Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Trimming Topiaries

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Trimming Topiaries

The #1 question I’m asked about a topiary – “Is it hard to maintain them?”  The answer is not at all IF you don’t let it grow too much before giving it a trim. 

Let’s talk Juniper topiaries – spirals, pom-poms, poodles and patio trees.  Since junipers grow so slowly they are perfect for topiary designs.  Under normal conditions 2 trimmings per year will keep a juniper topiary looking neat.

Examine your topiary

Look for the original shape of the topiary and decide how much of the new growth needs to be cut off.  Do you want to trim the plant back to its original size and remove all new growth?  Would you like to increase the plants size?  If so, you will cut off less of the new growth but follow the pattern of the original shape.

Get to trimming

Start trimming your Juniper topiary from the top down.  Until you become comfortable with your cutting ability start with a light trim in a small section.  “More is not better“ when learning to trim.  It’s better to trim less and cut a second time to attain the look you envision rather than to cut too much off. Once you’re satisfied then trim the same amount off the rest of the plant.

If you accidentally cut too much, don’t worry.  Trimming a plant causes new growth to occur so it will fill in quickly.  Just like a not so good haircut – it grows out and you fix it.

What to trim with

I prefer using a bypass hand pruner or handheld clipping shears – with sharp blades.  Hedge trimmers or hedge shears are difficult to maneuver and make it difficult to cut properly from all angles.

Other topiary plants (except pines)

The same techniques will work on other species of plants used as topiaries.  Boxwood, Ligustrum, Fig Ivy, Rosemary, Holly, etc.  Keep your trimmers sharp, follow the lines of the original topiary shape, start at the top and work your way down and you can successfully trim any topiary.

6 Tips For The Prettiest Pansies

6 Tips For The Prettiest Pansies

Pansies don’t do well in soil that stays wet – in fact they like it on the dry side.  So, here’s 6 tips on how to prevent this problem so you can enjoy beautiful blooming pansies throughout the winter months ahead.

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1. Don’t over water    

Sounds simple, but we all have a tendency to just water without checking.  Check your pots prior to watering to make sure they are dry and need watering.  If your pansies are planted in the ground, make sure they need watering.  Plants in the ground and in containers don’t require frequent watering in the fall and winter like they do during the summer. 

2. Reset your sprinkler System    

If you haven’t reset your sprinkler system from the summer setting, now is the time to do so.  As the weather cools off lawn and flower beds don’t require as much water as they do in the hotter summer months.  Set your sprinklers to water less frequently during the fall and winter.

3. Get your hands dirty or use a moisture meter     

We can look at the surface of a pot and tell if it looks dry, but how much moisture is down at the root zone.  The only way to tell is to either stick your finger in the dirt and see how wet it is or use a moisture meter that will instantly tell you if it is wet or dry.  Use one of these methods to determine if your pansies are in need of water.

4. Planting in poor draining areas    

If the area does not drain well you can create a raised bed in which to plant, thus ensuring the  plants are planted above the wet area.  This can be achieved very easily by creating a mound or longer berm out of garden soil (not potting soil) and plant into this raised area.  Cover with mulch to match the rest of your bed and your poor draining area is solved.

5. Install drainage solutions into your landscape    

You may have a drainage problem that needs a drainage solution such as a French drain or piping downspouts out of your flower beds.  Feel free to call our store with photos so we can try and give you the best method to resolve drainage issues.

6. Make sure your pots and planters drain well    

Planting pansies in pots and planters around your home gives you winter color in a variety of areas.  Make sure that they have adequate drain holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out of the pot.  If the pot is sitting on a solid surface the drain holes may not be able to drain.  Place the pot on pot toes or small blocks of wood that enables the pot to be slightly raised from the surface it is sitting on so water is able to escape out the drain holes.  Also, use the finger test or moisture meter to test if the pot needs watering.

These are just a few of the ways you can turn a wet, poor draining situation into one that is dry enough for pansies and other plants to bloom beautifully. 
If you have questions about how to solve a specific problem please give us a call at (903) 753-2223.  You can text a pic to (903)-339-0922 and we can help determine a solution to a problem or answer your questions. 
Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Abelias

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Abelias

Abelia are known for their gracefully arching branches that are covered with flowers from June to October.  Pruning abelia plants isn’t a necessity – you can allow them to grow freely.  However, pruning will keep your plant compact and neat looking.  Although there are many different varieties available there is no difference in pruning techniques.

The best time to prune Abelias is in late winter or early spring.  Their flowers are formed on new growth (newly grown branches), so you don’t have to worry about losing blooms by cutting branches at the correct time of the year. 

