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Myrtus communis
( Greek Myrtle )

An evergreen, upright shrub grown for its fragrant foliage and ability to withstand clipping. A perfect plant for a topiary or hedge. From midsummer to early fall, produces solitary, white flowers which are followed by purplish-black berries. May grow to 10 feet tall, but there are many dwarf cultivars available. Grow in moist, well-drained soil that is moderately fertile. Full sun is best.


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Characteristics
Cultivar: n/a  
Family: Myrtaceae  
Size: Height: 0 ft. to 10 ft.
Width: 0 ft. to 10 ft.  
Plant Category: shrubs,  
Plant Characteristics:  
Foliage Characteristics: fragrant, evergreen,  
Foliage Color: dark green,  
Flower Characteristics: fragrant,  
Flower Color: whites,  
Tolerances: deer, heat & humidity, pollution, rabbits, seashore,  
Requirements
Bloomtime Range: Late Summer to Early Fall  
USDA Hardiness Zone: 8 to 9  
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant  
Light Range: Part Sun to Full Sun  
pH Range: 5.5 to 7.5  
Soil Range: Some Sand to Some Clay  
Water Range: Normal to Moist  

Plant Care



Fertilizing
How-to : Fertilization for Established Plants

Established plants can benefit from fertilization. Take a visual inventory of your landscape. Trees need to be fertilized every few years. Shrubs and other plants in the landscape can be fertilized yearly. A soil test can determine existing nutrient levels in the soil. If one or more nutrients is low, a specific instead of an all-purpose fertilizer may be required. Fertilizers that are high in N, nitrogen, will promote green leafy growth. Excess nitrogen in the soil can cause excessive vegetative growth on plants at the expense of flower bud development. It is best to avoid fertilizing late in the growing season. Applications made at that time can force lush, vegetative growth that will not have a chance to harden off before the onset of cold weather.

Light
Conditions : Full Sun

Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.

Watering
Conditions : Moist and Well Drained

Moist and well drained means exactly what it sounds like. Soil is moist without being soggy because the texture of the soil allows excess moisture to drain away. Most plants like about 1 inch of water per week. Amending your soil with compost will help improve texture and water holding or draining capacity. A 3 inch layer of mulch will help to maintain soil moisture and studies have shown that mulched plants grow faster than non-mulched plants.

Planting
How-to : Pruning Flowering Shrubs

It is necessary to prune your deciduous flowering shrub for two reasons: 1. By removing old, damaged or dead wood, you increase air flow, yielding in less disease. 2. You rejuvenate new growth which increases flower production.

Pruning deciduous shrubs can be divided into 4 groups: Those that require minimal pruning (take out only dead, diseased, damaged, or crossed branches, can be done in early spring.); spring pruning (encourages vigorous, new growth which produces summer flowers - in other words, flowers appear on new wood); summer pruning after flower (after flowering, cut back shoots, and take out some of the old growth, down to the ground); suckering habit pruning (flowers appear on wood from previous year. Cut back flowered stems by 1/2, to strong growing new shoots and remove 1/2 of the flowered stems a couple of inches from the ground) Always remove dead, damaged or diseased wood first, no matter what type of pruning you are doing.

Examples: Minimal: Amelanchier, Aronia, Chimonanthus, Clethra, Cornus alternifolia, Daphne, Fothergilla, Hamamelis, Poncirus, Viburnum. Spring: Abelia, Buddleia, Datura, Fuchsia, Hibiscus, Hypericum, Perovskia, Spirea douglasii/japonica, Tamarix. Summer after flower: Buddleia alternifolia, Calycanthus, Chaenomeles, Corylus, Cotoneaster, Deutzia, Forsythia, Magnolia x soulangeana/stellata, Philadelphus, Rhododendron sp., Ribes, Spirea x arguta/prunifolia/thunbergii, Syringa, Weigela. Suckering: Kerria

How-to : Planting Shrubs

Dig a hole twice the size of the root ball and deep enough to plant at the same level the shrub was in the container. If soil is poor, dig hole even wider and fill with a mixture half original soil and half compost or soil amendment.

