Newsletter – 4th quarter 2014

SongBird News

Dear Customer,

Greetings and Merry Christmas

I hope that you are well, and that you will be able to relax a bit during the holidays. If you’re visiting with family, I hope cherished memories will be made.
As for us, we’re having a lot of our family over on Christmas day. I’ll spend the prior day or so working on tasks, some given by my wife, to prepare for everyone’s visit. This is good, as otherwise some of the tasks would likely be postponed until a future get together, at the earliest. My primary task is to minimize my wife’s stress level, as she prepares quite a spread, and stresses in the process. And pray that our kids cheerfully do their part, either stemming from a realization of how blessed we are, or out of fear – either will do.
My dad and brother are coming – something that in my earlier years may have reared up a complex in me. For both keep everything in their homes working in perfect order. No wall needs painting, no weather stripping needs replacing, and so forth. A visit to their homes inevitably includes seeing the improvements made since the prior visit. And while all of this is great, it doesn’t, necessarily, help me in looking all that handy. And so came that complex from my youth. I just don’t have the craftsman skill set that they have. But I have acquired some age, and with it a loss of complex, and an increased appreciation for time with family!
Incidentally, this is my second quarterly newsletter in nine months. I hope that you benefit from it.

Beware of planting ‘Knock Out’ Roses

Like many of the diseases that arrive here from other parts of the world and subsequently threaten human health, alien plant pathogens are the cause of significant concern in the landscapes and forests.
One that many homeowners will become familiar with is “Rose Rosette”, a virus that’s frequently found on roses – particularly the popular ‘Knock Out’ Rose. The virus first appears on just a stem or two, manifesting in narrow than normal leaves and a proliferation of shoots and thorns on infected stem. It then spreads to other stems and because infected tissue doesn’t conduct photosynthesis, plant decline follows.

Multiple shoots, excessive thorniness and narrow leaves are common indicators of Rose Rosette Disease (picture taken from “Rose-Rosette Virus – an emerging problem” by Dr. Jean Williams Woodward, UGA Plant Pathologist)

Foliage width is typically narrowed significantly.IMG_20141226_170752336

According to plant pathologist at UGA, Rose Rosette could lead to near complete loss of ‘Knock Out’ roses in our landscapes. Partly because it is spread by a microscopic mite, called an eriophyid mite, that is itself tough to control.
Regarding control, first be careful not to introduce newly obtained plants without first verifying that they are in good health. If you have a rose, already in your landscape, on which you notice abnormal growth as described above, prune the affected stems off at ground level – being certain to disinfect pruners between cuts. If disease is already in multiple stems, it’s probably best to simply remove the respective plant to reduce likelihood of spread to others.
There are some miticides that aid in control of the eriophyid mite mentioned, but not all of them will work. And beware, for based upon what’s being reported, control measures may at best postpone decline, regardless of measure used. It’s suspected that ‘Knock Out’ roses may eventually have a life cycle of only five years in the landscape.

To lime or not to lime?

This past fall, we left behind a recommendation that testing soil acidity be approved (cost is $35) so that any needed adjustment to soil acidity could be determined. Improper soil acidity may lead to nutrient deficiencies, and sometimes to increased disease incidence. So if you didn’t notice the recommendation referenced above, or you just forgot to respond, please consider doing so as maintaining proper pH is important.

A few seasonal tips

1. Allow warm season grasses (Bermuda, centipede, zoysia) to overwinter at a high cut height. A 2 – 3 inch height works well. Doing so will reduce sunlight that reaches the soil, resulting in reduced risk of weed germination. Also, the additional turf “canopy” cushions pre-emergent herbicide barriers from damaging foot traffic, hard rains, and other forces.
2. If your lawn was installed as recently as late summer, consider watering prior to nights in which temperatures fall into the teens, as moist soil conserves heat better than dry soil. This can be tricky, for you don’t want to have frozen soil water if afterward the sun is expected to shine and temperatures are expected to rise, for if frozen plants can’t utilize it.
3. With leaves having fell, and with cold temperatures expected, now is a great time to install pine straw or some form of mulch. Doing so will provide insulation for root systems, conserve moisture, and minimize weeds. If using pine straw, note that not all pine straws are the same. Both “Slash pine” and “Loblolly pine” are common, but slash will generally hold color longer. If you can find “Longleaf pine”, it has a better color and it last the longest – but it’s often hard to find. And try your best to not use “Short Needle pine”, as it simply doesn’t look as good and doesn’t hold color all that well.
4. The dormant season is a good time for heavy pruning of most landscape plants. However be aware that pruning spring flowering plants will result in a loss of blooms.

In closing

Just in case you didn’t see it, we recently mailed out a “prepay offer” for services scheduled for 2015. The offer consists of 5% off of scheduled services if prepaid by January 5th. If you’re interested but didn’t get the letter, just let me know.
As always, thank you for your business and we look forward to servicing your landscape in the days ahead!

ISA Certified Arborist No. SO-1892A