NOW BLOOMING IN THE NURSERY: ANDROMEDA

Pieris (Andromeda) 

One of the earliest shrubs to bloom in the spring, Pieris offers an elegant flower form that merits close inspection. Individual flowers may remind you of lily of the valley, but rather than one individual flower, they are grouped in large clusters that hang down from the tiered branches, each cluster up to 6” long. Often fragrant, they shimmer in the early spring landscape. Flowers may be white, pink or deep rose, depending on the variety. 

Native to the mountain regions of the Far East, Pieris japonica is wonderfully hardy in our area. It is a shrub with four seasons of interest. Glossy dark green leaves remain evergreen all year and for that reason alone, it merits inclusion in our gardens. But there is an added foliar element – new leaves emerge as the flowering cycle is coming to an end and are bronze to red in color. The contrast is eye-catching.  As the colorful new leaves turn dark green, buds for next year’s flowers are forming. The buds are bead-like and showy, rather like having jewelry on your shrub! The buds’ summer show continues throughout the winter, adding interest and contrast to the evergreen foliage.  

Pieris are excellent companions for Rhododendrons and Azaleas as they grow in similar conditions. They are ideal for use in foundation plantings, woodland edges and mixed borders. We are perhaps most familiar with the 3’-5’ tall, mid-sized varieties but there are excellent low growing varieties for the front of the border, and even dwarf varieties under 2’ tall which can be grown in containers. Versatile, they will grow in light conditions ranging from sun to partial shade to full shade. If grown in full sun, they will be happiest with some afternoon shade. And no matter the light conditions, they do appreciate protection from the drying effects of winter winds and sun. They like the acidic nature of our New England soils, and to look their best, they prefer that soil to be rich in organic matter.  

Deer resistant, they are also a favorite and important food source for our native pollinator, the mason bee. Here are varieties to consider for your landscape. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Compacta’ 

As the name suggests, this variety is somewhat smaller than traditional varieties of Andromeda. It grows to a height of 4’. As well, the leaves are slightly smaller than traditional varieties. It flowers heavily with trusses of white, bell-like flowers that are lightly fragrant. After the flowers fade, new foliage emerges and is flushed with red-bronze tones. As this new foliage matures it becomes a lovely shiny, deep green.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ 

‘Dorothy Wycoff’ is a beautiful variety, admired for its year round interest. It features dark red winter flower buds which open to reveal white flowers with a soft pink tone. The foliage is glossy and dark green in summer, turning mahogany-red in winter. This shrub will reach a height of 5’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Karenoma 

‘Karenoma’ has all the virtues associated with Andromedas – showy flower buds that open to elegant, upright trusses of fragrant, white flowers, new foliage which has bronze-red tones, and glossy leaves that remain through the winter. But this variety has an added virtue –it is a particularly hardy variety.  Growing to a height of 4’-5’ and a similar width, ‘Karenoma’  is perfect for the home landscape.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’ 

‘Katsura’ is a lovely plant with arching trusses of rich rose- pink, bell-shaped flowers that appear in early spring. A distinguishing feature of this variety is that new foliage emerges not just in spring, but into summer, offering a particularly long season to enjoy the dramatic, glossy, wine-red color of new growth. In 10 years, ‘Katsura’ will reach a height of 5’ and a similar width.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’ 

‘Little Heath’, as the name suggests, is smaller than many Andromedas, growing 2’-3’ high and wide at maturity. Pendulous white bell-shaped flowers appear in early spring. Unusual for Andromeda, ‘Little Heath’ has variegated foliage – each leaf is outlined in cream. New foliage emerges with bronze- red colored tones. It performs well in the ground and is also suitable for container planting. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ 

‘Mountain Fire’ is a showy and dramatic Andromeda, noted for its spectacular brilliant red new growth which remains on display for several weeks. No muted bronze tones for this variety. ‘Mountain Fire’ has lovely clusters of fragrant white flowers. It will grow slowly to a height of 6’ and a similar width.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Red Mill’ 

‘Red Mill’ is noted for the fiery red color of its newly emerging foliage. Leaves mature to a rich dark green. Large clusters of white flowers appear in early spring and are particularly long lasting on this variety. ‘Red Mill’ grows to a height of 4’-6’. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ 

