Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blackberry and Their Control

Yes, I realize blackberry plants are not exactly trees though I have some that must think they are given their height. Tree or not, these woody plants often take the space of a tree in our landscape whether we grow them on purpose or not or for fruit or ornamental reasons.

The homestead we bought is rife with wild blackberries. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I thanked God for this bounty and set about learning what to do with them. I found out in short order that they were to be respected (Ouch!! Thorns!!) and tamed. Left unsupervised, these things can spread to take over your entire yard (or farm).

The first few years weren’t too bad, a few stray plants turned up in places where I didn’t want them. Thank you very much little birds! But once we got chickens, fuhgeddah ‘bout it! I have blackberry plants coming up everywhere. I also learned you need to remove them promptly. Once they get established, they are difficult and painful to remove.

There are still a few plants growing outside our blackberry patch that need to be removed but we finally have it under control. It takes diligence though. If you are considering adding blackberries to your landscape of orchard, be mindful that you will need to monitor their spread. In many places they are considered a noxious weed because they are capable of choking out the natural vegetation. 

In order to successfully remove the blackberry plant, you have to get the entire rhizome out. A rhizome is like the root structure for the blackberry and it resembles the ginger root or the rhizome that an iris grows from. Leaving even a tiny piece of this in the soil means new blackberry shoots will come up. 
Obviously mowing and burning are not good methods of removal for this reason, though either can help control the spread and the bramble for a time and with repetition.

To maintain a blackberry patch you must be diligent about harvesting of the berries so they don’t fall to the ground and seed themselves or that birds and animals don’t spread them for you. You must also monitor it to prevent new canes from sprouting in places where you don’t want them.

Blackberries are beautiful when they blossom as each 2 year old or older cane is covered in white flowers. The berries range from large and sweet to small and tart depending on the variety and the bushes provide a wonderful habitat for birds and other animals in the wild. Plant blackberries with care and know what you are getting into before you do.

Do you have any tips on controlling blackberries?

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Arbors or structures like them date back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, perhaps even farther. The actual definition of an arbor is “A shady resting place in a garden or park, often made of rustic work or latticework on which plants, such as climbing shrubs or vines, are grown” according to The Free Online Dictionary

A pergola like this gives an open, airy feeling

Using this definition, an arbor can be many from a large tree that provide ample shade or a combination of elements that work together to create a shady resting spot.

A few years ago, the county did some road work and redesigned the frontage of my property. I have been working to create an arbor of my own in what is now a sun drenched area. Several rose bushes, a pink lilac bush, some azaleas and a butterfly bush have been planted along the edge of the property to obscure the chain link fence. 

Arches like this can be the ideal spot for climbing plants like roses or grapevines

Set back from it are some young trees I dug up from other parts of the property and moved there. Among them, I have moved an American Redbud, a white dogwood and a plum tree which has its first crop of plums this year though the tree is only 5 feet tall. I don’t know what type of plum tree it is because they were here when we bought the place and the older ones have all died off now. 

Next up will be to dig up a black, wrought iron arbor my mother bought me as a hose warming gift when we moved here 14 years ago and move it to this new location. I have 2 pink, climbing rose vines I purchased that I hope will claim the arbor in time. 

Imagine sitting under the shade of this wisteria.

The area I am working on should be partially visible form mu office where I spend the majority of my day and from my living room. I am hoping it will be an inviting place where I can sit with my laptop and work, when weather permits.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Spring Care of Lilac Bushes

While this bush has plenty of blooms, it hasn't been properly cared for.

In my part of the world, the lilacs are in full bloom. I have several around the property, an older one that needs a good pruning and two newer ones that are lush and growing strong. As hearty as lilac bushes are, they do still require a certain amount of care and spring is a good time to get started.


If you want to add lilac bushes to your landscape, it is already passed the ideal time to do so and you will have to wait until fall. For spring plantings, lilacs should be purchased early in the season when they are still dormant. Plants should be void of any leaves and will probably have bare roots. In the fall, the plants will have soil on the roots and leaves on the stems.

Dig a hole large enough to accommodate whatever root system you have. Add some compost to the soil that goes back into the hole. Set the root ball so it is just at the top of the whole and back fill the hole. For bare root plants, set the roots a couple of inches below the soil surface. Water well to remove air pockets but do not drown and do not pack the soil around the roots.


Spring is the best time to add a little fertilizer to your lilac bushes. Because lilacs set buds the previous year, your fertilizer will help encourage leaf growth this year and the buds for next year. 

This bush has been looked after and the blooms are more proportionate with the size of the bush.


Lilacs don’t really need an annual pruning like many other trees and bushes. Following the blossom period, though, the spent blossoms should be trimmed back. The best time is in the spring, about one week after the blooms have finished. Cut them off cleanly just below the flower cluster. This stimulates the growth of new flower buds and leaves and also reduces the production of seeds. If you don’t do this, the plant will put its energies into seed production and that energy would have been used to promote blossom growth for next year. Letting your lilac set seed means less blossoms next year.
Thisbush was not deadheaded after blooming.It went to seed which in turn reduced the number of blooms this year.


Lilacs are drought tolerant but prefer plenty of water. Watch for loss of shine on the leaves, limp leaves or leaves edged with brown. These can all be sigs your lilac bush is not getting enough water.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Winter Preparations

Here we are in mid-February and for most of the country, winter seems to have barely touched us. Here in southern Illinois, where we should be experiencing the coldest part of our winter, with temps often in the teens, it is a balmy 39 degrees today. The groundhog recently predicted six more weeks of winter but spring is just over the horizon by my senses.

What that means for gardeners is itchy fingers. And what this mild winter allows us to do is get outside and prune like crazy. Normally it is so cold, many of us do just the bare essentials and scurry back indoors to sip hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or perhaps the computer screen. With temperatures remaining so moderate, now is a good time to get outdoors and trim up those deciduous trees and shrubs. For more on this, read “Pruning Your Illinois Trees and Shrubs.” While it addresses a few specific circumstances that relate to Illinois, the overall gist of it applies to everyone.

Another thing many gardeners are doing now is planning and ordering new trees and shrubs for our landscape gardens and orchards. If you aren’t receiving the catalogs in the mail, you can find websites for local and national nurseries online. Remember to consider your planting zone, soil type and the pollination needs of the trees and shrubs you are contemplating before you order. Some require a specimen of another variety in order to insure pollination and you may have room for only one.