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Episode 92 – Weeding by Example

Ground Breaking Banter - Rick

Weeds are probably the biggest reason that people don’t like gardening. And while it’s true that managing weeds can be a chore, weeds are pretty fascinating plants and even may have some charm. In this episode, we talk about some of our favorite – and least favorite – weeds we encounter in our gardens. In segment two, we also discuss some strategies for making weeding easier and faster.

Join us on your favorite podcast platform or at the YouTube link above to hear our whole conversation on garden weeds. In the meantime, here’s this week’s Lim-A-Rick:

Is a weed a weed indeed
Or is it about perspective?
A flora pedigreed?
Success guaranteed?
Do you view it as defective?

Yes, is a weed a weed indeed
And is my opinion objective?
I’m going to proceed
Not be weak-kneed
I guess I’ll just be selective.

Nine times out of ten, if I’m talking to a person in real life about rose of Sharon, their response will be: I love rose of Sharon, but it’s so weedy. Do you have any that don’t set seed? And we certainly do! The one that absolutely, positively, never sets any viable seed is Pollypetite hibiscus, which has already been featured as a plant on trial, so I’m turning this episode over to a close second, and very interesting plant in its own right, Sugar Tip rose of Sharon.

Sugar Tip is a variegated rose of Sharon, with small, thick leaves that have blotches of dark green, mint green, and white. Some leaves are all white, with just a hint of green, but all have at least some white on them and each one is intriguing. Now, I know that variegated plants can be pretty polarizing, but this is one of the likable ones, in my opinion, where the variegation is welcome and attractive, colorful without being overly busy and visually competitive in the garden. Plus, on a plant  like rose of Sharon which is not typically known for having the most attractive foliage, this is a big plus – not least of all because let’s face it, even the best roses of Sharon spend the majority of the year as foliage, so the  more a rose of Sharon can contribute to the garden or landscape, the better!

Of course, the foliage isn’t the only thing special about this plant. It does flower, and they are spectacular: though a bit smaller than most roses of Sharon, and much smaller than our newer varieties like the Paraplu series, which is known for extra-large blooms, but they make up for it in their visual impact. Each flower is the sweetest color of pink you can imagine, which looks amazing with the greens of the foliage, and they are so packed full of petals that they look like an oversized cherry blossom or pompom. And it’s all those extra petals that make Sugar Tip a plant that sets so little seed – they developed because they developed out of reproductive organs, so with fewer reproductive organs, that means fewer seed can set.

Sugar Tip rose of Sharon is one of the very few Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs that came not from a professional plant breeder but from a home gardener who discovered it as a sport in her yard. A sport means a random branch mutation that pops up on a plant – just one branch that looks very different than the rest. With sports, 99.99% of them are not stable enough to ever be grown on their own – they revert back to the parent plant, or, particularly when they are variegated, they are too weak to grow on their own. And while it is true that Sugar Tip is a very slow-growing rose of Sharon (which many people might be grateful for, actually), it is probably one of the most stable variegated shrubs I have ever encountered in my career.

One of the factors that we select roses of Sharon for is a more elegant habit than most, and Sugar Tip definitely fits the bill here, too. It reaches 5-6’ tall and 4-6’ wide. Like most other roses of Sharon, Sugar Tip is hardy from USDA zone 5 and heat tolerant to USDA zone 9.

If you’d like to add Sugar Tip rose of Sharon – or any of the 320+ Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs – to your garden or landscape, you’ll find a list of local retailers here

Gardening Mail Bag - Stacey

Donna writes and shares this beautiful photo of her pond:

We love the little solar fountains and bought several before we gave up. Here in Papillion, NE the raccoon insisted on chewing the floating material. We’re going to figure out a better solution…. We have a pond with waterfall that serves the many creatures, but the little solar fountain was very fun to watch. We wish you much success and joy!!

A garden pond with a small waterfall surrounded by plants like Japanese maple, hosta, and carex. A beige house is in the background.

It looks like this plant has experienced water stress. This isn’t to say that hydrangea blooms don’t fade – they absolutely do, eventually. But becoming sad and droopy when they are still brightly colorful like this is the result of water stress, either too much or too little, and not natural aging. Given that your plants are still in their nursery containers and between the soilless mix used in them and their abundant drainage holes, it’s unlikely this was a result of overwatering and more likely that the plants severely dried out at some point. This only needs to happen once to result in a dramatic wilting like this. So, before you cut the flowers off, I would place the container in a big tub of water and let it thoroughly saturate the rootball to see if you can perhaps rehydrate it. It may not work, but it would be beneficial for the plant and is worth a try. 

If you do end up needing to cut them off, simply hold the bloom in your hand and follow the stem it’s on to the first full set of leaves below it. You may encounter a couple of small leaflets above that set, you can just ignore them and make your cut just above that set of leaves that are directly across from each other. 

A hydrangea in a container with shriveled, unhealthy pink flowers.

This does look like a fungal disease – which one, it’s hard to say, but it could be any number of different types and ultimately, it’s not that important which it is. The best thing to do is to try to remove as much dead foliage as you can and discard it. Come fall, make sure to clean up and discard all parts of the plant. Then next spring, I would suggest you divide this plant. One cause of fungal infections can be low air circulation, and your beautiful clump of veronica has obviously grown quite large, which does limit air circulation. By dividing and replanting with more space between the plants, they should be healthier going forward. And you should end up with lots more veronica to plant in other places in your yard or share with a friend!

