Monday, January 31, 2011

Eustoma grandiflorum....Texas Bluebell

 Texas BlueBells





I digress here about 30 years...one of the first perennials and or native flowers that I learned about was the Texas bluebell, what a strikingly beautiful plant. Can you imagine traveling the wild Texas frontiers in covered wagons and coming across a prairie full of bluebonnets and bluebells, of course you might have been more concerned with keeping your scalp, finding water, food, or shelter,  but who knows... you very possibly might have been awe struck by the wild beauty that was set before you. Not too long ago we took a 3 day trip to the hill country of Texas, while there we took a meandering drive to Medina, up and down... and through the hills we went. It was the middle of Fall and the Bigtooth Maples were starting to show color, the "Blue Oaks" had hit full stride and the winter color of the hill country left us breathless. I often thought along this drive, how was it possible for the first settlers to conquer this wild and beautiful country, perhaps the brief respite of a beautiful landscape full of bluebells and blue bonnets helped in some small fashion. Okay enough about that here is the flower information and some pictures




Anytime you see the word "grandiflorum" included in the scientific name of a flower, it should get your attention -- the word indicates large blooms. This is certainly an accurate description of Texas bluebell (Eustoma grandiflorum), sometimes called "lisianthus." With its tulip-shaped blooms and its rich color (usually a deep blue to almost purple), bluebell is considered by many to be our state's most beautiful wildflower. It is easy to see why that argument is a strong one. The meaning of eustoma (eu = beautiful, good....stoma = mouth) is good tasting or well spoken, but in the case of this plant it may mean beautiful mouth referring to the extraordinary colors of the flower
Bluebell can be found growing over most of Texas (except the most arid areas). It likes fertile, prairie-type soil (you will not often find it growing in deep sand) and needs at least a moderate amount of moisture. It can tolerate wet conditions, but not standing water. This one is a great choice for coastal areas where drainage is less than perfect. It will be found growing on rolling hills, on the slopes and around the bottoms of the slopes.



Bluebell is an upright, clumping-type plant, usually reaching a height of around 1 to 2 feet -- occasionally slightly taller. The native variety, Eustomia exaltalum, is a short-lived perennial lasting 3 to 7 years while the Japanese varieties (Lisianthes) are annual. It will often form extensive colonies -- never forming a continuous, tight sod -- with space (usually about a foot) between the individual plants. The foliage is pale green (or sometimes almost a blue-green) and is not palatable to grazing animals. Accordingly, bluebell co-exists quite well with cattle-- they seem to ignore it. In fact, it has been my observation that bluebell seems to do better in pastures than on abandoned and/or vacant land. It could be that this is because the cattle hold down the competing vegetation thus making it easier for the tiny, tiny bluebell seed to germinate and for the young seedlings to become established.



Over the years,  there have been regular colonies of bluebell in the Grimes County area, all around Navasota, Anderson and Roans Prairie. Apparently, conditions are very favorable for bluebell -- it appears to do extremely well here. Even so, there will be considerable variation from year to year, depending on conditions. Some years, those hills seem to be almost a solid sheet of gorgeous blue -- other years, the flowers may be pretty sparse.

Although the bloom season will vary in different parts of the state, it generally begins in mid to late summer and continues into early fall-- under ideal conditions, perhaps even a bit later.

In cultivation, bluebell can be very effective as a border plant, or in a grouping of several plants, as an accent. It will need at least half a day of sun, preferably a little more than that. It is not difficult to grow, as long as it has adequate moisture.

Bluebell is an excellent cut flower, with a vase life of seven to ten days. The large blossoms are a guaranteed attention-getter in an arrangement. The deep blue color blends well with many yellows or whites. On an individual bluebell stalk, it is not unusual to have fully opened mature blooms along with spent blossoms and unopened buds (they resemble unopened rosebuds). The spent blooms can easily be pinched off, to encourage more blooms.



Bluebells have long been cultivated and are available in the nursery trade, in both the natural blue and in other colors (white, pink, yellow). Bluebell seed is so tiny, it requires a great deal of care and attention to get the seed successfully germinated and to get the tiny seedlings established. You may decide you would rather just buy the rosettes from a nursery in the spring, rather than planting the seed.

Whichever route you choose to follow, once you get the plants established, they should require very little care, except to make sure they have adequate moisture. Under these conditions, you may be able to extend the bloom season-- perhaps right up till frost, particularly if you regularly pinch off the spent blossoms.

In any case, I think you will agree the result will be well worth whatever effort you may have to put forth. Few flowers will look as beautiful -- or as unique -- as the native Texas bluebell.




(Information taken in part from the Texas Gardner....Thank You Very Much)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus syriacus


Well.... this interesting and colorful plant has a storied background and some common mis-interpretations about its name and origin. The name Hibiscus syriacus as named by Linnaeus suggests that it is a native of Syria, not so. The plant is actually a native of eastern Asia, and is the national flower of South Korea, the name in Korean actually means immortal flower. As to the biblical connotations for this plant there seems to be a bit of name switching, the actual biblical "Rose of Sharon" the plant and not the personage of Jesus is a type of crocus that grows on the costal plain of Sharon, some also believe that it could be a type of Tulipa..a bright red flower (tulip type) that grows prolifically on the hills of Sharon........................Well...... that is how stores are made, either way the Rose of Sharon, Althea, or Hibiscus syriacus, has been a staple in Texas and American gardens for generations, try one, it will add a bit of color and a lot of interesting history to your garden.......(And yes.... Jamie this can grow in your area...will bloom in August most likely)






Rose of sharon is a deciduous flowering shrub.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones for Rose of Sharon:

The climate is most favorable for growing rose of sharon bushes in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9.

Characteristics of Rose of Sharon:

Generally speaking, rose of sharon bushes can get 8'-10' tall and have a spread of 4'-6'. However, some cultivars stay shorter (e.g., Hibiscus syriacus 'Minerva' reaches only 5'-8'). Blooms on rose of sharon can be white, red, lavender or light blue; some have double blooms. Most rose of sharon bushes bear small, deeply-lobed, light-green leaves (may vary according to cultivar).

Pruning Rose of Sharon:

Although naturally a multi-stemmed shrub, rose of sharon can be trained through pruning (in late winter) to have simply one main trunk; thus some people refer to it as rose of sharon "tree." It's easiest to give rose of sharon its desired shape by pruning it accordingly during its first two seasons. It can also be trained for espalier.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Rose of Sharon:

Rose of sharon prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Older rose of sharon bushes may fall prey to fungal damage if grown in areas without full sun.