If you have an older abelia that needs rejuvenating, you can prune it to the ground or prune 1/3 of the oldest stems to the ground each year before spring growth begins.  Choose the tallest branches on the interior of the plant and continue pruning stems in a random pattern to keep the shrub natural-looking.  This will promote new, compact growth.

How and What to Prune

– Prune dead stems to the ground.

– If only part of the branch is dead, cut below the dead wood and just above a lateral branch or bud.

– Long, leggy stems called water spouts (we prefer crazy arms) can be pruned to the ground any time.

– Prune the tips of all branches to maintain an even look.

– Use hand pruners for stems less than ½” in diameter and lopping shears for larger branches.

After the threat of frost has passed apply a good granular fertilizer to your abelia making sure to water it in thoroughly.  This will promote new growth for later spring and into summer.

If we have a scorcher of a summer and your abelia looks “tired” in August or September, prune the tips of all the branches.  Once the temps drop out of the high 90s you will begin to see new growth appear and a happy, healthy plant full of new blooms that will last until the first frost. 

Using Epsom Salts in your Garden

Using Epsom Salts in your Garden

Epsom salt – also known as magnesium sulfate – helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, and deters pests, such as slugs and voles. It also provides vital nutrients to supplement your regular fertilizer.

Plants will have visible signs that they are starved for a particular nutrient. If a plant’s leaves turn yellow all over the plant, it can be a sign they need more sulfate. If lower leaves turn yellow between the veins (and the veins stay green), they may need more magnesium.

Epsom Salt is recommended by Master Gardeners and used regularly by commercial growers around the world. Tests by the National Gardening Association confirm that roses fertilized with Epsom Salt grow bushier and produce more flowers, and it also makes pepper plants grow larger than those treated only with commercial fertilizer.

Here are some other tips for using Epsom salt in the garden:

Houseplants: 

– 2 tablespoons per gallon of water; feed plants monthly.

– Frequent watering for indoor plants can cause a buildup of salts in their pot. A tablespoon of Epsom Salt sprinkled on top can aid in flushing the salt buildup out.

– Spray leaves of houseplants to increase their green color, just combine 2 tablespoons of Epsom Salt and a gallon of warm water in a spray bottle and spray directly onto the leaves of the plant.

Roses: 

– 1 tablespoon per foot of plant height per plant; apply every two weeks. Also scratch 1/2 cup into soil at base to encourage flowering canes and healthy new canes. Soak unplanted rose bushes in 1 cup of Epsom Salt per gallon of water to help roots recover. Add a tablespoon of Epsom Salt to each hole at planting time.

Shrubs (evergreens, azaleas, rhododendron): 

– 1 tablespoon per 9 square feet. Apply over root zone every 2-4 weeks.

Lawns: 

– Apply 3 pounds for every 1,250 square feet with a spreader or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Trees:

– Apply 2 tablespoons per 9 square feet. Apply over the root zone 3 times annually.

Garden Startup:

– Sprinkle 1 cup per 100 square feet. Mix into soil before planting.

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Hydrangeas

Pruning Trees+Shrubs Series: Hydrangeas

As Fall turns to Winter our trees and shrubs become dormant and we naturally think “it’s time to prune”.  CAUTION!  You are entering a DANGER ZONE!  Pruning improperly can destroy what nature has taken years to create. 
Cutting dead looking stems off shrubs can eliminate all flowers the following year.  Pruning the wrong branches from trees can negatively affect their structure, overall beauty and decrease fruit production.
Ask questions, do a bit of research before grabbing the clippers or pruning saw.
This is the first of several articles offering “easy to follow” suggestions on pruning popular shrubs and trees.  Following these instructions will reward you with healthy, blooming trees and shrubs for years to come.

Let’s talk Hydrangeas

These beautiful shrubs brighten up the shady spots in our yards with multiple blooms on each plant during the spring, summer and into fall.  But if pruned incorrectly they will flower very little or not at all.
First step is to identify what type of Hydrangea you have.  Most hydrangea varieties bloom on last year’s growth – stems or branches that grew this year, will bear flowers next year.  This is common for mophead, lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas.
Mopheads are known for their round balls of either white, pink or blue blooms.
Lacecaps are a flatter, multi-blooming flower resembling flat caps with frilly edges. 
Oakleaf are recognized by their distinctive leaves shaped like those of an oak tree.
These 3 types should be pruned after blooming (late summer/early fall).  These bloom for several months so you may need to selectively prune shoots that have already bloomed while leaving others to finish blooming through the season. 
If you prune these types of hydrangeas back to the ground in winter, you will not have flowers the following year.
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Reblooming Varieties:  If your hydrangea is one of the newer reblooming varieties (Endless Summer series, Forever & Ever series) they bloom on both current season’s growth as well as previous years branches.  These varieties should not be cut to the ground either – this will delay blooms.

