Jump to content

Janet Macunovich

Member Since 02 Jan 2012
Offline Last Active Sep 04 2016 01:24 PM

#2432 Shade trees small and large

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 04 September 2016 - 11:31 AM

From our email, for your additional suggestions, please!


You spent the day with our garden group (New Neighbors Garden Club in Dayton) this summer and I thoroughly enjoyed the knowledge and tips you shared with us.

I’m writing to you to see if you could help my son choose the proper trees to plant in his yard.  He has some particular wants and I don’t know enough to advise him.

He lost a Bradford Pear in his front yard about a year ago.  He had it removed and the stump ground and now wants to replace it with these stipulations.  Be prepared to laugh because he is picky!  LOL!  He does realize, however, that all of these “wants” may not be possible.

Here is his criteria:

Tree for front yard:

·       Roots that do not surface

·       Doesn’t drop seeds in spring

·       Stronger than Bradford Pear

·       Doesn’t hold leaves unusually long in fall (Like Bradford Pear).  He would like to be finished mowing the yard by Thanksgiving and that means the leaves have to be down.

·       Great shade but appropriate size for small front yard (It’s about 21”x 27”)

·       Have a higher canopy or can be trimmed so it’s easy to mow under it without getting hit in the head (Our family is meticulous about mowing their yards.  Can you tell?)

·       Fall color would be nice

·       The front of the house faces east


Tree for backyard:

·       Roots that do not surface

·       Doesn’t drop seeds in spring

·       Stronger than Bradford Pear

·       Doesn’t hold leaves unusually long in fall (Like Bradford Pear).  He would like to be finished mowing the yard by Thanksgiving and that means the leaves have to be down.

·       Great shade but appropriate size for larger yard.  This area is quite spacious and he’s wanting shade for his patio.  This tree can be larger than front yard tree.

·       Have a higher canopy or can be trimmed so it’s easy to mow under it without getting hit in the head

·       Fall color would be nice

·       The back of the house faces west.

He is willing to pay some money to get a more mature tree but wants to be sure to choose the right one.  He would like to get it planted this fall. (Assuming that is the best time to do so.)

We would appreciate any and all suggestions you might have.  He lives here in the Dayton area.

Thanks so much for your time and assistance. - D.H.-

#2427 Redbud pruning

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 03 September 2016 - 11:11 AM

From direct email:


I have been a big fan of yours for about 20 years. Your advice is always helpful and I enjoy your articles in the "MI Gardener.” I have taken your written advice and been to several lectures at Meadow Brook Garden Club. You are a wonderful, enlightening and interesting lecturer. I also love your amusing asides about gardening.

I attended your lecture about the correct way to prune last spring at the Meadow Brook Garden Club. I have a Redbud my son raised from seed at his nursery in Wisconsin and gave to me as a sapling. It was 3 years in the ground and was looking pretty pathetic with my skewed pruning jobs. At that lecture I asked you when and how to prune a Redbud and you advised me “Now and do it drastically.” I went home and the next day I pruned it exactly how you told me to. I pruned it down to about 40 inches with just a few big branches. It was a little better than a stick. I fertilized it and mulched it. I made sure it had enough water. Then I waited and I waited. For about a month it didn’t do much but bloom on the stems, then slowly it started to leaf out. About mid-June it went nuts and became the tree I wanted. As the summer has progressed it tripled in size and is now about 15 feet tall with lush and balanced growth. A happy second beginning for this tree. The main branches are all at least 3 to 4 feet long, well leafed out but not branching. Should I wait until next year to prune for branching or will it branch out by itself? How do I progress from here? I hope you can help.

You may never get feedback from the people you advise on tree pruning but I, the big doubter, wanted you to know that your pruning method for this Redbud really worked. I learned a lot the day of your lecture and have used your methods of pruning on other trees since. So, I say a big “Thank you.” This believer is grateful for your pruning guidance.

Best regards, B.Z.

#2315 Best soil for new box garden

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 25 April 2016 - 02:31 PM

You can grow vegetables in compost-alone, if it's finished compost with detectable mineral content (soil, enough to feel the grit; this soil might have come from bits of sod you've composted, or soil you've added to break up and activate thick leaf layers).  Without mineral content the plants may lack for micronutrients and drainage may be slow.


Trouble with growing in compost alone, even the gritty well drained stuff, is that even finished compost keeps breaking down and settlin. So even if you fill and tamp the box at the beginning of the growing season the level may drop by late summer and the crowns of the plants may descend into poorly ventilated area prime for mildew development. We've frequently used a mixture of compost and screened (rock free) topsoil for flower and vegetable gardens, about half-anf-half. It settles, too, but not so quickly as compost alone. If you're growing an annually-replanted crop of flowers or vegetables, it'll work but for shrubs, trees and perennials (including perennial edibles like asparagus and rhubarb) you can expect to have to lift and replant down the road.

#1848 Beech leaves shrivel and fall off

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 26 April 2014 - 02:47 PM

That flat-sided trunk is what I suspected we'd see. Use a trowel and dig the soil away around the trunk. You will almost certainly find a root that should have grown out away from what is the back side of the trunk as seen from this angle, and that root wrapped itself around the trunk. (blue line).  It was forced to grow that when it ran into the side of the pot or production container/wrapping, and it was never straightened. Now it's grown thicker and hass not only killed the flare root that should have grown out from the right side of the trunk but is pressing against the trunk and reducing its vigor. So in summer when the heat comes the tree can't keep up, and drops leaves.


Left in place, that root will kill the tree or seriously deform and weaken it. The good news is that it's probably only just begun to press on the trunk so if you remove it the tree has a chance. Often, people don't notice the plant's decline until years have passed and it's too late. (We've written a great deal about girdling root problems on GardenAtoZ; go there and put girdling root into our Search field, to see photos and other tree examples.)


Cut that girdling root out. Take it off from where it starts (arrow). You may have to do some tedious little-bit-at-a-time digging with the trowel to expose enough of what's buried there, to cut it.


Cutting it takes courage, we know. Just do it. You may have to use a chisel to cut it without damaging the bark.


#1655 Steven, Janet and GardenAtoZ.com are NOT gone

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 26 September 2013 - 08:05 PM

Just so you know. We've had a series of set backs this summer, not the least of which was a flood that created a 2 foot river with our house in its middle. We could not publish and did not even have time to notify the mailing list. So very sorry.


Now we've just gotten back to snuff and last night finished writing and illustrating What's Up #203... only to have GardenAtoZ.com lock up and blink off when we went to post the articles. All you'll get there is an "unavailable" error code.


It's kind of Murphy's Law in action and we have to laugh because we refuse to cry.


Programmers are looking now at why this happened. We're waiting to hear why and what we must do. Meanwhile we've formatted #203 as a pdf and you can download it here -- click WhatsUp203, below.


Again, so sorry to have been out of touch so long. But we ARE back!

Attached Files

#1296 Need a narrow columnar boxwood source

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 17 April 2013 - 09:54 AM

Green Tower or Graham Blandy would work. Graham Blandy is narrower than Green Tower, and slower but harder to find, probably. Although I know Mahoney's out in Boston has it, saw it when I was there in April.

And Mary's Plant Farm http://www.marysplantfarm.com northwest of Cincinnati has Graham Blandy plus True Tree Box. I'd love an excuse to hop onto I-75 this week and travel south to meet spring coming up. And it would be joyous to see Mary Harrison at MPF. Probably a pipe dream but if it rains hard here one day this week maybe we'll do that!

#1234 Getting rid of existing plants

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 24 March 2013 - 12:21 AM

Backhoe is right. And then soil replacement. Absolutely true that one herbicide application won't do it. Not unless the herbicide is a persistent one that ruins the soil for ALL plant growth for X years.

In our experience, the following applies not only to dayliles but to other tenacious perennials that store a lot of energy in their roots.

