Hornbeam Tree

Identifying a Hornbeam Tree

A full grown hornbeam will live for up to 350 years (if pollarded or coppiced) and can grow up to 30m tall.

The common beech is often confused for the hornbeam. It has a smooth, stubby and warped trunk, which turns rigged with age. The grey bark is pale and has vertical marking running down them. Twigs have small hairs and are brown to grey in colour. Leaf buds are much like beech buds, only a little bit shorter, with a slight curve at the tips. The leaves are oval shaped, toothed and have pointed tips. They are smaller and more furrowed compared to beech; they also turn from yellow to orange during autumn before they fall.

Hornbeam has a monoecious reproductive system, meaning that the male and female flowers (catkins) are located within the same tree. Once they have been pollinated, usually by wind, they turn into paper thin fruits with wings; these are known as samaras.

Significance to Wildlife

The hornbeam does not shed its leaves and provides all year round shelter for birds, as well as roosting and foraging opportunities.

The leaves are usually eaten by caterpillars of moths such as the nut tree tussock. Small mammals will eat the seeds during autumn, along with small birds like tits and finches.

Myths and Legends

It was thought that a tonic made from the tree useful for curing sleepiness and fatigue. The leaves were also used to heal wounds.

How we use hornbeam

The timber has a speckled grain and is cream to white in colour. You’ll find this wood is very strong and durable, and has many uses for making flooring and furniture.

Historically it was used for making ox-yokes (this is a wooden beam that gets fitted on the shoulders of an ox so it could pull carts along), as well as chopping blocks for butchers and parts for water and wind mills. It was also used to make poles from pollarded and coppiced trees.

The wood burs very well and is often used to make charcoal and firewood.

Threats, Pests and Diseases

As with most trees, the hornbeam can be vulnerable to some fungal diseases, particularly Phytophthora. Grey squirrels can also cause damage to trees by stripping the bark.

Plant in Clay Soil

Planting in clay soil is great for the vegetation that have roots strong enough to break through the hardened ground and compacted clay. Amending an area to make suitable for gardening other types of vegetation is doable. The main idea to remember is to amend an entire area NOT just a single hole for the desired plant to root.

Why is it important to improve the soil structure in an entire area rather a single location? If a gardener focuses on a single location once the plant roots it will grow root length only as far and wide as the hole that was amended. Once the roots reach the soil that is clay the roots will grow inward as they are unable to penetrate through the unforgiving clay soil. The plant may survive, but it will be severely root bound.

Checking soil quality is very important, drainage of the soil is imperative. I also researched a multitude of opinions on the best practices of checking soil quality, and the one common factor each opinion offered is to check more than one or two locations in the ground. Some locations of your yard may require different types or amounts of amendments making it even more important to check the soil’s texture in multiple locations. Dig a hole one foot deep fill it with water wait for it to drain, refill to the top, and time how long it takes to empty.

Proper drainage of the soil helps plant growth. If the water drains to slowly you more than likely have clay, but if it drains to rapidly, It will not be able to retain water or plant nutrients for healthy plant growth. In soil where the water drainage is faster than cup and hour the soils may have too much sand. In cases of clay soil with poor drainage mixing builder’s sand or compost (annually) will improve soil quality.

Adding organic amendments to the soil lightens soil texture, discourages compacting clay, adds nutrients, improves drainage and aeration, and moderates soil temperature, and provides pore space. Amend clay soil with organic matter, decomposed organic matter, (if you can tell what it is it is not decomposed enough) by working the compost into the soil.

Using undecomposed organic matter such as wood chips or mulch are great for on top of the soil, but should not be worked into the clay soil during the growing season. the reason it is not suggested during growing season, the undecomposed matter will continue its decomposition and rob the soil of further nitrogen to aid in its process. Sometimes it is referred to as a work in progress when using material that has not fully reach compost.

