Archive for pruning

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Dwarf Apple Tree (Liberty ) with fruit in Cedar Hills Portland Landscape Design

Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree after pruning with fruit

Selecting Dwarf Apple Trees for Small City Landscapes

Recently I specified apple trees for a client with a small yard. I chose ‘Liberty’ for disease resistance and flavor and ‘Akane’.  Along with the name of the apple I wanted, I also specified which dwarfing root stock.  Why should we care about what root stock my apple tree is grafted on?  The first step to success in selecting dwarf apple trees for small city landscapes is picking the right root stock.  I define success as planting fruit trees that stay small but produce lots of fruit and are easy to care for. I picked an EMLA 26 for the ‘Liberty’ and an EMLA27 for the ‘Akane’ which we put into a container.

Dwarf Apple Tree Selection Tip

Please do not buy an apple tree with a tag that only says dwarf.  If the tag does not identify the specific root stock you have no idea how big the tree will be.  Given the small yards most people have these days….not knowing the size your tree will grow to is a mistake that will cause you grief literally as you remove a tree that you cannot manage just when it’s finally producing lots of fruit.

Why Plant Dwarf Apple Trees?

There are many excellent reasons to plant a dwarf apple tree grown on specialized root stock.

  1. Dwarf trees are compact.  If you are a beginner, you probably are in love with having a garden and want everything, all at once. Dwarf trees give you more room for “everything;” because they don’t use much room in the back yard.  Semi dwarf can be 18′ feet tall or more……..that is not small.
  2. Portland area landscape design with Dwarf Liberty Apple Tree pruned in Cedar Hills Oregon.

    Liberty Apple Tree pruned by homeowner

    Smaller trees make picking and thinning the fruit easier.  Dwarf trees produce lots of easy-to-reach fruit. This is very important, especially during the first few years, when you thin (pick off) half or more of the immature fruit so your tree can develop the strong wood it needs for a long and fruitful life. Some apple varieties require you pick all the flowers off for a couple of years which would be hard to do on a ladder.

  3. Spraying is easier, too.  When you learn how to spray the tree with a dormant oil, it will be so easy to completely coat the stems and the areas where the buds will break because you will be able to reach them. Check out this Spring Spraying of fruit tree coating a [watch video] tree with a dormant oil spray.
  4. Modern dwarf fruit tree rootstocks help you avoid common problems.  Please, please, please, don’t buy a tree with a label that just says “dwarf apple” or “mini pear” on the label.  The impulsive buy may cause you to miss all the fruits of recent horticultural progress.  Some root stocks in addition to dwarfing the size of the tree, allow your tree to thrive in heavy clay, you won’t get that from a non-specified root stock.  Instead, make sure that it tells you which specific rootstock the tree is grafted to. For example the label could say something like “EMLA 27 creates a 4-to-6-foot tall and wide tree, grows well in containers, tolerates clay soils and is resistant to rot and other diseases.”
  5. Espaliered apple tree in Milwaukie Oregon landscape design.Pruning a smaller tree is physically less work. You won’t even need a ladder.  Brainy Garden has a video on pruning dwarf fruit trees.  Pruning is not a no brainer.  Many sources conflict with each other on how much you should prune…..so best is a class from a local nursery or through the Home Orchard Society.  Not pruning promises that your little trees will rip and tear their branches from the weight of too many apples, so get some help.

Resources for Dwarf Apple Trees

This list of modern rootstocks and their characteristics gives you an idea of  how critical (and cool) it is to select the right root stock for your fruit tree.  I could come up with some more reasons, but you can see how dwarf fruit trees are perfect for how most of us live and garden—in smaller yards with less time but no less plant lust.   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery are three sources for special rootstock apple trees and more.

Landscape design includes dwarf apple trees 'Sentinel' take little space planted against the south wall in NE Portland.

Sentinel Apple Trees take little room in this south facing garden.

Don’t want to figure out which rootstock?

Talk to an expert at one of these specialty growers:   RainTree Nursery, One Green World or Burnt Ridge Nursery or The Home Orchard Society.  Portland Nursery (503-231-5050) has a specialist on staff who orders their fruit trees and they will be knowledgeable about root stocks.   Call ahead to be sure their expert is in.

 

Fun in the sun: Keeping your yard safe for kids and pets

Checking for Landscape Safety Hazards

Checking your Residential Landscape Design for Hazards in Portland.

