Now In: Fall Color

It’s hard to believe, but summer is coming to a close and our stores are beginning the transition to Fall! Stop in to refresh your planters with a color palette that will take you through the change of the season

Spring Pruning Basics for New England

Shrubs add beauty and structure to our gardens. During the first few years after planting, a shrub requires little to no pruning. As it matures, selective pruning can increase bloom, improve shape and or reduce size. Whatever your objective, intentional pruning helps produce a natural looking shrub with a graceful form. Below we’ll walk through the basics of spring pruning from tools to technique!

Choose the right tools.

Use clean, sharp hand tools rather than electric shears. Shearing a shrub promotes dense growth at the branch tips. This blocks light and inhibits air circulation inside the shrub, which can eventually lead to the shrub’s decline, either by disease or lack of foliage for photosynthesis. And remember to always disinfect your tools with rubbing alcohol before you begin.

Keep two thirds!

A shrub is not a poodle. Never remove more than one-third of the shrub’s mass in any given year. This preserves enough foliage for the plant to make sufficient food to stay robust and generate new growth quickly.

Choose a pruning method that meets your goals and the plant’s needs.

A “heading cut” is used to shorten a branch. The direction in which the top remaining bud is pointing will determine the direction of new growth. Prune one quarter inch above the bud, making the cut at a slight angle.

A “thinning cut” reduces the density of the shrub by removing branches at their point of origin from the center of the shrub.

Clean up.

Always remove dead, diseased or broken branches as soon as you notice them.

With few exceptions, you should avoid coating pruning cuts on shrubs or trees with wound dressing or paint. Trees and shrubs have their own mechanisms to heal a wound and need oxygen for proper recovery. In some cases wound dressings inhibit the availability of oxygen which is needed for proper recovery.

Know when to prune.

Different shrubs should be pruned at different times of the year depending on their individual biological make-up and bloom season. Read our blog on Nine Shrubs to Prune in April for some of the common favorites who would benefit from an early trim!



Houseplants: they’re not as thirsty as you think.


Winter is a wonderful time of year to cultivate your very own indoor jungle and bask in the glory of nature while staying warm and dry at home. Whether you’re new to indoor plant parenthood or a seasoned veteran with teenaged plants at home it won’t surprise you that the number one question we hear in the greenhouse is “how much should I water?”

And while we’d love to give you a tried and true, one-size-fits-all watering recipe, the truthful answer is “it depends.” Light, humidity, plant species, and time of year all play a role but here are a few rules of thumb for keeping your indoor plants happy all year long.

      1. It’s easier for a plant to recover from too little water than too much water. Overwatering can lead to root rot and fungal issues on the foliage. Many indoor plants will thrive on a fair amount of neglect.
      2. Plants prefer infrequent deep watering over frequent shallow waterings. Resist the temptation to dump the remnants of your forgotten water glass into your plants, they won’t thank you for that.
      3. Light and water work together. The more light your plant receives, the more water it will need. Plants in low light areas will need less water than their sun-basking friends.
      4. Cut watering frequency in half during the winter months. Plants use less water in winter than they do during the growing season. Generally speaking, you’ll water half as often in winter as you would during spring and summer.
      5. Plants love to be watered from the bottom, when possible. Check out our video on “cache-potting” for the best way to do this:



So, how can you tell if your houseplants need water? Here are our favorite ways to find out if our leafy green friends want us to make ‘em a round of drinks:

      1. The knuckle test: stick your finger right into the pot all the way up to your knuckle. If it’s still moist, you can skip the watering.
      2. The weight test: for smaller plants lift the pot. If it feels light, it’s probably time for a drink. If it’s heavy, there’s plenty of water to sustain her for now.
      3. The thump test: if your plants are in plastic nursery pots give the side of the pot a flick. If you hear a hollow thwack, time to water, if it’s more of a thump or thud, she’s not thirsty.


