Tag Archive for: pruning

Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen

Last week, I was visiting one of my favorite clients when I noticed that one of her citrus trees was showing signs of sunburn, which led to me explaining to her that even citrus trees need sunscreen to prevent sunburn in many cases.

Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen

You can see the lighter-colored bark and some cracks as well along the branch. It turns out that citrus trees are very susceptible to sunburn.

So, why is a sunburned citrus tree something to be worried about?

Well, when a tree becomes sunburned, it often forms cracks in the bark and within these cracks, damaging insects or fungus can find a nice home.  Frost damage can also cause cracks in the bark.

In recent years, I have had to deliver bad news to people whose citrus trees became infected with sooty canker, which is a fungal disease that affects the branches and trunks, which takes root underneath the cracked, flaky bark.

Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen

Several times, I have had to tell homeowners that their much-loved citrus tree was badly infected with sooty canker and had to be removed.  You can read more about the signs and treatment of sooty canker, here.

Thankfully, there are things we can do to reduce or eliminate the chance of sunburn to our citrus trees.

Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen

1. Allow citrus trees to grow their lower branches. They will help to shade the trunk.  A bonus for citrus trees grown this way is that the most fruit is produced on the lower branches that also tastes sweeter.

Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen

2. Protect exposed trunks and branches by using citrus paint (available at your local nursery) or by simply mixing white latex paint water so that the resulting mixture is 1/2 paint and 1/2 water. You can also purchase tree wraps made from burlap, which can also help to protect them. Avoid using oil-based paint.

However, if you allow the lower branches of your citrus tree to grow and the trunk is shaded, than you don’t have to paint them. 

citrus trees

3. Don’t over-prune your citrus trees.  The photo above, is an EXTREME example of what not to do.

Citrus trees should be pruned in March, and concentrated on removing dead, diseased or crossing branches.  Avoid pruning more then 20% of its foliage in any given year.  *Remember, that the leaves make food for the tree, which will in turn, produce delicious fruit. If pruning leaves you with exposed branches, then coat them with citrus paint.

**See how to protect citrus from the damaging effects of a heat wave – here.

Even Citrus Trees Need Sunscreen to Prevent Sunburn

I always wear sunscreen whenever I venture outdoors.  Years spent in California at the beach as a teenager, trying to tan my fair skin did not work.  Now, I try very hard to protect my skin from the desert sun.  I do however, often forget to wear my hat as it does mess up my hair ๐Ÿ˜‰

Which type of shrub would you prefer in your garden?

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

This one?

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

Or, this one?

Believe it or not, these are the same type of shrub.

Did you know that over-pruning causes a lot of problems in the landscape that affect the shrub, water usage and your wallet?

I was recently asked to write an article for the folks at Water Use It Wisely, which is a water conservation campaign created by cities in the greater Phoenix metro area.

The article I wrote talks about the specific problems that over-pruning causes along with ways to avoid over-pruning.  

Over-Pruning and Ways to Avoid Them

You can read the article by clicking, here.

I hope you find it informative.  **If you have a friend or neighbor who has an over-pruned landscape, you may want to forward the link to them ๐Ÿ™‚  

Do you know what ‘sustainable landscaping’ is? 

Would you be able to identify a sustainable landscape if you saw one?

Last weekend, I spoke to a large group about “New Ideas for Sustainable Landscaping”.  The community that I spoke to are in the process of becoming an Audubon International Sustainable Community, which would make them the first one to do so, west of the Mississippi.

sustainable landscaping

There a lot of people who turned out to learn more about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.  I was thrilled to talk to them about what sustainable landscaping is and small steps that they can take toward that goal.

Maybe you are curious about sustainable landscaping and want to implement some strategies toward having a more sustainable landscape.

This is my first post talking about this important subject in the hopes that I can inspire you to take steps toward a more sustainable landscape.

WHAT IS A SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE?

First, let’s look at an example of what I am NOT talking about in regards to a sustainable landscapeโ€ฆ

sustainable landscaping

Do you remember when green gravel was in style in the 70’s?

sustainable landscaping

Or how about this one with the fancy gravel design and two lonely cacti?

Technically speaking, both of these landscapes are sustainable, but they are not the model of sustainability we are looking for.

sustainable landscaping

Here is a great example of a sustainable landscape.

sustainable landscaping

So is this one.

Both of these landscapes are planted with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our hot, dry climate with minimal care. What you may also notice is that they are not ugly – they are all quite beautiful.  

natural landscape

The next time you find yourself near the natural landscape, wherever you live – notice how nature does a great job creating and maintaining a beautiful landscape.

Nature does this without any help – no pruning, supplemental water, chemical fertilizers (nature does fine with natural sources of fertilizer) and pesticides. 

sustainable landscape

So, what exactly is a ‘sustainable landscape’?

