2017 is the Year of the Pansy
Pansies are such a friendly-faced flower! But until the 19th century most people considered them a weed. Today, pansies are a hybrid plant cultivated from those wildflowers in Europe and western Asia. Much of the collection and cultivation of pansies can be attributed to plantsmen and women in the UK and Europe more than 200 years ago. For example, Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennet, daughter of the Earl of Tankerville, and her gardener cross-bred a wide variety of Viola tricolor (common name “Heartsease”) and showcased their pansies to the horticultural world in 1813. Further experiments around the same time eventually grew the class to over 400 garden pansy varieties.
Garden pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are a mixture of several species, including Viola tricolor. Oftentimes the names “pansy”, “viola”, and “violet” are interchangeable. However modern pansies are classified by the American Violet Society as having large-flowered blooms with two slightly overlapping upper petals, two side petals, and a single bottom petal, with a slight beard in its center. They’re considered annual bedding plants, used for garden decoration during cooler planting seasons. Pansies come in a rainbow of colors: from crisp white to almost black, and most all colors in between. They are also a great addition to your spring or fall vegetable garden as they are edible and pair well with lettuces. They can also be candied and used to decorate sweets or other dishes.
Read more about the history of pansies here.
Most pansies fall into a few categories: Large (3 to 4 in.), Medium (2 to 3 in.) Multiflora (1 to 2 in.) and a new category of Trailing pansy. Some modern large-flowered pansy series are Majestic Giant Mix, bred by Sakata (a 1966 All-America Selections Winner); Delta, bred by Goldsmith Seeds; and Matrix, bred by PanAmerican Seed. Medium-sized pansy series include Crown by Sakata and Imperial by Takii & Co., Ltd (Imperial Blue won an All-America Selections award in 1975). Multiflora pansy series like Maxim and Padparadja won AAS awards in the early 1990s. New on the scene for hanging baskets and ground cover are WonderFall from Syngenta, and Cool Wave® pansies, from PanAmerican Seed – the makers of Wave® petunias. These Trailing pansies spread over 2 ft. wide and overwinter in fall gardens. Today’s garden pansy varieties can fill any sunny space – large or small, hanging overhead or growing underfoot – with soft fragrance and happy blooms.
Starting Your Pansies From Seed:
To germinate, start your pansy seeds indoors with a soilless mixture (this helps prevent disease on the seedlings). Plant seed 1/8-in. deep with a light cover and a gentle watering. Pansies prefer darkness for germination. The media temperature should be 60-65°F and keep air temperature at 70-75°F. The media should stay damp (covering with a plastic wrap or damp newspaper will help retain humidity. A fine spray or mister can be added if the media dries. Germination occurs in 10-20 days. When shoots appear, remove covering and move the flat to a brightly lit but cool room to continue to grow. Continue to grow cool. Separate seedlings into larger containers after two sets of leaves appear. Begin to feed with diluted plant food.
For Transplants or Purchased Finished Plants:
Space your pansies 6 to 10 in. apart in a well-drained and fertile soil location. The best location is an area that receives morning sun. Adding granular or time-release nutrition to the soil is encouraged, especially for trailing pansies as this increases their vigor and number of blooms. Offer plenty of water at planting and during their adjustment period to help establish roots and minimize stress. Mulching can help retain moisture and reduce any weeds that may compete with your plants. Pansies planted in the spring will enjoy the warm days and cool nights of the season. Most V. wittrockiana will begin to diminish or go out of flower as nighttime temperatures begin to rise in the summer. When planted in the north for fall outdoor decorating, pansies will enjoy a shorter but colorful season of blooms and in many cases will overwinter to pop up again the following spring. Southern gardeners often use pansies as their winter color and enjoy them all season long.
This Pansy fact sheet is from the National Garden Bureau. The National Garden Bureau recognizes and thanks PanAmerican Seed as author of this fact sheet.
Landscape Advisors Offer Exceptional Service and Personalized Property Care
Organizational Announcement: MasterScapes®, a leader in the landscape and property care industry, announced today organizational changes that support their approach to providing the highest quality landscape services. Through the development of three Landscape Advisor positions, MasterScapes® adds another level of expertise to its staff of highly respected landscape professionals.
MasterScapes® tested the concept of Landscape Advisor positions in 2016 and found it an ideal addition to its comprehensive menu of landscape and property management services. Landscape Advisors personally oversee the care of qualified residential and commercial properties and offer timely suggestion for property maintenance and identification of potential vulnerabilities. These individuals focus on developing relationships with clients to make personalized recommendations to meet two key goals:
1) ensure a client’s maximum return on their landscape investment, and
2) create an outdoor space that exceeds the unique expectations of each client.
"We've made important progress over the last year as we worked to identify ways to continue to strengthen how we serve our clients and the value they receive through their relationship with MasterScapes®," said Dan Haught, owner. “One of those initiatives was developing roles of Landscape Advisors and moving qualified staff into those roles.”
MasterScapes® Landscape Advisors collectively have over 25 years experience in a variety of landscape and property care areas and hold numerous professional designations such as Certified Arborist, Licensed Irrigator, and Commercial Applicator. These individuals not only bring industry knowledge but also a sound understanding of MasterScapes®’ philosophy to their roles as Landscape Advisors. MasterScapes® Landscape Advisors are:
Jon Brokaw is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as a Licensed Irrigator (#17452), by the Structural Pest Control Service of the Texas Department of Agriculture as a Commercial Applicator (#608298), and by the International Society of Arboriculture as a Certified Arborist (#TX-4111A). He joined MasterScapes® in 2011.
Daniel Julian is licensed by the Structural Pest Control Service of the Texas Department of Agriculture as a Commercial Applicator (#606384) and by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as a Licensed Irrigator (#20513). He joined MasterScapes® in 2010.
Jordan Phillips is licensed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as a Licensed Irrigator (#17186) and by the Structural Pest Control Service of the Texas Department of Agriculture as a Commercial Applicator (#45969). He joined MasterScapes® in 2007.
Haught said these organizational changes place further emphasis on three of the company’s core values – innovation, efficiency, and relationships.
Innovation – Finding new and improved ways to add value to MasterScapes® clients and provide them with a landscape for life.
Efficiency – Effectively managing processes and output with consistent, high quality results is essential to MasterScapes® operations.
Relationships – MasterScapes® places significant focus on development of meaningful client relationships.
"With these changes, we continue to build on our strong foundation and solid reputation. I am proud of what we have accomplished together and look forward to even greater success as we position MasterScapes® for the future,” Haught said.
Established in 1992, MasterScapes® is a professional full service property care, landscape, and water management company offering a full range of services including lawn, bed, and shrub care; fertilization and weed control; landscape design and installation; and irrigation solutions for residential and commercial properties.
The Benefits of Healthy Landscapes
American backyards are where toddlers learn to kick a ball, where teenagers play flashlight tag under the glow of the moon, where pets roam and where busy adults sink into hammocks and patio chairs to unwind. The lawns and landscapes that provide a backdrop for these memory-making moments are indeed the root of happiness. They are good for our health, good for our communities and good for the environment.
HEALTHY LAWNS KEEP OUR FAMILIES SAFE
Healthy lawns can help protect our families and pets from the diseases carried by ticks, mosquitoes, fleas and fire ants.
• Ticks carry viruses that transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and other diseases. Once transmitted, many of these illness can be debilitating, especially Lyme disease, estimated by the Centers for Disease Control to affect 300,000 people each year. The disease can linger with infected individuals for years, causing extreme pain, memory loss and speech impairment.
• Mosquitoes, long associated with West Nile virus and encephalitis, have made themselves even more threatening recently with new links to chikungunya and the Zika virus.
• Fleas are particularly troubling for household pets as they can transfer anemia-causing tapeworms. Humans are at risk from fleas as they can transmit murine typhus and, while rare, the bubonic plague.
• Fire ants, which now infest more than 260 million acres in the United States, make their presence known with stings that are itchy annoyances to some or painful blisters for others, and some even face lifethreatening allergic reactions.
While these insects are small, they can create big problems. Proper application of pest preventatives and wellmaintained lawns will help protect your family and your pets from the threats they pose.
HEALTHY LAWNS AND LANDSCAPES ENRICH THE QUALITY OF LIFE IN OUR NEIGHBORHOODS
There’s no disputing the facts, communities are strengthened when lawns and landscapes are healthy. They are more peaceful, more enjoyable and better protected from environmental threats against them.
• Without proper attention, unwanted plants can wreak havoc in neighborhoods by causing debilitating allergies that often force people to enjoy the outdoors only through windowed views.
• Healthy landscapes don’t just play a protective role — they are also great providers, offering incredible health benefits to communities:
- Neighborhoods that incorporate community green spaces have lower incidences of stress, have lower health care costs and have an improved quality of life. (1)
- Research shows that just looking at plants and trees, even through a window, can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. (1)
- Walking in a natural environment with plants and trees has been shown to improve attention and memory. (2)
- Neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and larger yard trees have reduced crime rates. (3)
• When landscapes are not protected, invasive species threaten them. Invasive plants and pests can take up residence, killing the grass, trees and plants that belong. Emerald Ash Borer, for instance, have killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America and woody adelgids have been the demise of hemlocks in neighborhoods across the country.
LANDSCAPES ARE GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Landscapes are often taken for granted. They are appreciated for their beauty, but many people don’t understand the essential value they provide the environment. Here are some facts that may surprise you.
• Clean the air. Grass and plants play a vital role in capturing dust, smoke particles and other pollutants to make our air cleaner. In fact, lawns alone capture more than 12 million tons of dust; (4) add to that the additional absorption provided by trees and plants, and it’s easy to see the role these plants provide in creating a healthy environment.
• Protect bodies of water. When lawns are well cared for, they absorb unhealthy water runoff that might otherwise filter into bodies of water. It may be surprising to learn that an average, healthy lawn can absorb more than 6,000 gallons of water from a single rainfall event. (5)
• Provide oxygen. Grasses absorb carbon dioxide and break it down into oxygen and carbon. In fact, a 50’x50’ lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.
• Act as natural coolants. Lawns can be 31 degrees cooler than asphalt and 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. Trees shading homes can reduce attic temperatures by as much as 40 degrees. These natural coolants reduce the need for electric cooling units, saving energy and reducing electric bills.
• Minimize noise. Lawns and plants dramatically reduce noise pollution; they can reduce noise levels by 20 to 30 percent over hard surfaces like concrete and pavement.
WHAT MAKES A HEALTHY LANDSCAPE?
Like all living things, grass, plants and trees need care and attention to ensure their good health. A healthy lawn does not mean one that’s simply been mowed and given water. A healthy shrub isn’t one that’s merely been pruned. Healthy landscapes need to be managed with a high degree of know-how, the support of science, and often, a dose of protection — so that families, communities and our environment can derive the full benefits they provide.
With thanks from the National Association of Landscape Professionals
(1) Housley and Wolf, (2) Marc Berman, University of Michigan, (3) U.S. Forest Service, (4) Georgia Turgrass Foundation, (5) Journal of Environmental Quality
April is National Lawn Care Month
April is National Lawn Care Month so it is a great time to think about what your lawn and landscape do for you. Even in the age of the smartphone and T.V. show binge watching, the love affair with the American yard is not over.
According to an online survey commissioned by the National Association of Landscape Professionals and conducted by Harris Poll in May 2015, eighty-three percent of Americans think having a yard is important. Here are a few insights about the value of our lawns and backyards.
Your neighborhood’s landscaping is important. Americans (91%) want to live in an area where they can see or walk to nice landscaping. So if you want the best chance of increasing the home prices in your neighborhood, make sure the landscaping looks good.
Nice landscaping helps to sell your house. Eighty-four percent say that the quality of a home’s landscaping would affect their decision about whether or not to buy. Great neighborhood landscaping helps, but it isn’t enough; yours needs to look good too.
Your neighbors care what your yard looks like. Seventy-one percent think it is important that their neighbors have well-maintained yards. Perhaps “good landscaping makes good neighbors” should be the new adage.
We want to enjoy our yards. Seventy-five percent of people feel that it is important to spend time outside in their yards.
Despite common misperceptions, even Millennials want to spend time in their yards. Seventy-five percent of Millennials (18–34 year olds) think spending time outside in their yards is important.
