Conifers provide low-maintenance, year-round beauty

landscaping-with-conifers-and-gingkoGreat Lakes area gardeners might glance past this book due to the southern reference in the title (Landscaping with Conifers and Ginkgo for the Southeast). However, many of the plants described in it are applicable to the north as well. Consider this guide if you are interested in conifers, which are among the most beautiful and versatile of all landscape plants. They are low-maintenance and offer a variety of color, form, and texture year-round.

The authors have an authoritative command of their topic. Tom Cox, past president of the American Conifer Society, is the founder and owner of Cox Arboretum and Gardens in Georgia. John Ruter, Allan M. Armitage Endowed Professor of Horticulture at The University of Georgia, is a teacher, ornamental plant breeder, and author.

The result of years of research and horticulture experience, this compilation will help both novices and professionals build their conifer knowledge. Cox and Ruter present a wide variety of conifers and tips on growing, pruning, and preventing disease and pest problems. The Great Lakes reader can skim over specific southern growing advice. There is plenty else here to learn: the authors will teach you about conifers, no matter where you call home.

Web Extra: Hop on board the garden railroad

To read the full article by Sandie Parrott on Sean Rosenkrans’ garden railroad, pick up a copy of the April, 2014 issue of Michigan Gardener in stores or find it in our digital edition.

Captions and photos by Sandie Parrott

Rosenkrans controls all the trains from his transformer platform. Moisture or anything else on the rails means he has to regularly clean them and adjust speeds to keep the trains moving.

Rosenkrans controls all the trains from his transformer platform. Moisture or anything else on the rails means he has to regularly clean them and adjust speeds to keep the trains moving.

 

A “steam” locomotive pulls flat cars with logs through a forested lumber camp (evergreens and seedlings), with the village in the background. The scene includes a sawmill with a handmade sawdust burner, campsite with tent, campers and hungry bears, and a covered bridge.

A “steam” locomotive pulls flat cars with logs through a forested lumber camp (evergreens and seedlings), with the village in the background. The scene includes a sawmill with a handmade sawdust burner, campsite with tent, campers and hungry bears, and a covered bridge.

 

The hippodrome is the main circus building along with fortune teller and ticket booths, a merry-go-round, and gnome village. Animals, performers, and visitors complete the scene.

The hippodrome is the main circus building along with fortune teller and ticket booths, a merry-go-round, and gnome village. Animals, performers, and visitors complete the scene.

 

The bathroom garden began when a neighbor was throwing away an old sink. Rosenkrans hung it on an old door with a mirror and added a pump for washing hands. The tub came from another neighbor’s remodeling project. Now it has a pump and helps to water plants. The commode was found by the side of the road. Hostas are planted in the bowl and pansies in the tank.

The bathroom garden began when a neighbor was throwing away an old sink. Rosenkrans hung it on an old door with a mirror and added a pump for washing hands. The tub came from another neighbor’s remodeling project. Now it has a pump and helps to water plants. The commode was found by the side of the road. Hostas are planted in the bowl and pansies in the tank.

How to: Sharpen Hand Pruners

By Steven Nikkila

Is one of your most important tools ready? Are your hand pruners SHARP?

When pruners are sharp they allow you to work faster and cut cleaner, which is healthier for your plants. After being cut, a plant oozes sap or resin, which dries to create a protective shield. That’s just the start of the healing process. The plant will divert energy from its growth to the damaged area while the wound is healing. You want the plant to heal as quickly as possible. One way to do this is to make sure you create a smooth surface with a clean cut using a sharpened tool. Not only will the plant heal more quickly, but it will be exposed to less damage from diseases, insects, and weather extremes.

The following steps will help you learn the proper way to sharpen hand pruners and keep them in top working condition.

Some pruners can be disassembled for easier cleaning. Remember how you took them apart so putting them back together isn’t such a puzzle.

Some pruners can be disassembled for easier cleaning. Remember how you took them apart so putting them back together isn’t such a puzzle.

1) Clean the pruners. Using a wire brush, steel wool (sandpaper also works) and elbow grease, remove all of the dirt and rust. Many pruners are easy to disassemble for easier sharpening or blade replacement. Some types of pruners are not as easy to take apart and can be sharpened while still together.

Examine your blades carefully for burrs, nicks and cracks. While doing this, notice the beveled edge of the blade. If you can’t tell the angle, look at a newer blade (bottom) to compare. Older blades may need to be replaced. Many pruner manufacturers offer replacement parts.

Examine your blades carefully for burrs, nicks and cracks. While doing this, notice the beveled edge of the blade. If you can’t tell the angle, look at a newer blade (bottom) to compare. Older blades may need to be replaced. Many pruner manufacturers offer replacement parts.

2) Inspect the pruners, especially the blade. Examine the blade for any burrs, nicks or cracks. While doing this, note the beveled edge of the blade—when sharpening, you’ll want to be careful to maintain the same angle as the bevel.

3) Choose a sharpening tool. Which tool is largely a matter of preference: whetstones, the most common choice, offer many gradations and sizes, though you may find that a longer one is easier to work with. A diamond-coated flat file requires only water for lubrication, remains flat for fast sharpening and is durable enough to last a lifetime. A bastard file or sharpening steel is useful for finishing or for a quick fix. A ceramic sharpener is good for quick sharpening during the season or while working. Don’t use power grinding stones; they require extra care because they transfer heat from friction that can affect the metal temper, making it more brittle.

There are several kinds of tools that can be used to sharpen pruner blades, including: A) metal files, B) ceramic sharpeners and C) whetstones. Choose the type you like best.

There are several kinds of tools that can be used to sharpen pruner blades, including: A) metal files, B) ceramic sharpeners and C) whetstones. Choose the type you like best.

Regardless of the tool, always move in one direction: from the base of the blade toward the tip. Remember to keep the tool at the correct sharpening angle along the beveled edge.

Regardless of the tool, always move in one direction: from the base of the blade toward the tip. Remember to keep the tool at the correct sharpening angle along the beveled edge.

4) Sharpen the blade. Remove any nicks with a file first. Then using your preferred sharpening tool, use numerous (10 to 15) smooth strokes, moving the blade in one direction, from the base toward the tip. Don’t press too hard. You want to achieve a razor-sharp edge, but don’t reduce the beveled edge to less than 1 millimeter thickness. A finer edge will not increase cutting ability but will make the blade more fragile and prone to damage or breakage.

5) Lubricate and reassemble the pruners. Lightly coat the blade with oil (motor or olive) or a protectant/lubricant like WD-40. When reassembling the pruners, make sure the moving parts have some lubrication. White grease works best for the main moving parts, and you don’t need much. A 3-in-1 type oil will also work, but it won’t last as long.

Lastly, go out and enjoy the fall weather and your easy-cutting, newly-sharpened pruners.

Text and photos by Steven Nikkila, who is from Perennial Favorites in Waterford, MI.

 

Bitter cold winter has caused frost cracks to develop in trees

A popular topic these days is our record challenging winter here in Michigan. Many of you may have noticed the cracks that have developed on certain trees like sycamores and London planes as a result of the recent frigid temperatures. We recently read about Evanston, IL where the city removed over 60 trees that it felt had become hazardous as a result of cracking. Bob Bricault from the MSU Extension recently wrote on the topic:

Subzero weather is hardly anyone’s favorite time to look for problems in the landscape. Often we do not see damage that happens over winter until spring. Below zero temperatures can create some unique problems for landscape plants. One such problem, frost cracks, can permanently damage trees. Very low temperatures in Michigan this winter have left some trees with vertical cracks. These longitudinal openings referred to as frost cracks can extend deep into the wood of the tree. Certain trees tend to be more prone to this disorder. Most commonly it is seen in sycamores, but it also occurs in maples, apples, cherries, horse chestnuts, lindens, walnuts and willows.

Read the rest of the story here…

Great Dixter’s Fergus Garrett comes to Metro Detroit

Fergus Garrett, the Head Gardener at the England’s world-famous Great Dixter, presents “Designing with Plants” on Thursday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Goldner Walsh Garden & Home in Pontiac, MI.

Great Dixter was the family home of gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. Now under the stewardship of Fergus Garrett, Great Dixter is a place of pilgrimage for horticulturalists from across the world. Great Dixter’s gardens are as vital and inspiring as ever. They flourish under the guidance of Fergus as he continues in Christopher Lloyd’s spirit of challenge and creativity. His presentation will feature breathtaking images of these well-known and well-loved gardens. He will illustrate the professional techniques he uses to ensure the success of this magnificent garden, and will share some of his best methods that we can employ here in Michigan.

The lecture is $30 per person. Space is limited; call 248-332-6430 to register. Book signing to follow.