Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree? Ask Bubba

Originally posted on Johntheplantman's stories, musings, and gardening.:

Bubba calls it a Christmas Tree.

I stopped by to visit Bubba the other day and he was hanging lights on the leafless dogwood tree in his front yard.  I looked at it admiringly and asked, “Bubba, just what do you call this creation?”

Bubba backed up and grinned and told me “hit’s a Christmas tree.”

He continued, “during most of the year we call it a dogwood tree, but here about Christmas time we call it our Christmas tree.  And just to make sure it has the true spirit of Christmas, Look right here….”

He pointed to a limb.  “See here, John, here’s a bullet hanging in it.”

I sort of wondered how the bullet made it into a Christmas tree and I could feel my eyebrows rise in a questioning manner.  Bubba laughed,

The tree ain’t got no leaves on it.  Ain’t you ever heard of a Cartridge…

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Build a Christmas Tree Watering Funnel

John Schulz:

An article from last year–still useful

Originally posted on Johntheplantman's stories, musings, and gardening.:

Poor Sweetie. She loves her Christmas tree but it’s wide and bushy and I found her trying to figure out how to get water into the Christmas tree stand.  John the Plant Man to the rescue

I found poor Sweetie down on her knees wondering how she would get water to the base of the Christmas tree

I found poor Sweetie down on her knees wondering how she would get water to the base of the Christmas tree

I waited around for a while to see what she would do and I walked in to see her perplexed.

"What do I do? This is getting to be complicated"

“What do I do? This is getting to be complicated”

So, I went to Ace Hardware and got a plastic funnel and a roll of Christmas Duct tape. It was rather difficult to find Christmas colored Duct tape but it was there. I found a piece of ¾ pvc pipe in my irrigation left overs.

A funnel, red duct tape, and a piece of pipe should do the job

A funnel, red duct tape, and a piece of pipe should do the job

Nothing like duct tape…

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An Ivy Plant Goes to Heaven

I rescued an ivy plant the other day. It had obviously been a gift from a florist at one time but had been relegated to a refuse heap. I made up a story about it:

After many adventures the ivy plant is happy

After many adventures the ivy plant is happy

A creative wholesale plant grower had decided to see if he could shape an ivy plant. He worked on it for a while and after a year or so it started looking good. A discerning florist visited the grower’s greenhouse and took a fancy to the plant.

A lady needed to get a gift for a friend “who had everything.” She entered the florist shop and decided that surely her friend didn’t have an ivy plant that had been so lovingly shaped. She bought it and the florist delivered it to her friend who also loved it.

The plant eventually “died” and was thrown away. An over-worked garbage truck worker accidentally dropped the plant on the side of the road and, instead of picking it up, kicked it into the gutter. A puppy that had gotten out of its fence found the plant, shook it around, and took it off to the woods.

After these and several other adventures, the plant ended up in a pile of leaves under an oak tree in some far-distant woods. It turned out that the plant was not all the way dead but was depressed from having to live inside a house so it became introverted and quit growing.

When the plant ended up in some leaves under an oak tree it was happy and it started stretching out its limbs and trying to be pretty again.

A crazy guy named John happened upon the plant and took it home to his wife. He said, “Sweetie, I brought you something that needs fixing.” His wife loved the plant and she knew just what to do and just how to do it.

Sweetie made an educated guess that the plant would like to live under the dappled sunlight of an oak tree and she made a place for it. She cleaned it up and put it in a well-drained pot. The plant was happy.

The ivy copies the oak tree and grows a nice trunk

shape 8

Tune in next week for more adventures of John the Plant Man.

Shaping Plants of All Sizes. Part one of a series

I was pruning a few bonsai trees for a client. This task allows plenty of time for pondering and I got to thinking about the number of ways I apply bonsai techniques to other pruning situations.

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

One of my first and most popular articles that I wrote some time ago is about “The Basics of Pruning”(click) which tells about ways in which the plant responds to different pruning actions such as cutting tips and removing side growth. Aside from the fact that I shape and maintain a lot of sculptured plants for clients, My wife Dekie and I enjoy plant shaping as a hobby. I periodically bring home old scraggly plants that nobody wants and we shape them up for our collection. We plan to use our collection for a decorative project in our back yard next spring. (the shoemaker’s children being barefoot applies here). Here’s a picture of Dekie working on a new acquisition:

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Someone planted two Leyland cypress in our yard a number of years ago and they are too close together, too close to the property line, and a stupid choice for a small back yard. I was getting ready to take them out 6 years ago when someone told me that if you cut the top out of a Leyland cypress it would die. That didn’t sound right to me so I came home and cut the tops our of ours. That was six years ago. We’ve kept them pruned to the top of the neighbor’s eight foot fence. They ain’t died yet.

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

On one of my jobs we kept pruning a Hollywood juniper that was in a large pot. It finally got to the point that it needed to get out of the pot and in the ground so we put it in a place that needed a nice plant. I work on it about twice a year. We are working on turning this location into something nice. I will include that before this series is completed.

I've been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

I’ve been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

This dwarf cryptomeria has been in a put and used in a foundation planting for over three years. We will trim it this fall and it will begin a process of miniaturization.

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

In my work I really abhor the use of Leyland cypress and/or Bradford pear trees. They are over-used, space consuming, smelly, and problematic. They are famous for growing too rapidly and falling apart in storms. I am being kind here. I could say some bad things about these plants.
However, if these trees are shaped properly, they will serve well. I have told you above about the Leylands in my yard. Here is a Bradford pear that my friend Santos planted in his yard 15 years ago. He prunes and shapes it every year. I have seen this tree withstand snow storms that have torn other Bradford pears apart.

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

And today I’ll finish with a black pine that I plant years ago and have maintained faithfully. This is one of my favorites.

Japanese black pine. I've maintained it for ten years--don't know how old it was when I installed it.

Japanese black pine. I’ve maintained it for ten years–don’t know how old it was when I installed it.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman
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?

Landscaping from the Inside Out is Like Putting a Picture on the Wall

A window picture

A window picture

In September I wrote an article titled, “Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window.” My brother, Tom is a gifted artist and I have had paintings of his on my living room walls for years and years. I think it is fun now that, maybe, I can give him something for his wall. It’s not a picture but it is visible through the living room window.
Back in September, I had sprayed the weeds and set the plants out where they needed to be. Tom’s wife, Sheila, got a person to come and help with the labor a couple of weeks later. The window picture started changing rapidly:

The view changes

The view changes

The plants were installed and cypress chips were spread for an effective and attractive mulch. I like a shredded wood mulch on a hillside, too. It stays in place well and holds other things in place. The mulch also holds moisture well.
I like the way the color of the mulch turned this mountainside front yard into a river-like illusion.

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

hillside planted and mulched with cypress

I had also marked a lot of scrub trees that needed to be removed. I was happy to see a picture of the finished product. Sheila wanted white flowers and the “Emil Moliere” hydrangeas will make quite a show.

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

The wooded area has been cleaned up and mulched

Interactions of Tom and Olive remind me of Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear. Olive remarked that things certainly did look different and that there would be no more worry about Tom having an accident while mowing that steep bank.

"Tom's gonna like this 'cause Ma likes it."

“Tom’s gonna like this ’cause Ma likes it.”

Sheila admires things from the street. All is well. Tom is grinning because of “happy wife, happy life,”

No mowing needed on this hillside.

No mowing needed on this hillside.

Thank you for visiting Johntheplantman

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?

Pruning and Shaping Techniques for Trees and Shrubs

Every year when the first cool front of October rolls in I get lots and lots of questions about pruning their landscape and house plants. For years I have enjoyed shaping plants while picturing what they will look like next year or after several years have passed.

This week I have gone into my daunting list of past articles on pruning to review. Here are a few of the links. I hope they help.

 

 

 

Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out.

Using Bonsai techniques to prune and shape overgrown shrubs and trees in the landscape.

 

Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai

I got a text message the other day saying that the Japanese maples needed pruning. I had been expecting this so I shifted my schedule around, sharpened my Felco pruning shears, grabbed my camera and headed out.

 

 

Pruning an Overgrown Topiary

I really enjoy creative pruning.

My friend Tommy called me the other day. It seems that we had planted a large yaupon holly tree in his front yard a number of years ago and I shaped it into a topiary form. Tommy has kept it pruned for a number of years but now he is getting too old to want to get on the ladder any more.  Notice the wording—not “too old to get on the ladder”, but “too old to want to get on the ladder.”

 

 

 

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.

An Artist Looks at a Writing Spider With a Different Point of View

Even though it was long ago I can still picture the lady. She was bent over and wrinkled. Her skin looked like aged leather. She had a cane that had been carved from a stick that was also bent and twisted from growing with a vine wrapped around it. I was a five-year-old boy growing up in the rural south and I was busy watching, noticing, and learning about the wonders around me.

It is a vivid memory. I was crouched down staring at a most peculiar spider which was spinning a most peculiar web when I heard the old lady’s most peculiar voice as she said, “Don’t point at it.”

“What?” I asked as my hand began moving up to point at the spider. My hand was gently pushed aside by the lady’s cane.

“That’s a writing spider,” she said. “If you point at her she will write your name in the web and you will die.”

Writing spider weaving its web

Writing spider weaving its web

That’s all I remember about that particular conversation but I filed the information in my mind under the category of “things not to do.” At that age, that particular category was not over-crowded. I was brave, terribly brave, and I was much more interested in finding things to do than in finding things not to do. I was definitely not interested in dying because I pointed at a writing spider. I had pirates to sword fight with and dragons to slay. I had paint to spill and track all over the hardwood floors and I had a charred stick that I had rescued from a trash fire that I would use to practice my writing lessons on my grandmother’s white carpet. Yes, I was busy. I had no time to be pointing at spiders.

Thirty years flew by and I was walking around one day with my son, J.R. There was a basic difference in J.R. and I in that I looked at things with the literal leanings of a writer and he was an artist. Actually, J.R., at the age of five, was already an accomplished artist and I have found out over the years that an artist looks at things with a different point of view. As we walked along that day I saw a writing spider. I told J.R. to put his hands in his pockets. He did. Then I told him about pointing at a writing spider. I passed on what the old lady had told me when I was about his age. And, believe me, I made sure he didn’t point at that spider. I didn’t want him to die from a spider pointing while I was in charge—what would I tell his mother?

Then, thirty more years went by like a bat out of hell and J.R. is now recognized as an accomplished artist and he has a home of his own. He also has a new daughter. I like to visit him every now and then. I was visiting him yesterday when he told me about his new pet. It was a writing spider that was building a web on the glass door leading to the deck. He crouched down to study the web and to see how it was developing.

"Isn't she beautiful?" he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“Isn’t she beautiful?” he asked, showing me his pet writing spider

“I’ve been feeding it and watching it,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a pet writing spider. My wife is not impressed or excited about it.”

He thought for a moment and looked over at me. “You know, Dad, I never told you because I didn’t want you to worry but after you told me about writing spiders, I wasn’t all that much afraid of dying, I just wanted to see a spider write my name. I used to point at them all the time and I never died and they never once wrote my name in the web. But I still like to watch.”

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

I cringed as, with a devil-may-care attitude, he pointed directly at the writing spider

 

Thanks for visiting johntheplantman

I paint pictures with words.

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?

Design a Landscape To Be Seen Through the Living Room Window

I like to “paint pictures” with plants and I enjoy the fact that there are four dimensions to these paintings—height, width, depth, and time. With time and plant growth the painting is constantly changing. It is very nice, too, to have a “picture frame”—in this case, the living room window.

The "before" picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

The “before” picture. What can we do to turn the view into a pretty garden picture?

My brother, Tom and his lovely wife, Sheila live in a hilltop home in Weaverville, N.C. just outside of Asheville. When I visited last May, Sheila asked me to think about how to plant the front yard and hill in a manner that would create a hillside garden which would look good from her comfy couch in the living room. The garden would also need to serve as a screen. Sheila was a bit picky, too. She asked for a collection of evergreens with something silver, and to have some white flowering plants incorporated into the planting. I collected plants all summer and Dekie and I loaded the truck and took them to the mountains on September 13. We timed the trip around the fact that my sweet mother would also be visiting.

When we got there we realized that there was yet another problem that we had to deal with. The original “landscapers” had installed what I often refer to as a “close the loan special” and had planted not one, but three cute little gold mop cypress plants at the front of the walkway. I guess they didn’t know or didn’t care that these plants grow into giant trees. It looked like this:

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

This gold mop cypress is a pretty plant but it is too close to the driveway and the walkway

I told Tom and Sheila that they would have three choices, Take the trees out, put in a new walkway, or prune and maintain the trees in a nice tree form shape that would get the foliage up above the pedestrian traffic. They wisely chose pruning. Dekie was a wonderful helper. We determined that there were three main trunks in the planting and we began taking off the lower growth to expose them.

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

We begin the process by isolating 3 trunks and taking off the lower growth

Since there had been three individual plants in the original planting we tried to maintain the center trunk from each of them. I stood back to check out the progress.

Checking the progress o the tree pruning.

Checking the progress of the tree pruning.

When we finished Mom came out to give her approval. I explained that at this point in the shaping of the plants, the important part was that the tops of the trees remain uncut. When they reach nine or ten feet high we will trim the tops and the foliage will begin to grow sideways and form a canopy.

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

The finished pruning job on the gold mops. They can grow taller before they need the tops cut

It was time to start on the main part of the design. The first thing I do in such a situation is to use my handy paint gun and paint a line to show where the bed will go. After the line is painted I spray all of the weeds and grasses to kill them. Working with the orange line gives me a good reference for spraying and design.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

I love to use my paint gun to draw out shrub bed borders.

Sheila and I discussed the overall concept of the bank planting as well as the fact that phase two would take out a chunk of the planting by the walk way and replace it with grass.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

I love to wave my hands around as I paint verbal pictures in the air.

Then I began laying out the plants. I had chosen a palmatum Japanese maple, dwarf butterfly bushes (buzz series) with white flowers, white hydrangeas (Emily Moliere and white oak leaf), Black Prince cryptomeria, Foster hollies (for red Christmas berries), “plum yew” (cephalotaxus), and for a big splash of silver blue I added an Arizona cypress “Carolina Sapphire.” It’s going to take a few years but this is going to be one fine garden.

Since I am recovering from a bout of carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, Sheila made arrangements with someone to come in and install the plants later. My job was to lay them out and then it would be nap time. I got busy. Here is the layout from the side:

Plants set in place and ready for planting

Plants set in place and ready for planting

After the planting, the garden area will be mulched with shredded cypress mulch. The mulch will finish off the design and the view through the window will be delightful. Here’s how I left it:

checking the layout from the inside out.

checking the layout from the inside out.

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

Another view through the window showing the hydrangeas

You might also enjoy a previous article Landscaping from the Inside Out. 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?

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?