Category Archives: Garden Tips

It’s beginning to bloom! Beautyberry Bush!

It might be August, but there’s still some pretty additions that you can make to your garden.   Callicarpa, or Beautyberry Bush, is one of the best landscaping plants that most gardeners do not even know about.    It’s just beginning to bloom and soon it will brighten your yard with it’s amazing purple pearls.   Here is a picture of the plant when it’s dazzling it’s pearls, and below is some cool information about it! 

Purple Pearls®  Beautyberry Callicarpa 


A unique bush that lives up to its name – and then some! Dark purple-black foliage all season long, then late summer brings clusters of pink flowers and the amazing purple berries that make callicarpa such a desirable garden plant. Purple Pearls also offers a distinctive upright habit, which saves space in the landscape compared to the wide horizontal habit of other beautyberry. It makes an outstanding addition to fall floral arrangements and indoor decorations, too.
Produces Berries,  Foliage Interest, Fall Interest, Resists Deer
Shrub Type:  Deciduous

Spread:  48 – 60 Inches

Maintenance Category:   Easy
Blooms On:   New Wood
Bloom Time:  Early Fall, Mid Fall, Late Fall
Hardiness Zones:   5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b
Water Category: Average
Uses: Cut Flower, Landscape, Mass Planting, Specimen or Focal Point

Maintenance Notes

Plant in full sun for best color and highest quantity of flowers and berries. 
The outstanding characteristic of beautyberry shrubs is no doubt their berries, as their name suggest. The fruiting display is so unusual (because of the color) and so spectacular.  The striking color of its berry clusters makes it one of the most fun plants to grow in the yard. Indeed, purple beautyberry is one of the best landscaping plants that most gardeners do not know about. Not only are the berries a beautiful light purple color, but they also persist into winter, affording winter interest to human eyes starved for color in snowy regions. The purple berries remain attractive into early winter but may show signs of shriveling and discoloration by mid-winter. By late winter the berries may attract hungry wild birds (see below).

Care Tips (Pruning)

Since beautyberry shrubs bloom on new wood, they are generally pruned (for shaping, if desired) in late winter or early spring. 


Giant Perennial Hibiscus Flowers

Perennial Hibiscus are showing their wonderful dinner plate size blooms now.   These guys come back year after year!   Everyone needs at least one in their perennial garden!  Hurry and get your first choice in some of the amazing color choices!  I just walked around the fields today and found all these beautiful flavors waiting for you to try!
By the way, Black-eyed Susans are popping open with tons of color! 
Butterfly bushes are working hard now attracting all the pretty butterflies and hummingbirds to their beautiful, massive blooms! 

Kong Coleus – Save Me!

So your garden needs some help?  Kong Coleus to the rescue!   His massive leaves of color turn any drab area to a mass of giant color.   

When Victorian gardeners developed a passion for the shade-loving coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides, Solenostemon scutellarioides) plant, they had no idea their efforts would eventually unleash monsters. Well more than a century later, Kong coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides “Kong Series”) arrived on the scene with gorilla hand-sized leaves in a dizzying choice of red, pink and green combinations. With part sun or shade and organically rich, well-drained soil, Kong coleus is an easy-care plant.  And it thrives in the heat!   It’s even deer resistant.  I guess the deer are finally afraid of something – the Kong! Here’s a picture of the Kong Mosaic series — how cool is that?!

