What Now??? Rozanne Succumbs to Mosaic Virus

Cucumber mosaic virus, like other mosaic viruses, causes yellow mottling on the leaves and can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

A couple of weeks ago while mowing my lawn, I noticed yellow splotches on the leaves of one of my robust Rozanne cranesbills.  “Looks like some kind of mosaic virus,” I thought to myself.

So I hopped on my computer and started googling away on cranesbill geranium issues.  Within minutes, I discovered that cucumber mosaic virus can attack cranesbills and that it’s often vectored by aphids.  So, I figure that an aphid probably visited the plant, sucked on it, and in the process, infected Rozanne.

Weeds apparently provide a great food and disease source for aphids, and I happen to live between the two weediest yards in the neighborhood.

The virus can also be transmitted via garden tools and gardeners’ fingers, according to The Royal Horticultural Society.  That’s why it’s important to clean tools and hands with soap and water.

Besides causing yellow mottling, cucumber mosaic virus can lead to leaf distortion and plant stunting.

It’s important to dispose of diseased plants to keep them from infecting other plants in the garden.

Worst of all, there’s no chemical control for the virus.

After reading all that, I raced outside, dug up the infected cranesbill, conducted a speedy funeral, and tossed the plant into the trash.  It broke my heart to destroy a gorgeous two-year-old cranesbill.  But it was the only thing I could do.

Next, I checked the four cranesbills surrounding the infected one.  Fortunately, I didn’t see any mottling on the other plants.

Normally, I blast a plant with water to dislodge aphids.  But in this case, I wanted to take more definitive action.  So I whipped out my Ferti-lome Triple Action insecticide/fungicide/miticide and sprayed all of my geraniums, roses and Pawnee Buttes sand cherries.  When I used Triple Action on my aphid-infested sand cherries last year, the plants recovered nicely.

I’ve been growing hardy geraniums, including Rozanne and bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum), for ten years or so, and have never had any problems with them.

My online research indicates that allium can repel aphids.  Interestingly, though, I did have one allium growing near the Rozannes, and still had this mosaic problem.  Maybe I need more alliums.

Other plants that reportedly repel aphids are catnip/catmint, garlic, chives and mint.

I grow Little Trudy catmint next to my roses, and so far, haven’t spotted any aphids on the roses.  All of my roses are own-root roses.  So fortunately, I don’t need to be concerned about another virus– rose mosaic virus—on those plants because that disease attacks only grafted roses.  It’s yet one more good reason to plant own-root roses, such as those sold by High Country Roses.

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Maintenance, Landscape Design, Plant Geekiness

The Grass is Sometimes Greener in the Neighbor’s Lawn

My grass has looked this green for several weeks now. The color in the photo has not been enhanced. I use water sparingly. Will the grass turn more yellow this summer? Yes, because that’s what Kentucky blue grass does. It’s a cool-season grass.

We take a monkey see/monkey do approach to lawn care on my cul-de-sac.  And sometimes it works.

Recently, I was talking with my neighbor, Rock.  He’s the premier turf grower in the neighborhood, so we swap grass-maintenance tips.

I once asked him why his lawn is so lush and green.  He said a friend told him to apply laundry detergent to his lawn once or twice a year to soften the soil and make it more water-permeable.

In the interest of science, I went out last fall and bought what I thought was the safest laundry detergent I could find—Seventh Generation liquid—and applied it to my lawn with a hose-end sprayer.  It definitely made the soil softer.  I have concerns, though, that Seventh Generation and many other detergents could add harmful salts and boron to the soil, based on information in the book, Greywater, Green Landscape, by Laura Allen.  So rather than eventually killing my grass with unsafe substances, I’ve decided to stick with Revive Organic Soil Treatment, which is designed specifically for lawns.

Earlier this spring, I noticed drifts of what looked like soil thrown here and there on Rock’s front yard.

“What’s that brown stuff on your lawn?” I asked him.  “Compost,” he said.  “I saw you spreading some on your lawn last fall.”

