Phoradendron, the scientific name for American mistletoe, aptly translates from the Greek to mean "thief of trees," and with good reason. Although not technically a parasite -- mistletoe can live on its own -- it thrives when burying its roots into the branches of trees and leeching nutrients and moisture from its host. European mistletoe (Viscum album) is weaker than its American counterpart, but the aggressive American mistletoe will often kill its unwitting host.
Many trees, especially fruit trees, produces water sprouts. These stems grow from the root system and typically don’t produce fruit, which is why they’re also called suckers. Sucker stems can grow large—even to branch size. To remove suckers, you need to dig down to find the starting point and cut it there. Clip suckers at ground level, and the next year two (or more!) will sprout where one grew.
This pretty pair of bloomers bridges the part shade to sun gap with non-stop flowers. Lobelia Sky Blue Erinus opens blossoms in soft blue, offering an eye-catching contrast to Sunsatia Lemon nemesia and its lemon yellow flowers. Both plants tend to stop flowering when night temps stay above 70 F. If this occurs, give plants a light trim to promote fresh, branching growth when temps cool off. Both plants grow 6 to 10 inches tall and spread at least 12 to 16 inches. Choose these bloomers to fill the spiller role in containers or make a handsome hanging basket.
A small size keeps the touchable branches of dwarf Norway spruce easily within reach. These plants form mounds 3-4 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide. Slow growing and deer resistant, this spruce is a favorite among birds. Use it in planting beds as an accent, or plant several to create an informal hedge. Hardy in Zones 2-8. Botanical name: Picea abies ‘Pumila’
Bay windows can be a design challenge. For Jeanine and Bryan they took the opportunity to carve out both a dining and work area in the bay window. A large round dining table is a perfect fit. On the table, which is perfect for both work and entertaining, a dramatic arrangement of branches towers over a collection of favorite books together with a sculpture from artist Murjoni Merriweather.
African violets are considered miniatures if they are 6" to 8" or less in diameter, and large if they're over 16" in diameter. Semi-minis are 6" to 8", while standards are 8" to 16". Trailing types have long runners that branch and spread; they can grow in hanging baskets or shallow pots. 'Persian Prince’ (S. Sorano, hybridizer), is a miniature with so-called girl, or scalloped, leaves. Girl leaves are usually fleshier than boy leaves, which are solid green.
This twig snowflake ornament is being hooked on to a Christmas tree. Create snowflake-shaped ornaments by hot-gluing four small twigs together, spray-painting them white and attaching an ornament hook to the top of them with a dab of hot glue. Hang the snowflakes randomly around the tree, and pinch the ornament hooks together around each tree branch to ensure they don't fall off.
For outstanding fall color, include easy-growing ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’) in your garden. Low-maintenance and deer-resistant, goldenrod unfurls tiny, bright yellow blooms on horizontal branches that add color from late summer well into fall. This is a super pollinator plant, attracting all kinds of bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Flowers make a great addition to bouquets. If you’re an allergy sufferer, please note that goldenrod doesn’t cause hayfever. Plants grow 30 to 36 inches tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
A favorite among dieters, stevia is super easy to grow as an annual in Zones 7 and cooler. Give it full sun in northern gardens; provide protection from hot afternoon sun in warmest zones. Pinch plants early in the season several times to encourage branching. Pick the super sweet leaves of this herb for drying or fresh use. For best results, dry in a dehydrator or a 150-degree oven. To use, crush dry leaves as needed. In Zones 8 and warmer, plants may overwinter with mulch.
Camellia sinensis is the plant you want for growing traditional tea leaves. Dried mature leaves produce black tea; young leaves yield a less acidic brew known as white tea. Allow plants to reach 3 to 5 feet before picking leaves, which you can do twice a year. Prune plants when they’re young to cause branching, which gives you more stems to harvest. Plants are winter hardy in Zones 8-10. Grow them in pots in other zones. Feed tea plants lightly—only in spring.
Pick up a few black paint pens at your local craft store. Draw geometric designs onto solid white ornaments. Try polka dots, stripes and even hearts. This is a great project to get the kids involved too. They’ll love to see their creations hang on the tree. Black and white ribbon is an easy way to add some personality and texture to the tree. Instead of wrapping it our the tree in a traditional manner, cut small sections of the ribbon and drape it over single branches here and there.
If you love hummingbirds, include cardinal flower (Lobelia speciosa) in your yard. The brilliant red blossoms on this perennial are a magnet for hummers. Plants branch well and produce flowers on strong upright spikes from midsummer into early fall. Site this native in full sun to part shade. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 20 to 24 inches tall by 12 to 14 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 6-10. If you prefer pink flowers, look for ‘Starship Rose’ cardinal flower.
Let's face it: Boys' rooms and Christmas decorations don't usually go hand in hand. Make Christmas decorating fun with a boys'-inspired mobile Christmas tree decorated as a larger-than-life snowman. To do this, first create a snowman head and face from a large, foam floral sphere and place it at the top of the tree. Next, add two scarves just below the head. To create the look of coat buttons, line up between three and seven black ornaments in the center of the tree. Lastly, give the snowman arms with branches placed roughly two-thirds of the way up on each side.
For beautiful blooms that can’t be overlooked, plant ‘Duchess Blue & White’ torenia (Torenia fournieri ‘Duchess Blue & White’. Also known as wishbone flower, this pretty annual makes a striking filler in containers or edging along a planting bed. Plants grow 6 inches tall and up to 10 inches wide. Pinch out growing tips on young plants to increase branching, which means more flowers. Look for torenia that opens blossoms in hues of pink, lavender, yellow and white. ‘Duchess’ torenia has been specifically developed to flower strongly in full shade.
Every room is better with fresh flowers or the perfect green plant to add life and a little fresh air. In the case of this island’s centerpiece, I created a custom “permanent botanical." The large resin bowl (approximately 32 inches in diameter) is filled with multiple varieties of moss, green moss balls, agate, pyrite and driftwood branches to create an elevated natural arrangement. There is no limit to the possibilities and best of all, you can create this look yourself with things you love.
Usually dwarf Alberta spruce is a go-to plant for adding an air of formality to gardens. But the topiary forms also lend themselves to playful garden whimsy, like this pom-pom spruce decked out with sun hat and shoes. It’s a great choice for a children’s garden. If your dwarf Alberta spruce develops brown needles or dead spots due to winter burn or spider mites, you can always prune out those branches to create your own one-of-a-kind topiary style.
Problem: Stunted, pale or weak-looking plants. Solution: Before you can treat this problem, you need to figure out exactly what’s causing it. Insects may be attacking your plants, or you may be watering too much, or not fertilizing enough. Check both sides of the leaves, and look along the stems and branches for signs of trouble. Make sure the roots aren't standing in a saucer full of water. Read up on how and when to fertilize your plant, and feed it with a balanced plant food or a specialized plant food, if necessary.
Native trees are often trouble-free beauties, and serviceberry is no exception. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ (Amelanchier x grandiflora) is the result of a cross between two native serviceberries. It delivers white flowers in spring that fade to form edible blue-black fruits (terrific in jams and pies). Birds also love the fruits. Fall color is outstanding with shades of orange-red. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ typically has multiple trunks and a pretty structure that’s especially visible when snow lies on branches. Size: 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. Hardy in Zones 4-9.