GARDENER'S MAILBAG

Do not fill holes in tree trunks

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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Dear Neil: Should we attempt to fill holes in our live oaks’ trunks? We have just moved here, and this is being discussed among the neighbors.

Usually not. Left to their own accord, most trees will form new bark across open wounds and cavities. That is preferable to putting some foreign solid material into the holes. If you’re unsure of how to proceed, however, it’s always best to have a certified arborist look at the trees.

Dear Neil: If a Christmas tree is harvested by cutting out the top of a larger tree, will the mother tree resprout new growth that could be harvested again in a few years?

Very few types of conifers will send out new shoots when their tops have been cut out. It’s more likely that branches that were left in place will continue to grow, but in a disfigured form. Commercial Christmas tree farms cut clear to the ground.

Dear Neil: I have eight crape myrtles that I planted in 4-foot circles bounded by lawn edging. They have been growing for three years. Have their roots grown out beyond those circles? Should I remove the enclosures and continue to care for them in a larger perimeter?

I would expect that their roots are well beyond the 2-foot radius you prepared. Actually, your crape myrtles would do quite well competing with turfgrass. To avoid trimmer damage, keep the grass a few inches away from their trunks. Soak their soil deeply when you water them. They will need the same fertilizer you’re applying to your lawn and at the same timing. In simpler words, don’t wear yourself out caring for them.

Dear Neil: Please help me by identifying this weed. I’ve taken it to several nurseries and home centers, and no one seems to know it. I couldn’t find it online. The only control I have found is pulling it. Please help.

This is roadside aster. I often refer to it as a “weed of neglect,” because it shows up in lawns (or parts of lawns) that are undernourished and under-watered. It germinates in the spring and grows all summer, but its stems and leaves are so fine-textured that you probably don’t even notice them.

In spite of its leaf sizes, it’s a broadleafed (non-grassy) weed. A broadleafed weedkiller (containing 2,4-D) will eliminate it. But that’s not the real issue. Step up your lawn maintenance just a bit by mowing regularly at the recommended height and by encouraging dense grass through proper watering and feeding. This is a battle you can win!

Dear Neil: Where can I buy the red-flowering Clematis texensis you mentioned here recently?

I just did a web search for “buy Clematis texensis” and found a good many matches, one of them being Monrovia Nursery, the very large West Coast wholesale growers. They have an improved selection named Clematis texensis Princess Diana. Texas retail nurseries buy from them regularly.

Ask your local retailer if they will be getting any shipments from them in the spring. Or you might find one of the online vendors to use. Nurseries specializing in Texas natives will occasionally sell it.

Dear Neil: I saw this tree blooming while I was watching my grandson swim at a natatorium south of San Antonio. It was a pretty little tree, and the fact that it was blooming in fall caught my eye. What is it, and where will it grow in Texas?

It’s called Mexican olive (Cordia boisieri), and it is a very showy small tree. It is winter-hardy only to Zone 9, however. That means that where you saw it in San Antonio is just about its northern boundary. For the record, the fruit is not edible.

Dear Neil: For years my mom planted her Christmas amaryllis and they bloomed spectacularly each spring. However, they were dug up four years ago during landscape renovations. They spent the winter “resting” and since then they have never bloomed. They do grow leaves well. What could I have done differently?

It may stem to the interruption in their lives done by the time out of the ground. These bulbs encounter a dry season in their native homes, but they’re not dormant very long. Be sure they’re in good soil and that you keep them properly watered. They need bright morning sunlight for the best bloom. Hopefully they will get back on the bandwagon soon.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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