Monday, April 19, 2021

The Weather!? Bottlebrush


Horticulture Hotline  04/19/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


The weather is crazy! Last fall was super wet. I saw the worst cases of large patch disease I had ever seen, which usually translates to bad large patch (brown patch) in the spring. Now we are having cool nights and little to no rain, so I am seeing the least amount of the disease I have ever seen for this time of year. Crazy! Mole Crickets seemed to have stepped up their game and are very visible during their mating season just to insure the Lowcountry is the hardest place in the world to grow grass.


I would like to talk about the plant that suffered with the cold weather of 2018. The Red Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) plant has gained great popularity over the past 20 years in the Lowcountry.  It is pretty much at the upper end of its hardiness zone, which means with very cold temperatures it can get some cold damage. This plant has also shown to release a natural herbicide that has been registered with the EPA for home use. The label is very narrow, so read the label closely to see if it is a fit for your situation. It is amazing how many products are being derived from things in nature these days.


The bottlebrush makes a great screen.  It has small leaves that can buffer a lot of sound and visual pollution.  The plant can be used as an accent plant, in a container, or in a large buffer.  Using bottlebrush as a screen gives you good screening and good color with the flowers.  So many of our plant materials used for screening do not have showy flowers. Be sure to blend in some cold hardy plants, if you are using bottlebrush as a screen, in case we have that killing chill your buffer will not be totally lost.


Hummingbirds, people, and butterflies attract to the beautiful bottlebrush shaped flowers.  I have had so many hummingbirds around my bottlebrush that they looked like honey bees!  Butterflies enjoy the nectar from the bottlebrush and add movement and color to your garden. 


Currently the bottlebrush has little to no insect or disease problems in this area.  They are very heat and drought tolerant and are almost considered a weed in Florida.  Unlike azaleas and camellias, they can handle sandy, low moisture, and low organic matter soils.  They are also salt tolerant which means they can be used around the beach or other salt water-front areas. 


A scientist working for Syngenta noticed that certain weeds didn’t grow near his bottlebrush.  He isolated a chemical in the soil that was released from the bottlebrush plant that actually kills weeds.  Syngenta has developed this into a new product, Tenacity, which has EPA registration. This product is not meant for everyone, so read the label closely before you decide to purchase Tenacity. This product is also sold under the name Meso.


I had bottlebrush in my yard for over twenty years without any ill effects from the cold. In 2018, they did take a hit, but they are looking good now. The bottlebrush is a great addition to the Lowcountry landscape!


Things are happening in the landscape. Are you ready? Remember this is next year for your soil test!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Bee, Butterflies, and Hummingbirds - The Pollinators


Horticulture Hotline 04/13/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


Last week was The Masters. Are you inspired by the golf and want to hit some balls? Are you inspired by the beauty of the landscape and want to work in the yard? Or both? It is inspiring!


Attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to a landscape adds a whole different dimension to your landscape, while helping pollinators. The movement and pretty colors add excitement to the landscape. Who can look at a hummingbird that is feeding at a hummingbird feeder and not call others in the house to observe or now days take out their phone and try to video the little rascal?


There are many plants that will attract butterflies.  The ones I’m going to recommend will give you the bonus of attracting hummingbirds and bees as well.  I’ve had all of these plants in my yard and they do very well in the Lowcountry with a minimal amount of care. 


One of the first plants that come to mind is the Butterfly Weed.  The monarch butterfly lays its eggs on this plant and when the caterpillars come out, they will devour the foliage.  Do not spray insecticides!  The foliage will come back quickly and you don’t want to kill the larva of the monarch butterfly.  This plant is not a perennial; however, it reseeds itself.   When it pops up elsewhere in your yard, you can either replant it where you originally had it or leave it where it popped up. You can also collect the seeds and plant them where you originally had them or give them away to friends. Some people think it is neat watching the large caterpillars chow down on the plant and others are afraid of the big caterpillars.  This plant provides an important host plant of the Monarch Butterfly’s life cycle and will guarantee you will get plenty of butterflies and bees as a bonus.


Pentas, Bee Balm, Black Eyed Suzanne, Hibiscus, Plumbago, Lantana, Mexican Sage, Verbena, Vitex, and Glossy Abelia are all good choices for butterfly, bee, and hummingbird gardens.  If you have a railing around a porch or arbor, a Passion Vine does very well.  Of course, every Butterfly Garden must have a Butterfly Bush.  A Bottle Brush should definitely be planted as well (hummingbird favorite).  When at the garden center, choose red varieties, when you have a choice (example - red Hibiscus versus yellow). 


When you buy these plants, they can all go in one little area for a compact “Butterfly/Hummingbird/Bee Garden”.  You may also want to plant several plants in one location, then have others groups throughout the yard for the “Butterfly/Hummingbird/Bee Yard”!  If you have a new landscape, it is very easy to design your yard to attract butterflies. bees and hummingbirds.  Also consider a source of water for the visitors to your yard. A hummingbird feeder or three by windows so you can get a close up look at the feeding hummingbirds is always a plus.  If you have an area to screen, try a few Ligustrum. Bees love a Ligustrum’s spring time flowers.

There are many other plants that will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds; these are just a few of my favorites that I have had great success with.  Some plants that you would not normally think of attracting butterflies are pine trees, oak trees, birch trees, hack berries, and blueberry bushes.


Measure your yard for accurate applications and read and follow product label!


Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Have You Done It?


Horticulture Hotline 04/07/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


Today’s article is not as much of a “to do list” as a have you done it list.


I have been asked some form of this question a lot recently. “Should I mow down lower than I usually mow (scalp) and or bag my clippings on the first cut of the year?”


Congratulations, you must be using a preemerge product for winter weeds or you would be mowing weeds! A lot of people will mow lower and collect the clippings to get rid of the "brown" in the grass. Not needed for good grass, just appearance. By mowing lower you remove the brown grass (your green grass from last fall), and your lawn will appear greener – basically you are removing the brown leaves from your grass like raking up leaves from your trees. If you did nothing different, the new leaf blades would come through and the brown leaves would decompose.


If you have a whole lot of brown grass that does not look like it is going to decompose in a reasonable amount of time, using a bagging mower may be a good option for the first cut. Get back to your mulching mower as soon as possible, so your grass benefits from the returned organic matter and nutrients.


If you have been waiting for the weather to warm up, here is a brief checklist of things that should have been completed around the yard:

  • Test soil. You might be wasting your money. Over fertilizing or under fertilizing could affect your landscape. Soil test provide valuable information for accurate fertilizing! Get on a program.
  • Have you applied SeaHume G to lawn and beds for a healthy start?
  • Have you applied a preemergent to lawn and beds (this late use Dimension if it is your first application)? Remember it is never too late to start a preemerge program. It is never too late to preemerge, with our mild climate weeds germinate almost every day of the year.
  • Have you drench Dominion around plants with a history of insect problems?
  • Have you applied a preventive fungicide to turf if you have a history of fungus (T-Methyl, Strobe G)?
  • Mole Crickets overwinter as adults and do their mating flights right now. Have you killed them now before they can make babies? Be sure your lawn and beds are free of fire ants, and if you have pets, fleas and ticks should be controlled. If you live near the woods, chiggers may be an issue. (Granular Sevin will work on these pests. If you prefer organic, check with a Possum’s near you to find a product or products that will work in your situation.)
  • Have you gone through your irrigation system to be sure everything is operating correctly? In my travels through the Lowcountry, I have noticed many broken heads and heads that are spraying into the street. Although they have been calling for rain, where I live, we have had very little. These low humidity days will dry out your grass and plants quickly. Plants and grass are putting out new leaves and need water! Wetting Agents will help get the water into the soil.
  • The little fury terrorist of the yard is having babies now. Have you killed a mole recently or at least repelled one out of your yard?
  • Is your lawn mower ready for another season? New Blade? New Air Filter? New Spark Plug? New Gas?
  • Have you measured your turf and bed areas so you know how much product you need to buy and apply to your yard? Getting the right amount of product on your lawn will determine the success of your efforts.
  • Have you taken the time to enjoy the beauty of the Lowcountry? Use your Mosquitoes and Gnats Be Gone (organic and deet-free) for extra enjoyment.


Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.