DIY Garden Pathways

Garden Center · Landscape Construction · Landscape Design

Pathways are a beautiful and essential feature of any landscape. Besides laying out a place to walk, they create a path for the wheelbarrow, save surrounding soil from compaction, and divide your garden into distinct spaces. With a bit of creativity, you can build pathways that are both visually pleasing and very practical. Let’s walk through the DIY options and lay out the steps to build them! 

The Mulch Pathway

Mulch pathways are one of the least expensive and simplest pathways to install. The first steps are to mark out the path and dig out some of the soil. Then, lay down some landscape fabric as an extra barrier against weeds, and fill in the mulch. Over time, you’ll need to replenish the mulch and remove any weeds that take root. Still, the mulch path is simple, practical, and a pleasing way to create a passage through the garden.  

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -DIY Garden Pathways-stone and gravel pathwayStepping Stones

Stepping stones are another versatile DIY option and add charm and character to the garden. One option is to use evenly spaced rectangular or circular stones. Alternatively, natural-shaped flagstones lend a rustic look to your steps. 

No matter your choice, the steps for installation are the same. Mark out a path and place the stones in your preferred arrangement, keeping an equal distance between the center of each stone. Then, dig a place for each step in the ground. Lay down a level base of sand in each hole and tamp down the sand for stability before laying the stones in their final position. To finish, you can plant groundcovers or moss around the stones, which will beautifully frame the stones over time.

Pathways are a beautiful and essential feature of any landscape. Besides laying out a place to walk, they create a path for the wheelbarrow, save surrounding soil from compaction, and divide your garden into distinct spaces.

Gravel Pathways 

Besides mulch, gravel is the next easiest DIY option for smooth transit in the garden. However, to make a lasting pathway that is stable and free of weeds, you’ll want to follow the preparatory steps below. Because gravel tends to spread and get knocked into the surrounding areas, make sure you cut definitive edges, lay down plastic edging, or border the path with stones. 

stephens landscaping garden center-pathway with mulch around stonesFlagstones

As already mentioned, flagstones form beautiful stepping stones. You can also use them in continuous pathways, where the stones are beside each other. These smooth, naturally cut stones create perfect imperfection. They’re durable, long-lasting, and age well over time. Follow the steps below to build a solid foundation for flagstone paths. 

Paving Stones 

Pavers are interlocking bricks that form a solid and stable path. They are sleek, even, symmetrical, and lend a polished look to the landscape. You can choose both the color and the pattern of arrangement. Make sure to follow the steps below for a DIY approach that resists settling and remains level throughout the years. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -DIY Garden Pathways-building a pathwaySteps for DIY Gravel, Flagstone, and Paver Pathways 

When making these types of pathways, you want to ensure you have a solid base. Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

  1. Mark out the path, using string to create straight edges. 
  2. Dig down approximately 6 inches into the ground. Note: a flat head spade comes in handy. 
  3. Fill in the bottom layer with loose stones or pea gravel; tamp them down, and cover with landscaping fabric.
  4. Fill another layer of sand, tamp down the surface, and level it. 
  5. Lay down the pavers, flagstone, or gravel. Tamp down the stones with a mallet to make them level and keep them in place. 
  6. To finish, fill between the cracks of the stones with sand and sweep away any leftovers on the surface.

Building a pathway is well within reach of the DIY gardener. When working with flagstone and pavers, remember to lay a solid base the first time so you don’t end up with sunken and uneven stones in the future. With that in mind, you’ll be well on your way to laying beautiful and functional garden pathways, no matter what style you choose. For more gardening and landscaping tips, feel free to follow us on Instagram or Facebook, or visit us in person in Moultonborough! 

Our Summer Garden Maintenance Routine

Garden Center

Gardens aren’t exactly a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. A consistent maintenance routine is necessary to keep your garden healthy and blooming brightly! If summer garden care isn’t your area of expertise, this beginner’s guide will help you stay on top of all the essentials. 

Follow This Maintenance Routine for a Gorgeous Summer Garden

Remember: the key to successful summer garden maintenance is consistency! Avoid neglecting your garden for extended periods, and keep a regular routine so that your plants don’t get stressed out or dehydrated. Perform these tasks regularly throughout the summer to ensure your garden looks fresh and flawless all season!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Summer Garden Maintenance-deadheading spent flowersDeadhead Spent Flowers

While some summer flowers are self-cleaning and don’t require deadheading, many of our favorite garden flowers benefit if you remove their spent blooms. Withered flowers still drain energy from your plant, so if you get rid of them, your plant will have more energy to grow a new set of blooms. Simply cut the stem underneath the flower head, above the first set of leaves. Use a small set of hand pruners for thicker, woodier stems. You can use your fingers and pinch off spent flowers from more tender, herbaceous plants.  