Another Andromeda with lovely bronze-red new growth, ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ is notable for its relatively early and profuse bloom. Clusters of pink buds open to fragrant white flowers. Leaves mature to glossy dark green on lovely red stems. More narrow than many Andromeda, ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ will grow to a height of 6’-8’ and a width of 4’-6’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica ‘Valley Valentine’ 

‘Valley Valentine’ has much to commend it. It has beautiful, deep red flower buds that open to deep pink blooms. The newly emergent foliage has an attractive, bronzy tint before maturing to glossy green in the summer. Winter brings bronze-red tones to the foliage. It grows slowly, reaching a height of 5’-6’ in 10 years.  

 

Pieris japonica var. yakushimanum ‘Cavatine 

This hardy, slow growing Andromeda is increasingly popular. It has small leaves and grows as a dense, compact mound only 2’ tall and a bit wider in 10 years. Trusses of white flowers open slightly later in spring than other varieties and are particularly fragrant and long lasting. This variety is well suited to the smaller garden. It can be used in a foundation planting or mixed border, and is particularly attractive when used to line a walkway. 

 

Pieris japonica var. yakushimanum ‘Prelude’  

‘Prelude’ is similar to ‘Cavatine’ with the same low, mounding shape. Flower buds are pink, opening to long lasting, delicate white blooms. Emerging foliage has a pinkish tint before maturing to rich dark green.  

 

Pieris x ‘Brouwers Beauty’ 

Developed in Connecticut, ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’ is a cross between Pieris japonica and our native Pieris floribunda. The result is a beautiful shrub with purple-red winter buds which open to an abundant display of slightly fragrant white, bell-shaped flowers that are upright and slightly arching. New spring foliage is yellow-green, maturing to shiny dark green in summer and bronze in winter. The rich winter foliage complements the deep red flower buds, creating winter interest in the garden. Very hardy, it is slow growing, forming a dense shrub 5’-6’ tall and 3’-4’ wide in 10 years. This variety was a Cary Award winter in 2000, signifying its outstanding garden performance in our region.  

 

Dwarf Pieris 

While we tend to think of Andromeda as a medium sized shrub, there are several dwarf varieties which feature a compact, mounded form no more than 2’ tall and wide in 10 years. The leaves and flowers are proportionally reduced in size and appropriately scaled to the plant.  Dwarf Pieris varieties are a great option for the smaller landscape or rock gardens.  

 

 Pieris japonica ‘Bisbee Dwarf’ 

‘Bisbee Dwarf’ is a slow growing variety with small white flowers panicles that are plentiful and fragrant. Newly emergent leaves are reddish in color before maturing to a glossy dark green. This variety has a Massachusetts connection as it was introduced by Horatio Bisbee of Ware. 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Bonsai’ 

‘Bonsai’ has tiny, one inch, round, dark green leaves and a dense, upright growth habit. Panicles of white bell flowers are in perfect scale. And yes, it is perfect for bonsai! 

 

Pieris japonica ‘Pygmaea 

‘Pygmaea’ is a very unusual Andromeda. It has delicate 1” long, narrow leaves that give a feathery texture to the garden. Its growth habit is fairly upright. Extremely slow growing, it is suitable for containers, rock gardens or a small landscape. White flowers appear in spring.   

Blooming Flowers for your Valentine

Cut flowers make a beautiful gift, but if  you’re looking for something that lasts longer, consider flowering houseplants. Cyclamen, orchids, gerber daisies, kalanchoe and more make a fantastic gift. Let us help you choose the best for your special someone!

Houseplants for Your Valentine

Looking for a unique gift? Gift the gift of foliage houseplants to your special someone. Let our staff help you pick the best plant for your Valentine. We’ll consider light conditions, ease-of-care and personal style. We can help you find the perfect pot too! Our greenhouses are full of the freshest houseplants sourced from all over the country to bring you the best in selection and quality.

Video Look: Valentine’s Day in the Florist

We’re ready! Stop into our full-service florists at Mahoney’s Winchester and Tewksbury for beautiful blooms for your Valentine! Let us help you pull together fresh bouquets, or browse from our ready-made assortment of roses, tulips and mixed flowers. Find grab-and-go beautiful vase arrangements and potted arrangements too!

