, bright and sunny spring.

Now for the longer more complicated answer is that azaleas and most spring blooming plants bloom not so much by the time of year but rather by length of daylight they receive.  So, depending on how bright and sunny spring is azaleas, dogwood, etc can easily vary two weeks from one year to the next in bloom time.  Put those same coral bell azaleas half in front of the house and half in back of the house and consistently they will bloom a few days differently.  One is in morning sun and one is in afternoon sun.

There are approximately 100,000 varieties of azaleas with only about 10,000 in cultivation for commercial sale.  When we operated our garden center, we normally stocked about 40 varieties.  Remember, each of those varieties bloomed at a slightly different time, each one also had a different leaf pattern and different growth characteristics.  Generally, the earliest to bloom in central Virginia are the coral bells and the latest variety is Macrantha.

As a rule, azaleas should be planted in morning sun and afternoon shade.  They will grow in full sun but perform much better if they are shaded from the afternoon sun.

It would be easy to go on for many pages but this might answer a few questions.  Many plant problems could be solved by determining proper light conditions, mature width and height, plus water and nutrient needs before purchasing and planting a particular plant.  Just because it is pretty is not a good reason to buy and plant a shrub or tree.


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Plant of the Week - Lavendar


  • The lavender plant is a member of the mint family.

  • The English lavender is considered most prized of all, due to the high quality oil which is derived from it.

  • Lavender needs a lot of sunlight and grows best in stony ground.

  • Lavender is a shrub with branches that are hardy.

  • Laveder leaves are oblong and form curly spiral patterns.

  • This compact shrub blooms from May to September with blue, purple, pink or white flowers.

  • It has an intoxicating perfume if a few leaves or flowers are rubbed.

  • The lavender plant does not produce seeds but is propagated via cuttings.

  • The flower of the lavender plant is used to produce lavendar oil.

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