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Your Plants May Need A Second Anti-Desiccant Application

Nobody who lives in our area needs to be reminded that this has been a brutal winter. However, you may need a reminder about what this weather is doing to your valuable trees and shrubs. It’s drying out the leaves, needles or even trunk and stem tissue (i.e. desiccating them). Even our dormant deciduous plants may be subject to desiccation according to a consumer horticulture bulletin from Purdue University.

We’ve had a lot of snow, but we’ve also had a lot of wind, and it’s the wind that causes desiccation. Woody plants, especially evergreens, continue to function through the winter, giving off water through transpiration. This is part of the photosynthesis process. With the little bit of sun we’ve had, you wouldn’t think plants would be able to photosynthesize, but they do.

During transpiration, water is given off through the leaves or needles. The wind then blows the droplets away, and there is no way the roots can absorb more water through the frozen soil. Broadleaf evergreens’ leaves may turn brown at the edges or they may turn red or purple and curl. Needled evergreens will have tan spots where the needles were just too dry to sustain themselves.

According to the Purdue bulletin, severely desiccated deciduous trees will have dead twigs and buds. Some twigs will leaf out but die in the summer, especially if it’s a dry summer.

If you had anti-desiccant applied in the fall, you may need a second application. If you didn’t take this cost effective measure to protect your trees and shrubs, call for an application now. As soon as the snow melts sufficiently that we have access to the plants, we’ll begin scheduling anti-desiccant applications.

If you aren’t familiar with this product, it’s a clear, wax like material that coats the plant. Sunlight can get through it for photosynthesis. However, when the leaves transpire, the anti-desiccant prevents the wind from blowing the droplets of water away. Instead, they’re reabsorbed into the leaf and keep it from drying out.

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February Tree & Shrub Tasks

We’ve discussed pruning trees in winter while they are defoliated and their skeletons are visible. If you haven’t had your trees pruned yet, please call so we can schedule you. Remember, tree pruning isn’t a do-it-yourself project.

Our crews will continue pruning most trees even after they leaf out, but they know how to do it safely for both the tree and themselves. We will begin putting off pruning several trees for awhile in the spring, especially those that “bleed.” Maple is the most common. Their “blood,” of course, is maple sap.

This is also a good time to prune deciduous shrubs. Like trees, they are dormant and their structure is visible, allowing you to see deeply inside their thicket of branches. We don’t recommend that you prune spring flowering shrubs (and trees) like lilacs now, however. To the untrained eye, buds often look the same, and there’s a real danger that you’ll prune off this spring’s flowers – the very reason why you planted the shrub or tree. Our professionals are trained to differentiate flower and leaf buds.

Suppose one of your favorite shrubs is planted in the wrong place? Or you find that a tree you planted several years ago is not doing well because it’s the wrong tree in the wrong place? A good time to move it would be soon after the snow melts and the ground thaws. The ground will be soft, making the job of digging the plant out of its current site easier. If you re not among the faint of heart and are willing to tackle this heavy, dirty job yourself, here are a few tips:

  • Dig all the way around the plant. In the case of shrubs, dig out to the dripline. Dig trees either three feet for every inch of trunk diameter or to the dripline if that’s practical.
  • Take as much root mass as you can. If you have to cut roots, do so with sharp pruning shears or pruning saw rather than the shovel blade.
  • Replant the same way that you would a nursery-fresh shrub or tree. Dig the hole two to three times wider than the rootball but only as deep. Place the plant in the hole and backfill, lightly tamping down the soil as you go to eliminate air pockets.
  • Don’t stake trees unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you have to stake, use an elastic material rather than wire and don’t leave the stakes and guys in place for more than a year.
  • Be sure your transplanted plant gets plenty of water, just like a new nursery plant.
  • Use the remaining soil from the transplant holes to fill in the hole where the tree or shrub was planted.

If you are among the faint of heart, one of our landscape crews would be happy to transplant your shrub or tree for you.

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February Time To Have Your PHC Strategy In Place

If you’re taking a wait and see attitude about Plant Health Care, the results could be very costly. We recommend that you have a professional Plant Health Care strategy in place before your plants show symptoms of any insect infestations or diseases this spring.

Waiting gives pests an opportunity to gain a foothold. Active planning will allow us to take early, pre-emptive action. Soon, our Plant Health Care professionals will be applying dormant oil to trees. This very thin petroleum product, much like an extremely diluted form of the petroleum jelly we put on burns, coats the tree surface and the dormant, overwintering target insects. This coating smothers insects like aphids, scale and spider mites while they sleep.

As good as dormant oil is, it has a very small window of opportunity. It must be applied after temperatures rise above freezing and into the 40s but before the insects wake up or the tree’s flower and leaf buds break. The required paperwork will have to be in place before we can apply this, or any treatment.

A number of other insects overwinter in the egg stage and hatch in spring. Gypsy moth is one of them. Treatment is most effective if applied while the larvae are still small, young and weak. At that time, treatment can also be less aggressive than when the larvae are older and stronger.

If you didn’t have your ash trees treated for emerald ash borer in the fall, you should have them treated in the early spring. That’s when the adults emerge, mate and lay their eggs.

It appears that the list of pests eyeing your valuable trees is endless and continually changing. That’s why a professional Plant Health Care program is much more cost effective than calling for treatment when you see a pest on your trees.

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Check Out Where Outdoor Plants Can Keep Your Indoors Warm & Cool

Here’s a winter task that can save money on your energy bills throughout the year. Use this cold weather to check out where your home is drafty and determine whether outdoor plants can help reduce the effects of those drafts.

Tree and shrub placement, as well as species selection, can reduce energy bills year round. The general rule is that planting evergreens on the north and west side of your home can protect it from winter winds. Planting deciduous trees to the south and east can let the sun increase your home’s warmth in winter and reduce the amount of sun beating down on it in summer. But, that’s just a generality. Here’s the rest of the story.

The U.S. Forest Services says that three “optimal and well placed landscape trees” can reduce the annual heating and cooling cost of a well insulated home by 6.5 percent annually. These don’t necessarily have to be very tall trees. A row of 20 foot evergreens can protect an area up to 200 feet from them. This row of trees will direct wind up and over your home, much like those deflectors you see on big trucks going down the highway.

Plant shrubs near the foundation where they’ll act as a buffer to cold air coming into the building. Planting more shrubs further away from the house on the side of the prevailing wind can act as a snow fence.

Before physicists or heating and air conditioning people add comments, let me say that I know cold is caused by heat loss. However, winter winds blow cold air from the outside into the same openings in which heated air escapes. The bottom line is that the furnace has to work harder and use more expensive energy to warm the home.

Just the opposite is true in summer. The sun can heat the whole surface of the house and it can penetrate those heat loss openings. This means that the air conditioner has to work overtime. Tall, broad deciduous trees, strategically planted between the sun and the house, can reduce the intensity of the sun’s rays so the heat doesn’t penetrate the house as much. That’s why these trees are called shade trees.

Planting shrubs beside paved areas like sidewalks and driveways can reduce the pavement temperature from the transpiration of water through their leaves during photosynthesis.

Taking all these aesthetic and climatic considerations into consideration when designing a landscape and selecting plants can be a daunting task. Our designers would be happy to take that burden off your shoulders, and now is a good time to get started. The designer can visit your home and check on prevailing winds, sun angles at various times of the day, and snow drift patterns and then have a plan ready for installation first thing in the spring.

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Edible Landscapes Gaining In Popularity

Last May, we introduced the concept of integrating edible plants (veggies) into your flower beds. At the time, this was a relatively new concept that was just starting to gain traction. Well, it appears that it didn’t take long to find significant appeal.

Each year, the Garden Writers Foundation sponsors research into garden trends for the upcoming year. So hot on the subject of edible gardens were the people who wrote the survey questions that this year’s survey concentrated solely on edible landscapes.

The GWF survey found that 58 percent of the respondents plan to grow edible plants in 2015. A quarter of the respondents plan to plant edible plants in the ground, while nine percent (one in 10) plan to use containers and 24 percent plan to use both methods.

Forty-four percent of consumers responded that they grew edible plants in 2014. Of these, 38 percent, or 1/3 of them, said they planted edible plants in the ground; 15 percent said that they used containers and 32 percent said they plant in both the ground and containers.

