Underappreciated Perennials

There are thousands of perennials to choose from. Every time you go to a garden center, there is some new variety, some undiscovered plant, that you simply must have for your garden! Sometimes these are tried and true options, the plants that everyone knows will grow well for, well, everyone. Echinacea, Hostas, Black-Eyed Susans, Daylilies and Astilbe are garden classics, trusted choices for any of our gardens. Those are the plants that people ask for by name- and for good reason.

Those are not the plants we are going to be talking about here.

Here, we are going to bring your attention to some unsung heroes of the Long Island garden. Some you may recognize. Some, we hope, will be new to you. These are plants that, for one reason or another, may be over looked. All of them are underappreciated, little-known or under-planted for one reason or another. Sometimes, we don’t really know why, while others have particular needs that may not be fulfilled in every garden. But we can promise you, at least one of the underappreciated beauties on the list below will have a place in your perennial garden, no matter how particular your growing needs. Dry shade? Got you covered. Moist shade? No problem. Hot, dry, parched location where nothing else seems to grow? We’ve got you there too. Take a moment to look more closely at some less common perennial options, and we promise you won’t be disappointed if you give them a shot.

All growing information below is relevant to our gardens in zones 6/7, where we live on Long Island. Gardeners looking over this information for zones farther north and south may wish to double check the species tolerance for extremes of hot summers or cold winters.



Common Names – Lady’s Mantle

Partial Shade. Deer and Rabbit Resistant.

Alchemilla is a slow spreading, clump forming ground cover, excellent for partial shade. It has soft, fuzzy green leaves that gather dew in the morning for an enchanting start to the day. It blooms from late spring to early summer with masses of dainty, yellow green, star shaped flowers. It tolerates poor soils, attracting butterflies along the way.  At only 15″ tall, Alchemilla makes an excellent filler, softening a formal garden or rambling in a cottage landscape. Though the leaves are large, the ephemeral nature of Alchemilla’s beauty when wet makes it a wonderful backdrop for a fairy garden.

Baptisia ‘Twilight Prairie’


Common Names – False Indigo

Full Sun to Partial Shade. Deer Resistant. Drought Resistant. Native.

This distinctive, native perennial is a real show stopper when in bloom. Long spikes of sweet pea like flowers in indigo-blue rise up to two feet tall in mid to late spring. A native of the great plains, once established it thrives with little maintenance. They grow best in full sun, though tolerate light shade. If planted in partial shade, Baptisia may need to be staked.



Common Names – Forget-Me-Not, Heartleaf Brunnera, Siberian Bugloss

Partial Shade to Full Shade. Deer and Rabbit Resistant

Variegated Brunnera

This true perennial version of Forget-Me-Nots may be best known for their small, true blue, spring time flowers- but the handsome, heartshaped foliage the rest of the growing season is not to be overlooked. A mound forming perennial that seldom grows more than 18” tall, Brunneracome in several varieties, many of which have interesting, frosted or variegated foliage for full season interest in the shade garden. Look for varieties ‘Jack Frost’ or ‘Looking Glass’ for perfect, white frosted foliage to really punch up a shade area.

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides



Common Names – Plumbago, Leadwort

Full Sun to Partial Shade. Deer resistant.

This lovely ground cover offers landscape interest in autumn. True blue flowers cover this perennial from late summer until mid-autumn. About the time the flowers are past their peak, Ceratostigma offers a second display of deep bronze-red foliage. It is a great addition to a butterfly garden, since it offers attractant blossoms at a time when few other plants are flowering. Ceratostigma tends to come up late in spring, so taking note or leaving a marker where it is planted will prevent accidental damage during spring clean up. Ceratostigma grows 8-10″ tall and 12-16″ wide.

Corydalis elata


Common Names – Corydalis

Partial Shade. Rabbit Resistant. Moisture Loving.

Corydalis is an uncommon perennial that is invaluable for the moist shade garden. Delicate, lacy foliage offers a soft bed for arching stems of blue, purple or yellow flowers. Fragrant, Corydalis blooms strongest in late spring, but will continue blooming lightly until autumn if kept moist. Corydalis prefers alkaline soil, so in areas of acidic soils (like here on Long Island) it is best to add some lime annually to the soil. Mulching in winter also improves its performance. Corydalis usually grow up to 24″ tall and 16″ wide.


