Masterpiece Landscaping Blog

February 18, 2010

Conifers in Your Landscape: Overgrown? Priceless?

Filed under: Plant health — glenn @ 7:26 pm

Nearly every year a list of new plants appear on the market  for home landscpape use.  Most disappear after only a few years on the planting schedules.    Most of these plants are perennials.  Hostas, aquilegias,  heucheras come and go like revolving doors.  Some are better than others either in hardiness, fussiness, life expectancy, disease resistance, or assets such as flower or foliage color  or strength of stems or general form.

Among shrubs, Endless Summer Hydrangea has been a big disappointment among many  landscapers for their unreliability of blueness of bloom but also frequency of bloom.   I have noticed they do not perform well in shade, even in light shade, if color and frequency of bloom are demanded.  One can follow several regimens of acidifying and fertilizing, but the blue color isn’t always reliable even when you do.  

I find the plant still useful in the shade.  The foliage is always attractive even if bloom might be scarce.

Over the past twenty years the group of plants that have made the best showings in the Minnesota northern landscape gardens are the countless new dwarf and semi dwarf coniferous evergreens.   A few of these plants were available a half a century ago, but simply not available to the general market here in the Twin City area. 

Today,  nearly every hue from blue to green to chartreuse is available in various textures, growth patterns, shapes  and sizes.   As winter comes to its end, stop by the evergreen landscape gardens at the South entrance of Courage Center in Golden Valley.   As sunlight increases, the  colors sharpen to make a beautiful display both of individual conifers as well as those in combinations. 

When you see a specimen which especially interests you, be sure you find out the accurate and complete name….the most accurate being the official Latin name of the plant….but Rhinegold Arborvitae, Gentsch Hemlock, or Motherlode Juniper would be good enough.  Most nurserymen would recognize the plant accurately. 

Do remember not every evergreen is a pine.  Most are not.   So often homeowners will ask a question similar to …”I saw a pine yesterday at the nursery and it had the most beautiful yellow foliage.  It was a creeper with real tight foliage….and… would you know the name of it?”    Knowing the color and the texture and nature of the plant is very helpful…enough in this case to know that this conifer is not going to be a pine.

February 13, 2010

The Winter Garden Made More Beautiful

Filed under: winter landscapes — glenn @ 7:26 pm

Now is the time to be analyzing your winter landscape.  This is not the best year for such analyzing.  The snow has been much too heavy causing many of our evergreen forms to disappear into the abyss of snowcover.    Many of my four plus foot high shrub arborvitaes have simply disappeared into the drift totally unnoticeable and likely will remain so all winter long.

The six to eight inch snowfall of last week whitened the setting and pasted some beautiful coverings over many of the side branches and bendings of the larger deciduous trees.  My twenty year old redbud was spectacular.  Clever pruning often is a requirement in creating special forms of beauty in the landscape garden.   Redbuds, plums, and pagoda dogwoods head the list of the medium to small trees which are especially interesting in the otherwise stark winter garden.

This morning being rather foggy, hoarfrost covered the garden.  Yet another look to change the outside pictures for a very different mood.

A somewhat unusual feature of this particular winter…..and the reason we seem to have four to five feet of snow everywhere, comes from the virtual absence of January thaw last month.  In my neck of the woods, in suburbia west of the cities, a solid rain crusted  up the heavy snows of the preChristmas snowfall last December.  Nothing has melted since.   There has been no standing water from snow melt anywhere on my property since early December.  Snowfall keeps piling up.

It is that December rain which has fastened the tops of a number of my conifers to the groundsnow giving the tree a full bend to the trunks.  I don’t think any of the main stems are cracked, but they are vulnerable to breakage if one attempts  freeing them to stand up at this time.  Wait for nature to correct matters…that is, when there is enough snow melt to free the crown without ‘outside’ help.

Should one stake up the bent trees  in spring?….It might not be necessary.  Usually, but eventually, the arborvitaes and junipers will straighten up on their own, with help from the sun, of course.   Dont’ force any of them into shape while it is cold, that is, below fifty above Fahrenheit…..and then only ease the bending tree back into the upright position.

