Picture Snob

December 28, 2010

A tulip tree is the first choice for fast shade and beautiful flowers

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Tulip trees are native to the eastern United States and for some reason I always thought of them as small, decorative trees. But a friend of mine came by and looked at my lack of shade and suggested the tulip tree as a solution. I discovered that they are a fast growing, large shade tree with lovely flowers in the spring.

The tree can grow to 60 feet high and loves sun or partial shade. The flowers are pale green or yellow and in the northern range, they flower in June. It is fast-growing, without the common problems of weak wood strength and short lifespan often seen in fast-growing species so it sounds like the right choice. I'll have to be careful to keep the soil around it moist and will mulch it well. I will have to wait until spring plant it and use one the well drained holes already dug.

At Stokes tulip tree

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December 22, 2010

A beautiful book about trees! Trees: A Visual Guide

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Everyone raves about the pictures in this book as well as the information included. For someone who loves the outdoors and loves trees, this is a great gift and a great coffee table book. The book is divided by chapters describing the form, types, location, and use of the many varieties of trees.

Each page hasf text which is enhanced with color photographs. The book includes trees from around the world. Although this should not be considered an identification guide, there is a section entitled "Remarkable Trees of the World" where 99 trees are described by height, type, occurrence, habitat, division, and family. Additional text discusses the unique features of each variety and is illustrated with either a photograph of the tree, flowers, or leaves.

It's a great book to thumb through and for someone like me, who is hunting for beautiful and practical trees, it supplies illustrations of tree, leaf, flower, and fruit shapes, and small maps showing the types and major forests of the world. There are also four pages of charts describing the largest families and genera of trees. . The text is clear and written in nontechnical language and has a wealth of information about the evolution of trees and their habitat.

At Trees: A Visual Guide [Hardcover]

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December 17, 2010

Frosty Fern is a good winter plant

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My granddaughter and i found Frosty Ferns on sale at Whole Foods and on impluse bought them. Frosty Fern is a lovely plant, dark green with the tips light cream which is where the plant gets its name. Its Latin name is Selaginella krausianna variegatus, and it grows to 12". It is a fast-growing, creeping house plant. Its stems quickly reach a foot long or more and the stems root whereever they touch the soil, forming a dense mat. Although not a fern, it does produce spores instead of seeds, like a fern.

This plant likes moist soil and indirect light. The more light it gets, the faster it grows. It is only hardy to about 10 degrees so it can be succesfully grown indoors during the winter and moved to a shady location outdoors during the summer. If you want the plant to get bigger, fertilize regularly with a diluted, balanced fertilizer. The yellowing of the fronds is an indication of lack of nutrients or overwatering and underwatering. Selaginella kraussiana is a native of Africa, the Mediterranean Region and the Azores Islands

At Frosty Fern Club Moss Hanging Basket.

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December 3, 2010

Christmas Cactus is a great gift for the Holiday Season

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Hirt sells these Christmas Cactuses through Amazon and is offering a great deal if you order three. They make great holiday centerpieces and will bloom in a sunny window all winter with little care needed. They come in a variety of colors, orange, fushia, white and pink. Yellow is a rare color and is also offered.

These plants were originally tropical forest plants which grew as epiphytes on trees and derived there nutrients and moisture from the air and sunlight, but did not damage the host plant. The present day varieties are hybrids and are quite easy to propagate by removing a single segment and planting it a quarter of its length deep in a pot filled with slightly sandy soil. It helps to put some kind of rooting hormone on the base of the cutting. Place the pot in a well lit area (but not in direct sunlight) and keep the soil moist. The cutting should begin showing signs of growth after two or three weeks.

In order to bloom the plant needs three or four weeks of cool weather. They do best in indirect bright sunlight and evenly moist soil. If well taken care of, the Christmas Cactus can last years.

At Christmas Cactus Red Variety

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December 2, 2010

Winter Holiday time is poinsetta time

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For those of you thinking ahead to the holiday season, now might be a good time to get a poinsetta whose bracts and flowers will last several months, perhaps right into February. Poinsettas are native to Mexico and have been cultivated for Christmas flowers since the 16th century. Their bright color comes not from their flowers, but from the bracts around the flowers which are noted for their brilliant red, but can also be green, pink and yellow.

One of the most common questions after Christmas is "How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?" While this can be done, it's a very fussy, exacting process. When you bring the poinsetta home, you should place it near a sunny window. Poinsettias are tropicals and will appreciate as much direct sunlight as you can provide. Temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees F are good during the day. However, cold drafts or allowing the leaves to touch a cold window ca injure the leaves and cause premature leaf drop. Water the plant whenever the surface feels dry to the touch. Water until it drains out the bottom, but don't let the plant sit in water.

If you follow these simple guidlines, your poinsetta will last and bring you some cheer all winter long.

At Poinsettia Plant - Large

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December 1, 2010

The River Birch shade tree sounds promising

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The River Birch tree, Betula Nigra, is a very handsome tree and it seems like it doesn't mind wet soil which I have an abundance of in the winter. It has a light reddish brown cinnamon bark that peels and flakes to give that beautiful look that the birch family is noted for. It has dark green summer leaves and turns a golden yellow in the fall. Plant as a specimen, or as a windbreak, plant 20' apart in the row.

It is excellent in wet soil. but will survive dry soils. It has graceful branching, and is easy to transplant. This Birch tree can withstand extended periods of flooding, and is beautiful in the summer and winter, is widely adaptable, and heat tolerant. So it sounds like it has all the qualities I need. An interesting side note is that Native Americans used the boiled sap as a sweetener similar to maple syrup, and the inner bark as a survival food.

At Fox Valley River Birch Tree - Betula -Outside or Bonsai

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November 30, 2010

The Leyland Cypress makes privacy and borders quickly

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I don't think this will do for my purposes but it is used successfully to create a privacy barrier quickly. This plant is a hybrid between the Monterrey Cypress and the Alaskan Cypress. It can be trimmed to be a hedge or let grow tall to shade and protect. It is shallow rooted and so can topple over and does not like hot summers which eliminates it as my choice.

However, it takes windy and salty sea air very nicely so if you're near the ocean this is a good choice. Apparently, it is used in England often for hedges and I find it funny that In 2005 in the United Kingdom, an estimated 17,000 people were at loggerheads over high hedges, which led to violence and in at least one case murder! There is an Anti-Social Behaviour Act which gave a way for people affected by high hedges to have the hedges reduced in height. In May 2008, UK resident Christine Wright won a 24 year legal battle to have her neighbour's Leylandii trees cut down for blocking sunlight to her garden.

This is quite a different mind set than in the USA, but then I guess there is more room here for wind breaks, hedges and gardens. If you're interested in a fast growing hedge or windbreak, the Leyland Cyress is a good choice.

At Naylor's Blue Leyland Cypress Tree/Shrub/Windbreaker

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November 26, 2010

The Royal Empress tree is beautiful, fast growing, indestructable

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The Royal Empress has many of the qualities I want in a shade tree. It has beautiful flowers in spring and large green leaves. It grows incredibly fast and is easy to grow and hard to kill. Sounds perfect!!?? The Royal Empress tree originated in China and is now grown all over the states. There are so many wondrous tales told about the tree that you would think everyone would want to have one. You can't sit back and watch it grow, but almost. Its daily growth is measurable! A fully mature tree will be between 30 and 70 feet high, and perhaps 30 feet wide. With leaves that can measure a foot across, the Royal Empress Tree is a first class shade tree.

However, there is a catch. it has become invasive in places and, despite its unquestioned beauty, is called a weed tree. Once established, it tends to spread rapidly and is difficult to eradicate. It cannot be destroyed by cutting it back. It must be dug up, roots and all. It is said it is deer resistant but they sometimes browse on the trees. The leaves are edible and sometimes used for animal fodder.

There are several nurserys that handle Royal Empress, and Amazon has seeds. As fast as it grows, that might be the economical way to grow one of these beauties.

At Royal Empress Tree 50 Seeds - Paulownia - Tropical

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Shade trees for the new house

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Now that I have decided I can surround the tree holes with large rocks and fill in an area around the hole with a mixture of potting soil, compost and the heavy clay from the hole, I want to check out various species of trees that will survive and prosper. There are many to choose from. Of course, I want fast growing shade trees.

The Bur Oak was suggested by a nursery as being a lovely shade tree, but it grows slowly about one foot per year. It grows to 20 feet tall and lives sometimes 200 to 300 years, becoming massive in stature. I think this is not for me. I like the idea of oaks as they are native to my place, but I need something that grows faster and I really am not worried about 200 years from now.

The "Autumn Purple" White Ash, Fraxinus americana, 'Autumn Purple', is a seedless male tree and is grown in moist areas. This fast growing White Ash tree grows 2/3 feet per year. It is almost pyramidal with a round top when young, but gradually slows down and develops an oval shape. Autumn Purple Ash trees prefer a sunny location.
This deciduous tree develops a consistantly outstanding deep red, maroon or purple fall color. There are few if any trees with longer lasting fall colors. The Autumn Puple Ash tree makes a great tall shade tree and it is tolerant of soil type and watering. I'm putting this on my list.

At Raywood Ash Tree Five Gallon

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November 24, 2010

The Sawtooth Oak is the fastest growing oak

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White and Black oaks are some of the most familar varieties of oak where I live in California. I've been trying to figure out if planting an oak for shade is a good idea and the Sawtooth Oak seems like a good candidate for such purpose. The Sawtooth is native to Asia but is now planted in North America and Europe.

This deciduous tree is a great source for wildlife food because of the short time it takes for the tree to produce acorns. Sawtooth Oak trees have moderate water requirements and it has a moderate tolerance to salt and alkali soils which is not a problem where I live anyway. The leaves go from yellow to golden brown in the fall, and open to a brilliant golden yellow in the spring. Its growth rate is rapid for an oak tree, and it is a fast growing shade tree.

I think it's worth a try. People who have planted it are enthusiastic about it's growth rate.

At Sawtooth Oak

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