February 28, 2007

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Paul Johnson, an urban forester with the Texas Forest Service, stands in front of a topped tree in Weslaco that likely won't survive the drastic pruning it experienced. (Texas Agricultural Experiment Station photo by Rod Santa Ana III)
  Topping trees can be deadly

By Rod Santa Ana III
Texas Cooperative Extension

Paul Johnson goes through a range of emotions when he sees trees being topped: anger, disgust, sorrow, frustration and worse. That's why he, as an urban forester with the Texas Forest Service in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, is spreading the word that topping does serious damage to trees, their value and the value of the entire urban forest.

"Topping is a kind word for the indiscriminate butchering of a tree," Johnson said. "It is the most harmful tree-pruning practice known, yet is very common."

In usually well-intentioned efforts to prune back or reduce the size of a tree, tree trimmers and homeowners sometimes go overboard, leaving nothing more than the tree trunk and a few stumps branching from it, Johnson said. The entire crown of a tree, the area that contains a tree's leaves, is chopped off and hauled away.

"Topping is bad," Johnson said. "Don't do it. It's tree mismanagement at its worst. When people indiscriminately cut large branches at mid-stream and leave a large stub of a branch behind, they are doing great harm to the tree that could lead to decay and eventually kill the tree."

When a spring flush pushes tiny branches out of the ends of those stumps, they are very weakly attached to the branch, he explained. A strong wind, insects or disease can easily wipe them out, leaving the tree without a food source and susceptible to decay.

"Topping a tree reduces the value and longevity of that tree," Johnson said. "Valuable tree shade is gone, and the tree is just not going to live as long as it should."

Less is better when pruning a tree, Johnson said.

"Try to never remove more than 25 percent of the crown, the leafy area of the tree," he said. "And when you do trim off a branch, don't cut it flush to the trunk, but don't leave a big stump either."

With the weather improving and more people outdoors pruning trees, Johnson sees other "tree violations" that harm trees.

"Tree trimmers that use spikes to climb up a tree are leaving large wounds in the tree that serve as entry points for insects and diseases," he said. "Lion-tailing, or mule-tailing is another no-no. This is when a homeowner will strip all the leaves off a limb except those at the very end. That leaves a branch looking like a lion's tail. This is as bad as topping a tree."

Those leaves closer to the trunk are there for a reason and should not be removed, Johnson said. They serve as a second line of defense of a tree, protecting its trunk from sunburn. They also help strengthen the entire limb from wind damage and serve as a tree's food source.

"If a tree's outer leaves are removed by insects, ice or wind, the interior leaves become the food factory for the tree," he said. "Trees live off their inner leaves. They are important for the long-term life of the tree."

So, what is the proper way to trim a tree? Proper tree pruning is difficult to explain without using illustrations or photos, Johnson said. He suggested hiring a qualified tree trimmer certified by the International Society of Arboriculture, or visiting ISA's Web site at www.treesaregood.com.

The loss of a tree affects the entire community, Johnson said.

"The trees of a community or a city are considered an urban forest, and when even one tree is damaged or lost, it hurts everybody's property," he said. "Proper tree care is everybody's responsibility because we all benefit from healthy trees."

Johnson urges homeowners to turn away tree trimmers who offer tree topping.

"Find a qualified tree trimmer who knows what he or she is doing," he said. "It could mean the difference between a thriving, beautiful tree and a dead one."

Billy Kniffen, Texas Cooperative Extension agent in Menard County, shows how a simple window screen inset on a trash can lid can filter rainwater harvested from a roof's gutter. Kniffen was a speaker at the East Texas Spring Landscape and Garden Conference, held February 10 in Tyler.

Mary Wilhite, co-owner of Blue Moon Gardens in Edom, with some of the many plants that can be used to attract and feed butterflies to a garden. Wilhite was a speaker at the East Texas Spring Landscape and Garden Conference. (Texas Cooperative Extension photos by Robert Burns)

  East Texas Spring Landscape and Garden Conference Draws 350

By Robert Burns
Texas Cooperative Extension

"The best one yet," said one of the nearly 350 attendees at the 2007 East Texas Spring Landscape and Garden Conference. The event was held February 10 in Tyler.

The challenge is to make the event relevant to the changing needs of professional landscaper and Master Gardeners, said Keith Hansen, Texas Cooperative Extension agent for horticulture in Smith County.

This year, many of the speakers spoke of how to deal with drought. For example, Billy Kniffen, Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources in Menard County, gave a how-to talk on rainwater harvesting. But before he gave his "how-to," he gave a "why-for."

"You get a lot of rain here in East Texas but it doesn't come all at the same time," Kniffen said. "You have periods of drought. You have some of the lakes that are low. Even Lake Palestine has gone dry, and so as you look at water during those times when there is drought and you use lots of water for irrigation. And so you look for ways to conserve water and keep water there for your use in home as well as outside, rainwater harvesting is one way to go."

Rainwater harvesting systems range from simple and cheap to expensive and complex, Kniffen said. The simplest structure collects rainwater from an existing roof's gutter system through a simple screen and into a large trash can. Such an inexpensive system can be used for small home gardens and select landscape plants.

Equally simple systems use tanks from 1,000 to 10,000 gallons. These systems may use the roof of a large house to collect the water or have a "dedicated" metal roof built solely for collecting water, he said.

More complex systems may have a pump and a pressure tank, similar to those used on a home well, and can be used to supply sprinklers or drip-irrigation systems.

Adding more advanced filtration systems and some sort of sanitation device, such as a chlorinator, allows the water to be used as drinking water for wildlife, pets or even people, Kniffen said.

All types of collection systems have been in use for some time in West Texas. However, as population and demand increase, it's only a matter of time before rainwater harvesting is not just an option but a requisite in East Texas, Kniffen said.

"Less groundwater is going to be available as there's more people drilling wells and using water," he said. "So as we look at that decrease in water supply and an increase in water demand there are going to be water shortages in the next 50 years."

Not all the program's topics were about drought. Mary Wilhite, co-owner of Blue Moon Gardens in Edom, gave a talk on creating butterfly gardens. Wilhite told participants that butterfly gardens, though personally rewarding, were not for the squeamish or those that didn't like to do a lot of hand tilling. The first practice they would have to change was their use of pesticides, as butterflies are highly susceptible to chemical controls.

"If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you shouldn't be using pesticides because it's like inviting your neighbors over for dinner and then poisoning them," Wilhite said. "And if you don't like lots of kinds of wildlife you probably shouldn't try attracting butterflies. Because to have a good environment for butterflies, you need to have a lot of diversity of wildlife."

By wildlife, Wilhite meant everything from snakes to spiders and other things that crawl or slither.

More information on butterfly gardening could be found on the Internet and in books, she said.

As for books, Wilhite recommended The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior by Donald and Lillian Stokes.

  Gardening tips

"Have poinsettias leftover from Christmas and want to plant them outside?" asks Teresa Preston, who offers these tips: "Keep the soil moist, but don't let water stand in the tray beneath the plant. Keep the plant out of drafts and place in good light but not direct sun. After blooming, withhold water so plant will drop leaves. Put it in a cool place and water lightly to keep roots from drying out. In south Texas, plant poinsettias out-of-doors after the danger of frost is past. Make sure the plant receives only natural sunlight and is away from yard and street lights."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Grubworms are actually the larvae of June bugs. They hatch in early to mid July, and eat grass roots, causing a yellowish patch in the lawn.


  Upcoming garden events

Houston: The River Oaks Garden Club will host its 72nd annual Azalea Trail March 2 through 4, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Azalea Trail will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miss Ima Hogg's gift of her beautiful home and gardens, Bayou Bend, to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The trail includes stops at River Oaks Garden Club Forum of Civics Building, 2503 Westheimer at Kirby; Bayou Bend, 2940 Lazy Lane or One Westcott at Memorial Drive; Rienzi Home and Gardens, 1406 Kirby Drive at Lazy Lane; 3425 Del Monte Drive; 2456 Inwood Drive; 56 East Broad Oaks; and 415 Shadywood. Tickets for seven admissions are $15 before March 2 and $20 during the trail. Single admissions are $5. For more information and complete descriptions with pictures of all the homes and gardens, visit www.riveroaksgardenclub.org.

Cedar Hill: Petal Pusher's, 813 Straus Road, will host "Going Native, Texas Style," native plants for the landscape by designers "Native Dave" and Christy Ilfrey on Saturday, March 10 at 10:30 a.m. This event is free. For more information, call (972) 291-7650.

Cedar Hill: Petal Pusher's, 813 Straus Road, will host "Perennials and Roses that are Texas-Tough" with Vickie Thaxton on Saturday, March 10 at 1 p.m. This event is free. For more information, call (972) 291-7650.

Mineola: The Wood County Master Gardeners, in cooperation with the Texas Cooperative Extension, are hosting the "2007 Spring Home Gardening Conference" from 8 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 10, in the Oak Room of the Mineola Civic Center, 1150 North Newsom, Mineola. Sessions include "Native Plants," led by Carol Feldman, landscape architect; "Ornamental Grasses," led by Keith Mills, horticulturist, Caldwell Zoo; and "Rainwater Harvesting," led by Dottie Woodson, Texas Extension Service. Admission is free. For additional information, visit www.mastergardenersofwoodcounty.org or e-mail woodcountymg@yahoo.com.

Tomball: Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball, will host the Second Annual Rose Festival, Saturday, March 10, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This popular event includes guest speakers and informative booths. More than 100 varieties of old and antique roses will be available! Free. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball, will host the Sixth Annual Herb Luncheon Saturday, March 17, 11 a.m. featuring Molly Fowler, The Dining Diva, and Ann Wheeler, Log House Herb Farm. Learn about different types of herbs and how to grow them while you enjoy a scrumptious lunch. $35 Due upon registration. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Woodway: The Woodway Beautiful Commission for the City of Woodway will hold A Gardeners Gathering Sunday, March 18 at the Carleen Bright Arboretum from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This event is free and will feature representatives from many garden organizations to share information as well as a Children's Corner, local garden vendors, a walk with the Audubon Society, Country Store, and featured speakers throughout the afternoon. Music and refreshments will be provided.  For information call the Arboretum (254) 399-9204. In the event of rain the event will be held in the Woodway Family Center.

Bryan-College Station: The A&M Garden Club is sponsoring a photo contest at their April 11 Horticultural Celebration. The deadline for entering the contest is March 21. Winning photos will be displayed at the A&M Garden Club's 70th Anniversary Horticultural Celebration on Wednesday, April 11, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive, Bryan. For additional information about the contest, contact AMGCPhoto@yahoo.com or visit www.sallysfamilyplace.com/Clubs/GardenClub.htm.

Round Top: The 12th Annual Herbal Forum, "A Celebration of Lemon-Scented Herbs and Lemon Balm, Herb of the Year 2007," presented by The International Festival-Institute at Round Top and The Herb Society of America-Pioneer Unit, will take place at Festival Hill near Round Top, from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., Saturday, March 24, with optional participation workshops the previous day. The forum includes lectures by Lucinda Hutson, celebrated food, garden and lifestyle writer; Jim Johnson, director of the Benz School of Floral Design; and Henry Flowers, garden director at Festival Hill. While the plant sale, gift shop and bookstore are free and open to the public, registration for the forum is $75, with additional charges for lunch, dinner, and the Friday workshops. For more information, call (979) 249-3129 or visit www.festivalhill.org.

Tomball: Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball, will host “Vegetable Gardening for the Gulf Coast” Saturday, March 24, 10 a.m. Learn great tips as well as garden basics from Tom LeRoy, Extension Horticulturalist, and Bill Adams, Horticulturalist Emeritus. Free. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Tomball: Arbor Gate, 15635 FM 2920, Tomball, will host “Herbs Made Easy” featuring Ann Wheeler, Log House Herb Farm, Sunday, March 25, 1 p.m. With the knowledge from this class you can start your own herb garden or simply add herbs to your existing beds. Free. For more information, call (281) 351-8851.

Bonham: The Fannin County Master Gardeners are hosting their 3rd Annual Garden, Lawn and Home Expo on March 31, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Multiple Purpose Complex in Bonham. One of the speakers, Mark Chamblee of Tyler's Chamblee's Rose Nursery, will talk about EarthKind Roses. The educational event also features varied vendors for plants, garden crafts, and more. For more information, call (903) 583-7453 or visit www.fannincountymastergardeners.org.

Marble Falls: The Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association will sponsor the Ninth Annual Hill Country Lawn & Garden Show March 31, at the Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls. It is open 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free Admission and seminars. It features garden related vendors, demonstrations, a children's booth, raffle and seminars by Malcolm Beck, Bill Luedecke and the Antique Rose Emporium. For more information go to hillcountrylgshow.com or call (325) 388-8849.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston, will host a Spring Plant Sale, Saturday, March 31, 9 a.m. until sold out. Purchase healthy, hardy plants suitable for the San Antonio environment and get expert advice from SABG volunteers, many of whom are Master Gardeners. Admission to the garden: $6 adults, $3 children 3-13, $4 students, military and senior citizens. Admission to the event is included with admission to the garden. For more information, contact (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

Austin: Zilker Garden Festival will be held at the Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Garden Springs Road, Austin, March 31 through April 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. This annual festival heralds the start of the gardening season for many Austin-area gardeners and has something for every member of the family. There are clinics for gardeners, an activity area for children, music and food. Colorful booths with garden-related crafts of all sorts are everywhere; potters, soap makers, jewelers and other craftspeople sell their wares. There are plants of all sorts by the thousands — herbs, orchids, cacti, succulents, annuals, natives, perennials, houseplants, water garden specimens — as well as the tools, soils and best of all, information to grow them. Gate admission is $5 per person, free for ages 12 and younger. Advance tickets are available for $3 at the gift shop so buy your tickets early. All proceeds from the Zilker Garden Festival benefit the activities of the Austin Area Garden Council and Zilker Botanical Garden. Please note that dogs are not allowed on the grounds during the festival. The grounds will be closed to the public and to photographers all day Friday, March 30 in preparation for Zilker Garden Festival. NO DOGS will be allowed on the grounds during festival. For additional information, call 477-8672 ext. 13 or e-mail info@zilkergarden.org.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group will present the Third Annual Rockport Herb Festival Saturday, at the Rockport-Fulton High School Commons, 1801 Omohundro, Rockport, April 7, from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. The festival will include a variety of herb programs, herb cooking demonstrations, herb booths with lots of information and products for sale, and a plant sale that will include herbs, roses, heirlooms, orchids, bromeliads, tropicals, palms, garden art and pottery. There is no admission fee. For additional information, contact Linda T. Collins at ltcollins_1@charter.net or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

Bryan-College Station: The A&M Garden Club Horticultural Celebration will host "70 Years of Gardening in Brazos Valley," a celebration of the club's 70th anniversary, Wednesday, April 11, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Brazos Center, 3232 Briarcrest Drive, Bryan. This community-wide activity will include horticulture and design entries and educational displays by local garden clubs, local horticulture businesses, and a photo contest for individuals. The Horticulture Tables will have three classes: Foliage Plants, Cactus and Succulents, and Flowering Plants, with correct nomenclature, groomed pots, and specimens placed on top of the tables. Admission is free. For additional information, contact Idalia Aguilar at IdaliaAguilarV@hotmail.com.

Nacogdoches: The annual Spring Garden Gala plant sale at Stephen F. Austin State University’s Mast Arboretum will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at the intramural field on Wilson Drive, Nacogdoches. “We will offer a great selection of rare, unusual, and Texas-tough trees, shrubs, succulents, and herbaceous perennials, as well as many heat loving tropicals,” said Dawn Stover, Mast Arboretum research associate. “All of the plants are produced at SFA by the staff, students and volunteers.” Greg Grant, Pineywoods Native Plant Center research associate, will have a number of his introductions available as well, including the pink flowered ‘Pam Puryear’ and large flowered ‘Big Momma’ Turk’s cap. “Many of the rare Aromi hybrid deciduous azaleas will be offered, as will a good number of the rarely available native East Texas red buckeye,” Stover said. Proceeds from the plant sale help support the SFA Mast Arboretum, the Ruby Mize Azalea Garden, the Pineywoods Native Plant Center and educational programs. For more information, call (936) 468-4404 or visit http://arboretum.sfasu.edu/.

Cedar Hill: Petal Pusher's, 813 Straus Road, will host "English Gardening Texas Style" by Master Gardener and British Native Andrea Rucker on Saturday, April 14 at 10:30 a.m. This event is free. For more information, call (972) 291-7650.

Cedar Hill: Petal Pusher's, 813 Straus Road, will host "Petal Pusher's Picks" by nationally known landscape architect Rosa Finsley on Saturday, April 14 at 1 p.m. This event is free. For more information, call (972) 291-7650.

Waco: "Easy-Care Roses for Busy People," an EarthKind Rose Symposium hosted by McLennan County Master Gardeners and Texas Cooperative Extension, will take place in Waco, Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., at Texas State Technical College, 3801 Campus Drive. Among the speakers will be Dr. Steve George, Professor and Landscape Horticulture Specialist, Texas Cooperative Extension, Dallas; Mark Chamblee, owner Chamblee Rose Nursery, Tyler; Gaye Hammond, President, Houston Rose Society; Steve Huddleston, Senior Horticulturalist, Fort Worth Botanic Garden; and Rachelle Kemp, Landscape Design Instructor, Texas State Technical College, Waco. Registration is $56 per person and pre-registration is required. Registration includes snacks, beverages, all course materials, and a two-gallon rose. For more information, call (254) 757-5180 or visit www.mclennanmastergardeners.org.

Salado: The 4th annual Salado Yard and Garden Tour, a tour of yards and gardens in the historic village of Salado, will highlight characteristic and varied private and public gardens for the Central Texas landscape. From large to small, rambling to organized, annuals to perennials, water wise planting to courtyard container gardens, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The tour will be Saturday, May 12 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and Sunday, May 13 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens will be self-guided with volunteers helping to answer questions when needed. Tickets will be $15 to view all gardens and are good for the two days. Maps will be available leading to each location with a description of each garden. Tours will be conducted rain or shine. The tour is sponsored by the Salado Garden Club and the Public Arts League of Salado. For further information, visit the Village of Salado website at www.salado.com or call (254) 947-8300.

Ft. Worth: The Greater Fort Worth Herb Society presents its 21st Annual Herb Festival May 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens in Fort Worth. The Festival will feature the sale of herb plants and herb-related products. There will also be a silent auction, crafts, music, demos, food and much more. Special event speakers will be Randy Weston of Weston Gardens and Mary Doebelling of Our Thyme Garden. Admission is $5 for adults. The Botanic Gardens are located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd Dr., Fort Worth. For more information, please visit www.greaterfortworthherbsociety.org or call (817) 966-7126.

San Antonio:The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, featuring Italy's villas and gardens. Escorted by Bob Brackman, the Director of the Garden, an exceptional itinerary has been designed for lovers of leisurely travel and beautiful homes and gardens. Famous for their gardens, Italians still build on their ancestors' legacy with the creation of exquisite country villas surrounded by terraced, fountain-filled gardens that have become symbolic of Italian style. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Visit special gardens, famous museums, the important cities of Florence and Rome, plus the Lake District, and the small villages which make Italy so charming, such as Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita and Tuscan villages. Feast on fabulous Italian cuisine and enjoy la dolce vita. Land cost per person sharing is $3550 plus air, which includes a $100 tax deductible donation, most meals and gratuities. For more information, contact Marianne Martz of Fuller Travel at (210) 828-6311 or marianne@fullertvl.com.

Garland: The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

  The New Book Of Salvias features 15 new species

Fifteen new species have been added to the revised edition of Betsy Clebsch's time-honored guide that covers more than 100 species of salvias in one colorful book. Blooming cycles, cultural practices and companion plants are listed. This is a great gift for those wishing to add low-maintenance plants to the landscape.

$31.97 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of March and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
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