Pruning

Pruning is one of the major tasks that we perform each year. If we have lots of moisture in May and June it starts to look as if we live in more tropical climes. The growth is just spectacular and abundant. This means we will spend two months pruning landscapes.

Daylilies

Daylilies

Coneflower

Coneflower

We do almost 90% of our pruning by hand using shears only on plants that clients like to see this look. Hand pruning gives us the ability to shape plants according to their natural shape. It also allows us to maintain this natural shape while letting light into the core of the plant and also maintaining plants to a certain size. This can be due to space limitations or simply the client’s wish to have a plant maintained at a certain size. Plants like Repandans Yew and Cherry Laurel can be pruned by selecting branches that are elongating and cutting them back inside the plant so that you are reducing the overall size of the plant, allowing light into the center and hiding all your cuts at the same time. Take a plant such as the Procumbens Juniper that has grown to the edge of the sidewalk. The only way lots of contractors cut this is with their line trimmer creating a wall of brown, unattractive Juniper. Using the hand pruning technique we are able to, in one session; remove the dead buildup from underneath the plant and allowing the beautiful top foliage to fall naturally to the edge of the pavement. This can be done year after year maintaining a nice, natural edge to the Juniper.

As is the usual in the Washington, DC metro area the Summer weather is pretty predictable. We are going to see hot, humid weather. The months of May and June were perfect incubators for fungal diseases as we had an abundance of rain with many days of constant cloudiness. Trees such as Sycamore saw their expanding leaves hit hard with fungus and defoliate. Cherries too. Sycamores have refoliated while Cherries and Amelanchiers will be ok but will not set new leaves. Lots of bizarre fungi are decorating our mulched beds. I normally see this on beds mulched with hardwood mulch but this is the first year I am seeing it in beds with shredded pine mulch.

Late Summer perennials

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ combined with pink Aster

 

What will September bring? By most standards we have experienced a mild Summer. No drought and no extended periods of high temperatures. Gardens and lawns are very much appreciative and growth has continued uninterrupted. Asters, Helianthus, Jo Pye Weed, Crepe Myrtles and Toad Lilies – all blooming or coming into bloom as I write this. Proof that late Summer has plenty of color to offer gardeners. So far mother nature has cooperated by giving us timely rain. Remember though that plants can still use about an inch of water per week so don’t forget to water if the rains did not soak your neighborhood.

We are entering the window to work on our lawns here in late August. Depending on your lawns’ needs, that may be as simple as aeration and seeding or even a total restoration. If it’s the latter make sure to get your herbicide down now as the area being killed off will need a little recovery time before proceeding ahead with seeding.

 

 

 

I have a late season nesting of Wrens in a little ceramic house that hangs at the edge of my deck with the pond being just a few feet away. You can see the Wisteria that provides cover as the parents zoom in and out of their little house. It’s fun to watch and listen to them as they chatter away as the parents perform housecleaning and feeding chores. I don’t have any idea how many chicks there are but they are noisy when they are hungry. It sounds like a good healthy nest full. Here’s to successful fledging.

Wrens

Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily

August 2014

 

Well it’s been a heckuva season so far this year. First, Winter never seemed to want to let go, delaying the start to the Spring season by nearly 6 weeks. It seemed as if Spring bloomed all at once. Between early Spring pruning, the grass growing and planting annuals, it took us until the middle of July before we finished Spring cleanups. Without thinking too much about it, I’m sure that is some type of record. Since then we have had pretty good rains (certainly enough to keep us out of any drought) plus really up and down Summer weather. The few spurts of high temps combined with low humidity has made our weather very pleasurable this Summer.

As I thought, we saw plants die off for “no” reason well into July. The real reason being that many plants suffered root damage from the unusually cold weather. They had enough reserves to leaf out but then when it came time to support all the new growth, plants just didn’t have enough roots to support themselves. It’s rarely one thing that kills off an established plant. It’s usually a culmination of factors with one final blow delivered by the latest insult to their integrity. A suggestion to help plants get through Winter is a thorough watering as late in the season as can be managed. This will help any plants combat the effects of Winter cold and winds.

It’s also been a robust year for plant growth. Gardens have needed a lot of attention this year to contain all the new growth. We have been focused on pruning since completion of the Spring cleanups. It’s been a lot of work to hand prune as much as we do. I think though that our clients will tell you that the results are worth it.

Finally, it seems to be a bumper year for Crepe Myrtles. The bloom this year is fantastic!

Swallowtail butterflies on Joe Pye Weed

Swallowtail butterflies on Joe Pye Weed

Japanese beetles on Marigolds

Japanese beetles on Marigolds

 

Summer 2013

 

As usual Summer is completely unpredictable here in the Baltimore Washington area. After that gray, gloomy June early July looked a lot more like Summer with 5 days of pretty hot weather but since then it has been a fairly cool Summer. We have even been treated to 2 stretches of spectacular low humidity weather. What does all this mean for our landscapes? In the long term – very little. We are getting decent amounts of rain so the water table is getting replenished. In the short term however we are going through our usual plethora of fungal diseases (lawns look terrible) that brings with them rotten annuals and tomatoes and, in overcrowded landscapes, lots of inner die back in plant material due to fungal induced rot.

 

As far as annuals go in this area, it is really a guessing game in the Spring each year as to what to plant. As everyone knows by now we really didn’t have the luxury of our old standby Impatiens this year due to the emergence of Downy mildew so everyone searched for suitable replacements. I think a lot of us found out New Guinea Impatiens, while not affected by Downy mildew, do not perform as well as their cousins in shade. Caladium will probably be seeing a lot more use as this is a reliable performer in shade. Petunias, for the most part, did poorly this year and my testing of them in deeper and deeper shade did not turn out well. Petunias will take some shade but basically need a lot of sun and dry weather to shine. I used Torenia in total shade (but lots of light) and it did well.

 

I do a little vegetable gardening at my home by incorporating tomatoes into a flower bed that gets 5 hours of sun each day. I bought 6 different plants this year of which only 2 were tomatoes I have grown in the past. They have not performed all that well and it’s hard to tell why. Is it our partly cloudy Summer? Does it have anything to do with the bee colony collapse that is going on around us? I can say for sure that partly cloudy has a lot to do with tomatoes as the plants do best when it is hot and dry between rains and the fruits need sun to set the sugar content of the tomato as it finishes its’ ripening process. The bee theory I will leave to the experts.

 

Now for what we are reaping due to our Summer weather. Crepe Myrtles are blooming like crazy. Growth in general has been off the charts. We are spending a lot of time pruning. Ferns and Hosta have both done well.  Joe Pye Weed has long been a favorite and it has not disappointed this year. It is in full bloom and does an amazing job of attracting interesting insects such as Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. Dahlias should perform well here in late Summer as they just love cooler nights. I’ll report back on Dahlias though. Hydrangea was doing very well until the Japanese beetles showed up. Oh well it’s Summer.