Monday, March 1, 2021

Some of my Favorites That Are Disappearing


Horticulture Hotline 03/01/21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner 


While enjoying the beautiful Lowcountry weather yesterday, I observed a few things going on in the landscape. I noticed one of my favorite shrubs is disappearing from the landscape. One observation was my favorite smell in the Lowcountry. Another thing I observed was a small tree I always associate with the beginning of the landscape season and of course, the camellias were catching my eye.


The Banana Shrub (Michelia figo) is a plant that I’m afraid might disappear from the landscape. This is a shrub, not the plant that produces bananas. In the Spring it has creamy yellowish / white flowers that can cover a large area with a sweet banana smell, similar to a banana Now or Later candy. On sunny days the fragrance is the strongest. Banana Shrubs are a little hard to establish, but worth the effort. They grow about as tall as they do wide. Mature ones are about 10 feet tall around town. There are some in the 15-to-20-foot range that I have seen on local plantations. Like many of your traditional plants around here the Banana Shrub prefers well-drained, fertile, acid, sandy loam soil with a high organic matter content. I have never seen any pest on this plant.


The Osmanthus fragrans or Fragrant Tea Olive has always been one of my favorite plants because of its sweet smell. They bloom starting in October with a very sweet fragrance. The flowers are very small. In Charleston with the way the temperatures vary the smell seems to go away on those cold days. Then all the sudden a beautiful day comes and so does the sweet fragrance. I have been told the sun volatizes the oils that give the plant its signature smell on warm days (like the Banana Shrub).


The Tea Olive grows fairly upright and likes sun to part shade (sun brings out the smell). They do not like shearing with hedge trimmers or shears. Horticulturally speaking, I don’t know of any plant that does like shearing. Tea Olives do not like a lot of wind or salt air. I remember after Hurricane Hugo I was involved with replacing the landscape at 1 King Street – The Fort Sumter House (the big white building by the Battery aka White Point Gardens) – and we built a trellis with a confederate jasmine on it to block the wind and salt air, so the tourist and others could enjoy this Lowcountry jewel!


I have Tea Olives spread throughout my landscape. By my front door and front porch, by my sidewalk and driveway (multiple), three by the street for walkers enjoyment, and I even planted one by an area that school traffic backs up near my house so that people could enjoy the sweet smell while they wait in line to pick up their children!


Tea Olives are considered to be pest-free. I know I have never encountered any insects or diseases. They grow tall. I have some over 12 feet tall and have seen some that look like trees at some of the local plantations. There are some new varieties on the market that could be worth taking a look at if you are considering adding this plant to your landscape. Like camellias, azaleas and many other plants, the Tea Olive likes well-drained, fertile, acid, sandy loam soil with a high organic matter content.


The Magnolia x soulangiana (AKA Saucer Magnolia or Tulip Magnolia) is another one of those old school plants that I’m worried is not getting planted enough. This tree blooms before the leaves come out like a Dogwood, so the blooms are very visible. I have seen them bloom as early as late January and they are blooming right now (a white to pinkish / purple tulip shaped flower). Sometimes a frost will take out the blooms early. I have never had pest issues with them and they Saucer Magnolias prefer well-drained, fertile, acid, sandy loam soil with a high organic matter content. One of my favorites as the blooms indicate that preemergent season and the start of spring is just around the corner!


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


Monday, February 22, 2021

Has The Rain and Cold Brought In Some Uninvited Guest?


Horticulture Hotline 02 22 21

  Bill Lamson-Scribner


When I went outside yesterday and it wasn’t raining, the first thing that grabbed my attention were all the birds singing. Just that one half day of sunshine we had last week brought out all the walkers and people commenting about the sun. Everyone seemed so happy. I don’t know how they do it in Washington state.


With people getting their preemergent weed control out, I have been asked this question several times: does preemergent weed control get washed away or does it need to be re-applied because all the rain - Big No.


Preemergent products are broken down by microorganisms - it does not leach through the soil (like fast release nitrogen or potassium). Its control will be affected if sitting in a big puddle of water for an extended period. You shouldn't have to re-apply.


Although this is the Horticulture Hotline, I decided to write about entomology (insects) today. Instead of the Horticulture Hotline, I’ll call it the Entomology Swat Line. With the cooler, rainy weather, the old cockroach has found its way into many Lowcountry homes.  Contact your pest management company if you have a contract or consider getting on a contract or if you do not like dealing with cockroaches.  If you are a die hard do-it-yourselfer, here are a few tips that will make your battle a little more effective. 


Treat your outside perimeter. A band about three feet from your house generally in the mulch is a good place to start. A granular product like Bug Blaster or Bifen sand in the mulch beds surrounding your house will help kill the roaches before they get inside your house. A NOP (National Organics Program) organic product that is very effective is InTice Perimeter Bait. Using a spray around windows, doors, garage entry, and any other entry point to your house will also keep them from entering your house. EcoVia is a NOP product you can use around the outside and inside of your house.   


Underneath your house, consider dusting with a boric acid product. BorActin is a NOP product labeled for this or you could use the InTice Perimeter Bait. These products will last a long time in the crawl space of your house because they are away from sunlight and moisture. 


In your house, consider using InVict Gold Cockroach Gel. InVict Gold is a fast-acting bait that has our customers at Possum’s singing its praises. The bait products are great because they move throughout the roach population.  Maxforce Gel capitalize on roaches’ nasty habits needed to survive, making these products very effective.  An immature roach has to eat the fecal pellets of the adult roach in order to mature into an adult roach.  Roaches also cannibalize each other.  By using this bait, you get a domino effect by the little roaches eating the fecal pellets of an adult that has consumed the bait.  When one roach dies from the bait, then another eats the dead roach, it will also die.  In wall voids you can also use InTice Perimeter Bait.



There are many good aerosols that come with a long straw that are designed to be sprayed in cracks and crevices.  Now there is a good selection of “green” aerosols to choose from along with the old standbys. If you treat the outdoors and use a gel, an aerosol application probably will not be necessary.   


Definitely consider using a growth regulator to help lengthen your control of the roaches.  Generally, growth regulators are very safe to humans if applied properly, and some will also help with fleas (Nylar). Growth regulators will keep roaches or fleas from reproducing; therefore, breaking up their life cycle. Fleas like damp moist areas, so they should flourish this year. 


Knowing where to put these products is crucial for the success.  Always read, understand and follow the product label.  There are also many pest control companies that are well established in this area and are very capable of taking care of any of your uninvited guests. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, this article should help and the products suggested should work well.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Organics and Preemerge


Horticulture Hotline 02/15/21

By Bill Lamson-Scribner


I have these bells on my backdoor knob that hang down on from a rope-like material, and when my now 18-year-old pound hound Ol’Boy has to go outside, he nudges the bells with his nose and we let him out. Since we have been in this super rainy weather pattern for the last year, his habits have evolved. About a year ago, he would ring the bells, get his nose wet, come back inside, wait about a half hour, ring the bells again and head outside to do his thing. By the Fall, Ol’Boy would ring the bells, go outside, get his nose wet, come back inside, turn around immediately and go back outside in the weather elements, realizing he might as well get it over with the rain wasn’t stopping. Now, he rings the bells and heads straight outside and does his thing – hard rain or drizzle. I think he likes the toweling off treatment he gets and he runs around the house like he is a puppy again!


When I see those buds on my bald cypress swelling, I think of one thing – ORGANICS!

Cotton Burr Compost, Nature’s Blend, 09-00-00 Corn Gluten, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Feather Meal, Cotton Seed Meal, 08-02-04 Sustane, 06-04-00 Milorganite and / or SeaHume are great products to use now on your ornamental plants and turf. If you plan to use just one product, I would go with SeaHume now. After the oaks lose their leaves, use Cotton Burr Compost or Nature’s Blend as a mulch instead of pine straw (low nutrition) or bark (nutrition not available). If you use Cotton Burr Compost, or Nature’s Blend as a mulch, every time it rains your plants will get a drink of compost tea, and you know how we like our tea around here!


For best results spread over the whole bed; however, you can spread the products around individual plants. If you plan to do individual plants, be sure to cover where the roots are and out a little past where you think they are. Remember to keep compost or mulch off the trunk of trees and shrubs.


As microorganisms break the organics down into a usable form to the plants, organic products feed the soil. When the soil is cold, these microorganisms are inactive. As the temperatures warm up, the microorganisms begin to break down the organic material and make the nutrients available to the plant. The plant is beginning to grow and put-on new leaves as the temperature warms up, so like magic there is food available to the plant right when it needs it most. The forest with its leaves, twigs, limbs, and microorganism population is fertilized in this manner.


Cotton Burr Compost, Nature’s Blend, composted chicken manure, and composted cow manure are all composted to the point that they do not tie up nitrogen. Some organics can actually steal nutrients away from the plants while they decompose fully. Wood chips, fresh raked leaves, or grass clippings are best put into a compost pile until you are unable to tell what they were originally, and they are fully composted.


Nature’s Blend not only contains Cotton Burrs, but also composted cattle manure, alfalfa meal and humates.  Alfalfa meal is high in nitrogen and contains Triacantanol, a natural growth enhancer, and may help in the suppression and control of certain fungal diseases.


SeaHume is a combination of cold-water kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum) and humates.

The seaweed is full of sixty major and minor nutrients, amino acids, carbohydrates and natural occurring plant growth promoting substances (bio stimulants, gibberellins) that increase plant vigor, quality and yield. Humates increase the availability of nutrients in the soil, increase root growth, keeps nutrients in area that roots can reach (increase CEC), make the soil more friable and many other benefits.


Since SeaHume and Nature’s Blend have a cocktail of good organics, I’m starting with them this year. I’m hoping to bring my cold damage plants back and have them healthy to repair themselves from the severe pruning back some of them will get.


Control summer annual weeds before they emerge with preemergent herbicides. Crabgrass will be germinating soon, so get your preemerge of choice out now! Kill winter weeds that are up now before they produce viable seed for next year. Try not to prune azaleas now or you will be removing their flower buds and their spring flowers.


Before another season of applying products to your landscape, now is a great time to measure your turf areas and your bed areas, so you know how much product to use.


Read and follow product label.