Keep in mind that different plants have different watering needs, when in doubt chat with one of our greenhouse team members to learn more about your new plants’ preferences. As Uncle Mike likes to say: “plants are like people”…everyone’s a little different.



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!

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.


Overseeding the Lawn

Want the secret to growing a thicker, greener lawn? It’s simple! Overseeding is the key to making sure your lawn maintains its vibrant, lush appearance. Even the healthiest grass can be reinvigorated by overseeding it with new grass seed.

As time goes on, cool-season grass plants mature, and their reproduction rates begin to slow down. This can leave your lawn looking dull and unhealthy.

Overseeding is an easy, cost-effective practice you can implement in your lawn care routine to give your existing lawn a boost in the growing seasons. Once complete, you’ll have a lawn with enhanced color, thickness, and improved appearance over time.


What is Overseeding?

Overseeding a lawn is the process of spreading new grass seed over an existing lawn. The term commonly gets confused with another lawn care process called reseeding, which involves killing the existing grass and weeds, then starting fresh by planting new grass seed. Many homeowners decide to reseed their lawn when there is extensive damage, the lawn is overgrown with weeds, or simply just wanting a fresh start with a different type of grass seed.


Why Should I Overseed My Lawn?

One of the main benefits of overseeding a lawn is that it revitalizes a thinning lawn without having to start from scratch and reseed the lawn. Over time, even the best lawns can begin to lose the vigor they once had. Factors such as excess traffic, too much shade, weather conditions, and disease can take a toll on your lawn’s appearance and cause the grass to thin. Overseeding can help to thicken those thinning areas by filling them in with new grass seed.

Overseeding also increases your lawn’s ability to resist weeds and disease. Thinning, worn-out lawns create ideal conditions for weeds to grow because there is plenty of space available. Overseeding is a quick and easy way to crowd out weeds by thickening the existing lawn and denying space, light, and nutrients needed for weeds to grow. Remember, the best way to keep weeds from taking over is to have a healthy, dense lawn.


When Should I Overseed?

In New England, aim to overseed in the fall, preferably in early September. A beneficial combination of cool air and warm soil temperatures during this time create the ideal conditions for new seedlings to successfully germinate.

If you happen to miss out on fall seeding, the next best time for overseeding a cool-season lawn is in early spring, ideally between March and April and when your soil has reached a temperature of 55℉ consistently.


  1. Choose The Right Seed: Consider the light, traffic and appearance you desire in a lawn before selection your seed. Not all seeds are created equal, we recommend Jonathan Green’s Black Beauty Series. Developed with disease and pest resistance in mind, Black Beauty grass root systems can grow up to 4′ deep and the display is unparalleled- naturally dark and green! With opens for drought-tolerant, dense shade, high-traffic, select what’s right for your yard.
  2.  Mow the Lawn: Once you’ve selected the right seed, mow your lawn on the lowest mower setting (around 1 – 2 inches). Make sure to bag the clippings. This will ensure that the grass seed will make contact with the soil and get adequate sunlight and water.
  3. Remove Thatch and Debris: After mowing, rake your yard with a metal rake to remove excessive thatch and debris. Thatch is a layer of organic components (leaves and stems) found between the grass and soil that can prevent proper air circulation and water absorption for seedlings, which is necessary for germination. Vigorously raking your lawn also helps to loosen and break up the soil to create good seed-to-soil contact, making it easier for the seeds to take root.
  4. Improve Soil: Most New England Soils are highly acidic and require a correction in pH to create ideal conditions for seed to germinate. We love applying Mag-i-Cal to help correct pH. To stimulate soil microbial life and release trapped nutrients while relieving compaction, we recommend Love your Soil which can also be applied during the time of overseeding.
  5. Spread Seed: Prior to spreading seed, make sure you carefully follow instructions on the seed label. For smaller areas, spread seed by hand or use a handheld spreader. For larger areas, use a broadcast spreader to ensure all areas get the proper amount of seed. After spreading the seed, lightly rake the seed into the top ¼ inch of the soil to ensure proper seed-to-soil contact.
  6. Water: New seedlings need the correct amount of moisture to ensure proper germination. Water new seedlings lightly twice daily for 10-15 minutes each time for the first few weeks after planting seed.
  7. Aftercare: Having an aftercare plan is important post-seeding to ensure all of your hard work doesn’t go to waste! Once you’ve applied seed, make sure to maintain a regular watering and mowing schedule. Be sure to wait until the grass blade height has reached about four inches before mowing for the first time post-seeding. Also, even though it’s tempting to run around on your new, lush lawn, it’s best to try to limit excess traffic on your newly overseeded lawn to avoid damage.






