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Questions for the Week


QUESTION : I am going to pull out the row of Wax Leaf Ligustrum in front of my house (against the foundation) and replace them with Dwarf Burford Holly. How far from the house and from each other should they be planted? Do you have any other suggestions for a hedge there? It is on the south side, but under the eaves and huge oak trees, therefore dappled sunlight. I'll plant a variety of natives and well adapted smaller plants in front of it, such as ferns, nandinas, columbine, plumbago, etc. This hedge will be kept between three and four feet tall. I considered dwarf pittosporum, but have some with branch die-back and leaves that look like they were splattered with bleach, so I'm wondering how wise a choice they would be.
ANSWER :I think that the Dwarf Burford Holly is a good choice for your hedge. It does well in our soils, likes the dappled light condition you describe and has very few problems. It can develop scale but if you see it coming on, spraying with horticultural oil will take care of them. I would plant them 3 feet from the foundation and, since you want them to form a continuous hedge, 3 feet apart.

This PLANTanswers web site is a good article on pruning and has a section on pruning hedges;
This is what it says about broad leafed evergreen hedges: "Evergreen nursery stock for hedging need not be as small as deciduous material and should not be cut back when planted. Trim lightly after a year or two. Start shaping as the individual plants merge into a continuous hedge. Do not trim too closely because many needle-bearing evergreens do not easily generate new growth from old wood. Hedges are often shaped with flat tops and vertical sides; however, this unnatural shape is seldom successful. As far as the plant is concerned, the best shape is a natural form, with a rounded or slightly pointed top and with sides slanting to a wide base."
I do not recommend dwarf pittosporum for this area because of their lack of cold hardiness.

QUESTION : I live in Austin, Texas. I have a small bed of chives (or some type of small green onion) that was planted before I bought my house 3 years ago. Since then, they have thrived and spread. They are now popping up all over the lawn. (1) Is there any way to contain the existing bed so that I can maintain it without creating an onion-scented lawn? (2) Also, how can I get rid of the new chives that are sprouting up all over the yard? I also have several very large cherry laurels (approx. 20 feet tall). They appear to have been pruned to be tree shaped. I would like to shorten them and prune them so that they would become more shrub shaped and fuller (they line a chain-link fence that I would rather have hidden by shrubs). Is it possible to trim them to encourage this type of shape and if so, how should I prune them?
ANSWER :I think that the onion like plant you have is Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum). Are the leaves flat rather than round like green onions or onion chives? There is a good picture of Garlic Chives at this web site: If this is what you have, then the answer to the containment problem is to deadhead the flowers before they can produce seed. The clump will still multiply but this can be controlled by digging up the entire clump, dividing it and only replanting a portion. Perhaps your friends and neighbors need some. If so, share.
The ones that have already escaped to the lawn will need to be dug and removed.
As to the Cherry Laurels; This web site is a good article on pruning:
It includes a section on broad leafed evergreens which says: Broad-leaved evergreens such as gardenias, camellias, azaleas, pyracantha, hollies and photinias require very little pruning. Lightly thin broad-leaved evergreens grown for their showy fruit such as pyracantha and holly during the dormant season if needed for shaping. Remove old or weak stems. This group can go several years without pruning except for some slight cosmetic pruning to keep them neat. If too much wood is removed from these plants at anytime, summer or winter, the amount of fruit is reduced the following season. When these plants become old and straggly, cut them back 6 to 8 inches from the ground before spring growth begins. Don't cut them back too early, however, because a flush of growth could freeze and set them back. Prune only after the danger of the last killing frost is past. Such pruning stimulates the growth of new shoots from the base of the plant. Many gardeners prefer to remove only about one-third of the branches at one time and retain the general contour of the plant. This method also can be used. In the long run, probably the best thing to do with overgrown broad-leaved evergreens is to remove and replace them.
While the technique of cutting the Cherry Laurels back drastically (6 to 8 inches above the ground) might work, I would be somewhat reluctant to do that. Perhaps under planting them with a perennial such as blue plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) would work. Although they would freeze back in the winter, they would return from their roots and hide the fence during the growing season.

