Ask an expert: Wife loves her columbine, but neighbors worry it will spread –


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Gardening season is wrapping up, but you may still have questions. For answers, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website, type it in and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yoursQ: My wife loves her plot of columbine but our neighbor is concerned it will spread to their lawn. Is this a genuine concern? I want to be neighborly but sometimes people read things online and jump to all sorts of conclusions. Perhaps you have a recommendation as to how to manage the columbine to minimize any problem. It seems that since columbine is a native that the risk of spread from say a 2-by-2 square of columbine wouldn’t present any greater threat than the field across the street. – Multnomah CountyA: Just because a plant is native to a region doesn’t mean it is wanted (by humans) throughout their landscapes. The good news about the several columbine varieties is that they don’t spread through rhizomes. The bad news is that they produce seeds by the hundreds. Depending on the wind, animal (2- and 4-footed) traffic, and the transport of plants and soil materials around the landscape, they may stay in their assigned seats, or move to your neighbor’s yard. The only effective means – short of herbicide application – is to remove the flowers before seeds form. Just know that they form sturdy root systems that are difficult to remove and they are resilient in our mild climate.Here’s an article with more information to guide your decision. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master GardenerWintersweet ground coverOSU Extension ServiceQ: My Sarcococca hookeriana humilis ground cover has been in a partly sunny location for about 25 years It has not been trimmed for several years and is looking leggy and somewhat barren of foliage in the sunnier locations. I’m thinking of trimming it back to about 6 inches and applying a thick layer of compost and then fertilizing with a 6-6-4. What do you think of this idea or what do you suggest? If I dig the whole area up, add a 3-way mix and new plants that are more sun tolerant, what plants do you suggest? I like the fragrance of the Sarcococca and the winter interest. – Clackamas CountyA: In researching your sarcococca, it seems like a little trimming might be all that is needed to rejuvenate your plants. I also like your idea of applying compost, although you probably won’t need the fertilizer if you do.Here’s a website that says to prune next spring after it flowers, to somewhere between 1 and 2 feet high. With such an established, fragrant, somewhat heat- and frost-tolerant plant, keeping it seems like a great idea. It might like a little water if we have a dry summer again – at least every couple of weeks. As to the sunny spots that sweetbox doesn’t actually like, I would figure out what you would like to see there; think flowers, ground cover, shrubs or even vegetables? Then check with your favorite nursery to see what they have and what they recommend for a sunny spot. What fun to get to find new plants for your yard! -- Rhonda Frick-WrightWhat can a gardener do with bronze birch borer infested tree limbs?OSU Extension ServiceQ1: My paper birch tree has had bronze birch borer for several years. I garden organically, so have refused to apply pesticides. As branches on the tree die, they either fall off or have been pruned. What should I be doing with the dead wood? My arborist has proposed chipping larger branches on my paper birch that have died. Is that, OK? – Multnomah CountyA1: Chipping insect-infested (or pathogen-infected) wood tissue cannot guarantee that the birch borer pupae that overwinter under the bark will be destroyed.  In the Klamath Basin, the region of Oregon with large birch borer issues, it is specifically recommended that firewood not be transported for fear of spreading the pest. Read about it hereI would suggest that you burn the wood that is pruned or drops from your trees, so you can ensure that you are not spreading them to other healthy trees.Q2: Burning seems problematic, too. I’m picturing a bonfire in my driveway. I live in an urban neighborhood in Portland, my driveway is lined with 20-foot camellias and understory plants. So, burning doesn’t seem safe.I often add wood cuttings to brush piles I’ve built for birds and invertebrates. Would that work? Would the beetles leave on their own power? Would larva in decaying wood likely be consumed by other organisms?A2: The problem with anything other than complete destruction of plant tissue is that the lifecycle of these insects can extend over more than one year, and they can remain in the larval stage throughout, until they emerge as adults in May or so. Here’s some more information.I wonder if you would consider chopping up the branches as best you can, and applying an insecticide within a plastic sack?  The other – and perhaps inevitable – solution is to remove the tree entirely, since it is almost a certainty that, left untreated, insects are going to kill the tree.  You might contact one of the several mulch processing companies, such as Recology, to see if their composting process eliminates the pest, before the wood shows up in someone’s landscape. – Kris LaMar, OSU Extension Master GardenerQ: I live in west Eugene. I want to plant Italian cypress. The soil is thin and has a lot of clay – I’m in reclaimed swamp land. What potting soil or another chemical should I put in the hole before I put the Italian cyprus. – Lane CountyA: Organic materials such as compost or peat will increase soil pore space and improve drainage issues. Mix 1/3 compost or peat with 2/3 of the existing soil. This OSU Extension publication will provide additional tips on Selecting, Planting and Caring for a New Tree. – Erica Chernoh, OSU Extension horticulturist Check this link for trimming and pruning blueberries. File photo. Joel Bissell | MLive.comJoel Bissell | MLive.comQ: My blueberry bushes are sun sheltered on one side with long vines trailing to west. What’s the best way to trim these ungainly brutes? I have taken out two or three old canes each year after frost season. – Benton CountyA:  I have provided you a link to a very recently updated publication by Oregon State University Extension Service on blueberries.  The section on pruning is exceptional and detailed.  I have included the entire publication to provide definitions to some of the terms that are used and also the graphics that you should find helpful. Also, within this document is an available online course on pruning by one of the authors. – Kevin Kern, OSU Extension Master GardenerNote to readers: if you purchase something through one of our affiliate links we may earn a commission.
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