Archives for July 2016

Orchids Are Hard – NOT SO!

Orchid-Chinese-FlowersThe beauty of orchids is known by all. Many a bride has carried stunning Phalaenopsis and Cymbidiums in their bridal bouquets.  Orchids are a favorite for flower arrangements, thank you and hostess gifts, and for Mother’s Day. As a houseplant orchids seem to have gotten a reputation for being fickle and finicky. Not so! Orchids make wonderful houseplants! With just a few tips, you can be on your way to loving orchids as much as we do!

Orchids need as bright filtered light. Without enough light, you will get lots of leaves but no flowers. With sufficient light, the leaves will be a bit lighter green, almost yellow-green with strong upright growth. Too little light will produce dark green foliage. Too much light will burn the leaves. There is really no magic formula for light, just test a bright window and leave your orchid there for about a month.

Orchid 1Air/Soil
Orchids cannot tolerate stagnant environment. While it is true they prefer not to be moved, they do need air circulation. A light breeze is good for keeping disease at bay and for providing optimum air flow. If possible a small fan near your orchids would be sufficient although never point the fan directly at the orchid. Orchid potting media should have exceptionally good drainage for air flow. Don’t use straight potting soil or the roots will eventually die. Potting media should have a combination of bark, peat, and other open substances that will provide air flow and hold nutrients.

Orchids prefer to slightly dry so watering does not have to be too hard. Let your orchid slightly dry between watering. It should be anywhere from 5-12 days depending on the season and how dry or humid your home is. If you have your orchid in an orchid pot (with slots on the sides for air flow) it may need to be watered a bit more frequently than if it is in a plastic pot with only a drainage hole. Probably the number one reason orchids die is due to overwatering. For each watering, water enough so that it runs out the drainage holes to flush out all the salts, then wait until the potting media is dry.

orchid fertilizedFertilizer
You can fertilize your orchids each time you water during the warm months and every other time during the cold months. If fertilizing every week, use half the amount as stated on the container. Orchids will do ok without fertilizer, but for optimum growth and flowering, use a quality fertilizer. For best results, wet the potting media slightly then water with fertilizer. Choose a fertilizer that has little or no urea.

Mix equal parts orchid potting mix with sphagnum moss to use as your media.

If your potting mix has broken down so that air flow is diminished (you can tell by seeing roots die-roots should be plump and white) you will need to repot in new potting media. If the plant has outgrown the container, choose a larger pot and quality potting media. Other than those two reasons, leave your orchid alone. Try never to repot when your plant is blooming.

orchid scalePests
Orchids are not immune to disease and insects. Scale, mealybugs, mites, and aphids may take up residence. An organic insecticide can be sprayed on leaves and soil but never on flowers. You can also use diluted isopropyl alcohol on a q-tip or cotton to lightly touch the insect. Be very careful not to use alcohol on the plant. The number one best way to deter disease like fungus, root rot or black rot is to keep air flowing and water properly. Never water the leaves, only the potting media and roots. Disease and fungus can spread quickly so go ahead and cut off the affected leaves or roots.

Gardening with: Toe Ticklers

Have you ever seen a beautifully styled yard in a home or gardening magazine and wondered how they did it? The answer istoe tickler yard most likely toe ticklers! The plants affectionately known as toe ticklers are a group of creeping plants that can withstand foot traffic and still look good. Any of these plants look exceptional planted as groundcover, in between stepping stones, or along pathways and in containers.

Creeping Jenny – This vine is an all around winner; it will grow in both sun and shade and is drought tolerant as well! Its golden yellow foliage gains an orange tinge in the fall, making everywhere it grows glow with autumnal color.

Blue Star Creeper – Evergreen in warm climates, this toe tickler is almost completely covered in beautiful blue blooms in the spring! It makes for a stunning view when used between stepping stones in a pathway!

blue star creeperElfin Thyme – You might use thyme in your recipes, why not in your garden? This evergreen thyme is covered in lavender flowers in summer and produces a lovely aroma when stepped on.

