CLIENT SCENARIO: Over the winter a client's neighboring property was cleared for construction on a new, two story house, turning the front yard, that had once been a mature oak forest, into a construction job site. The client's reached out to Vineyard Gardens for landscaping help to obtain the same natural privacy that they were once accustomed.  

Before planting new screening

Transplanting giant Arborvitae

SOLUTION: Vineyard Gardens collaborated with Maciel Land and Tree to  bring back the natural privacy barrier. Using their giant 90” diameter tree spade, Maciel Land and Tree transplanted five Vineyard Gardens 20’ Thuja plicata (Western Red Cedar) in that void. This newly planted screening looks like the trees have been there for years.

After planting new screening

SCREENING is one of the most requested landscape functions. From the client’s point of view this is a very simple request however from the grower’s perspective it is much more complex.

BUDGET: Everyone needs screening regardless of pay-grade. How much you have to spend directly correlates to the amount of time it will take to achieve your end goal. The bigger the tree, grass or shrub, the more expensive it is and the more work it is to install. Faster growing plants are not an ideal option either. A fast growing plant can be weak wooded, suffering from high winds or winter damage, or the plant could be invasive and outgrow its location. Even very large transplants can take a couple of years to re-set their supporting root systems. The most economical and hardiest solution is to start your screening "vision" with smaller plants that can quickly establish themselves.

ENVIRONMENT: The Island may be small but it is very diverse in terrain and habitats. What would work for a screen in Vineyard Haven will not necessarily work for screening on the north shore in Chilmark. There are many different soils, exposures and pests that can modify your choices. Deer are a big problem up island and poor, sandy soils are a problem in Oak Bluffs. Some areas have clay soils that cause poor drainage that can slowly kill off new plantings. Some have ample available water that can cause problems for plants like Juniper that are adapted to poor, dry soils. It may help to remember that what you see above ground is only half of the plant, what goes on below is perhaps even more important.

Deer defoliated Holly

Clethra under deer damaged Rhodie

TASTE VS. PRACTICALITY: We are often overwhelmed by the number of plants available at the nurseries. It is important to remember that different plants suit different environments. There may be 15 varieties of evergreens available, but, depending on where the plants are going, there may be only 3 or 4 that will thrive in your location. If there is shade, Juniper will languish for years before it dies. If there is full sun and exposure to high winds, Arborvitae will scorch and become irregular. If you have deer, the native American Hollies, Ilex opaca, will be defoliated up to the “browse line” (4’-5’) over one winter, as will Junipers. Therefore, it is important to not only be observant of your growing conditions but to also be flexible in your expectations. If you have a shady spot that you need screening, Hollies may be your best bet. Although, you may have to pair them with an under planting of Clethra or Winterberry, shade tolerant, deer resistant, deciduous shrubs to fill in where the deer will nibble on the lower branches of the Holly. If you are on Island only in the summer, you may have better luck screening with deciduous plants. The Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’) is a beautiful, fast growing deciduous tree that will give a dense, natural looking screening in just a few years from a small plant. They transplant well as larger plants as well so there’s a solution for every pocketbook. The native Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is another dependable tree for screening. They hold their lower branches and once leafed out they provide effective screening. They can also tend to hold on to their dried fall foliage through the winter extending its screening season.

Carpinus as a hedge (at Cronig's up-Island)


This has been a week of awakening on Martha's Vineyard. The Cherry and Pear blossoms, the Daffodils, the early Tulips, the Forsythia and the flowering Quince have been drawing all the attention with their showy explosions of floral bounty. On a more subtle note the Elms, the Maples, the Chestnuts and the Lilacs have been offering their pale greens and ruby toned buds, swelling and beginning to burst with tender foliar froth. Oh how this time of year rejuvenates the soul and the senses!

In the Woodland Garden the crane-necked stems of Solomon's Seal extend daily. The Lily of the Valley is starting to set buds signifying “the return of happiness”, in flower language.

The Woodland Garden

Here are some of our favorite plants that are blooming around the island right now.

DOGWOOD: One of the showiest of our spring flowering trees, the Dogwood, has been the victim of a fungal blight called anthracnose that has been causing die off throughout its range. When Dogwoods first open what may be thought of as petals are actually "bracts". The bracts act like the flower’s winter jacket protecting the flower from our harsh winters. Instead of the bracts falling off when the flowers start to swell, they mutate into petaloid structures reminiscent of petals that attract early season pollinators.The issue that is occurring with the North American Dogwood is that the anthracnose causes a circulatory shutdown, killing off the tree branch by branch. Fortunately, there are resistant forms being introduced and available at the Nursery. The best way to prevent the disease is to plant the Dogwood in part day shade and give it additional water in the dry, hot months of summer.  

