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.

The Best Herbs and Vegetables for Container Gardens

Garden Center · Planting

Looking for some creative ideas for your container gardens this year? Why not make them equal parts stylish and functional by growing edible plants? There are so many tasty vegetables and fragrant herbs you can use to elevate your home cooking. Nothing beats homegrown produce straight from the garden—or the kitchen windowsill!

Growing Food Becomes Easy and Accessible with Container Gardens

Veggies and herbs tend to require lots of sunshine and space to grow. If you’re dealing with any of the following, you can still grow an incredible edible garden by planting your crops in containers:

  • A heavily shaded garden
  • Minimal greenspace
  • No yard and only a small balcony

Container gardens are great because you can move them around wherever the sun is shining. Instead of sticking to the garden bed, you can grow them on your patio, the front steps, a South–facing windowsill—whatever your heart desires! 

Here are the best varieties of vegetables and herbs to grow in container gardens for unbeatable flavor and powerful nutrients. The supermarket stuff just doesn’t compare to homegrown, freshly picked produce! 

Easy Vegetables to Grow in Pots

Not all veggies work well in planters, but you’ll have excellent results if you choose the following varieties!

Tomatoes

Tomatoes fall into two categories: determinate and indeterminate. Determinate varieties produce their harvest all at once and have a bushier, compact form, so they’re easy to maintain in containers. Indeterminate varieties grow on vines and steadily produce fruit until frost, so if you grow them in containers, use a tomato cage or stakes to keep them upright. 

These vigorous growers will need plenty of fertilizer and compost to nourish them through their growing season. Fertilize once per month with a formula specifically created for tomatoes—they need extra calcium and magnesium to prevent diseases like blossom end rot. During the hottest summer months, you’ll likely need to water every day—inconsistent watering can result in splitting fruits!

Mini Cucumbers

Perfect for pickling or a cool, refreshing summer snack, we can’t get enough of mini cucumbers! Vining varieties grow best in containers with trellises, so you can train them to grow upward and keep those cukes off the ground. Bush varieties don’t grow very tall, and they look quite pretty if they cascade down the sides of a container or hanging basket. Grow them in a sunny spot that gets 6–8 hours of sun per day. Avoid watering the plant overhead—instead, water the soil directly to reduce the risk of powdery mildew. 

Peppers

Colorful peppers have just as much ornamental value as a container garden full of flowers! Large bell pepper plants will need a pot at least 12 inches deep and wide, but there are plenty of tiny hot peppers that can grow in smaller pots—they almost look like a bundle of colorful Christmas tree lights! When transplanting your seedlings into their pots, be sure to water the soil well to encourage those roots to spread. They need 6–8 hours of direct sun per day, but they’ll do best if they have some protection from strong winds. Placing them by a South- or West-facing wall will yield the best results. 

Delicious Herbs for Container Gardens

Herbs are some of the simplest edible plants to grow in containers—many people grow them as houseplants indoors! Nearly every herb can be grown in a plant pot. 

The key to growing delicious herbs is pinching off the flower heads as soon as they appear. Herb flowering is called “bolting;” if you let them expend all their energy creating flowers and seeds, they won’t produce as many of their tasty leaves, and they often won’t taste as nice. 

Herbs can also be grown in mixed planter arrangements, but it’s important to put compatible plants together with similar growth speeds. A fast-growing plant will overtake a slow-growing plant. 

Here are some plant combination ideas for container herb gardens:

  • Basil + Parsley 
  • Rosemary + Thyme
  • Cilantro + Tarragon
  • Sage and Oregano
  • Lemon Thyme + Lemon Verbena
  • Sage + Lavender

Plant mint by itself, and avoid planting it with other mint varieties. Different varieties can cross-pollinate, and the results can be less palatable than you’d like!

Discover even more delicious herbs and vegetables for container gardens in Moultonborough and visit the Stephens Landscaping Garden Center! Our staff are always happy to help get you all set up with the necessary supplies to keep your edible container garden thriving. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and featured products.