QUESTION : We live in the Canyon Lake area of Comal County and would like to know the recommended varieties of red, black, and green, seedless grapes for this area. Also, please recommend a variety of grape for jams and jellies. In addition, what are the best varieties of blackberries for
this area?
ANSWER :The best varieties for your area will have to resistant to P.D.(Pierces's Disease), hence plant Black Spanish or Favorite (purple), and Blanc duBois (white seeded) for wine grapes. The only green seedless variety with P.D. resistance is Orlando seedless. All of these varieties can be used to make jams and jellies. Champanel could also be used which is another purple grape.
The best blackberry for your area bar none is Kiowa. Second choice would be Rosborough.

QUESTION : I am trying go get some information on how to graft a one year old peach tree.
ANSWER : Use the T-bud which is illustrated at the following Plantanswers site:
You will need to secure the buds from an improved variety this spring with some budding tape and you should be in business.

QUESTION: I enjoyed reading your brief on pecan tree physiology. I found it doing a "yahoo" search on "pecan shells". I am looking for information on pecan shells. Specifically, the tannins of pecan shells. I am a chemist working as a consultant on a project that deals with the tannin composition of pecan shells. I know someone, somewhere has extracted these substances from shells and has probably characterized the composition. Do you have such information or know of someone who might.
ANSWER : Certain species do contain more tannin than other species. Carya aquatica is inedible because of all the tannins in the kernels. I have characterized the nutrient composition of the shells, but not the tannin content.
One person, Dr. Bruce Wood, may be able to help you. He is Director of the Southeast Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Georgia. His e-mail address is

QUESTION: Thank you for the valuable resource that you provide -I am a big user and fan of your network. As a master gardener I value your resources but, as a bamboo enthusiast I must take some exception with your fact sheet attached to the bamboo web. Your description of DAMNBOO is certainly deserved for some instances but -so is English ivy, morning glory, bermuda grass, etc. You do not give nearly enough information about non-invasive (clumping, pacymorph, very slow growing or climate restricted leptomor phs, etc. that deserve better press for Texas gardeners. Bamboo is not only beautiful as a container/contained spec. plant, it is a great erosion control species, an good edible crop, timber/pulp alternative and a fabulous "mow it once a year" ground cover. How about letting some real experts (not me particularly) do some work on your web link to make this more accurate? I'm not just a hair-brained big grass nut.
ANSWER : No, maybe not a grass nut but DEFINITELY a bit on the naive side when dealing with the here-and-now of bamboo!! We never have trouble controlling "English ivy, morning glory, bermuda grass, etc." --to compare them to bamboo is foolish. You description of bamboo as "a beautiful as a container/contained spec. plant, it is a great erosion control species, an good edible crop, timber/pulp alternative and a fabulous "mow it once a year" ground cover" brings to mind two other such plants which were introduced into the U.S. with the same claims --kudzu and nutsedge!!
However, you are not the only person who has called our attention to the "vicious attack" on bamboo --YOU ARE THE SECOND among thousands who want to know how to control your "useful" plant:

COMMENTS: Whoever wrote that piece on "Damnboo" needs to get a grip or at least understand that not all of us live in suburban neighborhoods. I live on a spectacular piece of salt water and have a fine neighbor ( a professional fisher person) who has a yard full of old machinery, dead boats etc. I also have a flourishing stand of running (invasive) bamboo between us and another neighbor. My problem is not controlling the existing stuff, but transplanting it to the roadside/driveway verge between us and the first-mentioned neighbor. I have tried digging up new shoots and transplanting with zero survival rate. Because of vicious attacks like yours, no self-respecting nursery carries real bamboo any more, so what should I do? Suggestions for other evil, invasive large plants that will grow in the shade of coastal South Carolina will also be appreciated.

ANSWER: Another "evil" plant that makes a good screen is Arundo donax (giant reed), a grass that looks like a bamboo, but has a more refined ornamental habit. Pampas grass is also another good one, but it is not as tall and is a more contained clump former.

