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Let’s Talk About July, 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Finally, we had a little rain in June. I think I heard my plants collectively breathe a sigh of relief.  I felt the same way.  It gave me a moment of heat relief, then the humidity hit.  July can bring its own gardening problems and joys. There are the usual summer time garden necessities like watering. Then there are the bugs, all kinds of bugs.  The most exciting part of July is that the blooms of so many summer perennials and annuals will be in high gear and what is prettier than that? So, let’s get busy.

 

July gardening includes watering, bugs and planting:

 

Incense Passion Vine

Again, this month watering has to be at the top of the to do list.  Before you water check the soil around the plant.  If it is newly planted, check the soil in the area closest to the plant (the roots will not be in the surrounding soil yet).  When checking the soil, you may notice that it is damp everywhere but closest to the plant.  That means the plant has used all of the water it can get to and it’s time to water.  In the summer months you may have to water these new plantings daily.  Water slowly all around your plant.  If you are unsure about how long it takes to water to keep the root ball moist, stop and check.  Dig into the soil and see how far down the soil is moist.  If you have only watered long enough to wet the top ½ inch, you’re not done, water a little longer.

 

Once the roots become more established you won’t have to water as often.  If you notice that the plant is wilted but the soil is damp, don’t water.  The plant is

Ruby Glow Passion Vine

conserving energy and will bounce right back when the sun goes down.  If it is still wilted in the morning go ahead and water.  The ideal time to water is in the early morning hours but if a plant needs water then by all means water it.

 

Spending time in your garden is the best way to stay on top of what your plants may need.  Whether it is water or help when pests attack.  If you are out there you will catch “it” before the plant dies or a pest has spread through your whole garden.  Summer, aka bug season, is a time of added stress for plants.  Some plants would prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, so our afternoon sun is a shocker.

 

I have written before about bad bugs like: mealy bugs, scales, spider mites, lace bugs, aphids, thrips, leaf miners, squash bugs, leaf rollers and whitefly, will the list ever end? I wanted to tell you about the good bugs.  The bugs that can make your gardening so much easier.  Some pollinate your plants and others help by eating, laying eggs in or on the bad bugs, mostly on their larvae.  Before you spray, consider that the spray will kill the good and the bad.  Instead of spraying why not plant for the good bugs so they can handle the problem bugs in your garden?  What kind of plants would attract these good bugs?  Consider planting parsley, dill, fennel, anise, lovage, chervil, sunflower, dandelion (this plant is definitely not the bad guy portrayed in ads for weed killers on TV), yarrow, tansy, marigold, zinnia, milk weed, lantana, passion vine or verbena.  These plants attract lady beetles(bugs), butterflies, bees, green lacewings, hover flies, milkweed assassin bugs, mealybug destroyers, moths and parasitic wasps.  Familiarize yourself with what the good bugs and their larvae look like, so you can distinguish the good from the bad.  This website is a good place to start to learn more about beneficials. Beneficials in the Garden, Galveston County Master Gardeners

 

For summer color, you know you want some, to replace fading spring color.  Try vinca, purslane, angelonia, zinnia, pentas, scaevola, salvia, Crossandra, coleus, Mexican heather, lantana, Portulaca, mandevilla, passion vines, firecracker fern, gomphrena, milkweed, melampodium, blue daze, and echinacea; all are just beautiful.

 

 

For shadier areas you can add torenia, coleus, mona lavender, ajuga, begonia, impatiens, jacobinia, shrimp plant, and Persian shield.  Color plants add beauty to your garden.

Feed these blooming plants to keep them healthy.  Use a granular food like Microlife 8-4-6 or use a liquid food like Microlife Maximum Blooms or Fox Farm Big Blooms, any of these fertilizers will do the trick.

 

Enjoy your garden,

Pat

A Little Something About Sun Exposure

By: Deb Pavlosky
Often times, when we are trying to help our customers select plants, we ask about sun exposure.  What is the sun exposure in the area?  I hear it and say it multiple times every work-day.  And, that’s because it’s important to know.  Before you can select plants for your home landscape/garden, one of the things you have to know is how much sun exposure you get in the areas you want to plant.
It sounds like a simple question, but often times the answer is very complex.  So, I hope you find this helpful…
First things first – Telling us the direction your home faces doesn’t give us the whole answer.  Yes, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West every single day, but we need more information than that your house faces southeast.  Is there a large tree that shades your whole yard most of the day?  Is the bed narrow and along the house and therefore shaded by the house most of the day?  We need you to actually look and see how many hours of sun you get and in what part of the day you get it.  Hours of sun – yes, it matters!

