Welcome to Weston Nurseries
The bees in my hives work together like a well-oiled machine, and everyone has a job. Some are out foraging for nectar and pollen and carrying it back to the hive to be used and stored. Others are building fresh combs; it's amazing to watch them create perfect hexagonal structures, like tiny engineers maximizing their space.
I don't have the typical "langstroth" hives, instead I chose to use the top-bar hive style. In a top-bar hive there are no frames with a foundation. Instead there are hanging wooden bars from which the bees draw their comb using their wax glands. These are much easier to lift and maneuver, but the main benefit to this is that the wax is cleaner with fewer chemicals or contaminants. Another benefit is that the bees are not constricted by an artificially constructed space, and can build the perfect size cells, creating a strong foundation that makes their comb more disease, mite, and pest resistant.
By Dirk Coburn, M.C.H.
Summer is here. We have started the classic New England pattern of active cold fronts coming through our region and encountering moist air that has heated up during the day. These fronts often generate brief rains or thunderstorms. While our water tables are in good shape from the winter and spring, these rainstorms pose a potential threat; if we think we can rely on them to water our landscapes, we may be disappointed. A New England summer rain front often produces fairly little water on the ground. Rains are often light and may evaporate before they even reach the ground. When the rains are heavier, they are still not long. Heavy rain in a brief period typically produces a high percentage of runoff. The water from such a rain might wet the top couple of inches of soil, but a lot of the water goes into storm drains. Relatively little soaks deeply into the soil near the root zones of trees and shrubs.
What are the implications for our landscape plants?
NEW PLANTS: We cannot rely on Mother Nature to water newly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, or lawns in the summer. It is too easy to kid ourselves that these summer weather fronts will cover for our busy lives – easy, that is, until we are facing plants that are wilting and failing to establish. New plants need an intentional and diligent watering regimen for a full year (except when the ground is frozen for the winter) after their planting – ESPECIALLY in the summer. Weston Nurseries’ watering guidelines for new plantings can be found on our web site here: https://www.westonnurseries.com/watering-guidelines/. If you will be away for part of the summer, you have several tools at your disposal: e.g. tree watering bags such as the Treegator®; mulches that reduce evaporation from the soil; soil humectants such as Hydretain® that make the water in your soil more available to your plants’ roots; and friends, relatives, or hired help who can keep up watering during your absence.
A word about irrigation systems! An irrigation system can sustain your plants or it can kill them. New plants need watering that is:
- Deep Enough – to soak into the soil to a depth somewhat below their roots.
- Frequent Enough – to keep the roots from going bone dry and dying back between waterings.
- Not Too Frequent – so the soil can “breathe” between waterings and roots can exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide as they need to do.
These principles may dictate different watering cycles for trees and shrubs, perennials, lawns, annuals, and for each planter or container. We recommend that you discuss these principles of watering in detail with your irrigation system designer or maintainer. If you believe that a plant may be ailing due to water or lack of water, we may be able to recommend adjustments to your watering regiman for that plant.
ESTABLISHED PLANTS: Right now, the spring has left us with water tables in good shape. Unless we see a month or more of high temperatures with no rain, our established plants should be in good shape. There is one caveat, however. During last summer’s severe drought, some of our established plants may have seen some dieback of fine root mass. If the root mass of a tree or shrub is out of balance with its branches and foliage, the plant may show signs of stress even during our current nurturing weather. In this case, it might be helpful to stimulate some new root growth. The quickest way to do so is with a liquid root stimulant; Weston Nurseries carries one by Bonide called Plant Starter Concentrate.
By R. Wayne Mezitt, WN Chairman
It has been many years since we’ve seen such superb, extended bloom on so many plants, particularly this week’s rhododendrons! An unusual number of favorable factors this year have combined to facilitate such an extraordinary season. Last winter lacked the extended cold and desiccating winds we often experience around here; April’s six days with temperatures >70°F made a big contribution by “fooling” many early-flowering plants into believing the season was more advanced that it was; the persistently cooler temperatures between the high peaks helped, along with no frost since the first week in April. And of major significance is all the rainfall that has finally ended our drought.
