was a study completed by a major magazine several years
ago that asked folks what they wanted in their lives. Along
with a safe place to live and good schools for their children,
green grass and trees ranked as one of the top three. And
now that I think about it, Almost everyone likes trees for
one reason or another. Trees produce glorious shade so important
for the southern landscape. A house surrounded by by large
trees is worth more money than a house without them. A house
with no trees near it looks hot in summer, appears unbalanced
and suggests, however unjustly a lack of interest on the
part of those who live there.
When you buy a tree, don't thing of it as a cost, instead
think of it as an investment. You can't really say that
about too many other things. Buy a car and as soon as you
drive it off the lot, it loses a great deal of it's value.
But buy a young tree and every year as it grows, it becomes
more valuable and more beautiful.
So how do you know if your trees are healthy. Here's a couple
of things to look for as possible signs of tree ailments.
Large, dead branches in the tree. This could be a sign that
there is significant root damage beneath this part of the
tree. Mushrooms present at the base of the tree. This is
an indication of one of several fungal diseases present
in the root system or the base of your tree. Cracks or splits
in the trunk. Especially in the south, we get quite a bit
of bark splitting in the winter due to freezing and thawing.
Lots of small, branches coming from the main trunk of the
tree. A few of these are quite normal and nothing to be
alarmed about, but if the majority of new branches are growing
like this, the tree is stressed. Premature leaf drop. If
you have a tree that losses it's leaves in the middle of
the summer for example.
Irrigating Big Trees
When it gets hot and dry in the summer, we
think about watering our
plants. We forget about our trees thinking that they have
roots and don't need a watering boost. That is not correct.
one of the best ways to water your trees is with a soaker
hose. Place it
around the "drip line" and, if watering restrictions
permit, water about
once a week. The drip line is the area under the outermost
this is where the feeder roots are located and should be
an ideal spot
for placing the hose. It is a good idea to mulch under the
conserve water just as you would your annuals.
Caliper of Trees
When we buy trees "caliper" is often mentioned.
What is the caliper of a tree? Caliper is the diameter in
inches of the tree measured 4 feet from ground level and
we use a caliper to take the measurement. When buying a
tree the root ball should be 10"-12" in diameter
for each caliper inch.
When I select plants are those that are striking
AND toughand adaptable. Plants that offer a lot of visual
energy and can handle a variety of conditions and stresses
normally get high marks from me. That's why I am particularly
fond of Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
First, bald cypress is a native to the Southeast US. But
to show you how hardy it is, trees can grow as far north
as Minnesota! It is also a real tough tree, very flexible.
In fact it grows along the coast and it's one of the few
trees that doesn't get destroyed after a hurricane. It's
very wind firm. The wood is lightweight and bendable and
very disease and decay resistant. Ever heard of a cypress
post or fence?
From a design standpoint, it creates a hauntingly beautiful
effect, esp. in mass. The leaves are very delicate, sort
of fern-like and fine textured. The trunk becomes reddish
brown, cinnamon brown as the tree ages with these vertical
strips of bark with a very shallow furrow. It's deciduous,
so in the fall leaves turn a coppery brown and drops whole
twigs of leaves instead of individual leaflets.
Take a look at these bumps in the ground around the tree.
These are cypress 'knees' and these are a bump-like growth
that comes from the root system. You typically see lots
of these when the tree is planted in wet or soggy soil.
Rarely do you see them when the plant is planted in dry
soil. Some folks say the purpose of them is for the roots
to breathe or exchange gases but some research has shown
that they are really not necessary for that so the verdict
is still out.
About the only requirement are full sun and acidic soil
but after that it is extremely adaptable. It is naturally
found where there is lots of moisture but I've seen it growing
in extremely dry conditions. If it get really dry for extended
periods of time, it may drop all its leaves but with little
long term damage to the tree. Doesn't mind lack of fertilizer
but if you really want it to grow quickly (and it will,
up to 2- 2 ½ feet a year) then a general purpose 10-10-10
will speed the growth significantly. Give him some room
as trees can get as tall as 100 feet in the right conditions.
So, if you're looking for something out of the ordinary
but extremely durable and find its feet regardless of the
conditions, try Bald Cypress, It's one of my favorites.
When you see a black covering on your Holly Bush,
look carefully, it may
be Sooty Mold. Parasitized Aphids are the cause. Lady bugs
Crawlers are natural predators and can keep some infestations
control. In some cases it is best to just cut the bush back
spring and start over.
Rick likes Fig Trees and a hot new area is "edible
is becoming a wonderful way to enjoy great tasting fruit
and landscape your yard at the same time. They get 15 to
25 feet tall and are outstanding choices for low maintenance
and interesting foliage texture. Take a look at these leaves,
they're bright green, rough to the touch, they have 3-5
lobes and cast dense shade. I've seen folks use figs in
large containers(just make sure the container is at least
18" deep) , trained or espaliered against the wall and make
them a two-dimensional plant (might want to select varieties
that can really take the heat) Easy and yet very good looking.
Very handsome small trees, they'll catch you eye, so put
them where you want the eye to go. Becareful about the fruit
as it drops it can attract bees or yellow jackets. But it's
a great looking tree that creates a warm, friendly tropical
The best thing about figs is that they are very low maintenance.
I have never seen a bug on one. I've never seen any serious
fungus or bacteria affect them either. This is so unlike
so many other fruit trees in our area that need to be babied
and coddled to really produce fruit abundantly. About the
only thing I've heard of them getting is fig rust. It looks
like small yellow-green flicks on the leaves. The top of
the leaves are smooth but the bottoms look blistered. This
one's easy to fix, It overwinters on the dead figs and debris
on the ground, so clean that up in the winter and you shouldn't
have many problems. If it keeps coming back, try hort oil
or lime sulfur during the winter
Figs are not particular about their soil. They like full
sun but can take some shade, especially in the afternoon.
They're not heavy feeders. In fact if you put too much Nitrogen
fertilizer on them, they'll put on a lot of foliage and
very little fruit. Figs don't need pollinating either, so
one plant is all you need. .
Figs really do not need to be pruned very much. Just remove
the branches that cross or conflich with one another, any
dead wood and maybe some of the lower branches if you want
to plant anything underneath.
As far as varieties, there are many that thrive in our
area. I've got two favorites that adaptable to most areas
in the south. Brown Turkey - (also known as San Pedro and
Black Spanish) it has a purplish brown skin and amber fruit,
it's great for fresh eating.
The most widely grown fig in the South is Celeste. Like
brown turkey its pretty cold hardy and its great for fresh
eating as well (which is how I like to eat figs so I guess
that's why they're my favorites) LSU has developed some
really nice varieties lately, so you may want to check them
LSU GOLD , bright yellow extremely sweet fruit, LSU PURPLE,
great fruit but a very vigorous, fast growing tree, LSU
EVERBEARING which bears from July to fall. That's unlike
most other varieties which bear fruit now and again in late
August or September if the plant receives lots of moisture
and the right growing conditions all summer.
Figs are a great choice if you're looking for something
easy to take care of, great looking and sweet to eat.
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