I need to prune my Crape Myrtle trees as they need to be shaped. Unfortunately, when I went out to prune, I found that they already had flower buds. If I prune the buds off now, will the trees bloom this summer?
Yes, your trees will bloom this summer.
Crape Mrytle does not set their flower buds at this time of the year. The flower buds form at the tip of the new growth that develops with the spring flush of growth.
Hence, it's important to feed them in the spring with an organic shade tree or all-purpose plant food. Those trees that are undernourished fail to flower or flower poorly. Anytime through the end, April is an ideal time. I'd apply a half-pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter, measured two feet off the ground. The fertilizer is evenly spread under the canopy of the tree. Now back to your question.
The structure you are seeing is the seed pods from last year's flowers. When mature, the pods shatter, and the seed is distributed by the wind everywhere. Fortunately, the seed is sterile, so you'll not have an abundance of the seedlings germinating all over, like other trees.
I have several old Camellias that have become very sparse in the center. For the last three or four years, I've been lazy and not fertilized them. How severely can I prune them, and should I still be feeding? Also, the flowers get a rusty color, like they are rotting from the inside out.
The ideal time to prune Camellias is after they have completed their blooming cycle.
If flowering isn't important than it's a judgment call on your part when to start.
While they can be cut back severely, I probably wouldn't because of the lack of nutrients. Instead, I'd prune it back a third and fertilize to encourage the new growth. Next year, I'd remove another third or more depending on the new growth generated.
Camellias, young or old, need to be fed on a regular schedule with an Azalea, Camellia, and Rhododendron Food, April through October. Monthly applications are suggested. The alternative is the time-release fertilizer, Osmocote. Two applications four months apart are sufficient for the year.
Camellia Petal Blight causes the center of Camellias to rot. This fungal disease is particularly damaging to pink, white and variegated varieties, especially during wet winters. It's essential to keep the area under Camellias clean of debris and spent flowers. The spores will overwinter in the soil under the canopy. Also, lightly scratch the soil surface with a rake to disturb the spore-producing structures and apply the fungicide.
Because of the dry conditions this winter, Camellia Petal Blight shouldn't be a big problem this year. However, proper sanitation is essential in preventing this disease.