Crape myrtles are a colorful summer blooming, utility friendly tree and great for our long hot summers. They tend to be a bush but can be trained into a tree form. You may need to prune soil level branches to keep the tree form.
There are about 50 species of Lagerstroemia, with many new varieties, ranging in many shades of red, pink, white, and purple, all are woody plants, including both deciduous and evergreen varieties, ranging in sizes from dwarfs to 100-foot trees. Most trees sold in our area are under 15 feet, but read the label before you buy. They are chiefly known for their long-lasting summer blooms, but also have beautifully mottled bark and most have colorful fall foliage.
Pruning is important since blooms come on new wood. The question that arises is when and how much to prune. As with all pruning, there are different ideas as to when is best. Certainly, the worse time is when they are blooming. Once the bush is established and shaped as you prefer, less severe trimming should be adequate to maintain the size and shape. My neighbor prunes back to the woody part of the plant leaving a beautiful scaffold of branches for winter viewing. I prune each branch about 1 foot leaving many branches. We both prune in late fall, early winter.
Fall is the best time to plant crape myrtles or any tree. Even though it looks like the plant is doing nothing in the winter, the roots are growing.
For more information about trees, go to; cecolusa.ucanr.edu and click on “landscape for your local environment”.
I love it when you are least expecting it and encounter something that just knocks your socks off. At the Colusa Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago, I stopped by to see what our friend Geneva at Garden Gleanings had that was new and exciting. In front of her booth I was stunned by the specimen she had to offer – the ‘Midnight Marvel' hardy hibiscus. This is not the picky tropical hibiscus we all struggle to keep alive in our non-tropical climate – this is the hardy hibiscus that sleeps underground during the winter and emerges in the spring to greet us with nearly dinner plate sized blooms. The dark, almost black, foliage and red flowers of this plant will lend an air of drama to your garden. The shiny, deep cut leaves are a good substitute for the easily sunburned Japanese maple.
It's an easy care perennial that will bloom from midsummer to fall in full sun in moist but well-drained soil. It can get 42-48 inches tall and 48-54 inches wide. If it gets too much sun the bronze/black leaves will have a green cast.
If you are concerned that it didn't survive the winter, BE PATIENT! It is notoriously slow to emerge and will reward you for your endeavor!!
Submitted by Cynthia White
- Author: Gerry L Hernandez
It seems like California has been under a heat advisory all summer. Many gardeners wonder how their plants; trees or shrubs can survive. With a little extra planning, your plants can survive the hot summer weather.
Don't fertilize plants or trees during hot weather. Fertilizers increase the plant's growth. An increase in growth means an increase in water and nutrient needs. Plants have a hard time pumping water to all parts of the plant during the heat.
Water trees deeply and frequently. You want to consider the roots below the ground and encourage a network of deep roots. How do you do this especially if you have stopped watering your lawn. In a nut shell, circle your tree with a drip line or soaker hose. Turn the water on for about 2 hours. Check the depth of the water by using a measuring stick. The measuring stick will easily push through wet soil. When the measuring stick stops at 2 feet then you can turn off the water. Next week check the depth of the water using your measuring stick again. Once the level of wet soil reaches 1 foot, irrigate again. Keep up this cycle over the summer.
Mulch, mulch and more mulch. A good layer of mulch prevents soil from heating up and moisture leaving. Apply a 4 inch layer of medium bark mulch to the soil. This protects the plants fine roots. Mulch decomposes so you will have to add mulch every year.
Wait to introduce new plants or trees until the fall. Timing is everything. New plants, have smaller root systems than mature plants and need time to develop. New plants have a high rate of failure during hot summers. In California, the best time to establish a new plant is in the fall. Winter rains can help keep new plants watered while their roots grow.
For more information go to: cecolusa.ucanr.edu
Fruit Trees: Thinning Young Fruit
Fruit trees often set more fruit than they can support or develop adequately. Excessive fruit compete with each other for food and remain small. Leaving too much fruit on a tree can also lead to limb breakage.
The main benefit of thinning is for the fruit to receive more sunlight, so fruit color and flavor will be improved. This allows for the fruit to develop to its maximum size.
All stone fruit (peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries and plums) require thinning. All apples, pears and Asian pears also need thinning. Fruit should be thinned when they are fairly small-typically April to mid-May.
Thin the fruit so that there is 2-5 inches between each fruit. Use your fist as an easy guide for spacing.
There are 2 main ways to thin fruits: by hand or by pole. Thinning by hand is more thorough but pole thinning is faster.
Hand thinning involves removing enough fruit to leave the remaining fruit with sufficient space so they do not touch at maturity. Use your fist as a spacing tool and remove the excess fruit. Remove “doubles” (two fruit fused together) and small, disfigured or damaged fruit.
Pole thinning is used mainly on large trees where hand thinning would be impractical. Pole thinning is much faster and although it is less accurate, the results are often acceptable. Strike individual fruit or clusters with a pole to remove fruit.
My peach tree has no fruit this year, what is wrong?
Many fruit and nut trees in the area are low on fruit production this year. During bloom, we had frost. The frost killed many of the flowers. Also, it was not warm enough for the bees to pollinate the flowers. Bees don't fly until 55 degrees. If the entire day is below 55 degrees then pollination does not happen.
For more gardening information go to cecolusa.ucanr.edu
Houseplants are back and philodendrons are the star!
Philodendrons thrive on neglect. Provide them with some light and a little water then watch them grow. Houseplant newbies should start with this plant. This group of plants have hundreds of varieties. Here are a few tips.
First chose a vine or clumping variety. The most common is the vine varieties. Both can mature to 5 feet indoors. Don't worry there are also short varieties, too.
They are just as happy in a dim office as in the bright sunlight just don't put them in full sun. Allow the soil surface to dry before watering and fertilize lightly twice a year. Most philodendrons want to climb. Tie their stems to a sturdy stake sunk into the soil near the plant base. Tie up vines as they emerge. Rein in overgrown climbers by cutting back as needed. The cuttings can be put in soil and develop roots. This gives you a perfect last minute gift.
Next time you are in a local garden store check-out their selection of houseplants.