A Guide to Fall Container Gardening in New Hampshire

Garden Center

A container garden is not only functional but also beautiful and adds a touch of aesthetic beauty to your landscape. We’ll teach you how to create your own gorgeous fall container gardens here!

Vegetable Container Garden 

Grow delicious organic fall crops in a gourd-geous fall container garden! Showcase your garden yield with a beautiful wooden box filled with fast-growing fall vegetables like ornamental peppers, purple cabbage, green onions, beans, radishes, and beetroot. Throw in some pumpkins and autumn squash, and other rustic accents around the planter to add a touch of fall to your design. Situate your vegetable container garden in an area where it can receive full sunlight for up to six hours a day, and enjoy some delicious organic vegetables pulled straight from your patio at Thanksgiving. 

Vegetable Perennial Mix Garden 

Your container garden doesn’t have to be limited to just vegetables. You can grow your favorite fall crops right alongside beautiful fall flowers that will actually benefit the livelihood of your crops! Creating companion plant gardens and pairing crops that like each other in the same container will make your gardening routine easier and help you create beautiful planters. Beans and asparagus like growing with marigolds, potatoes like growing alongside pumpkins and sunflowers, and cauliflower likes growing with nasturtiums! Incorporate some fall-colored leaves into your garden plants to add extra beauty and benefit your crops’ soil with organic matter. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Guide to Fall Container Gardening-mixed fall planter kale and chrysanthemumsFall Color Basket Container Garden

You can leave this fall container garden on your front porch well beyond the fall season—it never goes out of style. Vintage farmhouse décor will look great on your outdoor patio or front porch, and it’s easy to put together. Fill a straw basket or watering can with seasonal favorites like ornamental peppers and fall-toned pansies like ‘Bowles’ black pansy, and you’ll have a gorgeous container display in no time. 

To incorporate a more modern aesthetic in your color basket, try filling a black cane or metal planter with some bold perennials in shades of red, orange, and brown. Concrete planters also make for great fall container gardens, especially when placed alongside mini pumpkins, straw bales, and outdoor lanterns!  

Blooming Window Box Container Garden 

Fall is the perfect time to fill your window box with mums and spruce up your garden. This blooming window box container garden will make the exterior of your home look picture-perfect. Especially with a flower mix as beautiful as the one we’ve listed for you to try out here:

  1. ‘Draga’ chrysanthemum
  2. ‘Bolero’ chrysanthemum
  3. ‘Osaka purple’ flowering kale
  4. ‘Dwarf mondo’ ornamental grass 
  5. ‘Glacier’ variegated ivy

You don’t have to stick to this combination; these are just a few fall favorites we love. The beauty of fall gardening comes from how many passionate tones and textures you can incorporate into your containers. 

Container Garden Accessories That Make A Statement 

Fall foliage and twigs add a whimsical touch to this container design. Using red dogwood and other decorative branches, you can DIY your own tall-looking gorgeous garden containers on both sides of your front porch. Make your planters more visually appealing by using tall, narrow containers and tall ornamental grasses like pampas grass and feather reed grass. Elevating your front porch game has never been so easy!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Guide to Fall Container Gardening-pumpkin DIY planterPumpkin Container Gardens for Moultonborough

Pumpkins are a magical way to incorporate fall into your container garden. With this funky design, you can even use the pumpkin as a container! Simply cut a hole in a pumpkin, clean the guts out (better yet, get your kids to do it for you), and fill your pumpkin with a gorgeous fall plant pulled straight from the pot with its soil and roots. 

How To Include Pumpkins In Your Planters 

It’s hard not to love mini pumpkins during the fall season. You can add a touch of autumn to even the smallest of places with these ideas:

  1. Place pumpkins on a trellis alongside your planters
  2. Set pumpkins on your porch steps 
  3. Stack them on top of each other according to size
  4. Paint them modern colors that complement the colorful plants inside. Add a cute touch by painting your family’s name or house number on the pumpkin!
  5. Create a jack-o-lantern for your front porch

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Guide to Fall Container Gardening-autumn plant display with gourds and pumpkinsSome people think gardening is over when the fall season arrives, but really it’s just begun. Visit us at Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, today to learn more about how to elevate your front porch with some beautiful fall container gardening designs. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates!  


Fall Care for Peonies in Moultonborough

Garden Center

Peonies are well-known, magnificent perennials with big blooms and lush leaves. They delight our senses every summer or spring with luxurious heads of ruffled petals. When fall comes around, it’s high time to plant new ones, divide mature plants, and prepare them for next spring with a bit of care—here’s how!  

