Q. I have a 30ft holly tree in my back garden it flowers but has never had berries. About half of the leaves do not have spikes on them, and are yellow. The tree is riddled with leaf miner It is dropping about 100 leaves everyday I have been picking them up every day for about a year and have seen no improvement. Also the trunk of the tree is covered with a green algae like residue.
The tree is beautiful and I would really like to help it back to health but I feel it might be to late.
A. Taking your points in order:
In all probability, your holly tree is a male, only females have berries, hollies are one of the relatively few plants that have males and females. If you want berries, I'm afraid you'll have to get some female plants which will be pollinated in order to set berries by your male plant.
Lack of spikes in itself is nothing to worry about, this is a factor of the variety of holly and also possibly a characteristic of that particular tree.
Yellowing leaves and so many dropping might be something to worry about though. All evergreen trees do drop leaves almost continuously as they are replaced. As it's been going on for a year it may just be that there's so many as the tree is large. On the other hand, is it getting noticeably more thread bear? It should be able to maintain an equilibrium of fallen leaves with newly sprouted leaves.
Hollies are susceptible to attack by leaf miner. If the infestation is heavy you can spray it with a systemic insecticide, but this will be a fairly large job and require a sprayer able to deliver large quantities and broadly - a hand sprayer will either not do the job or will build your forearms up so you could crush a billiard ball. Spray as soon as possible and repeat in a month or so, maybe again a month after that. If you want to be organic about it, you could crush the leaf miners in the leaf with your thumb nail, though I guess this is pretty impractical with the size of the tree. Is it stressed in any way that might make it more likely to come under heavy attack?
The algae is nothing to worry about, brush it off with water and a stiff scrubbing brush if you find it unsightly, though it will come back.
It will also help to feed the tree if it's under attack, I'd use blood fish and bone meal, or bone meal, you could use inorganic gromore or something similar. Depending on what's under the tree, spread the fertiliser in a circle about 6 feet radius around the trunk, hoe into the soil and water in liberally.
Q. I recently bought two, Malus Red Jade weeping crab apple trees. They had a general plant description label, which said they would grow to 10ft by 10ft, however they also had a small sticker on the labels which said they were M27 dwarf root stock. I assumed all Malus Red Jades had this root stock as they are small trees. However I have since found out that they do not. In which case, how big will the trees I purchased grow to?
A. I have never actually come across this tree grafted onto this root stock, so I can't really give you other than a generic answer. M27 is a very dwarfing root stock and you wouldn't usually expect a tree on such a root stock to exceed much over 6ft in height. As Red Jade is a weeping tree and so will not grow upwards, then I wouldn't expect it to get any higher than this.
Trees on M27 usually need good growing conditions to do well, they don't perform on poor soils as the roots are unable to go and seek out extra nutrients. I'd give them a good start with manure or compost in the planting hole and some blood, fish and bone fertiliser and then a good mulch of manure or compost very year to get the best from them.
Q. Can you recommend a fast growing tree that would be good for climbing, that is for children to climb?
A. I'd go for an Acer, maple, of some type. They have smooth bark and are pleasant to touch and are fast growing. Usefulness as a climbing tree is more a case of being able to let it develop with branches low down rather than a high clear trunk which is how many trees are pruned in their early years.
It's difficult to recommend particular varieties as they vary so much in size, many have good autumn foliage colour too, so I'd go for one with this as an added feature.
Native British trees such as oak, ash and beech are good too, it's the early training and development of spreading branches low down that is more important than the variety.
Ultimately it's probably time that is the most important aspect. My youngest son is 10 now and if I planned ahead I might have a tree large enough for his children when they're about the same age. I don't know of anything that would grow fast enough in the UK to keep up with a child already born, maybe a Eucalyptus if it's in a favourable position.
Q. I have recently planted a Salix Caprea 'Kilmarnock' willow. I kept it well watered while it was still potted and it looked very healthy with flowers and green leaves when it was planted. I gave it a good watering when planted but then nothing all week as I was away. However, we did have quite a lot of rain recently. Unfortunately, the leaves are dry and curling and it looks very poorly in general. I have given it a good watering this weekend but it still looks poorly. Can you suggest what might be wrong and what I can do to help?
A.It's difficult to say without seeing it and the conditions that it is growing in. Many plants take a "knock back" when planted particularly if they are large and planted during the peak growing season.
