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February Landscapes – When choosing plants, go with what works in your area!

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When choosing plants, go with what works in your area!
This spring, many of you will move forward with a transformation of your landscape, or maybe install a new landscape for a new home. This is a very exciting time.
Through that process, many homeowners will be scouring the internet for photos of plants they like, sending them to their landscape planner for inclusion in the new landscape.
Unfortunately, this can lead to some disappointment and frustration because often times the plants you found are not available in your area and aren’t known to grow well there, either.
For this reason, your local nurseries won’t carry those types of plants. Nobody wants to sell a plant that they know will die soon after planting.
In Texas, we have a unique climate that can be in the extremes at times, but also an extended growing season that a wide variety plants can grow and thrive in . . . but not all.
For example, I once fielded a request from a customer for an Australian Tree Fern. These are gorgeous ferns and live in certain locations in Australia. The conditions for this plant have to be perfect. I cautioned the customer against it, but he insisted. So I found him an Australian Tree Fern. Two months later, it was dead.
If tried in our area, a plant like that would require daily attention. Most folks don’t have that time to give or don’t want to commit to it. Best to stick with what has proven to work here.
Another situation is where a new hybrid version of a plant is introduced and a large number of photos are circulated on the internet as part of its marketing. The average consumer, surfing for ideas, finds the new hybrid in a photo and requests it for her new landscape. The problem with new hybrids is the numbers aren’t enough to wide distribution. Also, many nurseries prefer to let new hybrids prove themselves elsewhere before investing in an inventory of them. So they can be hard to find.
What I would recommend for idea-generation would be to visit a few local nurseries. Find out what sells because those will be the same plants that perform well in your area. Don’t go to buy, just go to look and formulate a list for yourself. Then, when you meet with your landscape designer, you can give him your list for inclusion in the new plan. Its his/her job to figure out where they would best be located. Or simply ask your landscaper to provide a plan with his/her choice of plants. Landscapers will know what does and does not work in your area.
Keep these things in mind when plant shopping this spring.
Brace yourselves for the annual Live Oak Molt!
One of our native trees that are found in so many Texas landscapes is the Live Oak. Once they begin maturing, they transform into a huge, graceful, beautiful tree when properly maintained. They are evergreen, never being without leaves. But they do have a molting season where they drop every leaf on the tree, day by day, over a three-week period in February and March and at times into April.
During this process, the tree drops its leaves while at the same time, growing new leaves. So it is never without leaves.
For property owners who have Live Oaks (myself included), this can be a nightmare. It is the three weeks of the year when you hate Live Oaks. The rest of the year, you love them. Lol
Because the leaves are smaller, they can get into the darnedest of places. Removing them must become a part of the weekly maintenance while the molt is going on. To allow them to accumulate can cause your turf to not emerge from dormancy when it should, makes it difficult on turf because of the blocked sunlight.
Again, it will last for at least three weeks, depending on the size of your Live Oak.
An example of "hacked" Crape Myrtles, above.
Crape Myrtle Trimming
Don’t do it.
Don’t hack your Crape Myrtles, that is. Every year it never fails, Crape Myrtle trees will get trimmed back to nothing, becoming sticks in the ground for a month or so. This not only presents an ugly appearance for that length of time, its bad for the tree in the long term.
Each year, a hacked Crape Myrtle has to grow out new limbs. These are young, tender growth and are susceptible to damage from storms, wind, etc. Limbs are never allowed to mature or develop.
A publication from Texas A&M even calls the process “Crape Murder” because of the long-term damage at risk.
My advice is – don’t do it – just trim a Crape Myrtle the same way you would trim any other tree. Eliminate the erratic growth, redundant limbs, remove the sucker growth at the bottom, trim for shape, etc.
Above, a before and after example of a properly trimmed Crape Myrtle.
First mow of the season
The season’s first mow should be happening soon. Its your call on the when but when you do, make the first mow a much shorter cut. This will get rid of much of the thatch from the dormant turf and will allow sunlight to hit the soil surface, heating it up and causing your turf to emerge from dormancy faster.
Do not scalp it, but mow it shorter than usual that first time.
This is also the time when weeds begin to germinate and appear. You will want to mow, even if your grass is not green, to prevent these weeds from seeding out and multiplying. It takes a weed 1.5 weeks to produce a seed. We want to stop that from happening.
Take the time now to get your lawnmowers, weed eaters, etc. in good shape, performing repairs and maintenance before the season gets started. This will include changing the spark plug, filters, oil, etc. Sharpen the blade as well.
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