June Plant of the Month

Twist n Shout Hydrangea

Latin Name: Hydrangea macrophylla ‘P11HM-1’

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Hydrangeaceae

Zone: 4 to 9

Height: 3 to 4 feet

Spread: 4 to 5 feet

Bloom Time: May to September

Bloom Description: Deep rose (alkaline soil) to violet blue (acidic soil)

Sun: Part shade

Water: Medium

Culture:

Tolerates full sun only if grown in consistently moist soils.  Soil pH affects the flower color.  Add aluminum sulfate to the soil to make the flowers bluer or add lime to the soil to make the flowers pinker.  Begin soil treatments well in advance of flowering, as in late fall or early spring.  Plants generally need little pruning, but if needed, prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a pair of healthy buds.

Characteristics:

 

A hydrangea that blooms from late spring to fall.  Large flower clusters make for a showy plant, and flower color can be controlled by soil pH.

What to Consider Before Building a Pool

The preparation phase is the most important part of building a pool.  A landscape designer or pool contractor can walk you through the design process, but it helps to have a general idea of what you want.  Here are some things to consider before you decide to build a pool.

First, you need to ask what is the purpose for the pool?  A pool intended for backyard entertaining could look a lot different than one meant for fitness swimming.  If the pool is meant more for backyard entertaining, who is using the pool comes into play.  Shallow areas may be included for younger kids, extra grab rails for more elderly people, tanning ledges for sun worshippers, and deep areas for activities such as diving.

Another thing to consider is if your yard is suitable for a pool.  Different soil conditions and other ground factors can present unique building concerns.  Also, a high-water table can significantly increase the construction costs of a pool.  Sometimes a site also won’t work because of inaccessibility issues.  Heavy machinery generally needs an eight-foot-wide path to get to the site and dig hole for the pool.

The location of the pool is another big aspect to consider.  Zoning and building laws for your property may affect the layout and size of where your pool can go.  Many cities require fencing around a pool, and water runoff must also be considered.  Utilities such as gas and electric may also affect a pool’s location.  Maximizing sun while minimizing wind exposure is another factor to think about when choosing the location.  Something else to be considered is how the pool will be viewed from the rest of the house when it is not in use.  Many factors will go into the decision of where the pool should be located.

Specific features and other backyard amenities should be considered before you build a pool.  Lighting and type of cover are some things that need to be thought of.  Also, plan so that you may add to your ideal poolscape.  If the budget doesn’t allow for things like a pool house, outdoor kitchen, firepit, or gazebo, they can be added later without tearing up a good chunk of your existing poolscape.

Also, you can start to look at what materials you want to use.  Pavers versus concrete around the pool deck is a common decision that must be made, which can come down to the look versus the cost.

Finally, you must figure out who will build the pool.  Find a pool builder who is committed to superior design and quality construction.  Ask for referrals from friends that have pools you like.  Also, make sure there are open lines of communication to eliminate any “surprises” during the building process and that everything goes smoothly.  After all, this is going to be your pool for you and your family and friends to enjoy for years to come!

June Recipe of the Month

Hawaiian Chicken Skewers

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
  • 2 cups cubed pineapple
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • White rice for serving
  • 2 tsp. cilantro

Directions:

  1. Preheat grill to medium heat.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together barbecue sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, ginger and honey until completely combined. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
  3. Build skewers by alternating chicken, pineapple, peppers, and red onion. Place on a baking sheet and pour over half your marinade.
  4. Place skewers on preheated grill, and brush with reserved marinade. Cook five minutes and flip, brushing the other side with marinade as well.
  5. Cook five more minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve with white rice and a sprinkle of cilantro

 

Courtesy delish.com

May Plant of the Month

Dwarf Korean Lilac Tree

Latin Name:  Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’

Type: Deciduous shrub/tree

Family: Oleaceae

Zone: 3 to 7

Height: 5 to 7 feet

Spread: 5 to 7 feet

Bloom Time: April to May

Bloom Description: Pale Pink

Sun: Full sun

Water: Dry to medium

Culture:

Grown easily in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun.  Tolerates light shade but best bloom is in full sun.  Prompt removal of faded flower panicles before seed set will increase the bloom in the following year.  Prune as needed immediately after flowering.

Characteristics:

A small tree that has a dense, rounded crown.  Pale pink, sweetly-fragrant flowers are arranged in dense, terminal clusters cover this tree with a profuse bloom.  Great for cut flowers.

Choosing the Right Trees for Your Yard

The choice of what trees you want in your yard can be wonderful or can lead to regret.  Many trees grow more and more beautiful as the years pass, while others can create decades of trouble with bothersome messy fruit and sticks.  Take your time to select the tree that will best suit the qualities that you will enjoy.

To begin your selection process, you must first determine its purpose.  Do I want a tree for shade? Privacy? Something that looks pretty? Or to block a view of something unsightly?  All these questions need to be asked so that you can start to narrow down your search.

A tree’s growth rate may also have an impact on your choice.  Slower growing trees tend to live longer.  However, if you want to establish shade or have flowers relatively quickly, a faster growing tree may be better.  The tend to be slightly smaller and don’t live as long.  Trees should also be scaled to their surroundings.  Larger, taller trees should be put further out in the yard while smaller trees can stay near the house.

There are coniferous trees and deciduous trees (needles vs. leaves).  Remember that deciduous trees lose their leaves in the winter.  So, if you are planting a tree for privacy or to block the view of something, you will be able to see through deciduous trees in the winter months.

Each tree has a desirable location in the landscape.  Some handle wet soils better than others.  Some will handle acidic soils better than alkaline soils.  Also remember to check a tree’s Zone rating for hardiness, as some are more cold-hardy than others.

