How Does Your Garden Grow?

Louise Grabell

Humidity is wonderful! It’s good for your plants—and your skin, too! You may find mold, moss and mushrooms around your estate. The spores for these organisms live in the soil, waiting for just the right time to germinate and reproduce before everything dries out again. Some annuals may develop moldy leaves. This is really hard to control (even with antifungal sprays) and since the growing season is almost over, there’s not much you can do other than remove the diseased leaves. Zinnias are especially prone to this affliction. It’s best to not water them at night (Hah—what about evening monsoon rains?) and keep them well aerated (not planted too close together). Too late for me! I love en masse zinnias and they suffer the mold effects every season.

You can still do some pruning if necessary. Oleanders, photinias, bottle brush, Tombstone roses, etc. have probably become overgrown with the rain and heat. Any new growth that may occur after pruning this month will have plenty of time to develop some hardiness before the cold nights of November and the coming winter. So don’t delay in getting this task done. In lieu of a power hedge trimmer, try a radio with some nice music while using your own hand pruning tool. This will be more pleasing to your neighbors and better for your shrubs. Cutting back foliage by hand leaves your shrubs looking more natural and not clipped. Almost any shrub can be reduced in size without destroying its natural shape. A power hedge trimmer cannot do this.

Don’t remove more than one-third of the foliage. For me, this will be the second pruning event around my house. Even the Texas Rangers and mountain laurels need some cutting back. Your goal should be to just control things for this season and make plans for more drastic pruning next February before the new growing season begins. Tree branches that have become hazardous should also be removed by close-cutting to the parent branch. Don’t allow thorny branches to lean against your house or roof and hang low enough to scratch passersby or your car.

I’ve seen lots of incorrect tree staking around SaddleBrooke; young trees should be staked on two sides of the trunk and very loosely attached to the stakes so the trunk can bend with the breezes. This allows for the strengthening of the cells of the trunk so the tree can eventually stand by itself in the strongest monsoon wind. No tree should remain staked after one or two growing seasons. Established trees should have their stakes removed. Yes, I am that crazy lady you saw the other day at that nameless shopping center pulling out useless stakes from five year old Palo Verde trees whose trunk bark was beginning to grow around their staking wires! Proper loving care of your shrubs and trees will give your estate the best curb appeal and that’s what makes the work worth it.

Remember, nothing brings more tranquility to the heart than a beautiful garden.