I saw a rather large coyote last week prowling just outside my garden confines, with something on its mind….scent, I suppose I should say.   Coyotes, feral cats, fox, owls, hawks, are all welcome in my landscape.  They all love rabbit.  A garden snake emerged from my garage last October.  I hadn’t seen one on my property for over 30 years.  Welcome back, I thought, as it worked its way across my pation into the greenery.  I was thrilled.

If there has been more than incidental winter damage done to your medium to small trees and shrubs, call us at Masterpiece Landscaping to recapture their  beauty.  Some of the most beautiful evergreens in the classic landscape garden are old junipers, both spreaders and uprights.

The same can be said for yews, except it should be remembered that the Taunton spreader yew, and the upright Capitata yew are roughly the same plant. …simply pruned differently.   If left alone and they are located in a favorable location…good loamy soil with some winter sun shadowing, they can live a long time and will reach, if untouched, to heights of twenty feet and widths of the same.  These become BIG evergreens if left unattended.

The same can be reported regarding King’s Gold or Sungold Chamaecyparis.   They are sold in the nurseries as cutzy droopy,  yellowish foliaged shrubs about eighteen inches high.  If nothing is ever pruned, these little things will reach tree  sizes of twenty or more feet.

These Chamaecyparis pisifera trees are among the most Japanese appearing forms in our Twin City landscapes.  I have two twenty footers, thirty plus years old, which I really cherish.

Each of the coniferous evergreen species in our metropolitan landscapes hold snow differently.  The spruce, being very stiff plants to begin with will hold masses of snow fixed to their branches for months if temperatures remain cold.  Hemlocks show as much grace supporting snow in winter as they do without such burden the other times of the year.  The cultivar, Gentsch, is my favorite Canadian hemlock selection.  It is another conifer sold as a shrub, but if left unpruned will develop into an incredibly graceful stunning form all four seasons.

Call us at Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd., for your pruning needs….952-933-5777!

February 6, 2010

Some Ornamental Trees Must Be Pruned in Late Winter

Filed under: Pruning — glenn @ 10:02 pm

Remember, mid February to late March  is the best time of the year to prune your apple and crabapple, pear, plum and mountain ash trees.  All of thes fruit bearing woody plants are members of the rose family and are susceptible to a deadly bacterial disease, fireblight.  If pruned during the growing season, in spring especially, there is great risk for infection particularly if fireblight happens to be active in the neighborhood or if following your pruning, the weather turns wet and windy.

Creating a beautiful form  should be, ideally,  a major consideration  when pruning any of these trees, especially  plums, Waneta, Superior, or the native wild American plum.

Pruning apples and  crabapples can be a more difficult task…Some cultivars are not very small,    and most overproduce ugly, stiff,  twiggy, and thorny  branchlets which often cross one another.  In order to reestablish beauty of form to some older crabapple and apple trees, pruning is often required annually for three or four years and alternately for  years after that.   Pruning after a long period of time of  no pruning will usually cause numerous vertical shoots often of great length the next year…two to four feet in one growing season which make the trees appear quite ugly usually.

These vertical spears are called, “watersprouts”.

Some pruning of crabapples in early March  every year reduces the numbers of watersprouts.

Careful and clever pruning can create beautful trees.

If you planted a tree of any kind  last year in a space too small for its eventual size, you can 1) transplant it, or, 2) if you are clever with your pruning skills, and  will religiously prune   the big tree to keep it  small in its space, you can control its shape and size.  Warning, don’t neglect the pruning…once year will be enough.

Last year I finally had to remove a beautiful 20 plus year old white oak, only 7 feet tall, a seedling planted by the squirrels.  I had pruned it annually to maintain the shape and size which I had artistically designed.  I am fond of white oaks.  But I cannot allow for them to block out the little sunlight I have allowed my flowering perennials.   I often maintain these oaks as shrubs or small trees.  they add good  color to the fall garden, sometimes even into the winter, for most retain their rust colored leaves well into winter.  Pruning a single stem three year old oak almost to the ground will create a multiple stemmed tree.  Such prunings ideally should be done early April.

Check your calendar.  If you are too busy or timid to prune your rose family trees, call Masterpiece Landscaping, Ltd. at 952-933-5777.   We will make your tree an art piece again.