Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Summer Annuals (Marigolds)

Annuals are short lived plants, usually used for their flower. Annual color has a multitude of uses in the landscape. They are usually used in mass as a center peace of a high traffic area. They can be used as a border along turf, or a long planter bed. They can be used sporadically throughout the landscape to bring color to what might be a bland area.

There are summer annuals, such as marigolds, cosmos, blue salvia, and petunias. These do best in the spring and summer months of the year. There are also winter annuals such as pansys, violas, poppies, and snapdragons. These do best in the fall and winter months.

Annuals, you may ask, only live about one year. They are typically used for only 3 or 4 months at a time before they have to be removed and replaced with a new annual. Sometimes you will get lucky and get a much longer bloom time. This all depends on how you treat them. Annuals need to stay moist, so check the soil early and often. Once they have dried out, that may be it and they will have to be replaced. Over water and the plants may rot. So check the soil periodically and water as needed.

Last but not least is fertilization. Fertilize annuals when you put them in the ground with a slow release granular fertilizer such as Osmocote. Stay away from MiracleGro fertilizers or water soluble fertilizers. These type of fertilizers need to be used fairly often. It is like a quick sugar rush for the plant and if you dont keep that high going, the plant may fizzle out on you.

Please visit for a more extensive list of annuals and enjoy planting!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plant of the Week

Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
Plant of the Week

     My plant of the week is Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’, commonly known as Coral Bells. This perennial is a favorite of mine because of its deep, rich color. This particular variety has a dark purple leaf with very subtle white flowers.

     Heuchera grows best in semi shade to full sun. This really all depends on how hot your area gets. It will tolerate full sun in areas near the coast and prefers morning sun in areas where the weather gets above 90 degrees in the summer. You will want to make sure this plant gets plenty of water when first planted and then scale back the watering depending on your soil type. Watering of plants can be a science in itself, but just stick your finger in the soil and if the top two to three inches of soil feel dry, it may be time to give it a little drink.

     Heuchera grows best in a well drained soil, semi sandy soil.

     Here are some stats for Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’
Bloom Color:
Bloom Time:
Foliage Color:
Mahogany Red
8-12", flowers reach 20"
     Heuchera also comes in many, many different leaf and flower colors. Leaf colors range from deep purple to amber, to a lime green colored one called Lime Rickey. It is also greatly used in pots and adds accent to any landscape. Keep this plant happy and enjoy its uniqueness. Please visit and see all the different and wonderful types of Heuchera out there. Also, check out your local nursery. They will be carrying these plants after the last threat of frost.

     If you see a plant, or just something that catches your eye in the landscape, feel free to email me at I will be happy to answer any and all questions landscape. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter Rose Pruning

Rose Pruning
     Oh no! Rose pruning! I don’t know anything about roses or even how to prune them. It’s not that difficult and I will show you why.

     Roses are not as difficult as people make them out to be. Yes, they get mildew. Yes, some roses are harder to take care of then others. Yes, they do take some maintenance every now and then. But that is the fun part about roses. What is more relaxing than dead heading and bringing a fresh batch of roses into the house for everyone to smell and enjoy. It can be quite gratifying to have a few or a lot of rose bushes in the landscape.

     My focus on roses in winter is pruning. Pruning is an essential part of the roses and most roses need to be pruned back every year. We do this for several different reasons. We prune roses back in the winter to create larger more fragrant blooms for the next growing season. Generally, when roses are pruned back each winter, the first set of blooms tends to be the biggest of the growing season. They will then subside and decrease in size as the growing season progresses. Pruning roses back in the winter will help in keeping these blooms large and robust.

      We prune roses back in the winter to help air circulation throughout the plant. Roses need as much hair circulation as possible. I talked about mildew earlier and opening up the rose during pruning will help reduce the amount of fungus and mildew that a rose will get. Be careful, there are roses out there that just always seem to get mildew and fungus no matter what you do. There are products out there to help battle fungus on roses. I will talk about this in future blogs.

     We can also build shape into rose bushes during winter pruning. Deep winter pruning will help give a more balanced shape to your rose bush for the following growing season. Giving the rose shape and balance will ensure a sturdy rose bush.

     Here is a short list of items that you will need to prune your roses. A pair of hand pruners, having at least a 1” blade on it Corona puts out some great hand pruners and small tools for the landscape. Please connect to or go to your local Home Depot or local garden center. A good set of gloves. Try to get a pair of gloves that are resistant to rose thorns and go all the way up to your elbow. Pruning roses can be a dangerous venture and being safe is never the wrong thing. One last thing, have a set of long handled loppers. These loppers will help in pruning larger branches in the rose bush. Older roses tend to have large and thick stems that may require some bigger tools to cut.

      Thoughts on winter rose pruning vary expert to expert. I am not here to shoot anyone down or tell anyone that they are wrong in what they are doing. Here is how I do it. I like to keep it simple for everyone. Landscapers have a tendency to make this process confusing, but it is quite easy to do and still get the desired result you were looking for.

