Holiday Decorating With Cut Greenery


By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Assistant Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Thankfully, besides the traditional Christmas tree, there are many simple ways to bring the beauty and aroma of evergreens into your home. To create beautiful garlands, wreaths, baskets, and other arrangements, you can collect cuttings from your yard using an assortment of fresh boughs, twigs, birch poles, berries, and cones. Popular tree varieties enjoyed for their natural beauty and heavenly scent include Frasier fir, Balsam Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Pine, and Cedar.
Balsam boughs are often collected during this time of year. If you have Balsam Firs in your yard, clip the boughs carefully so as not to disrupt the future growth of the trees. Check the guidelines in your area for the requirements to cut boughs on public land. Wear gloves to protect your hands and wrists from the sap and prickly needles. After cutting boughs about 18-30 inches or so in length, attach them on a wreath wire, or heavy gauge garland wire, or arrange them in a basket or container of your choice. Floral foam, soaked in water can be helpful as it allows you to create arrangements of different sizes and shapes more easily. Water the arrangement, if possible, so that it will last throughout the holiday season.
There are many other gifts from nature that you can use when decorating your home. Red Twig Dogwood is a favorite. Simply cut a few twigs and place in a vase mixed with some of your fall grasses and evergreen boughs. Add a few thin birch poles for a dramatic effect. Do you have Winterberry, Ilex verticillata included in your landscape? This shrub stays beautiful all winter long; the clustery red berries are beautiful against the winter snow and can be added to your indoor decor. Holly, Ilex species; brings beauty through its branches and berries; simply trim a few branches off of your plant to add to your arrangements. If you have a White Pine or other evergreen tree in your yard, look for pine cones that can be sprayed with citrus, cinnamon, or vanilla scents to bring beauty and fragrance into your home.
The winter season is a time to bring the comforts of our natural world indoors. Many creative projects can provide a lot of coziness with very little experience or expense. Take a walk through your landscaped areas and you may find endless possibilities. Have fun decorating!
Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at http://www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Tree Planting Completion – Part 2

By: Jennifer LaMontagne- Assistant Horticulturist- Bloch’s Farm- Green Lake, WI

For many varieties of shrubs and trees, fall is the perfect time for planting. Planting requires just a little planning and preparation for optimum growth. Last week, we shared helpful tips such as selecting the perfect site for your shrubs and trees, and taking safety precautions such as having your buried gas and electrical lines marked prior to digging. Once you have the hole prepared and have properly placed the shrub or tree, then it’s time to finish up the process.

Step 4: Backfilling. Now is the time to add compost, peat moss, or starter fertilizers. Bloch’s Farm recommends adding organic Purple Cow Compost when planting a new tree or shrub. Avoid using fertilizers with high levels of nitrogen as this could interfere with the tree going into dormancy. The compost, peat moss, or starter fertilizer should be evenly mixed with the contents from the hole. To avoid air pockets, lightly tap the soil in the hole around the rootball. When the hole is filled about three-quarters of the way, water heavily and let the water soak in. This helps further eliminate air pockets, settles the soil, and thoroughly moistens the roots. When the water has soaked in completely, you can finish filling the hole.

Step 5: Post-planning care. Watering too much or too little is often a major cause of tree or shrub loss. The site should be thoroughly watered immediately after planting. Thereafter, the soil must be regularly monitored to prevent drying out. A tree that is well hydrated in fall, is less likely to develop winter burn.

Mulching helps conserve moisture, moderate soil temperature, and control weeds around the tree or shrub. The mulch is placed on the soil surface over the tree or shrub root system, but not too close to the trunks of the shrubs or trees. Apply bark three to four inches deep. Avoid using impermeable mulches such as plastic and rock because they may impede or prevent root development, as they do not allow air or moisture to move into or out of the soil from above. Staking with two or three sturdy stakes is recommended for the first year or so. Using twine, tie loosely. Put white tree wrap on the trunk every fall and remove it in the spring. 

 Fertilizing is not usually needed for the first year in regular soil conditions, but if plants appear to need fertilizer during this time, use a complete slow-release fertilizer. A light pruning may be needed at planting time when balancing out the root to canopy area, but severe pruning or shaping should be postponed for at least one year after transplanting. Each plant has specific requirements on when and how much pruning is needed. Research this information via the UW-Master Gardener Extension or by asking a local greenhouse staff member. 

Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Tree Planting Preparation – Part 1

By: Jennifer LaMontagne- Assistant Horticulturist- Bloch’s Farm- Green Lake, WI

            Fall is the season when many of the plants, shrubs, and trees in our yards are completing their growing season and getting ready for a long winter’s nap. The cool temperatures and rains of fall, however, provide the perfect scenario to plant certain species of shrubs and trees such as lilacs, forsythia, maple, elm, hawthorn, sycamore, pine, and spruce. By planting about six weeks before the first hard frost of the season, shrubs and trees have a chance for root growth to occur during the time when shoot growth is slowing down.  

