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Perennial of the Week Astilbe (Vision Series)

Finding attractive flowering plants for shade has been difficult for many gardeners. Not any more. Enter the Astilbe Vision Series. This perennial has risen to the top to become the cream of the shade garden.

Astilbe likes to be planted in moist well drained highly organic soil in full shade to part sun. The Vision series of Astilbe which come in a variety of colors are valued for their spikes of flower plumes that stand straight up from very attractive fern like foliage. Their mature height is 24 inches high by 18 inches wide. Bloom time for this variety is much longer then traditional varieties and goes from late spring thru till mid summer. They look stunning in mass plantings, as a border and do very well in containers. They are a great addition to a cut flower garden.

Beneficial characteristics of the Astilbe are that it is great in shade or part sun, longer bloom time, attracts butterflies, and makes a great cutting flower or dried flower.

When first planting Astilbe, space them 1 foot apart and incorporate into the soil rich compost such as Bumper crop, along with some peat moss. This will provide a perfect soil foundation for new plants that can retain water and nutrients. To help in drought conditions use Espoma Bio-tone Soil Conditioner with beneficial mycorrihizae. This will help establish a large healthy root system. Follow with a monthly feed of Espoma Flower-tone. An occasional shot of liquid Miracle Gro always does the body good for this plant.

Although there are many great shade perennials, not many give you great color. A great perennial like Astilbe Vision Series solves the question, “what can I plant in my backyard that is all shade but will still give me color in the summer?” Try one today.

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Disease Alert: Downy Mildew on Impatiens

By far, the most popular flowering plant we sell at Dees is Impatiens. Because of this I need to warn you of a deadly disease that is attacking them this year called Downy Mildew. Downy Mildew is a very destructive disease leading to the eventual defoliation and failure of impatiens in the landscape. IT IS NOT A PROBLEM ON NEW GUINEA IMPATIENS, just the common bedding impatiens, double impatiens, and fusion impatiens (walleriana varieties).
Downy Mildew has been around for a few years but has hit Long Island hard this year because we have had a lot of moisture and cool weather (especially at night) which has made ideal conditions for the disease to develop.

Symptoms Include:

  •  Leaves turn yellow and chlorotic and look like they need to be fertilized
  •  Infected leaves may be spotted and curl downward
  • A white powdery substance may develop on the underside of leaves. These are the spores that go airborne a great distance in a neighborhood and infect other impatiens plants.
  • Premature leaf and flower drop resulting in bare leafless stems

Downy Mildew is a water mold and requires moisture to duplicate itself and cause new infections. Impatiens in heavily shaded areas where leaves stay wet for extended periods of time will tend to have a higher and more severe rate of infection. Plants in slightly sunnier areas will tend to have less chance of getting the disease because the leaves dry quicker. It also helps to have good air circulation around the plants.
As of right now, there isn’t a fungicide to cure impatiens that has downy mildew, there is only a preventative. If you have any of the symptoms above, my advice would be to pull all infected plants from your flower beds or planters and dispose of them completely making sure not to leave any portion of the plant in the soil.

The best way to prevent downy mildew is to do the following:

  • When you first plant your impatiens, do not overcrowd them. Leave ample room for growth of the individual plants as this allows for better air circulation.
  • When watering, try not to wet the foliage. Use a soaker hose to line the bed, or if you have a sprinkler system; install bubblers in your beds instead of miste heads. (Bubblers flood the bed instead of spraying water over the top of the plants)
  • Spray your impatiens with Bonide Copper Fungicide and Ortho Disease-B-Gon (daconil) as a preventative every 2-4 weeks during the growing season. Alternate the use of these products for more effective control.
  • Water in the morning to allow the leaves to dry off during the day.

Alternative plants you can use in shaded areas in place of impatiens include begonias, new guinea impatiens, coleus, lobelia, torenia, and caladiums. In partial sun you can use salvia, caliente geraniums, nicotiana, and new guinea impatiens.

My last few articles have not been very positive as I have been writing about insect and disease problems you may encounter in your garden. This is only an attempt to educate our customers so they can protect the investment they have made in their home landscape. We want you to continue to have success in your garden. I promise after this “downer” on Downy Mildew I will soon get back to writing about more exciting garden ideas. Many of my topics come from you, so keep your ideas coming. I really appreciate the feedback.


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Perennial of the Week: GEUM ‘Totally Tangerine’

Perennial of the Week: GEUM ‘Totally Tangerine’


If you haven’t heard of or used this perennial in your garden then back up the truck. For amazing performance GEUM ‘Totally Tangerine’ is for you. It produces bright orange tangerine blossoms that make an outstanding impact in the garden. TT is turning out to be the “best of class” in this variety of plants.

