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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

American Fringetree




American frigetree
Shortly after the majesty of the dogwoods fade, another flowering tree blossoms forth seemingly from nowhere.  The American fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus), also known as white fringetree, grancy graybeard or old man’s beard, puts out its floral display of masses of white fringe-like flowers after the plant's leaves are about a third grown.  The flowers have individual elongated or strap-like petals up to an inch long.   The abundance of flowers can be so great that the entire plant can be covered with blooms.  An added attraction is that the flowers are fragrant.
Plants generally produce only male or female flowers though some flowers may be bisexual.  Male flowers are the largest.  The female plants produce dark blue fruits shaped like an olive and can be over an inch long and are borne in large clusters.  (The American fringetree is a member of the Olive Family.)
The leaves of the fringetree are large, egg-shaped and over 2 1/2" wide and up to 3-8" long.  The tree is deciduous but the leaves can have a nice yellow color in the fall.
This small tree is native from Ohio to over much of the southeastern United States.  Mature trees can reach heights of 20 to 30 feet. The tallest tree now known currently is in Texas and is 28 feet tall.  The fringe tree is easy to grow.  While it prefers full sun, it tolerates full shade too.   It also prefers a well-drained soil with a slightly acidic pH, but it can adapt to just about any soil type.  Pests and diseases rarely bother this tree.
The fringetree has found its way into folk medicine.  Preparations made from the bark have been used in the treatment of fevers and as a diuretic.   A tincture made from the bark and grain alcohol was used for jaundice.  Native Americans used tea made from boiled bark as a topical treatment for skin irritations, cuts and infections.
Finding these trees to put in your landscape can be difficult.  Production of container-grown trees is fraught with problems.  Rooting of cuttings is nearly impossible.  Germination of seeds is difficult due to a double dormancy requiring a warm after-ripening followed by cold stratification.  Freezing the seed following the after-ripening period might increase the germination rate.  Some nurserymen report poor growth the first year after establishing the seedlings in a container.
There has been some success in propagating plants by mounding soil (mound layering) around young multi-stem plants in the spring.  That winter the mounded plants are divided.  This is a slow way to propagate but it can work.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Caring for Your Easter Lily after the Holiday



As the Easter season begins to wind down you might be thinking about what to do with the Easter Lily that you purchased or were given fo the holiday.  After the last bloom has withered and has been cut away, you can continue to grow your Easter Lilies’ outside in your garden to enjoy them for years to come.
 To plant your Easter Lilies outside, prepare a well-drained garden bed in a sunny location with rich, organic matter.  Good drainage is the key for success with lilies. If necessary, raise the garden bed by adding good soil to the top of the bed to ensure adequate drainage.
Plant the Easter Lily bulb 3 inches deep in the ground.  Space the bulbs 12 to 18 inches apart in the garden. Spread the roots and work the prepared soil in around the bulbs and the roots. Water immediately and thoroughly after planting to remove air pockets.
Cut the stems back to the soil surface when the original plants begin to die back.  Do not remove the foliage too soon because you will prevent it from storing food reserves. New growth will soon emerge. These Easter Lilies were forced under controlled greenhouse conditions to bloom in March-April, will bloom naturally in the summer.  You may be rewarded with a second bloom later this summer, but most likely you will have to wait until next June or July to see them bloom again.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Eliminating Lawn Burweed


Lawn Burweed

The extremely cold winter even slowed the weeds down a little.  However, as soon as it warmed up a little, they took off like gang-busters.  Then my phone started ringing with homeowners looking for control solutions. 

Depending on the weed species I might tell them to mow the weeds or wait until warm kills off the winter annuals.  One big exception to these two scenarios is if they have lawn burweed also known as spurweed.  This weed needs to be destroyed now before it flowers and produces those little, sharp, brown seeds with spurs. The simplest way to do this is with a timely application of a postemergent herbicide.

  A three-way combination herbicide may be used on bermudagrass, zoysiagrss, centipedegrass, or St. Augustinegrass. The active ingredients of a three-way herbicide often include the following broadleaf weed killers: 2,4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop (MCPP). Examples of a three-way herbicide are Ferti-lome Weed-Out Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec, Bayer Advanced Southern Weed Killer for Lawns, Spectracide Weed Stop Weed Killer for Lawns, Southern Ag Lawn Weed Killer with Trimec, and many others regional brands.  Ferti-Lome Weed Free Zone adds a fourth chemical, carfentrazone to broaden the spectrum of weed control.  Spectracide Weed Stop 2X for Lawns also adds a fouth chemical, sulfentrazone.

If the clumps have gotten large or the weather is too cool, two applications might be necessary.   Wait 10 – 14 days after the first application to make the second one.  Do not apply these herbicides around the drip-line of trees or in flowerbeds. Always follow label instructions and precautions.

Another piece of advice for effectively controlling lawn burweed is to apply an appropriate preemergent herbicide during the fall or late winter months.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Preventing Summer Annual Weeds in Your Lawn




Common lespedeza
As winter begins its transition into spring, we look to the beautiful, yellow blooms of yellow bells (Forsythia sp) to remind us to apply pre-emergent weed killer to the lawn
Well, mine is not blooming this year.  I cannot ever remember not seeing a yellow bell bloom in the spring, but apparently that last hard freeze killed most of the buds on my plant.
 I generally tell people to apply their chemicals by the calendar and not by when a plant blooms, so it is not too big a deal for me except I miss the bright, yellow flowers.

Anyhow, now is the time to apply pre-emergent weed killers to your lawn to control those pesky, summer annual weeds.  It is best to try to control them now so you will not have to call me later in the summer with a problem.  There are several good products from which to choose:

1. atrazine                        Image herbicide for St. Augustinegrass and Centipedegrass with Atrazine; Spectricide Weedstop for Lawns; Hi-Yield Atrazine Weed Killer
2. dithiopyr                        Sta-Green Crab Ex; Green Light Crabgrass Preventer; Vigoro Preemergent Crabgrass and Weed Preventer; Hi Yield Turf & Ornamental Weed & Grass Stopper
3. pendimethalin               Scott’s Halts Crabgrass Preventer
4. oryzalin                         Southern Ag. Surflan A.S.
5. isoxaben                       Portrait Broadleaf Weed Preventer
6. benefin + oryzalin          Green Light Amaze Grass and Weed Preventer; XL 2G
7. benefin + trifluralin         Hi-Yield Crabgrass Preventer; Southern Ag. Team 2 G
8. corn gluten meal            Concern All Natural Weed Preventer Plus; Nature’s Guide Corn Gluten Meal   

I often tell clients to buy any product that has ‘crabgrass killer’ in its name.  That makes it easy to remember when they go to purchase a product.  These products will control many other weeds beside crabgrass however.  The key to good control with any of these products is to apply them before a rain or to water the lawn within a week of application to move the chemical into the soil.

The corn gluten meal products are primarily for those who want an organic form of weed control.  It is primarily effective on crabgrass only.  Also, due to the high temperatures and high rainfall in the south, it will be less effective than the other products.

As for those ‘weed and feed’ products that are supposed to control weeds in your lawn and fertilize it at the same time, do not waste your money.  You need to be applying your weed control product now.  Your grass will not need any fertilizer for about two more months. 

Before you use any chemical, be sure to read and follow the instructions on the product label . . . even if you have to put on your glasses!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Caring for Your Valentine’s Day Bouquet



Did you come back to this blog to see if I bought my wife flowers or planted a tree for her for Valentine’s Day?  Or, were you one of the fortunate ones that received a bouquet of roses or other cut flowers for Valentine’s Day and want to know how to prolong their beauty?

Here are a few tips will help your flowers last longer, maybe even a few weeks!

First, recut the stems at least 1 inch shorter than when you got them. Use a sharp knife and cut at a 45-degree angle.   Immediately submerge the stems in warm water.  Even better is to cut the stems while they are under water.

Be sure and strip off any leaves that would otherwise be immersed in the vase water. Add a packet of flower preservative to the water.  Often this comes with the bouquet.  If not, you can purchase these from a florist or from the floral sections of some discount stores.  If you do not have or cannot find the floral preservative packets, change the water daily in the vase.

Avoid displaying your bouquet in a hot room or in direct sunlight.  You can make your bouquet last even longer is to put the whole thing, into the refrigerator every night before you go to bed and then take it out in the morning.  Putting the bouquet in a cooler part of the house will work to some degree as well.

Remember, cut flower bouquets do not last forever, so take a picture of you with your bouquet so the memories will last long after the flowers have faded.  Or you can press a few of the flowers between pages of newspaper to dry them.  They might not be as colorful but the will be a reminder of the good times.

As for my wife, I bought her a pot of yellow orchids.  And she is very happy!