The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

This jade plant has been worked on for several years.  Time for more pruning

This jade plant has been worked on for several years. Time for more pruning

I am using a jade plant for pictures because the buds show up well.  The jade tree is also really good for an indoor bonsai.

To start with, look at the tip of a stem and notice the small growth bud.  This is called an “apical bud”.

The apical bud

The apical bud

At the side of the stem, just where the leaf comes out, you will find a very small growth bud.   This is called the “lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

Here’s how plant growth works.  The growth of the stem and buds is regulated by a group of hormones called “auxin compounds.”  The apical bud is dominant and it draws all of the auxins up past the lateral buds.  This enables the apical bud to develop and causes the lateral buds to remain semi dormant.

removing the apical bud

removing the apical bud

When the apical bud is removed by pruning, the lateral buds in turn become apical buds and start the elongation required for turning into a stem.  In a jade tree, the branching forms as two stalks as in the picture below.

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

Pruning helps the main trunks to develop and get bigger and stronger; this gives you a stronger and healthier plant.  If you remove the lower leaves and/or growth from the stems, the stems will turn into well defined trunks.  This is the principle behind bonsai, topiaries, and other shaped trees and shrubs.

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

I haven’t been there for a long, long time, but I once visited a monastery in Conyers, Georgia that specializes in bonsai.  The priest who was in charge said, “you should prune a tree so that a bird can fly through it.”  I have remembered that concept and I use it a lot as I shape such trees as Japanese maples (click here for an article on pruning Japanese maples).  Here is the picture of the jade tree after the pruning is finished.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

One of my next articles will be “how to start your very own bonsai.”  Keep in touch.

Some rather entertaining adventures of johntheplantman may be found in the book “Requiem for a Redneck” by John P. Schulz. Try the Kindle version

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

 

A Second Try for a Deer Proof Hillside Planting.

The driveway to the Hubbard house that I wrote about last week is over a half a mile long and it meanders up a rather steep hill through a minimally well-kept wooded area. The drive is delightful but there is one hill, on the left, right around a bend, that really needed to look nice (that’s a polite way of calling it ugly). I have a funny story about that area, also. Here’s a picture (If you look hard you may be able to make out eight or ten clumps of daylilies, the rest is weeds):

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

The are waiting for their lunch. What will johnthepantman do?

Patsy and I had talked about this area about fifteen years ago and we decided that it would look nice planted in daylilies. I found a good source for bare-root daylily divisions of many varieties and we planted 700 of them. Now, in my book, planting 700 daylilies is making quite a statement. We were happy because we all knew that we had done something special. I will never forget what happened.

A couple of days after planting the daylilies the phone rang. It was Patsy. “Where are my plants?” she asked. I hurried up to the house in a panic to find, to my dismay, that the deer had eaten the daylilies, roots and all. There was nothing left but pine straw and deer poop. It reminded me of a quote from The Hobbit, “It does not do to leave a sleeping dragon out of your calculations.”

We have talked about planting the hill again off and on over the years but mostly we have ignored it. After thinking about it for a long time we decided to use a trailing “Blue Pacific” juniper and accent it with a planting of ‘prostate plum yew.’ I found an article about the plum yew that you may enjoy, “beloved conifer” (click here)

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

plum yew, (cephalotaxus) is a good choice for a garden where there is a deer population

Before planting the project I studied the possibilities of irrigation. I knew that once these plants were grown in they would be hardy enough to get by on their own and I always try to work in a cost effective manner, so I decided to use micro misters. The drip irrigation pipe is inexpensive in 500 foot rolls and it took almost four of them to get from the water source to the end of the area where the planting would be. We kept digging to a minimum by only making a short run across a grassy area (which we buried) and then ran the rest of the pipe down the hill on the edge of the woods, fastening it with sod staples

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

drip irrigation line is cheap and efficient.

In case you are interested in the mister irrigation system, I wrote an article about it, Click Here for “installing a micro-mister system for your flower beds”. Here is a picture of a misting nozzle in operation. I really like these.

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

A micro-mister spray head. inexpensive and efficient

I went to see my favorite grower and bought a hundred juniper and fifty of the plum yew.

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

blue pacific junipers and plum yew

A week before the planting I sprayed all of the weeds with glyphosphate. On a job like this I like to use some precision for the layout so I used a tape measure, a three foot spacing stick, and my wonderful paint gun to mark the proper planting spots. We decided to use three inverted triangles of the plum yew with the juniper as a border. It should grow out beautifully.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

A marking paint gun is invaluable for laying out plantings.

