Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Leaves of Grass: Benefits of a Beautiful Green Lawn

A green lawn is a valuable asset to any landscape, framing the architecture and providing a restful green oasis. Landscape plantings, including lawn areas around homes and workplaces, have a positive impact on inhabitants. 
Healthy, maintained lawn areas create an inviting view for passers-by and provide a pleasing, natural backdrop for other landscape elements. 
Even the uniform lawn surface provides a sense of coherence and harmony to the entire landscape scene. This peaceful setting contributes to a feeling of well being and can even decrease emotional tension.
Did you know? Restful green lawn areas can reduce:

+ noise levels
+ hot summer temperatures (evapo-transpiration of moisture through the leaves)
+ Carbon dioxide (while increasing Oxygen levels)
+ air conditioning costs
+ glare and light reflection
+ particulate pollution in the air  

Of the two major categories of turf available in Georgia (warm season and cool season) Fescue lawns are a cool season grass that remains green all year. Crabapple LandscapExperts maintain a detailed calendar to ensure that its clients with Fescue lawns receive the best possible service precisely when needed.  Best practices include an application of fertilizer in early Spring (February or March) that continues Fescue’s strong growth up to the hot days of summer.  
When recommending Fescue, Crabapple LandscapExperts recommend improved turf-type Fescue varieties with finer blades and deeper, more vigorous root systems. As a rule, they are more disease and drought resistant, tolerating shade and temperature extremes better than some of the older Fescue varieties.
Fertilizer is carefully selected to best enhance foliar growth, creating a strong, lush, green Fescue lawn. Your LandscapExperts determine the amount of fertilizer by careful soil testing. When indicated, lime is added on a late-summer schedule to balance the acid/basic soil reaction and make sure the Fescue turf efficiently uses recommended fertilizer.
Check with the LandscapExperts to determine if your Fescue lawn needs aeration or overseeding services to reach its maximum potential. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Repairing Ice Damage on Trees and Shrubs

UGA Urban Ag photo
Ice damaged, split or bent trees and shrubs often can be saved. Both Patience and Training are required.

First, wait until the ice melts and the branches begin to recover by themselves before evaluating the damage. Do not waltz outside with a chainsaw because safety is a big issue, and limbs under tension may snap back. Smaller branches can sometimes be cleaned up with loppers.

Ask your Crabapple LandscapEXPERTS Rep for an evaluation to see how we can help the landscape you manage.

1. If the ice load has yanked the root ball out of the ground and toppled the tree we will:

  • trim roots
  • excavate hole
  • rock back in place
  • use three equally placed stakes to secure it upright 
  • water as though it was a new planting

Ice coating twig,
photo by Liz Castro
2. If the tree or shrub has suffered broken limbs or splitting we will:
  • decide if it must be taken out entirely (think, "fire wood")
  • consider the shape of the tree or shrub AFTER pruning before making the first cut
  • clean wounds by cutting smoothly back to the trunk
  • don't expect "wound paint" which research has shown does not aid healing
Digging Deeper: 

University of Georgia Advice on Ice Damage

UGA Urban Ag Advice on Ice Damaged Trees

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Moss Lawns, No-Mow Alternative Landscape Surface for Dense Shade

The Moss Garden, Bloedel Reserve,
Washington State, USA
 America is the land of the lawn, and typically our clients ask Crabapple LandscapExperts to remove moss from their lawns.

But moss also can be used as a bona fide landscape surface. According to the New York Times, “moss makes a lush, no care lawn” and the use of native and drought-resistant plants like moss as a sustainable substitute for grass is becoming a major design trend.

CrabappleLandscapExperts know that Moss Lawns have only two requirements: shade and moisture. They are not a new concept, but have been used in Asia for more than 4,000 years.

Termed a “lower plant,” moss is a Bryophyte lacking true roots, flowers, fruits or seeds. The small plants are composed of leaves and stems that absorb water and nutrients directly and that reproduce by spores. Two types of widely adapted spreading mosses, sheet moss (Hypnum sp.) and fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum), are used to get moss lawns started, and then many native mosses fill in naturally. 

Many Benefits of Moss Lawns
  • native
  • fast grower 
  • grows in shade and dense shade
  • grows on poor and compacted soils (as well as on good soils and even rock)
  • grows on acid, neutral or alkaline soils
  • organic, no chemicals needed
  • maintains a low-growing profile
  • prefers even moisture
  • goes dormant during drought, but revives with the return of water
  • lends even new gardens an aged look
  • prevents soil erosion 
  • acts as a moisture-retentive mulch 
  • when dense, repels weeds 
  • combines beautifully with shade wildflowers and perennials 
  • unpalatable to deer 
  • walkable surface 
  • does not need fertilizer 
  • needs much less water than standard turf  
  • needs very little maintenance

Moss Lawn
 Interesting in exploring options for deep shade? Ask Eric High, Crabapple Enhancements Estimator, about converting to a moss lawn on a property you manage at 770-740-9739.

Digging Deeper

Read Steve Bender’s August 2012 article in Southern Living Magazine on Moss Lawns:

Sheet moss (Hypnum sp.) and Fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) are available by mail order from in Raleigh/Durham NC and in Massachusetts.

New York Times article headlined “Moss Makes a Lush, No Care Lawn.”

and another Lawn Alternative:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Rid of Moss in Lawns

photo by Brian Cross

Crabapple LandscapExperts lawn care services create a thick, healthy lawn for their commercial clients, with no room for moss to grow. However, homeowners sometimes ask about getting rid of moss in their home lawns. 

First, What is Moss?

What Causes the Growth of Moss in Turf?
CrabappleLandscapExperts can determine the causes of moss in your lawn. The following chart shows the causes of moss as well as ways to eliminate moss through cultural controls.  


Dense Shade

Limb up or remove trees to allow more sunlight
Decreased Air Circulation

Evaluate placement of woody ornamentals
Compacted Soils

Till or aerate soil
Infertile Soils

Add compost
Acidic Soils with Low pH

Treat with dolomitic lime
Wrong choice of turf (bare spots)

Select the proper shade-tolerant variety of lawn
Excess Moisture

Add drainage
Shallow roots
Rake out moss with a landscape rake
Drainage Problems
Mix Permatill or small gravel with the soil or add drainage tiles, drainage ditch or dry creek bed
Excessive Thatch

Dethatch the area and remove the thatch

Crabapple LandscapExperts will be happy to consult on your commercial landscape. Please phone us at 770-740-9739. 

Digging Deeper

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Heat Up Your Commercial Interior with Plantscaping by Crabapple

Hilton Garden Inn interior
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
Crabapple has widened its capabilities to encompass Interior Plantscaping, providing equally effective on indoor landscapes.
Crabapple LandscapExperts is the fifth largest landscape maintenance company in Georgia, professionally caring for the outdoor properties of many commercial, retail, business, resort, and community-living clients. Lawns, landscapes, playgrounds, public meeting areas, flower beds, circulation and pathways, irrigation, lighting and surfaces are professionally maintained to the highest industry standards by the LandscapExperts team.
Variegated tropical foliage + flowers
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
Crabapple Floriculture/Seasonal Color Managers work with a talented group of professionals in the Enhancements Department to create colorful and healthy flower beds for Crabapple clients. They meets with clients, designs, purchases, installs and coordinates the maintenance schedules of Crabapple’s seasonal color beds and containers to insure their appeal, health, vigor and year-round beauty.
Tropical Flowers enliven the display
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
When longtime client the Hilton Garden Inn in Cartersville, Georgia approached the Enhancements Department for an interior plan to augment their attractive entrance and grounds, she drew on her seasonal color design experience to create a striking interior landscape for the Lobby of the Inn substituting tropicals. “When Hilton reached out to Crabapple’s Enhancement Department for assistance, I was thrilled to take on the project,” she noted.
Foliage plants in the Inn's Lobby
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
CrabappleLandscapExperts advise commercial and residential managers and HOAs that interior plantscaping:
Dramatically welcomes guests and residents
Reinforces the “Garden Inn” theme of the Hilton
Adds to a feeling of well-being
Reduces stress indoors (and out)
Improves air quality by increasing oxygen and humidity to the Lobby air
Decreases carbon dioxide and dust motes
Reduces background noise 

