Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hydrangeas; what are Mopheads and Lacecaps?

Popular, widely grown and easy to love, hydrangeas are native to Japan and Korea and do very well in the comparable climate of metro-Atlanta. They are acclaimed for their large, showy blossoms that provide great summer color for Atlanta landscapes. The genus name, Hydrangea, emphasizes their need for moist soils: note hydro- or “water” in the genus name.  Large, dark green leaves provide their species name, H. macrophylla  (macro = large; phylla = leaf) and perfectly set off blue, pink or white flower balls.  They are also known as Hortensias, florist hydrangeas or big-leaf hydrangeas.

Hydrangea flowers are either pink or blue depending on the acidity of the soil. With our acidic native soils of Atlanta, typically the flowers are blue, but pink can be achieved over an interval of a couple of years after adding lime to the soil to make it more neutral or alkaline. White Hydrangea flowers are also a delight and are not affected by soil pH.  

Mop Heads
Globe-shaped or pom-pom lowers provide a mass of color when viewed across the landscape and are fondly known as "mop heads". Close-up the round flowerheads are actually made up of many smaller 4-petaled flowers grouped in a ball. These flower clusters have mainly sterile flowers that dry well, preserve their color and are great for indoor flower arrangements.

Lace Caps
The other type of Hydrangea microphylla is more flattened looking and is known as the Lace Cap hydrangea because of its resemblance to a fancy “lace cap”.  Instead of a round ball of florets, they have fascinating pinwheel style, flat flowers with a row or two of sterile florets around the outside rim, and tiny, starry,  fertile florets inside.

Crabapple LandscapExperts know that hHydrangeas do well in moist, humus-rich  soils with shady protection from afternoon sun. They will grow well in the landscape or in large containers, providing weeks of color throughout the summer. Ask the LandscapExperts to add some hydrangeas to your properties come planting season this fall.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Vacation for Houseplants – A good idea or not so much?

Summertime provides the opportunity to move tender houseplants outdoors to warmer, sunnier, more humid conditions with better air circulation that more closely approximate the tropics where they evolved. Often they put on the most growth outside on your deck over the summer.

Although a “summer vacation” may seem like a treat for your plants, Crabapple LandscapExperts warn that they can suffer quite a bit of stress if abruptly moved from one environment to another, so follow a few guidelines for a successful ‘plant staycation’ and g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y move them to shady deck, balcony, patio or shady garden.

● Beware of moving plants directly from indoors to full sun because their leaves will get sunburned. That’s right; plants are people too! Scalded, white-surfaced leaves can result from too much sun too soon. Some succulents like Aloe actually get pink sunburned leaves. Situate your plants in a shady spot under an awning, in the shade of trees, or even underneath an outdoor table, and gradually (a little more light every other week) move them into conditions of  higher light. 

● If possible, time the move from AC when a series of rainy days/slightly cooler temperatures are predicted. 

● Better light and higher humidity cause plants to put on rapid growth. Plants photosynthesize and store up carbohydrates that will allow them to survive once they’re returned to relatively dark and arid living rooms. In particular, Phalaenopsis orchids that summer outside in the shade will reliably re-bloom next winter.

● Support good growth by adding nutrients that plants need. For a quick, one-time option, push three houseplant fertilizer spikes evenly spaced around the inside of the pot. Using liquid fertilizer diluted to ½ or ¼ strength each time you water are both options. With extra large planters, use 3 full sized tree-food or rose-food spikes, then stand back while they put on new leaves!

● Careful watering does a lot for good growth. The objective is to keep the pots evenly moist. For example, large palms, ficus trees or giant philodendrons growing in big planters can often benefit from a gallon+ of water a day. Smaller houseplants will need more water than they do indoors because of increased transpiration of water due to breezes and higher temperatures.  Rain showers now and then are an added plus.

● Be sure excess water is able to drain away through drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

Tune in again next fall, and Crabapple LandscapExperts will discuss Best Practices for safely moving plants back indoors when cold temperatures threaten, including potting up and organic pest control if needed. 

