This week's 'Plant of the Week' is the Lace Leaf Sumac, a fast-growing shrub that really delivers a gorgeous touch of autumnal color. Its branches resemble deer antlers covered with leaves that are just starting to show their intense shades of orange and scarlet. Planted in a surround of evergreens, the fall colors of this 10-12' tall and wide bush create a striking visual contrast. Specimens of this nonpoisonous plant add bright splashes of color along forest margins, road banks, along fencerows, or as pond accents. Planted with pansies and violas, they are stunning additions to winter gardens. Deer and rabbits are no threats to this sumac; they detest the taste of this autumn beauty. Best planted in fall, this hardy plant requires little to no care or water once it's established.
Here's an important tip for gardeners new to mountain gardening. Such dramatic results have been experienced by local gardeners who follow this particular practice that over the next few weeks I'll be re-singing this refrain: As autumn colors begin their annual debut everything in a mountain landscape must be fed!
The fall feeding is the most important feeding of the year. If you had to pick just one time of year to feed a mountain landscape, it would be fall. Just as their top growth begins to wind down, plants show off their fall colors, drop their leaves, and are actively absorbing nutrients to send out new roots. Plants need to be fed as this process happens. Use a plant food that's low in nitrogen, preferably a slow- release organic food that delivers winter-long care.
Fall feeding is even effective for native plants in our yards. Whether a majestic 100'- tall Ponderosa or a rugged pinion pine, all natives perform better with a fall feeding. Even my alligator junipers, super hard natives, get a good dose of food to bring out their silvery blues. Healthy, well-fed plants not only look better but are better prepared to fend off predators like bark beetles, tip borers, and scale.
Forget liquid fertilizers like Miracle Grow. Those products flush through the soil so fast that plants don't have time to absorb the nutrients. Fall feeding is so important that I've specially blended a plant food for our region. Simply called "All Purpose Plant Food" this all-natural blend of plant nutrients is perfect for the fall application. Generously apply the grains with a hand spreader as you walk around your yard, then water in thoroughly. The food will work its way into the ground, even through rock lawns and weed fabric, to make itself available to plants.
Precautions against Pinion Pine Scale should be taken ASAP. If scale has been a problem in your pine trees, you'll be glad to know that this tip really works. Applied before mid-October, liquid "Plant Protector" poisons the sap so that scale will die the moment they attach themselves to next spring's needles.
Simply mix it in a two-gallon watering can and apply at the base of the tree. The plant will absorb the liquid and carry it throughout the tree for built-in scale control. With "Plant Protector", I have brought back pinion pines from pending death. For really bad scale infestations apply this magic liquid again in April and your tree's problems are solved.
If you want to hear more about local gardening, tune in to my weekly radio show, "The Mountain Gardener", every Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to noon at KQNA 1130AM or 99.9FM. It's an hour of enlightening and entertaining on-air gardening.
Until next week, I'll see you at the Garden Center.