Video Look What’s In Store: February 2, 2019

Our greenhouses are loaded with fresh houseplants! With deliveries arriving every day throughout the winter months, you’ll find the perfect plants to dress up your home. Easy care, low light, tabletop to floor-sized, unique varieties and more! It’s all here.

HOW TO START SEEDS INDOORS

Few gardening pursuits are as rewarding as growing your flowers and vegetables from seed. For centuries, New England gardeners and farmers alike have embarked on their labor of love early on the season. The goal: to sow their seeds indoors while patiently awaiting the arrival of warm weather.

Our friends at Botanical Interests Seeds have helped us provide some indoor seed starting basics. We love the Botanical Interests seed collection. You’ll find hundreds of Non-GMO and USDA certified organic varieties.

 

Carefully tending to your plants from the beginning invokes a sense of wonder in gardeners of all ages. This is especially true in New England, as our growing season is short. Other than cool-season crops, you’ll want to wait until after the “Average Last Frost Date” to sow outside. The Farmer’s Almanac lists that as May 4th in Boston, but this is just an average, and it varies by town. Starting from seed allows you to get a jump-start on varieties that you may otherwise have to wait until May to find in the garden center. Different seed varieties require different numbers of days to sprout and grow. All Botanical Interests seed packets are labeled with their germination time. Use this information to help you find the perfect time to sow, relative to the last frost.

The other advantage of starting from seed is finding a selection that you may not otherwise find in started plants. Depending on which Mahoney’s you visit, you’ll find up to 500 seed varieties to choose from – this is especially exciting if you are looking for heirloom and hard-to-find vegetable varieties!

Perhaps the most compelling reason is that seed starting provides a wonderful sense of accomplishment – especially for kids. It connects you to nature, and makes you appreciate, and control where your food really comes from. We say it’s hard to explain – you just have to experience it!

GETTING STARTED

We should mention that many plants should be started from seed outdoors. Radishes, spinaches and carrots, for example, grow so fast that it is much easier to sow directly outdoors. There are other veggies such as salad greens that are fussy about being transplanted so planting directly into the garden produces better results. That said, let’s dig into seed starting indoors.

INDOOR SOWING GUIDE

 

CHOOSE YOUR CONTAINER

Most people buy our seed-starting flats because they maximize plants per square inch, but no one says you have to go that route; you can use anything from cut-down milk cartons to elegant glazed pottery. As long as the container is not too shallow, and you have proper drainage, the plants don’t really care. Go with what you like to look at. We carry many biodegradable fiber pots and seed trays, perfect for growing! Note: If you do reuse a container, make sure to clean and sanitize first.

LIGHTEN UP

Seeds need light – lots of it! When starting your seeds indoors, place in a south-facing sunny window. If you don’t think you’ll have enough sun, stop in and talk to us for tips on artificial lighting! There are ways to use your own lighting at home to help your seedlings along!

PLANTING MIXES

If you search online you’ll find a lot of conflicting information about what’s the “best” planting soil to use. We sell several – from our organic professional potting mix to an organic seed starting media by Espoma. They’ll all work great – just remember that regular outdoor garden soil is definitely not OK. Seeds need the right amount of moisture, warmth and air to germinate. Regular garden soil is too dense and will drown the seeds and eliminate much-needed oxygen and create an environment ripe for pests and disease.

name your plants

When they’re very young a lot of seedlings look pretty much the same, so do yourself a favor and label the plants as soon as you get started. While you are at it, mark down when you first planted the seeds. Trust us, you’ll find this really helpful.

keep it cozy

Seeds need warmth – most will germinate at temperatures around 75ºF, but eggplants, peppers, and other warm-season plants like it even warmer. Again it’s good to read package instructions carefully. Once the seeds germinate, room temperatures of 70º–75º will keep most seedlings happy.

a word about water

Water the containers as needed to keep them evenly moist but not sopping wet. Misting using a spray bottle, or bottom watering (adding water to the drainage tray) are great ways to keep planting mix moist without disturbing seeds and young seedlings. Covering your containers with a clear lid or clear plastic wrap also helps increase humidity during germination. After your seedlings emerge, remove the cover.

count down

Once your seedlings have grown enough to transplant to their ultimate spot (either in the ground or in a container) it’s time to prepare your babies to withstand outdoor conditions. It called “Hardening off.” Start by placing your seedlings outdoors in a protected, shady area. Over the next 7 to 10 days, move them more and more into direct sun (for sun-loving varieties). But remember your seedling are still very “tender” – be sure to bring them in at night if temperatures drop below 45°F. Then congratulations – you’re ready to plant.