Now that rhododendron-blooming season is upon us, our weather continues to enhance the floral displays. Our consistently cooler-than-normal temperatures and periodic rainfall all are contributing to extending the flowering times in all our gardens. Perhaps this weather is not so encouraging for those of us who enjoy warm outdoor evenings around the pool or patio; but the plants love it!
So take a few moments to revel in this unusually-opulent display of bloom adorning so many homes and landscapes this spring—magnificence like this doesn’t occur very often!
The arrival of June means it's time for bright blooms, sunny days, and the return of the most diminutive of our feathered friends, the Hummingbird! Here's some helpful tips to encourage these tiny visitors to your yard and garden.
Digitalis, Fuchsia, Hosta, Kniphofia, Lantana, Monarda, Penstemon, and Verbena. For the full list, look here.
Add a refreshing fountain or birdbath. It can be any style you like, from a classic pedestal to a clean bowl on a porch railing. Thirsty birds are especially drawn to water that splashes, ripples, or mists.
Place hummingbird feeders in shaded locations, within easy distance from a safe perch, protected from the open and potential predators. They like to sit in places where there's a good vantage point to keep an eye on their food source.
For a limited time only, we are presenting large specimen Azaleas from our test gardens. Each plant is 12-15 years old and has been hand-dug from the private hillside gardens beside our Garden Center in Hopkinton.
Many of these are original hybrids that have been selected or introduced by Weston Nurseries, and are either hard to find, or would make excellent specimen plants that would be the envy of any gardener's collection.
The following varieties are available in extremely limited quantity: Azalea 'Anna's Smile', Azalea 'Baltic Amber', Azalea 'Buzzard', Azalea 'Deep Rose', Azalea 'Homebush', Azalea 'Majesty', Azalea 'Pink Discovery', Azalea 'Seabreeze', & Azalea 'Texas Pink'.
By Dirk Coburn, M.C.H.
May is a great time to create or renovate a lawn. Our lawn grasses in New England are cool-weather growers. They germinate well in the late spring, the late summer, or the early fall. Weston Nurseries has a full offering of tools, seeds, mulches, and treatments that are helpful for lawn projects.
Let me take a moment to talk specificly about the use of sod in a lawn project. The following points respond to questions that we are asked frequently about sod:
- Sod farms grow their sod in locations spread widely around a region. Sod from each of these locations may look somewhat different due to local differences in soil at the farms. However the crops are the same seed mix, and over time they will grow to look alike as they establish in their new environment.
- Sod from a location with sandier soil drains faster and may need more frequent watering, especially for the first two to three weeks. Twice a day for 10 minutes would not be out of line during that period.
- After the initial establishment period, watering should be less frequent and a little deeper. A lawn watered twice a week for at least 20 minutes each time will grow deeper roots than a lawn watered every day for 5 minutes, and will be more drought-resilient.
- Sod works best if care is taken to ensure that the underlying soil has good organic content. This may mean spreading half an inch or so of high organic loam if the underlying soil has low to moderate organic matter, or two inches or so if the underlayment is subsoil with virtually no organic matter.
- Sod works best if the underlying soil has been lightly tamped to promote good anchoring and then lightly scratched with a rake to give new roots entry points.
- Sod works best with a fertilizer designed for seeding or sodding, such as Jonathan Green’s Green Up Lawn Fertilizer for Seeding and Sodding.
Our sod grower has started recently harvesting from a farm in Maine where the soil is a little lighter colored and a little sandier than the soil in their other locations. There are some benefits to the new sod, including:
- The lighter soil in the new farm assists the grower in keeping the sod free from fungal issues.
- The less dense soil is more penetrable by roots, and so with diligent care and watering it offers the potential to put new roots into a well-prepared substrate somewhat quicker.