Plant Requirements:

Full sun – 6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day
Full sun + drought and heat tolerant – 6 or more hours of sunlight per day and it can probably handle our mid-day/afternoon summer sun
Part Sun – Between 3 and 6 hours of direct morning sunlight per day or filtered light all day
Part Shade – Between 3 and 6 hours of direct sunlight per day or filtered light all day, but needs protection from intense mid-day sun
Full Shade – Less than 3 hours of direct sun and needs protection from intense mid-day sun.  Many plants requiring full shade do well growing in filtered light, but can not take our mid-day intense summer sun at all.
Filtered Light – aka Dappled light, just refers to sunlight that is “filtered” by a shade tree or other plant or structure from above.  The plant gets some light, but never full-on direct sunlight.
Medium to Low Bright/Indirect Light – this typically refers to houseplants being grown indoors in bright light, but not being hit by direct sunlight through a window.

So, Let’s talk a little bit more about Full Sun:

Full Sun sounds brutal, but this is actually the amount of sun needed by most flowering/fruiting plants.  If a plant is labeled heat or drought tolerant, it can even handle mid-day to afternoon summer sun here!!!  If it’s not, it may still be ok (vegetables and citrus and roses and fruit trees will be just fine), but let’s hope you have full sun in the morning hours.  Some plants (and most people) need a little protection from our afternoon sun in the middle of the summer.  If you put a plant that needs part sun, part shade or full shade in a full sun location, that plant will probably burn and it most likely will not survive long.  So, in the converse, what happens if you put a plant that requires full sun in a less than full sun location?  Well, it will probably still grow, but it may not flower or fruit and may become very leggy as it tries to reach out to get the sun it needs.
So, here in lies the rub – You look at a plant’s tag to get information about the plant.  It says full sun, but does it really mean OUR full sun?  Sometimes not and this is where having a little plant knowledge and savvy goes a long way.  Many plants will grow here that will also grow in zones well to the north of us.  A good clue is to look at the zones on the tag to see how far north it grows.  The farther north the zones are, the more likely full sun really means full sun in the morning hours only here.  The farther south the zones go, the more likely you will have to protect it from freezing in the winter.  Of course, all generalizations are just that.  Ask questions if you aren’t sure.
As a rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to gradually move plants from one sun exposure to another even if you know they can take it.  Any plant can experience shock if moved from part sun (where you have been hoarding it along the side of your house until you have time to plant it) to full sun.  Make this move gradually, over a period days, to give your plant some time to adjust.
And here’s another thing, it does not matter whether the hours of direct sun are sequential or if the plant gets direct sun at different times throughout the day.  Many times there are structures or trees or fences or something blocking the sun at some point during the day.  But, as long as your plant gets the required hours of sun each day, it does not matter if it gets them all in a row or if the hours of sun are spaced out in some way through the day.
So can you have a single landscape bed that has different zones of sun exposure in it?  Absolutely!  Nothing is perfect in this world and often some landscape beds get more sun along one edge or more shade at one corner because of a tree or other structure.  Yes, you have to take that into account too!
And in the end, sun exposure is just one key factor affecting plant growth and performance – don’t forget about watering, drainage (different than watering), soil type, wind and salt exposure (especially important along the coast), nutrients/fertilizer and age.  Suddenly picking plants for your garden is very complicated.  Well, once again, that’s why we are here to help!

Let’s Talk About June 2018

By: Pat Cordray

Okay, the heat has made itself known this month, along with its best friends Humidity and Mosquitoes. Walking outside the door in the morning can be quite a powerful slap in the face, Ouch! It feels like a large elephant is sitting on my chest trying to “assist” in my breathing. So, take it slow when gardening in the heat and please drink plenty of water. Protect yourself from the mosquitoes as best you can with clothing and bug sprays.  As daunting as all of this sounds, gardening can still be fun this month.

Denver Daisy Rudbeckia

June gardening includes watering, watching for bugs, planting, and fertilizing:

This is the month watering moves to the top of the list. It is the most important part of gardening. Too much or too little looks the same; dead. Don’t be afraid to use your fingers to check the soil around your plant for moisture. You can wash the soil off afterwards, it’s okay.  When you are new to gardening or you are trying a new plant, watch the plant to see how much water it uses in the area of your garden it is planted in.  The more sun, wind, and/or the higher the bed, the more water it may need.  but you will have to check. Use your finger and push down into the soil close to the plant. You might find that the top layer of soil is damp but an inch or two down is dry. Water slowly, think of a soft rain not a flash flood. You want the water to soak down to where the roots are, you don’t want the roots to come to the surface looking for water or the plant to die.

