Questions on: Miscellaneous
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: I have a honeysuckle vine growing on a fence that I need to move. When and how is the best way to move it? (e-mail reference)
A: Move the vine in late fall or early spring.
Q: My sister has a beautiful, white eastern viburnum that came from our mom. We would like to start a new plant. Can you tell me how? We live on Long Island, N.Y., and have pretty cold winters, yet not too extreme most of the time. (e-mail reference)
A: Try softwood cuttings dipped in a rooting hormone and stuck in a sand/peat moss mixture. Keep it moist, misted and in the shade.
Q: A nursery told me that I shouldn't place landscape fabric and rock around bushes. What is your opinion? Also, we have a Bergeson ash tree that has green leaves falling off and there are black spots on the leaves. Any idea what is going on? Thank you. (e-mail reference)
A: Total, absolute, 100 percent agreement with the nursery! A thesis could be written on why one shouldn't do this, but, for now, take my word for it. The ash tree problem very likely is ash anthracnose, which is common during wet, cool springs. Considerable leaf drop occurs, especially from the lower areas of the canopy. Though this causes concern when leaves litter the ground in late spring, damage to overall plant health is, generally, not severe and plants typically releaf. As leaves mature, they tend to become more resistant to infection. Fungicide applications, if warranted, should be made at bud break, with several repeat applications early in the season. When fungicide is required, use a labeled material containing thiophanate-methyl, chlorothalonil or mancozeb.
Q: I have a mature yew hedge. We have pruned the tops for the past two years. They are lush and full, but mostly on top. The bottoms are thinning and losing needles. Can I help regrow bottom shoots so the hedge becomes denser in the bottom areas? (e-mail reference)
A: Assuming the plants have not started spring growth, you can cut the branches back to 6- to 8-inch stubs. Do a third of them now and repeat this again for the next two springs. When making hard cuts, be sure to leave a wisp or two of green foliage behind. Prune the rest of the hedge with the base being wider than the top, roughly following the "A" shape in hedge shaping.
Q: I just found your Web page on yucca plants. So far, I have not found the answer that I am looking for. I transplanted my father's yucca plants to my yard. The plants are doing very well. How do I remove the thick, flowerless stalk from the plant without damaging the rest of the plant? Do they bloom every year? These plants mean the world to me, so I don't want to ruin them. They have done so wonderfully for the last five years, but only bloomed one time. I really want to care for them properly so we can have those beautiful blooms more often. (e-mail reference)
A: You can safely cut the old flower stalk off at any time without hurting the plants. As for care, they are one of the most minimal-maintenance live plants anyone could wish for. As for blooming, that is a very high energy-requiring activity for any plant. With the yucca, as with any plant, it will bloom when the internal energy is there to do so. The plant needs sufficient time, temperature and other weather conditions to encourage it along. My advice is to keep the weeds from encroaching and let nature do 99 percent of the work for you.
Q: With spring coming, we are gearing up to put a lattice privacy fence on the north side of our front deck. Do you have any suggestions for a quick-growing vine? We look forward to your column in the local paper and read it faithfully. (Turtle Lake, N.D.)
A: For a perennial vine, nothing beats the Virginia creeper. It quickly grows in sun or shade and has red fall color. There is the hops vine (Humulus lupulus) that is a very fast grower, but unlike the Virginia creeper, dies back each winter and re-emerges with a vengeance the following spring. A vine that can do with less sun is the annual canary vine (Trapaeolum peregrinum). The yellow flowers will brighten up a shady north side. It prefers a moist soil and will grow to 8 or 10 feet. Not knowing what you have in mind, you might want to consider a combination of vines because it will produce an interesting visual impact. The green of the hops vine will intermingle with the flowers of the canary vine, which, by the way, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Thank you for being a loyal reader and the nice comment about the column!
A: You didn't say if the fence ran along the property line or if it is on the neighbor's property. If it is the latter, you had better check with your neighbor to be sure that what you plant will not be yanked out of the ground. I'll give you a couple of answers and you can decide what action to take based on the location of the fence. If the fence is located right on the property line and your neighbor has paid to have the fence put up, you might try a tactful approach first to see if there is any objection to your planting a vine or two along your side. Assuming a positive confirmation, you could plant Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that grows like Jack's bean stalk. The Virginia creeper would cover the fence in no time. Depending on the length of the fence, you would want to space the vines about 10 to 12 feet apart. If the fence is inside his property line, then you can plant a hedgerow along the fence, but inside your property line. Woody plants, such as lilac, dogwood, Juneberry, viburnum and spirea, are good neighbor plantings that both of you would benefit from. All are hardy and should be available at your local garden center.
Q: I am going to have to replace an old hedge. Do you have any ideas for a hedge that deer would leave alone? The soil is fairly sandy. Gurney's advertises an amur river privet hedge in its catalog. Do you know anything about it? A few years ago, I believe it was your column that mentioned using Vantage to keep grass from growing in a hedge. I have been unable to find this product. Where is it available? (Edinburg, N.D.)
A: Try this Web site at. The site claims to have it for sale. What you want to look for is a product with a label of grass killer or something similar. The active ingredient should be sethoxydim. Amur river privet is great for hedging. With the warming of our environment, it may just make it in your part of the state. I would suggest trying some bare-root material from the most northern nursery you can find and plant it this spring. It is not expensive ($15 to $16 for bundles of 10). Plant them about a foot apart for a nice, dense hedge. It is rated as being hardy from zones 3 through 7.
Q: I have a caragana hedge that I cut down two years ago, but stumps keep shooting out. I treated the new shoots with Roundup and even burned them with a torch, but they still keep shooting out. How can I kill the darn things and destroy the root system? (e-mail reference)
A: If you keep doing what you are doing, you will win the battle. However, if you can get your hands on a backhoe, the best approach is to dig the roots out.
Q: I have two bushes that bloomed, but had dark spots all over the leaves, branches and blooms. Any insight as to what this might be? I trimmed both bushes all the way down. Should I treat the plants with something so that this does not happen again? (e-mail reference)
A: Yes, but not now. Wait until next spring when the new growth begins emerging. Spray with Funginex or a Bordeaux mixture. Three treatments like this through the growing season, about a month apart, should keep whatever the disease is in check. You did the right thing in cutting everything back at this time. Good sanitation pays dividends.
Q: We want to establish a hedge/windbreak on the east side of our property. Can you suggest something that would produce berries for the birds and be trimmed to form a nice hedge? Is there something we can plant that will produce fruit that people can eat? (Napoleon, N.D.)
A: If it is edible for people, it definitely will be edible for birds as well. You might as well forget getting anything for yourself. A few suggestions are cotoneaster, honeysuckle and viburnums.
Q: I am a 1997 alumni of NDSU. I now live in the Black Hills about five miles from Sturgis, S.D. It is a mountain area with big pine trees and soil that has lots of sandstone rocks. I have a retaining wall that is made out of railroad ties. I want to cover up the ties with some sort of ivy or vine. I was thinking I could attach lattice or chicken wire to the wall and then plant some ivy and vines at the base. Some parts of the wall get lots of sun and other parts get light at certain parts of the day. Can you help me out with a vine that will grow fast, has a long yearly life and spreads out a lot? (e-mail reference)
A: Some possibilities are Virginia creeper, Hall's honeysuckle, hops, clematis, trumpet vine and possibly wisteria. All require slightly differing environments to thrive and all have good points to consider.
