Q: I have a spruce tree that used to be perfectly shaped. The very top of the tree trunk has been broken off. I think a hawk that stays in our area tried to perch on it and broke it. I don't know what to do for the tree. Will it grow a new straight trunk on its own? Or should I tie one of the lower branches to grow upward and take its place? And...Read more
Q: I have been thinking about putting in a rain garden. Do you have any advice on building one? What kind of plants can be planted in the flooded soil?
A: A rain garden is similar to other perennial flower beds you might build: It just holds water for longer. Rather than build a raised flower bed by adding organic matter to get better drainage,...Read more
Twig Girdlers and Pruners
Q: All of a sudden, a lot of small short branches broke off the oak tree in our front yard. The ground is covered with them. There are at least 50. There hasn't been a storm to damage them, and the squirrels don't seem to be in the tree. The oak is probably over 100 years old, and I don't want to lose it. What do you ...Read more
Q: Back in July, you said about daylilies, and I quote: "They ... often bloom better if they are divided after about four years in the ground. Early fall is the best time to do this, so think of it as a job to do right after the kids go back to school."
Well, the kids are back in school. How do I divide the daylilies? Mine ...Read more
Q: We bought a grapevine on a whim at Home Depot. We planted it along a fence. It grew OK for a couple years but didn't seem to produce any fruit. This year, we noticed there are lots of grapes, but the birds are eating them all before we can get to them. What is the best way to beat the birds to the grapes?
A: Birds like any fruit that we like...Read more
Q: I haven't tried growing cucumbers recently because when I last grew them, they were bitter, and I didn't really enjoy eating them. What did I do wrong?
A: Your cucumbers were fighting a chemical warfare battle with you. Many plants use bitter-tasting alkaloid chemicals to prevent it from being eaten by herbivores. Cucumbers naturally produce...Read more
Q: Our community replaced a bunch of sidewalks and curbs; then they repaired our lawns. They used grass seed instead of sod, and now we have a lot of crabgrass mixed in with the good lawn grass. How do we get rid of the crabgrass without hurting the new lawn grass?
A: Even though a lot of crabgrass sprouts in the spring, it can begin growing ...Read more
Q: My magnolia tree has been taken over by flies and wasps. There are half-inch pink bumps on the branches, and the leaves are turning black. Leaves are falling off the tree. What is wrong with the tree, and how can it be fixed?
A: Your magnolia has scale insects. They have a shell that looks like that of a turtle. Scale insects have sucking ...Read more
Q: Can you suggest a vine-type plant that can grow and bloom mostly in shade? I have a trellis that I used to grow climbing roses on, but it has become quite shaded now. I don't want the vine to get too big.
A: The answer to your question will depend on how much shade the trellis gets during the summer. Most flowering vines will grow OK in deep...Read more
The botanical name for daylilies is Hemerocallis. It comes from two Greek words: Hemera is day, and kallos is beauty. The beauty of a daylily flower does last only one day. Thankfully, a mature plant may have over a hundred flowers. Daylilies come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes.
The smallest daylilies are under a foot tall, and the ...Read more
Are you a plant-watcher? It may sound boring, but it can be interesting -- especially when something begins to harm your plants. If you pay attention to how your plants are growing on a regular basis, you will notice plant problems as they begin to develop. You will also have a better idea of how the plant is supposed to look when it is healthy ...Read more
Q: I've got two trees in my yard that were pruned years ago -- before I bought -- by someone who had no idea what they were doing. The result is large branches that look like "clubs." All new growth comes from the end of the clubs. Imagine your forearm as the branch and your fist as the end, with a branch or two growing in every direction. What ...Read more
Q: Our landscape has been invaded by ants. Actually, the ants aren't out in the landscape but instead are in all the flowerpots on the patio, in between the patio bricks, in the shed, on the tree trunk next to the patio and, unfortunately, coming in the kitchen. We don't see any out in the garden or lawn. Bait traps seem to be starting to work, ...Read more