Tag: horticulture

Four Letter Words For the Four-Lined Plant Bug (Poecilocapus lineatus)

four line plant bugs eating a leafThe four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapus lineatus) removes plant’s chlorophyll via their piercing-sucking mouthparts. They also secrete a toxin in their saliva that digests the components responsible for holding the plant cells together that leaves a hole in the plant’s epidermis. This feeding produces white, dark, or translucent spots the plant’s leaves, which can run together forming large blotches. Leaves can turn brown, curl-up and ultimately fall off. If feeding occurs on new growth, wilting may result.4 lines plant bug

Damage that the four-lined plant bug inflicts can be misidentified as a fungal disease spots because of the similar appearance and timing. Many times the bug isn’t seen during scouting, as when they are disturbed, the four-lined plant bug will drop to the ground or will hide on the other side of the stem. These are the same tactics asparagus beetles employ.

How to mitigate the damage:

These bugs do like a wide variety of plants, so be aware that the damage may look just a bit different on different plants. Unless the attacked plant is very small or having the new growth chewed, most plants will pull though with some damage. Scout the damaged plant at different times of the day. Sometimes bugs don’t wake up early in the morning!

four line plant bug damage

Have a cup of soapy water ready for when you do see one. They are easy to catch, place cup below them, wave your hand near them and they will cannonball into the soap water. No squishing required. Neem oil can also be used for bad cases.

During the fall, the banana shaped eggs are placed at right angles in vertical slits along the plant’s stem. The eggs will over winter and hatch in May to late-June. Therefore, removing the dead plant material at the end of the season will lower next season’s attacks.

© The Naturarian

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian

Help With Volutella Blight on Pachysandra

pachysandra ground cover with blight diseasePachysandra terminalis is a beautiful, lush, evergreen ground cover for a semi-shady spot. One of the most common problems with pachysandra is a fungal infection called, Volutella Blight. Generally, pachysandra has very few issues when well cared for. However, when other situations stress the plant out, opportunistic pests can take over.

Volutella Blight has a fungal ring associated with the damaged lesions. Winter damage has an even-toned brown to the damage.

How to not stress out your pachysandra:

    • Plant it in a partial shade or shade area. Not in the sun.
    • Do not overwater, water in the morning and use drip irrigation, not overhead.
    • Be sure to do a fall cleanup to remove any fallen leaves or plant debris from the bed to improve air circulation and reduce moisture levels. Blow lightly with blower.
    • It is also helpful to periodically thin the planting to prevent dense growth and increase air circulation. Use leaf mulch, not woody chips.

blight on pachysandrapachysandra with winter injury

Blight on the left / Winter damage on the right

Fungicides such as mancozeb and maneb can be used to protect remaining plants and the new growth of any pachysandra that have been cut back. These treatments can help deter infection but will not cure infected plants. You would need to spray at 7 to 14 day intervals from spring until early summer. Generally this time would coincide with the blooming of serviceberries (Amelancheir) and Redbuds (Cercis canadensis).

© The Naturarian

Ring Around the Lawn – Fairy Rings

fairy ring fungus in lawn a ring of darker colored grassFairy Ring fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Fairy ring with mushrooms bloomingApproximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. If a soil profile is pulled from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. It’s been said that fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are ineffective and a waste of money.

It is best to just be proactive in how you maintain the lawn. Do not over-water or over-fertilize, and be sure to aerate in the spring.

dancing fairiesThere’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…

Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. This must be done under a full moon and in the direction the sun travels.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. European folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms.

© The Naturarian

Common Snowdrops ~ Galanthus nivalis ~ Blooming 3-23-2019

White snowdrop bulb bloomingWow! A Saturday post! 😉white snowdrop bulb blooming I usually like to collect
my photos on the weekends and post on the weekdays, HOWEVER, this was too awesome to wait!

I noticed this little donation from Mother Nature on the side of my house last year! I didn’t see any in the past, however, it was April 9th when I had discovered them last year. Way later than this year. I hope this is a good sign that things will progress a bit faster this year! Mr. Groundhog is hopefully right.

© The Naturarian

How Plants Get Their Names

Botanical nomenclature is the formal way of saying, ‘The scientific naming of plants’. Plant taxonomy is first used to group and classify all plants; then botanical nomenclature provides names for the results of this sorting process.

They say Latin is a dead, unspoken language, but I speak it every day at my job in horticulture. Plants have both a common name and a formal, scientific name. When you talk to your Southern cousin and she tells you she has bluebells in her yard, they could be a completely different plant than what we Midwesterners call a bluebell. Poor Arisaema triphyllum has many names: Jack-in-the-pulpit, bog onion, wild turnip, brown dragon, Indian turnip, death flower or American wake robin.