People want help with their landscape. A large majority of Americans (67%) agree that professional landscape help would allow them to have a nicer yard.
So, this April, don’t take your yard for granted: make the most of it and it will return many financial and emotional benefits.
2016 is the Year of the Begonia
With over 1,700 different species, Begonias (family Begoniaceae) is the fifth most diverse class of plants. Begonias are often found wild from South and Central America to India. It is impossible to know exactly where they originated, but stories of plants matching their description date back to 14th century China.
Begonias officially got their name in 1690 when a French botanist, Charles Plumier, named them after a fellow French botanist, Michel Bégon.
Many types of begonias are produced from cuttings because seed production can be challenging. Begonia seed is barely larger than dust particles, so it is incredibly difficult to work with. In 1873, Benary, a developer and breeder, introduced Magnifica, the first tuberous begonia from seed but it did not branch well so they were not easy to produce. In 1909, Benary introduced the world’s first heterosis (F1-hybrid) ornamental begonia, Begonia semperflorens ‘Prima Donna’ bred by Gustav Besoke. A F1-hybrid is the selective breeding of a plant by cross pollinating two different parent plants. The introduction of F1 hybrid begonias revolutionized the horticulture industry by allowing growers to produce begonias reliably on a commercial scale.
Since then many types of begonias have been commercially produced. Here are the major classes that you will see in North American garden retailers:
- Begonia semperflorens-cultorum or “wax begonias “ are the most common. Plants are small (8-12”) mounds with rounded leaves and blooms. Flowers range from white to scarlet red.
- Begonia tuberosa (tuberous begonias) typically have large flowers in a broad color range. Flowers can be huge and double. Since the plants are monoecious, there are always both single (male) and double (female) flowers on the same plant. The leaves are usually asymmetrical, hairy or fuzzy and have a serrated edge.
- Begonia boliviensis is more heat tolerant than other types. The plant branches cascade down in hanging baskets or window boxes. The leaves are similar in shape to tuberous begonias but are narrower and smooth. The flower has long, strap-like petals forming a soft trumpet.
- Begonia hiemalis, also called elatior or Reiger begonia, typically have small to medium double flowers in a wide range of colors. These are often sold around the holidays.
- Begonia masoniana has bold color patterns on leaves that are textured with puckers and appear coarse.
- Begonia rhizomatous has thick, fleshy stems with large, colorful leaves. The leaves can be round or heavily lobed like a grape leaf. Some have small white flowers in the spring, and a few varieties bloom all summer.
- Begonia rex are grown for their beautiful leaves, which are quite hairy or fuzzy and usually covered with multicolored, intricate swirled designs.
- Begonia hybrida is used by plant breeders to show that a variety is a cross between two different classes.
In 1972, Nonstop Begonias became the first F1 hybrid tuberous begonia series from seed that featured a uniform, compact habit, huge double flowers in lots of bright colors. After more than 30 years of improvements, Nonstop Begonias are still the best selling tuberous begonia on the market!
In 1998, Pin-Up Flame won an AAS award, a large bi-colored single flowered tuberosa begonia. Another exciting introduction was the Big (Begonia benariensis) and Whopper Begonia series. These begonias provide an amazing show of color all season, yet they are super easy to grow. They thrive in both sun and shade, take little fertilization and only require about an inch of water per week. This allows them to be used in non-irrigated landscapes in much of the US.
With all the different series in Begonias, there are so many to choose from that it is often hard to decide which one to try. There are two varieties of wax or semperflorens Begonias, Monza and Havana, that are well-liked for their nonstop flowering, numerous flower colors and leaves in either green (Monza) or bronze (Havana). Bada Bing & Bada Boom, also both wax begonias, are popular picks due to their sun tolerance and continuous blooming.
Begonia tuberosa series include the popular Fortune, a tuberous basket type that offers stunning blooms throughout the season or the Pudding series which offers large blooms with a super bushy habit.
Looking for a heat tolerant begonia that brings continuous blooms, look to the boliviensis series including Bossa Nova, a well branched plant that looks stunning in a large container or hanging basket.
Santa Cruz Sunset and Bonfire are additional favorites with their heat and drought tolerant orange-red blooms that cascade over the container.
Hiemalis or Reiger series include Rhine with its large flowers and good branching and used often at the Winter Holidays. Begonia masoniana, referred to as Iron Cross begonia is most likely found as a houseplant. It is grown for its unusual foliage of puckered, pebbly-textured bright green leaves decorative dark chocolate brown center.
Begonia rhizomatous has numerous different leaf shapes and styles. One in particular is the Erythrophylla which is often called beef steak or pond lily because of its round leaves.
If you are looking for large-leaved plants that look like when dinosaurs walked the earth, check out Jurassic-Rex Begonias for their bold colors and patterns. Gryphon and Pegasus, more Rex hybrids, are perfect for adding color and texture leaves to any container. The T-Rex series is another Rex hybrid that can be grown in cooler temperatures.
Begonia Hybrida are admired for their high quality and maintenance free plants. Two series that hold up through the season with continuous blooms include DragonWing and BabyWings. For those looking for dark, cocoa-brown foliage, the varieties included in the Cocoa Collection is a good place to start.
Due to the seed size and environmental requirements for germination, today’s begonias are usually grown by a professional grower in a greenhouse and sold as a small plant. Ounce for ounce, begonia seeds are more expensive than gold so special care must be taken with every seed.
If you would like more information, there are several sources for tips on growing begonias.
Here are just a few:
Cornell University Begonia Growing Guide
University of Vermont Begonias To Brighten Shade
Clemson Extension Growing Begonias Indoors
White Flower Farm Growing Tuberous Begonias
No matter which type of begonia you choose, these plants are sure to bring beauty and interest to your garden.
The National Garden Bureau recognizes and thanks Jen Calhoun from Ernst Benary of America as author and contributor to this fact sheet.
From the National Garden Bureau
Lake Fort Phantom at 100% Capacity
Great news for Abilene! Recent rainfalls have filled Lake Fort Phantom to its capacity, levels not seen since 2007. According to the Water Data for Texas website, levels were only 32.2% on this day last year.
Watering Restrictions Eased to Stage 1
The City of Abilene is moving to Stage 1 – Water Alert in the Water Conservation Plan. Outdoor watering for City of Abilene water customers is expanded to one day per week. These changes come per the City’s Water Conservation Plan which outlines the trigger points for Stage 1 – Water Alert as Lake Ft. Phantom at 10 feet below the spillway if Lake Hubbard is below 60 percent capacity. Currently, Lake Hubbard is at 30 percent capacity and Lake Ft. Phantom is 13 feet below the spillway.
Despite moving to Stage 1 – Water Alert per the City’s Water Conservation Plan, City officials would like to remind residents that Abilene remains in a drought.
“We have been fortunate to receive some much needed rain the past few months. This rain has helped the water levels in our lakes rise and subsequently allows us to lessen water restrictions,” said Mayor Norm Archibald. “Although the water restrictions have changed, residents are still encouraged to use water wisely.”
Weekly watering is allowed in Stage 1. Watering is permitted midnight to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight on a customer’s designated watering day. The customer’s watering day is determined by the last digit of their property address.
Last Digit of Property Address - Watering Day:
7 or 8* - Sunday
9 - Monday
0 - Tuesday
1 - Wednesday
2 - Thursday
3 or 4 - Friday
5 or 6* - Saturday
*The following provisions for non-residential customers have been made to correlate with regular weekday business hours: Non-residential customers with addresses ending in 7 or 8 will water Wednesday. Non-residential customers with addresses ending in 5 or 6 will water Tuesday.
The one day per week outside lawn watering schedule will stay in effect until further notice. Abilene’s Water Conservation Plan was originally adopted on June 12, 2003. According to the plan, the Mayor may call for Stage 2 Water Warning when the Lake Fort Phantom Reservoir level is 17 feet below the spillway.
For more information on the City’s Water Conservation Plan and ways to conserve water, visit http://saveabilenewater.com.
article from City of Abilene website
MasterScapes® acquires Weed Patrol
Effective February 2, 2015 Weed Patrol clients will be serviced by MasterScapes®. “We accepted this offer so that his clients would continue to receive treatment services. MasterScapes® now has the opportunity to offer additional services to help meet all of their needs,” explains Dan Haught of MasterScapes®. “I am pleased to be in a position to help both the clients and the former owner.”
2015 is the Year of the Coleus
With the continued emphasis on foliage in our gardens, the wide and exciting range of coleus varieties available should nicely augment one's planting palette. Chosen as the annual for the National Garden Bureau’s 2015 program, coleus is a durable plant with very significant gardening potential for almost all gardeners and their garden situations.
Coleus has gone through various phases of popularity over the past couple of centuries. This member of the mint family comes in a wide range of coloration, leaf texture and plant form. Considered an herbaceous perennial in its native range, coleus are used primarily as annuals. Previously grouped into different species or classified as hybrids, coleus (formerly Coleus blumei and Coleus hybridus) are now all placed under Solenostemon scutellarioides (2006). As of 2012, taxonomic authorities consider the correct name for the coleus to be Plectranthus scutellariodes.
While modern coleus breeding focuses on new color combinations and foliage characteristics, other considerations such as sun tolerance, delayed flowering, more prolific branching and an emphasis on more compact and trailing forms have become more prominent.
The primary ornamental feature of coleus is the foliage which can be green, pink, yellow, orange, red, dark maroon (almost black), brown, cream and white. This plethora of colors and combinations lends itself to the other common names for coleus of painted nettle or flame nettle. While some gardeners will leave the small flowers, it’s recommended that you pinch these back to a leaf node to encourage more energy into stem and foliage growth and not flowering. Coleus left to flower may lose vigor as the plant puts energy into seed production.
The variability in patterns is truly amazing with solid colors, splashes, blotches, streaks, flecks, margins and veins. Color intensity may be affected by sunlight, heat sensitivity and other conditions. The term “sun coleus” refers to selections that tolerate more direct sunlight. Darker cultivars tend to tolerate more sun while lighter varieties benefit from some degree of shade to minimize leaf scorching. Morning sun and dappled afternoon shade tends to maintain consistent foliage coloration. Too little light will encourage a weak-stemmed, less vigorous plant without optimal coloration. For sunny areas consider these varieties: any of the Stained Glassworks varieties, the Wizard, Versa and Marquee series, or any variety with the word sun in its name.
Coleus leaf texture can be quite variable with large, small, twisted, elongated, scalloped, lobed, finger-like, “duck’s foot” (webbed feet), etc. Leaf texture for coleus should be a serious consideration when selecting and using coleus as the visual contribution is significant.
Coleus can be grouped into three basic plant forms including upright, rounded and prostrate/trailing. Frequent snipping, pinching and trimming can help modify form although the trailing forms have great value at the edge of a container, in a hanging basket or as a groundcover becoming a colorful, living mulch.
When selecting a variety, there are many to choose from and you can base your choices on foliage color, leaf texture and/or plant form. Please refer to this picturesque slide show to see some wonderful new varieties. While this list is not comprehensive, NGB Members are an excellent source for information regarding coleus breeding efforts and currently available varieties.
Planting & Proper Care
Coleus has long been considered a shade plant but their best leaf coloration is achieved with morning sun and some degree of afternoon shade. Many varieties do well in both shade and part sun, such as the ColorBlaze, Fairway, Superfine Rainbow, Main Street and Kong series. Some varieties can take quite a bit of sun as long as they are not allowed to dry out. Coleus are quite tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. Coleus enjoy the heat and cold, overly damp soils can result in leaf drop and encourage disease. Plant coleus after any danger of frost has passed when soil temperatures have warmed sufficiently and evening temperatures are above 60 degrees F. Light fertilization is recommended, particularly in containers.
To maintain plant form, pinch back most varieties every few weeks to prevent flower formation. This directs the plant’s energy into additional branching and foliage creation instead of flowering, thereby creating a fuller plant. When pinching off flowers, do so throughout the entire summer to create a full, lush plant. Pinch just above a set of leaves or branching junction for the best appearance (don’t leave a stub!).