Now In Bud & Bloom: Peonies

It’s a great time to load up on perennial peonies! The Spring favorite is in bud and bloom in our perennial yards now. This season, we’re carrying an incredible selection of varieties to adorn your garden. We have tried and true favorites as well has hard to find varieties, you’ll want to collect them all!

Peonies are garden classics and have been growing in Eastern gardens for 4,000 years. It was used as the Imperial symbol in China and slowly migrated to Japan around the 8th century. Ancient Greek mythology highly regarded the peony for its medicinal purposes, as did the Christians in Europe during the Middle Ages.

Peony derives its name from a Greek myth. Paeon, a student of Aesculapis (God of Medicine), was well aware of the medicinal qualities of peony plants. He used them to heal a wound suffered by the god Pluto which so infuriated Aesculapis he threatened to kill Paeon. Pluto saved Paeons life by turning him into a peony. Another myth replaces Pluto with Zeus.

There are a few myths about peonies and my favorite is about the “nymph” named Paeonia. She was so beautiful that she attracted the attention of Apollo. This did not sit well with Aphrodite, she was so jealous she turned Paeonia into a flower.

There are 3 classifications for peonies, herbaceous, tree and intersectional. All are hardy to zone 3, drought tolerant, deer resistant and low maintenance. There are many varieties to choose from and can be used in the landscape as a specimen, mass planted as a hedge, or in a container on the patio. They do not like to be planted to deep and will last for years with minimal care.

HERBACEOUS – These are the ones that die back to the ground every year. They will grow 3 to 4 feet high and wide and have lush, glossy, green foliage. The flowers come in a range of colors from shades of red, pink, purple and white. Blooms range in size and fullness, from single petal to fully double blooms. Japanese varieties have 1 to 2 layers of petals that surround a cluster of partially formed petals in the center (petaloid stamens). There are many that are fragrant, from a mild scent to a heavy fragrance.

TREE – This variety has a woody stem that stays throughout the winter. Tree peonies can grow 5 feet tall or more but are slow growers. So, it is quite possible your plant will remain small for several years. The flowers are larger than herbaceous peonies and the color range is red, pink, coral, yellow, and purple to bi-colors. Some are fragrant but not as much as herbaceous. They will thrive in dappled shade with only 4 to 5 hours of sun and bloom 2 weeks earlier than herbaceous ones. Although they lose their leaves in winter the woody stems maintain a graceful structure for the season.

INTERSECTIONAL – Also know as ITOH peonies originated by crossing a tree with a herbaceous peony. This was done by Japanese botanist Dr. Tochi Itoh in 1948. Sadly Dr. Itoh died before the seedlings were able to flower. It was up to his family to continue and nurture them until they finally bloomed in 1964. An American botanist, Louis Smirnow, was finally able to get permission to bring some plants to the USA where he patented 4 hybrids and named them ITOH hybrids.

ITOH’S grow up to 3 feet tall and wide. The lush finely divided leaves grow close to the ground giving it an elegant mounded look throughout the season. The have enormous flowers with fluffy petals that surround a cluster of yellow stamens. ITOH’S come in a range of colors including red, apricot, coral, pink and yellow. Just as herbaceous peonies start to fade the ITOH’S burst on to the stage, extending the peony season another 2 to 3 weeks. It is similar to herbaceous as it dies back for the winter and the flowers are large like the tree peonies.

