Monthly Archives: May 2009

New Location

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I am very excited that we are moving our business to a much larger and better suited location.  We have been very constrained by the size of our current property and having a little bit of space to spread things out and grow (the business not plants, not yet)  is going to be great.  As you can see in the picture we are going to have quite a few greenhouses although we are going to wait a little while to put them into use.

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Espaliered Pyracantha

I was in Danville for an appointment yesterday and tried to get a picture of this as I drove by.  I would be totally guessing to give you an idea of how long this has been in place but they do a spectacular job of keep in trimmed and tight.  This is a great example of what can be done with some time.DSC_0162

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Clematis

DSC_0167I bought my house in the middle of the winter and that first spring there was very little that was horticulturally inspiring.  This Clematis was one of the few exceptions!  I have no idea what cultivar this is but it has performed for me year after year.  The flowers are so thin and paper-like that they don’t seem like they could be real.  There has been very little care needed to keep it looking good and with it growing up the lattice on the side of my house I have never had to provide any support for it.  The one thing I do have to make sure of since it is under the eave of the house is that it gets enough water since the rain doesn’t get to it.  Clematis like a slighty moist, and alkaline to slighty acidic soil.  Every spring I mulch it in with compost to make sure that it has plenty of organic matter to feed on and that the soil around it doesn’t get too hot which can cause the foliage to look scorched.  Clematis are a wonderful and easy to care for addition to any garden; mine is the only plant left from the original garden that was there when I bought the house and it will stay there as long as I live there.

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May Perennial Hit List

DSC_0161 Things are finally starting to look like something.  I have Roses, Peonies and Clematis in bloom in my front yard right now and it’s fun to really see things starting to fill in for the season.  I have some new roses that I hadn’t seen bloom yet and am really excited about the Peonies shown here.  May is an extremely busy month in the garden and there are lots of considerations to take into account.  This is an ideal time to get plants in the ground; especially in Central Kentucky with all of the rain that we’ve had in the last two weeks. Here is a list of the main maintenance needs to consider for this month.  Once again I have to give credit to Tracy DiSabato Aust for all of the experience that she has put into her wonderful book The Well-Tended Perennial Garden.

1.  Not only is it the time to plant its the time to transplant as well.  If you have anything that you need to move or divide go ahead and do it now.  If the perennial you want to divide is in bloom right now then wait till it has finished and then transplant.  Make sure to mix some compost into the hole and dig you’re hole twice the size of what you are planting.  The loose soil will make it easier for the roots to establish.  If you need to cut the plants back to make them easier to move around don’t worry about that being a problem.

2. If you top dress with compost and haven’t done this yet go ahead now.  Make sure you don’t put down more than 1/2 inch of compost.  Too much mulch or compost up against the plant will do more harm than good.

3.  Weed, weed, weed.  Especially with all of the rain that we’ve had I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing the last two weeks.

4.  Look for insects that are starting to feast on your plants.  Aphids and slugs have started to appear and need to be taken care of before they get out of control.

5. Deadheading can be done on plants that have finished their flowering.

If you have a particular plant that you don’t know what to do with let me know and I will be happy to offer up specific advice.

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Espalier

Walking through many old gardens I have stumbled across plants, especially fruiting one, that have been trained in various shapes.  Some have been shaped so that they form an arch for you to walk under.  Others have been trained against a wall, sometimes free form and trimmed as they grow, and sometimes rigorously pruned to take on a specific shape.  Some of the most common forms are fans, candelabras, and horizontal cordons.  This technique was originally used in France for apple and pear trees.  The technique of Espalier provided the monks who started it with many advantages, the first was that it helped constrain the size of the plants so that in the limited space of a cloister their fruit trees did not take up as much room.  The second benefit was that the heat of the sun was retained by the wall the plants had been trained against.  This allowed the plants to fruit and ripen more quickly and it also helped plants that were marginally hardy to push through a cold winter.dsc_0026-10

There are few nurseries today that take the time to properly train Espalier.  Fortunately I have a great friend named Peter Thevenot who had made it his mission to reintroduce the Espalier to the American landscape.  With the trees that he is producing he is well on his way to fulfilling that goal.  Peter operates a specialty nursery in East TN call River Road Farms, their sole purpose is in producing these perfect Espalier specimens you see above. This picture is of an Keiffer Pear trained in the shape of a horizontal cordon.  A plant like this can take 4 -5 years to train before it is ready to leave the nursery.  There are other nurseries that are growing Espalier but Peter and his staff take the time to do things right; there are no overlapping branches to speed up the process.  If a bud doesn’t come up where it’s need they wait, and sometimes continue to wait until they get a bud they can work with exactly where it’s needed.

So I would like to sings the praises of River Road Farms and my friend Peter who are accomplishing their goal of producing the finest quality Espalier available.  I haven’t found any finer nor a nurseryman more passionate.

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Boxwood Psyllid

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Boxwood Psyllid is a very frustrating and common pest of all cultivars of Boxwood.  While there are many things that cause more severe damage the appearance of the cupped leaves caused by the Psyllid drives me crazy.  American Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens is the most susceptible.  Psyllid over-winters as a tiny, orange egg that has been deposited in the bud scales. In Spring the eggs hatch when the buds of the Boxwood open up and the nymphs begin to feed right away.  By early June you will start to see the winged adults hovering over your plants.  During the summer, after mating is when the eggs are actually deposited into the leaves between the bud scales.

The nymph stage is what damages the host plant by feeding on newly developing foliage, causing the leaves to become cupped.  This cupping conceals the psyllid, and provides protection while feeding.  Damage to the host plant is purely aesthetic.  Treatment should take place now to catch the nymphs before the start to feed.  Talk to your local extension agent about what you should treat with.  I have had great succes with Talstar.

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Disasters in Mulching

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What should be one of the most simple tasks in gardening is often one of the most egregiously performed.  There are many benefits to mulching; namely it helps retain moisture in the soil, prevents the number of weeds that come up and it helps give a clean, crisp and finished look to your planting beds.  It takes very little skill yet it is one of the most often improperly performed tasks by both home gardeners and professionals alike.  With all of the aforementioned benefits of mulch when it is not applied correctly it is extremely detrimental to all plant material but mainly woody shrubs and trees.

When too much mulch is applied you are creating what is referred to as a mulch volcano.  This creates a wonderful warm and moist environment for insects and fungal problems but the biggest issue it causes is growth of new roots above the root flair.  When these new roots start to grow inside of the mulch volcano they hit the perimeter of the mulch and begin to circle the tree.  This continues to wrap itself around the tree until it literally chokes the tree to death!  There must be companies that are making a living off of selling mulch because some of the examples are extreme (see the pictures).  The irony of all of this is that it takes more time to complete the task because you are applying more mulch and it takes longer.  Take notice as you drive around town how many people and companies are not doing this correctly.  Great intentions in planting are being killed off by over zealous and improperly trained mulchers.  You are now forewarned; don’t kill your trees slowly!

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Filed under Garden Maintenance, Mulching