Butterfly bushes benefit from fall pruning

Today we have questions from several different parts of America... and even one from India!
QUESTION: "I planted some Rosa rugosas and butterfly bushes last spring. All are doing very well. My question is whether I need to prune these back before winter sets in. I live in Albany NY." -- Gay Malin
ANSWER: The butterfly bushes can be pruned back once they go dormant. In fact I recommend cutting them back to about 6 inches for the first year and gradually giving them a bit more each year when pruning. The Rosa rugosas are best pruned in early spring, primarily for shaping and to cut out any dead branches or any that are touching or crossing each other.
QUESTION: "I am looking to create some privacy landscaping. What would you recommend for salt air? I would like a mixture of evergreens, crape myrtle and grasses. Not sure of the best evergreens for the seashore." - Deborah Lukens
ANSWER: The evergreens you should use will depend largely on the Plant Hardiness Zone in which you live. If you are in zones 5 through 8, I would recommend Cedar Green Giants for the background of your privacy block, with crape myrtles, laurels or Rosa rugosas on the inside for all-summer color. Grasses and colorful perennials are also a good addition and can give a welcome look to a landscape.
As always I suggest that you sketch out a plan to get your ideas down on paper before you start the project. A background line of Green Giants and soft curving lines of color and texture on the inside will help to create a visually pleasing landscape.
QUESTION: "we have a camping site where sometimes snakes appear. Is there a chemical whose smell would keep the snakes and other reptiles away from the tents, or any method by which we can keep away the snakes?" --Rakesh Jain (Indore, India)
ANSWER: The best things we have always used are moth balls. There are products on the market, of course, but virtually all use the same ingredient found in common moth balls.
QUESTION: "I purchased a Japanese Red Maple sapling nine years ago. It had red leaves for several years, but the leaves have been green for the past two years. The tree is now 15 feet tall; beautiful, but green. How can I help the leaves turn red again, or can I?" - Michael Riley
ANSWER: There are several elements to consider here. First, take a look at the area around the tree to see if it has changed over the years. Japanese Red Maples need mostly full sun to stay red, otherwise they will revert back to green. Has anything been built near the tree causing it to be shaded or is another plant growing between it and the sun?
In some cases, using too much nitrogen rich fertilizer can cause the leaves to turn green. If you've been using fertilizer around the tree, you could try cutting back or stopping altogether in that vicinity.
QUESTION: "We planted lavender 3 years ago in our garden on the Eastern Shore, Maryland. Nothing happened the first year the plants stayed their original size (about 3"). The second year they started to grow and looked like we had achieved our goal. This year they were flourishing, fragrant and tall.
"Then one day they all just seemed to dry up and die. I'm not sure if they are dead at the root or what happened. It has been hot and dry then wet with high amounts of rain. Should I start over or leave them?" - Janice Enright
ANSWER: The same problem with lavender happened to us too. Lavender is a Mediterranean plant and does not do well with a lot of water. After some trial and error, we have been able to keep ours flourishing by having a sand bed underneath for drainage. We never water, and you should never fertilize. This is the only way we have found to grow it successfully.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, including archived columns, visit www.landsteward.org
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