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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How To Not Hack Azaleas and Other Shrubs

I appreciate most every shrub and I grew up amidst many azaleas like most of us around these parts. We all love the gorgeous display they provide for two, perhaps three weeks, once a year (Encore azaleas, possibly three times a year).

I understand pruning and caring for them. They truly aren't that finicky in regard to nutritional or environmental care once established, but they do have their issues.

Or, rather, we have our own set of issues with them, mainly one - placing them in some available space in our landscape assuming they are going to remain those cute little plants we bought at the nursery or garden center. Owners do it, landscape designers do it, builders do it and landscape architects do it. (Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper too?)

One common solution for the unanticipated (ahem) growth is to cut these plants nearly back to the ground and wait for two, three or perhaps more years for them to resemble what they once were. Who wants to wait that long for a shrub which only blooms for roughly (maybe) two to three weeks to reach a point where it no longer looks like an infant. Wars have been fought and kids have graduated college in less time.

Because azaleas have no true main stem, as all the vertical branches originate from the root crown (cane grower) and are independent of one another, over time, some branches will simply die from age or will lose out to the others. While others will be diverted in all sorts of odd directions and/or become cross branches which can cause harm to others as they mature.

Many azaleas are used as foundation plants and also make wonderful understory plants around  trees with higher canopies, such as mature pines.

 In light of this (pun intended), most of their sun source is predominantly from one direction. On such side of the plant is where you'll usually find the most blooms. Oddly enough, underneath the periphery of this area is also where you'll usually find the most death and crazily diverted branches. Although this is a shrub as a whole, each and every branch has one agenda, regardless of the others - find the sunlight, bloom and reproduce, whatever it takes. Lower branches will go diving under mulch and soil and poke there little heads out to get some sunlight.

With this group of azaleas (estimated to be at least 30 years old) a variety of pruning techniques where used and some overall strategy for the future was employed. Although it appears these shrubs were simply trimmed with shears, they weren't. Doing so would have only accomplished so much for a short period of time, resulting in a not-so-far-off mess while not addressing the health of the plants.

The approach and techniques used on the azaleas apply to many other shrubs as well, depending on growth habit, and perhaps genus and species.

I also removed an off-color azalea just next to the steps which the owner did not wish to have in the group. This may a great spot for a potted arrangement, some yard art or my choice, a lamp post. The configuration of the front entrance and the driveway has this kind of English manor sort of thing going on. Where is the footman?

Most early-spring blooming azaleas can be trimmed or pruned after (flower drop/death) their blooming period and usually as late as late June to early July and still produce ample blooms next Spring. Encore azaleas are a different concern as they bloom a few times throughout the year.

And, if you find yourself wanting to get that nasty mess of azaleas under control after such time, but don't want to do so until next Spring, at least show them justice and prune them properly. You may miss the blooms next year, but balance this against the other flowering plants on your property and all the foliage you'll miss and having little nubs jutting up around the foundation of your home.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Miss Cora's Garden - Perhaps a Memorial

When I first discussed turning this little plot of sod and soil into a plant bed with the property owner, a friend at church, it was simply to be just that.

This project was planned back in the first month of the year, only awaiting nursery plants to flourish, which had been affected by the odd transition we had from Winter to Spring weather.

Although I believe the deer had a history with the owner, I don't remember the deer having a name until up to or during installation of the plant bed.

If you know the home owner or attend Bethel United Methodist church you may know for whom the deer was named. Cora left us all in body, but not in spirit earlier this year. I didn't know Cora personally, but I do know she was loved and admired by so many.

The plants over which Cora holds domain are a single nikko blue hydrangea, two blushing turtle dwarf geraniums, three hostas of two species and a sago palm.

Over the coming months, years and seasons, Cora should be surrounded by mature and beautiful foliage and blooms. Yet, I tried to arrange this (Most every plant bed should have a focal point/preference.) so she is always seeing the owner off for the day and upon returning home, to a familiar face, and spirit.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Beauty (Restoration) is in the Eye of The Beholder (Customer)

I love this story (still, work-in-progress) so if you have the time, read on. If not, come back when you do have time.

If you click on and enlarge the image to the left you may notice a huge double gate in the background. But, probably not. There is many, many years of growth between that gate and the camera.

The property owners contacted us about clearing out, to a certain extent, the back half (back forty times two if you understand the Homestead Act of 1862) of their property, which is legally a single property lot, but for all practical purposes, could be two.

I visited with the owners and they wanted me to propose clearing out (Cut Back, Clean Up being our original company tag line) the entire back half. I said, "No", not like the previous ten or so companies or people they had spoken with, but "no" to the idea of proposing the entire project. A project of this size I prefer to break down into several smaller projects for a variety of reasons.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Move It, Prune It or Lose It!