There is a peony for every garden, whether it is used as a specimen, hedge, container or just added to the perennial border. Place fragrant varieties close to home where their scent can be enjoyed. Float a flower in a bowl, cut a bouquet and enjoy these beauties for years to come.



When you think lawn seeding, spring may be the first thing that comes to mind. But the warm soil temperatures and cool nights of late summer and early fall actually mean now’s the best time to seed your lawn! Planting now without the stress of summer heat means your lawn seed has enough time to establish before the winter’s first frost. Here’s a checklist of our favorite products to help you renovate the lawn with seed



Now’s the best time to prep your soil. Loosen your soil on the top inch or so and get the grade you want. It’s also a great time to add more top-soil or compost if needed. The better your soil is, the healthier your lawn will be.


So, how much soil do you need? Well that depends on your conditions. Keep in mind here that your turf success is really just a result of your soil quality. The stronger your root system is in deep, healthy soil- the better your new seed will perform. I put down up to 10 inches of compost and loam when I redid my back yard and it shows in times of summer drought. This summer, my lawn stayed green while others dried out. It is deeply rooted and healthy enough to withstand stressful conditions. Use a quality top soil or compost to amend your existing conditions. If your soil is of good quality, just till and loosen the top couple inches and rake out a good grade.

One other great product that I always recommend is Jonathan Green’s, Love Your Soil. It’s a cool organic product that stimulates microbes in the soil and helps to loosen heavy, hard packed soils, to release trapped nutrients. It’s a good preparation amendment so your soil can better stimulate root growth for your new seeding.


If there’s ever a time to test your soil- it’s now. Even if you are only testing the pH. You can get an extensive test through our own lawn-care service, Safe Lawns, or the UMass Extension (for a fee). Or you can do a basic, at-home test yourself.

The soil test will tell you your lawns pH, nutrients and soil structure. I find the most important right now is to test pH levels. You see, if your soil has a low pH– your fertilizers won’t work as well. The best way to explain this is if your soil is too acidic you can’t derive the iron and magnesium naturally occurring in your soil so your lawn will never get to that dark green color everyone wants. To adjust your pH into the desired neutral area, add Jonathan Green’s MAGI-I-CAL or lime.


Now you want to add the seed. Make sure you pick a seed that’s good for your sun requirements and make sure you have a good quality seed.

Your grass seed is more important than most people think. Cheap grass seed is just that, cheap and we can’t in good faith carry it. You see, varieties of grass seed get old and are replaced as better seeds become available. This makes the older seed cheaper than the newer, better performing ones. Another way to get cheap seed is to add annual blue grass to the mix. Annual blue grass is an inexpensive filler, but it doesn’t come back the next year making it a turf that comes up well initially, but then your lawn comes in very thin next spring. Cheap grass seed is like a cheap beer only that headache you get is going to last for years.

It’s also important to pick the right seed for your sun requirements. You don’t want to take a full sun blend and put it in the heavy shade areas. Use the right seed for the right sun. Jonathan Greens dense shade will do great under those trees down to about 3 hours of sun. Don’t forget grass seed does need about 3 hrs of sun to grow or it will just slowly fade away. Sometimes shrubs and perennials do better for those heavy shade areas.


Yes fertilizer. It makes a huge difference and it seems like everyone wants to either skip this step or add it later. Whether organic or synthetic, add fertilizer when you seed.

Fertilizers are meant to release phosphorus into the soil at time of germination and then add nitrogen in a slow release fashion thereafter to continue feeding. Don’t mix seed and fertilizer. It doesn’t matter which one goes first or second but add one and then put the other down and water.




The rest is up to you! Be sure to keep your new seed evenly moist in the beginning because if you let grass seed dry out too much, it may prolong the germination or even worse– kill the seed during germination. This first week is very important, after that you can back down to a deep water every 2- 4 days depending on the weather forecast.