How to Cut Back Peonies 

Peonies have a majestic but relatively short bloom time, averaging around two to three weeks. Deadhead the flowers after their blooms are spent to save them the energy of producing seeds, but make sure the green leaves remain until the end of the summer—they will feed your plant for the rest of the season. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Fall Care for Peonies-cutting back a peony plant for fallOnce the leaves go brown in the fall, you can cut the stems back to the ground. Be careful not to cut so close as to damage the crown of the plant, as this is where new growth will arise next spring. Letting the leaves and stems stay on the plant over winter invites fungi, which can damage your peonies. 

Note: This is only applicable to herbaceous peonies, not tree peonies, which don’t need to be cut back in the fall, and rarely need pruning except to remove dead and diseased branches in the spring. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Fall Care for Peonies-planting a peony shrubWhen to Plant Peonies 

Fall is the ideal time for planting new peony tubers; anytime in late September or October is fair game. The tubers should be in the ground for at least six weeks before the ground freezes. It’s possible to plant in the spring, but they generally don’t do as well in the first year as those planted in the previous fall.

Fall is also the best time for dividing and propagating a mature peony. Ideally, wait until the leaves turn brown and are dormant before digging and dividing. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Fall Care for Peonies-peonies blooming in gardenHow to Make Your Peonies Comfortable

  • The Best Location: Choose a sunny, well-draining location away from the wind. Remember to choose your location wisely as they don’t like to be transplanted. Peonies do best in rich organic soil but tolerate many soil types. Anticipate a growth of two to four feet in height.
  • The Planting Process: Dig a hole about two feet wide and two feet deep, and mix in some compost or aged manure during planting. You’ll see three to five “eyes” or buds on the crown of the plant—make sure you plant these facing upwards and 2 inches below the soil surface; avoid planting them too deep.
  • Finishing Touches: Mulch your new plantings with evergreen boughs, straw, pine needles, or bark mulch to protect them over their first winter. Mulch should be removed in the spring after the risk of cold weather passes, as peonies don’t like to be smothered by mulch above their crowns. Peonies more than a year old don’t need to be mulched in the fall.   

When to Feed Peonies 

Mixing in compost or aged manure when you plant in the fall will boost their growth the following year. Generally, the best time to give them fertilizer is after they finish blooming in mid-summer! Compost or aged manure are the best foods for peonies, which you can top dress around the crown but not directly on top.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-Fall Care for Peonies-peony support metal cageTips for Summer Care

  • Stake Early: The big flower blossoms we love are usually so heavy that the stems keel over. Staking is necessary, but it’s best not to wait until the flowers fall over. You can create a more stable and discreet support system by setting up your stakes early in the spring. Tomato cages, three-legged peony stakes, or crisscrossing wooden stakes are great options.
  • Plant Different Varieties for Longer Blooms: Peonies only bloom for a short time, but you can enjoy their blooms in your garden for longer by growing more than one variety, each with different bloom times. Flower colors come in pink, purple, red, yellow, and white. Look for early, mid-, and late-season bloomers.  

For more info on peony fall care or to pick out your next new flower, feel free to visit Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates!  

Plant Bulbs in the Fall for Spring Blooms

Garden Center

Every year at the end of winter, just when we’ve almost given up on spring, the first bulbs of the year suddenly emerge with fresh flowers. They’re one of the great gifts of early spring, often appearing when everything is still brown. But they can’t surprise us with flowers in the spring unless we take the time to plant them in the fall! 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - New Hampshire - Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms -flower bulb planting toolsBulbs 101: A Basic Overview

In case you’re new to bulbs or want a quick reminder—bulbs are perennial flowers with onion-shaped roots that emerge for a period of time in the spring or summer before disappearing into the ground until the following year. Crocus, tulips, snowdrops, daffodils, and hyacinths are just a few examples. Spring-flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall, whereas summer-flowering bulbs can be planted in the spring. 

When to Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs 

Just as the harvest is underway and we’re enjoying the produce of a long summer, we also need to be thinking about planting bulbs. Once the temperatures have cooled to 50-60℉, it’s high time to put bulbs in the ground. Ideally, you want them buried at least 6 six weeks before the ground freezes, so they have time to settle in and do some rooting before winter.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - New Hampshire - Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms -tulip bulbs in soilHow to Plant Bulbs

A good rule is to plant them 2-3 times as deep as the height of the bulb. Remember to place the pointy side up, and feel free to work some compost, peat, or other organic matter into the soil to help with nutrients and drainage. Gently tamp down the soil after you cover them, water them once as a finishing touch, cover them with mulch, and say goodbye until spring. 

Note: Don’t forget to mark their location in your garden journal so you don’t accidentally dig them up when you’re planting something else!