Water Early in the Morning

Summer temperatures can stress out our plants if they aren’t thoroughly hydrated, and soil moisture evaporates much more quickly. Watering early in the morning helps insulate your plants’ roots from the heat and ensures they stay hydrated for longer. Be as consistent as you can with watering, especially with thin-skinned vegetable plants like tomatoes, which are susceptible to fruit splitting.

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Summer Garden Maintenance-fertilizing gardenFertilize at Least Once Per Month

Fertilizer is necessary for your plants to develop properly. If they lack essential nutrients, they won’t be able to perform their basic functions, like growing fresh foliage or producing flowers. Fertilizing once per month throughout the summer is essential. Fast-growing container plants like summer annuals may need fertilizer more frequently—about once every two weeks. 

Make sure you’re using a fertilizer appropriate for your chosen plants! For example, using high nitrogen fertilizer on flowering plants will result in lots of foliage and very few blooms. If you’re unsure which fertilizer formula to use in your summer garden, feel free to ask us for recommendations!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center - Summer Garden Maintenance-inspecting plants for pests

Watch Out For Pests

Destructive insects can pop up at any time during the summer, so it’s a good idea to inspect your plants for signs of pest damage regularly. Chewed holes, sticky residue, and fine webbing are common signs of pests—the pests themselves may often be so small that they’re hard to notice. You can get rid of them with natural pest control solutions like insecticidal soap, neem oil, or diatomaceous earth to reduce the risk of harming beneficial pollinators. For extra defense, you can also try planting pest-repelling plants like marigolds and dill. 

Keep an Eye Out for Disease

Spotty discoloration, wilting despite optimal watering and sunlight, and powdery coating are common signs of plant disease. Some diseases are easy to treat with copper-based fungicides, while others are untreatable and can only be prevented through crop rotation and good garden hygiene. If you see signs of disease in your garden but can’t figure out what’s causing it, snap a picture and bring it into Stephens Landscaping. We’ll help you identify the problem and create a game plan for getting rid of it! 

Stephens landscaping garden center_-pulling garden weedsPull Weeds When You Spot Them

Weed control isn’t anyone’s favorite part of maintaining a summer garden. However, it’s one of those things that will be much easier to deal with if you spring into action sooner rather than later, so it’s best not to avoid it! Pull those weeds the moment you notice them, and whatever you do, don’t let them go to seed, or else the weed problem will be even worse next summer! Hand pulling is easier with moist soil, and hoeing is easier when the soil is dry. 

For everything you need to keep your summer garden in Moultonborough looking flawless and fabulous, visit Stephens Landscaping. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for up-to-date news on the latest products, promos, and other exciting stuff!

Ornamental Trees and Shrubs: Pretty With Purpose

Garden Center

There’s never a bad time to spruce up your garden game with another show-stopping ornamental tree in your landscape design. With so many different species of trees available, from evergreens to flowering trees, it can be challenging to decide which one best complements your space. We’ve outlined a selection of popular ornamental trees that are perfect for the New Hampshire region and will add fabulous character to your landscape!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -Ornamental Trees-buckeye bottlebrushBottlebrush Buckeye

If you’re looking for a gorgeous plant to fill the ground space of your garden, look no further than the bottlebrush buckeye. As one of the best shrubs for massing over a large area, the bottlebrush buckeye is a beautiful textured plant that will add interest to any landscape. This dense, multi-stemmed deciduous shrub has a ground-hugging growth habit and reaches about eight feet tall and twelve feet wide once fully grown. The white flower spikes of this shrub appear in the summer for a unique texture that will compliment any landscape. The best time to prune is in the late winter or very early spring.

Hydrangea Trees

At maturity, hydrangea trees can reach a height of 8 feet and a width of 8 feet. Many Hydrangea paniculatas can grow up to 25 feet tall, such as the Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ or ‘Pee Gee’ variations. Hydrangea paniculata is the only type of hydrangea you’ll see pruned into a tree; they are shaped into single-trunk trees in their early stages to avoid the typical multi-stemmed growth habit of hydrangea shrubs. Its voluptuous blooms will liven up your backyard; be sure to plant it where it will get at least four hours of sunlight a day during the spring and summer. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -Ornamental Trees-Blooming RedbudBlooming Redbud

The Eastern Redbud is a popular and beautiful flowering ornamental tree that will surely add a brilliant pop of color to any garden space early in the season! This tree is pretty flexible with its soil preference, but it typically thrives best in moist, well-draining soil. With round, heart-shaped leaves that fade into a gold-yellowish color in the fall, these brilliant blooming redbuds make for great shade trees in backyard settings! Flowers bloom between March and April and persist for two to three weeks. 