Carefully remove shrub from container and gently separate roots. Position in center of hole, best side facing forward. Fill in with original soil or an amended mixture if needed as described above. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.

If the plant is balled-and-burlapped, remove fasteners and fold back the top of natural burlap, tucking it down into hole, after you've positioned shrub. Make sure that all burlap is buried so that it won't wick water away from rootball during hot, dry periods. If synthetic burlap, remove if possible. If not possible, cut away or make slits to allow for roots to develop into the new soil. For larger shrubs, build a water well. Finish by mulching and watering well.

If shrub is bare-root, look for a discoloration somewhere near the base; this mark is likely where the soil line was. If soil is too sandy or too clayey, add organic matter. This will help with both drainage and water holding capacity. Fill soil, firming just enough to support shrub. Finish by mulching and watering well.

How-to : Pruning Flowering Hedges

Careful selection, planting and initial pruning is critical for a uniform formal or informal hedge. The safest time to prune most flowering hedges is immediately after flowering. This way you do not prune away newly forming buds if you wait until later in the year. Initially, cut back leaders and laterals by one third to one half on planting. In second season, once flowering is complete, cut back again by about one-third.

A hedge can provide privacy and shelter from wind. Hedges should be sloped at a gentle angle, wider at the base, to deflect wind and avoid snow damage. Stretch a line between two stakes for a level top. Cut a template from heavy cardboard for a consistent shape and move it along the hedge as you cut. Shears or an electric trimmer should be held parallel to the line of the hedge.

How-to : Preparing Containers

Containers are excellent when used as an ornamental feature, a planting option when there is little or no soil to plant in, or for plants that require a soil type not found in the garden or when soil drainage in the garden is inferior. If growing more than one plant in a container, make sure that all have similar cultural requirements. Choose a container that is deep and large enough to allow root development and growth as well as proportional balance between the fully developed plant and the container. Plant large containers in the place you intend them to stay. All containers should have drainage holes. A mesh screen, broken clay pot pieces(crock) or a paper coffee filter placed over the hole will keep soil from washing out. The potting soil you select should be an appropriate mix for the plants you have chosen. Quality soils (or soil-less medias) absorb moisture readily and evenly when wet. If water runs off soil upon initial wetting, this is an indicator that your soil may not be as good as you think.

Prior to filling a container with soil, wet potting soil in the bag or place in a tub or wheelbarrow so that it is evenly moist. Fill container about halfway full or to a level that will allow plants, when planted, to be just below the rim of the pot. Rootballs should be level with soil line when project is complete. Water well.

Problems
Fungi : Leaf Spots

Leaf spots are caused by fungi or bacteria. Brown or black spots and patches may be either ragged or circular, with a water soaked or yellow-edged appearance. Insects, rain, dirty garden tools, or even people can help its spread.

Prevention and Control: Remove infected leaves when the plant is dry. Leaves that collect around the base of the plant should be raked up and disposed of. Avoid overhead irrigation if possible; water should be directed at soil level. For fungal leaf spots, use a recommended fungicide according to label directions.



Pest : Scale Insects

Scales are insects, related to mealy bugs, that can be a problem on a wide variety of plants - indoor and outdoor. Young scales crawl until they find a good feeding site. The adult females then lose their legs and remain on a spot protected by its hard shell layer. They appear as bumps, often on the lower sides of leaves. They have piercing mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Scales can weaken a plant leading to yellow foliage and leaf drop. They also produce a sweet substance called honeydew (coveted by ants) which can lead to an unattractive black surface fungal growth called sooty mold.

Prevention and Control: Once established they are hard to control. Isolate infested plants away from those that are not infested. Consult your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal recommendation regarding their control. Encourage natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden.

Diseases : Southern Blight

Plants with Southern blight have lesions on the stem at, or near, the soil line. These lesions develop rapidly, girdling the stem and resulting in a sudden and permanent wilting of the plant. High temperatures (above 85 degrees F, 29 degrees C) favor the disease. The fungus attacks a wide range of plants and survives for long periods in soil. To control, treat with a recommended fungicide according to label directions.

