Mulch volcanos and tree health

Our horticultural pet peeves

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Today on Savvy Gardening, we’re imploring homeowners everywhere to stop all heinous acts of horticulture! No more tree-topping! Down with shredded rubber mulch! Let the meatball-shrubs grow free! Yes, we know there’s no way we’ll ever be able to list every horrendous crime against horticulture, but we’d like to take a few moments to tell you about a handful that really flip our plant-lovin’ lids.

Few things annoy us more in the landscape than mulch volcanoes. Ugh, why do professional landscaping companies pile mulch around the base of trees in the shape of a volcano? It makes no sense. We have no idea where this practice was invented, or why so many professional landscapers think it’s a great idea. Gardeners like us should be able to look at their professional work and feel safe about copying the techniques they use.

Please, please don’t ever create a mulch volcano in your yard. Not only does it look absurd, it’s terrible for the tree. Piling mulch around the base of a tree causes moisture and rotting issues, and can eventually kill the tree. Don’t get us wrong, adding mulch around the base of a tree has its benefits. But you never want the mulch to touch the trunk, and you certainly don’t want mulch piled around it. Avoid the volcano people!

Here are a few more of our horticultural pet peeves:

horticultural-pet-peeves-sticksExhibit A: Dead stick syndrome
Jessica says: Daylilies. Everyone’s got them, but apparently not everyone knows how to keep them looking their best. It drives me absolutely batty when I see a lush green daylily plant with a bunch of brown, dead flower stalks sticking out of it. Same with yarrow, hosta, iris, perennial salvia, Veronica, Scabiosa, and many other perennials. I call it “Dead Stick Syndrome.” Proper deadheading of these types of plants involves removing the ENTIRE spent flower stalk all the way down to the base of the plant, not just removing the individual spent flowers.

Exhibit B: Not being seedling savvy at the nursery
Niki says: Now that planting season is in full swing, I find myself visiting several garden centres a week. As I peruse the racks and tables of veggie seedlings, I often see tomatoes (or peppers, zucchini, etc.) in small pots or cell packs that are beginning to flower or – the horror! – produce fruit. To a novice gardener, this may seem like the perfect plant. After all, it’s guaranteed to provide a harvest, but a savvy gardener knows that these plants will struggle along as the need to put on growth competes with the need to ripen immature fruits. My advice? Avoid these plants like the plague and stick to young, healthy seedlings that will concentrate on lush leafy growth and root development and not be forced to fruit before they’re ready.

horticultural-pet-peeves-yuccaExhibit C: Yucca neglect
Tara says: Hm, I’ve got a few. I’m definitely not a fan of red mulch. And I agree with Jessica about dead stick syndrome. I’ve seen a few gardens lately with sticks left over from last year! But today I must confess about a crime against horticulture that exists in my own garden. It has to do with my yuccas. There are two yucca plants in my front bed. They were here when I moved in, planted very symmetrically. (This is another pet peeve of mine. I love when gardens are a little more unstructured.) Anyway, back to my yuccas. They aren’t easy to prune. I do avoid dead stick syndrome by cutting off the spent stick of blooms, but in the almost three years I’ve been in this house, I’ve never cut them back. And until this year they looked okay. But they’ve multiplied like crazy. I have multiple yuccas growing off the mother plants (or “pups” as I saw them called in one article) and a few dead leaves here and there. They look terrible. So, as much as I’d like to pretend the yuccas don’t exist because I’d rather spend my time elsewhere in the garden, I’m going to have to right this wrong myself. I might move one yucca elsewhere so I don’t have such a symmetrical front garden and then the one that’s left will be given some much-needed TLC.

* What are your horticultural pet peeves?


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4 Responses to Our horticultural pet peeves

  1. One of my pet peeves are people who will not pronounce rhodo-dend-ron as it is spelled, how they get a ‘dendrum’ in there is beyond me. Another is the horrendous red dyed bark mulch… is an affront to every sense. It is even insulting to good PEI soil.

  2. savvygardening says:

    That’s a good one! And glad you’re in agreement about the dyed mulch! ~ Tara

  3. Shannon says:

    Red mulch, meatball shrubs, and trees planted super close to the house that will eventually be too big for the space… All common sights in my neighborhood.

  4. Shawna J Wilde says:

    I was turning around in the parking lot of a self storage facility and noticed that all the bushed were pruned into little balls. They had also pruned the daylilies into little balls. Very scary. Very sad.

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