Invasive Species vs. Non-Invasive Alternatives: Part 3

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

Round 3: English Ivy (Hedera Helix) vs Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

As we learned in our previous posts in this series, you can’t purchase Japanese Barberry or Burning Bush in Massachusetts because they’re invasive species. Though we often see English Ivy taking over landscapes and even houses, you can buy it almost anywhere plants are sold. This begs the question: is English Ivy is an invasive species? You betcha.

English Ivy is an aggressive exotic plant that outcompetes other plants. It can even kill off tall trees! Let’s get ahead of the game and consider a friendlier groundcover plant, Barren Strawberry, a groundcover that offers some excellent characteristics to enhance your garden.Barren Strawberry vs. English Ivy

Invasive Species: English Ivy (Hedera Helix)

English Ivy has been a standard go-to groundcover plant for years, especially in hard to grow, heavily shaded areas. It’s a rather hardy plant, but is not known for its flowering stage. In fact, English Ivy is most aggressive when it does go to flower. This is because it only goes to flower once it starts climbing. Once English Ivy starts climbing a structure, it must be heavily maintained. This is especially important around the home, where English Ivy is capable of damaging gutters, wood fences, and cracked masonry. If it gets to the point of having to be removed, English Ivy can cause damage at that point as well. It often leaves behind a residue that’s very difficult to remove.English Ivy

Non-Invasive Alternative: Barren Strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides)

Barren Strawberry is a groundcover plant native to the Eastern U.S. It can be a bit aggressive, but that can be a benefit when trying to fill an area quickly. Unlike English Ivy, though, Barren Strawberry is not a climber, so it won’t cause the kind of damage that many invasive species can cause when they spread. Personally, I notice this plant the most in the spring after the early spring show of bulbs and before the perennials and annuals really start rocking with the warmer weather of late May/early June. During this gap, I often see a solid blanket of yellow Barren Strawberry flowers in full bloom!  Barren StawberryOne significant advantage of English Ivy when compared to Barren Strawberry is its shade tolerance. If you need a groundcover plant in a deep shade, I recommend considering Japanese Pachysandra.

Here are some other great advantages with this non-invasive alternative:

  • Drought tolerant
  • Not too many ground covers have a showy flower, but this one does!
  • Excellent lawn alternative

This concludes our showdown between some of the most commonly requested invasive plants and more friendly, native alternatives! Many invasive species are not well suited (or perhaps too well suited) to our New England ecosystem. I hope you get to try out the alternatives mentioned in your own landscape – feel free to mention your own native plant alternative success stories in the comments!

Get Ready for Bulbs!

Bulbs Not PlantedFall is here, and fall is bulb time! We are planning bulb “overlays” for the garden, meaning that bulbs can be planted on top of and in between the other plants in your garden. Bulbs can bloom from March to May using crocus, grape hyacinths, various types of tulips, daffodils and alliums. Many of these bulbs will come back year after year except for highly bred tulips. When we design bulbs, we think about sequencing the blooming over time and color combinations. We can do something completely different color-wise from the other plants in your garden – bright colors, cool colors, monochromatic, etc.

With bulbs, it is not uncommon to plant a large number to make a decent statement, for example, 500 crocuses. It takes a lot of bulbs to really show up and not look sparse!CrocusesOur bulb orders can cost $300 to $500 to $700 plus labor. We take care to ensure that each bulb is planted with its growing eye up rather than just scattering them in a hole.

Tulips & Daffodils

 

If you’re interested in thinking about early spring color, please email Brian at brian@christiedustman.com by Tuesday, October 31st. We will need to know what you are comfortable spending and with that in mind, we can tell you what to plant where for the best impact!

 

Invasive Species vs. Non-Invasive Alternatives: Part 2

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

In Part 1 of this blog series, we talked about what the term invasive means in regard to plants. Another term that’s commonly used in this discussion is “native,” which refers to a plant that is native to the local environment. This term also can be dissected, argued and debated.