A quarter of last year’s respondents didn’t grow edible plants because they simply lost interest in the activity; 18 percent said a lack of success was the reason. “Too much work” was mentioned by 17 percent of respondents, with “took too much time” (14 percent) and “too expensive” (7 percent) rounded out the top five.

Of those not planning to grow edible plants in 2015, more than one‐third (37 percent) said it’s because they don’t garden. Nearly one in five Americans (17 percent) reported that they won’t grow plants because they moved to a home where gardening isn’t possible, while 9 percent said it’s too much work.

According to respondents, insect and disease control (39 percent) and time (38 percent) are the greatest challenges to edible gardening. Wildlife control was considered to be the greatest challenge by 28 percent of respondents.

If you really want to enjoy your own home grown produce this season but are concerned about pests and wildlife or don’t have the time, call us. Let our professionals help you design attractive planting beds that incorporate both traditional landscape plants and edible plants, and then look to us to help you maintain them. You’ll get the satisfaction of improving your family’s quality of life, and get ooohs and ahs from neighbors, without having to do all the work. You do as much or as little of the work as you want.

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Why Don’t Trees Freeze & Break?

The answer to the title question is that they often do freeze and break. Have you ever seen cracks running up and down the trunk of a tree? This is caused by the freezing and thawing of water in the outer portions of the trunk. In the tree care industry, these are referred to as frost cracks.

Some have compared trees freezing and breaking with plumbing pipes bursting. However, it isn’t the same phenomenon at all. Pipes burst when they are filled with water, which then freezes, expands and causes a weak spot in the pipe to burst. In the case of trees, there are thousands of liquid-carrying “pipes” – the phloem and xylem – and they are more elastic than plastic or metal pipe. Besides, there is less liquid flowing through these vessels when the tree is dormant.

Trees are most apt to freeze and break when the temperature plummets before the tree goes completely dormant. Even then, in our area, it is usually only the vessels near the perimeter of the tree, closest to the bark, that are apt to freeze enough to break. Thick bark trees can often prevent the trunk from breaking but thin bark trees don’t have that protection. Consequently, they are the trees that most often split and form frost cracks.

Although frost cracked trunks on thin bark trees are most common, weak xylem and phloem vessels anywhere inside a tree can break. But these interior broken vessels don’t affect the bark, and there are so many of these vessels running up and down the trunk that these breaks won’t affect the tree’s health. Also, the sugar in the phloem reduces water’s freezing point.

There are a few ways to protect thin bark trees from frost cracks. One is to wrap the trunk with burlap or tree wrap. If you do this, be sure to remove the wrap in the spring. You can also build a wood structure around the trunk. When planting a thin bark tree, it’s a good idea to keep it out of the path of the prevailing wind. Also, a good layer of mulch will help keep the roots warm and, as a result, the liquid that flows in the vessels will be warmer.

On the plus side, a frost cracked tree is not in imminent danger of dying. As I said above, there are so many fluid transport vessels that they can take over for those that broke and caused the frost crack.

If you have any questions about protecting your trees this winter, we will be happy to answer them.

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Plan For Next Winter This Winter

I’ve written about how to create winter interest in your landscape and, hopefully, you’ve done some of these things. Now that winter is upon us, here are a few more ways in which you can use this winter to plan for next winter.

In the spring, add some plants to your garden that have winter interest. Our designers have a whole list of plants that have features that are visible in winter. These features include bark, twigs, berries or even late flowers like witch hazel or early bloomers like hellebores.

Some parts of our area are in USDA zone 6 while others are in the colder zone 5. If you live in zone 6, consider planting winter jasmine or heavenly bamboo. This bamboo is non-invasive, so you don’t have to worry about it getting out of hand.

Don’t just make a winter garden. Intersperse these plants with your other plants for four season interest. In a new landscape, include plants with winter interest as part of your plant palette.

Do you have hydrangeas in your landscape now? Did you cut them back or are the flowers still visible? If you did cut them back, make a note to leave them next year. The flowers will stick up above the snow like oversize snowflakes. If you didn’t get around to cutting them back, you already know how attractive the blooms can be.

There you have it. A few ways in which you can add winter interest to your landscape and enjoy a truly four season experience. Every time I see landscape features for every season, I jot them down so I can share them with you when I have enough to fill a page. I hope you enjoy them.

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