Q: My wife has been picking nightshade berries from a plant that grew in our flower bed. I have no idea where it came from. Are the berries edible? I have heard many stories that they are poisonous. My wife claims her mother made jelly from the berries. I read your column every week, so I trust your answer. Keep up the good work. (Rothsay, Minn.)
A: If the fruit is completely ripe, it is not poisonous. Only the ripe fruits should be used because the unripe fruits contain a toxin called solanine. If your wife is absolutely certain of the fruit, then it should be OK. A fellow professor (not a plant person) caught up with me the other day to ask me if what he was eating was a chokecherry fruit. I took one look and told him it was buckthorn fruit - Rhamnus cathartica. One doesn't need to be competent in Latin to understand what the species name implies. When I told him of the functional effect continued consumption of this fruit would lead to, he quickly lost interest in eating any more! Thank you for your loyal readership. It is appreciated!
Q: We have cleared some chokecherry trees from a lakeside steep and rocky hill. We would like some recommendations on what low-growing ground cover we could plant now or in the spring. It is a south-facing hillside at Spiritwood Lake, which is near Jamestown. I called the Extension office here and he suggested creeping junipers, but also said I should contact you because you have more ideas about ground cover. It is a large, rocky area. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thank you. (e-mail reference)
A: Creeping junipers are a good start. Thrift or several phlox ground covers, such as moss pink and blue phlox, also are possibilities. Some other ideas are lily of the valley, daylilies (the common ones) and crested iris.
Q: I am looking for the perfect hedge. Do you know of a hedge that rarely (if ever) needs trimming, grows 4 to 5 feet tall, is deer resistant and, of course, has a nice appearance? I may have set my expectations for a hedge too high! (Minnewaukan, N.D.)
A: Glad you are not expecting too much! With my back to the wall and being late in the day, the best shot I can come up with is the dwarf American cranberry bush. It may top out at 6 feet, but will take its time getting there. It takes the cold, but not poorly-drained soil and is a traffic stopper when it is in bloom with white flowers.
Q: We just bought a home with a lot of bushes along the side of the house. The branches were hitting our windows and were growing out of control. My husband trimmed a snowball bush. Since trimming, the growth is coming up from the bottom, but there is no growth on the original trunk. Can we fix the problem with additional trimming? When should we trim it? (e-mail reference)
A: Take out the original trunk or branch because it is probably dead or too old to send out new buds. Enjoy the flush of new growth coming from the base. The bush should flower next year.
Q: Can you recommend a bush for the north side of a house that would get 4 to 5 feet tall? How about the south side of the house? (LaMoure, N.D.)
A: By saying "bush," I am assuming you mean something that is deciduous and not an evergreen.
North-side selections would include hydrangea (Annabelle), Northern Lights azalea (with major soil modification using sphagnum peat moss), currants and sumacs. South-side selections include Russian almond, any number of dogwood shrubs, dwarf honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica, Nana, and Arnold), dwarf lilacs (Miss Kim) and dwarf winged euonymus (can actually go either location, but you will get the best color in the fall if planted on the south side).
Q: Is it possible to break off and plant a twig or two from a bridal wreath bush to start a new bush? (e-mail reference)
A: Yes, spirea will root from softwood cuttings taken in late spring or early summer. It depends on where you live. You can use a rooting hormone, but it isn't necessary.
Q: I had a homeowner call asking about a snowball bush that he saw advertised. He'd seen them in Connecticut and said they thrive there and are beautiful. In searching around, I found that the snowball bush isn't hardy enough for our climate. Am I correct in saying that a snowball bush also is called a European cranberry? Would you recommend it for our area? (Mohall, N.D.)
A: The snowball bush is, as you correctly stated, also called the European cranberry. It is hardy enough to make it in North Dakota, but is troubled with borers and aphids. The American version, American cranberry bush (viburnum), is a native species and does not have the insect or disease problem as much as the European counterpart does. The American cranberry is very adaptable, and to the noncritical horticulturist, the flowers appear to be the same as the snowball. I definitely recommend the American cranberry over the European cranberry, which I wish would be banned in this country because of the insect problems it brings into the environment. Another problem is that there are a few other shrubs that are tagged with the name snowball bush. The most notable is the hydrangea species, such as the Annabelle cultivar that grows in most of North Dakota. The Annabelle features a show of snowball-like flowers. The Annabelle probably is easier to locate at regional nurseries than the American cranberry.
Q: If I cut down a yucca plant this fall, will it come back in the spring? (Mandan, N.D.)
A: It probably will, assuming it was healthy and that your area isn’t zapped with a sudden cold snap into the teens! It actually would be better to do it next spring rather than now, as who can predict what the weather is going to do?
Q: I am wondering about watering my trees, shrubs and evergreens before winter. The ash trees have lost their leaves, but some of the other trees have not. Is it OK to give everything a good final watering or do I have to wait until all the leaves drop off? I have some questions about my shrubs. The snowball and mock orange still have many leaves. You told me earlier that I could cut them close to the ground in the fall because they are too large for their space. My husband does not like to trim, so I want to make sure this is the time to do it without killing anything for next year. Should they still be watered before winter? Should I wait for spring to trim the evergreens? I trimmed them this summer, but did not take enough off. I always read your column. It is very informative and I am never too old to learn something new. (e-mail reference)
A: Thanks for being a loyal reader of the column! Glad it has helped you. You can water the trees and shrubs before winter weather closes in. Better to get some water into the cell tissue before that time so there is less chance of winter desiccation. Wait until spring to prune the deciduous shrubs and evergreens. It will be better in both instances. You can cut the flowering shrubs down to the ground to get a reflushing of new growth.
Q: I have been searching Web sites for answers on cutting back perennials. Some differ in their information. Can you help or direct me to who may be able to give me the correct advice? I have Annabelle hydrangeas. When do I cut them back and how far? The same questions go for hostas, daylilies, sedum, Russian sage and Karl Forrester grass. (West Fargo, N.D.)
A: The reason you see differences is because gardening is a combination of art and science, not a strict, must follow directions practice. Everything you listed can be cut back in the fall after a good frost, or early next spring before new growth begins. My preference is to clean everything up as much as possible before the snow flies because it cuts down on vole and slug populations snuggling in for the winter. Other people like to leave plants, such as Russian sage and Karl Forrester grass, standing until spring to add a little character to the winter landscape. Others wait until spring because they don't have time in the fall to cut things back. My very last use for the rotary mower is to set it as high as it can go and cut down the herbaceous plantings (hydrangeas too). I then take the mower in for servicing so it’s ready for next spring.
Q: When do you stop watering fall-planted shrubs? The customer planted an assortment, including mountain ash, hydrangea, spirea and lilac. (e-mail reference)
A: With newly planted trees and shrubs, it is a good idea to continue watering until just before freeze-up. The root-zone soil should go into winter with some moisture, but not soggy. After the first good frost, back off on the frequency and duration of watering. After that, monitor the shrubs until freeze-up, with occasional watering during extended dry periods.
Q: What causes newly planted spirea to wilt? The leaves seem to be turning black from the tip down. Three of the four plants I have are impacted. (e-mail reference)
A: The spirea could have been planted too deeply, kept too wet so the soil is anaerobic or root rot existed and was exacerbated by the watering recommendations following planting.
