Posts

Evergreens

Great Trees and Shrubs for Screening

Originally Published July, 2015

Trees

American Arborvitae

‘Emerald’, which matures to about 15’ tall and 4’ wide; ‘Nigra’, 15’ x 5’; and ‘Pyramidal’, 20’ x 8’ are three of our most popular varieties. Great for our Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, these varieties display dense, dark green foliage that is soft textured. They maintain good winter color.

Cryptomeria

As a young tree, cryptomeria has a very dense, full growth that begins to open up into a more irregular, graceful form with age. It matures to a height of 50’ – 60’ and a spread of 20’ – 40’. An elegant tree with attractive red bark, cryptomeria can be used as a specimen or to create privacy. Cryptomeria should be planted in full sun. Growing 30’ – 40’ tall, ‘Yoshino’ is the most popular type.

Eastern Red Cedar

Native to the mid-Atlantic region, Eastern red cedar is a narrow, evergreen tree that can mature to 25’ to 35’ tall. The dense and pyramidal form becomes slightly pendulous with age. Male plants have gold cones and female plants have blue cones that birds love. The two paired together are quite attractive in the landscape.

Foster’s Holly

Some homeowners are smitten with Foster hollies, which feature small, fine-textured leaves and narrow, upright growth. Their dense growth, dark green foliage and bright red berries make them an excellent choice for privacy screens. They mature to a height of 20’ – 30’, but with routine pruning they can be easily kept to a height of 12’ – 15’.

Giant (Western) Arborvitae

Native to the Pacific Northwest, this is often sold as ‘Green Giant’. Because of its fast rate of growth and soft-textured foliage, the variety ‘Green Giant’ is often promoted as an alternative to Leyland cypress. ‘Green Giant’ will grow 30’ – 40’ tall with a spread of 10’ – 12’. This tree has better resistance to deer than other arborvitaes or Leyland cypress.

Leyland Cypress

A hybrid tree that originated in Wales in 1888, Leyland cypress has exploded in popularity over the past 30 years. This tree grows very rapidly, and is capable of growing 3’ a year or more until reaching maturity at 25’ – 35’ tall and 10’ wide. It requires full sunlight and appreciates a bit of protection from harsh winter winds. Moist, well-drained soil conditions are ideal, although this tree will adapt to heavy clay.

Nellie R. Stevens

A very popular, vigorous, hybrid holly that grows into a broad pyramidal form. It can mature to 25’ tall, but like all hollies it responds well to pruning and can be cut back in early spring if necessary. The berries are prolific with an orange-red color. Nellie Stevens withstands harsh, exposed environments better than other hollies.

Skip Laurel

This is a widely planted, versatile shrub that is suitable for many different situations. It will grow in full sun or full shade, preferring something in between. The white flowers appear in late April or May, and are attractive, but considered secondary to the glossy, dark-green leaves. Skip laurel will grow 8’ or more tall and 4’ – 6’ wide, but can easily be shaped by occasional pruning.

Southern Magnolia

Prized for its glossy green leaves and fragrant white flowers, this is a great specimen tree that can also be used for screening. ‘Little Gem’ is a compact variety that grows to 20’ or more tall and about 8’ wide. Planting them in a location protected from harsh winter winds is best.

Shrubs

Chindo Viburnum

Similar to Southern Magnolia, chindo viburnum features leather-like, shiny green leaves. This evergreen shrub makes a good hedge because it is very dense with a pyramidal form. New growth often has a red hue.

Leatherleaf Viburnum

One of the few evergreen viburnums that can be grown in our area, leatherleaf viburnum features deeply wrinkled, tough textured leaves that are very interesting. The white flowers are attractive and the berries are bright red. Planting viburnum in groups will improve berry production.

Red Tip Photinia

This popular shrub boasts bright red growth that lasts a few weeks before maturing to green. Small white flowers appear in the spring and are followed by red berries. It grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet tall and 5 to 8 feet wide. Plant in full sun to partial shade with good air circulation.

Waxleaf Privet

Waxleaf privet makes an excellent screening plant. Although it matures to a height of 12 to 15 feet, it can tolerate severe pruning. This shrub has a profusion of white blooms, black berries and glossy, green foliage.

