Washington Hawthorn Makes a Super Ornamental Tree Choice

A Washington Hawthorn is an excellent ornamental tree that will bring spring color and winter brilliance to your landscape. The Washington Hawthorn is a mid-size tree that bears white flowers in the spring and boasts beautiful red berries throughout the fall and early winter months. Unique Environmental Landscapes chooses this tree for many Atlanta landscapes. Our clients love it.

Washington Hawthorn in December

A Ginkgo Biloba Tree Is a Great Shade Tree and Fall Color Addition

Noted for it’s outstanding brilliant yellow fall color, the Gingko tree is very tolerant and can withstand some pretty harsh conditions. The one thing that must be considered is soil drainage. The Gingko does not like standing water, it prefers a loamy or somewhat sandy soil. It is okay with short droughts, but NOT flooding. It likes a few hours of bright sunlight each day, too much shade could slow the tree’s growth which can grow to enormous heights. At first it grows very slowly and maybe a little crooked, no worries though, it will straighten out and pick up growth after several years.

Low maintenance – The Gingko needs minimal basic fertilization, maybe two times per year. A light layer of mulch at the beginning of each season is adequate. It requires very little pruning unless you want to ‘shape’ the branches which is best done in the spring.

The Gingko plant is readily available at most garden shops. You should know the female variety is fruit producing and this fruit can have a pungent odor. Removing the fruit immediately after it falls helps minimize this problem. Fall is a good time to plant the Gingko or almost any landscape material so it has time to get established before the heat of summer.

Spectacular fall color on a mature Ginkgo Tree

Are Your Growing a New Crop of Fescue This Fall

Many property owners seeded Fescue this fall and should be well on their way to a beautiful, green lawn for the winter. However, it’s important to keep the leaf drop off that growing grass. Fescue prefers the light and not to be bogged down under other debris. It might be best to use a leaf blower if possible.

No watering needed. With the recent rainfall and cooler temperatures in the Atlanta area there is no need to irrigate the new turf. Happy growing! Fescue might be high maintenance, but surely makes a beautiful lawn for homeowners and commercial properties alike.

Fertilize those Fall Flowers

Like the landscape installation department at Unique Environmental, your fall seasonal color has probably been in the ground for about a month now. You’re thinking the recent rainfall was good and now the sunshine and average fall temperatures should make your cabbage, pansies, and violas happy right? Wrong! It’s time for a feeding. Take advantage of one of the warmer days when it comes along over the next week and fertilize with Peter’s liquid fertilizer. I recommend liquid over granulated now because it will work faster.

More Landscape Tips for your Atlanta Winter Landscape

If you follow our blog, you have noticed Unique is trying to encourage our readers to get moving on their landscape! If you’re not a do-it-yourself type, by all means call Unique Environmental Landscapes and allow our professional, experienced designer and crews do ALL the work for you. Here are three more of our suggestions for adding color to your winter landscape in the Atlanta/Georgia region.

  • Sasanqua camelia

    Sasanqua camelia in full bloom

    Sasanqua Camelia (blooms Oct- Dec) or Japonica Camellia (blooms Feb-Mar) are both a staple of southern gardens. Camellias (camellias) are evergreen shrubs and are available in a variety of ‘blooming’ colors including bright pinks, white as well as bicolor. They are happy in shady or filtered sun and prefer a well draining and rich soil.

  • Winter flowers of a Daphne odora

    Winter Daphne is also a winter blooming shrub and is available with choices of a variety of shades of pink flower that open to white. The foliage is edged with a thin strip of yellow, providing a nice contrast on the green leaf. They bloom through winter and into spring in the South – one of Unique Environmental’s favorites. Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Marginata’) prefers full sun/part shade in a nutrient-rich and minimally acidic to alkaline soil.