Uses for Rose of Sharon in Landscape Design:

Its attractive and plentiful blooms make rose of sharon plant fully capable of holding its own as a specimen. One's ability to shape rose of sharon also makes the shrub a prime candidate for hedges. But since rose of sharon bush is deciduous, it makes an effective privacy hedge only in summer. It could be used to achieve privacy around swimming pools, for instance. However, be aware that its blooms could attract unwanted bees. Please note the blooms can be messy as they drop from the main plant, try to use this plant as a distant, out of the way, but able to be seen specimen
Rose of sharon blooms profusely, and its attractive flowers are its main selling point. Like other types of hibiscus, rose of sharon's flowers bear a striking stamen. Another feature giving the shrub value is its relatively late period of blooming (in the Northeastern U.S., it blooms in August). Rose of sharon is thus able to offer color when many shrubs have long ceased blooming. A heat-lover, rose of sharon is also prized by growers in the Southeastern U.S. who crave plants that can stand up to summer's heat. The plant is reasonably drought-tolerant. Don't give up on rose of sharon, thinking it's dead just because it hasn't leafed out by early summer. Rose of sharon not only blooms late, but leafs out late, as well.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Lavender......Spanish That Is........

 Lavandula stoechas
SPANISH LAVENDER



It is easy to see why this plant is sometimes called Rabbit Ears Lavender and the bloom is described as a pineapple. The colorful "ears" are actually sterile bracts
 

This one year old Spanish Lavender bush is ready to explode with color. The early spring dark purple flower heads look great with, and bloom at the same time as Rockroses. Add a few Golden Sage plants for a show-stopping contrast. Loved by bees, Spanish Lavender will make your garden hum with life.
Spanish Lavender blooms profusely in the spring and when it finishes it needs a good pruning. The result will be an attractive, fragrant, gray-green shrub throughout the rest of the year, similar to the woody ornamental Texas Sage.
 





Native to the Mediterranean region and North Africa, Spanish Lavender seems to be a more suitable lavender choice for those who garden in hot humid climates.The antiseptic, piney fragrance of Spanish Lavender makes it an exceptionally fragrant landscape plant but not the first choice for use in cooking. English Lavenders, both Lavandula angustifolias and Lavandula x intermedias, are preferred in the kitchen.

Spanish Lavender is probably what the ancient Greeks and Romans used to scent their bath water. Indeed the word Lavender is from Latin lavare (to wash). Spanish Lavender is often referred to in older publications as French Lavender (which, today, is how we refer to L. dentata).

Cultural information  (where and how it grows)

Height.........1.5 to 2 feet tall


Zones 8- 11 perennial


Flower...Dark Purple


Full Sun, Evergreen in proper zone...Water Conserving


Must have excellent drainage and good air circulation

(Information taken in part from Mountain Valley Growers)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

" Party Time"!!!!!!!!! Alternanthera....... That is





Alternanthera ficoidea
"Joseph's Coat"

This striking plant is an annual and will turn to mush at the 32 degree mark, But it will thrive in heat and cause your neighbors to swoon (well maybe a slight exaggeration). This particular cultivar really takes center stage and is  named "Party Time" it is truly a striking plant...pinks, reds, and greens, WOW, that almost makes me want to break-out into a Christmas carol. The colors will intensify as the season approaches fall's cooler weather. See... Party Time becomes more attractive as she prepares to make her exit that way you will never forget her, now that is style....
It is a full sun plant but in Texas give it some afternoon relief.....with that afternoon protection it will thrive through out the summer. This is an excellent companion to the copper plant, marigolds..especially the pom marigolds, and our favorite lantana.
Plant in rich humus soil with  with good drainage and you will be rewarded with plants that grow 12 to 18 inches tall......space the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Party Time works great in a massed planting and as the height backdrop to the shorter color plants listed above. These plants should be readily available from your local nursery, if not..... show them the blog and pitch a fit.....they will surely be in stock the next time you visit, if they allow you back in the store....(just kidding.) They will have the plant. I have noticed several landscapers using Party Time in some unique "color" installations. 
That brings me to another point, an idea for an urban adventure: take your camera...some snacks (gotta have snacks)...your traveling companion and visit several large high-end commercial buildings around town. These fellows make drive up appeal a work of art...take pictures of the color bed designs and then incorporate in your home landscape (on a smaller scale of course), take note of the color combinations and the layout design. A great design will utilize color, layout, and "distinctive uniqueness"......so when Mr. Big Business is driving by at 60 mph, smoking  a big cigar, and overworking his blackberry...that color bed design will reach out and slap him in the face... He may not say it, but he will be thinking "Hey.... that was striking...my buildings need that type of appeal"....Now.....don't you want a color bed, that reaches out and slaps someone in the face (yeah...I thought so!)?



Try this wonderful "multi-colored" plant in your garden this summer, then when your friends come over and rave about it's beauty...you can modestly say " Oh..that is Joseph's Coat....a plant of many colors...then you can explain the derivation of the name...............................

Enjoy the life 



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ornamental Grasses

Well this is a wide open topic...because there are literally thousands  of various grasses. In the South many people consider St. Augustine grass as an ornamental grass and while it is a member of the Poaceae family...it is not what we are talking about. We need to consider St. Augustine as a turf grass and we are talking about "ornamental" and not a turf grass. So let us look at just a few ornamental grasses, these are excellent additions to the landscape....but should never be the main constituent of your landscape, just one of the components. Many of these grasses will survive from zones 4 through 8, be careful of the pennisetums that can be a little touchy with cold weather.  So here we go.............


Muhlenbergia capillaris
A knee high purple haze in the distance may not be an atmospheric event, but the effect created by the wispy, purplish flower heads in a dense stand of Gulf muhlygrass. This is a showy clump forming grass that can get to 3 ft (0.9 m) tall and just as wide. The stems and leaves are wirelike and unbranched, originating from a dense basal clump. (Muhlygrass does not produce runners.) The purplish-red or pink inflorescence is a diffuse, silky panicle, 18 in (45.7 cm) long and 10 in (25.4 cm) wide, that stands above the wiry leaves. It appears in late summer, and persists for 6-8 weeks. The ripe seeds that follow give an attractive tan color to the wispy plumes.Gulf muhlygrass is used in borders and perennial gardens where a fine textured foliage is desired to accent bolder specimens. It makes an excellent groundcover for areas with poor soils, or a refined specimen grass in natural gardens. Gulf muhlygrass is tolerant of salt spray and poor soils. Once established, it needs no care. Muhlygrass is recommended for road shoulders and medians.



Pennisetum alopecuroides

The genus Pennisetum gives us several ornamental fountain grasses. This one is the most commonly cultivated of the cold hardy species. Chinese pennisetum is a perennial grass that grows in a slowly expanding clump, 2-4 ft (0.6-1.2 m) tall and just as wide. It has narrow, linear leaves that are flat, 12-20 in (30.5-50.8 cm) long, less than 0.5 in (1.3 cm) wide, and slightly scabrous. The arching mound of bright green foliage turns golden brown in winter. The flower spikelets are borne in bristly yellowish to purplish cylinders to 8 in (20.3 cm) long. They resemble bottle brushes, and are at their peak in summer and begin to disintegrate by early winter. Many cultivars are available, with clumps ranging from less than 1 ft (0.3 m) to over 5ft (1.5 m) tall. 'Hameln' is small, with clumps less than 3 ft (0.9 m) tall, and produces creamy white flower clusters. 'Little Bunny' is only about a foot tall. 'Little Honey' is also only about 1 ft (0.3 m) tall and has white striped leaves. 'Moudry' has wider leaves and dark purple, almost black, foxtail flowers; it self-sows and can be invasive in adjacent flower beds and lawns. 'Paul's Giant' get 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and has light tan flowers.


