Sunday, May 13, 2012

Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple

3 year old Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple in Eagle Mtn, UT
The Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple or Acer palmatum dissectum 'Viridis' is a fantastic accent or specimen tree for shady areas.  This particular slow growing tree has a cascading mound shape and can reach a mature height and width of ten feet over 15+ years.  The beautiful, lacy leaves make this tree an immediate standout in your landscape.  It is a great specimen for planting as an understory tree (beneath a large tree) but is often used to compliment other Japanese maples such as the Crimson Queen.  If you have a small lot, the Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple is a great choice.  The leaves turn a rich, golden-yellow color in the fall and the weeping nature of the branches provide a wonderful winter interest as well.   

The Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple needs moist, well-drained soil to survive.  It also must be planted in a location that is protected (near the house or a fence) and one that receives only morning sun.  The hot, afternoon sun is an enemy of this tree. 
Green Laceleaf Japanese Maple, Eagle Mountain, UT

In Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, the heavy clay soils need to be heavily amended as to provide drainage for this tree when getting it started.  I planted this tree in an old flower bed on the north side of the house.  The soil had already been heavily amended to a depth of ten inches, but there is nothing but clay under that. When I planted this tree, the root ball was touching the clay layer.   It seems to be thriving so far after three years.  Our clay loam is good for holding the moisture without drowning the tree; however do not plant the tree in an area where there is constant standing water or it will drown.  Just keep the soil moist though occasional deep watering.   As a standard procedure in my yard, I give all trees and shrubs chelated iron.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dwarf Burning Bush, an Autumn Fireshow

Eight year old Burning Bush, Eagle Mountain, Utah  2012
The Dwarf Burning Bush or Euonymus alata "Compactus" is a fantastic and versatile plant for the Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs area.  It is a native to East Asia, Korea, and Japan.  The plant is an invasive species in parts of New England and is prohibited there, but it is no problem in Utah.  I have not noticed my plants spreading. 

The Burning Bush is a slow to moderate grower, but the fantastic autumn show is well worth it.  It grows to a height of 8 feet and nearly as wide.  It can be planted as a screen hedge (which would take many years to mature) or as an ornamental or interest plant. In the spring, the leaves are a fresh, light green and then later turn into a dark green during the summer heat.  

The Burning Bush seems to do well in our clay soils, but I would recommend that you plant it in amended soil for better drainage. It usually takes about two years for it to overcome the initial transplant shock and it will seem like it is stagnant and not growing, but once it is established it will be fine--just keep the soil moist.  I would also recommend that you fertilize it once a year with a fertilizer stake and more importantly, feed it chelated iron.  Our alkaline soils can be somewhat problematic for the Burning Bush and I have noticed that it gets slightly chlorotic in the summer where the leaves may look a little tinged on the ends and lighter in the center.  This plant won't die from minor chlorisis, but using chelated iron rectifies the cosmetic problems and makes for a fiery fall show.  

I highly recommend this plant. Other than regular watering, it requires little care once established, and it requires very little pruning.    

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Where Lilacs Bloom!

Lilac Bush, Eagle Mountain, Utah  2012
No yard in Utah seems complete without a lilac tree, bush, or shrub.  Lilacs originated in Europe and Asia and there are over one-thousand different varieties.  Some varieties are short, compact shrubs while the trees can reach a height of 30 feet.   They are long-lived plants and often far outlive the person who planted them.   Around Utah, most people plant lilac bushes which get to a height of six to eight feet.  They make excellent hedges or privacy screens.  The aromatic spring blooms provide a wonderful clean freshness to any yard or inside a home.  Common bloom colors that folks tend to select are lavender and white, but there are other colors as well such as reddish-pink and purple.  Small lilac trees have very few blooms because the blooms only form on older wood.  The longer (and larger) you have your lilac, the more blooms it will produce.     

Lilacs prefer alkaline over acidic soils, so that is good news for Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs.   They are easy to grow, but I have seen neighbors plant lilacs that have not survived, but that was due to neglect rather than soil or environmental conditions.  Like all vegetation in a semi-desert climate,  water is an essential ingredient to ensure survival.

If you desire to remove the spent flowering head, prune after the blooming phase is over.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spring Show? Spring Snow Crabapple

Spring Snow Crabapple, 2012.
Crabapple trees do very well in the soils west of Utah Lake.  Not only are they fast growing, but they provide beautiful springtime blossoms (and scents) and they provide winter interest.   The Spring Snow crabapple is one of my favorite trees.  The trees grows uniformly, has lush, dark green foliage, smells wonderful in the spring, and turns a golden yellow in the fall.  They are easy to take care of, which means they don't need a lot of babysitting (don't drop dead branches and are fruitless). 

Crabapples are ornamental trees.  They are great for shade around patios or make a nice statement in the front of your home.  The Spring Snow crabapple can get as tall as 20-25 feet and 15-20 feet wide making it one of the larger fruitless crabapples. 

Pros:  Uniform growth; fast growing; fruitless (no fruit mess on the ground); blossoms have a pleasant scent; grows well in the clay soils of Utah.

Cons:  Requires occasional pruning

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tulip Time

2012 Spring Tulips
Tulips will grow in just about any kind of soil, but they do much better in rich soils that all types of flowers love.  A loose, well-drained soil will allow your tulip bulbs to proliferate which can be a problem for some avid flower gardeners.  Thanksgiving Point digs up their old bulbs and replants in the fall.  I don't have that kind of time so I just allow them to grow back from year to year and they look great each year.  If they begin to spread beyond what you would like, dig up the excess tulip bulbs and discard or give them away.   On the other hand, planting bulbs in the natural hard-packed clay soil without conditioning the soil with clay loosening amendments such as peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite, will constrict the bulb and your tulip may not even bloom the following year or have unhealthy looking stalks and blooms.

