Boxwoods have been used in American landscapes since colonial times. They are found in a lot of the older neighborhoods of Richmond, Charlottesville and Williamsburg and are being found in some of the newer ones.
Boxwoods are beautiful shrubs which add texture and form to the landscape. Often used as a hedge, they can form a good screen against unsightly views. Like most shrubs, Boxwoods need a cleaning out of dead or crossed branches that can restrict healthy growth.
Our technicians often get asked by clients questions about pruning their trees and shrubs such as boxwoods. They can be pruned at any time of the year, but, for plant health, it’s best to avoid shearing in the fall. The new growth that appears after trimming boxwoods may not have enough time to harden off before frost or freezing temperatures.
Pruning can be done with hand or electric shears and hand pruners. Hand shears and pruners are recommended over electric ones. Plant age should be taken into account when deciding to prune too. Young plants benefit from frequent prunings. The best time to prune young shrubs is during the first few years. This will encourage branching which will result in denser growth and defined shape, but don’t over do it.
Excessive shearing can produce dense growth on the outside of the boxwood that will prevent sunlight from penetrating the center of the plant, leaving the branches bare. Pocket pruning, opening holes in the plant or thinning out can allow light into the plant and new growth. Severely pruning boxwoods can kill them.
Pruning boxwoods too early in the winter in central Virginia, especially before temperatures drop well below freezing can lead to dieback and the need to prune again. A rule of thumb is to prune around Saint Patrick’s Day or later to avoid cold temperature injury to your plants. Typically during the growing season, the only pruning to boxwoods should only be light tip pruning for cosmetic reasons.
Proper pruning of boxwoods can help your plants to look and be healthy for many years. They can have occasional insect and disease problems too, so contact your Virginia Green Lawn Care technician for a free estimate in helping you maintain your boxwoods.
Small trees and shrubs are fertilized to stimulate growth and maintain vigor. Most soils not disturbed by construction have plenty of nutrients to help with plant growth. The factors causing most tree and shrub problems are not nutritional but heavy clay soils, poor drainage and incorrect planting.
Since most urban environments have been disturbed by construction, and the natural cycling of nutrients is disrupted by leaf removal, there is a need to add nutrients back to the soil for tree and shrub use. The best time to add nutrients back into the soil is when the trees and shrubs are in their dormant period. January though March is an ideal time to apply the fertilizer into the root zone.
For newer trees and shrubs fertilizers help promote new growth. For older trees and shrubs it helps provide a rich stable environment for them to maintain long term health. Fertilizing trees and shrubs while helping to maintain the plants vigor, also helps keep them healthier in order to protect them from disease and insects. A healthier tree or shrub is more often a better plant.
So fertilizing your trees and shrubs is one way in keeping your landscape growing and looking healthy. If your plants are not looking as great as you would want them to be, call us today for a free tree and shrub estimate.
Deer are one of nature’s creatures that roam through most of our neighborhoods. They may or may not damage your trees and shrubs. Some damage is not well seen, while others are very noticeable. The best way to protect against deer damage is to protect your plants from the damage. We will mention three ways to prevent damage here.
One way to protect your plants from deer damage such as the deer feeding on them, is to plant deer resistant plants. Deer really like the newer growth of such plants as arborvitaes and azaleas. Sometimes the damage is not seen until it gets severe. One way to protect these plants is to plant deer resistant ones. That maybe eliminating plants like arborvitaes and azaleas. Lists of deer resistant plants can be obtained from your local extension service or state agricultural university.
If you still want to keep your plants that deer like to feed on, then your second option is to use deer repellents. These can be sprayed on or applied near the plants. Sprayed on method are applied prior to deer feeding, usually in the late fall, spring or summer. Several application per year are recommended. Some common products are Liquid Fence, Deer Away, Deer Off, and many more. Other repellents are spread around or hung on the plants. Before applying any repellents, be sure to read the label and follow the instructions.
Another type of protection is a barrier. This method is to prevent the deer from damaging the trunks of young trees or feeding on the plants. Male deer go through a rutting season every year from September to November. They are rubbing the velvet off their antlers, attracting does and marking their territories. They use young tree to do this, and often rub the bark off these trees. To protect your young trees you can put wire mesh held up by stakes or perforated tubing around the trucks. If the deer are feeding on your plants, a thin black plastic mesh netting can be placed over or around your plants to protect them. Make sure the netting doesn’t touch the plants, because deer will still try to eat the plants through it.
There are many ways and materials you can use to protect your plants from deer damage, but it all starts with being proactive and protecting them before the deer come into your yard. Would you like to learn more about trees and shrubs and how to protect them?
Click here to request a FREE estimate! Happy protection!
One of the pesky overwintering pests is the scale insect. It usually overwinters as an egg or in the adult form. The winter months are a good time to control this pest, when the plants are dormant. They can be found on many types of plants like “Manhattan” euonymus, cherry trees, burning bushes, and privet.
How do I get rid of this sap sucking pest?
