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Tree of the Month

March, 2018

Post Oak

Quercus stellata  

Quercus stellata (post oak, iron oak) is a North American species of oak in the white oak section. Post oak is a slow growing oak that lives in dry poor soils, and is resistant to rot, fire, and drought. Interbreeding occurs among white oaks thus many hybrid species combinations occur.

Post oak is native to the eastern and central United States, and found in all the coastal states from Massachusetts to Texas, and as far inland as Nebraska and Kansas. It is identifiable by the rounded cross like shape formed by the leaf lobes and hairy underside of the leaves. We have found a number of these trees planted in Rochester Cemetery in Topeka, with a number of them in the creek bed to the east.

Post oak is a relatively small tree, typically 10–15 meters (33–50 feet) tall and trunk 30–60 cm (1–2 feet) in diameter, though occasional specimens reach 30 meters (100 feet) tall and 140 cm (56 inches or 4.7 feet) in diameter. The leaves have a very distinctive shape, with three perpendicular terminal lobes, shaped much like a Maltese Cross. They are leathery, and densely short-hairy beneath. The branching pattern of this tree often gives it a rugged appearance. The acorns are 1.5–2 cm (0.6-0.8 inch) long, and are mature in their first summer.

They are both in a section of Quercus called the white oaks. In the white oak section post oak is sister taxa with the white oak.

Post oak is sold and distributed as white oak. One identifiable difference between the two trees is that post oak is 'hairy' on the underside of the leaf.

Post oak is found in southeastern America, in the coast states from Massachusetts, to Texas, and inland to Iowa. Normally found at the edge of a forest It typically grows in dry sandy areas, deficient of nutrients.

Because of its ability to grow in dry sites, attractive crown, and strong horizontal branches it is used in urban forestry. It is resistant to decay so it is used for railroad ties, siding, planks, construction timbers, stair risers and treads, flooring, pulp, veneer, particle boards, fuel, and its namesake fence posts. It is used for wildlife food for deer, turkey, squirrels, and other rodents, but because the nuts contain tannin it is toxic to cattle.

Shrub of the Month

March, 2018

Russian Sage

Perovskia atriplicifolia

Perovskia atriplicifolia, commonly called Russian sage, is a flowering herbaceous perennial plant and subshrub. Although not a member of Salvia, the genus of other plants commonly called sage, it is closely related to them.

It has an upright habit, typically reaching 0.5–1.2 m tall (1.6–3.9 ft), with square stems and grey-green leaves that yield a distinctive odor when crushed.

It is best known for its flowers. Its flowering season extends from mid-summer to late October, with blue to violet blossoms arranged into showy, branched panicles.

It is native to the steppes and hills of southwestern and central Asia. Successful over a wide range of climate and soil conditions, it has since become popular and widely planted. Several cultivars have been developed, differing primarily in leaf shape and overall height; 'Blue Spire' is the most common.

The species has a long history of use in traditional medicine in its native range, where it is employed as a treatment for a variety of ailments. This has led to the investigation of its phytochemistry. Its flowers can be eaten in salads or crushed for dyemaking, and the plant has been considered for potential use in the phytoremediation of contaminated soil.

Russian sage is a deciduous perennial subshrub with an erect to spreading habit. Superficially, it resembles a much larger version of lavender. Multiple branches arise from a shared rootstalk, growing to a height of 0.5–1.2 m (1 ft 8 in–3 ft 11 in), with occasional specimens reaching 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in). The mature plant may be 0.6–1.2 m across (2 ft 0 in–3 ft 11 in). The rigid stems are square in cross-section, and are covered by an indumentum formed by stellate, or star-shaped, trichomes and oil droplets. Especially during autumn, these hairs give the stems a silvery appearance.

The grayish-green leaves are arranged in opposite pairs. The overall leaf shape is oblate, a rounded shape longer than it is wide, shaped like the head of a lance. The foliage is aromatic, especially when crushed, with a fragrance described as sage-like, a blend of sage and lavender, or like turpentine.

March Lawn and Garden Tips:

Trees, shrubs and perennials may be planted as soon as they become available at local nurseries.

To control iris borer, clean up and destroy the old foliage before new growth begins.

Loosen winter mulches from perennials cautiously. Re-cover plants at night if frost returns. Clean up beds by removing all weeds and dead foliage at this time.

Heavy pruning of trees should be complete before growth occurs. Trees should not be pruned while the new leaves are growing.

Summer and fall blooming perennials should be divided in spring.

Ornamental grasses should be cut to the ground just as the new growth begins.

Spring bedding plants, such as pansies and toadflax (Linaria sp.), may be planted outdoors now.

Apply a balanced fertilizer such as 6-12-12 to perennial beds when new growth appears.

Apply sulfur to the soils around acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, hollies and dogwoods. Use a granular formulation at the rate of 1/2 pound per 100 square feet.

Gradually start to pull back mulch from rose bushes.

Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from yard. A good raking will work wonders.

Mow lawns low to remove old growth before new growth begins.

Apply broadleaf herbicides now for control of cool-season perennial and annual weeds. These must not be applied to areas that will be seeded soon.

Thin spots and bare patches in the lawn can be overseeded now.

Any root crops such as horseradish, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, or carrots still in the ground from last year should be harvested before new green top growth appears.

Cultivate weeds and remove the old, dead stalks of last year's growth from the asparagus bed before the new spears emerge.

Fertilize the garden as the soil is being prepared for planting.

Unless directed otherwise by a soil test, 1 to 2 pounds of 12-12-12 or an equivalent fertilizer per 100 square feet is usually sufficient.

Delay planting if the garden soil is too wet. When a ball of soil crumbles easily after being squeezed together in your hand, it is dry enough to be safely worked.

Asparagus and rhubarb roots should be planted as soon as the ground can be worked.

Plant peas, lettuce, radishes, kohlrabi, mustard greens, collards, turnips, Irish potatoes, spinach and onions (seeds and sets) outdoors.

Plant beets, carrots, parsley and parsnip seeds outdoors.

Set out broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower transplants into the garden.

Start seeds of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants indoors.

Gradually remove mulch from strawberries as the weather begins to warm.

Continue pruning apple trees. Burn or destroy all prunings to minimize insect or disease occurrence.

Continue pruning grapes. Bleeding causes no injury to the vines. Tie vines to the trellis before the buds swell to prevent bud injury and crop loss.

Cleft and splice grafting can be done now. This must be completed before rootstocks break dormancy.

Aphids begin to hatch on fruit trees as the buds begin to open.

Apply dormant oil sprays now. 

Choose a dry day when freezing temperatures are not expected.

Spray peach trees with a fungicide for the control of peach leaf curl disease.

Mulch all bramble fruits for weed control.

Peaches and nectarines should be pruned just before they bloom.

Set up nesting boxes for bluebirds.

Raise purple martin houses.

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