"To cut or not to cut"

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"To cut or not to cut"

When are we to cut back our plants?  What plants are we to cut back?  So often I am asked these questions when we have installed a lushes planting, teaming with perennials.  I sometimes think it stems from overwhelming reasons!  But from these questions I begin my discussion for the day about the importance of winter interest.  

Winter interest is sometimes lost or forgotten about when designing a landscape.  In our climate evergreens are mostly what is found with leaves attached during the winter season.  So designing a landscape with evergreens is a must or an easy way to achieve this winter interest... BUT not all evergreens work or fit in all micro climates and settings.  Some, the winter sun or wind are just too much for them.  Snow can hide or damage the plant leaving it deformed for the next growing season.  Others are just too darn big!  So we use woody or deciduous shrubs and herbaceous plants to add this winter interest.  Leaving out trees for this discussion, because of size, there are many shrubs that offer unique winter stem color or texture.  Take a red twigged dogwood, Cornus alba 'Sibirica', for example.  Its vibrant red stem burned by the sun in the fall and winter have clients almost waiting for the winter to come around to show it off.  Or what about the Serviceberry, Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent', with its unique gray stems and black fruits that are not only attractive to humans against the white snow but birds make the best of them.  Even though deciduous shrubs often are a great part of the winter landscape there are far more herbaceous plants to select from in our pallet.  

But how can herbaceous plants help with winter interest?  Do we really want to install thousands of dollars of perennials and not have them add to the other 4-5 months out of the year?  So the simple answer to "When to cut things back?" is early early spring, with some exceptions.  Below are two links that will help one choose these exceptions.  I love the look of Blazingstars, Liatris pycnostachya, in the late fall when the frost is on the ground their leaves are a burnt orange and seed heads holding fast for the long winter season.  Blazingstars are only one of tons of perennials which keeps their seed heads straight and sturdy throughout the winter.  Winter sun, wind or snow these plants show off a integral part of the plants cycle of life.  Another common seed heads that we can all distinguish is the Black Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia, or the Conflower, Echinacea.  These usually found in large groups are such sturdy crops sometime snow will be elevated on there tops like pillows of clouds.  Without confusing the situation, another herbaceous plant that holds its own throughout the winter are ferns and grasses.  Grasses lend us the largest in height of the seed heads dancing in the winter breeze most standing until the damp spring or the fare between ice storm.  My favorite of the grasses is the North Winds Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum 'North Winds', or the Shenandoah Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'.

Some perennials just don't seem to make it through the winter season with any kind of real winter interest.  Daylilies and Hostas are two such plants that may have a straggling used flower stem whimsically standing above the snow but for the most part really do not show well in the late fall or winter.  These plants are sometimes even harder to remove there expressed above ground plant stock in the spring.  The leave tend to be saturated and hard to gather.  Rather it is better to cut these back in the late fall when you can easily scoop, twist and cut off 95% of the used plant.   If it was not cut back in the fall I would suggest raking it gently and leaving this plant material as it is often more damage then what it is worth to remove it.  

Either way, fall or spring to cut your herbaceous plants back you will probably be ok and the plants will be as well.  But I hope with my entry here I can simply make you look twice at a perennial seed head holding strong throughout our tough winter climate and enjoy the beauty that lies in this part of the winter interest.  

"To cut or not to cut" - Garden.org

"When to cut back your perennials" - Learn2grow.com

 

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"Native" Shorelines

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"Native" Shorelines

Boy how time flies when you are having fun!  It is almost fall and I have not blogged all summer, shame on me.  I wanted to start this discussion in which I plan on continuing in the future about shorelines and what we can do about helping out our lakes and streams.  

What is "native"... just kidding we will get into that when I have a few more hours to discuss!  Native shorelines do not need to be something that is messy, unkept, or looks weedy.  It can be a beautiful extension of the exiting formal plantings.  It can be understood and still serve a purpose.  A publication that I would love to call reference to is "The Lake Minnetonka Guide To Shoreline Gardens".  This was written very recently by two excellent landscape architects that I have been honored to work with on several occasions and actually some of our project are shown in the publication.  This book can be purchased on amazon following this LINK.  In this book Michael and Samuel show how to tackle the shores of lake Minnetonka as well as Minnehaha Creek in not only beautiful ways but most importantly... practical ways!  (To Be Cont.)

 

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Spring is here?

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Spring is here?

Although it is 60+ degrees out and the lazy dog walkers are finally giving their dog a walk for the first time in 4 months, is it spring yet?  After a quick exploration in my backyard, I determined that the frost is going but not quite yet!  I found the cold hard soil about 12" down which is pretty good for this time of the year.  But with the light snow cover and the extremely cold temperatures in January and February you can be sure that that ice is nearing 48" down there.  I was talking with a man at a rental place that said a grave digger game in to rent a breaker for the front of a skid seat because there was soo much ice... a bit morbid of an example but you get my drift.  We are certainly anxious here at Nelco Landscaping to get starting on the 2015 season but I find it best to be patient at a time like this.  Without that ice completely out of the ground the chance of structural failure is almost certain in a landscaping install.  Not to mention putting a 6200 lb machine on soaking wet ground never impresses any client!   So if you are waiting to begin you project be patient with us as it will be worth your while.  

Fear not there is still things to be done!   Now is the perfect time to get those gardens cleaned up before the growing season.  We are most likely going to have plenty of cold days and nights that are sure to be below freezing but we can get those perennials cut down and leaves raked up in the meantime to past the time.  Lawns could get some attention as well from simply raking to a good dethatching.  Although you may want to consult a lawn guy for that, but please don't let them talk you into chemicals!  

But mostly enjoy your spring and the beautiful season that is.  We live in Minnesota for many reasons and this is certainly one of them.

Thanks! 

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Brand New Website!

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Brand New Website!

Nelco Landscaping LLC has used the same website to portray our company to our many clients since we began.  But it is my honor to welcome you to our new website!

Since 2006 we have been using the same site builder for our website.  It has accomplished our goals of a website nicely over the years.  We wanted clients to be able to see our unique landscaping projects as well as get in touch with us.  It also let people know a bit about who we are and what we can do.  But we struggled through minor changes to portray our image.

This year we have completely changed things around.  We want to offer the essentials that we always did but feel that our image is best described in this website.  We are a unique landscaping company that specializes in stormwater management with the use of natural elements.  This modern philosophy is much better show though our new website. 

Please enjoy and thanks for visiting!

Owner:  Brian Nelson

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