Your kids spend the cold and wet Portland winter months cooped up inside, looking for things to do and ways to burn off a whole lot of pent-up energy. When the weather finally warms up in the spring, it’s a mad rush for bicycles, balls and frisbees. Children know only that it’s finally warm enough to play outside; they’re not thinking about potential yard hazards from winter. If you haven’t examined your home’s exterior carefully, your kids, their friends and your pets may be at risk for a mishap that could turn a long-awaited romp in the yard into a trip to the local ER. While most trips turn into a great story for the kids to tell their pals, it’s hair raising while it is happening.

Checking for safety hazards

You wouldn’t turn your kids loose in your basement or a rumpus room you hadn’t checked for safety hazards. You should approach your yard the same way because children and the family dog are going to spend a lot of time out there.

Trees and shrubs

Clearing away yard debris  (fallen branches and sharp twigs) from winter storms, is easy to think of but looking up into your trees to ensure there are no broken but still hanging branches is a less obvious task.  Loose branches are a danger to children playing under or near a tree and should be cut down and removed. It’s hard to see these loose branches once the trees are fully leafed.  Also, check the ground around trees for unexplained disturbed soil, or excessive limb-drop.  Either of these are a sign to call an ISA certified arborist to check on the health of your trees.

ShrubsIce on Joe Pye Weed in Portland landscape. and small trees can encroach into path and patio areas. Check that branches are not protruding into paths especially at eye level of small children and adults.  While not all shrubs can be pruned in late winter and early spring, a single branch or two can and should be removed even when you are not sure about the proper timing for pruning.

Fall Landscape Hazards

Lichen and moss build up on walkways, patios and decks which makes the area super slick and slimy.  They must be scrubbed, or pressure washed multiple times in winter and spring especially on the north side of the house or in shady areas.  Be sure your lighting for your entry walk is functional especially if you live on a street with no street lights.  The lighting needs to extend to the area where your guests park.

Dog friendly landscape designer PortlandExamine the equipment

Your swing set and other play equipment look especially inviting to eager children throughout the winter. Take a few minutes to check it thoroughly before the kids swarm all over it. Make certain that there are no sharp points or edges, or exposed and rusty nails or screws that could cause a dangerous cut. Chains should be secure, and any stakes or stabilizing devices that keep the frame anchored to the ground should be tightly fastened to the ground.

If your swing set is made of wood, keep it stained and sealed to minimize fragments and prevent weather damage. If you didn’t store away detachable components, such as vinyl connecting parts, make sure they haven’t worn down to the point of breaking. Remember that all play equipment should be surrounded by sand, mulch or soft synthetic material to guard against injury.

Patios and wooden decks

Ice, rain and wind can do a lot of residual damage to a deck during the winter. Wooden planks and railings produce fragments and splinters, a danger to kids and pets. That’s why wooden decks should be stained and sealed at least every two years and they will last longer too. The heavy winter rains can wash away soil and undermine paths, patios and walls or re direct water to your foundation.  Sometimes these changes happen slowly over a few years, but spring is a great time to assess water issues on your property.

Diligence and maintenance

If there’s one place your children and pets should be safe from harm, it’s their own backyard. Keeping them safe as they play and roam outside is a relatively simple task – it just requires diligence and routine cleaning and maintenance. Doing a thorough check of your property in spring is a great time to do this.  It’s well worth it to see your little ones enjoying themselves outdoors after a long winter.

If your Portland area yard is overwhelming you, contact me for help with your residential landscape. 

 

Hydrangea Pruning Made Simple

Spring Hydrangea Pruning

A lot of my clients have asked me to help them with pruning their hydrangeas.

Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'

This blog addresses mophead hydrangea pruning.  Hydrangea pruning is simple and easy once you know the rules.  There is a link to a pruning video at the end of this blog produced by Cass Turnball of Plant Amnesty to help you feel more confident.  There are 5 kinds of hydrangeas.  This blog only addresses mophead hydrangea pruning.

 

Hydrangea serrata 'Preziosa'

Why prune hydrangea at all?

