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PINING FOR MULCH MADE OF PINE NEEDLES?

 

 by Clinton Lak, ArtisTree Degreed Landscape Architect

Q: I live along a pine-lined swale which gets piled with a plethora of needles at various times throughout the year.  Can I rake them up and use as mulch for my landscape beds?

A: First of all, good for you for re-purposing your pine needles; they can serve as an affordable and attractive mulch for all kinds of landscapes. However, you must be careful where you spread them because they create an acidic soil that many plants can’t tolerate. Also, they’re easily picked up by high winds and can make weed control difficult (they don’t become dense and compacted like other mulches).

So it’s really up to you and how much time you want to invest in maintenance. If you’re willing to do some weeding and are pining for an ultra-natural look with tolerant plants, I say go for it!

Tags:

Landscape Design | Landscape Maintenance | Mulch

SPECKLED, SPLASHED AND SPRINKLED WITH COLOR: COPPERLEAF MAKES A COMEBACK

  by Joe Mantkowski, ArtisTree Landscape Designer, LEED GA

 

Q: I’m building a home in Southwest Florida and looking for an evergreen hedging plant that will add a splash of unique color combinations and variety to my yard.  What would you suggest?

 

A:  I really like and recommend the Fiji-native Copperleaf.  It establishes well in Southwest Florida if you’re building your home in an area where frost is not an issue, plus it thrives in partial shade or sun as long as it’s sheltered from strong wind. The wide variety of colorful foliage makes it a spectacular year-round hedge choice, and you can add it to where other plants won’t grow to give your earth-tone home an “instant makeover.”

I suggest you give Copperleaf a try. It was extremely popular in the 90s but fell out of favor as other tropical plant varieties were introduced into the region. Now it’s coming back into its own, and not a moment too soon for discerning homeowners who want to make a true statement in their modern landscapes.


Tags:

Annual Color | Frost Protection | Landscape Design | Plant selection

PREVENT SENSELESS WATERING WITH RAIN SENSORS. IT’S THE LAW.

 by Leonel Gomez, ArtisTree Irrigation Maintenance Manager


Q:  Why do I see irrigation systems running during a downpour?  Isn’t this wasting our precious water resource?

A:  Unfortunately, yes it is.  Fortunately, Florida has a statute for the use and installation of rain sensors.  It is now a law that all automatic landscape irrigation systems include a rain sensor to stop the water flow once a specific amount of rainfall has occurred.  It sounds as if you’re seeing either older irrigation systems that have not been retrofitted or a faulty new irrigation system.  Either way, a working sensor should be installed to conserve our water resources.  Rain sensors are widely available and an irrigation professional or homeowner can easily install them.  According to UF/IFAS Extension Service, the advantages of installing a rain sensor are:

  • Conserves water -- prevents irrigation after recent rain events.
  • Saves money -- reduces utility bills by interrupting the irrigation system after adequate rainfall.
  • Reduces wear on the irrigation system because the system runs only when necessary.
  • Reduces disease damage by eliminating unnecessary irrigation events.
  • Helps protect surface and groundwater by reducing the runoff and deep percolation that carries pollutants, such as fertilizers, into storm drains and groundwater.

Plus, it’s the law.

 

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Irrigation

DON’T LET “HEAT STALL” HOLD UP YOUR LANDSCAPE’S GROWTH.

 

 

 by Maria Muhlhahn, ArtisTree Purchasing Manager


Q:  This happens to me every July. My annuals look just perfect, then all of a sudden they stop blooming. What am I doing wrong? You’d think they’d bloom all summer long with Florida’s humidity!

 

A:  It sounds counterintuitive, but the summer’s humidity and rising temperatures can cause what we call “heat stall.”  Many plants (and especially tender annuals) can stop flowering or significantly stop growing altogether until temperatures cool.  We suggest that you look for heat-tolerant varieties when planning your landscape design.  Vinca, purslane, caladium, coleus and dwarf allamanda cultivars make good choices for the dog days of summer.

And please don’t give up on your heat-stalled annuals just yet. Stop fertilizing them but keep them watered, and be sure to trim away any legginess. Your biggest challenge will be to remain patient. Just keep reminding yourself that cooler temps are around the corner and that you’ll soon be admiring your annuals once again.

