Archives for June 2016

Be Mosquito Free, Naturally!

Mosquito season is upon us! No one likes these pesky bugs and the itchy bites they give, but bug spray can contain toxins and other undesirable ingredients and doesn’t always work. Why not prevent mosquitoes with all natural products that you can grow at home yourself? An easy trick to remember is that bugs hate strong scents, so choose plants that have an intense scent when crushed. Here are several herbs and plants that repel mosquitoes and other unwanted bugs, as well as some organic repellents.

Herbs:

Lemon Balm – Lemon Balm contains high levels of the compound citronellal, which is what gives it that Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)lemony scent and flavor that bugs find so distasteful. To use, you can plant it near any outdoor area where you spend a lot of time or pick a few leaves, crush and rub them onto your skin to repel mosquitoes. This herb is related to mint and has the same fuzzy leaves and spreading habit, so unless you want a yard full of Lemon Balm, it is a good idea to keep it confined in a pot!

Catnip – While cats may love Catnip, mosquitoes don’t! Studies suggest that Catnip may be even more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, which is the highly toxic active ingredient in most commercial bug sprays. It can be used similarly to Lemon Balm: crush a few leaves and rub them on your skin. If you have cats, don’t be surprised if you find them rolling around and playing with it!

Basil – Basil is one of the few herbs that give off a scent without its leaves being crushed. The strong scent will help repel mosquitoes from your yard, but to fully take advantage of Basil’s repellant properties, you’ll want to crush the leaves and rub the oil onto your skin.

rosemaryRosemary – An herb beloved by Italian cooks, Rosemary has a distinctive odor that permeates the air when its leaves are crushed. This plant can work double duty as a mosquito repellant and an ingredient in your summer recipes! Rosemary can grow to be a fairly large shrub, but can be pruned back without worrying about stunting its growth.

Plants:

Geranium rozanne in full bloom

Citronella Scented Geranium – Many bug repelling candles, lotions, and sprays contain Citronella. This cheerful plant has a strong, distinctive odor and repels mosquitoes by masking the scents that the bugs are naturally attracted to, which makes it difficult for them to locate prey. The oil is primarily what deters bugs, so rubbing a few leaves on your skin will keep you bug free.

Garlic – While it is something most people are more inclined to use in a recipe than as bug spray, Garlic does have mosquito repellant properties. The strong odor of the oil hides any other scents that may attract the pests. To use, you can either sprinkle cut garlic around any outdoor spaces you wish to have mosquito-free or mix it with other aromatic oils to make an all-natural body spray.

marigoldsMarigolds – You may have known that these lovely orange flowers keep slugs away, but did you know they also deter mosquitoes? Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents. Potted marigolds can be positioned near entrances to your home and any common mosquito entry points, such as open windows. The smell may deter mosquitoes from going past this barrier.

Lavender – Have you ever noticed that insects or even rabbits and other animals have never decimated your lavender plant? It is because of their lovely fragrance, which comes from its essential oils that are found on the leaves of the plant. It is even argued that lavender oil hinders a mosquito’s ability to smell!

Other Choices:

Puddles – The best way to get rid of mosquitoes is to eliminate standing water around your home because larvae thrive in still ponds and other wet areas. If you do have areas where puddles tend to form, you can either fill in low areas in the landscaping or use mosquito dunks.

Mosquito Dunks – Made from biological ingredients and lacking the harmful chemicals found in most pesticides, these dunks kill mosquito larvae for the season without harming anything else! Once a month, simply place the dunks wherever water collects around your home; each one treats up to 100 square feet of water, regardless of depth, and can be broken in to smaller pieces as well!

Captain Jack’s – If you haven’t heard of Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew, than you’re missing out! This organic bug spray effectively kills a wide variety of pests and can be used on fruits, veggies, and nuts, as well as ornamental plants. The active ingredient in this spray, Spinosad, is a bacteria discovered near an abandoned rum distillery in the Caribbean and is currently the leading pesticide worldwide in organic agriculture!

Stop by The Family Tree to browse our selection of mosquito repelling plants and products today; our expert employees are always happy to help with suggestions and advice for all your pest problems, be it insect, bird, or animal!