Q: We have a mugo pine that has grown quite large. What is the best technique and the best time of year to prune this particular pine? I’ve enjoyed reading your column. (e-mail reference)
A: You just missed the opportunity to prune them for this year, unless you want to reduce their size by removing selected spreading branches. If that is the case, then do it now. In the spring, pines grow by what are called “candles.” To somewhat retain the tree’s size, this growth can be pruned before it hardens off. Some folks go after it with electric shears, which builds a nice, tight, globe-shaped specimen. Otherwise, selectively remove or prune back the candles by hand, snipping to develop a plant with “character.” Thank you for the nice comments about the column!
Q: We need to know the best way to revive a 40-year-old caragana hedge. (e-mail reference)
A: A caragana hedge can be revived by cutting it back completely to the ground. Do it early in the spring, before leaf-out occurs. Now would be too late, as the major energy expenditure has taken place. The hedge possibly could be too low in energy reserves to put out decent regrowth. The second, but less dramatic, choice is to cut back a third of all the canes this year. Cut the canes to the ground, starting with the oldest ones first. Do this over a three-year period and you will have revived the hedge. Unlike the first choice, you can do this while the hedge is in leaf because the plants will have enough leaf cover to manufacture food for the rest of the season and store some away for next spring’s surge.
Q: I want flowering bushes that bloom from May or June until fall. What would you suggest? (e-mail reference)
A: I assume you don’t mean one species, as there is no such thing. Here is a shopping list for your consideration. You could plant white flowering lilacs, spirea, mock orange, viburnum or white hydrangea. The hydrangea would be a good “bridge” between the mock orange flowering and fall. Your Extension Service horticulturist should be able to help you make more selections for your area, but this is at least a start.
Q: We have a block retaining wall that is 36 inches high. We are looking for something that would cling to the walls or possibly hang over the walls. We want to fill it in as naturally as possible. Hopefully, the plant isn’t too invasive and it can survive our Minnesota climate. We were considering clematis, ivy or climbing roses. What would you suggest? (Prior Lake, Minn.)
A: The Virginia creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia - is probably the best bet for what you want.
Q: I am looking for a shrub to plant in our yard. I need a shrub that has a short root system. The location of the shrub row is between a ditch and our septic system drainage field. Unfortunately, this is in our front yard. I would like to have this hedge serve as a fence and decoration. Do you know of a shrub that would suit my needs? (Karlstad, Minn.)
A: Thanks for letting me know where you are. Cotoneaster and honeysuckle come to mind. Visit a local nursery to see which of the two you prefer.
Q: A stalk on my bamboo looks diseased and I see some black dots on the diseased area. The leaves look good except a leaf is yellowing and drying out. What should I do? I also have a Madagascar dracaena that I think is in need of repotting. Is it OK to use a different type of soil? Is there much difference in the type of soil people buy? (e-mail reference)
A: Cut out the diseased area on your bamboo if you are sure it is diseased. If you are not sure it is diseased, monitor it to see what else takes place. In the gardening business, you get what you pay for, so get the best potting soil that money can buy. Purchase a brand name product because the supplier has a national reputation behind it. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.
Q: What will grow close to a house? The soil is mostly gravel. Some evergreens are growing in the area, but they are not doing well. (e-mail reference)
A: Nothing will grow well in gravel! Some decent topsoil should be added. Try planting a Japanese tree lilac; you’ll love it!
Q: Is there a natural sprout inhibitor that can be used on caragana seeds? (e-mail reference)
A: None that I am aware of that wouldn’t have a broadleaf herbicidal effect on everything else.
Q: I’m looking to landscape the front of my home with native shrubs and flowers. Do you have any ideas? (e-mail reference)
A: In North Dakota, we try to encourage sustainable landscaping. It is more popularly known as xeriscaping. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h957w.htm for a circular on xeriscaping ideas. I soon will have a more extensive Web site available that uses a broader approach and has ideas that you might consider using.
Q: I read your advice on using Vantage in a hedge to eliminate grass. Where can I buy it? I appreciate your column very much. (Hatton, N.D.)
A: Vantage (AI. Sethoxyclim) should be readily available at any farm supply store that sells herbicides. It is used as a post-emergent material to control annual and perennial grasses selectively. Check local sources that sell garden supply products. They also may have the product.
Thank you for the very kind words about the column.
Q: I’m looking for suggestions on the type of hedge I should plant. The hedge should grow to 3 or 4 1/2 feet tall because I want to separate my road from the front lawn. I prefer something drought-hardy and that will live a long time. I’d like it to be low-maintenance (little or no pruning), have attractive seasonal colors, fragrant blossoms and berries for the birds in fall and winter. I have clay soil. (Ludlow, S.D.)
A: I doubt there is a single shrub that will meet all of your needs. The plant species that may come closest are the honeysuckles, such as Clavey’s dwarf and Arnold red.
Q: I have a question on ice melt and vegetation. The MSDS sheet and advertisement on an ice melt product claims that it is gentle on vegetation. It doesn’t list the percent of each chloride, but I did find that it’s a sodium chloride-based product. That statement leads me to believe it has more sodium chloride than other chlorides. What would be your opinion on using this around landscaping shrubs, grass and native prairie grass? (e-mail reference)
A: The chloride will not hurt the plants to any great extent. The sodium chloride component is the fourth item listed, behind calcium, magnesium and potassium. It’s always better not to have sodium, but I am afraid that is close to being unrealistic. Because you are going to be controlling the amount of ice melt used around the plantings, and if you follow up with a good soil wash/leaching operation next spring, there should be minimal damage, if any at all.
Q: I have a globe thistle that has grown quite large. Can I divide it this spring or does it have a large tap root, which would make that inadvisable? (Twin Valley, Minn.)
A: No problem. Take root cuttings in the spring or divide the clump that has developed. The propagules should flower for you that same season.
Q: I have a caragana hedge that has a white powder on the leaves. I think it is powdery mildew. How do I treat this problem? (e-mail reference)
A: It is powdery mildew. There are a number of fungicides on the market that will control it. I suggest doing an application at your earliest convenience. Next year apply it as a preventative before the mildew shows up. It is more effective preventing powdery mildew than curing it.
Q: I appear to have mildew (or something like it) attacking my alpine currents. Both shrubs are on the east side of the house so they don’t get full sun (one is also partially shaded by a tree). They start the season growing nicely and then about mid June some of the leaves get a white powder on them and die. Any suggestions on what can be done? (Valley City, N.D.)
A: Put down a protective fungicide against downy mildew as the leaves unfold next spring.
Q: We purchased a house that has a hedge along one side of the yard. It has every species of hedge mingled together. Along with this, trees were left to grow and trimmed down with the rest of the hedge (approximately three times according to the jogs in the trunks), which left the trunks to branch out even more. Nothing had been done for quite awhile when we moved in and many of the trees have grown quite high. We love the privacy, but we need to trim and clean up this hedge. My husband thinks we should cut it all down and start from scratch. (e-mail reference)
A: Your husband is right. Start from scratch and you both will be happier in the long run.
Q: I have a problem with carraganas taking over everything on our farm. It is in a tree line and creeping into our planted trees. We want to kill them completely. (e-mail reference)
A: Roundup directly sprayed on the seedlings will kill them. The herbicide Trimec will also kill them.
