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Summer conditions can take a toll on turfgrass, but proper care can minimize the effects of heat and dry conditions. Shawn Kister, Grounds Division Leader, has these recommendations:
● Make sure the mower blades are sharp.
● Set your mower at the second-to-highest height adjustment. From 3 to 3.5 inches is ideal.
● Change direction every time you mow. If you mow east to west one time, then mow north to south the next time.
● Mowing frequency should be determined by how fast your lawn grows. Ideally, you’ll remove about the top third of the grass blades.
● Be careful not to tear up the grass by turning the mower wheels too fast.
● One of the worst things you can do is water sporadically. If you decide to water, you must be committed to it. Grass will require one inch of water each week; the best time to water is in the early morning. Starting and stopping sends your lawn in and out of dormancy, putting a lot of stress on the turf—if you aren’t sure whether you can keep up with the watering, it’s better not to do it at all.
● Don’t fertilize until the weather cools off. You don’t want to force the grass into a growth state now.
Kister’s most comforting piece of advice: “It’s okay to let your lawn go dormant. Even if it turns brown, the turf will survive just fine!”
More than sixty hanging Fuchsia baskets—three feet across, weighing fifty pounds, and holding thirty plants each—have made their dramatic annual return to Longwood’s Conservatory.
“I’ve visited gardens in all fifty states and twenty countries, and I have never seen so many fuchsias,” says Karl Gercens, Conservatory Section Gardener. “The sheer quantity paired with the historic Conservatory is a match made in heaven. The flowers are so beautiful and delicate. They have two different colors. With our hanging baskets you can pass under thousands of blooms and look right up into the plants.”
It’s not only the vivid appearance of the flowers that appeals to Gercens, it’s also the understanding of how much hard work is behind Longwood’s success in growing the plants. They are, truth be told, divas that demand optimal conditions in order to perform well.
“Fuchsias come mostly from South America,” Gercens explains. “They don’t like full sun, which is one of the biggest challenges in our area. They need bright, indirect light but should only get one to two hours of direct sun in the morning. They don’t want to be underwatered or overwatered. They don’t appreciate hot, dry winds, but they do like a nice breeze. Here we display them by the open windows. Because of where they are and how big the planters are, we water them every day. They love to be fertilized. The more well-balanced fertilizer we give them, the more they flower. We have to watch for mealybugs in the axils, aphids on the new growth, scale on the stems, and botrytis on thick interior foliage. The results are worth it.”
Cuttings are started every year in August. Longwood’s production team pots them into stainless steel baskets in October. The plants spend the winter in the Estate greenhouses and are ready to make their debut by late April or early May. Fuchsia `Lord Beaconsfield’ is the most popular hybrid grown for the Conservatory due to its exceptional heat tolerance. Other cultivars on display are `Mrs. J. D. Fredericks’ with pink-on-pink blossoms, and `Swingtime,’ which has a trailing habit and large, lush flowers. Fuchsia (pronounced “FYOO-shuh”) are named for Leonhart Fuchs, a sixteenth-century German botanist. Today’s popular cultivars are hybrids of F. magellanica and F. regia.
“Everyone wants to know how we get those heavy baskets in place,” says Gercens. “We work between 7 and 9 a.m. so we don’t interfere with visitors. Large articulating lifts are driven to spots where chains hang from the Conservatory roof. A rope and pulley system hoists the baskets in place. We secure them with two stainless steel connectors to ensure a safe fit.”
Along with the baskets, Longwood also has Fuchsia standards. These plants, on display near the water lilies, are supported on their own stems and take almost five years to produce.
If you do have a good spot to grow Fuchsia at home, Gercens encourages you to take advantage of the many cultivars available in every shade of pink, red, purple and white, and to incorporate Fuchsias with variegated foliage to add zest to the summertime garden.
“You’ll appreciate another trait of these wonderful plants,” he adds. “They’re `self-cleaning,’ so you never have to deadhead them.”
To read Karl Gercens’ blog entry about Fuchsias, visit http://longwoodgardens.wordpress.com/2009/07/21/fuchsias-galore/
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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