Where to Plant Bulbs 

Sunlight requirements differ for the different bulbs, but generally, most need full sun or partial shade. Keep in mind that the early bloomers emerge before the trees have leafed, so you’ll have extra light in the garden. Most bulbs also need well-draining locations to keep them free of root rot.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - New Hampshire - Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms - daffodil and muscariTips for Arranging Bulbs in the Garden 

Planting bulbs where they have the proper growing conditions is only part of the equation. The other half is the fun you can have while designing beautiful displays for the springtime:

  • Plant in Clusters: A single flowering bulb doesn’t have as much impact as a cluster. For best results, plant them in odd groupings of 3, 5, or 7 bulbs. Dig a single hole and plant them together with appropriate spacing.  
  • Plan for Successive Blooms: Not all bulbs flower at the same time. You can plan to arrange bulbs for successive blooming, with later bulbs emerging as early bulbs start to fade. That way, you can enjoy bulbs all the way through the spring.  
  • Layer Bulbs: With their successive bloom times in mind, you can even layer different bulbs as you plant them, kind of like a lasagna. It’s a good way to take advantage of bulbs of different heights, create beautiful combinations, and keep all the space in your garden blooming.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - New Hampshire - Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring Blooms -pruning bulb foliageHow to Prune Back Existing Bulbs 

Once the bulbs are done flowering, they’ll start to produce a seed head where the flower was. These should be deadheaded in order to spare the plant from putting energy towards seeds. The leaves will remain green for 6-8 weeks after flowering and should be left alone, as they are replenishing the energy stores in the bulb for the year. Once the leaves turn yellow, you can cut them back to the ground. 

Spring is not the only time for planting flowers. In fact, fall is the all-important time for planting spring bulbs. Bury a few of these gems now, and you’ll enjoy a wealth of flowers next spring! 

To see our selection of bulbs, feel free to visit our garden center in Moultonborough, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates!

Azaleas vs. Rhododendrons

Garden Center · Planting

Azaleas and rhododendrons are two of the most celebrated shrubs in the gardening world. With more similarities than differences, it’s easy to confuse the two. Learning their differences can help you select the best shrub for your landscape, allow you to care for their unique needs, and deepen your appreciation for the wide variety of these beautiful plants.   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-pink blooming rhododendronBotanical Origins

Both of these species come from the larger rhododendron genus, which explains their close similarities. In that sense, you can say that azaleas are a type of rhododendron. Look at the botanical name of azaleas, and you’ll even find the genus rhododendron. But when common gardeners refer to “rhododendrons,” they’re not talking about the whole genus but rather a specific species of shrub, which are also called rhododendrons, and are different from azaleas.   

Azaleas vs. Rhododendrons: The Main Differences 

Below are some details that can allow you to identify and distinguish these shrubs:

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-azalea vs. rhododendron blooms

  • Flower Shape: Rhododendrons usually have bell-shaped flowers, whereas azaleas have tubular or trumpet-shaped flowers. 
  • Number of Stamens: Rhododendron flowers have ten stamens, whereas azalea blossoms have five to six stamens. 
  • Flower Clusters: Rhododendrons feature clusters of flowers, whereas azalea flowers are each attached to single stems, but they appear as clusters because they’re close together.
  • Flower Color: Generally, azaleas feature a wider variety of colors, ranging from white to red, orange, yellow, cream, purple, pink, and anything in between. By contrast, rhododendrons have a more classic palette of white, pink, purple, red, and sometimes yellow.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-azalea vs. rhododendron foliage

  • Type of Leaves: Azaleas are usually deciduous but may be evergreen, depending on the climate. In contrast, rhododendrons are mostly evergreens.
  • Leaf Shape: Azaleas usually have small, thin, oval-shaped, or pointed leaves, whereas rhododendrons have larger, thicker, leathery, paddle-shaped leaves. 
  • Blooming Time: Azaleas usually bloom in April, with some “repeat blooming” varieties having a second bloom time in the summer. Most rhododendrons bloom later in the spring, after azaleas. 

Common Features of Azaleas and Rhododendrons 

Despite their minor differences, both groups of shrubs dazzle your landscape in the spring with their profusion of colorful flowers. Both personalities exude elegance, grace, color—and lots of it! It’s rare for evergreen shrubs, like many rhododendrons (and some azaleas), to display such incredible blooms. The deciduous varieties are no less stunning.    

