Zen and the art of crape myrtle pruning

John P.Schulz:

It’s pruning time for crape myrtles. Check out what John The Plant Man has to say about the issue.

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

Zen and the art of crape myrtle pruning.

Of all the questions I am asked about landscaping and gardening, I think most frequently asked is about how to prune crape myrtles.  While thinking about the complex answer to this question, I have come up with the idea that we should talk about “shaping” the plant instead of “pruning” or “cutting back”.  Learning to grow a plant is one thing, shaping it is an art form.

A 40 ft. tall uncut crape makes nice shade but few blooms A 40 ft. tall uncut crape makes nice shade but few blooms

I guess that the first part of the answer is that a crape myrtle will grow just fine without any pruning at all.  It may turn out to be a large bush or it may turn out to be a tall tree.  In the deep south, these plants are commonly grown as shade trees.  They will become rather large if left untouched—and if…

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Finding My Voice Through “Quotes and Notes”

In case you need to know where the “quotes and notes” came from, here is the explanation.

Recently, throughout the fall and winter, I have seen some interesting changes in my writing life. I have been finding my voice. As you may know, a couple of years ago I lost my vocal cords to a cancer operation called a laryngectomy. I spent an interesting six months not being able to talk at all and then I was fitted with a tiny prosthesis in my throat that allows me to use other muscles to talk. I have been getting better and better at talking.

I have written a book titled Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days, facing cancer treatments with humor and optimism. The book deals with questions for others who ask, “what happens when I am treated for cancer?”

Our new book is almost ready to print. The publisher is working on the formatting now. I knew the release date was coming and last October, in observance of Breast Cancer Month, I told my Facebook followers that I would post a motivational and annotated cancer quote every day for the entire month. I didn’t know if I had it in me to write such a post every day for 31 days, but I pushed myself. I succeeded.

The effort was well received. A lot of people started following and several cancer victims thanked me profusely for the help they got from the posts. At the end of October I said, “Well, there it is, I hope you liked it. I’m done.” I received a lot of requests to continue writing the motivational posts so I told Dekie that I wondered if I could do a quote and note every day for a year. It’s a daunting project but now I am over two months into it and going strong. I switched from an emphasis on cancer to one of hope, optimism, and happiness.

A lot of my friends do not use Facebook so I started sending them the daily posts in an email. Then it occurred to me that I had set up a blog page before I got sick. Last week I went back and re-worked the John Schulz author blog page and started posting my “Quotes and Notes” articles on there.  The daily articles are short, make you feel good, and leave you with the statement, “Everything is going to be all right.”

Here is my favorite post from that site. (click on the title). If you wish, you may go to the site and sign up to receive the quotes from the site in an email.

I have found my voice.

The only strength that can overcome adversity

Posted on January 9, 2015by John Schulz

Quotes and Notes, January 9, 2015

“One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity.”

–Albert Schweitzer

As one may become stronger by practicing optimism, the same may be said about successfully dealing with ill fortune. When I lost my vocal cords several years ago and had to live for six months without a voice at all before getting a prosthesis, I made up my mind to become a motivational speaker some day. My voice is evident in my writing and last night I gave a successful reading for the Rome Area Writers organization.

What a good feeling that was! Push on and overcome. While you’re at it, share a smile.

Everything is going to be all right.

John P. Schulz

 

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

John Schulz gives a motivational talk to the Rome Area Writers.

 

By the way, the book will be out in early February. The name is

Sweetie Drives on Chemo Days–Facing cancer treatments with optimism and humor

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man.

Repairing a Drainage Problem

Repairing poorly installed drainage can be a lot of work but it can also be a bit of a fun job. We must be flexible, also. For instance, I had to change my approach in the middle of this job. The problem I needed to tackle was that runoff was flowing through a carport that had not been designed for handling heavy rain.

The carport had apparently been added on after the original driveway was built. Water flowed across the driveway, around a front corner of the carport and down the inside edge. We studied the area and found that a low place in the concrete allowed this to happen. I originally thought we would need a concrete saw and a catch basin. So, I bought a catch basin (that’s that black box in the picture below) and rented a concrete saw. I learned long ago that an expensive part of the job is that you can rent the machine but you have to purchase the blade. Concrete blades do not have a very long life expectancy.

It's a slow and careful job to cut concrete but sometimes you just gotta do it.

It’s a slow and careful job to cut concrete but sometimes you just gotta do it.

There was a crack in the existing concrete right at the low spot. We decided that we needed to take out the entire portion in order to make the finished job as it should be.  Anyway, we cut the concrete. It was a nice job.

We had to cut it into three pieces to remove the offending concrete. It was rather heavy.

We had to cut it into three pieces to remove the offending concrete. It was rather heavy.

Whoever had poured the concrete for the walk to the back door had fortunately put a four inch pipe under it. I was going to take the water to that pipe and channel it down the hill. That’s when I discovered that the water outlet on the catch basin would be too low to allow me to hook up to the pipe under the walkway. An old man told me one time, “Here in Georgia the water always runs downhill.” I have always remembered that. So, I had to go find some other way to channel the water downhill. I really liked the way things turned out. Below is the drain system.

A good drainage system for use in driveways and around buildings

A good drainage system for use in driveways and around buildings

I found that I could purchase just the components I needed at my concrete supply place. We lay the drain in just the right place and, before pouring the concrete around the basin,  fooled around with a couple of levels, making sure that the water would run into the drainage and not go around it. It pays to be careful when setting something in concrete.

When fitting drainage boxes to be poured in concrete, use the level over and over just to be sure.

When fitting drainage boxes to be poured in concrete, use the level over and over just to be sure.

The drain was fitted with a special piece that was designed to fit corrugated black pipe. There are two kinds of corrugated black pipe: “solid” and “perforated.” The solid pipe is used to move water from one place to the other and the perforated pipe is used to pick up and re-distribute ground water. Two things to remember when installing this pipe are:  1. The stripe goes up and, 2. The holes go down. In the picture below I have used the solid pipe to move the water to the back corner of the walkway. I then put in an eighteen inch piece of perforated pipe to pick up any moisture from the shrub bed itself. This is placed in a bed of gravel.

Driveway drainage system being hooked up after concrete pour

Driveway drainage system being hooked up after concrete pour

We filled around the pipe with pea gravel and raked the soil out to shape the planting bed. The gravel will keep the dirt from coming in contact with the siding on the building. Notice the rock at the corner where the driveway meets the drain. That rock has been carefully chosen and carefully placed to enhance the water flow.

drainage pipe covered with pea gravel for a good transition. perforated pipe is used at sidewalk

drainage pipe covered with pea gravel for a good transition. perforated pipe is used at sidewalk

The next job was to replant the roses, clean the bed well, smooth out the pea gravel, and spread pine straw. It was extremely cold at this point and I didn’t get a finished picture. Perhaps I’ll sneak one in here at a later date.

smoothing, planting, and mulching the improved shrub bed.

smoothing, planting, and mulching the improved shrub bed.

Thanks for checking out John the Plant Man. If you have a landscape problem that requires deep, analytic thought and amazing skills, get in touch with John by emailing me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

Deadheading and pruning hydrangeas in January

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

I wrote this article about pruning and dead heading hydrangeas a while back. The information still holds true. This is one of my most asked about subjects. Enjoy! John

A rare beautiful January day found us preparing some new flower beds for Ms. Marion, who most people around here refer to as “The hydrangea lady.”  I knew she was working in the yard and I really wasn’t paying attention to what she was doing until I walked by a garden cart full of old, brown hydrangea blooms that had been freshly cut.

old hydrangea blooms removed from the garden in January old hydrangea blooms removed from the garden in January

Since I get asked about cutting, deadheading, and shaping hydrangeas quite often, and since Marion is the most knowledgeable hydrangea grower I ever met, I went looking for her to see what was going on.  I found her bent over a planting of hydrangeas, busily working her pruning shears.

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Bubba the Squirrel Trainer

John P.Schulz:

Bubba loves Christmas so much that I like sharing his stories this time of year

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

Bubba The Squirrel Trainer

 Morning coffee conversations with my redneck friend Bubba give me a lot of things to think about.  I like to share these stories and observations on occasion.

Bubba comes to my “office” for coffee about three mornings a week. He usually shows up at 7:45.  I had told him that 7 until 8:30 in the morning is my quiet time that I use for writing and ciphering and such as that, but he just keeps on coming.  One day, I decided to write down some of the things he was telling me in order to make up for the interruption.  Bubba doesn’t seem to mind if I am typing while he talks.

Bubba likes them squirrels Bubba likes them squirrels

Today, Bubba was all excited about training squirrels. He said he was going to make a bunch of money.

I said, “Bubba, you can’t train a squirrel.”

Bubba bowed…

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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 P.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?