Friday, December 21, 2012

What's number one on my Wish List?

A Blanco crabapple tree, of course!

Photo by Sally and Andy Wasowski
How cool would THAT be? Years ago, I wrote a feature on the species for Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine and got to visit with the late horticulturist and Texas native plant specialist Benny Simpson on the phone for his input. Now I'm dreaming of growing one in our Wildscape. 

But first, I've got to learn what I can about crabapples and how to go about planting and caring for one....

So here's what Mr. Smarty Plants on advises on the subject. This is an answer to a June 2012 question, "I purchased a Blanco crabapple tree. Should I plant it now or wait until Fall? It is currently rootbound."

Mr. Smarty Plants: "This tree is a member of the Rosaceae family, which doesn't tend to make huge roots nor to object to planting at the wrong time of the year. We think you should go ahead and get it out of that pot and into the ground, but get the ground ready before you take it out of the pot. Until then, keep it in part shade, and give it water when the top of the soil is dry.

"Next, get the hole ready. Select a partly shady area in your garden (2 to 6 hours of sun a day). Dig a good big hole, bigger around than the diameter of the pot, because you already know there is too much root in that pot. Mix into the native dirt a nice amount of good quality compost, to help with drainage and making it possible for small new rootlets to get out into the dirt and access nutrients. For the actual planting we recommend you wait until late in the day, maybe even after sunset, and/or work in the shade. Lift the plant out of the pot. With some good sharp garden nippers, clip through some of the wrapped-around roots. You need to be ruthless about this, because if the roots are not forced out into the soil, they will just keep wrapping around until they strangle the plant.

"Set the clipped plant into the prepared hole, just slightly lower than the surface of the ground around the soil. Now fill in the mixed soil around the plant, letting it be a little higher than the top of the soil in the pot, because as you water, the soil will sink. Stick a hose deep down into the new soft dirt and let the water dribble very slowly until it comes to the surface. Do this about twice a week until the leaves start to perk up. Do not overhead water it, as from a sprinkler. Members of the Rose Family are very susceptible to fungus and rusts.

"Don't fertilize. the Blanco Crabapple is native to a very small portion of Central Texas, and native plants rarely need fertilizer because they are already accustomed to the climate, soil and rain. When the plant has kind of settled in, you might want to trim away some of the foliage, especially any that is thin or bare, to take some of the load off the roots which are trying to re-establish themselves after the root pruning. Spread about 4 inches of a good quality shredded bark compost on the root area, without letting it get up against the trunk. This will help to keep weeds down, protect the roots from heat and cold, hold moisture in and, as it decomposes, improve the texture of the soil."

Botanical illustration by Collene Sweeney

 Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!

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