Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Essential Cutbacks: Pruning Thinning Cuts + Header Cuts

Old branches removed, new branches are red
Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS recommend late January and February as the prime months for pruning deciduous shrubs, since the leaves are off of the branches allowing us to see the plants’ structure and Spring is around the corner, eliminating any chance of winter kill.

We specialize in two types of pruning, thinning cuts and header cuts.

Thinner Cuts

When a shrub is overgrown, with many branches crowding the center and reducing air circulation, Crabapple recommends thinning. 

Thickly overgrown "before" pic
This series of 3 illustrations from Fine Gardening Magazine, Nov/Dec 1995 shows how thinning is done.

In shrubs with colored bark, rejuvenation or thinning cuts remove old brown branches  and causes the shrub to produce an airy structure and fresh, new branches with bright-colored bark. 

Remove old wood Demo   

Open structure after pruning

Header Cuts

Tip removed, lateral buds sprout 
On the other hand, when we want to develop additional branches, Crabapple selectively snips the tips off of vigorous stems. 

Header cuts cause lateral buds along the branches to swell and multiple twigs grow where formerly there was just one. This is useful for hedges, as well.  

Illustrated are Camellias that were headed-back to promote lateral branching that will carry plenty of flowers next winter.    

Call your Crabapple Rep to schedule pruning to allow your shrubbery to look it's very best.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crabapple Prunes Roses Now for Profuse Blooms Later

profusion of roses

Roses are America’s favorite flower. CrabappleLandscapExperts know the key to maintaining strong, healthy roses is timely pruning. 

We follow University of Georgia recommendations to prune roses in February to early-March when the buds begin to swell. This way Crabapple can easily tell which branches have life and which have to be removed. It’s safe to cut back roses without causing cold damage. And removing canes before buds break doesn't waste any of the plants' energy for springtime growth. 

10 Top Reasons Crabapple Prunes Roses 
  • ensures the plants stay healthy and vigorous 
  • produces larger flowers 
  • makes them bloom more profusely 
  • causes strong stems 
  • eliminates dead, diseases and damaged canes 
  • improves airflow when canes from the center of the plant are removed 
  • decreases the chance of fungus or mildew buildup 
  • allows shaping of the overall plant 
  • removes suckers, that is wild canes originating from the rootstock below the graft union 
  • winter clean-up 

How we Prune your Roses

Felco #2 by-pass pruners
Tools of Choice
Sharp by-pass pruners are used on branches ½-inch in diameter or smaller
Long-handles loppers are our choice for thicker canes

We prune weak-growing cultivars lightly, and vigorously-growing plants more heavily, making clean, slanting cuts just above an outward-facing bud. Anvil pruners often squash the stems instead of making clean cuts, so we use sharp by-pass pruners. 

Rose Pruning Involves Two Operations:
Thinning out removes dead, diseased, crowded, crossing or interior canes down to the base of the plant
Shortening back determines the overall shape and height of the plant

To achieve maximum performance from the roses in the landscapes you manage this coming year, call the LandscapExperts to give them a good once-over.770-740-9739.

Dormant rose sold in stores-
we stretch out roots for good growth
Digging Deeper

Some webpages for further reading: All-American Rose Selections

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Planting Holes and Amending the Backfill Soil

To Amend or Not To Amend, that is the question

Cornus kousa
CrabappleLandscapExperts are practiced experts with Georgia red clay, the native soil type of metro-Atlanta.

Although some property managers and HOA Reps may wish to resort to the heavy use of soil amendments to ‘improve’ the native soil, our experience agrees with the horticulture specialists at the University of Georgia Extension Service and experts across the U.S., who do NOT recommend heavily amending individual planting holes.

Research has shown there are 2 reasons that plants in individually-amended planting holes do worse: 

girdling roots 
Reason 1: if the back fill soil has a lot of pine bark or compost added to a moderate-sized planting hole, the newly planted shrub follows the path of least resistance. Instead of the roots growing straight out of the dug hole and into the surrounding soil in all directions, they continue to circle around and around in the “fluffy soil” inside the planting hole. To my mind, the roots never achieve the "jump to hyperspeed” (like the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars) and are contained inside the hole.

What results is a restricted, circular root system that remains confined to the limited extent of the planting hole and can eventually girdle the trunk, killing the plant. Even though planted in open ground, the plant effectively becomes “pot bound” and is more sensitive to both drought and excess rainfall.

Reason 2: excessive soil amendments added to a small area upset the moisture balance between the planting hole and the surrounding soil. Roots need oxygen too! In a wet year the organic amendments soak up and retain water like a sponge in the planting hole, absorbing and holding too much moisture and causing “wet feet” as when the roots to stay too wet and rot or drown without oxygen. This is known as the "bathtub effect". 

prepared flower bed
Entire Flower Beds, Lawns or Gardens
Now, these soil amendment considerations do not apply when Crabapple prepares annual beds, an entire lawn or a complete garden area, but only when individual holes are dug for woody ornamentals and trees. In the case of entire beds, there is no problem with water relations or moisture balance in the root zone of the plants because they experience uniform conditions.