Raising coleus from seeds is relatively easy. Seed strains offer uniformity and may include mixes or consistent coloration with identical plants. Seed packets can be quite affordable and a wide range of coleus varieties available from seed vendors. Time seed sowing to be 8-12 weeks before the last frost date. Sow seeds in at least three inches of growing medium (maintain at 70 degrees F) and seeds should be sown on the surface as they require light to germinate. Well-timed, even watering, misting (for humidity) and frequent observation are encouraged.
Overwintering coleus plants as houseplants is an option although temperatures near 70 degrees F are required. Rotate plants and pinch back as needed to maintain form. Consider grow lights to provide adequate winter lighting conditions.
Designing With Coleus
Solid color coleus varieties such as Redhead and Lime Delight Premium Sun (both bred for the sun) can be very impactful and make a statement in the mixed border while those with variable coloration may become “color echoes” for neighboring plants with similar (or contrasting) flower and/or foliage colors. The repetition of certain coleus colors and form can lend unity and harmony in the garden. While a solitary specimen can add a “punch” of color, consider the impact of mass planting as well. Foliage with lighter coloration can provide illumination in shadier locations while dark colors (for example, any coleus with Chocolate its name) in the same setting will create depth and contrast. Consider coleus just one of many available tools in your gardening “toolbox.”
Coleus in Containers
All coleus have excellent container potential if they are given adequate well-draining soil mix, reasonable nutrients and the proper sun exposure to thrive. Avoid windy locations as coleus can be prone to breakage in extreme winds. Slow release fertilizers are recommended for your containers although half strength liquid fertilizer applied every 2 weeks over the growing season should be sufficient. Coleus do not show their best coloration if over fertilized so be conservative and consistent. You may want to consider water retention additives to help alleviate some watering needs, particularly in sunny locations. Drainage is vital so consider adding additional drainage holes as needed. The container style, color and ultimate placement should also be considered in advance. Coleus filled containers, if moveable, allow for instant color as they can be positioned as needed and used to add color, provide immediate interest and accent areas of the garden, deck or patio.
Coleus certainly has the potential to be included in hanging basket arrangements. Some of the trailing selections are ideal for the edge of an elevated container while larger varieties can be utilized for a strong foliage contribution in the center of the basket. Consider watering needs as coleus are naturally thirsty and a hanging basket can be one of the most challenging situations in terms of moisture retention and associated watering needs. Wind protection is also warranted.
Coleus may become stressed by lack of heat and moisture. Excessive or inadequate moisture may lead to challenges with insects or diseases. A healthy coleus plant is the best defense against these challenges. Slugs, snails, spider mites, mealybugs, whiteflies and occasionally aphids may be challenges under certain conditions. While there are few fungi, bacteria and viruses that affect coleus, there may be occasional issues of stem rot, root rot or downy mildew which all have a direct relationship to moisture inputs and associated growing conditions. Relocating the plant, pinching healthy cuttings for re-establishment or removing the plant might be options to consider. Healthy, young plants will frequently outgrow some of these challenges if properly “encouraged” or may never exhibit problems because of their vigor.
The consideration of easy-to-grow coleus in the landscape is prudent for all gardeners as they consider the potential merits of this plant in the mixed border and container. Low-maintenance coleus can make a huge impact in the garden and the wide range of available selections assures a promising future for this popular plant during 2015, the Year of the Coleus, and well beyond!
Founded in 1920, the National Garden Bureau is a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life through increased use of seeds and plants.
by Mark Dwyer of Rotary Gardens from the National Garden Bureau website
3 Brilliant Studies Support Smart Irrigation Controllers
These three studies supporting evapotranspiration (ET) based smart irrigation controllers were from over 100 education sessions at the most recent WaterSmart Innovations Conference. The first two studies focused on what happens in regards to the way water and smart irrigation controllers are used in the field by real people. The third was a controlled study proving significant water savings from ET based smart irrigation controller.
WHERE THE WATER GOES
Morgan Shimabuku from the Center for ReSource Conservation in Boulder, CO presented Where’s the Water Going? Factors Related to Outdoor Water Use. While not directly related to smart irrigation controllers the study included results from over 2000 water audits conducted over four years and water use data from seven years. In the Boulder area over 50% of water is used outdoors of which up to 40% of the water is wasted due to overwatering. Their study determined the only statistically valid root cause for overwatering was bad irrigation controller scheduling. Smart Irrigation Controllers using daily ET data automatically adjusts the schedule so every schedule is a good schedule.
WHERE THE LOVE GOES
Dennis Gegen and Sean Ainsworth from the, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) presented After the Initial Romance is Over, Do People Still Love Their Smart Controller? Living in the Mojave Desert means average annual rainfall less than 4 inches, temperatures ranging from 15 – 115 F, humidity less than 20%, bright sunshine, few clouds and a very high ET rate. In Southern Nevada over 70% of the water is used outdoors with about 33% of the outdoor water being wasted.
Since SNWA offers a rebate for smart irrigation controllers they surveyed the people who had taken advantage of the rebate. While over 60% of the controllers were in automatic ET mode almost 40% were in standard or dumb water wasting mode. The primary reasons for switching away from automatic ET mode include the following.
Majority of respondents using clock in standard mode didn’t “trust” controller [It didn’t run every day…go figure]
*Clock was not initially installed or programmed properly
*Controller or weather station had malfunctioned or lost signal
*Some respondents didn’t realize the controller was not in Auto (Smart) mode
They also found customers who were comfortable with the Internet of Things (i.e. multiple technologies in the house, smart phones, tablets, etc.) were most likely to have the smart irrigation controller in automatic mode. In other words if you have any devices flashing 12:00 you may want to seek professional help to set up the ET smart irrigation controller.
WHERE THE TIME GOES
Brian Vinchesi, President of Irrigation Consulting presented Water Savings of ET vs. Timed Water Applications. This study was conducted over 27 months in central Florida to compare and measure the water conservation capabilities of a conventional timer based control system operating on a set duration and frequency versus a weather driven ET derived control system. Twelve identical plots of grass were installed. Four plots were used for control, four plots were on a standard irrigation controller and four plots were on an ET based smart irrigation controller.
The time based plots were watered 0.75 – 1 inch of reclaimed water per week on Tuesdays and Thursdays as mandated by South Florida Water Management District statute. The ET based plots were watered based on information from the weather station located 30 feet away as needed without restriction on how many days per week.
Study Results – Irrigation Run Time
*In all but one month the average monthly run time showed the time based scheduled irrigation operated longer than the ET based schedule.
*In May, June and July the two schedules were closer together time wise compared to rest of the year.
*In some months, the timed plots were operating over a 100 minutes more.
*Except for one month in the spring of 2011, the ET based schedule used less water than the time based schedule
Study Results – Irrigation Water Use
*ET based plots used ~64 inches of water and approximately ~9,500 gallons
*Time based plots applied ~100 inches of water and used over 15,000 gallons
*Net results were 36% water savings from the ET based smart irrigation controller
*Some months resulted in water savings over 50%
While each of these studies were from different parts of the country and different climates, the results were the same: ET based smart irrigation controllers significantly reduce outdoor water use and saves money.
by Alan Harris, ValleyCrest Landscape Companies
New Study Confirms that Landscaping is a Wise Investment
WOODBURY, N.J.- According to a recent survey from Houzz, more than half of U.S. homeowners plan to remodel within the next two years to add value to their homes. However, it's not what's inside that matters most.
A study by RealEstate.com suggests that landscaping and hardscaping can deliver a whopping return on investment as high as 150 percent - an ROI that puts it ahead of popular home improvement projects like kitchen or bathroom updates.
"When I bring a buyer to a home that features state-of-the-art landscaping and elements like a fire pit and high-end pavers, there's an immediate assumption that the inside of the house will be spectacular as the outside," said John Duffy of Duffy Real Estate. "Now we have research that shows that homebuyers will pay a premium for a nicely landscaped property, particularly one that features elements like an outdoor fireplace and finishes in stone or brick.
"The new mantra in home buying is location, location, landscape."
According to RealEstate.com, for every dollar spent on upgrading a backyard or outdoor space, a homeowner can expect to get back anywhere from 60 cents to two dollars. With up to 14 percent added to the home's resale value; on a $500,000 home, that's nearly $75,000.
The most popular items being requested by homeowners today, according to EP Henry Authorized Hardscaping Contractor Blase DeMichele of B. DeMichele Inc. based in Media, PA, are:
-- Outdoor fireplaces
-- Covered outdoor spaces with kitchen components
-- Stone veneer sitting walls
-- Fire pits
-- Patio pavers
"Today's homeowners want to extend their living area, so they're choosing to create outdoor living spaces," DeMichele said. "Landscaping is like a room addition, without the roof. When you put it in those terms, it's easy to see why a backyard renovation has such a high return on investment."
The American Institute of Architects recently reported that seven-in-10 architects have noticed an increase in outdoor living's popularity, while only four percent noted a decrease. The Houzz survey also noted that 70 percent of homeowners want a contractor who is an expert in his field - a sharp contrast to the DIY-mentality in the earlier 2000s.
Other popular home improvements and their approximate ROI, according to Duffy, are:
-- Basement remodel - 77 percent
-- Minor kitchen remodel - 83 percent
-- Attic bedroom - 84 percent
"Most homeowners don't embark on a yard project looking ahead to the day they will eventually sell their home," said J.C. Henry, CEO of EP Henry. "But it's nice to know that the day-to-day enjoyment of a beautifully designed yard can be capped by an impressive ROI when it comes time to sell."
EP Henry (www.ephenry.com) is a family-owned and operated manufacturer of unit concrete products. The company supplies Hardscaping(TM) (a term it coined) and architectural concrete masonry products, all of which are 100 percent American-made, to homeowners and businesses. Headquartered in Woodbury, N.J., EP Henry was founded in 1903. The paver of choice for the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island reconstruction, EP Henry also supports those in the active military and veteran's organizations through its HeroScaping Active Military and Veterans Service Program.
from Turf Magazine e-report 9/18/14
Black Diamond in the Rough: New Crape Myrtles in Big Demand
Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but they are far and few between. The newest arrival on the market is the BLACK DIAMOND™ series of crapemyrtles. This is a revolutionary new series of plants with spectacular black foliage and five brilliant flower colors to choose from. The stunning black foliage emerges in early spring and lasts until leaves drop at the first hard frost. Planted in full sun, plants hold their stunning dark foliage color over the entire growing season and bloom late-spring through late-fall.
The BLACK DIAMOND™ Crapemyrtles were bred by a USDA research scientist and feature five vivid color selections including ‘Best Red’, ‘Crimson Red’, ‘Red Hot’, ‘Blush’, and ‘Pure White’. We know how different “reds” can be and finding just the right one can be a challenge. This series offers up three different red tones to choose from to coordinate with your landscape. ‘Blush’ offers up soft pale pink blooms against the dark foliage. ‘Pure White’ gives you a stunning contrast perfect for a sophisticated garden. The BLACK DIAMOND™ Crapemyrtle has a long bloom season that begins in late-spring or early summer through the first frost. You can encourage more blooms by deadheading old flowers.
A versatile shrub, BLACK DIAMOND™ makes a show stopping specimen, anchor plant or blooming row hedge; it can also be grown in containers as a patio or pool plant. Reaching only 10- to 12-feet tall and 8-feet wide at maturity, these semi-dwarfs are perfect for urban landscapes, small spaces and containers. Plants can be hand-pruned or sheared to the ground to maintain a 4- to 6-foot blooming row hedge.
Crapemyrtles are sun loving, heat and drought tolerant once established. A must-have for your water-wise garden! In field trials, BLACK DIAMOND™ plants showed an improved tolerance to both powdery mildew and leaf spot; fungal diseases that can be a problem for most crapemyrtles.
"Crapemyrtles are just about everyone's favorite summer flower shrub and small tree. The extraordinary beautiful black foliage and the striking flower colors of the Black Diamond Crapemyrtles take them to other levels of beauty and enjoyment when in your landscape." Jim Berry, owner, J Berry Nursery.
BLACK DIAMOND™ Crapemyrtles can be grown differently across the country, depending on USDA Hardiness zone:
Zones 2-5: Annual. Use as annual blooming summer color. Use as a patio planter and bring inside for the winter.
