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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Winter Landscape Tips

Because pruning mystifies so many homeowners we have a few guidelines for you this season. Begin by assessing your landscape and plants needs. The best way to accomplish this is to step back so that you can see the whole picture while you inventory your various plants. You will be looking for too-thin or too-dense a plant structure and plants that are too large for their space. Additionally, you should be looking for dead wood and cross branching, as this needs removal. Finally, are your plants deciduous or evergreen?  Fruit bearing or frost sensitive? Each requires different approaches for peak performance. Once your plants and their needs have been determined you’ll be able to utilize the proper tools.
For starters, many of you already have pruning tools, but they may need sharpening or even replaced. The primary tools you may need include: shears for small tasks, loppers for cutting strength on medium-sized limbs, at least one pruning saw and–for hard-to-reach places–a pole pruner. Naturally, the tools you’ll need will depend on the needs of the job. Your local nursery professional will most likely have quality pruning tools for every need.
Now what? Let’s take a look at when and what to prune. Primarily you’ll be pruning deciduous trees and shrubs through the months of December and January as these plants require dormancy for healthy pruning. Now, start to prune out dead, cross-branching and diseased wood. You also may need to prune for control or to increase fruit production. Because fruit trees require varied pruning, it is my recommendation that you acquire a book on pruning, such as “Pruning, How to Guide for Gardeners” by Robert L. Stebbins and Michael MacCaskey. The book provides not only detailed information on pruning apples to oranges, but the basics as well.
Lastly, frost-sensitive plants, such as bougainvillea, hibiscus, carissa, and lantana, to name a few, require pruning in March after the danger of frost has past. To prune early will encourage new growth that is particularly sensitive to damage. Also, if these plants do suffer frost damage, the inclination is to prune away the damaged wood at once. DON’T!! By pruning these plants while there is still danger of frost you are exposing the older wood to damage, encouraging new growth, and removing insulation that the dead wood provides. It may be unsightly, but the plant will benefit from your patience. Once danger of frost has passed, prune vines, shrubs, and ground cover as indicated by their appearance and desired outcome.
For additional information on pruning contact your local garden professional.
Fire Pits
Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are a beautiful and practical addition to many outdoor living areas. Considered to be a hot design trend, the addition of this landscape element extends your outdoor enjoyment into the cool desert evenings. Outdoor fire pits and fireplaces can use wood, gas or a combination of both for a heating source. They can be designed with many different types of masonry products such as brick or block and can be faced with stucco, faux stone, real stone, tile, granite and more. The interior would be constructed with firebrick and heat tolerant masonry to keep it from splitting and to hold the fire pit secure from the high temperatures within. Fire rings can be designed with rows to sit on, areas for cast iron pots that hang on a hook or stands for saucer designs.
The outdoor fireplace adds the ambiance of the indoors to your outdoor living area. Outdoor fireplaces can take the form of a conventional fireplace or a Mexican beehive design or even an Italian wood-burning pizza oven. Here again, numerous types of facings can be used along with heat tolerant masonry. Placement for a fire pit or fireplace in a design can be tricky. Be aware of the direction of the normal airflow. Winds in the South Mountain area are typically west to east. Proper placement ensures the smoke normally blows away from the seating area. These beautiful landscape additions can be constructed to fit most outdoors applications but are not typically do-it-yourself projects since the masonry work requires a high skill level for a beautiful and structurally sound outcome.
Roses are the gift that keeps on giving. And, they are not difficult to cultivate. During January you will begin to see many garden centers carry bare-root roses. And, while they are relatively inexpensive, we recommend waiting to plant containerized roses in early March. Why?  Success rates. When you transplant a five gallon rose, the plant’s success rate is dramatically higher than when planted bare root at home.
Check your local nursery for different types of roses, from climbing roses, hybrid teas for cutting, floribundas to grandifloras for colorful shrubs and hedges. This year, many will carry a selection that includes a number of rose varieties on the market.
Rose planting is quite simple. For best growth and bloom production, locate roses where they can receive at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day and where they can receive good air circulation. A good rule of thumb is to plant at least three feet from any wall and each other.
Prepare the planting hole twice the width and depth of the container. Then work into the soil in the bottom of the hole a quarter cup each of First Step, blood meal, bone meal and Epsom salts. These steps will ensure good drainage, and soil and nutrient content for the new roots. Shallowly backfill the hole with Greenworld mulch and soil in a 1:1 mix so there is a .5-inch layer of soil between the roots and the fertilizer.
Slightly moisten the soil in the container and gently remove the rose. When planting, keep the bud union above the soil level. The bud union is the knot on the main stem where the hybrid rose has been grafted to a vigorous rootstock to give the plant more strength. Now backfill the hole around the root ball until half full, water in and finish filling the hole. And don’t forget that existing roses will need a thorough pruning in January.

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