Common Names: Barrenwort

Partial to Full Shade. Deer Resistant. Rabbit resistant. Drought Tolerant.

One of a short list of perennials that will tolerate dry shade, Epimedium is an un-sung hero of the shade garden, especially where competition with tree roots are strong. Grown as a ground cover, epimedium will spread slowly, without crowding out other plants. Evergreen foliage comes in green, chartreuse, as well as red or purple tinged. In spring, epimedium send up delicate flowers in yellow, white or pink above the foliage. Mulching in spring or fall is beneficial, and the older, tattered foliage can be cut away in the spring.



Common Names: Sweet Woodruff

Full to Partial Shade. Deer resistant.

Galium is a vigorously growing ground cover that grows well in moist, partial shade. Late spring will find masses of delicate, star shaped flowers held above the foliage. It is ideal for bulb gardens, beneath large shrubs or other naturalized style gardens, as galium is prone to spreading. Galium does best in slightly acidic soils.


Gaura ‘Skirling Butterflies’


Common Names: Wand Flower

Full Sun. Deer resistant. Attracts Butterflies. Drought Tolerant. Native.

This native North American wild flower is growing in popularity, but we can’t help but sing its praises. Especially tolerant of dry, hot locations, Gaura is a tough but delicate looking plant that won’t take over your garden. Forming a dark green, mounding base, Gaura will bloom in white or pink on tall, slender stalks, up to 3 feet tall. With sufficient sun and a good dose of slow release fertilizer in spring, Gaura can flower though the entire summer and in to early autumn. It will reflower the best if spent blossoms are removed periodically. Gaura is a delicate, airy plant that can be grown easily given good drainage and sun, and can even be kept as a potted perennial if desired.



Common Names: Sneezeweed. Helen’s Flower.

Full Sun. Attracts Butterflies. Native.

Few native perennials offer such rich late season colour as Helenium does. These 3 foot tall stands of blossoms come in red, yellow, gold, orange and copper. It is an excellent plant choice for cut flower arrangements, as the stems are stiff and the flowers long lasting. Helenium can be pinched back in mid-spring to encourage more compact plants.



Common Names: Lenten Rose. Hellebore.

Partial to Full Shade. Deer Resistant. Rabbit resistant.

Low maintenance, disease and pest free, this classic, evergreen perennial is sadly not often planted in American gardens. These are the first blossoms waiting for us in spring, starting as early as February, depending on the weather, and will go until things get hot, sometimes in to May. Varieties come in shades of pink, purple, white, yellow, red, green and even nearly black. Well behaved, mounding plants are neat in appearance with their dark, glossy leaves, even when not in bloom. Helleborus do best in neutral to slightly alkaline soils, and may respond well to a light, yearly dose of lime. Tattered foliage can be removed in spring, being careful of the flower buds if they have not yet opened. Mulch well for best results.

Heucherella ‘Sweet Tea’ in front of Spirea ‘Goldflame’

Heuchera and Heucherella

Common Names: Coral Bells.

Partial Shade. Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds. Native.

Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’

Wait, Coral bells are on this list? A lot of people grow Heuchera you say! But few people know just how versatile and forgiving these plants really are, and we consider them vastly underappreciated perennials. Many varieties of Heuchera that are available are native cultivars and hybrids. Heucherella are a hybrid of Heuchera and Tiarella, and can be treated the same as other Heuchera. These perennials have semi-evergreen foliage, largely dependent on the severity of the winter,  in almost every colour but blue. Tiny white or pink flowers are attractive but inconspicuous, though butterflies and hummingbirds both appreciate them. Their low mounding, well behaved habit make them ideal for edging, container gardening, or when planted toward the front of a perennial bed. Though they prefer partial shade, Heuchera can be grown in full shade (with less intensity of colour in their leaves) or in full sun (provided they are heavily mulched and kept well watered). One of the most versatile foliage plants, they are an under valued hero in adding colour to the garden all season long.



Common Names: Ligularia

Partial Shade. Deer resistant. Attracts Butterflies.

Moisture lovers, Ligularia will add some real drama to your landscaping. Showy yellow flowers are sent up in spikes of colour in mid to late summer, with some varieties reaching almost 5 feet tall! Wide leaves spread out in a much shorter cluster to balance the tall flowers. Smaller, and even purple leafed varieties are available, but the tallest really add a wow factor, especially when planted en masse. These plants are not tolerant of dry periods, and require consistent moisture to thrive. They would do well near a pond or bog garden setting with less supplemental watering.