Whatever method you may use for creating or renovating your lawn, Weston Nurseries’ staff of trained horticulturists stand ready to assist you in planning and if necessary troubleshooting your project.
If you've got edibles in mind we even have raised bed kits and EarthBoxes (with wheels!).
By R. Wayne Mezitt
I have a difficult time getting my arms around big concepts like “doing the right thing for the environment”. We all know that pollution and depletion of environmental resources are taking a toll on the health of our planet. But for many of us, solutions for problems this huge can seem so unapproachable and all-encompassing that we perceive them as beyond our ability to influence. Sure, we know that all our daily activities are somehow connected to our environment. But how can we really do anything meaningful?
For us as homeowners, observing the relevance of Earth Day, Saturday April 22, by planting “pollinator plants” is one solution we can easily embrace. Research has shown that pollinators are being particularly threatened by environmental degradation, and their numbers are seriously declining in many regions. But as individual gardeners and homeowners, we can make a difference by choosing plants for our yards that enhance the wellbeing of pollinators.
“Pollination” is the transfer of pollen from the male parts of a flower (anther) to the female (stigma); this process enables the plant to produce its seed, fruit or nut. Honey bees, bumble bees, beetles, moths, butterflies and ants are our main local pollinators. These tiny creatures devote their lives to performing a task that seems incredibly insignificant as an individual act. Yet taken in total, the amazing work they accomplish (including enabling production of nearly one third our worldwide food crops!) is a fundamental necessity for life as we know it to thrive.
In the 47 years since its inception, Earth Day worldwide has gained momentum, albeit all-so-slowly, to become a catalyst for individual and group actions that make a difference. This year’s theme is “Environmental and Climate Literacy”; this is very much in keeping with our understanding the critical importance of pollination, and appreciating how each individual pollinator, participating with countless others, creates such a monumental outcome for life on earth.
Most local garden centers offer a wide range of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that benefit pollinators, readily integrated into any yard. Pollinator plants are available for every season and growing condition, appealing for their flowers, fragrance, fruit, form and foliage. When you stop by for a visit, talk with their experts to become more knowledgeable about the plants that pollinators favor.
And I consider the pollinators’ lesson most inspiring, especially on this Earth Day: each individual accomplishing a small task, in combination with many other individuals doing their part, can build an enormously beneficial outcome. By individually emulating the pollinators’ example, we join in making a big difference, significant for all of us, by planting pollinator plants in our gardens and around our yard.
Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton and Chelmsford, MA, and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business; he currently serves as Trustee chairman for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank in Wellesley MA.
It's time for battle!
Winter Moth and Gypsy Moth are invasive species that will decimate foliage, and in recent years their number and destructiveness have been on the rise. Apple, ash, basswood, birch, cherry, crabapple, elm, maple, and oak are particularly susceptible to Winter Moth & Gypsy Moth caterpillars; fortunately most shrubs (with the exception of blueberries) are mostly exempt from destruction. However, if there's a many of them and they are hungry, they will eat just about anything!
Early Spring is prime time for caterpillars, so you should be prepared.
Proactive treatment is your best control. Throughout the Winter & early Spring, go hunting and check around your property for eggs; liberally apply Bonide's All Seasons Horticultural Oil to inhibit hatching and kill emerging larvae. Winter Moths lay their eggs in protected crevices, such as tree bark & cracks in wood & siding. Gypsy Moth egg masses look like beige or white cottony tufts and are often tucked into protected nooks under lichen and debris.
In early April, around the time that buds begin to swell, the Winter Moth eggs will begin to hatch into inchworm larvae. The tiny larvae spin threads of silk and drift up into the tree canopies - this is known as "ballooning". They've also been known to crawl across the ground towards the shadow-line of trees and shrubs, so a few well-placed sticky traps will help on that front.
Once the young Winter Moth caterpillars are up in the canopy they will burrow into tree buds and devour them from the inside out, and horticultural oil will be of no help. Apply Bonide Thuricide to emerging leaves (Bt, aka Bacillus thuringiensis kurtstaki) to active feeding areas; this bacteria-based product essentially causes a disease epidemic and kills them at the source once it is ingested.
