Time to Prune

08-28-2012-35-EditThe past few days, I get the feeling that this long, dark winter is beginning to fade. Oh, it will go kicking and screaming with a few more snow storms but, the end is definitely in sight. With the melting of the snow, it is now time to get back outdoors and go to work. Maybe winter isn’t so bad after all.

Spring is a great time to prune trees in the orchard or in the landscape. Most of us think of pruning as the removal of branches and twigs. That is true but pruning also stimulates new growth and how we do it will determine the direction of that growth.

We prune landscape trees to improve their shape, remove potentially dangerous growth and to try to limit size. Fruit trees are pruned to improve the yield of fruit. Each type of pruning has its own goals and techniques.

Continue reading

Winter Damage in the Landscape

Ice Covered Stem

Those of us who live in the temperate zones i.e. those that routinely get at least one killing frost, often have to deal with injury to our landscape plants from cold temperatures. When we venture out into the garden in the early spring, we begin to see dead or damaged plants that seemed to be in good shape the previous fall. What happened?

Of course, the first thing and for some people, the only factor we think about is cold temperatures. However, there are several other weather related impacts that need to be considered.

1. Low Temperature Injury – Most gardeners are familiar with the USDA Hardiness Zone map. This divides each area of the country into units based on the typical lowest temperatures expected. For instance, if you are in USDA Zone 5, you can expect to experience winter low temperatures between -10 and -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue reading

Avoiding Winter Injury in Landscape Plants

Last week, we talked about the types of injuries and damage sustained by landscape plants in the temperate zones. We looked at the effects of temperatures, drying winds, de-icing salt, rodents, clay soils, etc. Now here are a few methods for avoiding this type of damage in your landscape.

1. Low Temperature Injury – The key to avoiding this problem is to not “stretch the zone” with your plants. This means that, for instance, if you are in USDA Hardiness Zone 6, avoid using plants that are only hardy to Zone 7 or 8. You may get away with this for several years if the winters are warmer than average. However, all that it takes is one night below the “typical” low temperature for your zone and the plant may die. That is a fallacy of people when they think that global warming automatically changes their climate zone.  You may, in fact, experience above average temperatures for 364 nights but, if that one night in the dead of winter drops below the hardiness level of the plant…it will still be dead.

Continue reading

Diploid vs Tetraploid Hostas

The genetic information about all types of living organisms is multiplying exponentially today. It is growing in terms of our understanding of hostas too. As a Hosta Rookie, it is probably a little early to clog your mind with too much of this stuff. So, here are a few of the basics that will get you off to a good start. How much deeper you want to go into the science of genetics is up to you.

Hostas have 30 chromosomes in each of the male i.e. pollen, and female i.e. egg, parts. During the normal fertilization process 30 chromosomes come from the mother and 30 from the father for a total of 60. This is called a diploid or 2n plant which represents 2 sets of chromosomes that make up the genetic information in the resulting seeds and seedlings. Continue reading

Gardening Short Shots

Clematis ‘Barbara Harrington’

Over the years of dealing with the gardening public, I realized that we often throw around terms and names that could be a bit misleading. Eventually, I jotted some of these tricky terms down and came up with the following:

The mountain ash tree (Sorbus) may come from the mountains but it is not really an ash tree (Fraxinus). It is actually a member of the Rose Family and is a close relative to apples, pears and roses. Mountain ash trees are not bothered by the Emerald ash borer either although, since mountain ash have their own serious disease and insect problems, that might not be a bad thing.

Boxelder tree seedlings are often mistaken for poison ivy when they first emerge from the seeds. They have the same three leaf structure but they soon form a tree-like stem and not a vine like poison ivy.

More Gardening Short Shots

Why Leaves Turn Yellow

Chlorophyll is that wonder molecule that magically takes the energy of the sun and uses it to combine other elements into sugars and carbohydrates. Without it, we would be a totally different world. Of course, chlorophyll also reflects the green spectrum of light which accounts for the color of most plants.

So, what is happening when an otherwise green plant suddenly develops another color? Generally, the new color is yellow since that is the underlying color of leaves which is usually overwhelmed by the green of the chlorophyll. Continue reading

Spring Flowering Bulbs

Snowdrops – (Galianthus)

Now is the time to create those beautiful displays of tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocus and other flowering bulbs for next spring. Bulbs planted in the fall must have time to establish roots yet this fall in order to get off to a good start next spring. Many types of bulbs must also be exposed to the chilling temperatures in order to form stems and flower buds.

When selecting bulbs, always avoid those which show any signs of disease, rot or are shriveled and dry. Buy the largest bulbs you can find for best results. Smaller bulbs are often cheaper in price but may not produce good flowers the first year.

Continue reading

A Rookies Guide to Designing Beds and Borders

Welcome to the wonderful world of ornamental plants. In this eBook, we will try to help you begin to understand the process of arranging these plants for their best effects in your home landscape. As the title implies, this is aimed at the “Rookie” or novice gardener who wants to understand the basics of the landscape design process.

Anyone who visits a landscape garden can form an opinion about what they like or dislike about it. This eBook will teach you concepts and terminology so you can describe WHY you find a garden or grouping of plants either pleasing or not so pleasing. That way, you can reproduce the “good” and avoid the “bad” in your own beds and borders.

More…Designing Beds and Borders

Tissue Culture and Hostas

Care-2010-00050-EditThe big question that has circulated around the hosta world since the beginning of tissue culture (TC) is, “Are tissue cultured hostas as good as those divided from a plant growing in the ground?” The answer is a resounding, YES! Just like taking a knife and cutting a part of a hosta crown off to make a division, TC plants are exactly the same as the mother plant.

I think some of the confusion comes from a couple of factors. First, in their effort to make a quicker return on their investment, some nurseries sell tiny, little TC plants in two inch pots. Of course, it may take a year or two for these to grow to the size of a single division taken directly from a mature mother plant. But, they will eventually catch up.

Continue reading

Deer, Deer

When I was a kid growing up on a farm in the 1950s and 1960s, I only remember seeing deer once the entire time. I was an active kid and was always out and around the farm and local woodlots but I never saw deer. In the past month, I have seen groups of two to five deer several times in my suburban backyard when I look out from the breakfast table.

White Tailed Deer

The white-tailed deer and black-tailed deer populations found in suburban and urban areas across America have increased dramatically since the 1960s. As deer begin to become plentiful, homeowners initially enjoy seeing them and may actually encourage deer to come into their yard by feeding them. Traditionally rural townships becoming suburban may ban hunting or place restrictions on firearm use for safety reasons. Bambi begins to settle in and lose his or her sense of fear for humans. Continue reading