Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pruning the Curly Willow and Passionflower Vines

Pruning time is almost every month in my garden. I have so many established plants in place from the previous owner that I spend a lot of my time pruning. The only tree that doesn't need pruning is the drooping cherry tree, for which I'm grateful.

My husband had planned to trim back the curly willow tree in the front yard. I pruned it back last fall after all the leaves had fallen off and it went nuts this year with growth. We both trimmed the curly willow, me with my hand pruner and my husband using the tall pole pruner to reach the top of the willow. The willow certainly put on a great display this year, growing taller and widening a good foot or more and a good foot taller too. It was full of leaves and corkscrew shaped branches this year, much better than last year. I don't think the willow had been pruned for a long time before I pruned it last year so we're waiting for the leaves to fall off to give it a second pruning to shape it. There are so many leaves this year you couldn't see where the branches started because of all the leaves.

The passionflower vines on the fence have been showing about seven to nine flowers a week since I began using the soaker hose at the base of the vines. It had grown so vigorously that it had a good foot or more to cut off to cut it back and at least one or two feet of growth on the back of the fence to cut back.

My husband brought out the hedge trimmer and trimmed up the vines very quickly. Now I know they are very hardy because the first winter it looked like the frost had totally killed back the vines but they came back perfectly for summer. My husband gave the vines a very close trim. A week later I came out to water the front yard and the vines though looking sparse were filled with twice as many flowers. Lesson learned, prune back the passionflower vines hard for fall and spring and keep them trimmed back for the best flowering.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Annual Heath and Heather Sale

We went to the heath & heather farm for their annual sale last Sunday. One-gallon heaths and heather plants for $3.50, which is dirt-cheap for that size heath/heather. Usually they cost $4.50 to $7.00 for a four inch pot.

The woman who runs the farm always has sessions about plant care; I got to listen in on one of those sessions this year. I verified some of what I already knew: heaths/heathers need at least four to six hours of full sun a day; they don't like their roots sitting in water; you can trim them once or twice a year (spring and fall) to shape them but usually at least once after they flower; you must trim the old flowers off in order to keep the shape full otherwise they look sparse in the middle of the plant and don't thrive as well; sounds like you can trim them back even more than the flowers to shape them; if they are growing poorly you can trim back quite a bit, they will take some time to come back but will fill in and look better afterwards; they like acid soil, using rhodie fertilizer works fine for them but no more than once a year if at all; they survive in all kinds of severe climates; heaths and heathers tend to grow bigger than their stated size in our Humboldt coastal weather.

The nursery owner puts out a spread of snacks, hot coffee and tea for buyers every year at the annual sale. The sale is set in their backyard pasture which has a beautiful view of the hills and a really old twisted apple tree in the center of the yard. The tree was full of apples this year along with a bunch of tiny chickadees chirping and hopping through the branches. You could happily have a picnic in this pasture it is so beautiful and serene a setting. We bought six plants to set out in the front yard, there may even be one headed for the back yard flower bed.

Heaths and heathers are wonderful fall/winter plants, many bloom during this time or have beautiful colored foliage in the coldest of weather. I wanted even more color for my front yard for the fall and winter months and these plants are perfect for added seasonal color. This time I bought mostly erica/heaths with the big flower bells along with a few heathers. One of the plants is supposed to grow really big. I'm looking forward to seeing how it does with our full sun front yard. There were no tiny plants like they had last year at $2.00 a pop. I will be spending some quality time this weekend planting up the gallon heaths and heathers in my yard.

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