Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Happy New Year everyone! We hope your holidays were filled with warmth and joy. Here are a few things to start thinking about for January.

PRUNE DECIDUOUS TREES. It is the time of year for you to evaluate your deciduous fruit and shade trees and see what, if any, pruning needs to be done. It is easy to see the shape of your trees when they are void of leaves. Pruning stimulates growth but this growth will be delayed until it warms in spring. Be sure that you have sharp clean pruning tools so that your cuts are precise and will callous over naturally. You will want to first remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Then prune off any limbs that are crossing, rubbing or heading toward the center. Once you have removed the obvious problems from your tree, look at the overall form. Try to keep all of the branches heading up and/or out from the center and thin the rest to a pleasing shape. I know that some of my trees, that are in high wind areas ( ok, that would be all of trees in Grant County) tend to grow heavier on the leeward side. We quite often have to thin that side to keep the tree looking symmetrical. When removing a branch always cut it back to a place of active growth. This will be the trunk, another branch or a bud facing in a desirable direction.  Always prune slightly in front of the branch collar and these cuts will heal over. Never leave stubs as they will die back to a place of active growth inviting disease.  Removing any branches that are not heading up and/or out will allow air and sunlight to penetrate the center of your trees which increases fruit and flower production while decreasing insects and diseases. You never want to remove more that 1/3 of the total structure of a tree in one year. And last but not least NEVER TOP A TREE!!!! A topped tree will either die because it can no longer supply itself with food or produce dangerous, ugly, weak growth. See The Mutilation of Trees in Grant County. Always plant  a tree that will not outgrow the space provided for it. Keep in mind that pruning is done to benefit the health and aesthetics of the tree. It is not something that should be done automatically every year.
PRUNE SUMMER FLOWERING SHRUBS AND VINES. In general, summer flowering shrubs and vines should be pruned this time of year. Again evaluate these plants individually to see if any pruning needs to be done and start by removing any dead, damaged or diseased branches. Buddleja (Butterfly Bush) does not need to be pruned until it has been in the ground at least 2 years. After that thin it by removing 1/3 of the oldest, woodiest growth all the way to the ground. This practice will encourage new growth and since Butterfly Bushes bloom on new wood this will improve flowering. Caryopteris (Blue Mist Spiraea) blooms on current season's wood as well. Cut it back to 1' and lightly prune after flowering to encourage another bloom. The Dogwood that does well in our area, Cornus (Red Twig Dogwood) should be pruned in late winter so you can enjoy the red color longer. New stems will have a brighter red color so thinning it by 1/3 will allow for new growth while keeping the height. If you want to keep it as a small shrub you can cut it all the way to the ground before the new growth starts in spring. Cotoneasters  need little pruning just an occasional shaping. Euonymus, Ilex (Holly) and Photinia (Red Tip) can be shaped now. If you are using them as a hedge you can even them off or as an accent shrub prune any crossing, rubbing, dead branches all the way back. Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon) should have the old, weak, dead wood thinned out and to promote larger flowers cut back the previous year's growth to 2 buds. Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) will stay full and bushy if you cut any tall leafless canes all the way to the ground. Spiraea should have the older, woody branches thinned out. Campsis (Trumpet Vine) can become top heavy if left to grow wild. Once one or more strong trunks have developed thin branches to 2-3 buds. Polygonum (Silver Lace Vine) needs to be thinned and the prior year's growth headed back to encourage flowering. Parthenocissus (Virginia Creeper) can be left until it reaches the desired size and then simply pruned to keep its shape. Wisteria should be allowed to develop a permanent framework and then pruned regularly. Cut back the flower-bearing laterals, easily recognized as the short fat-budded spurs to 2-3 buds. In summer prune the long vining shoots before they twine where you don't want them. Keep any that serve a purpose in the general shape you want and tie them to your support. Clematis is a little more tricky depending upon when they bloom. So here is a link to a good article covering all varieties. Pruning Clematis
These are a few of the more popular summer flowering shrubs and vines. Spring flowering shrubs and vines should be pruned after flowering. Roses should not be pruned until the first few leaf buds begin to break in spring, usually late March. Prune the woody Salvias (Sage) after new growth starts in spring by cutting them back to active growth. If you have specific questions about pruning please leave a comment or email me at silverheightsnursery@gmail.com
APPLY DORMANT SPRAY. (reprinted from October 2013) If you have had problems with scale, spider mite, whitefly or mealy bug on your fruit or shade trees and ornamental shrubs you may want to treat these landscape plants with All Seasons Horticultural & Dormant Spray Oil. This product can be used during the growing season but is also effective when used in winter to smother the eggs of these pests. Spray Oil can also safely be applied to many houseplants. Lime Sulfur Spray can be used in fall as the leaves drop and again in early spring to help control powdery mildew and several kinds of scale. It can be mixed with Spray Oil at a rate of 4 oz. Sulfur and 1 1/4 oz. Spray Oil per gallon of water and sprayed when winter buds swell before opening to kill insect eggs and fungus spores. Liqui-Cop is a copper fungicide that is effective against shot hole fungus, fireblight, black spot, bacterial leaf spot, peach leaf curl and many other fungal diseases on fruits and berries. Be sure to follow label directions carefully as application timing and quantities vary by the plant being treated and the insect or disease being controlled. Rake up and destroy any leaves of affected plants and spray the ground surrounding them.
Two plants that I decided to bring indoors for the winter that have surprised me with their vigor and color are Cyclamen and Gerber Daisy. Both of these plants like cooler weather so quite often they languish in the hottest part of the summer outdoors. We have Cyclamen available in spring and they can be used outdoors in a shady spot and then brought indoors for the winter or kept as a houseplant year round. Mine was pure white in the summer from the lack of sun but now that it is getting that southern exposure it is deep rose and the flowers seem to last forever. These plants are tuberous perennials with marbled, heart shaped leaves and usually bloom December through April. After which they will go dormant for a couple of months, leaves will be sparse and they will need little water. Be careful not to get water directly on the crown as this can cause it to rot.

 In years past I have just discarded my Gerber Daisies after the first frost but decided to see what they would do inside through the winter and I have not been disappointed. It has been blooming non-stop since I brought it inside in October. Gerbers seems to be quite happy in a south window and like to stay on the dry side. I would keep it away from any blowing heat though and watch for scale and spider mites. These are two plants that will give you nothing less than spectacular winter color, so lose the poinsettias and try something new next year!