Archive for Pruning

Small Edits for a Big Impact

Hello, my gardening friends! It is June already, and I’m sorry to have been out of touch for so long. Life has a way of doing that here and there. Today I’d like to share some quick edits I have been working on this spring that have made a big impact on our home’s curb appeal.

The first thing I did in my line-up of edits was painting the pediments above the windows and front door. Sometimes just highlighting an existing architectural feature of your home can add just the right amount of emphasis. After running out of good weather last year, I was finally able to get to the repairs needed to the bricks and bluestone on the front porch, then followed with lime washing the stair risers on both front porches. Finally, sanding and painting the iron railings added some needed safety and I love how the glossy black railing stand out in front of the white backdrop. These were the finishing steps in the lime washing of the whole house that I started last year. Getting these done brightens up the front entrance immeasurably, and as much as I had fun, it feels great to check the box “done” on this huge project.

Next up was to add two more window boxes to the front of the house, for a total of four. The two largest ones I’ve had for years — one on the window above the front door and the other at the zig zag of the front walk. I added the two new ones on the front side of the garage. (They were given to me by my sweet daughter of choice! That makes them even more special.) For continuity, I filled each of them with botanicals and flowers in the same color combinations. There are more in pots on each of the front porches. Adding a bright splash of color is one of the quickest and best ways to amp up curb appeal!

Here’s a bird’s eye view of the window box above the front door. I filled it with Boston fern, caladium, and variegated ivy.

The two window boxes on both sides of the garage were each filled with a Boston fern, and caladium. Here’s a photo from further back, so you can see the effect.

Also this year, I spent a week shaping the boxwoods and hollies. It makes a huge difference in the curb appeal to finally give the boxwoods a uniform height and symmetry! They had damage from snow and burn from chemicals (overspray from a roof cleaning) a few years back, both of which took a while to fill back out to a point where they could be shaped again. It’s a long process to get them uniform, but just take your time, and stand back every few minutes to check your work. It is gratifying to see them all uniform again, after seeing them looking sort of like lumpy blobs as they grew out the damage. And while at, put a nice edging on the gardens seals the deal.

Above is a close up of the big pots on the front porch. Each were filled with caladium and variegated ivy. You might remember these pots from the last several years. I leave the ivy in them and swap out the flowers in the center each season. This ivy has been with me for at least 20 years or so, it creates the perfect “spiller” in a planter, and it’s easy to divide and transplant if it gets too large.

This window box at the zig zag of the front walk and mud room porch has coordinating flowers and trailing vines of mandevilla and vinca. Below is a better shot of the mud room porch. I know I say this a lot but, it’s amazing what a difference paint can make!

Another quick edit was changing out the wreath on the front door to a summer wreath. Adding a wreath is like adding jewelry. It’s an accessory that can showcase what your interests are. I love this shell wreath. OK — I love anything with shells, LOL!

I hope this leaves you with ideas you might incorporate at your own home. Some time invested a little bit here and a little bit there, and you will have it done! And as always, Happy Gardening!

It’s Spring!

I love spring! With everyone having to keep “social distance” due to the coronavirus, I have been working my way around the yard enjoying the lovely weather. Things are popping around here, and everything is starting to green up and leaf out all at once. Here are a few hints to make sure your garden is in tip top shape.

This is the perfect time to edge your garden, and give it a nice margin for mowing. I also like to stir up the mulch a bit. It can get compacted over the winter, and stirring it up lets the rain and nutrients get through to the root zone easier. And while you are at it, clean up any of the debris and weeds before they have a chance to set seeds.
If you have ground cover, this is the perfect time to pick out the leaves that have blown in over winter and pull any weeds before the new growth gets too thick. I also like to give mine a shape just for fun.
This year I decided to increase the size of the garden around a few of my larger trees. I transplanted the lilies underneath this curly willow this past week. If you do this, be extra careful not to change the soil level or to disturb the feeder roots of the tree. I’m adding a light layer of leaf compost everywhere in the newly expanded garden to improve the texture of the soil and give the transplants some extra nutrients.
Here is one of my all time favorites of spring — a flowering pear. This is an “Aristocrat” variety, which is slimmer and stronger than the “Bradford” variety. Even still, it has grown very large. I trimmed up the lower branches to open up the walkway and to make it a little more difficult for the squirrels to jump from the tree onto the roof.
Last, but not least, if you over wintered your fall pansies, like I did, give them a deadheading to pinch out the spent blooms. They will fill out and give you tons of new flowers!
Happy Spring Everyone!

My Favorite Picks – 2019’s Best Hardy Plants

What a crazy year this has been! Extremes of all kinds, but through it all there were some clear winners. In this year’s picks I want to talk about some of the hardiest plants in the garden.

Boxwoods have gotten some bad press of late, due to the blight that has been going around, but by following some simple, clean gardening practices, they are one of the best and most beautiful of all the plants in my garden.

I’m going to start with one of my all time favorites, the boxwood. The boxwoods in the photo above are about 45-50 years old and are the true stars of the garden. I prune them in early December each year and use the trimmings for Christmas decorating. Beyond that annual pruning, I hardly need to do anything to them. They have weathered every kind of extreme in their lives and continue to look amazing!

For several years, there has been a disease affecting boxwood plants called boxwood blight. The boxwood blight is passed by using infected tools. Just by cleaning your tools thoroughly before pruning or trimming, you will protect the plants from getting the disease. I clean my pruners with rubbing alcohol prior to using them. Another tip would be to have a pair of pruners dedicated strictly for use on these beauties, but I would still recommend swabbing them between cuts with alcohol to be ultra safe.

Here’s another surprise entry in this year’s top plants — grass. In the early season, when this photo was taken, we had just gone through the wettest spring ever! Everything was green beyond measure, and then by the end of June, we entered a severe drought. For four months we didn’t really have any measurable rain. I did not water, except for the trees, and let the grass go dormant all through the summer months. It turned completely brown, and the dirt was like dust. I was truly worried that I’d taken the no–watering thing too far. In September, I started watering, although we were still having 95-100 degree days and no rain, my hopes were to at least save the roots. Nothing greened up at all. Then finally as October started, we had 5 beautiful soft rains, and like a miracle, the grass came back into health again, like nothing ever happened!

Which brings me to the point of this story: there’s nothing like real rain! What comes out of a sprinkler just doesn’t compare. When you water in the triple digit heat of the summer, it encourages weeds. Grass doesn’t grow in extreme heat. I will stand by allowing the grass to go dormant in that kind of condition. It’s much kinder to the roots, than to stress grass into trying to grow — which can kill it. Another giant help to the health of this year’s grass was dethatching the lawn and applying a root stimulating turf builder last fall, which gave us a thicker and virtually weed free yard this year. I highly recommend working your way around your yard using a dethatching rake. It’s very hard work, but pays off in a beautiful way, allowing water and nutrients to easily get to the root system.

Here’s the same area again just last week. You would never know how harsh a summer the grass weathered! It’s hard to not water and to watch it go dormant, but it’s the best thing you can do for the health of the root system. Have faith in Mother Nature, she will bring it back in the fall.

I also want to point out one of my all time tried-and-true flowers: my pansies! After the summer of gorgeous color from the vincas, I wanted to continue with some hardy winter flowers. With any luck they will provide color until the end of April.

This year the pansies in the ground were joined by the pansies I planted in this wreath that my sister gave me! It really brings the whole Fall theme together! Thank you, Tracy!

The beautiful mums have some competition this year. I was so happy when the weather finally cooled down some, I put in 125 pansies across the front. A fresh start to celebrate the season. And gives the frontage some great fall curb appeal. I was thinking ahead to Christmas when I chose the colors — gold, burgundy red, purple, and white — to complement the traditional fruit wreath I’ll be hanging in December.

I know I’ve given props to the knock out roses in the past, but they were really beautiful again this year. We had a swarm of June bugs that came in with the 100 degree heat in the summer, and they did interfere a bit, but I use a granular three in one formula that kept their dirty work to a minimum. It fertilizes, prevents diseases, and for the most part deters bugs- Bio Advanced- worth a try next year, if you have these issues. (I am not paid to endorse, but this is really great stuff in my opinion.)
Another stunner this year were these emerald euonymus. They are incredibly easy to grow and maintain, really no special treatment other than to shape them after the spring growth. This is only two plants! They provide privacy to our back yard from the cul du sac and make a gorgeous living fence, don’t you think? They are beautiful year round, too, and are a favorite nesting place for our flock of cardinals and bluejays.

Before I say good night, I hope that next year’s growing season is not as harsh as this one has been, but just in case it is, here’s hoping that we can all adjust to our changing climate by seeking out the most hardy plants. Let me know what changes you are planning; I’d love to hear!

Happy Fall, everyone!

A New Start to 2019

Hello my gardening friends! I have some big news. I am now being hosted by a new company after having way too many technical difficulties with my previous host. I will open comments and questions again and improve this blog with many new ideas. I hope it will be more helpful and encouraging to my readers. So please leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you. (The first time you leave a comment it will go into moderation to make sure you’re not spam, but after that it’s an open forum.) I’d love it if you want to share my posts as well — the more people in discussion, the more tips and ideas! As always, I’ll be here at and for those on Facebook at LisaEarthGirl.

As some of you already know, since my mishap last November, falling from a ladder while working on a tree, breaking my ankle and a rib, I had a bit of a slow start to this year. I was very lucky that I didn’t get hurt worse. (Coincidentally it happened on the same day and hour as our esteemed Justice R.B.G. had a mishap and broke her ribs.) I am back physically, thank goodness, and learned to be extra careful on ladders on windy days! I also would like to warn against leaning a ladder on branches that can sway in the wind! Safety first. Best tip I can give!

Learning a lesson the hard way to be more careful on ladders

The cycle of renewal has happened in a big way here. With all the rain that we had over the last year and a half, the garden is lush with new growth. Everything has sprouted with beautiful, fresh new leaves and lots of flowers everywhere. Many trees and bushes bloomed way out of their normal sequence — some early and some late — but it has been a gorgeous month and a half here in the mid-Atlantic. Vibrant colors everywhere!

Here’s a tip for one of America’s favorite plants, the flowering Azalea: When pruning and feeding, wait until after blooming, but finish before the 4th of July. This gives the plant time to set new buds and new growth before the frosts and freezes of the next winter.

The vivid new growth this spring is everywhere!

Last week I took a field trip with a friend to one of our local State Parks — Green Spring Gardens. We discovered many gardening ideas, and plants that were in full bloom a full month earlier than their usual bloom time! It was a refreshing way to spend the day, and fun to see school children so interested by what they were seeing. Fun for all ages, really! Why not pack a picnic and enjoy a hike at your local park someday soon?

A beautiful day at Green Spring Garden State Park. What a wonderful place to visit, perfect for all ages!

My biggest gardening concern so far this year is for some of my favorite mature bushes and trees to overcome the amount of rain from last year: the pink honeysuckle bush, the stellar cherry blossom tree, cardinal hollies, and the aristocrat pear. Last year’s losses were two prized cyprus bushes that drowned along the fence border garden. The change in climate and a neighbor’s poor drainage have proven deadly. The challenge continues with attempts to combat the excess water. I’ll keep you posted with some remedies to help keep the excess water away.

I always like to echo the colors I already have in the garden in my flower pots by the entrance. This year’s choices are blue salvia, lavander geraniums, and purple lobelia surrounded by variegated ivy. These all do very well in this area.

I’m back in my own garden now, preparing for the season ahead. I’ve almost finished with the mulching, weeding, and trimming back perennials. The grass has turned green again, and that alone makes a great backdrop for everything else. To celebrate the beautiful weather, I planted my annual flowers last week in flower pots and areas that are protected close to the house. In past years we have still had the odd late frost, but this year the long range forecast is showing we are much warmer. I used some of my favorites that do well in my micro climate on the banks of the Potomac — vinca, impatiens, salvia, lobelia and geraniums.

I’d like to start up a new segment on each blog from now on on plant I.D.- I’ll start with one that stumped me for years. I’ll encourage others to join in with plants from your garden.

Just for fun — here’s a plant I.D.- I used to call this the “Mystery Bush”, it looks very similar to many other plants, (wigelia and choke cherry had been previous guesses) but I’ve finally identified it as a pink honeysuckle bush. It started life as a volunteer in a friend’s yard, and she gave me a cutting. It has gorgeous flowers, which then turn to bright red berries, and in the fall gorgeous colored leaves — a true plant for all seasons! It has grown into a beautiful, mature 7 foot tall bush, with an 8 foot diameter. With too much water and rainfall last year, I’m fighting to not lose it this season.

It’s good to finally be back, and I hope that everyone is out and enjoying their corner of the world. Happy Gardening!

Without Further Ado, Please Welcome Spring!

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart in the Spring it's time for  their annual "haircut."

When the ornamental grasses start to shatter apart, and make a mess of your yard, it’s time for their annual spring “haircut.”

It seems that spring really is trying to arrive. When the weather has cooperated, I have gotten out in the garden a few times for an hour or so. The tiniest leaf and flower buds on trees are starting to appear, and small daffodil foliage is sprouting up from the frozen ground. Just two days ago, the last of the snow melted away in my yard — I can’t tell you how happy that makes me!

Now, I am in process cutting down last year’s growth on the ornamental grasses, sedum and liriope, as they are ready to re-sprout new growth. I have been spreading leaf compost as I move from one garden area to another.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

Once you have trimmed down the old growth, sift through the remainder with gloved hands to remove the loose pieces.