Penstemon ‘Prairie Dusk’


Common Name: Beardtongue

Full Sun. Attracts Hummingbirds. Drought Tolerant. Native.

Another excellent native perennial choice, Penstemon are easy to grow and are largely pest and disease free. Strong, upright stems bear a multitude of flowers in mid summer in shades of white, pink, red and purple. One variety, ‘Husker’s Red’ even has maroon foliage to go along with its white flowers.




Common Names: Jacob’s Ladder.

Shade to Partial Shade. Deer resistant.

Forming neat, ferny clumps of foliage, Polemonium is a unique addition to the shade garden. Available in wonderful variegated varieties (our favorite is ‘Stairway to Heaven’), Polemonium flowers in pale blue and lavender in mid spring. These fragrant blossoms are small, but delicate and lovely.



Common Names: Solomon’s Seal.

Shade to Partial Shade.

This classic shade perennial has fallen out of favor when put up against newer, showier choices. But we think it still has a place in any garden. 18 inch tall stalks of graceful foliage rise from the soil in the spring. Variegated varieties are available and particularly lovely. In mid spring small, fragrant white bell flowers bloom for a few weeks. The foliage remains clean and strong through the summer, mostly unaffected by insects and disease, before turning a lovely shade of yellow in autumn. Though a new plant can be slow to establish itself (give it a good layer of mulch to help it along), once established polygonatum are long lived and very low maintenance.


Pulmoneria ‘Blue Ensign’


Common Names: Lungwort

Shade to Partial Shade. Deer Resistant. Rabbit resistant. Attracts Hummingbirds.

Pulmonaria ‘Mrs. Moon’

This under-planted perennial is such a stunner for a shady spot that we don’t understand why it is so uncommon in the garden. Well behaved mounds of  silver spotted foliage are attractive all season. But spring offers blooms in brilliant blue, though some varieties also come in pink, purple and white. They prefer moist, rich soil in a protected location, and their leaves will scorch if planted in afternoon sun. Offer a dose of lime every few years, as pulmonaria do best in slightly alkaline soils.





Common Names: Blue Eyed Grass

Full Sun to Partial Shade.

These adorable, grass like plants are too cute to pass by without notice! When not in flower, Sisyrinchium behaves like a miniature grass. But late spring and early summer brings masses of blue-purple flowers with yellow eyes that make any day a little brighter. Sisyrinchium is a perfect plant for accents in borders along pathways, in rock and alpine gardens or to grow in containers.


Tiarella ‘Pink Skyrocket’


Common Names: Foamflower.

Full Shade to Partial Shade. Deer resistant. Native.

Growing in popularity, Tiarella are a charming addition to the shade garden. This native foliage plant offers rich green leaves with dark veins running through them, offering a dramatic look and texture. Usually white flowers bloom strongest in late spring to early summer, but will continue to sporadically brighten up the shade through the season.



Common Names: Japanese Toad Lily

Full Shade to Partial Shade.

Because it flowers at an uncommon time, Tricyrtis is frequently overlooked by gardeners. But we think that’s exactly the reason to plant it. These beauties bloom in autumn, with masses of small, orchid like flowers with a light fragrance. Arching stems with alternating glossy leaves bear the flowers just over a foot high, perfect for the front of a border when a more delicate option will be noticed. Most varieties flower in light purple, white or pink, with some offering golden variegated foliage when not in bloom. Tricyrtis is easy to grow, pest and disease free, when placed in a shaded position and not allowed to dry out. Mulch to help it preserve moisture and it will thank you for it.



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Perennials D

Perennials are plants that come back every year. Be it for flowers or foliage, a perennial is a plant that will keep on giving in your garden year after year, making them an excellent investment in your landscape. All of the listed perennials are hardy in our local zone (zone 7 here on Long Island), and many are hardy to much colder zones as well.

Below are some regularly stocked perennials at Olsen’s Nurseries. Many other, less common varieties and plants are also available. Please call for current availability.  All photographs property of Olsen’s Discount Nurseries


Common Names: Ice Plant

Full Sun. Drought Resistant. Deer Resistant.