American Beech Fall Foliage

Fantastic Fall Foliage: Native Trees

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.

American Beech

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.

Blackgum Fall Foliage

Blackgum

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 Fall Foliage

Sassafras

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!

Silky Dogwood

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.

Sourwood Fall Foliage

Sourwood

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.

Sugar Maple

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

Winterthur Viburnum

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.

Keeping Your Plants Hydrated and Happy This Summer

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Summer is here! For many of us it’s time to kick back, relax and enjoy time with our families and friends. Whether you’re staying in town this summer or taking a trip, remember that your plants will need some extra care to keep them happy and well hydrated in the summer heat. We’ve got some refresher tips for you just in time for the hottest season of the year! Check out our full watering guide for year-round information.

Check Soil Before Watering

Even in the summer heat this golden rule of watering applies. This season, check your larger plants for moisture every 3 to 5 days and your smaller plants every 2 to 3 days. You’ll likely need to check your containers daily.

To test the soil, dig down into the root ball using a hand shovel to a depth of 4” to 5” and feel the soil for moisture. If the soil is moist, replace the soil and check again later. Moist soil will feel somewhat like a damp sponge. If the soil is dry, water the plant and surrounding soil thoroughly. Until the plants are well established—typically one year after planting—you will need to water more frequently and follow this process of checking the soil before watering.

Water Deeply

We recommend using a watering wand as it directs water most effectively over the roots and surrounding soil. Watering deeply encourages the plants root systems to grow down into the soil, reaching for the deeper water. And plants with deep root systems withstand drought better, making it easier on your long-term watering needs. Sprinklers, gator bags, and soaker hoses can also be effective when used properly.

Make a Watering Plan

Once you get a feel for how quickly the soil dries around your plants, you can make a plan and check them on a regular basis. Be aware that you will still need to monitor weather conditions and adjust accordingly. The best time to water is in the morning as this gives plants the opportunity to become fully hydrated before the mid-day heat arrives. Water remaining on the foliage will also dry quickly in the morning sun, reducing the spread of disease. So, mark your calendar and get outside to give your plants some refreshment before the mid-day heat arrives.

Make Plans with Your Neighbors Before Vacation

Excited to finally take that vacation you started planning last summer? Enjoy! Just remember to set up a plan with a neighbor or friend to water your plants while you are gone. Provide your phone number in case they have any questions.

Celebrate Earth Day & Arbor Day

Michael Fahey, Merrifield Plant Specialist and ISA Certified Arborist

Every year we get excited about Earth Day and Arbor Day. These holidays mark two special days when the entire country comes together to celebrate and protect our natural resources. We encourage you to celebrate by embarking on a planting project with your family and friends. This year we’re celebrating a few of our favorite spring trees and shrubs that grow extremely well in our Northern Virginia area.

By planting trees and shrubs, you are cleaning the air, creating a habitat and food source for local wildlife and increase the value of your home. Not to mention, the act of planting itself is a big stress reliever! Head outside this week and plant a tree or shrub in honor of these two holidays.

Blueberries

You can have the sweet taste of blueberries right in your backyard by planting a native blueberry shrub. Blueberries are one of the biggest nutritional powerhouse fruits, providing anti-aging, cancer and disease fighting antioxidants. Luckily, these tasty shrubs prefer acidic soils, which makes them well-suited to Northern Virginia. They make a great addition to the garden as accent shrubs or even screening plants. The birds love blueberries just as much as we do. Protect your fruit by draping a large piece of bird netting over the shrub or using a large tomato cage.

Virginia Fringe Tree

Fringe trees produce panicles of airy, white, fragrant flowers that hang off its branches. This Virginia native produces beautiful blooms from late spring to early summer. To keep your Virginia fringe tree looking its best, plant it in moist, fertile, well-drained soil in part-sun to full-sun. The female versions of this tree will produce bluish-black fruits that attract birds. This tree is very easy to care for and makes a great addition to urban spaces as it tolerates some air pollution and is drought tolerant.

Serviceberry

Serviceberry is a standout native tree that provides four season interest to the garden. It produces beautiful billows of lacey white flowers against bright green foliage in the spring, tasty dark blue berries that our feathered friends enjoy in the summer, standout foliage in shades of red and orange in the fall, and silvery bark in the winter. Serviceberry is very versatile in the landscape as it is drought tolerant and happy in an array of sun conditions. Also known as Juneberry, people often use the fruit to make jams and pies.

