Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Guide to Fast-Growing Shrubs

Forsythia in early spring

Property managers and/or Homeowners Association Reps sometimes ask for fast-growing shrubs to fill a need, but Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS caution that there are good and bad choices among fast-growers. Let us guide you and help you select choice shrubs for hedging or privacy. 

Fast-growing shrubs may quickly become rampant and often overgrow the space.Worse yet, invasive exotic plants from foreign lands can produce large crops of seed and spread indiscriminately.   

Fast-Growing Thugs:  

Overgrown Privet in flower
  • Ligustrum or Privet Extremely common and very fast-growing but it is also an exotic invasive plant ruining large stands of southeatern parks and forests.  
  • Leyland Cypress Fast growing but becomes much more huge than ever anticipated, with a circumference of 40 feet (!) and will soon outgrow nearly every location and certainly all but the very largest locations.   

Invasive Exotics Fast-growing Shrubs

Burning Bush fall color
The following five shrubs grow quickly but also produce bumper crops of seed that invade native forests and woodlands and spread like wildfire. These plants will out-compete native plants growing there, crowding out beloved plant species and creating solid stands of just that one type of plant. 
  • Burning Bush  Brilliant red fall foliage does not compensate for the spread of this Euonymus. 
  • Butterfly Bush Attractive to pollinators but if you must choose this invasive flowering shrub, be sure to select a sterile cultivar that does not set seed - newly introduced). 
  • Barberry Pricker bush but some cultivars have yellow, orange or red colorful folilage and some new sterile cultivars that do not set seed are being introduced. 
  • Lantana Quickly transforms from a low border perennial to a large shrub with too many seeds. 
  • Russian Olive Delightful fragrance in late fall/early winter, but beware both thorns and "olives". 
Knockout Roses
Crabapple Select: Good Choices for Well-Behaved, Rapid-Growing Shrubs 

  • Knockout Rose  Knockout roses in Atlanta bloom profusely at least 10 months of the year and are carefree once established. 
  • Forsythia Early spring burst of yellow grows quickly 
  • Tea Olive  Broad-leaf evergreen known for its enchanting fragrance each fall. 
  • Wax Myrtle, also known as Bayberry Delightful fragrance of twigs and waxy gray berries still used to make scented candles on this fast-growing evergreen shrub or small tree. 
  • Loropetalum Dark maroon-red foliage is evergreen, and shrubs are completely covered with pink or white tassel-like flowers in very early spring.
Your Crabapple Rep will be happy to help choose the very best fast-growing shrubs for the properties you manage; just give us a call 770-740-9739. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Violas vs Pansies-- What’s the best for the property you manage?

pale blue violas 
What's best for the properties you manage? 
Crabapple LandscapExperts can help property managers and HOA Reps differentiate between Violas and Pansies and help you select the best varieties for winter color in flower beds on the properties Crabapple maintains. 

When there is a choice, we recommend violas!

University of Georgia Horticulture Prof Dr. Allan Armitage agrees. In an amusing article in the April 28, 2009 issue of Greenhouse Growermagazine Armitage writes from the UGA Trial Garden, “Every year we've trialed pansies and violas. Our garden data shouts that violas are better performers, fill in faster, look better earlier and are more colorful than pansies. Every year! Yet, viola sales still lag ridiculously behind pansy sales in this country.

Violet Family
These small and showy Viola plants are part of a flowering Plant Family called the Violaceae, that grow around the world and have somewhere around 500 species that promiscuously hybridize with each other, given close proximity. The genus Viola includes biennial violas and pansies and perennial true violets (but not the tropical African Violet or Saintpaulia).

Border with Cabbage, Violas
Violas (a.k.a. Johnny Jump-Ups or Heartsease) are smaller, more perky with thicker petals and more cold tolerant. They fill in faster and look better more quickly. Remarkable advances in breeding have made Violas into "blooming idiots", shaking off low temperatures and adding brilliant bright colors to the landscape for 7 or 8 months during the cool part of the year, from October through April. 

DYK? All pansies, violets and violas are edible and add color and interest to tossed salads. Smaller violas are terrific candied and set on top of small squares of fudge.  

Candied Johnny-Jump-Ups
Recipe! Candied Violas and Violets 
Mix 2 t. water with an egg white and beat until frothy.
Coat each blossom in the egg mixture.
Sprinkle with superfine granulated sugar
Allow to dry. Store until enjoyed on cakes or brownies.

Although Pansy flowers are larger with flowers that fit into a perfect circle and (thanks to the breeders) a rainbow of colors, they need a few days to recuperate after particularly cold weather. The big, floppy petals are perfect to tear up and put in a tossed salad, adding color, interest and vitamins.

Atlanta Botanical Garden Horticulturists choose Violas
Dr. Armitage  memorably recommends Violas, coining the term, Multiflora Pansies.    
  • Trying to teach the consumer the differences between a viola and a pansy is like kicking a dead horse. Let's move on.
  • The adage "bigger is better" seems to be gospel when consumers are comparing violas and pansies on the retail bench. 
  •  If the word "viola" is not penetrating the market, let's borrow from the rose and petunia people and call them floribunda pansies. Not sexy, but at least instructional.  (Dr. Allan Armitage in Greenhouse Grower magazine April 28 2009 issue

Pansy petals fit a perfect circle 
Digging Deeper. For more information, go to the website of the Viola and Pansy Society.

photos copyright Geri Laufer, please give credit 

Tips to Prevent Water Erosion

Grand Canyon carved from stone by water erosion
Crabapple LandscapExperts consider and control water erosion when we assist you with landscaping on the properties you manage. 