Totally Tangerine will perform best in moist well drained soil preferably in a full sun area of the garden, but can also go in an area of part sun. Although there are many varieties, TT is in a class of its own. Dark green fuzzy foliage similar to the foliage on a strawberry plant, it forms a nice compact mounded plant which gets about 14 inches high. When it is in full bloom, the flowers bring this beauty up to 30 inches. Mature width is 18 inches. Once established it is very low maintenance and stays nice and tidy in your flower beds. The blooms will start in spring and continue in abundance thru the fall due to the fact the flowers are sterile (don’t produce seeds). Continuous dead heading of spent blooms will also keep flowers coming.

Beneficial characteristics of the Totally Tangerine are its long bloom time, ability to attract butterflies and it is deer and rabbit resistant. It is a fast grower with very little problems from insects or diseases. Once established it is drought tolerant.

When first planting Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, incorporate into the soil rich compost such as Bumper crop, along with some peat moss. This will provide a perfect soil foundation for new plants that can retain water and nutrients. To help in drought conditions use Espoma Bio-tone soil conditioner with beneficial mycorrihizae. This will help establish a large healthy root system. Keep them watered well. Follow with a monthly feed of Espoma flower tone and don’t be shy and liquid feed them with Miracle-Gro.

When you plant this, be prepared for a show stopper as this is going to please everyone who enters your garden. ‘Totally Tangerine’ is totally tops in our book.

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Mums the Word

Chrysanthemums, or just plain mums, are the backbone of the Fall American Garden. Their autumn colors are a welcome addition to the landscape as your summer flowers begin to fade into the September sunset. This is a great flowering perennial that gives you a burst of color that can handle the cool days and evenings of the autumn months. The best part is that they are easy to grow.

Mums like nutrient-rich soil, so before you plant them, proper soil preparation is the key to success. Incorporate into the soil Bumper Crop organic compost and peat moss. This will provide the perfect soil foundation for new plants that can retain water and nutrients. A large healthy root system is the reason mums survive over the winter. Adding Espoma Bio-Tone Soil Conditioner with beneficial Mycorrihizae will help them develop the largest root system possible, which will then translate to your success.

Mums like the sun. Choose an area in your garden that gets a full to half day of sun. They also get pretty big, so if you are planting them in your garden beds, space them at least 12 inches apart. Gently remove them from their grower’s pots and place them in the soil. A few inches of bark mulch around them after planting will help preserve moisture in the soil. Water them once a day for a week while their root system adjusts to the new site and then water as needed. A mum will tell you it isn’t getting enough water when its leaves start to wilt. Don’t worry if this happens. They will usually bounce right back after a cool drink. Mums do beautifully in your planters so you can decorate your deck or patio in the fall. Clean out your summer flowers and combine mums with purple fountain grass, sedum, or ornamental peppers to make the perfect fall combination. Mums won’t survive in your planters over the winter, so in November, transplant them out of your pots into a chosen area in your garden so they will grow again the following year.

After a few hard frosts, your mums will let you know that its time to cut them back to the ground. The leaves will wilt and start to turn black. Mulch the area over to help shelter the root system from the cold winter months.

The fall is not the time to be sad that your perfect summer garden is almost done for the year. It’s the time to continue what you started in the spring. Mums are the perfect plant that allows you to enjoy your landscape late into the fall.

Have fun and enjoy!


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Perennial of the Week: Russian Sage

Russian sage has become an important player to those who want a summer/fall perennial garden and this is considered one of the best for the “no work” garden. If you are into just relaxing and doing little work, then this is the plant for you.

Russian Sage will grow best in a full, hot sun location of the garden. It does not need any special soil conditions and to be honest the worse the soil is the better. It does not like moist soil so if you are planning on putting it in a wet area of your yard then forget this plant. It prefers soil on the sandy side that drains well. This makes it perfect for Long Island. Its average height and width can range from 24-36 inches high to 24-36 inches wide. Russian Sage has silver fragrant foliage that stands out against the other greens in your garden and produces purplish blue flowers that attract butterflies. Its bloom time is usually mid-summer through to the end of September or early October. Do not attempt to over fertilize this plant as it could very well hurt it more then help it.

Beneficial characteristics of the Russian Sage plant are its long bloom time, they attract butterflies and have fragrant foliage. It also has and amazing ability to grow in hot drought like conditions with poor soil. Russian Sage is deer resistant.

When first planting Russian sage, incorporate into the soil compost such as Bumper Crop. This will provide a perfect soil foundation for new plants that can retain water and nutrients. To help in drought conditions use Espoma Bio-tone Soil Conditioner with beneficial mycorrihizae. This will help establish a large healthy root system. At the end of fall or before the new growth starts, the following spring, cut the plant back to about 6 inches as it pushes the new years growth off of last year’s stems.

For the experienced gardener, Russian Sage is the perfect plant to give you a small coffee break in your daily routine in the garden. For all you hammock potatoes out there who are a little lazy and don’t want to work in your garden and just want to enjoy it, get a Russian Sage today. You will not be disappointed.

Have fun and enjoy this plant for years.