Mazus – This vigorous grower is the perfect choice for between pavers or to cover a large bare patch in your yard! Once planted, it fills out quickly into a dense carpet and will soon be producing blue or white flowers.

The Family Tree carries a variety of these lovely little plants; stop by today to choose the best one for your garden. Our friendly associates are always happy to answer any questions you might have about our selection!

Gardening with: Succulents

Have you ever wished that you didn’t have to water your plants so often in this heat?  For a welcome change, why not try succulents? These plants are similar to the cactus and store water in their thick, fleshy leaves. Because they thrive in hot, dry climates, succulents only need to be watered on occasion! In addition to their water retaining properties, succulents also come in a variety of interesting shapes and colors. It’s so easy to incorporate succulents into your garden; here are a few of the varieties that The Family Tree carries!

Sedum – Also known as Stonecrop, this low growing, spreading succulent is perfect for planting insedum container gardens or among rocks as a groundcover. Sedum is an easy plant to grow and only needs good drainage and sunshine to thrive. Its colorful flowers will brighten up any garden!

hen and chicksHens and Chicks – This little succulent gets its name from the way it spreads: the original ‘hen’ plant is surrounded by new growth, or ‘chicks.’ While the shape of the plant will always resemble an artichoke, the leaves can come in a wide variety of shapes and colors!aloe

Aloe – Probably the best known succulent, aloe is prized for the soothing sap in its leaves. While you
can plant it outside (and bring it in in the winter), aloe makes an excellent potted plant in the kitchen, where it is easily accessible when minor burns occur! Just pinch off a leaf and use the “jelly” inside on cuts and burns for instant relief.

echeveriaEcheveria –  Echeveria can be found in a rainbow of colors, ranging from pale green to deep purple. Its rosette formation will make it stand out whether it’s planted in a garden bed or a container!

Be sure to stop by The Family Tree to browse our selection of succulents; we love helping people choose the perfect shape and color for their gardens!

Rose Varieties 101

Is a rose by any other name still as sweet? There are over 200 different varieties of roses out there, which can make it a bit overwhelming to decide what to plant.  To top it off, you’ve probably heard that roses are hard to deal with.  Not so! With a few tips from our summer rose care blog, you can be a master rose gardener in no time! But first, take a look at the different classifications of roses here.  We have broken it down here to make it easier to search for the perfect rose for your garden.


Floribunda –Known as the rose bush that offers a bouquet on every branch, Floribundas are hardy growers that range in size from 1-8 ft tall! Flowers bloom in clusters offering a beautiful show in your garden.  They tend to have ridged stems and grow smaller and bushier than Hybrid Teas. Their disease-resistant foliage makes these roses easy to maintain all year long!hybrid tea

Hybrid Tea – This variety is the rose most commonly used by florists because of its beautifully shaped buds and blooms. Large single flowers sit atop long straight stems making them perfect for cutting for floral arrangements. This bush grows tall and upright and does require careful pruning in the spring to ensure that its branches are strong.  There are well over 100 varieties of Hybrid Tea roses!

grandifloraGrandiflora – By combining the best traits of the Floribunda and Hybrid Tea varieties Grandiflora makes a wonderful garden rose.  They have the same elegant blooms born on long stems as Hybrid Teas but they bloom in the clustered formation of Floribundas. Grandifloras can grow up to 7 ft, making them perfect for hedges or background florals!

knockoutKnockout – Super bloomer, super low maintenance.  When Knockout roses came on the market, they revolutionized the rose industry.  Stunning reds, pinks, and yellow varieties bloom profusely from late spring into fall.  Knockouts are drought-tolerant and disease resistant, which makes them an excellent choice for all gardens!  Prune in early spring – go ahead, they don’t mind being cut back to 2-3 feet tall. During the flowering season, you can deadhead due to unsightly spent blooms, but you don’t have to with this hardy rose.