Lack of water is a possibility, willows require large amounts of water and trees in general need looking after through their first season at least. It is possible that the damage was caused if there were a few dry windy days in a row with no rain, the limited root system may not have been able to cope with drying out soil. Were the roots damaged when you planted it?
Q. I Was left a plum tree by my father which I planted 4 years ago I don't know a lot about plum trees but this year I had fruit grow which weren't very big or looked edible but the tree has grown to about 12 foot and has a thin trunk which bends over could you tell me if it needs pruning or trimming as I haven't got a clue and it is important to me that I look after it as best as I can your help would be greatly appreciated.
A.Difficult to say really without seeing it. It sounds like it's not happy where it is planted, is it in the shade, poor soil conditions? getting a lot of competition?
What variety of plum is it? Could it be a damson tree? they're small and used for cooking usually. Sounds odd that it's bending over.
What to do? Clear the ground around the base at least 2 feet in radius and apply a thick mulch of garden compost. If it needs supporting, then 3 short stakes with long ties each about 2 feet from the trunk and tied quite high up would work or a single 6 foot tall post next to the trunk, but this might damage the roots if you dig or hammer it in.
To be honest a tree that is that condition and is 12 foot tall doesn't have a lot of chance to become normal. It's either in the wrong place or it wasn't staked correctly when it was developing. I assume it has a sentimental significance, so it's worth trying what I've suggested, but if it didn't I be considering replacing or risking moving it to a more advantageous position - a lot of work and no guarantee of success.
Q.We have two or three by now very large elderberry trees growing inches away from our house wall, one which totally covers the front window. Each year I cut them down, at first I didn't mind (I love wild plants) but I now have MS and find it very difficult to gardening. the other problem is the damage they may be doing to my property as they are becoming so big. Can you please give me some advice on removing them, thank you
A. There's a chemical you can get to kill stumps, based on ammonium cholate, comes in various brand names that will be the least effort way. Cut it down to leave a short stump a few inches high and then apply the chemical.
You can get rid manually by cutting it down and then removing any new shoots on a regular basis at least every month rather than leaving it.
There is no no-effort way of doing it unless you pay some-one else or poison the whole thing when you have one large dead tree that will slowly rot and drop branches while looking very unsightly.
Q. I have a Malus, not sure which, but a few years ago it started to lose leaves early due to very long hot summer we thought. It came back the next year but appears to have got worse in the last two. We have had it pollarded but have now noticed that the bark is peeling off in places and woodlice are eating away. Has it had it or is their anything we can do. It is a very old tree at least 40 years old apparently.
A. Some Malus varieties are short-lived trees 30-40 years, so it's likely that yours is on its way out before you tried to take action. Pollarding it wouldn't have really helped such an old tree and it seems like this was the last straw. Time to cut your losses (and the tree) and replace it.
Q. Could you refresh my memory I'm looking for something to spray my 3 year old Gordon apple trees. Something in my brain keeps telling me . now is the time to do it but what with. Last year we suffered with tiny red Spiders etc.
A. It sounds like you had the dreaded red spider mite, a common pest on a whole variety of garden and house plants and frequently found on apples. I'm not aware of anything that you can spray in the dormant season to rid yourself of these. Most control methods involve spraying as soon as you see them.
There are a number of pesticide resistant strains these days. The best bet is to keep a careful eye on your tree and spray at the absolute first sign of infestation. The pesky little critters have a very high rate of reproduction and can soon reach high densities.
Malathion, or similar insecticides work but must be sprayed at 3 - 5 day intervals. The real secret to beating these as many other pests is to get them quickly and before they establish. In the summer I usually keep a small spray of insecticide permanently made up to blast these and other pests such as aphids with as soon as I see them.
You need to make sure that the spray actually reaches them all. I know it sounds obvious, but they hide under leaves and make fine webs over themselves that even fine spray drops don't always pass through.
There is a predatory mite that you can buy as a means of biological pest control that has very good results if used at the right time, and they can't get resistant to that!
Q. I have a 10 year old live oak that is approximately 7 feet from our concrete patio and about 20 feet from our two story home. It has a surface root that extends about 5 feet from the base of the tree and is heading for our home. May I remove the root to eliminate any danger to the foundation of the home? I cut a smaller root 2 years ago an it has shown no apparent damage but this root is larger.