The plants were carefully installed on the hillside using Osmocote in the holes for a time-release fertilizer. We finished it off with 35 bales of pine straw and turned on the water. All was well. The plants were still there the next day.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Blue Pacific juniper and plum yew on a hillside is as close as one can come to deer proof.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Time: The Fourth Dimension in the Garden

Patsy Hubbard and I were looking around her “yard” the other day. She said, “It sure does look good this year.” I replied, “Yes, and just think, it only took thirty years.”

“I hope you are taking pictures.” She remarked and the more I thought about that remark, the more I thought that it would be nice to post some pictures.

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

As you can see from the picture above, the scope of the plantings mixed with the hilltop setting range from small details to large vistas. One of the best performing flowering accent plants has been the “Miss Huff” lantana. This reliable perennial has grown to the size of about five feet high and eight feet in diameter. It is totally deer-proof, also.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Here’s a detail of the lantana. If you plant it for yourself, be sure to leave plenty of room.

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Maintaining this landscape garden calls for a lot of pruning—some of it on a ladder. I would say that we do an extended pruning/shaping three or four times a year. I liked this silhouette:

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

The walkways are on three major levels and are tied in so that they may be traveled without the need of stairs. It is an ideal ride for a motorized “scooter.” There is always something pretty, interesting, and constantly changing to look at.

A shady garden path

A shady garden path

I like to grow a mandevilla vine up to the top of the pool cabana every year. This one was purchased at Lowe’s this spring and was about three feet tall. I have tried keeping these plants inside during the winter but I have found that it is easier and cheaper to just buy a new one each spring.

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

I built this rock fountain about thirty years ago and it’s still doing fine. I love the way it offers a microcosm of the distant mountainous vistas.

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The walkway to the main entrance of the home is bordered with begonias, angelonias, Knock Out roses, and crape myrtle among other plants and is fronted by a magnificent weeping cherry.

An entrance walkway with a view

An entrance walkway with a view

Even on the hottest days there is some relief to be found on the shady pathways.

A shady garden pathway

A shady garden pathway

This has been fun. I’ll try to find some more points of interest for next week.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

After four years I finally figured out how to add a comment box to this blog. Let’s see if it works

Trucking Buddies find Giant Insects

An accidental visit to the lovely Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville was most interesting. After viewing the bonsai show we walked through the  gardens. One of the most striking exhibits was of “Big Bugs”—sculpture by David Rogers. If you like bugs there is some fun information on the Cheekwood website (Click Here).

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

Praying Mantis sculpture by David Rogers

I enjoyed studying the praying mantis and then looked off in the distance to see what looked like space invaders from War of the Worlds.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

In the distance-could it be invaders from outer space? Read on.

The garden path meandered through lovely flower plantings. I was delighted to see this sign which backed up my practice of telling people that an electric fence is, indeed, appropriate in the landscape garden.

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

A 12 volt electric fence in the garden reduces damage from deer and/or dogs

The gardener had even set out a special sign to give a reason for the fence. I didn’t need one. I knew.

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

Yes, the fancy garden has an electric fence

We walked on, enjoying the lovely day.  And then I came across the “space men” which turned out to be a granddaddy long legs spider.

giant spider

I think the sign said that this is not really a spider

I realized that I had been enjoying the signage and that perhaps I should share:

Is a daddy longlegs really a spider?

all about daddy longlegs

The artist, David Rogers, took good advantage of the reflective qualities of water as he placed his dragonfly in just the right spot.

9

giant dragonfly over a lake

giant dragonfly over a lake

And, of course, there was a sign for the dragonflies.

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I love watching dragonflies on the lake

I had seen sphinx-like statues in other gardens. This one commanded a nice view of the shade garden

Garden Sphinx

Garden Sphinx

And a sign that told me some things I hadn’t known:

about the garden sphinx

about the garden sphinx

One of my favorite pictures was this one of Sweetie in a bird cage. What they say is true, “The caged Sweetie didn’t sing.”

Yep, a caged Sweetie don't tweetie.

Yep, a caged Sweetie don’t tweetie.

For David Rogers’ website, CLICK HERE

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Trucking Buddies Stumble Upon a Bonsai Show

Dekie was studying the road atlas. She said, “Look, here’s a mention of what looks like a small botanical garden. Maybe it would be fun.” We had spent the night in Nashville on our way back to Georgia from the trip to Iowa—not because it was Nashville, but because it was a good place to stop. I’m always game for a garden and we went looking for it.