One of the best and safest ways to control it, is to use a Horticultural oil treatment. How does it work? A trained applicator treats the plant, especially at the areas where the scale overwinters. These areas may include the stems and leaves or needles. The Horticultural oil coats the overwintering stage of the insect, closing off its ability to breathe. In the end, the scale insect suffocates. Horticultural oil treatments usually control up to 90% of the pest during this time of year. Spring, summer, and fall usually clean up the rest.
If my applicator gets all the scale in a year, why do I need more applications after that? That is a great question. Scale insects are in extremely large numbers in the landscape and travel from area to area through the air, rain, on birds, and even from people. Your plants may be free from the scale insect for a little while, but it can be back quickly from even your neighbor’s plants or the local forest. If you know your neighbor had scale insect too, you can refer them to Virginia Green and earn a referral bonus.
In conclusion, Horticultural oil can help control your scale insects and put some money in your pocket by referring your neighbor to control his or her scale insects too!
After a heavy snowfall, have you ever thought about removing heavy snow from the branches of your trees and shrubs? There are two thoughts about this question. We will discuss both of them here.
One thought is to leave the snow on the branches. This allows the snow to act as a natural insulator for the trees and shrubs. This can protect the frozen branches and roots from extreme temperatures. Even though the branches may be doubled over by heavy snow, it is thought that resiliency of most plants is amazing as they spring back once the snow has gone.
The other thought is that the weight of heavy wet snow and/or ice can break the limbs of trees and shrubs. When you remove snow easily by hand or a broom, brushing upwards, does not usually cause damage. However, icy snow or partially melted snow that has refrozen can adhere tightly to branches. Knocking them off can cause damage.
Shoveling, snow blowing, and snow plowing can cause snow to be more dense on plants. Try to avoid piling snow upon plants at all. Plants encased in snow may be protected from the extra weight. Do not pile snow mixed with salt into plants. This may cause burn to the plants.
In conclusion when the next snow falls on your trees and shrubs, be prepared to act or not. When in doubt if there is a heavy snow over six inches on your plants, remove the snow in the way previously mentioned. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
A question people often ask us is, when do we prune our trees? Pruning can be done almost any time of the year, but dormant pruning is typically done late fall till early spring. It is best done when the leaves are off of deciduous plants and/or growth has slowed to a crawl.
When deciding which plants to prune, a simple rule to remember is when do they bloom in the spring or summer. Only summer blooming deciduous plants should be pruned in the dormant months. Basic dormant season pruning can help improve the looks of the plants. It can help maintain the forms and structures of the plants. It will allow more light into the plant for better inner growth.
There are five steps to do basic dormant pruning. The first starts with pruning out dead, diseased, dying or weak branches. This helps to improve light penetration into the plant and air movement through it.
A second way is to raise the crown of trees by pruning out the lower branches. This helps to provide clearance from buildings, vehicles and people. Sometimes people get this mixed up with another type of pruning called topping out or top pruning. Top pruning is the removal of the top of the tree, mainly from the main truck. This method is not recommended of most arborists.
The third way is to thin out large branches that are near the top of the tree. This is thinning out, not topping out. This will help in crown reduction, thus reducing the height of the tree.
A fourth way to help out with dormant pruning is to remove fallen leaves underneath your trees. There are two sides to composting these leaves. Some say it is ok if they were disease free, and others say not to compost them if returning that compost to your yard, just in case they did have disease on them
The fifth way is start dormant pruning early in the life of your trees. By starting early this helps to train your trees in the right way you desire. Prune out dead and injured branches shortly after planting. Early pruning often leads to a healthier and longer life of the tree. Make sure not to prune the leader branch throughout the life of your trees.
In conclusion, start dormant pruning early in the life of your trees. Text book from the library and/or the internet can help you get started. If you have neglected or older trees, consult an arborist or experienced pruners before beginning your pruning. Happy dormant pruning and may your trees be healthy.
Fall is for planting. The cooler months provide an optimum time for adding plants to your landscape. With an increase in rainfall and cooler temperatures in the fall, less watering is needed. As shoot growth slows, plants require less water because the days are cooler and shorter and the rate of photosynthesis decreases. Stable air temperatures also promote rapid root development. Soils stay warm well after the air temperature cools, also encouraging root growth. During shoot dormancy, trees and shrubs continue to establish and strengthen roots. There are several benefits to fall planting. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are better equipped to deal with heat and drought in the following season.
First Things First
Plant and site selection will be important. Be sure that the plants you’ve selective will thrive in the site that you plan on installing it into. Poorly sited plants are doomed from the start. There are many factors you need to consider such as amount of sunlight, space for growth, and soil. If the plant requires full sun, don not plant it in a shady area. It the plant needs well drained soil, avoid planting it wet areas or poorly draining clay. If your plant will need a lot of space when it is mature, make sure that there is room for it to grow, both underground and above ground.
Proper Planting Techniques
Once you know what your planting, proper installation is paramount to the survival and long term health of your plants. Most of the calls that I receive about plants performing poorly are mostly to blame on being planted improperly.
Dig shallow planting holes two to three times as wide as the root ball. Wide shallow holes encourage horizontal root growth. This will help with quick establishment. Don’t dig holes deeper than the root ball. The top of the root ball should be one to two inches above the soil, if planted too deep girdling roots can occur.