Trees also have their own liabilities.  Some trees have thorns on them that may make them unsuitable for children.  Some are messy, by dropping flowers, fruit, and branches throughout the year that must be constantly picked up.  Certain trees have roots that tend to grow along the surface, making it difficult to mow as well as other challenges.

You should be able to find the prefect tree to serve whatever purpose you are looking for.  Different cultivars may offer varied sizes or flower colors to perfectly suit what you desire.  There are a lot of choices to consider when picking out a tree for your yard.  There are professionals that can offer advice as well, but with a little homework, you can pick out any tree for your yard that you can be sure will thrive and that you can enjoy for many years to come.

May Recipe of the Month

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Sriracha Slaw

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 3 limes, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ head red cabbage, shredded
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha
  • 4 medium tortillas

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix together olive oil, cilantro, and 1/3 of the lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add shrimp to a baking dish and pour over mixture. Toss until completely coated and let marinate 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make slaw: In a large bowl, toss cabbage with mayo, remaining lime juice and sriracha.  Season with salt.
  4. Heat grill to high. Skewer shrimp and grill until charred, 3 minutes per side.
  5. Grill tortillas until charred, 1 minute per side.
  6. Serve shrimp in tortillas with slaw.

 

Courtesy delish .com

April Plant of the Month

Dark Horse Weigela

Common Name: Weigela ‘Dark Horse’

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Caprifoliaceae

Zone: 4 to 8

Height: 2 to 3 feet

Spread: 2 to 3 feet

Bloom Time: April to June

Bloom Description: Pink

Sun: Full sun

Water: Medium

 

Culture:

Grown well in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun.  Well tolerate light shade, but needs full sun for best flowering and foliage color.  Prune to shape immediately after flowering.

Characteristics:

A dense, rounded, deciduous shrub that features profuse, funnel shaped, pink flowers that appear singly or in clusters along the branches of the previous year’s growth in the mid to late spring, with sparse and scattered repeat bloom often occurring on new growth as the summer progresses.  Dark purple leaves retain good color throughout the growing season.  Attracts hummingbirds.

How to Prepare Your Yard for Spring

When it comes to preparing your yard for spring, there are a few things you should do to ensure that healthy looking lawn will come back.  If you neglect spring lawn care, it could affect your lawn for the rest of the year.

First, the biggest task is to rake your yard.  This is to remove all the thatch that can choke out new grass.  Thatch build up that is more than ½ inch is considered excessive.  Also, raking in spring will remove all the dead grass blades that died over the winter, which will become thatch.  There may also be some spots that look like matted patches.  New grass may have a tough time penetrating these areas, but raking will take care of this as well.

Next, you will want to fertilize and apply pre-emergent herbicides.  Many experts recommend a lighter fertilizing in spring and a heavier one in fall, which benefits “cool-season grasses” better.  If you fertilized in fall, there’s a chance your lawn is still “digesting” that when spring rolls around.  Pre-emergent herbicides should go hand in hand with fertilizing.  These herbicides address weeds, such as crabgrass, before the seedlings emerge.  It’s a lot easier to prevent weeds before they start than it is to try to kill them once they’ve started taking over.

Another thing you can do to help your lawn is overseed.  Sometimes your lawn will have some bare spots, whether it be from a dog or traffic, where grass seed is needed to fill those areas.  When you overseed, you should apply a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer.  Five weeks after the grass germinates, apply a quick-release nitrogen fertilizer.  However, if you decide to overseed in spring, be careful.  Most pre-emergent herbicides with also prevent grass seed from growing.  And if you don’t put down a pre-emergent herbicide, the grass seed will have a tough time competing with crabgrass.  Overseeding can be done in spring but will most likely be more effective in fall.

This may seem like a lot of work to some people, but the green grass that you will enjoy for the rest of the season will be worth it.

April Recipe of the Month

Smokey Grilled Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, finely chopped
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 lime
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 lb. chicken wings (about 36) split
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 4 ears fresh corn, halved

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium-low. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, vinegar, sugar, Worcestershire, and chipotle.
  2. Place the sour cream in a bowl. Finely grate the zest of the lime on top, then squeeze in juice (about 2 tablespoons). Add cilantro and feta and mix to combine; set aside.
  3. In large bowl, toss the wings with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Brush the remaining tablespoon oil on the corn.
  4. Grill the chicken wings, covered, turning occasionally for 12 minutes.
  5. Place the corn on the grill. Grill the wings and corn, basting the wings with some of the sauce and turning the corn occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and the corn is slightly charred, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve the corn with the wings, any remaining chipotle sauce and sour cream sauce, for dipping.

 

Courtesy delish.com

March Plant/Shrub of the Month

Amber Jubilee Ninebark

Latin Name:  Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’

Type: Deciduous shrub

Family: Rosaceae

Zone: 2 to 8

Height: 5 to 6feet

Spread: 3 to 4 feet

Bloom Time: May to June

Bloom Description: Pink or white

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Dry to medium

Culture:

Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, although easily grown in moist, well drained soils in full sun.  Prune as needed immediately after bloom and no later than mid-August.  Plants may be cut close to the ground in winter to rejuvenate.

Characteristics:

Noted for its exfoliating bark that peels in strips to reveal several layers off reddish to light brown inner bark, which provides winter interest but is usually hidden by the foliage during the growing season.  Features small pink or white flowers that appear in 1-2” diameter clusters in late spring.  Flowers give way to drooping clusters of reddish fruit.  Leaves up to 4” long are dull green in summer that change to yellow and orange shades in fall.