Thursday, February 28, 2013

Growing Shrubs,Trees, and Plants from Cuttings

This past Saturday, Deberah and I attended a greenhouse workshop called "Propagating Shrubs, Trees and Plants from Stem Cuttings" hosted by Coweta County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers. The class was held at their greenhouse located off Pine Road at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.

There are many reasons why this was a great learning experience, but top reasons for me included; it was hands on, cheap $15.00 (to include all materials) and enough instructors to give individual help, regardless of your propagating knowledge. As you can see above, if all goes well the next seven or eight weeks, I'll have 15 new plants to add to my landscape from cuttings.

The class was well organized and I learned there are three basic steps in propagating cuttings; preparation, doing the work and last but not least, maintaining the plants until the roots are established to repot and/or plant where you want them to grow. I learned 4 or 5 different ways to cut the stems depending on the type, size and species of the plant to insure the best success for rooting.
Also, instruction was given on the amount and percent of hormone needed to start and speed root growth from the stem. 

Although, I hope to be proficient in the art of propagating in the near future at this stage in my experience, I don't feel comfortable trying to teach anyone else the proper methods needed to grow cuttings. However, I do recommend anyone interested attend a class (there are three per year) by contacting the Coweta County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers to pre-register. I think the next class will be held in June.

Above are just a few plants in the greenhouse they have propagated for their plant sale April 13th, 8:30 AM - 1:00 PM at the Coweta County Fairgrounds Agriculture Building, located at 275 Pine Road, Newnan, GA   30263.

Also, the plants seen above will be sold, as many other house plants, shrubs, trees, and other varieties to plant in containers, yards and gardens. The price will be minimal for the amount of work that has been volunteered over the last several months.

My 15 cuttings, include 3 each of Rose of Sharon, Tar diva Hydrangea, Forsythia or Yellow Bells, Butterfly Rose, and Pee Gee Hydrangea which I am maintaining per instruction by week. This care consists of maintaining light, moisture and temperature for 7 or 8 weeks until the stems have sprouted roots.
I will keep you  posted on my level of success and will blog when my cuttings are ready to repot. 
Until next time.........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Time to Prune Myrtle

Crape or Crepe Myrtle is a familiar deciduous (loses it's leaves in winter) shrub or tree bearing white, red, pink to purple curly flowers in summer and can be pruned as a shrub or grown as a tree. A member of the "Lagerstoemia" family, it is native to India, Southeast Asia and Australia and named after Swedish merchant "Magnus Von Lagerstrom." There are approximately 50 different species, often used in modern landscapes to line streets and highways due to long lasting color and easy maintenance. If you travel Interstate 85, especially south, in summer months, you understand why the Georgia Department of Transportation has planted "Myrtle" in the median.
The wood is also used in the construction of bridges and railroads, as well as, material to make furniture.

Crape Myrtle is used many ways in landscapes from dense barrier hedges or trees to ornamental shrubs in yards and gardens. As you can see above, I prefer to prune the ones in my yard to add interest and color to my landscape.
Late February is the time to prune "Myrtle" for best results, if you don't opt to keep her as a tree. This plant flowers on new shoots, unlike the Hydrangea that flowers on last's years wood. If you prefer this method, cut last years shoots back to two or three buds or shoots from their base (as seen above). After pruning, fertilize with a cup of complete fertilizer like 10-10-10 around the roots then mulch with a two inch layer of compost, such as rotted manure mixed with leaves or wood chips. 

The pruned shrub will now have a sturdy framework of branches, from which new shoots will grow rapidly to produce flowers in summer.

French botanist "Andre Michaux" introduced the Crape Myrtle to Charleston, South Carolina in 1790 and from there, it became a mainstay of most southern plantations, as well as, a favorite today in many southern landscapes. After 200 years of cultivation, new colors and species emerged to include a dwarf variety that can bloom from seed in one season and is enjoyed in colder climates (not winter hardy) for the variety of colors.

