Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Grassy Look-Alikes

Ophiopogon Crystal Falls along brick walk. 
Have you come across this old couplet?
“Sedges have edges, rushes are round,
Grasses are hollow right up from the ground.”

Grasses are mimicked by look-alikes including sedges, rushes, lily turf and sweet flag.  Other monocots like lily and iris families add look-alikes such as Ogon Yellow sedge Acorus sweet flag closer to rich golden yellow blades provide colorful accent in shade or sun, creating a solid mass ground cover. This Blog accompanies Crabapple LandscapExperts last week's Blog on Ornamental Grasses

Sedges differ from grasses in that their stems are solid and triangular, and sedge leaves have a prominent V-shaped keel.  
Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’ Sedge
 Eleocharis dulcis Chinese Water Chestnut


Juncus effuses Common Rush
Equisetum hyemale Scouring Rush

Liriope muscari also known as Monkey Grass or Lilyturf
Ophiopogon japonicus or Dwarf Mondo Grass

Sweet Flag
Acorus graminus ‘Ogon’ dwarf Japanese Sweet Grass --> 

Blue-eyed Grass
Sisyrinchium angustifolium 
Blue eyed grass

Your Crabapple LandscapExperts Rep can discuss which Ornamental Grass or look-alike is best for you! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ornamental Grasses-Crabapple Favorites

native Muhly grass

Ornamental grasses are members of a diverse plant family, Poaceae a.k,a Graminea, the grasses or grains, that have many landscape uses. They add form, texture, contrast, color and year-round interest to beds and borders. They expand the plant palette of landscape design with good-looking, arching foliage that persists throughout winter and adds sound and motion as it rustles and waves in the wind. 

Some perennial grasses are evergreen although most are deciduous, and different grasses can be found that are suitable for sun or shade; for dry soils or wet bog gardens. Some ornamental grasses are vigorous spreaders while others stay in neat clumps, and they all tend to be disease-free, low maintenance and carefree. Grasses are used for edging or as ground covers, while taller species make effective screens adding vertical height. Spreading varieties are good for erosion control, stabilizing soil on steep banks or growing attractively on hard-to-maintain areas.  

True grasses have leaves that are arranged alternately on the stem, with narrow blades and parallel veins. Stems are hollow with bumps at the leaf nodes.  Many ornamental grasses form non-invasive clumps suitable for use as specimen plants.  All ornamental grasses flower, producing spikes, racemes or panicles that add additional appeal.

Habits of Growth include:

  • Tufted 
  • Mounded 
  • Upright 
  • Arching 
  • Running/Creeping
Japanese Blood Grass

LandscapExperts Favorite Grasses include
  • Pink Muhly Grass native with clouds of bright pink seed heads in autumn
  • Japanese blood grass (Imperata cylindrica var. rubra)
  • Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) planted on the Georgia Tech campus
  • Feather Reedgrass Calamagrostis arundinacea 'Karl Foerster'
  • Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum')
  • Ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea var. picta)
  • Silky Thread Grass aka Mexican Feather Grass 9Stipa tenuissima) small and silky
  • Miscanthus sinensis or Eulalia Grass – many varieties, variegations and colors

LIMITED USAGE GRASSES Crabapple limits the use ol 

Bamboo, thanks dennyaco.blogspot
Although bamboo is a true grass, many of the larger bamboos are woody, useful for everything from home building, flooring and screening (timber bamboo), to clothing and garden gloves made from bamboo, to cuisine (bamboo shoots).  

Crabapple LandscapExperts carefully select clumping bamboo when needed, rather than the invasive running bamboo.

Digging Deeper

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Soil Amendments Comprehensive List

Photo by Jorge Vivanco

 An improved way to look at soil! 

CrabappleLandscapExperts picture the soil food web as a living, breathing mass teeming with the roots of living plants, insects, worms, invertebrates, amoeba, bacteria and fungi (both beneficial and pathogenic). All of these living organisms need both moisture and oxygen to stay healthy, along with nutrients and the proper acid/base environment.

There are many options for soil improvement. The LandscapExperts view soil amendments as any material added to the native earth in order to improve its ability to grow plants and create outstanding landscapes. Physical properties such as soil structure, aeration, permeability and water infiltration and drainage, as well as fertility properties such as soil acidity or alkalinity, pH, cation exchange capacity and nutrient levels all play a role. 

Unlike mulch, amendments are thoroughly mixed into the soil. 

Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS divide the list of Soil Amendments into 6 categories: 
1. organic soil conditioners
2. inorganic soil additives
3. mineral nutrient sources
4.  biological inoculants and activators
5. plant stimulants, growth regulators, plant hormones 
6. wetting agents or surfactants (primarily for potting mixes) 

Following is a selected list of some of the materials that can be added to metro-Atlanta’s Georgia red clay.
      Organic soil conditioners
Crabapple's Green Recycling Program
turns landscape waste into rich compost.
Organic Compost
Aerated compost tea
Animal manure, aged and well-rotted
Manure tea
Bagged humus and compost
Mr Natural
Nature’s Helper
Mushroom compost
Worm compost
Worm tea 
Ground pine bark
Coffee grounds
Blood meal
Bone meal
Alfalfa, Soybean or Cottonseed meal – adds nitrogen, lowers pH
Wood ashes  - quick source of potassium, raises pH
Grass clippings
Wood chips
Peat moss

Inorganic soil additives or “place holders”
Coarse river sand - NOT the fine builders or bricklayers sand bagged at the big box stores
Granite grit - byproduct of Georgia's granite industry
Pea gravel - inert
Perlite -  heat-expanded mica
Vermiculite - heat expanded mica that holds water and 
Shredded tire chunks

      Mineral nutrient sources
Adding lime to surface of lawn.
Lime - Dolomitic lime is magnesium calcium carbonate
Gypsum – calcium sulfate
Rock Phosphate or Triple superphosphate - slow release does not pollute riversheds
Greensand – iron potassium silicate aka glauconite
Sulfur - acidifies the soil 
Epsom salts – magnesium sulfate
Aluminum Sulfate - acidifies the soil, as for Japanese Iris or BLUE Hydrangeas 
Biological inoculants and activators
Beneficial bacteria, friendly fungi to inoculate roots and mycorrhizal associations
 benefiting plants through increased nutrient uptake 
Agverra SRT, Dr. Earth  Super Active Biological Inoculant, Soil Smart 

Plant stimulants, transplant solutions, growth regulators
Superthrive rooting hormone, vitamin and plant hormone (1 drop per gallon formula) 
Rootone rooting hormone

Wetting agents and surfactants
Terra-Sorb Hydro Gel - a "water grabber" commonly mixed into potting mixes to allow water absorption by hydrophobic (water-hating) peat moss 

The LandscapExperts select from among this lengthy list to provide your landscape soils with amendments  to bring them to optimum condition. 

Digging Deeper 
Very helpful University of Georgia PDF entitled Soil Inoculants

This is the Mother of all Soil Additive Lists:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Force Flowering Branches to Bring Spring Indoors EARLY

Easy to force Forsythia! 
Got the winter blahs, a.k.a. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD? 

Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend causing Spring to arrive ahead of schedule by forcing flowering branches of woody ornamentals indoors. Any deciduous shrub or tree that flowers in early spring is a good candidate for forcing, although shrubs typically flower a bit more easily. Try the ubiquitous Forsythia, Spirea, Viburnum, Quince, Pussy Willow, Japanese Rose (Kerria), Flowering Cherry, Plum or Flowering Almond, Apple, Crabapple or Pear, Magnolia branches or  Redbud.

Crabapple Blossoms on forced branch 
After about eight weeks of temperatures in the 40s, most woodies are ready to force. In addition to watching the calendar (late winter), swelling buds on garden plants are another good indicator.  Keep in mind, the closer to the normal flowering date, the more readily the flowering branches can be forced.

Forced Quince Blossoms
Choose a day in February when temperatures have been above freezing. Before going out, first disinfect a deep bucket with detergent or a bleach solution, rinsing thoroughly. Then fill with warm (not hot, not cold) water and add a cut flower preservative. 

Commercial “cut flower food” provides both elaborated sugars that are normally supplied through photosynthesis and a disinfectant to reduce the growth of bacteria that can clog the vascular (water conducting) tissues.  Rosie Lerner and Michael Dana of the Perdue Department of Horticulture offer three recipes for make-your-own preservative solutions that will prolong the life of the flowering branches in Forcing Branches for Winter Color .

Native Redbud
Use sharpened bypass pruners or a sharp knife to harvest branches on your target plants.  Flower buds are generally rounder and larger than leaf buds, so choose branches with lots of potential flowers. Keep an eye on the overall shape of the shrub or tree as you cut, and cut a few extra branches because some may not absorb water, and also they are great to share with HOA friends or take to the clubhouse. 

Quickly get those branches into water. Re-cut each stem on an angle to increase the surface area and ensure that it won’t sit flat on the bottom of the bucket. Split or score the bottom inch or two of each stem to expose the conductive tissues (cambium layer) and encourage maximum water uptake, then plunge them into the waiting vase. Trim off any buds or twigs that will be submerged under water so they won’t rot.

Finished arrangement
To keep high humidity, cover the branches with a voluminous plastic bag (recycled dry cleaner bags are great for this) and place in a cool room (50-60 degrees F.) out of sunlight. Check them frequently to see how they are coming along and to refresh the water.  It will take anywhere from one to nearly four weeks for the buds to swell noticeably.

When in bloom, arrange them in a decorative vase and bring them into warmer temperatures to enjoy in the home.