More mature Winter Moth larvae are not as vulnerable to Bt, so you will need to switch tactics and use a spinosad based product, such as Captain Jack's Dead Bug Brew. With any product, always be very careful of spraying in areas where butterflies & beneficial moths may be active - evening is an excellent time to apply these pesticides.
In May things become more complicated, as the Gypsy Moth caterpillars begin to emerge. This is the most active feeding time. Keep spraying Captain Jack’s, or switch things up with a pyrethrin-based contact insecticide like Bonide Eight, which works well on Gypsy Moth in particular. Water damaged trees once a week so that they can recover.
June: The feeding frenzy should be mostly over, and the caterpillars will retreat into the soil to pupate and become adult moths.
July: Take a nap in your hammock and congratulate yourself on your victory! Unfortunately your yard may be a little less shady than before, but continue watering any damaged trees and shrubs- this extra care and attention will help them recover.
The arrival of March, escorting-in nature’s earliest “spring welcomers”, always inspires my enthusiasm for the imminent milder weather. My cornelian cherry (Cornus mas, a Cary Award winner) is already fully enveloped with yellow flowers. The red flower buds on our native red maple (Acer rubrum) expand and open very early, their profusion imparting a misty-pink visual haze above our swampy lowlands by the end of March. Winter aconite, snowdrops, pussy willow, February daphne, spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and even skunk cabbage all typically display their welcome-to-spring features in March, weeks before Okame cherry, the earliest magnolias, redbuds and rhododendron PJM open their blooms in our outdoor gardens.
Just as the blooming of our native witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) proclaimed the end of the growing season year last fall, the hybrid witch-hazels (Hamamelis intermedia) now unfurl their flower petals to herald-in the start of the spring season. Often opening as early as February, the spring-blooming witch-hazels are unsurpassed for decreeing the beginning of spring. And a nice selection of colorfully-flowered witch-hazel cultivars is now becoming available at garden centers, including ‘Arnold Promise’ (lemon-yellow), ‘Pallida’ (sulfur-yellow, a Cary Award winner) and ‘Diane’ (red).
Indoors, March’s local Flower & Garden Shows traditionally draw enthusiastic crowds, anxious to revel in anticipation of the warmth, color and fragrance of the upcoming season. Sadly for us gardeners, recent years have seen a decline in the popularity of these shows, likely due to the cost of setting them up and competition from other sources of entertainment for potential attendees. Paragon Group’s Boston Flower & Garden Show, March 22-26, 2017, the last one to survive in eastern Massachusetts, is still popular for viewing a variety of attractive gardens and always has lots of vendors.
Some other area shows for 2017: Mount Holyoke College Botanic Garden’s Annual Spring Flower Show runs March 4-19, South Hadley, MA. The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show was held in February, and the Vermont Show finished in early March, but the Maine Flower Show in Portland runs from March 29-April 2, 2017.
If a road trip appeals, New York State offers a number of 2017 flower-show-type events. The Capitol District Garden & Flower Show is March 24-26 in Troy; Macy’s in New York City’s Herald Square runs their’s from March 26 through April 9; Hicks Nursery opens their annual Spring Flower and Garden Show March 9-26 in Westbury, NY. Of course the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Flower Show is promoted as the world’s largest indoor flower show, so for the avid gardener, it may be worth the trip, March 11-19, 2017.
Most flower shows also include educational lectures and demonstrations, and many are currently tending to focus more on vendors than on the flowers and gardens themselves. There’s also a coming trend for moving the shows later in the spring and outdoors, similar to the way England has organized their various flower and garden shows for decades.
No question, outdoors or inside, the arrival of spring is always a celebration here in New England!
Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton and Chelmsford, MA, and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business; he currently serves as Trustee chairman for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society at Elm Bank in Wellesley, MA.