Gardening Daily Tips August 3

Wednesday August 3, 2011

Viburnum, Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii)

Today’s Featured Plant
Viburnum, Burkwood (Viburnum x burkwoodii)

Read the full profile of this plant at

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Q&A: Dead Branches on Oak

Question: The red oak tree in my front yard has clusters of dead branches hanging in the top of the tree and many other clusters on the ground below the tree. What is causing this problem?

Answer: Clusters of branches with dried, brown leaves hanging in oak trees or littering the ground below them are the work of an insect called the oak twig pruner. Just as the leaves on the tree are forming in spring, the adult beetle lays its eggs on the tips of branches. The larvae that hatch out bore into the twigs to feed until the following summer, killing the branch tips and causing them to break off in the wind beginning in midsummer and continuing into the fall. The larvae overwinter inside these dead branches, so to reduce damage in following seasons, pick up and destroy as many downed branches as you can.

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Q&A: Planting Peonies

Question: I recently purchased three peony roots, or “eyes” as they were called on the the tag. I have planted a number of other types of bulbs and tubers, but I can’t figure which end is up on these packaged roots. The instructions said to plant the eyes at least one inch below the surface. Can you help?

Answer: The “eyes” are the small, red colored buds; the stems and leaves spring from these eyes. The roots should be planted down, the buds aiming up. New peony plants might only have two or three eyes, inexpensive ones perhaps just one, so look very carefully. It’s very important to cover the crowns (the eyes) with just one to two inches of soil. Bury them deeper, and the plants will grow but they may not bloom.

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Q&A: Nothing to Harvest

Question: The foliage on my garden plants is beautiful — almost no disease, and insects under control. But I have almost no vegetables on any of the plants (tomatoes, zucchini!!, peppers, beans). What could be the problem? I didn’t apply lots of fertilizer, so I don’t think excess nitrogen is the problem. My neighbors are having similar problems. Could the wet spring have affected the plants?

Answer: The weather is likely the culprit. Bees and other pollinators don’t do their important work in inclement weather, so it’s likely that the early flowers never got pollinated. Also, tomatoes and peppers are sensitive to both cold and very warm temperatures, which cause their flowers to drop. Next year, you might try using row covers to help protect tender plants from late spring chills. (Just be sure to remove the covers when it gets warm — and when you see your zucchini flowers open, so the pollinators can get to them.)

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Tip: Time to Go Gray

If you specialize in garden beds that are a jarring mix of brilliant colors, perhaps it’s time to go gray. Foliage plants with gray or silver leaves have an amazing ability to harmonize even the most unlikely bed mates. Plants that are most likely to do the trick include santolina, nepeta, rose campion, lamb’s ears, dusty miller, horehound, Russian sage, southernwood, and wormwood.

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Tip: Learn to Identify Butterfly Larvae

If you want to enjoy butterflies in your gardens, learn to identify their different larvae, so you don’t inadvertently kill their caterpillars. Look for a regional field guide to butterflies in your area.

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