DOGWOOD, Cornus florida, bracts surrounding central flower

MAGNOLIA SOULANGEANA: This exotic hybrid selection of Magnolia Soulangeana, called “Elizabeth”,  has exceptional, luminous yellow flowers. The Magnolia is practically a living fossil. It was one of the first of the Angiosperms (flowering plants) to evolve. Science knows this because of the spirally arranged flower parts and there are fossils to confirm it.



HORNBEAM: Another old-timer on the evolutionary scale is the Hornbeam, Carpinus betulus. The ‘betulus’ of its name indicates that it is similar to a Birch, seemingly in regards to it's flowers. The catkins are characteristic of wind pollinated trees and shrubs that include a wide range of mostly nut-bearing plants. They serve as examples of the evolutional transition from the earliest plants, Gymnosperms (naked seed, or the cone bearing trees like pines) to the later, more highly evolved, Angiosperms (meaning enclosed seed) or fruit bearing plants.

HORNBEAM, Carpinus betulus

HAZELNUT: Another example of a catkin flowered nut, the Hazelnut, Corylus avellana, “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick”  has its own special decorative character.

HAZELNUT, Corylus avellana, “Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick”

REDBUD: Just coming into flower is the decorative beauty Redbud, Cercis canadensis. It will fully play out its flowering cycle before it starts to set its leaves. The leaves are somewhat heart shaped and have a beauty all their own. 

REDBUD, Cercis canadensis

This weeping form of Redbud, may be the variety “Lavender Twist”, but there are several named forms with slightly different leaf and flower color.

REDBUD, Cercis canadensis Pendula “Lavender Twist”

VIBURNUM: Another early spring beauty is Viburnum x burkwoodii which is from a group of Viburnums called Korean Spice or Snowball Viburnum. Burkwood Viburnum grows quite large, under ideal conditions 10’ x 10’, and has an insanely delicious fragrance in late April-early May.

VIBURNUM, Viburnum x burkwoodii

VIBURNUM, Viburnum x burkwoodii

ABELIA MOSANENSIS: Another fantastic fragrant spring bloomer is Abelia mosanensis. It's a relative of the later flowering Abelia grandiflora that we use a lot here on the Island because of its stately form and glossy, nearly evergreen foliage. Unlike A. grandiflora, this plant can get quite large but its easy to keep trimmed if you cut it back just as its finishing its flowering. The fragrance is one you’ll never forget and would serve well for summer screening being nearly carefree and very fast growing.


JAPANESE SNOWBELL: One of our favorite shrubs, or small tree, is Styrax japonicus, the Japanese Snowbell. A carefree plant that quickly grows 10’-15’. The flowers fully open in May and hang downward from every branch producing a brilliant display. It flowers over a long period and as they drop they are reminiscent of freshly fallen snow. A nice place to plant it is near a path so the branches have the potential to create a canopy where passerby's can appreciate it's glory and slightly sweet/woody scent from the delicate flowers.

JAPANESE SNOWBELL, Styrax japonicus

JAPANESE SNOWBELL, Styrax japonicus

JAPANESE TREE LILAC: A plant that is not used nearly enough here on the Vineyard is the Japanese Tree Lilac, Syringa reticulata. It may be over looked in the nursery but it’s far from undistinguished once it gets going. It can become a multi trunked tree up to about 40’ with beautiful, gleaming, polished bark and 12” panicles of fragrant white flowers in the summertime. It's a distant, noble cousin to the common privet and just about as hardy.

JAPANESE TREE LILAC, Syringa reticulata

JAPANESE TREE LILAC, Syringa reticulata

The list could go on and on! Here’s to hoping your spring is just as stimulating and fragrant as ours is here on Martha’s Vineyard!



PALM SUNDAY OPEN HOUSE: April 9th, 11am-2pm

House #1 at Vineyard Gardens Nursery

Lewisia cotyledon common name, 'Cliff Maids’

Narcissus ‘Tom Thumb’

The nip of spring is upon us, the geese are flying north, our garden center on State Road is open and the landscape crews are hard at work on spring clean-up’s. Our greenhouse teams have been busy for weeks sowing seeds and waking up the bulbs we prepared in the fall. Once the season starts there’s no time for resting. As welcome as spring is, the best is yet to come!

This Sunday, April 9th, Vineyard Gardens will be hosting the traditional Palm Sunday Open House from 11am to 2pm. It is an island-wide tradition where all the nursery growers open their garden gates to the public for a welcoming preview of what’s in store for the season. While the nurseries' stock is consistent year to year, fashion and trends have a way of freshening up the palette. There are always new discoveries and ‘perennial’ favorites to stumble upon with an early season visit.

