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Yesterday, I showed you a photo of a citrus tree that I came upon during a landscape consultation.  



I mentioned that there was more then one problem affecting this tree.  There are actually two large problems and one small problem.

Problem #1: Look at the area near the trunk.  Notice a little green shoot coming up from a small citrus root?

This innocent-looking little sucker can cause a lot of problems if allowed to grow.  The reason for this is that citrus trees are grafted onto a vigorous rootstock.

Basically, the top of a citrus tree and the roots come from different plants.  Citrus trees we enjoy in our landscape don’t have a particularly strong root system.  So, they are grafted onto a thorny, citrus tree that has vigorous roots and sour fruit.


Occasionally, small suckers from the thorny, citrus tree start to grow up from the roots or the base of the trunk below the bud union.  The bud union is a bulge around the lower part of the tree, about a foot above the ground.  Any suckers that originate from below the bud union should be removed, because if allowed to grow – the thorny citrus tree will grow and take over.

Now, back to our original picture for our second problem…


Problem #2: Look closely at the soil and you can see signs of shallow irrigation. How can you tell? Look at the small citrus roots criss crossing out from the tree.  In a properly watered citrus tree, you shouldn’t see the roots at all.

This indicates that when the tree is irrigated, that the water is not turned on long enough to penetrate to the recommended 3 ft. depth.

When I pointed this out to the homeowner, she indicated that if the water is turned for too long, that it runs out from the basin.

There are two solutions for this problem.  

 Elevate the sides of the basin to at least 6 inches high and allow to fill with water.  Next, check to see how deeply you have watered by taking a long, narrow stick or piece of rebar and push it into the wet soil.  It should go down fairly easily to the point where the water permeates.  Pull it back out and you will get a good idea of how much more or less water you will need.

– If after trying the first solution and you still haven’t hit the recommended 3 ft. depth, then try this trick – water in the morning, filling up the basin.  Allow the water to sink and fill the basin again later in the day.  This should help you achieve the right depth.


The smaller problem is really nothing to be overly concerned about…



If you look closely, some of the leaves have ragged edges and holes.  The damage is caused by the Orange Dog Caterpillar.  This caterpillar appears in the summer months and resemble ‘bird poop’ which makes them hard to spot.  


These caterpillars will turn into the beautiful Giant Swallowtail butterfly.  Mature citrus trees can usually handle the damage from the caterpillars, so in most cases, the best thing to do is nothing.

For additional resources for raising citrus in the Valley of the Sun and other areas throughout the Southwest, check out this helpful link.


Do you have citrus trees in your landscape?  Which kinds?

In honor of Halloween, I thought that I would do a ‘scary’ post for all of you.  


Now, this post isn’t filled with ghouls, witches, skeletons or zombies.  But that doesn’t make it any less scary.  


Over the years, I have photographed examples of truly horrific pruning, which are quite scary 😉


WARNING:  The following images are not for the faint of heart…



These used to be Jacaranda trees.  I say “used to” because they died because of this severe and unnecessary pruning.

This is a photo of a Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) that was pruned the wrong way.

Unfortunately, this was a landscape that I was in charge of 14 years ago next to the clubhouse on a golf course.  

My well-intentioned crew member, thought he was doing me a favor by pruning them for me.  He was so proud of the work he had done, that he came into my office and asked me to come outside and see his handiwork.

I must say, that it was hard to criticize him because he was so proud of his work.  Needless to say, I transferred him to doing more clean-up and less pruning around the golf course.

A few months later, he returned to his small town in Mexico where he became mayor 🙂

*This is what Red Yucca are supposed to look like when in flower…


As you can see, you don’t cut the grass-like, succulent foliage below – ever.  The flowers can be pruned to the base when they die.  If the base clump become to wide, then divide the base much like you would perennials.

This photo was taken of another landscape area about 12 years ago that I was in charge of by another golf course.  I made sure that the crew did not prune it 😉


Last month, I was in the historic district of downtown Phoenix returning from a landscape consultation when I drove by these very sad California Fan Palms.  

While fall is the time to prune back – this is NOT the way to do it.  Too much was removed.  For guidelines on how to prune palm trees, click here.


This was a beautiful Palo Brea tree.  Unfortunately, it was ‘topped’ in order for the homeowner to preserve their view of the mountains.

‘Topping’ trees is very bad for trees.  It leaves the upper branches open to sunburn, which is often followed by insect infestations or disease.  

In fact, topping trees causes the tree to grow faster, to replace the lost foliage, which leads to an increased need for pruning.  The branches that appear after ‘topping’ have a very weak attachment, which makes the new branches a hazard because they are in danger of breaking off.

