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Summer Tree Health

There 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 large, deep
roots and don't need a watering boost. That is not correct. We've found
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 branches,
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 tree to
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.

Bald cypress

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 � 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.

Sick Holly

When you see a black covering on your Holly Bush, look carefully, it may
be Sooty Mold. Parasitized Aphids are the cause. Lady bugs and Scale
Crawlers are natural predators and can keep some infestations under
control. In some cases it is best to just cut the bush back in early
spring and start over.

Dr. Rick likes Fig Trees and a hot new area is "edible landscape."

Edible landscaping 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 look

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 as well.

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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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photos courtesy of Suntory Flowers

As summer heats up, the garden party is just beginning for gorgeous, tropical mandevillas. To learn more click here for an interesting article.

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