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry 

Look no further than this spring gem for beautiful spring blooms and delicious berries! Serviceberry (Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’) trees embody the true meaning of spring, attracting pollinators with showy white flowers, and have purplish June berries for you and your backyard wildlife. Its white blossoms last just a week or so during the warmer months, but you can enjoy its beauty all year round with its vibrant foliage that turns to a rusty red in the fall. They look stunning when planted near evergreen trees and dark flowers for a nice contrast of colors. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -Ornamental Trees-bloodgold japanese mapleBloodgood Japanese Maple

Bloodgood Japanese maple trees are beloved for their vibrant foliage throughout most of the year. The leaves start red in the spring and darken to a purplish-burgundy through the seasons. They are relatively pest-free compared to other trees and shrubs, and can thrive in various conditions, though dappled shade is ideal. While the tree is young, you can prune it into your desired branching pattern. Once established, it will only need standard pruning to remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches and suckers. We highly recommend using mulch to protect the roots of this tree to help retain moisture, particularly during its first year of growth.

Saucer Magnolia

A cold-hardy magnolia is the saucer magnolia, with saucer-shaped pink flowers that are white within. Its stunning display is bursting with spring color that precedes vibrant foliage for the rest of the season. This variety is an excellent option for your front yard to increase curb appeal, provide privacy for your front window, and still give you a fantastic view. If pink isn’t your shade, we have other varieties of magnolias available at our garden center. 

Contact us for a consultation on planting and maintaining the perfect ornamental tree for your space, or stop by Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough today! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.

All About Pollinator Gardens

Garden Center · Planting

New Hampshire is in full bloom, and your garden is about to enter a busy period of growth, pollination, and flowering! However, this entire process would be obsolete without the helpful role that earth’s pollinators play in pollinating your garden. In a time where pollinator populations are consistently declining, there is no better time than right now to take action and give them an ecosystem in which they can thrive! You will learn about pollinator gardens, how they can support your local ecosystem, and how you can create the perfect landscape to attract them better. We are buzzing to help! 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -All About Pollinator Gardens-native wildflowers

Pollinator Gardens: What Are They? 

To build a successful pollinator garden, you’ll first need to understand its benefits for both you and your pollinators! A pollinator garden comprises hardscapes, plants, and water features designed to attract bees and other helpful creatures like birds and butterflies into your home garden. These design elements work together to build a landscaping environment both natural and native to the New Hampshire area so that pollinators can set up shop in your garden and get busy. 

To build an effective pollinator garden, you will need to supply easily accessible water sources, shelter spaces, and plants that they recognize. Hosting beneficial insects around will also greatly aid in the process of housewarming your garden for pollinators to keep those harmful ones out!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -All About Pollinator Gardens-butterfly on mlkweedNative Plants For New Hampshire’s Pollinators 

Having native plants in your garden adds beauty and wildlife habitats, especially for pollinators. Pollinators have evolved with native perennials and have adapted to the local growing season, climate, and soils. Most pollinators feed on specific plant species, so you’ll want to select the best ones for bees in the New Hampshire area. Non-native plants may not provide pollinators with enough nectar or pollen or may be inedible to butterfly or moth caterpillars. Here are some native plants to consider adding to your landscape: 

  • Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) 
  • Aster novae-angliae (New England Asters) 
  • Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey Tea) 
  • Cephalanthus occidentalis (Button Bush) 
  • Cirsium discolor (Field Thistle) 
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum (Common Boneset) 
  • Gentiana clausa (Bottle Gentian)

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -All About Pollinator Gardens-insect hotelDecorating Your Pollinator Landscape

These elements will keep your backyard the most attractive spot on the block for pollinators to hang out: 

  • Water Source: Something as small as a birdbath will ensure that pollinators won’t need to leave the yard to find water.
  • Homes for Birds and Bees: Constructing a bee hotel or birdhouse is an excellent way to entice long-term residents in your home garden, as they will have a place to hatch their young! 
  • Shelter from Wind: Wind can frighten or even make pollinators aggressive, so shelter from the elements will nudge them to seek shelter when it’s windy outside. Finding shelter nearby means they won’t have to go far and find their way back later. 
  • Large Areas of Native Plants: Designing your landscape with large areas of various native plants will provide your pollinators with plenty of space to get to work and pollinate your garden. Consider planting New Hampshire native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses, and perennials so you can attract all types of pollinators. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -All About Pollinator Gardens-hummingbird on feederHow Professionals Can Help

Creating a pollinator landscape will benefit your garden’s ecosystem for years to come, which is why you’ll want to ensure that you do so in the most effective way. You may wish to set up your pollinator garden in the corner of your backyard or build your entire garden design around pollinators. 