THE LOW-DOWN ON DOWNY MILDEW FROM ARTISTREE

  by Tim White, ArtisTree Pest/Fertilization Manager

 

Q: Our mirror-leaf viburnum started dropping leaves in early March and now just look like a shadow of their original selves. Should we remove them and start over, or do you think they’ll come back?

A:  If you saw spots and defoliation on your viburnums (Awabuki, Sweet or Sandankwa), chances are they suffered from downy mildew disease (Plasmopara viburni). We’ve seen this disease in 30-foot stretches of hedges with 70% defoliation in our communities to the south of Sarasota County and on into Charlotte County.

You can thank Southwest Florida’s cool, fog-producing January and February nights; moisture disperses the spores. Of course, nearby irrigation only worsens the defoliation, so here’s what you can do to help control the damage.

First, make sure your sprinkler systems aren’t directly hitting the foliage. Next, remove all the fallen infected leaves and do not compost. If you feel the need to apply a fungicide, we recommend Heritage (azoxystrobin) or Insignia (pyraclostrobin).

While it may be too late to save your affected hedges, the good news is that many are already refoliating thanks to warmer nights. But you might want to have fungicides in hand for next January - March should the same weather conditions exist. 

 

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ARTISTREE TIP: FOR OUTDOOR ELEGANCE, CONSIDER A WEEPING BOTTLEBRUSH TREE.

 by Kirk Brummett, ArtisTree Landscape Architect

 

Q: I’m looking for a smaller tree that will add privacy and a bit of romance to my Southwest Florida yard. What do you recommend?

A:  One of my all-time favorites is the weeping bottlebrush tree. This brilliant showstopper expertly placed can make outdoor evening dining feel like you’ve been whisked away to Paris. It pleases during the day, too, exuding a lush elegant feel.

Known for its small stature and romantic weeping form, the weeping bottlebrush is unrivaled for its grace and beauty while resisting most pests (which I promise you’ll appreciate when sipping your wine and enjoying evening breezes). And though it’s only about 15 feet tall, it will provide nice privacy as the dense crown matures and develops cascading branches.  Fuzzy bottle-shaped blossoms appear heavily in the spring and intermittently the rest of the year. Requires full to partial sun.

Intrigued? Ask your landscape designer if he or she thinks this evergreen specimen will work in your landscape. If it will, I suggest you celebrate the installation with a bottle of Bordeaux!

ARTISTREE LANDSCAPE TIP: TEST YOUR SOIL BEFORE PLANTING IXORA.

  by Scott Acton, ArtisTree Lawn & Ornamental Director

 

Q:  I used to love my Nora Grant ixoras, but ever since our gardener left, all 20 of them are developing these red spots and the problem is just getting worse. What’s happening?

 A:  The better question might be, “What’s not happening?” Most likely your gardener was applying slow-release, nitrogen-based fertilizer with a balance of phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) to correct the deficiencies. Are the treatments being continued? The reddish leaf-blotch disorder indicates your ixoras are growing in calcareous sandy soil, which is unable to retain nutrients to protect against leaching. You need to add the missing nutrients but avoid using soluble, nitrogen-based fertilizers with high nitrogen content. Doing so will cause more red spots to appear because new growth will be starved of the same missing nutrients.

I’m not sure if your ixoras were planted before or after you moved into your home, but a word to the wise: soil testing will help avoid this kind of situation. If soil is alkaline and mostly sandy, don’t plant this shrub! Ixora can be a litmus test for the health of an entire landscape -- a bellwether of sorts for macro-nutrient deficiency systems. Since you have 20 ixoras, your best bet is to continue adding both phosphorus and potassium (not just one) to prevent the wine-red coloration in your plants’ oldest leaves. Your only other option is to replace them.

 

BE FOND OF YOUR FRONDS; YOUR PALMS NEED THEM TO SURVIVE.

 by Maria Muhlhahn, ArtisTree Purchasing Manager, FCHP, FCEJ, ISA Certified Arborist

 

Q:  Several of my palm’s fronds need pruned. I’ve seen some palms in my community with a severe cut (only a few baby fronds are left at the top). Is that recommended?