So, if you like "Myrtle" and prune this deciduous shrub, now is the time but don't worry pruning can be accomplished any time in spring, even when new shoots have developed leaves.
The United States National Arboretum has a Quick Guide Chart for the best variety and color choices for your landscape. Look at
Until next time........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith

Friday, February 15, 2013

Japanese Holly -- or Not?

I had always believed the plant pictured above to be called "Japanese Holly", however after an afternoon of research, I discovered it to be a "Mahonia." As, there are seventy different species of the Mahonia, I'm not sure if it is Mahonia "Bealei" (Leatherleaf) or Mahonia "Japonica" (could be where I got the name Japanese Holly). But what I do know that it is an aggressive type of holly that with time can become invasive in landscapes (like mine) if left to do it's on thing. The Mahonia shrub is native to northeastern China and was transported to Europe in the 1800s. And then like many non-native invasive plants made it's way to the new America.

An evergreen this plant grows between 4 to 8 feet in height and 4 to 6 feet in width. It blooms with yellow bell-shaped flowers late fall through winter then develops bright blue berries in spring through summer. Because the flowers attract bees and the berries attract birds, it has naturalized itself in parts of the United States. And although most varieties need moist soil in full sun to partial shade, obviously the species in my yard is among the variety being drought resistant, as I have never applied one drop of water.

Due to the abundance of prickly leaves it has been used as a security planting as it can be a deterrent to invaders or passersby under windows and along fence lines. The Mahonia is also used to add interest to landscapes as an ornamental.

Too, I discovered that the berries can be used to make jams and jellies, but cautiously, I would do more research before spreading it on my toast or muffin.

Seedlings spring up all over my property by bird droppings and like my privet and bamboo invasion, I rate the Mahonia as #3 as a non-native aggressor in my yard.

As seen above this seedling has invaded the space of this large pecan tree. Several feet away one has almost eradicated a pink weigela bush.
The USDA, Natural Resource Conservation Service lists the Mahonia as an invasive plant or noxious weed. Several states, such as Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and Tennessee list it on there prohibited plant list. Check out for more information on Mahonia and other invasive plants in your yard.
I hope enlightening you to the types of invasive plants in my yard helps in identifying and ridding your yard of unwanted aggressive plants. If, I can help send me a comment and I'll respond, ASAP.
Until next time..........
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith

Monday, February 11, 2013

Bamboo -- Fastest Growing Plant on Earth

I have a large forest of bamboo on my property. It started out as a patch that my dad planted approximately, thirty years ago and has spread into surrounding woods, my northwest yard which had much of nothing but grass and upwards toward my house consuming blueberry bushes and muscadine vines (1/2 acre or more). However, I can only blame myself for some of the invasion, stupidity for not understanding this plant or it's growth rate and some blame to the plant for it's aggressive nature having no regard for other well established plants in the landscape. That said, I still like bamboo and it's many uses for gardeners, as well as, other artisan endeavors.
Bamboo is excellent to use in the garden for bean poles, to make tents and trellis for vine vegetables and flowers, even support for indoor potted plants. This fibrous plants' strength ratio to size is amazing. We're able to use the cut poles for many seasons before replacing them with new poles for green beans.

Bamboo is a member of the grass family. There are two types, running and clump. Unfortunately, I have the running type in my yard which is more aggressive and can overwhelm surrounding areas (depending on the soil and climate) in a matter of seasons.

Pictured above is a rhizome (or root) that grows horizontally underground and can spread twenty feet or more in one season. The clump type of bamboo is less aggressive and multiply by the root from the clump. Bamboo have ten genera divided into approximately 1450 species.

Some varieties of bamboo is native to many continents, whether warm or temperate to include, Asia, Australia, Africa, North and South America. Often thought of as only growing in hot tropical or temperate climates it can grow in cooler mountain areas.

The individual stems, as seen above are called culms. They emerge from the rhizome in spring at full diameter and can grow to thirty feet tall depending on the variety. These culms can grow 39 inches in 24 hours and don't sprout the leaves on stems until they have reached their full height met in maturity. Many bamboo varieties only flower every 65 to 100 years (probably why I haven't seen any bamboo flowers in my yard).

