Winter is the best time of year to prune deciduous trees and shrubs, since the trees are dormant and you can easily see the form and structure of the branches. In this video, David Yost reviews the three main steps to take when pruning your trees to ensure you do so in a way that will improve their overall health and appearance.
This post was originally published in September of 2017
Fall is my favorite season of the year. The changing weather transforms trees and shrubs from bright green into a vibrant combination of orange, red and yellow. As this beautiful scene of color works its way across the landscape of our region, many customers come in wanting to know how they can enjoy beautiful fall foliage at home. One of the best ways to add fall color is by planting native trees. Each of the ones below has its own set of unique characteristics.
One of my all-time favorite trees. American beech creates a stunning display each fall with its whitewashed bark and dark yellow foliage. Its foliage fades to a papery light brown or creamy white at the end of the season and remains on the tree through the winter, rustling in the wind and providing visual interest in the garden against the bare branches of other plants. Beech nuts are also a good source of food for animals during the winter.
The vivid contrast between blackgum’s dark bark (almost black when wet) and vivid red or orange fall foliage creates a jaw-dropping fall display. This slow growing over story tree can reach 70 feet and is very strong. One of my favorite trees at our Fair Oaks location is an enormous blackgum that is surrounded by our parking lot. We literally drive directly over its root system every day and it’s still thriving!
Sassafras is most notable for its display of orange, green, yellow and red foliage all on the same tree. As the foliage changes color, these trees may look like an artist threw several colors of paint over their leaves. They are also well known for their fragrance. A fun fact about this tree: it is used in making root beer!
Red on one side and white on the other, the foliage of silky dogwood creates a display of flickering colors as it moves in the fall breeze. After its foliage fades, the vibrant red color of new stems and branches provides winter interest. Older bark turns grey, but you can trim your dogwood back each season to keep the new growth coming, as it will grow very quickly.
As fall arrives sourwood’s foliage turns yellow, then orange, and finally brilliant red. This is an excellent tree to pair with evergreens as the red foliage contrasts the deep green of evergreen to enhance the color of both plants. A two-season tree, sourwood also produces fragrant flowers in spring when it leafs out. Maxing out around 20 feet high, sourwood is a good choice for anyone looking for a large impact in a limited space.
A classic fall foliage tree, you can’t go wrong with sugar maple in your landscape. With a nice rounded look and a maximum height of 60 to 80 feet, the yellow, dark green and orange fall foliage make this tree a stunning addition to any landscape. It typically takes on a more orange color than its other maple relatives, so if you love orange foliage, this is good choice!
Source: Fine Gardening
The most remarkable aspect of Winterthur viburnum is its berries, which come in a light pink and fade to dark pink and later blue as they mature. When most of the berries are blue, the foliage also transitions to vibrant red, creating a stunning contrast between the plants’ foliage and fruits. In the spring, this viburnum blooms with white clusters of flowers as it leafs out. I recommend pairing it with grasses and evergreen for a beautiful combination of texture and contrasting green color in fall.
The crape myrtle is one of the most iconic trees of the southern summer. You can rarely drive throughout the Northern Virginia area during this season without seeing these beauties in bloom. They provide stunning color and are very easy to care for. Generally, they don’t need a lot of water and will be happy with at least eight hours of sunlight. The warm, bright summers in our area actually make crape myrtles flower more. Because of this, crape myrtles can grow in places many plants won’t.
Crape myrtles come in many different varieties, including tree and shrub variations, making them a versatile plant that can be used in many ways in your landscape. Here are a few of our favorite ways to make the crape myrtles shine in your landscape.
With flowers in various shades of red, purple, pink, and white and leaves in shades of green, red, and black, there are a multitude of varieties available that make stunning specimen plants in any yard. These deciduous plants make an excellent specimen, providing four season interest with new growth in spring, beautiful summer blooms, standout fall foliage, and smooth, white branches in winter. For nighttime interest, add up lighting to the base of the tree to illuminate their beauty against the dramatic dark backdrop of the night sky.
(Image via Southern Living)
The texture, size and colors of crape myrtles pair beautifully with all types of other plants. Here are some of our favorite trees and shrubs to pair to bring out the beauty in both plants:
- Cherry tree: For blooms all spring and summer, plant cherry trees and crape myrtles together. The cherry trees will bloom through the spring, and just as their bloom is ending, the crape myrtles will begin to show off beautiful blossoms.
- Evergreens: With their year-round foliage, evergreens provide contrast to the crape myrtle’s trunk and branches in the winter landscape..
- Nandinas: With their similar care schedule and multicolored foliage, nandinas add greens, reds, and yellows to your garden, complementing the crape myrtles’ colors in spring, summer and fall.
- Limelight hydrangeas: This particular variety of hydrangea has a similar bloom schedule as most crape myrtles. Their glowing white blooms will instantly brighten the purples and reds of your crape myrtle blooms. You can also make a wonderful white garden by combining the limelight hydrangea with a white flowering crape myrtle. These compliments will glow during fall evenings while both are in bloom.
(Image via House Beautiful)
Shade for Outdoor Spaces
Create a relaxing summer space by using a crape myrtle to create shade on your patio. Crape myrtles are late bloomers and deciduous, which means in the spring you will have access to the warm spring sunshine as the tree leafs, and in the heat of summer your tree will provide refreshing shade and beautiful blooms.
(Image via Southern Living)
Miniature crape myrtles will only grow about 3 feet high, making them an excellent choice for a perennial border that will change with the seasons. They add great color to foundation plantings and shallow depth to your landscape.
Update to our seedling giveaway event:
Thank you for your participation in our 2018 Arbor Day seedling giveaway! The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. We encourage you to send us photos of your planting projects at email@example.com!
As a garden center, Arbor Day is one of our favorite holidays. Each year we celebrate by encouraging our friends, family and customers to cultivate and care for our environment by planting trees in their gardens.
This year, we are excited to take this celebration a step further by actually giving away native white dogwood seedlings for families to plant! Take on a planting project with your children, your family, or your friends this year to celebrate the environment and add a beautiful new plant to your home and garden. As the white dogwood seedlings grow, they will improve the air quality of our region, create habitats for local wildlife, and serve as a food source for birds, pollinators and other animals.
How to Plant a Seedling
Seedlings can be planted in the ground or in a container. It is best to plant them within 24 hours of bringing it home, but if you cannot do so, keep the roots of your tree moist. Wrap your seedling in plastic and store it in a cool, dark spot between 40 degrees and 60 degrees, then plant your seedling as soon as possible.
- Container (At least 1 gallon in size and 6-7 inches deep)
- Water soluble or slow release fertilizer
- Merrifield Potting Mix
- Select a container with a drainage hole that is slightly larger than the root system in depth and width (a one-gallon pot that is 6-7 in. deep is generally enough to maintain the growth of the seedling for one year)
- Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
- Top soil and garden soil are generally too heavy for seedlings. Use Merrifield Potting Mix to get your seedling off to a strong start.
- Place the seedling in the container, and fill with Merrifield Potting Mix to the top of the point where the roots begin.
- If your potting mix does not contain a slow release fertilizer, apply a slow release fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants. Re-apply once per month.
- Water your container thoroughly. Test the soil for moisture regularly and water as needed when the soil is dry.
- You can keep your tree in a one-gallon container in a spot with full sun to part shade for approximately one year before transferring it to the ground.
Planting in the ground
- Bucket or bowl
- Garden hose
- Watering Wand
- Merrifield Planting Mix
- Select a location for your tree. Ideally, it should be sheltered from weather, wildlife and lawn mowers for the first few years, then transplanted to another location. If you will be planting it in the spot you intend to be its permanent location, place a fence around the tree to protect it from lawn mowers and foraging wildlife.
- Soak your seedling’s roots in a bucket or bowl of water for several hours.
- Dig a hole as deep as the depth of the roots for your seedling, allowing plenty of room around it for the roots to grow and spread out.
- Place your seedling in the hole, making sure that the top of the roots is at the level of the soil line.
- Mix your existing soil with Merrifield Planting Mix or other soil conditioner and use this mixture to backfill the hole.
- Apply a water-soluble fertilizer at half the concentration recommended for house plants once per month.
- Water thoroughly and deeply with your watering wand, saturating the root zone. Water deeply whenever the soil is dry to encourage deep roots.
- After planting, mulch 2-3 inches deep around the seedling to retain soil temperature and moisture. Leave unmulched soil around the trunk.
Celebrating Arbor Day
Looking to celebrate Arbor Day with a planting project, but prefer to plant a tree larger than a seedling?
Spring is here and we are indulging our spring fever with a lineup of our favorite spring blooming trees! Between the tried-and-true traditional favorites and new arrivals, we all have a tree we want for ourselves this season!
‘Autumnalis’: If you just can’t get enough of cherry blossoms, try ‘Autumnalis’ in your landscape. This cultivar is known for blooming prolifically in the spring, then again sporadically in the late fall.
Yoshino Cherry: If you are looking for the best-known cherry tree in the northern Virginia region, this is your variety. Each year it turns the Washington DC Tidal Basin into a cloud of white blooms in early spring. Placing one in your yard may not draw millions of visitors from around the world as the Cherry Blossom Festival does, but that may be for the best!
Weeping Higan: The arching branches of this weeping variety can drape all the way to the ground with blooms in early spring. This popular ornamental variety produces light pink flowers.
As one of our most popular and iconic trees of the southeastern United States, there are many varieties of magnolia to choose from in addition to the beloved southern magnolia. Here are some of our favorites:
Saucer Magnolia: Without a doubt the most dramatic member of the magnolia family, this tree blooms in early spring with vibrant pink flowers. ‘Jane’ ‘Betty’ and ‘Ann’ are some of our favorite cultivars.
Star Magnolia: This tree unveils its magnificent star-like white blooms in early spring. In comparison with the bold structure of other magnolia blooms, the flowers of star magnolias are prized for their delicate appearance.
Sweet Bay Magnolia: This popular native variety delivers a creamy, white flower with a light lemon fragrance in early June. It is able to tolerate the clay soil in the area and is also able to handle poorly draining soil, making it a good choice for difficult landscape areas.
This dense evergreen shrub produces drooping clusters of bell-shaped white flowers in early spring. Its foliage emerges bronze but matures to a glossy green.
Redbud is best known for its small clusters of magenta-pink flowers that bloom in late March to early April. While this tree is widely considered a harbinger of spring, it boasts beauty during the fall as well, when its heart-shaped leaves turn a light yellow. This tree comes in both upright and weeping varieties.
Here are some of our favorite cultivars:
- ‘Don Egolf’ is a dwarf Chinese cultivar named after Dr. Donald Egolf from the National Arboretum.
- ‘Appalachian Red’ has brighter blossoms than other redbuds. Their neon pink are almost red. We like to say they are two shades brighter than other redbuds!
- ‘Oklahoma’ has a darker purple blossom and a more compact, rounded form than other redbuds.
- ‘Ruby Falls’ is a popular weeping cultivar with purple foliage.
This North American native is a great year-round plant. It blooms in early spring with clusters of white flowers, then in early summer its fruit ripens to a blue color and attracts local birds. In the fall, the leaves change to a vibrant red or yellow.
Virginia Fringe Tree
Another native, Virginia fringe tree produces blooms in late spring that look the way they sound – like white fringe! The airy, fragrant blooms give the tree a unique look, unlike any other plant we name in this post.
With our climate, we’re fortunate to have the option of planting many different types of trees.
We carry about 100 different types of spring flowering trees at Merrifield Garden Center. Here are some of our most popular varieties:
A hybrid of the Japanese flowering cherry, Yoshino cherry is the stunningly beautiful tree that blooms during the National Cherry Blossom Festival around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. The profuse blooming of these trees creates a soft pink cloud of color, drawing millions of visitors from around the world.