Q: I planted about 15 golden privit three years ago, but they do not look good. Several shoots are dead and more are dying. They are planted under a couple of rather large oak trees, so it is shaded quite a bit. If shading is a big problem, what type of hedge can I plant that will grow four to six feet tall? (e-mail reference)
A: Golden or any other privet needs as much sunlight as they can get. A good hedge for that situation would be currant. There are several species and cultivars that a local nursery would have available.
Q: I planted a spirea last summer that is doing well. Could you tell me what to fertilize it with? I was told to use a 5-10-5 slow release formula that would promote healthy growth and strong roots. I can’t get it at our local stores or greenhouse. Does it need anything now or in the fall? (Lankin, N.D.)
A: The fertilizer the company suggested is older than I am! It is a good one for establishing plants and not over-stimulating them. You can use any fertilizer that you can find locally. 10-10-10, sometimes known as a garden fertilizer, is one of them. Another is Miracle-Gro, which seems to be readily available at most garden center outlets. I’m glad your plant is off to a good start. A shot of fertilizer will help it along.
Q: We have two small bushes in front of our house that get clusters of small white flowers on them. We want to move them to another area in our yard. When should we move them and is it possible to separate them to make more bushes? (Oakes, N.D.)
A: Whatever they are, divide and move them now before any new growth begins.
Q: I would like to plant a hedge or row of bushes along the fence line that divides our horses' dry lot area from our lawn. We need something that will look good trimmed to about three and a half feet, not toxic for horses, hardy, economical and attractive. The soil is nice with good drainage. The site is exposed, so it gets a lot of wind. I was thinking of planting dogwood since I like its winter color. But, I’ve read about some of the problems people have had with dogwood that makes me question doing so. (St. Paul, Minn.)
A: The problem with shrubs is that something usually wants to eat them or infect them. Actually, the Cornus mas (cornelian cherry dogwood) would be a perfect selection for your purpose. It is one of the most pest-free shrubs you can plant in your region and is completely hardy. See if you can find redstone or spring sun cultivars. It may sucker somewhat, but if that is not a problem (it will just make a denser hedge) then go for it.
Q: One of your readers asked about a "twin sister" shrub that produced a pair of white flowers and orange to red twin fruits in the fall. It sounds like a twinberry honeysuckle. It has flowers that are white to pinkish, with orange, orange/red or red berries.
A: Thanks for writing. You are probably right that it is a twinberry honeysuckle. The reader will appreciate getting the information.
Q: Can I plant a yuckos in my area? The plant is also known as hedge apple, hedge ball, Osage orange ball, or monkey ball. I want to plant it to control insects. They claim they really work so I want to grow some, but I'm not sure how. (E-mail reference)
A: You are talking about maclura pomifera, which is also known as Osage orange. They are not recommended for landscaping unless you want to break the wind on a farm. They can be grown from about mid-South Dakota on down. The branches are spiny and the fruit has no documented insecticide value that I have ever been able to find. I do know the wood is extremely strong and is desired by bow hunters. Let me know if you find out how they control insects. It might be they taste so bad that insects will not eat them.
Q: Last fall we planted a Harry Lauder's walking stick, which is doing very well. This year it produced a very tall, straight stem that looks out of place on the shrub. My husband wonders if it should be pruned and when. (E-mail reference)
A: Prune the straight stick back to the ground or its source of origin. Do it before new growth starts in the spring. If it should re appear, cut it back immediately during the growing season.
Q: I have a beta grape shrub that must be 20 to 25 years old. It has been producing grapes for several years. I have never trimmed it. If I do, what time of year should it be trimmed, how often and how much should be cut. (Portal, N.D.)
A: If you haven't pruned a grape vine in 20 or more years, I cannot begin to tell you how to prune it. I know I wouldn't want to! It should be done early in the spring when everything is still dormant.
Q: About three years ago we purchased a restored 1918 farmstead, located 4 miles north of Bucyrus. I need help planning foundation plantings. The only foundation plant is a lilac, growing right next to the foundation. We have planted two poplars and two bushes. (Hettinger, N.D.)
A: You need to lay the part of your property you plan to landscape on graph paper to a 1:10 or 1:20 scale. Then create areas you want to add plants to. The bed shapes should be free flowing and generous in size. Spirea, viburnums lilacs, potentillas, honeysuckle and forsythia are good foundation plantings. Evergreens that can be incorporated into such plantings include many junipers and taxus (yews) on the north side. I would certainly want to intersperse these plantings with ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials. I encourage you to get rid of the poplar and "purple bush" right next to the house. Better to start over with a clean slate.
Q: I plan to protect some shrubs for the winter by wrapping them in burlap. When's the best time to wrap them? Anything special that needs to be done at that time? (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: The best time to wrap the plants is when they are completely dormant but before freeze up, which is usually around Halloween.
Q: We have an alpine current hedge that I believe has a fungus problem because of our excessive moisture this spring. We sprayed it a few times but the problem continued. The leaves curled and were almost black. We recently cut it back to 6-inches in height and used the power washer to clean out all debris. Will we have a hedge next spring and what can we do to prevent this from happening again? In another location our alpine current hedge developed brown, dry looking leaves. It was newly planted last spring. I cut it back a few weeks ago and it is coming back nicely. (Washburn, N.D.)
A: Anthracnose, cane blight, and rust can be expected under the kind of conditions we had last spring. If the hedge was healthy and well-established other years, it should come back next spring. Do a protective application of a Bordeaux mixture after the plants have fully leafed out. Repeat every 14 days until mid July.
Q: I have some alpine currant bushes I planted in front of my house four years ago. For the last two years something has been eating all the leaves. I have sprayed and dusted. I don't know what to do next. (Sabin, Minn.)
A: I’m not sure what insect may be doing that. I suggest spraying the shrubs with a dormant oil just before leafing-out. Spray with Orthene immediately after leafing-out, assuming you are not going to harvest the fruit.
Q: We dug up three arborvitae and one mugo pine in the spring of 2001 because the bottom half of each shrub turned brown. This was on the west side of our house. We planted a purple leaf sandcherry in the center, and an Anthony waterer spirea on each side. The sandcherry and one spirea are growing well. The other spirea did well in 2001 and started getting green branches in 2002 but then dried up and died. I replaced it with a new plant, which did well the rest of the summer. This spring it had several green branches but then it died in mid-June. I treated both spireas the same this year. I cut back the dead branches in early spring and then fertilized with Miracle-Gro when I saw new growth. I watered them during the dry spring, but not in June because of all the rain we had. The older spirea has bright pink blossoms and is 12-15 inches tall. It is closer to the down-spout of a rain gutter, so it may receive more water. The ground is mulched with small rock, except for a small area close to the shrubs. I want to try one more time next spring but I need some suggestions. My other question concerns two chiffon clematis ivy that were planted on the west side of a wooden fence in 1992. They bloomed occasionally during the first few summers but not in the last three. In late fall, I prune the plants down to the ground and cover the area with grass clippings. In the spring, they start to grow nicely and have branches several feet high on a wire trellis. They are next to a vegetable garden so they get lots of moisture. I apply Miracle-Gro every two to four weeks but they don’t blossom. Any suggestions? (Beulah, N.D.)
A: It could be that it is too hot where you planted the spirea. It sounds like you have done everything else correctly. About the only thing I can recommend is to re-work the soil completely, adding sphagnum peat moss and sending a sample of the prepared soil into our lab for testing to be sure there isn't a salt level that is causing the problem. As for the non-blooming clematis, I'm stumped. Try backing off on the fertilizer next year or consider relocating it to a cooler location. I have been raised on the golden rule for clematis success. They need a warm location but with cool soil. I am not familiar with the chiffon clematis that you are referencing so perhaps it has cultural requirements that I am unaware of.
Q: Will a snowball bush grow in an area that has only morning sun? I'm afraid to move it because it is just starting to perk up. Any tips on what to do and how to keep it growing? (E-mail reference)
A: I love the term "snowball bush" because it has so many varied meanings. All shrubs that fall into that category will do well with just the morning sun, as long as the morning sun lasts about four to six hours. We get about six hours of morning sun at this time of year. If the plant is perking up, I would keep it where it is. If it appears to fade over time, the bush should be moved to a more sunny location.
Q: There was a flowering shrub in Hoven, S.D. last year that throngs of people in the area were stopping by to see. It was an evening primrose. What was so fascinating was that its profusion of yellow flowers opened a few at a time every evening at sundown right before our eyes! Then all of a day's blooms would fall off before morning and the next day the whole cycle would repeat again. Where can we get seeds or a young plant? Is it a perennial hardy for north-central South Dakota? (E-mail reference, S.D.)
A: The plant is a hardy perennial in our upper great plains. Seed should be available just about anywhere perennial seeds are sold. Most nurseries would also have the young plants available. It is native to the prairie.
Q: My mother in law has three dwarf juniper bushes that are very overgrown. They have not been pruned in years so they look bad. One has grown sideways and there is a large hole in the bush. They are planted in a bed surrounding a Crepe myrtle tree. Can I cut the junipers back (even as far as to the ground)? If they can't survive a severe pruning like that, can they be removed without damage to the Crepe myrtle? I am worried that the root systems will be very tangled and trying to pull the junipers out would also mean having to remove her Crepe myrtle. (E-mail reference)
A: Sacrifice the junipers! Cut them back as far as possible. Carefully spray any green sprouts that may show up with pre-mixed Roundup. Attempting to dig them out, from what you describe, would very likely be the death knell for the beautiful crepe myrtle.
Q: Over the years I have become fairly conversant with the propagation of trees and garden goods. After moving into a different home, I find myself woefully ignorant as to the identification, care, and pruning of shrubs and bushes. What manual of instruction would you recommend I study? (E-mail reference)
A: Without knowing where you live, but hoping it is somewhere in the upper midwest, I would recommend "Midwestern Landscaping Book" by Sunset Publications. It is the single best source of information that I can think of for this region. If you live in the northeast, then the "Northeastern Landscaping Book" would be more appropriate.
Q: I just moved into a house. My back yard is fenced and needs character badly. I'd like to plant shrubs all around the fence to make it more private and am thinking about a couple trees at the back of the yard. What would you suggest for a nice shrub for this part of the country? Flowering would be fine but not necessary. (Moorhead, Minn.)
A: That's what I like -- an open field! Here are some of my favorites: Anabelle hydrangea, Amur maple, Viburnums (nannyberry and many others), lilacs (of course), American elderberry and Juneberry. That should be enough to whet your appetite!
Q: We have golden current bushes that are so full of berries that the branches are hanging on the ground, even after picking the berries. Is it best to leave them for now or should we prune them? Should they be pruned regularly? If so, what time of year, and what do we prune off? (Hankinson N.D.)
A: Best to not prune them now but to do it in early spring. We don't want to stimulate any new growth going into the winter months. Remove the oldest canes right back to the ground to stimulate new, vigorously producing growth.
Q: I have a magnolia tree/bush on the north side of my house. It blooms very early spring and the blooms never last long. My question is, the bush is becoming quite large and needs to be pruned back. When can I do this and how much can I prune? (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: Summertime is the best time to prune magnolias. Never take off wood any larger than you can prune with a hand clipper. Never make a cut where a saw is needed.
Q: Would you have any suggestions other than caragana or lilac for a hedge that people want to grow 6 to 8 feet tall and kind of act as a fence for their property? They also want something that's not too disease prone. The soils are mostly gravelly with shale below the top 6 to 12 inches. (Cando, N.D.)
A: Look into the viburnums. The nannyberry viburnum is a beauty that is native, and attractive to birds as well. Freedom honeysuckle is another, and there is always cotoneaster.
Q: At one time my parents had a "flowering twin sister bush" or tree. It had two little white flowers in the spring and produced two little red or orange berries in the fall. Can you tell me it's proper name or what it was? (E-mail reference)
A: No idea. Perhaps one of our readers will know and pass the information on to me.
Q: I was looking at a caragana hedge and found some evidence of fireblight from last year. Also, I found a few places in the hedge where a few leaves where matted together, about 2 inches long and 1 inch or less wide. I see about a dozen in a location, then I may go 20 feet before I see another group. Any ideas? (Fessenden, N.D.)
A: The old fire blight injury should be pruned out ASAP. The matted foliage is probably the resting place of pear slugs, which are actually the larval stage of a sawfly that skeletonizes foliage. Spray with Sevin to control.
Q: We have a giant snowball bush that we would like to prune into something more manageable. I have read that we should do this pruning after the first hard frost of fall, but have also read to do it immediately after the flowers are finished blooming, which is early summer. I did some pruning a couple of years ago in the early summer and wherever I pruned it appears those stalks are now dead (no foliage at all!). Am I slowly killing this plant? Is it worth saving when it is very, very woody? Also, I have a lilac bush which I inherited from my sister-in-law's back yard via pulling up some roots. It is a beautiful bush (now about 3 feet tall) but only produces foliage, no flowers. Is there something I can do? It is in full sun with good drainage. (E-mail reference)
A: It all depends on what you are calling a giant snowball bush; there are at least three species that I know of that are often referred to as a "snowball"; Viburnum, Hydrangea, and Ceanothus. As a generalization, the best time to prune is right after flowering, if the subsequent fruit is not important. When pruning, it is also generally a good idea to remove the cane completely, right down to the base of the plant, assuming the proper pruning techniques are followed. With the lilac, I simply suggest patience. You may be too good to it, providing too much fertilizer. Generally they do get around to producing flowers. Just don't do any late summer pruning.
Q: After going through cycles of the weather warming up and then returning to freezing temperatures, our burning bush had some branches that produced foliage last summer, while others remained bare. Can the whole bush be pruned back and when? (Webster, S.D.)
A: Yes, in early spring before it leafs out.
Q: I would like to know how much of my snowball bush I can cut off. It is as tall as our house. Is it all right to cut it off to the ground or at a 3- or 4-foot level? (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: Wait until a killing frost and then prune them back right to the ground. You will get no flowers next year (assuming you are talking about a viburnum) but it should flower in subsequent years. Make sure the canes are not coming from below any graft. If they are, cut them off at the source; if they are not, then prune them as you mentioned.
Q: Can you identify the enclosed sample? Should it be removed? (Glen Ullin, N.D.)
A: It looks like the Nanking cherry, Prunus tomaentosa. This is a shrub that gets to 10 feet in height and 15 feet in spread. It flowers early and fruit ripens in June and July. Removal is your decision.