  • Glacier Blue Euphorbia

    Close up of Glacier Blue Euphorbia

    An excellent evergreen perennial choice is Euphorbia. The ‘Glacier Blue’ variety blooms cream flowers Feb – May and the evergreen leaves of blue-grey with creamy white edges make it a garden standout. One of Unique’s favorite characteristics of Glacier Blue is that it’s deer & rabbit resistant, a feature many gardeners will appreciate. Careful though, it is toxic if eaten!! It’s also drought tolerant. Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is another variety with similar characteristics except these differences including foliage and blooms. The stems are reddish in color and the leaves are variegated colors of dusky sage and gold with cream and green flowers (tipped with deep red in fall.) The Ascot Rainbow prefers full to part shade.

Planting Knockouts and Other Varieties of Roses

We would all agree, a rose garden is a beautiful site. Indeed there is a great deal of maintenance and ‘know how’ to maintain a successful rose garden though. If you love roses, but don’t have the time (or maybe the patience) to work with more traditional varieties of roses, a Knockout Rose Bush. It’s an excellent alternative for the humid summers our Georgia landscapes tolerate and requires much less maintenance.

Planting Roses

Whichever variety you choose to plant, try to do it in November through February and if winter hangs around maybe even into March in the Southeastern United States. This will help establish the root system before the warm spring temperatures create new growth. However, fall & winter planting is NOT advisable where winters are harsh.


Choose a sunny location, especially good morning sun. Roses prefer well drained soil and be sure to add a good thick (3-5″) layer of organic matter such as leafy compost. Remember, I said last week to compost those leaves. Try mixing in a little bone meal. Roses are not particularly keen on our red clay around Atlanta!

Compost Your Leaves This Fall

Starting now and through January, the site of landscape companies using motorized leaf blowers or family and friends hand powering a leaf rake will be a common site all across Atlanta and North Georgia.  Leaf drop on properties depends on the varieties of trees within the community.
Before bagging or burning leaves, please keep in mind that allowing leaves to fall and decompose in natural areas or placing and spreading them there is beneficial to the trees for water retention along with nutrient replenishment. Leaves can also be used to cover bare soil in your vegetable garden during the winter to protect the cold-hardy vegetables (carrots, kale, leeks, etc.) When it’s time for spring gardening, just turn the leaves in but add a slow-release nitrogen before planting as the leaves will deplete soil nitrogen.
Burning is a bad option because the smoke contains dangerous compounds and it can irritate anyone’s lungs, especially children or elderly and anyone with respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
But before all the beautiful color falls to the ground, get out and enjoy it. There are many parks around Atlanta that exhibit beautiful fall color.

Fall Landscape Ideas from Unique

Fall is the perfect time to add plant material to your existing landscape or to plan a compete landscape makeover in your yard. Whichever the case may be, Unique Environmental Landscapes has a few plant suggestions for the Atlanta and Northern Georgia region. It just so happens that three of the plants Unique will be using this fall are also University of Georgia (UGA) Gold Medal Plant winners for 2012.

The first, and one of Unique’s favorite, is the Red Bark Coral Maple. One of it’s most outstanding characteristics is the vivid red-coral color the branches turn during the winter. Because it is a deciduous tree, the branches become a focal point in the winter garden, shine a little light on this beauty after dark and add drama to your nighttime landscape (see photo below.) In the spring, the new leaves don red edges adding another cool characteristic to the Coral Bark Maple. Then there is the fall splendor with yellow-gold and red colors.

Another one of Unique’s favorite is the Rabbiteye Blueberry (or Southern Highbush Blueberry.) You will notice this plant at this time of year for it’s beautiful fall foliage color, a deep red. Of course, the blueberries we harvested over the summer are a tasty reason to love this deciduous shrub, too. Next spring, this native blueberry bush won’t disappoint either with it’s incredible cream colored blooms almost like that of Lily of the Valley. Even though plant selection might be limited in the fall, it is the very best time of year to plant a blueberry shrub, it will love a rainy winter. Be sure to purchase at least three plants including two or more varieties for cross-pollination purposes.  If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, be sure to keep the soil moist. A good layer of mulch at the base always helps retain moisture…a must for best blooming and berry harvesting!