With its prolific, large double pink flowers, ‘Kwanzan’ is another extremely popular variety.
Weeping Higan cherry is frequently used as a specimen tree in the landscape. The arching branches gracefully hang to the ground, creating a spectacular form. It blooms in early spring with very pale pink flowers. And there is a variety with deep pink, double flowers.
‘Autumnalis’ is known for its two seasons of bloom – prolific pink blooms in early spring followed by sporadic flowering in the fall.
‘Okame’ is the earliest blooming and the deepest pink of the Japanese cherries. It also has a darker bark and a more rounded, slightly smaller mature shape than the other cherries.
With several species native to North America, serviceberry blooms just before dogwoods with beautiful clusters of white flowers in early spring. Its fruit, which ripens to a blue color in June, is a big attractor to birds. In the fall, the leaves turn a gorgeous yellow to red color. Some of our most popular varieties are ‘Autumn Brilliance’ and ‘Cumulus.’
Redbud is a native tree that is best known for its small clusters of magenta-pink flowers that bloom in late March to early April.
After blooming, heart-shaped leaves emerge and turn a light yellow in fall. ‘Forest Pansy’ is a variety with purple / maroon leaves that fade to dark green in late summer.
‘Covey’ and ‘Traveller’ are two popular weeping varieties. The combination of their dramatic shape and the deep color of their flowers make these two new varieties quite stunning. Other in-demand weeping varieties are ‘Ruby Falls,’ which have a purple leaf, and ‘Pink Heartbreaker,’ which have bright pink flowers.
There are many wonderful varieties of deciduous, spring flowering magnolias with beautiful blooms of purple, pink, white and yellow. Here are a few to consider:
Perhaps the most dramatic of all early blooming trees, saucer magnolia produces large flowers in brilliant shades of pink in March to early April.
Prized for its delicate, satiny white petals that are sculpted like stars, the star magnolia unveils its magnificent, slightly fragrant flowers in early spring. ‘Royal Star’ is a popular cultivar that blooms just after the saucer magnolia. Frost damage is rare since this is a later blooming tree.
The Girl Magnolias were hybridized by the U.S. National Arboretum and are an excellent choice for smaller gardens. They bloom a little later than the star magnolia, which reduces the chance of frost damage and delivers a beautiful display of color in April. ‘Betty,’ ‘Ann’ and ‘Jane’ are popular varieties.
‘Daybreak’ and ‘Galaxy’ boast enormous, colorful flowers and bloom later than other deciduous magnolias.
A Southern favorite, Sweet Bay magnolia delivers a creamy, white flower with a delightful lemon fragrance in early June. In our area, this small tree drops most of its leaves over the winter, although the ‘Henry Hicks’ variety retains about 25% of its leaves. Sweet Bay magnolia, a native, grows best in normal soil with sun or part shade, but it also tolerates swampy conditions. ‘Green Shadow’ is a bit more evergreen.
Dogwoods also are a beautiful and popular spring flowering tree. Our dogwoods blog goes into more detail about Virginia’s state tree.
Nothing says spring quite like a flowering dogwood! Native to the eastern United States, our flowering dogwood is beloved for its large, white or pink bracts (large, petal-like forms) that blanket the tree in a cloud of glorious color just before the leaves emerge. After the beautiful blossoms fade, this small- to medium-sized tree continues to be an asset in the landscape. The spreading, horizontal branching pattern helps to soften the sharp edges of homes and buildings. Fall brings bright, red fruit and showy, red leaves. It’s no wonder the dogwood has been adopted as the state tree in Virginia or that numerous cultivars have been developed by the nursery industry!
At Merrifield Garden Center, we carry more than 25 different types of dogwoods, including trees and shrubs. Each species offers its own special beauty in the garden.
Here are some varieties to consider:
Three of our most popular varieties belong to the Cherokee series. ‘Cherokee Princess’ features large, white blossoms and four-season interest. ‘Cherokee Brave’ and ‘Cherokee Chief’ each boast luxurious, pink flowers. There are even dogwoods in the Cherokee series with variegated leaves.