Sunfinity Sunflower

While you are out watering is a good time to keep an eye on your plants.  What are you looking for?  You are looking for damage on your plants and other signs of insects.  Ever see a white cottony insect on your hibiscus or other plants?  That is probably mealy bug.  An adult mealy bug is stationary, if you see one moving, that one is the mealy bug destroyer.  It is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It looks like a mealy bug, but it moves around and eats them.  So, don’t kill that one.  Mealy bugs suck the juices from plants that causes the leaves to turn yellow and drop off.  They also produce a honeydew that then grows mold.  They are just all kinds of fun and they love, love, love hibiscus.  Usually, that is the only plant in my garden that gets mealy bugs, (I hate to say that out loud).  To control them, I try to use as little as possible of garden insecticides.  You can wipe mealy bugs off the stems of your plants, yuck.  But tat doesn’t take care of the ones that seem to have embedded themselves in every nook and cranny of the plant causing the leaves and flowers to be deformed, I cut these areas off and throw them in the trash.  If I do use a product, Neem oil or Triple Action help control mealy bugs.  Sometimes, I get rid of the plant and try something not so attractive to mealy bugs, just saying there are other ways to win the battle besides chemicals.

Pazzaz Purslane

Scales are another common garden bug. This bug is stationary as an adult.  Scales cling to the plant even after death. Scales can be on many plants and there are different types of scales, some are soft and some are armored.  The best time to spray is when the crawlers are active (early spring), this is the easiest stage of the scales life to control.  At this stage Neem oil or Triple Action will work.

Another bug I want to talk about is the mosquito. It isn’t a problem for plants, but this bug is a problem for gardeners. To control mosquitoes, get rid of any standing water around your home. Check saucers, trash can lids, gutters, standing water in the lawn, garden art, birdbaths, fountains and ponds; try not to breed them. There are safe products for use in birdbaths, fountains and ponds to keep mosquitoes under control around your home. We carry Mosquito Beater WSP , Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks to help control mosquitoes.

If you haven’t changed out your spring color yet, there is still time to add some summer color. For sun, vinca (there are a couple of new varieties of vinca, check out the pictures), blue daze, salvias, scaevola, white wing, turnera pentas, cone flower, angelonia, gomphrena, rudbeckia, gazania, sunflowers and purslane work wonders in garden or container. Just give these sun lovers well-draining soil, water and fertilizer and you will get tons of blooms with just a little care.
Soiree Kawaii Vinca
Tattoo Vinca
Soiree Double Vinca
 For shade, you can pick torenia, Persian shield, mona lavender, cat whiskers, coleus, shrimp plant, caladiums, begonias, impatiens and ajuga. Any of these plants will add color and beauty to your shadier garden or containers. Again, use well-draining soil, water and fertilizer to keep these beauties healthy.
Cat Whiskers
Yellow Shrimp Plant
Golden Glow Ajuga
Fertilizing your plants is an important step to keeping your plants full of blooms and growing healthy. Don’t skip it. Microlife will feed the soil your plants grow in. The regular 6-2-4 bag is good for garden, lawn, shrubs and trees. It is easy to use, and there is no need to worry about getting it on yourself or your pets.

 

Enjoy your garden,
Pat

A Patient and Joyful Heart.

 

By: Deb Pavlosky

 

This one time at band camp, no… Just kidding…

But there was this one time…   I was waiting in a long line to check in to a hotel after a very long day of driving.  There were only a couple of front desk employees and it seems everyone checking in for the night was showing up at the same time.  I don’t mind waiting and I do understand when things take some time, so I was just waiting patiently for my turn.  About 15 minutes in, a woman tried to skip the line and interrupt the clerk at the desk.  Of course, I couldn’t let her do that without saying something.  So, I did.  I asked her,” Why are you skipping the line?” Her response was that she had a very long day and only had a question to ask.  I looked at her and asked her if she realized that everyone in the line had a long day and we all had one question too, “Can I check in to my room?”  As it turns out, her question was not so simple and it took time and effort to get her an answer, but she DID wait in line for that answer.

I had another experience at a sporting competition.  I was waiting in line at the bathroom with my young daughter.  There were probably ten people in front of me and 5 people behind me.  My daughter really needed to go, but everyone standing in that line needed to go.  So, we waited patiently with our legs crossed and lips pursed.  Until, one mom ran past all the women and girls with her daughter in tow and took a stall before the next person in line had a chance to enter.  Upon exiting the stall she made comment that her daughter “really had to go”.  Well, we weren’t standing in line because we didn’t have to go.  Everybody in that line had to go.  Why was her daughter’s need more urgent than anyone else’s in that line?

If there is a line, more than likely, there isn’t a shortcut you can take without setting someone else back.

I have been noticing more and more people living in their own little world.  I am sure I am guilty of this myself occasionally.  But, I just want to remind everyone that we all have our struggles.  Time is always running short and there are always places we need to go and a lot of the time, we are already late.  So, it’s just that much more important that we remember to be courteous and patient and to try to find the joy in our heart in the midst of it all.

You may ask yourself why I am writing about this.  Well, it’s about to be full-on summer here at the nursery.  The heat and the humidity get to all of us.  Checkout lines do get long sometimes, computers do shutdown occasionally and sometimes we just can’t step away to personally show a customer something.  We always try our best to be helpful to our customers.  We really do want you to enjoy your visit, purchase some plants and/or other items and leave with a desire to come back and shop again.  However, our ability to help our customers is sometimes dependent upon the customer’s attitude and their willingness to be patient.

So, here are just a few things I considered when writing this article that some customers do seem to get a little miffed over, but really, there are reasons that things are the way they are.  Honesty and openness are always beneficial in any relationship, so I am going to be really honest about the way some things go here and maybe help you understand a little bit of why things happen the way they do…

Sometimes things on the nursery grounds aren’t priced and we can’t always get an immediate answer on pricing.  We do our best, but if:

A). A plant is fresh off the truck and waiting to be priced, we can’t tell you how much it is until it is actually priced.  You may have to wait just a bit for that price.

B). An antique item has lost its price tag and has been on the nursery grounds longer than most of the trees, it may take us a little time to get you a price.

OR

C). If you are asking for a discount due to perceived damage to an item, it may take us a little time to get you an answer.  And, sometimes the perceived damage is actually intentional artistry or if it’s a plant, it may be that it is currently dormant, but totally healthy and going to be beautiful in no time.

Also, there are only a few people that handle deliveries, scheduling appointments, etc. at the nursery.  If those people are out of the nursery or off for the day, we probably can’t tell you an exact date of when something can be delivered to you or when you can have your appointment.  It’s just how it works.  We will get back to you as soon as we can, but it may be the next day or two before we can give you an answer.  If you don’t hear from us in a day or two, give us a call or send an email and ask!

We only have so many designers and so many landscape crews working and in the spring especially we get VERY busy.  It’s not unusual for someone to wait weeks to get in for an initial consult and another few weeks to come back to review the design and then even more time before they get on the install calendar.  There are always customers in line ahead of you for consults/installs/etc.  And, it’s always a good idea to set up an appointment early.  In other words, make your initial consult appointment during the winter months if you want to have an early spring install.

And lastly, if you set an appointment to meet with a designer at the nursery, whether it’s a large design or a short advice appointment, please remember that we have set aside time specifically to meet with you.  If you can’t make it, that’s no big deal, but please give us a call to let us know.  If we are able to schedule someone else in that time slot, we will.  People are sometimes waiting weeks to get in to meet with one of us – give us the opportunity to put someone else in your spot if you can’t make it or no longer need the appointment.

So, I hope you all know that WE LOVE OUR MAAS NURSERY CUSTOMERS!!!  We are always striving to make your experience better – we want your repeat business.  So, if things aren’t going the way you expect, please let us know.  We will do our best to help our customers in any way we can.  And just a little word to the wise – it’s always much easier to help a customer who has a patient and joyful heart in the midst of it all.

Let’s Talk About April, 2017

By: Pat Cordray

Whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s slow this train down! It is already April and I still haven’t finished all my garden clean up. I seem to work at a snail’s pace; I have only completed parts of my front yard, and there is so much more to go…. ugh! At least there is still time to finish and get this yard in shape before summer. I want to be able to garden from the window by the time it gets too hot and the mosquitoes get big enough to start carrying people off, and that is very soon.

Coleus
Yalaha coleus

Gardening to be done in April:

Water. Now that is getting hotter we must water more. I’m especially talking about watering those newly planted plants. Sprinkler systems are great for established plants, but newly planted plants need water that is directed at the root ball. It’s important to keep these roots moist and sprinklers may or may not get water to the root ball of a newly planted plant. Be careful to water your plants thoroughly, they will thrive and once established, you will be able to water less.

You may also need to water other plants, even the established ones, more often in the warmer weather. Just keep an eye on your garden and if you notice signs of stress like leaf drop, brown leaves and/or bud drop, you should check to see if it is just a matter of watering the plant. Don’t wait until there are limbs dying to check. With more sun, wind and less rain, plants will be thirsty.

If your camellias have finished blooming, it is time to prune, if needed, and fertilize them. This helps the plant to have a better show of blooms next year. Azaleas can be fed and pruned as well. If you haven’t cut back the winter damage to your garden plants, now is a good time to finish that.