Zone 6: Perennial. Use as flowering hedge that will re-grow from the ground in spring. Use as a summer patio planter.
Zone 7-9: Deciduous Shrub/Small Tree. Use as a border for driveway, fence, or property screen. Blooming hedge and patio planter for summer color.
reprinted by permission from Halleck Horticultural
Timely Advice from Neil Sperry
Neil Sperry, Texas horticulture expert and radio personality in the Dallas area, offers some great timely advice in his recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram article The Garden Guru: For a lush lawn, it's all about timing. In the article, Sperry explains the importance of a proper sequence of corrective lawn care steps as well as the seasonal timing of those steps.
MasterScapes® has a staff of licensed and trained technicians who provide all of the services that Sperry mentions and who are eager to aid in your property care. For more information about our wide range services, visit our Property Care Service page or call us at 325-692-1838.
Neil Sperry publishes Gardens magazine and hosts “Texas Gardening” on WBAP AM/FM. For more information, visit neilsperry.com.
2014 Year of the Petunia
What’s not to like about petunias? These incredibly versatile plants come in an abundance of sensationally bold colors, are widely adaptable, vigorous, self-reliant and largely pest and disease free. They are low maintenance and drought tolerant, available nation-wide, are a great value, sport a variety of forms and colors, and some even exhibit a light, sweet fragrance. Additionally, these fail-proof, tried-and-true beauties are easy to grow, bloom ceaselessly from late spring to fall and settle in comfortably whether planted in gardens, trailing from containers or spilling out of hanging baskets. They’re beautiful, desirable and completely irresistible to butterflies, hummingbirds and gardeners alike. Thanks to new, fashionable shapes and attractively colored blossoms, the petunia is still one of the most popular summer flowers. In short, the perfect go-to gardening friend for sunny places. In fact, for All-America Selections, there are more petunia winners than any other class of flower or vegetable.
History - Then
Though generally treated as annuals by most gardeners, technically they are tender perennials and are members of the potato family of plants. Today’s feisty hybrids are the descendants of two lanky, tiny-flowered South American species: the buff-white flowered Petunia axillaries and the night-fragrant, lavender to purple-flowered Petunia violacea. First discovered in South America in the late 1700’s these wild varieties quickly captured the imaginations of European breeders who began crossing them in search of the perfect petunia – a plant with large beautiful flowers in a variety of colors.
Following the end of World War II, the transformation in the quality of petunias came with the development of the F1 hybrids. Weddle, one of the founders of PanAmerican Seed Company, won an AAS award in 1949 for the first F1 single-flowered multiflora, ‘Silver Medal’ and in 1952 crossing a grandiflora with a multiflora producing a F1 vigorous grandiflora hybrid ‘Ballerina.’
History - Now
A whole new world opened for petunias and their breeders with the development of the F1 hybrids. This made it possible to regulate their growth from the open, floppy forms to a bushier type with better weather resistance, an increasing range of colors and color-combinations and a far superior ability to weather the rigors of summer.
As changes and improvements continued, plants started to be clearly categorized as grandifloras or multifloras. The first truly red petunia, a multiflora called ‘Comanche,’ bred by PanAmerican Seed, was introduced in 1953; and the first yellow, ‘Summer Sun,’ bred by Claude Hope, was introduced in 1977 by Goldsmith Seeds. As an interesting side note, petunias were among the first ornamentals to be bred specifically for the bedding plant market in the 1950’s.
The ‘Madness’ series of petunia introduced in the 1970’s had grandiflora sized flowers but with multiflora weather tolerance, and in 1983 a new category was created by Ball Seed Company to describe them – the Floribunda.
Then, a fourth class of spreading petunias was achieved by Kirin Brewery in Japan with the 1995 introduction by PanAmerican Seed of AAS Winner ‘Purple Wave.’ The original ‘Purple Wave’ series of petunias are easy to care for, flower freely, offer a thick, ground-hugging sea of color, need no deadheading, are incredibly weather resistant standing up well to rain and wind and are virtually disease-free, making the “delicate” landscape petunia a thing of the past. Blessed with masses of bright, richly colored, velvety blossoms along cascading branches, this spreading petunia is outstanding in hanging baskets, containers and garden beds. The original ‘Purple Wave’ has been joined by Easy Wave®, Double Wave® and Shock Wave® - each series sporting either larger, smaller or double blooms and more mounding or spreading habits. Another series, Tidal Wave®, is in an enviable class of its own. Referred by some as a Hedgiflora classification, it is the biggest of the Waves spreading to a whopping 5-foot diameter, capable of being trained up a trellis or a fence or mounded into a “bushy” plant, a vertical accent, a ground cover, or an exciting addition to hanging baskets, window-boxes, and truly tall containers. Other examples of popular spreading petunias include the highly acclaimed Supertunia®, Cascadiaä and Surfina® series.
The “Wave’s” incredible success opened up an infinite ocean of exciting, new innovative characteristics and endless plant introductions in the world of petunias. New developments in petunia culture continue at an incredibly fast pace. Today color choices are nearly limitless, with some varieties sporting imaginative, vividly bold new colors, dazzling bi- and multi-color combinations, beautiful veining, innovative stripes and blotches, sharp picotee edging, engaging star shaped centers and colored throats. Plants offer enormous variety: single, double, large and small blooms, smooth or ruffled petals, mounding and cascading habits, and even some with fragrance.
Unlike other grandiflora types that fade in the rain, Syngenta’s introduction of Petunia ‘Lavender Storm’ in 1966 dashed the sole objection against the big blossomed grandifloras – their rain intolerance. 1998 AAS Winner, F1 ‘Prism Sunshine’ bred by Floranova is noted for colorfast flowers that do not fade or discolor in the garden, and for its uniform compact plants that bloom early and heavily. The first totally black petunia ‘Black Velvet’ was introduced Ball FloraPlant in 2011.
Introduced 20 years ago, Suntory’s Surfinia® series reinvented the concept of gardening with petunias. Up till then, most petunias were produced from seed. Suntory introduced a group of very vigorous plants propagated by cuttings. Available in four different groups: Trailing – the original Surfinias, excellent for beds and baskets; Mounding – bred specifically for large patio containers, they create an upright, full rounded mound of blossoms; Bouquet – are ideal for smaller spaces where compact growth habit with a high flower count is needed; and Double – a tight, mounding shape with extraordinary heat and rain tolerance and gorgeous, smaller carnation-like flowers that tumble and ramble over the edges of hanging baskets.
From there, breeders started toward a goal of compact plants that grow lower to the ground and don’t “lodge” open (have a open area without flowers) in the middle. The first of these were the Limbo petunias with Limbo Violet being a 2004 AAS Winner. Other similar genetically compact petunias are known by the variety names Mambo, Espresso and Espresso Grande, Duvet and Damask, Pretty Grand and Pretty Flora, Easy Rider and Low Rider.
Then there are the Supertunia® varieties that are vigorous, self-cleaning, well branching, heavy spring-to-frost blooms, surprisingly drought resistant when planted in the ground, and super easy to care for. One, ‘Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum’ kicks it all up another notch. Buried in an avalanche of hot pink flowers with red-purple veins, the plant makes an amazing statement in beds and borders.
Introduced in 2012, Ball Horticulture Company’s Petunia ‘Blue a Fuse’ is a dazzling unique tri-colored combination of striking multicolored blooms in varying shades of violet, yellow and white with a deep purple throat.
A new rising star in this vast sea of extraordinary petunia series is Petchoa ‘SuperCal®’. This vigorous new inter-generic hybrid genus introduced by Sakata Seed in 2008, is a cross of the closely related petunia and calibrachoa plants. While technically not petunias, the wildly popular Calibrachoa hybrids, or mini petunias, look and act like tiny petunias on steroids, and are sold under names like Million Bells, Superbells, and MiniFamous. ‘SuperCal’ is a milestone in plant breeding and the result is the ideal combination of the best characteristics of the two top selling species into one. From the petunia side of the family legacy, ‘SuperCal’ inherits strong roots, excellent plant vigor, large flowers and ease of growing. Its calibrachoa heritage is intense, vibrant flowers that hold up under severe weather conditions and its lush, non-sticky foliage that maintains a fresh, clean look without additional maintenance. These robust plants bloom from early spring through fall in an amazingly flamboyant display, need no deadheading and tolerate the South’s heat better than either parent. ‘SuperCal’ is an amazing plant for home gardeners who enjoy hanging baskets loaded with blooms all season long.
And just when you’ve thought you’ve seen it all, hybridizers introduce exciting leaf colors into the mix. These new kids, HortCouture’s Glamouflage™ Grape – wide margins and marbling in cream and green – and Suntory’s Surfina® Variegated Baby Purple – trailing green and yellow leaves – are awash in bright purple blossoms adding new dimensions to stems cascading over rims of hanging baskets.
As is quite obvious, in recent years the world of petunias has become a complex world, for there are – literally – hundreds of named petunia varieties. But a bit of advice for pairing the right petunia with your gardening needs can be summarized, in part, in the following manner.
Grandiflora: large-flowered blossoms (4-5”) consisting of both single- and double-flowering cultivars form mounds of colorful solid, striped, deeply veined, variegated or edged in a contrasting shade called picotee. Grandifloras prefer a cool, dry sunny environment in protected areas and dislike hot, wet or windy conditions, and work well in both containers and beds.
Multiflora: compact plants with smaller (1.5-2”) flowers than the grandifloras; however, they bloom prolifically and freely all season long. These plants have single or double flowers and are available in a rainbow of colors, often with contrasting centers or stripes. Bred primarily for the wetter climates these petunias perform admirably in adverse weather conditions especially during very hot or very wet spells.
Milliflora: petite, (1-1½”) blossoms produced with wild abundance that cover the plant with beautiful vibrant colors. Perfectly suited to containers, hanging baskets, miniature gardens and as edging plants, these delicate beauties bloom earlier, do not stretch, add fullness and contrast of size and color when combined with larger blooming plants.
Spreading: low-growing plants only (4-6”) in height that can spread up to 5 feet across. These are fast growing plants with excellent heat and drought tolerance, require very little maintenance, and make excellent flowering ground covers. Their greatest popularity lies in their wild profusion of blooms that tumble out of hanging baskets, window-boxes and tall containers from late spring well into late fall in milder and warmer regions.
Hedgiflora – one segment of Spreading: have growth habits based on how closely the plants are spaced in the garden. Grown close together, they form a dense, mounded hedge from 16 to 22 inches tall. Grown in restricted space with some support, they act like vines growing upward an extra 2 to 3 feet. But when given plenty of space to roam, they make a floriferous groundcover spreading 2½ to 3 feet.
Floribunda: an improved multiflora petunia bred to have larger single- and double-flowered varieties that bloom earlier while producing an abundance of flowers. Like the grandifloras, they flower earlier, yet tolerate both hot and wet periods, perking up quickly after every rain shower. Floribundas are a fantastic selection for mass plantings in the landscape, and for container plantings in pots and hanging baskets.
Petchoa (SuperCal): a combination of the best characteristics of the petunia and calibrachoa plants. The Petchoa ‘SuperCal’ plants deliver unique colors, sturdy blossoms and non-sticky foliage to overflowing hanging baskets.
Growing petunias starting from seed:
Petunia seed is very tiny, so starting your plants from seed may, at first, seem daunting; but it really is not all that difficult. The advantage of starting from seed is primarily a larger quantity of plants for less money. The main disadvantage is that many of the newer cultivars which are vegetatively propagated are not available by seed.
Petunias can be started indoors from seed 10 to 12 weeks before the average last frost date in your area. For frost-free areas, count back from the date when you would typically be planting warm-weather annuals in the garden to arrive at your starting date.
Use a commercially prepared soilless mix for starting seeds. Shallow containers are best, and should be clean with good drainage holes. Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water and then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part bleach and nine parts water.
Fill the container with the soilless mix to within 1-inch of the top and press lightly to firm. If the mix is dry, moisten it before filling the container. Now tap the seeds out of the packet very gently, spreading them sparingly on top of the damp potting mix. Do not cover the seeds with the mix, they need light to germinate. Press them in gently with your fingers then water with a fine mist. Cover the container with clear plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag closed with a twist tie to keep the mix from drying out while the seeds are germinating.