driftDrift – This low-growing variety was bred specifically to fit into smaller spaces in the landscape.  Perfect for rock gardens, draping over walls, and as a border.  They also are great for container gardens, as well as smaller planting areas.  Drift roses bloom throughout the summer and into fall. They are tough, disease-resistant, winter hardy and virtually maintenance-free. When in bloom, the bush can be completely covered with clusters of beautiful flowers!

lady banksLady Banks – Did you know that the largest rose in the world is a 100 year old Lady Banks in Tombstone, AZ? This climber blooms with miniature roses in the spring. You can find them in yellow or white.  Lady Banks is a quick grower so make sure you have a large area for it to grow.  It trellises well and looks great along fences. It takes pruning well so don’t be afraid to cut it back if its branches grow too long.

The Family Tree carries Knockout and Drift Roses most of the year.  We get our new shipment of roses each year in early February.  Our roses come bare root and we pot them up ourselves, prune them as needed, and give them an initial dose of fertilizer so that they’re ready for planting. For the best selection, shop for your special roses from March to May.

The 10 “Must-Haves” for your Landscape #10 – Animal Friends

IMG_2435This is the final blog in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape. Landscapes are natural elements and should be enjoyed by some wildlife and animal members of our family. Our yards would not be the same if we didn’t see little creatures foraging, or hear the birds singing. My dad who was an avid gardener commented to me that something is going on with the birds as they were no longer visiting his garden and he was missing the birds singing. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I could hear them just fine and it wasn’t the birds that were missing, but his hearing!

1. Birds

Bird feeder-For years I resisted the temptation to add a bird feeder to our yard. The reason, we have cats and I didn’t want to provide them with a ready supply of food. Our cats have become older, and slower, so last year we added a bird feeder. I don’t know much about birds, but I soon figured out that you need to be able to keep the birdseed dry in the feeder! Birdfeeder #2 performed much better than birdfeeder #1. We learn by our mistakes! It also requires a little work on our part to keep the feeder clean, but well worth it. I love to watch the birds come and go and listen to all the noise that they generate in the garden. I don’t even mind that there are a couple of squirrels that eat breakfast there every day. It is quite hilarious watching them balance on the feeder. If you don’t want squirrels to eat all the food, there are feeders that are squirrel proof. I have also learned that the type of bird seed you use seems to have a direct link on the type of birds that are attracted to the bird feeder. So check out our Tips & Advice page on Birds to see which birds to attract. We have a wide variety of feeders and bird seed at the Family Tree Garden Center.

2. Cats

Cat in catnipI had to write a bit about cats, as I do know about cats! If you love cats make sure you have catnip planted somewhere in your yard. I have a patch and all the cats know where it is. It is funny to watch them roll around in it. If you don’t have somewhere in the yard, you can grow catnip in containers. Cats also like catmint, but this definitely takes a second best to catnip. If you don’t like cats and you are tired of your neighbor’s cats coming into your yard, there are deterrents that can be sprayed onto plants that will keep them away.

3. Dogs

Dog escaping yardRegina at the Family Tree used to groom and show dogs in her former career so she has given me some good tips on ways to keep fido happy in the landscape. Dogs love to escape and dig under fences. Strong gauge chicken wire can be buried along both sides of the fence line to deter dogs digging. Also, if you have a gate area, try putting pavers down on both sides of the gate. Dogs are territorial and will patrol the perimeter of the yard, so if you can, put plantings a few feet away from the perimeter fence so that the dog has room to patrol. Dogs will use the same route in a yard and you will see a well worn path develop. Your dog is designing your landscape for you, so where the worn path is, turn that into an actual path with gravel or mulch. This will keep the dog’s paws clean. Raised beds help deter dogs from entering garden beds, or even a low fence if your dog is persistent. Dogs will also resist entering gardens if you have thorny bushes, or tall grasses planted. If you want pops of color with annuals and you know your dog will probably destroy them, try putting the annual color in containers to brighten up the landscape.

