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?

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

 

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?

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?

Make a Beautiful Mixed Flower Creation With a Wire Basket and Coconut Fiber Matting.

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

Use coconut matting to line a wire hanging basket for mixed flowers. Read on

I call it “coco mat” and it is one of the nicest innovations for planting wire hanging baskets to come along in a long time. Wire baskets are wonderful because they “breathe” and thereby form the base for more vigorous flowers. Wire baskets come in all shapes and sizes. I needed to plant eleven hand-crafted wrought-iron baskets the other day.

If you are planting in mass manufactured wire containers, your nursery will probably carry coco mat liners that are formed to fit. In my case, I had to custom cut each piece. So I bought a roll of the matting and I got a roll of painter’s paper with which to make patterns.

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

You can usually find pre-formed matting for your baskets but sometimes you just have to cut your own,

We didn’t want to waste any of the coco mat so we wrapped the basket with the paper and cut out around it.

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

Wrap paper around the wire basket and trim to make a pattern

I found that a carpenter’s pencil or a magic marker would work to trace the pattern onto the coco mat.

a carpenter's pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

a carpenter’s pencil or magic marker will mark the mat for cutting

I thought about using a razor knife but found that scissors would do the job.  Tip—use cheap scissors and throw them away afterwards. This will probably ruin your good scissors.

Do not use Momma's expensive scissors for this job--go buy some cheap ones

Do not use Momma’s expensive scissors for this job–go buy some cheap ones

We cut a triangle out of the circle where a big fold would be and then we pushed the liner down into the basket and pressed moist potting soil in to hold it in place. A little extra trimming was necessary.

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

Pack in moist potting soil to hold the coconut fiber mat securely in place

I always like to add a liberal sprinkling of time-release fertilizer on top of the potting soil so that it will mix in as I plant. I’m using Osmocote this time.

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

add Osmocote to the hanging basket for season-long fertilizing

I decided to use Dragon Wing begonias for the center plant. These plants are very versatile and I really get good results from them.

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

A dragon wing begonia will be beautiful in the center of this hanging basket

I used two colors of calibrochoa (they look like miniature petunias), bachopa (trailing with small white flowers), and Wave petunias around the large begonia. I really enjoy making a royal mess and this time I succeeded.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

A good planting job calls for a good mess.

The baskets will hang from the eaves of the house facing the pool and courtyard. In the picture below you will see that I am using chains to train a white mandevilla up and over a doorway.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white  mandevilla.

wire hanging basket with mixed flowers planted above a white mandevilla.

The most important consideration in choosing plants for a mixed planting is that all of the varieties must have the same sun or shade preferences.  You may wish to visit some articles I wrote about planting other mixtures, CLICK HERE for articles on mixed plantings.

 

 

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?

Getting Things Ready For Spring.

I call it “Stuff.” It’s all the stuff you have to do to get ready to do some more stuff so that everything will be ready to do what you WANT to do. In making a garden work, timing is everything.

Over the last year and a half (more or less) I’ve been working off and on with a large property out in the country, trying to turn a special place into an even more special place. Joel loves his farm, and over the years he has planted a large number of daffodils. These, of course, have multiplied and later this spring we will need to divide them. I will need to find a place to plant thousands of them. I’ve always admired pictures of “drifts” of daffodils around a lake, so we’re cleaning out around a small lake to make room for a couple of thousand daffodils. Here’s part of the site:

I want to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs around the lake.

I want to plant thousands of daffodil bulbs around the lake.

To get ready for the bulbs, we have cleaned out the undergrowth, small saplings, and vines. The next thing I will do is to clean out the edge of the woods here and there. That’s been an ongoing project, but here’s the last section that we need to deal with.

Cleaning the edge of the woods will make room for even more daffodils

Cleaning the edge of the woods will make room for even more daffodils

On another day, I drive up to check out “stuff” on the mountain work site. There is a bit of winter damage that has to be taken care of. We took the time to cut back the loropetalums and some other plants so that they will grow out nicely in the warmer months to come.

loropetalums after pruning off winter damage

loropetalums after pruning off winter damage

Another project that I am watching is the re-surfacing of an old gunnite swimming pool.  Here is a picture of Christian Esme’ chipping the old plaster off in preparation for the application of something new and better.

