Happy New-ish Year!
Both photos above are from last week. See the three on the French round table? They were repotted just before Thanksgiving, and are doing great. All have fresh growth, a good sign that everyone is happy, as well as plenty of moss plus weeds. For now the weeds can stay because I welcome the extra pop of greenery during these gray wintry days. When they start to overwhelm, time to yank them out to conserve nutrients for the myrtles. The velvety moss stays; its roots are not as deep or invasive.
For scale, here I am 😊 next to one of my giant triples. Now twice their original size, this handsome pair came from the nursery of the late Allen C. Haskell, a fine horticulturalist and nurseryman with a passion for topiaries.
In DC, dwarf myrtle cannot live outside during winter. It must come in before any threat of a freeze, which is around early October. Once inside, avoid placing near a radiator or heat register. After all danger of a frost is over, it can go back outside for sunshine and fresh air. Keep protected from thunderstorms, heavy rain and strong winds as this top-heavy plant can easily fall over.
Give it as much light as possible, especially indoors. Otherwise it will turn spindly and not have that coveted density. Make sure to rotate occasionally for even growth on all sides.
Never let the myrtle dry out completely, but water accordingly. If sitting outside in full sun, especially in a porous clay pot, daily watering might be necessary. Be mindful not to have water sitting in the saucer for too long as this can cause root rot. During winter I generally water (use lukewarm, please) every other day; do so until water seeps out in the saucer, which should be reabsorbed within 3 – 5 hours. Dump out any excess water afterwards. Misting is also beneficial.
Usually the topiary is already in a pot that is too small, making it somewhat root bound – that’s ok for a while. Think of it as a bonsai where you want to focus its energy / growth on top rather than at the roots. However, when it absorbs water too fast and needs constant watering, time to repot. Choose a pot one size larger to keep the proportions balanced. Also, if a pot is overly spacious the plant will waste energy sending out excessive roots.
To maintain a neat, tight form, clipping or shearing should be done every two weeks from late winter to the end of summer. Monthly is recommended for the rest of the year. This also encourages denser growth because whenever a shoot / sprig is clipped, two new ones emerge to create more foliage. When not in a rush, I clip at the branch between the leaves, being careful not to cut the actual foliage which can create unsightly brown spots. But since I have so many, I tend to just shear the entire “ball.”
From late winter to early fall, I will fertilize with Miracle-Gro once a month. Fertilizing is essential to the success of container gardening where the nutrients are depleted by the plant as well as leached out with watering.
Bugs are unavoidable. I spray liberally with a mild insecticidal soap on the foliage and soil. If persistent, take to your nursery for diagnosis and proper treatment.
Shedding of the old leaves as new ones form is to be expected. But excessive dropping may be due to diseases, insects, changes in light and moisture levels, etc. Please consult your nursery’s specialist.
And that’s all! Just minutes each day dedicated to the care of a few living sculptures that add such warmth, charm and personality. I really love these civilized yet whimsical beauties, and couldn’t imagine not having them.
In our former home, myrtles lived amongst us in nearly every room. Enjoy these photos – many taken by photographer Helen Norman for Martha Stewart Living and Southern Living magazines.
Here I am demonstrating how to properly clip using my favorite Japanese pruners. If any seem tipsy, steady their trunks while clipping.
Additionally, I have other types of topiaries like this pair of rosemary. Unfortunately both were zapped by the frost when left outside during an unusually frigid winter.
Why are we moving? We found another small home (a Cotswold style Tudor) on a large lot with plenty of gardening potential 🌼. More to come!