by Judi Lloyd

Do Ginkgo Biloba trees grow well in our area?
March 2021
By Judi Lloyd
Ginkgo Biloba trees are spectacular – especially in the fall. Undisputedly, the most majestic of all trees, this giant has it all. It is considered to be a living fossil as it is old – very old – with fossils found dating to 270 million years ago. Not only is it old, it is also beautiful. It has a unique fan-shaped leaf and a glorious fall color of buttery yellow. Traditionally the ginkgo is massive with a mature height of 50 to 80 feet and a 30 to 40 foot spread. It is resistant to insects and diseases and is extremely drought tolerant. Not a fast grower, it averages 13-24 inches per year with a spreading canopy on most cultivars. It was brought to the US in the late 1700s from China and grows well up to zone 8. It isn’t picky about soil conditions and can flourish in compact spaces, making it a great street tree for urban areas. The ginkgo is also tolerant of air pollution, street salt and salt spray and is easy to establish. Full sun and good drainage is the best spot for the ginkgo. There are both male and female cultivars of ginkgo and the female grows an extremely fowl smelling fruit, so it is recommended that only male cultivars be planted. For those homeowners who don’t feel that they have enough space to grow a ginkgo tree, there are many compact cultivars available for today’s smaller properties. You can even grow them in large containers. Water regularly when the tree is young and only give it simple pruning early on so it will have a strong central leader. There are also columnar cultivars that don’t have a tremendous spread. Ginkgo biloba ‘Fastigiata’ is a columnar tree with a spread of 10 -15 feet. ‘Autumn Gold’ is a larger cultivar growing to 40-50 feet tall with a spread of 25-30 feet. Ginkgo biloba ‘Pendula’ is a nice dwarf cultivar, growing to 8 feet tall and there is a true dwarf, ‘Mariken’ that gets only 4 feet tall. If you haven’t seen it, check out the gorgeous one on the Tryon Palace grounds! A last interesting thought: This is what the dinosaurs used to eat! 
 

February 2021

Winter is not a time to forget about your garden

By Judi Lloyd

Here are some tasks that should be taken care of over the winter.

Trees and shrubs:  Keep leaves raked off lawn and around shrubs as they can create a hiding place for pests.

Lawns and ornamental plantings: Over-seeding with annual rye grass may make for a green lawn over the winter, but it is harmful to lawns, especially centipede. Clean and winterize your mower for the season.  Drain gasoline or add a fuel stabilizer.

Flowers:  Plant spring flowering bulbs between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  And, don’t forget the Master Gardener bulb sale at the Farmers Market!  A 2–3” blanket of mulch will protect overwintering perennials and help minimize weeds.  Label plants with durable markers and consider mapping flower beds as backup. 

Vegetables:  Hungry for fresh greens?  Start a micro-greens garden on your window sill.  Sow micro-green seed mixes in shallow trays of potting soil and harvest when seedlings are 3–4” tall.  You can start a new crop each week to continue getting your “salad” all winter.  The average crop-time for most micro-greens is 7-10 days from seeding to harvest.  Kale, cabbage and collards are the hardiest crops.  You can continue to harvest them throughout the winter.  Carrots can be left in the ground and harvested as needed.  I’m even trying some out on my back deck in pots this year.  If temperatures are expected to dip in the mid-20s, cover lettuce, broccoli, spinach and beets to prevent cold injury.

Fruits:  Remove any unharvested fruit from trees.  Citrus trees, including lemon, grapefruit and mandarins are not hardy outdoors in zone 8, but can be grown in large containers that are brought indoors for the winter.

Houseplants:  Cut back on watering for the winter.  Allow tap water to come to room temperature before using to water house plants.  Because municipal water is treated with chemicals like chlorine or fluoride; it’s a good idea to let the water sit in an open container for 24 hours prior to watering.   Place poinsettias in a brightly lit area where temperatures stay above 55°.  Remove them from the foil wrappers before watering.  If you force amaryllis bulbs to bloom for the holidays, cut back the stems after flowers fade.  Place plants in a brightly lit area and water as needed.  These bulbs are hardy and can be set outside in April.

“CLIP” NOTES:

– This is good time to take soil samples to send to NC State (there is a $4.00 fee for processing from November until the end of March) to see what you need to do to improve next year’s lawn and garden soil.  Note: this should be done every 2 to 4 years.

– Check bird feeders and refill as needed.

– Drain and store hoses and sprinklers.

– After your mums have finished blooming, cut stems back close to the ground and dispose of leaves and stems.

– Winter damage to plants results from drying, freezing and breakage. Keep plants watered during dry spells.

– Store clay and cement planters in a cool, dry location to prevent damage from freezing.

– If you have a pond, prepare it for winter by removing and cleaning filters and pumps.

January 2021

Is Mistletoe the romantic plant we think of?

By Judi Lloyd

We all think of a romantic encounter when we think of mistletoe.  However, mistletoe is actually a semi-parasitic evergreen shrub or plant. 

While most plants will root in the ground, when a mistletoe seed lands on a suitable host plant (typically a tree), it sends out roots that penetrate the tree limbs and draw on the trees nutrients and water.  As a green plant, mistletoe does contain chlorophyll and is able to make some of its own food, so it does not completely deplete its host tree. But a severe infestation of mistletoe can kill a tree by robbing the tree of its nutrients. There are at least 100 different trees that are susceptible to a mistletoe infestation, but typically the infestation will appear on hickory, pecan, oak, red maple and black gum trees.

Mistletoe is most easily seen in winter. Look for ball shaped green masses up to 3’ wide connected to otherwise bare tree branches. Each mass in a tree is an individual mistletoe plant and a single tree may host only a few or many mistletoe plants. Birds are responsible for spreading mistletoe by seed. They relish its white berries, which ripen in early winter. When birds feed on these berries, the seed inside the berry passes through the bird’s digestive track surrounded by a sticky film that helps the seed stick to tree branches.

Mistletoe spreads and grows relatively slowly and is rarely considered an immediate threat to tree health. Healthy trees are able to tolerate a few mistletoe plants with little harmful effect. Trees that are heavily infested with mistletoe may become less vigorous, stunted, and can possibly be killed if subjected to additional stress from drought, extreme temperatures, root damage, insect infestation, or disease. If mistletoe is growing on trees in your yard the best thing you can do for them is to provide extra water during drought and a 2”-3” layer of mulch or ground leaves around trees from the trunk out to the edge of the canopy. This will reduce competition from grass, conserve moisture, and protect trees from injury by mowing equipment.

If there are trees on your property where mistletoe growth cannot be tolerated, you can simply cut the mistletoe back flush with the branch. Although this will not kill the parasite, it will help slow its growth. Removal of infested branches should be done 1-2 feet below the point of attachment.  But if this is going to result in a huge pruning wound, then long term you’re creating additional problems for the tree.

In a tree where many branches would have to be removed to rid it of mistletoe, simply letting nature to take its course is the better option as removing multiple branches is harmful and often fatal to trees. Pruning trees to remove mistletoe is best done in winter by a certified arborist.

Like many organisms that at first appear to only be pests, mistletoe also has some benefits. It is tremendously valuable to wildlife, particularly birds and insects. For most property owners, the presence of mistletoe should be considered a sign of a diverse ecosystem rather than a threat to tree health.

December 2020 by judi Lloyd
Natural elements for holiday decorations
 
A fresh Frasier fir wreath with nothing more than a bow works. In fact, it’s stunning.  A Christmas tree with twinkling lights and a few balls creates understated elegance.  When it comes to table arrangements, the gardener in me takes over.  I love using fresh greens from my landscape.
 
Is this the year for a live Christmas tree?  NC has approximately 1,300 growers producing Frasier fir Christmas trees on an estimated 40,000 acres.  The NC Frasier fir is the most popular Christmas tree in North America and is shipped into every state in the US and other points all over the world. Consider buying your live Christmas tree from the New Bern Civitans.  Their tree lot will open on Friday, November 27th, 3931 MLK Jr. Blvd., US 17 across from Paula’s Pizza
where they will be selling Christmas trees, wreaths and peanuts.  Hours of operation will be: Friday-Sunday (Nov. 27-29) 9 am to 7 pm. Limited hours beginning Nov. 30th
Monday thru Friday 4 pm until 7 pm; Cash or check. Tree Prices – 6-7 ft. $60; 7-8 ft. $70; 8-9 ft. $85; 10-11 ft. $155. Wreath prices – Decorated $40; Undecorated $35 and $5 discount with tree purchase. Due to COVID-19, they have ordered less trees than in the past.  Trees will sell out early. Money raised from these sales goes to LOCAL charities such as RCS, Merci Clinic, Coastal Carolina Women’s Shelter, Salvation Army, Special Olympics and many more.
 
Once inside, keep your Christmas tree well-watered.  After Christmas, your live tree can be moved outside and be redecorated for the birds.  This is a great project for kids.  Anchor the tree in a bucket full of damp sand.  Decorate it with strings of popcorn, apples, leftover breads and pinecones covered with peanut butter then dipped in birdseed.
 
Container plantings aren’t just for the spring and summer.  Consider creating a container display using evergreens to keep some green for the winter.  Plants grown in containers don’t have the ground to insulate their roots, so choose plants that are hardy to two zones less than here.  We’re zone 7.  Get creative and use the berries from landscape plants for color or add early spring-blooming bulbs.
 
Forcing bulbs can bring spring’s color to the dreary short days this time of year.  The two most popular ones during the holidays are paperwhite narcissus and amaryllis.  Paperwhites are the easiest of all bulbs to force.  A shallow bowl with water and pebbles is all you need to have those wonderful sweet smelling blooms in no time.  Amaryllis are also easy to force.  Their large lily-like blooms generally last indoors for several weeks.  The bigger the amaryllis (remember to check out Cravenmastergardener.org) bulb the better, as it will produce more than one stalk of blooms the first year.  The smaller ones, while a little cheaper, will probably only produce one stalk.  They like to be pot-bound, so choose a container that is only an inch or two bigger than the bulb.  Make sure that the top third of the bulb is exposed and put the pot in bright, indirect light.  Keep the soil moist but not wet.  A thick flower stalk will shoot up and flat leaves will follow within two to eight weeks.  Rotate the pot every few days so that the flower stalk gets consistent light on all sides (otherwise it will grow crooked).  And, the best part is that where we live, you can plant it outside in the spring and it will come up every year after that with gorgeous blooms in your yard!
 
Enjoy the holiday season with some of these natural decorations.
 
Judi Lloyd lives in River Bend and can be reached at judilloyd@yahoo.com
November 2020
How to salvage some of your herbs over the winter months
By Judi Lloyd
If treated properly, many herb plants will survive in the garden for a number of years. Others are sensitive to frost or severe cold weather and must be brought indoors, protected, or replanted each year. Annual herbs will be killed with the first hard frost in the fall. Remove dead plants in order to minimize overwintering insects and disease problems. Some frost sensitive herbs, such as basil and geranium, can be brought indoors for the winter. Take cuttings to root or pot the entire plant.
Many perennial herbs are winter hardy in all or parts of North Carolina and can be left in the garden. A few plants are marginally winter hardy; in a mild winter, they survive but may die during a severe winter. They can be brought indoors to overwinter. Unless they receive adequate light indoors they may drop some of their leaves.
After a severe winter, some outdoor plants such as rue, sage, thyme, and southernwood, may appear brown and dead. The leaves may simply be dehydrated or the plant may be dead almost to the ground. Scrape the bark of a few stems to determine the extent of damage. If the stem is green, delay pruning until after new growth begins.
Most herbs benefit from a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch during the growing season. Mulch is an adequate winter protection for herbs such as mint, chives, and fennel providing protection to minus 20°F. A winter mulch helps maintain uniform soil temperatures around the root system and provides protection against heaving cause by frequent freezing and thawing of the soil.
Lemon verbena and a few other perennial herbs are not reliably winter hardy. Extra winter protection can be provided by cutting plants back to within a couple inches of the ground after the first hard frost and covering the remaining stub with soil. Then cover the soil with a 4- to 5-inch layer of mulch.
Harsh, drying winds can prove as fatal as cold temperatures to some of the less cold tolerant herbs. Wind breaks can aid the survival and appearance of herbs such as French tarragon, germander, English lavender, Roman chamomile, and winter savory. The more cold-sensitive herbs have a better chance of survival if grown in a protected location.
Other cultural practices that influence winter hardiness include: fertilization, pruning, soil drainage, and watering.
Herbs should not be fertilized after early August. Late summer applications of nitrogen fertilizer will promote new growth that may not have time to mature before frost. The herbs will remain actively growing instead of becoming acclimated for cold weather.
Avoid severe pruning in late fall since winter hardiness is reduced until the cuts have healed. Woody plants should not be severely pruned within 4 to 6 weeks of the first severe freeze.
Excessively wet soil or sites with standing water can decrease winter hardiness of some plants. This is especially true for Mediterranean plants such as rosemary, thymes, lavenders, and French tarragon that are adapted to dry climates.
Keep plants adequately watered during late summer and fall. Drought stressed plants are weaker and are often less cold hardy. Water during a dry winter, especially before a severe freeze.
 (stock photo)

