Don’t Get Convicted of…….CRAPE MURDER

As early as mid December, I began seeing crimes committed all over the area, terrible, heinous crimes of the landscape.  What is sad to say is that most people do not even realize they have committed CRAPE MURDER; they are simply following the lead of their neighbor’s neighbor. Unfortunately, for those folks, I feel my advice may be a bit mute for this year, but if you have not pruned your crape myrtles yet, please heed my warning and instructions. 

First and foremost, you must prune your crape myrtles during the right time of year.  If you prune them later in the year, say November or December, you run the risk of having them try to produce new growth, if we get a warming trend in January, that new growth will freeze when temperatures cool again and this will be very stressful for your plant.  In actuality, pruning tells a plant it is time to grow, so hold off until later in January and February.  The next important factor to consider is to use good, sharp tools that will make clean cuts.  It is most healthful for a plant if cuts are clean and free of jagged edges or tears otherwise you are opening up the plant to potential invasion from unwanted pests and disease. 

Bloom N Gardens Crape Myrtle-001When you begin your pruning, first start by removing any dead, diseased or crossed branches, this is also a good time to remove any suckers from the base.  Next, begin thinning the canopy, a general rule of thumb is to remove twigs that are less than a pencil width.   With that done, as you examine your tree, you will typically see two lateral branches emerge close to where you cut the previous year.  You will want to head back these branches to within 6” of last year’s growth; this will prevent the “knuckle” look that can be so unattractive and unhealthy for the plant

One of the biggest excuses many people have for pruning their crape myrtles incorrectly is that they do not want their crape myrtle to be too big.  This problem is best solved by removing the tree and choosing one that is better suited to the confined space. There are many varieties of crape myrtle that grow from shrub sized to giant sized and all sizes in between.  Choose wisely from the beginning and you will be happier in the long run. Additionally, there is a fallacy that drastically pruning a crape myrtle will make them bloom more.  In reality, a correctly pruned crape myrtle will produce twice the number of branches, and therefore, twice the number of blooms than the previous year.  Additionally, the branches will be stronger and better able to withstand the weight of the heavy bloom. 

If you have a crape myrtle that has been incorrectly pruned for many years, there are ways to improve the overall health and look of the plant by reconstructive pruning, a process that you may want to bring in a professional to provide. Good luck and happy pruning.

March Madness in the Garden

Premature blooms dying from a hard frostMarch 2013 has definitely been a challenge for Atlanta Area plants. Prior to March, Northern Georgia enjoyed another mild winter with temperatures averaging 49 degrees. Do you remember, a few weeks ago, we enjoyed a week of extremely warm temperatures in the mid to upper 70s? Now for the past few days, Northern Georgia temperatures have plummeted below freezing. This “yo-yoing” in temperature has us concerned over its effect on our garden plants and landscapes. To perform their best, plants need to go into deep winter dormancy when their metabolisim comes to a halt due to prolonged cold temperatures and chemical activity.  Winter dormancy won’t occur if our climate does not stay cold for a long period of time.

When there’s a mild winter, plants are fooled into producing new buds and push out their spring leaf flush prematurely. Since we have been experiencing a hard freeze for the past few days, any new growth that formed might die and the plant might take months to recover. Back in 2007, we also experienced an Easter freeze that decimated the local hydrangea population and knocked back the crape myrtles.  It was a big mess!  Other plants that are likely to be affected are roses, heuchera, Japanese maple and boxwood.  When a hard freeze occurs, especially after a warm winter, the branch and tip dieback is much more extensive than when we have a colder winter.  The unfortunate fact is that there is little we can do to help this situation except to appropriately cover vulnerable plants. Once we consistently reach warmer temperatures, we will possibly face other challenges from having a mild winter.  For instance, we should prepare ourselves for having more pests in the garden.  Both insects and weeds will most likely be abundant this year since the winter did not help to control their populations. [Read more…]