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-azalea vs. rhododendron purple blooming How to Grow Azaleas and Rhododendrons

With their close heritage, both types of plants share many common growing preferences, including:

  • Soil: Both azaleas and rhododendrons need acidic soil to flourish, with a pH of around 5 to 5.5. If your soil is too alkaline, you can lower the pH by adding special fertilizer for acidic-loving plants or mixing in sulfate. 
  • Light: Both types of shrubs grow in full sun or partial shade. Ideally, they’ll receive the soft rays of morning light and dappled shade or filtered sunlight in the afternoon. 
  • Moisture: Azaleas and rhododendrons thrive with evenly moist, well-draining soil. A layer of mulch helps keep the moisture in, especially for newly planted shrubs. Avoid planting in areas with poor drainage where they’ll get waterlogged. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-azalea vs. rhododendron shrubWhen to Plant Azaleas and Rhododendrons 

These plants are pretty flexible with planting, but we recommend planting before late autumn. Planting by mid-fall will ensure your plant has time to establish strong roots before winter and prepare to take on the chilly winter months. As long as they have time to settle in before the cold, you can plant these whenever suits you best!

Visit us at Stephens Landscaping Garden Center to see the differences between azaleas vs. rhododendrons for yourself! At the end of the day, both of these spring bloomers are cherished around the globe for their exuberant display of flowers, and you can enjoy them both right in your home landscape. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more!

When to Plant Trees and Shrubs

Garden Center · Planting

Trees provide lasting beauty and countless benefits for your property, like fresh air, shade, and a source of wildlife habitat, fruit, and flowers. But planting a tree can be stressful for the tree itself. To set your new tree up for success, it’s essential to choose the best time for planting and support it with proper planting techniques!   

When is the Best Time to Plant Trees?

The best time for planting trees and shrubs is when they are dormant in the early spring before leafing out or in the autumn after leaf drop but before the hard freeze. Planting them during dormancy reduces the stress they experience during transplanting and allows them to develop roots during the fall and early spring. 

That said, planting trees also works well anytime in the cool autumn season and in spring before hot weather arrives. It’s impossible to plant during the winter when the ground is frozen. The summer also presents a challenge, as heat makes it very difficult for new trees to settle in and get comfortable. Although planting in the summer is harder on the trees, it is still possible to do so, as long as you commit to keeping your tree well-watered.   

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-When to Plant Trees and Shrubs-gardener holding a shrubWhen to Plant Spring Flowering Shrubs and Trees   

The fall is the best time to plant spring-flowering shrubs and trees, like forsythia, lilacs, and crape myrtles, because you won’t be disturbing their blooming cycles. Plant them in the fall, and you’ll get to enjoy their blossoms the following spring. 

When to Plant Conifers

The very best time to plant conifers is in the early spring, after the ground thaws. The refreshing rains and cool spring weather give them ample time to take root before the summer heat sets in. 

The fall is the second-best time to plant conifers. It will give them both the autumn and spring to set roots before next year’s summer heat. Just remember to water them generously every week until the ground freezes and protect them over the winter with a layer of mulch. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-When to Plant Trees and Shrubs-proper hole dug for planting a treeTips for Successful Tree Planting 

1. Choose the Right Location: For the best long-term success, start with a location with the right light and soil conditions for your specific tree and enough space for the tree to grow. 

2. Dig Twice as Wide: Help your tree root through the surrounding soil by digging your hole twice as wide as your new tree’s root ball and a little deeper than necessary.

3. Plant at the Proper Height: Take care to plant the tree at the proper depth. Backfill the hole before planting, as necessary, to ensure the tree is neither too deep nor sticking out above the ground. The trunk flare at the base of your new tree’s trunk should be flush with the surrounding earth.

4. Supplement with Biotone: Biotone is a fertilizer that encourages root growth. You can add it to the hole of the tree at the time of planting.

5. Straighten the Tree: Step back and look at the tree from several angles to ensure the trunk is straight, and adjust the tree’s position until it is. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to straighten the tree after planting.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center-Moultonborough-When to Plant Trees and Shrubs-mulched tree newly planted

6. Mulch Your New Tree: Add 2-3 inches of mulch around the tree well to keep moisture in and protect it over the winter. Remember not to mound the mulch around the base of the trunk, and keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent any rotting of the tender, young bark. 

7. Water and Water Again: Water the new tree generously after planting and continue to water every day for 1-2 weeks. After two weeks, continue watering every 2-3 days, and water at least weekly in the fall until the ground freezes. If in doubt, check the moisture level below the mulch. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water. If you’re going away on holiday, set your sprinkler on a timer, or ask a neighbor to help with watering

As the temperatures cool down this fall, it’s one of the best times to plant new trees and shrubs in your landscape. Visit our Moultonborough, New Hampshire garden center to view our selection, and follow us on Facebook or Instagram for more updates!