Pollinators

Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies pollinate a third or more of the food we eat. You can help simply by choosing seeds that create habitats that protect and feed pollinators. And while you’re thinking of this, plant a diversity of colors, bloom times, and heights – it will provide a better environment, and it will be prettier for you, too.

a final thought

Before you start, take a minute to appreciate the seed. They come in all sizes – some as fine as powder – but each is a remarkable living thing with a protective outer coat, an embryo, stored nutrients, and a genetic blueprint for its development. When you stop to think, it’s really quite miraculous that a tiny seed will grow into a big, beautiful plant, in just one season!

Winter Birding: The Importance of Food

 

In Massachusetts, winter is a difficult time for birds. Days are often windy and cold; nights are long and even colder. Lush vegetation has withered or been consumed, and most insects have died or become dormant. During these extremely cold days, finding food can be especially difficult. They cannot forage as easily for food when snow accumulates or temperatures drop to freezing. Some birds remain in the same location year-round and benefit greatly from the extra food sources offered by backyard feeders. These birds require high calorie and oil rich foods to survive our winter.

During spring and summer, most songbirds eat insects and spiders, which are highly nutritious, abundant, and, for the most part, easily captured. During fall and winter, nonmigratory songbirds shift their diets to fruits and seeds to survive. This is the time of year when bird feeding enthusiasts roll out the welcome mat and set the table. The question is, what to serve to attract a diversity of birds? The answer is to provide a variety of food types.

In Massachusetts, we can expect to see the friendly Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, the spectacularly colored Northern Cardinal, all manner of Finch, Sparrows, Woodpeckers and Jays; for a comprehensive list, check out Mass Audubon’s website!

 

Which seed types should I provide?

Black-oil sunflower seeds attract the greatest number of species. These seeds have a high meat-to-shell ratio, they are nutritious and high in fat which is especially important in the winter months. Their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to handle and crack. Several studies, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Seed Preference Test, show that this high-energy food is the favorite of most birds that visit feeders. Striped sunflower seeds are popular with larger-beaked birds. These striped seeds are larger and have a thicker seed coat than black-oil sunflower.

Peanuts, and tree nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans and pistachios are enjoyed by Jays, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens and Titmice. If you don’t want squirrels “going nuts” for these foods, try using a squirrel-resistant feeder.

Millet is a small round seed. It comes in white and red varieties; most birds prefer white proso millet over red. Nyjer®, or thistle seed, is a delicacy for small Finches such as Goldfinches, Siskins, and Redpolls. Offering the small-sized, premium-priced Nyjer seeds in special Nyjer feeders will provide more value for your money. These feeders come in either a sock form with a small mesh fabric, or a tube feeder with tiny ports that prevent the seeds from spilling out. Finches will pull the seeds individually through the mesh or ports to enjoy them.

Birds’ feeding habits vary based on weather patterns and season. The best thing to do is experiment with seed and your backyard feeders. Take notes and photos for a personal sense of well-being and a great activity to do with kids!

lyric-cardinal_detail lyric-supreme

We love Lyric Bird Seed because of their superior ingredients that ensure our New England birds have their essential nutrients to thrive- especially in the winter months. A superior seed means you will attract the widest variety of birds around! All birding products are available in our Winchester, Falmouth, Tewksbury and Concord stores.

 

Video Look: Christmas In The Florist

With Christmas just days away, let the Florist at Mahoney’s in Winchester and Tewksbury help you get ready. Find fresh cut flowers, grab-and-go arrangements, table centerpieces, boxwood trees and festive bouquets to dress up the house!

What’s In Store: December 16, 2018

Poinsettias of every color and size, festive holiday blooms like hydrangea, Christmas Cactus and more– it’s all in our greenhouse! Plus stop into our Florists at Mahoney’s Winchester and Tewksbury for grab and go arrangements, beautiful boxwood trees, fresh cut flowers and more!