Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to Make a Kissing Ball from fresh Boxwood and Holly

Ever heard of the old-timey “Kissing Ball”?  Crabapple LandscapExperts agree, holidays seem more charming when fresh botanicals are used for decorations, and there’s no excuse in our industry not to bring some evergreens indoors! Along with pine and mistletoe, it’s traditional to deck the halls with boughs of holly and boxwood, two evergreens that symbolize ‘constancy’ and ‘foresight’ in the Language of Flowers. While some “Kissing Balls” are made of needle-leaf evergreens, this winter try one made of boxwood and holly.  Easy to make and with staying power that lasts through New Years Day and beyond, a shoe box of 4-5 inch clippings will make one kissing ball and will create the finish to a beautiful holiday.

How to Make a Boxwood & Holly Kissing Ball

Half a block of floral foam, well soaked in water
Tight plastic mesh from bulb, grapefruit or onion bags, dark color preferred
Spool of thin wire approximately 18 to 20 gauge 
About a shoebox full of 4-5 inch sprigs of Green Borders Boxwood
About a dozen 4-5 inch clippings of Christmas Jewel® Holly with berries
A few sprigs of mistletoe
Floral pick
Red Ribbon

  •        Soak the floral foam (one brand name is Oasis) thoroughly, then pare off the corners to make a rounded or ball shape about 5 inches across. 
  •        Drain the floral foam and wrap the plastic mesh around it, enclosing the foam securely. Weave or stitch it together in a few places to hold it closed. 
  •       Cut a 10-12 inch length of wire to make a hanger. Thread it through the center of the foam, creating a bend or U- shape to catch on the bottom side of the foam. Make a loop at the top for hanging. 
  •       Clip enough 4-5 inch sprigs of boxwood and stick in the floral foam to cover the ball evenly and completely, making a uniform sphere of boxwood about 10 inches in diameter.  
  •       Add berried stems of berried holly as an accent, again spacing evenly around the sphere. Your lush, full Kissing Ball of greenery is now ready for decorating. 
  •       Wire a bit of mistletoe to a pick and insert at the bottom of the sphere.  
  •       Add a red bow at the top and a tuft of short streamers to the bottom of the ball and hang it up! 

Throughout the Holidays, re-soak the entire Kissing Ball once in awhile to keep the green stems fresh, submerging it in a large basin of warm water then allowing it to drain well before re-hanging.

Your friends at Crabapple LandscapExperts hope you meet someone interesting beneath the Kissing Ball.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peeling, Exfoliating, Ornamental Bark for Winter Landscape Interest

Paperbark Maple Bark

Tree leaves are down and most deciduous branches are bare. And though Crabapple LandscapExperts can enhance the winter landscape of the properties you manage with winter-flowering Camellia, Witch Hazel, Oregon Grape Mahonia, Japanese Paperbush, and Hellebore as well as cool-season winter color plants, there is another ornamental feature that takes center stage in the landscape now.

Peeling bark, known as exfoliating bark (as in skin care) is the natural process of old bark peeling away from a tree trunk in large curls or patches, revealing the new bark that is often of a different color beneath. Certain trees are known for this shedding of bark and used ornamentally in the landscape.  

Cork Oak Bark by P Tobin
Exfoliating bark adds visual interest and captures attention during the winter season. Some of the trees selected for this attractive feature include: 
  • Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum), 
  • 3-Flowered Maple (Acer triflorum
  • River Birch (Betula nigra
  • Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana)  
  • Lacebark Elm (Ulmus parvifolia) 
  • American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) large tree
  • Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. Petiolaris) woody vine 

Crapemyrtle Bark by UAR
Besides beauty, exfoliating bark eliminates fungus diseases, boring insects and pollution from an ornamental tree by simply dropping off, all ecological advantages for the tree. Crabapple LandscapExperts often chooses these trees for the urban landscape, since they can refresh and renew their bark despite ozone and urban particulate matter. Call your Crabapple Rep now to discuss adding woody plants with attractive bark to your landscape during the winter planting season at 770-740-9739. 

Eucalyptus deglupta

Digging Deeper
Rainbow Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus degluptais a tropical tree with incredible exfoliating bark! --> 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Think Outside the Box to Choose a Living Christmas Tree

Choose a Living Christmas Tree; Think Outside the Box!

Blue Spruce likely will not thrive
in Hotlanta
Purchasing a freshly cut Christmas tree, wreaths and greenery each year is not a profligate waste of resources, but specifically helps Christmas Tree Growers and the Agricultural industry in general. Just think of cut trees as longer-term "cabbages" specifically planted by tree farmers to be harvested in seven years or so. After the holidays put discarded trees to good use as habitat for wildlife, or chipped, shredded and turned into compost, thus recycling their nutrients and minerals and enriching the earth. It’s all good.  