Miscanthus sinensis


Miscanthus sinensis is the premier ornamental grass - a garden favorite for centuries. There are literally hundreds of cultivars, differing in blade size, shape and color pattern; plant height and texture; summer, autumn and winter foliage colors; flower timing and color; and cold hardiness. What they have in common are a clump forming habit (never forming turf), in which the leaves grow up then cascade out and down like a fountain; foliage that turns various shades of gold or bronze in autumn and holds up well throughout the winter; erect flowers that shine in the summer sun, then turn soft and fluffy in winter, and persist beautifully in dried arrangements; and a preference for sunny positions in the landscape. The wild form is a large bunch grass, to 12 ft (3.7 m) tall and 5 ft (1.5 m) wide, with leaf blades almost 1 in (2.5 cm) across. The leaves are medium green with a prominent white midrib, and dry to straw yellow in winter. The dense inflorescence, produced in late summer, is reddish purple, aging to silvery. Just a few of the better known cultivars are listed here.




Maiden grass (M. sinensis 'Gracillimus') is an old time garden favorite with delicate, fine textured foliage and a graceful, rounded form. The clumps of foliage can get up to 4 (1.2 m) tall, and the flowering stalks can reach 7 ft (2.1 m). Established specimens may flop under their own weight and should be divided every few years. Maiden grass has very narrow leaf blades that are about a 0.25 in (0.6 cm) across and are green with a white midrib stripe down the center.


Maiden grass blooms with silky tassels of coppery-red flowers in mid-autumn - later than most cultivars, and in areas with short growing seasons, it may not bloom at all. In winter the leaves turn warm golden yellow and the flowers turn cool silvery white.



Porcupine grass (cv. 'Strictus') is another classic ornamental grass sometimes listed as M. sinensis var. strictus. This one has a rigid, upright habit and stiff, pointed leaf blades some of which stick out at angles like porcupine quills. The leaves are patterned crossways with yellow bands, producing an effect like dappled sunlight. It gets up to 8 ft (2.4 m) tall with a spread of 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m). Porcupine grass is more tolerant of wet soils than other cultivars and is often planted next to ponds or pools. Porcupine grass is similar to zebra grass (cv. 'Zebrinus') which also has yellow banded leaves, but is more floppy and arching instead of stiffly upright.





'Variegatus' has been popular with gardeners for over one hundred years!

Cultivar 'Variegatus' is another antique that still adorns some 18th century landscapes. This is a large grass, to 8 ft (2.4 m) tall and spreading fountain-like to 5 ft (1.5 m) across. It is prone to flop and collapse under its own weight, and should be given support. The leaves are pale green with distinctive creamy white stripes and the plant produces a very pronounced and strange white effect in the landscape. The ghostly color seems to brighten other plants nearby. 'Variegatus' blooms with reddish pink flower spikes in early autumn. This one is a little more shade-tolerant than most, but of course shade makes it reach for the light and more likely to flop over.

(Plant information taken in part from Floridata....Thank You Very Much)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Urban Adventure

What is the definition of an Urban Adventure??? Well fun in and around the city. You know sometimes you just need to get away from it all and you can do that right in the middle of it all!! So in the upcoming weeks I will be sharing with you about how to have an urban adventure. Hey.. we can do pictures and everything....and the best part is you don't have to spend an "arm and a leg." As a matter of fact you do not have to give up any body parts for this adventure........

Sometimes the adventure can be the quest for a particular item or maybe just a series of stops that lead to ...... no where in particular. I remember one "day-off" I packed up my lovely wife Debbie and off we we went in search of a hand lens used to identify small bugs.......(in my pursuit of being a junior entomologist). We must have visited 7 or 8 stores asking the question..."Uhm do you stock a hand lens with which to view bugs?" The looks we received were priceless ( I should have never gone into Victoria's Secret, but who knew they might have stocked a hand lens). After a while it became a game or a vision quest (no pun intended) to find that elusive hand lens...I mean after all I had bugs to identify...this was serious business.

We had a "flavored coffee" at one bookstore, where I found a classic volume on perennials. Our next stop yielded my wife a colorful Bohemian top.....but no hand lens. At lunch time we were close enough to the "Flying Fish" restaurant in Preston center...Well... leave no stone unturned....so lunch we had....Yummo, I highly recommend the shrimp and catfish basket, cannot worry about fried foods at a time like this...I had heard about a somewhat non-descript hardware store in Garland or was it Richardson...Oh well, we  were on our way to check it out.

We did not immediately locate the hardware store, but along the way was a small ice creme shop, the likes of which I have never visited, and.... well... since it was mid-afternoon a small snack was in order. Butter pecan for me in a cup with a yellow spoon (my favorite color...the color of victory) and some kind of mint sorbet for the Debbie. We stopped for a while to visit the lab puppies for sale under a tree in the parking lot, I  made friends with a small yellow lab (once again my favorite color), I gave her a quick bite of butter pecan ice creme and then we had to leave......Debbie had that "I need a puppy" look in her eye.

Finally...we were on our way to the hardware store. And what to my wonder eyes should appear....... what an amazing array of tools and just plane "stuff" of the highest degree, I was in heaven..I was going to buy an incalculable amount of tools, to do what with I shall never know. And then! Standing in the the middle of the aisle was Debbie... with her hands held high full of ....you guessed it...... The hand lens. And best of all the package had a picture of a bug on it! Now I was able to sleuth out these dreaded chinch bugs, lace bugs, and any other bug that was causing damage to plants under my care...I had arrived!

Well I did not get all the tools I wanted and Debbie did not get a puppy (Thank You God For that Miracle). But we had a great time, saw some really cool places, ate some good food and enjoyed each other......now that folks is an urban adventure!!!!


Enjoy the Life...................................

The Butterfly Bush..............

 Butterfly Bush
Buddleia davidii




I have borrowed this information from the Ohio State University on line plant files, so our northern readers can share in the "Plant Discovery". This very cool plant will work all the way to zone 5....at this zone it will die back to the ground each year, but it will almost always come back. Full sun in Ohio and full sun in Texas mean two different things, in Texas give this beauty some afternoon protection from the blistering sun.
This is a specimen plant and not your row plants such as hollies or box woods give this baby a place of her own, in the middle of a island bed or the height item in a perennial bed. So..... what do you get with this plant....well, for one thing Colorful blooms of deep purple or lilac (and white, pink, or yellow) Fragrance (smells good), and attracts butterflies and humming birds (those tiny birds that defy imagination).


Well I apologize for the brevity of this blog, but I am experiencing the absolute worst virus infestation I have ever had on my main desktop. I lay awake at night thinking of dastardly things to do to those scurrilous dogs that develop these computer viruses.Of course being  the even tempered , kind and gentle soul that I am nothing shall ever cover of those ruminations, but "boy howdy" they should get their just deserts some day.