Preparing pool for re-surfacing. Lovely view of the mountain

Preparing pool for re-surfacing. Lovely view of the mountain

This year’s stuff is much different than the stuff I dealt with last year.

The funny thing to me was that as I was pondering on what to write about today, I decided to look back at my articles for March of last year. There were none. While I was thinking about that, Dekie showed me the desk blotter calendar from March 2013. She figured that we had traveled 3500 miles to Emory and back for cancer treatments in just that one month. The dates marked with an X designate radiation treatments. March promises to be much more relaxed this year.

Desk calendar for March 2013. The dates marked X are the radiation treatments.

Desk calendar for March 2013. The dates marked X are the radiation treatments.

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 to build a portable rock garden

I published this article four years ago. I thought it would be a good time to dust it off and put it back up for my new readers.

Several years ago, I figured out how to build a portable rock garden.  The concept hit me when a client’s sister who was visiting from New York looked one of my large rock gardens and commented, “I wish I could take that home with me”.  I thought this was such a good idea that I went home and spent several days of experimentation and trial and error.  It felt really good to put my first specimen in the back seat of the lady’s car as she left to return home.

A truly portable rock garden.  Who would have thought it?

A truly portable rock garden. Who would have thought it?

I haven’t built one of these planters in several years, but I thought one would be a perfect birthday present for Bob Hicks.  Bob is one of those people who have two of everything—but he didn’t have one of these.  Here’s how you do it:

I started by gathering my materials.  I picked up some nice sandstone specimens from the side of a mountain road and found a suitable  piece of flagstone for the base (there are rock dealers all over the place these days).  I got some moss from the back yard where the grass won’t grow, and some smaller rocks from a friend’s driveway.

find just the right rocks

find just the right rocks

The rocks will be glued together with a polyurethane caulk.  You will need a tube of this and a caulking gun.  These are pretty inexpensive and one tube of caulk will do three or four gardens.  I have tried other types of caulk but have found that nothing will do better than polyurethane.  I use PL polyurethane construction adhesive.

A caulking gun and polyurethane caulk for an adhesive

A caulking gun and polyurethane caulk for an adhesive

Be sure to use newspapers or some kind of drop cloth.  The caulk is very hard to clean up.  I got some on my jeans a few years ago.  I still wear the jeans—the caulk is still there, also.

Begin by laying the decorative rocks out on the flat stone that will be the base.  Experiment and get the rocks just as you want them.  Some times it takes quite a bit of adjustment and experimentation.  Take your time.

rocks laid out to perfection.  I'm happy with this

rocks laid out to perfection. I’m happy with this

Cut the tip of the caulking tube about ½ inch from the end.  It works best if you cut it at an angle.  Use a nail or something like that to poke a hole through the seal at the bottom of the tip.  Insert the tube into the caulking gun and you are ready to go.  If you’ve never used a caulking gun, it may take a little experimentation but it is relatively easy.

Next, carefully turn each rock to the side and spread a bead of the caulk on the base.  When this is done, turn the rock back down on the base so that any excess glue will be pushed to the inside.  Mash the rock down good and hard and then try not to move it around any more. Go slowly and do one rock at a time.

Use enough adhesive, but not too much.  Squeeze to the inside

Use enough adhesive, but not too much. Squeeze to the inside

When the gluing is finished, it will be time for the hard part.  The hard part is that you must let the project dry and cure in a dry, warm location for a few days.  Waiting is always difficult for me, but if you get in a hurry, you will mess it up.

