Beauty is only skin deep

There are those who look at neatly manicured grounds as a purely aesthetic gesture and don't consider the functionality of the practice. True, a manicured lawn, neatly trimmed shrubbery and thoughtfully pruned trees add beauty to the landscape, but they also are maintained in this manner for utilitarian purposes, such as human safety and plant health. I recently ran across a Wall Street Journal article (August 21, 1998) about the so-called cutting-edge horticultural fashion of naturescaping. Naturescaping involves ripping up manicured landscapes and replacing them with earth-friendly, chemical-free grounds that mirror the natural setting. In these situations, residents opt for grounds planted with wild grasses, native plants and tall flowering weeds. While this design concept provides a way to get back to the natural way of things, it also brings with it some unwanted and dangerous attributes such as fire hazards and unwanted wildlife that is attracted to such natural settings. The article describes one resident who adopted this type of landscape. "Readying her young children for school one morning," the article writes, "Mrs. Squires spotted two beasts (coyotes) sniffing around in the sandbox. One evening, a neighbor called to warn that a 300-pound black bearand cub were hovering in a tree over the Squires' driveway. Another day she saw a pair of red foxes mating in her front yard." Needless to say, the woman feared for the safety of her children. An Audubon sanctuary is one thing, but you can go too far. Maybe those maintained grounds we see aren't just for beauty. Considering the beautiful plants you maintain, this issue focuses on ornamentals.

Let's face it, if you're going to get the most use out of your grounds, you must maintain them. They need mowing, trimming, fertilizing, pruning and pest control. In fact, our opening feature focuses on pruning trees. For pruning to do the job you intend, you can't just go hacking away. You must have a carefully thought-out plan. You have to consider the species, the site, growth characteristics and structural considerations. Fortunately, the industry has developed standards that will guide you through the proper way to prune. Torrey Young, president of Treescapes Inc. (Oakland, Calif.), discusses current tree-pruning standards and how to use them in "Prune to the standard" (page 14).

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Before you start your pruning tasks, you need to make sure your tools are sharp. By doing so, you'll find that your work will go faster and easier, and cleaner, healthier cuts will result. Learn how to put a sharp edge on your cutting tools in this issue's "How To" department. Greg Stephens, vice president of A.M. Leonard Inc., guides you through step-by-step instructions (page 46).

Like trees, shrubs need pruning, too, and myriad products are available to help with the job. Find out what's available in "Equipment Options: Hedge trimmers" (page 48). Accompanying the product descriptions is an article on selecting a hedge trimmer to meet your needs. The author discusses some of the features you should look for when purchasing a new unit.

Unless you're a dyed-in-the-wool naturescaper, you'll use ornamental herbicides to control weeds on your grounds. But to use herbicides safely and effectively, you must be aware of their particular modes of action and their persistence in the soil. Dr. Tim Murphy, extension weed specialist at the University of Georgia, discusses these attributes of ornamental herbicides in his article (page 40).

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