Mulch: Moisture Manager

mulch-much-01

As the days get progressively hotter, your garden might be reacting adversely to the heat. One solution to keep your garden looking perky in 90+ temperatures is to surround the plants with mulch to help retain moisture and keep a bit cooler. Depending what type of mulch you choose, you’ll be able to reap different benefits.

Pine straw – The ubiquitous mulch of Georgia, pine straw does a superb job of inhibiting weed growth because of its acidic pine strawnature. In addition, this mulch can withstand the sun’s heat better than other, darker colored mulches, which keeps your plants happy. Because it’s so light, pine straw does not wash away easily, making it the ideal mulch for sloping flower beds.

Wood mulches – These are excellent choices for mulching; they make wonderful water regulators to keep nutrients in the soil from being washed away. If you’ve had a lot of rain, the mulch soaks up as much as it can to avoid any standing water. The opposite occurs if you have not had rain in a while; the mulch releases the water it’s been holding, allowing your plants to remain cheerful and strong. Black or red mulches are made from long-lasting recycled wood products, such as old crates and the byproducts of lumber mills, and can be found in an array of colors. These two colors are the most popular; the black in particular makes greenery and flower pop!

black-mulch-landscapes1Pine bark nuggets – This mulch is a result of the lumber trade as well; before trees are cut into plants, they are stripped of their bark, which is then shredded (up to three times) to be used as mulch. Depending on the number of shreddings the bark goes through, you can choose from a variety of sizes, which means that you can customize your mulch to the type of garden you have. For example, a smaller shred makes it easier to mulch around tender young plants without injuring them, while larger plants can withstand a larger shred size. In addition to its many size options, pine bark nuggets are slow to decompose, which makes them last a long time; however, when it does break down, the mulch enriches the soil with organic nutrients that plants love. Thus, not only do you get a beautiful, long-lasting mulch, but also a natural fertilizer!

Ultimately, mulching your garden will add that final, professional touch you’ve been hoping for, with the added benefit of moisture retention! A beautiful, neatly edged flowerbed with tidy mulch complements and improves any house. The Family Tree is happy to offer professional mulch installation as well as placing custom orders for all your mulching needs!

Installation Services

Sod and Mulch Information

Visual Merchandiser

20160213_142343-1We are looking for a highly creative Visual Merchandiser to join our team! You will be responsible for planning and executing retail displays in our gift and décor department as well as greenhouse displays.  This is a part time job. Compensation based on experience.

Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate with General Manager and Greenhouse Manager to determine display of merchandise
  • Frequently set up and take down marketing displays
  • Create exciting merchandise displays to entice sales and to offer a shopping experience
  • Execute placement of promotional signage and POP information
  • Maintain inventory of supplies and materials
  • Thrive in a fast paced environment that is constantly being updated and reworked according to seasons and shipments
  • Assist with buying, ordering, and pricing of seasonal merchandise

Qualifications:

  • Creative thinker in a fast paced environment
  • 3 to 5 years previous experience in work related retail merchandising
  • General knowledge of garden center industry standards
  • Ability to handle physical workload, must be able to lift up to 40 lbs.
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Ability to organize and prioritize work and meet deadlines
  • Have a working knowledge of Outlook, Excel, and Word. Counterpoint a plus
  • Must be able to multi-task
  • Deadline and detail-oriented

Please send resume to mailto:mbrooks@thefamilytreeinc.com

The 10 “Must-Haves” for your Landscape #8 – Hardscaping

FireplaceThis is the eighth in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape. Pathways, patios, pergolas, potting sheds, – let’s see, what else starts with “P” – purse. Hardscape items can sometimes empty your purse a little, but often projects can be done easily by homeowners.  Even though hardscaping projects require a little money, they do add value to your property and they also add another attractive element to your landscape.

1. Use of Natural Materials

Natural materials such as stone, seem to look better in a landscape. Try to avoid plastic or rubber edging as this can look out of place and your eye is drawn to the edging instead of the plants in the landscape. Also the edging may have started out with straight lines but over time it moves and sometimes can appear uneven.