Our Favorite Native Landscape Additions

Planting

Native plants occur naturally and have meaningful effects and benefits to birds, butterflies, bees, and other wildlife. They are low maintenance, beautiful, require less water and fertilization, and help the climate by storing carbon dioxide, and providing vital habitat for wildlife. Utilizing native plants in your landscape means they are more likely to establish quickly and will be hardy. Some of our favorite natives that we incorporate into almost all of our landscape designs include:

Perennials

  • Joe Pye Weed: These fast-growing flowers are favorites of butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. The tall, vanilla-scented wildflowers grow in leaf clusters several feet high, and in the summer, tiny mauve colored flowers appear on top of the leaf stems. They prefer an area that’s full sun to partial shade, and moist, well-drained soil. It’s best to plant these when there’s no chance of frost.
  • New England Aster: This is a favorite here in New England and can be seen practically everywhere. This easily-recognizable flower grows to about five feet tall, and while the most popular variety has a medium purple flower with a dark yellow center, asters come in different shades of purple and even pink! This aster is drought-tolerant, deer resistant, and does well in all types of soil. It’s a late summer to early fall bloomer, and while it’s blooming, you may see the lower leaves drying up. But, don’t worry…your plants are not dying; this is normal.
  • Blue Flag Iris: These lovely, classic irises are great additions to your garden, and do especially well around any water feature. They prefer soil that is acidic, rich, and moist, and to be located in an area that is full sun to part shade. These are early bloomers, and you can expect to see flowers from May to July. These are known to attract pollinators as well as hummingbirds.
  • Sweetfern: This zero-maintenance plant has a sweet scent when crushed, and the leaves resemble little ferns, as its name implies. This shrub will spread itself out over the years, making clones of itself throughout your garden. It does well in poor, acidic soil, and is known to be a “nitrogen-fixer”.
  • Hayscented Fern: This is a great fern if you have an area that needs some good coverage. These ferns prefer shade to part shade and grow from to eighteen to twenty-four inches in height. The fronds grow into a beautiful green color from the spring into the summer, and in the fall, turn a lovely yellow. When disturbed, the fern gives off an odor similar to fresh-cut hay.

Shrubs

  • Low Bush Blueberry: This low bush is a great idea for an area where you need ground cover, or a nice border edge. The shrubs don’t grow very tall; they only get to a height of about two feet. They are very picky about their soil conditions, preferring sandy, well-drained and rich soil, and they like to be in full sun or partial shade. In the spring, they’ll feature small white flowers, the summer will bring some sweet edible berries (not the big ones you see in the supermarket, but still delicious and enjoyable. For those big commercial sized berries, you’ll need to plant the high bush blueberry, which is described below), and in the fall, the leaves will turn a very vibrant red. This shrub will add color to your garden for many seasons.
  • High Bush Blueberry: If you’ve ever gone blueberry picking at a farm, you probably picked from a high bush blueberry. They are the most commercially-grown variety, and their berries are featured in most stores and farmers’ markets. These shrubs handle our cooler temperatures well, and they actually need some cold days in the winter to form berries in the spring; they’re perfect for New England. These bushes like moist soil but not standing water, so they should be planted on a slope for good drainage. They prefer full sun to partial shade (the more sun, the more blooms, more fruit, and more brightly colored fall leaves.) They do require regular watering.
  • Clethra: Also known as summersweet or sweet pepperbush, this flowering shrub grows from three to eight feet tall, and features fragrant white, bottle-shaped flowers. This plant blooms in stages throughout the summer, and while it prefers wet soil (it’s usually found around the shoreline), it is drought-resistant once it has become established. It’s a favorite of pollinators like bees and butterflies.
  • Winterberry Holly: This classic Christmas favorite is a perfect choice for adding winter color in your garden. While the shrub will drop its leaves in the fall, the red berries will continue to grow up until the spring. While the berries are a favorite feast for a variety of birds, they are toxic to people, dogs, and cats. The shrub can grow in both wet and dry soils, and in full sun, part shade, and full shade conditions. They grow from six to ten feet tall. You must plant a male and a female shrub of the same species in order to have the shrubs bloom at the same time and to have berries grow.
  • Kalmia Latifolia: Commonly known as mountain laurel, you can see this flowering shrub in gardens all over New England. Its delicate pink and white bowl-shaped blooms appear in late spring and early summer, and once the blooms have passed, the dark green leaves will stay on the shrub throughout the winter months, adding a welcome patch of color. This shrub is a favorite of pollinators and does best in moderate to partial shade. It prefers to stay moist, so it’s best to keep your shrub watered well.
  • Serviceberry: This plant can either be grown as a sizable shrub or small tree. In early spring, it blooms in pinkish white flowers, which then turn to delicious berries that look like blueberries but are a bit sweeter; they are ripe when the berry is a dark purple. In the fall, the leaves turn a beautiful shade of deep reddish orange. It prefers to be in full sun to light shade; the more sun, the better the flower and fruit production. It will tolerate many soil types. During the first year after you’ve planted, make sure to keep it well watered; after that, it will be pretty drought tolerant.