Planting in late fall doesn’t allow adequate time to establish a strong root system for all shrubs and trees. For example, it is wise to avoid planting broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, boxwoods, and azaleas in late fall as they can be easily susceptible to winter burn. If you do happen to plant them, choose a site with a bit of windbreak and wrap them for the winter.  

Planting shrubs and trees requires some planning and preparation. Here are some helpful tips to support good health in your new shrubs and trees.

Step 1: Site selection. There can be vast differences in the environmental requirements for each type of tree or shrub. Some factors to keep in mind when choosing the right species for an area are: hardiness zones, sunlight and moisture preferences, soil characteristics and pH, and environment exposure. Be sure to consider the size of the mature shrubs or trees and the amount of space they will need when fully grown. Don’t plant them too close to each other or too close to a building.

Step 2: Marking buried facilities. Have your yard marked for buried facilities such as water, sewer, gas, and electric. This should be done three days before you start to dig. It is free to call Diggers Hotline.

Step 3: Digging the hole and placing the plant. The planting hole for the tree or shrub should be twice as wide as the root ball. The depth of the hole should be no deeper than where the crown of the first root is. Use a shovel to roughen the sides of the hole so that the roots can penetrate, especially if the soil is clay structure. Always remove all containers, burlap, wire, and strings from the root ball before planting. Damaged roots should be clean-cut with a sharp blade prior to planting. If there are any circling or kinked roots in the rootball, sever them to prevent future girdling of the plant. 

Stay tuned for next week’s article with more steps on how to plant a tree. Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Overwintering Tender Bulbs

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Now that winter is nearing, it’s time to think about saving your perennials. While some of your plants will be fine remaining in the ground, there are some bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, roots, and corms that cannot survive the deep freeze of a Wisconsin winter. These are often grouped together and called “tender” bulbs. Caladium, canna, dahlia, elephant’s ear, and tuberous begonias are a few examples. With a little bit of effort, you can save some money and your grandmother’s treasured dahlias by digging up the bulbs to store and replant next spring. 

There are a few steps you can follow in order to provide the best chance of success for your bulbs’ regrowth in the spring. Overall, it’s important to keep the bulbs dry and cool. The first step in the process is to keep an eye out for dried foliage or the first light frost which will cause the leaves to wilt. At this time, trim the plant stems down to about six inches, and then use a shovel or garden fork to carefully dig up the bulbs. Discard any bulbs that have signs of damage or bruising as this can lead to disease and rot.

Gently shake off the soil surrounding the bulbs. Many bulbs can also handle a gentle spray with the hose. Avoid removing any protective layers, and if your bulbs have multiplied, leave them together until spring. Then trim the stems down to about two inches.  

Now your bulbs are ready to be dried. This stage takes one to three days for most bulbs, but it can take up to three weeks for others such as gladiolus, calla lilies, and elephant’s ears. Mesh trays or screens are helpful to hold the bulbs and to aid in the drying process. A warm, dry, well-ventilated garage or similar space can be used to dry the bulbs and keep them out of direct sunlight.   

The final step is storing your dried bulbs. Place the bulbs in a few inches of bagged compost, vermiculite, sawdust, or shredded paper. Store the bulbs in a cardboard box, mesh bag or burlap sack, and keep them from touching each other to prevent any potential rot from spreading. Label the containers with species and color for easy spring planting. Place the bulbs in a storage area that is cool but frost-free (35 to 45°F) with a relatively low rate of humidity. Check them occasionally throughout the winter months.

In general, these steps work well for many varieties of bulbs. There are exceptions, however, so be sure to learn about your particular perennials. For more information on overwintering tender perennials check out the UW-Extension Master Gardener website or ask one of your local greenhouse staff.

Bloch’s Farm is now closed for the season but feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Top Natives to Support Biodiversity

By: Melissa Netzer – Lead Landscape Designer – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Biodiversity (short for ‘biological diversity’) describes the whole variety of life on Earth including plants, animals, fungi and bacteria. It can also include the habitats in which these life forms live. Knowledge of and respect for these life forms is important because they contribute, at every level, to the balance of local and global ecosystems. 

Biodiversity is important to people as well as wildlife. The health of our environment is fundamental to our well-being and quality of life. Basic needs such as fresh water, clean air, and fertile soil stem from a diverse natural world. 

