Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Evergreen Yard

Hi Anne,

My husband and I have just built a new house in downtown Raleigh. We are now starting to tackle to front yard. As you can see from the photo, we have a lot to do still. The 2 of us just put in a front walkway with 100 year old salvaged bricks and now I am trying to figure out what to line it with. I was hoping you could suggest something evergreen, big, crazy, drought-resistant, and full sun loving. I love the idea of two giant Rosemary bushes at the bottom. I am not a fan of monkey grass much and people keep suggesting it. We are not planting grass in the front yard and were hoping for a more natural landscape.

Thanks for your input,


Anne’s Response:

You could try your rosemary plants for a tall spot of interest - and in keeping with the herb theme you might try a combination of thyme plants as an edging groundcover. There are several cultivars that would give you a variety of colors and plant shapes for something more interesting than mondo grass. Combinations of ornamental grasses, herbs and perennials are gaining favor as a substitute for turf grass. Fine Gardening and Horticulture magazines have had articles recently on such gardens and there are some display gardens at the perennial nursery, Niche Gardens, which is near Chapel Hill.

Banana Tree Woes

HI! I have a beautiful banana tree which is dying?? The leaves are turning quite brown almost a rust color? Does it need copper?

Ms. Berly West Baker

Anne’s Response:

I'm not sure what kind of banana tree you have or the conditions under which it is living. My experience with bananas in Hawaii is that the mother plant usually dies after it has produced blooms or fruit. It is essentially a biannual in that it grows one year, produces the second year then produces an offset that continues the life of the plant. The leaves do turn brown. Musa paradistiaca (the commercial fruiting babana) is also subject to damage by fungus and bacterial infections which would cause leaves to turn brown. The ornamental dwarf bananas (M. nana) have problems with root rot nematodes as well . A copper deficiency is probably not the cause of the problem.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Magnolia Leaf Blight

I planted a "Little Gem" Magnolia last year. Its about 7 feet tall. A gentlemen from TruGreen-Chemlawn did a tree and shrub inspection and told me my Little Gem had fire blight. He said that it is easy to spot since the symptoms are that the normal rust color velvet texture on the under sides of the leaves will be stripped off. I do see leaves that have this rust color velvet texture and ones that do not have it. The leaves that have the rust color/velvet texture seem to be sticking straight up in the air and the ones without it are drooping a bit. The green side of the leaves have no spots or any signs of disease. Can you help me?


Anne's Response:

I don't think Fireblight (erwinia amolyvara) affects magnolias but there is a leaf blight caused by Pellicularia koleroga. It is often called thread blight but does not produce the symptoms you describe. I suggest you contact someone in the Cooperative Extension Office in your area. The horticultural agent or Master Gardener may be able to provide more information.

Mold on Leyland Cypresses

I have a row of 15 or so Leyland Cypresses, all approx. 8 years old and maybe 15 feet tall, planted too closely together (10 feet apart). I noticed some grayish mold covering the branches starting from the stem going outside. Some branches have already died.

I will take a sample to our local extension office who told me it's root rot over the phone. This is definitely not root rot. My best guess is that it's some type of mold blight caused by lack of sufficient air circulation, especially since the trees are planted against a privacy fence. Would it make any sense to thin out the branches and cut off everything from the bottom to 6 feet height, the height of the privacy fence? Or should I pull out every other tree to give the remaining ones more space and better ventilation? It seems they will all die if I don't try something. But they may already be doomed anyway.


Anne's Response:

There is a Grey Mold (Botrytis cinerea) that causes similar symptoms. Planting plants further apart improves the health of the plants and reducing moisture around the plants helps as well. Plants can be sprayed with a fungicide labeled for Botrytis to slow the progress of the condition. The extension office should be able to give you a better diagnosis when they see the plant. Most root rot symptoms on Leylands are odor and brown foliage.

Problems with Royal Poinciana

I live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida and have recently planted a royal poinciana tree in my back yard. A little history: I got the tree in February as a local nursery was going out of business. It was about 12 feet tall and was in a 3 foot pot. Unfortunately there was a record cold spell the week I bought it. I put it in the ground after the cold snap was over and when I did tried to loosen the roots as much as possible. There was no foliage on the tree when I got it but as the weather warmed it started to grow leaves and some small branches. I even got 4-5 little flowers to bloom last month. However, all the new growth has seemed to come to a stop and the leaves look wilted and a starting to look brown. Also, the base of the tree has turned blackish in color (I don't notice any bugs or growths). I am concerned because last month my cat put a hole in my lanai screen and was getting outside for a while. He started using the base of the tree as his "potty." It didn't occur to me at first the it was anything more than a nuisance but I did fix the hole and get him back inside. We had 2 weeks straight of rain after that and I've been trying to water the tree thoroughly since but now I'm concerned that the cat pee might have damaged the tree. Does that sound like the case? Could it just be transplant shock? Lack of water? (we're still in the dry season other than that 2 week fluke) too much water from watering? or prior frost or root damage? Is there anything else I can do or do I just need to wait and see what happens. I like this tree and would be sad to lose it. Thanks!

- Jessica

Anne's Response:

Cold weather and drought could put a plant under stress. The symptoms seem to be consistent with root rot which could come from poor drainage and/or a fungal root rot disease. Two fungi cause problems on Poinciana: Clitocybe tabescens and Phymatotrichum omnivorum.Clitocybe is often a problem with plants in Florida. You may want to check with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension specialists for further information.