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AHBA Home & Garden Expo

We’re at the AHBA Home Expo this weekend – Come out and see us! Leave a comment here to be entered into our drawing for a $50 gift certificate towards a tree or shrub.

Spike Winterhazel – Corylopsis spicata

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Corylopsis spicata or Spike Winterhazel, is a 4 to 6′ high (often over 10′ at maturity) deciduous shrub that blooms in late winter to early spring. The fragrant bell shaped flowers hang in clusters and are a pale creamy yellow. These shrubs have a wide-spreading open growth habit with rather attractive contorted branches. Closely related to witch hazels, they have the same shape at maturity, often being twice as wide as high. The leaves have a crinkled, pleated appearance and emerge a nice purple color and eventually become bluish green.

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As far as landscape plants go, Corylopsis spicata does not need special care, and readily grows in moist, well-drained soil in a spot that is sunny to partially shady. They are well suited to our climate, being hardy zones 5-8. If yellow bells are a little too garish for your taste, the beauty of the Winterhazel is not something you want to miss.

Beyond the Bradford Pear


When the Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’, made its debut into commercial horticulture in the 60s, it was touted as the perfect street tree. With its early showy bloom, attractive shape and fall color, it had potential. Unfortunately, a few decades of experience have shown that there are many weaknesses that should be considered before planting one of these ubiquitous trees.
While a planting of Bradford pears is a sight to behold, its problems will eventually turn the same planting into an unsightly mess. Fast growing and weak branched, the trees are prone to self-destructing in strong winds or heavy ice. A life span of 20 years is a generous estimate. The flowers have an unpleasant rotting fish smell that attracts flies as pollinators and the small inedible fruit has no wildlife value. Many trees also sucker heavily around their bases and continue to do so for years after the main tree has been removed.
Storm damage 6-11-09 169!

Instead of planting a tree with such obvious failings, consider planting one that can offer much in the way of quality for your landscape. Over the next few weeks, we will feature flowering trees and shrubs that might not be as common as the Bradford pear, but bring much more to the table than a tree split down the middle.

Tomorrow’s feature is a wonderful flowering shrub, Corylopsis spicata, (spike witchhazel).

Horticultural Oil

Certain refined oils, diluted with water and applied as sprays, are very effective in the control of many plant pests. Oils are great in controlling insect and mite problems, but can also control certain diseases, such as powdery mildew. Although they may be called by different names, they are generally referred to as horticultural oils.

These oils are a very important tool to integrate into biological pest control programs as they pose very few risks to people or beneficial insects. Toxicity is minimal, especially compared to alternative pesticides. Oils control pests through asphyxiation, by interfering with normal metabolism or by disrupting how an insect feeds.

When used in late winter or early spring before plants break dormancy, they are usually mixed at a higher concentration and referred to as dormant oil sprays. These sprays are effective in treating holly, spruce, fir, hemlock and other evergreen species for pests like mites, scale, and adelgids. You should not spray blue spruces as the oils can strip the coloration from the plant. Once plants are in active growth, oils should be mixed at a lower rate and are referred to as summer oil or superior oil sprays. Seasonal outbreaks of aphids, mealybugs and lacebugs can be controlled quite easily. However, caution should be taken with higher temperatures, with certain plant species and plants under stress. Used properly, horticultural oils can play a safe and vital role in pest management. Let Snow Creek Landscaping provide these applications for you.

Topping trees can lead to many problems

Your trees can add a lot to your landscape; shade, beauty, a sense of permanence and landscape maturity, or a place to hang your hammock.

Trees have evolved for millions of years and can do pretty well without our help, but if they’re growing close to where people live, work or play, then they require a little maintenance to keep them safe and healthy. Usually just some routine maintenance can prevent or remedy many problems that trees might have, while neglecting it can be the source of heartache later on.

As important and helpful as good maintenance is, poor practices and bad work can be worse than doing nothing at all. Soil disturbance, bad pruning cuts, climbing with spurs, or over-pruning all cause more problems than they might solve.

One of the worst offenses is the practice of “topping.” Topping is when the ends of all limbs in the crown of a tree are cut off, usually to stubs. The most common reason for topping is that the tree is getting “too big”. It’s an understandable fear that as a tree gets larger it gets taller and heavier and has more potential to do damage.

Proper maintenance and monitoring can almost always prevent that from happening, and there are better ways to reduce trees when necessary. If you’re still just too worried about a tree, it’s better to remove and replace it with a smaller-growing tree than to top it. Besides being unsightly and defacing the natural beauty of trees, topping can cause severe health issues and a long series of detrimental consequences.

For example, leaves are what trees use to produce food. Topping removes most, if not all of a tree’s leaves, and therefore its source of food production. The tree will have to use stored energy to produce a new set of leaves, leaving it weaker and with a lack of reserve energy. Like people, when weakened they become more susceptible to secondary afflictions.

Another consequence of topping is decay at the point where large cuts are made. Trees respond to injury by trying to wall it off to prevent decay and grow new tissue to encase the wound. Large stub cuts in trees are difficult for them to compartmentalize in that way and as a result there is often decay that spreads down into the limbs from the cuts. The tree forces out multiple sprouts to create foliage as quickly as possible; those sprouts are often dense, tangled, poorly attached to the tree, vigorously long from trying to compete with other sprouts, and are now growing from a decayed area on the limb.

The sprouts expand into each other and become weaker over time, and the wood in sprouts is not as strong as normal wood. What you’re left with years down the road is an ugly, dangerous tree with terrible structure and decay. Why put yourself and your tree through the pain? Take good care of them instead; it will pay dividends for years to come.

Michael Davie is natural resource manager for Snow Creek Landscaping in Arden. Contact him at [email protected]