Photo Credits:,,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Preventing/Controlling Dollar Spot Fungus on Lawns

 Have you tried to pinch pennies by managing the lawns on your properties by yourself? Has this resulted in some challenges? The LandscapExperts at Crabapple can troubleshoot and solve any lawn maintenance problems in short order. Proper lawn management including timely watering, correct fertilization and core aeration when indicated will reduce the incidence of Dollar Spot problems.

Dollar Spot is a major turfgrass disease that arrives with hot weather and is caused by a fungus that invades lawns. Since metro-Atlanta has been experiencing July-like heat during late May and June, Dollar Spot is showing up earlier this year. At first, the disease is undetectable, causing yellow hourglass –shaped lesions on the leaves of grass. Next silver dollar-sized brown spots appear on stressed lawns, which quickly coalesce to form large, irregular dead spots in the turf. When grass is wet from early morning dew, a fine, white “cobweb” appearance due to fungus strands (mycelia) may be visible. The disease can be a problem on fine-leaf fescues, bermudagrass and Zoysia, as well as on bluegrass and bentgrass. Note that turfgrass under stress is more susceptible to Dollar Spot than well maintained turf.

Crabapple LandscapExperts Steps to Control Dollar Spot; proper lawn management is the key to prevention and control.
Core aeration to prevent the buildup of thatch a core-type aerator. (see Blog on core aeration.)  This device pulls cylindrical plugs from thatch and soil, which allows penetration of water, air and nutrients into the soil, increasing root depth of the turf. Shallow, poorly developed roots that are susceptible to drought stress result from heavy thatch layers because water, air and nutrients cannot penetrate to the underlying soil and grass roots, resulting in and resulting overwatering that promotes Dollar Spot.
Sanitation prevents the spread of the fungus. Wheels on lawnmowers, maintenance equipment and LandscapExperts' shoes are cleaned to help eliminate transmission of the disease.
Good nitrogen fertility. Stressed lawns are more susceptible to Dollar Spot, so Crabapple fertilizes warm season grasses during the summer growth months to promote optimum nitrogen levels. Fertilization is carefully controlled to preclude excess salt levels.
Best horticultural practices provide attention to mowing frequency and height for best growth of lawns. Additionally, in the instance of a fungal breakout grass clippings are caught and removed. 
Timing of Watering is important because fungus spores need about 12 hours to germinate on wet leaves.
+Very early morning watering (before sunrise) is best as it washes dew and leaf sap from the leaf surfaces and helps reduce the incidence and spread of Dollar Spot. After sunrise, a no-watering interval (about an hour) is observed to allow lawns to dry off.
+Daytime watering is sometimes practiced but loss of irrigation water may occur through evaporation at midday.
+Watering is discontinued in the late afternoon to allow the leaves of grass time to dry before nightfall, since disease may become more severe if a wet period is extended during the early evening. We do not recommend watering at night.
Insect control and elimination of infestations of white grubs, billbug grubs and root-eating insects that cause lawn symptoms that resemble drought stress. Organic controls specific to insects are used as the first line of defense. Pesticide effectiveness in killing grubs is improved by removal of any thatch layer.
Long periods of high humidity can promote Dollar Spot. Mother Nature is in control of this factor.
Fungicides are used only as a last resort, because some forms of the Dollar Spot fungi are resistant to fungicides with varying degrees of tolerance to commonly used brands. Crabapple LandscapExperts specifically select and rotate fungicides targeted to individual applications. Fungicides are expensive, plus beneficial earthworms and helpful soil bacteria can be adversely affected by fungicide applications.

In conclusion, call Crabapple LandscapExperts to maintain beautiful lawns on your properties, or if you notice Dollar Spot in any areas.  