**If a tree is blocking a view that is important to you – then remove the tree instead of subjecting it to torturing it with this type of pruning.


Here is another example of ‘topping’.  This parking lot in Scottsdale, has trees like this.

Believe it or not, this ‘topped’ tree is a Willow Acacia (Acacia salicina).

This is what it should look like…


Hard to believe that they are the same type of tree, isn’t it?


I don’t think that I have ever seen an agave pruned so badly before.

The only time you need to prune an agave is to remove the bottom leaves, once they die.

I think that this agave would have looked much nicer if they had left it alone, like the one below…


It would also be much healthier and less likely to be susceptible to insect attack.


Believe it or not, these are citrus trees.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I drove by and saw what had happened to these trees.

You may be thinking that maybe they suffered from severe frost damage and had to be cut back.  But, I assure you, this wasn’t the case.  I worked just down the road from this house and there was no reason for these trees to be pruned this severely.

Ideally, citrus trees are pruned in March, concentrating on removing dead branches and suckers.  

In fact, did you know that the lower branches produce more fruit that tastes sweeter than that on the higher branches?  That is why you see citrus growers letting the lower branches of their trees grow instead of pruning them up into tree shapes.

**Just don’t let any branches (suckers) from below the bud union grow because they are from the root stock and are thorny and will produce sour fruit.


Much like the Red Yucca I showed you earlier, these Desert Spoon have been butchered.

They also did the same to their own Red Yucca, off to the right.

Desert Spoon has a beautiful, natural form.


The only pruning to be done is to remove the bottom leaves once they turn brown and die.

**************************

I hope you haven’t been to ‘scared’ by these scary pruning practices.

Sometimes it is easy to get carried away when pruning.  But it is important to remember that a plant’s leaves make the food for the plant.  Take away the ability of the plant to make food, it will re-route resources normally used for dealing with environmental stresses as well as defenses against insects and disease toward growing new leaves.

This will make your plants/trees more susceptible to other problems, not to mention leaving them ugly.


Southwest landscapes are suffering from a widespread malady that I like to refer to as ‘poodle-pruning’.  


Beautiful, flowering shrubs are reduced to round ‘blobs’ by over-zealous homeowners and landscapers.  


For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you probably know that over-pruning flowering shrubs is a huge pet peeve of mine.


Over the years, I have seen many examples of over-pruning and in some rather interesting shapes.  However, last week I saw an example of pruning that caused me to stop my truck in the middle of a busy parking lot so I could take a photo.


I don’t think that I have EVER seen such precise pruning before.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the landscaper who did this had a ‘level’ with him to create these precise lines on these Texas Sage shrubs.

Of course, I have seen flowering shrubs pruned into other shapes in my travels around the Southwest…


Here is an example of perfectly formed ‘cupcake’ Texas Ranger shrubs.


I think these sage shrubs look like a lumpy cake, don’t you?


The owners of this property must be fans of modern art, which is what these sage shrubs remind me of.

But for me, I would rather see these flowering shrubs rescued from the overzealous pruning epidemic.


I think that they look much nicer when pruned no more then twice a year.

Now, is not the time to be pruning your Sage shrubs (Leucophyllum species).  Wait until the danger of frost is over, in late winter or early spring before pruning.

For more guidelines on pruning, click here.


I prune my ‘Rio Bravo’ sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’) shrubs once a year in March.

I then let them grow throughout the year and they help to screen out the bare wall.  I also get a fabulous floral display off an on throughout the warm months of the year.


I am certain that the landscaper who did this pruning is very proud of their work and I admire their attention to detail.

But, I would much rather see these flowering shrubs maintained correctly with just a minimum of pruning, wouldn’t you?


This past weekend was a busy one in our household.  Packed with a homecoming, a celebration, working with heavy equipment, a little bit of pruning, a night outdoors and a goodbye.


At the end of all of our comings and goings, it turns out the weekend was all to brief…


Homecoming:


Our weekend began on Friday night when we all loaded up into the car & truck (one vehicle doesn’t fit us all), and headed out to the airport to pick up our daughter, Rachele, who was flying in from Mississippi after finishing up her combat school.


After showing up at the wrong terminal, we were just in time to meet Rachele as she walked into baggage claim.

It was so great to see her again.  

I apologize for the a few of the following pictures, since all I had was my phone camera.


Kai decided that he wanted to try to carry Rachele’s sea bag to the car.

Well, it was so heavy, that he almost fell backward 😉


So dad carried it instead.


