When Can You Start Pruning Lilacs?

“How long should you let your lilac bush grow after planting before starting to trim and shape it the way you want?” Question from Traci of Ithaca, Michigan
Answer: It all depends on your size preference for your lilac. Aside from pruning off dead or damaged branches or spent blooms, you can select prune your lilac to meet a desired height and to remove unwanted suckers […]

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Flowering Shrubs for Minnesota

“What is a good flowering shrub for Zone 4? Question from Sandra Lee of Cottage Grove, Minnesota
Answer: There are so many great flowering shrubs that grow beautifully in USDA Hardiness Zone 4 winters! Here are three super hardy options to try:
1. Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens, USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9): There are lots of wonderful varieties of this summer-flowering beauty, and the shrubs grow well in […]

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Fruit Tree Troubles in Texas

“I planted a banana tree early this year, and it just seems not to be growing. And my cherry tree seems to be dying, and why is it supposed to be in full sun or half shade? It’s in full sun. And my pomegranate tree bloomed but didn’t produce fruit.” Questions from Carol of Joaquin, Texas
Answers: It sounds like you are having lots of fruit […]

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Genetically Modified Apples

“Are most apples sold today genetically modified?” Question from Anne of Portland, Oregon
Answer: No. The only commercially available genetically modified apples on the market are non-browning apples sold under the name Arctic® apples. These were just made available to consumers in November, 2017. So, how do these apples resist browning? The researchers involved didn’t add a foreign gene to the apples. Instead, they learned […]

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Evergreens for Shade and Clay

“What are some good smaller evergreens for areas that are a little shady and have clay soil? I’m in zone 6 Thanks!” Question from Erin of Kirkwood, Missouri
Answer: Whenever someone asks about evergreens for partial shade, I always turn to one of my favorite coniferous evergreens, Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata, shown above). It only grows to a maximum of 2 feet high but slowly […]

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When to Plant Saplings

“When is the best time of year to plant a [tree] sapling?” Question from Julia of Montello, Wisconsin
Answer: Young trees, or saplings, are best planted in early spring before they have fully broken dormancy. The soil must be soft enough to dig before planting. Planting early will give your new sapling a full growing season to set deep roots and new top growth, allowing […]

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Help Me Find Sweet Shrub

“I grew up with “sweet scrubs”. I can’t find them anywhere.” Question from Judy of Louisville, Mississippi
Answer: I bet you are talking about the eastern and southern US native shrub, sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus). It’s unusual flowers smell very sweet, almost  like strawberries. Does it look right? If so, it can be purchased at many native plant nurseries.
Happy Gardening! Jessie

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Planting Under Fir Trees

The western bleeding heart is one of several plants that will grow well beneath firs.
“What can I grow under several fir trees? Question from Karen of Portland, Oregon
Answer: Do you have Douglas firs on your property? (I love Doug firs!) Either way, I would recommend going with beautiful native understory plants from your region that can take the soil acidity, needle drop, and moist/dry conditions […]

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Thorny Tree: Poncirus trifoliata

“This tree is growing in my new yard. What is it? It has huge green thorns and white flowers that bloomed in spring.” –Question by Betty in Charleston, South Carolina
ANSWER: This is the hardy orange (Poncirus trifoliata). Later in the summer it will develop inedible orange fruits. It is grown as an ornamental, though this tree is not for everyone. Some people like the […]

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