Monday, April 22, 2013


Rocks are the easiest sculptural elements to incorporate into a garden, creating natural-looking landscapes. They add color, contrast, interest, and require no maintenance.

When strategically placed they will keep vehicles from driving over driveway edges and harming plants or grass located in areas susceptible to damage. Large boulders can be incorporated into the landscape providing a great deal of aesthetic appeal.
Two Ton Rock Placed As Outcropping
Now is the perfect time to design and place landscape boulders. Arrange around plants to determine where they will fit best. They come in all sizes and colors, from giant Stonehenge-type slabs to tiny pebbles the size of peas in colors including brown, tan, red, pink, blue, green, white, black and gray.

The big concern with rocks is their weight. You will need equipment and assistance to transport and place them. Positioning is very important; everyone involved must be extremely patient and willing to take as much time as necessary. Sculptural boulder elements can be expensive to buy, transport and place, limiting your use of them in the landscape.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when adding boulders, rocks or smaller stones to your property.

• In nature, rocks repeat naturally. If you have only one rock outcropping in your yard, add more to create a theme. Vary sizes and spread them throughout garden beds. Use two to three per bed at most, arranged in random patterns simulating nature.
• Allow large specimens to complement nearby plants. Smooth flat rocks are natural seats.
• Measure the area where they're going so you know what size to look for. Quarries and stone yards often let you choose your own.
• Select landscape stone as carefully as your plants. Check size, color, texture and shape. Be innovative in utilizing specimens. Stagger largest ones for partial screening and a dramatic effect. Install in the soil as steps, using large flat slabs horizontally arranged on slopes.
• Smaller rocks can be used for low retaining walls creating charming additions and a manicured look to rustic, natural gardens. Flat rocks, up to a foot or so wide, can be stacked without mortar for low walls.
Sitting Walls
• Rockscaping enhances water features like small ponds. Create waterfalls in natural or artificial streams or ponds.

• Imply a riverbed and establish an effective, ornamental drainage swale. Cover soil surface of a meandering U-shaped or V- shaped depression with consistent aggregate material like rounded river gravel. Vary rock sizes for a natural stream design.
Drainage Swale
Consider these books,, for working with landscape stone:
“Listening to Stone: Hardy Structures, Perilous Follies and other Tangles with Nature,” by Dan Snow (Artisan, 2008)
“In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall,” by Dan Snow (Artisan, 2001)

Search the Internet for other books on using stone in the landscape.

©2013 Joel M. Lerner
For more helpful tips follow me on Facebook
Editor, Sandra Leavitt Lerner

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Spring Gardening

With spring finally upon us, many plants are rapidly growing.

If perennials browned and died back last fall and weren’t cut, do it now. Examples are liatris, verbenas and black-eyed Susans. Clip liriope and perennial ornamental grasses. Use shears, string trimmers, or a mower on its highest setting.

Some winter or early spring flowering perennials like leatherleaf sedges (Carex buchcananii) and evergreen sedges (C. pendula) shouldn’t be cut back. They can be slow to renew or not renew at all. Don’t prune dianthus or winter-blooming hellebores, except browned leaves.

After daffodil and tulip flowers fade, cut stems that held flowers (scapes) to the base. Leave daffodils in the ground. Minor bulbs like crocus, hyacinthoides and scilla will season without cutting. Tulips are best dug as the foliage yellows. Lay bulbs in the sun to dry for about two weeks, protected by chicken wire cages if wildlife is a problem. When bulbs dry, knock off soil, separate bulbs, place in porous bag with vermiculite to keep them firm and store in cool dry location until you replant in November.
Prune forsythia, floweringquince and winter jasmine after blooming. Cut forsythia in half or to a height where it won’t require pruning again until after blooming next year. Flower buds will form on this year’s new growth. Floweringquince doesn’t need pruning if it flowered well this year. When more wood than flowers show, cut back to 18”. Winter jasmine only needs pruning when it’s overtaking an area and is growing where you don’t want it. It can be cut to 12” after flowering. Only renew overgrown plants that have lost ornamental value.
Incorporate organic material into root zones of plants. It helps tree roots retain moisture and increases ability for soil to hold nutrients. Lay fine textured compost or Leafgro 1-2” thick around root systems at tree base. It’s the perfect complement to fertilizer. Don’t pile against bark.

Insects are waking up and disease-causing organisms that were dormant during winter are emerging. Spray dormant-oil insecticide or fungicide. Spraying now will insure the least negative impact on the environment by reducing necessity for additional spraying during growing season. If you don’t want to use a petroleum-based product, mix 1-cup vegetable oil with 2 tablespoons liquid soap (not dishwasher detergent). Slowly add one gallon of water to create your spray. Use a sprayer that never contained insecticide or weed killer to apply. Only use dormant-oil on plants when it is the recommended method of pest control.

Utilize low, inexpensive fencing around areas where rabbits munch. Eighteen to 24” is tall enough. As leaves mature, rabbits stop eating foliage. Mothballs, dried blood, castor oil, and cayenne pepper have limited success and need to be re-applied frequently.

Try protecting plants from deer with fences, walls, chain-link or deer fence. The latter is rigid black plastic mesh 8’ tall that can be snaked around trees, through woods, and be self-supporting. Other popular remedies include motion-sensor activated water sprays, lights, sound, soap, hair and animal-based products using egg mixtures. Check with your local garden center for deer-resistant plants and the Cooperative Extension Service,

©2013 Joel M. Lerner
For more helpful tips follow me on Facebook
Editor, Sandra Leavitt Lerner