Welcome to the blog from PlantsGalore.Com. My name is Ralph Heiden and I am a retired Extension Horticulture Educator from the Midwest. Over 30 years as a professional horticulturist, I have gained a lot of education and experience...some of it quite interesting. In this blog and with my website, I hope to continue to share what I have learned with my fellow backyard gardeners.
Although I was once forced to be a "generalist" covering all aspects of horticulture, my retirement gives me the freedom to concentrate on my main love, ornamental horticulture. So, you won't hear much about fruit and vegetables or greenhouses on these pages. My energy will be focused on ornamental trees, shrubs, annuals, biennials, perennials and vines that are used in the home landscape. I have developed a special interest and "expertise" in hostas since I have gardened in the shade for several decades. That is why I have created a website called HostaHelper.Com where I currently have photos and information on over 2,400 different hostas.
Landscape design is both an “Art” and a “Science”. The Art part deals with factors that influence how the human eye will perceive the elements in your garden. It is the subjective side of the design process based on how “most people” will respond to the way you arrange the softscape (living things, primarily plants) and hardscape (non-living elements) in your beds and borders. This process was discussed in detail in the first eBook in this series, “A Rookie’s Guide to Designing Beds and Borders“
For purposes of this eBook we will assume that you have gone through a planning process and have either designed or have had someone else design your new beds and borders. You should have either meticulous drawings or at least a rough sketch of your new landscape on hand. This should, of course, include a detailed list of plants and hardscape features that will be included in your new or revised landscape.
We have all heard the old saying, “Let’s get to the root of the problem.” As a horticulturist, that simple phrase takes on a very deep meaning (no pun intended). Many of the plant problems I deal with every day have their origins at least partially in the root system. When it comes to older trees, root problems become a huge factor.
When a tree is under stress, most people notice the above the ground symptoms first and blame them on insects or diseases. It is easy to see wilting leaves, dying branches and loss of vigor. However when a large, established tree begins to slowly die over several years, the cause may lie hidden in the ground. The symptoms may arise from a much misunderstood area called the root zone.
Remember that we do not “feed” plants. The major thing that separates plants from animals is that they feed themselves through a process called photosynthesis. This is where they capture the energy from the sun (or other light source) and, in the chlorophyll (green colored) molecule in leaves, they pull together a variety of chemical elements and water to trap that energy. The resulting sugars and carbohydrates are then the basis of almost all living things on earth.
Animals, including we humans, feed on this plant material and convert that energy into proteins and other tissues. We can gain transfer the energy of the sun into our bodies by eating either plant or animal materials.
The mountain ash (Sorbus species) may come from the mountain but it is not really an ash tree (Fraxinus species). It is actually a close relative the apples (Malus), pears (Pyrus) and roses (Rosa) since it is a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae). Therefore, it is susceptible to many of the same diseases of its relatives including the fungal leaf disease, apple scab and the more serious bacterial disease, fireblight. The better news is, that since it is not a true ash, it does not get attacked by the Emerald ash borer which is in the process of killing millions and millions of ash trees throughout the Midwest.
Anyone who has ever experienced the blisters, swelling, and extreme itching from an unfortunate encounter with poison ivy, learns quickly to avoid it whenever possible. It grows in non-cultivated sites, such as along stream banks, roadways, fence rows, and woodlands. The nasty weed can even make an appearance in your ornamental shrub or perennial borders especially in hosta or other woodland based areas. Therefore, knowing how to identify and control poison ivy are the best defenses against accidental contact and nights of itching and scratching.
Crabapple trees (Malus species) can add beauty and interest to the landscape. They can also be messy, sickly and bothersome if care is not taken to select proper cultivars i.e. named varieties, to plant.
There are literally hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cultivars of crabapples currently available. Every nursery or plant store will offer many from which to choose. So, how do you make the right choice for your landscape? The following traits should be considered when purchasing one for your yard: Continue reading →
Many pine (Pinus species) trees in the landscape and along the road may be looking pretty sick this time of year. Their needles are turning brown and, at times, some larger branches are dieing. In a few cases, an entire tree may suddenly turn brown and die in less than a month. What is going on?
Much of the damage is a result of winter weather. Cold, dry winter winds in combination with dry soil will cause pine and other evergreen needles to lose water but they were unable to replenish the moisture from the frozen soil. This will cause needles to turn uniformly brown from top to bottom. Severely affected needles will drop off and some twigs or branches may also die. For the most part, however, trees should survive and will green up again over the coming year or so.
If a plant dies within the first year or two after being transplanted, the cause is almost always “transplant shock.” It would be extremely unusual for an insect or disease to cause an otherwise healthy transplant to die that quickly. So, the question becomes, “What is transplant shock and how do I prevent it from killing my plants?”
Roots, of course, are the lifeline of the plant. They transport water and nutrients up to the leaves as part of the photosynthesis process. Without these inputs, the plant cannot produce its own food and energy supply. Plants establish a natural balance between the size of the root system and the size of the above ground part of the plant. This assures the proper flow of water and nutrients up to the leaves. If stems are cut off, part of the root system dies back. If some of the root system is removed, parts stems and leaves will suffer damage or death.
Hydrangeas are beautiful plants for the home landscape. They come in a wide range of types from flowering shrubs to tree types to large sized vines. Although they are perfectly hardy to many northern climate zones, there are times when they do not bloom. New plants often come from the nursery crammed full of blooms. Then, the following spring or summer…nothing. What is the problem?
Well, the first thing to determine is the type of hydrangea being considered. Different hydrangeas have different flowering cycles and requirements. So, you need to know your plant.
When trees grow tall and begin to tower over houses, garages and driveways, people often become concerned about whether they are a potential danger. Actually, there are a lot of situations when they should be concerned but are unaware of the possibilities. We have all seen the damage that a huge tree limb can cause when it comes down in a storm. Occasionally, people are injured or killed in such situations. How can we tell when a tree is going to come down?