Vineyard Gardens Nursery is stocked with vegetable seedlings, from early season greens to peas. We offer a nice range of plants from the mustard family that need to be started early in order to get established before the warm weather hits. We have a gorgeous assortment of Pansies and Iceland Poppies to add spring color to your window boxes.  We also carry a wide array of spring bulbs in pots that can be transplanted into mixed planters, incorporated into gift baskets or centerpieces.

Mark it on your calendars,, Sunday April 9th, a day to celebrate our local Nurseries and the beauty of spring! As an added bonus, there is always a special give-away to give a jump start to your spring garden!

Forsythia ‘Linwood Gold’ 

Papaver alpina common name, Alpine Poppy

Various early greens and Rhubarb for sale at the Herb House at Vineyard Gardens



We have been busy in our greenhouse planting and germinating seeds since the end of February and our cool weather vegetables packs are now ready! You can either sow your own seedlings or you can buy our packs to get a head start. We recommend planting our seedlings first and then planting a row of seeds 6-8 inches away as your second batch.

You can start planting your cool weather crops now through the end of May.  We have a fabulous selection of cool weather crops including broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, mustards, Asian greens, Chinese cabbage, tatsoi, bok choy, spinach, lettuce, arugula, micro greens, mesclun greens. asparagus and strawberries.  Asparagus and strawberries are best planted early.


Vineyard Gardens greenhouse: Our germination process of cool weather crops.


We are GIVING AWAY free legume inoculant with every pea seed packet purchase. The shelling peas and the sugar snap peas are seasonally appropriate to use right now. We will have seedlings for sale in jiffy eight packs if you are not here this early to plant. Newly seeded this week.

Also we have Fedco Wildflower mix. 10 grams for $2.99. Over 20,000 seeds in 10 g and will seed about 100 sq ft. 


Seed Selections and Gardening Tools


As we prepare for Spring, pouring over seed catalogs and drooling over our friends’ Instagram posts from Colombia to the Mekong Delta, it is a good time to get outside and accomplish some garden tasks that will be put aside once the bulbs begin to break ground. If the prospect of tree climbing and brush hauling is deterring you, remember that Vineyard Gardens’ landscape crew is working year round and available to help. Below are a few of the garden tasks that you could be chipping away at during these mild February days.

A "hat-racked" Holly from this  year. Stay tuned to see how it looks throughout the growing season.

A "hat-racked" Holly from this  year. Stay tuned to see how it looks throughout the growing season.


Grapes may look a mess this time of year and it may be tempting to simply cut them back, but the process of pruning them is best demonstrated. Like riding a bike, once you’ve done it a few times it gets easier.

Fruit trees are a bit trickier due to variety, special growth patterns and fruiting strategies but the basic rule of thumb is to open up the inside allowing for good air circulation and access to sunlight. Remove dead or diseased wood and a few of the older branches and crosses. Remove about 1/3rd of the older wood but preserve a balanced structure.  A clever short video for inspiration.

These tip buds hold this season's flowers. Be careful not to trim them off

These tip buds hold this season's flowers. Be careful not to trim them off

Once the pruning is complete and the weather has warmed up, spray with Dormant, aka Horticultural Oil. This is a non-toxic spray that coats the stems and bark with a mild pesticide that helps control most types of pests that can plague fruit trees and plants in the Rose family.


Evergreens often outgrow their allotted space. They tend to keep their foliage on the sunny side of the plant, leaving the back sparse and leggy. They also tend to hold onto old wood that can harbor mold, mildew and fungus. Thinning out the old dense branching and accumulation of discarded foliage can lighten up the overall structure and make for a healthier plant. Some evergreens have a hard time producing new growth on old, hardened off wood. Hollies and Boxwood are a couple that appreciate being cut back hard,  called “hat-racking”.  

A short video to help get you started,


Hydrangea bud

Hydrangea bud

A perfect late-winter project! Ornamental grasses hold up well through most of the winter, providing volume, screening and an attractive feature in the winter landscape.  Make sure to cut them back in early Spring or you’ll end up cutting off  new growth. The grasses do not need to be flush cut, they can be cut at angles or domes, the object is to clear away old canes before  new growth begins to emerge.  A hedge trimmer or hand pruners can be used.


Martha's Vineyard homeowners tend to favor late summer flowering shrubs such as Pee Gee Hydrangeas, Bluebeard Caryopteris, St. John’s Wort, Butterfly Bush and Rose of Sharon. These shrubs  perform best with a hard cut back before new growth begins to emerge. Be careful not to cut back your common blue type of Hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, because these hold their flowering buds at the tips of last years’ growth. We will be addressing Hydrangea care and pruning in a later post, stay tuned.

A fall cleanup cut. Notice  last year's cuts on these Annabelle Hydrangeas. The Annabelle's are very forgiving, but if you leave this much stem length on them they'll tend to flop more.