A:  No. Unless palm fronds are growing through your pool cage or up into your home’s eaves, most palm canopies should be pruned to about a 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock position. You should only prune brown or mostly brown fronds from a palm. Each frond is a source of nutrients, so every time you remove one, you’re reducing the food and energy it needs to grow and remain in tip-top shape.

A “hurricane cut” (as you described in your question) is one that’s made at an 11 o’clock and 1 o’clock position, which  makes your palm susceptible to reduced winter hardiness, increased stress and premature death. Hurricane cuts also weaken the canopy and trunk, which of course increases the likelihood of the palm becoming destabilized. Translation: Your palm will blow over if summer storms get strong enough and possibly damage your residence and surrounding property.

ArtisTree recommends that you contact a professional tree-care company, preferably one that has an ISA Certified Arborist, BEFORE Florida’s stormy summer arrives. The prospect of dangerously swaying palms should sway you to make that phone call today.

 

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THE NOTORIOUS AND INSATIABLE SOUTHERN CHINCH BUG.

 by Tim White, ArtisTree Pest Control & Fertilization Manager

 

Q:  My St. Augustine sod is turning brown in patches next to my sidewalk and driveway. Could you tell me what this could be?

 

A:  It sounds as if you’ve been visited by the Southern chinch bug, blissus insularis.  These small insects are approximately 1/8 inch long with straw-like mouth parts that feed on the fluids in grass.  They are typically active March through November, and St. Augustine sod is their favorite food. 

Chinch bugs are very difficult to control, because all stages of the insect (egg, nymph and adult) are present at the same time, and most insecticides do not kill the egg. One female can lay 300 eggs.

Hot, dry conditions are a breeding ground for chinch bugs, so you’ll often find them in stressed lawns and near structures that emit a lot of heat -- like concrete or paver walkways, foundations and driveways.

Chinch bugs do have natural enemies, but unfortunately they’re not abundant enough to kill these hungry pests. The best thing you can do to reduce your lawn’s susceptibility to chinch bugs is to mow your St. Augustine at three- to-four inches to ensure a strong root system. Make sure your irrigation system is providing adequate coverage since chinch bugs thrive in drought conditions. And walk your lawn every now and then. Regular lawn scouting can be effective for early detection and treatment. 

Be aware that not all damage to lawns is caused by chinch bugs; other factors can create similar appearances.  So do your due diligence and contact a professional. The first step for treatment is always proper identification of the problem. Hire someone who uses the best product available and knows how and when to apply it.

         

WHEN IT COMES TO LIGHTING, ARTISTREE SHINES.

 by Mike Casper, Maintenance Operations Manager, ArtisTree

 

Q:  I’m building a new home in Southwest Florida and want to emphasize the architectural elements and landscaping with some cool lighting like I see in the magazines.  What does ArtisTree suggest?

A:  What a smart question, especially in light of (pun intended) the recent changes in bulb usage laws.  Regardless of which system you choose, outdoor lighting is a highly efficient way to add curb appeal, safety and security to your home.  Low-voltage halogen lighting has long been the industry standard for landscape lighting; however, new strides in commercial LED landscape lighting have made halogen a less attractive option. Both the flexibility and power requirements of a LED system save time and a ton of money over the life of the materials.  Also, the voltage-drop issues that can plague a halogen system are virtually non-existent. 

Energy efficiency is important when choosing an outdoor lighting fixture. For residential lighting, LED steals the show for being more energy-efficient and longer lasting than halogen.  Sure, halogen’s initial price is lower, whereas the initial investment in LEDs can be rather expensive. But one study shows a savings of nearly $8,000 in operating costs of a LED system over halogen based on the same number of fixtures, lamp wattage and usage in an 18-year timeframe.

Regardless of what system you choose, it’s important to remember that all lighting systems require a little maintenance from time to time.  You’ll need to check the wiring, clean lenses, and re-direct light to accommodate growth and changes in landscape.

Hope this sheds some light on the subject for you and that your results are every bit as good as what you’ve seen in magazines.