     The basic idea of deep pruning a rose bush is to get it down to four to six sturdy and healthy canes. You start by removing any and all dead stems and branches which may remain in the rose bush. The plant will put a lot of energy into keeping those dead or dying parts of the plant alive. Let’s get rid of those branches first. Second, look for any branches that may be criss crossing each other, or growing towards the inside of the plant. Pick one of the criss crossing branches and remove it. Remove any branches that are growing towards the center of the rose bush. Now that your rose bush is clear and opened up, its time to take the rest of the rose and reduce it down to 4-6 canes that are about 1-2 feet from the base of the plant. The only way that I can describe this look is this. Take your hand and open it up palm facing the sky. Spread out your fingers and then try to point your fingers toward the sky. The rose should look like a vase from the ground up. After this has been accomplished, remove all the leaves left over after pruning. Any leaves that are left on the plant will only breed fungus and disease for next year’s crop. This also means remove all leaf debris and bark from under the rose bush. This also breeds fungus and disease for next year’s crop. Let’s do our best to stay way from that.

     Now that your rose bush(es) are now pruned, it’s time to be patient. Your rose bushes will start to push out new growth about 1-2 weeks after you prune them. Do not fertilize at this time. You will want to wait until your rose bushes have at least 3 inches of growth on them before you put down any fertilizer or systemic chemicals. I will talk about proper fertilizing and pest management in future blogs. 

Winterizing your Warm Season Lawn

Scalping Turf

     During the fall and winter months, warm season grasses generally do not look their best. Warm season grasses go dormant during the winter. St. Augustine, Bermuda, kikuyu are three of the most common warm season grasses that you will find in the Southern California region.

     For this reason, most people who have warm season lawns will over seed. Over seeding consists of the following: Scalping or dethatching of the grass and actually over seeding the lawn with a cool season grass. A cool season grass, such as annual/perennial rye, standard fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass is chosen to keep the lawn looking its best during its dormant stage.

     Annual and perennial rye grass is the most popular of cool season grasses that are used to over seed. But there is a slight difference between the two types of grass. Annual rye grass is generally less expensive than perennial, but has a lighter, lime green colored leaf. It is less resistant to disease and also will not take as much foot traffic as perennial rye. Perennial rye grass is a much darker green colored grass. It can tolerant about 50% foot traffic and is a little bit more expensive than annual rye.

     The best time to over seed a warm season lawn in Southern California is in the middle to late fall months. But, over seeding can be done as late as late December to early January.

     The first step is to stop watering your grass for up to a week before you dethatch your lawn. This will help you when it is time to dethatch because mowing and dethatching wet grass is very difficult to do. Lowering the mower heights several weeks before, a half an inch at a time until you get to your desired height, will help the dethatching process even more.

     The second step in the over seeding process is to lower the overall heights of your turf. This is done to remove all the thatch in the existing grass. Thatch is removed for both aesthetics and for functionality. Thatch is just down right ugly to look at. It is very difficult to mow turf that has a lot of thatch. Dethatching a lawn every year will only help make mowing the lawn an easier task during the spring and summer.

     Removing the thatch also helps to eliminate the spread of disease and fungus in the lawn. Disease and fungus has a tendency to store itself in warm and moist areas. Thatch is a perfect breeding ground for disease since it helps to keep the ground moist and warm.

     When dethatching, be prepared to pick up a lot of grass debris left behind by your mower. You may choose to use a dethatching mower if your lawn is very thatchy. If you dethatch your lawn on a yearly basis, you will only need a standard walk behind mower. Detchatching can be very labor intensive, but will help keep your lawn looking beautiful in the spring and summer months.

     The third step is to lay down the seed. You will need a rotary spreader for larger areas of turf, or a regular drop spreader for smaller areas. Be sure to check the bag of seed for proper spreader rates. Applying to much seed is just down right wasteful and not applying enough will not give you the desired look you were going for. Take the time to read the label.

     The fourth step is watering and mowing of your over seeded lawn. A basic rule of thumb for watering all newly seeded or over seeded lawns is to keep the seed moist and not wet. You may need to water 2-3 times during the day to keep the seed moist. You will want to keep the seed moist up to germination. Once the seed has germinated, typically 10-14 days later, you can cut back the watering to once a day for one more week. Then go to a three times a week schedule for approximately 3-5 minutes. This may very by zone and location.
Mowing of the turf will commence about 2-3 weeks after the initial seeding of the lawn. Mowing the lawn at 2 ½ inches to 3 inches is standard for all cool season grasses. Cutting the grass to short will lead to weed infestations and you will need to water more often during the week because or of the dirt is exposed to the sun and warmth.

     Now you are done! You have successfully over seeded your lawn. It is time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You will want to spread a fertilizer about 5-6 weeks after over seeding. This will help keep the overall vigor and health of your grass consistent throughout the winter. Feed the turf with a balanced 16-16-16 Turf Fertilizer every 6 weeks or until the weather reaches about 85 degrees.

Good Luck!