 

Information from Ohio State University  (Thank You Very Much)
  • Form
    • medium-sized to large-sized shrub
    • maturing at about 8' tall by 8' wide or even larger (if never pruned) in its southern range, but often dying back close to the ground in most Winters in its northern range (and often achieving a 5' tall by 5' wide status by season's end)
    • upright rounded (but very open) growth habit
    • rapid growth rate
  • Culture
    • full sun to partial sun
    • performs best in full sun in moist, well-drained, fertile soils, but is very adaptable to poor soils, dry soils, and soils of various pH, and is tolerant of heat, drought, and high humidity
    • propagated by seeds or rooted stem cuttings
    • Logania Family, with few diseases or pests of ornamental significance
    • abundantly available in container form
    • in northern climates and even in many southern climates, it looks and performs best if pruned back hard in early Spring for rejuvenation and vigor (it blooms on new wood), and also to lightly shear the vigorous new growth in mid-June (before the initial flowers emerge), to promote a more dense and compact form at flowering, instead of the open and gangly growth habit that will be evident by season's end
  • Foliage
    • emerging late in Spring and maturing to medium green, gray-green, or dark green (depending upon cultivar); glabrous above, but white-tomentose beneath
    • leaves are opposite, ovate to lanceolate, serrated, with a short petiole and acuminate apex
    • fall color is green and holding late, then either abscising or remaining as semi-persistent green or brown foliage into the Winter
  • Flowers
    • purple, light blue, lavender, reddish-lavendar, pink, white, or golden-yellow miniature flowers with orange throats occur densely along a cylindrical to narrow pyramidal, often nodding inflorescence at each stem tip, generally about 6" to 10" long
    • fragrant blooms occur heavily from July through August, and continue abundantly until frost if deadheading occurs (or sporadically if deadheading does not occur), and attracting many bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds
  • Fruits
    • compound fruiting stalk of two-valved capsules is not ornamental, but is a good Winter identification feature
    • best to dead-head the immature fruiting stalks throughout the Summer, to promote continuous flowering and prevent self-sowing
  • ID Summary
    • foliage emerges late and has a silvery-white underside below the gray green, medium-green, or dark green uppersides of the lanceolate opposite leaves, with white tomentose stems that are sparsely branched, herbaceous to semi-woody, and give rise to elongated, narrow-pyramidal, slightly drooping, long inflorescences that are fragrant, generally in the cooler color range (with orange centers to the miniature flowers), and bloom all Summer and in early Autumn, attracting many bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies
USAGE
  • Function
    • specimen flowering shrub that doubles as a butterfly/hummingbird attractant, often found in group plantings in island beds, at foundations, or at borders
  • Texture
    • medium-bold in foliage/flower and when bare
    • open density in foliage/flower and when bare
  • Assets
    • inflorescences are fragrant, attract many butterflies and hummingbirds, and occur from July until frost
    • vigorous growth responds well to early Spring rejuvenation pruning
    • flowering occurs on new wood (the current season's growth)
    • tolerant of heat, humidity, drought, and average or poor soils
  • Liabilities
    • dies nearly to the ground almost every Winter in its northern range, needing annual pruning to remove the dead wood
    • marginally root-hardy in severe zone 5 Winters
    • may self-sow in exposed soils, especially in its southern range
  • Habitat
    • zones 5 to 9
    • native to China

Translation
    • Buddleia is named after Reverend Adam Buddle of the 17th century.
    • davidii is named after Armand David, who discovered the shrub in China.
  • Purpose
    • Butterfly Bush is the best Summer-long flowering shrub that is noted for both its showy fragrant inflorescences and their subsequent wildlife attraction.
  • Summary
    • Buddleia davidii is known as a profuse Summer-flowering shrub whose fragrant flowers attract many butterflies and hummingbirds.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Weather Outside is Frightful..........


Well folks we are in the middle of the Texas winter, you know that time of year when all we want to do is snuggle up to the fire or heater or something warm and dream of sunny days, picnics, and things not of the present. I am often told well it is winter and there is nothing to do in my yard or garden....oh well not so, we have already spoken of taking care of our tools and mulching what about indoor duties? Now is a great time to plan and do research on new perennials or draw beds for seasonal color. Start seeds indoors for Alyssum, Eggplant, Marigolds, Peppers, Petunias, and Tomatoes. I can remember visits to my father in laws house during the winter and he would have flat after flat of tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables starting to sprout....getting ready for spring and the last of the frost.

When the ground is not frozen, which it rarely does here in this part of Texas, you can plant b&b trees, shrubs, and roses...just remembering to water...they still need water even when cold.

If you have a major tree pruning job now is the time to do it, and while you are out doors with the trees you might consider installing a bird feeder. On an outdoor bird feeder purchase or make one that is above ground and not attached to the fence or the house, this will keep the "rodents" from eating all the bird food.

Now is a good time to apply blood meal to the pansies, this does a couple of things, repels the rabbits and feeds the pansies, now everyone is happy.....well maybe not the "wabbits".

Go to the local "discount" bookstore and look for bargain garden, landscaping, and horticulture books...you might be surprised at what you find. Now is a great time to visit your local arboretum, many have excellent educational programs offered during the winter....hey..... make it an urban adventure. Explore the bookstores, many have little coffee bars, shop, drink a legal stimulant...visit the arboretum and to finish the day off with a  visit to that small little out of the way restaurant that you have always wanted to but never did..........and talk about the books and plants you saw at the arboretum......and watch it snow outside.............Spring is coming!!!

Enjoy the Life......

Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Mulch Or Not To Mulch...........No Question!!!!!




Over the years I have long been a proponent and an advocate for the use of organic mulches in our flower beds and planting areas. There are studies that show, up to and sometimes even greater than 60 % of moisture evaporation is reduced by the proper use of mulch in the planting and bed areas. The use of mulch reduces water loss, keeps down weed population, provides a haven for beneficial insects (those bugs that eat and kill bad bugs, I am all for that), and can be an attractive and "green" addition to your landscape. The use and types of mulches are numerous but many are right at your finger tips....grass clippings (allow to dry), shredded leaves, straw, and the list goes on....my favorite is shredded leaves. They will  add organic matter to your clay soils and make your plants happy, happy, happy. Once a week I have a horticultural "training" class at CGreen Inc., many of the topics covered are researched and texted from the Texas Cooperative Extension Service's vast files of information, the information offered is high quality and taken from in field use and experience. The article below is one I use for the class concerning mulch and its properties. I thought you might enjoy :>)

Ralph




MULCHES FOR ENHANCED, LOW-COST, LOW-MAINTENANCE LANDSCAPES


Malcolm Beck, Garden-Ville Horticultural Products
Jerry M. Parsons and Roland E. Roberts, Texas Cooperative Extension

Introduction


The quality of food we eat, water we drink and air we breathe -- in fact the well being of all plant and animal life -- is determined by the quality of our topsoil. The earth's crucial thin layer of soil must be protected, maintained, built and nourished. A mulch cover of various materials on soil enables, conserves and enhances our precious soil.

What is mulch?