Before I get started, the photo to the left is not that of a shrub, but a tree. It may look more like a shrub, a dying one, which, for whatever reason, was overlooked or not managed by a long-term landscaper (ahem) of the property.

The owner of the property contacted me about a year ago to address the over-growth along her back right property line. Much of this project was pruning shrubs and some trees while also pruning some roses, adding a trellis for a beautiful butterfly bush as well as removing some ill or dead lower branches from a magnificent poplar tree and ridding the foundation of the home of some foreigners.

I later worked along the back property line, removing a strong majority of the foliage which was actually intrusive vines and some grape plants/vines which had been planted many years prior. Both had had their way over-powering the other shrubs and trees and had done more harm to the poplar (some 15-feet-high branches) than I had imagined.

She told me she was very pleased with what I had done and would call me again. Earlier this year she contact me and asked me about taking care of her basic lawn service - mowing, edging, blowing - the usual lawn service stuff. She had lost her yard guy.

I have truly enjoyed working with this customer, but told her we don't just mow, blow and go unless we are addressing the overall landscape as well. She agreed to a trial visit for me to determine what would need addressing on a regular basis.

While surveying the property to propose not just mowing, edging and blowing, but also addressing what she first hired me for, the more vertical and substantial plants, this is what I found:
  • A holly which had fourteen cherry laurels growing inside of it (one-third of its apparent foliage).
  • A red tip (Photinia x fraseri) tree (mostly dying from entomosporium), but with three-quarters of its foliage consisting of foreign (unwanted) plants.
  • Two boxwoods (otherwise healthy) trimmed so awkwardly that they are struggling.
  • The two trees displayed above were for some reason seemingly trimmed (with lord knows what type of tool) to shrub-height rather than the 10 or 15 feet height they should have been (perhaps somewhere else). Ugly and unhealthy they became.
  • Another shrub or tree which I noticed had another quite substantial (nearly the main stem size as the other) tree growing in and out of it.
  • Basically, some not-so pleasing trimming, leaving a lot of squared off shrubs.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Lime and Fertilizer Application

Well, we've had or are having a little more Spring weather than we have had for the last few years and soon will be the right time to fertilize our lawns and adjust its pH.

I have already spoken with several of you for whom we have already performed soil tests and I will be working on getting some figures to you for fertilization and liming.

For the other customers we have done soil tests for we will be glad to review them and see what needs to be addressed - what, at what amount - and provide a proposal to perform such.

If you haven't had a soil test(s) performed, there is probably a safe solution where at least you can have a greener lawn and may wish to address the other factors of the health of your lawn's soil by having a soil test performed. This will enable you to address the longer term concerns of your lawn's health.

Pleas use the contact form or give Doug a call at 803-553-5757.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fire Wood Alert - April 26, 2018

Fire Wood
The wood indicated in the photo was placed roadside yesterday behind a property on Lakeshore Drive and is located just right of 305 Partridge Drive on the back property line of the Lakeshore home.

There are roughly 50 pieces, some deadwood, most cut to roughly 1 1/2 to 2 feet.

Some of the wood is dead and mostly dry and light - great for fire place or pit.

If you pick up this wood, out of courtesy, please take the entire pile and let me know you did so.

Thank you to those who have already help us help our customers.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Redefined Borders and Japanese Maple Bed

Plant Bed Before Redefining Borders
This is a beautiful cluster of azaleas, but we recommended to the customer to redefine and extend the border for greater distinction between bed and lawn.

We used a manual technique which better holds in mulch and is easier to maintain over time, even using an electric trimmer/edger.

We also ran a drip line off of a faucet timer under the walkway and throughout out this bed and the new bed we were to install.

Plant Bed After Redefining BordersHere is the result of redefining the border around the azalea bed. Actually it extends further down around other plants and ends at a cluster of juniper in the corner of the property.

Next, we designed a plant bed in the area at the corner of the walkway and driveway where we had removed about three to four dead indian hawthornes and one azalea for transplanting.

The drip line was installed prior along with the azalea bed irrigation.

Japanese Maple Bed SiteThe soil was amended to adjust the pH per soil samples we had tested, the planting holes were amended with compost and we applied and secured landscape barrier/weed blocker after planting.

We installed a bloodgood japanese maple, and three each of pink muhly grass and beyond blue fescue, with the focal point being from the center of the lawn, streetside.

It's difficult to truly appreciate newly installed young plants particularly way short of mature height and spread, but give these grasses some growing time, sunshine and warmer weather and they'll start showing their true colors and potential.

Japanese Maple BedThe japanese maple just needs some time to feel out her new environs and stretch out her limbs a little. I'll be back to prune her some time when she shows me what she wants to do.

This is about the third or fourth project for this property. Next up, other than some care for the health of the soil and lawn is removing some more dead hawthorns and hopefully planning another bed.

Thank you J and R!