Crossed Branches and Pruning

When pruning shrubs and trees there are certain characteristics you need to look for to determine where to cut, how to cut, when to cut, or even what to cut. It's like a good mystery movie with the who, what, when, and where! One very important thing to watch out for is crossed branches (this would be a who). Crossed branches are branches that have grown into a position where the bark rubs against the bark of another branch or trunk. Crossed branches can rub when the wind blows gradually scraping away the bark and causing damage. If left long enough the branches will gradually merge together possibly making the form of the plant look a little less desirable. The other day when out in the garden I took a short video that demonstrated what it looks like when branches cross. It happens fairly frequently and even more so with…

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Bad Breaks

Broken branch of a crape myrtle Sometimes in gardening, as in life, we experience bad breaks. We don't intend for these to happen, they just do. Whether caused by too much stress, mistakes, or happenstance the only power we have over these breaks is to clean up and hope for the best. Such is the case with one of my crape myrtles planted along our property line border. The crape myrtles have a beautiful watermelon red color when in bloom but the recent rains have left their branches heavy with moisture.  Add to that a dash of wind and you have a recipe for a bad break. The crape myrtles broke off right at a branching point (or crotch) where two of the major branches were joined. Here's a closer look at the break point.  The joint is split down the middle which isn't good because it leaves a large…

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The Crape Myrtle Border

Along one side of our property there is a narrow strip of land between the house and our neighbors' properties.  There isn't much room to do a whole lot of gardening (or so I originally thought) and this side of the house felt exposed when we bought our home in 2007.  This is how it looked a couple years ago just after I planted a short row of hemlocks as a privacy screen: November 2007 And this is how it looks today: August 2011 You can't even see the hemlocks now.  I planted the crape myrtles in between each hemlock. We later lost two of the hemlocks then I replanted one then promptly lost it.  The two that remain are doing great now.  They get protection from the summer sun by the fast growing crape myrtles. In the winter we'll have evergreen color on the border. I added the stone…

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The Long View

Have you ever stood back and tried to observe your garden at a different angle? Maybe from up high on a slope? Or down low from the ground looking up at the flowers and trees? Sometimes it's helpful to take a different perspective in order to plan out your garden better.  Here's an example. I took this picture the other day from our side garden.  The side garden is on the eastern side of our house and includes the corner shade garden as well as the border garden. Along the border I have a row of crape myrtles with a hedge of caryopteris planted underneath. This would be an awesome location for some hydrangeas but since more shade isn't present my caryopteris works just fine.  It will begin blooming later this month and should continue to bloom through September. What else do you see in the photo? Way back off…

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How a Crape Myrtle Should Be Pruned

You hear about it all the time crape myrtles being unceremoniously chopped off before they can become what they should be. This pruning method is best known as crape murder. The result of crape murder is a plant that ends up with lollipop like flowering tops with branches that flop all around in the slightest breeze. Can you tell I'm not a fan? But I am a fan when the pruning is done right. That means allowing 1, 3, or 5 stems to grow into a multibranched tree. It's a fantastic sight, when done right: Here's an example of crape myrtle pruning gone right! This crape myrtle at my parent's house has been a allowed to grow into a full size tree. The suckers get cleaned up regularly and dead branches get pruned every now and then. This particular tree lost it's other main branch because of the freeze of…

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Crape Myrtle Propagation: Step by Step

This weekend I picked up some cuttings of a red flowering crape myrtle to propagate. I took 6 inch hardwood cuttings that were just beginning to leaf out. Since I didn't have time to treat them right away I left them in a jar of water overnight to stay moist and treated them with rooting hormone the next day. Here's the crape myrtle propagation method step by step. (Of course it can be used for many other plants as well.) Crape Myrtle Propagation 1. Prepare your potting medium. In this case I used sand but a 50/50 mix of sand and peat would work fine. Vermiculite is another good medium to use. 2.Take the cut end of the crape myrtle and dip it into the rooting hormone. I usually just dump a little hormone into a cup then dab the end of the cutting into it. Don't stick your cutting…

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