What you are witnessing in the photo above, is a joyful reunion.  Rachele had bought her first new car all by herself and had only 2 days to drive it before leaving for Mississippi for combat school.  So, she was very happy to see her car again.

Celebration:


On Saturday morning, we celebrated my oldest daughter, Brittney’s, 27th birthday.  I can hardly believe that she is mine 🙂

Brittney had two requests for her birthday.  One – she wanted a cast iron skillet.  She loves to cook!


Of course, if you give someone a cast iron skillet, you need to pair it with a cookbook.  
Now, my daughter is not a ‘dummie’, but that was the only cast iron cookbook that our local Barnes & Noble had.


My nephew, Oliver and my son Kai are trying their best to look interested while Brittney is opening her gifts, when they would much rather get back to playing ‘zombies’.


Now it was time for the cake.  Every year my two oldest daughters request that I make the same cake, which is called ‘Holy Cow’.  And every year I try to convince them to let me make another type of cake.

Not that I don’t like ‘Holy Cow’ cake – but I am a recreational cake baker and like to experiment with different cake recipes.

But, every year, I give in and make their favorite birthday cake.


The cake starts with a chocolate cake mix with lots of good things added including sweetened condensed milk, caramel, whip cream, cream cheese and crushed Butterfinger candy bars.

You can find the recipe here if you are interested in making this delicious cake.  But be forewarned – your family will not let you make any other kind of cake after they taste this one.


While the birthday celebration wore on, my daughter, Rachele, showed us the 7 different ways that you can carry people that she learned in her combat school.

Her younger sister, Gracie, was happy to help her demonstrate.


My granddaughter Lily was intrigued.
Notice the mother-daughter matching Vans shoes?


Lily decided to volunteer to help her Aunt Rachele show how to carry people.


Then it was time for Lily to visit the object of her latest obsession – our 4-month-old puppy, Penny.


Lily did her best to get Penny to come so she could pet her.


But Penny was too tired to get up 😉

Heavy Equipment:

My daughter Rachele is an Equipment Operator in the Navy.  She has just finished 6 months of training and can operate all types of heavy equipment.


So, when she stopped by the family farm (where my mother, sister and her family reside), she volunteered to help with some of the work they were doing.


They were leveling parts of the backyard to get rid of gopher holes.

It was so fun for her dad to see her do this for the first time.  He said that he was so proud to see what she could do – it felt like he was witnessing her college graduation.

Pruning:


Meanwhile at our homestead, there was pruning to be done.  
I took this picture just as half of the shrubs were pruned away.

You see, I have a pair of Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) growing underneath my kitchen window.  

In the summer, I love how they grow in front of my window because they visually cool my kitchen with their pretty foliage and flowers.

But, once fall arrives, I want to see my side garden again.  So, even though you should wait until January to prune them back to 1 foot, I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind doing it now.

Night Outdoors:


On Sunday night, my son decided that he wanted to camp outdoors – or rather on our patio.

So, he and his dad set up the tent and got it all set up.  

Of course, you need vital equipment including wearing your ‘camo’ pajamas and backpack, a knit hat, a sleeping bag with a few blankets just to make sure you will keep warm.

I half expected Kai to wake up in the middle of the night to come indoors to sleep in his own bed.

BUT…


At 9:00 in the morning, he was still sleeping.

Goodbye:

Early on Monday morning, Rachele, left for her permanent posting in California.  It is an exciting time for her, now that she has finished her Navy training and can now begin her career with the Navy.

Because she lives so close to us now, we will be able to see her much more often.

**Thank you for taking a few minutes out of your day to read about our family’s adventures.  

I’d love to hear about your past weekend.  What did you do?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take another photo of a landscape I passed by in a neighborhood where I had just finished up a landscape consultation.


Sadly, I often see examples of truly ‘interesting’ or should I say ‘bad’ pruning.  I drove by this landscape and then made a U-turn so that I could take a quick photo…

 
I don’t know about you, but these Texas sage shrubs look like mushrooms, don’t you think?
 
Sadly, pruning these beautiful flowering shrubs this way, robs them of their flowers, increases maintenance, creates dead wood and shortens their life.
 
While there are quite a few shrubs that take well to repeated formal pruning – doing this to flowering shrubs should be avoided.  
 
I must admit that I have seen Texas sage and other flowering shrubs pruned into many different shapes…
 
But, let me be frank – shrubs aren’t meant to be cupcakes, frisbees or gumdrops.
 
How about you?  
 
