29 January 2018

Shrubs Prune and Rejuvenate

15-feet tall Burford Holly shrubs
This is an ideal time of year to prune shrubs either to reshape, clean up or completely rejuvenate them.

Rejuvenation or renovation pruning can mean taking shrubs completely to the ground or just above the ground. When done to healthy shrubs, they will quickly grow from the stump and via new stems.

The Burford Holly shrubs in front of our house began as one-gallon container size from Lowe's. They were precisely planted the same distance apart and allowed to grow there with minimal trimming for 16 years. Now they are 15-feet tall and 20-feet wide.

 Since they are evergreen, they are a great privacy screen from the dog walkers, bicycle walkers, cars and pedestrians. In addition, I can sit on the screened front porch in privacy. However, they've reached a point where they have to be rejuvenated: They are too big for their space, too tall to top prune and have almost leaves inside their woody structure.

Not all shrubs are amenable to this hard a cutting so pruning back by one-third or one-half is quite a bit safer. Shrubs that have lots of twigs and stems are likely candidates. These include Burford Holly, Dogwood and Viburnum. Junipers will not re-grow from that dead center; they must be removed and replaced.

Older shrubs that have not been pruned in several years become poorly shaped and have quite a bit of bare wood inside. Cutting them back hard, focusing on the older stems and branches for removal, makes the entire shrub younger with newer branching.

Alden Lane - January pruning
One way to go about the process is to remove one-third to one-half of the growth late-winter and then finish the pruning and shaping when new growth begins in the spring. We're removing a bit less than half of the green branching, all the dead and damaged branches and most of the crossing branches.

After removing dead, broken and diseased limbs, remove crossing branches. All cuts should be made just outside a swollen branch collar, leaf or leaf bud.

Avoid damaging the bark: Don't wiggle the pruning tool, use tools with sharp blades and use the right size pruner. Never leave a stub - see bottom center illustration on right.

One of the goals of pruning is to allow sun to filter into the center of the shrub so new growth can be forced away from the outer edges. On our mature shrubs there is as much as 3 or 4 feet of bare branch inside with a foot or two of green growth at the end of the branch.

Rose pruning El Paso Master Gardeners
Rose pruning is a different topic but the illustration is helpful to indicating what and where to make cuts when you are dramatically reducing the size of a shrub.

Pruning outside and inside, top and bottom, carefully selecting what to remove and precisely where. I always look for an outward facing branch or leaf node so the next growth faces outside the shrub and toward the light.


Pruning Flowering Shrubs - Rutgers University
It's so important to cut at the right place and at the correct angle. A bunch of wrong cuts will leave you with a shrub that will not re-grow. Here's another chart that illustrates the best practises.

Stand back and look at the shrub frequently during the process. Walk away, get a drink of water, come back and reassess what you are doing. I never just keep cutting. I step back, walk away, look at it from a distance and then resume the shaping process.

Heading back cuts branches at a bud. Thinning removes an entire branch at its origin, whether that's  the ground or a larger branch. No matter what you've been told in the past, it is no longer considered wise to dress the cut surfaces with anything - sealer, paint.

Now sunlight can go into the center of
our Burford Holly shrubs to encourage
new growth inside.
If you are pruning a spring flowering shrub, remember 'prune after bloom' is usually safe, though there are exceptions. Spring flowering shrubs bloom on last year's growth so pruning early removes the flowers.

Summer flowering shrubs bloom on new growth so they are pruned now before spring growth has begun.

Summer-flowering shrubs (prune before spring growth begins)
Botanical NameCommon Name
Abeliaglossy abelia
Buddleiabutterfly bush
Callicarpabeautyberry
Caryopterisbluebeard
CeanothusJersey tea
Clethrasummersweet
Hibiscusrose of Sharon
Hydrangea macropyllabigleaf hydrangea
HypericumSt. Johnswort
Iteasweetspire
Potentillacinquefoil
Rhussumac
Rosa spp.rose
Spiraea x bumaldaWaterer spirea
Symphoricarpos/coralberry
Vitexchaste tree

23 January 2018

Beefsteak Begonia Propagate Stem Cuttings

Beefsteak Begonia
Every two years Beefsteak Begonias, Begonia erythrophylla, benefit from being pruned and propagated. This is a very easy plant to take care of and the worst you can do to it is to keep a water filled saucer under it. These plants enjoy being dry.

In two years, the stems become long and move out over the edge of the pot, making the plant's mass too large for most environments.

Ours live on the screened front porch in the summer which has a western exposure. In the cold months, they live under full spectrum lights in the living room. 
They flower their hears out in either location, adding delicate pink bouquets wherever they are growing.

My original, single, leaf came from a leaf I plucked from an office dweller's plant that was 4 feet across and hung 3 feet down on those long stems. I grew that plant in a clear plastic to go box on moist vermiculite.

The stem you'll prune is the leggy part that has dropped its leaves. Make 4 to 6 inch long cuttings, cutting stems just below a bud or leaf junction. Don't leave any stem below the bud.
Mini greenhouse
MO Botanical Garden
Remove any lower leaves, allowing the cutting a few leaves at the top that will be above the soil. Also remove any remaining flowers or flower buds.

Use a pencil to make a hole in a container filled with moistened and drained sterile potting mix. If you are using rooting hormone powder or liquid, put some in a container and dip the bottom of the cutting, shaking off any extra. Place the cutting into the pre-made hole. Several cuttings can be put into the same container, using this process. I've put as many as 6 in a re-purposed salad mix box. 

To keep the container and its contents moist, create a greenhouse by putting the entire project into a clear plastic bag. Fill the bag with air to keep the leaves away from the sides of the bag. 

Brad's Begonia World
For the longer stems, just cut them into two-inch sections. No leaves are needed for this method. Follow the illustration on the left, putting less that half of the rhizome into the moist soil.
Rhizomes are fleshy and will simply rot if they are planted too deep or kept too wet.


I'm off to propagate! Good gardening.

According to Emily Compost, "Beefsteak Begonia was first named in 1670 by Charles Plumier in Santo Domingo after his sponsor Michel Begon, but begonias have been found growing in moderate temperatures all over the world. I don't know from what indigenous country Beefsteak originated or got its common name but it is a meaty begonia, rare, thick and red underneath, and substantial enough to feed a plant lover's hunger for many years. Of all my plants, this dear begonia is the one to curl up with at night with a good book.
This is a begonia that Ashley Wilkes would have given to Melanie before he went off to war in "Gone with the Wind". Its stoic ability to survive and thrive despite all odds is unparalleled and thus it comes with a history of being a plant that has been successfully passed down through generations of families. Today we call it an old fashioned variety of begonia bearing memories of its unusual, shiny "lily pads" on grandmother's windowsill. Or we remember the parlor palm next to the long fronded fern near the window with "that pancake plant".

17 January 2018

J. L. Hudson Seedsman Ethnobotanical Catalog

The seed bank, J. L. Hudson, Seedsman, is a unique catalog that continues to be a successful, non-commercial venture in La Honda CA.

Keep your computer or smart phone handy because you have to have the botanical name of what you are seeking in order to find it. Common names often appear in the description but not in the listing titles.

I've bought seeds from them several times over the 15-years I've been growing from seed. They have all manner of unusual and common seeds, some of which they categorize as Open Access and Reserved Access.

Every page of the seed list has a search engine that allows shoppers to find out if they have what you are seeking. Serious seed growers, shoppers and browsers can find many special items to try.

The catalog is typeset and very informative, albeit in black and white. No hideous Photoshopped flower and plant pictures but you can always find those on an image search.

Go browse around to find something new to try this year! http://jlhudsonseeds.net/
 New Arrivals - Updated 25 December 2017
"Preservation Through Dissemination"
Seedlist A - AkSeedlist Es - EzSeedlist Pe - PhVegetables A - D
Seedlist Al -AnSeedlist F - GSeedlist Pi - PzVegetables E - R
Seedlist Ap - AzSeedlist HSeedlist Q - RVegetables S - Z
Seedlist BSeedlist I - KSeedlist Sa - ShBulk Vegetable Seeds
Seedlist CaSeedlist La - LeSeedlist Si - SzOrganic Seed Listing
Seedlist Ce - ClSeedlist LiSeedlist Ta - ToReserved Access List
Seedlist Cn - CzSeedlist Lo - LzSeedlist Tr - TzNew Arrivals
Seedlist Da - DeSeedlist MSeedlist U - VBooks
Seedlist Di - DzSeedlist NSeedlist W - ZGibberellic Acid
Seedlist Ea - ErSeedlist O - PaBulk SeedsTobacco Seed


09 January 2018

Richters Herb and Mountain Rose Herb

The two best known and trusted herb seed and plant companies are Richters Herb and Mountain Rose Herb.

My herbie concoction making friends use Mountain Rose pretty much exclusively. I've used them both successfully.

Richters sends me a print catalog every year so, of course, I tend to select items from them - I can see and read about potential selections. Being able to sit with a cup of tea and a pencil makes it much more likely that I'll find things and then go to the website to get others.

In addition to seed packets, Mountain Rose has bulk herbs, teas, aromatherapy supplies, butters, oils, salts, extracts and syrups, facial care, body care and bath, containers for your concoctions, books, kitchen stuff and pet supplies.

For those of us who grow sprouts in the winter, they also have a few sprouting seeds.

One item that caught my eye is "Tasty Tea Collection". It's seven seed packets: thyme, tulsi, valerian, vitex, white sage, wood betony, wormwood, yarrow and yerba mansa.