Now for the hard part--wait a few days

Now for the hard part–wait a few days

After the glue had dried, examine the project and look for little holes where dirt might run out and stuff little pieces of moss here and there to plug the holes.

plugging the leaks. Do this from the inside

plugging the leaks. Do this from the inside

Now it is time to plant.  You will need one larger accent plant.  I am using a jade plant that has been pruned following the directions in my previous post “The simple basics of pruning”.  Place the accent plant in the correct position—you will want to experiment.  The root ball of this plant should be up high in order to form a “terrace”.

try the plant in several different positions

try the plant in several different positions

Finish filling the planter with good potting soil.  Pack it in around the accent plant and water everything.  This will be a good time to wash off the excess dirt.

water it in and wash the rocks

water it in and wash the rocks

To keep the feeling of a true rock garden, I like to build terraces with smaller rocks.  Sometimes, if the shape and feel is right, I like to use aquarium gravel for a “river bed” or flat rocks for a “stepping stone path”. At this point, pack the dirt and the rocks in so they will stay.

Terraces make the finished product look better. Be an artist.

Terraces make the finished product look better. Be an artist.

After studying the garden, I have decided to enhance the Ikebana effect with a smaller plant in one of the crevasses.  I am using a haworthia here. This will give me a three tiered effect with the difference in elevations of the jade, the haworthia, and some moss. An essay on Ikebana will be the subject of a future post.

just for effect

just for effect

Now, I will pack moss on top of the soil and tuck it in around the rocks.  The moss will live well if misted on a regular basis.  The effect I am looking for is a woodland scene with the moss representing the garden floor.

oooh!  Pretty moss will finish it off

oooh! Pretty moss will finish it off

Here is the finished product ready to be watered in and set in a place of honor.

Water it in and clean it up.  Be sure to set it on a trivet to keep from scratching your table

Water it in and clean it up. Be sure to set it on a trivet to keep from scratching your table

Look at this.  Now Bob will come in for his birthday dinner, admire the planter, and we will say “happy birthday”.  The plants will grow well in good light with a weekly watering.  The moss will probably need misting every couple of days.  As the jade plant grows, proper pruning will enhance the bonsai effect.  Yay!! I’ve changed this picture from the original article because the rock garden–four years later– is visiting our house for a bit of R&R. Bob kept it alive for all that time

I first documented the building of this garden four years ago. It's still

I first documented the building of this garden four years ago. It’s still going strong.

For more adventures of johntheplantman, read “Requiem for a Redneck”, a novel by John P. Schulz.

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?

 

Build a Christmas Tree Watering Funnel

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 and pvc pipe. I couldn’t figure out anywhere to use WD-40 though, or I would of.

There's nothing like a bit of duct tape and a piece of pvc pipe.

There’s nothing like a bit of duct tape and a piece of pvc pipe.

It didn’t take much to find the hole in the Christmas tree stand that was meant for adding water

I thought I saw a hole in the Christmas tree stand made just for this here pipe.

I thought I saw a hole in the Christmas tree stand made just for this here pipe.

It worked!! Sweetie can add water to the Christmas tree easily. The only thing I have yet to figure out is how to keep from getting too much water.  In case you’re wondering, Dekalb is the name of a hybrid corn and it is also Sweetie’s name—the one they get “Dekie” from.

It works and Sweetie is happy. Now I can go back to solving the Middle East crisis.

It works and Sweetie is happy. Now I can go back to solving the Middle East crisis.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the Plant Man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

What Happened to My Pretty Christmas Plant?

For the past few years, at Christmas time, The Home Depot here in Rome, Georgia (and I assume elsewhere) has been stocking some impressive Christmas plants. These come in the form of well-grown and healthy rosemary and “Stone pine” plants. Here’s a picture of the display

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

Well grown plants with a Christmas tree shape on sale for the season

To my way of thinking, these plants are a bargain in that they will perform well in outdoor planters for the winter, they will give a Christmas feeling to their location, and with care, they will live for years.  But…But…They will not maintain their shape for years.

The plants that we bought at Home Depot have been carefully shaped as they grew so that they would end up looking like a Christmas tree. This doesn’t mean that they will always grow in that shape—that is, not unless they are properly pruned to maintain their shape. The process uses the principles developed in the growing of Bonsai plants.

