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
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
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
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.
By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist,
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
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