» Archive for October, 2011

Asian Pears

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Holland flower bulbs are now available for fall planting. These lovely gems will bloom for you next spring.
    • Plant lawns now to have them ready for next summer enjoyment. Ask at your nursery for the best grass seed for your situation.
    • Divide overgrown water lilies and irises. Repot using heavy soil with no organic matter.
    • Compost your leaves as they fall, don’t burn them! Leaves make wonderful compost that breaks down into rich humus by next summer.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.

Crisp and Juicy Asian Pears

Asian pears have been cultivated for centuries throughout China, Japan and Korea. In the 1850s, Chinese railroad laborers brought Asian pear seeds to California. They now flourish in orchards from northern California to Oregon and Washington. More than 25 kinds are grown commercially in this country.

Shaped like an apple, the Asian pear tastes like a familiar European pear with hints of melon or apple. Crisp in texture, it is juicy like a pear with a rich aroma. It is known by many names, including apple pear, salad pear, Oriental pear and Chinese pear. It is not a cross between apples and pears, as common names like apple pear may suggest.

The fruit is delicious right off the tree, and makes a great addition to salads. Like apples and peaches, they should be left to ripen on the tree for best flavor. Once harvested, they will keep very well in cold storage where they retain their crisp texture for several months.

Asian pear trees are easy to fit into the landscape. Their beautiful white flowers are a delight in the springtime. Where European pears usually have clusters of five blossoms, Asian pears have clusters of 10 to 12 blossoms, making a dazzling display. Some varieties, like ‘Ya Li’ and ‘Chojuro’, display brilliant red to wine-colored fall foliage.

Asian pears bear fruit in just two to four years, and there are many fine varieties to choose from. ‘20th Century’ was the first variety available in western markets. It is juicy, sweet and mild-flavored and is the most popular Asian pear in both Japan and California. ‘Hosui’ is a very flavorful pear that scores very high in taste tests. It has a brownish-orange, russeted skin and is very tasty.

‘Shinseiki’ is a round, yellow-skinned, firm fruit that is sweet, juicy and refreshing. It stores well for up to three months. ‘Chojuro’ is an old variety with golden-brown skin. It is not as juicy as other varieties, but stores well for up to five months.

‘Ya Li’ and ‘Tsu Li’ are classified as Chinese pears. They are shaped like European pears, tapered at the stem end. The green fruits are sweet and mild, and store for many months. They are very popular in China.

Asian pear varieties are partially self-fruitful but better crops are set where two or more different Asian pears are planted together. They can also be pollinated by European pears if the bloom periods overlap. ‘Anjou, ‘Bartlett’ and ‘Bosc’ are good pollinators.

Asian pears ripen in August, September and October in our climate. Since they are always firm, squeezing them will not tell you if they are ripe. The best test is simply to taste a sample fruit from the tree. If they are sweet and have a nice fragrance, they are ready to harvest. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising.

Explore these exotic Asian fruits and you will enjoy the beauty of their flowers in spring, the flavors of heir fruits in summer and the warm colors of their leaves in autumn.

Tree Selection

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Pansies, snapdragons, stock, calendulas and primroses can be planted now to replace summer annuals.
    • Apples, pears and other fruit trees can be planted in the fall from containers to get a head start on next spring.
    • It’s time to divide overgrown perennials that bloomed in the spring or early summer. It’s also a good time to choose and plant some new varieties.
    • Chrysanthemums are the brightest flowers for the fall garden. Plant some now.
    • If you have dogwood, walnut, birches and maple trees, now is a good time to prune them because they will bleed sap when pruned in early spring or late winter.

Selecting Trees for your Property

Trees are the backbone of the garden. They provide shade and shelter and bring year-round beauty through their foliage, flowers, fruits, bark and branch structure. Because trees are so important to the landscape and take years to reach maturity, it’s worth taking the time to choose them carefully.

First consider the location where you want to plant a tree and look at the size limitations. Allow space enough for the full-grown tree, both above and below ground. Place the tree away from any underground utilities, and plant only low-growing trees under overhead wires. Locate trees at least 5 feet away from curbs and walkways and at least 8 or 10 feet away from foundations.

What role should the tree play in your landscape? If you need a shade tree, choose a tree with a wide canopy, like fruitless mulberry, Raywood ash, or sycamore. Red maples, Albizzia, flowering pear trees and Chinese pistache also make fine, large shade trees.