Recently everyone has seen the impact of storms and hurricanes (Hurricane Sandy) on shoreline and beach erosion. But did you know? The annual impact energy of simple raindrops has been estimated to average approximately 30 billion foot-pounds or the equivalent of 10,000 pounds of TNT per square mile (!). The Grand Canyon is an extreme example of water erosion, cut out of stone over time.
Erosion is the process that wears away land surface by natural agents such as water, wind, ice or gravity. This week, the topic of wind erosion is highlighted on PBS-TV with Ken Burns' documentary, Dust Bowl,   Nov 18-19, 2012.

Gully eroding in Georgia red clay
Crabapple LandscapExperts find that water erosion is the most pesky and common form of erosion. As water flows over bare soil, it picks up particles. As velocity increases, the water action makes small rills and channels that turn into gullies if not stopped.

Vegetative Cover is extremely important, along with slope and soil type. 
Role of Plants:  
  • Absorb energy of raindrops 
  • Increase water-absorption capacity 
  • Evaporate water out of their leaves through transpiration (rain garden blog
  • Bind soil particles together into a structure 
  • Slow velocity of runoff water

Vegetative Cover carpets forest

Crabapple Strategies

By limiting the amount of vegetation removed, we can greatly reduce the possibility of soil erosion. We match the topography and our design plans to avoid unstable soil conditions. We consciously minimize the length of time that disturbed areas remain exposed. We work to stabilize impacted areas quickly.

There are a variety of strategies Crabapple LandscapExperts can use to slow and stop water erosion on the properties you manage. Talk to your Rep about:
  • Creating an undisturbed buffer zone 
  • Mulch 
  • Matting or bio-degradable soil blankets 
  • Hay bales 
  • Gravel- or rock-fill 
  • Hydroseeding 
  • Temporary or permanent plantings 
  • Retaining wall 
  • Rough grading (not fine grading) to allow vegetation to get established

Crabapple Service Area
Conquer man-made erosion problems by contacting your Crabapple LandscapExperts for their expertise in the metro-Atlanta area. 770-740-9739.

Photos Wiki Commons
Forest photo Geri Laufer

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fall Leaf Clean-up

Science Behind Fall Color + Autumn Leaf Fall

It’s that time of year again, when brilliant autumn leaves are contrasted against the dark blue sky for Nature’s annual riot of color before somber winter. As the green chlorophyll in summer leaves decreases, other leaf pigments take over

Chlorophyll is replaced by orange carotene, yellow xanthophyll, and red, purple and magenta anthocyanin, using the same chemistry as the colorful antioxidants so important in the fruits and vegetables we eat (carrots, blueberries). 

What happens next? - Falling Leaves
While the leaves are changing color, a corky abscission layer between the twig and the base of the leaf-stem (petiole) begins to interrupt the upward flow of water and minerals from tree roots, and the leaf eventually dries out and falls to the ground. Just as different types of trees turn different colors (red maple, purple-red black gum, yellow Japanese maple), the amount of time that leaves persist on the trees also varies. The U.S.D.A. provides areally thorough discussion of fall foliage.  

American Beech Fall Leaves
Because the beautiful leaf colors fade like tissue paper left out in the sun, leaves that persist through the winter on some trees turn brown. Russet oak leaves, brown hickory leaves or beautiful cinnamon-tan American Beech leaves rustle in the forest throughout the winter.

What does this mean to Residents, HOA Reps and Property Managers? 
Because of this variability, leaf drop is an ongoing process lasting from November through late February or March. For example, the Pin Oaks retain fall leaves until new leaf buds push them off in early spring. Since leaves do not drop at once,  it is unrealistic to think that they can be cleaned up once and for all.

Old Man Wind
Wind is Another Factor
Consider the strong winds in metro-Atlanta from Hurricane Sandy last week. For example, if your Crabapple Team is scheduled to arrive in your ‘hood and the wind is gusting that day, spotless areas that we completely clean up may become covered with leaves blown in from another location minutes after we depart. This is the nature of Nature. 

Every Property is Unique
Some properties have natural areas where the LandscapExperts can blow the leaves. Leaves will be trapped by trees and shrubs growing in the natural area and will decompose naturally over the course of the year.

Other customers prefer that all the leaves are cleaned up and removed from the property. Due to differences in leaf drop on trees, this will be an ongoing effort from November through early March.

Did you know? Falling leaves are filled with nutrients taken up from the soil and accumulated during summer growth. Imagine an untouched forest ecosystem with a rich woodland soil. Vitamins, minerals and elaborated carbohydrates like sugars and starches in the leaves are returned to enrich the soil. When they fall to earth they are decomposed by earthworms, protozoa, arthropods, friendly fungi and beneficial bacteria naturally present in every soil in the world.

While other companies might haul this waste to a landfill, your Crabapple LandscapExperts have a recycling program in place that demonstrates our 20-year commitment to the Environment.
Crabapple's Earth Stewardship: Green Recycling 
Even when leaves are entirely removed from a property, the soil is not depleted because of Crabapple’s careful stewardship. We remove your leaves as desired and take them back to our HQ where they are composted in a massive compost pile turned by heavy equipment. Crabapple recycles more than 2,000 cubic yards of vegetative matter each year. This includes leaves, branches, weeds, brush and so forth that are shredded and added to the pile. Rich compost is returned to the properties we care for in the form of organic mulch that we use to top dress shrub beds and enrich annual color beds. 

Ask your Crabapple Rep if you would like more information about on the annual autumn leaf drop in the community you manage.  

Old Man Wind cartoon courtesy David Laufer