Store the container in a bright, warm (70 to 80 degrees F) place, but not in direct sunlight, until seeds begin to sprout. This usually takes 7 to 10 days after seeding. When seedlings emerge, remove the plastic cover and place the container under fluorescent lights or in a bright, but cooler area of the house. Grow lights should be no more than 4 to 6 inches above the growing plants and should be left on for 14 to 16 hours daily.
When seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves, transplant them into plastic cell packs, peat pots, or other small containers. To keep the plants from getting leggy, keep the seedlings under fluorescent lights or in a sunny window. Allow the potting soil to dry between waterings and fertilize every two weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution. When they reach 6 inches in height, pinch back the growing tips to encourage branching. Harden off the seedlings by placing plants in a shady, protected location outdoors; gradually exposing them to longer periods of direct sun. Bring plants indoors if freezing temperatures are predicted.
If you have purchased plants from your local retailer, they will probably be in bloom, so you can easily see their colors. Look for healthy plants with clean, green foliage. Avoid those with water-logged or dried out soil or any with pests and diseases like powdery mildew.
Wait until soil warms to about 60 degrees F and the danger of frost has passed before transplanting. If possible, transplant petunias on a cloudy, breezeless day. If the weather is hot or windy with few or no clouds, provide some protection from the midday sun for a few days.
Petunias perform best in full sun, but can handle partial shade in the hotter parts of the country. They also require a moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Poorly draining soils often can be improved by incorporating organic matter, such as compost, peat or well-rotted manure into the soil.
Always check tags for planting instructions. As a general rule, if planting in-ground, position petunias about 12 inches apart with the top of the soil at the same level they were growing in the nursery pots. Typically, the spreading types should be planted about 1 ½ to 2 feet apart.
Older varieties of petunias require constant deadheading or they will get tall and leggy and stop blooming. Even some of the newer varieties will benefit from the occasional pinching or shearing in mid-season.
Petunias don’t require a lot of care, but they do benefit from some attention. During dry weather, a deep watering once a week should be sufficient for petunias in beds and borders. Plants in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes will need to be watered when the soil surface becomes dry – on extremely hot, sunny days that could be daily – and fertilized every couple of weeks with a dilute fertilizer solution.
Always check the cultural tags that come with the purchase of your plants. Many of the new cultivars are bred for compactness or mounding and require no pinching back or deadheading. Your cultural tags will give you this information. But as a general rule, to encourage additional blooms and improve plant appearance, remove the spent flowers on grandiflora and double petunias. This not only keeps plants blooming longer, it also keeps plants looking fresh, healthy and well groomed. The smaller flowering types, such as the milliflora and spreading petunias are self-cleaning and don’t require deadheading. And although it isn’t practical to deadhead sweeping stands of petunias in the garden, it’s advisable to do so for plants in containers. After pruning, fertilize and water the plants to promote new growth.
Today’s newer cultivars are pretty much disease-resistant, but as with all plants, a few problems can develop and you will want to deal with them as soon as possible.
Newly germinated seedlings can fall prey to damping off, a fungus that attacks at the soil level and is irreversible. The young seedlings will wilt and die almost overnight. Avoid damping off by using a commercially available soilless mix and use only clean, sterilized containers for starting seeds.
Young plants are susceptible to Botrytis, a fungus that is also soil-borne and spreads quickly from an infected plant to a healthy one. It thrives in cool, moist conditions, forming a powdery mold on stems, leaves and flowers. Watering only early in the morning, avoiding overhead irrigation and keeping plants spaced for good air circulation are all good ways to avoid these problems.
Petunias are also susceptible to various viruses which can leave foliage stunted and deformed with discolored and deformed flowers. The safest control is to remove and destroy diseased plants and keep aphids and other insects which can transmit the disease off the plants by hosing the plant with a strong blast of water.
Petunias in the landscape can be bothered by different pests: flea beetles which eat holes in the leaves of the plants and the small, green budworm caterpillar which attacks plants in late June and July and feeds on the flower buds. Usually, you won’t see the actual caterpillar, but you should notice small black droppings and tiny holes in leaves. If you have a major infestation, apply Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
Petunia plants may look limp and scraggly after a hard rain; however, the newer cultivars usually perk up within hours. Most petunias have naturally sticky leaves and stems (some of the newer cultivars have this trait bred out of them), so don’t panic and think this condition is disease or pest related.
from the National Garden Bureau
The Rising Cost of Water
H2O rates continue to swell. Here's a look at where the problem is escalating, what's driving the costs, and what landscape professionals can do about it.
Water. People use it every day - to drink, shower, flush toilets, brush teeth, water landscapes. People use water so frequently throughout the day and in so many ways, they don't even realize how much; its uses are limitless. Its uses are also necessary.
On top of that, water is also relatively inexpensive. As a result, people don't pay too much attention to the cost or how much of it they use.
But that is changing. As Americans are distracted with fluctuating fuel costs, water rates have doubled in the past 12 years, even tripling in a few areas, according to a USA Today survey of 100 municipalities. Another survey by Circle of Blue shows single-family residential water rates in the 20 largest U.S. cities and 10 regionally representative cities rose an average of 7.3 percent from 2011 to 2012 and nearly 18 percent since 2010. A Fast Company article even compared water's rising rates to that of something more expensive like cable vs. electricity or gas.
Understanding what's causing these surging prices can help landscape professionals better understand their roles in helping their customers reduce costs and save water.
USA Today's study, which took a look at costs for a mix of water suppliers representing every state and Washington, D.C., found prices doubled in 29 localities. In three specific municipalities - Atlanta, San Francisco and Wilmington, Del. - water costs tripled.
In some cases, the increases are jaw-dropping. Chicago went through a 25-percent jump in 2012 and a further 15.1-percent rise this year. Across 30 cities, the Circle of Blue study found average water prices climbed 25 percent since 2010 - far above inflation levels. Austin, Texas (22 percent) and Tucson, Ariz. (17.6 percent) had the biggest increases since 2012 in Circle of Blue's survey, followed by Los Angeles at 12.4 percent, San Francisco at 12.8 percent and Charlotte, N.C., at 10.8 percent.
Furthermore, as of June 2013, 40 percent of U.S. counties are experiencing drought conditions. For businesses located in these water scarce areas, the options are clear: cut water use or prepare to pay increasing water rates, Circle of Blue says.
What's causing the rising rates? A backlog of infrastructure repairs - work the federal government no longer subsidizes cities for, Circle of Blue's Brett Walton says.
The Environmental Protection Agency says cities will have to invest $384 million by 2030 to keep the water running. A whopping two-thirds of that price tag is for replacing and repairing water pipes. According to a USA Today-cited survey of experts released in June, that number is even higher - U.S. water systems will need as much as $1 trillion in infrastructure improvements by 2035.
Consumers are expected to fund those projects through their water bills.
Less Is More?
Water costs continue to rise even though residential water usage dropped sharply nationwide in the past three decades amid conservation efforts, USA Today reports. For instance, Circle of Blue's report shows Los Angeles households using less than 50 gallons per day per head saw bills rise 17.3 percent.
But this isn't always the case. Some cities changed their rate structures to incentivize less usage: 50 gallon families in Austin, Texas, for example, paid 0.5 percent less last year than in 2012, Circle of Blue points out.
One part of the problem is outdated and inefficient landscape irrigation systems. In fact, according to ValleyCrest, 10 percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons of water or more per day.
What can landscape industry professionals do to help? Continue to update and renovate outdated irrigation systems on client properties and talk to them about changes they can make to increase water savings, industry experts recommend. Products that optimize water, lower flow rates and use local weather data can boost efficiency and reduce overall water use.
Wisniewski, Nicole. "The Rising Cost of Water" Turf Design Build Aug. 2013: 22. Print. Used by permission.
Results from the Rose Hills Rose Trials
by Paul Zimmerman (to visit Paul Zimmerman's rose blog, click here)
International Rose Trials are a valuable way for the home gardener to learn what roses do well and are potential candidates to add to their own garden. The trials are open to all rose breeders from professional to beginner and so test a broad range of roses. Generally the roses are judged by a permeant jury over two years for overall appearance health, vigor, fragrance and bloom. Upon completion of that two year period an International jury is brought in to judge them one time, their scores are added in to the permanent jury's scores and the winners are announced. It's a grand event and fun for all rose lovers.
Up until recently the only International Rose Trials were overseas. Luckily North America now has two such trials. The Biltmore International Rose Trials which I've written about in a previous post, and the the Rose Hills International Rose Trials in Southern California, which is first one established in the United States. The Rose Hills trials were established by Dr. Tommy Cairns and they are beautifully run. I've had the pleasure of judging them a few times and have throughly enjoyed it.
The Rose Hills Trials have just had their International Juding Day and the results from this year are in. I'm passing them along to you so you consider some of these great roses for your garden!
Hybrid Tea Category - Gold Medal and Hamilton Garden Trophy. This award went to the rose 'Dick Clark' (WEKfunk). It was bred by Christian Bedard and Tom Carruth of Weeks Roses in California. It's a beautiful two toned rose of cherry red/pink and cream colors. It has a moderate, cinnamon fragrance.
Floribunda Category - Gold Medal and Adelaide Trophy. The winner in the group this year is the rose 'Cinco de Mayo' (WEKcobeju). Also from Weeks Roses and bred by Tom Carruth this little beauty has been turning heads ever since it's release in 2009. The blooms are a russet and lavender color and the compact growth habit makes it perfect for smaller gardens and even containers.
Hybrid Tea Category - Gold Medal. This went the rose 'Sunshine Daydream' (MEIKanaro). Bred by the French nursery of Meilland, this butter cream yellow rose yields nice sized blooms all season long. It's not only disease resistant but also great for cutting and bringing into the house.
Miniature Rose Category - Gold Medal. The rose 'Butter Me Up' (WEKpivoom) took the award this year. Bred by Christian Bedard of Weeks Roses, Butter Me Up yields golden yellow blooms in a miniature hybrid tea shape. It's diminutive size makes it perfect for containers on a patio or the front of a flower border.
Most Fragrant Category - Gifu Governor's Award. The variety 'Sugar Moon' (WEKmemolo) bred by Christian Bedard of Weeks Roses took this award. If you are looking for a white rose with fragrance this one is for you!
Best Established Category - Gold Medal to 'Opening Night' (JAColber) bred by Keith Zary the former hybridizer for Jackson & Perkins. The best established award is one given to a rose that has been in the garden for a while. It is meant to recognize an older rose, established variety that year after year looks great in the garden. if you are looking for a true red rose consider this one.
People's Choice Award - This award is voted for by the general public who visit the garden throughout the year. It gives them a chance to get in on the action. The award this year went to the rose 'Easy Does It' (HARpageant) bred by the UK Nursery Harkness. As its name implies this is an easy rose to grow and bears orange/apricot blooms all season long.
And the overall winner is!
'Sugar Moon' (WEKmemolo) took the prestigious award the Golden Rose Of Rose Hills. This rose had the highest score of any rose in the trials. As I previously mentioned, it also took the most fragrant award so this is definitely a rose to consider for all gardeners. Many of you love roses with fragrance and here we have one. Congratulations to Christian Bedard of Weeks roses for winning this award!
from Paul Zimmerman and Fine Gardening magazine
"Sugar Moon" photo credit: Weeks Roses
New Shade Tolerant Bermuda Grass
Finally, a Bermuda grass that performs as well or better than St. Augustine in shade! Developed By Dr. Wayne Hanna and Dr. Kris Braman and the University of Georgia's world renowned turfgrass breeding program, TifGrand® is now widely available. The above image is an Abilene application of this great new turfgrass offered through MasterScapes®.
Sweetwater Office Opens
The Sweetwater Chamber of Commerce officially welcomed MasterScapes® to the community today with a ribbon cutting by the Redcoats. A number of business professionals and Chamber members were in attendance to greet the MasterScapes® team.
Ryan McCorkle, formerly an Account Manager at the Abilene office, is the Sweetwater General Manager and says, "I'm really excited to be part of MasterScapes® in Sweetwater. We can now offer a wider range of our services here and I plan to jump in and be involved in the community, too. I grew up nearby so it feels like home to me already."
The History of the Shamrock
Full of symbolism, this plant has mystical roots.