4. Poisonous Plants

Sago Palm flowerThere are a lot of poisonous plants in the landscape and some can have a devastating effect on our beloved pets. I have friends that lost both of their dogs to the poisonous flowers on a Sago Palm. My friends live in Houston where Sago Palms live year round. Sago Palms don’t flower very often, but when they do, they produce a bright orange/yellow bloom that seems to be irresistible to dogs. Check out the full listing of poisonous plants at

5. Uninvited Animal Guests

We have two rabbits enjoying our yard and they have been there for a few years. I watch them in the mornings to see what plants they are attacking, but so far, they have done minimal damage so I am ok with them sharing the yard. However, deer are another matter completely. Thankfully we only have deer occasionally, but a number of our customers complain about deer eating everything in their landscape. If you have a deer problem, the first plan of attack is to plant deer proof plants. Refer to our Tips & Advice page for plants that will be deer resistant. Milorganite is a fertilizer for lawns and we have had several customers that use this as their fertilizer as it deters deer. There are also deer repellants that can be sprayed.

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

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

Summer Rose Care

There’s nothing lovelier than a rose bush in full bloom! However, roses do require some care to keep them healthy and happy, particularly during the hot summer months. Here are some tips to help you grow prize-winning roses all summer long!

Watering/Mulching – To prevent browning and leaf loss, make sure you’re rose 1watering your roses frequently. The best time for watering is in the morning so that the water has time to soak into the ground without evaporating in the sun and heat. The best way to water is by giving the roses a good, deep soaking; deep watering encourages a strong root system.  It’s a good idea to mulch around the base of your plant.  Mulching is a great way not only to prevent evaporation, but also to protect roots from the hot summer sun.  Pine straw and pine bark are effective and offer a finished look to your design.  Apply at least a 3 inch layer around your plants.

Pests – Unfortunately, roses can fall victim to mites and other insects during the summer. However, it is easy to take care of this problem if you are on the lookout for it.  Checking the leaves on your roses is the best way to discover any problems, particularly if you do it every day. One of the easiest ways to get rid of pests is by hosing down your roses once a week to dislodge any bugs; pay special attention to the underside of the leaves where mites like to hide! A longer lasting solution to pests is Bonide Rose Shield™.  This systemic pest protection is absorbed by the plant and then kills pests when they ingest it. This useful spray also protects against disease and only needs to be applied once a month!

Frose 2ertilizing – Roses are ravenous, so it’s important to feed them on a regular basis to keep them blooming their best. Espoma Rose Tone is an excellent organic fertilizer and can be applied every few weeks to encourage growth. This organic rose food is preferred by professional gardeners because of the prize-winning roses produced as a result of its long lasting nutrition! In addition to monthly fertilizer, you can also add compost or soil amendment at the beginning of the season.

Blooming/pruning – While your roses are still blooming, you might have notices that the flowers are smaller than in the spring. This is because the summer heat causes the plant to grow faster, usually with fewer petals. Try not to cut all the flowers at once.  Choose stem cuttings randomly to encourage more growth.  When your blooms are spent, be sure to deadhead promptly to encourage your roses to channel their energy into another bloom cycle.  You can prune your roses after it is finished blooming, but the best time is early spring.  Take out any weak branches and inside branches to promote air circulation. Prune off any spent flowers.

Drop by The Family Tree to browse our selection of rose fertilizers and insecticides; we have everything you’ll need for beautifully blooming roses all summer long! We also have associates who are passionate about gardening and are always happy to answer any questions you might have!