2. Pathways

AjugaYou can have a lot of fun with pathways.  Check out this simple pathway using a combination of mondo grass and ajuga with stepping stones.  Mulch, or river rock can also be used in between the stepping stones.  Pathways should not only be functional, but they should be another attractive feature in your landscape.  A path leads you somewhere so it should be intriguing – where does the path go, what am I going to find at the end of the path? A simple and very natural pathway can be installed just by using pine bark mini nuggets for the base of the path and edge the path with rocks or stone.  If it is a path in the woods, use firewood as the edging.  This will slowly rot over time, but is a fairly cheap and an easy material to use. Flagstone is a popular choice for more permanent pathways.

4. Patios, Fire Pits, and seating areas

Entertaining has been taken to the outdoors (at least when the weather permits us).  Fire pits are definitely enjoyed in the winter months, but the structure is also enjoyed for the rest of the year.  Fire pits can be as elaborate or simple as your purse will allow.  Fireplaces are very attractive, but don’t tend to give off a lot of heat and it is hard to get a lot of people close to the fireplace.  Fire pits on the other hand can have several people seated around it, keeping everyone warm. Make sure you make the entertaining area big enough to accommodate a lot of people because friends will want to join you! Seating walls make a great addition to a patio so that you can fit in more guests. Entertaining areas will be covered in more depth in blog # 9.

5. Decorative Boulders

BoulderI love to use the odd boulder in landscapes.  Boulders are very natural elements that seem to ground the landscape.  Soften the boulder with grasses or ferns. Use a grouping of boulders as a central focal point, or use several smaller groupings throughout the landscape. By using boulders throughout the landscape, it ties the landscape together. In the photo to the right, the boulders have been used as a backdrop to showcase the yucca.  The boulders look like they have always been part of the landscape.

6. Water Features and Dry Creek Beds

Boulder fountainYou have to have the sound of water somewhere in your landscape. Stand-alone fountains are a great addition as there is no digging required, you just need to find a power outlet. If you have the energy to dig, then a disappearing fountain is the way to go. Boulders make great fountains too! Look at this boulder disappearing fountain. The water just flows over the edge and into a catch basin underneath. See how the boulder has been softened with grasses making it a natural landscape element.

Dry creek beds are not really a water feature, but they are used to direct water flow in areas where drainage is an issue. Dry creek beds are a very attractive addition to a landscape if they are done correctly. Try to use a variety of rock sizes and accent the dry creek bed with varying sizes of boulders to make it look as natural as possible.  My husband and I added a dry creek bed to our landscape.  It took us half a day of digging and another half day to lay the rock.  It was a fairly easy process, just required some muscle.  We have done many projects in our backyard, but this is by far one of our favorites.  We dealt with two issues, water run-off from a drive and grass not growing under large trees, so a dry creek bed and shade garden solved the problem.Dry Creek Bed 4

7. Lighting

Mile-High-Landscaping-flagstone-patio-accent-boulder-steppers-landscape-lighting-naturalistic-plantingDon’t forget about lighting for your landscape. Keep it soft and subdued.  No harsh spotlights.  Lighting can be a bit tricky to get just right so it pays to hire a professional.  I think lighting looks great when you can’t really see the light fixture, but you see the glow, so hide the fixtures behind shrubs and highlight special features of the house or focal points of the landscape.

If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree. We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.
Happy Gardening!
Tracy Davis
Horticulturist/Designer

Be sure to check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!

#1 Foundation Plants
#2 Trees
#3 Screening
#4 A Welcoming Front Entry
#5 Pops of Color
#6 Focal Points
#7 Nooks
#8 Hardscaping
#9 Entertaining Areas
#10 Animal Friends

