Friday, March 20, 2015

Trees You Wish You Had Planted

Spring is just about here and I'm one of those people who like different, unusual plants. I do not want to have what everyone else has. I think many of us are like that. 

The best estimate for the number of tree species in the world is 23,000 to 25,000. That means that we have more to choose from than just maples, redbuds, oaks, or Leyland cypresses.

I will be the first to admit that some of the trees I’m recommending will not be easy to find, nor will you have the choice of a 3” caliper tree. Many times you will have one option and that is a stick.  Let me enlighten you about sticks.

There is plenty of research that finds a smaller tree will establish faster (and less transplant shock) and grow faster in the first several years after planting than a large caliper tree.  Often, a tree planted when 24-36” tall will outgrow the same species tree planted as a much larger 2” caliper transplant and actually be larger in 5-10 years.

Also, please don’t settle for whatever the garden center or nursery has on site. Many times they can order the plant you want. Ask them to do it for you so they know you are not satisfied with what they have in stock.

The following is a list of some uncommon, small, tough landscape trees for around your home. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but these are some really interesting trees.

  1. Trident maple (Acer buergerianum) -- 20-30' tall, rounded form, fall color yellow-red, unique leaf shape, tolerant of heat, compacted soils, and pH, exfoliating bark
  2. Hedge maple (Acer campestre) -- 25-35' tall, rounded form, yellow fall color, ornamental seedpods, tolderant of drought, heat, compacted soils, and pH
  3. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum) -- 20-30' tall, rounded form, red fall color, exfoliating cinnamon-colored bark, trifoliate leaves, grows better in good soils
  4. Speckled alder (Alnus rugosa) -- 20-25' tall, upright form, minimal fall color, has ability to dry out wet areas, tolerates poor soils, fast-growing
  5. Serviceberry (Amelachier spp.) -- 15-25' tall, upright form, red-yellow-orange fall color, blooms early, edible fruit, pH-tolerant, some good selections are 'Autumn Brilliance' and 'Lustre'
  6. Devil's Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa) -- 10-20' tall, open and upright form, yellow fall color, tolerates heat and dry shade, suckering, has spines, compound leaves, lends tropical look
  7. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) -- 15-20' tall, pyramidal (in full sun), yellow fall color, can be difficult to transplant, no fruit if only one tree, tropical-looking
  8. Sweet birch (Betula lenta) -- to 40' tall, upright form, great yellow fall color, reddish-brown papery bark, bruised stems emit wintergreen aroma
  9. American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) -- 20-30' tall, rounded, irregular form, red-orange-yellow fall color, fluted bark looks like rippled muscles, tolerant of wet soils and pH
  10. Katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) -- to 50' tall, upright, rounded form, yellow fall color, heart-shaped foliage, weeping form 'Amazing Grace' only 30' tall, fall leaves smell like cotton candy
  11. Amur maackia (Maackia amurensis) -- 20-25' tall, rounded form, no fall color, very attractive redish, exfoliating bark, compound leaves, dull white, pea-like flower in summer
  12. Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica) -- 20-30' tall, upright oval form, yellow-red fall color, exfoliating bark, unusual early spring blooms, pH tolerant, best upright form 'Jennifer Teates'
  13. Lacebark pine (Pinus bungeana) -- 30' tall. upright oval form, evergreen, exfoliating bark, often multi-trunked, drought and pH tolerant, 'Silver Ghost'
  14. Dragon's Eye Pine (Pinus densiflora) -- 20' tall, irregular form ,evergreen, variegated needles with 1-2 yellow bands, slow-growing

