Renovating an overgrown landscape, part two of a series

Renovating an overgrown landscape-part two of a series

 The back yard of the house is dominated by a delightfully whimsical pool, jacuzzi, and a terraced deck.  The back side of the deck is bordered by a lovely brick retaining wall on two levels.  There are a lot of nice azaleas, sasanquas, and lorapetalums planted for interest and to form a screen.  Behind the screen is a pathway bordered on the back side with large hollies and a number of ailing hemlocks.  Atlanta seems to be a little far south for hemlocks.

 

 

There's a beautiful terraced brick retainer behind the lorapetalum

There’s a beautiful terraced brick retainer behind the lorapetalum

 

 

 I studied the overgrown lorapetalums.  Lorapetalums are rather nice with their purple blooms in the summer and their dark leaves.  They shape well, but they have spurts of rapid growth.  These plants are a good substitute for a privet or boxwood hedge and are very “tame.” This planting needed attention.

 

 

I wanted to see the brick retaining wall

I wanted to see the brick retaining wall

 

 

 

 The row of lorapetalums on the front row were too overgrown to be easily shaped into a low shrub in front of the brick wall, and the wall is nice looking.  I decided that It would be nice to be able to see the brick retaining wall through the plants so I turned them into a “tree form.” (see “tree forming” here) I was right, too in that I found garden lighting fixtures hidden in the lower beds.  I think that something like hosta, a low ground cover, or perhaps some summer impatiens would be nice planted in the area beneath these tree formed lorapetalums.

 

 

Tree form lorapetalums ready to grow out

Tree form lorapetalums ready to grow out

 

 

I “talked with” another row of lorapetalums on the upper level of the wall and “we” decided that they needed to be sheared into a hedge form to enhance the privacy and to add a feeling of seclusion to the pathway behind them. The pruned hedge looked like this:

 

 

A shaped lorapetalum hedge for privacy

A shaped lorapetalum hedge for privacy

 

 

Satisfied with the lorapetalums, I moved on to several plantings of overgrown and straggly gardenias.  I love gardenias and my client had commented on how delightful their fragrance was during the summer.  The gardenia plantings looked half way acceptable on top, but when I started poking around I found that it was all top growth.  Gardenias bloom on new growth and therefore may be pruned at any time of the year.  The pruning will increase the amount of new growth and will therefore provide more flowers.  Here’s what I was dealing with:

 

 

overgrown gardenias-yellow leaves denote a need for nutrients

overgrown gardenias-yellow leaves denote a need for nutrients

 

 

The idea in pruning gardenias is not to get a perfect shape but rather to open them up to allow light inside so that lower growth can develop.  The added light also reduces the development of fungal disease.  The shaping will also add strength to the weak, elongated branches.  Here’s a start.  You can see the lower growth trying to grow.

 

 

The gardenia's inner growth needs light.  The spindly branches need to be shortened for strength

The gardenia’s inner growth needs light. The spindly branches need to be shortened for strength

 

 

When cutting the gardenias, I am careful to study each cut and to cut in a manner that leaves a new shoot or branch intact and ready to grow.  This lower growth will develop rapidly with extra light and by not having to compete with the upper growth.  You will note a lot of yellow leaves on the plants.  The yellow is an indication of a lack of nutrition.  A good fertilizer and an application of epsom salts will color the leaves up rapidly as spring moves in. (click here for “choosing the right fertilizer”)

When pruning the gardenia, carefully cut just above new growth.

When pruning the gardenia, carefully cut just above new growth.

 

After finishing the gardenias, I studied my job for next week—removing old, dead, and damaged growth from the rhododendrons followed by a general cleanup.  After that I will study the overall project and decide on any fill in or additions that are necessary.  This job has really been a lot of fun. 

 

 

Time to take the dead and diseased growth out of the rhododendrons

Time to take the dead and diseased growth out of the rhododendrons

 

 

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You may wish to see a previous article which explains the dynamics of plant pruning: Pruning as an art form-the basics of pruning

 February is also a good time for carefully shaping your Crape Myrtles.  Read about it in my article, Zen and the art of crape myrtle pruning

 If you would like a consultation with John Schulz, Landscape Artist, in your yard, Please contact me by email

 

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?

 

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pbmgarden
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 07:39:50

    Nice article. I just trimmed some gardenias, but now will go back and follow your advice to open them up. Also, I had forgotten about using epsom salts with gardenias. Thanks for the advice.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Tree forming-Landscaping from the inside out. « johntheplantman's stories, plants, and gardening

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