How To Choose The Perfect Crape Myrtle

tonto-crape-myrtle-1Think of a tree. What would you want that tree to have? Beautiful flowers, great foliage, stunning bark, year round interest? Yes to all? We here in the south love our Crape Myrtles because they have all of that. They love our southern heat and do a great job showing off their bark in the cold months. Every year they offer summer long flowers atop graceful branches. Choosing one (or two) for your yard can be a bit daunting due to the variety of colors and sizes.
Consider size and color. The cool thing is that there is a Crape Myrtle to fit any landscape. If you have plenty of room, say, a big enough space for a 20 to 30 foot tree, consider Natchez (white flowers), Red Rocket (red), or Muskogee (purple flowers)
For spaces that will support a 10-15 foot tree, you can choose Catawba (Purple), Dynamite (deep red), or Tonto (Coral)
For spaces less than 10 feet there is an adorable Crape Myrtle series called Razzle Dazzle. They get about 5 feet tall and come in pink, white, and red.
There are many more to choose from, we can help you pick the perfect tree.crapemyrtle
Crape Myrtles are easy to care for. They love our southern climate and are good at resisting disease and insects. Fertilizer your trees in the spring and fall for optimum growth.
So now we come to pruning. A very polarizing subject for many. Take a look at this blog by our horticulturist Tracy about what she calls “Crape Murder.”
Here is a list of the Crape Myrtles that we have right now. If you don’t see what you are looking for, just ask, we will do our best to find it for you.
Catawba
Natchez
Tuscarora
Muskogee
Red Rocket
Dynamite
Tonto
Pecos
Zani
Watermelon Red
Peppermint Lace
Diamond Dazzle
Delta Moonlight
Black Diamond – Red, Pink, and Purple (This series has gorgeous burgundy foliage)

Summer Watering Tips

You know what I love about plants? They don’t talk back! Personifying plants gives me a sense of well being in that I think my plants love me, love to grow, and are happy to see me come home. Do you feel that way too or am I just crazy?  Even though they love me and never talk back, they still need some tender loving care.  Summer time is a bit of a stressful time for many plants.  You can plant trees, shrubs, and flowers in the summer and, of course, summer is THE time to plant warm season sod. With a few helpful tips on watering, your plants and sod will thrive!

Lawn & Sod – Water Less Often By Watering Deepsprinkler
For freshly planted sod, go ahead and water every day for the first two weeks.  The roots are not established yet and need the added moisture.  When established, if you water your lawn every day, you are encouraging shallow roots. Water fewer days per week and enough for 1 inch deep in the soil.  This will encourage deeper root growth and a healthier lawn. Deep roots can find their own water and nutrient source much easier than shallow roots. On these scorcher days, water more than you think you should! Sprinklers are great for your new and established large area lawn. For smaller areas, go ahead and get a soaker water wand.

Water Early and Avoid Windy Days
Watering early in the day helps reduce the likelihood of fungus growth and sun damage.  Typically it is less windy in the mornings.  Don’t use sprinklers on windy days. It results in uneven watering and over spray gets wasted on sidewalks and pavement.

Shade-GardenShady Areas
Water areas that are in the shade about 30% less than sunny areas. Shade creates a microclimate of cooler temperatures and lower evaporation, so plants need less water.

Outdoor Plant Watering – Water Deep So You Can Water Less Often

Soaker Hose and Hand Watering
Hand water new plants. Use a hose and a water wand or attachment for even water distribution. Hold the hose on each plant to water DEEP and around the drip line. You can even sing your favorite song to ensure you are watering enough. The longer you hold the water on the plant, the more your roots will spread and thrive. Using a soaker hose around your flower beds, vegetable gardens, foundation shrubs, and newly planted plants ensures that the plants will get adequate water and reduced evaporation.

Mulch
Apply a three-inch layer of mulch or compost around plants to reduce evaporation, promote plant growth, and reduce weeds. Keep mulch a few inches away from tree trunks to prevent rot. Again, water less often and deep so that you encourage strong root growth.

gator bagGator Bags®
Gator bags are inner tube-like circles that you fill with water and fit around the trunk of your trees and large shrubs.  It slowly releases water to the roots of your tree.  Gator bags are used by professional landscapers and contractors to ensure that the plants are getting watered correctly.

Soil Moist®
Soil Moist® can be mixed into your soil along with your Soil Conditioner and Planting Mix to reduce the amount of water needed for your plants.  Soil Moist® acts as a water reservoir–even during periods of drought the stored water is released to the plant. Watering in harsh heat & dry conditions is still necessary, but Soil Moist will help.

Hanging Baskets, Container Gardens & Houseplants

Water Thoroughly As Needed
Your summer time hanging baskets, container gardens and houseplants don’t get the opportunity to let their roots grow deep so they need a little more assistance from you.  Each plant is unique, so they all Hanging-Baskethave different watering requirements. Most just enjoy a heavy watering and then let the soil rest and dry in between waterings.  Check every day for dryness.  Avoid wetting the plant’s leaves.

Plan Ahead
If you are going to be away from your plants for a number of days, you might want to get someone to take care of your watering while you are away. Soil Moist® is a great additive to your soil if you are going to be away from your plants for a short time.We also carry a great little item called Plant Nanny, which will regulate watering while you are gone from your plants for a week or so.

Want more tips? Check out the links below!

Watering Tips

Mulch for Moisture Control

The Ten “Must-Haves” for your Landscape # 7 – Nooks

Nook with LightingThis is the seventh in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape. Nooks are places that we have set aside in our landscape to revive, refresh, and relax. Nooks are often intimate spaces with one or maybe two chairs. I have three nooks in my yard, one in the front, and two in the back. Each one serves a different purpose depending on time of day or mood.

1. Morning Coffee or Tea

front porchWhat a great way to start the day.  I love to sit outside early in the morning when it is still cool and listen to the birds sing.  The dew is still on the plants and the landscape is just awakening. Usually this indulgence is saved for “non work” days so that I am not rushed and can enjoy the natural elements. I didn’t grow up in the South, but spent most of my youth in New Zealand. Gardens in New Zealand are amazing, but most people have their yards entirely fenced so you often cannot see the garden within. It has taken me a long time to get used to the open landscaping concept in Georgia. I felt so exposed when we first moved here, counting 14 houses that could look into my backyard! One of the charming things about the South is the welcoming front porch with rocking chairs. So my favorite morning nook is on the front porch, although I do admit to planting some screening shrubs so that I am not too exposed to the general public when I am having my morning tea. This is not my front porch, but I would like it to be!

2. Yummy, fragrant plants

If you don’t have a Tea Olive in your landscape, find somewhere to put one, preferably near a seating area. Tea Olives flower in the spring and in the fall and permeate the air with a lovely fragrance. Fragrant plants are important in the landscape, not just for their perfume, but to ward off some pests. The citronella geranium is a great addition to a patio to help ward off mosquitoes. I love to just rub my fingers through it to release the lemony smell. Another great fragrant plant is the gardenia which comes in all shapes and sizes. The low growing gardenia, Gardenia radicans, is a great shrub to use close to the front pathway. I have Tea Olives and Gardenias in both the front and back landscapes so that I can appreciate their fragrance when I am in my nooks. Some other fragrant shrubs to include are Sweet shrub, Honeysuckle, Daphne, Banana Shrub, and Sweet box.

4. Nooks in the Shade

Secluded NookWell that probably goes without saying for the South! One of my backyard nooks is amongst a shade garden. It is the perfect location to take a break from gardening and to relax for a little bit. It has an old wooden bench which has great rustic charm, but definitely not a seat you want to spend too long on as there is no padding! Great for making me get up and start gardening again. Again, this is not my yard, but in my head this is what I think my backyard nook looks like!

5. Nooks for Books

Tracy's BackyardIf you are going to sit for a while make sure you chose a great comfy chair. I remember shopping for our patio furniture and sitting in many chairs, just like Goldilocks. I found the perfect chair for me and every time I sit in it I can hear myself saying “Ahhhhh”. This is the nook that I go to if I want to spend some time reading, or perhaps having a glass of wine in the evening. This nook has a view of the back yard and is my favorite place to sit. Now that the trees have grown up, there are no longer 14 houses that can look into my backyard, but perhaps a couple.

6. Containers, Bird Feeders and Nooks

Nooks are great places to add decorative containers because you actually take the time to sit and appreciate the container garden. I have a bird feeder near a nook and it is a good distraction to watch the birds come and go. You could do a container garden to attract hummingbirds. Make sure you can hear your water feature from your nook.

7. Whimsical Nook

Evergreen couchCheck out this nook. It was actually comfortable! The owner definitely had some fun with this.

If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree. We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.

Happy Gardening!

Tracy Davis
Horticulturist/Designer

Be sure to check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!

#1 Foundation Plants
#2 Trees
#3 Screening
#4 A Welcoming Front Entry
#5 Pops of Color
#6 Focal Points
#7 Nooks
#8 Hardscaping
#9 Entertaining Areas
#10 Animal Friends