The cultivar, 'Italian Skies' bears profuse flower cymes in sky blue. Compact, low-growing, broad, evergreen shrub. Leaves are oblong, glossy, dark green and finely toothed up to 2 inches long. Excellent for a shrub border or against a sunny wall.
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.
How-to : Fertilization for Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials may be fertilized using: 1.water-soluble, quick release fertilizers; 2. temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; or 3. organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Water soluble fertilizers are generally used every two weeks during the growing season or per label instructions. Controlled, slow-release fertilizers are worked into the soil ususally only once during the growing season or per label directions. For organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, follow label directions as they may vary per product.
Conditions : Sun
Sun is defined as the continuous, direct, exposure to 6 hours (or more) of sunlight per day.
Conditions : Types of Pruning
Types of pruning include: pinching, thinning, shearing and rejuvenating.
Pinching is removing the stem tips of a young plant to promote branching. Doing this avoids the need for more severe pruning later on.
Thinning involves removing whole branches back to the trunk. This may be done to open up the interior of a plant to let more light in and to increase air circulation that can cut down on plant disease. The best way to begin thinning is to begin by removing dead or diseased wood.
Shearing is leveling the surface of a shrub using hand or electric shears. This is done to maintain the desired shape of a hedge or topiary.
Rejuvenating is removal of old branches or the overall reduction of the size of a shrub to restore its original form and size. It is recommended that you do not remove more than one third of a plant at a time. Remember to remove branches from the inside of the plant as well as the outside. When rejuvenating plants with canes, such as nandina, cut back canes at various heights so that plant will have a more natural look.
Conditions : Full Sun
Full Sun is defined as exposure to more than 6 hours of continuous, direct sun per day.
Tools : Watering Aides
No gardener depends 100% on natural rainfall. Even the most water conscious
garden appreciates the proper hose, watering can or wand.
Watering Cans: Whether you choose plastic of galvanized makes no difference,
but do look for generous capacity and a design that is balanced when filled
with water. A 2 gallon can (which holds 18 lbs. of water) is preferred by
most gardeners and is best suited for outdoor use. Indoor cans should be
relatively smaller with narrower spouts and roses (the filter head).
Watering Hose: When purchasing a hose, look for one that is double-walled, as it will resist
kinking. Quick coupler links are nice to have on ends of hoses to make
altering length fast. To extend the life of your hose, keep it wound around
a reel and stored in a shady area. Prior to winter freezes, drain hose.
Sprayers: Are commonly thought of as devices for applying chemicals, but
can really be a step saver for watering houseplants or small pots of annuals
rather that dragging out a hose or making numerous trips with a watering can.
The backpack sprayer is best suited for this. Take care not to use any kind
of chemical in tanks used for watering!
Sprinklers: Attached to the
ends of garden hoses, these act as an economical irrigation system. Standing
Spike Sprinklers are usually intended for lawns and deliver water in a circular pattern. Rotating Sprinklers deliver a circle of water and are perfect for lawns, shrubs and flower beds. Pulse-jet sprinklers cover large
areas of ground in a pulsating, circular pattern. The head usually sits up on a
tall stem, except for when watering lawns. Oscillating sprinklers are best for watering at ground level in a rectangular pattern.
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.
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.
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
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 : Planting Perennials
Determine appropriate perennials for your garden by considering sun and shade through the day, exposure, water requirements, climate, soil makeup, seasonal color desired, and position of other garden plants and trees.
The best times to plant are spring and fall, when soil is workable and out of danger of frost. Fall plantings have the advantage that roots can develop and not have to compete with developing top growth as in the spring. Spring is more desirable for perennials that dislike wet conditions or for colder areas, allowing full establishment before first winter. Planting in summer or winter is not advisable for most plants, unless planting a more established sized plant.
To plant container-grown plants: Prepare planting holes with appropriate depth and space between. Water the plant thoroughly and let the excess water drain before carefully removing from the container. Carefully loosen the root ball and place the plant in the hole, working soil around the roots as you fill. If the plant is extremely root bound, separate roots with fingers. A few slits made with a pocket knife are okay, but should be kept to a minimum. Continue filling in soil and water thoroughly, protecting from direct sun until stable.
To plant bare-root plants: Plant as soon as possible after purchase. Prepare suitable planting holes, spread roots and work soil among roots as you fill in. Water well and protect from direct sun until stable.
To plant seedlings: A number of perennials produce self-sown seedlings that can be transplanted. You may also start your own seedling bed for transplanting. Prepare suitable planting holes, spacing appropriately for plant development. Gently lift the seedling and as much surrounding soil as possible with your garden trowel, and replant it immediately, firming soil with fingertips and water well. Shade from direct sun and water regularly until stable.
Diseases : Verticillium or Fusarium Wilt
Wilts may be contracted through infected seed, plant debris, or soil. This
fungus begins and multiplies during the cool, moist season, becoming obvious
when weather turns warm and dry. Plants wilt because the fungus damages their
water conducting mechanisms. Overfertilization can worsen this problem. Able to overwinter in soil for many years, it is also carried and harbored in
Prevention and Control: If possible, select resistant varieties. Keep nitrogen-heavy fertilizers to a minimum as well as
over-irrigating as they encourage lush growth. Practice crop rotation and prune out or better yet remove infected plants.
Pest : Mealybugs
Small, wingless, dull-white, soft-bodied insects that produce a waxy powdery covering. They have piercing/sucking mouth parts that suck the sap out of plant tissue. Mealybugs often look like small pieces of cotton and they tend to congregate where leaves and stems branch. They attack a wide range of plants. The young tend to move around until they find a suitable feeding spot, then they hang out in colonies and feed. Mealybugs 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: Isolate infested plants from those that are not. Consult your local garden center professional or the Cooperative Extension office in your county for a legal insecticide/chemical recommendation. Encourage natural enemies such as lady beetles in the garden to help reduce population levels of mealy bugs.
Fungi : Rusts
Most rusts are host specific and overwinter on leaves, stems and spent flower debris. Rust often appears as small, bright orange, yellow, or brown pustules on the underside of leaves. If touched, it will leave a colored spot of spores on the finger. Caused by fungi and spread by splashing water or rain, rust is worse when weather is moist.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and provide maximum air circulation. Clean up all debris, especially around plants that have had a problem. Do not water from overhead and water only during the day so that plants will have enough time to dry before night. Apply a fungicide labeled for rust on your plant.
Fungi : Powdery Mildew
Powdery Mildew is usually found on plants that do not have enough air circulation or adequate light. Problems are worse where nights are cool and days are warm and humid. The powdery white or gray fungus is usually found on the upper surface of leaves or fruit. Leaves will often turn yellow or brown, curl up, and drop off. New foliage emerges crinkled and distorted. Fruit will be dwarfed and often drops early.
Prevention and Control: Plant resistant varieties and space plants properly so they receive adequate light and air circulation. Always water from below, keeping water off the foliage. This is paramount for roses. Go easy on the nitrogen fertilizer. Apply fungicides according to label directions before problem becomes severe and follow directions exactly, not missing any required treatments. Sanitation is a must - clean up and remove all leaves, flowers, or debris in the fall and destroy.
Pest : Caterpillars
Caterpillars are the immature form of moths and butterflies. They are voracious feeders attacking a wide variety of plants. They can be highly destructive and are characterized as leaf feeders, stem borers, leaf rollers, cutworms and tent-formers.
Prevention and Control: keep weeds down, scout individual plants and remove caterpillars, apply labeled insecticides such as soaps and oils, take advantage of natural enemies such as parasitic wasps in the garden and use Bacillus thuringiensis (biological warfare) for some caterpillar species.
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.
Conditions : Slope Tolerant
Slope tolerant plants are those that have a fibrous root system and are often plants that prefer good soil drainage. These plants assist in erosion control by stabilizing/holding the soil on slopes intact.
Conditions : Wind Tolerant
Plants that are wind tolerant usually have flexible, strong branches that are not brittle. Wind tolerant plants often have thick or waxy leaves that
control moisture loss from whipping winds. Native plants are often the best adapted to not only wind, but also soil and other climatic conditions.
Glossary : Low Maintenance
Low maintenance does not mean no maintenance. It does mean that once a plant is established, very little needs to be done in the way of water, fertilizing, pruning, or treatment in order for the plant to remain healthy and attractive. A well-designed garden, which takes your lifestyle into consideration, can greatly reduce maintenance.
Glossary : Perennial
Perennial: traditionally a non-woody plant that lives for two or more growing seasons.
Glossary : Seed Start
Seed Start: easily propagated from seed.
Glossary : Shrub
Shrub: is a deciduous or evergreen woody perennial that has multiple branches that form near its base.
Glossary : pH
pH, means the potential of Hydrogen, is the measure of alkalinity or acidity. In horticulture, pH refers to the pH of soil. The scale measures from 0, most acid, to 14, most alkaline. Seven is neutral. Most plants prefer a range between 5.5 and about 6.7, an acid range, but there are plenty of other plants that like soil more alkaline, or above 7. A pH of 7 is where the plant can most easily absorb the most nutrients in the soil. Some plants prefer more or less of certain nutrients, and therefore do better at a certain pH.
Glossary : Plant Characteristics
Plant characteristics define the plant, enabling a search that finds specific types of plants such as bulbs, trees, shrubs, grass, perennials, etc.
Glossary : Small Shrub
A small shrub is less than 3 feet tall.
Glossary : Flower Characteristics
Flower characteristics can vary greatly and may help you decide on a ""look or
feel"" for your garden. If you're looking for fragrance or large, showy flowers,
click these boxes and possibilities that fit your cultural conditions will be
shown. If you have no preference, leave boxes unchecked to return a greater
number of possibilities.
Glossary : Foliage Characteristics
By searching foliage characteristics, you will have the opportunity to look
for foliage with distinguishable features such as variegated leaves, aromatic
foliage, or unusual texture, color or shape. This field will be most helpful to you if
you are looking for accent plants. If you have no preference, leave this
field blank to return a larger selection of plants.
Glossary : Landscape Uses
By searching Landscape Uses, you will be able to pinpoint plants that are best suited for particular uses such as trellises, border plantings, or foundations.
Glossary : Fertilize
Fertilize just before new growth begins with a complete fertilizer.