10 October 2010

Plant abuse

Weather is still unusually perfect. Dry, cool, sunny. We don’t get many days down here that aren’t either in the 90’s and/or 85%++ humidity.  Best enjoy it while it lasts.

I don’t have a wide range of plants around the house, but I have a few that tend to go wild unless they are beat back twice a year. I typically will trim back my bushes in the spring and then once more in the fall before the leaves begin to fall. Most are pretty nondescript plants.  A couple of wax leaf ligustrums (Ligustrum japonicum 'Texanum'), a pair of old Japanese yew, two holly bushes, one overgrow schefflera, four new Indian hawthorns, several crepe myrtles, a couple of red tip photinias, a gaggle of some ugly boxwoods, one lone loquat plant/tree, one large windmill palm, and a number of mystery plants that grow straight stalks and have a highly aromatic smell when trimmed (still trying to figure out what species those are). That doesn’t count the asian jasmine ground cover that surrounds the house or periwinkles I put in last spring.

When we moved into this place 20+years ago, there used to be a couple of balls of pampas grass – a particularly nasty plant I came to loathe. This is an interesting plant (weed) that you will see used a lot along the interstate and in the medians of Texas Highways. There is good reason for that – they grow with practically no attention or care. No water, lots of sun, they love it. We had three outside our bedroom window and three more back in the corner of the yard. None of these were particularly attractive, but they grow fast and need no maintenance. The ones outside of our window seemed to be a favorite habitat for some noisy critter that I could never find or get rid of. One spring I took the challenge to cut them down and replace them with something a bit more aesthetic. That’s when I found out how nasty these plants are. They sport very nice grass like stalks with fronds on the end, but the leaves are razor sharp with tiny barbs that will shred any gloves or hide. I went through two shirts, several gloves, and many scars before I finally achieved the upper hand. Once you got down to the root/ball, there was not much to just knocking them over. It is a good plant if you want privacy or a barrier plant. I cannot imagine any bad guys trying to work their way through a few of them without drawing blood.

Yesterday the battle was with a large windmill palm that has taken up residence out by the mailbox. It is about 4-10 feet in height and has 7 main stalks/trunks and is pretty much self contained and requiring little maintenance. The palm fronds will spread out like large windmill fans (ergo the name) and spread from each trunk in about a 3 foot radius. The palms will grow out from the middle and spread outwards and each older one will eventually die out as the newer vegetation emerges. These types of palms can grow to large trees if managed correctly, but mine has stayed about the same height for years. If I let this one go, it will explode with palm leaves and cover up the mailbox, so, twice a year, I cut it back dramatically to allow new growth to come in and be able to see the mailbox from the house. Like the pampas grass, this one is a particularly nasty job because of the palm stalks. The leaves are fine but sharp on the edges, but the stalks of have these barbs that will tear through leather gloves (got the scars to prove it). I prefer to trim this one back when it is cooler to avoid the heat and bugs so I will cut it in the spring (around Palm Sunday) and again in the fall before Halloween. My trimming may seem a bit severe, but the plant seems to love it and will explode in the spring with all new growth. At one point a few years back, I was going to tear out this plant to find something else, but I thought better of it.

Today will be an assault on the ligustrums.

Never give up!  Never surrender!


Rock Chef said...

Some people think they can kill a pampas grass by burning it. Sadly, they love being burnt to the ground and come back twice as strong next year!

meleah rebeccah said...

I can't be trusted with any kind of plant life/gardening whatsoever!