Miscellaneous
Conditions : Deer Tolerant

There are no plants that are 100% deer resistant, but many that are deer tolerant. There are plants that deer prefer over others. You will find that what deer will or will not eat varies in different parts of the country. A lot of it has to do with how hungry they are. Most deer will sample everything at least once, decide if they like it or not and return if favorable. A fence is the good deer barrier. You may go for a really tall one (7 to 8 feet), or try 2 parallel fences, (4 to 5 feet apart). Use a wire mesh fence rather than board, since deer are capable of wiggling through a 12 inch space.

Conditions : Pollution Tolerant

Air pollution is becoming a bigger problem each day. Pollutants in our air damage plants. The plants are damaged by absorbing sulfur dioxide, ozone, peroxyacetyl nitrate, ethylene, and nitrogen dioxide through their pores. Cell membrane damage may result in leaf drop, blotched or burnt looking leaves, or off-colored tissue between veins. Vehicles and industrial processes are the key culprits and conditions worsen on hot summer days. Though planting only pollution tolerant plants is not the solution to this problem, it is a visual band aid. Your Cooperative Extension Service may have a list of plants that are more pollution tolerant in your area.

Conditions : Rabbit Tolerant

As cute as they are, rabbits can really damage a vegetable garden. Young, tender lettuce plants seem to be their favorite. If a free-roaming dog is not a possibility for you, consider installing raised vegetable beds and covering tender shoots with netting. If you have ample room, you can opt to plant enough for you and the bunnies. Scents don't always repel animals, as they get used to them and are often washed off in the rain.

Conditions : Salt Tolerant

Anyone that lives close to the coast or in areas where soil salt content is high, can appreciate a plant that is salt tolerant. Salt damage is usually worse where the climate is arid: there is not enough rainfall to wash built up salts from the soil. It takes about 30 inches of rainfall a year to move salt through the soil. Plants that have salt damage usually have yellow leaves, brown tips or margins, and leaf drop. Soils may have a crusty white layer, too. Salt tolerant plants are often natives or introduced plants that have evolved in salty conditions.

Glossary : Container Plant

A plant that is considered to be a good container plant is one that does not have a tap root, but rather a more confined, fibrous root system. Plants that usually thrive in containers are slow- growing or relatively small in size. Plants are more adaptable than people give them credit for. Even large growing plants can be used in containers when they are very young, transplanted to the ground when older. Many woody ornamentals make wonderful container plants as well as annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, and bulbs.

Glossary : Hedge

A hedge is any tree, shrub, perennial, annual or herb that can be clipped and maintained in a formal or informal shape. Hedges can provide privacy and define property lines as well as rooms of a garden.

Glossary : Shrub

Shrub: is a deciduous or evergreen woody perennial that has multiple branches that form near its base.

Glossary : Topiary

A topiary is a plant that has been pruned and trained to have an artificial form. Popular since Roman times, topiary was a way of introducing architectural and animal forms to the garden. Simple, geometric shapes make up the classic topiary form. This time- consuming process can be minimized by training vines to grow around or in a wire or moss form.
    Simple Design: Select a young plant, and clip into a geometric shape by eye. The next year, make a cutting guide from stakes, wire, or string, and cut to shape. Once plant shape has been achieved, clip yearly, more often as needed, to maintain shape.
    Complex Design: Make a frame work of desired shape from chicken wire, stakes, and twine. Plant strategically located plants. Tie tender shoots to form. Be sure that plants are well watered and fertilized so that they grow as fast as possible. Cut bracelets, with consideration to filling form. Level and plumb lines help to insure accuracy. Always work from the top down. Once design is achieved, you'll need to maintain form. More pruning will be necessary during the growing season.

To protect your topiary from heavy snows, netting placed over plant will add extra support. To mend broken branches, selectivly prune away damage and tie an existing branch into position to fill gap. If this is not possible, patience is your next bet. To restore unkempt topiaries, severly prune to rejuvenate original form the first spring, then follow up with several seasons of judicious clipping.

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