A few weeks ago, one of my clients—I’ll call her Susan because that’s her name—asked me, “What happened to my Christmas plants that I put on the front porch last year?” I went around front to check them out and this is what I saw:

After a year the stone pine had lost it's Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

After a year the stone pine had lost it’s Christmas tree shape and had grown out of bounds

Here’s the analysis: 1.The dead that you see in the tree is a natural replacement of needles that we see in any pine tree. 2. the wild looking growth coming from the top of the plant is the natural growth of the plant. I told Susan that with cleaning and pruning the trees could be brought back into shape within a year but with Christmas approaching she made me a gift of them. I’m going to have fun with those trees. I’ll guarantee it.

I was given a couple more of those trees about three years ago and I stuck them in the back of my “plant hospital”. I had gotten one of them out some time around the first of September after three years of total neglect. The stone pine was about five feet tall and strung out all over the place. I’m going to make a wild topiary out of it, so I cut the tips and cleaned it up. A month and a half later the tips look like this

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

New growth coming out short and pretty a month or so after cutting

I’m sure that the stone pine has to be one of the most bonsai-friendly plants ever and I’m going to work on my collection and report back next Christmas.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, your assignment is to read the following suggested articles on pruning and start your own plant-shaping experiment. What plant will you start with? Let me know

Turn overgrown plants into nice topiaries

Pruning For Betty, Japanese Maples, Topiaries, and Bonsai

Pruning an overgrown topiary

And one of my most popular articles:

Pruning as an Art Form—The Basics of Pruning

 

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure. Check it out, buy a copy, and tell ALL your friends about it.

D’Ann’s Garden—Raised beds with brick borders to grow perennials

My friend D’Ann loves gardening. She is good at it too, and she doesn’t mind getting a little dirt under her fingernails. I had built some raised beds for her back yard a few years ago and was impressed with the way in which she planted them and kept them up. Her front yard needed help, though.

Before--D'Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

Before–D’Ann wanted a rose and perennial flower bed but the project needed definition

When D’Ann asked me to build some distinctive yet workable planting beds in her front yard I knew that I would have to be rather particular and produce something that looked right and that would give her a base for growing some healthy and vigorous perennials. I started a drawing and things just didn’t work out that way, so we removed and saved the collection of plants and I took a roll of twine, some stakes, and my paint gun to do a careful layout. ( I love using orange marking paint on a layout)

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

It pays to take the time to lay out the job with string, stakes, and marking paint

I think raised compost beds with brick borders are really classy but the big thing about these beds is that they really work. I also like the look and workability of brick borders and pea gravel pathways so that’s where I was going. (By the way, if you go to buy bricks for something like this, ask for ‘pavers’ because they don’t have holes in them). I had spent a lot of time getting the twine in just the right place and that helped the job to get off to a good start.

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Bricks laid carefully for garden border

Mike Hutchins produces certified compost up in Menlo, Georgia and he brings it to me in ten cubic yard loads. I stockpile it at my stockpiling place and then haul it to the job with a pickup truck. Sometimes we can dump a load on the job but in an uptown city yard like this one I don’t want the clean up job that would go with that. We wheelbarrow the compost into the beds and rake it out carefully. When the job is finished the compost and pea gravel will team up to hold the bricks firmly in place.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

A raised compost flower bed provides for the best plants ever.

To get ready for the gravel walkways, I used a flat shovel to turn the existing walkway into an efficient border.

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

Using a flat shovel to create a border. The proper tools make a difference

We raked out the compost, spread pine straw for mulch, and raked all of the trash out of the walkway beds before moving in the pea gravel. This was a job performed carefully with a wheelbarrow and a rake.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Pea gravel makes a wonderful pathway and it never gets muddy.

Here’s a picture of the finished beds ready to plant.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

This garden should add joy and beauty to a distinctive home.

As the planting proceeds the plan is to put climbing roses on portions of he fence and to use such perennials as lantanas, daisies, yarrow, and others for accents. Lots of bulbs, from daffodils to amaryllis and a few paint strokes of annual flowers will keep things interesting. And remember, there will be no grass to cut in this front yard.

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man. Remember the next time you want a good read you need to try “REQUIEM FOR A REDNECK”, a kindle ebook from Amazon that features John the plant man with his Georgia mountain friends. It’s quite the adventure.