A. May I remove the root to eliminate any danger to the foundation of the home?
I'd say you should definitely do this! There are many variables involved, climate, soil type, annual variations etc. But that tree is too close to your house. It will grow to dwarf the house eventually. The main danger is probably not because of the roots damaging the foundations, but from the tree drying out and shrinking the soil during a dry summer and so causing subsidence. Oaks get mighty big and can lose huge amounts of water in the summer when they are mature. It may not be an immediate danger, but as a rule of thumb, when it starts getting as tall as it is far away from your house, you need to start thinking about felling it. You may get away with it and it cause no problems at all, but the risk is there. If you cut that root, the tree will just need to replace it and it may do so deeper where you can't see it.
Q. We have an old Bramley apple tree which used to have masses of fruit, but for the last three years it has not even come into flower, we have tried pruning it but nothing seems to help. Last year it suffered from leaf curl but that does not seem to be the case this year.
also we have a young Victoria plum tree which this year had leaves and even fruit on it then suddenly the leaves withered and went brown and now it is quite bear although the base of the tree has shoots the rest of the tree looks dead.
A. It's difficult to tell the exact cause without seeing the trees themselves, but here are my best guesses:
Bramley - Sounds like it was suffering from neglect - lack of pruning - followed by maybe over pruning. To keep fruiting apple trees need a mix of wood of different ages, if it hadn't been pruned for some time, then it probably needed it. If it was then over pruned, there would be no wood that is ready to produce fruit. Chance are it will flower and fruit next year. Old neglected trees can take a few years to get back to being in good regular fruiting fashion. You might consider a "how to do it" book like the RHS pruning and training guide.
Plum - Could be any one of a whole range of problems. More specifically Victoria Plums suffer from "silver leaf" a fungal disease that - guess what - makes the leaves look silvery before they die. In extreme cases it can kill the whole tree. The shoots that you see are probably from the rootstock and will make disappointing fruit trees. Dig it up and dispose of it down the tip i.e. not on the compost heap or anywhere else in the garden in case you spread the disease.
Q. When I moved here 4 years ago I inherited in my garden a small rowan tree. It was quite badly stunted, and was very reluctant to put on leaves or flower, and for two years I gave it some some extra feed. It has now put on new growth, but has become very lopsided, with the new branches some 4 or 5 feet long, on a tree that is only just about 6 feet!.
My question is when is the best time to prune it, and how? Should I cut back some of the stunted growth that remains, should I cut back the new growth as well, and try and re-shape it?
A. Rowans can do that sort of thing sometimes, develop very strange shapes and growth patterns. My favourite was a 10ft tall one once with virtually no side branches, but one enormous bunch of berries right at the top that was bending it down to about 7ft. The lady who owned didn't like to take them off as "it was trying so hard". Anyway, back to your tree:
The bad news is that Rowans don't really like being pruned at all and badly misshapen ones are often best replaced. Now is the time to do it though (winter) before the buds break for spring. I think your best approach is to try to re-shape it irrespective of strong or weak growth. Why is it lopsided? Is one side in a lot of shade? Can you do anything to remedy the cause - if any is apparent - of the lopsidedness? The usual advice for pruning is to prune strong growth lightly and weak growth hard. Try not to remove more than 1/3 of any branch, but you can go to 1/2 in some places. It's difficult to be precise without seeing the tree itself.
Q. I have a 25 year old plum tree in my yard that has never flowered or fruited. I have heard that pruning all the leafing branches off the tree will allow the tree to restart production. Would you recommend this? Is there any less severe action you can suggest? It is a pretty landscape tree, so I would hate to kill it.
A. If it hasn't flowered or fruited in 25 years, then it probably never will. My guess is that it's a tree grown from a rootstock that was never intended to be planted as a fruiting tree in its own right.
You might be able to mutilate it into a flowering panic, but probably not and you'd have a poor looking tree at the end of it.
Less severe action? Buy another tree that you know will fruit. If it's a valuable landscape tree, then leave it and enjoy it for that.
A. My guess is that it does produce cherries, but the birds get them long before they're ripe and you notice them. I have a Stella in my garden planted before we moved in and it's on my hit list of things to replace. You need to put a fruit cage over cherry trees in most places if you're to actually get a crop from them, my verdict is that the tree isn't earning it's keep. In my case, just to take the p**s, the birds roost in the tree over my compost heap and deposit the cherry pips almost directly on my compost heap.
Garden Supplies Online
| Design |
Buy plants online |
Garden buildings |
Copyright © Paul Ward 2000 - 2013