Why prune hydrangea plants at all?  Like most plants, pruned hydrangea shrubs will have a better shape so they look good regardless of the flowering aspect.  Many of us buy a hydrangea and think it will be 4’ x 4’.  Over time, many varieties will grow to 7’ tall.  It is very important to plant the right plant in the right place so you don’t have to be frustrated.  There are some varieties that are going to mature at and be easily kept in the 4’ to 5’ range.  We prune to achieve that height as well as a good shape.  If you have a variety that wants to be 7 or even 8 feet tall every year even with proper pruning, the best answer is to remove the plant and buy a variety whose size works for your garden.  Old Arts and Crafts homes with 6’ high foundations are perfect for the hydrangeas that are most cheerful at 7’.  They don’t work as well for homes with a 12” foundation or a small yard.Another reason we prune is to remove stems that no longer flower.

rabbit ears 2

Nicely pruned and open plant

We prune hydrangeas in early to mid March in the Pacific NW.  We start pruning our plants when they are about 3 years old or when you see the oldest stems are developing bark.  Remove the oldest woody canes.  On a young plant this might mean removing only 1 or 2 stems.  We remove dead stems and canes and we deadhead flowers back to the first lateral buds.  I think of these buds as rabbit ears.  I love this task.  I think it’s because I’m close to the ground and my soil smells good.  I typically see 2 colors of buds at this time.  The burgundy buds are just a bump on the stems.  The tiny green buds (the rabbit ears) are such a vivid green.  It says spring to me (and no it doesn’t rain every minute even in March).  These are days when a wool sweater and a down vest are perfect for comfort.

hydrangea 1 heads banner

Joy Creek Nursery Hydrangea Garden

There is more to the story about hydrangea pruning. Occasionally there are individual plants that didn’t read the rule book.  My garden coach client Mary followed the proper pruning techniques and she lost all her flowers for the year!!  AAACK!!  Her plants are 30 plus years old.  Since that debacle Mary only deadheads her plants, again just down to the first buds and she removes old woody stems.  Her plants always flower beautifully and are the focal point of her summer garden.  I’ve never had this happen to me but I’ve heard about it often enough from other professionals to know that some plants are probably genetically different than others.  If you don’t prune at all, your plants will get big and ungainly looking.  A build up of deadwood may diminish their flowering capacity.

For a detailed lesson on pruning mop head hydrangeas, see this video.

Winters come early, protect your plants

Tips for Winter Care of Drought Tolerant & Other Plants

 

Iron gate design with snow S.E. Portland OregonI recently was a guest on a radio talk show, Real Estate Today, with Gloria Hahn of the Hahn Group.  Once again it was fun, I was only a little nervous and it went well.

We talked about protecting plants from winter weather damage.  There are many kinds of damage that occur due to winter weather.  Here are a few tips to protect your plants.

Daphne care for the winter season.

Don’t let your Daphne “catch” downspout disease.

Prevent Root Rot

Be vigilant about clogged downspouts….many a Daphne has died in May because of the root rot that happened from sheets of water coming over the gutters in winter.  Don’t let your downspouts and gutters clog up. I never plant a Daphne or a shrub that is especially prone to root rot near the downspout. No one means to let them clog up but if you do not have a basement you might think you can let it wait.

Keep Bark Dust off the Centers of Plants

Applying mulch or bark dust to your planting beds in early winter is a great idea.  Mulch benefits your soil and plants and helps protects roots from cold temperatures. Bark dust helps prevent weeds.  If you have it blown in, be aware you must go out and remove the material off the crown of your plants.  I can count the number of times bark dust was applied correctly by a blow in company on one hand. They don’t pay attention to plants and especially perennials.  When the plants crown is buried it will be kept wet all winter and can die from crown rot.

It’s up to you to save your plants.  You must remove the excess product off the plants crown.  I often use a whisk broom but fingers work nicely .  I don’t apply mulch or bark dust over my fallen leaves.  I rake first and then apply 2 inches of product on my planting beds.

Echinacea 'White Swan' has winter care when dormant.

Butterflies hatch from leaves left on site.

Speaking of leaves; these days I find places in my property to pile a lot of my leaves so butterflies and other beneficial insects eggs (on the leaves) can hatch in the spring and benefit my landscape and local environment.

Don’t Prune Plants Unless They Are Dormant

Late fall or winter is not a safe time to prune most evergreen shrubs and other plants that don’t go dormant in the winter.  This can bring a plant out of dormancy or prevent it from going dormant.  This can make it vulnerable to damage or death.  When cold temps hit, if you are a plant,  it’s a good thing to be dormant and miss it all.  There are some plants that are extremely cold tolerant but many are not. Plants can’t go to Arizona for the winter.

Professionals like to prune deciduous trees and shrubs like Japanese maples (not evergreen) in December to mid January here in the Pacific Northwest.  This plant is dormant at this time, has not started to grow buds and will not “wake up” in response to pruning.  Professionals know what plants are exceptions but most homeowners do not.

Carol on a garden coach appointment pruning for winter care.

Carol Lindsay pruning non evergreen tree in winter.

Do spread a 2” layer of mulch or compost around your plants once your winter landscape is cleaned up.  You don’t want to put the compost over a bunch of decaying leaves. Mulch helps protect plant roots from extreme cold.  If you have trees whose leaves don’t drop until December, you need to wait ’til these leaves have dropped.

Drought Tolerant Plants Are Susceptible to Root Rot

Most of my clients these days ask for a low water landscape design.  I mention this with regard to winter plant protection because these plants must have good drainage in the winter.  The crown or stems at the soil level are very prone to rot.  I like to mulch the crowns with minus ten crushed rock.  I place the tiny crushed rock around the plant, not over the top of the plant.  This helps roll winter water away from the plant’s crown.  It is critical to keep bark dust or mulch away from the crowns of these perennials and shrubs. Plants like Manzanita, Yucca, Phormium, Callistemon, even hens and chicks or sedums will benefit from crushed rock applied around the crown.   If you have mulch or bark dust blown in, this can have disastrous consequences for drought tolerant plants.  It is critical to keep bark dust or mulch away from the crowns of these root rot sensitive plants.

For more information on landscape design for your garden, contact me to make an appointment.

Five Important Garden Tips

Five Important Garden Tips You Need

Get rid of blackberry and ivy

Treating blackberry and ivy with Roundup in the spring and early summer is pretty much useless.  There is a time when these plants are most susceptible to herbicide. It’s a million times more effective in late summer and early fall.   In an ideal world we would not use herbicides at all, if you are going to use them you want to use them sparingly correctly, and at a seasonal time when they will be effective.  For more information see my blog:  Treating blackberry and ivy . I want acknowledge in light of recent research and court cases, we don’t know the full extent of harm Roundup and other herbicides cause.  It’s still the most practical way to reclaim our native plant areas from the stranglehold of Himalayan black berry and English ivy.

Learn how to water-Watering every day is not your friend

Over watering or under watering new plant material is a typical cause of plant loss. Your common sense watering will kill your plants if you don’t have the specific information for the specific plant type.  You can’t water a new tree the same way you would water your petunias.  I insist my garden coach clients have a written watering plan for the first two years of their new landscape.  I tell them how long to water and to hand check the soil to see if their efforts are successful.  Last, but not least, if you’re watering every day you are in line for losing a lot of new plant material.

Sedum s Red Carpet in winter

Colorful tough ground cover for full sun

Plant labels lie.

Trust me it’s not a conspiracy, but they write the label so that it makes  sense for the entire country.  In the Northwest we have the ideal growing conditions so plants will grow taller and wider than indicated.  In addition, just because a plants’ mature size is 15’ tall, does not mean it will stop growing once it gets there.

Learn light requirements for your plants

It’s not so easy. Labels don’t have enough room to explain the complexities of sunlight, let alone the four different kinds of shade.    Great Plant Picks is a great information resource in many ways, and has an excellent explanation about the different kinds of shade.   There is no perfect solution, even checking the Web will get you four different suggestions for light requirements on a single plant.  This is why experienced gardeners often move plants that don’t seem to thrive in the first location they select.  Others hire designers who know these things first hand.

Carol on a garden coach appointment in Irvington neighborhood Portland Oregon

“Thank you so much for all your information today and your helpful phone call Saturday.  I was pulling out plants in my mind as I was going to sleep last night.  I can’t wait to get started!”  D’Anne Oneill

No hedge pruning unless it’s a hedge

Pruning.  My best advice is don’t let your father-in-law prune your Japanese Maple!  Do not do hedge pruning on plants that are not hedges.  Too much learning already….most of my clients don’t want to become a gardener.  They just want a healthy and attractive landscape.  In which case, hire someone else to prune for you. While I certainly advocate for hiring a garden coach (since I am one) you can learn from a local nursery, community college or someone who has trees and shrubs that don’t have a bunch of stubs on them.  We want pruning that will enhance a plant’s natural and unique shape.