Q&A: Tree Ferns, Weeping Dogwoods and More
Master gardener Paul James fields questions on tree surgery, tree ferns, Sambucus, weeping dogwood and more.
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Q. How's that Japanese maple you did surgery on?
A. You may remember that a prized Japanese maple took a big hit when a monster oak tree fell on it.
and then wrapped the moss in bubble wrap to hold it in place and insulate the exposed wood against the elements.
The sharp cuts I made with the pruning knife along the outer bark months ago are beginning to callous along the inner wood. Even the large sections of exposed tissues show no signs of rot. I may re-wrap some of the larger portions of exposed tissue, leaving the wrap on for a few months, perhaps through the winter.
Q. Can I grow a tree fern in Ohio?
A. Of course you can, but you'll have to either grow it in the ground and treat it like an annual or grow it in a container and bring it in during early fall before it gets too cold. Tree ferns such as this Australian beauty are tropical plants hardy only in Zone 9 maybe and Zone 10 for sure. They're gorgeous plants and in their native range can grow well over 20 feet tall. But in containers they'll remain fairly manageable and grow rather nicely, provided you give them fairly constant moisture, never let them dry out, provide moderately low light, and when grown outdoors, protect them from the wind. I suggest you bring your tree fern in before temperatures drop below 50 degrees, and when the plant is inside I suggest you mist it pretty much every day.
Q. My walking stick suckers like crazy. Should I cut the suckers?
A. Harry Lauder's walking stick (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') is an interesting plant, but in my opinion is only interesting in the spring when it's in flower and during the winter when it's lost its leaves. In the interim, I think it's a rather dull landscape plant. I say that because it suckers like crazy, and the suckers lack the twisted, contorted shape for which the plant is best known. As a result, they should indeed be pruned, cutting back all the way to the base of the plant.
Q. Ever grow Sambucus?
A. As a matter of fact, I planted one called 'Sutherland's Gold' from a four-inch pot two years ago and it's doing quite nicely. The foliage is gold throughout most of the year, although at the moment it's green because it's not getting enough sun Sambucus is the Latin name of the plant, although most people know it as elder, which is where we get elder berries. It's pretty easy to grow, but it's not really for the small garden because it can easily grow up to12 feet tall. Mine hasn't produced any berries yet, but I can't wait until it does because I just love elderberry preserves on an English muffin.
Q. I planted a cascading dogwood, but it looks awful. Not only do the branches cascade, but the leaves do too. What gives?
A. Unfortunately, that seems to be the nature of the tree--at least according to everyone I know who's grown one, and I can attest to that observation because mine looks so bad, at least through much of the year, that I'm seriously considering cutting it down. The cascading effect, which is something I ordinarily like in plants, just doesn't work in the case of this dogwood because, as you said, the leaves droop as if they're in need of a drink of water.
And yet, no matter how much I water it, my dogwood winds up looking like this.
Q. Your property seems enormous. Who does all the weeding in the beds?
A. You're right; I do have a pretty big place. The garden beds alone probably comprise somewhere around 20,000 square feet or so, and for years, I've done all the weeding. Once more, since I don't believe in herbicides, I've done all the weeding by hand. But I now have a high school intern helping out and he's become quite the weeder. His name is Spencer, and he's my son!
Paul James answers questions about ferns, mints, self-watering containers and more.