Episode 59 – Choose Your Path Wisely – all about garden paths

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

A garden isn't just something you look at - it's a space you inhabit, and the way to move through that space is paths. Even if you don't have any formal paths laid out in your landscape, you have certain paths that you take through your yard for certain tasks: walking to the garage, going to the grill, watering the garden. Once you commit to formalizing your paths, you need to decide on a surface, and in today's show, we talk about popular path materials, and their advantages and disadvantages. Listen to our whole conversation on your favorite podcast platform or at the YouTube link above. This week's Lim-A-Rick: My pathways you could say are "path"-etic Their appearance is less than aesthetic I just stubbed my toe They cause vertigo And are neither functional or cosmetic. Come on over if you want to trip On my path made of wood chip Tree roots grow and revel And my path is not very level Just don't question my workmanship. My path that travels to nowhere is a threat to your physical welfare But exists for one reason No matter the season It leads to my favorite lawn chair.

Why? A path gets you from point A to point B, but the plants along it are what make the journey worthwhile. And while a path is best lined with all sorts of plants of different shapes, colors, and heights, a few plants that are down there at foot level are an important part of the planting scheme. Siting a colorful, interesting plant at a curve in the path, or perhaps just randomly if it’s a straight path, slows the walker down and makes the walk more fun. We have many different plants that will serve here, but one that I thought would be especially appropriate at this time of year is Midnight Sun weigela.

What? A weigela in fall, you might be thinking, and you couldn’t be blamed. Conventionally, fall is not weigela’s time to shine. They’re well done flowering by then, and don’t usually get much fall color. Midnight Sun weigela changes all of that. First, its neat tuffet-like shape is ideal for planting along walkways and paths – it reaches just 1-1.5’ tall and wide. When the foliage first emerges, it’s just a nice dark green, and in late spring, dark pink flowers appear. So far, so good. But then things get a little crazy. The foliage begins to emerge a cheerful chartreuse color, with flushes of red and purple along the edges. The leaves soon turn to all red, then all purple, creating a kaleidoscopic effect. When fall rolls around, the foliage is a solid bright red that is absolutely unforgettable.

Who: Midnight Sun weigela came to us from Bert Verhoef, the same person responsible for My Monet, My Monet Purple Effect, and Sonic Bloom Red weigela. All were developed at his nursery in the Netherlands, where they clearly think of weigela much differently than we do. In the US and Canada, we tend to think of them as big, old-fashioned, spring blooming shrubs. In the Netherlands, weigela can be anything, and that’s how we get really interesting, beautiful plants like Midnight Sun weigela that turn the entire genus on its ear.

How to grow: Weigela are full sun plants – though they can take a bit of shade, particularly in the hotter end of their hardiness zone range (4-8), you’ll get the best flowering and foliage color on plants with at least six hours of bright sun each day. They can thrive in any well-drained soil. While reblooming varieties like the Sonic Bloom series will benefit from regular fertilizer to boost the flowers, more foliage-oriented varieties like Midnight Sun weigela need little to none; one early-spring application of a granular fertilizer formulated for woody plants, like a rose fertilizer, is sufficient. As for pruning, weigela blooms on old wood so for optimum flowering, prune only after it blooms. If flowers are not such a concern, which is totally understandable on a weigela like Midnight Sun, then you can prune as needed. However, as it is such a compact little shrub, you’re likely to find that little to no pruning is needed. 

If you’d like to add Midnight Sun weigela – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

This is a great question, Wendy, and as Vermillionaire cuphea is absolutely one of my must-haves as well, I have also noticed a ton of bumblebees visiting but never thought much about how their big bumbley selves can’t make it into those narrow blooms. So I did a little research and can safely say you have no need to feel guilty! Not surprisingly, the bees know what they are doing and wouldn’t be bothering with the flowers if there weren’t something in it for them. 

First, there are both short and long tongued bumblebees and the long-tongues bumblebees can easily feed on plants with long, narrow corollas like cuphea. Second, bumblebees practice what’s known as buzz pollination, wherein they use their bodies and wings to vibrate the flower and dislodge protein-rich pollen to collect and take back to their young. Check out the video on buzz pollination here, and while you’re there, read all the other amazing facts about our beautiful native bumblebees.

You’re in good company, Trang – I’ve heard from several others, and experienced myself, a terrible year for crabgrass this summer and am also left with no other choice than to manage it. The best way to control crabgrass is by applying a pre-emergent – this is a type of herbicide that simply prevents seeds from germinating. As crabgrass is a true annual, going from seed to seed in a single season, preventing its seeds from germinating means no crabgrass. The good news is that there are crabgrass pre-emergents out there that are formulated only for crabgrass and won’t have an impact on other seeds or plants in your landscape. You will have to do some research, though, as many products marketed as crabgrass pre-emergents will impact other plants that pop up in your lawn that you might not mind, like dandelion and clover, so read labels carefully. Crabgrass pre-emergents are generally applied in early spring, at the same time forsythia blooms. 

Blue Muffin viburnum is a selection of our North American native arrowwood viburnum, V. dentatum. Though Sherrie didn’t include a photo with her question, I’m pretty confident that the pest in question is the viburnum leaf beetle. It is an extremely destructive pest, especially of North American native viburnums like Blue Muffin – because it is from Asia, Asian native species like Koreanspice viburnum and doublefile viburnum tend to be left alone. The damage from VLB comes primarily from both the larval stage, a little grub-caterpillar looking thing, and the adults, which leave distinctive rice-shaped holes all through the leaves – check out what they look like here. They can completely defoliate a plant in a matter of weeks, and even if they don’t, the plant becomes quite unsightly. There are many ways to control VLB, and as it is an invasive pest, it should definitely be controlled. The best way to control it without chemicals is to seek out the distinctive egg-laying sites: the adult females chew pits into the stems of the viburnum plant they fed on, lay eggs in them, and then patch each one with a little bundle of sawdust and beetle spit (charming, we know). Fortunately, this makes them really easy to spot, especially in winter when the plant has dropped its leaves. They tend to lay their eggs on the growth put on that season, so while you should inspect the entire plant, most of the egg laying sites will be toward the top one-third of the plant. Simply snip off any part with eggs and destroy – don’t put it in your compost! If you have a severe infestation of VLB, you may end up cutting off so much that the plant doesn’t flower for that season, but putting in this time to control them now will go a long way toward eradicating them from your yard – though vigilance will always be required, since they are clearly active in your area.

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick