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Preview: - Scott Aker: Digging In - Scott Aker: Digging In


Digging In: Advice on Plants Deer Won't Eat, Crape Myrtle, Arsenic in Soil

Thu, 20 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Can you recommend plants that deer won't eat?

Digging In: Advice on Negronne Fig in and Out of a Pot; the Best Mulch

Thu, 13 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have a Negronne fig still in its pot. Is now a good time to plant it in the garden? Do I need to net it to prevent birds from getting the fruit?

Digging In: Battling Scruffy Woodland, Fertilizing Daffodils, Help for Peonies

Thu, 06 Aug 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q A wooded area near my house has become scruffy. I have some ivy and vinca there but would like to add another plant. I don't want to go to the trouble and expense of planting; rather I would like to seed the area with a perennial ground cover. What would you recommend?

Digging In: Advice on an Ailing Hawthorn Tree, Pruning Crape Myrtles

Thu, 30 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q We planted a Crimson Cloud hawthorn six years ago. In the spring it produces a wealth of healthy-looking leaves but hardly any flowers. By early summer the leaves have turned yellow-brown and begin to drop. By the end of August it looks dead. The tree starts bravely again the next spring. What is the problem, and what can we do about it?

Digging In: Advice on Plum Tree Alternatives, Topping Trees

Thu, 23 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Can you recommend a plum tree that would grow to 30 feet, shade a sunny corner of my house, bloom fragrantly and produce fruit? The site is hilly and has sandy soil. I recall seeing a Myrobalan plum growing well in such a hot, difficult spot. Would you recommend that, or others?

Digging In: Advice on Shrubs for a Shaded, Boggy Area, Getting Rid of Ants

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Can you recommend any shrubs that would thrive in a boggy area with dense shade?

Digging In: Finding the Right Cypress

Thu, 09 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: I admire the tall and slender Italian cypress, though when I found one for sale recently it was a dull bluish color with ugly leaves. I wonder whether there are other evergreen trees with the same desired shape. Also, when I was in Vancouver, B.C., I saw evergreen trees whose foliage was almost fanlike. I wonder what they are and whether I can use them in Northern Virginia.

Digging In: Advice on Ivy Geraniums, Dogwood Blooms

Thu, 02 Jul 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q In France and Israel I've seen beautiful trailing geraniums planted everywhere in window boxes and planters. They have red and white flowers and look like the common upright geraniums except that they trail. I would like to plant them but haven't been able to find them locally. Will they grow well here?

Digging In: Advice on Rooting a Magnolia Tree From Cuttings

Thu, 18 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q How can I save an old Southern magnolia that is in the way of an upcoming remodeling project? Can it be moved or, failing that, propagated?

Digging In: Advice on Watering Plants in Big Containers, Photinia Disease

Thu, 11 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Can you recommend screening plants

Digging In: How to Get Rid of Thistles Without Harming Other Plants

Thu, 04 Jun 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q We have been establishing a bed of pachysandra over the past seven years, adding more plants each year to fill a larger area. Over the past three years, the bed has been invaded with thistles. We have tried hand-pulling these weeds, but they return six weeks later. How do we get rid of the thistles without harming the pachysandra?

Digging In: Treating Diseased Hollyhocks; Fighting Indoor Pests; Repelling Deer

Thu, 28 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Could you recommend a brand or two of fungicide to treat rust disease on hollyhocks?

Digging In - Advice on Joseph's Coat and Bud-Eating Squirrels

Thu, 21 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q For the past three summers, a mysterious and colorful plant has grown in my yard. It is an upright annual with layers of arrow-shaped leaves, which are green and brown, topped with petals that are bright red and yellow. Can you identify it?

Digging In - Advice on Invasive Clematis, Tomato Blight

Thu, 14 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q Our garden has a fall-blooming clematis that just won't die. It tries to smother neighboring plants. I have tried Roundup, boiling water, vinegar and digging at the roots. Unfortunately, the plant is well-established close to the fence, making it hard to excavate the roots. Do you have any suggestions that won't harm a nearby rose bush?

Digging In - Advice on Sand Cherries, Hardy Gardenias

Thu, 07 May 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have two sand cherries that did well for six years and then suffered dieback. Last summer, sap began to emerge from their trunks. Were the stems nibbled by rabbits or squirrels, or is this a result of disease or insects? Recently a Bradford pear that was shading them came down, exposing them to more afternoon sunlight.

Digging In - Advice on Leaf Spots on a Black Gum Tree, Dividing a Hardy Hibiscus

Thu, 30 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q We have a black gum tree, now about 20 feet tall. Last summer we noticed some of the leaves had spots and holes. How do we prevent this again? We have raked all the fallen leaves away from the tree, but should we be applying a chemical, and if so, which one?

Digging In - Advice on Japanese Plum and Apricots

Thu, 23 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I am developing an Asian-style garden behind my townhouse. I have seen on a Web site the weeping ultra-dwarf Santa Rosa plum and was told it would do well in our area. Do you agree, and where would I get one from?

Digging In - Advice on Planting Near a Silver Maple Tree

Thu, 16 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have a mature silver maple, a majestic tree that shades the house in summer and is a major reason I bought the property. However, its surface roots are unfriendly to other plants. Can you recommend low shrubs and ground covers or anything that will have a fighting chance in this environment?

Digging In - Advice on

Thu, 09 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have a walking stick tree, now 10 feet tall, that is afflicted with scales that release a white powder when I scrape them off. What treatment would be effective against them? Also, I've always liked mimosa trees for their pretty pink puffballs, so I jumped at the chance of getting a 12-inch plant my friend had grown from seed. She said, however, that my neighbors might regard it as a weed tree. Is it a weed?

Digging In - Advice on Nematodes in the Garden

Thu, 02 Apr 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q: In a recent column, a reader asked about 50-year-old azaleas dying, as well as their replacements. One common cause of the symptoms described is the presence of parasitic nematodes. Do you think the reader should have the soil and roots tested for nematodes?

Digging In - Advice on Overgrown Junipers, Watering Plants in Winter

Thu, 26 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I planted some junipers 10 years ago that are out of control. They are now five feet tall. Can I prune them without killing them off?

How to Cultivate a Hydrangea Cutting and Protect Surface Roots

Thu, 19 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I took a cutting from a neighbor's hydrangea in the fall. It still appears to be alive, in a pot rigged with a plastic tent over it. What now?

Digging In - Advice on Getting a Lemon Tree to Fruit

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have a three-foot lemon tree that I started from a seed about seven years ago. The leaves are luxurious, the trunk about an inch across. I keep it outdoors on the east side of my house. During the winter it is near a south window and fluorescent lights (for other house plants). I have fed it with a slow-release fertilizer once (19-6-12). It hasn't bloomed or fruited. What am I doing wrong?

Digging In - Advice on Picking a Persimmon Tree

Thu, 05 Mar 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q My back yard in Howard County is in full shade, but the front is sunny. Would a persimmon tree grow there, and would it be suitable as a lone specimen in the front?

Digging In - Advice on Sustaining Hibiscus in Winter

Thu, 26 Feb 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q What are the correct practices for keeping potted hibiscus alive and healthy during the winter? I bought four last summer that are struggling.

Digging In - Advice on Bird of Paradise

Thu, 19 Feb 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q I have a bird of paradise plant that I started from seed last spring. During the summer it grew rapidly in its eight-inch pot and is now 24 inches high. I keep it in a sunny location in the house, where temperatures are 73 degrees during the day and 65 at night.

Digging In - Advice on Exposed Roots, Burning Bush

Thu, 12 Feb 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q My neighborhood is almost 20 years old. I have noticed a lot of maturing trees developing exposed roots, including some in my yard. Is this because trees tend to be planted in mounds aboveground and the roots extend out to the surface? Is this harmful to the trees?

Digging In - Advice on Doublefile Viburnums: A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Thu, 05 Feb 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q I have two doublefile viburnums planted next to each other. For the past three years, one has failed to bloom while the other blooms faithfully every spring in spite of drought and neglect. How do I coax its companion into flowering?

Digging In - Advice on Pruning Rubber Tree, Coaxing Flowers From Crape Myrtle

Thu, 29 Jan 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q Nine years ago, I got a rubber tree that was just 10 inches tall. Now it stands about 11 feet high, and it towers over my living room. How much can I prune this plant, and when will I see new leaves growing? Also, can I use the pruned branches to make new cuttings?

Digging In - Advice on Eliminating Stink Bugs, Righting a Holly Tree

Thu, 22 Jan 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q I've had a terrible time with stink bugs in the vegetable garden, and the kids are finding them in the house. So I know they will return in the next growing season. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of them? I've been thinking of ordering some praying mantid egg masses. If the mantids won't work, can you suggest other environmentally safe methods of destinking my garden?

Digging In - Advice on Powdery Mildew, Non-Blooming Hydrangeas

Thu, 15 Jan 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q Last summer, my peony developed gray, chalky-looking leaves. Some leaves turned brown and died. I also saw small insects on the leaves. I treated for the insects, but I am not sure how to fix the other problem, should it recur this summer. What do you advise?

Digging In - Advice on Foot-Tolerant Plants, Dying Azaleas

Thu, 08 Jan 2009 00:00:00 EST

Q You occasionally advise readers on plants that will take foot traffic and can be substituted for lawn grass. Have you heard of a line of plants called Stepables?