A veronica plant with a bare base due to a fungal disease. A purple flowering veronica plant with a bare brown base from fungal disease. Purple flowering veronica, a perennial plant, blooms in a garden.

 

We don’t think your rose is a goner, but we do think it should be moved. Those long, leaning-forward stems strongly suggest a lack of light. Roses are full sun plants, doing best where they get at least six hours of bright sun each day. Over time, most spots tend to get shadier as a result of nearby trees growing, so it’s possible that is what happened here. The yellow spots are the early signs of black spot, and like other fungal diseases, that is more likely to occur when the plant isn’t getting enough light. 

You didn’t say where you are located, but if you are in a reasonably mild climate where the summers aren’t too hot, I would go ahead and move it now. Otherwise, you can wait until fall and move it then. 

An unhealthy rose plant in front of a stone house leans forward as it is in too much shade. Yellowing rose foliage is an early sign of black spot disease. A stretched and leaning rose has resulted from being planted in too much shade.

Do you have a question for us? We’re happy to help! E-mail us or use the contact tab above. Due to high volume, we may not get to your question, so if you need an answer quickly, please reach out via the Proven Winners website.

Branching News - Rick

Since we miss the mailbag last episode due to our three hummingbird expert guests, we decided to add a bonus mailbag here instead of Branching News.

We kick it off with these impressive before and afters from Brian in North Carolina:

Hey Rick and Stacey! A happy gardener here in western NC, Zone 8A. I wanted to share with you guys the transformation I have been working on for about a year now. Moved into our house June 30, 2023 and here were are at the time these pictures were taken, May 14, 2024. Can’t wait to see everything leap at year three. P.S. so excited to see the rainbow rhythm Daylilies, little lime punch hydrangeas, and the Summerific hardy hibiscus come into bloom. I will be sure to share an updated picture in July. Kind Regards from NC.

A before and after of a painted grey brick house, with the plain before on top and the colorful after, with pink flowering perennials, orange barberry, and evergreens planted around the foundation.
created by photogrid
Two photos of the same grey painted brick house show it before a new garden was planted in front, and after, when it is full of plants.
created by photogrid

Yes, the dead wood on this hydrangea can be cut away now. Actually, it could have been cut back in early spring, when the hydrangea was first leafing out and it was clear which portions were showing signs of life and which had experienced die back. There’s no problem with cutting that dead wood back now from a plant health perspective, but the job will be a little bit fussier now that you have to dodge all that new growth. So, go for it – the sooner you do it, the better the plant will look, and you won’t have any old dead branches competing with all the flowers that plant is about to burst open!

A let's dance can do hydrangea covered in green foliage and buds with old brown flowers above it. Let's Dance Can Do hydrangeas in containers on either side of a deck.

It looks like the neighborhood cats have indeed done a number on this, plus, yarrow – especially older varieties of yarrow – is pretty prone to splaying out like this anyway. Both Rick and Stacey have cut back yarrow mid season with no issues, so that is certainly a possibility. You’ll just want to cut back where the foliage is, not simply the long thin stems holding the flowers. Another consideration would be to stake it, using string and stakes to hold it upright again.

A red flowering yarrow plant with a bare and flattened center. A yarrow plant that has splayed, leaving an open center.

There’s no getting around it: viburnum leaf beetles (VLB) are just gross. Small infestations result in small, rice-shaped holes in the leaves, while severe infestations will almost completely defoliate a plant in a matter of weeks. Not a pretty picture. Because VLB are invasive, they tend to especially like North American native viburnums, and arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum and V. dentatum var. deamii) are their absolute favorites.

Asian species tend to be resistant to VLB, as they have developed natural defenses over time, so Koreanspice viburnum and doublefile viburnum are excellent alternatives. However, don’t reach for the shovel just yet! There actually is an easy and effective way to manage viburnum leaf beetle without chemicals. From roughly July through October, the female viburnum leaf beetles lay their eggs within the stems of the viburnum host plant. They excavate small pits, lay their eggs inside, and then cap the pit with a mix of sawdust and mouth juices, These eggs emerge the following spring as voracious larvae that cause that characteristic damage. 

The egg-laying sites have a very distinctive look, making them easy to spot in winter and early spring when the plant is dormant and has no foliage. Plus, the adult females tend to favor young branches for their egg-laying sites, so they are typical toward the tips of the stems and branches. So all you have to do is go out and snip them off and discard them any time from when the foliage drops through when it emerges in spring. Easy peasy! Just make sure you discard everything you trim off and don’t leave it on the ground to emerge anyway; we’d recommend placing everything into a sealed bag before placing in the trash. You can also manage VLB with well-timed sprays of horticultural oil or soap

 

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A white lacecap panicle hydrangea flower is visited by a female swallowtail butterfly.

Episode 90 – Easy To Grow Plants

What makes a plant easy to grow? Planting it in the right place, for one. We’ll elaborate on that and share other tips for selecting and growing plants to simplify gardening! Featured shrub: Little Quick Fire panicle hydrangea.

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