Landscape Faux Pas (foh pahz, for plural)

STUPID MYTHS

Pruning sealer (aka pruning paint) is bad news, but some folks still use it. Worse yet, some places still sell it! Arborists starting warning against this practice at LEAST 25 years ago. The black tar is especially problematic when it’s used on the sunny side of the tree trunk, which would be the south to west exposures. That’s because on cold winter days with puffy cumulus clouds, the tar overheats the wounded area when then sun is out, but the clouds cause a constant “heat/freeze” cycle. This cycle KILLS the phloem in the area, exacerbating the wound and often causing the bark to blast off the tree trunk.

Trees heal themselves from the “inside out”. They only need you to make a proper pruing cut. They literally plug their own vascular system after the wound event occurs. If the pruning cut is made properly, the tree “seals over” that wound. The sooner the tree seals the wound, the better!

So when you see pruning sealer on the shelf on any lawn and garden outlet, tell management to shoot me a note and I’ll set them straight!

 

COME ON, MAN! HAVE SOME PRIDE!

The photo on the left shows are really hideous sidewalk where the turf has encroached upon the sidewalk. The blue line shows the neighbor doing the right thing and keeping a nice crisp edge. The red line shows up 4 to 6 inches of crappy grass and weeds over-running the sidewalk. This really looks trashy.

Now check out that photo on the right–showing a gorgeous edge on a fabulous sward of turf-type fescue. It’s a literal horticultural erection! That’s how you do it, folks!

Lest you judge me as harsh for my criticism of the crappy sidewalk, it’s possible that the homeowners are old and of poor health. If this is the case, I apologize to them. Not you, them.

 

CRAPPY SHRUBS

Nurserymen are always looking for new and improved plants. But the old, crappy ones still exist in our landscapes, and even the retail nurseries. Below we have a photo of an “old-fashioned” pyramidal arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Pyramidalis’). Because it has multiple leaders, a negative growth feature, the plant is prone to literally falling apart here in the Lou, where we suffer from heavy wet snows or freezing rain. Note how the plant has split into 3 parts, because it has three leaders, not just one. The plant has splayed apart.

This shrub is probably at least 15 years old and it’s too late to “fix it”. It should be removed and replaced. There a tons of new evergreens available now with a strong, central leader. There are at least 5 different colors that I can think of (blue, gray, light green, dark green, yellow), from the spruces, pines, juniper, false cypress, and even the arborvitae family. Shop at good nurseries and avoid the big box stores when you want good plants.

Split Arborvitae

That’s it for this blog. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please do me a favor and tell your friends and family about my blog. Have them sign up for the updates!

Send me your questions! Send me your comments! Dare to disagree!  Let’s roll around in the dirt and sling some mud!

Best to all of you,

Trav

THIS STUFF WORKS!

Bayer 3 wayI grew tired of watching some of my landscape ornamentals get hit with powdery mildew every summer. A buddy of mine with a lot of pathology experience (pun intended) suggested I try the fungicide tebuconazole as a preventative root drench.

So, I found this product on the shelf, Bayer Advanced All in One Rose and Flower Care.  In addition to fungicide it has a systemic insecticide (imidacloprid) and some fertilizer (9–14-9). I was also sick of black spot on my roses, which this controls. The insecticide controls feeding adult Japanese beetles, a huge plus, aphids, scales, leaf miners and a host of other pests.

So I bought it and put it to the test. The general directions are 2 fluid ounces per plant, or 2 fluid ounces per 12 sq ft of general mass plantings, as a drench in 1 qt to 1 gal of water.

Back in early May I treated my roses, a 16 ft tall native flowering dogwood, ‘Mrs Moon’ lungwort, two peonies,garden phlox, woodland phlox and a mass planting of Monarda (beebalm). Interesting that every beebalm in my bed was advertised as resistant to powdery mildew! Total crap in St. Louis! I’m impressed! Especially with the lack of mildew in my Monarda bed! Directions say treat every 6 weeks, which I intend to do, because we’ve got another two months of mildew enhancing weather!

Stay tuned!

Trav

Gimme More Sunshine!

competitionSpring has been reluctant for us St. Louisans, but I’m not complaining! I’d rather have a slow start than a quick warm up and a disastrous freeze!

That said, many of you are already thinking about creating new beds, renovating beds or just expanding them. The picture above may be a little dark, but it tells a great story. Zoom in to see that little sucker on the far right. About 4 years ago my neighbor planted 4 new hostas (‘Francee’, nothing special), all purchased from a big box store and approximately the same size. She planted them 3 feet apart in a decently ammended clay loam soil.

I took this photo last June, because it really shows how competition for sunlight, water and nutrients affects plants. The hosta on the far right is really about 1/4th the size of the hosta on the far left. There’s a very linear reduction in plant size from left to right. Because this neighbor tended to overwater I don’t need to go out on a limb and say that the size gradation is the result of competition for sunlight.

Keep this in mind when you’re planning and planting. Few plants enjoy being directly underneath a thick canopy. Even the shade tolerant hosta shows a preference for being out from under that canopy of this ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud. If you want to plant underneath an established canopy, be sure to limb up the branches ahead of time, and consider thinning their crowns, to allow more sun to hit the soil beneath.

 

Kiss Your Buds Goodbye!

Unseasonably Warm Weather

St. Louis and much of the Transition Zone has “benefited” from unseasonably warm weather in November, after some good, cold weather in October. This weather pattern has totally confused our landscape ornamentals, especially beautiful flowering shrubs that bloom on old wood–such as the Bigleaf Hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla cultivars). Plants in our region are programmed to go dormant, based upon either short days and/or cold temperatures. Think about this. To survive our cold winters, plants need to hibernate. Each species has a different chilling requirement (hours of cool/cold weather at a certain base temperature) and those plants that are adapted over a wide geography (such as the showy bigleaf hydrangeas) tend to require too few hours of chilling. As such, they are prone to making mistakes. A good example of how this works is the apple tree. At the risk of oversimplification, an apple tree needs 600 hours below 45 F. This is why Georgia grows peaches and very few apples!

The featured image shows an actual flower bud on the popular ‘Nikko Blue’ selection, taken just a few days ago. The buds emerged in mid November, only to be killed by one of our frosts. These buds should have opened next May! Those of you with these plants know how disappointing they have been these past few years. They were so gorgeous at the nursery! I did some research on the various reasons for flowering failure in this species. Breeders of these cultivars are working on improving heat tolerance, because prolonged hot weather decreases flower bud set. Another obvious need is better cold tolerance. For maximum success here in St. Louis, try to locate your bigleaf hydrangeas on an east or southeast exposure with good protection from winter winds. Shade after 1:00 PM or 2:00 PM is perfect. If you’ve got a brick or stone house, that will enhance your flowering success, because the stone will radiate heat during winter nights, increasing flower bud survival.

A good friend of mine grows nursery stock and I queried him for advice, too. He recommended caging the plants and filling it with straw mulch (or any loose mulch…not leaves…not hardwood bark) by early December to protect the tender buds. That would not have helped this year, but I may try it in the future.

 

 

 

It’s a Great Time to Divide Hostas and Other Perennials

Mid-August is a great time of year to divide hostas and perennials because proper nighttime temperatures encourage rapid root development. Cut off all brown leaves when you replant new divisions. For hostas, it is actually safe to cut off all leaves, leaving “celery stalks,” especially if the leaves are severely bleached or bedraggled.