Diggin In - Advice on Iron Deficiency and Fungal Disease in Trees

Thu, 01 Jan 2009 00:00:00 EST

QI have a crape myrtle and a franklinia tree on one side of my house, both apparently suffering from a nutrient deficiency. In the past two growing seasons, the leaves have turned yellow and only the veins remain green. They are planted in poor soil: fill dirt from the time the house was built. What can I do?

Digging In - Straightening Your Ginko Tree, Brown Camellia Blooms

Thu, 18 Dec 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q I've noticed that a young ginkgo tree planted in the past two years is leaning and has developed a kink in its trunk. How can I straighten it out?

Digging In - Pruning Mugo Pines and Getting Rid of Wiregrass

Thu, 11 Dec 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q Our church garden has three mugo pines, seven years old, located next to a stone path. We want to keep them at their current height and width. Can that be achieved, and when should we prune?

Digging In - Protecting Turnips From Root Maggot Flies

Thu, 04 Dec 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q My 98-year-old father has been gardening all his life but is having trouble controlling insects now that many of the insecticides that he used before are no longer available. He is particularly concerned about his turnips. As the turnips mature in the fall, something is eating them and tunneling through them. He has to cut away half of the turnip to eat them. In some cases, the turnips are completely hollowed out.

Digging In - Advice on Small Rhododendrons and a Cherry Tree Fungus

Thu, 27 Nov 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q I noticed rhododendrons blooming in my neighborhood this year, about eight feet tall and with trusses of pink and white flowers. I've been looking for a late-season rhododendron that would do well in Washington in white or pale pink. A slightly smaller variety would be perfect. Any suggestions?

Horticultural Q& A - When Shallots Flower, Rabbits Eat Seedlings, Bricks Hurt Azaleas

Thu, 20 Nov 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q Last fall I planted shallot bulbs. In late spring, I waited for the leaves to shrivel, signaling they were ready for harvest. Instead, they began to send up flower stalks. Where did I go wrong?

They're Made for the Shade

Thu, 13 Nov 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q Can you recommend some attractive, long-flowering shrubs for our shaded back yard?

Managing Incurable Leaf Scorch

Thu, 06 Nov 2008 00:00:00 EST

Q I have a wild beech tree I dug from my property about four years ago and have been growing as a bonsai. Every spring, the leaves emerge beautifully, but about six weeks later some of them get irregular brown spots. I feed the tree with a diluted fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. It is kept outside. I try not to over-water it but make sure the soil and roots stay damp.

Irises' Sunny Disposition

Thu, 30 Oct 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have 40 or more irises that I dug up last year, cleaned, trimmed and replanted, as I only got two blooms. This year I got three. The leaves are lush and vigorous, but why so few blooms? They receive about four to five hours of filtered sunlight.

Protecting Hollyhocks From Rust

Thu, 23 Oct 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q In late summer last year, I grew hollyhocks from seed. They grew well, and in the spring they started to produce flower buds. They became covered, though, in a rust-like fungus. I tried to treat the leaves with a fungicide, to no avail. Will they come back next year, and how will I fight the disease then?

Raspberries: Time to Start Over

Thu, 16 Oct 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q Five years ago, I planted a red raspberry bush in the sunniest part of my garden. It grew well but never had more than a dozen or so berries, which always dried up before they matured. I planted some divisions of this bush in a shadier part of the garden, but I'm having the same problem with the fruit. Should I give up on raspberries?

Aloe: A Little TLC Goes a Long Way

Thu, 09 Oct 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q I like the idea of growing an aloe vera plant in my garden as a medicinal plant. Where would I find one, and will it survive the winter months in the garden?

Conquering Dogged Cattails

Thu, 02 Oct 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q Cattails are taking over my pond. Is there a safe, chemical way to kill these things?

Resurrecting Saint-John's-Wort

Thu, 25 Sep 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q My bed of Saint-John's-wort, variety Albury Purple, is experiencing some kind of dieback. The leaves turn dark purple, wilt and then turn brown. I've lost several bushes; will I lose the whole bed? Is it safe to put other plants in there? The area is mostly full sun, and it is mulched with shredded bark to keep down the weeds.

Ground Covers Full of Grace

Thu, 18 Sep 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q Can you recommend any ground covers that I might grow in combination with existing Vinca minor. This is for a large bed, most of it in shade.

At the Roots, Finding Room to Grow

Thu, 11 Sep 2008 00:00:00 EDT

Q I have a mature red maple tree, and I want to landscape beneath it with azaleas and spring bulbs. The soil has not been improved for years, and the tree has a shallow root system. How can I improve the soil without damaging the tree? Is it all right to rototill the ground?