Q: I planted two purple leaf plum bushes, one in 1997 and the other in 1998. They are about 10 feet apart and receive about six hours of full sun. The tree planted in 1998 has grown to about 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide. This year the top 2 feet of this bush is dark red and the rest of the leaves are dark green. What would you do to encourage red leaves? (E-mail reference)
A: Nothing. They will turn red based on the maturity and genetic make-up of the tree. You might try taking 6 to 9-inch tips of the red-leaf branches and see if you can root them, and if so, whether or not they will produce all red leaves.
Q: I am trying to identify a bush I have seen used several places for home landscaping. It resembles an arbor vitae, same light green color and size and general shape. However, instead of the fan-shaped branches being upright they are horizontal, and shaped more like cupped hands, like you would hold out your hand for some one to drop a coin into it. I did not see any seed or fruit on it. (E-mail reference, Moorestown, N.J.)
A: Probably an Atlantic cedar (Cedrus atlantica). The foliage is similar, but the plant material in this genus is more "sophisticated" than the arborvitae. They are quite common in your area and add grace to any landscape as a specimen when surrounded by ample turfgrass. They are without rival as they mature. Check one out at a local nursery to see if I am right.
Q: Enclosed find a branch from a gold mini back bush. We planted about six of these three years ago around the foundation. This year they all turned brown. Any help would be appreciated. (Wimbledon, N.D.)
A: This is a strong example of salt burn from the root system. I suggest getting the plants out of their present location ASAP and either replacing the soil completely or planting the shrubs somewhere else.
Q: We recently planted a new weigela bush and after three to four weeks it seems to be dying off rather rapidly. Neither watering nor overfeeding seems to be the problem. Any suggestions? (E-mail reference)
A: The weigela needs full sun and soil with good drainage. Often dieback is a problem, so regular pruning is necessary to keep the plant in good shape. Your cultivar selection of 'Minuet' is an excellent one, and should do well for you. I would suggest contacting the nursery you purchased it from.
Q: I have a what I call a snowball bush. It is 5 to 6 years old about 6 to 7 feet tall and about 7 feet across. It came from a sucker off my sister's tree. It's growing under my ash and box elder trees. It's healthy and growing great, but has not produced the snowball flowers that my sister’s does. It flowers in a white cluster about the size of a baseball. My sister’s bush is growing in the same environment. Any ideas of what it might be and why it's not flowering? ( LaMoure, N.D.)
A: Sucker growth is seldom the equal of the original plant because most plants are grafted to a different cultivar rootstock. This results in something growing that vaguely resembles the parent, but not entirely. People are continually doing this with flowering trees and shrubs, especially roses. They are better off taking scion or budwood cuttings, not anything from a root sucker, to get a copy of the original plant. Even then, some characteristics may be lost, such as vigor or winter hardiness.
Q: I have a shrub that I thought was dead when I moved here last fall but now a small portion of the dead branches are leafed out and blooming. Someone told me it is a mock orange. The dead branches are about 10 feet tall. It resembles a lilac bush in shape. The leaves are bright green and the blossoms are beautiful, white with yellow stamens. They remind me of an apple blossom except more cup shaped. The buds are rather round. Does this sound like a mock orange? How can I save it, if it is worth saving? Someone suggested I cut all the branches off about a foot above ground level and see if it will renew itself. Will this work? ( Twin Brooks, S.D.)
A: The suggestion about cutting it back completely was a good one, except you don't want to do it now. Wait until fall when it is dormant, or better, do it early next spring before it leafs out. That way the plant will have maximum energy stored for new growth.
Q: I have a beautiful, fragrant, old fashioned mock orange bush that has a grapevine growing in the middle of it. The woody stem of the grapevine is very similar to the canes of the mock orange bush in the area near the ground. It is only when the grape vine reaches out over the top of the bush that I can see it. I have pulled it back year after year, and last year I gave up. I pulled the vine over to just one corner so I could keep it under control, force it into one direction, and keep it from spreading all over the canopy of the bush. Do you know of any herbicide that I can use to kill off this grapevine that will not kill the mock orange bush? (E-mail reference)
A: Cut the vine off at the stump, and carefully paint a solution of Roundup on the cut stump where it will hopefully translocate and kill the plant--eventually. Any sprouts that come up, paint them as well.
Q: I bought a new house last fall and the subcontractors who laid the sod put it right next to the foundation on the north side of my house. I don't really like having grass growing right up to the side of my house, so I just removed the sod this last weekend. I happened to mention this to a few of my co-workers and they were adamant that I should have left it there as planting bushes, shrubs and flowers next to your foundation will cause the foundation to crack and cause all sorts of problems, and that the best thing you can do is to have sod growing up against your house. Is this true? I always thought it was our soil and climate extremes that caused foundations to crack. I had planned on planting some hostas, begonias, astilbes, Impatiens and maybe a few other shade loving perennials. How far from the foundation should things like this be planted, if at all? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: It is interesting how slow bad advice is to die. Without insulting your coworkers, ignore what they said and plant your flowers and shrubs. The only rule is to plant them far enough away from the foundation so that they can get the rainfall. Often the overhang on the house will create a "rain shadow" where very little rain will reach, and the plants die. The only instances I have known where roots grow into the foundation is when it was already cracked and moisture seeping in, so naturally the roots followed--and they have received universal blame ever since!
Q: I bought an eastern snowball thinking it might be in the oakleaf hydrangea family, since its leaf looks something like an oak and it turns red in the fall. Can you tell me if it is part of the family of oak leaf or not? (E-mail reference, Missouri)
A: That is the problem with common names. The oakleaf hydrangea is Hydrangea quericifolia. Both this and the Viburnum are often referred to as "snowball" shrubs. You are dealing with two different species of shrubs here, neither of which is bad, and should perform well on your property.
Q: We need a suggestion for a bush or shrub to plant at each outer corner of our three-stall garage. We built our house last summer so don't have any bushes.. The one corner has plenty of space but the other corner is only about 29 x 45 inches as the sidewalk to the front door curves from the driveway. I think something with a height of 3 feet or so would be attractive to the house but it would have to be some bush that wouldn't spread too much. What could you suggest? Our house is sandstone color. (Grand Forks, N.D.)
A: How about a potentilla at the tight corner? It gets about 3 feet tall and has bright yellow flowers almost all summer long. You could plant the same thing on the other corner too, depending on what you want, or you could plant a Clavey's Dwarf or MiniGlobe honeysuckle. Both of those get about 4 feet tall and don't spread extensively.
Q: I have an empty spot in a single tree line south of my house that has a sewer line that runs 4 feet below the surface. I would like to fill it in with either an ornamental grass bed or a fast growing, inexpensive tree, something for privacy from a well traveled road that goes past our yard. Can you give me some suggestions on different plants whose root systems do not run deep to interfere with the sewer line and that are perennials, that are fast growing, that do not spread uncontrollably, have some height and are pleasing to the eye? (E-mail reference, Jamestown, N.D.)
A: Given my choices, I suggest ornamental grasses: big bluestem, switchgrass, Indian grass, giant miscanthus, miscanthus silverfeather, and Karl Forester feather reed grass. All range in size from 5 to10 feet and have proven to be hardy in zone 3. Any or all should do well at your location.
Q: I have just returned from more southerly climes and find many of my pine bushes and trees with brown edges, which I think come from sun burn. I think Miracid is the answer, but the question is, how warm should it be before I apply, and how many applications? (E-mail reference, Bismarck, N.D.)
A: Don't do a thing at this time. The damage was done either this past winter or earlier last year. If the plants are going to recover, they will do so on their own. Adding Miracid or any other fertilizer at this time will do no good. In fact, it may only compound the problem. The buds will soon be breaking on the pines, and the new candle growth will elongate. If the older needles are not dead, they may re-green; if they are dead, they will drop off some time during this upcoming season. Protection is needed in the fall, prior to winter's arrival, by spraying the needled evergreens with an anti-desiccant like Wilt-Pruf and spraying again during a thaw in mid-February or early March.
Q: I have questions about a Gardenia bush I am interested in purchasing. I have been told that they are fussy and hard to grow. I read in a magazine that they can grow into large indoor trees that you limb and clip to keep shaped. It also stated that they are fragrant. Do they bloom all year or are the leaves fragrant? I am wondering if I should spend the money on the bush and give it a try. Please tell me if you think I have any chance of keeping it alive and how long it would take to grow into a small tree. (E-mail reference, Enderlin, N.D.)
A: Keep the gardenia in your dreams only. They don't respond well to indoor environments in our part of the country, and are best only in the hands of professionals who specialize in growing them. The gardenia flower is extremely fragrant! One flower can odorize a room, but they don't last long, which is frustrating. If you lived in the southeastern U.S., I would say give it a shot, but even there chances of success are not much better than 50-50.
Q: I want to take out a row of Caraganas around my home. Any suggestions on how to best do this? (E-mail reference, Carson, N.D.)
A: I assume that they are old and large, so the task will not be easy. I suggest cutting them back severely, and when new growth emerges, spray them with Roundup to get a good kill on the roots, being sure to mix the Roundup with ammonium sulfate for greater effectiveness. Then, with the stumps that remain, you can either rent a stump grinder and grind them down below the soil surface, or, if that isn't work enough, they can be chain pulled out with a truck or winch.
Q: I was wondering if you could give me some ideas of what type of climbing plant I could plant by a large cottonwood tree. It is just a large tall stump. (E-mail reference, Morris, Minn.)
A: Honeysuckle vine grows quickly and covers well. Get the Halls cultivar -'Halliana Prolific', grows to 20' or more, with white, maturing to yellow flowers, very fragrant. Another one to try is the Japanese wisteria - 'Wisteria floribunda', which will grow 30' or more, and is noted for wrapping itself around tree trunks quite nicely. The flowers are a violet blue color, and the fruit is a bean pod, which lasts well into the winter.
Q: The Arnold Red honeysuckle is listed by the Slope-Hettinger Soil Conservation District. If they are a vine similar to the Dropmore honeysuckle I will order some, but if they are a shrub type I don't want them. Can you help me? (E-mail reference)
A: The Arnold Red honeysuckle is not a vine, but a shrub that has dark red flowers and is resistant to the Russian aphid. The proper nomenclature for this plant is Lonicera taterica 'Arnold Red'. There are many cultivars of the trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) that you can choose from, if the local SCD has them available.
Q: When does sunscald occur on shrubs such as blueberries, Saskatoons and currants? What can we do to protect the plants from this damage? Also, what can you tell me about what and when to spray to keep currants etc. from having worms in them? (Westhope, N.D., e-mail)
A: These shrubs are generally not prone to sunscald, which usually occurs on thin-barked trees such as apples or pears when they are young, and on the southwest side of the tree. Protection is generally achieved by painting with whitewash or wrapping the trunk with cloth. It occurs when the sun hits the dark colored bark and raises the temperature at that location to 50 F or 60 F or higher--and the air temperature is still below freezing. When the sun goes down, the cell tissue ruptures at that site and sunscald occurs.
As for your insect question, spray with Sevin when the shrubs are in flower. Keep in mind that Sevin is toxic to bees, so spray at a time when they are not active--either in the early morning or evening. Spray again right after blossom drop.
Q: In looking out our window on this drab winter day in our yard, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to liven up the winter landscape scene next year with some new plants. Any suggestions? (Minot, N.D., e-mail)
A: Plenty! There is bark color and texture that can be obtained from shrub branches like the red osier dogwood, the rough, orange-pink bark of Scotch pine, and the peeling texture of paper birch and Amur cherry, which has the color of burnished bronze.
If that isn't enough, consider willows - the golden and the red stemmed, along with the Tatarian and Ginnala maples that often keep attractive samaras (seeds) through the winter. In addition, the fruits of hawthorn, crabapple, mountain ash and the American highbush cranberry will show and attract many species of birds such as cedar waxwings.
Finally, many rose varieties are as prized for their hips (fruits) as they are their flowers. Many will get a burnt red color for the winter, and again are attractive to the birds.
Q: Could you give me the common name and type of the following plants and also tell me if they can be grown around North Dakota?
Andropogon gerardii, Rudbeckia hirta, Monada fistulosa and Verbena hastata. (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Here are some answers and a bit of speculation:
Andropogon gerardii--big bluestem or turkey foot grass. Native to our tallgrass prairie. Rudbeckia hirta--black-eyed Susan. Good as part of a wildflower planting. Monada fistulosa--wild bergamot. Can grow to 5 feet tall. Verbena hastata--I'm not familiar with this species, but plenty of others of this species grow in North Dakota. Most likely this one will too. Could be a hybrid.
Q: I have several questions. We have a Rose Tree of China shrub in our yard. It's gotten pretty big--6 feet across and 4 feet high. How should I prune it? Can I trim it all around? Is it wise to till around evergreens? Can you give me a guide as to how far from the ground the bottom branches of shade trees should be? Also, we have a Russian olive tree and it's leaning away from larger trees and isn't a nice looking tree anymore. If I cut it back to about 3 or 4 feet from the ground, will it come back? (Aneta, N.D.)
A: Here are several answers. Prune your Rose Tree of China shrub selectively, removing just the oldest canes right back to the ground. Prune out no more than one-third of the entire mass at one time. Carry it out early next spring before new growth occurs. No, it's not wise to till around evergreens. Keep the bottoms of your shade trees high enough from the ground so that you can walk under them. It's probably better to remove the Russian olive.
Q: A bush that's growing on the north side of our house seems to have an odd scent. I would like to know its name. Does it have to be taken in for the winter, and will it ever blossom? (Summit, S.D.)
A: Your plant is a mum, and it will probably never flower on the north side of the house. I suggest moving it to a sunny location, then you'll see it flower in a timely manner. Unless this was a greenhouse mum purchased and planted in the spring, it should make it outdoors. To be on the safe side you should probably mulch it with leaves or straw after the ground gets a crust of frost.
Q. How late can trees and shrubs be planted?
A. Fall is an excellent time to get most of this planting done, as the growth activity is confined to below ground in the root system, giving most plants a good head start during the subsequent spring.
The planting can be done anytime in late August, September or October, as long as the ground has not yet frozen. Keep in mind that as the soil/water temperature gets below 40 F water moves with greater difficulty into the roots, thus slowing down the whole growth cycle.
Woody plants are sold as bare-root (BR), balled and burlaped (B&B), or container grown (CG). BR plants offer the advantages of being less expensive and easier to handle and having no soil interface problem that sometimes occurs with the other two. B&B plants have the nursery soil within a burlap ball, and generally about two-thirds to three-quarters of the original root system. Beware of "wild-dug" or shelterbelt-dug trees, as they would have no more than 5 to 10 percent of the root system remaining. CG plants have literally all of the root system present when planted (after the container is removed, of course).
Some people like to use live spruce or pine trees for the Christmas season. With a little advanced planning, this is possible. Simply mulch the area thickly with straw where the plant is intended to go after the holidays, and it will stay unfrozen until planting after the season.
With any of these plantings, be sure to water in completely.
Q: I need some help. I don't remember how much room to leave around a shrub when you put down the fabric weed preventer. I would appreciate your letting me know even if I am a Florida resident. (Florida e-mail)
A: You simply cut an X in the fabric larger than the potted plant you are installing. The cut ends of the X can then fold back to the plant stems. Check annually to be sure it isn't girdling any stems. If it is close to doing that, then simply cut some of the fabric away to make more room.
Q: I have three snowball bushes which are about 12 years old. The last three years the leaves have begun to curl and turn black and there are tiny bugs in the leaves. Is there any spray I can use now before the leaves come to kill the bugs? Any help you can suggest will be greatly appreciated. (Berthold, N.D.)
A: Spray the plants with Orthene. This is a systemic insecticide that is effective at killing piercing, sucking insects. If by chance, the leaves have not yet opened, you can spray the plant with dormant oil. This will kill any over-wintering eggs and will be safer for you to handle. If they have leafed out, don't use the oil as it would very likely be phytotoxic.
Q: I would like your opinion on hedges. I have been considering Amur River North (privit hedge) or caragana. I have looked at Amur maple and dogwood but neither is thick enough. Would you comment on your choice. I want something thick that I can surround a garden with, and perhaps 10 feet tall--max. Like those seen in English-type gardens. (e-mail)
A: The best hedge for thickness and to respond to regular shearing for English garden formality is the cotoneaster. The Amur River North privet is not quite hardy enough for North Dakota, and while the dogwood is a shrub that makes an attractive hedge, I have never seen it respond to formal pruning in an attractive way. Without a doubt the cotoneaster is the right choice.
Q: When is the best time to prune deciduous trees and shrubs? (e-mail)
A: All pruning of deciduous trees and shrubs is best done in the early spring when they are still dormant. The pruning down to the ground of lilacs and other shrubs also is best done when they are dormant. Selective pruning of trees can be done any time that it is necessary, but if the pruning is just for aesthetics, then wait until next year and do it when they are still dormant.
Q: My son has a snowball shrub in Minnesota and it is full of tiny black bugs. What should he use to get rid of them? (e-mail)
A: Try Orthene. It is both a systemic and contact. These are aphids that you are trying to eliminate, and on this species, that is a tough job! So you want to go in with the big guns. Orthene should do it for you.
Q: Can you give me some suggestions for shade tolerant shrubs. The area gets very little sun, if any? Do you think Boston ivy will tolerate much shade? (e-mail)
A: Shrubs for the shade include the following: taxus (yews), currants, juneberry, prunus spp., elderberry, honeysuckle, juniper and cotoneaster. But give the Boston ivy a try. When people speak of shade, it is difficult to make a judgment call because it can vary so much.
Q: I have a mature cotoneaster hedge 15 to 20 years old. We are planning to do lawn edging to clean up the perimeter, and to keep grasses and broadleaf weeds out of the base of the hedge, I want to apply an organic mulch. What type of mulch is best? There is fireblight in the neighborhood, and I don't want to make it any worse. (Jamesotwn, N.D., e-mail)
A: I strongly suggest an organic bark mulch (actually there is no other kind of bark). It conditions the soil beneath it, and eventually breaks down, releasing nutrients over time. Stone mulches are often used, but I find that the stones migrate into the lawn somehow, creating problems for mowers. Also, all stone mulches seem to do is collect dirt and add little to the aesthetics of the planting.
Q: We have a caragana shrub in our backyard, and it is a great privacy border. However, nearly every summer green aphids invade the peas and become a nuisance. We were wondering if these aphids cause damage to the shrubs and how they can be dealt with. They seem to suck the life out of the pea until it dries up and falls off. Any information you can give us regarding this would be greatly appreciated. (New Rockford, N.D., e-mail)
A: You might want to try spraying the shrub border with neem, a biological product that controls aphids and other plant destructive insects. I suggest applying the material early in the season as the pods are beginning to develop. Some non-biologicals that are effective for controlling aphids are Sevin, malathion, Orthene and methoxychlor.
Q: We have a very large cotoneaster hedge. Could you give us information as to what type of fertilizer to use, and any other information that we might find useful? (E-mail reference)
A: Cotoneaster or other hedges very seldom need fertilization. I strongly suggest fertilizing to only a known deficiency symptom. Too much nutrient availability predisposes it to fireblight attack, so growing it slow and hardened is better than fast, soft growth. If you want to apply some anyway, I suggest a 5-10-5 material that you can sprinkle around the outer spread of the foliage of the hedge, LIGHTLY.
Q: I have planted over 40 bearberry cotoneasters in my front yard, some which border along the road and driveway. The shrubs were planted in late May and have been doing well until the last few weeks. One of the shrubs quickly turned yellow and now the leaves are brown. The leaves can be easily removed by rubbing your fingers over the stem. During the past week, quite a few of the others are turning yellow. The yellow seems to start from the center and eventually spreads to the end of the stems. We have had an unusually wet and mild summer. I live in Southern Maryland. Last weekend for instance we had 3 inches of rain in one day. Could this problem be from too much water, or another problem? (E-mail reference, Maryland)
A: Cotoneaster are quite vulnerable to bacterial disease (fireblight) and fungal diseases (powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, and scab) when the weather is unusually wet. Not knowing for sure what you have from here, I can suggest a general fungicide to help cut down on the spread of the disease (it sounds like a fungus). A fungicide known as All-Purpose Fungicide, known also as Daconil 2787 (chlorothalonil), is a good one to start with. Also, if you have your shrubs mulched with plastic, either remove or punch holes in it; if you have just organic mulch (bark chips) pull some of that away from the crowns of the plants to help them dry out.
Q: Enclosed is an example of a bush that is growing in my brothers yard that we seem to be unable to identify. It has blossomed twice this year, and after the flowers have dropped it starts berries which turn an orange color. The flower stage has white blossoms and form a flower on each of the berries (seeds?). It is a fast growing plant and seems to like itself as it does reproduce easily. As my brother said it will probably turn out to be a bad plant or a noxious weed as it is so hardy. If you could help us out with this we would be delighted to know its name. (Devils Lake, N.D.)
A: Wow! Are you ever thorough! If everybody sent me samples like you do, many of my ID problems would be solved. What you have growing is a European elder, Sambucus nigra. This is a rank growing shrub that produces an abundance of fruit which ripens to a black color in September. The birds relish the fruit! If you let this go unchecked, it will become a pest. However, if you prune it back hard in late winter the new growth will be attractive and manageable.
Q: We are removing some old bridal wreath bushes. We would like to get the root stumps level with the adjacent ground to cover the area with grass. Do you have a suggestion as to how we can most efficiently remove the root stumps? (E-mail reference)
A: The most efficient way is to rent a stump grinder from a local equipment rental shop. It will grind them down to below soil level in a matter of minutes. The stumps on those things could be as big around as your waist after all those years- - I know from tough experience!
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