Richters sells seeds, plant plug packs and trays, plants and supplies. They specialize in herb seeds, oils, kitchen gadgets, garden helpers, dried herbs, teas.

For example, here's the entry for Anise-Hyssop (I can smell it now and see the pollinators all over it).
Everything you need to know to decide, right there on the website page.
[Image]

Anise-Hyssop
Agastache foeniculum
Uses: Culinary/BeverageDuration: Perennial (hardy in zones 4-9)
When to Sow: Spring/Late Summer/Early FallEase of Germination: Easy
Anise-hyssop produces an abundance purple flower spikes, rich with nectar that attracts honey bees, and for beekeepers it yields a lightly fragrant honey. When you squeeze the leaves, a sweet anise-like fragrance is released. When brewed the leaves make an uplifting tea; crushed, they are a culinary seasoning; chewed, freshens breath. Essential oil is medicinal and aromatic, as are its leaves. Roots are known to benefit chest ailments. Sow into well-draining, moist loam, somewhere in full sun. Height up to 40in (100cm); spread 18in (45cm) 
P1145Plants$3.75/ea, $9.00/3 plants, $28.80/12 plants
P1145Plug pack 12$15.00/ea
P1145Plug tray 90$65.00/ea
S1145Seeds$2.75/pkt
S1145-001SowNatural(tm) Seeds$3.25/pkt
S1145-001SowNatural(tm) Bulk Seeds$5.00/g, $12.00/10g, $84.00/100g
S1145Bulk Seeds$16.00/10g, $128.00/100g
Currency: United States Dollar

01 January 2018

Black Cherry is Prunus Serotina

Native Black Cherry trees are a really good idea if you can add some wildlife beneficials to your yard.

Cold hardy in zones 3 to 9, Black Cherry is an ideal addition to your habitat shrub row.
Happy in sun or part-sun, these trees bloom in April and May providing nectar for pollinators and sweet scent for humans.

They have a long tap root so they have to be planted young and will resist being transplanted. Eventually, they grow 50 to 80 feet tall so keep them away from overhead wires.

The berries are said to be good for jam but the birds and other wildlife eat them all before we even notice that they've ripened.

NativNurseries offers them for under $5 apiece. This nursery has been recommended to me by habitat gardeners.

Dudley Phelps at NativNurseries said, "We will be growing plenty more this spring, and should have them back up on our website for sale beginning around the month of August. You can order then and request a ship date for when it is a good time of year for you to plant."
For our Zone 7 area, fall planting would be best so request fall shipping. AND Phelps will give you a 10% discount if you use the coupon code ALLTHEDIRT with your order.

Here's the scoop from Missouri Botanical Garden
Prunus serotina, commonly called black cherry, wild cherry or wild rum cherry, is native to eastern North America, Mexico and Central America. In Missouri, it typically occurs in both lowland and upland woods and along streams throughout the state (Steyermark).
It is one of the largest of the cherries, typically growing to 50-80’ (less frequently to 100’) tall with a narrow-columnar to rounded crown. It is perhaps most noted for its profuse spring bloom, attractive summer foliage and fall color. Fragrant white flowers in slender pendulous clusters (racemes to 6” long) appear with the foliage in spring (late April-May).
Flowers are followed by drooping clusters of small red cherries (to 3/8” diameter) that ripen in late summer to dark purple-black. Fruits are bitter and inedible fresh off the tree, but can be used to make jams and jellies. Fruits have also been used to flavor certain liquors such as brandy and whiskey. Fruits are attractive to wildlife. Narrow oblong-ovate to lanceolate, glossy green leaves (to 5” long) have acuminate tips and serrate margins. Foliage turns attractive shades of yellow and rose in fall. Mature trees develop dark scaly bark. Bark, roots and leaves contain concentrations of toxic cyanogenic compounds, hence the noticeable bitter almond aroma of the inner bark. Native Americans prepared decoctions of the inner bark for cough medicines and tea-like cold remedies. Hard, reddish-brown wood takes a fine polish and is commercially valued for use in a large number of products such as furniture, veneers, cabinets, interior paneling, gun stocks, instrument/tool handles and musical instruments.

Genus name from Latin means plum or cherry tree. Specific epithet comes from the Latin word for “late” in reference to the late flowering and fruiting of this cherry in comparison to other cherries.

Problems: As a native tree, black cherry is adapted to the climate and has good resistance to most pests. As with most cherries, however, it is susceptible to a large number of insect and disease pests. Potential diseases include leaf spot, die back, leaf curl, powdery mildew, root rot and fireblight. Potential insects include aphids, scale, borers, leafhoppers, caterpillars, tent caterpillars and Japanese beetles. Spider mites may also be troublesome.

Keep these away from walking paths because the cherries on the ground will smear on your house floors.