Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Match your Football Team Colors to your Garden Berries!

This time of year people respond to color in the garden and on the football field! Berries add a bright statement to landscapes and many ripen and color up now. Some of these berries share the same Team Colors that are displayed by some of Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS' favorite SEC athletic teams.

Berried Treasures

The most familiar berried shrub in the winter garden is Holly, with a profusion of Georgia Bulldog-Red berries set against spiny evergreen leaves. There are many different types of holly including the deciduous Winterberry Holly, American Holly, English Holly and plenty of hybrids. 
If you’re a Florida ‘Gator try the Orange Pyracantha berries. This is a low-growing evergreen groundcover or can be trained on a wall or espaliered to climb along a fence, loaded with orange berries.The beautiful woody ornamental produces an abundance of orange berries each fall and is an excellent source of landscape color fall through winter. 
Alabama Crimson Tide followers might try the Crimson-Red berries on the compact, evergreen Nandina. This is a prolific berry producer and delivers brilliant crimson foliage and generous sprays of crimson berries. They are extremely long-lasting, often continuing into the following summer. Versatile and durable, Nandina is effective massed as a border planting or as a specimen in the landscape. Birds that consume Nandina berries are known to become inebriated and subsequently fly into glass windows and doors. 

LSU Tiger fans might plant the superb shrub known as Beautyberry that sports Purple berries. Abundant clusters of the long-lasting purple berries are grouped along the branches, following small purplish-pink flowers in summer. Prune this deciduous shrub in late winter to early spring to promote branching and berry production. 

Kentucky supporters might choose the bright Blue berries of Mahonia that follow upright trusses of  fragrant yellow terminal flowers. The berries are sometimes called Oregon Grapes. Leathery, dark green leaves have spines that make a fine specimen plant or a barrier hedge. 

White Snowberries could suffice for the garden if your team has lots of “away games” since visiting teams often wear White jerseys. Hope your team has a Winning Season!  

Digging Deeper

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Winter Watering -- Plants Need Water Throughout Winter

Now that metro-Atlanta has had a taste of cold weather, many folks are ready to roll up the hose and turn off the irrigation system. But conifers, broad-leaf evergreens, and recently planted ornamentals need additional water to be supplied to their disrupted root systems until their myriad feeder roots grow out into the native soils. Extra water is needed so the limited root systems can absorb enough moisture to supply limbs and leaves and to prevent die back.

If an inch of water per week is not supplied by rainfall, Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend slow watering applied directly to the root ball. A soaker hose or water breaker nozzle is a good choice for slow water delivery. Take particular care to water underneath the limbs of evergreens, specimens or hedges because the branches can act as a shield to divert rain water, leaving the ground drier than ever. For established plants with larger root systems, apply the water to a wider circumference to make sure all the roots are supplied. .

Atlanta's seesaw temperatures are confusing for people and plants alike! Trees, shrubs and perennials that were planted or transplanted this autumn are especially susceptible to drying out as temperatures range from below freezing to 68 degrees F. and from cold, drying winds to bright sunny days.

Evergreens transpire water out of their leaves all winter long. This makes it essential to replace lost moisture whenever temperatures rise above freezing.
  • Broad-leaf evergreens such as holly, anise, boxwood, pittosporum, magnolia, camellia and tea olive can rapidly dry out in winter as well as during the growing season. 
  • Needle-leaf evergreens like pine, juniper, arborvitae, cedar, yew and Japanese plum yew also need a water supply during the cold months. Conifer branches often prevent rain water from reaching the ground so that it is dry under the canopy even after a rain.
Two to three inches of a good organic mulch applied over the top of moistened soil will help to maintain moisture levels at a constant level. Keep an eye on your new transplants throughout the winter. Ask your Crabapple Rep if you have questions about wintertime water needs of your plants.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

10 Top Tips Protect Plants from Cold Temperatures

This week in metro-Atlanta, Crabapple LanscapEXPERTS suggest you pay attention to the weather forecasts! In meteorologist lingo, “the Jet Stream is blasting south, bringing frigid air masses from polar regions” and this is called an “advective freeze". We know that windy cold with a sudden plunge in temperatures, sometimes prolonged over several days, makes plant protection difficult. Remember, healthy, hardy landscape plants on the properties you manage will be unaffected by this cold snap. 

How To Best Protect Landscape Plants

Tip 1.  Add mulch to protect newly planted roots. Apply organic mulch anytime to insulate shallow roots by reducing temperature fluctuations. Most woody ornamentals and perennials are root hardy, so use a layer of mulch to protect the crown and the root zone despite the fact that foliage may die back to ground level. Evergreens and newly transplanted plants especially benefit from a thick layer of mulch around their bases insulating the soil and allowing them to take up moisture despite periods of cold weather and avoid dehydration. Don't let "mulch volcanoes" touch the trunks though. 