Natural mulch consists of dead leaves, twigs, fallen branches and other plant debris which accumulate on the earth's surface. Bacteria, fungi and other living organisms use these raw organic materials for food, a process we know as decay. In the natural scheme of things, decay is Nature's way of returning to the earth the raw materials borrowed by previous generations of plants.


Organic mulches not only conserve moisture, they also feed plants, earth worms, microbes and other beneficial soil life by composting at the moist earth surface. More species and tonnage of life occurs below than above the soil surface. All soil life needs energy. They cannot collect energy directly as green plants do, but the feed on energy released from decaying mulch which is their preferred food source.


As microbes digest organic materials they give off a sticky substance that glues soil particles into a crumb-like structure. Carbon dioxide-oxygen exchange necessary for healthy root growth and proliferation of beneficial soil life is enhanced. Better control of soil pathogens results.


Crumb-like or crumbly soil structure also allows water to soak in better. Water that soaks in is held on the humus and clay particles for future plant use. Water amounts higher than the field capacity of a soil is filtered by organic matter as it flows downward to feed aquifers that supply drinking water. Soils which have lost crumb structure need mulch cover to re-build.


People can adapt natural mulching to cropping practices and to production and landscape-use of ornamental plants by using available living or dead organic matter and inorganic materials. Public interest in mulch is aroused for two reasons: labor savings and plant advantages. Native materials collected in your area are the best mulch. It is neither economical nor environmentally feasible to ship in barks, woodchips or some other fancy material from a distant source when usually there are nearby materials being wasted.


Reasons for Mulching

Unfortunately, mulching does not perform instant miracles, but it encourages better plant growth and development, and makes all landscape maintenance operations easier. These benefits accrue whether plants are growing in the coolest or hottest climates or in the wettest or driest weather.


A mulch is any material placed on the soil surface to conserve moisture, lower soil temperatures around plant roots, prevent erosion and reduce weed growth. Mulches can be derived from either organic or inorganic materials.


What Do Mulches Do?


Mulch insulates and protects soil from drying and hard-baking effects caused by evaporation of water from soil exposed to hot sun and winds. Mulched soils are cooler than non-mulched soils and have less fluctuation in soil temperature. Optimum soil temperatures and less moisture evaporation from the soil surface enables plants to grow evenly. Plant roots find a more favorable environment near the soil surface where air content and nutrient levels are conducive to good plant growth.


Mulches break the force of rain and irrigation water thereby preventing erosion, soil compaction and crusting. Mulched soils absorb water faster. Mulches prevent splashing of mud and certain plant disease organisms onto plants and flowers during rain or overhead irrigation. The mulch covering excludes light which prevents germination of many weed seeds. Fewer weeds provide less competition for available moisture and nutrients. Using mulches to control weeds is safer than applying herbicides or cultivating which can damage tender, newly formed roots. Mulches also add attractive features to landscape.

Research and common sense have shown that a high organic content favors soil microbes which de-toxify pesticides after they are used and also furnishes energy needed by the microbes to make high analysis fertilizers available to plants without the fertilizer itself becoming toxic. This is another great benefit of using organic mulches. Decaying organic mulch on soil keeps both plants and beneficial soil life species flourishing so they can help each other.

Management of Mulches


Apply mulches in a layer 2 to 6 inches thick. Layer thickness depends on mulch material, e.g., coarser mulches are applied more thickly. Thicker layers of mulch are placed around trees and shrubs than in flower or vegetable beds. Four inches of loose fibrous materials works well around trees and shrubs. The finer and smaller the particle size, the thinner the layer needs to be. Thick layers of very fine material block air to the roots of plants. In their search for air, roots will grow up into mulch, which can be harmful to plants if the layer of mulch is not constantly maintained. Organic mulching materials should be added regularly to maintain the desired layer thickness. Shredded branches from tree trimmings and large two-inch bark is a fibrous or loose mulch. Leaves or leaves mixed with some grass clippings and one-inch size bark would be a medium mulch. When using medium mulch, the layer should be about two inches thick. One-half inch and smaller materials, such as fine-screened and double-ground barks, should only be one inch thick layers. When piled to thickly, these tiny particles can quickly settle together and prevent air and water from penetrating into the soil. The finer, smaller materials should be used around small flowers and vegetables.

When applying mulch around plants, cover the entire area of soil containing roots. Do not pile mulch against tree trunks. It isn't needed against trunks and may do harm. Donut mulch around plants to be benefited allowing the plant to be in the hole of the donut structure.


Mulches can increase availability of certain elements in the soil. Gardeners can make a synthetic chelate with mulch by mixing one cup of iron sulfate (copperas) to each bushel of mulch applied. Iron particles will adhere to the surface of the mulching material and will be released for plant use as decomposition occurs around plants. Iron sulfate treated mulches are also effective when incorporated into the soil.


Mulching Your Lawn


The Texas A&M Don't Bag It Program which encourages people to mow frequently and allow grass clippings to remain on lawn areas, and mulching lawn mowers are best for mulching your lawn naturally. However, most lawns will benefit from additional mulching. Naturally you wouldn't use the same mulch you put around flowers, shrubs and trees. It is best to supply one-half inch of fine screened compost in the fall or early winter after the grass has stopped growing. During periods of water restrictions, cover bare areas or dead turf with one inch of a red sand : compost lawn dressing mix to precondition the area for replanting when water is once again available. Remember, all grasses and grass seed must be watered AT LEAST twice a day for 7 to 10 days after sodding or sowing to insure stand survival and water restrictions prohibit such water use. The use of lawn dressing during drought conditions will insure a rapid establishment of lawn grasses when planting can occur and will make unsightly areas more attractive.

Lawns are our biggest water consumers. For this reason lawns are the most important places to practice water conservation by mulching. Lawns with no crumb structure, no humus, no beneficial soil life or root colonizing microbes require more care.


Watering with Mulch


While mulches do retain moisture in the soil, it will still be necessary to water plants growing in mulched soils. Water should be targeted beneath the mulch specifically at the root zone of desirable plants. Drip irrigation is the most efficient, effective watering technique.


The only fate worse than thirst for a plant is death. In fact, death can follow severe thirst! Even if some folks are wise enough to know when to water a thirsty plant just seconds before it crosses death's threshold, these procrastinators are still losers. When a plant thirsts and is severely stressed, overall vigor and production (of flowers and fruit) are decreased. Shrubs display foliage abnormalities! Flowers bloom with mediocrity! Trees do not grow rapidly! How does one know when to water?


When to Water


Soil moisture level is the best criterion for watering. If soil moisture is adequate, don't water, even if a plant is wilted. To test for soil moisture, probe around plants with your finger. If the soil is moist several inches deep, i.e., will form a ball when squeezed, there is adequate moisture present.


How to Water

You may know when to water, but you may not know how. Knowing "how" may be the most important part. First of all, plant soils need to be thoroughly wet not saturated. These are not swamp plants we are trying to grow. If treated as such, garden plants and most trees will respond appropriately by dying. Deep watering is desirable to insure development of deep, drought-tolerant root systems.

