Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creature Feature

Black Pineleaf Scale

Scale are tiny sap-sucking insects who, once attached, form a hard protective shell to keep out predators, pesticides and other forms of insect death. They are the plant equivalent of a tick. In general, scale are only problems on plants that are stressed or not suited to their location.

The black pineleaf scale or Nuculaspis californica is a variety of scale that prefers to grow on pines and some other evergreen trees. In Utah, there has been a large occurrence of this insect on Austrian pines. Most scales occur in few enough numbers that they don’t do significant damage. However, over several years, the black pineleaf scale increases in high enough populations that they can kill the tree.

Unlike other scale, black pineleaf scale attaches to the leaves (needles in this case), from where they will suck the plant’s juices. From a distance, pines that are afflicted with this pest will lose their healthy green color and needles will turn gray and eventually brown as they die off. Over several years, the loss of vigor becomes more apparent until it is too late.

Control is usually effective, but treatment will need to occur on a regular basis in order to save the tree. Systemic insecticides and horticultural oils are usually used to treat this problem. In large trees, and for those who are uncomfortable with pesticides, it may be worth calling a pest control expert who will make sure the timing is right and recommend the appropriate treatment.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Netted Iris (Iris reticulata)
The netted iris is a small flower that knows how to make a big entrance. Had the netted iris decided to bloom in mid to late-spring with the other 90% of flowering plants, it wouldn’t be much to talk about. Its diminutive size would make it almost unnoticeable amid the chaos of blooms. Instead, it chose to bloom in early-spring with the crocus and the snow drops and other small bulbs that herald the approach of spring. If you blink, you may miss them, but during that blink, you know that winter is finished.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Upcoming Garden Events

These classes and events are coming up soon. Visit www.ConservationGardenPark/events.aspx for more information and to register for classes.

Basic Waterwise Landscape Design
Thursday, March 31, 2011
6:30 p.m.
Franci DeLong, Xeriscape Design, L.C.
Successful waterwise landscapes begin on paper. Find out how to develop your garden plan to ensure maximum beauty with minimum water.

Simply Waterwise
Saturday, April 9, 2011
10:00 a.m.
Clifton Smith, Conservation Garden Park
Saving water in your yard doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out simple yet effective ways to use less water while keeping your landscape green and beautiful.

Attend two classes in 2011 and receive a $10 gift certificate to a local nursery. Our special thanks to Glover Nursery and Cactus and Tropicals for sponsoring our classes. (one certificate per person, while supplies last)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
One of the first flowers to appear in the spring, the Pasque flower is aptly named for its habit of blooming around Easter. The goblet-shaped flowers are typically blue to purple in nature, but thanks to the miracle of plant breeding, there are now varieties that bloom pink, red and white. Eventually the flowers give way to feathery seed heads that are attractive in their own right. The leaves of the Pasque flower are highly dissected, which means they are almost fern-like in appearance. Altogether this plant has a silken appearance that, along with an early bloom-time, gives it an almost surreal look that is striking when every other plant is still trying to wake up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Clean-Up

Landscapes are as varied as the people who own them, and the level of care they receive varies just as greatly. In the Garden, we are required to keep it looking tidy, but aside from cleaning up leaves, we reserve most of our cleaning for the spring, and this is why:

First of all, it’s hard to know which plants will respond well to being cut back in the spring versus the fall. For example, if you trim lavender or other evergreen plants in the fall, you could weaken it, and once winter is done with it, you will have a nicely trimmed but crispy dead plant on your hands.

Secondly, leaving the work until spring allows for some winter interest instead of a boringly bare garden. Ornamental grasses are a great example of this. Some of their best look comes in the winter when their tan foliage is a marked contrast to the white snow that would otherwise dominate your bleak landscape.

Generally, spring clean-up begins as early as you feel like getting out into the garden. Though a good time is once relatively warm temperatures arrive in March. Here is a good way to approach your clean-up.

1. Start by pruning trees and shrubs.

2. Next, cut back large perennials, such as ornamental grasses, making sure to get to them before they begin growing new shoots.

3. Remove all dead top growth on perennials. Avoid cutting back evergreen perennials, like lavender and Lenten rose, unless they need shaping.

4. Finally, rake leaves and other unwanted debris out of your flower beds.

It’s hard to go wrong when cleaning up plants. The process is pretty intuitive. Basically, remove anything that is dead or unsightly. Leave anything that is green and growing. However, here are some common hints to questions people usually have.

• Cut back ornamental grasses to about 6 to 12 inches depending on if they are large or small. The smallest ornamental grasses, such as fescues and blue oat grasses, shouldn’t be cut at all. Instead, rake your hands through them, pulling out all the dead growth. Remember to wear gloves for this process.

• Cut back perennials to 3 to 6 inches depending on the variety. Some perennials can be removed right to the ground.

• Remove the leaves of spring bulbs once they have begun to turn yellow and wilt.

• Applying a new coating of mulch will help to freshen up the look of your yard.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus)This diminutive member of the iris family is one of the first harbingers of spring. Often showing up in late-February, it has always given me hope that the long winter is coming to its end. Crocuses have been highly hybridized and there are many to choose from. Colors vary from whites to purples, blues and yellows. All have cup-shaped flowers that open during the day and close at night.

Crocuses can be mass planted in lawn areas and provide a lovely carpet of flowers and disappear before the lawn needs mowing. If you are a compulsive lawn-groomer, however, you may find the look to be too “weedy.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Upcoming Garden Events

These classes and events are coming up soon. Visit www.ConservationGardenPark/events.aspx for more information and to register for classes.

Tree Care and Pruning Workshop
Saturday, March 12, 2011
10:00 a.m.
Kathryn Brown, Conservation Garden Park
Learn basic tree care and pruning principles from the garden’s lead horticulturist. Pruning techniques will be demonstrated with plenty of time to ask questions about your own trees.

Basic Waterwise Landscape Design
Thursday, March 31, 2011
6:30 p.m.
Franci DeLong, Xeriscape Design, L.C.
Successful waterwise landscapes begin on paper. Find out how to develop your garden plan to ensure maximum beauty with minimum water.

Attend two classes in 2011 and receive a $10 gift certificate to a local nursery. Our special thanks to Glover Nursery and Cactus and Tropicals for sponsoring our classes. (one certificate per person, while supplies last)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Weekly Plant Spotlight

Dorr Sage (Salvia dorii)
According to my sources, Dorr sage has been called tobacco sage because it was smoked by Native Americans. This makes me wonder who came up with the idea of lighting a bunch of plants on fire to see what happens when the smoke was inhaled. Doubtless, humans have smoked just about every plant they could get their hands on. Regardless of the smoky qualities of Dorr sage, it is one of my favorite Utah native plants for its appearance. As a note, this is NOT the salvia that teens are smoking these days, just a relative.

Dorr sage grows naturally in light soils with only natural precipitation. In the landscape, it does well in hot and dry locations and shouldn’t be irrigated once established. The flowers of Dorr sage make their appearance early in the spring and are electric blue with neon yellow stamens. As they age, the flowers turn bluish-purple before drying out. The foliage is very aromatic and even a slight brush will release a very strong sagey aroma.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

How to Prune - Part 3

Pruning Do’s and Don’ts

True arborists die a little inside each time they see someone wildly hacking away at their large tree with a chainsaw a'smokin', leaving behind a stubby looking monstrosity. Not only are mispruned trees ugly, they are unhealthy. Here is a list of pruning do’s and don’ts (mostly do’s):
1. When removing a branch, cut it back to its connection to another branch to avoid leaving unnatural stubs. This helps the tree to grow healthy new branches in response to the pruning.

2. Only remove a maximum of one third of the tree’s branches. Removing more than this will shock the tree and eventually weaken it.

3. When removing large branches, use the proper equipment and cut it down in sections. Removing a large branch with one cut at its base could damage you and the tree.

4. When removing diseased branches, soak your pruners in a bleach solution after each cut.

5. Don’t apply tar or any other product to a pruning wound. The tree will naturally heal itself and these products only inhibit that process.
Pruning requires patience, knowledge and a vision of what you want the tree to become. A little preparation will go a long way in helping you achieve that.