Another dogwood in high demand, ‘Kousa’ produces white or light pink blossoms in the spring, a red berry that wildlife finds hard to resist and a rich, red fall color. As the tree matures, the bark begins to exfoliate and becomes quite attractive. ‘Kousa,’ an Asian species, is more tolerant of hot, sunny locations than our native species, and is resistant to dogwood borers and dogwood anthracnose disease.
This native dogwood deserves greater attention as a landscape tree. The leaves of most dogwoods occur in pairs, with one leaf positioned opposite the other. But the leaves of Pagoda occur in an alternate pattern where each leaf is askew of the other. Pagoda dogwoods bloom in late May, with clusters of small, fragrant, white flowers positioned along distinctly horizontal branches. The flowers turn into a sumptuous feast of fruit that birds devour. In the fall, the leaves reveal a reddish, purple color. The flowers, fruit and fall color of Pagodas are more subtle than the flowering dogwood, but the overall effect is very elegant and works especially well in naturalized settings.
During the 1970’s, Rutgers University bred Cornus florida, our native species, with Cornus kousa, an Asian species, resulting in the successful introduction of several vigorous, insect—and disease—resistant hybrid varieties, known as the “Stellar” series of dogwoods. ‘Aurora,’ ‘Celestial,’ ‘Constellation’ and ‘Stellar Pink’ are the most popular varieties of this series. Each features a slightly different flower form, which opens just after the native dogwoods.
Two newer introductions of the Rutgers Hybrid Dogwoods are ‘Venus’ and Starlight.’ With bracts that can exceed six inches in diameter, ‘Venus’ has the largest blooms of any dogwood. The white blooms are beautifully formed and long lasting. ‘Starlight’ is loaded with oversize white blooms. It can be used as a privacy screen with its dense branching habit or as a specimen with its showy blooms.
Not only are they beautiful, but dogwoods are easy-care landscape trees. They thrive in moist, well-drained soil. Try to plant dogwoods where they won’t be exposed to the sizzling afternoon sun or near larger trees which can provide some protection. Some varieties, such as ‘Venus’ and ‘Starlight,’ have been hybridized to succeed in full sun. With all dogwoods, heavy shade can result in few blossoms and slower growth.
Japanese maples are one of the most popular small ornamental trees in our area. Whether it’s a weeping variety or a larger, upright type, these plants are desirable for their bright foliage as well as their elegant form.
With hundreds of cultivars available, it can be a challenge to choose the best option for your garden. Thankfully, we have a guide for you with some of our favorite picks to get you started thinking about which one is right for you.
Things to Consider
Before selecting a Japanese maple, you will want to consider the following:
- Where will you be planting this tree? How much space will it have to grow? Some varieties max out at about 30 feet in height, but others can be as small as 3 feet at max height.
- Are you looking for any particular leaf color? Japanese maples come in yellow, red, green, burgundy and purple, with additional fall colors.
- Does the tree need to have some color in winter? There are a few varieties whose branches turn vivid colors during the cold season.
- Are you interested in an upright or weeping variety? Weeping varieties max out at about 15 feet in height, but have a cascading form. Upright varieties can grow much taller.
Don’t let the elegance and delicate beauty of these trees fool you. Japanese maples are anything but delicate and are quite easy to take care of. They’ll grow in sun or shade, but do best in full morning sun with a bit of protection from the intense afternoon heat. A moist, well-drained soil is important for healthy, vigorous growth Japanese maples don’t tolerate extreme heat or dry conditions very well. If planted in these conditions, the leaves may become scorched.
Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’
Arguably the most popular of all Japanese maples, ‘Bloodgood’ has been propagated to a wide extent. So you’ll find some variation between trees with the ‘Bloodgood’ name. An authentic ‘Bloodgood’ retains its dark red color through most of the summer and tolerates heat better than many other varieties. One of the faster growing Japanese maples, ‘Bloodgood’ matures to about 20’ to 25’ tall and nearly as wide.