October is an interesting month for gardening
By Judi Lloyd
 
With this gorgeous weather, cooler both day and night, it makes for comfortable work outdoors. 
We should be purchasing our fall annuals now while they are in good supply (pansies, violas, ornamental kale, snapdragons, etc.), but now many of our summer annuals are looking better than they did during all that heat. It seems a shame to pull them out now, so what to do? I often buy my winter annuals this month, but don’t plant them until the other ones begin to look ragged.
This is a good time to divide spring flowering bulbs (iris, day lilies, etc.) but too early to plant new spring blooming bulbs.  Best to wait until after Thanksgiving for that, which is perfect timing, as the Master Gardener Extension Volunteers will be starting their annual fall bulb sale soon and I hear they have some real beauties planned for you to buy.
Now is a good time to divide peonies, daisies and rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans).  Cut back perennials when they have passed their prime.  Pull out annuals that are in decline.  Remove weeds and leaves from under plants as they can harbor disease and insect pests over the winter.
You can turn off your irrigation system at the end of the month, but be careful to keep watering during dry periods.
Prior to bringing in the houseplants you have “summering” outdoors, you will need to inspect them for insects that may want to hitchhike into your home hiding in the soil or under leaves.  Generally, just a light spray with a hose will dislodge these pests.  You can still leave them outside as the nights continue to stay warm. Put them in the shade now to prepare for going back into dimmer light indoors.  That way, they won’t drop so many leaves on the floor.  Pot up a few small herb plants to enjoy indoors when it gets cold.  You may also want to take cuttings of your favorite coleus and geraniums to root.
 

How do I prune my drift and knockout roses?

By Judi Lloyd

Roses can be intimidating for many gardeners. But truly, roses are tough customers that can stand up to a good pruning and even tolerate mistakes more readily than many other plants. Pruning is vital for plant health. It helps protect against diseases and encourages continued blooming for the types of roses that will repeatedly set buds. It also helps shape the plant and opens up the interior for better air flow, preventing fungal diseases. Another reason to prune your roses is to keep them from producing seeds, which will sap their energy and can prevent further blooming.

Basic rose pruning involves removing dead, damaged, or diseased branches and can be done at any time of year. Damage often occurs on crossing branches, where wind causes thorns to rub against adjacent canes.

There are several types of pruning:

  • Spring Structural Pruning – The purpose is to shape the plant once the threat of frost is past; spring pruning removes dead wood and any damaged wood that may have died back over the winter. It’s better to prune late than too early and suffer unnecessary dieback.  
  • Summer Pruning – Make your cut lower than the first leaflet to manage shape and growth. Both deadheading and shaping can be done from June through September.
  • Deadheading – This is a good practice for all roses. Make the cut at the 1st set of leaves that have five leaflets on the stem. Normally this is the second or third set down the stem.

A few basic tips for good, general pruning are:

  • Make your pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle, about 1/4 inch above the bud of an outward-facing leaflet. By pruning at a leaf with 5 leaflets, the buds will grow branches that will produce more flowers. Pruning above that, where there are only 3 leaflets on the stem, can produce non-flowering stems.
  • Pruning to an outward-facing bud promotes outward growth, opens up the plant to air circulation, creates more pleasing shapes and helps to resist disease.
  • Look at the overall shape and health of the plant, but begin pruning from the base of the plant. Remove any weak or twig-like branches thinner than a pencil. Removing spent blooms will tidy up the plant and spur further blooms.
  • Buy the best pruning tools you can afford. Bypass pruning shears are best because they cut cleanly using a cutting blade against a non-cutting edge.  You’ll also need bypass loppers or even a small saw for large rose bushes. Good puncture-proof gloves are a must to protects your hands from sharp thorns!
  • Sharpen your pruning tools periodically and wipe them after each use with a soft, lightly oiled rag to prevent rust. Store tools in a dry area.

Now that you have some tips on pruning your roses, hopefully you’re feeling more confident to take on this task that you may have been avoiding in your garden. It’s easier and less risky than you might have thought. Like anything else, practice makes perfect. So, go ahead, pick up a pair of pruners and give it a try. It’s okay to make mistakes – your rose bushes will forgive you. Remember, it’s better to have a healthy, blooming plant that may experience a rough cut or two than one that, without any pruning, will grow increasingly unattractive and unhealthy. 

Information in this article is cited from Monique Allen’s blog in The Garden Continuum.


Echinacea is a beautiful and easy plant to grow August 2020
  by Judi Lloyd
 
There was a time when if you said “echinacea”, it would draw blank faces. Even going by the common name of purple coneflower would only get some recognition. But now, everyone knows both terms. We can give credit to all those garden writers and gardeners who have been talking about and growing echinacea in their gardens for years. We grow echinacea for the gorgeous colored blooms, the pollinators who like those flowers and the seed heads that birds love in late summer. Plus, it’s a tough plant that comes back every year and spreads by self-seeding.
There are many selections of echinacea available that ever before. The ‘PowWow’ series features a number of different colored varieties. ‘Wild Berry’ has rose-purple colored blooms that flowers all summer without deadheading. The stalks are sturdy making this a great variety for cutting. The PowWow White version is a similar sturdy plant that reaches 2 feet tall and wide but with pristine white blooms. ‘Rainbow Marcella’ features gorgeous coral pink colored blooms. This variety is compact growing only to 15 inches tall. It’s a nice addition to the front of a garden border or even a container.
The key to growing echinacea is planting in full sun and in well-drained soil. In fact, this native plant is drought tolerant, so don’t be too hasty to water often once established. This, of course, isn’t true of new plantings that will need consistently moist soil for the first year in your garden. Echinacea will spread around by dropping seeds in fall. Each spring we do a lot of selective thinning to remove seedlings in places where we don’t want them. So, it’s good to know what the seedlings look like.
Echinacea look best paired with other summer blooming flowers. You can grow many different perennials around your echinacea patches on your property. Daylilies, bee balm, yarrow, dwarf sunflowers, rudbeckia, salvia, Veronica, aster and helenium are all good companion plants for echinacea.  It is a good winter practice to leave the cones on the plants well after the petals have dropped. The gold finches love the seeds and will flock to them in fall. Once the birds are finished, you can either leave the flower heads to enjoy in winter or cut back the plant. Since echinacea doesn’t seem bothered by many pests or diseases, it is to fine leave the plant in the garden all winter and then wait until spring to clean it up.
The easiest to grow are the basic Purple Coneflower. Some of the more “exotic” varieties may end up reverting to this one after one or two seasons anyway.

June 2020


Mini Mimosas?
By Judi Lloyd
Those are not“mini-mimosas” growing all over your yard! These prolific seedlings are a weed called Phyllanthus urinaria (commonly known as chamber bitter).  It is a native of Asia but has found new homes in several parts of the world.  It seems to have an affinity for our climate here in the southeastern United States.
Chamber bitter is a broadleaf annual weed bearing frond-like branches.   That means that, if you wait long enough, it will not survive the winter. The branches are arranged alternately with two rows of leaves on each branch and look very much like a mimosa seedling.
On the underside of the branches, you can see round seed pods which can explode, spreading the seeds over a large area.  These seeds can be produced in as little as two weeks.
They emerge in early summer when the ground has warmed and grow rapidly.  This weed is drought tolerant and germinates in both landscape beds and turf. The message for early August is to “hand pull aggressively”, so as to reduce the seed bank for next year.  
The mimosa tree, Albizia julibrissin, is native to Asia and was introduced into the United States in 1745.  They are also known as the Persian silk tree.
Mimosa trees can grow up to 50 feet in height.  Its frond-like branches resemble ferns.  In early summer (May through July), they show off their pink, pom-pom like flowers.  In late summer, they develop 6-inch long seed pods which can remain on the tree until the following spring.
Although the mimosa tree has been widely cultivated for its beauty, it has become invasive in many states, including North Carolina.  New trees sprout from the roots and its seeds are spread by animals and water.  They grow uninvited in many places including forest edges and along the banks of streams, where they can form dense stands.
Since both mimosa trees and chamber bitter are invasive, control can be difficult. 
Chamber bitter is best controlled in landscape beds through hand pulling.  A one- to three-inch layer of mulch can be effective since the seeds require light to germinate. If you choose to use chemical control, use it only if you can apply the herbicide without getting it on other plants in the area.
Mimosa trees can be controlled through removal of the root suckers or saplings.  Any seed pods that are present should be collected, bagged and disposed of in a heavy garbage bag to prevent sprouting. Contact our local Extension office for additional information regarding chemical control of chamber bitter and mimosa.
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