Q.

 Dear Neil: We have a row of rosemary, half of which is turning mossy gray. I’m not sure what is happening, but it looks like it all could die. Should I trim out the gray areas (a lot)? What might cause this?

 

A. This is usually from letting the plants get too dry. Rosemary likes well-draining soils, and it isn’t particularly good in wet areas, but I’ve seen a lot of issues with rosemary as hot and dry as this year has been since mid-summer. Leave it another few weeks to see how it progresses, then make your decision. You may very well have to replant.

 

Q. Dear Neil: I have this weed taking over my bermuda lawn. How can I eliminate it?

 

A. It looks like the groundcover plant wedelia that may have escaped. Apply a broadleafed weedkiller containing 2,4-D. It kills non-grassy plants like this without harming grasses. Use a pump sprayer, and consider including one drop of a liquid dishwashing detergent to help hold the herbicide on the leaves of the weeds. You’ll probably have to treat again come spring.

 

Q. Dear Neil: We have a volunteer redbud tree that is 14 years old. It’s been beautiful, but last year the leaves on the west side of the tree began falling in mid-summer. This year there were no flowers on that side of the tree, and shortly later there were no leaves at all on that side. Then the bark split and fell away. The trunk split and separated and ants came out. Did the ants kill that side of the tree? What should we do?

 

A. Ants don’t kill trees. They were there because there was space for them to build their homes. The trunk may have been damaged by sunscald, or it could have been hit by tree borers, possibly by the red-headed wood borer. They are fairly common on redbuds. I fear that the damage will progress to the rest of the tree. It’s probably already misshapen enough that it will be difficult to salvage it. I’m sorry I don’t have better news.

 

Q. Dear Neil: I am trying to keep last year’s poinsettia growing. I was doing pretty well until a couple of weeks ago when I noticed leaves turning yellow. I tapped the leaves and little white flies flew out. Are these mealybugs? What can I do to save my plant?

 

A. Mealybugs are scale insects that do not fly. You correctly named your insects. They’re whiteflies, the main pests of poinsettias for greenhouse growers. They’re also problems with hibiscus, tomatoes, beans and a host of other types of plants. And, to make matters worse, they’re difficult to eliminate. You can try traditional insecticides that are labeled for them and you’ll probably get reasonable control, but not total elimination. You’ll need to repeat it every 5-7 days.

Yellow sticky traps will capture them, too. Most of all, keep the poinsettia away from other types of plants that they might attack, especially any that you intend to put indoors or into a greenhouse over the winter.

 

Q. Dear Neil: I recently bought a lovely little place in the Hill Country. The entrance gate and all sides are surrounded with live oaks and cedars (junipers). A misunderstanding with the pruning crew has led to the entrance gate almost being denuded of the cedars.

They afforded me a great deal of privacy. I want to replant with some small ones so that they can eventually grow and give me my privacy back, even if I have to wait for it. Some people tell me they’re far too invasive and that I should look for fast-growing trees. What do you think?

 

A. I agree with you. Fast-growing trees would look completely out of place. Talk to a really good landscape contractor who works in your area. Odds are that he or she will have a source of some nice mid-sized cedars that could give you a good head start

Make provisions to carry water to them weekly for the first two or three growing seasons to help them get established.

 

Q. Dear Neil: Do you have any idea what is causing these stunted little leaves on my peppers?

 

A. You didn’t give me much information in your e-mail, and the subject line says “peer” plants. I believe your photo is of peppers, and to the best of my ability, it may be infested with chilli thrips. (Strangely enough, the spelling is correct with two “l’s.”) I’m going to let you do a little online research on them. There probably isn’t much you can do this late in the season to save these plants.

 

Q. Dear Neil: I’ve not seen you address this question. When planting hedges next to a brick or stucco wall, should it be a foot out to allow for air circulation or up against it?

 

A. Be very careful! Neither. Shrubs planted near the house should be chosen according to the height you want them to grow.

If you need a 4-foot shrub, plant one that matures at 4 feet, not a taller type that would require regular pruning. Then plant it out away from the house by about that same distance – at least 3 feet, or much better yet, 4 or even 5 feet. It’s best to plant your shrubs in natural clusters and groupings rather than long, straight rows. Use three to five types.

 

Q. Dear Neil: I see references suggesting planting annual ryegrass after the first freeze, but I see other suggestions of planting it in October in Texas. What do you suggest?

 

A. “First freeze” dates vary a lot across the state. I’d suggest October to get it established. In fact, because we have erosion problems without it, I just planted my own a few days ago. Send a nice, gentle rain if you can, please.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of this newspaper or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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