This succulent type perennial thrives in dry, sandy soil. It’s thick, bead-like foliage forms a well behaved, ground covering mat, up to 10 inches across but only 2-4 inches high. Yellow, pink or purple flowers dot the foliage through hot weather, giving a long summer bloom period. Delosperma will thrive in hot, dry locations with fairly poor soil that other plants tend to struggle in. Do not over water this plant, it is not a plant that will tolerate daily ministrations by a sprinkler system.


Delphinium ‘King Arthur’


Full Sun to Part Shade. Deer and Rabbit Resistant

Dozens of varieties of Delphinium are available on the market today. While traditional Delphiniums will typically grow 3 to 4 feet tall, some of the newer hybrids are as much as 5 feet tall or as little as 6-8 inches tall. Flowering in early to mid summer, Delphiniums offer one of the rarities in the plant kingdom – nearly true blue flowers. Other varieties will flower in white, purple, bluish purples and pinks. When grown in partial shade, Delphinium may require staking. If the tall, central flower stalk is cut down just after flowering, many varieties will offer a second flush of blooms in late summer to early autumn. These stately perennials are perfect for cottage or formal gardens, and will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard. Delphiniums grow best in rich soil, and are not tolerant of prolonged drought. Heavy feeders, do not forget to fertilize in spring with a balanced, slow release fertilizer for best flowering.

Dianthus ‘Firewitch’


Common Names: Pinks, Pinks-Maiden, Cheddar Pinks

Full Sun to Part Shade. Deer Resistant.

Dianthus are a classic cottage garden flowers. Rarely growing over 18 inches tall, Dianthus offer a mass of colour in late spring and early summer. Single or double flowered, many varieties have a wonderful fragrance, often likened to cloves or sweet carrots. Some varieties will rebloom if deadheaded after flowering. Dianthus comes in shades of red, pink, purple and white. Deep, spikey, evergreen foliage is attractive, even when the plant is not in flower. These perennials do well in containers and rock gardens, as well as more typical cottage and formal plantings, and make a wonderful addition to butterfly gardens. Dianthus prefer slightly alkaline soil, and will benefit from a yearly dose of lime around their base in spring or autumn.


Dicentra spectabilis


Common Name: Bleeding Hearts

Partial to Full Shade. Deer Resistant.

Who can resist Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts? One of the oldest perennials in cultivation, Dicentra are a favorite for the spring. Old Fashioned types form large, bushy clumps in the spring. Stems arch over lush foliage, dangling the pink or white heart-shaped flowers at 2 1/2 to 3 feet from the ground. These flowers will last for several weeks or a month, depending on the weather, in late spring. These tall varieties will die back to the ground once they are done flowering, making way for summer shade lovers such as hostas or astilbe. Dwarf varieties are much smaller, some topping out at only 6 inches tall. While their flowers are less conspicuous, they tend to flower for longer periods than their Old Fashioned cousins, and do not die back to the ground until frost. Dicentra like cooler, moist situations and benefit from a good mulching to help protect their roots from dying out. Just be certain to clear the mulch back in spring so they can get an early start!

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In the Garden in April

Hyacinth buds swell with promise

April and spring are finally here!

It’s been a brutal winter, but things are finally starting to warm up. We’re ready and eager to get our hands in the dirt this year and we have some fantastic new things underway at Olsen’s to share with you.

Now is a great time to make sure all of your tools are in good repair. Sharpen your pruners if you didn’t at the end of autumn, check your rakes for splintered tines and hoses for holes or cracks from winter freezes.

April is time for spring clean up. Rake up any remaining leaves from last year, and compost or bag them up. Cut down any of last year’s remaining perennials and give the crown of the plant a good top dressing of compost or a slow release fertilizer to get them going right first thing. Or, if you would like, now is a good time to dig up and divide any perennials that have gotten over grown in the last couple of years. Many perennials can be dug up and split down the middle simple, with a spade or garden saw. Replant one half in the original location and find a new spot for the division. Dividing perennials is a great way to increase your planting area and expand your favorite flowers to new spots in your garden! Don’t forget to mix some compost and slow release fertilizers in to the holes to get the new plants out to a good start.