Planting Area
Bright light from multiple windows
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
The containers were purchase ahead of time by the Hilton Garden Inn. The largest containers stand about four feet tall with a planting area of five square feet.
Inventory of Site Conditions
Crabapple’s inventory of site conditions in the Hotel Lobby revealed the perfect lighting for interior landscaping. Bright indirect natural light from many windows is supplemented with soft light from many electrical fixtures. These conditions match light requirements for a large number of  interior plants in the tropical palette. Most interior plants we use come from the tropical rain forest where the days are bright but get very little direct sunlight.  
LandscapEXPERTS Expertise
Lower container of mixed tropicals
photo by Chessa Azzolesi
Drawing on seasonal color design experience, the interior team sourced the tropical plant material, then combined foliage colors, fine and bold textures, varying heights, tropical blooms and growth patterns in tropical plants to produce a luxurious, easily-maintained tropical bower welcoming Hotel guests.  
CrabappleLandscape Experts can create an indoor environment for you!
About 90% of time is spent indoors. Interior plants are an ideal way to create attractive settings for hotels, professional buildings, neighborhood clubhouses, and shopping centers, really anywhere. Indoor plants not only convert carbon dioxide onto oxygen; they trap and absorb many harmful pollutants, all the while enhancing our sense of well-being. Indoor environments add to the d├ęcor and overall ambience of your workplace, hotels and amenity buildings. Crabapple would love to come out and meet with you to discuss and plan your interior landscapes. We can build it from the ground up. Crabapple is now creating outstanding indoor environments!  
Interior Plantscaping
photo by Chessa Azzolesi

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winterkill: Trace a Branch to Determine if it is Dead - Repair Winter Damage

Scraped Trace reveals Greenwood
 Pruning out dead wood on woody ornamentals is a continual job and a skill Crabapple LandscapExperts have developed when pruning the properties you manage. Sometimes it is obvious that wood is dead:
  • No leaves or dead leaves amid green leaves 
  • Brown needles 
  • Bark is dead 
  • Presence of fungus growing on dead wood
Other times, it's necessary to run a test in order to scientifically determine if the branch is dead or not, and to recognize where the winter kill ends. 

When to Trace
Scrape the branch to determine if any greenwood is present beneath the bark. Tracing is especially useful in late January and in February, when deciduous woody ornamentals are leafless and “everything looks dead”.

Obviously dead branch
bark is peeling off
Make a small wound or scrape on the bark of the suspected twig or branch. With a thumbnail, a pruning knife or open pruners, shave a thin slice of bark off of the branch about the size of a fingernail. Check for greenwood which is actually the active cambium layer. When Crabapple finds green color, we know the branch is alive. A dull or olive green color is not as promising as a bright, light green with moist sap, but any green means the branch is not dead yet. Completely brown means the branch is dead.

“Trace back” down the branch is a good way to determine how far the die back extends, telling us where to prune the branch. Crabapple follows up with another trace a bit further down the branch to determine the extent of the winter kill. After a pruning cut, the limb will resprout from dormant buds, typically at leaf nodes. 

Call your Crabapple Rep for all your winter pruning needs, 770-740-9739.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

5 Types of Cold Damage to Landscape Plants

Winter Leaf Scorch,
U DE, R. Mulrooney
Plants vary tremendously in their tolerance to cold temperatures. The U.S.D.A. publishes a Hardiness Zone Map that is based on decades of data and indicates Atlanta is in Zone 8A. This is used as a guide when choosing plants. Crabapple recommends the selection of plants that are reliably cold hardy in our area, and then excellent maintenance during the growing season, as the two best ways to guard against cold damage. Factors that affect plant selection include minimum and maximum daily temperatures, difference between day and night temperatures, and average daytime and nighttime temperatures. Location/site/microclimate in the landscape also plays a role.

Winter Burn or Desiccation Injury
Atlanta is filled with needle leaf evergreens (pine) and broad leaf evergreens such as camellias, tea olives, holly, anise and boxwood that keep the winter landscape green. Unfortunately, the broad leaf evergreens are more prone to winter burn or leaf desiccation injury than dormant, deciduous trees and shrubs.

Winter Leaf Burn,
photo Glen Jacobsen
Winter burn occurs when the absorption of water by the roots cannot keep up with the amount of moisture lost by the foliage (transpiration). When the soil is frozen the roots cannot absorb water or translocate it up to the leaves to replace what is lost, and this results in leaf desiccation. This occurs on sunny and windy days, on days that are exceedingly cold (or hot), as well as when the soil is frozen and the plant cannot absorb water, or in a drought situation. Injury appears as brown leaf margins or needle tips. Usually the leaves are injured but dormant buds survive.

