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.

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?

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]

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?

Use Decorative Chain to Support Vines and Climbing Roses on a Wall

I get a lot of compliments on this Carolina jasmine planting on the front of a garage. It takes a bit of time to grow the plant and the actual installation may appear to be difficult and expensive—but it’s not. Read on…

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here's how to do it

Swagged Carolina jasmine frames a garage door. Here’s how to do it

The other day I was planting this year’s mandevilla vine in a pot by a pool for one of my clients. I do this every year and it is amazing to watch how quickly this sweet-smelling vine reaches the top of the pool house. And all it takes is a chain.

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

Mandevilla in a decorative pot ready to grow up a chain

I have been doing some work for Cathy, who is a true plant freak and she asked me what the best way would be to grow Lady Banks and other climbing roses up the brick columns on the side of her garage. The answer was simple—use a decorative chain. Here’s how you do it:

Just what you need--a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

Just what you need–a roll of decorative chain and a wall anchor kit.

The roll of chain and the wall anchor kit came from my friendly Ace Hardware store. I use the wall anchors a lot, both outside and inside. The anchors are most useful for hanging pictures on inside drywall. The kit comes with a masonry bit for drilling holes in brick mortar joints. We start the job by drilling holes for the mounting screws.

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

Drill a hole just the right size for the wall anchor

The little thingie shown below is a wall anchor which is inserted into the hole in the mortar joint. You must be sure to use the right sized drill bit.

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

The wall anchor expands to hold the screw firmly in place

In the picture below, the screw comes with the wall anchor kit and I also bought “fender washers” that are made with the right sized hole for the screw. I have no idea why they are called fender washers. I guess it’s just because that’s their name. The other item in the picture is a driver to put on my DeWalt drill in order to make the screwing easier.

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

Fender washers will hold the chain in place

When we mount the chain, the washer holds things together as in the picture below

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe--"It goes like this here..."

To steal a phrase from David Allen Coe–“It goes like this here…”

In this installation we will hook the chain to three columns. We leave a small sag in the chain as we hook it to each column. The chain will hang down to the plants on the right and left columns and we will add the center chain last.

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

The next step is to secure the chain to the wall

I was careful to measure and purchase enough chain so that when I got to the right side there would be enough left over to hang down from the center. You don’t have to cut this type of chain; it comes apart easily with a couple of pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

Opening a chain link with two pairs of pliers.

The final piece of chain is added to trail down the center column.

Add a piece of chain to the center column

Add a piece of chain to the center column

For fastening the plants I like to use a Velcro-backed plant tie material. It is easy to use and I can cut it to size with cheap scissors.

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

I really like using the velcro backed plant tie material

We tie the plant to the chain and everything is set to go. All this project will take now is a bit of tying and pruning.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

Some plants will twine up the chain on their own. Others need to be tied.

If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to visit one of my articles on “Garden Accents.” It’s well worth the looking into.

 

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it.

 

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?