Camellia ‘Arctic Dawn’

Now is also a good time to do any pruning of broken branches that may have been caused by winter’s less than gentle ministrations. Remove broken branches on evergreens and deciduous trees and shrubs. Don’t prune back early flowering plants like Azaleas and Rhododendrons though, unless completely necessary; they have already set their buds for this year, and pruning these plants now will run the risk of losing all of your lovely flowers! April or May is a good time to fertilize your trees and shrubs- stick with an all purpose slow release fertilizer, like Osmocote or Plant Tone, or, if you have acid loving plants (like azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and pines) give them a good dose of Hollytone to keep their foliage nice and green through the growing season.

It’s rainy here on Long Island in the spring, and unless we have an unexpected early drought, you don’t have to worry about watering too much. Wait to turn on your sprinklers and let nature do its job for now to conserve water when possible.

Pieris ‘Passion’

Grass seed, fertilizer and lime can all be put down now. If you aren’t sure what you need, a simple soil test can be done to check the nutrient levels and the pH of your soil. A cup of soil from a few inches beneath the surface is all we need to help you decide if you need to lime again this year, or if you can skip a year if your pH is already in a good zone. While we like autumn best for grass seeding, spring is second best. Especially if you have patchy spots on your lawn, a light over seeding might benefit you and help reduce summer weeds. Crab grass preventer is also useful this time of year, though because most work by preventing the germination of seeds, you cannot put down grass seeds and crab grass preventer at the same time!

It’s not too early to think about your vegetables either! You can still be starting things like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and beans inside, and it’s still a couple weeks until things like cucumbers, zucchini and melons can be started inside! You can move any brassica starts (broccoli, cauliflower, brussle sprouts, etc) out in to the garden in the next week or two. Keep an eye on the weather and when the nights look like they are staying above freezing, it’s time for those! Before April is over, you’ll also be able to directly sow radishes, lettuce, spinach, peas, beets, carrots, parsnips and kale out directly in your garden! If you haven’t done so already, make sure you clean up last year’s plant debris from the vegetable garden. If it was free of disease, it can be composted. Otherwise, bag it up and get it out. Add composted or dehydrated manure to your planting beds before planting your new vegetables out and give everything a day or two to settle before moving your new plants in.

Orange pansies really pop this time of year!

While it is too cold yet for our hot weather annuals, there are still some ways to spruce up your yard. Already blooming daffodils, tulips and hyacinth are great bulbs that will come back for you next year too! But our favorite cool weather annuals for offering a real pop of colour are pansies. These cold hardy pansies will bloom well until the weather turns hot, so they offer at least two months of ready interest before the summer season really kicks off. They are available in purples, white, blues, yellow, orange and red, in flats or in lovely pre-planted arrangements.

To help you get off on the right foot, we have a great coupon for our internet customers. For the month of April, purchase any acid loving tree or shrub, and get a 20lb bag of Hollytone FREE. What can you use Hollytone on? Not everything. Some things really do NOT like acidic soils, like arborvitae, redbuds, and crab apples. What loves acid though? Some of the shrub options include azaleas (we have Bloom-a-thon and Encore azaleas in stock), rhododendrons, andromeda (you should see the variety ‘Passion’, it’s amazing), mountain laurels, camellias (limited numbers available), blueberries, hollies, junipers, and hydrangeas (if you want them to be blue). Tree choices include dogwoods, pines, juniper, cedar, hinoki cypress, birch and beech. A 20lb bag will handle a lot of plants, not just what you choose this season. Keep Hollytone dry and it will keep for several years- although if you have a lot of these in your yard already, you won’t need to worry! You’ll use it up and your (acid loving) plants will reward you for it.

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April Highlight – Helleborus

Although they are known by the common name of Lenten Rose, Helleborus are in no way related to those summer flowering blossoms. That being said, for an early spring landscape, devoid of colour, a Helleborus is the perfect spring-time panacea to seasonal doldrums.

Known as Lenten Roses because they frequently begin blooming some time during the season of Lent, Helleborus are one of the earliest blooming perennials on Long Island. Under planted and under utilized, they are hardy, disease resistant, and tolerate a wide range of soil and sun situations. These evergreen perennials will give you flowers usually from mid-March through early May, essentially until the weather starts to grow hot.

