Image

Meet The Peggy Martin Rose

I am fascinated with the stories surrounding plants and the Peggy Martin rose story is one of the best.  Also known as the Hurricane Katrina rose, she is a vigorous, thornless climber with clusters of pink flowers and is extremely easy to grow.  Blooming in the spring and again in the fall (even in our Texas heat) this rose is resilient in many ways.



The story begins in 1989 in New Orleans when Peggy Martin was given cuttings from a thornless climbing rose.  Very active in the New Orleans Old Garden Rose Society she showed it to Dr. William Welch of Texas A&M in 2003 who was most impressed by the rose.  He left with cuttings but little hope that it would survive in the hot, dry Texas climate.

Survive it did, quickly covering his 15-foot fence and blooming both in the spring and fall after the second year.  He was most impressed with this “un-named rose”. 



In 2005 Peggy’s home was under 20-feet of salt water for 2 weeks following hurricane Katrina.  When she was finally able to visit her property she found the rose bush still alive and flourishing. Dr. Welch reconnected with Peggy a couple of months after the hurricane and learned of the survival of the rose bush.  He had already been convinced that this rose deserved to be marketed and used funds from a Horticulture Restoration Fund to make it happen.

He came up with the idea to name it the Peggy Martin rose and to also use it as a fund raiser with a $1.00 per plant donation going to the Garden Restoration Fund.  Several rose growers got on board to help grow and market this unique rose. This rose has become a beautiful symbol of survival and a testament of resiliency.

Read More

Trimming Ornamental Grasses

I have a weakness for Ornamental Grass.  They look good as a single plant swaying in the breeze and are stunning in mass plantings. 

They do require annual trimming to look their best.  I usually leave mine untrimmed until the first of February since I like the straw color and winter interest they create.  There are many different tools that can be used and it depends upon what you are most comfortable with and the type of grass you are trimming.

The goal is to cut the grass down to the correct height.  A grass that grows to 3’ or under should be cut back to a height of 3 inches and taller grasses should be cut to 6 inches.  If you cut too low, you risk cutting into the crown of the plant which can result in loss of clumps throughout the plant.

Dress for the jobwear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves so the grass blades don’t irritate your skin.

Tools for the job

  • Hand pruners
  • Hedge shears
  • Bow saw
  • Powered hedge trimmers
  • Bungee cord or twine
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Chain Saw
  • Weed eater with a brush blade

You won’t need all of these – remember, I said there were several methods, and each has its preferred tools.  You can choose the one(s) you are most comfortable working with and gives you the best results.

Helpful Hint Gather the grass like a big ponytail and wrap the bungee cord around the clump.  The grass will stay bundled as you trim and not scatter everywhere. This also makes cleanup so much easier since you can dispose of the cut clump as one large piece instead of hundreds of blades.

Start Trimming Use the cutting tool(s) of your choice to cut through the grass. The large, established grasses may require more than pruning shears – this is where the power tools such as the weed eater with a blade or powered hedge trimmers or even a chain saw for Pampas grass is necessary. It is helpful to have a friend hold up the clump so it doesn’t fall on you as you cut.

Neatening Up After the main clump has been cut and disposed of then finish up by making the cut uniform.  You many want to spread a fresh layer of mulch to cover up the many fine pieces of the grass blades that are scattered about. 

Now your grass is ready for spring.

Read More

Prepping Perennials for Spring

We suggest cleaning up your perennials in the fall or late winter to prepare them for their debut in spring.  Doing so prior to new growth appearing will ensure the plants look and perform their best.

Many perennials die back after the first hard freeze and seem to just disappear. (Day lilies, Canas, etc.)  Other varieties that are more woody based may only partially die back and if not pruned become rangy and unattractive as new growth appears. (Lantana, Salvia Greggii) 

Ornamental grass needs trimming yearly before the growing season begins.  Liriope and some vining ground covers will also require trimming.

How to trim:

  • The softer, tender perennials that died down after the first freeze shouldn’t require trimming, just a clean up of the area. 
  • Those woody based perennials should be cut back to 6-10 inches high.  They will grow fuller and become more compact plants without all of the old woody growth. 
  • Cut back your liriope and mondo grass to 2-3 inches tall.  You can use your lawn mower set on a high setting or a weed eater to make the job easier.  Make sure to do this early – late trimming will cause ragged tips on the new foliage.
  • The toughest job is trimming ornamental grasses and this is covered in a separate article

This is also the best time to divide summer and fall blooming perennials.  Dig the clumps and use a sharp knife to cut them into sections for replanting in the garden at the same depth they were growing. 

Late winter is also a good time to move perennials to a new location.  If a plant is in the wrong spot due to needing more or less sun/shade or requires better draining soil or grows to large for the area, then move it. 

As the perennials begin to grow in spring, give them some fertilizer.  This will boost their growth and increase blooms.

Read More

Pruning Roses: Tips & Tricks

Pruning rose bushes doesn’t have to be difficult! Follow these simple steps to make pruning easier with these tips and tricks!

Main Tips for Pruning Floribunda and Hybrid Tea Roses

1. Always prune dead wood back to healthy tissue. You will recognize the living tissue by its green bark and white pith core.

2. Remove all growth on the main canes that are not capable of sustaining a reasonably thick stem on its own.

3. Remove all suckers—growths from the root structure that sprout from below the bud union—remove them as close to the main root cane as possible.

4. Remove woody old canes; prune branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from – don’t leave stubs.

5. Make your pruning cuts at a 45-degree angle.

6. Choose an eye on the outside of the cane and slope the cut down and away on the opposite side.

7. After you have completed pruning your rose bush, remove any remaining foliage from the canes and clean up debris from around the bush. Discard all foliage (do not use it in the compost heap).

Main Tips for Pruning Shrub Roses like Knock-Out and Earth-kind Roses

  1. Shrub Roses aren’t nearly as PICKY as traditional roses. You can cut them pretty much anywhere and they’ll still be happy!
  2. For BEST results, cut shrub roses at knee height in a round-fashion. This will help them keep their shrub-like shape.
Read More

The Girls: All About Tulip Magnolias

The yellow flowers of Forsythia bushes are blooming now so the Saucer Magnolias (tulip trees) will be next.  The Saucer Magnolia blooms in early spring and can sometimes be damaged by frost, resulting in fewer blooms or no blooms.

‘Ann’ Tulip Magnolia

In 1955 Dr. Francis de Vos a geneticist with the U.S. National Arboretum and in 1956 horticulturist William Kosar developed 8 new shrubby type saucer magnolias that bloomed later in the season in hopes of lessening frost damage and increasing blooms. 

These were known as the “Little Girl” magnolias and are the ones you find in most nurseries today.  (Ann, Betty, Jane, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki and Susan) They are smaller and more shrub-like than the standard Saucer Magnolia which can reach 25’.

The “girls” only grow to 15 feet tall and since they don’t form a dominant leader they are best left as oval shaped shrubs instead of trying to prune into trees.   The four most popular are ‘Ann’ (deep purple-pink), ‘Betty’ (pink-purple), ‘Susan’ (red-purple), and ‘Jane’ (light pink-purple). 

They will flower best when planted in full sun but will tolerate light afternoon shade.  Due to their smaller size they are an excellent accent plant in flower beds or as anchor plants in a widened bed at the corners of a house.

Pruning should be done after blooming but not after mid-summer.  The best time to fertilize is in the spring.  Well-drained soil is preferred.  The girls are slow growers so don’t expect them to gain more than a foot per year. 

Their blooms are a welcomed sight each year and signal that spring is almost here.  Even after their showy blooms have faded away the shrub is an attractive addition to your landscape.   

Read More

Pruning Trees + Shrubs Series: Fruit Trees

Pruning fruit trees is different than pruning a shade or ornamental tree.  The goal is to develop the structure of the tree so that it can support the fruit and to open up the center of the tree so sunlight can penetrate to all of the fruit.

When: 

– The best time to prune mature fruit trees is in late winter before the tree begins to open its buds. 

– After planting a young tree

How to prune a mature tree:

– Start with removing any dead, damaged or diseased limbs.

– Cut any suckers growing from the base of the trunk.

– Remove “watersprouts” straight vertical branches within the tree.

– Prune branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from – don’t leave stubs.

Allow light into the tree by:

– Removing any downward growing branches

– Removing any branches that are growing to the center of the tree

– Removing branches that cross paths with another branch

– Stand back and look for places where multiple branches are competing with each other – prune all but the healthiest branch.

– Prune branches back flush to the larger limb they’re growing from – don’t leave stubs.

The last step is to head back your fruit tree.  Cutting off 20-30% of last year’s growth on each branch helps them become shorter and thicker.  The branches need to be strong to carry the weight of the ripening fruit. 

These cuts will be made part way up each branch.  Choose to make the cut ¼” above a bud that faces the direction you want a new branch to grow.

How to Prune a newly planted fruit tree:

Unless the tree has been tended and pruned during its lifetime it will be necessary to cut back the young tree when first planted.

Whips (Unbranched Trees)

– Prune the height of the whip to 28-36” tall. 

– After the new branches have grown 3-5” select what will become the central leader and the scaffold limbs (the main limbs of the tree) and remove all others.

Young branched trees

– Prune the tree in height by choosing the central leader and cutting it back by 1/3.

– Select the scaffold limbs and trim them in length.

– Remove unwanted limbs back to the trunk.

– Trim selective branches growing on the scaffold limbs so they are not overlapping or growing too closely together.

For a more in-depth description on how to prune specific fruits read The Art of Pruning Fruit Trees from Texas Gardener.

Read More

Pruning Trees + Shrubs Series: Ornamental Trees

December and January are both good months to trim or prune ornamental trees.  The trees are in a dormant state and without the leaves it is much easier to identify which branches should be pruned.

Regardless of the type of tree you have there are some basic pruning techniques that apply to all. 

– Cut any broken, dead or deformed branches. 

Look at the bottom and inside of the tree – deadwood is prone to occur in shaded areas of a tree.

– Cut crossing branches

Look for branches that rub against each other or are removing the bark of a neighboring limb.  Determine which limb should stay and which should go. 

Cut crazy branches. 

Remove branches growing inward or straight up through the middle of the tree.

Thin parallel branches

When 2 or more branches are growing next to each other in the same direction remove 1 of them so the other can become a stronger limb.

Do not cut off tips. 

This results in unhealthy growth at the ends of limbs and creates an awkward look to the tree.

Step back and Look at the tree

Look at the tree from all sides and underneath.  I find it useful to have someone help when pruning – have them stand back and look at the tree to help you identify the best limbs to remove.  

Proper tools for pruning are bypass pruners, hand size and larger, tree saw hand held or pole variety for taller trees.

Read More

Pruning Trees + Shrubs Series: Trimming Topiaries

The #1 question I’m asked about a topiary – “Is it hard to maintain them?”  The answer is not at all IF you don’t let it grow too much before giving it a trim. 

Let’s talk Juniper topiaries – spirals, pom-poms, poodles and patio trees.  Since junipers grow so slowly they are perfect for topiary designs.  Under normal conditions 2 trimmings per year will keep a juniper topiary looking neat.

Examine your topiary

Look for the original shape of the topiary and decide how much of the new growth needs to be cut off.  Do you want to trim the plant back to its original size and remove all new growth?  Would you like to increase the plants size?  If so, you will cut off less of the new growth but follow the pattern of the original shape.

Get to trimming

Start trimming your Juniper topiary from the top down.  Until you become comfortable with your cutting ability start with a light trim in a small section.  “More is not better“ when learning to trim.  It’s better to trim less and cut a second time to attain the look you envision rather than to cut too much off. Once you’re satisfied then trim the same amount off the rest of the plant.

If you accidentally cut too much, don’t worry.  Trimming a plant causes new growth to occur so it will fill in quickly.  Just like a not so good haircut – it grows out and you fix it.

What to trim with

I prefer using a bypass hand pruner or handheld clipping shears – with sharp blades.  Hedge trimmers or hedge shears are difficult to maneuver and make it difficult to cut properly from all angles.

Other topiary plants (except pines)

The same techniques will work on other species of plants used as topiaries.  Boxwood, Ligustrum, Fig Ivy, Rosemary, Holly, etc.  Keep your trimmers sharp, follow the lines of the original topiary shape, start at the top and work your way down and you can successfully trim any topiary.

Read More

Pruning Trees + Shrubs Series: Abelias

Abelia are known for their gracefully arching branches that are covered with flowers from June to October.  Pruning abelia plants isn’t a necessity – you can allow them to grow freely.  However, pruning will keep your plant compact and neat looking.  Although there are many different varieties available there is no difference in pruning techniques.

The best time to prune Abelias is in late winter or early spring.  Their flowers are formed on new growth (newly grown branches), so you don’t have to worry about losing blooms by cutting branches at the correct time of the year. 

If you have an older abelia that needs rejuvenating, you can prune it to the ground or prune 1/3 of the oldest stems to the ground each year before spring growth begins.  Choose the tallest branches on the interior of the plant and continue pruning stems in a random pattern to keep the shrub natural-looking.  This will promote new, compact growth.

How and What to Prune

– Prune dead stems to the ground.

– If only part of the branch is dead, cut below the dead wood and just above a lateral branch or bud.

– Long, leggy stems called water spouts (we prefer crazy arms) can be pruned to the ground any time.

– Prune the tips of all branches to maintain an even look.

– Use hand pruners for stems less than ½” in diameter and lopping shears for larger branches.

After the threat of frost has passed apply a good granular fertilizer to your abelia making sure to water it in thoroughly.  This will promote new growth for later spring and into summer.

If we have a scorcher of a summer and your abelia looks “tired” in August or September, prune the tips of all the branches.  Once the temps drop out of the high 90s you will begin to see new growth appear and a happy, healthy plant full of new blooms that will last until the first frost. 

Read More

Pruning Trees + Shrubs Series: Hydrangeas

As Fall turns to Winter our trees and shrubs become dormant and we naturally think “it’s time to prune”.  CAUTION!  You are entering a DANGER ZONE!  Pruning improperly can destroy what nature has taken years to create. 
Cutting dead looking stems off shrubs can eliminate all flowers the following year.  Pruning the wrong branches from trees can negatively affect their structure, overall beauty and decrease fruit production.
Ask questions, do a bit of research before grabbing the clippers or pruning saw.
This is the first of several articles offering “easy to follow” suggestions on pruning popular shrubs and trees.  Following these instructions will reward you with healthy, blooming trees and shrubs for years to come.

Let’s talk Hydrangeas

These beautiful shrubs brighten up the shady spots in our yards with multiple blooms on each plant during the spring, summer and into fall.  But if pruned incorrectly they will flower very little or not at all.
First step is to identify what type of Hydrangea you have.  Most hydrangea varieties bloom on last year’s growth – stems or branches that grew this year, will bear flowers next year.  This is common for mophead, lacecap and oakleaf hydrangeas.
Mopheads are known for their round balls of either white, pink or blue blooms.
Lacecaps are a flatter, multi-blooming flower resembling flat caps with frilly edges. 
Oakleaf are recognized by their distinctive leaves shaped like those of an oak tree.
These 3 types should be pruned after blooming (late summer/early fall).  These bloom for several months so you may need to selectively prune shoots that have already bloomed while leaving others to finish blooming through the season. 
If you prune these types of hydrangeas back to the ground in winter, you will not have flowers the following year.
A close up of a map

Description automatically generated
Reblooming Varieties:  If your hydrangea is one of the newer reblooming varieties (Endless Summer series, Forever & Ever series) they bloom on both current season’s growth as well as previous years branches.  These varieties should not be cut to the ground either – this will delay blooms.

How to Prune

1. Start by removing dead or damaged stems first.
2. If the plant is too large, cut the oldest shoots to the ground, giving the younger, smaller shoots more room to grow.  This will shorten and thin out the plant.
3. Cut back stems to just above a pair of healthy buds.
4. Varieties that bloom on old wood should be pruned immediately after they flower
Tip:  We suggest planting hydrangeas with non-deciduous shrubs in your landscape.  This will allow the focus to shift from the hydrangeas to these other shrubs during the winter months. 
By pruning at the correct time of year and using the correct pruning methods your Hydrangeas should reward you with a bounty of colorful blooms from spring through early fall.
Read More
Translate »
0