Trees

  • Birch: Birch trees are a popular choice in many yards. Most everyone in New England is familiar with these tall, stately white bark trees. But birches come in many different varieties as well as the more known white ones. There are short shrub-type birches with reddish leaves that do well in a rain garden, a dwarf birch is a shrub good for ground cover and tolerates cold weather well. River birch are a tall pinkish-brown tree that “sheds” its bark throughout the season and features dark green leaves that turn a beautiful yellow in the fall, as well as many more! We’d love to discuss what variety would work best for you and your landscape.
  • Sugar Maple: As New Englanders, we love our sugar maples. This tree is the primary source for maple syrup, a long-enjoyed tradition here in northern New England and a popular wood for furniture. This fast-growing tree needs room to grow, and prefers deep, well-drained loam or light clay. Once mature, this tree provides good shade in the summer, and spectacular foliage of bright red and orange in the fall.
  • Red Maple: This is a tall tree. With heights reaching about 100 feet and a spreading root system, this is a tree that needs a lot of space in which to grow. This tree is easy growing, and not fussy—it grows well in both wet and dry soils, is fairly drought-tolerant, and does well in shady or sunny locations.
  • Eastern Hemlock: This tall tree can grow up to 100 feet but can also be used as a hedge with proper, consistent pruning. It needs to have good drainage and be away from strong winds. The foliage of the eastern hemlock is fragrant and attracts both birds and butterflies, and will yield an abundance of pine cones. This tree is a slow grower, and needs direct sunlight and moist, well-drained soil. This tree will grow into a pyramid shape when not trimmed.

There are many options available to you to add year-round interest and color to your garden and landscape. We’d love to help you create a plan to maximize your space and achieve all of your landscape goals. Contact us to discuss your ideas or give us a call at 603.707.0630, and be sure to visit our Garden Center. We’ve got new plants coming in weekly, a wide selection of pottery, landscape aggregates, and annuals—all available for delivery! Come visit us Monday – Saturday: 8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Closed Sunday. Or give us a call at 603.677.9100 if you have any questions or are looking for something special.

 

Top 10 Perennials for the Northeast

Planting

Perennials are a great choice for any garden or landscape, especially here in the Northeast. As their name implies, they come back year after year, with little fuss required from you apart from the initial planting and occasional weeding and watering. Perennials are usually the first glimpse we see of spring, providing a hint of green in the snow, and they provide necessary nectar, seeds, and nesting materials for insects and birds, as well as pollen required for other plants to bloom. Perennials get the whole thing started!

By planning to include perennials in your garden and landscaping, you can create nice, changing color displays by planting a variety with staggered blooming times and durations. There are many varieties of perennials available so you can select plants best suited for your landscaping needs; there are types of perennials that are drought-resistant; some that repel deer, annoying insects, or other animals that would munch on your garden; and some that do better in shade vs. full sun, for example.

Our favorite choices for our northeastern climate are:

#1 Catmint—Walkers Low or Six Hills Giant

This easy to grow perennial is a favorite among many gardeners. It’s heat tolerant, pest and disease resistant. It features lovely, long blooming lavender-colored flowers, and is aromatic. Its gentle color blends nicely with bold colors and likes full sun. Popular varieties include:

  • Walker’s Low: Usually grows about two-and-a-half feet tall to three feet wide.
  • Six Hills Giant: This variety also grows about two-and-a-half feet tall to four feet wide, so this will take up a bit of room in your garden; careful planning is required.

#2 Daylily

Daylilies like several hours of preferably morning sun, and seem to thrive on something close to neglect. However, it’s best to remove the seedpods once they start to bloom to help next year’s batch. While some blooms only last for a day or two, most lilies grow in large batches, so blooms may be staggered for a month or so. There are thousands of varieties of lilies available, such as:

  • Stella d’oro: These beautiful, compact golden flowers are popular with gardeners across the United States. They only grow about a foot high, and are great for growing in a mass or along a border. They will bloom continuously throughout the summer.
  • Happy Returns: This variety of lily is similar to Stella d’oro, except the color is a brighter yellow where Stella is more of a gold tone. This plant does well in poor soil, and is very hearty. This plant will spread, so it’s best used where it has room to grow.
  • Big Time Happy: This plant boasts larger, four-inch ruffled blooms in a light canary yellow color. This variety does well in more urban areas, in poor soil, and near pavement that might have had salt runoff in the winter — perfect for New England!

#3 Variegated Iris

This classic bearded iris features fragrant blooms that are attractive to many pollinators. It comes in colors of purple, yellow, and white. The plant grows two to three-feet high, and blooms in late spring to early summer. Wildlife such as deer and rabbits don’t seem to eat this plant, and it’s also resistant to most diseases. It’s best grown in full sun to part shade, in well-draining soil. Because they grow so well, it’s best to divide them every two years or so to keep them healthy.

#4 Blue False Indigo

Years ago, indigo was an expensive dye made from tropical plants. This plant, as its name implies, is a “false indigo”, and was used as a substitute to make the dye as this plant was commonly found in the Midwest of the United States. The bushy plant produces blue, pea-like flowers and grows best in full to partial sun. It tends to grow in big bushes about four feet wide, so it would be best in a space where it has room to grow.

#5 Tickseed—Moonbeam

These lovely bright yellow flowers are easy to grow, even in poor soil, and resemble daisies. They grow compact plants, and bloom all summer long. They attract birds and pollinators, and are deer resistant. They can get about a foot- to a foot-and-a-half tall and wide, so they won’t take up much room in your garden or border, and they make a nice cut flower.

#6 Stonecrop—’Autumn Joy’

This late blooming plant has bright pink flowers which appear in August and turn goldish copper by November. They grow to two-feet wide and tall, and are best planted in the spring, after the threat of a frost has passed and before the full heat of summer has begun. It likes full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. The flower heads can be left for the winter interest, and serve as food for the birds, to be cut back in the spring.

#7 Dwarf Black Eyed Susan

These bright yellow flowers with brown centers are popular with gardeners. They are a prolific grower, and extremely easy to grow. They prefer full sun/partial shade, and well-drained soil. They are drought-, disease, deer-, and rabbit-resistant, and are a great, low maintenance plant. They are wonderful in cut flower arrangements. To keep the plants healthy and promote further blooms, its best to deadhead the flower once the bloom has passed.

#8 Shasta Daisy—Becky or Snowcap

A classic! Pure white flower petals surround a yellow center. These begin to flower in early summer and will continue to bloom all summer long if you keep up with deadheading them, and they attract bees and butterflies. They mix well with all other plants to add a nice pop of white to any garden or landscape. They will need to be divided every two years or so to keep the plants healthy.

  • The Snowcap daisy is a dwarf plant, growing about a foot to 15 inches high, and spreading about a foot wide. It loves full sun and dry, well-drained soil.
  • The Becky daisy is similar in appearance to the Snowcap daisy, but is not a dwarf plant and grows to three- to four-feet height and three-feet wide.

#9 Hay-Scented Fern

This perennial grows quickly and provides great ground cover. They grow in shade to part shade, and get about two-feet tall and three-feet wide. They are deer- and rabbit-resistant, and are easy to grow. These attractive ferns have bright green leaves in the summer that turn yellowish in the fall, and give off a scent that will remind you of fresh-cut hay.

#10 Gayfeather—Kobold

This is a tall, showy, wand-like pink/purple flower. This compact flower grows tall out of grassy clumps that get to about two-feet high, and one-foot wide. It prefers full sun and moderate watering. The blooms attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, and will provide bird food once the blooms die off in the cold weather. This plant will add a nice vertical interest to your garden.

These are just a small sampling of plants that are available to add to your garden. We’d love to help you come up with a plan to meet all of your gardening goals. Contact us to discuss your ideas or give us a call at 603.707.0630 to discuss your next project, and be sure to visit our Garden Center. We’ve got new plants coming in weekly, a wide selection of pottery, landscape aggregates, and annuals—all available for delivery! Come visit us Monday – Saturday: 8:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Closed Sunday. Or give us a call at 603.677.9100 if you have any questions or are looking for something special.