If you love everything about Southern magnolia trees except the size that they get, consider planting a Little Gem magnolia. It is a small tree covered with great foliage and accented with fragrant white flowers.
Little Gem begins as an upright, dense shrub that slowly becomes a small tree, 15 to 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Its leaves are a lustrous dark green on top and brown underneath. The fallen leaves aren't as messy as standard magnolias.
You can use these gorgeous plants as evergreen screens, refined specimens, or as container accents. The flowers are beautiful, abundant and in proportion to the leaves. They're 4-6 inches wide when fully open.
Young container plants 2 feet tall will start to bloom, which translates into many flowers in the landscape. Flowering continues throughout the summer and into October and November. The petals are thick, creamy white and delightfully fragrant.
Little Gem is a medium-to-slow grower and matures in about 20 years. Specimen plants can be planted in containers for mobile accents. With proper training, Little Gem makes an attractive espalier for small spaces. Its slower growth rate makes espalier plants more manageable.
Nursery plants can be transplanted balled and burlapped or from containers in early fall or early spring. Late fall and early spring plantings may drop many leaves before the plants root out.
All magnolias produce abundant surface roots that compete for water and nutrients. Fertilize them in early spring to keep the plants healthy and growing. Plants do well in sun or partial shade and prefer porous, acidic, well-drained soils. However, they will tolerate soils that are occasionally wet.
They tolerate light pruning to maintain size and shape. Little Gem has no prominent pests or diseases. The plants are hardy to zone 7 to zone 9.
SUMMER GARDEN TIPS FOR THE VEGETABLE GARDEN: Got an odd-shaped cucumber? You probably had a shortage of soil moisture. Cool temperatures at the time flowers are developing can also cause this. Poor pollination because of a lack of bees or low numbers of male flowers is another possibility.
Cucumbers have a short "vine storage time." When it's warm and humid, fruits on the vine may remain in prime condition for less than 12 hours. For the best-tasting cukes, pick early and often. The fruits can be stored for up to 2 weeks at 45 to 50 degrees and 95 percent humidity. Lower temperatures cause chilling damage, and higher temperatures encourage yellowing. Cucumbers will yellow faster if stored with tomatoes or apples.
Only the uppermost ear or two develops to maturity in sweet corn. Any underdeveloped, lower ears can be picked just after the silks appear. Use in stir-fry vegetables, salads and pickles.
After your vegetable garden is well established, it is best to water it thoroughly once or twice a week rather than giving it a light watering every day. That way, a deeper root system is encouraged that will help the plants tolerate dry weather. Generally, an application of one inch of water to the surface will wet the soil to 6 or 8 inches deep.
Sid Mullis is director of the University of Georgia Extension Service office for Richmond County. Call 821-2349, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Web page for Extension offices in Richmond and Columbia counties is www.griffin.peachnet.edu/ga/columbia.
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