What interesting shapes have you seen flowering shrubs pruned into?
If you are tired of the time and money it takes to maintain flowering shrubs the ‘wrong’ way. I invite you to join me in my online shrub pruning workshop where I will teach you the right way to prune. Imagine being able to prune with confidence and have a landscape filled with beautiful, flowering shrubs? It’s much easier than you think. 

Last month as I was leaving from a landscape consultation, I took some time to drive by a few of the landscapes in the neighborhood.  


I immediately noticed that quite a few people had Olive trees growing in their front yards.


There was a large difference in how some of the homeowners pruned their Olive trees…


Believe it or not, both of the trees pictured above are the same type of Olive tree.

Some people like to formally prune their Olive trees while others like theirs to grow naturally.

Which one would you prefer?


OR


I know which look I prefer and it is much healthier for the tree and much less maintenance.

How about you?  
Which style of pruning do you like – formal or natural?

Wouldn’t it be great to have one basic tool that you could attach a different gardening power tools too?  I am so excited to show you this new product from the folks at Troy-Bilt who I have partnered with on this new campaign.

This may look like an ordinary string trimmer, but it is so much more…

 
 
Leave it to folks at TroyBilt to create a line of string trimmers that can be interchanged with a variety of gardening tools such as a cultivator and a pole chain saw (pictured above with the string trimmer attachment).
 
But TroyBilt didn’t stop there – they also created turbo leaf blower, lawn edger, hedge trimmer, broom and brush cutter attachments as well.

 
 
Earlier this year, I was asked to be a part of the ‘Saturday 6’, which is a group six of garden bloggers from around the country.  As part of TroyBilt’s Saturday 6, we have been asked to evaluate a number of their products and give our honest opinion about their performance.
 


I must admit that my favorite attachment has been my new cultivator.

Of course, my husband would differ and say that our new TroyBilt string trimmer is his favorite.

 
 
I have been waiting patiently (not really) to use the cultivator in my vegetable gardens since my TroyBilt equipment arrived in March.
 
But, I have had to wait until my lettuce was done for the season and then harvest my garlic before I could cultivate the soil.
 
Finally, the day arrived for my TrimmerPlus Add-On Cultivator to make its debut in my garden.
 
 
Before using the cultivator, I had to start it first.
 
 One complaint that I have with using power equipment is the pull-start.  It can be very hard for women to use a pull-start (me included).  In the past, I would call a crew member over to start equipment for me.  Since I don’t have a crew anymore, I often ask my husband to help me if I can’t start it myself.

 

Well, I don’t have to worry about pull-starts anymore, thanks to TroyBilt.

 

 

 

 

 

They have created the JumpStart, which is an electrical starter that easily starts most of their power equipment without using the pull-start.

 

 

 

 

 

All you need to do is to fit the JumpStart into a special portal…
 
 
And it starts up easily!  The JumpStart is battery powered and can be plugged in to re-charge.
 
The equipment does have a pull-start, so the JumpStart is optional.  I have had no problem using the pull-start of my favorite TroyBilt cultivator/string trimmer, but the JumpStart is easier to use.
 
Before cultivating my soil, I added compost, manure, blood and bone meal to my vegetable garden.  Now, I was ready to mix my amendments in.
 
 
The cultivator was lightweight, easy to use and tilled my soil perfectly without going too deep.
 

 
One of my vegetable gardens is rather narrow, which makes my new cultivator easy to use because it can work in narrow spaces.  Unlike larger tillers, this cultivator is perfect for smaller spaces and is easier to handle.
 
 
After I was finished tilling my vegetable gardens, there were some left over bits and pieces of plants that got caught up in the tines.  It was easy to remove them afterward by taking the tines off and cleaning them. 
 
In the past, tilling soil using a rake or shovel always took me a lot longer and I was a tired, hot, sweaty mess afterward with a sore back to boot.
With my new cultivator, I can till my soil quickly, without the negative side effects 😉
 
 
As a Certified Arborist, I am often instructing my clients how to prune and care for their trees.  While I don’t prune their trees for them, I do like to prune my own trees whenever possible.
 
 
I had a little pruning to perform for my Desert Willow, so the cultivator attachment came off and the TrimmerPlus Add-On Pole Chain Saw was attached (no tools are needed to add the different attachments).
 
 
This branch had suffered damage in a wind storm when part of it peeled off.  It left the branch weak, so it needed to be removed.  I started by pruning away the top part of the branch first.
 
The pole chain saw worked very well for me.  It comes with an additional extension pole for when you need to reach higher up (up to 11 feet), but I didn’t need it for this limb.  It is self-oiling, which keeps the bar and chain lubricated.
 