      Tip 2. Drape burlap, canvas, old quilts or sheets, large cardboard boxes, or floating row cover fabric over plants you might want to protect for the duration of the coldest temperatures. This might include prolonging the life of fall flowers or tropicals. Covering is used for three reasons:

a.      to slow wind movement;
b.      to protect from frost; and
c.      to shade from early morning sunshine- devastating to frozen leaves

NEVER use plastic to cover plants;  not clear plastic, not black plastic, and not white plastic. Plastic traps solar radiation and causes a buildup of moisture underneath. If plastic is not removed at dawn (and who is going to do that?) the sun’s rays cause heat build-up and frozen plant tissue bake inside the tent.

Tip 3. Use windbreaks like fences, walls, tree canopies or the sides of buildings to protect container plants that can’t come inside. Coverings include frost cloth, sheets and quilts, plastic, cardboard panels or large cardboard boxes, and lean-tos propped against the wall.  

Tip 4. Consider building a quick-frame (cold frame) to provide additional protection for favorite or newly transplanted ornamentals. Drive stakes into the ground around the plant(s) then drape canvas over the stakes, making sure it reaches to the ground. This provides air flow and ensures the cover does not have direct contact with the leaves, since touching can injure the foliage. 

Tip 5. Water the soil ahead of the freeze or when there is a slight break in the freezing temperatures to maintain soil moisture, but do not over water. Watering melts frozen soil or container potting mixes and lets plants become re-hydrated.

7    Tip 6. Home gardeners: DO NOT try to use water as cold protection! Commercial agricultural enterprises sometimes use water from a sprinkler system to coat strawberries or citrus fruits. The idea is to keep the leaf surface temperatures near 32°F (0°C) because sprinkling utilizes latent heat released when water changes from a liquid to a solid state. But sprinkling must begin as freezing temperatures are reached and continue until thawing is completed. Water must be evenly distributed and supplied in ample quantity to maintain a film of liquid water on the foliage surfaces, possibly for days.

Although commercial farms uses sprinkling for cold protection, residential sprinkler systems do not have the flow volume to protect plants this way. Too much water can cause disease, plus the sprinkler itself can freeze up. As a result, cold damage to plants from inadequate amounts of irrigation water may worse than if nothing was done at all.

     Tip 7. Move container plants to a shaded location to avoid morning sun hitting them. Lift pots and containers and place on lumber or 'pot feet' to prevent waterlogging. Insulate above-ground pots with a layer of bubble wrap or hessian to prevent them freezing and cracking and ensure plant rootballs stay healthy.  

     The Last 3 Tips are for those of us guilty of stretching the Climate Zone envelope. These plants shouldn't actually survive, but just maybe . . .
     Tip 8. Blankets do not provide “warmth” unless an incandescent light bulb or a string of Christmas lights is added inside the covering. Choose extension cords labeled for outdoor use. (New LED lights won’t add heat.) This is sometimes used as a temporary measure for a day or two.   
Tip 9. Happen to have a cool greenhouse handy? Lucky! Tender plants grown in pots can be moved inside during bad weather. Or take cuttings of those that cannot be grown in pots and overwinter these in a warm greenhouse or on a windowsill, ready for planting in spring.

Without a greenhouse, move hardy container plants under a protective roof like a deck or porch, and group them together to increase their protection. Move tropicals indoors overnight to avoid temperatures below 35 degrees F. then cart them outside again for the sunny days. 

  Tip 10. Cover is especially beneficial for borderline tender plants that the gardener just had to give a try. The ever-increasing number of tender plants available may not withstand sustained cold without some form of protection. Hardy Tropicals may fit this description. Recent transplants are good candidates for protection, because they may not had enough time to establish strong root systems. 

      Crabapple LandscapExperts know that well-cared for, hardy landscape plants will not need any protection at all! Call your Crabapple Rep with any questions at 770-740-9739! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

10 Top Landscape Uses for Ornamental Grasses

Muhly Grass

CrabappleLandscapExperts know there are many benefits of using ornamental grasses in landscape design. Grasses are low maintenance and they provide year-round interest; Grasses are fast growing and drought tolerant. They attract wildlife and gently move in the wind.

There are grasses for any type of landscape situation, from drought tolerance, shade resistance, or beautiful ornamental inflorescence. See a dictionary of grasses here

10 Top Landscape Uses for Ornamental Grasses include:

Garden accent- site a specimen plant in a perennial border and create a focal point
Add texture –light and filmy grasses contrast with large-leaf perennials and geometric clipped- shrubbery 
Soften hardscaping- mobile waving of grass and movement is in contrast to solid buildings dramatic effect of 
      mass planting
Dress up decks, pools and patios- formal repetition in containers or casual groupings
Edging- short tufty grasses like blue fescue, grassy substitutes like Liriope, sedge or carex
Make colorful containers - adds a vertical note 
Fall and winter interest- persistent grasses will bleach in sun
Attract wild life - those that eat grass seeds and grains
Groundcover – turf grasses, plus grassy look alikes mondo grass and Liriope
Add privacy - plant a row of tall grasses to screen an area, such as switch grass, reed grass, miscanthus, 
      pampas grass

Talk with your Crabapple Rep about enhancing the landscape you manage with ornamental grasses. 770- 740-9739.