It is best to water plants thoroughly and deeply with drip irrigation. "Drip or trickle" irrigation is a unique method which allows precise application of water in the immediate vicinity of plant roots. Soil moisture in the root area around the plants is maintained at a uniformly optimum level throughout the growing season. Small amounts of water are applied frequently to replace that withdrawn by transpiration of water from leaves. Most water loss by evaporation from the soil IS PREVENTED BY MULCH! Growth and production of plants is greater with uniform watering (kept moist - not too wet or dry) rather than being subjected to wet and dry cycles which normally occur with other irrigation methods.

Operation of a drip system for three hours per day every other day will insure adequate soil moisture. Distribution and evaporation losses are minimized. Less of the total soil surface area is fully wetted than with sprinkler systems. Normally, only 25 percent of the soil surface is wetted with drip. This significantly reduces the amount of water required for irrigation. This does not reduce the plant's water requirement.

Drip irrigation also simplifies irrigation procedures and reduces labor requirements. Drip systems can be easily activated from one faucet. A drip irrigation system also waters otherwise forgotten or missed plants. Once drip hose is installed around shrubs, vegetables and flowers, it never "forgets" to water - - it specifically waters each and every plant.

 Drip systems can be used to water during periods when drought restrictions forbid most other types of watering. However, drip systems are not fool proof and must be properly maintained for best results.



Proper Use of Mulches


In garden beds planted every year, organic mulches can be incorporated into the soil each year to improve soil structure. New mulch is applied each year. Regardless of the source of organic matter, two factors are important to the user. One is the stage of mulch decomposition and the second is relative salinity of the material. Manures and sludges are usually saline and may sometimes cause trouble unless used in moderation.

One question with organic mulches dependent upon the state of decomposition is whether to add a nitrogen source to the mulch. Many fresh materials may require this to avoid nitrogen tie-up.

The microbes decomposing untreated wood and bark use nitrogen. In this example some nitrogen must be added. Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers are much more effective. When required, nitrogen can be added at the rate of one-half pound of actual nitrogen per 10 cubic feet of material.

Organic Mulches

Municipal Tree Trimmings - Using local mulch (from municipal tree trimmings) around plants has certain advantages over pine or hardwood bark. The contents of the local mulch is much closer to the contents of rich compost. The local mulch blend actually feeds plants being mulched but bark usually causes nutrients to be robbed from plants being mulched.


Bark (Pine) - Ground bark is available mostly from pine trees in sizes ranging from 2-inch chunks to a fine grind. It provides an attractive long-lasting cover and is usually reddish brown in color.

Grass clippings - These should be used only before grass seed has ripened, must be spread thin (two inches or less) and allowed to dry. If applied too thick they will build up heat and foul odors and become slimy during decomposition.

Compost - This dark colored material is easily spread and has slight nutrient value. It may be highly satisfactory where available from commercial producers or homeowners.

Peat Moss - Fine texture and good color are characteristic of peat moss, but it has a tendency to dry out and become impervious to water. It is costly to use in large quantities. Domestic peat moss may be so finely ground that it will blow away and is difficult to wet if it becomes dry. Water may run off rather than be absorbed by it.

Pine Needles - Needles are green when fresh then turn reddish brown to gray upon drying, are long-lasting and supply nutrients as they decompose. Pine needles make attractive mulch which is good for acid-loving plants such as azaleas, gardenia, and hydrangeas.

Sawdust - If fresh sawdust is incorporated into the soil, supplemental nitrogen should be added to prevent nutrient deficiencies.

Shavings - Shavings last longer than sawdust and will not mat as badly, decompose rapidly but blow away easily during strong winds. Wood chips mixed with shavings pull much nitrogen from soil. Nitrogen level must be increased.

Straw - Straw is coarser, more durable than most kinds of hay, and in most instances, is not attractive in ornamental plantings unless chopped. Straw requires applications of nitrogen because of its non-decomposed nature.

Wood Chips - In landscape operations wood chips offer a useful method for disposing of waste twigs and branches. It is good mulch, coarser than sawdust and less likely to cause nitrogen deficiency. Wood chips are long-lasting, lie flat, and do not blow away easily in strong winds. Cypress chips do not decompose within our lifetime and disrupt water movement in soil into which they have been incorporated so DO NOT TILL CYPRESS CHIPS INTO THE SOIL!! Instead, rake or pull cypress mulch off beds before tilling and re-apply again after planting.

Inorganic Mulches


Inorganic materials used for mulches do not add nutrients or humus to soil and do not decompose except after long exposure to weathering. Otherwise these materials are effective mulches, and several are permanent and quite attractive.


Crushed Rock - Crushed volcanic rock or stones are available in many colors or sizes and make a permanent cover. These materials are especially useful around plants subject to crown rot. Spread deeply, crushed rock can be walked on immediately after watering. Remember that white rock radiates sunlight and can create too much heat for most plants to survive. Black rock absorbs heat and can cause soil temperatures to be hotter than normal. A caution: Inorganic mulches of this type are exceedingly difficult to maintain and keep clean under pine or other very small-leaved evergreens.


Pea Gravel - Pea gravel is an attractive permanent mulch. It is usually applied 2 to 4 inches deep and can be reused indefinitely. Pea gravel in various sizes is especially good for soil surface around plants in containers.


Plastic Film - Plastic film is used to cover vegetable beds. In ornamentals it is often used under gravel or stone mulches. It is not practical under sharp stones unless used with 1-inch layer of sand between soil and stones. Plastic is difficult to dispose of when used on large areas.


Conserving moisture, slowing flood waters, reducing pesticide use, healthier plants, smothering weeds, saving money recycling materials considered waste -- and on and on. We still have not yet discovered all the benefits of mulching. WE HAVE DISCOVERED that the proper use of mulches can help us and our plants make it through the hot, dry times ahead -- AND IN STYLE!! Mulching is about SAVING (plant life, resources, environment, labor) FOR NOW AND FOREVER!!!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Clean Tools.........Or Better Lab Techniques

 Clean Tools.......Good Lab Techniques  !!!

One of the last classes I took for my undergraduate degree was one titled "The Biology Of Weeds"...I know, I know... I thought the same thing as I stood in line to enroll, that was back in the day when we carried punch cards or data cards for enrollment. 

For the first 3 weeks of class the professor spoke at great length about proper care and cleaning of equipment. I thought I would surely go insane by the end of the semester, Ah !.... but there was a method to the madness, not only did we cover weeds, but also plant pathology and methods of disease and seed transmission. 

By the end of the class I will say for a fact I learned more about basic garden "culture" and horticulture that I had in all the rest of my undergraduate degree classes. Even today in our commercial and residential lawn maintenance divisions  we apply some of those techniques brought forth in my weed biology class...As a simple example all of our crews carry a 10% solution of bleach in a spray bottle, after each mowing the crew sprays the bottom of the mower decks, this prevents patch diseases (brown patch etc.) from being spread from one lawn to the next, simple but very effective. We also make sure each crew has at least 2 extra mower blades for quick replacement when the one on the mower becomes dull or worn, dull blades cut rough and leaves the turf plot unsightly and open to disease. 

Not too many days go by in the spring when I am working in my own yard that I do not reflect on the lessons I learned in that class from basic sanitizing of equipment to the cleaning shovels and trowels after using. I found this article which will walk you through some of the basics, and more eloquently than a rough old gardener could do, so enjoy and happy gardening!!

Ralph Edge

 How to Sanitize Garden Equipment

Sanitizing garden equipment prevents the spread of bacteria, mold and viruses between plants. Sanitize seed trays between plantings for better germination rates and to prevent damping off. Disinfecting transplanting flats and pots ensures the success of container plantings. If you suspect any plant you're working on is not healthy, clean your tools thoroughly before reusing them. Dip pruning shears and saws in a disinfecting solution before each cut. Making a sanitizing solution and tool cleaning kit for the garden is easy and will reward you with healthier plants.
Difficulty: Easy

Instructions

Things You'll Need:

  • Household bleach without additives for color and scent
  • 1- or 5-gallon bucket
  • Measuring device (Use only for mixing solution, do not reuse or repurpose.)
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Small capped bottle or spray bottle
  • Funnel
Get what you need

     Solution


  1. Make a cleaning solution of bleach and water. The usual ratio is a 10 percent solution or 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Using a 1 cup measuring cup, this would be 1 cup bleach to 9 cups water. Use a heavy solution of 3 parts bleach and 2 parts water to disinfect tools used on plants that are known to be diseased.

  2. Make a large batch in a clean 5-gallon laundry bucket. Transfer bleach solution to smaller containers with a plastic funnel.
  3. Store well-labeled solution in 1 gallon containers, like laundry bleach bottles that have childproof caps, out of the reach of children and pets. Transfer to smaller containers and spray bottles when ready to use.
  4. Apply Solution During Garden Chores

  5. Using sanitizing bleach solution in the garden is easy. Carry a bottle of bleach solution and clean rags into the garden for small jobs like cutting flowers. Wipe your tool after use with bleach solution and a clean rag.
  6. When pruning or limbing, carry a 1-gallon bucket with bleach solution and clean rags. Wipe away plant matter from tools before applying the sanitizer. Dip shears and pruning saws in the bucket of disinfectant and leave for 1 to 2 minutes between uses.
  7. Fill a 5-gallon bucket with a 10 percent bleach solution and carry to soak shovels and gardening forks or other large tools.
  8. Disinfecting Containers

  9. Disinfecting seed trays, flats and small pots or large planters ensures successful container gardening by preventing the spread of plant disease. Soak trays, flats and small pots to loosen dried debris, scrub clean and sanitize with a 10 percent bleach solution applied and left for 15 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry; place in bright sunlight.
  10. According to Gayle Wood in her 2004 book, "1,001 Gardening Secrets," soak containers overnight in a weak bleach solution to remove minerals and kill algae or bacteria. "Fill a tub with hot water and add 2 tablespoons bleach for every gallon."
  11. Use a spray bottle with bleach solution for a large pot. Clean old potting soil and other debris out of the pot. Spray the cleaned inside of the pot, coating thoroughly and being careful not to allow the spray to blow back toward you. Wearing safety goggles prevents over-spray from getting in your eyes. Let the solution sit for 15 minutes, rinse thoroughly and let dry in bright sunlight.
  12. Storing Sanitized Tools

  13. Rinsing tools well in clear water after using a sanitizing bleach solution is important. Bleach is corrosive and can cause rust.
  14. Oil tools with machine oil or penetrating oil before putting away.



Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dormant Oil and IPM

Today's Blog............
Okay, Okay I can just hear it now, where are the colorful pictures and this is about as interesting as a root canal. Yes, but it is necessary, very, very necessary....we are applying way too many chemical properties to our landscapes and many are just simply not needed. Many have thought that if the label stated 1 ounce per gallon then 2 ounces would be twice as effective....no way "Mr. Bill". That label is  the law and should be adhered to, these chemicals have gone through extensive testing and the proper "doses" were arrived at through serious scientific analysis, more is not always better sometimes it is just more and can cause damage and even death to our plants if used incorrectly.
IPM is a program that does not dismiss the use of chemicals but determines if they are really needed and when that need is best  treated and by what method. Please believe me when I say the less toxic usage the better, but when needed, use the proper mixture and apply in the manner that the label specifies. Just because we see bugs in our landscapes does not mean we roll out the "scorched earth policy" some of those "bugs" could very well be beneficial and help the landscape, so back off... do some research, talk  to a nurseryman or a horticulturist and allow them to help you treat wisely.....Or better yet hire me and we can work together, (an obvious and shameless sales tactic)....Either way know before you apply........it will be better for us all.....

R.




From The EPA


What is IPM?


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.



The IPM approach can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.

How do IPM programs work?

IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls. In practicing IPM, growers who are aware of the potential for pest infestation follow a four-tiered approach. The four steps include:

1. Set Action Thresholds

Before taking any pest control action, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will either become an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.

2. Monitor and Identify Pests

Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.

3. Prevention

As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In an agricultural crop, this may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock. These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient and present little to no risk to people or the environment.

4. Control

Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.
(Information taken in part from Environmental Protection Agency...Thank You Very Much)


Dormant Oil Application
Dormant oil applications to trees and shrubs can be an  effective tool when managing many of our insect and disease problems.

The application is done once a year during the dormant season. In the North Texas area this is roughly January through Mid March. Many times Dormant Oil applications are used in conjunction with other foliar sprays, such as fungicide sprays for the management of fungal leaf diseases. The Oil helps reduce the levels of pathogenic fungi that can “over winter” (survive) in bark fissures and leaf scales or unopened buds. The Oil alone does not provide control, additional spray applications with an approved fungicide will need to be done in the spring after the tree begins to leaf out.
Dormant Oil applications are quite effective against “over wintering” insect pests. Many of our early season pest problems can be reduced with Oil applications. It bears repeating to mention  that the Oil alone does not always provide complete management. Additional foliar applications with an approved miticide or insecticide may need to be scheduled for a complete management program.
A particular insect pest that Dormant Oil is especially effective against is the various scale infestations we get in North Texas. If you own Red Oak, Live Oak, Pecan, or Silver Maple, you can find one of the various scale species. Sometimes the level of infestation may not warrant an application. However, this pest can increase in severity quite quickly. Many times it’s best to include Dormant Oil applications as part of an overall health management program. Applications on an annual basis will help to keep scale populations below damaging levels.
The material is a very finely refined oil product, with practically no odor, which acts to suffocate the “over wintering” target pest. It is by far one of the safest products used in pest management.
Many times you will find a recommendation to use a Dormant Oil application for your shrubs. For example, there are a variety of scale problems which Oil applications can reduce, especially on Holly sp.
(Information taken in part from Arborilogical Services, Inc...Thank You Very Much)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mugho (Mugo) Pine..........A Special Little Plant..... For a Special Place

Pinus mugo
Swiss Mountain Pine



Mughos are not for everyones taste, but where there is an opportunity to use one, then I say get after it! This little fellow has so much character it just begs to be shown off. Very often you will see the mugho in a bonsai type of situation and they just shine in a container as a specimen plant.
Gardening and landscaping should be fun and mughos can help provide that fun appeal, use in a rock garden setting nestled up against a large boulder.......I love when visitors stop a moment and stare at the plant and then say "What is that". Now that is fun (yeah..... I know, I am easily amused).
The mughos like sandy acid soil the best, so that means you are going to have to do some bed prep for our clay soils, but with all that said, they seem to adapt to the alkline soils fairly well. They will need regular additions of chelated iron to help keep the cholorsis at bay, and they really should have a little relief from the Texas afternoon sun (although many site this as a full sun plant...give it a small break). They will do well in zones 3 through 8, so you blog followers in the "Northern Areas" (may God Bless Your winter toughness) feel free to use these at will.........
These diminutive little pines are native to the mountains of central and southern Europe. So the next time your visitors ask what is that? You can pause (not too long) and then with botanical authority say " well this a dwarf specimen pine from the mountains of central and southern Europe." Hey, they don't need to know that you may have never been north of Texarkana..................

Enjoy the Life!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

IT IS ALL ABOUT PINK AND YELLOW....

Texas Lantana, Lantana
Lantana urticoides (L. horrida)






Verbenaceae family

A stalwart in Texas landscapes,Texas lantana grows in various types of soils throughout the state, most abundantly along the coast, and also in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Mexico. It is a low, spreading shrub with rough and aromatic leaves. It grows best in poor, sandy, gravelly soils in hot, dry areas, in full sun or light shade. In all but the very southern part of the state its branches die back in winter and emerge again in spring. Where it does not die back, its stems should be cut back after frost and periodically during the growing season, both to keep it compact and because it flowers on new wood. Lantana flowers profusely with the start of hot weather, in mid- to late summer, with small red, yellow and orange flowers clumped together in clusters. Although its leaves are poisonous to livestock and humans, its nectar is a favorite of butterflies, and many birds eat the fruit. Lantana is the choice for those sites in full sun that are neglected or too far from the hose. Once established, it takes virtually no care except trimming back, and flowers consistently from mid-summer on, always attracting butterflies.

The above information is taken from the aggie horticulture web listing and is very informative....many horticulturists do not favor lantana as they believe it can be an invasive weed. See comments below:

"In some regions, Texas included, lantanas are troublesome weeds, chiefly spread by birds that are very fond of their juicy fruits. The species name, horrida, refers to the pungent, unpleasant odor of the crushed leaves and the "out-of-control" weed potential of the plant." (taken from Texas Super Star Plants) Florida especially has listed one species of Lantana as a invasive and not to be planted... that would be Lantana camara , not the species we would be planting here. Okay now that I have scared the stuffing out of you and you vow never to plant this beautiful plant again, take heart the Lantana urticoides which we are planting around this part of Texas has been a staple in our color beds for as long as I have been planting. Before moving on to my favorite lantana here are some more interesting facts about the plant

European interest in New World lantanas was first excited by their reputed medicinal virtues. Spanish colonists used the camaras, as they called them, to make infusions to be taken as medicine and used in baths. In some places such infusions are still used medicinally. The plant is poisonous to cattle and sheep, though usually not browsed by them. A decoction of the leaves has been used in Mexico... as a tonic for the stomach. In Sinaloa the plant is a favorite remedy for snake bites. A strong decoction of the leaves is taken internally and a poultice of crushed leaves applied to the wound. (Texas Super Star Plant website)

Okay just a little history on some of the various species, of all the lantanas my favorite is "Confetti" I love the blend of pinks, yellows and lite reds that make up the flower. Each year after the first freeze, I cut them to the ground and the next spring I eagerly await the plants as they push up through the mulch... once the temperatures  hit the high 80's they begin the bloom cycle and the hotter it gets the better they like it.  I planted a cultivar named "Kimberly" while gardening with my first daughter when she was still very young, each year we were blessed with an outstanding display of  pink, yellow, and lite red blooms. When the plant started its bloom cycle each year, my daughter would excitedly run through the house telling us all her flowers were here. Many years later she is still planting verbenas and latanas, but now with her young daughter...now is that not cool or what!!!!!



Plant Habit or Use: small shrub medium shrub
Exposure: sun partial sun
Flower Color: yellow, orange, red
Blooming Period: summer fall
Fruit Characteristics: black drupe with 2 nutlets
Height: 2 to 6 feet
Width: 2 to 6 feet
Plant Character: deciduous
Heat Tolerance: very high
Water Requirements: Water in to establish, then low afterwards
Soil Requirements: adaptable
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8


(Information in part from Aggie-Horticulture...Thank You Very Much)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

English Gardens............................




The English Landscape Garden


 
I love gardens and landscapes, that is a good thing considering my profession, and when it comes to gardens the English really have it "working". The English have been doing the formal garden since before our country decided to become independent (which had nothing to do with the English garden).  The English garden presents and develops an idealized view of nature, often inspired by paintings of landscapes by various artists of the period, that period being the 17th  century when things started to gear up in the English garden scene. This usually includes lakes, rolling lawns, classical structures set in and about the backdrop of the lakes and trees.
The style that became know as the English garden was birthed by two landscape designers William Kent and Charles Bridgeman.  Kent was an architect and Bridgeman was a horticulturist, together they created some truly magnificent gardens or landscapes which became the forerunners of what we call parks today. These gardens or parks were developed for some of England's greatest names of nobility, these parks became so popular that the influence spread to the European continent and as far away as Russia.

Another influential figure in the English garden scene, was an English gardener by the name of Capability Brown. Brown's contribution was to simplify the garden by eliminating geometric structures,and alleys near the house and replaced them with rolling lawns and extensive views out to isolated groups of trees making the landscape appear even larger. He created artificial lakes and used dams and canals to transform streams or springs into the illusion that a river flowed through the garden. Mr. Brown designed 170 gardens.


As we have seen in this brief ...extremely brief view of the English garden, that the garden has its roots in the English culture. The Gardens are noted for the array of fragrant flowers, abundant plant life, romantic secluded sitting areas and meandering walkways among majestic trees. So is it possible to create an English garden at your home....but of course: here are some tips:

  • opt for curves and soft angles in your landscape design
  • have colorful flowers (perennials), green-space areas (grass), herbs and fragrant woody ornamental that you can brush up against when walking through your garden
  • design natural , yet meandering pathways of natural materials that will take you on a tour of your garden
  • design sitting areas with natural "worn" or "weathered'  furniture that overlook "special" parts of your garden, have some sitting areas that are secluded for privacy or just areas to sit and "ponder"

Well we could go on for weeks about the English garden, there are semester long classes on the history of the "Garden Culture of England" suffice to say it is a significant heritage to the world of gardening. Enjoy the outdoors...it's real and it does not get any better than that.













Raph Edge
CGreen Landscape Irrigation
"Your Landscape Our Passion"

(Information taken in part from Wikipedia and Landscape Advisor...Thank You Very Much)