Using a pole chain saw saves you from having to climb a ladder to prune branches that are high up and it is lighter then using a regular chain saw.
 
 
My husband has been using our TroyBilt 4-Cycle Gas Straight Shaft String Trimmer for weeks now.  His initial impression was that it was more powerful then our old trimmer.  It also has a larger cutting width (18″) and as a result, edging our lawn goes more quickly.
 
 
There is no need to mix oil and gas – it runs on regular gasoline.  One of the most frustrating tasks when using a string trimmer is to having to refill the string – not a problem with TroyBilt’s string trimmer, which has the ‘Click N Trim’ Pro cutting head. You can simply thread the line through the eyelets and twist to wind up the line.  No more taking apart the cutting head.
 
The string trimmer can be started with the JumpStart, which I mentioned earlier.  But, the pull start is surprisingly easy to use due to the ‘Spring Assist Starting Technology’.
(I must admit that I like to use the pull-start, because I am thrilled with how easy it is to do with all my TroyBilt equipment, compared to the pull-starts of other equipment that I have used in the past).
 
Do you have a garage or shed full of garden equipment, with room for little else?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a string trimmer that can be used with a variety of attachments? 
 
Think of how much room you would save!
 
Okay, here is the part you have been waiting for…
 
**TROYBILT GIVEAWAY** 
for readers of my blog.
 
Would you like to have a TroyBilt string trimmer with your choice of attachment for your garden?
 
The wonderful folks at TroyBilt are giving away a their top-of-the-line TB6044 XP Straight Shaft String Trimmer.
 
 
Plus, your choice of one of the following attachments:
 
 
Now, if that isn’t enough, TroyBilt will also giveaway their JumpStart cordless engine starter to the winner along with the string trimmer, and choice of attachment.
 
1. To enter, simply leave me a comment with your choice of attachment.  (Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)
 
2. For a bonus entry, become a new follower of my blog,  ‘Like’ me on Facebook or ‘follow’ me on Twitter – (be sure to let me know in your comment).
 
Let your friends know about this great giveaway and I will select a random winner in one week!
**I am paid for my involvement with the Saturday 6 and the equipment, described above, was provided to me at no cost by TroyBilt, who wanted my honest opinion – good or bad.  I can honestly state that I am very impressed by the quality and design of their power equipment.



Do you ever wonder what you should be doing in your garden in a particular month?

As a freelance writer, I write a few monthly gardening articles and newsletters.

So, instead of writing an entirely new blog post, here is my latest “What To Do In The Garden” article for the Southwest that I wrote for Houzz.com
(I hope you don’t think I am lazy, but I would rather not write the same thing twice 😉



Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs, in addition to contributing to their early death.


But, have you ever wondered what they look on the inside?


I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.

 
It isn’t pretty, is it?
 
The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.  
The result of planting the shrub too close.
 
You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.  
 
If this resembles your shrub(s), the good news is that you can usually fix them.

Imagine going from the shrub on the left to the one on the right?
 
You can still do this in April for your Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and Lantana shrubs.
I teach you how in my popular online shrub pruning workshop where you’ll learn how to rejuvenate over-pruned shrubs and how to prune them the right way in the future.
Declare your landscape free of shrubs pruned into balls, cupcakes, and squares 🙂

Last week, as my husband and I were pulling out our local Home Depot’s parking lot – I saw what looked like mini Christmas trees throughout the parking lot islands.

I grabbed my cell phone and took a picture of these funny-shaped plants.
 
Do you want to know what they are?

Those cone-shaped plants are in reality badly-pruned ‘Regal Mist’ (Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’) ornamental grasses.
 
Although they are badly pruned, they did get some things right.
 
– For example, Regal Mist is a great plant for parking lot islands.
 
In addition, they were pruned at the right time of year.
 
Just not the right way…
 
Regal Mist should be prune back to 4 – 6 inches in height, straight across.  
 
Believe it or not, pruning them the correct way is easier then making them cone-shaped. 
 
Once the warmer temperatures of spring arrive, these beautiful ornamental grasses will leaf out again.
 
Once fall arrives, they will produce burgundy plumes…
 
In winter, the plumes will fade and become straw colored.
 
The Regal Mist, below, weren’t pruned the right way either.
 They resemble rounded balls and weren’t cut back enough.  But, they look much better then the mini Christmas tree shaped ones.  Don’t you think?
 
Do you grow Regal Mist?  
 
I love these grasses and have planted them in many areas, including along golf courses, churches and other common areas.
 
 
They are also great for the home landscape as well.
 
I especially like that they have to be pruned only once a year.