Tidewater Gardening - February 2010


Monetizing the Value of Your Landscape
K. Marc Teffeau

What is the real value of that 90-foot white oak tree in your front yard? Could you recover the true value if the tree was damaged or destroyed? Can you insure a landscape against hail damage, fire, flood or other damages like you can your house? Can a landscape actually be considered part of “ecosystem services”? These are some of the questions that the American Nursery and Landscape Association have been working on the last year or two.
This effort is part of a larger attempt to determine the real value that the home and commercial landscape may have as part of a larger asset base. ANLA (American Nursery and Landscape Association) has worked with a private insurance company who now offers comprehensive “landscape” insurance. Most valuation of a landscape has been its replacement cost. If a tree or shrub is damaged, lets say, by an automobile, and has to be replaced, what would that cost? We are looking at not only the actual replacement cost but the landscape value lost when a large, mature plant or planting is replaced by younger plant material that will need to grow, long-term, to equal the importance in the landscape.
With all this discussion of “cap and trade,” carbon “footprints” and related topics, what environmental value or “ecosystem service” value does a tree, shrub or a landscape bring to the environment? Extensive research work has already been done in this area by Dr. Greg McPherson at the Center for Urban Forestry with the U.S. Forest Service, www.fs.fed.us/psw/programs.cufrl. He has documented the importance of trees in the landscape and urban ecosystem and their positive impact on climate change. As more research is conducted in this area we will have a better understanding of what value the landscape has in carbon sequestration (Carbon sequestration is a geo-engineering technique for the long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon, for the mitigation of global warming), water quality, urban runoff and energy conservation. From the nursery industry viewpoint, establishing and enhancing the “value” of the landscape can help to increase sales and placement of appropriate plant material into the environment. After all, the nursery and landscape industry is truly a “green industry.”
After surviving the major December snow fall and the frigid temperatures and snow of January, what does the rest of the winter have in store for us? Perhaps the Farmer’s Almanac can give us an idea, but while we are coping with whatever comes, let’s think positive thoughts about spring!
What is new and exciting that we can put into the upcoming landscape? Of course, the All-American Selections (www.all-americanselections.org) are out for 2010 and our review. A new purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea ‘PowWow Wild Berry,’ is one of the 2010 winners that deserves a look. According to AAS, this purple coneflower differs from all others for flower color, branching and plant size. It has deep rose-purple 3- to 4-inch flowers that retain color longer. This first-year flowering perennial (hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 3) has superior performance including a basal branching habit, resulting in more flowers per plant. Reaching a height of 20 to 24 inches in full sun, this AAS Winner blooms continually without deadheading. ‘PowWow Wild Berry’ is an intermediate day-length flowering variety with most rapid and uniform flowering at 14 hours, and blooming approximately 20 weeks after sowing. Therefore, seed should be sown by the end of January or beginning of February for the most prolific and uniform flowering in the first year.
In the annual flower area is a really neat zinnia, ‘Zahara Starlight Rose,’ which is also an AAS 2010 selection. Zinnias are old-fashioned flowers but these rose and white flowers are a new bi-color for this sun-loving class of annuals. Other new traits are the proven resistance to leaf spot and mildew which can devastate healthy plants and cause early death. These superior qualities result in a long-lasting zinnia that provides generous color all season.
‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ is heat and drought tolerant and is easy to grow in gardens. This is a perfect plant for the novice or experienced gardener because it is so undemanding with a maximum number of blooms. The mature plants are mid-sized, about 12 to 14 inches tall and wide, and are large enough to make a bold statement in containers or patio urns. Gardeners will be able to grow ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ from seed or plants.
So that we do not slight the woody plant aspect of the landscape, a recent shrub introduction from the Landscape Plant Development Center in cooperation with the Novalis® group should be considered – Diervilla Cool Splash™, Diervilla sessilifolia ‘LPDC Podaras’ PPAF. According to the Novalis folks ‘Cool splash™, perfectly describes the showy variegated foliage of the previously unsung dwarf honeysuckle bush.
Not a honeysuckle at all, it is a hardworking plant. The native green form has been pressed into service in highway medians and as a ground cover on commercial sites. Developed from a variegated mutation on a branch growing at Cornel University, the plant was introduced by the Landscape Plant Development Center and is now offered by Bailey Nurseries, one of the Novalis® growers.
This plant offers subtle flowers on the cooling green and white foliage. It performs best in partial shade where the white variegations are most welcome. The plant is cold hardy in zones 4-7.
During the milder days of February we can get outside and do some work. Don’t forget that the branches of forsythia, pussy willow, quince, spirea and dogwood can be forced for indoor bloom. Make long, slanted cuts when collecting the branches and place the stems in a vase of water. Change the water every four days. They should bloom in about 3 weeks.
On milder days toward the end of the month you can prune fruit trees and grapes after the worst of the winter cold is passed but before the spring growth begins. You can also force the cuttings of apple, peach and cherries to bloom during this month.
In late February, after the crocus poke their leaves through the mulch, bring a little color into the house by potting up a few clumps from the garden as they emerge. If placed in a sunny spot indoors they will develop blooms before the ones outside.
Don’t remove the mulch from perennials too early. A warm day may make you think spring is almost here, but there may be more cold weather yet to come. Also remember to avoid walking on frozen grass and ground covers during the winter. Ajuga is especially sensitive to being walked on during the winter, and large portions can die back, leaving bare spots for the spring. The frozen leaves are brittle and easily damaged.
Even though there might be rain or snow, the soil dries out against your house or outbuilding under the eaves where rain rarely reaches. Be sure to water well during a thaw to prevent loss of plants. Remember that plants require water during the winter to replace water lost due to wind dessication and lack of rain or snow.
During those nights where there is nothing good on cable TV, start preparing for the vegetable garden by making labels for your spring garden. Plastic milk jugs or bleach bottles cut into 1-inch by 6 or 7-inch strips works well. Use permanent ink markers to write on them. Don’t forget to start building up your supply of gardening aids such as plastic milk jugs for hot caps and orange juice cans to make cutworm guards.
Happy Gardening!!