April is a great month for vegetable gardening, you are not too late.   Plant beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, okra, peppers, radish, squash, watermelon this month.  If you don’t have time to get a garden ready, use containers to grow your vegetables. Once you have your seeds or transplants all, you need to grow your own food is good soil, good drainage and full sun.  Why not give it a try?

There are tons of blooming plants here at The nursery, with all kinds of options for you to

Super Elfin Impatiens
Super Elfin Impatiens

add color to containers, landscapes, and even a couple for inside your home. For summer color in the shadier side of your garden try impatiens, begonia, Persian shield, coleus, heuchera, columbine, alstromeria, caladium, polka dot plant, ajuga, torenia, Mona lavender, cat whiskers, justicia, creeping Jenny, dichondra and many more. Brighten up your garden by bringing color to the shadier to part sun areas of your garden.

  For summer color in the sunnier areas of your garden, try these beautiful plants: blue daze, dianthus, petunias, celosia, cleome, coreopsis

Gomphrena QIS
QIS Gomphrena

, cone flowers, rudbeckia, salvia, vinca, gomphrena, sun coleus, pentas, zinnias, cosmos, angelonia, calibrachoa, gazania, lantana, verbena, and more. These plants will give your garden or patio a colorful new look for the summer.

For indoors, we just received tons of house plants that are amazing. There are many types of Sanseveria like: Bantel’s sensation, starfish, Mikado Fernwood, whaletail, cylindrical, etc. Sanseveria is a great indoor plant that doesn’t require a lot of watering or attention to grow; truly an amazing plant. We also received some beautiful aglaonema, Chinese evergreen plant, varieties include Etta rose, sapphire Suzanne, Siam red, silver bay, and sparkling Sarah. These plants are an easy way to add beauty to any room.

 Sanseveria

Come out and see these beautiful plants before they are gone.

Enjoy,

Pat

Growing Blueberries in the Houston Area

By: Deb Pavlosky

So, to answer your question, yes, you can grow blueberries in Houston and surrounding areas. They are relatively easy to grow and maintain with just a few simple requirements. First of all, blueberries need acidic soil (pH in the range of 4.2 to 5.5). The soil in our area is most often alkaline and can test as high as 8.0 on the pH scale.

So, how do you overcome this seemingly large obstacle? There’s an easy solution, plant your blueberries in containers. A nice 20-30 gallon size container works very well for both rabbiteye and southern highbush varieties of blueberries that grow best in our area. For reference, I have included some pictures of the ½ whiskey barrels I used, but any type of container will work. You can plant in the ground, but you will have to amend the soil with ground rock sulfur and peat moss and let it rest for a period of months before you can plant. Or, you can plant in a container today. Decision made, huh?

Ok, so once you have your containers (read on to find out why you are going to want to plant more than one blueberry variety) you need to locate them where they will get 8-10 hours of full sun daily. Less sun is ok, but you might not get as much fruit production if they get less sunlight.

Now, what kind of soil should you plant your blueberries in? Well, instead of using the word soil, I am going to call it a planting mix. A lot of folks online recommend using no soil at all (just a mixture of peat moss and mulch). So, if you are going to mix your own medium, you can (there are lots of recipes online). You just need to make sure the mix drains well and is acidic. Again, when it comes to choosing to plant today or having to wait to get the right mix, I am going to choose today. So, I prefer to use the Maas Nursery blueberry mix that is blended with compost, composted mulch, topsoil, washed sand, microlife, greensand, and sulfur. This mix is ready to go for your blueberry bushes. Just fill your container and plant your blueberry bushes at the same level they were planted in the pot you bought them in. Don’t add any synthetic fertilizers to newly planted blueberry shrubs, their roots are fibrous, shallow and sensitive. Microlife that is already in the Maas planting mix is fine. You shouldn’t need to fertilize until the plants are acclimated to their environment. Even then, go organic and use Microlife.

Once you have your containers filled with soil and in the right sunny location, it’s time to pick your blueberries for planting. It is always best to plant three or more different varieties of blueberries together (6′ apart). Some blueberries are touted as being self-fruitful, but nearly all will be more productive if they are able to cross-pollinate with other blueberry varieties.

The following is a list of Rabbiteye* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety Chill Hours** Harvest Time***
Becky Blue
300-400 hours May
Bountiful Blue
150-200 hours June to July
Brightwell 350-400 hours early June to early July
Jubilee 500 hours June
Climax 400-450 hours Late May to early June
Powder Blue
550-600 hours Late June to late July
Premier 550 hours Late May to early  June

 

* Rabbiteye varieties are named that because the berries turn pink before they turn blue (like a rabbits eye). These bushes can grow quite large, up to 10′ wide and 15′ tall when mature (7-8 years) if not pruned.

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather

The following is a list of Southern Highbush* blueberry varieties that we carry at Maas Nursery:

Variety Chill Hours** Harvest Time***
Abundance 300 hours June to July
Emerald 200-300 hours mid May
Gulf Coast 200-300 hours mid May
Jubilee 500 hours June
Misty 200 hours Late May to June
O’Neal 400-500 hours Late May to June
Sunshine 150 hours Late June to July

*Though called southern highbush, these varieties only reach 6′ tall at most when mature (some even shorter).

**Chill Hours are the number of hours required between 32-45 F

***Harvest Time varies by location and weather

There is a lot of information online about the pros and cons of so many different varieties of blueberries (flavor, size, when they ripen, etc), it is best that you do your own research to determine which ones will be best for your own situation. Any of the above will grow well and produce tasty blueberries in our area.

You can intermix varieties of blueberries between rabbiteye and southern highbush for your containers. If you don’t need a “bushel and a peck” of berries, it will be hard to limit your choices to just three varieties to grow. But, that’s the fun part, right?

Anyway, as with all new plantings – water regularly, but don’t allow standing water (the medium they are planted in must drain well). A good layer of mulch (you can use pine straw too if you would like) will definitely benefit these shrubs. After your plants are established you can further care for them by fertilizing with a good organic fertilizer, like Microlife, suggested times are late winter to early bud break and again after harvest, but you can’t go wrong with Microlife. Also, once your bushes are a few years old, rejuvenate them by pruning the oldest canes as they become unproductive.

Really, that’s it to grow good blueberries. It’s pretty easy. There are a few pest/disease issues that can pop up, but these varieties are pretty resistant. With good care (acid soil, regular watering, good drainage, 8-10 hours full sun, mulching, organic fertilizer and rejuvenation pruning once established,) you will be producing more blueberries than you can eat. Enjoy!

Dealing with Pests on Azaleas and Camellias

by Kathryn Courtney

 Last year was a very hard gardening year. Harvey had many of us with yards full of water and water in our houses as well. We were all finally getting back on our feet and then came the great freeze of 2018. Many plants that survived previous freezes did not survive this one. previous freezes did not survive this one. All of this added up to a great stress on plants that did survive. Stressed plants are very vulnerable to soil diseases, fungal problems and problems with insect pests. The camellias and azaleas in our gardens mostly made it through the flood and freeze, but these events left them very stressed and fragile. A perfect environment for attacks from tea scale and lace bug insect pests.

 

At the nursery, we are trying very hard to switch to organic methods to control pests and disease. At Bayou Bend Home and Gardens, home of the Ima Hogg plantation, the emphasis is on organic practices as well. Much of Bayou Bend was flooded for four days. The extensive camellia gardens were flooded along with the rest of the park. To start the revival process, the soil at the gardens was first attended to. Compost was added along with dried molasses and Microlife 6-2-4. Like the gardens at Bayou Bend, our gardens need to be replenished with organic matter after flood damage. Adding organic matter to your camellias and azaleas is the first line of defense against pests. Adding mycorrhizal fungi to your plants also helps the roots systems with the uptake of nutrients which is very important to the shrubs health.

 

The garden environment of your camellias and azaleas is critical to your plants health. Camellias need an acidic soil and partial sun to shade to be truly happy. Azaleas also need acidic soil. They need sun or shade depending on the type and need to be located accordingly. For example, encore azaleas prefer sun. Good organic matter, a proper soil pH and correct water and sun requirements go a long way in helping your plants fight pests and disease. Air circulation is also very important for your plants health. Prune your shrubs so they have an open habit allowing air to flow through the branches. A healthy plant is a strong plant and better able to fight insects.

The next step in warding off pests is vigilance. Keep a look out for insect pests when you water. During spring and summer do frequent checks on the undersides of your camellia leaves. You are looking for slightly fuzzy white and brown insects on the under side of your leaves. This is tea scale. The adult insects produce a hard shell, don’t move, and suck the juice out of your leaves. Tea scale can sometimes be misdiagnosed for a fungus because of its fuzzy appearance. At the first sign of scale, remove all the infected leaves and dispose of them away from you camellia. If scale is caught early you can control it by removing it. Female scale insects hatch eggs underneath their protective shell. Once the eggs hatch the crawlers emerge. Crawlers travel around the camellia until they settle down to feed. Once they have found a spot they stop moving and produce their own hard shell. Crawlers usually emerge in spring so spraying with a good horticultural oil will smother the insects. Once they have formed a hard shell they are much tougher to kill. Neem oil has been shown to be effective for controlling scale but must be reapplied throughout the growing season. D- limonene, the active ingredient in orange oil has also been tested on scale with some success. Both neem and orange oil have been shown to eventually break down the hard shell of the scale. All of the above mentioned methods for controlling scale are organic. These control methods take diligence and persistence by the gardener but the reward is no harmful chemicals in your garden.

Vigilance is also important to keep ahead of pests on your azaleas. Lace bug is the most common insect pest for azaleas in our area. Lace bug damage on azalea leaves will look like silvery white or yellow spots. The lace bugs themselves are very hard to see due to their almost translucent appearance. Lace bug, like tea scale, causes damage by sucking sections of the leaf dry. Also like tea scale, lace bug is found on the underside of the leaves. Control is much like tea scale control. Remove affected leaves and dispose of them away from the plant. Insecticidal soaps, neem oil or horticultural oil will also kill lacebug. When spraying these oils , make sure to cover both the tops and bottoms of the leaves to get all of the insects. Reapplication of oils or soap throughout the growing season will add an extra layer of protection. One caution on horticultural oils including neem oil, do not spray these oils in the heat of the day. They can burn your plants leaves.

To keep your azaleas and camellias happy make sure they are located in the right environment, have the correct soil and sun requirements and have good airflow. Give them the proper food, organic matter and acid. Keep a look out for insect pests and remove them as soon as possible.Use organic oils and insecticidal soaps for  further protection. With a little more work you can keep your azaleas and camellias beautiful without harmful chemicals destroying your garden.

Let’s Talk About March 2018

By: Pat Cordray
March is an amazing gardening month, there are so many gardening opportunities.  Let’s take a look to see what’s up.  The seasons are changing and the flowers are changing from winter to warm weather bloomers.  All kinds of plants will continue to bloom and release sweet fragrance.  Vegetable gardening is moving forward with more heat loving veggies. Then there is the damage from our very cold winter.  Maybe it’s not as fun as planting but just because it is brown doesn’t mean it’s dead.
Coleus
Coleus

What flowers can you expect to see in March? Dianthus, petunia, geraniums, begonias, impatiens, marigolds, verbena, Bacopa, nasturtiums, gazania, zinnias, ageratum, phlox, salvia, coleus, pentas, and dusty miller are a nice start to this new season. For early spring flowers: foxglove, blue bonnet, delphinium, and sweet pea will be blooming soon.  These plants are so beautiful you don’t want to miss having them bloom in your garden this spring. Just having something beautiful to look at in your garden while you wait for all the cold damaged plants to return will make all the difference.

Texas Mountain Laurel

I love fragrant plants and some of my favorites will be blooming and smelling great this season.  Here are just a few of my favs: Sweet olive shrub, this one has a very potent sweet fragrance from the tiniest flower. Texas Mountain Laurel is another shrub with a fragrance that can knock your socks off.  This shrub/tree, has beautiful purple blooms with the scent of grape soda.  Pink Jasmine is a vine that has pink buds that open white with an intense jasmine scent.  Citrus trees have white blossoms with an amazing, you guessed it, citrus fragrance.  Skinners banana shrub fragrance reminds me of bananas and cake, not too bad.  Hopefully, these few plants will get you started interested to start your very own fragrant garden.

 

Next up, is your vegetable garden.  Get your tomatoes in the ground this month, don’t wait.  Other veggies to plant this month include:  Peppers, beans, lettuce, corn, eggplant, squash and watermelon.  What to pick for your garden? Plant what you love to eat!

Tomato
Tomato

 

If you haven’t trimmed back the cold damaged plants yet, now is the time. Get out the trimmers, garden scissors, and loppers and get busy. We are going to get all that dead looking stuff out of the garden.  Some of these plants only look dead, so don’t be too hasty and pull them all out of the garden.  Cut it back starting at the top and then cutting a little back at a time until you see green.  The plant may need to be trimmed all the way back within a few inches from the ground, and that is okay.  It may very well return and be even more beautiful than before.  Blooms might be delayed by this, but the plants will bloom again.
Oh, before I forget.  Fertilize your garden with an organic fertilizer.  Microlife will work wonders to improve your soil and help your plants thrive.

 

Enjoy your garden,
Pat

All About Roses

 by Kathryn Courtney

 As soon as I flip my calendar from February to March my thoughts jump to roses and how many I want and where am I going to put them and do I have enough sun and on and on. I become more than slightly obsessed.  The new hybrid tea roses get me every time. Last year it was Blue Girl, the year before it was Scentimental. Roses are a very versatile landscape plant. Grow them up arbors, plant them in herb gardens, use them in mass for a blooming hedge or fence or even grow them in containers. Every garden should have at least one rose. The only set in stone requirement roses have is sun. Most roses need at least 6 and preferably 8 hours of sun even in the summer.