Tulips are simple to plant.  If you are starting a tulip garden, plant the bulbs in the fall.  I usually plant in late October, and I have often planted in November with great success.   Choose colors that you feel would best suit the look you are trying to achieve.  I used to plant all sorts of weird colors, but I found that a simple yellow looks very nice in the spring.   Also, think of layering your bulbs and planting clusters of  daffodil bulbs among your tulips.  The daffodils will bloom first, and once they have finished the tulips will start blooming.  Read the instructions on the bulbs very carefully.  You can find some tulips bloom earlier than others and that helps create a longer lasting bloom season for your garden if you layer them well.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Autumn Blaze Maples

Photo taken in the Ranches of Eagle Mountain, October 15, 2011.
They are healthy eight year old trees. Click on photo to enlarge.

Despite what you are told, Autumn Blaze maple trees can survive in the soils of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs; however, they will only survive if properly cared for.  These trees are cultivars of Silver and Red Maples.  Silver Maples are known to be easily chlorotic.  Chlorosis is a condition where the leaves of a plant produce insufficient chlorophyll (the stuff that makes them green, healthy, and vital for photosynthesis to take place).  The alkaline soils of the area (much of Utah in fact) prevent the trees from taking iron and manganese minerals found in the soil and converting them to useful nutrients.

Because Autumn Blaze maples are cultivars of Silver Maples, they were cursed with this problem.  Spreading Iron enriched fertilizer or Ironite on the ground will not help Autumn Blaze Maples.  They need Iron and Manganese that has been "chelated" or made water soluble so the plant's roots can absorb the mineral.  If these "chelated" nutrients are not given to the afflicted trees, they will die a slow death over the course of several years.

A tree or plant that is chloritic will have veined and yellowed leaves.  Caught early enough, you can reverse the problem.  Trees that have lost the majority of their leaves or are irregularly small and almost yellowish-white in appearance may be past saving. 

There are many different iron and manganese chelates on the market.  They are in either liquid or powder form.  The Fertilome brand makes a liquid chelate that is both iron and manganese.  I buy that brand for summer applications, and I buy a powdered version for a winter application.  Ferriplus is a brand by Miller that is pricey but great for applying directly to the snow (in powder form) underneath the tree from the dripline to the trunk. The red powder makes the snow look like a murder scene, so I usually do this just before a snowfall.  As the snow melts in the spring, the iron chelate goes down in the saturated soil. In my opinion, the winter application is the most important one.  I use the Liquid Iron by Fertilome for the summer applications.  After mixing with water, you can spray directly on the leaves, but I prefer mixing the solution in a five gallon bucket of water and pouring liberally around the base of the tree, extending out to the dripline.  I do this once in the spring, once in the summer, and shake the powder on the snow in the winter.  I use the product quite liberally, especially as the trees get bigger. 

If you are the type of person that doesn't want to bother growing Autumn Blaze maples or other high-maintenance plants, then don't.  Get rid of them rather than let them become an eyesore.  But for those that want to save their trees and enjoy their fabulous colors, it is well worth it.   The picture above was taken on October 15, 2011.  The trees were eight years old at the time of the photo and they look spectacular in the fall.  Unfortunately, the Ranches master plan called for Autumn Blaze maples to be planted in the park strips of my neighborhood,  where many of them are either dead or dying of starvation.   In the case of me and my neighbors, our trees are healthy because our trees are treated with a bit of TLC and chelated iron.

Iron Chelate can be fairly expensive.  Buying the Fertilome product through Amazon offers a great savings.  I can only find the powdered Ferriplus by Miller at Cooks Nursery in Orem.  It is approximately $21 but is great stuff.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Snowmound Spirea, a Living Fence

Snowmound Spirea hedge in the Ranches of Eagle Mountain, Utah.
Snowmound Spirea makes a fantastic border plant or hedge. It is a moderate grower that does well in the soils of Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs. This picture was taken in the Ranches and shows a nice, healthy row of Snowmound Spirea defining the border between two yards. It is known for its dense, snowy-white blossoms in late May or early June which can last about two weeks. The Snowmound Spirea pictured here was grown in specially built stepped, planter boxes to help keep the grass from growing underneath the shrub. The Snowmound Spirea can be allowed to grow wildly as shown or can be pruned into a hedge or more compact form. It grows to about 5 feet in height and width.

Like most trees and shrubs in Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs, special care needs to be administered to get them off to a good start. The soil should be loosened to a depth slightly deeper than the rootball and the hole should be dug about twice the diameter of the plant. Adding nutrients such as compost and peat moss helps to loosen the soil and provide better drainage. Also, when planting shrubs and trees, a root stimulator should be applied, and constant vigilince should be taken to keep the plant moist for the rest of the summer. It is best to keep weeds from growing beneath the Snowmound Spirea since they can grow up through the dense branches and make it look unsightly. Vines, such as Morning Glory, can actually wrap around the branches of the spirea and kill the plant over time.

Monrovia has a good website that details the Snowmound Spirea characteristics. You can purchase Monrovia products at the Linden Nursery.

Snowmound Spirea:

Linden Nursery: