» Archive for June, 2015

Delightful Daylilies

Saturday, June 27th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Dress up for the Fourth! Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming through the summer. Watch for pests and diseases and treat as soon as you see trouble.
    • Check young trees and fruit trees for suckers and water sprouts. Rub suckers off as they appear and cut water sprouts off apple and pear trees.
    • Fragrant star jasmine is in full bloom right now. Plant one in a semi-shaded spot where you can enjoy its lovely perfume.
    • Check for squash, or “stink”, bugs on squash and pumpkins. Hand-pick grey-brown adults and destroy red egg clusters on the leaves. Use pyrethrins to control heavy infestations.

Delightful Daylilies

Some of the most beautiful, and often overlooked, perennials are the daylilies. Few plants offer flowers in so many colors with so little care. These hardy perennials have blooms that are both lovely and edible, and for some reason, deer do not find them interesting.

Daylilies originally came in simple colors of yellow, orange or red. But now, thanks to hybridizers, they bloom in almost every color imaginable. Flowers may have ruffled petals, smooth petals, variegated coloring, dark or light throats, and many other traits.

Varieties include everything from 1-foot-tall dwarfs to those standing 4 feet tall with flowers measuring up to 5 inches across.

Daylilies will grow almost anywhere, but they do best with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Light yellow varieties, many shades of pink, and delicate pastels need full sun to bring out their lovely colorings. Many red and purple cultivars benefit from partial shade in the hottest part of the day because dark colors absorb heat and do not withstand the sun as well as lighter colors.

They are also not fussy about soil as long as it is well-drained. They do appreciate water while they are blooming. Water thoroughly but infrequently for the strongest plants. Mulch will help retain moisture in the soil. Once established, plants need only occasional watering.

Daylilies may be evergreen, semi-evergreen or deciduous. This has nothing to do with their hardiness (to cold weather) and they are all hardy in most all parts of California.

As the name implies, the daylily flowers last only a day, but nature compensates by crowding each plant with several flowering spikes that push well above the arching sword-shaped leaves. Each flower spike holds a dozen or more flower buds. Remove the spent blossoms to keep the plants looking fresh and beautiful.

Considered a delicacy by wild food gatherers and knowledgeable chefs, the daylily has a long history in Chinese medicine and cuisine. Daylily flower buds and blossoms – especially the pale yellow and orange varieties – have a sweet flavor that adds interest to salads as well as cooked dishes. Leaves and roots are also edible.

One of the best loved varieties is Stella d’Oro, a dwarf plant that blooms over a long season. It blooms with heavy clusters of 2-1/2 in. yellow blossoms through the summer and into fall.

Use daylilies in borders, on banks, along driveways, among evergreen shrubs or along streams. Plant dwarf varieties in rock gardens or as edgings. Echinacea, Perovskia, Achillea, Coreopsis, Salvia, and Buddleia are wonderful companion plants, and they will bring your garden alive with the flitting of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Nothing says “summer” better than the colorful blooms of daylilies!

Fireblight on Pear Trees

Friday, June 19th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.
    • Hydrangeas have giant pink or blue flowers. They will brighten the shade garden all summer.
    • Meyer lemons, with their sweet-scented blossoms, are attractive and easy to grow. Plant one in a container so you can move it to a protected spot in the winter.

Fireblight on Pear Trees

“The last time you went out to check on your orchard, the pear trees were setting fruit and everything seemed fine. But all of a sudden, it looks like someone took a torch to whole branches of it and now the tree looks dreadful.”

If this sounds familiar to you, chances are your pear trees have fire blight. Fire blight is a destructive disease common on pear, Asian pear, quince and sometimes apple trees. It also affects pyracantha, cotoneaster, hawthorn and some other related trees and shrubs. The disease can destroy limbs and even entire shrubs or trees if left unchecked.

Fire blight actually starts in the spring with a light ooze from cankers on branches, twigs, or trunks. The ooze turns dark after exposure to air, leaving streaks on branches or trunks. However, most cankers are small and inconspicuous and infections may not be noticed until later when flowers, shoots, and even young fruit shrivel and blacken.

The infection usually enters through the flowers and then moves down the branches, infecting fruit, leaves and stems as it goes. Dead, blackened leaves and fruit are the result which give the tree a scorched appearance, hence the name “fire blight.”