If your landscape project includes adding to your perennial garden, try Coral Bells (Heuchera) in a part-to full-shade garden. It looks best when planted next to the fine textures of plants such as bleeding hearts and ferns. It also looks great around smooth creek rock or garden statues. This perennial adds year round color, though older and tired leaves should be trimmed off before the new spring growth.

All three of the plants listed here tolerate drought conditions fairly well. Though it’s always important to remember, newly planted material requires sufficient watering for the first year especially. And of course, there aren’t really any plants in the south that don’t need a good drink of water occasionally!!

Drama in the landscape

Coral Bark Maple is a night time show piece!

Irrigating for Fall

It’s time to start thinking about adjusting your irrigation system by reducing the watering schedule for turf zones. Typically, the number of days and time allotted per zone can be reduced this time of year. If the turf zone is currently running 20 to 30 minutes at a time, it can be reduced to about 15 minutes and at least one less watering per week…..saving on the water bill isn’t a bad thing either!

Additionally, when you aerate and over seed, these turf zones may need to be adjusted appropriately as well for the Fescue seeding.

Time for Preemergence Application

Preemergence is effective in controlling summer annual weeds and certain annual broadleaf weeds. The length of control depends on the specific product being used, soil, physical and chemical properties, soil moisture levels, and soil temperatures. Preemergence can be most effective on Crabgrass if it is applied before the seed germination process. Crabgrass initiates spring germination when soil temperatures at a 4-inch depth reach 53 to 58 degrees F. This can occur from mid-February to April in most areas of the southeastern United States. Unique Environmental Landscape’s rule of thumb is to start application of the preemergence herbicide in late January through February. Unique then applies a combination of preemergence and postemergence in late March through early April to catch in weed seeds that may have germinated.

Warning: If you sodded in late fall or winter with Bermuda or Zoysia, do not apply a preemergence until after ‘green up’ of the turf. The grass should be actively growing so the the root is not damaged by the preemergence.

Unique Really ‘Digs’ Irrigation – Small to Large Leaks

100_0721 As shown in this photo, Unique really ‘digs’ into irrigation repairs – large and small. This ongoing leak was detected when the system was reactivated this summer after an extended shut down due to the drought restrictions of the last two summers. Extended dormancy of irrigation systems create a higher frequency for repairs and it’s be best to get an audit before irrigation ‘start-up .'

Irrigation audits will:

1.   Ensure that you are getting proper coverage and there is no mainline or value box leaking. Undetected leaks on larger properties can become costly when you're paying for all this extra water.

2.   Examine how much water each zone is using and allows for  proper recommendations of changing heads to give each more effective application of water to the turf or shrub areas.

3.   Balance the irrigation needs of the landscape between the turf and shrub areas. This can be done by using the more efficient irrigation heads and integrating drip irrigation as well as updating the irrigation clock . Quite honestly, turf takes the largest amount of water but at different periods of the year, while annual beds may require a higher frequency over a short period of time. An updated irrigation clock allows the technician to set different runtimes and different frequency times to balance out the efficient use of water in your landscape.

After your audit is complete, follow the recommendations made by the irrigation tech and maintenance manager. It may be best to water twice a week for the recommended period of time than small frequencies every other day. Deep roots keep plants thriving in drought conditions. Monitoring during the irrigation season is recommended. We suggest at lease once per year on residential homes and HOA properties and 2 to 3 times per year on commercial properties depending on size. Click here to learn more about the irrigation services we offer in the metro Atlanta area.

What should an irrigation audit provide:

1.   A complete mapping of your system that indicates boxes, mainline and clock locations.

2.   Gallon consumption per zone to inform you of water consumption on your property when the system is running.

3.   An itemized list of recommended essential repairs and alternativ solutions to making your system more effective.