Image Credit: “Emperor I Japanese Maple” by dankeck is marked under CC0 1.0. To view the terms, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/cc0/1.0/
Acer palmatum ‘Emperor 1’
Very similar to ‘Bloodgood’ in growth and appearance, ‘Emperor 1’ (sometimes called Red Emperor) leafs out a bit later in the spring and tolerates temperature extremes a bit better. ‘Emperor 1’ retains good leaf color through the summer months and turns a fiery red in the fall.
Photo Credit: “Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ at Pershore College 16 Mar 2014” by je_wyer is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’
‘Sango Kaku’ is prized for its coral-red bark. The young twigs have a bright color, which gradually changes to light brown in two to three years. The leaves are a pale green in the summer and a brilliant, golden-yellow in the fall. ‘Sango Kaku’ matures to a height of about 15’ to 18’. This is a great choice for year-round interest.
Photo Credit: “Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’, La Canada, Descanso, 2017.04.18” by Vahe Martirosyan is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Crimson Queen’
‘Crimson Queen’ is a weeping tree that forms a graceful dome. Its branches can even descend lower than the root crown if it’s planted in an elevated bed or near a ledge. With good color retention and heat tolerance, this tree is a slow, but steady grower, maturing to about 6’ tall with a 10’ spread. The crimson leaves turn to a brilliant red in the fall.
Photo Credit: “Acer palmatum ‘Red Dragon'” by MeganEHansen is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Red Dragon’
Introduced from New Zealand, ‘Red Dragon’ rivals ‘Crimson Queen’ for color retention and durability. ‘Red Dragon’ is a fast grower with a cascading form.
Photo Credit: “150529 25 West Village Walk – Jefferson Market Garden, Acer palmatum dissectum, a ‘Viridis’ type like ‘Emerald Lace’, Nephrolepis exaltata cv, Nymphaea cv, Eichornia crassipes” by cultivar413 is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Viridis’
With a graceful, weeping form, ‘Viridis’ makes a great specimen tree with its beautiful, green lace-leaf leaves and mounding shape. The leaves are bright green and look like ferns. ‘Viridis’ will grow to an eventual height and width of about 10 feet. Pair with a red Japanese maple for a striking contrast.
Flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar, butterflies are absolutely wonderful in the garden.
Unfortunately, because of the loss of habitat and the indiscriminate use of pesticides, the butterfly population is declining.
But with just a little bit of effort, you can encourage more of these delicate beauties to visit your garden – and extend their stay.
Choose a sunny location protected from wind. As butterflies are near-sighted, it’s best to create a large patch of flower species boasting vibrant colors and sweet scents. Select plants of differing heights, colors and bloom times to attract butterflies throughout the season.
Butterflies enjoy sweet liquids, such as nectar from flowers, which supplies them with an energy source. Annuals provide nectar all summer, while perennials provide it when they’re blooming.
As you might expect, Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed are great plants to attract butterflies. But they’re not the only ones. Here are some other plants that butterflies truly love: Astilbe, Black-Eyed Susan, Catmint, Coneflower, Daylily, Salvia, Tickseed and Yarrow.
In addition to growing a butterfly friendly habitat, make caterpillars welcome in your garden. True, caterpillars feed on plants. But without caterpillars there would be no beautiful butterflies. Watching a caterpillar change into a butterfly is one of the most fascinating things about butterfly gardens.
Caterpillars can be very discriminating in the plants they feed on. Pipevine Swallowtail feed exclusively on Pipevine, Monarchs on Milkweed and Fritillary on Violas. So if you want to watch these butterflies, select plants for both the larvae and adults.
|Common Name||Botanical Name|
|Common Name||Botanical Name|
|Creeping & Summer Phlox||Phlox|
|Joe Pye Weed||Eupatorium|
|Red Hot Poker||Kniphofia|
|Common Name||Botanical Name|
|Golden Rain Tree||Laburnum|
|Common Name||Botanical Name|
|Dragon Lady Crossvine||Bigonia|
|Hardy Passion Vine||Passiflora|