I guess the old saying "One person's trash is another person's treasure" applies to bamboo but I hate to even use the idea that there is a place where the spreading bamboo can be safely planted. Of course, those who know bamboo say there are dwarf, slowly spreading forms of the plant which are wonderful for landscapes. "Damnboo" is the commonly cultivated Phyllostachys aurea (Golden Bamboo). I realize I am stereotyping the other hundreds of types of bamboo. However, 99% of all bamboo sold is the invasive, indestructible type because nurseries can propagate that form much faster. This type of invasive bamboo should NEVER be sold to the unsuspecting public because it is practically uncontrollable.

Since you think I am over-reacting, let me give you my perspective on this situation. I have been an Extension Horticulturist in San Antonio for over 25 years. Barely a week goes by or a talk radio garden show ends that the horrors of bamboo are exposed. I have seen complete yards taken over; I have seen concrete sidewalks buckled by; I have seen garages (closed to outside light) filled with; I have seen swimming pool foundations cracked and punctured; I have seen it actually grow into houses and crack foundations; ALL by invading bamboo. All of these commonly occurring incidents have one thing in common --the neighbor who planted the bamboo has moved away. I have NEVER found the culprit who planted bamboo in a ravaged neighborhood. Obviously, these folks took the best advice we give to people concerning how to get rid of bamboo --SELL your property and MOVE far away.

Some might say control and containment is the answer to this specific type of bamboo. IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!! The professional horticulturists at the San Antonio zoo (one of which is a member of the Bamboo Society and a great proponent of the "good guys" bamboo!!) decided to plant the indestructible bamboo in concrete containers and put them in the lion and tiger cages. You want to guess who won that battle of survival?! The bamboo root system cracked the concrete containers, found some cracks in the concrete floor of the animal cages and within two years had gotten so thick that they had to take the lions and tigers out of the cages. They are now stuck with trying to control bamboo through a concrete floor --it is an everlasting battle.

Horticulturists have gotten so many calls about how to control bamboo-out-of-control and the options are so few that one fellow began offering a plan to co-exist with this invasive plant by thinning the canes into a Japanese garden style!! The rampant bamboo is comparable to snakes and mushrooms --the majority of snakes and mushrooms are harmless but the few that are poisonous are deadly. I do not recommend that people eat wild mushrooms; I do not recommend that people pick up unknown snakes in the woods; and I do not recommend that people plant bamboo. Until more of the "good" bamboo becomes readily available, the bamboo-is-DAMNboo tag will have to stay. The majority of people who come to PLANTanswers and inquire about bamboo are trying to GET RID OF IT!! PLANTanswers has had TWO people complaining about the DAMNboo nomenclature.

So now that we have the bamboo situation clarified, let us look at some options. If you will look at the plant material recommended for the Coastal Plains at the PLANTanswer's site:


you might find a substitute. You might try something that blooms such as oleander (Hardy Red and/or Hardy Pink). It is evergreen and denser than bamboo during the winter.

I appreciate the compliment "Because of vicious attacks like yours, no self-respecting nursery carries real bamboo any more" --I can only hope that I have done something to eliminate this horrible pest. Maybe then the void can be filled with the "good-guys" bamboo and we can all live happily ever after. I have been growing some extremely dwarf bamboo which unfortunately spreads so slowly it will probably never become commercially feasible. I had planned to use it as a turf replacement and name it NO -MO since you would not have to mow it NO -MO; you would not have to water or fertilize it NO -MO; you would not have children walking across or playing in your yard NO -MO because of the bamboo spikes which would be formed when you did mow it!!! It sounds like the best turf sod ever --GOTTA LOVE THAT BAMBOO or is it D A M N B O O !?!?
By the way, the key to transplanting running bamboo (normally considered very easy to transplant) is to dig a good size piece of the underground rhizome and plant it along with a good watering. Moving "fishing pole" or small shoots doesn't work. Arundo donax 'Variegata' is also a good choice. It too is rare in the nursery trade, not because of slander but because of it's invasive nature. Both are beautiful however in the right spot. There just aren't that many right spots in most landscapes!!


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