If you want to block a view, choose tall, dense trees.
Redwood trees and cypresses will make tall screens while Photinia trees fill out nicely over the top of a fence.

If you’re looking for a specimen tree to serve as a focal point, choose trees with interesting foliage or a showy display of flowers. Always consider where flowers and fruit may fall, and avoid planting messy trees near patios and walkways. Dogwoods, flowering cherries, flowering plums and crabapples, Japanese snowbell and Japanese maples are some good choices. These trees grow no more than 25 feet tall and are very showy in the front yard or near the patio.

Do you want an evergreen tree, or a deciduous one, which drops its leaves in the winter? Deciduous trees give you shade in the summer and let the sun shine through in the winter. Evergreen trees make good screens and windbreaks. Though evergreen trees have leaves year-round, older leaves may fall intermittently throughout the year, or drop during one season.

Trees that have bright fall foliage color are always nice to have on the property. Fall is a good time to shop for these trees when you can see their colorful leaves and decide which ones you like the best. Liquidambars, maples, dogwoods, flowering pears and Chinese pistache all have wonderful fall color. So do white birch trees and ginkgo trees, which turn a bright yellow before they drop.

Fall is the best time to plant most trees. During the fall and winter, trees will be able to establish their root systems so they will be ready to get growing next spring!

Privacy Screens

Saturday, October 29th, 2011 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose chrysanthemums in a variety of colors now. They are hardy perennials which will brighten your garden each fall.
    • When blackberry vines are done fruiting, prune back the canes which bore fruit this summer. Twine young canes around the fence or trellis.
    • Replace tired petunias with bright pansies, snapdragons, calendulas and stock for garden color this fall and winter.
    • Plant cover crops in areas of the garden that have finished producing for the summer. Crimson clover and fava beans will grow over the winter and enrich the soil for next year.
    • Fall is for planting! Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now will grow twice as much next year as those planted next spring.

Plant a Little Privacy

Whether we live in the city or the country, we all need a certain amount of privacy, and sometimes plants can create a living fence or screen to serve that purpose.  

There are many reasons for screens. Maybe you want to put a screen between you and the neighbors, or to give you privacy from the road. 

A tall hedge can be used to keep down unwanted noise, hide undesirable views, keep out dust and other pollutants, and provide wind protection. It can also be used to frame desirable views and provide the feeling of enclosure. Screens can be used within the landscape to create outdoor “rooms” and separate utility areas from pleasure areas.

Evergreen shrubs and trees that have foliage from the ground up are the most desirable, and so are “fast-growing” plants. When you decide where you want a screen, determine the height and width needed, as well as the amount of sun or shade the planting will receive. Then choose plants which will meet the exposure requirements without excessive pruning.

For a 6 to 8 foot hedge some good shrubs include Oregon grape, San Gabriel holly and heavenly bamboo. They are upright-growing and make tall, narrow screens with a little pruning.

For an 8 to 12 foot tall screen Photinia, with its bright red new growth, and waxleaf privet are good choices. They make large, wide bushes but can be kept narrower and denser with pruning. 

If you have a fence there already, you can use Photinia trees. These are the same plant as bush Photinia, but they are already 8 feet tall with a 5-foot trunk, so they will give you privacy above the fence right away. If it is a wire fence, consider ivy which will make a dense, evergreen covering in a few years.

Pyracantha is a bit unruly, but can also be shaped with pruning. The white flowers and red berries are attractive and it is very fast-growing. Grecian laurel, English laurel and oleander make attractive natural hedges, screens or background plantings.

Even taller screens can be achieved with evergreen trees and conifers. Italian buckthorn and redwood trees have been used along the freeways in Sonoma County to provide both visual and sound screening.  

Leyland cypress is one of the fastest-growing evergreens. It will reach 15-20 feet in 5 years and makes a dense hedge when planted 8 feet apart. Arborvitaes, like Thuja ‘Smaragd’ , are bright green and make a thick, permanent hedge when planted 4-5 feet apart. Our native incense cedar and bay trees can also be used for large screens.

Deciduous hedges can be useful where mostly summer screening is needed. Flowering quince makes a thick hedge and covers itself with flowers in early spring before the glossy, dark green leaves appear. It can be sheared but is best as an informal hedge. Spiraea prunifolia grows 6 feet high with arching branches and beautiful white flowers in spring. Forsythia grows 6-8 feet tall and welcomes in the spring with its bright yellow flowers.

Whether you want a living fence or a tall screen, fall is an excellent time to plant evergreen shrubs for privacy and beauty.