Jump to content

Janet Macunovich

Member Since 02 Jan 2012
Offline Last Active Sep 04 2016 01:24 PM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: Mystery plant I.D. Blackeye Susan?

04 September 2016 - 01:24 PM

Ah! Almost certainly that's brown-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia triloba. It's native all over eastern North America* and is also sold with other summer perennials, so can appear on its own in almost any garden. It's biennial or a short-lived perennial but most people who cultivate it never know it comes and goes, since new seedlings are always coming to augment wintered-over plants.


It's not alone among perennials in having a different shape to the basal leaf than to the leaf that grows on the flower stalk...


*If you haven't ever checked out the USDA's plant finder, you should. Go to their site and type in the plant you wonder about, common- or scientific name. The info page, along with where-it's-native in North America map pops up. (Sometimes in between entering the name and getting to the info page you get to choose between multiple listings for the plant in all its sub-species.) plants/usda.gov This plant is at http://plants.usda.g...le?symbol=RUTR2

In Topic: Shade trees small and large

04 September 2016 - 11:34 AM

We don't think your son is being picky. We wish more people would think through all they want from a tree before choosing! Even if it's not possible to have it all, finding the right tree is a lot more likely when you work from lists like these.


To get one thing out of the way right off, for front- and back yard tree and ALL trees: Tree roots do not surface. They grow where there is loose soil, and over time the permanent roots increase in diameter. If the roots can grow only in the top two inches of soil because the ground is terribly compacted, they grow there. Once a root achieves a size greater than two inches in diameter, it becomes apparent by breaking the surface -- but it has not changed depth.


Given loose soil, some tree species' roots tend to descend to greater depth before growing out level but a "shallow rooted" species' roots still drop down to 8 or 9 inches if the soil allows. "Deep rooted" species may go down only a few inches further.


So avoiding the roots-on-the-surface effect is not a function of tree type but of planting technique and continuing soil care. At planting time, loosen the soil to a depth of 18" all around the outer edge of the planted root package so roots can grow out at all levels. Make this loose ring at least as wide as the tree branches an grow in a year (6-12" for a slow-growing species, 12-18" for fast). Then, keep loosening in a larger circle every year -- tree care companies and DIY gardeners can do this by drilling holes 12-1" deep and then inserting an air compressor hose to "Blow up" the soil. You can see the surface bulge a bit as the air forces the soil to fracture. Everything in the area benefits, by the way -- trees, gardens, lawns.


For the front yard, consider:

Hedge maple, Acer campestre. a small maple, 30' tall and wide. Grows 8-12" per year. Like all the trees listed here, has a good form even when lower branches are removed, a process that should begin when the tree is young and low limbs are small, and continue until the lowest limb begins at 10-20' above ground. Gold to apricot fall color. Does have maple seeds.


Threeflower maple (Acer triflorum). Another small maple, about 30' tall and wide, but slower than hedge maple. Lovely red-orange in fall, a bit later than other maples but not xo late as the callery pears including Bradford. Incredibly pretty peeling, shiny cinnamon color bark. We keep one elevated (lower limbs removed) for one client but never throw away the branches as there is always someone who wants to use them in an arrangement. Does have maple seeds.


Since so many small trees have fruits that disqualify them from the list (Crabapples make excellent small shade trees but they fruit; redbuds have copious amounts of flat pea-pod-like seeds some years, etc.) we'd plant a large shrub that can be pruned to grow as a tree. First to mind is

seven son shrub, Heptacodium miconioides. No fall color to speak of but the September white fragrant flowers become tiny but visually mighty pink October seeds and the bark is white and exfoliating -- nice to look at in winter. The plant tends to be an ugly duckling as a youngster because of its gawky branching, but sorts itself out into a nice, high-branched 15-20' tree if pruned as it grows. As we look for photos to post on our Forum with these notes we'll look for B.G.'s tree, which was only 4' when planted but shades a patio just 6 years later. One drawback: Wood is not so strong as maple wood. We’ve seen some ice storm breakage.




For the back yard we'd look at:

A male ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba). Ginkgos grow quickly, up to 18" a year while they are young. (Claims that they are slow growing come from outer space; the growth slows once they mature and spend energy on flower and fruit*, but even then they grow moderately, not slowly.) They have a great spread and can be pruned as they grow to remove lower branches. The fall color is a very clear yellow but it's quick, even a lawn-raker's dream since all the leaves turn during one brief period, and fall quickly. (One year, we saw ginkgos turn gold one day and go completely bare the next. No lie.)

Given loose soil, the ginkgo's roots prefer to grow at an angle down until they reach 12-18" deep, then they grow level. So they are very garden-friendly. Ultimate size may top 70' but when we plant one we think in terms of the planting gardener's tenure and expect the tree to be 20' tall and 30'+ wide in 15-20 years. Very strong wood.

*Ginkgos don't fruit until 20+ years old and then only the females bear the apricot-sized yellow fruit. The males contribute wind-borne pollen; females in the vicinity of a male have fruit but no pollen a fact of importance to people with pollen allergies. To be sure you plant a male, fruitless variety read the label or catalog where males are identified by description and variety name 'Autumn Gold', 'Lakeview' etc.



A lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia), which grows quickly, has a graceful wide spread, is easily limbed up for clearance, and drops only papery small seeds in spring and small leaves in fall. The bark is very pretty, especially in winter. Fall color is not one of its attributes. Strong wood, very resilient under the weight of snow and ice.


One of the hybrid red-silver maples, perhaps a male (seedless) variety such as 'Autumn Blaze.' Has the red fall color an relatively strong wood of the red maple but has a faster growth rate thanks to its silver maple  genes.


Katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) Fast growing, nice gold in fall accompanied by a smell of cinnamon/cloves from the leaves as they change. Would be branched to the ground if allowed so remove lower branches. Do not buy a multi-stemmed specimen as single stem trees grow more quickly up and do not later have trouble with competition between its own trunks.

In Topic: Bush from Zoo Garden

03 September 2016 - 12:28 PM

It's purple bush clover, Lespedeza thunbergii.

In Topic: Redbud pruning

03 September 2016 - 12:26 PM

Late summer (mid August to mid-September in my neck of the woods) is a good time to prune woody plants we want to keep smaller than their potential. Right now, the plant has had a whole growing season to sock away energy, and the growth for this year has pretty much finished so the buds it's set for next year have established their place in the spring growth hierarchy. That is, the buds at the tip are set to dominate -- to grow more than those further down along the branch. Clip the tip buds away now and the remaining buds are likely to begin the year in subordinate mode. Tips will not leap away from the pack, at least to begin the spring.


We've pruned this tree for many years so its framework of main branches is set. Thus pruning consists mostly of cutting back existing branches in late summer. We usually prune it right after bloom, too -- it grows that fast that two clips a year are the only way we've found to keep it in check and also blooming well.

Before the clip...:

Attached File  1RedbudB4OvrallR7351s.jpg   126.04K   72 downloads


... and about an hour later:

Attached File  2RedbudAftrR7407s.jpg   113.59K   76 downloads


The branches we removed are those that developed just this year and extended wider and taller than we permit. We clipped away the likes of these branches. We only allow new growth within the framework and height/width limits we set.

Attached File  3RedbudCutBrsR7373s.jpg   108.18K   66 downloads


Spring blooming trees and shrubs like this redbud have also set their flower buds for next year, and we can tell as we prune how many blossoms we might be sacrificing,

Flower buds usually form only on wood that's at least two years old -- see the point where new growth began, and that flower buds are present only below that point?

Attached File  4RedbudSideBrGrowthR7369s.jpg   54.6K   70 downloads

Attached File  5RedbudFlBsAtBaseR7371s.jpg   94.03K   61 downloads

Attached File  6RedbudFlBudsR7374s.jpg   55.33K   68 downloads


In Topic: Redbud pruning

03 September 2016 - 11:12 AM

Glad to hear it, B.Z. Thanks for taking the time to let me know the second chapter to this story.


Those new branches will themselves branch, naturally, usually in year two. Flower buds may not form except at bases of new branches -- while limbs 2 years old and older develop bloom right to the tips.


What you can do this year, right now being a good time, is to remove any branches that don't fit your vision. That might be awkward crossing branches-- those that originate from one side of the trunk and backtrack to the other side, crossing through the center of the tree. Also, you can clip off the tips of those limbs you're keeping, to stimulate branch bud formation.


Now, if you want to keep the tree smaller than its genes and local conditions allow, you can increase that end-clipping to be branch-shortening. How far you shorten a branch depends on how much you want to restrict the tree's growth. You've seen its growth potential. A brand new main branch, such as those that grew from your cut point, can grow many feet. When a branch is old enough to produce side branches, its overall extension is usually less -- think of its energy as being divided between multiple branches, so one limb that grew 4' might grow just 2' as it extends each of several side branches 12". It's not a straight math equation, because more branches means more leaves, and more leaves means more energy being produced and available. But I think you'll get the picture: If the tree is now as tall and wide as you want it to be, then clip every main branch back by the amount you expect it can extend itself next year; watch and see and adjust your annual cut accordingly.