Shamrocks have been symbolic of many things over the years. According to legend, the shamrock was a sacred plant to the Druids of Ireland because its leaves formed a triad, and three was a mystical number in the Celtic religion, as in many others. St. Patrick used the shamrock in the 5th century to illustrate the doctrine of the Holy Trinity as he introduced Christianity to Ireland.
The shamrock became symbolic in other ways as time went on. In the 19th century it became a symbol of rebellion, and anyone wearing it risked death by hanging. It was this period that spawned the phrase "the wearin' o' the green." Today, the shamrock is the most recognized symbol of the Irish, especially on St. Patrick's Day, when all over the world, everyone is Irish for a day!
The original Irish shamrock (traditionally spelled seamróg, which means "summer plant") is said by many authorities to be none other than white clover (Trifolium repens), a common lawn weed originally native to Ireland. It is a vigorous, rhizomatous, stem-rooting perennial with trifoliate leaves. Occasionally, a fourth leaflet will appear, making a "four-leaf clover," said to bring good luck to the person who discovers it.
by Michelle Gervais for Fine Gardening magazine
Photo by Michelle Gervais
USDA Unveils New Plant Hardiness Zone Map
WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2012--The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map—jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU) PRISM Climate Group—is available online at http://www.planthardiness.ars.usda.gov. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.
For the first time, the new map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a "find your zone by ZIP code" function. Static images of national, regional and state maps have also been included to ensure the map is readily accessible to those who lack broadband Internet access.
"This is the most sophisticated Plant Hardiness Zone Map yet for the United States," said Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics. "The increases in accuracy and detail that this map represents will be extremely useful for gardeners and researchers."
Plant hardiness zone designations represent the average annual extreme minimum temperatures at a given location during a particular time period. They do not reflect the coldest it has ever been or ever will be at a specific location, but simply the average lowest winter temperature for the location over a specified time. Low temperature during the winter is a crucial factor in the survival of plants at specific locations.
The new version of the map includes 13 zones, with the addition for the first time of zones 12 (50-60 degrees F) and 13 (60-70 degrees F). Each zone is a 10-degree Fahrenheit band, further divided into A and B 5-degree Fahrenheit zones.
To help develop the new map, USDA and OSU requested that horticultural and climatic experts review the zones in their geographic area, and trial versions of the new map were revised, based on their expert input.
Compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States. This is mostly a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005. In contrast, the 1990 map was based on temperature data from only a 13-year period of 1974-1986.
Some of the changes in the zones, however, are a result of new, more sophisticated methods for mapping zones between weather stations. These include algorithms that considered for the first time such factors as changes in elevation, nearness to large bodies of water, and position on the terrain, such as valley bottoms and ridge tops. Also, the new map used temperature data from many more stations than did the 1990 map. These advances greatly improved the accuracy and detail of the map, especially in mountainous regions of the western United States. In some cases, advances resulted in changes to cooler, rather than warmer, zones.
While about 80 million American gardeners, as well as those who grow and breed plants, are the largest users of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, many others need this hardiness zone information. For example, the USDA Risk Management Agency uses the USDA plant hardiness zone designations to set some crop insurance standards. Scientists use the plant hardiness zones as a data layer in many research models such as modeling the spread of exotic weeds and insects.
Although a poster-sized version of this map will not be available for purchase from USDA, as in the past, anyone may download the map free of charge from the Internet onto their personal computer and print copies of the map as needed.
As USDA's chief scientific research agency, ARS is leading America towards a better future through agricultural research and information. ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to help answer agricultural questions that impact Americans every day. ARS work helps to:
ensure high-quality, safe food, and other agricultural products;
assess the nutritional needs of Americans;
sustain a competitive agricultural economy;
enhance the natural resource base and the environment; and
provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.
from the US Department of Agriculture
Is a “Garden” the World’s Greatest New Artwork?
What’s the best new work of art in the world? Good question. The most interesting and mind-bending new artwork that I’ve encountered is a remarkable garden in Paris titled Who to Believe?, recently designed and assembled by Francois Abelanet. We’re accustomed to the idea that paint can form an illusion. But it’s a bit startling to find this effect created with grass and trees. Yet this is the conceit of Abelanet’s work, made from 3,500 square feet of turf and many truckloads of dirt and straw and assembled with the help of about 90 carefully supervised gardeners.
When you stare down at it from the steps of the City Hall in Paris, Abelanet’s carefully designed garden resembles a terrestrial globe. It’s a nearly perfect sphere, with neat lines marking latitude and longitude and two trees growing out of the top. It looks like one of those planets sketched by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The Little Prince.
But move a little and its appearance changes. From any other angle, it’s an irregular crazy-quilt of shapes—a weirdly configured, Alice-In-Wonderland world. Abelanet has brought together two seemingly divergent artistic traditions—the French garden and Anamorphosis.
Gardens are one of the most notable accomplishments of French culture and reached their height in the work of André Le Notre (1613-1700), chief gardener for King Louis XIV (1638-1715), most notably at the Palace of Versailles. The distinguishing trait of French gardens is their geometric logic and mastery of vistas. From a vantage point at the center of the great terrace at Versailles, the eye is directed down grand avenues in which lines of trees, and strategically placed lakes, fountains and statues, lead the eye seemingly to infinity. Happiest when working on a grand scale, Le Notre sometimes moved entire villages to create the strictly regulated vistas that he wanted.
Notably, Le Notre was also interested in the dramatic impact of surprising effects which can be discerned from only one place. There’s an effect of this sort at the garden of Vaux-le-Vicomte, for example, created just before Versailles for the Minister of Finance, Nicholas Fouquet. Stand before the statue of the Gallic Hercules, which marks the end of the Grand Avenue, and look back at the Chateau: The reflection of the distant building floats, seemingly miraculously, on the surface of a body of water that’s very close to you. Visually, it seems impossible, although in fact it’s simply a careful application of an optical principle that had recently been enunciated by Descartes—“the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.” In other words, if we carefully choose the right vantage point, we can see the world in a way possible nowhere else.
This concept of a unique, privileged vantage point provides the basis for Abelanet’s garden. But unlike Le Notre’s work, it discloses a world which is not predictable and logical, or under our control, but topsy-turvy and unpredictable. In essence, he has combined the techniques of Le Notre with an approach to representation normally found only in painting.
Anamorphosis. The word, which is Greek, refers to an image that needs to be seen from a special angle to be seen without distortion. It’s a kind of zany extrapolation of the principles of perspective, and it developed early in the Renaissance, very soon after vanishing-point perspective was developed. The masterpiece of the genre is arguably a large and imposing painting by Hans Holbein in the National Gallery in London, The Ambassadors.
An ingenious visual puzzle, executed around 1533, The Ambassadors shows two nearly life-size figures who have been identified as Jean de Dintevile, the French ambassador to the court of Henry VIII and George de Sleve, Bishop of Lavaur. Behind them are a two-tiered table on which are piled a selection of books, globes (one terrestrial, one celestial) and scientific instruments, including a quadrant, an astrolabe and a sundial. There’s also a lute with a broken string, next to a hymnbook in Martin Luther’s translation. Scholars have long argued about what these objects signify. Presumably the instruments are saying something about the world of knowledge, or about the celestial and terrestrial world. The hymnbook and lute seem to allude to strife between scholar’s and clergy.
But the oddest thing in The Ambassadors is a strangely distorted shape in the lower center, which when viewed from the painting’s right (or the viewer’s left) takes the form of a skull. Surely this alludes to the fact that death is always present, but we only see it if we look at reality from a particular angle.
Holbein’s painting alerts us to the fact that Anamorphosis is a device that can not only amuse us with its strange visual distortions, but can provide a metaphor. Part of the wit of Abelanet’s marvelous garden is that it functions in a way that carries metaphorical and metaphysical punch. Probably no form on government on earth is so famously centralized and bureaucratic as that of France. Decisions made at the top are carried out rigorously to the lowest level. It’s been said that if you enter any schoolroom in France you’ll find that the students are studying the same page in the same book as in every other schoolroom in the realm. But how do the people at the top make their decisions? What do they see from their vantage point?
Abelanet’s garden reminds us that the view from City Hall can be quite different from everywhere else—that, in fact, the seeming logic of its view of things can be nonsensical. To fully grasp reality we need to see how it looks from more than one place (politicians, take note). Like much of the world’s best art, Abelanet’s creation is at once silly and profound.
Is this the world’s best new work of art? I’d welcome other suggestions.
by Henry Adams from Smithsonian.com, November 29, 2011
Drought and Turfgrass Breeding Trials
COLLEGE STATION – A green checkerboard at the new Turfgrass Urban Ecology Field Laboratory in College Station is a project to develop new cultivars of major turfgrasses with improved drought and salinity stress tolerance.
Dr. Lloyd Nelson, professor emeritus in turfgrass, and Dr. Ambika Chandra, a Texas AgriLife Research assistant professor of turfgrass breeding in Dallas, discuss the different plots at a recent field day.
Dr. Ambika Chandra, a Texas AgriLife Research assistant professor of turfgrass breeding and molecular genetics in Dallas and the principal investigator of this project, is working under a $3.8 million grant from the Specialty Crops Research Initiative program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
“The main idea is that five universities in the south and southeast have gotten together with one goal in mind – to develop cultivars of turfgrasses that are drought as well as salinity tolerant,” she said.
Chandra and Dr. Lloyd Nelson, professor emeritus in turfgrass, have AgriLife Research turf plots at both Dallas and College Station. They are collaborating with scientists from North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, University of Georgia and University of Florida on the five-year study.
Dr. Ambika Chandra, a Texas AgriLife Research assistant professor of turfgrass breeding, shows how some of the 4-inch plugs of grass failed to spread while others filled out the 3-foot-by-3-foot plots. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)
In the first year of the project, 160 different experimental genotypes of Bermuda grass, zoysia grass and St. Augustine grass and 80 genotypes of seashore paspalum grass were planted, Nelson said. Ryegrass germplasm or experimental lines were planted this month.
These lines are not ready to be released to the public, he said, but they are ready for evaluation by the participating universities at multiple locations throughout the southern U.S.
“We want to develop cultivars that are drought and salinity tolerant that can be used in parks, golf courses, home lawns and commercial landscapes,” Chandra said. “We want to provide the best to our producers, consumers and industry.”
She said breeding is the answer to these two issues – drought and salinity – because a chemical can’t be developed to fix either of them, as is the case in controlling disease and insect pest damage. And, the freshwater supply is limited and increasingly more expensive.
“It is becoming necessary to use water of lesser quality on your turf and landscape,” Chandra said. “That’s why we are doing this, and why these seven breeding programs in the southern region are working collaboratively under this project.”
By evaluating the same plant material under different environmental conditions, breeders can determine the range of adaptation and identify breeding lines best suited for regions across the south and the southeast.
This first year got the plots established, using full fertilizer and irrigation, Nelson said.
“A 4-inch plug was planted to fill each 3-foot-by-3-foot plot,” Chandra said. “You can already see the differences in the amount they have spread, the color, the density of the grass – these are the things we are taking notes on this year.
“We will start stressing it for moisture next summer and begin our evaluation for heat and drought tolerance,” she said. “We will also look at winter kill this winter.”
Chandra said next summer another set of experimental germplasm will be evaluated for all five grasses at all seven locations.
In the third and fourth years, the best material from these first-year plots, as well as those planted next year – regardless of what program it came from – will be replicated in larger field plots, Chandra said. Selected genotypes also will be evaluated in greenhouses for salinity stress tolerance and will be grown under rain-out shelters to determine their drought stress tolerance.
“The idea is to select the 3 to 5 percent ‘good performers’ each year and then that material will be studied in further detail on larger plots at all five universities,” she said.
“The goal is to identify and increase the best genotypes and eventually release them as cultivars for the turfgrass industry.”
from AgriLife TODAY (Oct 27, 2011) by Kay Ledbetter, photo of Dr. Lloyd Nelson and Dr. Ambika Chandra by Kay Ledbetter
Client Receives Garden Club Award
We are honored that a MasterScapes® client recently received the Abilene Garden Club Award for landscape beautification. This property is located in the old Elmwood area in South Abilene.
KR Bluestem Confirmed by Extension Service
King Ranch (or KR) Bluestem is a perennial grassy weed and its presence in Abilene has been confirmed by theTexas AgriLife Extension Service of Taylor County; there is currently no chemical labeled for its control. Please read below for more information on this invasive weed.
King Ranch (or KR) Bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica), introduced from Europe and Asia, has greatly increased its range by cultivation for livestock forage and as an inclusion in seed mixes used to stabilize roadsides by highway departments. When it was introduced in the 1920s and 1930s it was seen as a desirable species for erosion control since it is drought resistant and quickly establishes itself. It is now considered invasive and its presence threatens the abundance and diversity of native species. You are well advised and should be congratulated for attempting to control it.
Simply mowing it is not going to get rid of it, however. It will, of course, curb the spread somewhat if the mowing is done before it flowers and sets seed; however, keeping it mowed short is likely to extend its spread by sending out stolons.
The recent 2007 Texas Invasive Plant Conference had a special one day symposium devoted to the discussion of Old World Bluestems and the problems concerning their effective control. You can read abstracts of papers presented there and find that there is no single, surefire method for control of KR bluestem. The methods under investigation are:
1) Herbicides alone—The conclusion of several of the papers is that herbicides alone are not an effective control for KR bluestem.
2) Tilling (disking or harrowing) alone—Here is the recommendation from the Native Prairies Association of Texas in their article, "Want to Plant a Prairie?" by Lee Stone and Arnold Davis
"You've got K-R Bluestem? Plow deeply enough to turn the roots up in the early summer. Do everything you can in the early summer to kill those roots. If you get fall germination of K-R, till your land two inches deep. Don't ever go below this two inch depth. If you go more deeply, you'll just be bringing up more seed. The minute you see any germination at all, use a spring tooth harrow or a section harrow, but never below two inches.
Bank on at least one more germination occurring. Get them too. You won't be planting your prairie until May. But live with that fact. Get the seed to germinate, then kill them with tillage or herbicide. This exotic seeds well, is aggressive, and spreads under conditions of grazing and mowing."
Another study, KR Bluestem Management in Bermudagrass Pastures by Paul Baumann and Ron Leps from the Williamson County Texas Cooperative Extension Service concluded that "What is evident from these
studies is that tillage has a significant impact on KR Bluestem." Their study shows tilling alone is more effective than any of the herbicides alone or herbicides in combination with tilling.
3) Tilling in conjunction with herbicides—One of the papers delivered (Restoration of Native Subtropical Forest in Abandoned Cropland Dominated by Kleberg Bluestem in Cameron County, Texas by Chris Best and Mick Castillo of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service) reported that "the most effective treatment has been disking followed by 1 year of glyphosate treatment."
Another study, Invasive Ecology of Old World Bluestems and Insights for Management by Marvin Ruffner and Lynn Drawe agreed that "Disking followed by herbicide treatments provided the most effective long-term control of Old World bluestems."
4) Prescribed burns—Mark Simmons of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center reported in Selective and Non-Selective Control of King Ranch Bluestem: The Short-Term Effects of Growing-Season Prescribed Fire, Herbicide, and Mowing in Texas Prairie that prescribed burns during the growing season (summer) were "effective at reducing the abundance of B. ischaemum" while dormant season (winter) burns encouraged KR growth. Also, the advantage of growing season prescribed fire over tilling/herbicide is that many native grasses can tolerate fire, hence this technique is selective rather than wholesale.
So---given the fact that it isn't practical to pull or dig up all the clumps of KR on your 1/2 acre (that would be the MOST effective way of getting rid of it), the least expensive and most environmental friendly option would be tilling up the roots and/or a prescribed burn during the summer growing season. This may take multiple tillings and you will need to be vigilant for new germination.
from Ask Mr. Smarty Plants, a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
Tighter Watering Restrictions
Residents in Abilene can now water lawns and shrubbery just once a week.
This new level – decreased from the current twice-a-week watering schedule – was announced Thursday afternoon by Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald.
He said the latest level of water restrictions were being ordered, for the first time since 2007, because water at Lake Fort Phantom Hill has now dropped below 10 feet below the spillway.
With lake levels that low, the city's water conservation plan authorizes the mayor to declare the Stage 1 restrictions, which makes once-a-week watering mandatory.
Watering is permitted before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. on a resident's designated watering day. No watering is permitted between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on any day.
The one-day-a-week watering plan will remain in effect until further notice. Each resident's watering day is determined by the last digit of the property address. Here are the watering days:
Last digit – watering day
7 or 8 – Sunday
9 – Monday
0 – Tuesday
1 – Wednesday
2 – Thursday
3 or 4 – Friday
5 or 6 – Saturday
Abilene's water conservation plan was adopted in June 2003 and gives the mayor the authority to call for one-day-a-week watering when the Lake Fort Phantom Hill reservoir level drops to 10 feet below the spillway.
from KTXS News
Structural Pest Control Board of Texas Applicator’s License
Texas Board of Irrigators Irrigator’s License
Texas Certified Nursery Professional
Certified Turfgrass Professional
2004 Texas Excellence in Landscaping Award, honorable mention, presented by the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association for Commercial Installation and Design of Haskell National Bank, Abilene.
2010 Texas Excellence in Landscaping Award, honorable mention, presented by the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association for Residential Installation and Design of private residence, West Texas.
Texas Board of Architectural Examiners Registered Landscape Architect
American Society of Landscape Architects - member in good standing
Abilene Chamber of Commerce - member in good standing
Texas Nursery and Landscape Association - member in good standing
The Earth on Fire
Long before modern science began to understand the processes that create our weather, people made up their own explanations. Many of these accounts were fantastic in nature, with evil or benevolent gods, monsters, and spirits controlling the elements. In this series, we’ll explore some of these ancient myths and share the science behind them. Weather + mythology = weather-ology!
Helios is the Greek Sun god said to drive a chariot led by four fiery horses across the sky each day. One of the most popular myths about Helios concerns his mortal son, Phaeton.
The boy, whose name meant “the shining one,” had grown up without ever knowing his father. When his mother finally told him the truth about his divine parentage, he did not believe her, so she encouraged him to make a journey to his father’s palace in the east. After a long and arduous journey, Phaeton found his father, who was so overjoyed to see his son that he swore by the river Styx (the most sacred oath one could give at that time) he would grant Phaeton any one thing he wished. Helios immediately regretted his offer when his son named his heart’s desire: Phaeton wanted to drive his father’s chariot. Though the sun god tried to talk him into wishing for anything else – even the god Zeus was unable to control Helios’ four steeds – Phaeton was resolute. Having sworn a sacred oath, Helios was bound to it, so he anointed his son’s head with magic oil to keep him from being burned by his fiery chariot and prepared his horses for the day’s work.
As soon as Phaeton took the reigns, the four horses could tell their new driver was not as strong as their master. They bolted, dragging the hapless youth in the chariot behind them. First, they carried the chariot too high, so that the Earth grew cold and dark. Then they dropped down too close to the Earth, burning everything in their path. Crops withered and died, stream beds dried up, the Earth baked. Deserts formed across much of Africa.
The people called out to the gods to help them and Zeus was finally forced to intervene. He struck the chariot down with a lightning bolt, killing Phaeton and sending him tumbling into the river Eridanos. Helios was grief-stricken and blamed Zeus for the loss of his son, but Zeus insisted it had to be done for the sake of all life on Earth.
The gods laid Helios’ son to rest, marking his grave with the epitaph, “Here lies Phaethon who drove the Sun-god’s car. Greatly he failed, but greatly he dared.”
The Greeks invented the story of Phaeton to explain heat waves, drought, and the existence of deserts. When, as has happened this year throughout the southern half of the United States, the heat index rises and rain does not fall, it can be easy to believe that the Sun has moved closer, baking everything in sight.
Of course, today we know that hot, dry weather is caused by high-pressure systems moving into an area. The high atmospheric pressure prevents water vapor from rising up and forming clouds. The lack of clouds allows even more sunlight to reach the Earth, warming things up even further. High-pressure systems are incredibly stable, and can become self-perpetuating. Usually, these fronts are eventually broken up by low-pressure fronts, bringing cooler air and rain. Sometimes, though, the weather conditions are just right to keep a high-pressure system in place for several weeks or even months. When that happens, the result is a drought.
This can happen for any number of reasons. Jet streams can work to hold a high-pressure system in place. A La Niña – periodic cold-water currents in the Pacific Ocean – can prevent low pressure systems from forming. Or, as is the case in desert regions, mountains can prevent water vapor from the ocean from reaching certain inland areas.
Thankfully, most droughts do eventually end, as low-pressure fronts move in and bring rain. And, as when Zeus struck down Phaeton, the lightning is usually a welcome sound to those below.
by Jaime McLeod from the Farmers’ Almanac 2011
New Watering Restrictions in Effect
Abilene residents are now limited to two days per week to water their lawns. The new restrictions are effective today according to Mayor Norman Archibald who asks that Abilene citizens conserve water whenever possible.
Residents are permitted to water from midnight to 10am and from 6pm to midnight on designated days which are determined by property address.
Odd numbered residential addresses: Thursday and Sunday;
Even numbered residential addresses: Tuesday and Saturday.
For more information about the city’s watering schedule or to read the full Water Conservation Plan, click http://www.abilenetx.com/WaterUtilitiesDept/yearround.htm.
Accused Auburn tree poisoner indicted
from the Associated Press
OPELIKA, Ala. — The Alabama fan accused of poisoning the oak trees at Auburn’s Toomer’s Corner has been indicted by a Lee County grand jury on four felony charges and two misdemeanors.
Harvey Updyke Jr., 62, faces two felony counts of first-degree criminal mischief, two felony counts of unlawful damage, felony vandalism or theft of property from a farm animal or crop facility and two misdemeanor counts of desecrating a venerated object, according to court documents.
Updyke is scheduled for arraignment on May 26 before Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob A. Walker III. He has a tentative trial date of June 20.
Updyke’s attorney, Glennon Threatt Jr., did not immediately return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
The century-old trees preside over Toomer’s Corner, at the intersection of campus and downtown, where Auburn fans have traditionally celebrated wins. One of those traditions had been to heave toilet paper into the branches.
Updyke said he was attacked by unknown assailants at a gas station shortly after leaving the courthouse following his appearance for a preliminary hearing, which he waived.
Opelika Police Capt. Allan Elkins said Wednesday no suspects have been found or arrested.
“There has been no activity in this case since the report has been made,” Elkins said. “There has been no witness to come forward, there has been no evidence collected. The investigators have nothing to work with.”
Updyke gave what was tantamount to a confession in the poisoning later that evening on a Birmingham radio show, saying he didn’t want his legacy to be as “Harvey the tree poisoner.” He also said that “undoubtedly” wasn’t one of the good things he has done in his life.
He ended his appearance by saying, “Roll D*** Tide.”
“All my life, people have told me I cared too much about Alabama,” Updyke said on the show.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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The Butterfly Bush
The Butterfly Bush, commonly known as summer lilac and botanically as Buddleia, is one of my backyard favorites. Curious about its origin, I learned this…
The name ‘buddleia’ is after the Rev. Adam Buddle, a rector in Essex, England. There was a long tradition in England associating botanists and gardens with the clergy. Gilbert White, Canon H. N. Ellacombe, Charles Kinglsey, and William Wilks are only a few of the better known horticultural clerics. Clergymen were often isolated in small villages, leading quiet, leisurely lives and could satisfy their intellectual curiosity, as well as use their classical educations, with botanical research. They believed that to study plants would bring them closer to understanding God’s universe, and the innocence of Eden. As Charles Kingsley, who wrote The Water Babies, afffirmed, “All natural objects … all forms, colours and scents … are types of some spiritual truth or existence.”
In 1708, Buddle wrote an Herbarium of British plants, supporting the botanical systems of John Ray and Joseph de Tournefort. He was an authority on mosses, but that did not deter Linnaeus from giving his name to the shrub, Buddleia globosa, which was introduced from Peru in 1774. It isn’t tough enough to survive New England winters, but its globular golden flowers are very attractive and it is found in older English gardens. The hardy buddleias, introduced later from Asia, are widely grown in Britain and North America.
The most popular buddleia, Buddleia davidii, was called after Pere Armand David, a Jesuit missionary who explored in China, though it was actually discovered by Pere Jean Andre Soulie. It was sent to Kew in 1887 by Dr. Augustine Henry, an Irish customs officer in Shangai and the assistant medical officer at Ichang. He was, in advance of his time, worried about air purity and deforestation, and described the Chinese hillsides, denuded of trees, “for all the world like a nightmare dream of telegraph poles gone made and having a mass meeting.” When he returned home he became a professor of forestry at Dublin until his death in 1930.
The buddleias with their lilac-like flowers are particularly popular these days because they attract butterflies, sometimes so sucessfully that the bush looks as if it were flowering with butterfles, attached by their heads, crazily drinking the sweet nectar, their petally wings fluttering from the branches. It’s a wonderful sight and surely we must, like Adam Buddle, be reminded by it of the infinite mystery of the universe.
from 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells
Fun with Color
MasterScapes® acquires Abilene Lawn Solutions
Effective February 22, 2011 Abilene Lawn Solutions clients will be serviced by MasterScapes®. “We reached an agreement so that his clients would continue to receive treatment services and MasterScapes® now has the opportunity to offer additional services to help meet all of their needs,” explains Dan Haught of MasterScapes®. “I am pleased to be in a position to help both the clients and the former owner.”
MasterScapes® celebrates 20th anniversary!
Dan Haught, 1995
The new year marks a special time for MasterScapes® - our 20th anniversary!
What began in 1992 as Haught Landscape Co., a small mowing company in a shared office, has grown into a full-service property care, landscape, and water management firm.
In 1995, Haught Landscape Co. changed its name to MasterScapes® and moved all eight of its employees to the current location in South Abilene.
Today, our fine staff exceeds 40 and includes a Landscape Architect, Certified Arborist, Master Nurseryman, Certified Turf Grass Professional, Licensed Applicators, Licensed Irrigators, and more. Their degrees range from Business to Horticulture to Agricultural Services and their years of experience are countless.“Our blessings are beyond what we could have imagined 20 years ago. I am grateful and humbled by the continued loyalty of so many that we serve and that work with us,” said Dan Haught.
Recent Local Oak Wilt Confirmation
Another diagnosis of Oak Wilt has been confirmed in the Tanglewood/River Oaks neighborhood in Abilene according to Scott Warren, Certified Arborist with MasterScapes®. “An exact diagnosis can only be confirmed through lab work from a sample that tests positive for a fungal spore,” Warren explains.
Oak trees affected by Oak Wilt can decline very fast and no Oak species is immune from the fungus. Outward signs of Oak Wilt include veined necrosis in the leaves, an appearance that the tree is dying. Although treatment after infection is possible, the fungus is much easier to prevent than cure.confirmed Oak Wilt
“The only accepted treatment method is chemical injection, rather than spraying or drenching. Homeowners typically don’t do it themselves because the method of application is difficult,” says Warren. “It’s important to seek a Certified Arborist for Oak Wilt treatment or prevention not only for correct diagnosis, but also for proper treatment methods. Size and health of a tree determine the injection duration which can range from 30 to 90 minutes per tree.”
“Oak Wilt treatment may seem expensive, but compared to the removal or replacement of Oak trees, it’s very affordable. And a speciman Oak tree, one that’s 30 or 40 years old, is irreplacable.”
For more detailed information on Oak Wilt, please see the Oak Wilt Fact Sheet or contact Scott Warren, Certified Arborist, at MasterScapes®.
Blue Cross Blue Shield receives beautification award
Blue Cross Blue Shield has received the Donna Albus Beautification Award presented by Keep Abilene Beautiful. This award is presented annually to a business which “has taken extra measures to keep their business beautiful,” explains Alexis Rolfe of Keep Abilene Beautiful. “The Donna Albus Beautification Award was developed to motivate businesses in the Abilene city limits to take the extra effort and pride in the outward appearance of their building. The BCBS building has come such a long way due to the dedicated staff and we were excited to announce them as the 2010 Donna Albus Beautification Award recipient.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield is a property care client of MasterScapes®.
Texas Excellence in Landscaping Awards featured project
MasterScapes® acquires Morris Lawn Service
Effective January 8, 2010 Morris Lawn Service became part of MasterScapes®, Inc. “Tom Morris’ intention to retire gave us an opportunity to provide a wider range of services to his weed control clients while providing us the economy-of-scale benefit. "It is a great fit for both of us,” said Dan Haught of MasterScapes®. “We are pleased to be able to help both Tom and his clients.”
MasterScapes® recognized in 2010 Texas Excellence in Landscaping Awards
The Texas Nursery and Landscape Association (TNLA) has announced the 2010 winners of the prestigious Texas Excellence in Landscaping (TEIL) Awards which include an Honorable Mention for MasterScapes®. These awards recognize the year’s top achievers in landscape design, installation, and maintenance in the State of Texas and reflect the association’s commitment to creating and preserving the beauty of the Texas landscape. The program is designed to recognize independent landscape and lawn care professionals who execute superior projects.
MasterScapes®’ residential project, a ranch located in Eastland County in the landscape design and installation category, is the company’s second TEIL recognition of two submissions. In 2004, MasterScapes® received Honorable Mention in the commercial landscape and design category for Haskell National Bank, Abilene.
We are proud of our outstanding and very creative Landscape Architect, Tom Martin, and our terrific landscape installation crews who make his designs a reality.
Building Good Bones: Garden Structure
Let’s examine basic garden layout and its structural components - paths and areas of paving, lawns, trees, hedging, pergolas and other features - and how they can contribute to the overall style of the garden. These form the garden’s architectural framework and give it its unity: a combination of hard building materials and living plants inside which more ephemeral and colourful ’secondary’ planting schemes are contained. Without this framework the secondary planting, however pretty, may lack coherence and fail to satisfy.
Interestingly, in many successful gardens, when the secondary planting has matured, the garden framework may become unobtrusive and quite difficult to analyze, but its very existence gives an air of purpose. It also provides strong and dense shapes, whether of walls, fencing or evergreen shrubs and hedges, which are essential backdrops for brighter flower and leaf colours. A black and white photograph of a garden, or a pencil sketch using just the vertical and horizontal lines, will reveal the garden’s components without the distraction of colour - just as the winter picture of the Canneman garden clearly gives its shape and outline. In monochrome, plants become structural and have density and weight, contributing balance and rhythm. They are playing architectural roles, whether singly as focal points, in pairs or groups to frame a scene, or arranged in a continuous line as hedges or, like grass or other groundcover, massed together in a horizontal carpet. Plants form the bones of the garden through all the seasons.Canneman garden in Summer
The structure of a garden does not have to be complicated; in fact, as with all garden themes, an essential element is simplicity to achieve balance. It is the fussy, over-elaborate design which can damage the garden’s atmostphere.
excerpt from Garden Style by Penelope Hobhouse
The Allure of Stone
New Water Restrictions
ABILENE, Texas – Starting today, August 4, outdoor lawn watering in the City of Abilene and its wholesale water customers is limited to two days per week. This afternoon at City Hall, Mayor Norm Archibald made the announcement to heighten the City’s water conservation measures.
“Due to a dry, hot summer, our reservoir levels are significantly lower than they’ve been in nearly two years,” said Mayor Norm Archibald. “Conditions are appropriate to change our water conservation efforts to a two day per week watering schedule. Until we receive more rain, citizens can help do their part by conserving water whenever possible.”
Watering is permitted 12 midnight until 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. until 12 midnight on a customer’s designated watering day. The customer’s watering day is determined by the last digit of the house number of property address.
Designated Watering Days:
Thursday, Sunday - Odd numbered addresses
Tuesday, Saturday - Even numbered addresses
Monday, Friday - Industrial, commercial, government customers, public and private schools and universities
The two day per week outside lawn watering schedule will stay in effect until further notice.
Year round water restrictions with a three day per week watering schedule became effective August 30, 2007. According to the City of Abilene’s water conservation plan, the Mayor may call for two day per week watering when the Lake Fort Phantom Reservoir level is between five and ten feet below the spillway.
from the City of Abilene website
For more information about the City of Abilene Water Conservation plan, click here.
Plants, Soils, and Water
When water is applied to the soil, it seeps down through the root zone very gradually. Each layer of soil must be filled to “field capacity” before water descends to the next layer. This water movement is referred to as the wetting front. Water moves downward through a sandy coarse soil much faster than through a fine-textured soil such as clay or silt.
If only one-half the amount of water required for healthy growth of your garden or landscape is applied at a given time, it only penetrates the top half of the root zone; the area below the point where the wetting front stops remains dry, as if no irrigation has been applied at all.
Once enough water is applied to move the wetting front into the root zone, moisture is absorbed by plant roots and moves up through the stem to the leaves and fruits. Leaves have thousands of microscopic openings, called stomates, through which water vapor is lost from the plant. This continual loss of water called transpiration, causes the plant to wilt unless a constant supply of soil water is provided by absorption through the roots.
The total water requirement is the amount of water lost from the plant plus the amount evaporated from the soil. These two processes are called evapo-transpiration.
Evapo-transpiration rates vary and are influenced by day length, temperature, cloud cover, wind, relative humidity, mulching, and the type, size and number of plants growing in a given area.
Water is required for the normal physiological processes of all plants. It is the primary medium for chemical reactions and movement of substances through the various plant parts. Water is an essential component in photosynthesis and plant metabolism, including cell division and enlargement. It is important also in cooling the surfaces of land plants by transpiration. Water is also a primary yield-determining factor in crop production. Plants with insufficient water respond by closing the stomata, leaf rolling, changing leaf orientation and reducing leaf and stem growth and fruit yield.
information provided by Alldredge Gardens
July is Smart Irrigation Month
April 14, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Noreen Rich
FALLS CHURCH, VA. (April 14, 2009) - In 2006, the Irrigation Association named July Smart Irrigation Month to raise awareness of the benefits of smart irrigation practices. Since then, IA members in every segment of the industry have used Smart Irrigation Month as an opportunity to promote efficient irrigation practices, technologies and methods.
“Our mission is to promote efficient irrigation,” said IA Executive Director Deborah Hamlin. “Smart Irrigation Month is a valuable opportunity to promote water-saving products, practices and services during what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for water-use.”
By displaying the Smart Irrigation Month logo, IA members are part of an industry-wide effort to promote efficient irrigation. In addition to using the logo, IA members promote efficient water-use by highlighting the latest innovations in irrigation technology. IA certified professionals help homeowners and other water users save water and money by installing systems that best meet clients’ needs.
Visit http://www.smartirrigationmonth.org for water saving tips, marketing materials, logos available for download, public service announcements, press releases, and other free tools to promote Smart Irrigation Month and efficient irrigation.
The Irrigation Association is the leading membership organization for irrigation equipment and system manufacturers, dealers, distributors, designers, consultants, contractors and end users. Originally founded in 1949, IA includes over 2,000 corporate and individual members and is dedicated to promoting efficient irrigation. For more information, visit http://www.irrigation.org.
The Irrigation Association promotes efficient irrigation.
Best of Abilene Plants
The City of Abilene compiled this outstanding list of water-wise plant recommendations.
Summer time is pool time! We can design your perfect pool to blend seamlessly into an existing landscape or as part of a new master plan. Here are a few of our favorites:
Warm Weather Color
Take-All Root Rot
In our continued effort to provide proactive information to our valued clients, we at feel it necessary to communicate recent soil and turf test results received from the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Texas A&M University. The results of tests performed on Abilene lawn samples have confirmed a fungus called TARR (Take-All Root Rot, also known as Take-All Patch), present in St. Augustine grass.
TARR can be a very difficult turf disease to manage, but early detection and aggressive management strategies can achieve effective disease control. Unfortunately, there is no cure for TARR but quick and aggressive action will help minimize long-term turf damage. Although we cannot guarantee results associated with any treatment targeting this virulent fungus, MasterScapes® is offering a multi-product application according to the recommendations provided by the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
Our staff will continue to monitor lawns in our service area and notify homeowners of any possible problems identified. If your yard contains St. Augustine grass and you recognize the symptoms posted on our website, please call our office for pricing and scheduling of this customized application.