QUESTION: "We live in San Francisco on the roof top of a 10 story
condo building. Our unit features a 16'x30' paved patio, which flanks
our neighbor's patio, separated by a steel 'privacy' fence with holes.
We are looking for suggestions for vines or other plants that will
survive in containers, endure the SF weather patterns, not drop their
leaves, and provide adequate privacy from the neighbors - that is,
grow to 4 feet high and spread horizontally. The area where we need
the plants faces north and gets sun in the afternoon. Any
suggestions?" -- Laura and Bill
ANSWER: You might consider climbing plants such as Carolina Jessamine,
creeping fig, bougainvillea, climbing roses, climbing hydrangea,
clematis and trumpet vine for the fence itself, then add some
containers of smaller growing plants (up to 4 feet in height with some
variation in color and size) such as bamboo, agave and palms.
Most of the vine plants listed above bloom. The evergreens are the
Carolina Jessamine and evergreen varieties of the clematis. The other
vine varieties will probably still go dormant even with San
Francisco's mild weather.
QUESTION: "I have ten cedar Green Giant quartz sized plants that have
been in the ground since September and are beginning to look like they
need some fertilizer. We had several days of frost and cold weather
the last couple of weeks and that's when their color changed. I have
given them a deep watering about every two weeks.
"What type of fertilizer should I use on the Green Giants and also how
often should I fertilizer them to ensure a fast growth rate? They were
very healthy plants when I received them and want to keep them that
way!" - Nancy Melia
ANSWER: I would wait just about a month before you fertilize. To green
them back up and begin to put on more foliage you will need a
fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content then the other elements. I
would use a 20-10-10 or equivalent to begin with, if using oil based
fertilizer. Take about one half cup and circle it around the base
about 6 to 12 inches from the stem or trunk of the tree.
If you go with organic, which is my preference, use either fish
emollient or rich compost. Hope this helps and keep me informed. I
should add that it is natural for the trees to have brownish or purple
tinge to them after a cold snap.
QUESTION: "I live in Maryland where the temperatures for the last two
months were in the 50's and 60's. Now near we are finally having
winter weather (20 - 30 degrees). However, my tulips and crocus are
about four inches above ground. Is there anything I can do to protect
them from the now freezing temperatures - or do I just let them go and
hope for the best?
"I also noticed that some of my dogwood trees that I planted last year
are beginning to get buds on them. What will this weird weather do to
them? Thanks for any assistance you can give me." - Pam Crawmer
ANSWER: This is happening all over and there just isn't a lot you can
do to prevent the bulbs from popping up early when the weather is as
warm as it as been in many places this winter.
You can try covering them in a thick layer (3-4 inches) of mulch or
taking a heavy cover, such as a tarp, and covering them, especially
during the cold evenings that we are currently having. This might help
to save some of your bulbs. Once they come up they die back and don't
generally produce any regrowth in the same spring. As far as they are
concerned, they did their thing.
If you can't do the mulch or tarp, dig some up and put them in pots
for enjoying inside. They should still grow and run their course
indoors where the temps are much warmer.
The same thing happens with trees or shrubs that are spring flowering:
if they flower too early and are hit by cold weather knocking off the
blooms, they will not bloom again this spring. Leaves will come out,
but no blooms.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org