This is the monkey see/monkey do behavior I’m talking about.

I’ve tried other approaches on my lawn, as well.  In late winter, for example, I applied Milorganite for two reasons: (1) to fertilize the grass; and (2) to repel rabbits.  A small University of Nebraska study found that Milorganite, which is reprocessed sludge, was effective in keeping rabbits away from impatiens.  It does seem to help keep bunnies at bay in my lawn.  So does my cat, Steve.

I also get my heavy clay soil aerated each fall to make it easier for water to reach grass roots.

After the aeration last fall, I had planned to overseed my yard, but life got in the way.  So I overseeded this spring.

My lawn looks rather golf-course-like  this year, and it greened up before my neighbors’ lawns did.  I watered it only after days of high winds, which dry out the soil.  Otherwise, I let Mother Nature take care of the rest.

So, here’s my lawn maintenance timeline:

  • Fall 1917: Aerated lawn.  Applied Seventh Generation detergent (but I’m switching back to Revive).  Spread compost to improve soil tilth (ability of the soil to retain water and sustain plant growth).
  • Late winter 2018: Spread Milorganite on lawn
  • Early spring 2018: Overseeded lawn and watered it twice daily for two weeks until Kentucky blue grass seed sprouted.  Then cut back on watering

The only time I water my lawn in the spring is after high winds.  In hot summer months, though, I water about once a week.  Then I back off again the fall, when the weather is cooler and moister.

Consider trying this multi-pronged approach to see if it works for you.  And while you’re at it, have a soil test done on your lawn to determine exactly which nutrients it needs.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Garden Maintenance

Wait! Don’t Prune those Roses Yet!

Although you may want to prune your roses in April, resist the temptation. Otherwise you’ll have to deal with dieback of tender new growth. This beauty is a low-maintenance Livin’ Easy rose.

Don’t tell me—you’ve been cutting away at your ornamental grasses, perennials and shrubs, so that new growth can emerge unimpeded.  As long as you’re on a roll, you may as well prune those roses, too.  Right?  Nope.

Don’t prune your roses until late May in Colorado.  If you prune earlier, a late freeze is likely to kill any tender new growth stimulated by pruning.

But when you do get around to pruning, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Remove the 4 Ds: Dead, dying, damaged and diseased rose canes.  Also cut out canes that rub against each other, exposing the wood to potential disease and insect damage.  Then you can focus on shaping the plant.
  • Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle so that water doesn’t pool on top of the cane and cause it to rot.
  • Cut damaged canes about one-half inch into green live wood and about one-fourth inch above a live bud.
  • Seal the cut canes with carpenter’s glue or nail polish to discourage cane borers.

For more information about pruning roses, visit the American Rose Society’s website .  For a rose-growing calendar for Denver and Colorado’s Front Range, review the Denver Rose Society’s handout.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Maintenance, Plant Geekiness

Nibble Away at Turf and Water Usage

Here’s what my front yard looked like last year after my second round of turf removal and installation of new plants.

Many homeowners, especially non-gardeners, take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to landscaping.  That approach is fine, as long as those homeowners realize that as plants mature over the years, some adjustments may be necessary.

Then there are some of us gardeners in semi-arid climates who dislike high water bills so much that we nibble away at our turf year after year. Kentucky bluegrass is, after all, one of the thirstiest plants you can grow. Two years ago, for example, I reduced the turf area in my front yard by about 33 percent.  Last year, I trimmed the remaining turf by about 25 percent.  And this year, I’ve decided to decease the existing turf by another 20 percent or so.

As you can see, there was turf galore in the front yard when I bought the home 2 1/2 years ago. The yard wasn’t water-wise, to put it mildly.

“Why not remove all the turf at once?” you might sensibly ask.  Well, removing turf is time-consuming and labor-intensive.  So, I like to spread out the effort.  Also, I like to propagate plants for filling in the newly expanded beds.  If I’m propagating from cuttings, it may take several months or more to grow a new plant.

