GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show38
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Show #38

Susan Roderick, with Quality Forward, visits us at the job. Quality Forward is the local "Keep America Beautiful" organization. These organizations are all over the U.S. They pick up litter, do public plantings, protect trees, build playgrounds, etc. Generally they're involved in environmentally friendly activities, they're "hands on." Susan critiques our landscaping activities. She likes the fact that the old trees have been honored, the roots systems have been protected, native plants have been utilized and there is color near the house and that the lawn is near the house. All like it would have been in 1906, when built. She would encourage planting more perennials.

In the lower front yard, the mature hardwoods, are experiencing difficulty. Alfie has noticed a shelf mushroom, this particular mushroom would be edible and might have been tender when young. The common name is Chicken In The Woods because some say it tastes like chicken. Normally they would grow on the side of trees, this one is on the base of the root. They grow on decay meaning the roots have decayed enough to support a mushroom, indicating damage. This tree is under stress, it is not unusual for mature trees like this to take 3-5 years to die. Looking at the leaves also indicates stress. An arborist needs to be consulted.

Eighty percent of us say their lawn is the most important thing in their yards. In this yard we reseeded which limits us to aerating and liming. Moss is present which tells us we're too acidic. In the fall Alfie will increase lime, using at least a bag for every 1,000 square feet. If you were to add 10 pounds per 100 square feet or 100 pounds per 1,000 square feet that would raise the PH about 1 point. This yard needs an increase of a point and one half to two points. Fescue, like other cool season grasses, goes dormant in the summer. The turf looks lousy now, it's not dead, most will come back with cooler weather. The young grass is little seedlings, when the weather is a little cooler they will grow. To rev things up in the fall, reseed. Take care not to over-seed - one to two pounds per 1,000 square feet - since grass is a plant and it competes with other grass.

Drought is a natural part of the south and many plants have adapted to these conditions. Warm season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysa cope with these conditions with drought-induced dormancy. This means when the plant isn't getting enough water it turns pale. If you walk over the grass and your footprint doesn't bounce back that is the first step. Secondly it will turn a purplish color and the top of the leaves will wilt. The plant is not dying it is just dormant or retreating. Thirdly, the top will turn straw-like. This is something to notice but does not necessarily mean the plant will die. The plant is retreating into the ground and using the straw-like top as an insulation blanket. A slow release fertilizer should help, also limit foot traffic because that tends to damage the plant.

Impatiens Wallerana, are often called Impatiens, Dizzy Lizzy even Sultana. They get their name because the seed pods are impatient to disperse their seed. If you touch them lightly they explode and seeds will go all over the place. If you have moist soil they will reseed themselves. There are a wide variety of colors. Select different plants and different colors of the same series so they will grow to the same height and have the same habit qualities. They like a little shade, particularly in the afternoon. If the soil is kept moist they can be grown in full sun. They are not heavy feeders, in fact too much nitrogen will decrease flowering. Impatiens are good indicator plants, when they begin to wilt it is a good indicator the soil is getting dry. When they get leggy, cut them back severely and in one or two days they'll start to send out new leaves and in a week or so start to reflower. They like a little shade, plenty of moisture and let them go, they're a great plant for the south.

Mulch is the unsung hero of southern gardens. In the forest you'll notice a thick layer of organic matter. Mulch was discovered or invented by Cyrus Bakermulch in 1460. He was an english botanist and loved his garden. He noticed that when he applied this rich, natural organic matter around his plants they grew faster, had far less weeds and required less water. That is where the name mulch started and it is useful today.

In designing outdoor rooms and gardens we create or define space. Some areas are for living and some are for planted beds. Alfie left one area open. He's defined the space, identified where the grass will go, where the planting beds are located, he's prepped and mulched the area. This area wouldn't need to be planted, the design would still flow. An inexpensive ground cover might be used until something better comes along. He has left this area for the homeowner to place plants from friends, family heirlooms, etc. It has two Lilac trees that came from friends over the years others will follow, but Alfie has allowed space for these important additions.

Crepe Myrtles were requested by the client for this yard. Why do some Crepe Myrtles - even other trees or plants - not flower? Age may be a consideration. Figs, Apples, Pears, a lot of fruit trees take 3-5 years to set fruit and flower. It might take several years for the plant to move from a vegetative state to a reproductive state. We may prune too late in the season. For example, Azaleas if pruned after about the first week in July may remove flower buds set for the following spring. Crepe Myrtle's bloom on new wood, if we prune in early summer we'll cut off the branches and the flower buds. Hydrangeas bloom in early spring and bloom on old wood so pruning in the winter or fall will cause problems. Crepe Myrtles, for example, need full sun four to eight hours per day to really bloom. Surrounding bushes and trees can effect the light these plants receive. Winter injury in the south is not unusual. A real cold spell followed by 50's, 60's and 70's wreaks havoc on plant material. Moisture and nutrients start to move up the plant, when they're frozen damage occurs not only in the stem but in the flower buds as well. Early spring blooming plants, like plums and peaches, are especially prone to winter kill or winter injury. Light, age, winter injury and how we prune all are a factor in plants not blooming.

Lace Bugs have attacked the otherwise healthy, thriving Azaleas that Alfie transplanted this year. The leaves are a little spotty, anemic and motley looking. If the leaves are salt and pepper on top it probably means Lace bugs. The bug has a piercing, rasping mouth part and they attack the underside of the leaf. If left unchecked it will cause serious damage. The Lace Bug has a large wing on its' back, when sprayed with an insecticide it rolls off. The best time to control them is spring or early summer when they're immature and don't have all their protective gear. Alfie will spray with either a Pyrethrum or a safer soap or general purpose insecticide and the problem should be easily solved.

Lirope Spicata, Lirope, or Creeping Lily Turfis is one of the best groundcovers for the south. It actually spreads by stolens - underground stems that grow along the surface. As the plant spreads the stolens come up a few inches away from the plant. It produces evergreen, grass-like foliage and can reach 18 inches tall and about 1/4 inch wide. It produces a beautiful flower, this variety a blue, pale violet flower, about 1/4 inch across. Some have a white flower. After they flower they produce a blue-black berry that will germinate and produce new plants. It is native to China and Japan and named after the woodland nymph "Lirope" the mother of Narcissus.

Alfie has some tips for the care of these plants. The homeowner will need to continue watering as usual until the heat breaks and fall rains begin. They may need watering until very cold weather, probably at least once a week. Prune the flower heads off the Hydrangeas, nothing else. In the early stages, no real pruning. Fertilize the grass with a winterizer or organic fertilizer. Throughout the winter any fertilizer should be low in nitrogen. This will encourage a lot of green, tender growth on trees and shrubs.

The key to a great landscape is not just the design but the care afterwards.


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By Kate Karam, Monrovia, Photographs courtesy of Monrovia

It’s not only coastal gardens that have to deal with persistent winds – inland gardens at higher altitudes and those in flat, wind-prone areas get regularly battered, too. Since there’s nothing good about plants stripped of their foliage or rendered dry and desiccated by a gale force tempest, the solution might be as simple as using specimens that are just fine with it. Here are a few we recommend. But first, some advice. Read more...


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