During the winter months its is fine to use the under decomposed material, the finishing touches of turning to compost will occur during the non growing season, I know there is always an exception to the rule.

The most important aspect to remind yourself, clay soil can be great soil if amendments are made. If you have questions about the pH levels in you soil don’t hesitate to contact your local County Extension Service and request a soil sample be taken.

Reducing Florescence Size

How can this be? Don’t we know that flowers can’t be dwarfed, at least to any serious degree? And if we can’t dwarf flowers, how can we make them in scale? Is there a trick? Well, it’s not exactly a trick, but it is a secret of sorts. At least it’s not a deliberate secret, but it hasn’t been talked about much; in fact, it’s even hard to find out much if you were to search for it in “Google” for an answer.

The secret lies in the fact that flowers don’t grow individually but rather in groups which together are called a “florescence”. A florescence consists of many flowers growing out of the same stalk and secondary stalks, as it were. Importantly, the florescence consists of a different kind of plant material with different growth characteristics than the flowers themselves. Thus the flowers don’t need to be dwarfed (which won’t happen anyway) to reduce the scale and size of the overall mass of the flower mass, the florescence. If we could just dwarf and shorten the stalks on which the flowers grow, we could make the florescence smaller without doing anything else. But how?

Here again there is a trick that has been developed over the past few decades and it involves using chemicals which have been formulated for just such a purpose. Collectively, they are called “growth retardants”, PGRs, or “growth regulators”. The part of the plants that these chemicals have been developed to retard are, for the most part, the stems. There are several parts to the stems, primary, secondary and tertiary. All have the same characteristics of growth as a result of which we can treat them similarly. The primary stem that is the attachment of the florescence to the rest of the plant is called merely the stem. The secondary stem, which attaches to the primary stem, is called a peduncle, and the smallest part of the florescence, which themselves carry the flowers, are called pedicels. Fortunately for us, they all react the same way to the PGRs, as “stem” material.

Much work has been done to create different growth patterns, especially including products which can cause a more compact form of growth. That is something that is in great demand in ornamental plants which have, as their purpose, their looks, rather than a particular function of the plant. Even grasses have had formulations prepared to keep them from having to be mowed as often. There is even a formulation designed specifically for grasses, called “Cutless”, for obvious reasons.
Other formulations, which have different effects on different plants, but which are all designed primarily to make the ornamental plant and/or its blooms more attractive, include those with names like: A-rest, B-nine, Cycocel, Trimtect, ethephon and paclobutrazol, or bonzi (not recommended, for when used in a concentration slightly too high, it can cut off any more growth almost permanently), and bud ignitor, which does several phase-specific bud boosters for different aspects of the blooming cycle. And there’s much to discover. To read more on this recent development, Bud Booster, for example go to:
http://www.advancednutrients.com/hydroponics/products/bud_ignitor/bud_ignitor_product_information.php

Ethephon, as another example, which has a different mode of action than inhibiting gibberelic acid (GA). GA inhibition is one of the most used methods of reducing growth. Application methods vary too. Some are designed as foliar sprays and others as soil drenches. The literature has become so all-encompassing that it is impossible to do more than touch on some of the highlights of a few of the best known. For more information, just Google “Plant Growth Retardants” and you will find everything you need to know – and much more.

The crape myrtles, being vigorous growers, for the most part, will generally need more powerful PGRs. The more forgiving sprays are probably the best to experiment with first. We’ve found Cycocel, B-nine and Ethephon among the best – all foliar sprays – for our personal purposes. Much experimentation is still worth doing. For each size of growth florescence, and its speed of growth also, there may be another PGR that is best for it.

Another thing that needs to be kept in mind is that many of these are designed only to be applied in commercial quantities and thus only available in large (and expensive) quantities. If so, you will want to share your acquisition with others to make it affordable. However, there are some good ones for our purposes which can be bought in smaller quantities. Bud Ignitor is one such PGR; Bud Blood is another that is similar. These last two mentioned are commonly used in the marijuana growing trade, but I am not suggesting this. The fact is, there is a great growth of knowledge among those growers, perhaps for obvious reasons, and as a result their prices are coming way down as they become more popular. They are still expensive, but perhaps affordable, and available in smaller quantities – and for our purposes and quantities used for bonsai, they will last a very long time.