All of us can make a difference on this front. When we have the opportunity to add plant material to our landscape, we can keep in mind the importance of biodiversity and install trees, shrubs, and perennials that help support diversity in our own backyards. Using native plants furthers the health of our environment while increasing the odds that the plants will thrive with little or no maintenance. 

Here is a list of some trees, shrubs, and perennials native to Wisconsin that will support the most biodiversity: 

Trees: Birch (Betula), Elm (Ulmus), Maple (Acer), Oak (Quercus), Pine (Pinus), Willow (Salix

Shrubs: Chokeberry (Aronia), Cranberrybush- American (Viburnum trilobum), Dogwood (Cornus), Witchazel (Hamamelis)

Perennials: Aster (Aster), Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Brown-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Boneset (Eupatorium), Geranium (Geranium), Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium), Sedges (Carex), Viola (Viola)

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday. Call or stop by for more information and ideas on how to incorporate these important plants and other native plants into your landscape. Check out our selection of native plants as well as other trees, shrubs, and perennials. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Siberian and Blue Flag Irises

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew and Science educator (retired) – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

As mentioned in previous articles, irises are among the many perennials that are ideal to plant in the fall. Planting and dividing irises, along with specifics about German irises were discussed in the previous articles. This week’s article will focus on Siberian iris and Blue Flag iris. Bloch’s Farm has Siberian iris stock in various colors and native Blue Flag wetland iris. 

The Siberian Iris, with smaller blossoms than the German Bearded Iris, is a very versatile plant. It is very similar to the Wild Native Blue Flag and comes in several color combinations. After blooming, the leaves remain in clumps with striking vertical form; therefore, it offers a longer season of garden interest.

The Siberian iris is adaptable to a range of planting times. To enjoy the blooms most readily, plant Siberian iris gardens in late summer or autumn. Planting Siberian iris gardens is best done in a rich, fertile soil with good drainage; however, Siberian iris will perform in lean or poor soils as well. The rhizomatous or fibrous roots can be planted in full sun to partially shady areas. Keep well-watered until established, usually for the first year.

Blue flag iris is ideal for wildflower gardens where the plant has access to plenty of moisture in spring. It makes a good pond or water garden plant, as it performs well in standing water. This plant, which reaches heights of 18 to 48 inches (.4 to 1.4 m.), displays long, narrow leaves, sometimes gracefully curved. The blooms are typically violet blue, but other colors also exist, including intense violet and white with bright pink veins.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday. Check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. 

German Bearded Irises

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew and Science educator (retired) – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Autumn is the perfect time to plant and divide perennials, especially irises. As mentioned in last week’s article, Bloch’s Farm has a wide variety of irises, including German Bearded iris and German reblooming iris. 

There are two types of German Bearded irises; the standard iris that blooms in May and June and the reblooming irises that you may see in gardens now. Color selection is a personal choice as there are over 60 iris genera with at least 2,000 cultivars.

Dividing and planting German Bearded iris is quite easy. Lift the German Bearded iris rhizomes with a spading fork; separate the plants by teasing them apart. Shaking off the dirt makes it easy to inspect the plants. Removing any soft or diseased rhizome parts, and trimming the leaves back to short fans helps break the cycle of the iris borer. Always burn the diseased rhizomes and cut off leaves; do not just toss them into the compost.

            Replant the divisions shallowly, allowing some of the rhizome to show above the soil. Planting German Bearded irises in clusters gives a better show of bloom than planting them in rows. Cover the roots carefully and water well.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, closed Sundays. We have fall bulbs and annuals available. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Fall Iris Planting

By: Lucinda Miller – Grounds Crew – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

Autumn is an ideal planting time for Wisconsin gardens and landscapes. It is the perfect time to divide perennials, remove any diseased specimens, augment soil, and rearrange our outdoor spaces. The ground is warm, rain is more frequent, and many horticultural specimens are on sale.

Irises are among the many perennials that are ideal to plant in autumn. Iris is a perennial plant with showy flowers. It takes its name from the Greek word for a rainbow, which is also the name for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, Iris. The Royal symbol fleur-de-lis is thought to be taken from the shape of the iris flower. 

Here at Bloch’s Farm, we have a wide variety of irises. We have German Bearded iris, German reblooming iris, native Blue Flag wetland iris, and an abundance of Siberian iris stock in various colors. The pots are well cared for with regular feeding and ready to be planted. Some could be divided when setting them into your garden. If you need help with iris division, we would be happy to show you how.

Horticulturally, irises are one of the plants that require division every 3-5 years or so to maintain an abundance of blooms. If your irises seem to be blooming less, they probably need division. Overcrowded irises die out in the center, often causing unnecessary loss of garden specimens.

Iris will thrive in most well-drained garden soils. Planting on a slope or in raised beds helps ensure good drainage. If your soil is heavy, coarse sand or peat humus may be added to improve drainage. Gypsum is an excellent soil conditioner that can improve most clay soils. The ideal pH is 6.8 (slightly acidic), but Iris are tolerant in this regard. To adjust the pH of your soil, lime may be added to acidic soils or sulfur to alkaline soils. It is always best to have your soil analyzed before taking corrective measures. Bloch’s Farm has soil test kits and the products needed to change your soil pH.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have fall bulbs and annuals available. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials (including our large selection of irises), trees, and shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: October 8th – October 10th: End Of Season Mystery Sale!

Fall Bulbs

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

One of the most welcome sights in spring are masses of beautiful, brightly colored spring bulbs. Red, yellow, pink, and shades of purple, along with white, brightens our yards and landscapes after a cold, dreary winter. There are many different varieties of spring flowering bulbs that can provide color from spring to summer. Bulbs come in early, mid, or late season varieties. Plant some of each so you can have extended color throughout the season. Bloch’s Farm has these fall bulbs available: Daffodil, Tulip, Hyacinth, Allium, and Muscari. 

Consider planting tulips, daffodils, alliums, and other hardy bulbs before the ground freezes in late fall, between mid-October to mid-November. Bulbs planted too early in the season tend to sprout and may begin their growth process if placed in the ground while there are still sunny, mild days and before it has cooled down. In general, bulbs should be planted in sunny areas; however, there are some bulbs that will take partial shade. When planting bulbs, it is very important to plant them at the appropriate depths. The rule of thumb is that you should dig the hole the same size and height of the bulb. Refer to the package or tag for variety specific information. Bulbs grow best in most soil as long as it has good drainage. Once your bulbs are in place, sprinkle each with bone meal or a special ‘bulb booster’ that will help them thrive.

Allium bulbs are mid-season bloomers producing sphere-like flower heads atop tall stalks. Flower heads can range in size and color. Alliums are part of the onion family, and are deer and rabbit resistant. 

Tulips come in many different colors and forms. They are often used in cut-flower gardens. True species of tulips are less likely to be eaten by deer and are often longer lived than the hybrid varieties. 

There are many varieties of daffodils. Beautiful flower heads, ranging in numerous colors, stand on tall stalks. Daffodils are easy to grow and deer resistant making them a favorite among gardeners.

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. We have fall bulbs, annuals, and mums available. Find bulb booster and digging tools as well… everything you need to create a beautiful spring garden that will last for years to come. Also, check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you. Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: October 1st – October 3rd: 30% Off Trees and Shrubs!

More Composting Methods

By: Jennifer LaMontagne – Horticulturist – Bloch’s Farm – Green Lake, WI

There are several different methods of composting fruit and vegetable scraps from your kitchen.  Depending upon your gardening situations, you may want to try a few different methods. Some involve producing and maintaining more heat than others. Some are thought of as cool composting methods although they technically produce a small amount of heat. Perhaps you’d like to try trench composting, lasagna gardening, or vermicomposting, a few of the cool composting methods.

Trench composting involves digging a 12-18 inch trench in the ground about 12-18 inches deep, and placing the soil in an adjacent garden bed. Add leaves or other organic matter to the trench until winter. Cover up the trench and in the spring, you can plant where the trench was located. Repeat the process each year in a different location.

Lasagna gardening is also a cool composting method. Begin with wet newspaper or cardboard. Add “greens” such as grass clippings, manure, or vegetable scraps in a layer. Then add a layer of “browns” such as leaves or straw. Continue adding green and brown layers until your “lasagna” is about 12” tall, ending with a brown layer to help prevent flies and other pests. If the process is completed in the fall, then you can begin planting on top of your lasagna mound in the spring. 

Vermicomposting uses earthworms to speed up the composting process. Start with a bin made of material that meets your needs. Place a bit of soil at the bottom, add worms, and then begin adding kitchen scraps or other organic materials. The worms do all the work for you. There’s no need to turn the pile, and you can even keep the bin inside your home. 

If you don’t have the opportunity to create your own compost, Bloch’s Farm sells Purple Cow Activated Compost, which contains essential plant nutrients, minerals, and microbes. It is manure free, natural, and organic. Fall is a great time to add compost to your soil to prepare your plants for winter. 

Bloch’s Farm is open 8 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. Check out our huge selection of perennials, trees, and other shrubs! Fall annuals, bulbs, mums, and pumpkins are available as well. Stop in today and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to help you! Feel free to call 920-294-6000 or e-mail jlamontagne@blochsfarm.com with any questions. Visit our website online at www.blochsfarm.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Join us for this weekend’s sale: September 24th – September 26th: 30% Off Perennials!