Diagram courtesy of the City of Bowling Green, KY 
LandscapExperts Best Practices 
Optimal growth is achieved when a large, wide (but not deep) planting hole is dug, and the backfill soil is well worked and aerated. Our planting holes are two or three times the diameter of the container or root ball, and we take care that the top of the roots are level with the soil surface and not sunken. We backfill with the same soil removed from the hole but only after breaking apart clods, removing stones and debris, and smoothing out the texture. Slopes and drainage are also considered. In compacted clay soils a large planting hole with loose backfill soil is essential for proper plant establishment.

Finishing Touches
CrabappleLandscapExperts thoroughly water-in the newly planted woody ornamentals. We then place organic matter on top of the surface as a mulch, rather than in the planting hole as an amendment. Learn more about the benefits of mulch in our January 9, 2013 blog. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

10 Benefits of Organic Mulch

Crabapple LandscapExperts know that organic mulch benefits plants and the landscape.  

Benefits of Organic Mulch:
1. Moderates soil temperatures like an insulating blanket, keeping soil warmer than the air temperature in the winter and cooler in the summer

2. Moderates soil moisture levels by limiting evaporation of moisture already in the ground

3. Unifies the landscape design by providing pleasing color and texture throughout

4. Reduces erosion and splash-back on residences or walls by softening the impact of raindrops on bare earth

5. Suppresses weed growth by preventing weed seeds from sprouting

6. Enriches the soil by adding nutrients when decomposing, improves the physical properties of the soil and can worked into the beds at the end of the season

7. Encourages the proliferation of earthworms, which aerate the top soil 

8. Provides a zone of protection from string trimmers for tender trunks

9. Cushions the impact of foot traffic

10. Hides irrigation and power lines, valve boxes, outdoor lights and landscaping hardware

How Crabapple LandscapExperts Mulch: 

A blanket of mulch of about 2 – 4 inches and not much more is best. We pull back mulch from touching the trunks of trees or shrubs to prevent them from coming into contact, because  ideal conditions for the growth of fungus disease can be present when they touch. We reduce this possibility by leaving a 3 – 4 inch space between the mulch and the trunks, or an 8 inch space around mature trees. 
Only 2 Reasons Not to Mulch:

1. Ornamental poppy seeds, foxgloves, nigella, and other annuals, perennials and natives like purple cone flower need bare ground to sprout and won't sprout under mulch. So pull back the mulch in an area where wildflower seeds will be scattered. 

2. Pine voles (nasty, stub-tailed, mice-like herbivores) tunnel on top of the soil but under too-thick mulch to gnaw on the crowns of specimen and rare plants, especially during the cold months. 

Don't you agree with Crabapple? We think the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for a case of “Crape Murder”

Brutally pruned Crapemyrtles with overgrowth
Some people call it pruning. CrabappleLanscapEXPERTS call it “crape murder”.

About Crape Myrtles
Crape Myrtle, (Lagerstroemia indica) is one of the most commonly-used flowering shrubs/trees in metro-Atlanta landscaping today. A tall and graceful multi-trunked woody ornamental with beautiful giraffe-like exfoliating bark, crape myrtle provides welcome flowers in late summer through fall.  Bright colors include the original watermelon-pink through white, light pink, magenta, lavender and carmine red.  

Showing natural, graceful Crapemyrtle form 
 DYK? Size Categories for crape myrtles
There is a size and habit of crape myrtle for every landscape situation that avoids all forms of pruning, although the correct cultivar is not always selected at planting time. The United States National Arboretum lists varieties alphabetically in their Lagerstroemia Checklist. 

Rosey Carpet Crapemyrtle

Varying Crapemyrtle Habits 
Sizes range from groundcover crape myrtles that drape on the ground like carpets to crape myrtlettes that grow only about 3 feet in large planters, to the typically sized 8-12 feet, to the giant white variety ‘Natchez’  which grows to 40 feet and is beloved for its beautiful patterned bark.

Grumpy Gardener Steve Bender's photo of Crape Murder

What is “Crape Murder”?
Because crape myrtles flower on new wood, unskilled maintenance crews will hack the tops off of graceful shrubs to ensure they will send out new wood. This is unnecessary!
CrabappleLandscapEXPERTS recommend leaving graceful plants unpruned. They will reliably produce bountiful flowers next summer regardless!  

In the case of overgrown shrubs, your LandscapEXPERTS Team will carefully select by eye and hand-remove stump sprouts and crossing or rubbing internal limbs. We can slightly reduce the overall size of the plant with expert, selective pruning with hand clippers. Small twigs less than pencil size can unobtrusively lower the height of a crapemyrtle.  

Tuscarora Crapemyrtle flower
Contact your Crabapple rep if you want us to remove spent blossoms in late August to force a second flush of bloom in autumn!

Or, if a small tree with a single trunk suits your requirements best, Crabapple can select a strong main trunk and remove side branches (limb up) the woody ornamental to form a tree-like canopy.  No way will we practice the unskilled crape murder that leads to unsightly knobs of wood and destroys the natural shape of the tree.

Multi-colored exfoliating bark

Steve Bender, a.k.a. the Grumpy Gardener from Southern Living announced his 3rd annual Crape Murder photo contest on FB on 1/1/13:

DYK? there is a FB Community called Stop Crape Murder:

Digging Deeper about Crape Mytle Pruning with UGA: