It's that time of year: people run into beautiful trees and plants, make some quick decisions and end up with BUYERS REMORSE.
Don't do this to yourself! Here are some helpful tips when faced with a lovely but mysterious shrub/tree/ perennial at the garden center.
1. Find out all you can about this mysterious beauty that you want to buy and take home and love forever and ever. *What is the botanical name? (Common names for plants are misleading many times) [Pictured above is a Forest Pansy Redbud, Cercis canadiensis]
*What is the mature size for this plant? Please plant accordingly. If this shrub is actually a small tree and will be 8' across, put it in a place that can accomodate it. These tags actually are not lying to you- the garden center may be selling a very small plant now but it will get big.
*How fast will it grow to mature size?
*What is the growing culture for this plant? Does it require sun or shade or something in between? Does it thrive on dry conditions or need wet, moist soil? If you don't figure this out, you WILL kill this plant. "Brown thumb"? More likely, you just didn't read up on your plant.
2. HAVE A PLACE TO PUT THE DANG THING BEFORE YOU BUY IT. Really, if your yard is a "disaster area" in your mind, invest in a landscape design before you invest in some large plants! It's like learning to walk before you learn to roller skate... you really need to work up to buying plants impulsively. Want to know what I do? I only allow myself to buy plants that fit in to the spaces I've designed- that is, I haven't gotten to designing the north side of my house yet. Therefore, I'm not allowed to impulsively buy stuff for that area. I MUST design it first, tying it into the rest of the yard, house and other beds.
(Personal example here) Also-- I have spaces in my border beds. I know that A. I have designed these spaces and they are going to continue being the same design in the future. B. I have limited space left in each area. I may only buy what fits in these empty space. Period. The. End.
If you really want a specific plant, any good designer will listen to this and try to incorporate it. Also, a good designer will tell you when you are CRAZY. "You want this 6-8' wide rhododendron in your front easement that gets no irrigation, you don't ever want to water out there and it's in full sun and has rocky limestone soil? Hmmm. You're delusional. :)" A great designer will then say: "How about we find a great blooming shrub that is that same color and will look excellent out there but be more realistic to the available soil/sun/ water?"
Here is a great client questionnaire we use for landscape and garden design consultations. All of these questions should affect the design of your landscape...
3. Plant with the future in mind. Are you going to be in this house in five years? Do you want shade at a particular place- or do you intend to remove a tree? Is this your retirement house? All of those requirements, all of your plans will affect your design choices and your planting choices. Trees are big investments and much of your landscape design should hinge on the trees that are currently on your property, the trees you want on your property and the effect of those trees.
If you are interested in trees and have identified your needs in your landscape design, come visit the LLI Tree Farm. We have lots of trees (obviously) but we also can offer guidance on tree choice. We are having a seasonal sale on blooming, ornamental crabapple trees. These aren't your grandma's crabapple (my grandma would make crabapple jelly from the tasy sour fruit). Crabapples are a diverse, smaller ornamental tree. They offer an amazing spring bloom (later than pear trees) that is unaffected by winter frosts and come in a variety of small sizes. Crabapples are great because there is a dwarf tree for your courtyard or next to your door, as well as a full size crabapple (20' or so) that offers dark burgundy leaves, fits under power lines and still has the great bloom and the cloud shaped canopy. Here are some of our favorites: Spring Snow Crabapple, Royal Raindrops Crabapple, Lollipop Crabapple. This, my friends, is a Royal Raindrops crabapple if full force!
Lawn and Garden presentation:
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of presenting to the Kansas City Flower, Lawn and Garden show. My old buddies at Family Tree Nursery sponsored a Garden Chat stage. I chose to talk about Thematic Gardens- that is Japanese, xeric, meadow, butterfly, etc. gardens.
--However, it's mostly a good primer on what makes a landscape design GOOD/ effective or powerful! It's also a call to homeowner to "get real" with themselves: what they can and will actually be able to do themselves.
--Also, I hope people will understand that there are landscape elements best left to the professionals. We, Lawrence Landscape, fix so many homeowner installed mistakes. Don't be one of them! Leave the hardscape, patios, paths to the experts. Also, get an expert opinion on your drainage- if you install a landscape and the drainage isn't correct, you can lose it all! Irrigation? Well, ask an expert!
Open the powerpoint presentation to take a look at some of the pictures and ideas I had to share!
Watering Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs require deep, infrequent watering. It’s important to know that just because you have a sprinkler system, this is not necessarily going to do the trick for your wonderful new trees!
When you are watering, remember that you want to water roots, not limbs, leaves, etc. Where grass has shallow, fibrous roots, your trees and shrubs have (or should have) deep root systems. Newly planted trees are more susceptible to drying out than established trees. It may take up to 3 years for your trees to become established, depending on the size. The smaller the caliper of the tree (diameter of the trunk), the more quickly it will establish roots!
Check soil moisture. Using your finger, poke a hole near the base of your tree. If it is dry 2-3 inches down, give it a drink. If your soil is very compacted and heavy, use a rod. Very dry soil will resist penetration and indicate the need for watering.
For newly planted trees: Too much or too little water can result in tree injury. But plants are like people- they can dry out a number of times, but only drown once! Do not overwater. Again, trees and shrubs are not like annual flowers or grass. The ideal amount of water is 1” every week on the base of the tree. This is hard to measure though- a good rule of thumb is a slow, steady stream onto the root area (by the base) for 30-45 minutes, once every 7-10 days. Check soil moisture first! As well, the larger the tree, the more water it needs. Continue this for the growing season. Signs of too much water include leaf yellowing and drop. If it has been particularly wet (like some of our springs and summers), water much less frequently. When the cold weather begins in mid-fall, taper off watering. Trees and shrubs use much less water in cooler temperatures. During periods of drought and extreme heat, LIKE RIGHT NOW, water every 5 days or so!
A nursery tip: watering once a month during cold months can help less mature and less hardy plants survive a tough winter.
For established trees: Trees love even moisture. This means that in times of drought, even established trees need to be watered. Try to keep the top 8-10” of soil moist around the dripline of the tree. How do you figure this out? Use the rod test or just poke your finger in the soil to test it out. To water most efficiently, put the hose around the dripline and make sure the water is percolating down into the soil. This might mean slowing your hose down to a slow drip to ensure deep, even moisture that doesn’t run off!
For watering perennials and shrubs: follow the same instructions (water at the base of the plant, use mulch to keep water in the soil, water after or before the heat of the day) but water 2 times per week for about 30 minutes of so. I like to use a drip/ soaker hose on my perennial flowers (bought from the hardware store for $11) that I hook up to my hose valve outside my house. It's manual but I could add a timer if I wanted! Make sure the drip hose is very close to each plant and let it soak for at least 1-2 hours when it is on.
Watering Tools: You can use any hose or nozzle you have. However, try a soaker or drip irrigation system. They discharge even, slow streams of water directly to the root zone of your trees and shrubs. To prevent evaporation, put mulch 3-4” deep around the base of the tree; use compost or bark mulch. This allows plants to use all of the water more effectively. When using drip irrigation, always test soil moisture first since there’s no easy way to tell how much water is delivered. Better safe than sorry!
When to water: Water in the morning, before the hot sun can start the evaporation process. Evening watering, while a homeowner favorite can cause problems because soil may stay moist too long, allowing growth of harmful bacteria/ fungus, etc.
It's spring here folks! If you haven't noticed, we're in the middle of a "war" between flowering trees. Each one is trying to outdo the other! Did you know that our Tree Farm is open to the public? We sell homegrown trees, grown in our own Wakarusa Valley soil, pruned, cared for and dug up by our nurserymen. To visit our nursery, get directions, check availability, visit our Tree Farm info site!
Here are a list of the beauties blooming, where they work/ don't work and what to expect from them.....
Pear Trees: Many people still live in fear of the splitting pear trees. And with good reason- the old, 20' tall trees often split and crash on cars, power lines, houses, etc. However, the good news is that these trees are NOT brittle. The wood is soft and the growth is very, very vertical (think LONG skinny vertical limbs). This creates a weak crotch, where the limb meets the tree. The improved variety that we've had smashing success with is a Cleveland Select (also Chanticleer). We've had these babies planted out at the tree farm for 8 years with no breakage or splitting.
Crabapple: We carry many varieties. Our favorites....
Royal Raindrops: 20' H x 15' W. It has a purple burgundy leaf, coral blooms (check them out RIGHT NOW!) and a superior disease, blight and rust resistance. As well, the fruit is has are vestigal and tiny and persistent (not fruity and squishy but decorative).
'Sugartyme' Crabapple: 18' H x 15' W, great WHITE bloom, Asian spreading shape, very red berry and gold fall color. (Think under the power lines!)
'Firebird': 8' H x 10' W, miniature tree for near the house, white blooms from red buds, red persistent fruit. Great cottage garden tree!
(photo care of fossil creek)
Eastern Redbud: 20-30' H x 15-25' W. This is the native, old fashioned beauty. She is a bit Asian, with her spreading, architecturally craggy branches. She is also a warhorse- no heat or drough will kill this tree. Shiny heart shaped leaves and golden fall color are a winning team.
'Merlot' Redbud: Like the Burgundy Hearts, this has a dark wine-colored leaf that is shiny and glorious all year. 18' H x 20' W. Try this in a partial-sun area- where it gets morning sun and a little afternoon protection. This keeps the leaves nice all year, even in the dead heat of August! A prize winner and a garden favorite.
Our nurseryman Mike gave a great presentation (made by MOI! Laurel! MOI!)- this should give you some ideas for new trees for your lawn, garden and property. If you have any questions or you'd like to buy bulk mulch, soil, rocks or sand, give Mike a call and he can set up delivery. You don't even have to come to the farm! (785) 423-5861.
To download Mike's recommendations, click here.