By using Latin nomenclature, I ensure that I order exactly which variety I want, especially if I’m matching existing plants. Scientists refer to this method as the binomial naming system, as all biological things have an order. Many times the Latin name reveals characteristics of the plant such as color, size, origin, and growth habit among other things.

The ‘white bleeding heart, lyre flower or lady-in-a-bath’ will be my example.

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Alba’ Synonym Lamprocapnos (shakes fist at botanists)

Dicentra is the first part of the name called the genus. This section groups plants that are closely related. The translation is; Di = two + centra = spurs, which describes the flower.

The next part of the name is called the specific epithet, which further describes the plant; spect = looking + abilis = able.

The last part of this name [in this case] is the variety. This describes qualities that differ from the species, and will grow true from seed. ‘alba’ =  white.

Names of cultivars are also after the specific epithat and in quotes. These do not grow true from seed and are capitalized as usually, they relate to the creator or something catchy for marketing such as, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ and Hosta ‘Big Daddy’.

Hybrids would be the last type of scientific name that combines the names of the two plants involved. Abelia x grandiflora or the glossy abelia, was developed by crossing Abelia chinensis and Abelia uniflora. These plants do not grow true from seed. Examples are: Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Forester‘ and Gaillardia x grandiflora ‘ Arazona Sun’.

Here’s some basic Latin to help ease you into it!

Alba = white

Aurea = golden foliage

Contorta = twisted

Elata = tall

Grandiflora = large flowers

Grandifolia = large leaves

Japonica = from Japan

Lutea = yellow

Nana = dwarf

Occidentalis = from the West

Orientalis = from the East

Pendula = weeping

Purpurea = purple

Repens = creeping

Sempervirens = evergreen

Syricta = upright

Tomentosa = downy

© The Naturarian

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

Trumpet vine on tree

Trumpet vine on tree

English ivy and other evergreen vines can cause problems in trees, along with fast growing deciduous

(lose their leaves in winter) vines like Kudzu. However, not all vines do harm to trees.

Problem Vines:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata )
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Chinese/Japanese wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)
  • Euonymus  (spp.)

blooming trumpet vine

These are just a few of the bad vines to allow to grow on trees. Evergreen and fast growing vines should be avoided or removed if possible. All vines can cause structural problems – The added weight can break branches along with the vine catching more wind, snow or ice than the tree is used to receiving, possibly causing it to topple. Some vines that start as a groundcover (such as ivy), form a dense mat covering the tree’s buttress or root flare. The vine often causes leaves and debris to pile up against the root collar and traps moisture against the trunk and root flare. This can cause many fungal and bacterial type diseases, as well as potential structural decay at the base of the tree. Deciduous vines aren’t necessarily any better than their evergreen counterparts. They, too have the capability of shading out the tree’s leaves, adding weight and even girdling (strangling) the tree’s limbs and trunk. Some common vines in this category; Chinese/Japanese wisteria, trumpet vine and pipevine. Trumpet vine and pipevine are native to the Midwest and usually confine their growth to trees at the edge of woods or those that are standing alone. Therefore, they don’t represent a threat to the forest overall, but they can take their toll on individual trees. It comes to personal preference if you want to go down this road.

Leave Them Be Vines:

Vines that are smaller and grow more slowly that can usually be allowed to grow on trees.

  • Clematis species
  • Virgin’s bower (native clematis – Clematis virginiana)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincifolia)
  • Carolina moonseed (Cocculus carolinus)
  • Maypop / Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Although Virginia creeper and crossvine can grow quickly and get large, I’ve never seen any tree so overgrown with them as to pose a problem even though crossvine can be evergreen. The clematis vines (including the native), Carolina moonseed and maypop climb by twining, however do not strangle the tree. Crossvine, Virginia creeper and poison ivy climb by using their aerial roots. People often confuse Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Just remember this little ditty:

“Leaves of three, leave it be. Leaves of five, leave it alive (or let it thrive).”

And before anyone jumps down my throat about the poison ivy, I would like to remind everyone that the Audubon Society considers poison ivy to be one of the top food sources for song birds, with about 63 species feeding on the berries. It’s so important, that nature has essential plant foods for birds. However, I digress. … Should you decide to let a smaller, slower-growing vine grow up a living tree, be prepared to manage the vine by cutting it back to keep it confined to the trunk and not allow it to grow on the limbs which could add weight and change the tree’s center of gravity as well as shade the tree’s leaves. Make sure that fallen leaves and other plant debris don’t collect at the bottom of the vine against the host tree or diseases may follow. Should a tree that is hosting a vine show signs of stress, the vine will have to go for the health of the tree. One last thought. Dead trees that are left standing (snags) can be used for vines. Just remember that this arrangement will be temporary, as the snag will eventually decay to the point of falling. Just make sure it won’t hit anything when it comes down.

© The Naturarian