In warm, moist spring weather, the disease becomes active and usually infects the blossoms if it rains while the tree is blooming. This year it seems that conditions were perfect for fire blight, and we are seeing a lot of customers with this problem.

Once it has infected a tree, the only thing to do is to prune it out. You must prune at least 8 inches below the damage. This often means also removing a larger branch to which the infected branch is attached. This is necessary because the infection spreads down into the tree ahead of the visible portion.

Dip pruning tools in 70 percent isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water solution) between each cut. Wash and oil shears when you are finished. Dispose of all infected plant material.

Next winter, you can spray your trees to help prevent fire blight. Copper sprays can be used before bud break – when leaves emerge from the buds. Streptomycin (an antibiotic) can also be used from bloom through petal fall period to prevent infection from occurring. Repeat the spray at 4-day intervals through the bloom period, but do not apply streptomycin when the maximum daily temperatures are below 65°F.

Any excessive amount of new growth on your tree is easily susceptible to fire blight infection, so use only low-nitrogen fertilizers on susceptible trees. Be sure to completely clean up around your trees this fall, picking up any dead twigs and mummified fruit on the ground, and disposing of them.

This has been a particularly bad year for fire blight in California. Trees bloomed early, and warm, moist weather spread the disease rapidly. Pruning is your best option to control the disease this year.

Trees for Shade and Beauty

Friday, June 12th, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and corn will bear for you if you plant them now.
    • Fertilize hanging baskets every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.
    • Attract birds to your garden with a concrete bird bath. They come in many attractive styles and make good gifts.
    • Pepper plants should be fertilized when the first blossoms open.

Trees for Shade and Beauty

When the summer heat comes on, we quickly appreciate the value of a shade tree. Shade trees can be different sizes depending on their location and whether you want to shade a small patio, or part of the house.

When choosing a tree, it is always best to first determine which trees are best adapted to the planting site. Then you can consider tree function, size and shape, flowers, leaf color, or other outstanding features. Trees provide us with many benefits from shade and beauty, to erosion control, wildlife habitat and stream bank stabilization.

For a fast-growing shade tree, look for a Raywood ash or a Fruitless mulberry. The Raywood ash grows more upright when young, eventually becoming a dense, round-headed tree. Its burgundy fall color is very attractive. Fruitless mulberries quickly make an umbrella of shade. The large leaves turn bright yellow in the fall and are easy to clean up, but the catkins can be messy in the spring.

Maples and sycamores make fine, large shade trees. October Glory maple is a beautiful, round-headed tree growing 40 feet tall. It has striking bright red to orange fall color. Summer Red™ red maple is a fast-growing shade tree, 35 ft. tall and 20 ft. wide, with orange-red-purple fall color. It forms a dense, broad tree providing welcome summer shade.

Our native Bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum, has huge maple leaves 6-12 inches across. It can grow up to 50 feet tall but is normally more like 30 feet. It likes to grow along streams but will also grow on drier sites. In the fall, it stands out in the forest with its bright yellow leaves.

London Plane trees, or sycamores, grow 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide and have naturally shedding bark that makes a very attractive trunk. Their large, maple like leaves turn yellow in the fall. Bloodgood is a disease-resistant variety.

Pink Dawn Chitalpa is a smaller, deciduous tree that is fast-growing to 25 feet tall and wide. It has long, narrow, bright green leaves that form a background for the large clusters of trumpet-shaped pale lavender flowers that bloom all summer. Once established, it needs only occasional watering.

For a smaller tree with showy flowers, you might choose the popular red-leaved Krauter Vesuvius flowering plum. It grows 15-20 feet tall and wide with light pink single flowers in spring and purple-red leaves all summer. The double pink flowered Prunus blireana has beautiful spring blossoms. Its purple foliage turns greenish in the summer.

Flowering crabapples make fine smaller shade trees with their showy spring flowers, broad canopy and colorful fruits. Prairiefire flowering crabapple has dark purplish-red flowers and colorful fruit and grows to about 20 feet tall. They make fruit that is enjoyed by the birds but can be messy around the patio or walkways, so be sure to plant them where the fruit-drop will not be a problem.

Weeping willows grow 30 to 50 feet tall, with equal spread. Their weeping branches will reach down to the ground, if left unpruned, making a magical and shady gathering place underneath. They need lots of water and room to grow, but an old weeping willow is a friend long remembered.

For a cool, shady place to relax on hot summer days, “trees are the answer!”