Lovely Lavender

When someone mentions lavender, what do you think of? Some people will think of a relaxing spa day; it lavender-fieldmight remind others of the perfume their grandma always wore; or maybe an image of fields of lavender in the French countryside might pop into your head. Lavender is an extremely versatile, easy to grow with proper conditions plant; the most striking thing about it are its purple flower spikes and lovely scent. Here are just a few of the uses of lavender if you grow it yourself:

Easy to Grow – All lavender needs to thrive is lots of sunshine and good drainage; it hates to be in moist soil!  Here in the South, lavender does best in container gardens because of the increased drainage and air circulation. Harvesting lavender flowers for fragrant arrangements and drying is easy with a few simple steps. Since lavender requires good air circulation, feel free to cut the long flower stems below the leaves of the plant. Clip flower stems randomly to keep the plant looking full. Flowers will keep their perfume for months when you harvest just before the flowers are entirely open.

Medicinal Benefits – Did you know that lavender has many healing properties? Research has found that lavender oil can decrease anxiety, as well as relieving gastric problems such as gas, bloating, and nausea. Using pillows or sachets of dried lavender can also relieve headaches and insomnia! Add a bunch of dried lavender in a sachet to your clothing drawers for fresh fragrance. Place a few dried flowers on your night stand or in your baby’s room for a relaxing night’s sleep.

lavenderDrying – Lavender is a very popular scent in perfumes and potpourri. To make your own dried lavender, simply snip a few stems off your plant, tie in a bunch, and hang upside down in a cool dark place. Once dried, lavender has many uses: you can make sachet bags or fold a sprig or two up with your linens for a fresh scent when you use them or even cook with it! Whip up a batch of these classic French shortbread cookies to impress family and friends!

Lemon Lavender Shortbread

-1 c. unsalted butter, softened
-2/3 c. powdered sugar
-Zest of 3 lemons, divided
-1 tsp. dried lavender buds, ground or finely chopped
-2 tsp. vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp. salt
-2 c. flour
-2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the butter, powdered sugar, lavender, and the zest of two of the lemons in an electric mixer and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and salt. With the mixer on a low speed, gradually blend in the flour until the dough comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until slightly firm, 30-60 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and remaining lemon zest. Rub together with fingertips until evenly mixed and fragrant.
  4. Place chilled dough on a lightly-floured surface and roll to ¼ in. thickness. Sprinkle the top of the dough generously with the lemon sugar and then roll over with the rolling pin once or twice to press the sugar into the dough. Cut into desired shapes and transfer to prepared baking sheets.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until the cookies are just set. Let cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Enjoy with a cup of your favorite tea!

The Family Tree has just stocked several varieties of lavender, including Sweet, French, and Grosso. Be sure to stop by soon to pick up your plants and to browse our selection of other herbs!

The 10 “Must-Haves” for your Landscape #9 – Entertaining Areas

Outdoor grill and fire pitThis is the ninth in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape. Outside entertaining has become more popular in recent years. We have seen the addition of outdoor fire places, fire pits, patios, outdoor kitchens, and even outdoor living rooms. We have taken the entertaining outside which is great, but it can be somewhat challenging with our Georgia summers! Just make sure you have a shade option somewhere close by.

1. Grilling Areas

Herb containersNo longer is the burger flipper alone outside cooking.  They are now surrounded by the party goers because there usually is a place for them to congregate (other than in the kitchen). So when you are thinking of grilling areas, think also of making the area inviting for guests when you are entertaining. Locate the grill near a patio with table and chairs nearby, and perhaps a shade umbrella. Dress this area up using container plants and conversation starting yard art. This is a great space to include a few herbs in containers by themselves, or mix them in with some colorful annuals. Also include some mosquito plants (citronella geraniums) which do well in containers provided they get sunlight. The guests will be thankful for those little plants to help ward off the mosquitos.Vegetable Garden

2. Vegetable Gardens

If you grow some of your own vegetables, the vegetable garden can become a landscaping feature for your yard. If it is going to be a feature, then some thought needs to go into the aesthetics of the garden. Some vegetable plots look interesting all year round with raised beds and some garden whimsy. The garden to the right would still look attractive even if it wasn’t planted out. However, vegetable gardens can get quite messy at different times of the year and this is not really something you want your guests to view from your entertaining area. Ideas for messy gardens?  Add a fun rain gauge, whimsical thermometer, or inspirational stepping stones.