How to Prune

1. Start by removing dead or damaged stems first.
2. If the plant is too large, cut the oldest shoots to the ground, giving the younger, smaller shoots more room to grow.  This will shorten and thin out the plant.
3. Cut back stems to just above a pair of healthy buds.
4. Varieties that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after they flower
Tip:  We suggest planting hydrangeas with non-deciduous shrubs in your landscape.  This will allow the focus to shift from the hydrangeas to these other shrubs during the winter months. 
By pruning at the correct time of year and using the correct pruning methods your Hydrangeas should reward you with a bounty of colorful blooms from spring through early fall.
5 Succulents That Are Hardy to East Texas

5 Succulents That Are Hardy to East Texas

With winter coming up quickly, most succulents will need some sort of protection against the chilly air, or just brought inside where temperatures aren’t so low. However, these 5 succulents are ‘cool’ with the cool air and will be just fine when Jack Frost pays East Texas a visit!


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Euphorbia

With colorful pink, green, or white modified leaves (that look like flowers!) and its blue-green foliage, this low-maintenance perennial is perfect for your beds, borders, or containers. Euphorbia is tough and offers outstanding heat and drought resistance. Instead of showy flower petals, euphorbia has modified leaves, called bracts. This plant is a vigorous grower, reaching 1-3 feet in height and 2 feet in width at maturity, so it can quickly fill a garden space.


Hens & Chicks

Sempervivum are succulent, rosette forming plants belonging to the Crassulaceae family. They are commonly known as Hens & Chicks, and are called this because of the high number of offspring they produce — thus, a Hen and all her Chicks! The main attraction of these plants is their colorful rosettes of leaves. The rosettes are most striking in the spring and summer but even in the winter when growth stops, many varieties remain attractively colored.


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‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum

Sedums have become one of the most popular hardy plants in our area. What’s not to like? They are easy to grow; their thick, succulent leaves make them drought tolerant and they grow in full sun to light shade. Tall, upright sedums form clumps of foliage with massive flower heads which develop in summer and bloom in the fall and then provide food for the birds during the winter.


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Delosperma (Also known as Ice Plant)

Best grown in FULL SUN, Delosperma is an easy-to-grow herbaceous perennial. It can tolerate dry soil, shallow-rocky soil, and even full-on droughts. Glossy red-purple flowers bloom continuously from early summer until fall, and stand out against its fleshy, emerald-green leaves. The bright flower color paired with the long-blooming season and evergreen foliage makes ‘Ice Plant’ an easy choice as a groundcover or for a rock garden. A vigorous grower, Delosperma can reach 3-6 inches in height and a spread of 24 inches (or more!) at maturity.


‘Ogon’ Stonecrop Sedum

A small mass of brilliant, evergreen, solid yellow-gold, succulent foliage flushed with pink provides a bold color accent in rock gardens, along rock walls, or in mixed succulent containers. Makes an excellent pathway filler or ground cover. Does BEST in partial sun, reaching a spread of 8-12 inches at maturity.


Camellias: Sasanqua vs. Japonica

Camellias: Sasanqua vs. Japonica

Camellias are showy plants, offering long lasting blooms during the late fall and winter, lasting well into the spring.  Their large flowers brighten up your landscape during those winter months when little else is blooming.  The blooms are profuse and cover the entire bush making it the superstar of any landscape. 

There are numerous species of Camellias but the most popular varieties grown are Camellia Sasasanqua and Camellia Japonica.   These 2 varieties have similarities in their flower color but bloom at different times of the season.  Camellia Sasanqua will bloom from late Fall through early January and Camellia Japonica will bloom January through early Spring.

Camellias are known as a shade loving plants, but the Sasanqua can handle some sun.  It’s smaller than the Japonica in overall size (6’ tall and wide to 10’ tall and 6’ wide) and has smaller leaves and flowers.  Blooms are 3” – 4” in diameter, are sweet smelling and usually have ruffled edges with a burst of yellow color in their center. 

Japonicas prefer shade and are taller (12’+ for old mature plants) than Sasanquas.  Their flowers boast more petals, are often 5” wide and are stunning.  A single bush can have well over 100 flowers for weeks, blooming consistently from January through early spring.    

Both varieties offer striation or multicolored blooms, but most camellias bloom in one of three colors – white, pink or red, – in many shades from the palest shell pink to rose pink to bright red. 

These slow growing evergreens are relatively care-free.  They should only require pruning after they finish blooming.  Fertilize at the same time and again in mid-summer.  Camellias are prone to Scale and treating yearly with a horticultural spray or drench will help control these pests.

Consider adding camellias to your landscape if you haven’t already.  By planting both varieties you can enjoy the “Queen of winter flowers” from late fall through Spring.