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February 13, 2016

QuestionWe have a low-growing but wide evergreen bush in our front yard and we’re not quite sure what it is. Could you help us identify it please (see attached photos)?  I’m thinking it must be some kind of Juniper, but we would like to get another one. I imagine it could benefit from a bit of pruning since it has spread in width considerably since we moved here 15 years ago. Seems happy in this south-facing location though!  



I believe it is a variety of Chinese juniper, possibly ‘Sea Green’ or ‘Pfitzeriana’.  Junipers are not as forgiving of severe pruning as broadleaf evergreens are.  Junipers don’t have dormant buds on old wood, so make sure you leave green needle growth at the ends of the branches when pruning.  If it isn’t interfering with the rest of your landscape, there is no need to prune.  


November 28, 2015

QuestionI had two trees removed from my back yard early last summer; a Bradford Pear (Fire Blight) and a Maple (Slime Flux?)  Now I'm looking for replacement trees. I really don't need shade as this is in the East yard, therefore, I would prefer something not to exceed 20 - 25 feet tall.  I'm leaning towards a holly but will consider other evergreens. The soil I'm dealing with is heavy orange clay.  In fact the Maple I removed had a lot of surface roots. Thank you for any suggestions? 


The maple would have probably had surface roots even in decent soil—that is the nature of maples.  I am assuming you want something evergreen.  Some options include:  Little Gem magnolia, Foster holly, Burford holly, deodara cedar, cherry laurel or one of the larger junipers.  If it doesn’t have to be evergreen, I love the sweetbay magnolia or even one of the tulip magnolia trees, redbuds or dogwoods.

July 2010

QuestionI have an evergreen tree in my backyard that is covered with the cocoons in the attached pictures. These insects seem to be destroying my tree. Can you tell what this is and what, if anything, I can do to get rid of the insects and save the tree? I've also noticed that they are spreading to the other evergreen in my yard. Thanks for your help.


AnswerWow, that is the most impressive damage I have seen from bagworms. These tiny insects started feeding in May. As the larvae crawls and feeds, they construct the sack or bag around their body which protects them from predators and insecticides. They are typically in their crawling/feeding stage for about a month from mid May through June depending on the weather. By now, the damage has been done--and your tree has had a lot of damage! Hand picking and destroying the bags can cut down on problems next year for neighboring trees, but this tree will take years to recover. If it were mine, I would cut it down and burn or destroy it now. If you have bagworms every year, you may want to implement a spray program on the needle type evergreens in mid May. One application a week with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) or similar insecticide will work. Three applications a year should suffice. Bagworms prefer junipers, Eastern red cedars, Leyland cypress and arborvitae plants.      

September 2006

QuestionI would like to know the best time of year to trim and shape my spiral topiaries and what is the best kind of tool to do the job. I have been using a cordless hand-held trimmer from Black and Decker, but I'm not sure that trimming in late spring was a good thing, as one of my shrubs was attacked by spider mites. I then applied too much miticide, and will have to wait till spring to see if it survives or will have to be replaced. I have promised the topiary that if it survives, I will never again treat it so badly and will, instead, seek the advice of Janet Carson.


AnswerIf your spiral topiary is a juniper, which many are, then light shaping can be done throughout the season. To prevent rapid new growth, you may want to wait until early June if you just need a little maintenance. Spring pruning sometimes encourages rapid new growth. You do need to be careful not to prune too severely, as junipers only have growth buds on green needles. Don't cut a section back to old wood, or it won't sprout out. I don't think your pruning job had much to do with the spider mites--they like it hot and dry, which our summer had in abundance. With junipers, you do need to use caution with chemicals--always read and follow the label directions. As to the best tool, I think you would have better control using non-electric tools; again it is better to err on the side of taking off less, than too much.


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