When we say a plant is native to our area, though, how far back are we going? When we go back about 12,000 years to the end of the last ice age, the glaciers that rolled down Route 128 almost certainly obliterated all “native” vegetation up to that point and transplanted them undiscerningly along its way. Let’s put a closer parameter on time: the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock will be our time cap. We have pretty good documentation about the plants that inhabited our area at that time and those that were introduced for various purposes.

Let’s get into another exciting plant showdown, shall we?

Round 2: Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) vs. Cotoneaster horizontalis

Japanese Barberry & CotoneasterInvasive: Japanese Barberry (Berberis thungerii)

Japanese Barberry is commonly requested – it be quite appealing to the eye! Visual appeal is typically what spurs a non-native plant’s introduction to an environment. Since Japanese Barberry is an invasive species, it can handle all sorts of difficult conditions including deep shade. It can thus outcompete native plant species, dominating edges of woodlands and choking out native undergrowth.

Non-Invasive Alternative: Cotoneaster horizontalis  

There are a few great alternatives to Japanese Barberry, but my choice would have to be the Cotoneaster. If you want a taller form, Cotoneaster divaricatus looks very similar but grows to about 6’ – 8’. I think the Cotoneaster has a very interesting, unique structure. This shrub offers a skilled pruner (ahem) all sorts of possibilities to accommodate a client’s style preference; from formal and tidy to a natural and flowing look to even accommodating water features.

While Barberry’s deep burgundy color certainly gives it much fall appeal, Cotoneaster has game too! Its foliage has a similar burgundy show, although not quite as deep a color. Where it really wins in my opinion is its bright red-orange fruits which appear in late summer and persist into early winter. I’d recommend Cotoneaster to anyone interested in a Barberry with the confidence that they’ll be pleased with its unique look.

Cotoneaster horizontalis

Here are some other great advantages of this non-invasive alternative:

  • Very hardy plant in all sorts of conditions
  • Much broader, year-round interest
  • No thorns! Barberry is thorny, a concern for little ones, 4 legged friends and your local fine gardener tending your gardens
  • Rabbit problems? Cotoneaster is seldom abused by rabbits

In the next and final round of our Invasive vs. Non-Invasive showdown, we’ll highlight a plant not yet technically identified in Massachusetts as an invasive species. Intrigued? We’ll discuss alternatives before it’s classified as such!

Invasive Species vs. Non-Invasive Alternatives: Part 1

Contributed by Curtis Hawley

Inspired gardeners often ask our crew with hopeful expressions: “I was driving down the street the other day and saw this amazing plant, could you get me one of those?” As knowledgeable horticulturists, it’s our responsibility to do some research before we order you the latest garden showstopper. We go through an in-depth list to learn about each plant. This list includes the plant’s sun/shade requirement, moisture tolerance, acidity/alkalinity preference and competition with neighboring plants. During this process, we sometimes learn that a requested plant is considered an invasive species.

When it comes to plants, the term “invasive” can get a little muddied. For all practical purposes, an invasive species is a non-native plant that is introduced to a new environment where it behaves in a rather aggressive manner due to very little competition and/or extremely ideal growing conditions. Although Poison Ivy or Golden Rod can be rather aggressive at times, they are actually not considered invasive species since they’re native plants. Two examples of common invasive species are Oriental Bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed. Both of these species are very aggressive. They’re often found growing on roadsides and quickly taking over areas. We don’t get many requests for Knotweed, though, so let’s talk about some other popular plants that qualify as invasives and some excellent, eye-catching native alternatives.

Round 1: Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus) vs. Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’

Burning BushInvasive: Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)   

We commonly get requests for this shrub in the fall. Admittedly, its month-long bright fiery red display is quite stunning. Outside of its fall showcase, however, I don’t personally find this shrub to be very aesthetically pleasing, and of course because it’s invasive I don’t recommend it! When someone asks for this Viburnum, I like to present my favorite alternative Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur.’  I think Winterthur outdoes Burning Bush, plus it’s more friendly to neighboring native plants.

Virburnum nudum WinterthurNon-Invasive Alternative: Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’   

Winterthur is a native plant, so that’s a great place to start. Not only is a native plant by definition not invasive, but it’s usually not overly aggressive either. But you know what’s even better about native plants? They’re being grown in their natural environment, which means that it’s very likely that the plant will thrive!

Here are some other great advantages of this non-invasive alternative:

  • Much nicer flower show in May/June (Burning Bush has a non-distinct flower)
  • Flowers are followed by a colorful fruit structure that changes from red to blue throughout summer
  • Fall colors feature maroon to dark red-purple
  • Great food source for pollinators
  • Better ornamental shaping from pruning (Burning bush tends to get sheared into “meatballs”)

 

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of the Invasive vs. Non-Invasive Plant Showdown, including another very popular shrub and one of the most popular plants you can still buy today…

Tour Christie’s Garden June 11th, 2017!

We are proud to announce that Christie’s personal garden will be featured in The Garden Conservancy’s upcoming Greater Boston Open Day! Come see what a landscape designer and professional furniture maker have created at their home, which The Boston Globe calls “a work of art.” After 10 years of developing their garden, Christie and Patti are unveiling 2 new sections for the very first time, complete with a dry pond and stone bridge.

 

 

For the addresses of the five open gardens on June 11th, see the link below. We hope you will come by to see Christie and Patti’s garden at 353 Park Street in West Roxbury!

Greater Boston Open Day

 

For more information as to how to visit these and many more beautiful gardens, please visit: https://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays

Tasked with preserving America’s exceptional gardens and deepening the public’s appreciation of gardens as elements of our national artistic and cultural heritage, The Garden Conservancy arranges for clusters of private gardens to open their doors to the public each summer. Often a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a private creation, each garden is chosen for its merits and visitors decide which gardens they want to visit and in what order. There is a $7 admission at each garden, donated to the Conservancy.

Bring the Colors of Summer to Your Container Gardens

Get a jump on summer with abundant flowers in your containers!Summer Container closeup

Unlike the limited palette of early spring, the long summer season offers a huge array of bloom and foliage colors. Let us customize your containers to your color preference, style flair and property conditions.

We are scheduling summer container installations between May 29 through June 9. Let us know if we can make one for you! If you want to be included on our summer container schedule, please email Tim, Container Gardens Manager, by May 22nd.

Summer Containers on patioSummer Containers in fountain

“We Need to Block that View!” – Creating Privacy with Landscaping

Contributed by Christie Dustman

I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone say, “We need to block that view!” In fact, many people go on to describe how they wave to their neighbor at night, kitchen window to kitchen window.

While we all love living in proximity to the city, we also want our privacy. How can landscaping help with this dilemma?

This is the rub: we want plants to do lots of things for us, but sometimes using plants to block out a particular view is almost as visually unappealing as that view itself. For example, think of that house you drive by with an A/C unit enclosed by a fence that screams, “Hey, A/C unit here!” 

This Saturday, April 22nd at 9am, I’m hosting a Walk and Talk at Allandale Farm to discuss ways to approach this common dilemma. Register here and come to learn some new options! 

Check out other Walk and Talks I’m hosting at Allandale Farm this spring here. I hope to see you at one!

Pruning Workshops at Allandale Farm April 15, 2017

Contributed by Christie Dustman

Every spring, my internal panic measure ratchets up as the weather warms. Suddenly, all of the woody plants in my garden seem to need immediate help and I feel pressured to work on each plant. For each of these plants, I have to use my brain as well as my tools. It takes a lot more brain power to prune than simpler tasks like weeding or deadheading. Imagine that – pruning my plants engages my brain as much as my tools!

For many people, spring brings up those perennial questions of how, where, why and when to prune woody plants such as shrubs, roses and smaller trees: “What plants should I touch now?”, “How far should I cut it and where?”, and for almost all folks, “Am I going to kill it?”

Allandale Farm

Good news! I am teaching a 2-hour pruning workshop, “Pruning for Healthy Plants,” at Allandale Farm this Saturday, April 15th at 9am and again at 11:30am. I will show my tools and tool belt, then delve into the indispensable thought process that should precede any cutting. Just like you have an end goal when you walk into a hair salon, you should have clear goals and reasoning behind any pruning actions. As we all know, a bad hair cut can really ruin your day!