“A SUSTAINABLE LANDCAPE IS ONE THAT IS IN BALANCE WITH THE CLIMATE, WHICH REQUIRES MINIMAL ‘INPUTS’.”

What are ‘inputs’?  They are resources that we use to create and maintain our landscapes such as fertilizer, supplemental water, pruning, gasoline and pesticides.

Would you like to decrease the amount of ‘inputs’ in your landscape, without having to sacrifice beauty?

Well you certainly can and it isn’t hard to do.  In fact, you can save yourself time and money in the process!

Next time, we will discuss what we are doing wrong in our current landscapes, which is important to know so that we can avoid these mistakes on our quest toward more sustainable landscapes.

What Keeps a Landscape From Being Sustainable?

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

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.

landscape consultation

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…

landscape consultation

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…

Orange Dog Caterpillar

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

horrific pruning

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

Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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

horrific pruning

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

horrific pruning

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.

horrific pruning

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.

Acacia salicina

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…

horrific pruning

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

agave

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…

horrific pruning

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

citrus trees

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.

'Scary' Pruning Practices

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.

'Scary' Pruning Practices

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.

โ€œScaryโ€ Pruning Practices and the Unfortunate Results

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.

Texas Sage shrubs

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…

Texas Ranger shrubs

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

over-pruning flowering shrubs

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

over-pruning flowering shrubs

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.  

over-pruning flowering shrubs

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.  

'Rio Bravo' sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Rio Bravo')

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.  

over-pruning flowering shrubs

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?

over-pruning flowering shrubs

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.

Rachele

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.

Rachele's sea bag

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Rachele's sea bag

So dad carried it instead.

An All To Brief Weekend

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:

oldest daughter

On Saturday morning, we celebrated my oldest daughter, Brittney’s, 27th birthday.  I can hardly believe that she is mine ๐Ÿ™‚

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

oldest daughter

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.

Oliver and my son Kai

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’.

delicious cake

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.

delicious 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.

birthday celebration

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.

granddaughter Lily

My granddaughter Lily was intrigued.

Notice the mother-daughter matching Vans shoes?

Aunt Rachele

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

our 4-month-old puppy

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

Lily

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

our 4-month-old puppy

But Penny was too tired to get up ๐Ÿ˜‰

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.

An All To Brief Weekend...

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.

An All To Brief Weekend...

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:

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:

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…

Night Outdoors

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?    

Birthday Celebrations and Dessert!

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.

Olive tree

Olive tree

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

Olive tree

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?

Olive tree

OR

Olive tree

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?

Garden in May

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰

Southwest Gardener’s May Checklist

yellow bell shrubs

Last week, as I walked out into the back garden, I noticed something that didn’t look right with my a few of my yellow bell shrubs (Tecoma stans stans).ย  ย 

The photo, above, shows how they should normally look, however, last week, they looked like this….

Caterpillar Damage

Definitely not normal looking and manyM of the outer leaves were skeletonized, and it got worse. All four of my yellow bell shrubs had the same symptoms.  So, did my orange jubilee shrubs, which are closely related.

Caterpillar Damage

To be honest, I was a bit stunned to see the damage.  You see, I had grown these beautiful shrubs for over 14 years and have never seen this before – not even in landscapes I managed or when consulting.

What was interesting is that other shrubs right next to my yellow bells and orange jubilee weren’t in the least bit affected. So, what is eating my leaves?

I looked at the symptoms – the skeletonized leaves, the fact that many of my leaves were ‘rolled’ and little black dots (insect poop) told me that my shrubs were suffering from ‘looper caterpillars’ which are tiny caterpillars that roll the leaf around them while they eat.  It is hard to spot the caterpillars themselves, but the damage they cause, usually makes it easy to diagnose.

If your Tecoma or Bougainvillea shrubs show significant leaf damage, here are a few different options on how to treat it:

1. Prune off the affected growth and dispose of the leave in the trash can (not in your compost pile).  

2. Treat your shrub using a biological pesticide that contains BT (Bacillus thuringiensis),  which is ingested by the caterpillars.  BT basically ‘eats’ its way from the caterpillar’s stomach outward. I use a ready-to-use-product.

**Whenever using any pesticide – follow directions carefully. For my shrubs, I will prune back the damaged growth and not apply pesticides. However, if the caterpillars continue to attack, then I may decide to use a product with BT.

So, if you have yellow bells or orange jubilee shrubs – check them to see if they are being affected by caterpillars.

**If your bougainvillea leaves are showing signs of being chewed – they may have been visited by ‘bougainvillea looper caterpillars.’  For more information on how to recognize and treat these caterpillars, click here.  

Thankfully, the rest of my garden is looking healthy ๐Ÿ™‚

Are Caterpillars Eating Your Shrubs? How to Recognize and Treat Them