There’s another way we can reduce the size of the florescence, also: by reducing the number of flowers in the florescence. Simply cut back the remaining flowers on the remaining stem to only the bottom few, perhaps even just one, while they are in the budding stage, and remarkably the remaining flowers will fill the gaps to create a complete mass of flowers that look as well as if they were the complete florescence from the start.

Versatile Garden Arbors

People sometimes use the terms arbor and pergola interchangeably, because they refer to very similar structures. An arbor typically includes a seat under the arch, while a pergola is more of a covered walkway. Whatever word you use, any garden decor store will know what you mean.

Arbors and pergolas serve a number of useful functions in the yard or garden. A striking garden arbor can provide a focal point in your landscaping, drawing the eye in that direction. Similarly, it can be used to visually separate or connect parts of your property.

Arbors are often used as support for growing plants and vines. Although you don’t have to grow plants on your arbor, flowering vines that gently cascade over the structure add wonderful color and life to this bit of garden decor. Landscaping looks best when it contains plants, flowers, and grasses at a variety of heights, and the arbor can create a sense of height and visual interest to achieve a more balanced scene.

A strategically placed arbor can hide an unsightly view like the garage next door. Or it can give you a little privacy from your neighbors’ eyes. Most of all, an arbor or pergola offers a attractive, restful spot for you to sit and enjoy nature’s sweetness.

Wood, metal, and vinyl are the most common materials for garden arbors. Each material has its own personality.

  • Wooden arbors, usually made from cedar, are traditional and natural-looking, blending in with nature’s bounty. They inspire a sense of nostalgia and remind us of a simpler time.
  • Metal arbors are sturdy but can appear delicate and airy. Shaped in intricate designs, some metal arbors are works of art in themselves.
  • Vinyl arbors have a fresh, clean look that many homeowners find appealing. This type of arbor will give you the appearance of newly painted wood, but without the effort. A vinyl arbor is sometimes used as a charming backdrop for an outdoor garden wedding.

For someone experience in building things, an arbor will take several hours to set up. If you don’t have the time or prefer not to do it yourself, you can buy the kit and hire a local handyperson to put it up for you.

If you want to grow plants around your arbor, you have many kinds to choose from. Some lovely flowering vine varieties are annuals that will have to be replanted each year. Perennials growing over your arbor will need to be trimmed occasionally.

Colorful climbing roses are a popular choice for arbors, because many are fragrant and have repeat blooms from spring through the summer. Morning glories are another favorite. These plants have large bell-like flowers that can be found in almost any color, from white to pink to blue to purple.

Successful Indoor Container Gardens

The first tip to creating a successful container garden is to get the right-sized container. There are many different types of containers one can use to grow their plants. It can be simple pots that are catered for specific types of gardening or one can get creative and use recycled materials. For example, one innovative gardener used an unused cabinet to her container garden. You want to make sure the container is big enough to support the root system of the plant you intend on growing. You also need to make sure that the proper drainage system is in place. In some cases, it can be as simple as having a few holes at the bottom of the container. In other cases, you may need a more complex drainage system in place to make sure that the soil does not get too wet.

The second tip for container gardeners is to use the right type of soil. One should never buy the first pack of soil they see on sight. You want to get soil from a reputable seller. Otherwise, the soil will come with plenty of unwanted visitors that will cause all sorts of havoc in your apartment. Ideally, you want to get organic soil, especially if you intend on growing vegetables and fruits. It also would not be a bad idea to get some organic compost to make sure there are plenty of nutrients for the plants to strive on.

The third tip is to find a suitable location for the plants. Most plants will need plenty of sunlight to grow properly. Make sure you have enough space by the window so that plants can receive at least a few hours of proper daylight. If there are no suitable locations then it may be possible to use artificial light instead. However, those types of growing lights are better suited for hydroponic systems so you will want to check with your sources first before making any moves.

Sprinkler for a Small Lawn

Lawn sprinkler system is the most efficient and time saving method available to irrigate lawns. A lawn sprinkler system saves you the ordeal of hosing the entire lawn by implementing hassle-free watering of lawns. You can easily install a sprinkler system yourself that will allow you to save time and money on watering your lawn. Lawn sprinkler systems give you an attractive green lawn that you can be proud of, with very little effort. Not only does the lawn sprinkler system save you but it also saves a lot of water. With growing awareness of water conservation, particularly in dry climate areas, excellent irrigation systems can help in maintaining our precious environment by not using much water at all. A well designed and carefully maintained lawn sprinkler system makes lawn maintenance effortless, and with an automatic lawn sprinkler system, you just have to turn the water on and forget the rest. The sprinkler will irrigate your lawn completely without your assistance on a timer similar to the timer on your alarm clock. Lawn sprinkler systems can even be adjusted for the amount of water to be sprinkled depending on the season so as to retain the right level of moisture in the soil. So with a small lawn, you must consider this so that you are not putting too much water on your lawn.

Lawn sprinklers are measured in Gallons Per Minute (GPM) so you need to be careful when making your adjustments. If you have a sprinkler system for a small lawn, you need to adjust your system for that lawn. Today there is a range of lawn sprinklers available, with different features, and there are several types of portable sprinklers, and each type is best suited to certain lawn shapes and landscape configurations. You need the best information that you can find in order to get the right system for you needs.

African Violets

Watering and feeding your violet. The African violet likes a humid atmosphere and moist soil. I found that the bathroom works well. You can also provide humidity for your plant by standing the pot on pebbles in a partly water filled saucer. The pot should not be touching the water. When the plants soil starts to dry out, water well with lukewarm water. Take care not to wet the leaves. You can feed your plant with water soluble plant fertilizer every month except in winter.

The potting and re-potting of your violets. African violets tend to bloom more freely when their roots are a bit crowded. Only re-pot them when more than a third of the rosette of leaves extends beyond your pots edge. The best time for re-potting to be done is either in spring or summer. You can re-pot the violets into African violet potting soil or you can make your own potting soil from equal parts of peat moss, perlite and your garden soil. If your plant grows extra rosettes of leaves, nip them off with a knife. If the leaves turn yellow or rot or become too crowded, break or cut their stalks. Do not leave any stem part behind on the plant as it will rot. African Violets can very easily be propagated from leaf cuttings. Select a healthy leaf keeping about 2 – 4 cm of the stem. Plant this leaf in your pot that is already filed with potting soil. You will see in approximately 3 to 6 weeks tiny new leaves appear. When this happens, transplant the rooted cuttings into separate pots. Cover them with plastic bags where a few small holes have been made.Keep the new plants in a warm but shaded area for up to 3 weeks.

Get Children Interested in Gardening

First, it is important for parents to understand that children have little patience. If they don’t see results quickly then they will move their attention elsewhere. Therefore, it is important to start off with small projects. Pick a plant that takes a short amount of time to grow. For example, vegetables with short growth periods include green beans, spinach, onions, and sweet potatoes. Once your children get the hang of it, introduce plants that require more care.

The second way to get your children interested in gardening is by getting them to grow something that is consumable. For example, if your children grow tomatoes then they will be instantly proud of the fact that it can be used for a beneficial purpose. While the plants are growing, try and give your children as much ownership as possible. It is possible for the children to learn that the health of plant is their responsibility.

The final way to get your children interested in gardening is by educating them. There are many things to be learned while maintaining a garden. For example, it is a great opportunity to teach your children the basics of biology. How do plants survive? Why do they need sunlight? These questions should come naturally if your child is curious about the way life works. Gardening can become even more interesting if you make it a competition. For example, you may set up a competition to see who grows the biggest tomato. If your child is up for the challenge then he or she will search online to find out the most productive way of growing healthy tomatoes. As you can see, gardening introduces a sense of responsibility. It is a great way to help your child develop into a responsible adult.

Choosing Plants in Soft Landscaping

Creative soft landscaping can breathe life to a garden and gives the garden its unique ambiance. Because it is the main component in any garden, the collection of plants that will be used in a garden must be selected with care.

The biggest concern in soft landscaping is the nature of the vegetation itself. It is the gardener’s worst nightmare to see that the decorative flowers and herbs he planted a week before has begun to wilt.

To avoid this problem, one should choose the plants carefully. Usually, local fauna rather than exotic or countryside vegetation are best for large scale planting. They also require less maintenance since the plants have already adapted to the soil conditions in the area.

Since flowers are usually the main attraction of a garden, it is important to select a variety of annual flowers. These flowers complete their life cycle within one year. At the end of that year, the flowers die, allowing time to propagate and produce new, fresh flowers during the next season.

After the plants are chosen, garden cover usually comes next. Ground cover effectively utilizes garden space. Usually, ground cover is ornamental grass but some people use moss. Healthy ground cover involves having a strong root system to help prevent soil erosion when it rains and when planting other vegetation. Since ground cover grows and spreads rather quickly, it is a good idea to leave some areas bare where the grass can expand.

Putting in the ornamental vegetation is the most tedious but the most rewarding part of soft landscaping. Although local flora can live and grow in the local soil condition, certain plants are more suited to a certain conditions rather than others. For example, some plants require moist soil while some grow well in dry ones. With this in mind, some areas of the garden should have a different type of soil other than soil in the surrounding area. This is an added burden but the effects are paid off.

Lastly, including specimen trees in the soft landscaping is recommended. Not only do they look beautiful, but they can also help define the community’s urban landscape. One should not overdo planting trees, however, their size and height will dominate the garden.

A garden makes a home a better place to live in. Choosing the right plants is the first step to make it the ideal home.

Landscaping Contractors

Getting hold of a proficient landscape contractor, one who doesn’t cut a hole in your pocket yet leaves you satisfied with his work is what the investment involves. Be rest assured to see that landscaped lawn of your dreams taking shape in a tailor-made manner and definitely not the typical neighborhood kinds that are such clich├ęs.

Begin with a detailed plan now that you are determined to carry on with this venture. Jot down on a piece of paper all that you have in your mind and categorize them according to your specifications. Prepare yourself for happy days ahead as you see your fondly imagined landscape turning into reality.

Chalk out your budget subsequently. Ask yourself if the creation of your envisioned landscape an achievable task. Or are you required to make a few alterations?

Don’t lose heart. Your position is favorable as you realize your need and are ready to accommodate a few compromises in you plan in case of budget constraints. The best part is that you can negotiate with your landscape contractor once since you are armed with a budget, a plan and a schedule for your landscape makeover. The contractor in turn will guarantee you the best deal in terms of budget and your specific needs.

Its time to opt for your landscape contractor now that you have worked out all details.

  • Ensure what you exactly want out of the landscape contactor and tell him the same. He can help you in numerous ways. In case you prefer working in the garden, you can choose to share the task with him making it more affordable.
  • You should realize in advance your requirements and speak to your professional contractor accordingly. Make him comfortable by putting your trust in his capability and letting him know that.
  • It is wise to acquaint yourself with the company you want to get into a contract with. One way is to ask for photographs or tours of projects they have previously handled for judging their competence level and experience. Seeking references and professional affiliations is another to employ.
  • To make sure that that your contractor is answerable to you, check the legal credentials of the company.
  • Every bit of the contract should be on paper. No verbal commitment holds the value of a legal document.