In a perfect world, a Helleborus will be growing in an area of moist, partial shade. But they also tolerate a sunny local, given protection from drought and drying winds. Or they can tolerate a little bit of drought, provided they receive shade during the hottest part of the day. You will know if your Helleborus is receiving either too much sun, or not enough water, because their glossy, evergreen leaves will start to burn around the edges. A particularly bad winter (like this last one) can also cause some browning. Old or burned leaves can be removed to improve the beauty of the plant in late winter, though be careful not to remove the rising flower buds at this time.

Helleborus are excellent in a mixed shade garden, where they offer flowers at a time when no one else is yet awakening, and low, evergreen foliage the rest of the season. Try planting with small hostas, primrose, ferns and even dwarf Japanese hollies or a ’Cavatine’ dwarf andromeda for a full season garden bed in a tough shade location. Long lived and easy to care for, Helleborus are a perfect addition to any garden.

Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’ and froggy friend.



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Marching on…

Internet special coupons for our e-mail, internet and facebook customers! We’re gearing up for spring, don’t let the cold weather fool you!April marks the beginning of when you can put down lawn fertilizer here on Long Island.

So now is the time to figure out your game plan and get your supplies in order. But with the dizzying array of products to choose from, where to start? What kind of seeds? Do we need Lime or Gypsum? Regular or Organic Fertilizer? “Wait, did we have grubs last year honey? What do we do about those?”

Olsen’s does free soil testing, so bring down a sample (a cup or so of soil from a few inches deep beneath the grass should do it) and we can tell you the pH and fertility of your lawn and make suggestions on the best course of action.

Know that your lawn really needs a kick in the pants and want an easy, ready to go solution? Scotts 4-Step program is here and ready for you. With each step taking place a different time of year, each one is formulated for the struggles of the different seasons. You can buy it all season, as you need each step….. or you can purchase the entire program and know that you are ready to go when it’s time for the next step. Also, by purchasing the whole program, you can save big bucks. When you purchase the entire 4-Step program, Scotts offers easy mail in rebates.

Olsen’s carries:

4-Step in 5,000 square foot bags – $79.99 with a $20 mail-in rebate

4-Step for Seeding in 5,000 square foot bags – $94.99 with a $30 mail-in rebate

4-Step for Seeding in 15,000 square foot bags – $199.99 with a $50 mail-in rebate

4-Step for Seeding in 15,000 square foot bags – $249.99 with a $75 mail-in rebate

Besides the great savings with purchase of the whole program, we’re doing one better. Attached is a coupon for a FREE propane (20lb) refill (regularly $18) with the purchase of the 15,000 sq.ft. 4-Step program. Don’t need the large sized 4-Step? We’re still offering a $10 off your propane fill! Print out the coupon and come on down so we can help you get ready for spring!

Coupon no longer available. Sorry! Look for our next one!

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Seed Starting Basics

Here on Long Island, our average last frost date is May 15th. Although, at the beginning of February, that may seem an awful long way away, in terms of thinking about our spring vegetables, it’s really right around the corner.

Many vegetables can be sown directly outside once things are warm enough. Lettuce, radishes and snow peas are some of the earliest vegetables that can go in to the ground, some as early as mid-march, depending on the variety.

But some seeds have to be started indoors with enough lead time so that they are strong and healthy when they are ready to go outside. Below is a quick glance at what is needed to start seeds indoors:

-Seed starting soil – this is a light, soft soil, ideal for tiny rootlets to get started in. Regular potting soil can be heavy, and hold on the too much water, letting seeds rot instead of germinating.

-A tray or pots

-Bright light. Unless you have an excellent south facing window, you will need supplemental light to help your seeds grow well. Late winter sunlight is not sufficient and seeds grown only using that will often be leggy and weak, not surviving the transplanting process.

-Seeds. But what kind of seeds?

Some seeds to consider starting indoors, based on how long before that May 15th frost date are:

- Between February 15th and March 1st (10-12 weeks before last average frost date)

  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Parsley
  • Cabbage

-Between March 15th and April 1st (6-8 weeks before last average frost date)

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers (Hot or Sweet)
  • Swiss Chard
  • Lettuce

-Between April 15th and May 1st (2-4 weeks before last average frost date)

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer Squash

-Around May 15th (our last average frost)

  • Melons
  • Okra
  • Winter Squash

Different plants take longer to get started than others, and some go in to the ground earlier (parsley, broccoli, and cabbage can be transplanted outdoors as early as 4-6 weeks before out last frost date, while tomatoes, peppers and eggplants should wait until all danger of frost is past at around Mother’s Day), so planning your seed starting is important. If it’s May 1st, it’s probably too late to start tomato seeds, but still plenty of time for some of the others!