     When our Weeks roses come in March there is always a flurry of phone calls and a rush of customers heading out to pick up their favorite roses before they are gone. Weeks roses come in all different varieties, shapes, sizes and colors.The most popular is the Hybrid Tea. Teas are the quintessential roses that florists adore. They have single perfectly shaped blossoms on large long stems.They are great for cutting and are long lasting in a vase. Floribundas are another type of rose we get from Weeks. We also get a few from the Antique Rose Emporium. Floribundas are medium compact shrubs that look great in a casual garden. The flowers are smaller than a hybrid tea’s and bloom inclusters, making a beautiful small bouquet on the rose bush. Floribundas are one of my personal favorites as they bloom constantly and have great disease resistance.The Grandiflora class of roses is a great mix of the hybrid tea type and the floribunda. The shrubs are large like a hybrid tea with large flowers that form clusters on long stems. One cut branch of grandiflora blooms makes a vase full of flowers.The last two types of roses we get from Weeks are climbers and shrubs. The class names say it all. Climbers ramble or can be trained up trellises or walls. Shrub roses are large shrubs with large flowers. These roses make great borders or living fences.

For some reason, a lot of people are scared to try roses in their yard or they think they need a formal rose garden to grow roses. Roses are very easy to grow and can be grown in any type of garden. I always grow my roses in with my herbs. Last year I added some veggies in the same bed with marigolds, cosmos and zinnias. The combination was beautiful. Just make sure that the plants you grow with your roses can take the 8 hours of hot summer sun. Roses love water but not on their leaves. The biggest problem with growing roses on the gulf coast is a fungal disease called black spot. The rain and humidity in spring causes the fungus to grow. Just like the name implies, the fungus shows up as yellow spots on the leaves which quickly turn black. I do preventative fungus treatments using neem oil. If you start your neem oil schedule before fungus becomes a problem on your roses you can keep black spot disease under control. Plant roses according to our planting guide. Rose roots hate sitting in water and will quickly rot if they are not planted in a well-drained space. Leave space between roses so they have good air circulation. This will help with fungus problems. Roses prefer acidic soil. All of our rose fertilizers contain ingredients that make them acidic. Everyone has a favorite rose fertilizer but my choice is Microlife for azaleas, azaleas and roses need the same food. It feeds your roses and your soil helping to keep your plants healthier.

     Whatever rose you choose to grow this year is up to you. There is such a large variety of color, fragrance, size and shape that the choices seem endless. Come out and walk through the roses. Take your time. Stop and smell them, as the saying goes. One of the roses will call to you more loudly than the others. If you’re anything like me you will have several roses screaming in your ear before getting halfway through the display. Pick them up and take them home. Give them love and roses will amaze you for years to come. If you have a specific rose in mind, call us first to see if it is available. We will be happy to check for you or suggest an alternative.

Great Low Maintenance Flowering Shrubs

 by Kim Nichols Messer

          My favorite shrubs are both low maintenance and multipurpose.  They attract and provide nectar for bees and butterflies.  They add color and texture to my yard.  Some have a dreamy fragrance and some leave flowers in my puppy’s hair.  Most of these flowering shrubs also attract hummingbirds when they are passing through.  The flowers provide nectar for the birds.  Your yard can be a pit-stop on their journey.

          Turk’s Cap comes in both red and pink varieties.  I have the red version.  It

Turk’s Cap

prefers full sun, but will do quite well in partial sun.  It may grow to 5 feet tall and wide depending on the conditions in your yard.  It is easily trimmed to a manageable size for most any yard.  It blooms profusely from early spring well into fall.

          Jatropha also has pink and red varieties.  This shrub can grow to 5 feet tall but will stay more compact and grow more upward than outward.  It will also bloom from early spring into the fall.  Again, this shrub prefers full sun.

          My Mock Orange is a transplant from my mother’s yard.  This woody shrub will have a brilliant show of flowers in May.  It will be completely covered with white orange blossom flowers.  It is also very fragrant.  It may be trimmed to maintain a certain size, or if in a corner of your yard, it can grow to a large 6 feet tall and wide anchor shrub.  Full sun is preferred, but it will still bloom with a little bit less than full sun.

         My Blue Plumbago is a small, hardy, profusely blooming shrub.  It will grow to 4 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.  This sun-loving shrub can easily be trimmed to maintain a certain size.

         All of these shrubs are heat and drought tolerant once established.  Of course, they do need occasional watering.   Shrubs can handle a lot of foot traffic and lots of dog interaction.  I still get the beauty of a flower bed, but in a more upright position.  I like to think of it as a dog safe upright garden.  She still has the run of the yard, and my flowers are safe above ground.

Everyone is happy… Good gardening!