A fall cleanup cut. Notice  last year's cuts on these Annabelle Hydrangeas. The Annabelle's are very forgiving, but if you leave this much stem length on them they'll tend to flop more.

Wait to prune lilacs until after they have flowered.

This can be the time to cut out dead, broken and/or diseased wood from roses as well. Most roses will benefit from a hard structural pruning at this time. Be sure to keep your pruners clean and sharp. Carry with you alcohol wipes to clean the blades when moving from one plant to the next. This will help prevent spreading virus and fungal spores. Always keep the area under roses clean from debris and refresh top-dressing every year. This is where pests can deposit eggs and where fungus spores collect. These steps may not eliminate black spot, Japanese beetles or aphids but it will make it easier to keep them under control. Later you can spray with Horticultural oil, as with your fruit trees.


Now would be a good time to reset cobble edging and patio pavers that have settled and become uneven.

  1. You can get a couple buckets of sand from Keane’s or Goodale’s
  2. Pull up a section of pavers
  3. Spread out the sand. A trick when doing this is to spread the sand under the edges of the stone leaving it lower or a little hollow in the center to prevent rocking.
  4.  Reset the stones. The stones can be left slightly higher than grade to allow for settling.
Last year's cuts on a Pee Gee Hydrangea. This year leave a couple of buds beyond for a big, full flowering.

Last year's cuts on a Pee Gee Hydrangea. This year leave a couple of buds beyond for a big, full flowering.

While doing this, observe where you have standing water and erosion problems. These can be corrected by digging a shallow trench towards lower grade and back-filling with pea stone. Plan ahead and fill some pockets at the joints with a sand/compost mix to allow for planting “Stepables” like Thyme or Blue Star Creeper Isotoma fluviatillis when they come available later in the Spring.


Be prepared! If you don’t have the equipment to sharpen your pruners, loppers, hedge shears and pruning saw’s you can collect them together and drop them off at the Vineyard Gardens office across from Keane’s to have them sharpened for a modest fee. You should also clean and sharpen your spades and shovels, it will make your garden tasks so much easier and safer. Its good practice to keep a 5gal. bucket with sand mixed with old, used motor oil in it around to clean your tools after using them.  This is also a good time to oil the wood stocks of any tools with wooden handles, it will give it a chance to soak in and renew the grain making them stronger and last longer.


With all the spring rains you’ll want to be sure that the gutters are running clear, even if you cleared them out after the fall leaf drop. It is best practice to check again.  It also gives you a chance to make sure there was no damage during the winter from the weight of ice and snow.

It's generally good to keep debris from accumulating around the foundation of the house as well. This is where rodents and general pests will tend to nest, protected against a nice warm foundation.

Again, if all this seems daunting, do what you can and  Vineyard Gardens can take care of the rest. Please call the Vineyard Gardens Landscaping office at (508) 693.8512   

Time waits for no one and Spring is just around the corner. The Nursery will open around Palm Sunday, giving you  a month to prepare.


Vineyard Gardens Nursery is closed for the season but the office is still open Mon through Friday to help  with your winter needs. We offer snowplowing, winter tree work and property caretaking. Please contact our landscaping office at 508-693-8512  if you have any questions or needs.

The Holiday season has arrived....

and so have our Christmas Trees! Come wander through our festive nursery to pick out Christmas Trees, wreaths,  gorgeous holiday plants and cut greens to naturally decorate your home this holiday season! Custom wreaths are available.

Enhance your winter landscape using Winterberry


Berry Heavy Gold - Winterberry

Vineyard Gardens carries a large selection of Winterberry plants and cut Winterberry. Starting this week Christmas Trees, wreaths, roping and cut greens will all be available. 


Winterberry plants available at Vineyard Gardens:

  • Red cultivars:  Winter Red, Maryland Beauty and Berry Heavy
  • Dwarf red berried cultivars:  Sprite and Berry Poppins
  • Other varieties:  Winter Gold (an orange berry) and Berry Heavy Gold (Proven Winner variety with large yellow fruit)
  • Male cultivars: Jim Dandy, Southern Gentlemen, Mr. Poppins and Apollo


Winterberry Information:   This plant is a species of Holly called Ilex Verticillata. It is one of the few “deciduous” Holly species. When it drops its leaves in the fall, the berries stand out beautifully against the winter landscape. There are many red berried cultivars and some yellow and orange berried cultivars. Many get very large. 6-8 ft tall by 10 ft wide but there are some smaller cultivars. Like all Hollies, only the female plants produce berries and a male pollinator is needed nearby. A sunny location will also produce more berries. These Hollies prefer a moist soil and are native to eastern North America. They are often found in wetlands in their native habitat. They are hardier than evergreen Hollies and can be grown as far North as Vermont and even Southeast Canada.