Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, says it can take 5 to 7 years for dogwoods to bloom when they have been moved to a new location; getting clover out of a lawn will take some work; and a new pest — daylily midge — is likely causing daylilies to become deformed and not open.
Q: I planted a flowering dogwood about three years ago in a sunny, sheltered place in my backyard. It bloomed the first year and hasn’t since then. Any ideas why it’s not flowering? A neighbor has two in her front yard and they bloom every year.
A: Many trees and shrubs can take a while to bloom after you plant them, even if they were in bloom at the nursery. Plants know they’re on Earth to reproduce, and if they think they’re going to die, they bloom and go to seed in an effort to raise a family quickly. That’s why trees and shrubs often are in bloom when you buy them.
Potted plants eventually become rootbound and stressed, think they’re going to die and therefore bloom at a younger age than they normally would. When we liberate them from the pot, providing good soil, water and nutrients, the plant suddenly realizes life is good. And just as many of us put off starting a family until we are in a better financial situation, most trees and shrubs will wait until they’ve established a strong healthy root system before putting all of that energy into blooming and raising a family.
Don’t worry and be patient. Dogwoods often take five to seven years before they begin to bloom in earnest. The good news is that if it takes a while to bloom, it’s because the plant is happy and healthy rather than because it’s under stress, and should keep blooming away for years to come.
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Q: Our lawn is infested with white clover. The problem is that one of my young children is allergic to bee stings, and the clover attracts so many bees I’m afraid to let him play on the lawn. I’d prefer to avoid using chemical weedkillers. Other than digging it out, is there a natural way to remove the white clover from our lawn?
A: There is a natural way to rid your lawn of white clover, but it requires patience and perhaps a bit more lawn maintenance than you might be used to providing.
White clover, like many other members of the legume or pea family, is a nitrogen fixer — meaning that it can transfer nitrogen from the air to the soil. Some folks actually encourage clover to grow in their lawn as a way to reduce the need to fertilize as often. In nature, clover is found only in soils that are low in nitrogen and cannot survive in fertile soil.
An effective natural control is to fertilize your lawn on a regular schedule. Choose an organic lawn food and feed at the recommended rate in late April, mid-June, mid-September and most importantly in late October.
The only other requirement is that in order to fertilize you must also water and mow your lawn during the summer months rather than allowing it to go dormant. I used this method at Seattle University. It was effective, but took a while to work. At the end of the first year of regular fertilizing, there was only a slight reduction in clover. By the end of the second year, it disappeared and never came back. Plus the lawn looked great!
Q: What is causing the buds on some of my daylilies to become deformed and never open? Almost every bud on several varieties has the problem. Is there a cure for whatever is causing this?
A: The buds of your daylilies (hemerocallis) are infested with a troublesome new pest called daylily midge. The pest is a tiny fly that was first reported in our area in 2009 and has probably found its way into most of Western Washington by now. The first signs of trouble are deformed brownish buds that resemble golf balls or triangles. If you open the bud, be ready for a shock. There can be anywhere from 1 to 300 tiny maggots inside. The first line of defense is to remove distorted buds as soon as you see them. Seal the buds in a plastic bag, freeze them and then throw them in the garbage.
Infected buds that fall on the ground allow larvae to enter the soil where they pupate to re-emerge and infect more buds next spring.
The early blooming varieties are the most susceptible, while later blooming varieties are relatively resistant. Although it might seem prudent to remove infected daylilies from your garden, one method of control is to use the highly susceptible varieties as trap plants. The infected buds can be removed and destroyed regularly, and the midges are so drawn to the more susceptible varieties that they often leave neighboring daylilies alone. For more information on this pest, go to: http://search.wsu.edu/and type in “Daylily Midge.”
Ciscoe Morris: email@example.com. “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.