I like to give the compost a month to work it’s way into the soil on its own. If it does not, a little spading will incorporate it into the soil, and then I will give the entire yard another layer of shredded mulch. With this exceptionally harsh winter that we’ve just had, I’m expecting a hot and dry summer to follow. This has been the pattern lately — you heard it here first!

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the new buds.

When trimming, leave 2-3 inches of old growth to protect the newly emerging buds in the crown of the plant.

Another thing to check on now is the lawn. You may want to send a core sample to be analyzed. This is the time of the year for adding lime, if needed, and also a weed pre-emergent specifically for crabgrass and dandelions. If you apply these right now you will (hopefully) not have any of those nasty weeds!

I’m also looking forward to adding some spring flowers in pots on the deck and front porch to banish the last of the drab from winter. Bring on the green! Soon the bulbs will be blooming, and maybe this year my wisteria will finally flower! What beauties will you plant this season?

Tips on Mid-Summer Evergreen Pruning

BEFORE picture- holly has overtaken the front garden. Time to reclaim!

BEFORE picture- holly has overtaken the front garden. Time to reclaim!

Wow! What a wet summer we have had this year. I can’t remember a time when everything was so green in July. Pruning in the middle of summer is not something that I would normally recommend for most plants, but some, like the holly bushes, have grown to extremes in the wet season we have been experiencing. I have several in my garden that were planted by the builder 30+ years ago. These were unfortunately planted too close to the house and front porch to let them grow to their natural size, so they require a pruning 4 or 5 times a year to keep them in check. (I had actually cut them down to the ground when we first purchased the house because they were so out of control. They regenerated in about a year!) The good news is that if you know the proper way to prune them, hollies can be terrific foundation plants and showy all year. Here’s how-

Always check for bird's nests before pruning or spraying.

Always check for bird nests before pruning or spraying.


First, always inspect the interior closely. I have birds that build nests in mine, and I don’t want to just start trimming away! The birds love evergreen bushes for nests, so always check each bush before pruning or spraying.

I always prune with shears. They create a nice clean cut, and create a more natural look.

Always prune with shears. They create  a more natural look than a hedge trimmer. The new leaves are pretty soft, but wear gloves if you are working with the old growth — it can get very sharp!


Next, set the height that you want. In my case, I have a bush on either side of my front door and want them to match, so I use a mortar line in the brick as my guide to determine where to make that first cut. Using sharp pruners, make a cut just above a leaf to establish the height.


Then determine how wide the bush should be, and what sort of shape you want.  I like a more natural look, so I chose a cone shape. If you have trouble keeping the shape, a handy tip is to tie a string from top to bottom to use as a cutting guide moving it around the bottom edge as you go. I don’t like the look of anything too crisply trimmed; I prefer a more fringe-like or loose shape. I then trim up the sides to the top being careful not to trim the leaves in half. They will brown and look unhealthy if you do. For that reason, never use a hedge trimmer — EVER! Sharp pruning shears are the right tool for this job.

Always try to leave some "breathing room" behind your foundation plantings for air circulation as well as security.

Always try to leave some “breathing room” behind your foundation plantings for air circulation as well as security.





Once you have gotten the basic shape, trim back every third branch several inches inside the bush. This will encourage lots of leaves to grow throughout the plant, not just on the tips. It will also allow air circulation and light to get inside the plant, lessening the chances of disease and insects. One final step is to make sure that you have pruned far enough back from the walls of your house. Try to keep all bushes at least a 12 to 18 inches away from your house to allow some breathing space, and also trimmed away from under windows for views and security.

Here is the "After" picture. Nice fringe-like texture, with branches full of leaves makes for a healthy Holly.

Here is the “After” picture. Nice fringe-like texture, with branches full of leaves makes for a healthy holly.

When shaping boxwood trim out the entire branch all the way to the base. It will encourage healthy new growth from the center of the plant.

When shaping boxwood trim out the entire branch all the way to the base. It will encourage healthy new growth from the center of the plant.



This is also a good time to give attention to the new growth on boxwoods. Just trimming the really heavy branches, by removing them down to the base of the branch, is all that is needed. This is something I do only about every other year because they are fairly slow growing. For the juniper and euonymus, I only trim the branches that have grown too far out of bounds right now; they will get a more substantial shaping when the weather cools.


I hope you are having a wonderful summer in your garden! Let me know what is your favorite plant this growing season — I’d love to hear! I will leave you with my favorite right now: a view of my daylilly garden in full bloom.

Happy Summer! A view of my daylilly garden.

My daylilly garden in bloom right now.


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