If you're drawn to the color purple, you have many choices in trees

Backyard Q&A

July 14, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. We would like to add several trees to our yard that have deep red or purple foliage. Could you recommend several trees that will grow well in the Baltimore area?

A. If you want a large tree, I would try either a purple-leafed European beech (Fagus sylvatica) or a purple-leafed Norway maple (Acer platanoides). There should be several cultivars of each tree available through local nurseries. If you choose to plant one of these, be sure you order a purple one (there are also many green cultivars), and keep in mind that their foliage is very thick and dense. They cast a very heavy shade, and as they mature it becomes almost impossible to grow other plants underneath them. Otherwise, they are nice trees.

Three smaller trees that have purple-leafed cultivars are the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera), and the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria). Once again, be sure to order a purple one. Also, there is a purple-leaf cultivar of our native redbud (Cercis canadensis) that is called 'Forest Pansy.' It grows very well here.

Q. In the spring, we stripped out part of our lawn to add a flower bed. I set the stripped sod underneath some shrubs, but now I would like to get rid of it. Can I put the sod in my compost pile?

A. Yes, you can. The grass and the attached soil will compost with the other ingredients in your pile. However, I would be careful about how much sod is added. Compost should be made primarily from organic matter. If you add too much soil, it will reduce the percentage of organic matter in your pile, and will therefore reduce the overall quality of your compost.

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.hgic.umd.edu.

Checklist

1. Prune plants by thinning rather than shearing. When plants are thinned, it increases air circulation and decreases the humidity that plant diseases crave.

2. During droughts, young trees should be trickle-watered. Set the hose end at the base of the tree, turn the water on very slowly, and

allow it to water deeply for one to two hours.

3. Because mulch can decompose rapidly in warm weather, this is a good time to add some extra mulch around your plants. It will conserve soil water.

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