Due to it's strength,  and versatility, bamboo, especially in Asian and tropical countries has been used for medicine (infection and healing), culinary dishes (shoots are edible), musical instruments, fishing rods, weapons (spears, etc.), housing to include furniture, textiles, paper and more for centuries.

Modern day manufacturing includes, flooring, blinds and all of the above plus more.

In China bamboo is the major food source of the beloved Giant Panda, Red Panda in Nepal and Mountain Gorillas in Africa.

If you plan to plant bamboo in your landscape, care should be taken to insure this plant (that can be invasive) is tended appropriately, as removing it can take patience and hard work once it is established. Choose a variety to fit your landscape (running bamboo needs 360 degrees and lots of room to grow). Cut back at least every two years to maintain growth in a specific area or plant three feet deep in a container to prevent the spread of the fastest growing plant on Earth.
Besides the use in the garden of bamboo canes, I like the symbols of this plant. In China the symbol stands for "longevity" and in India the symbol stands for "friendship".
Until next time.......
Happy Gardening 2013!
Posted by Wilma Smith 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Invasive Plants -- Privet

The next few blogs will be about invasive plants in our landscapes.

This is the time of year to trim, mulch and assess your landscape, decide where to plant new trees and bushes, decide which ones that need cutting down to improve your yard. And since I plan to plant some new fruit trees this year, I thought it was a good time to look at some of the non-native invasive plants in my yard.

There are plenty of these invasive plants thriving in the southeast and you may ask what species grow in your landscape and why are they a problem? Probably one of the best known in our state is "Kudzu." It was brought here originally from Asia to solve erosion and land problems but it's aggressive nature soon covered trees and property along roadsides and untended land.

There are many reason why invasive plant species are bad for native plants and wildlife. Generally, these plants are aggressive and will survive through drought, too much moisture and shade or sun killing and taking over native vegetation. Often wildlife habitats are displaced by too much growth because they won't shelter in this growth, nor benefit from the flowers and/or fruit.

Invasive plants are distributed in many ways; mowing, importation of topsoil, seed and plant packaging, mulches, introduction of ornamentals, commercial wildflower mixes, construction equipment, seeds from birds and animals (that do feed on berries), and even people who unwittingly pick up seeds on roadways, etc.

To discover invasives in your landscape or area, check out this website for a long list to include the ten most common,

Privet is on this list and one of the problems in my yard. The true origin of privet is unknown, but in the southeast from Texas, east to Georgia and north to Virginia the Chinese variety is widespread. It is a deciduous or evergreen plant that blooms white flower clusters from April thru June.

Most of us think of the privet as a hedge or ornamental made a southern tradition by our forefathers on large homes and plantations introduced to this area in the mid 1800's.

As seen above the berries turn purple or black in late fall and winter (August thru December).

The leaves grow on spindly limbs on each side in a row.

Privet bushes grow and colonize by root sprouts making them difficult to eradicate. Cutting branches back to the ground will not solve the problem. They are aggressive, fast growing, tolerate shade or full sun and grow upwards thirty feet or more, forming a dense thicket in several years. Also they seem oblivious to drought conditions.

As you can see above my privet problem began over thirty years ago when this ornamental was planted next to my house by my parents. Although, it appears like a nice ornamental shrub, my yard has been all but taken over by this one invasive species. It grows and spreads so fast maintenance has become a problem for me the last several years since I do the yard work.

So what's the solution to my privet problem? I could dig them up but that would be too hard on my back. Although, I don't like using chemicals that is the best solution. I'll try Garlon, Arsenal AC, Garlon 3A, Velspar L, or a gyphesale herbicide in a 20% solution mixed with water on the stumps after cutting back the bushes, especially to protect the surrounding vegetation.

We'll look at another invasive plant species next time.

So until next time.....

Happy Gardening 2013!

Posted by Wilma Smith