Episode 96 – Garden Regrets

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Your home’s garden, landscape, and lawn does not come with a warning label. Nor does it come with owners manual – whether or not you’d be likely to read it, even if it did. So often, we do things in the garden that we regret simply because we didn’t know better. But you can take it from two life-long gardeners like ourselves that simply knowing better doesn’t always mean you’ll do better. Whether that means regretting not buying a plant when you saw it at the garden center or regretting not getting an earlier start on your veg garden or…fill in the blank, we’ve done it. 

Join us on your favorite podcast platform or at the YouTube link above to hear our whole conversation on garden regrets.

Big leaf hydrangea – Hydrangea macrophylla – is a plant laden with regret for many people. They have the best intentions when they plant it, of course, but once it’s actually in the garden or landscape, many things could go wrong that cause regret. Older varieties get huge, so people often regret planting them where they did. Or the plant gets pruned mistakenly and doesn’t bloom, and people regret having pruned it. Or they regret planting a variety that was selected for its flowers rather than its performance.

Here at Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs, we have been laser-focused on big leaf hydrangea performance. We know about all the regrets that older varieties cause, and our goal is to end that for good. And we are really coming close! Our three most recent Let’s Dance hydrangea introductions represent the best performing big leaf hydrangeas on the market, all hardy to (and will actually bloom in) USDA zone 4. They include Let’s Dance Sky View, Let’s Dance Can Do, which have already been in Plants on Trial, and Let’s Dance Arriba, which hasn’t – and that’s today’s plant on trial.

There are two things that make these three varieties different: one, they set flower buds on the entire length of their stem instead of just at the tips like conventional varieties do. This means that even if they get cut back or damaged by cold or eaten by deer, there are still flower buds on the plant to go on to bloom. So that makes their old wood blooms different. The second thing, which makes their ability to bloom on new wood different, is that they can rebloom more quickly than older varieties. Those old varieties usually need to create at least six full sets of leaves before they can form a new wood flower bud. These three don’t need to put on as much new growth, and their new growth forms more quickly, so you get more flower buds for longer. And what makes Let’s Dance Arriba hydrangea special is its super vibrant flower color.

The color of big leaf hydrangea flowers famously depends on soil chemistry: in acidic soils that contain aluminum, they’ll tend toward blue or purple, and in neutral to alkaline soil or soils with low aluminum, they’ll be pink to red. But what people don’t realize is that the intensity of the particular shade that a hydrangea bloom can develop is determined largely by the capability of the variety itself. And of these three “second generation” hydrangeas, it will achieve the most vibrant and vivid color: a bright pink or a vivid purple.

Now, just because this plant *can* set flower buds like a champ even if it’s pruned doesn’t mean you should prune it. We’d definitely recommend not pruning it except to remove any dead wood in spring, because even though it will still bloom, it will have way more flowers if you don’t prune it. And as for the other source of regret with big leaf hydrangeas, getting too big for the space, there’s no need to worry about that either, since it reaches just 2-3’ tall and wide.

If you’d like to add Let’s Dance Arriba reblooming hydrangea – 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

Patty wrote this: Just wanted to say this combination of Blue My Mind evolvulus , white lantana and whirlwind scaevola purple, is one of my favorites! and send this picture of the combo. No regrets here, that’s for sure!

A mint green decorative container filled with blue evolvulus, purple scaevola, and white lantana flowers.

There are many potential causes for tomato leaves to curl, and while some do include pests or disease, the most common reason by far is cultural. In other words, something about the growing conditions is causing the issue. Very often, when plant leaves curl, it’s an attempt to reduce the surface area that’s exposed to sunlight to conserve water. Curling the leaf does that, and it also helps minimize evaporation from the stomata on the undersides of the leaves by exposing few of them to light and air, and raising the humidity in that space and reducing transpiration. 

Denver is famously the “Mile-High City” and at high altitudes, the sunlight is much more intense than at lower ones, so it makes sense your plants would be curling due to water and light. The reason this could be happening this year when it didn’t happen before may be due to the specific variety of tomato – not all are equally suited to all conditions, or it could be due to weather conditions the plant experienced earlier. We recommend increasing the water, and making sure it is mulched. If the plant keeps puts out healthy new growth, there’s no cause for concern. If new growth is limited or unhealthy-looking, check out more possible causes here.

While perennial hibiscus like the Summerific series are among the latest – if not the latest – perennials to emerge in spring, it is very unusual for them to not show any signs of life until late June, especially in Texas. Why that may have happened is hard to say – since it is surrounded by grass, perhaps it accidentally got mowed or broken off; the new growth in spring is very delicate, and it may take quite a long time for the plant to make a new shoot if that happened. But in any case, it’s great that it’s growing now, and I don’t think the plant looks too bad. Perennial hibiscus loves water, so definitely make sure it’s getting plenty – especially since the grass around it will soak up a lot of it. And you might consider some fertilizer to boost its growth and get it growing more quickly – I’d fertilize now and then again in 4 weeks, and then 4 weeks after that. Not sure you will get many blooms this year, if any, but if the plant can put on good foliage growth, it can build up its root mass more for a better future.

As for your question about Bermudagrass – yes, controlling this warm-season grass can absolutely be a nightmare! It spreads like crazy and is difficult to manage – except for this nifty tip I read. Bermudagrass can’t really take shade, and this study shows that by interplanting it with tall fescue grass and mowing to a consistent height of 4″ provides enough shade that the Bermudagrass dies naturally. Read about that and more solutions here

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

Today we’re joined by Rick Vuyst – Rick’s son! He’s an arborist with Good Earth Tree Care here in West Michigan and joins us on this regret-themed show to discuss mistakes that are often made when planting trees, and how they can be corrected. Join us on your favorite podcast platform or at the YouTube link above for our whole conversation. It’s a great reminder that it always pays to get a second, third, fourth opinion when it comes to tree care, and seek out those who try to save trees instead of simply removing them.

A man wearing safety sunglasses and a yellow hard hat is secured by ropes high up in a pine tree with a chainsaw.