Heading South

Heading South

I’ll admit that we are a bit naïve and unaware at times. Neither of us knew that Cheekwood was a magnificent museum and garden on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places. I plan to write at least a couple of articles on this adventure. It was quite an experience for a Georgia boy and his sweetie. After paying a parking fee and another admission fee, we looked around and found that members of the Nashville Bonsai Society (or whatever they call themselves) were setting up a very nice show just for us.

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

A wonderful bonsai show was being set up just for us at Cheekwood

My wife is intrigued with bonsai and I basically shape plants for a living so we were happy to walk through and study the beautiful trees. I love the way an old pine trunk looks after years of training:

This is probably a Japanese Black Pine

This bonsai is probably a Japanese Black Pine

One of the more tedious techniques for shaping the plants is wrapping and bending wire to get the desired shapes. Copper wire is heated to gain stiffness and is then wrapped carefully around trunks and limbs.

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

bonsai tree limbs wrapped with specially treated copper wire

The bonsai process is totally detail oriented. At first glance we see and appreciate the overall shape of the tree. On closer inspection, though, we notice deeper and deeper layers of detail such as in this carefully formed and aged tree trunk.

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

A carefully sculptured and nurtured bonsai tree trunk

We were enjoying the tree below when an “old guy” started telling us about it (to me “old guy” is my age or older and should usually be listened to and venerated). He told us that the tree had been found and transplanted from a nearby mountaintop by one of their members who had served as a bonsai apprentice in Japan. I asked him what it was like to be a bonsai apprentice and he replied, “There is little or no pay, they work you like a slave and they don’t feed you.” I remember the part about getting fed.

A wind swept tree from the top of a  mountain

A wind swept tree from the top of a mountain

Dekie is working on a juniper cascade at home and she was interested in the overall shape and size of this specimen.

A bonsai in the classic "cascade" shape

A bonsai in the classic “cascade” shape

I have decided that the next plant I purchase for myself will be a Hinoki cypress—which is really not a cypress but a “cameacyperus” or false cypress. Here is a picture of a bonsai Hinoki. I also like them when they are allowed to get big.

Hinoki cypress bonsai

Hinoki cypress bonsai

I was rather taken with this three-piece arrangement. The artist will spend quite a bit of time adjusting all three of the components to just the right placement and orientation.

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

bonsai arrangement on a formal stand

A good thing to know is that these arrangements are NOT house plants and that they are NOT static. The plants are usually grown outside or in a greenhouse and moved inside the home only for short-term display.

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

bonsai arrangement on polished driftwood

You may wish to play around with bonsai. I wrote an article a few years ago that is rather popular. Click here for ‘how to start a bonsai’

Another popular article, click here for “Pruning as an art form, the basics of pruning”

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

From Wikipedia on where the Cheek’s money came from:

”Christopher Cheek founded a wholesale grocery business in Nashville in the 1880s. His son, Leslie Cheek, joined him as a partner, and by 1915 was president of the family-owned company. Leslie’s wife, Mabel Wood, was a member of a prominent Clarksville, Tennessee, family. Meanwhile, Joel Cheek, Leslie’s cousin, had developed an acclaimed blend of coffee that was marketed through Nashville’s finest hotel, the Maxwell House Hotel. Cheek’s extended family, including Leslie and Mabel Cheek, were investors. In 1928, the Postum Cereals Company (now General Foods) purchasedMaxwell House‘s parent company, Cheek-Neal Coffee, for more than $40 million.[2]

“Trucking Buddies” Enjoy Garden Features on a Trip up the Rivers

A Georgia boy needs a good “trucking buddy” and I happen to be married to mine which makes things even better. Dekie and I decided to take a road trip to see Cousin Jane in Des Moines, Iowa. The Midwest is beautiful and our gardening interests helped us to appreciate sights that varied from the smallest flower to the immense corn fields.

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Iowa corn fields with day lilies

Even though visiting Cousin Jane and her husband Terry in their new dome house was the overall immutable objective of the trip, we viewed our trip as an entity in and of itself. Good trucking buddies don’t hold interstate highways in a very high regard and prefer instead to get on the back roads and see what happens. That’s how you see the good stuff.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Town green, Le Roy, Illinois.

Before we left I didn’t really think of it as a “river trip” but we departed from Rome, Georgia, where the Oostanaula and the Etowah rivers join to form the Coosa river and we visited the Cumberland, the Missouri, the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the Des Moines rivers among others. The trip was both complicated and enhanced by the fact that the northern parts of the rivers were flooded.

Flooded Mississippi from Lover's Leap near Hannibal, Missouri--childhood home of Mark Twain

Flooded Mississippi from Lover’s Leap near Hannibal, Missouri–childhood home of Mark Twain

The flooding had been moving south. On the way north we enjoyed the riverside gardens in Peoria, Illinois. We watched immense barges full of granite gravel moving down the river. Later that week, on the way home, we saw that the barges had been tied up down around Hannibal because the river was so high they couldn’t go under some of the bridges. We had to turn around at one point because the scenic highway was impassable.

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

River front park and gardens, Peoria, Illinois

We spent a lovely evening in Davenport, Iowa where my wife enjoyed trying to find out just how far my old legs could walk. I kept up, though. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My legs ought to be a lot stronger. I sure did sleep well that night. Here’s a view of the flooded Mississippi from the bluff. I loved the daylilies.

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

Stairs, lined with yellow daylilies, leading down to the river in Davenport, Iowa

We thought Des Moines was beautiful. I was amazed at the lack of traffic problems—knowing that it was the state capitol. We had a very nice tour of the city including their museum, the World Food Prize center (which I’ll write about next week), and the botanical garden that is currently being re-vamped. I was interested in the rather large water feature with islands that was in a middle stage of construction. I was impressed with the islands being built with pallets of stacked rock. I never would have thought of that one. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a large enough budget.

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

Large water feature under construction at the Des Moines Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden must have a greenhouse or conservatory—especially way up north where tender plants and Georgia boys just don’t belong in the winter. Des Moines has a beautiful geodesic dome greenhouse. I was disappointed to find that I had failed to get a picture from the outside but the following picture will give you an idea of what’s going on.

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

From inside the greenhouse, Des Moines Botanical Garden

And speaking of domes, Jane and Terry Swanson have been working on this dome home for a number of years. It is most impressive—tornado, hail, and fire proof—and I think it could be heated with a Bic lighter. Actually, the heating is accomplished by warm water being circulated through pipes in the floor. I love the thought of a nice, warm floor to walk around barefoot on. The dome will receive a stucco-like coating this summer to cover up the skin which was used to form the concrete and steel structure. It’s quite a building. Jane is working with an entire yard full of native wildflowers and she knows the names of almost all of them.

The Swanson's new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

The Swanson’s new Dome House near Des Moines, Iowa

Not driving on the interstate took us to a surprise—the home of Superman—Metropolis, Illinois.

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

Entering Metropolis, the home of Superman

I took a wrong turn and we saw these beautiful ceramic lions guarding a door.

Ceramic lions guarding a door

Ceramic lions guarding a door

I will leave you with a quote from Mark Twain. I saw this in Hannibal and thought about how true the statement was

From Mark Twain's birth place, Hannibal Missouri

From Mark Twain’s birth place, Hannibal Missouri

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

 

 

 

 

 

These Garden Weeds Should be Sprayed–Not Pulled—Here’s Why…

Frances walked through her landscape garden with me, pointing out some of her maintenance concerns. She said, “I would like for you to hand-weed this area.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I replied.—Here’s why I said that:

There are a number of weeds that are most pervasive and undesirable in the landscape garden. These plants are so survival oriented that they spread their roots out for quite a distance. When you pull one of them as a weed it will break off from these adventitious roots which will then sprout on their own, coming up all over the place (the more you pull the more you get). If you spray these weeds with a good weed killer they will die, roots and all.

I wrote an earlier article on weed spraying techniques, Click Here: Killing Weeds in the Landscape Garden I am sure that you will find that information helpful.

If left to grow, these vines have the ability to infest and totally destroy your special shrubbery. Here are some of them:

1. Cow itch, (trumpet vine, hummingbird vine)

In the south it's called "cow itch" also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

In the south it’s called “cow itch” also trumpet vine or hummingbird vine

I loved what Wikipedia said about cow itch:

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended. Outside of its native range this species has the potential to be highly invasive, even as far north as New England. The trumpet vine thrives in many places in southern Canada as well.”

2. Saw briar (smilax)

One of the most difficult weeds to eradicate is the saw briar. The southern Indians used to dig the roots of this plant and eat them like potatoes.