But what about carrots, beets and the others? When do you sow them inside?

You don’t have too. The root vegetables in particular do best when directly sown outside, so that you are not disturbing their roots by transplanting them. Always default to the dates you see on the seed packet, but some of the seeds you can plant directly outdoors are:

  • Carrots (2 weeks before last frost date)
  • Beets (2 weeks before last frost date)
  • Peas (2-4 weeks before last frost date)
  • Radishes (2 weeks before last frost date)
  • Green Onions (2 weeks before last frost date)
  • Spinach (2-4 weeks before last frost date)
  • Corn (1 week after last frost date)
  • Beans (3-4 weeks after last frost date)

And some of the seeds that you can start indoors to get a head start on can also be sown directly outside once the soil is warm enough.

  • Lettuce (2-4 weeks before last frost date)
  • Swiss Chard (2 -4weeks before last frost date)
  • Summer Squash (1-2 weeks after last frost date)
  • Cucumbers (1-2 weeks after last frost date)
  • Basil (2 weeks after last frost date)

Seed starting is a rewarding and money saving option to buying pre-grown vegetable starts in May. It is also better for certain vegetables (like carrots especially) than trying to transplant them. You don’t have to do everything you like to grow, but give one a chance this year. We bet you’ll love it!


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What’s In Bloom? August

Have a gap in your summer flowering garden? Here are some great plants that are blooming for you now to get you the most colour in the landscape.

Black-Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susan ‘Autumn Colors’


Echinacea ‘Double Pink Delight’

Tall Garden Phlox

Phlox ‘Bright Eye’


Coreopsis ‘Early Sunrise’

Reblooming Daylilies

Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’oro’


Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’

Hardy Hibiscus


Hibiscus ‘Lord Baltimore’


Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush ‘Royal Red’

Chaste Tree


Crepe Myrtles


Crepe Myrtle ‘Hopi’


Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon ‘Rose Satin’

Landscape and Knock-Out Roses

Double Pink Knock Out Rose

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August Turf Tips

Short, frequent waterings is common for people with automatic irrigation systems for their lawns. But those short, daily showers can actually be a detriment to a healthy lawn. Short, frequent waterings encourage shallow roots, which makes your lawn more prone to burning in the heat of the afternoon. Unless you have new sod, watering every day is not necessary. Every three days for 30-40 minutes (depending on your soil) is better than every day for 15-20 minutes. Water from the sprinkler system should be soaking in to a depth of at least six inches, and ideally the lawn should only be watered when the top inch or two of soil is actually dry. Besides encouraging deeper roots, this will also help prevent fungal diseases that are so common on our lawns on Long Island.

Raise your mowing height for your lawn mower. Grass doesn’t like being an inch or two tall; it exposes the crowns and overheats the upper roots, making burn out more likely. Keep your grass lush this time of year by setting the mower height to around three inches instead.

Seeing dead spots on your lawn? They could be damage from feeding grubs or fungal disease, both very common in August. Bring a picture and a sample in to the nursery and we can help ID the problem and steer you in the right direction for treatment.

August is not a good time to seed your lawn. Wait until the weather cools down a little in early to mid September. Grass naturally go to seed in August, and their seeds are hardwired to germinate best with warm days, but when the nights are starting to cool down. So wait to seed your lawn just a little longer for much better results.

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In the Garden in August

Echinacea ‘Milkshake’

Everyone’s trying to beat the heat…. especially your plants! Irrigation is a top priority when the weather gets unbearable, so keep yourself and your garden in mind when it comes to water. August on Long Island is frequently low on rain, but high on humidity. Make sure that your plants are being watered at the base at the root zone, rather than all over the top of their leaves. This hot, muggy month is a prime time for fungal infections like black spot on roses, botrytis flower rot on annuals, and powdery mildew on EVERYTHING. Consistently wet environments favor fungal spores to grow and reproduce. You can help mitigate this by keeping the flowers and foliage of your plants dry when you water. Have an automatic watering system? Check to make sure it is running for longer, less frequently. Instead of watering every day for fifteen minutes, try watering every other or every third day for 25-30. Deep, less frequent watering that reaches at least six inches down in to the soil, is the key to a healthy root zone for most plants and allows them to dry out properly between waterings. Watering first thing in the morning is best, but early evening is okay too. Avoid watering mid day, because so much of your efforts will be wasted as the heat of the day evaporates the water more quickly.

Annual beds and baskets may look a little sad as August wears on. Give them a boost with a liquid fertilizer to get them in full swing again. Remember that hanging baskets dry out more quickly than plantings in the ground and water accordingly.

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’

Repeat blooming shrubs and perennials, like roses and gaillardia, benefit from a dose of a slow release fertilizer now to keep them looking their best for the rest of the summer. Keep using a fungicide or a 3-in-1 rose spray on your roses if you’ve had blackspot or powdery mildew so far this season- the typical August weather here on Long Island will just make it worse if it isn’t kept under control. Remember that already effected foliage will not heal or go back to ‘normal’. What the spray will do is keep the disease from spreading to the new, healthy foliage that should be sprouting now.

Holes or spots on your leaves? Holes could be caused by caterpillars or Japanese beetles, and fungal diseases are common this time of year. Bring in a cutting and/or a photo of the diseased part of your plant to help us ID the problem.

Your vegetable harvest should be in full swing now with early season tomatoes and even some mid season varieties ripening on the vine.  Hot peppers, Cucumbers and zucchini may be filling your garden beds, while eggplants and sweet peppers are just getting good looking. Continue regular, moderate watering, especially for tomatoes, to avoid issues like cracking. Blossom end rot, where the bottom of the tomato rots out before the fruit is completely ripe, may start to show up this time of year. Blossom end rot is caused by inconsistent moisture in the soil (poor watering habits), wide temperature fluctuations, or a lack of calcium in the soil. Adding lime or bonemeal to the soil at planting time can help prevent the last issue. If you have mid to late fruiting tomato varieties, it’s not too late to scratch some bone meal in to give them a boost, but early fruiting varieties are unlikely to benefit if they are already showing signs of blossom end rot. Cucurbit crops (those cucumbers, zucchini and winter squash) may be showing signs of powdery mildew- a white coating on the leaves. This is common. Make sure there is good air circulation and proper watering, i.e. at the base of the plant and not on the leaves as much as possible. Chemical and natural sprays are available, which could increase the life span of these crops and ensure a slightly longer harvest period than if they went untreated. Early August is not too late to direct seed cole crops like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in to the garden for a mid autumn harvest. You can also still direct sow beets and carrots for a fall crop. Mid to Late August is a great time to start more lettuce, spinach, kale, radishes and even sugar and snap peas for autumn as well. Add some compost and some slow release, organic fertilizer to get these fall crops started out right.

Print out the coupon below to receive a BBQ propane tank refill for only $12.99! Must have the coupon to receive the discount. This is a great time to get ready for late summer and early autumn cook outs, so don’t wait! This great deal is only good through the end of August.

Coupon no longer available. Sorry! Look for our next one!


Posted in Annuals, Coupon, Diseases, Fertilizers, Long Island, Perennials, Pests, Summer | Comments Off

In the Garden in July

Gardening Tips for July

Semi-climbing Rose ‘Graham Thomas’

Regular watering this time of year is essential, especially for new plantings. Containers and hanging baskets in particular dry out quickly, and need to be paid attention to in order to keep them looking nice for the whole summer. Remember that deep, thorough watering is more helpful than shallow and shallow. Plantings that dry out too quickly can still be mulched to help conserve soil moisture on the hot days ahead.

Summer blooming annuals are in full force now, provided there are no troubles. Common issues that may be inhibited the flowering of these plants are incorrect placement (plants that prefer shade planted in sun for instance) and watering problems (either too little or too much). Some annuals do not need to have the spent flowers removed to keep blooming, but some will bloom best if occasional deadheading is done (classic petunias are a good example). If your annuals are looking tatty by the middle of the month, try removing the spent flower heads and giving a dose of fertilizer to perk them up.

Warm season vegetable should be producing and it’s really too late to plant more. But you should be seeing cucumbers, eggplants and the early tomatoes ready to give up their bounty! July is a great time to start your fall vegetables too. You can direct seed carrots, beets, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages now for a fall harvest!

Posted in Horticulture 101, Long Island, Summer | Comments Off