On the other hand, the popularity of choosing a live Christmas tree growing in soil in a nursery pot has been on the rise. The problem is that many of these trees don’t survive the holiday season or don’t fit the Atlanta climate or the landscape plan if they do survive. Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS suggest you choose a tree appropriate for the climate, care for it correctly while it is decorated, and afterward, use it to good advantage and site it correctly when planting in the landscape.  

When shopping for the tree, consider its mature height and width and plan ahead to decide where it will be planted in the landscape. Savvy gardeners and landscapers dig the hole before they ever go shopping for a tree.

Vigorous rootball
When selecting a prospective tree, choose only healthy stock and not stressed leftovers from last season. Consider good color, good branching structure and flexible limbs. Knock the plant out of the container and look for non-pot bound, non-circling root systems with fresh white feeder roots.  The potting mix should be moist, and there should be no disease or insect damage evident.

Choose only from varieties that grow well in the area. While fir, spruce and pine are traditionally used for cut trees, they are not suited to live in metro-Atlanta. Garden Centers often market a wide variety of cone-shaped trees as holiday options, whether or not they do well long-term, so choose the one that’s best for the area and the specific landscape, even though it may not be a traditional choice. 

Now is the time to be thinking “outside the box”. What about choosing a dogwood, redbud, flowering cherry, deciduous magnolia or double file viburnum to decorate? Ornaments would look terrific hanging from bare branches, and one of those might be just the accent plant the landscape needs. 

Cone Rosemary
What about a cone-shaped rosemary or bay tree? Even a balled & burlapped selection is ok; merely place in a large landscape pot with drain holes and cover with mulch to keep evenly moist. 

Tropicals can be decorated!
Don’t fail to include the Tropicals section when searching for a living Christmas tree. The Norfolk Island Pine is “nearly traditional,” and one year I didn’t even shop but decorated our oversize Monstera deliciosa with a choice selection of my Mom’s vintage ornaments. It’s the season!

If a hardy tree is selected, don’t bring it inside right away, but keep it outside in a protected area until a few days before Christmas. Keep the soil moist but not wet and sheltered from winds and full sun. Acclimate the tree to warmer temperatures by moving it onto a covered porch or garage over a period of three to four days.

For needle-leaf or broad-leaf evergreens, decrease transpiration from the leaf surfaces and retain valuable moisture within the tree by spraying with an anti-desiccant/anti-wilt product.  A couple of brand names are Wilt Pruf or Cloud Cover.

Crabapple Warning: a living tree that soon will be returned to winter temperatures outside cannot be brought indoors for weeks on end without consequences. Warm rooms with low humidity can quickly dry out the tree. Dormant buds can break and grow in a “false spring,” only to suffer when moved back outside. Avoid bringing the tree indoors too early, since the less time spent in hot, dry indoor temperatures the better, and certainly no more than a week. Avoid placing near heat vents, forced air, radiators, stoves, but do consider a window where it will get some sunlight. Keep soil in the pot moist.

After Christmas move the tree back outdoors to that protected area so it can readjust for a week or so. When there’s a break in the weather, follow recommended planting procedures, with a wide, shallow planting holeabout twice as wide as the root ball, but not deeper.  Plant slightly higher than the surrounding soil because it will soon settle, backfill with the native soil and mulch the tree to retain moisture. Newly planted trees need even moisture, so water throughout winter and spring. The new addition will contribute holiday memories as it adds beauty to the landscape.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nature Indicates Best Planting Time for Bulbs is NOW!

Colorful tulips make a big impact on the landscapes you manage when they flower in the spring. 

Crabapple can add brilliant tulips to your Seasonal Color Beds by planting Spring-flowering bulbs now. Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS Floriculture Manager Chessa Azzolesi says, “We do not install tulip bulbs at the same time we install the fall pansies and cool season annuals. The ground is not yet cold enough, and the days are not short enough then. We install our tulip bulbs in December, usually one to two weeks before the Holidays.”

Some of Nature's “Guidelines” that signal when to plant bulbs 
  • Night temperatures average 40-50 degrees F. 
  • Soil temperatures hit 50-60 degrees F.
  • The UGA / Georgia Tech game has been played
  • Persimmons are ripe on the trees
  • Chickweed begins to appear in the flower beds 
  • Camellia sasanquas are in bloom
  • Tender houseplants are back indoors
  • Cicadas and crickets stop chirping 
  • Gloves are needed when walking the dog 
  • Fall foliage is past its peak and heaps of autumn leaves are on the ground
  • There's a run on fruitcakes at the grocery
  • Christmas wrapping paper goes on sale
  • Christmas Cactus is in bud
  • Crabapple winterizes your irrigation system 
  • Migrating birds fill the skies 
  • Peony foliage is brown and Hosta leaves are on the ground 
  • Car heater is often turned on 
  • Chipmunks and squirrels are actively burying pecans and acorns

Time is short! Call your Crabapple Rep this week at 770-940-9739 to get some Tulip bulbs added to your corporate landscape. 

Digging Deeper

To hear a quick Radio Spot on City CafĂ©’ with John Lemley on planting fall bulbs with Geri Laufer, click the link: