Lonicera pileata, also known as Privet Honeysuckle, is a native evergreen plant of China. If you want a low growing living fence, then the Lonicera pileata may be the right plant for you. It only attains heights of 2 to 3 feet, with a spread of 8 feet. It is a hardy plant in USDA zones 5 through 9. Late in the spring, small white blooms appear and perfume the air.
Finding the Location
The best time to plant the Lonicera pileata is early in the spring or early fall. You’ll want to find an area that has full sun exposure, but it can also grow in locations with partial shade.
Prepare the Planting Area
Prepare the area by removing all the grass and weeds. They will remove moisture and nutrients that your Lonicera pileata needs to grow. You can pull the weeds, or till them into the soil, where they will decompose. No matter if you are planting one tree or many, the width of the area to clear out is 4 to 5 feet in diameter.
Dig the Holes
Dig holes that are twice the diameter of the Lonicera pileata root ball. The depth of the planting hole should be the same as the length of the root ball. If planting more than one hole, leave 6 to 10 feet between each one.
Dig a hole that is twice the diameter of the Lonicera pileata’s container. Keep the depth the same as the root ball. Before you place the root ball into the hole, scuff the sides and bottom of the planting hole. This loosens the soil and allows the roots to penetrate beyond the walls of the hole easier.
Amend the Soil
Fill the planting hole with water. As you wait for the water drains into the soil naturally, prepare the soil you removed from the hole. Amend the soil with 3 inches of well-rotted compost. Compost adds nutrients to the soil and provides better drainage for the water.
When all the water has drained out of the hole, it is time to plant your Lonicera pileata. Remove the root ball out of the container. It usually just pulls out of the container but if you have trouble getting the plant out, turn the pot upside down and bang the rim on the edge of a table top. Make sure there is someone to catch it so it does not fall down on the ground.
Plant the Lonicera pileata
Place the root ball in the center of the hole. Check the top of the root ball. It should be level with the soil.
Fill in the hole with the amended soil. When the hole is half full of soil, firm the soil down around the root ball with your hands. This removes the air pockets in the soil. Fill the hole the rest of the way. Tamp the soil with your feet or use a shovel.
Caring for the Lonicera pileata
Water the Lonicera pileata as soon as it is planted with a water hose. Turn the water on to a slow flow and allow it to run while you plant the next shrub. During the growing season, provide an inch of water every week to your hedge. Omit watering if your area has had ample rainfall.
Add a 2 to 4 inch layer of organic mulch around the Lonicera pileata. Do not place the mulch up against the base of the plants. This makes them more susceptible to disease, rot and bug problems. Keep the mulch at least two inches away from the base of the plant.
“American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants”; Christopher Brickell; 2004
Although you can buy topiaries at the nursery, it can be more rewarding to grow and shape your own. Topiaries are best done with trainable shrubs and vines like rosemary, boxwood and holly, and grow most popularly in the shape of a lollipop.
Use rosemary for a small topiary or holly or boxwood for a larger one. Pot the shrub or plant in rich, quick-draining potting soil for more flexible placement, and to protect the plants with indoor locations during the winter. Put a large stake behind the plant in the pot, and tie the main stem or trunk of the plant to the stake.
Allow the plant to grow for several weeks to months before you attempt to train it. Turn the plant often for even growth in the crown, and water it as necessary for the breed. Cut away suckers or shoots growing low on the trunk.
Train the plant once it reaches the height you want. Decide on your design – one, two or three balls, sitting on top of each other – and trim the plant to that design. Pinch or prune away shoots around your design to leave a rough pattern.
Trim and neaten the remaining foliage to accomplish your desired design. Keep in mind that upward shoots grow more quickly and may distract from the pattern of the topiary.
Trim the topiary every one to two weeks to encourage thicker growth and neatness. Always trim to your desired pattern to control the growth.
Tips: Low light leads to sparse growth, and leads to unsatisfactory topiaries. Make sure your plant gets the light and water it needs for best growth.
Never allow the topiary to flower, as this will destroy the pattern.
The method of xeriscaping, which means attempting to grow plants that have less requirements of water, has become quite popular in this age when most people are thinking green. Besides being a benefit for conservation of water resources, xeriscaping also adds to the aesthetic value of the landscape and cuts down the time required on watering, weeding and trimming. Because plants are carefully chosen from those that have less requirements for water, weeds do not grow much in xeriscaped gardens. Mostly, xerophytic plants like cacti, succulents and shrubs that have minimal water needs are selected. The word xeriscape is a portmanteau of two words – the Greek ‘xeri’ which means ‘dry’ and ‘scape’ which stands for landscape.
People who are planning on going green with xeriscaping need very few resources to begin with. Most people set up these gardens in their lawns. The soil must be conditioned to retain water so that the irrigation requirement is further lessened. The plants can be obtained from any nursery, where even tips on buying the right choice of plants for little or no water requirements are provided. Xeriscaped gardens can be made to look beautiful by selecting a mélange of different kinds of plants, keeping in mind how these plants will look in the garden when they are fully grown. There are gardening specialists who can be invited to plan out and set up a xeriscape garden. Among the various suggestions that a xeriscape expert would provide, one is to group all plants with similar water requirements together so that the watering of the garden can be planned out properly.
Apart from the fact that xeriscaping is a good way of water conservation, it is also true that it makes the gardening job more efficient and less time-consuming. Cutting down on various garden tasks by the judicious selection of native and desert plants is one prime benefit. If a xeriscape is set up in the lawn, it makes a unique statement for the house and also cuts down on mowing time. Xeriscape gardening clearly shows how people do not need to invest in expensive resources in their mission of going green.
So if you are a person who genuinely wishes to take some constructive environment friendly steps, this is surely one thing you can do right away in your home. Xeriscaping is simple, practical, and speaks volumes about you and your thoughts.
Not often seen in home landscaping or in gardens, the fiery orange blossoms of Flame Azalea are a real attention-grabber. Never seen this native member of the Rhododendron genus? Then gaze in astonishment at this beauty.
This picture was taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.
Image Credit to Rob Travis
Now Flame Azalea varies in color yellow and apricot to orange to salmon to red. Here, for instance, is a spectacular photograph of a yellow Flame Azalea .
And here’s a photograph of a shrub with peach-colored flowers.
Finally, here is one of a deeply-colored Flame Azalea, ‘Mandarin Red.’ These blooms remain beautiful for weeks.1 In fall, foliage color is also attractive.
Although Flame Azaleas are usually seen along a mountain road, is it possible to purchase one commercially for landscaping your home? Happily, yes. Are special conditions required for survival and thriving of the flaming beauties? No-Flame Azaleas do best in USDA Zones 4 to 7. They prefer moist, rich, slightly acid soil and light dappled shade to mostly sunny. They do fairly well in clay soil.
Locating Your Flame Azalea
Are you willing to take on the intense orange color and relatively large size of the Flame Azalea, which at maturity can grow to a width of 15 feet?2 Planning and placement is key when landscaping with such a large shrub. Its girth is de-emphasized by planting the azalea near a larger structure, such as a house. When situated near your home, ample space needs to be provided for future growth; but take note: the Flame Azalea is not evergreen. Another suitable location for Flame Azaleas is at the entrance way to a large front yard, where it suggests similar warmth may be found within the home. Finally, azaleas are often used along the edge of a lawn surrounded by woods.
Other plants should be bold enough not to be overpowered. Many shades of yellow can be used to compliment the brilliant blooms of Flame Azalea. One way to make certain they won’t fail to be noticed is to plant larger flowers in large groups or smaller flowers in beds.
1. Eastern Plant Specialties – Flame Azalea
2. HGTV – Flame Azalea
References and Resources:
Sunlight Gardens – Rhododendron calendulaceum United States National Arboretum – Azalea Questions and Answers Images from pinterest and Advance image search by google (available for reuse unless credit specified)
While some people give yucca plants a bad rap, I think they’re great. Granted, the extensive (rhizomatous) root system by which the plants spread can make them rather difficult to get rid of, but who would want to? Yucca plants are some of the most versatile and long-lasting evergreens in the landscape. Need some drama or perhaps something different? Add a yucca. Want a focal point that really stands out? Plant a yucca.
People have been growing and using yucca plants for many years. Native to both Central and North America, yuccas not only offer interest with their spiky, dagger-like foliage, but when grown in the right conditions, they will send up striking white flowers from midsummer through fall. In addition to their beauty, yucca plants are also pretty useful. Sure they look great in the back of that rock or succulent garden, but they’re also a natural detergent. In fact, one of the common names for yucca is Soapweed. Whether it’s soap for bathing, shampoo for washing hair, or detergent for cleaning clothes, the roots from yucca plants can be crushed and soaked in water to produce a foamy mix that’s well suited for this purpose.
Yucca juice has been used to make paint and is sometimes included as an ingredient for dyes. Another well-known use for yucca plants is fiber for sewing or making rope. Some species are even used for paper pulp. The leaves are suitable for basket-weaving (though I would definitely recommend practicing extreme care, as their needle-sharp foliage packs quite a wallop). When picked at the right time, just as they come into bloom, yucca flower buds were often roasted and eaten. The fruit from thick-leafed varieties was deemed edible, as were the cooked leaves and stems in some species.
There are well over forty types of yucca plants species. Some are shrubby while others are tree-like. Some are solid green; others are variegated. Some are grown in pots and others in the ground. Likewise, many can be grown indoors while others prefer to be outside. Adam’s needle (Y. filamentosa) is the most commonly seen variety in the garden, having curly threads along the leaf margins. A shorter version well adapted to cooler regions is Y. glauca, otherwise known as Soapweed. The Spanish bayonet (Y. aloifolia) is a tall, shrubby-branched species while the Joshua tree (Y. brevifolia) is a tree-like variety with short leaves that form on the twisted ends of branches. Y. treculeana, or Spanish dagger, is a thick-leafed yucca whereas Buckley (y. constricta) is a thin-leafed variety. The stemless Lord’s candle (Y. whipplei) has attractive bluish-green foliage, and then there’s the variegated species, Y. filamentosa ‘Color Guard.’ Other noteworthy yucca plants include Y. flaccida, Y. rigida, Y. guatamaensis, Y. filifers, and Y. elata.
Yucca plants are easy to grow, thriving in sunny, well-draining areas of the landscape. They are especially tolerant of drought-like conditions. Since they do have those extensive root systems, put them in an area that will allow them plenty of growing room. They may require occasional pruning too, especially for those grown indoors. I love how carefree yucca plants are and the number of uses they can provide makes them one of the most versatile evergreens in the landscape.
Personal experience Garden amp; Forest, Vol. 8, Tree Yuccas in the United States by Charles Sargent Agaves, Yuccas amp; Related Plants: A Gardener’s Guide by Gary amp; Mary Irish
There are continuous efforts to create the better lawn. Particularly in the more arid parts of the country, turf requiring less water while still looking lush and green would be welcome in creating the desired look. On the one hand, this is an admirable endeavor in preserving a precious resource such as water, but on the other, are we so conditioned to believe that landscapes must include expanses of grass in the first place?
Now I am not against beautiful lawns full of grass per se; they are an important component of many sports arenas certainly, and make for important grounds for gathering in public places such as parks. They are wonderful for running on when playing and exercising. They should be looked at as special. But in this country at least, they are looked upon by most as the primary building block of the typical landscape. I can imagine when our country was mostly wilderness, how an isolated landscape was seen as an escape where plants were chosen for the reminder they might provide of another place and time, the old country, for example. But now, with an ever growing population taking over more and more of the land, landscaping needs a new paradigm by putting emphasis on the natural environment.
My point may have its origins in extolling the virtues of the near-elimination of grass-centric landscapes, but my greater argument is for the use of native plants. Whether you live in the mid-West, in which case you should consider plants native to the mid-West, or the Southeast (consider using the plants of the Southeast!), the plants that have evolved in your region will grow naturally with those conditions, be it the unique conditions of the soil, the precipitation, the amount of sunlight, and significantly, in concert with the particular fauna of that region. By doing so, you would naturally use less supplemental water and maybe eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides altogether!
Back when our country was young and being settled, a single specimen of a particular tree or shrub with an exotic shape and colors may have stood out in an entire wilderness, but look at the typical suburb and these exotic plants are everywhere. In many cases, they multiply without check and crowd out the native flora. Native plants are the ones that our native fauna have evolved with for thousands of years! And back to the ubiquitous grass and lawns: how much harm is being done to the ecology by keeping them lush and ‘cared-for’ with chemicals that can be poison to our living soil, our watersheds, etc.? Their exorbitant use of precious water. Then add up the usage of all those gas and electric lawnmowers. And blowers. As for artificial lawns, they have their advantages, but outdoor carpeting doesn’t participate in the cycle of life.
Doing away with the lawn and planting more native plants isn’t so much adding yet another thing to worry about in our lives – those with home landscapes may well eventually end up with more time on their hands. Imagine recomposing your land such that you can spend that much less time tending to it and more time relaxing in it. Is the only time you walk on your lawn when you are mowing it? Replacing your lawn results in not having to take care of it anymore. Well chosen native plants and shrubs means less water and pruning. And more birds, bees, and butterflies!
Most of you are familiar with the silver fuzzy catkins that signal the coming of spring faithfully every March. Some know Pussy Willow as a bush that grows in the wild, semi-open areas that have been left to overgrow, while others cultivate the bush for its excellent dried floral material that seems to have no trouble finding a place within the home every spring. In this article, I will deal with not only how to optimize the bush in the landscape, but also on the different varieties of Pussy Willow and their uses. In this article, I will deal with Common Pussy Willow, French Pink Pussy Willow, and Curly Pussy Willow.
Common Pussy Willow
Common Pussy Willow consists of any bush that grows in the wild by itself. There seem to be two varieties of wild Pussy Willow, the ones that bloom early and the ones that grow aggressively, bloom later, and usually have a slightly lesser catkin performance. Both varieties grow up to forty feet in height, will grow six to twelve inches in diameter, and live between forty and sixty years. Sprouts grow freely from the ground and from the branches. The tree can handle severe pruning and cutting back.
French Pink Pussy Willow
French Pink Pussy Willow is an improved cultivar in that it retains strong growth, has improved catkin size and density, and its twigs and catkin scales retain a red color in the winter. As a tree, it will grow 30-40 feet in height and 20-30 feet wide, often exhibiting multiple branching. It does tend to put out sprouts, which require pruning.
Curly Pussy Willow
Curly Pussy Willow is a rare variety of Pussy Willow that I was able to get a hold of through my involvement in the Floral Industry over the years. How large the bush will actually grow is uncertain, as I continue to prune my bushes heavily every spring to satisfy demand. I assume it will grow to the size of any other pussy willow. So far, it has exhibited strong growth and reliable bloom and twig performance. Catkin density is thick, but the catkin size is lacking in that the catkins are not really fluffy. But the feature that really defines this cultivar and makes it stand out is the tendency of the twig to flatten out, curl, contort, and eventually look like some weird type of hockey stick or golf club.
Propagating Pussy Willow is really easy. Before the bush puts out leaves, cut some twigs and put them in water. A stem a quarter of an inch thick and about a foot high usually works the best. Look for twigs that exhibit fast, strong growth. Avoid thin, weak, slow growing side branches, as they usually do not produce a good cutting. Make sure the water stays fresh and does not dry up. Within a couple weeks, roots will be developing. When the roots are between one to two inches long, remove the cuttings from the water and plant in the ground or in flowerpots. During the first year, water frequently. At the end of the year, if the plants are in flowerpots, they can be planted in the ground. During the first year, a lot of the plant’s energy is invested in its root system. By the second year, you should start seeing strong, good growth.
Left to itself, Pussy Willow will grow two to four feet a year when mature, to six feet per year when young. The problem with this is the bush tends to stretch into a tree, leaving the valuable twigs out of reach and even somewhat out of sight. The tree also tends to produce poorer bloom when not pruned.
There are several ways that the tree can be pruned. As the tree can take a heavy pruning, there are multiple pruning options, a lot of room for error, and little risk of losing the tree due to lack of pruning as a hard cut will produce a new crown of growth within a couple years.
A method I employ in my yard is to let the tree row as a single trunk to about six feet high where I let the tree branch out. Each year after the catkins blow, I prune the new growth six inches above last year’s cut. The result is a semi-formal yet informal tree that looks really good eleven and a half months of the year. (The other two weeks being when it is a bare skeleton before the new growth has fully emerged.) After six years of such pruning, the dead wood and knobbiness of the overall crown became a bit too much so I thinned out the wood inside the crown, leaving about thirty good stubs on a really bare skeleton. It looked really ugly in April, but now you probably wouldn’t be able to tell if it had been pruned at all. Because Pussy Willow sprouts off of old wood, this shape can basically be held for many years. And with the use of a short stepladder, there is always a supply of high quality twigs for floral use.
Don’t be afraid to prune Pussy Willow hard. Feel free to experiment with different shapes, forms, and ideas. If there is a plant that can take a heavy pruning and not even blink, it is Pussy Willow. Although Pussy Willow does not have as much deadwood as regular willow, pruning eliminates that as well. And pruning encourages healthy growth with good bloom quality.
When you pick Pussy Willow for freshly cut flower arrangements, it is best to pick it early, just after most of the catkins have opened. It can be picked later, but if the catkins are starting to pop, it is probably better to dry them. Dried Pussy Willow tends to lose a bit of its fresh, sharp look, but still looks pretty decent. Since the catkins sometimes droop while drying, hanging the branches upside-down from a rafter for a couple weeks will remedy that. Once dried, Pussy Willow will keep for upwards of a year or more. Curly Pussy Willow can presumably last for decades, as it is a woody stem. It blooms a couple weeks later than French Pink Pussy Willow, but can be picked as early as November if harvested for its curly twigs.
Willow twigs can be used in basket weaving and other related crafts. To make a wreath of Pussy Willow, all you need is a base frame and some florist wire to wire the twigs to the wreath base. If the desired effect is to have the twigs fan out from a core, wind the twig around the base a couple times, then let it fan out. There should only be about a foot to eighteen inches of twig when the winding is done. It is good to harvest the twigs long and trim them as needed while weaving. There are almost unlimited possibilities, just let your imagination run wild!