Friday, December 26, 2014

December's 25 Days of Superior Trees, Shrubs, and Perennials

People love lists. I love lists. So when December 1st rolled around, I made a decision to put together a list of trees, shrubs, and perennials for each of the days leading up to Christmas.  So here you go:
  1.  Weeping Norway spruce – living waterfall, yr-round interest, up to 15' tall 
  2.  Miyabe maple – small (up to 40’) tree, dense shade, yellow fall color, fruit produced in fall 
  3. Winterberry holly – deciduous holly, needs male pollinator, up to 15’, bees
  4.  Arrowwood viburnum – durable, adaptable, blue or black fruit, 6 to 15’ tall
  5. Weeping katsura – up to 25’ tall, Asian tree, redbud-like leaves, full sun to part-shade
  6.  ‘Rozanne’ Geranium – cranesbill geranium, makes 18” mound, purple-blue blooms June to frost
  7. Trident maple -- up to 35’ tall, tolerates everything you can throw at it, red/yellow fall color, exfoliating bark
  8. Weeping beech – up to 60’ tall, smooth bark, interesting form, esp winter, 
  9. Buttonbush – native, leggy shrub up to 10-15’ tall, bloom is curious, white and round, attracts pollinators & butterflies 
  10. ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod – clump-forming, non-invasive goldenrod, 3-4’ tall, attracts pollinators 
  11. Persian ironwood – nice, small tree, very attractive bark, yellow/orange/red fall color, red late-winter blooms
  12. Fothergilla – magnificent shrub, early white bloom, cultivars give reliable orange/red/yellow fall color, blue-green leaves, ‘Mt Airy’
  13. Sweet birch – native, 40-55’ tall, best fall color (yellow) of all birches, attractive, dark, shiny, bark, bruised stems emit wintergreen odor 
  14. Blazingstar – there are several and they are native, reliable, summer-blooming perennials that pollinators adore. 
  15. Butterflyweed or swamp milkweed – for the monarchs, these 2 are the showiest and least invasive 
  16. Green Panda Bamboo – not invasive, 6-8’ tall and equal width, protect from pm sun, used as single plant or hedge. 
  17. Kentucky coffeetree – native, KY Heritage Tree, large tree, suckers from root, male selections (no pods), dappled shade. 
  18. Blackgum – native, red fall color, 30-50’ tall, blue-black berries, glossy foliage, v.good honey tree  
  19. Purple Beautyberry – small shrub up to 5’ tall, most graceful of the beautyberries, metallic purple berries, also a white-berried selection. 
  20. Bottlebrush buckeye – part-shade to sun, suckering shrub, excellent foliage and flowers (white spikes), 10’ tall  
  21. Paperbark maple – trifoliate-leaved, cinnamon-brown exfoliating bark, orange-red fall color, 20-30’tall  
  22. Nordman fir – heat-tolerant, well-drained soils, 40-60’ tall, soft needles, conical evergreen, weeping & prostrate forms  
  23. Baptisia – white, purple, and yellow forms, some cultivars, perennial with 4 season appeal, handsome foliage, flowers, seedpods  
  24. Burkwood viburnum -- superior selection ‘Mohawk’, ornamental red flower buds precede fragrant white flowers, 7’tall and wide 
  25. Fringetree – small, native tree 15-20’ tall, white fragrant blooms, unrivaled when in full bloom, blue berries  
These plants were featured on my Twitter feed @hortagentbeth and facebook page.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fothergilla -- Weird Name But Outstanding Plants

Fothergilla was actually named after a Quaker physician named John Fothergill. It is a member of the witch hazel family and includes 2 species, Fothergilla gardenii and F. major.

The genus has lived in obscurity despite the efforts of plantsmen like Michael Dirr and Harrison Flint.  However, once hybrids of the 2 species were created, fothergilla finally got some attention.

Fothergilla gardenii, dwarf fothergilla, is native to the coastal plains of North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. It is low-growing (2-3' tall) and will sucker to an equal spread.

Leaves are blue-green. Blooms come in early spring before the leaves unfold. Bottlebrush-like flowers are white and have a honey scent. Fall color can be quite vibrant but will vary from plant to plant.

F. gardenii will not do well in alkaline, heavy soils. It does best in acidic conditions, well-drained but continually moist soils. It can be propagated by seed or with softwood cuttings.

Cultivars: 'Appalachia', 'Blue Mist', and 'Jane Platt'

Fothergilla major, large or mountain forthergilla, is a highland species native to the mountains of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama.

F. major is a large, multi-stemmed shrub that can grow 6 to 10' high.  The leaves are large and green.

Blooms typically in a landscape setting emerge at about the same time as F. gardenii. Blooms are larger than F. gardenii. Fall color is more reliably vivid.

F. major is more tolerant of stressful conditions so it is much better adapted to cultivation. It is cold hardy to USDA zone 4 and will tolerate heavier soils. The species can be propagated by softwood cuttings and seed, though seed production is much less than F. gardenii.

Cultivars: 'Arkansas Beauty' and 'Mystic Harbor'.

Fothergilla x intermedia  hybrids were created from crossing F. gardenii and F. major. Propagators selected for compact size, vigor, bloom, and fall color. These hybrids caught on fast in the 1990s when the selection 'Mt Airy' was introduced by Michael Dirr.

These hybrid fothergillas work best for the landscape as they have the best qualities of both parents. 'Mt Airy' is the standard by which all future hybrids will be measured.
'Mt Airy' in bloom in Somerset 4/13

'Mt Airy' fall color in Pulaski Co on 11/8/12

'Mt Airy' fall color in Pulaski Co on 11/14/14

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Garlic Planting Time is Now

Garlic is a garden specialty that can be successfully grown in Kentucky. It does take some advance planning. It is a long season, over-wintered crop, with planting best done in the fall months for a bountiful harvest next summer. 

Like flower bulbs, garlic and its close relative, elephant garlic are perennial bulbs. When fall-planted, garlic cloves will root and make limited growth before the first hard freeze. In the early spring, growth resumes, bulbs and eventually seed stalks form, then the tops die down in early summer.

Garlic may be spring planted, but an internal chill requirement must be met for the cloves to properly grow. Thus spring planted garlic should be stored in the refrigerator for at least 8 weeks prior to planting to ensure proper chilling. Fall-planted garlic will obtain its chilling in the soil and has the advantage of gaining fall root growth and earlier maturity. If properly planted, cold temperatures will not hurt garlic. 

Fall-planted garlic should be done by mid-October. Depending on local conditions, too early may lead to too much tender top growth by winter; too late and not enough root development occurs.
Soil requirements for garlic include high organic matter levels and good drainage. A waterlogged soil will cause cloves to rot. Form raised beds if your soil is heavy or poorly drained. Lay out planting rows 15 to 18 inches apart. Separate individual cloves from the main bulb and plant them about 4 to 6 inches apart in the row. The larger cloves of elephant garlic should be set 6 to 9 inches apart. As a general rule, the larger the clove, the larger the bulb will be at harvest. Cloves should be set with tip up, and 1 to 2 inches below the soil surface. 

Because garlic is a poor competitor, good weed control is important. Though fall and winter weed problems are minor, spring and early summer weeds can be invasive and should be controlled. Mulch helps provide winter protection and conserves moisture during the summer. 

Only during drought-like conditions should garlic be watered. As bulbs approach maturity avoid any supplemental watering. One or two soluble fertilizer applications in early and mid-spring will help promote vigorous and uniform growth. 

As flower shoots (scapes) form in late spring, be sure to cut them off (hardneck types produce scapes). This helps to increase the bulb size. As an added bonus, garlic scapes are considered a delicacy and can be chopped fresh into salads.

Cloves from 'Music', these should be planted tips up

Garlic scapes on hardneck types
Harvest garlic before the tops completely die down, preferably with 4 to 6 green leaves still attached. Remove excess soil, but do not wash, and lay whole plants on screens or hang in small bunches to dry. Allow it to cure completely in a warm, well-ventilated room, but not in direct sunlight. Watch for rotting bulbs, remove these and increase air circulation if needed using a box fan. Curing will take about 4 to 6 weeks. 

After that, roots and tops can be trimmed, and outer dirty skins can be removed. Store cured garlic in a cool dry place. Remember all garlic varieties taste the same at harvest time, but after curing and a few weeks of storage time, individual variety flavors will come out. 

