Friday, March 30, 2012

Best Sale I Never Made

  A couple of springs ago, I had a customer request a White Fringe Tree. She had grown-up with one in her mother’s yard, recalling that they called it ‘Old Man’s Beard’, and wanted one for herself, so I went on the hunt. It is not a readily available tree because they are difficult to produce from cuttings. Sometimes a specialty plant comes with a high price. Once I located the tree, I called the customer to make sure she still wanted it. She paused once she heard the price, but decided it was worth it. The tree arrived and I called the customer to tell her the tree was at the nursery….that was the last I heard from her. I learned my lesson and now require a deposit for special orders, but it turned out to be the best sale I never made.

Chionanthus virginicus is a native plant to our area. It has earned the name White Fringe Tree from the narrow petal flowers which drip like silk fringe from its branches. It is slow to leaf-out and flower in the spring, but well worth the wait. The flowers also have a wonderful fragrance which is an added bonus to this unique tree. The Fringe Tree will reach fifteen to twenty feet in height and spread and prefers full sun, but can take some light shade. This tree is dioecious , meaning there are male and female trees. The male is typically showier in bloom, but the female is covered in blue, olive-like fruit in late summer, supplying a feast for birds.

I decided to keep the Fringe Tree rather than put it up for sale in the nursery and have it planted out front where I can see it every day. Last spring it was breathtaking and I expect no less from it this year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Murder In The Garden

It reads like a Southern crime novel….Southern beauty killed mercilessly in the garden in the prime of her life. I am talking about Crape murder, that horrifically, brutal pruning that is sometimes inflicted on Crape Myrtles. This has become a crime spree committed by a single killer who attacks one single tree; a serial killer who attacks multiple trees; and copy-cat killers who have seen a neighbor’s victim and commits the same crime. This is a senseless, crime against nature, which needs to stop.

The purpose of pruning is to create a canopy where air can circulate and all branches can receive sunlight. Unfortunately, many homeowners and professionals alike decide to ‘top’ the trees which can damage and disfigure the trees. This results in the ‘witch’s broom’ appearance and leaves the tree out of proportion. The topped area results in a profusion of new growth which restricts air movement and makes the tree susceptible to disease and insects. Topping may result in more blooms; however, the blooms will be on weaker branches, prone to drooping and breakage. The tree will also be more prone to ice damage.

Some of this severe pruning is done to control the height of the tree. There are so many types of crape myrtles available and they range in height from dwarf varieties which only reach six feet in height to the beautiful white Natchez, which can quickly reach twenty to thirty feet in height. So rather than setting your heart on a certain color, decide the maximum height you want and go from there.

The Crape Myrtle is a stunning tree all year long, so treat it with Southern kindness and say fiddle-dee-dee to the chainsaw and be gentle with the pruners.