Back fill the hole with existing unamended soil. Resist the urge to incorporate peat moss, potting soils and other organic matter, as differences is pore size can create problems during establishment. Back fill half of the soil, then water thoroughly to settle out air pockets. Finish backfilling and then water again.
The Finishing Touches
Mulching, a little goes along way. Two to three inches is best. Be sure to mulch over the exposed portion of the root ball, only about an inch deep though. You’ll want to avoid pilling up mulch on the trunks and shrub stems, this prevents disease, insect and rodent damage.
Remove the tags and place them in a notebook. The tags are great for cataloging your plant material and they also have great info on the proper care of your new plants. Knowing how much water it will need, when it should be pruned, and even the signs of stress or disease are all invaluable in caring for the plants in your landscape.
If you have any other questions about installing new plants please feel free to call our plant health care specialists.
Most of us enjoy the spring blooming of the white to pink flowers of dogwood trees. Sadly, many dogwoods are susceptible to a fungal disease called powdery mildew. It can cover the leaves and infect young buds, shoots and flowers, dwarfing developing leaves and blooms, and causing distortion and even death. Because it survives on the surface of dogwood trees, it is not difficult to eliminate with a combination of cultural modifications and fungicides.
To control powdery mildew don’t apply very high nitrogen to the dogwood during blooming time. Prune out dead limbs that might be harboring the fungi, but don’t prune excessively as this can stimulate new growth. Eliminate brush or plant material surrounding the dogwood that may interfere with air circulation.
Irrigate early in the morning to reduce humidity immediately around the dogwood. Mulch the tree with a thin layer of mulch less than two inches thick. Water at the base of the tree, making sure not to get water on the dogwood leaves. Watering onto the leaves can cause other mildews or leaf scorch.
Treat dogwoods with a fungicide or a summer horticultural oil at temperatures below 90 degrees. We at Virginia Green Lawn Care prefer the fungicide treatment due to the possible burning from horticultural oil when temperatures approach 90 degrees. A coating of the leaves provides an effective treatment for powdery mildew.
When planting dogwoods select resistant varieties or apply a fungicide to control powdery mildew. Call us here at Virginia Green Lawn Care and get a free Premium Tree and Shrub estimate and allow us to help you protect your dogwood trees.
The stuff that is often found on the bark of trees is lichens. They are unique and harmless, but some consider them to be unsightly. So what are lichens and what is the treatment for them.
Lichens on trees are a symbolic relationship between fungus and algae. The fungus grows on the tree bark and collects moisture, which the algae needs. The algae then creates food from the sunlight to feed the fungus.
Lichens on tree bark is harmless to the tree. Rhizines (similar to roots) allow them to attach to, but not deeply into the bark, thus not harming the tree. Many people think that lichens harm the tree, when a tree becomes sick. This is impossible, and most likely the lichen was probably there long before the tree became sick.
While lichens are harmless to trees, some people still want to get rid of them. One way is to scrub the lichens with a soapy solution. Most should come off easily, but don’t scrub too hard, as this could damage the bark, which could lead to disease or pests.
The best treatment is to change the environment where the lichens are growing. Lichens grow best in cool, partly sunny, moist locations. Thinning out tree branches overhead allows more sunlight and air flow to reach the bark. Also make sure that irrigation water doesn’t routinely hit the lichens.
Lichens live with them or attempt to get rid of them. Sometimes it is better to leave them alone.
People aren’t the only ones affected by warm temperatures during the winter months, trees and shrubs are too. So what does this mean for our plants long term?
Daffodils have been in bloom, and they will be fine in colder temperatures. What if my azaleas or magnolias are in bloom? The buds or blooms can get frozen, but this depends on whether the buds are open or closed when a freeze happens. The damage is greater when the flowers are open during a freeze.
February saw warmer than normal temperatures this year, so the soils warmed up and plants began to grow. We saw many plants such as daffodils, forsythias, magnolias, Bradford pears and cherries in bloom about a month before they normally do. Recently we saw temperatures dip below freezing a few nights and some of the blossoms were zapped by the cold. Some of these turned burn due to the cold and are fading away.
So will the plants with blossoms hit by the cold, bloom again this season? The answer to that is mostly likely no.
Some plants had new leaves opening up, and they got hit by the recent cold temperatures. Will these plants come back? Most of these plants will come back, since the temperatures didn’t stay below freezing more than a few hours at a time. Hydrangeas were one plant hit hard by the recent colder temperatures. Their leaves appear to be stunted and a little brown along the margins. They should survive and put out new leaves. Hydrangeas may have fewer blooms, bloom later than they would have this year and/or not bloom at all this year.
So in conclusion, flowering plants like hydrangeas, rhododendrons, spireas, daffodils, tulips, etc., normally only bloom once a season. Plants can produce more than one set of leaves a season, if the plant loses its leaves early in the season. One long term effect on the plants that bloom very early is there are fewer pollinating insects out to pollinate the flowers, thus the plants may have fewer berries and/or flowers the next season. A solution would be to have an urban bee hive. Happy landscaping, and let’s swing into spring.
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