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
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
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
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
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
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