You can register here – hurry up, space is limited!

I’ll be teaching four other classes at Allandale Farm on Saturdays this month and next. To see the full listing, check out the events page on Allandale Farm’s website.

Arborway Tree Care: A Trusted Partner in Business

Contributed by Libby Coley

Being a trusted adviser for our clients means taking the time to vet other colleague companies who provide complementary landscape services. Lucky for us, Arborway Tree Care is one of our trusted partners in business. We recently met up with Bob Kelley, Plant Health Care Manager and ISA Certified Arborist at Arborway, to get the inside scoop on the company: their services, company philosophy, and some tips of the trade!

Arborway Tree Care is a full-service tree company that has served metro Boston for 40 years. Arborway offers many services that complement CD & Co. These include plant health care, health maintenance and structural shade tree pruning, structural cabling and bracing, crane services, lot clearing, storm damage and stump grinding. Many of our clients use Arborway Tree Care for their disease and pest management services.

Bob joined the Arborway team four years ago. As Plant Health Care Manager and ISA Certified Arborist, Bob wears many hats. In any given week, you can find him doing tree work and plant health care in the field, in the office doing paperwork, or meeting clients. Bob shared that one of the best parts of his job is talking with clients about what’s going on with their trees and why. Educating their customers and thoughtful planning are important to Arborway.

We asked Bob what he thinks a property owner should know in terms of tree care:

  • Bob said that adequate water uptake is the most pressing issue these days for trees and plants, especially in light of the last three years of drought. In previous years, Bob stressed the importance of watering perennials and shrubs from July 1st to the end of the growing season (typically around the middle of October) in the absence of normal rainfall, but now he stresses the importance of watering all plants. He also advises homeowners to water large shade trees if they are of high value to the property.
  • Bob stresses safety above everything when it comes to trees. It’s crucial that trees are structurally sound, especially in stressful conditions such as drought and storms which can tip the tree into irrevocable failure.
  • Plant Health Care. Bob points out that monitoring and treating plants for pests and diseases is the best way to keep a landscape healthy.

What are the biggest challenges facing trees in 2017? Bob anticipates a quantifiably larger rate of tree decline and pest/disease problems after three continuous years of drought. Three is a key number here – healthy trees can survive on stored energy for three years, but any additional stress makes them more susceptible to health issues after that point. Bob also highlighted that the gypsy moth and winter moth hatch in early spring and noted that mid-March to July 1st is Arborway’s busiest time of year. During this short period of time, their Plant Health Care crews apply several different applications before buds break and after leaf emergence including pesticides and fungicides.

If you want to learn more about Arborway Tree Care, check out their website: www.arborwaytree.com

The Challenge of Finding Skilled Labor: Discovering a New Approach

Contributed by Jim Lynn

Finding a few qualified candidates to hire out of 7.9 million people can be trickier than you might think. 7.9 MILLION is how many people are currently unemployed in the U.S. according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Surely there must be plenty of great horticultural candidates in that huge number. It should be easy to find somebody who wants to work in our industry, right? Think again.

When looking for a strong candidate to work with our crew at Christie Dustman & Co., we are looking for a well-rounded individual that has experience, education, passion, and stamina. We don’t think that’s too much to ask for, is it? Well, it can be difficult to find such an individual who doesn’t mind working in all kinds of weather conditions!

We took a different approach to hiring this year and tried something new: if we can’t find candidates to match our needs, maybe we can take the candidates we have coming in and train them into the fine gardeners we are looking for!

hiring - JhylikThis year, we had two candidates for crew member positions who were eager to get into the landscaping industry but didn’t have the experience or rounded knowledge base that we were looking for. However, both were willing to learn, have a passion for plants and importantly, are likable. Thus, they were high potential candidates, and we let them join the team for a trial period with the crew in the field. On a typical tryout, we have each individual work with each of hiring - Sarahour crew members to get feedback and see how adaptable and teachable they are.

Our new hiring approach has been a great success. If every tryout ended in success we wouldn’t have to have them, but this year we were lucky – we added two new crew members through this process! Welcome to Jhylik and Sarah!