Regardless of which design option you choose, we’d be happy to help you make it happen! We’ll help you get the work done and the rest up to the pollinators. Our garden experts are well-versed in New Hampshire native plants and the proper design elements; the pollinators never want to leave! 

Call or visit us at Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, today! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.

How To Trim Your Hydrangea

Garden Center

The hydrangea’s pom-pom-like blooms, spectacular variations of color, and fresh, delicate scents are just a few of the many reasons these flowering shrubs are so special. As a summertime favorite in New Hampshire, hydrangeas add a distinctly beautiful essence to your landscape. Here’s how to trim them for the best growth!

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -How To Trim Your Hydrangea-woman pruning hydrangeaTypes of Hydrangeas and How to Prune Them

There are five main types of hydrangeas, and each of them has its own pruning requirements:

  1. Smooth (Arborescens): these have smaller mopheads with a coarse texture, including Invincibelle varieties. 
  2. Macrophylla (Bigleaf): the most common type in North America, including mophead, lacecap, and mountain hydrangeas; a notable variety is Endless Summer.
  3. Oakleaf (Quercifolia): the only hydrangea with color-changing foliage that turns red in the fall, including Gatsby varieties.
  4. PeeGee (Paniculata): this variety has cone-shaped heads and thin, rough leaves, including Limelight and Quick Fire varieties. 
  5. Climbing (Anomala petiolaris): a unique variety with climbing vines and large blooms.

Knowing which variety you’re growing will help you give your shrub the best care and give you some extra confidence when it’s time to prune! The most important thing to know for pruning is whether your variety blooms on new wood or old wood. 

What Is the Difference Between New Wood and Old Wood?

Simply said, varieties that bloom on new wood grow their buds for the new season on fresh growth that begins in the spring. Varieties that bloom on old wood will bloom on the wood that grew last year, so pruning back too soon might leave you with a bush of foliage and not much else! 

The easiest way to know if your shrub blooms on new or old wood is to keep that info card that comes with your tree at purchase. If you’re unsure what variety you have, you can prune your bush back to the new growth and see what happens; if you don’t see any blooms all summer, it’s an old-wood-bloomer. If you get lovely blooms, then it likely blooms on new wood, but you can double check where the blooms stem from to be sure! 

Macrophylla, Oakleaf, and Climbing hydrangeas generally bloom on old wood, meaning that you can prune them after they finish blooming but before they start producing new buds. Keep an eye on them to get the timing right, so you don’t accidentally snip any fresh buds!

Paniculatas and Smooth hydrangeas generally bloom on new wood, which means that you can prune in the late winter or early spring and still get fabulous blooms. These varieties can handle a hard pruning if you want to give them a fresh start and generate some robust bushes; be sure to leave your strongest stems long enough for your desired height. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -How To Trim Your Hydrangea-pruning hydrangeaHow Short Should I Trim My Hydrangea?

There is no correct answer to this question! It depends entirely on your preference. If you are growing hydrangea for privacy, let that baby grow! If you have multiple shorter shrubs lining a walkway and don’t want them to be too high, cut them back to the desired shape. 

The main goal of pruning is to keep your plant focused on producing healthy stems and blooms, so cutting away weak or dead branches and blooms will help your plant push its energy into healthy growth. For simple touch-ups, you can feel where the dead branches transition to healthy green growth; simply snap the branch at that point to keep it tidy and healthy. 

Stephens Landscaping Garden Center -How To Trim Your Hydrangea-hydrangea on fenceWhat Happens If You Don’t Prune Hydrangeas?

While you don’t necessarily have to prune your hydrangea each year and throughout the season, pruning is essential for encouraging new, healthy growth and keeping your chore list shorter in the long run! Pruning a few branches and dead blooms here and there will keep your spring to-do list shorter. 

Remember that re-blooming hydrangeas will need deadheading; you’ll need to remove dead blooms to make room for new ones! Throughout the season, as your re-blooming varieties turnover, cut back blooms as they fade, and you’ll see a healthy output of fresh blooms in no time. 

For more information on getting your hydrangea shrubs poppin’ in your garden this season, visit us at Stephens Landscaping Garden Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.