Archive | August 2015

You want flowers and more flowers? Grow glossy abelia

Canyon Creek glossyabelia

Canyon Creek glossy abelia with bronze-red new leaves that change to variegated yellow and gold.

You want flowers? Glossy abelia (Abelia xgrandiflora) will give you flowers–plenty of them over a long period of time. This hybrid (A. chinensis x A. uniflora) originated in Italy before 1866 and has been in cultivation for more than a century. It remains as one of the most popular shrubs for gardens. White, flushed pink tubular flowers emerge from May until frost. When you look at the flowers individually, you’ll say, “Yeah, so what.” Step back and look at the flowers smothering the leaves and you’ll find yourself saying, “Holy cow!” This cast-iron shrub is not fazed by heat or drought; sun or shade is acceptable although full sun results in the best floral display. It has not significant insect or disease problems.

The typical height of the species is 3 to 6 ft. high and wide (18 to 20 ft. high specimens at the Keith Arboretum in Chapel Hill, NC), but you should consider cultivars that offer a range of sizes, forms, and flower colors. My current favorites are ‘Canyon Creek’, ‘John Creech’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Little Richard’ and ‘PIIAB-I’ Golden Fleece™.

While other shrubs and trees go in and out of bloom, count on glossy abelia to charm you with a seemingly never-ending floral display.

© Bob Polomski 2015


A natural approach to managing weeds

Some folks believe that applying a herbicide is the only way of controlling marauding lawn weeds. Not true. The first line of defense against any weed is proper lawn management. A well-managed lawn outcompetes weeds for sunlight, water, and nutrients.

Two basic lawn management practices that can either “make” or “break” a lawn–opening it up to weed infestations–are mowing and fertilizing. Follow these simple rules to avoid thin, weak stands of turf:

  • Mow with a sharp mower blade to cut the grass cleanly, which ensures rapid healing and regrowth.
  • Mow at the proper height for your lawn to help the grass tolerate summer heat and stress.
  • Remove no more than one-third of the grass height at any one mowing. Avoid “scalping” your
    scalped bermuda lawn 1

    Never show your neighbors how low you can mow by “scalping” your lawn, which refers to cutting the turf so low that it exposes the lower grass stems and sometimes the soil surface.

    to avoid having to mow it often. Not only do you make the lawn look like it’s been mowed with a blow-torch, but you stress the lawn grasses and create opportunities for weed invasions.

  • Fertilize lawn grasses with the right amount of fertilizer based on soil test results and at the proper time of year.

When you find patches of weeds growing in your lawn, figure out what sparked the invasion. If the basic cause is not corrected, weeds will continue to be a problem despite your many attempts at trying to get rid of them.

Select the best weed control method. Handpull a few weeds rather than taking more drastic measures. Perennial weeds that come back year after year from underground plants parts can be handpulled when the soil is moist.

If you choose to use a herbicide, make sure that you read and following the label directions carefully.

By managing your lawn properly, you can help your lawn fight weeds naturally.

© Bob Polomski 2015

IPM: a sensible, knowledgeable approach to managing landscape pests

By now you realize that as you venture into your landscape, you’re not alone. Yes, it’s a jungle out there. Like the characters of  Wizard of Oz trudging into the dark forest, you may be chanting “Aphids and borers, and mites, oh my!” Sure, we share our shrubs and trees with a wide assortment of insects, diseases, viruses, and bacteria. Some of these pests are as fond of your newly plahibiscus and beented crapemyrtle as you are. Fortunately, some pests are fodder for helpful, beneficial critters that feast on them, thereby protecting our shrubs and trees.

When you encounter pests in your landscape, deal with them sensibly. Avoid the typical knee-jerk response to apply a pesticide to vanquish the pest. After all, you may end up killing beneficial insects and as the saying goes, “kill a beneficial insect and you inherit its job.” To manage pests this year, follow a game plan that involves knowledge and common sense. It’s called Integrated Pest Management or IPM for short. It’s a decision-making process that involves the following four components:

  1. Monitor your landscape for the presence of harmful and beneficial organisms. Inspect your shrubs and trees on a regular basis. Examine them for signs and symptoms of pests. Generally, most plants have few problems if they are planted in the right location and receive proper care.

While examining your plants for problems, check them for beneficial insects–the arch enemies of insect pests.  Beneficial organisms consist of predators, parasites, and diseases. Predators kill and eat their prey. Parasites live in or on their prey, feeding on its tissues and eventually killing it.   Beneficial pathogens consist of a variety of viruses, fungi and bacteria that naturally infect and kill harmful pests.

By monitoring the garden and landscape, you have more options for controlling pest problems when you detect them early

  1. Identify harmful and beneficial organisms.Determine if the pest has the potential to cause cosmetic or health damage. To help you ID beneficial insects in your landscape, see Beneficial Insects, Butterflies, and More Around the Home and Garden.
  1. Evaluate the extent of the pest problem and decide if pest management tactics are warranted. While it’s difficult at times to accept any kind of plant damage, some is just cosmetic and poses no real harm to the plant. For example,  fall webworms and gall-forming insects are common pests that produce unsightly webs and galls, but do not necessarily threaten the health of the plant.Southern pine beetles, on the other hand, demand immediate action when a tree exhibits signs of an infestation. Southern pine beetle-infested trees need to be felled and  removed quickly to suppress outbreaks that will afflict nearby pines.
  1. Choose appropriate control measures. Try cultural and mechanical controls first. A cultural approach could be proper watering and fertilizing to help shrubs and trees cope with or outgrow the injury. Mechanical controls involve handpicking insects and discarding them in a jar of soapy water, dislodging them from tree branches with a strong spray of water from the hose, or pruning out heavily infested or infected shoots.

Consider a pesticide only as a last resort: when pest levels have reached damaging levels and your other tactics have not been successful. Use pesticides sparingly to control the targeted pest. Before purchasing and using any pesticide, read the label and follow all directions and precautions.

Keep in mind that healthy landscapes have a wide variety of beneficial creatures as well as a tolerable levels of damaging critters. With IPM you work with Mother Nature to maintain this balance while keeping harmful pests at bay.

© Bob Polomski 2015