3. Shade StructuresBefore After Ceiling Tiles

An option for creating a shaded dry area outside for guests is to add a ceiling to an under deck patio. Notice the difference in the entertaining space created in the picture to the right before and after the ceiling has been installed. This is a reasonably easy option and one that we did in our yard. We now have a great space to sit and watch the rain and to give us some respite from the summer heat.  By adding a few container gardens, outdoor wall art, and pillows, your space will be inviting and comfy!

4. Fire Places

Outdoor Fire placeMy husband cranked up the fire place in June! I thought he was crazy, but he was entertaining and the outdoor fire place gave him and his friends a focal point to sit around. Fire places are an extremely attractive addition to a landscape. (We carry portable fire pits at The Family Tree if a fire pit is not an option.) They usually include a seating wall and some sort of patio. Seating walls are great as they act as a barrier between the entertaining area and the rest of the landscape and also provide additional seating.  Cushions & pillows needs to be available as the seating wall can be cold and hard to sit on. There is often a lot of hardscape material in these entertaining areas so it is important to soften it a little with plant material. Colorful, large containers filled with annual color will do the trick. Think about planting a container of plants that attracts hummingbirds or butterflies.

5. Fire PitsOutdoor Fire Pit

Fire pits are very social gathering places. More people can fit around a fire pit, than hovering in front of a fire place. Portable fire pits can be purchased making an instant gathering place. Allow plenty of room around the fire pit so that you can have a lot of chairs and make sure you always have the ingredients for S’mores available.

6. Screened In Porch

Covered Outdoor LivingScreened in porches are invaluable when the bugs start to appear. Again, soften this area with container plants as you are trying to achieve a transition between the inside and the outdoors, so natural elements should be part of the design. Be prepared to deal with pollen accumulating on your furniture in early spring!

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

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

Living Décor for July 4!

What’s your favorite part of July 4th? Mine is definitely the fireworks; I love seeing the bright colors spreading across the dark sky! While fireworks only last for a short time, there is another way to get the same Independence Day colors in a longer lasting medium: a red, white, and blue garden! What could be cuter than festive container gardens placed by the front door or a colorful flowerbed by the patio? Here are a few suggestions so that you can mix and match colors to find your perfect Fourth of July plants!

For your container garden, here are some selections that will liven up your 4th of July décor. container garden

Vinca – An annual known for its glossy green foliage, vinca also produces beautiful flowers that can come in blue, white, or red. These little flowers look great in container gardens or mass plantings!

Salvia – Tall and striking, salvia comes in many varieties that include deep red and blue.

Impatiens – Have a shady area you want to brighten up? Impatiens are the perfect plant; they thrive in shade while still producing lovely flowers. Try the New Guinea variety for brilliant green foliage in addition to the colorful flowers!

There are so many more options in this Fourth of July color scheme, as well as any other color combination that you desire! The Family Tree can show you the best plants to make the perfect container garden.

If you’d like to add some more permanent patriotic color to your landscape, it is easy with these selections:

Autumn Fire™Encore Azalea – This beautiful azalea has true red blooms that will brighten your garden spring, summer, and fall!

endless_summer_in_bloomGeorgia Petite Indian Hawthorne – This hawthorne has all the colors of July 4th during its blooming season: pink buds bloom into white flowers, which then are replaced by blue berries. Use this shrub as a hedge or accent plant in your garden.

The Original Endless Summer® Hydrangea – Who doesn’t love the gorgeous blue flowers on a hydrangea? The Endless Summer® hydrangea is a time-tested stunner that’s perfect for either container gardens or flowerbeds. If you ever get tired of blue flowers, simply change the pH of the soil around the hydrangea and you’ll end up with beautiful pink blooms!

These options and others can last beautifully from the 4th of July on.  Stop by The Family Tree to browse the greenhouse; we have hundreds more selections to choose from and our associates are always happy to help you decide what would work best for your needs!