Green Scene

A Summer Sampling: Hydrangea, Photinia and a Bag of Blood

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By Joel M. Lerner
 
Saturday, July 11, 2009

It's time to answer your garden and landscape questions as we roll into midsummer.

Q: I have a large hydrangea that doesn't get much direct sun. It produces one to six purple-blue blooms each year, though the plant is very large and looks healthy. What should I do to encourage more blooms, and when should I prune it? -- Donna Feller

A: Your hydrangea needs to be moved into more sunlight, though plants will wilt if they are in full sun all day. Eastern exposure is best. A good time to transplant is before growth begins in late winter or early spring. Give the shrub enough space to mature. A big-leaf hydrangea could grow to be about 4 feet high and 6 feet wide. Prune after it flowers. Buds are formed on the previous season's growth. The plant likes moist, well-drained soil high in organic material.

Q: I inherited a 50-pound bag of dried blood. Do you have any suggestions as to how to dispose of this? -- Peggy Reaves

A: Try local garden clubs through Arbor House at the National Arboretum, the National Capital Dahlia Society or National Capital Area Garden Clubs (http://www.gardencentral.org/ncafgc/plantsocietiesaffiliates). Traditionally used for small herbivores, dried blood is also an excellent deer repellent. Keep it away from heat and moisture. Shelf life is two years if it is sealed and about three months if it's not.

Q: You mentioned the importance of rotating fungicides for entomosporium on photinia. I have been using chlorothalonil. Can you recommend products/brands of fungicides that contain the alternatives: maneb, mancozeb or zineb? I have not found these in garden centers. -- Susan Raetzman

A: Maneb, mancozeb and zineb might not be carried by area garden centers because long-term, continual use of any of these substances has been linked to dermatitis and because maneb is considered by some to be a possible cause of Parkinson's disease. The jury is still out on this issue.

This is why I am an advocate of improving soil and air circulation and installing resistant plant varieties. Research the fungicides you use.

This has been a bad year for photinia in the area. Contact your cooperative extension about alternative fungicides or plants.

Q: Can I have an environmentally safe lawn that looks good without using products that will harm the Chesapeake Bay? The clover was nice a couple of months ago but is now sprouting white tops, which attracts bees. -- Russell Nagel

A: You do not have to grow golf-course-type turf to keep your patch of property green. Practice safe turf-grass management. Skip steps that create nutrient or pesticide runoff. Mow once a week, using the most environmentally friendly mower you are comfortable with -- manual reel type, electric, gas rotary. Two-cycle mowers that mix gas and oil are the worst polluters. Manually remove actively growing weeds when you see them. Clover makes a handsome lawn, and bees are drawn to it when in flower, but they are beneficial pollinators.

Q: There is a family of woodchucks living under my deck. Is it a problem? -- Ed Hughes


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