Bottlebrush buckeye starts slowly but does well in partial shade

BACKYARD Q&A

February 10, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Q. I am looking for a large shrub to plant in a shady area and came across a plant called the bottlebrush buckeye. Do you recommend this plant?

A. I do recommend the bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) for planting in shady conditions. Though it starts slowly and typically looks a little awkward when young, it matures into a very nice plant. Like most other "shady shrubs," it is best adapted to partial shade like that found along the edge of woods. I have also seen bottlebrush buckeyes growing very well under large trees where they never received full sun during the day but got filtered light for much of the day.

Q. Several weeks ago, you suggested that plastic should not be used as a weed mat in gardens; however, I have seen growers use plastic under their vegetable crops and it was very effective. Why do you object to the use of plastic as a weed mat?

A. Plastic is very effective as a weed mat, and some research has actually shown that colored plastics (primarily red) can increase plant growth. I think there is also substantial research suggesting that vegetables can be grown quite profitably with plastic matting. The problem is what to do with the plastic when it begins to break down. Can the plastic be recycled and will people recycle it? My guess is that much of it ends up in the landfill, and therefore it is difficult for me to support its use. With a little work, home gardeners and small producers can control weeds quite easily without plastic.

Q. I understand that scale insects can be controlled with dormant oil sprays in late winter and early spring. Is this the correct time to spray?

A. Yes, this is the correct time to spray dormant oil. Use it on a warm day when temperatures are above freezing, but before the plants leaf out. It is important to coat all the infected stems and leaves. The oil works by suffocating overwintering insects. Please keep in mind that there are many different kinds of scale insects, and they will respond differently to your control efforts with dormant oil. For more information on scale insect control, please call the Home and Garden Information Center at the number below.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Are you unsure of what to get your gardening partner for Valentine's Day? You could give a nice card and gift certificate from a local nursery or garden center.

2. Drip irrigation is very efficient in the vegetable garden. Now would be a great time to begin planning and ordering materials to irrigate your garden this summer.

3. If you are starting early vegetables indoors, they should be planted very soon. The seedlings can be transplanted outdoors in March.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

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