A few good varieties include 'Music' and 'Bogatyr' (hardneck types). Others include 'Polish' (softneck type). There are many varieties of garlic, and the best sources of planting stock are mail-order and internet specialty seed companies and diverse garden centers.

Harvest time, leaves are beginning to yellow and die
For more information on vegetable crop growing, take a look at University of Kentucky publication Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky

Pictures by Beth Wilson, Pulaski County Horticulture Agent 

Friday, September 26, 2014


I am getting extremely fond of bulbs, and why not? They need be planted only once and you get many, many years of returns.

Many of us have experience with tulips and many of our experiences are not that great. Generally what I hear is most of us only get a year's worth of bloom, then they are either weak or non-existent the following year.

However, if you pick the right species of tulip, I think you'll be as happy as gardeners are with daffodils (meaning: pretty dang happy).

Come to a class on tulips here at the Pulaski Co Extension office on October 2 at 6pm. The fee is $15 and if you pre-register, you will get to take home several of  the species tulips.

There are several species of tulips which should be considered for the home landscape in Kentucky.
  • Tulipa kaufmanniana  
  • T. fosteriana
  • T. greigii
  • T. clusiana 
  • T. sylvestris
  • T. praestans 
  • T. tarda
  • T humilis
  • T. bakerii
  • and many more! 
Darwin hybrids are big and bold and will last many years in the garden as well.
Here's a link to the University of Kentucky publication HO-80 'Spring, Summer, and Fall Bulbs'

All images from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.
T. kaufmanniana
T. praestans
T. clusiana

Thursday, August 28, 2014

End of Summer Classes

     We have several upcoming classes here at the Pulaski County Extension Service.  Call us at (606)679-6361 for more information. Here's what's going on, fees, dates and times.
     Mini-Gardens are Mega-Fun, September 16 at 6pm at the Pulaski County Extension office. Come learn about mini-gardens from Master Gardener Robin Orwin. With mini-gardens you can combine your artistic skills with gardening on a small-scale. This is a make and take class. The fee is $20 and class size is limited to 30 participants. Register and pay before September 10.

     Species Tulips, October 2 at 6pm at the Pulaski County Extension office. Hybrid tulips seem to melt out quickly in Kentucky and not be true perennials.  Learn about species tulips, a much more reliable perennial and take some home to plant this fall. Fee is $15, pre-registration is required. Class size limited to 50 participants. Here's a link to Brent and Becky's tulips

     Perennial Onions, October 14 at 6pm at the Pulaski County Extension office. Come learn about this different group of onions that we can plant in the fall and harvest the following year. You will take home a sample of 3 different onions. Fee is $15, pre-registration is required. Class size limited to 50 participants.

     All Day Blueberry School for Commercial Producers, October 16, 8am to 3:30pm, Pulaski County Extension office. This full day workshop will cover topics such as site selections, blueberry growth and development, nursery production, pruning, insect management, and disease control. Fee is $10 for lunch (can be accepted day off workshop). Free copy of Midwest Blueberry Production Guide for all attendees.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Non-Emerald Ash Borer Ash Problems

    Emerald ash borer (EAB) is eventually going to come and kick some major ash in Pulaski County KY.  However, even without this pest, ashes have their share of problems.  Let's go over a few of the most common.
     Ash/lilac borer -- unlike EAB, these borers tend to infest already stressed ash trees.  Symptoms include tree decline (thinning canopy) and round exit holes. here is a pupal case that is often observed on the bark of ash trees.  All borers are hard on trees and will cause thinning of the canopy and general decline.
     Ash anthracnose -- this fungal disease usually hits in cool, moist springs. Brown spots develop on the leaves, leaves will usually fall off, but the tree will regrow a new set of leaves.  This is not good for the tree as it has to have double the energy supply to create a whole new set of leaves. You may see general dieback of the canopy if the tree is infected multiple seasons.

     General decline -- this omnipresent problem is hard for many tree owners to understand. As much as we like to think trees live forever, they don't. Drought, floods, improper pruning, planting too deeply, changing the grade, and trenching near a tree can all cause the tree to be unthrifty and be the start of a downward spiral.