Posts tagged deciduous

Technically, it’s still winter

Several warm and sunny days this week might make us forget that winter is still with us, officially, at least, until Friday. Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, sent the following about this time of year:

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

  

 

 

 

   From the Brucemore Gardens

 

   The lengthening of the days and the warmer temperatures make me want to go outside and get back to gardening along with the rest of the grounds crew here at Brucemore. We have pruned all the deciduous trees and grape vines. The lawns and garden beds have been raked and the orchard will be pruned this week. While failing to pull the greenery used for holiday decorating out of a still frozen container, a somber realization dawned on me: it is still winter and there is a good month left before the real gardening can begin, and before we know it, the whole growing season will have passed by in a blur of continuous activity.

 

In my haste to hurry up and get busy, I realized that I had almost missed it again—the experience, the wondrous process of late winter merging into spring. With every rain drop and ray of sunshine, change is taking place. We all know this but rarely take the time to observe and enjoy. This year I vow to observe and enjoy with total presence, and I will stay conscious and aware during every season and transition of the year. Through Cindy’s blog, (thank you Cindy) I will share my experiences and offer tips and ideas for you to use in your own gardens.

 

I encourage you and yours to participate wholeheartedly also. Come visit the Brucemore gardens and grounds to experience the seasons this year. Our gates are open during regular business hours, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and often from dawn to dusk. Stroll the grounds, formal gardens, pond, timber, and orchard. Stop by the children’s garden to pick up a monthly activity sheet, which offers suggestions for additional nature study opportunities.

 

I would love to hear what you are doing also!  Please feel free to send me any suggestions, ideas, or tips from your own gardens and explorations.

 

Deb Engmark

Brucemore Head Gardener

2160 Linden Dr. SE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403

deb@brucemore.org

www.brucemore.org

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California Dreamin’ – tree style

The following is by James Romer, Extension Horticulturist at Iowa State University:

   This time of the year gives many gardeners an empty feeling. It is hard to keep warm and dry when temperatures dip below zero and it snows every other day. It is reminiscent of those classic song lyrics — “All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray … California dreamin’ ….” Anyway, this is a great time of the year to do some planning and pruning.

   The late dormant period (February to early April) is an excellent time to prune deciduous trees. The absence of foliage at this time of year gives the home gardener a clear view of the tree and allows him/her to select and remove appropriate branches.              

   Proper pruning improves the appearance, maintains the health and prolongs the life of trees. Improper pruning destroys their natural beauty, weakens them and may lead to their premature death.

   It is essential to make proper cuts when pruning trees. Do not make flush cuts. Flush cuts are cuts made as close as possible to the trunk or main branch. Flush cuts produce large wounds, destroy the tree’s natural mechanisms that promote healing and slow the “healing” process.

    When pruning trees, make the final cut just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge. The branch collar is the swollen area at the base of the branch. The branch bark ridge is the dark, rough bark ridge that separates the branch from the main branch or trunk. Pruning just beyond the branch collar and branch bark ridge retains the tree’s natural defense mechanisms and promotes the healing process. When a branch is pruned properly, a slightly raised area remains on the trunk or main branch. However, do not leave stubs.

   Do not apply wound dressings to pruning cuts. The application of wound dressings or paints doesn’t stop decay and may actually inhibit or delay the healing of wounds.

   There is one exception with not applying paint to oak trees. Oak wilt is a fungal disease that is lethal to many oaks. Oak wilt infections occur most commonly in spring and early summer and are spread from infected trees to healthy trees by sap-feeding beetles. To reduce the risk of the spread of oak wilt, don’t prune oaks from April 1 to July 1. If oak trees must be pruned between April 1 and July 1, for example, to correct storm damage, immediately apply a latex paint to all cut surfaces to avoid attracting sap-feeding beetles to the wounds.

   Use the three-cut procedure when cutting large branches to prevent extensive bark damage. Make the first cut about one to two feet from the main branch or trunk. Cut upward and go about halfway through the branch. Make the second cut a few inches beyond the first. Cut downward completely through the branch. Make the final cut just beyond the branch collar.

   Some trees, such as maple, birch and elm, bleed heavily when pruned in late winter or early spring. However, the heavy bleeding doesn’t harm the trees. (The trees won’t bleed to death.) Eventually the flow of sap will slow and stop. Heavy bleeding of susceptible trees can be avoided by pruning in late June or early July.

   The pruning of deciduous trees by the home gardener should be limited to small trees and the removal of smaller branches that can be reached from the ground in medium to large trees. Branches high up in large trees and those near utility lines should be left to professional arborists. Professional arborists should have the proper training and equipment to safely perform the job.

    If that’s not enough to do, another enjoyable winter activity is to leaf through garden catalogs. Many contain colorful plant photographs. Some carry specific merchandise, such as seeds, perennials, roses or fruits. Others carry a wide variety of products.

    Also, visit a bookstore or public library and browse through some of their gardening books. Excellent reference books for home gardeners include “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” by Michael Dirr; “Continuous Bloom” by Pam Duthie; “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” by Allan Armitage, and many others.    

    Remember also that your Iowa State University Extension county office has numerous publications on gardening in Iowa. Most of these publications also are available from the ISU Extension Online Store at www.extension.iastate.edu/store.

So get busy planning, pruning and dreaming about plants for this spring.

 

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Sour soil

The following information is from Claire Smith, Linn County Master Gardener:

 

My granddaughter was reading to me the other day and asked me to define “etc.” and eucalyptus”.  That got me to thinking that there have been several occasions where I’ve been a bit embarrassed because I didn’t know the definitions of some gardening words.  Following are a very few of the multitudes of terms.  Acid Soil:  soil with a pH less than 7.0.  Acid soil is sometimes called “sour soil” by gardeners.  Most plants refer a slightly acid soil between 6-7 where most essential nutrients are available.

  • Alkaline Soil:  soil with a pH greater than 7.0, usually formed from limestone bedrock.  Akaline soil is often referred to as “sweet soil”. 
  • Bare Roots:  trees, shrubs, and perennials that have been grown in soil, dug and have had he soil removed prior to sales or shipping.  Mail order plants are often shipped bare root with the roots packed in peat moss, sawdust or similar material and wrapped In plastic 
  • Berm:  a low, artificial hill created in a landscape to elevate a portion of the landscape for functional and aesthetic reasons such as to add interest, screen areas, or improve drainage.
  • Canopy:  the total overhead area of a tree including the branches and leaves.
  • Cold Hardiness:  the ability of a perennial plant (including trees, shrubs and vines) to survive the minimum winter temperature in a particular area.
  • Complete fertilizer:  powdered, liquid or granular fertilizer with a balanced proportion of the three key nutrients-nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K).
  • Compost:  decomposed organic matter added to the soil to improve its drainage and ability to retain moisture.
  • Corm:  a modified bulb-like stem.  It is swollen, short, solid and located underground. Crocus and glads are two plants that grow from corms.
  • Cultivar:  a CULTIvated VARiety.  A unique form of a plant that has been identified as special or superior and has been selected for propagation and sale.
  • Deadhead:  to remove faded flowers from plants to improve their appearance, prevent seed production, and stimulate further flowering.
  • Deciduous Plants:  trees and shrubs that lose their leaves in the fall.
  • pH: a measurement of the relative acidity (low pH) or alkalinity (high pH) of soil or water based on a scale of 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral.  Individual plants require soil to be within a certain range so that nutrients can dissolve in moisture and be available to them. 
  • Rootbound (or potbound):  the condition of a plant that has been confined in a container too long.  Its roots are forced to wrap around themselves and even swell out of the container.  Successful transplanting or repotting required untangling and trimming away some of the matted roots.
  • Self-seeding:  the tendency of some plants to sow their seeds freely around the yard.  It creates many seedlings the following season that may or may not be welcome.
  • Slow-acting (slow release) fertilizer:  fertilizer that is water soluble and releases its nutrients when acted on by soil temperature, moisture and/or related microbial activity.  Typically granular, it may be organic or synthetic.
  • Variegated:  having various colors or color patterns.  The term usually refers to plant foliage that is streaked, edged, blotched, or mottled with a contrasting color, often green with yellow, cream or white.

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