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Volume 44 (2009): Issue 5 (Aug 2009) x
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Bryan J. Peterson and William R. Graves

Horticulturists have not promoted use of Dirca palustris L. (eastern leatherwood) despite its suite of traits valued by gardeners and landscapers. Horticultural production of D. palustris may be hindered by slow shoot growth and sensitivity of plants to edaphic conditions. Because of discrepancies in reported tolerances of D. palustris to root-zone pH, we assessed whether pH of soils supporting indigenous populations in Florida, Maine, and North Dakota corresponded to responses of seedlings from the three provenances to root-zone pH of 4.5 to 7.3 in soilless media. Regression showed that root zones at pH 5.8 promoted maximum stem length of seedlings from Florida and North Dakota, whereas root zones at pH 4.5 led to maximum stem length of seedlings from Maine. Root-zone pH 5.6 and 5.5 fostered maximum root and shoot dry weight, respectively, for seedlings from Florida, whereas root zones at pH 4.5 promoted maximum root and shoot dry weights of seedlings from Maine and North Dakota. Averaged over provenance, relative leaf greenness decreased by 62%, and foliar nitrogen, iron, manganese, and zinc decreased by 49%, 70%, 95%, and 48%, respectively, as root-zone pH increased from 4.5 to 7.3. Foliar phosphorus decreased at both low and high pH. The pH of soils where seeds were collected did not predict optimal root-zone pH for stem length or biomass accrual in soilless media; genotypes from soils with a pH of 7.4 in North Dakota did not exhibit greater tolerance to high pH than genotypes from Maine or Florida, where pH of indigenous soil was 6.1 and 5.2, respectively. Averaged over pH treatments, seedlings from Florida showed the greatest stem length and formed the most shoot biomass, whereas seedlings from North Dakota had stouter stems, greater root biomass, and greater root-to-shoot ratios than did seedlings from Florida and Maine. Our results illustrate that acidic media facilitate horticultural production of D. palustris, that further evaluation of provenance differences could facilitate selection of genotypes for horticulture, and that tolerances of genotypes to root-zone pH do not strictly correspond to the pH of soils on which they were indigenous.

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Aaron L. Warsaw, R. Thomas Fernandez, Bert M. Cregg and Jeffrey A. Andresen

Irrigation scheduling based on plant daily water use (DWU) to conserve water without adversely affecting plant growth compared with a traditional irrigation rate was investigated for 25 common container-grown woody ornamentals. Ten different taxa were grown in 2006 and 2007 and five in 2008 in 10.2-L (No. 3) containers. Overhead irrigation was applied in four treatments: 1) a control irrigation rate of 19 mm (1.07 L per container) per application (control); 2) irrigation scheduled to replace 100% DWU per application (100DWU); 3) irrigation alternating every other application with 100% replacement of DWU and 75% DWU (100-75); and 4) irrigation scheduled on a three application cycle replacing 100% DWU followed by two applications of 75% DWU (100-75-75). Irrigation applications were separated by at least 24 h. Daily water use was calculated by measuring the difference in volumetric moisture content 1 h and approximately 24 h after irrigation. The three DWU treatments reduced total irrigation applied 6% to 75% compared with the control depending on treatment and species, except for Buddleja davidii ‘Guinevere’ in which total irrigation applied by the 100DWU, 100-75, and 100-75-75 treatments was 26%, 10%, and 5%, respectively, greater than the amount applied to the control. Final growth index [(plant height + width A + width B)/3] of all DWU treatments was greater than or equal to the control for all taxa. Forsythia ×intermedia ‘New Hampshire Gold’, Hydrangea arborescens ‘Dardom’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Unique’, and Weigela florida ‘Wilma’ had higher water use efficiencies (estimated as the change in growth index per liter of water applied) at lower irrigation treatment volumes with no differences in growth index or growth index increase, indicating that further irrigation reductions may be possible without affecting growth. PourThru electrical conductivity of H. arborescens ‘Dardom’, Spiraea fritschiana ‘Wilma’, and Viburnum ×burkwoodii ‘Chenaultii’ measured in 2007 did not accumulate to damaging levels. Final plant size of all taxa under DWU treatments was the same or greater than the control and substantially less water was applied under DWU treatments except for B. davidii ‘Guinevere’.

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Roger Kjelgren, Lixue Wang and Daryl Joyce

Perennial wildflower species are important but not well-understood elements in water-wise landscaping that anchors urban water conservation programs in arid climates. Comparative growth and physiological responses to soil substrate drying of three herbaceous Australian ornamental species from habitats of variable moisture regimes were investigated in the context of isohydric and anisohydric behavior. Clonal Orthosiphon aristatus, Dianella revoluta ‘Breeze’, and Ptilotus nobilis plants were container-grown individually and competitively together in two separate studies. In both studies, plants were water-stressed through cyclical dry downs. We measured stomatal conductance (g S), soil water content, and water potential during each study and osmotic adjustment estimated from pressure-volume data and plant biomass at the end of each study. O. aristatus, a rainforest species, fit a general anisohydric model of high water use and more negative water potential during soil drying until stomatal closure and leaf wilting. D. revolata and P. nobilis, indigenous to Australia's dry interior, fit a general isohydric, drought-tolerant model of stomatal closure from water deficits that moderates leaf water potential but through different mechanisms. P. nobilis and D. revolata moderate water use and maintain acceptable aesthetic performance under water stress, suitable for mixed low-water landscape plantings. O. aristatus would not be suitable for low-water urban landscapes, either isolated or in mixed plantings, because of high soil water depletion and wilting.

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Bert M. Cregg and Robert Schutzki

Landscape mulches are widely promoted to improve soil moisture retention, suppress weeds, and improve the growth of landscape plants. The objective of this project was to determine the effect of common landscape mulches (pine bark, hardwood fines, cypress mulch, color-enhanced ground pallets) on soil moisture, soil pH, weed control, and physiology and growth of landscape shrubs. Two additional treatments were not mulched: no mulch + no weed control and no mulch + weed control. Growth was measured on eight taxa (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’, Spiraea ×bumalda ‘Goldflame’, Weigela florida ‘Java red’, Taxus ×media ‘Runyan’, Thuja occidentalis ‘Golden Globe’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’, Viburnum dentatum ‘Synnestvedt’, Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’). Leaf gas exchange [net photosynthesis and stomatal conductance (g s)] were measured on Hydrangea paniculata, V. dentatum, and V. trilobum only. All mulches increased soil moisture compared with no mulch + weed control. There was no difference in soil pH or foliar nitrogen among treatments. All mulches, except cypress mulch, increased plant growth of most shrub taxa compared with no mulch without weed control. Mulches increased g S relative to no mulch without weed control. Photosynthetic rates of plants mulched with cypress mulch were less than the other mulches and not different from no mulch. Overall, the result suggests that, except for cypress mulch, the organic mulches tested are equally effective in improving growth of landscape plants. Reduced photosynthetic efficiency and growth of shrubs with cypress mulch suggest potential allelopathic effects.