Resources: and Colorado State University Extension C. E. Swift; photos courtesy of Penn State University, UGA Urban Agriculture

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tree Clearance of Valuable Buildings; Tree Pruning for Health and Safety

The most visual and valuable component of the landscape, and the most difficult to replace on the properties that you manage, are the shade trees. The Crabapple LandscapExperts Team includes full-service tree care specialists who can correctly manage any and all tree challenges for you, preventing damage before it occurs.
Tree care services:
Pruning will correct storm and wind damage, lightning wounds, broken limbs as well as deadwood removal.
Crown cleaning can eliminate safety issues such as hazardous limbs. Dying, diseased or weak branches and water sprouts from a tree’s crown are expertly evaluated and proactively removed.
Building clearance consists of pruning trees in order to prevent damage to valuable architectural structures by trees or tree limbs. Oaks are pruned about three feet from the designated structure, while faster growing trees are pruned back about four feet. This distance ensures that with normal growth additional clearing will not need to be scheduled for about three years.
Selective tree removal is the most drastic form of building clearance. Afterward, stump grinding is done safely and efficiently, with the minimum disruption to your community.
Crown thinning is the selective removal of branches to increase light penetration and air circulation, and to decrease weight. Security issues can also be addressed in trees or in the shrubbery.
 Vista pruning opens up a visual path to a specific feature, sculpture or view from a predetermined point. You may wish to consult with Crabapple’s Landscape Architects on vista pruning.
Crown restoration improves the shape or silhouette of the tree, and is of particular benefit in cases of storm damage, mechanical damage or vandalism.
Crown reduction (also known as crown shaping) reduces the height and/or spread of a tree while maintaining the proper scale and an attractive/appropriate appearance for each species of tree.
Root pruning of crossing roots or roots disrupting hardscaping like sidewalks, steps or flagstone

Recycling Green Waste, a Value Proposition
Crabapple practices green waste recycling, removing limbs and felled trees from the site and taking them to our facility where they are chipped and turned into valuable mulch. After being completely composted, wood chips are appropriately spread  on landscapeswe maintain that require organic mulch.

Ask Crabapple LandscapExperts to assist with prioritizing, budgeting and scheduling tree care for both the health of your trees and safety of your properties.  Crabapple recruits ISA certified Arborists for its specialist tree care crews. For more information, contact your Customer Rep to discuss healthy trees. 

photo credits thank you to and

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Expertise-Based Plant Selection & Shrub Pruning Delivers Great Results

Amateurs endlessly prune plants to keep them in bounds, however, with a little foresight this should be unnecessary. Selecting the correct plant for the location is the key.
For example, those overgrown evergreens blocking the  windows should never have been planted there in the first place, and trees that were planted underneath electrical or phone cables that have grown taller and now interfere with the overhead lines should not have been planted in that location.

Crabapple LandscapExperts overcomes these pitfalls by careful initial plant selection that eliminates continuous pruning to keep shrubs short. Crabapple knows from both research and experience what size the shrubs will ultimately reach, and selects appropriate cultivars, or dwarf or prostrate forms, to suit each location-- saving you maintenance dollars. 

Now with the rainfall and warm temperatures of late spring and early summer, woody ornamental shrubs are in rapid growth, adding inches to their height and girth. Four good horticultural reasons why shrubs do need to be pruned include:
  1.   keep them shapely
  2.  maintain plant health by eliminating dead, dying, or diseased wood. A dying branch or stub can be an entry point for insects or diseases that could spread to other parts of the plant
  3.   encourage better blooming and better quality blooms
  4. shearing to produce a dense, solid hedge or topiary form

In the first three cases, LandscapExperts will evaluate each shrub on an individual basis and will selectively prune unruly or dead branches to improve the form and health of each plant, expertly using specialty bypass clippers. In the fourth case, hedge shears are used for a smooth, “matt finish” on shrubs used as green shapes in the landscape.

Since the forsythias, azaleas, loropetalum and Miss Kim Lilacs of early spring are finished blooming, now is the ideal time to ask Crabapple;s LandscapExperts to shape up the shrubs on your properties, with plenty of time remaining before they set buds for next spring.

Ask Crabapple LandscapExperts to quote on some expert pruning to get your shrubbery in the best shape possible, and earn compliments from residents and clients.  

Photos thanks to;;