  • A 3-inch layer of organic mulch (pine straw, woodchips, or leaves) helps to insulate the ground and moderate the soil moisture level.   
  • The microclimate of a garden plays a big role in actual garden temperature. Changes in elevation, cold air drainage, sun exposure, and thermal heat mass (surrounding buildings, pavement or rocks) will make some gardens significantly warmer or cooler than the temperatures recorded for the area. Air drainage cold air sinks to the lowest spot. 
  • Knowledgeable advance siting is important at the planting stage for broadleaf evergreens, and  includes such considerations as protection from winter wind and/or the direct rays of early morning sun. Crabapple accomplishes this by planting in the airy shade of tall pines, or on the west side of a building, wall or hedge.  
  • Landscape plants should be well-watered prior to the cold blast. Luckily, there is plenty of moisture in metro-Atlanta soil due to our recent hard rains. 
  • Anti-desiccants (brand names include Wilt Proof or Moisturin) can be sprayed on broadleaf evergreens to reduce the amount of water lost through leaves. However, leaves lose water through the same pores that take in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, so the overuse of antidesiccants can be toxic to plants.

Freezing injury
Freeze injury to Camellia
blossoms, Geri Laufer
When temperatures get too low, plants are susceptible to freezing injury. Flower buds are frequently affected, for example peach, dogwood, magnolia, forsythia or hydrangea flowers may not bloom well after an extremely cold winter. 

Container plants are more vulnerable to polar cold snaps than in-ground landscape plants and will benefit from some protection. Containerized nursery stock have small, above ground root balls that freeze easily, and newly planted bare uoot or balled-and-burlapped plants with their reduced root systems, are also very susceptible.

One method of protection: remove branches from discarded Christmas trees (plentiful this week) and lay over the tops of nursery flats or pots. Then bury the whole area in fallen leaves. (Do not cover with plastic, because direct sun hitting the plastic can steam-cook the crops.)  

As for woody ornamentals planted in decorative accent containers, wooden, foam or plastic planters usually come through freezes just fine, but clay pottery can break if subjected to freezing temperatures. Move them to an unheated garage for a day or two to get over the worst of the weather.

Winter injury, thin bark split
U of OH, "split happens"
Freeze cracks/sun scald
Sometimes it isn't really the cold temperatures that cause problems, but rapid fluctuations between warmth and cold as temperatures climb and plunge. Bark on some trees may split on the southwest side due to rapid temperature changes. Thin-barked trees such as cherries and maples are most likely to crack. Shade protection or wrapping with tree wrap may give protection against frost cracks. If thin-bark trees have split, call Crabapple LandscapExperts to shape and clean the wounds so they can heal over properly.

Frost injury
Frost injury typically occurs in low-lying frost pockets, especially at the beginning or end of the cold season, when summer annuals and vegetables can get that “wilted lettuce look” or camellia petals or early-blooming magnolia flowers are turned brown in a late cold snap. Delicate petals and new leaves are the most susceptible to frost damage. One way to avoid frost damage is to select late-flowering cultivars that bloom in the spring instead of the early ones.

Winter Frost Heave,
Missouri Botanical Garden
Soil heaving
Soil heaving results from alternate freezing and thawing of the soil and is rarely a problem in metro-Atlanta. Shallow perennial plant roots are pushed out of the soil leaving them exposed to cold and drying winds. Good root establishment helps to protect from heaving, but some plants (mums, strawberries) have characteristically shallow roots and are prone to heaving. 

Replant perennials that have been tossed out of the ground and water-in. Reduce heaving with an application of organic mulch, such as 3 inches of pine straw, wood chips or shredded leaves. Snow cover (also rare in metro-Atlanta) also acts as an insulation for perennials and often prevents heaving. 

January 4, 2014
History of Cold Temperatures in Hotlanta
Arctic Blast
10 coldest temps recorded at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport:
1. -8 degrees (January, 1985)
2. 0 (January, 1982)
3. 1 (December, 1985)
4. 5 (December, 1989)
5. 5 (January, 1994)
(tie)6. 6 (January, 1986 and February, 1996)
8. 8 (January, 2003)
9. 9 (January, 1985)
10. 10 (January, 1996)

Call your Crabapple LandscapExperts for help with winter damage to the landscapes you manage.