Oaks

The oak tree family is abundant with many different species with varying heights and leaf shapes. Oaks are most beloved for their ability to provide shade in the landscape and standout color in the fall. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • White oak: Our national tree, the white oak is beautiful and majestic and feeds more wildlife than any other tree in the country.
  • Willow oaks: Its narrow leaf structure provides dappled light instead of dense shade. This fast-growing oak also thrives in wet soil.
  • Northern red oak: These oaks produce the most stunning, deep crimson fall color.
  • Bur oak: Part of the white oak family, the bur oak is pollution tolerant and has a sprawling growth habit and corky bark. This is a favorite for areas near a pond as it attracts wood ducks.
  • Saw tooth oak: This fast-growing oak has a unique leaf shape, interesting acorn and bark texture.
  • Columnar oaks: These reliable oaks are a great way to add trees to small spaces. A few of my favorites include ‘Regal Prince,’ ‘Kindred Spirit,’ and ‘Green Pillar.’

Azaleas

Azaleas are one of the most popular shrubs in our area due to their ability to produce funnel-shaped flowers in an array of vibrant colors in spring. Lucky for us, azaleas thrive in acidic soils, making them a great evergreen and flowering shrub in Northern Virginia. To keep your azaleas performing their best year-after-year, prune them once the blossoms fade, but before the new blossom buds appear. You can also thin out vigorous, over grown branches to stimulate new growth from the interior of the plants. Fertilize with Merrifield Flowering Plant Food or Holly-tone to support healthy growth and flowering for next year.

Rhododendrons

Spectacular clusters of bright, bell-shaped blooms and bright green, large, leathery leaves that remain on the shrub year-round make rhododendron a standout shrub choice in our area. Rhododendron come in a variety of bloom colors and sizes and will produce flowers for weeks. They prefer moist, well-drained, acidic soil and make great additions as foundation plants, woodland plantings or border plants in sunny to partly shady locations.

Camellias

We love camellias for their ability to provide exquisite blooms in single, double and full peony form when not much else is flowering in the garden. Plus, their glossy foliage is evergreen! These surprisingly low maintenance shrubs come in many forms and range in bloom color from soft pink to dark red to white. These beauties thrive when planted in acidic soil, making them a great choice for a mixed shrub bed, specimen plant or screening plant in Northern Virginia. Camellias are deer resistant and prefer to be protected from the hot afternoon sun.

Japanese Maples

The show stopping color a Japanese maple adds to the autumn garden is unmatched! These beautiful trees add instant grace and beauty to the landscape with their delicate leaf structures and vibrant colors that turn to shades of crimson, gold and orange in the fall. Japanese maples come in a variety of forms and leaf shapes, making them a great addition to your landscape as a specimen plant or focal point in a mixed bed.

This elegant tree provides a beautiful canopy of color that offers dappled light to understudy plantings, making it a great companion for shade perennials. Japanese maples are heavy organic feeders. Before planting, work compost or other organic matter directly into the ground. To keep your Japanese maple looking its best, plant it in well-drained, acidic, moist soil.

Kwanzan Cherry Tree

The Kwanzan cherry tree produces an abundance of stunning deep pink, layered, rose-like flowers from mid-April through May. Its new foliage emerges reddish copper in the spring, turns a dark green in the summer, and transitions to yellow, orange or bronze in the fall. Its upright, vase shaped form make it a great choice for a specimen tree or for lining a walkway, road or driveway. Plant your Kwanzan cherry tree in full sun conditions in acidic, well-drained, moist soil. The Kwanzan cherry tree does not produce any fruit, making it an excellent choice for a low-maintenance garden.

Pieris Japonica

Also known as lily-of-the-valley bush, pieris japonica is a dense evergreen shrub that produces drooping clusters of bell-shaped white flowers in early spring. Its foliage emerges orange-bronze but turns a deep, glossy green when mature. Pieris japonica makes a great foundation shrub or border plant and looks great paired with other acidic soil loving plants, such as azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias.  Plant pieris japonica in organically rich, well-drained, acidic soil in full sun to part shade conditions.

Portfolio Items