Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter Flowering Shrubs, Part 1 of 4

Most shrubs flower during the warm seasons of the year, but those that bloom in the winter seem more precious because of the relatively rare occurrence of winter flowers.

First, evergreen foliage adds soothing green color to the winter landscape. This includes narrow leaf evergreens (conifers) that come in colors ranging from silver and blue to green to yellow and orange.  It also includes broad leaf evergreens that are the special provenance of metro-Atlanta, and really contribute to the springtime feel of a landscape throughout the cold months.

Second, winter flowering shrubs have an excitement all their own, whether on deciduous or evergreen shrubs. The top three winter-flowering shrubs include

Witchhazel is a medium to large deciduous shrub that particularly noted for winter flowers which appear on bare branches. There are dozens of varieties, hybrids and named cultivars of witchhazel in colors ranging from pale yellow, bright yellow, orange, red and rust. Those native to North America begin to bloom in the fall, while others bloom through March. Winter blooming, mildly fragrand flowers are each about an inch long with groups of narrow, ribbon-like, crinkly petals. Witchhazel has no serious insect or disease problems and is great for shrub borders, woodland gardens or as a specimen in a winter landscape.

Camellias come in two main categories: Camellia sasanqua (familiarly known as “Sasanquas”) begin to flower on voting day in early November through December in metro-Atlanta, and Camellia japonica that bloom from late December through March. Lovely white, pink, red or variegated flowers, two to five inches across ornament the dark evergreen foliage of this popular and handsome, long-lived shrub. 

Quince’s rose-like flowers burst forth on bare branches on the first warm days of winter. Shrubs come upright and rounded or low and spreading, and withstand both heavy clay and heat. Flowers come in shades of red, white, pink and orange. The variety with appleblossom pink, white, and pink-and-white flowers is called Toyo Nishiki 

Crabapple LandscapExperts include winter flowering shrubs to enliven the season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Natural Pest Prevention in the Landscape

The Landscape Experts at Crabapple know the first step in Natural Garden Pest prevention is to identify the type of pest in order to stop it in its tracks. 

  • Plant-eating Insects
    • chewing insects 
    • sucking insects
    • below-ground grubs
  • Mites 
  • Plant Diseases 
    • fungus 
    • bacteria 
    • virus

The best defense is a good offense, and the LandscapExpert Team begins by using many cultural controls. 
  • Start with the soil. Build healthy, organic soils that optimize plant growth by raising the organic matter content in Georgia red clay
    •  compost 
    •  mulch
    • mushroom compost
    • topdressing with well-rotted manure
    • aerated compost tea
    • seaweed 
    • organic mulch
  • Create optimum soil acidity/alkalinity levels
    • Correct pH
    • Pulverized dolomitic lime to make acid soils more neutral
  • Mycorrhizal inoculents: 
    • friendly fungi to create a symbiotic relationship with roots of higher plants
    • beneficial bacteria to produce nitrogen in available compounds 
  • Choose the correct plant for the location; for example, do not plant boxwood in a soggy location, nor crape myrtle in the shade 
  • Rotate crops, interplanting, companion planting (avoid monocultures) 
  • Pull weak plants since these will be more susceptible to pest attack
  • Minimize insect habitat by raking off old mulch and plant litter and composting
  • Water in early morning so sun will dry off leaves; water roots, not leaves 
  • Disinfect pruning tools between plants to avoid spreading disease 
  • Open planting to provide improved air circulation

Integrated Pest Management
  • Identify pest 
  • Cultural controls first and foremost
  • Add or attract beneficial insects to eat or parasitize harmful insects or larvae
    • beneficials include carnivorous insects that eat other bugs
    • well known lacewings, praying mantids, ladybugs
  • Organic remedies include 
    • hand- picking, 
    • dormant oil spray 
    • traps 
    • lures
  • Chemical remedies include 
    • Targeted spot treatment with chemical insecticides or fungicides appropriate for the specific pest
    • We avoid broadcast pesticide spraying that will adversely affect beneficial insects and soil organisms  

Members of the Crabapple Team are certified Pesticide Applicators with up-to-date licenses who attend re-certification classes. Count on Crabapple for the best in knowledgeable Pest Prevention. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

5 Essentials of Winter Tree Care

Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend minimizing stress on trees during the cold months, even though they seem to be in “a state of hibernation”.

Whenever temperatures are above freezing, roots will grow in the soil and evergreen foliage will transpire moisture, so a little care during the cold months goes a long way. We water trees during periods of winter drought, just as in summer. A little irrigation is essential, especially on newly planted, young trees.

A “blanket” of organic mulch goes a long way to protect roots by acting as an insulation to retain moisture and reduce temperature fluctuations.  

We protect trees from deer and rabbit damage by wrapping trunks in hard plastic or hardware cloth.

Damage from cold temperature extremes is avoided by wrapping trunks in burlap or plastic tape.

Finally, winter is a good time to prune trees, as the leaves are gone and it is easier for our LandscapExpert Team to see the overall structure and scaffold branches, and to prune out problem branches. Pruning keeps trees growing, relieves stress and eliminates crossing branches.

Sign up for a wintertime consultation with your CrabappleRep

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stay Green Throughout Winter with Top 15 Broadleaf Evergreens

Evergreens bring color to the winter landscape, keeping properties looking green and lush even during cold weather after deciduous shrubs and trees have shed their leaves. There are two kinds of evergreens, broadleaf and needle leaf. Crabapple LandscapExperts suggests the first group to bring color to the winter landscape on properties we manage

Unlike more northern cities, broadleaf evergreens are plentiful in metro-Atlanta. Southern gardens look inviting despite chilly temperatures because of the many broadleaf evergreen shrubs that add year round interest with their lustrous foliage and textural forms. Many broadleaf evergreens also have beautiful flowers that turn them into seasonal focal points. 
Here are Crabapple LandscapExperts’ Top Broadleaf Evergreens in three categories:

Tough as Nails
Cherry Laurel

Osmanthus - Tea Olive
Illicum - Anise Shrub
Wax Myrtle - Bayberry

Unusual and Appealing
Mountain Laurel
Leatherleaf Viburnum

You can rely on CrabappleLandscapExperts to choose the best broadleaf evergreens to add a welcoming feel to the landscapes you manage that will make your residents feel at ease. Studies have shown calming and restful effects of a great landscape on residents and workers including stress reduction, slowing of heartbeats, brain relaxation, and promotion of a feeling of well-being, and all the while increasing property values. Call your Crabapple Rep to discuss adding some green to your winter landscape.