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, "Smilax"

This weed is appropriately named saw brier. More technically, “Smilax”

3. Poison ivy

I assume that we all know the consequences of pulling this weed. I found it interesting that my Dutch brother-in-law pulled weeds in Tennessee and then flew to Amsterdam. The next day in Holland he broke out in a terrible itchy rash and had to go to the hospital. The doctors in Holland didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat it so they had to call The U.S. You guessed it—poison ivy

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

The dreaded poison ivy. Here is what it looks like

4. Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper is a pretty plant. My Swiss mother-in-law loves the way it looks growing up a wall. Apparently people in the northern U.S. and in some parts of Europe actually cultivate this noxious weed. Grown up the side of a house, this plant will eat out mortar joints and cause wood to rot and fall apart. In the garden it will cover and choke your desirable plants.

Virginia creeper

Virginia creeper

5 Muscadine

In the right place this grape vine is desirable. The fruits make wonderful jellies and wines. However, in the garden it will take over trees and shrubs in a rampant manner while searching for light. Remember, “a weed is a plant that is in the wrong place.”

Muscadine--a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

Muscadine–a wild grape vine that may become a difficult weed

6. Honeysuckle

There are some desirable cultivars of this plant but the wild variety can be a nuisance. The blooms do smell good and I have fond memories from my childhood that deal with pulling the bloom apart and sucking on the sweet nectar therein. Now, though, I routinely remove it from azaleas and hollies in people’s yards.

wild honeysuckle

wild honeysuckle

And to finish off this article I am including a picture of the beautiful trumpet flower of the cow itch plant. You can see why it is also called “hummingbird vine.”

"honeysuckle vine" flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

“honeysuckle vine” flower. Also called trumpet vine or cow itch

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

How do I trim mixed flower plantings to keep them from getting leggy and spindly?

Pruning is an art form. One of the best ways to practice your pruning techniques is by taking care of your mixed flower plantings as the summer progresses. (You may wish to look at my most popular article of all time, “Pruning as an Art Form” Click here).

One of my clients loves her window boxes which we plant in coco fiber lined wire containers. Last year about the end of May she told me how good the planters looked and I remarked that we needed to trim them up so that they wouldn’t get leggy and spindly. She wouldn’t let me touch them and, sure enough, they got all stretched out and leggy and falling over. This summer—the end of May—the window planters looked like this:

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

I remarked on how pretty the window planters were and she said, “We need to trim them up this week. I don’t want them to get all ugly like they did last year.” I was impressed. Someone was paying attention! I find that the tailgate of my truck makes a wonderful portable work table. Here’s one of the planters before cutting:

Window planter before trimmimg

Window planter before trimmimg

We were just in time to do the project. Some of the begonias were getting all stretched out and falling over.

stringy begonia needs pruning

stringy begonia needs pruning

If we cut the tops out of these plants, the remaining stalks will get much stronger and the plant itself will branch out and produce many more flowers. Even though it pains you to cut off some of the flowers, you may rest assured that you will get many more in return.

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Plants that trail and vine tend to bloom only on the ends of their stems. If we cut them back a bit they will branch out and therefore will have many more stem ends to bloom from. On this bacopa below, I’m just going to grab a handful and whack it off,

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I love petunias but if they aren’t pruned back several times during a season they will just not perform satisfactorily. They become leggy, stretched out and funky looking. (“funky looking” is a technical term).

petunias need periodic  pruning throughout the growing season

petunias need periodic pruning throughout the growing season

Sometimes with petunias I just grab a handful and cut it off. These plants will branch out and start blooming again in two weeks.

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

I cut the dragon wing begonias way back, being careful to make the cut right above a leaf axil. This is where the new growth will come from

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

I was being careful to cut enough to do the job but not so much that I would freak the lady out, but she surprised me by saying, “I don’t think you’re cutting enough off.” Then she asked me to show her how to do it. The pile of cuttings on the ground at her feet attests to her aggressiveness. I was impressed.

pruning them to perfection

pruning them to perfection

Below is a picture of a planter that has been properly pruned. It will grow back stronger, healthier, and more floriferous.

A well-pruned window planter

A well-pruned window planter

An article you may find interesting “Mixed flowers in a wire basket with coco fiber” Click Here

And another one on “Plants in containers for summer color” Click Here

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Hanging Baskets, Window Boxes, Raised Flower Beds, Progress Report

Yesterday—Saturday, May 31– was a good day to go check on a few of my regular clients. It was a good day in that, other than a couple of frost-damaged sprinkler heads, all was well and as it should be. I started the day checking out Dot Fletcher’s window boxes that we had planted in April. They were amazing:

Window box with begonias and petunias planted in coconut fiber basket and grown in for one month

Window box with begonias and petunias planted in coconut fiber basket and grown in for one month

I plan to prune them this week so they won’t get all straggly. Here’s another one.

begonias and bacopa in a window box

begonias and bacopa in a window box

I really like the way the window box on the corner looks with its base of manicured loropetalum. These planters are made with coconut fiber. I wrote an article about the planting process a couple of years ago,

How to plant a mixed color window box for summer color

Window box with begonias and petunias. Loropetalum at base

Window box with begonias and petunias. Loropetalum at base

The next thing I got to do was check out the coconut fiber hanging baskets at Betty’s house. They are doing well.

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container--grown in one month

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container–grown in one month

The plants really like the fiber containers. They take a lot of water but are well worth the effort. We used lots of time-release fertilizer when we planted. I wrote an article about these baskets about a month ago:

Click here. Make a beautiful flower creation with a wire basket and coconut fiber.

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container--grown in one month

Mixed flower hanging basket in coconut fiber container–grown in one month

In the afternoon I went downtown to check out the irrigation system for D’Ann. I love her name. There were some problems with the sprinklers, but not bad. I enjoyed seeing the progress she had made on planting her front yard perennial garden. I like it that she doesn’t get in a hurry.

front yard perennial with brick raised beds in May

front yard perennial with brick raised beds in May

I wrote an article last October about the installation of D’Ann’s garden. Click Here to see it

 There’s one other garden that I never wrote an article about. It’s on a hillside at the base of a retaining wall. Cathy Reese is a most accomplished gardener and I installed this for her

Raised perennial bed with landscape timbers at the base of a retaining wall

Raised perennial bed with landscape timbers at the base of a retaining wall

When I went back to check on it a few days ago she had put lots and lots of plants in it.

Cathy's raised perennial bed.

Cathy’s raised perennial bed.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

There is a rather old planting of George Tabor azaleas on the side of our driveway and Sweetie has been reminding me relentlessly for months that they need to be pruned and shaped. The last week in May or the first week in June is just the right time for the job. Here’s the “before” picture:

Azaleas at driveway need  pruning

Azaleas at driveway need pruning

There’s a reason for pruning azaleas the first week of June, too. One of my fun mental exercises for years has been to listen to the old people’s comments on growing plants and then to figure out why their techniques work. Please note that Encore azaleas are treated differently.

As for the time to prune azaleas, it’s interesting. In June, the plants have finished blooming and are entering their peak growth stages. The azalea will set its bloom for the following spring in August. The blooms are commonly borne on the growth tips and pruning at the right time increases the number of tips so that you will end up with a more compact plant and many more blooms. You may wish to read my article on Pruning as an Art Form for a concise description of what happens when you prune a plant.

I select a place to cut that is right above shorter new growth

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

One of my goals is to open up the plant canopy to allow more light to reach the inside. This will promote lower growth which will strengthen the plant. I try to keep the sides of the plant neat and pretty but I never hesitate to open up a “hole” in the top. New growth will fill this in rather quickly.

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

I’m a little over six feet tall and this plant was a bit taller than that. I try to watch for danger when I’m working in overgrown shrubbery and my diligence paid off this time. As I worked, a giant poison ivy vine was sneaking up on me. I saw it just in time and backed up. I planned to approach it slowly and carefully.

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

The only really good way to get rid of poison ivy is to spray it but I don’t want to get any spray on the azalea so I placed a garbage bag over the azalea and carefully moved the poison ivy stem on top of it.

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

Using a generic form of Roundup with glyphosphate as the active ingredient, I sprayed the tip of the plant. The chemical will enter the system of the plant and should move on down the stem and kill the roots.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

This is a good time to fertilize the azaleas, also. I grabbed a bag of azalea fertilizer at my local nursery. The analysis is 9-15-13 with the addition of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. If you don’t know about fertilizer labels, they are explained in my article “Choosing the Right Fertilizer”

azalea fertilizer

azalea fertilizer

And here’s the “after” picture. Remember what I always say—“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Now she will be free to find something else to remind me to do.

Azaleas pruned "just right"--Happy Wife, Happy Life"

Azaleas pruned “just right”–Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?