Lavender Growing Tips + Cocktail Bonus

Lavender is one of those plants that has a timeless charm. It’s been in gardens worldwide for centuries. For gardeners interested in a plant that doesn’t need constant watering, attracts beneficial insects and butterflies and smells wonderful, Lavender can be the lady of the landscape. All it needs is good drainage, sun and room to grow.
It has so many gifts — for culinary recipes, for medicinal remedies, for crafts, for beauty, for just the whole sense of fragrance.
Harvest lavender when the blooms are at their peak – tight, richly colored, plentiful buds. The stems come together in clusters. Grab a handful and cut the lavender about one inch above the wood or dry part. This is a good time to prune some of the woodier branches away for even better flower production later in the season.
You can place the flowers on a drying screen. Soon the harvest will be turned into lavender honey, lavender sugar, cleaning solutions, soaps, incense, cocktails and on and on.
Independence Day, National Hot Dog Day, National Ice Cream Day, Mom’s birthday – there’s a lot to celebrate in the month of July. But another very important day is July 24th which is National Tequila Day.
I don’t know anything about the history of this holiday.  There’s not much info on when the celebration started or why July 24th was chosen as the day. It’s probably that a few friends got far too drunk on tequila one late July night and proclaimed it a national holiday. 

So in honor of National Tequila Day, I went on a search of the perfect libation for July. Thanks to the Patron website, I bring you a concoction that highlights both tequila and lavender, one of summer’s most vibrant and appealing plants. The classic trinity of egg white, honey, and lemon comes alive against the backbone of the tequila and lavender, creating a cocktail that’s smooth and sexy – at once bitter, sweet, floral, frothy, and tart. There’s no denying it’s summer in a glass and we’ll be drinking it all month long. EAU DE LAVENDER

1 1/2 ounces Patron Silver
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce honey syrup*
1 egg white
1 dash lavender bitters
Fresh lavender, for garnish
Add the tequila, lemon juice, syrup, egg white, and bitters into a cocktail shaker. Shake thoroughly first without ice and then add ice and shake again to emulsify the egg white. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a fresh sprig of lavender. *To make the honey syrup, mix together 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until blended, strain into a jar, and seal tightly with the lid. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Hydrangeas: True Blue or Tickled Pink?

There are very few plants that you, the gardener, can actually choose the color you want them to be in your garden. Hydrangeas happen to be one of them. With some simple amendments to your soil, you can choose between making the blooms blue or pink. And while it doesn’t happen overnight, the magical blooms are well worth the wait!

The most important thing that influences the color of hydrangeas is soil pH—that’s the level of soil acidity. That means you may want to start with a soil test. You can either get a soil test kit from your favorite garden center or you can send your soil to your local cooperative extension office.

In general, more acidity makes hydrangeas turn blue, less acidity (or more alkaline soil) promotes pink—that is, unless we’re talking about white hydrangeas, which alas, are limited to white.

Take a look at our pH color guide to get closer to the color you prefer.

Hydrangea Color Preference

4.5 5 5.5 6 6.5 6.8 7


Okay, so how do you actually change soil pH?

To lower pH and turn hydrangeas blue, we recommend adding Espoma Soil Acidifier to the soil. It’s safe, long-lasting, and approved for organic gardening. Use 2 1/2 cups around the plant’s drip line every sixty days, until you reach the desired shade of blue.
Prefer pink? Then use Espoma Garden Lime. Sprinkle about 2½ to 5 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. in the Spring or the Fall. 

5 Colorful Tips

  • Consider container gardening for hydrangeas as an easier way to control soil pH. Some of the newer varieties of hydrangeas feature huge flowers on compact plants which are ideal for containers.
  • Feeding hydrangeas well results in healthier plants with more saturated color.Espoma Holly-tone is an excellent choice for blue hydrangeas since it contains sulfur to lower pH. Espoma Plant-tone is ideal for feeding pink hydrangeas since it does not contain the additional sulfur.
  • Water hydrangeas steadily, especially in the hottest part of the summer to keep them from wilting. Mulch to keep roots cool and conserve moisture.
  • Hydrangea color can be affected by lime leaching out of concrete walkways or patios nearby, making blue a real challenge. Keep this in mind when considering where to plant.
  • A word of caution: not all plants like acidic soil. Be careful about what’s growing near your hydrangeas. Not sure which plants like acidic soil? Click here to see a list of Acid Loving Plants.


June Gardening Tips

Adapted from The Farmer’s Almanac

Divide late-summer or autumn-flowering perennials. If necessary, go after phlox and artemisia with a sharp spade or even an ax. If delphiniums need to be divided, remove and replant the new little plants growing around the outside of the clump. Discard the hard old heart.

Trim climbing roses and attach securely to fences or trellises. Continue fertilization of your rosebushes; liquid fertilizers can be added every 2 weeks. Scatter crushed eggshells in a thick ring around roses to deter slugs.

Continue reading June Gardening Tips

Alternatives to Garden Impatiens

Via the Floriculture Specialists of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County

Since garden impatiens, Impatiens walleriana, have been severely impacted by a new downy mildew disease (and will likely continue to be impacted in future years), growers, landscapers, and homeowners are seeking

alternatives to this ubiquitous garden plant. Impatiens have been a reliable garden plant for many years due to their color choice, growth habit, price point, and shade tolerance. While it might seem challenging to find plants that will be a suitable replacement, there are many great plant selections that are viable substitutions. The tables below list some options for shade tolerant plants, along with information on crop time and garden size. Don’t focus on the negative… use this opportunity to grow and promote different and exciting plants!



−It’s important to remember and to communicate that New Guinea impatiens are NOT susceptible to impatiens downy mildew.

−It is sometimes assumed by some that New Guinea impatiens is a sun plant. Yes, New Guinea impatiens perform better than garden impatiens in the sun, but New Guinea impatiens generally perform equally as well or better in the shade.

−Also consider hardy plants such as ajuga, heuchera, lamium, lysimachia, as well as various grass and grass-like plants.

−Don’t plant shade plants in the sun! For sunny sites recommend annual vinca, angelonia, petunia, geranium, marigold, zinnia, celosia, pentas, gazania, portulaca, and so on!

“What happened to my impatiens?”

The summer of 2012 will be known as the end of impatiens on Long Island — at mildew-300Bleast for a few years at best. As the airborne disease of “Downy Mildew” passed over our gardens, it decimated Long Island’s impatiens within a couple weeks. As homeowners stood in bewilderment as their beautiful gardens were diminished, they tried to find out what happened. Some blamed their spouses for watering too much or too little, some blamed their lawn maintenance service for “blowing the leaves” right off their flowers, some blamed their house sitters and swore never to go on vacation again, and some didn’t know who to blame. It was no one’s fault. It was just mother nature exercising her right to throw in these diseases once in awhile to keep us on our toes. Maybe we were getting too comfortable with the ease of impatiens. Well, that’s no longer the case. As this airborne disease has hit Long Island in 2012, it is time to find alternatives.

Your garden for 2013 will be even more beautiful with new varieties of other old time favorites that are very reliable, as well as magnificent. There are many choices of New Guinea Impatiens that are completely not affected by Downy Mildew. They can be planted in the same areas where you once planted your impatiens. And don’t think that you need only flowers to add color to your garden, the development of Coleus varieties has resulted in spectacular foliage that brings your garden to life. Another favorite of mine is begonias as they do wonderfully in sun or shade. They are very low maintenance and keep blooming until a hard frost — much longer than the regular impatiens. If you have lots of sun, the vinca flower has a petal formation that is practically identical to the impatiens, but can withstand much more drought. No need for overwatering Vincas.

As gardeners, we may have experienced a setback in our garden designs for 2012. But as gardeners, we know that our gardens are never stagnant. They are always ever-changing and growing — like we all should be. We are not discouraged by this disease. But more importantly, we hope that our customers and all gardeners are not discouraged. At Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms, we were known for having the best selection of impatiens on Long Island. Now, we will now be known for having the best alternative choices for impatiens on Long Island. We are excited for Spring 2013 as we plan our greenhouse planting schedule. Our customers will be pleasantly surprised of what awaits them beyond impatiens.

Click here:

Click here to read more on impatiens from Jessica Damiano at Newsday  (must subscribe to Newsday to be able to view full online article)

Another Impatiens Article by Jessica Damiano for Newsday (must subscribe to Newsday to be able to view full online article)