I like a small expanse of green in my front yard, but ideally, I would like to eliminate grass altogether.  That’s why I plunked a small rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) plant in my perennial bed last spring.  I’m waiting to see how it performs as a potential turf replacement.  So far, I haven’t been wowed.  Perhaps rupturewort is one of those plants that sleeps in the first year, creeps in the second year and leaps in the third year.  I’m hoping to see some leaping this summer.

This year’s turf-removal effort involves increasing the beds at the front edge of the yard by another two feet. This expansion will enable me to grow my top-performing, 5-foot-wide red fire Meidiland ground cover roses in the space. The smaller purple rain roses that I planted last year were a major disappointment.

If that doesn’t work, I might consider soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides), which I’ve grown successfully for years.  It’s evergreen, and it’s a solid, drought-tolerant performer.  I need to decide, though, whether I can live with a bright pink lawn for the two to three weeks that it’s in flower.  Also, when It’s all fluffed up, it can reach six inches tall, which is high for a lawn.

Don’t talk to me about thyme.  I’m simply not a fan.  It can brown out in the center and turn leggy.

The same goes for Turkish veronica (Veronica liwanensis).  I’ve seen it brown out in my west-facing Denver yard.  Also, it doesn’t spread as quickly as I would like.

Ajuga?  I’ve never liked the looks of it.  Its growth habit reminds me of broad-leafed weeds.

Woolly speedwell (Veronica pectinata) has all the characteristics I’m looking for.  It’s attractive, low-growing, fast-spreading and evergreen.  Unfortunately, it would burn up in my south-facing Fort Collins lawn without shade.  So, I have to be content with growing it under my autumn brilliance serviceberry.

So, the search for the right ground cover continues as I nibble away at my turf.

For those of you who are customers of Fort Collins Water, please be aware that the City of Fort Collins currently is sponsoring a Xeriscape Incentive Program (XIP), which offers generous rebates to homeowners who remove turf and install water-wise plants.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Maintenance, Landscape Design, Plant Geekiness

Winter Watering–Boring, but Important

Evergreen trees, such as this magnificent blue spruce, especially require water in fall and winter because they retain their foliage year-round. Evergreens lose water as moisture moves from the roots, up through the trunk, and out the leaves. Also, newly planted trees need more water in fall and winter to help them get established.

With the snow we’ve been receiving in Colorado over the winter, many gardeners think it’s unnecessary to water their plants.

Not so.  On average, 13 inches of snow equals only one inch of rain, according to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

So, this means you need to haul out your hose once a month when winter temperatures rise above 40 degrees, and give your yard a good soak.  Otherwise, you could lose some of your valuable trees and shrubs–especially evergreens, which require more water.

This year, winter watering is more important than ever, because Colorado’s 2017-2018 snowpack is the worst that it has been in 30 years.  So, we could be facing a drought for the upcoming growing season.  If you keep  your plants healthy now, they’ll be in better shape to withstand drier conditions.

I watered my entire yard about a week ago, even though the soil looked moist from melted snow.  I was amazed at how quickly the water from my sprinkler sank into the soil.

Yes, it’s a pain to water in cold weather, but just do it, as soon as the snow from yesterday’s snowstorm melts.  And keep doing it until rain kicks in around April.

For more information on winter watering, visit Colorado State University’s website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Garden Maintenance

Spring Creek’s Garden of Lights Emblazons Winter Sky

Oversized watering cans and sparkly trees greet visitors as they enter Garden of Lights at The Gardens on Spring Creek.

In Fort Collins, we have a small jewel of a garden (18 acres) called The Gardens on Spring Creek.  Designed by Lauren Springer Ogden, author of The Undaunted Garden and other books, this garden does an excellent job of demonstrating practical, creative ways to incorporate tough, xeric plants into residential landscapes.

A plethora of simulated blooms light up the sky. Dormant ornamental grasses (front right) get into the act, as well.

Trellised “tomato vines” glitter in front of a cobalt tree as it’s pelted with icicles.

Each winter from early December to early January, the garden dons its holiday finery for Garden of Lights.   This year, the lights will shine at 5 to 9pm from December 1, 2017 through January 7, except for Christmas Eve and day, and New Years Eve and day.  Admission is a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $2 for children, or free for garden members.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in at 2145 Centre Avenue.

Leave a comment

Filed under Landscape Design, Whimsy

Four Bloomin’ Magical Australian Gardens Offer Horticultural Delights

Lush, green vistas abound in Mayfield Garden, formerly the site of a sheep farm.

During a trip to Australia in October and November, I visited about 20 gardens, public and private.  In my November post, I described three of them.  Here are four more:  Mayfield Garden, Hunter Valley Gardens, Burrendong Botanic Garden & Arboretum, and the Western Australian Botanic Garden.

Mayfield in Oberon, NSW.  Mayfield was established as a sheep farm in 1984.  The Hawkins family later dedicated 36 acres in the heart of the property to a European-inspired public garden.  Among the garden’s notable features are a grotto with a cascading waterfall that you can walk behind; a water garden; an obelisk in a reflecting pond; dry-stacked stone walls and borders; and magnificent combinations of trees with varied foliage colors.  The family also owns a larger, private garden on the property.  That garden is open to visitors for a limited number of days in spring and autumn.

At Hunter Valley Garden, playful topiary and other compositions reflect a child-like wonder that makes this place special.  A purple jacaranda tree blooms in the background.

Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin, NSW.  Hunter Valley, another family-owned public garden, is the most whimsical site that I visited.  Ten internationally themed gardens comprise this cheerful venue.  The storybook garden, with the mad hatter’s tea party and other nursery rhyme displays, is one of my favorites.  The Oriental garden, formal garden, Chinese garden and Italian grotto are impressive, as well.  It’s a child-oriented garden, but there’s plenty for adults to enjoy, as well.  In early November, the gardens were decorated for Christmas.  Because Australians don’t celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving, retailers and service providers begin obsessing over Christmas even earlier than we do in the States.

Overhead shade covers protect plants from harsh sun in the fern gully at the Burrendong Botanic Garden & Arboretum.

Burrendong Botanic Garden & Arboretum in Mumbil, NSW.  Unlike other gardens I visited, Burrendong is not only a display garden; it’s also a research and conservation facility, dedicated to preserving rare native plants.  The garden’s small, but enthusiastic cadre of volunteers served our tour group a refreshing lunch at picnic tables beneath native trees.  Our hosts had placed a large sprig of eucalyptus or hakea, complete with blossoms or seed pods, on each table so we could examine it during our meal.  Then the volunteer guides led us through the fern gully, mallees and other areas of the garden.  The warm welcome, combined with the fascinating plants, made this visit unforgettable.

Estimated at 750 years old, this giant boab tree stands about 45 feet tall in the Western Australian Botanic Garden. This 36-ton tree earned worldwide attention when it journeyed approximately 2,000 miles from Warmun in Western Australia to Perth in 2008.

Western Australian Botanic Gardens in Perth, WA.  These picturesque, 42-acre gardens sit high on a bluff overlooking Perth’s skyline, and the Swan and Canning Rivers.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the giant boab tree, distinctive banksias, and many interesting ground covers.  Like Colorado, Perth has low-nutrient soils and hot summers.  But Perth receives more rainfall—a long-term average of 33 inches per year, compared to 16 inches for Fort Collins.  That’s why you’ll still see sweeping areas of turf in Perth and other areas of Australia that you might not see in a Colorado botanic garden.   In recent years, however, Australia’s rainfall has declined noticeably.  If the trend continues, I wouldn’t be surprised if sweeping turf becomes less predominant in this country’s botanic gardens.

2 Comments

Filed under Landscape Design, Plant Geekiness, Whimsy