» Archive for April, 2017

Japanese Andromeda

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Tomatoes can be set out with protection. “Season Starter” will protect them down to 20°F and will give them a warm environment during the day.
    • Plant sunflowers now from seed or plants. Choose either the multi-stemmed kinds for cut flowers or the giants for edible seeds.
    • Summer flower bulbs can be planted now. Choose from gladiolus, dahlias, begonias, lilies and more.
    • For blue hydrangeas, apply 1 tablespoon aluminum sulfate or Hydrangea Blue mixed in 1 gallon of water around mature the plants this month.
    • Spring feeding of trees and shrubs can begin now. Mulch with manure or apply fish emulsion or commercial fertilizers.

Japanese Andromeda

Among evergreen shrubs, the Japanese andromeda, Pieris japonica, is outstanding. Its shade tolerance and all-season interest make it a valuable shrub in any garden.

Native to eastern China, Taiwan and Japan, where it grows in mountain thickets, this plant is in the heather family, which includes blueberries and our native manzanitas and madrone trees.

The rich glossy green leaves look attractive year-round and in spring, they form a background for the small, white, bell-shaped flowers that hang in cascading clusters like strings of beads. This gives it another common name, lily-of-the-valley shrub, as the flowers closely resemble that small groundcover. Even before the flowers open, the buds are attractive through the winter hanging in drooping clusters from red stems.

Pieris is a shrub that grows to about 8 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with a loose, graceful habit. It does well with the same soil and exposure as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, and makes a good companion plant. It is very hardy and is never damaged by cold weather. It is, however, shallow-rooted, so a layer of mulch is a good idea.

There are several outstanding varieties available. ‘Mountain Fire’ has beautiful, fiery red new growth that matures to a deep green. It is slower growing than some other varieties. The foliage of ‘Forest Flame’ emerges flaming red, then fades to a creamy pink and matures to a glossy dark green in the summer. With the white flowers and colorful foliage on display at the same time, it is a very colorful shrub.

Two varieties have colorful pink flowers: ‘Valley Rose’ and ‘Valley Valentine’. Their new growth, however, is not as showy as the white-flowered varieties.

The dwarf variety ‘Cavatine’ is a good-looking shrub the year round. From March to April it is almost completely covered with bell-shaped, creamy white blooms. It grows slowly to 4 feet tall and wide, and can be grown in a container for several years.

It is not necessary to prune Pieris, other than removing dead or broken limbs, as the natural form is quite picturesque. If the plants need to be shaped or reduced in size, the best time to prune them is immediately after they have finished flowering. It is also a good practice to pick-off the old spent flowers to improve the appearance of the plants and to focus the energy of the plant on new growth and the development of next year’s flowers.

Pieris are perfect for growing in a shrub border or woodland area. Mix them with other spring-blooming shrubs and plant daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs underneath them.

These showy spring-flowering shrubs are a fine accent in the partial shade garden.

Dazzling Redbuds

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Broccoli, cabbage, lettuce and peas grow best in the spring and don’t mind a little frost. Set out plants now and grow your own!
    • Fragrant daphne is an early-blooming shrub that will delight you with its strongly scented blooms each spring. Plant it in well-drained soil.
    • Asparagus will provide you with delicious, low-priced spears for years to come if you plant them now from dormant crowns.
    • Sweet peas, with their memorable fragrance, can be planted now from seed or from nursery starts for wonderful bouquets later this spring.
    • Potatoes like to grow in the cool weather of spring. Plant them as soon as possible.

Dazzling Redbuds

Redbuds are among the most striking sights of spring. As you drive along Highway 20 in Lake County or the Covelo Road, you will be greeted at each turn by their stunning display of flowers. These California natives are tough shrubs that offer year-round interest.

In the spring, the pea-shaped, magenta flowers bloom in profusion on bare branches, suddenly lighting up the area. The beautiful flowers are replaced by heart-shaped leaves 2 to 3 inches across. The new foliage is bright copper, changing by summer to an attractive blue-green. Flowers are followed by clusters of flat, pointed reddish-brown seed pods. Toward late fall the leaves turn yellow or red, then gradually drop in preparation for spring’s striking show. Older trees, with their reddish brown bark and multi-trunked form make a picturesque silhouette.

Resistant to oak root fungus, western redbuds, Cercis occidentalis, grow very well on dry slopes, where they thrive in the wild. They also perform well in drier, rockier soils along with ceanothus, toyon and manzanita.

Plant western redbuds in any well-drained soil. Give them enough space to reach their mature size of 8-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide. They can grow in full sun or partial or filtered shade. Good drainage is essential and dry, seldom watered banks offer the best location.

Though redbuds are very drought-tolerant when established, they will need several deep waterings during the first summer. Avoid fertilizing and pruning and mulch them with bark or pea gravel to conserve moisture.

As is the case with most classy, fine-performing shrubs, redbud takes its own sweet time to flower. The wait may be three years, but patience will be rewarded with a dazzling early spring show.

The eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is often much easier to grow here, because it is accustomed to summer watering. They are more treelike, usually growing to 20 feet with a graceful horizontal branching pattern. They are faster growing than our native redbuds, with rich green, heart-shaped leaves up to 6 inches wide. Small rosy pink flowers clothe the bare branches in spring.

‘Forest Pansy’ is a variety of eastern redbud that has beautiful maroon foliage. As the rosy pink flowers of ‘Forest Pansy’ fade in the spring, the young leaves emerge a vibrant red. If the tree is planted in full sun, the color becomes a rich claret for the summer. In shade, the color is more subdued.

Redbuds have far fewer pests and diseases than flowering fruit trees and require very little pruning or shaping. They look especially good against a background of dark green conifers which accent the color of the flowers.