We've smothered daylilies under cardboard and heavy mulch renewed by heavy newspaper and mulch as the cardboard developed breaks. Took two seasons (smothering began late summer, and 18 months later in spring we cleared the mulch to pursue the survivors.

There were survivors; always are. After loosening the soil around each live daylily shoot and lifting out it and its roots, we went ahead and planted the area with the new plants, seeking and removing daylily pieces as we went. Then we watched for more shoots that whole growing season. Bed has been clear since.

Most times we don't have so much time to spare. So when we need daylilies gone, we dig them out. It loses a lot of soil because it's nearly impossible to knock soil off the excavated root balls without having grow-able bits of dayliliy tuber break off, too, and end up in the soil. One memorable time, we dug out daylilies -- I mean we lifted every square foot of the bed -- but it was late in fall when the soil was wet. We set a bunch of the clumps on the driveway hoping to dry them some so we could break them up into smaller, less backbreaking units. Suddenly, cold weather set in a bit early. The clumps froze in place on the concrete. The next spring, having been above ground all winter in one of the coldest and most exposed winters we've had, those daylilies began to grow. The neighbors asked us, "So you've planted the driveway now, too?"

#1172 True devotion to the birds!

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 08 March 2013 - 12:43 AM

These photos say it all. They came in from Connecticut after the record setting blizzard of February, 2013:

CLB2_8_13SnowMt_116.jpg CLBShovl2Birds_133.jpg CLBShovl2Birds_137.jpg

#1079 So who's seeing rose rosette disease?

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 04 February 2013 - 10:39 PM

We've just posted our photos of some summer symptoms of this lethal disease in a What's Up article.

For more, including photos of the very noticeable spring symptoms, we can recommend Morton Arboretum's 14 year coverage of the problem, summed up in their bulletin.


What we wonder here is whether you've stumbled on this problem as we first did. If so, it seems we should all be telling more people to look for it. Perhaps if we talk about it here we might see it very early and perhaps stop it from ruining a garden for roses for the long haul.


#1073 Wish List

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 04 February 2013 - 07:57 AM

I think about trees a lot in the dead of winter. Our granddaughter has understood what I've pointed out about tree branches move in the wind; she points them out to me as we look out the window, or take walks. It's not only cool to think that a child less than a year old can grasp things like this, it's great to be reminded to look up more than down.


I love white pine, too. Such soft needles, and when they get big they can be so picturesque, branches shorter on the windward side...


But if we had room, I'd have an oak. A red oak (I know, that's foolishness in these days and this region, because of oak wilt disease, but the reds grow faster than most of the white oaks, and the color of the scarlet oak cultivars in fall is breathtaking...) The number of birds and animals that hang out in an oak is a never-ending thrill. I also like the way the juvenile leaves look, their color and the texture as they hang on through. And the thought of the tree growing to enormous size and eventually an old ent actually makes me tear up a little. Most of the time 80 or 90 years sounds like enough to me but wouldn't it be great to live several hundred years and see which of the things you've planted makes it to that stage, and who/what receives the benefit?

#913 Best materials for raised bed

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 19 November 2012 - 04:10 PM

Cedar lasts a long time and a good carpenter can build a raised bed of cedar that will stand up to a heck of a lot of abuse.  One we had built almost 20 years ago comes to mind, still sound as ever.

However, for durability, plus insulation for plants' roots and resistance to the kinds of wear and tear that can happen in a busy public place, you can't beat concrete block for raised beds. There are many colors and patterns, some even made to coordinate with brick paver lines. These interlocking block systems are very well designed, even for creating free form curves and caps. If you describe the beds (dimensions, type of block you want to use, whether the top needs to be finished for a nicer seat, etc.) the supplier that sells the blocks can tell you exactly how many of which kind of blocks you need.

#706 slug/cutworm deterrent

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 30 May 2012 - 10:10 PM

Pauline Banyai, our late great hosta hybridizer friend (produced 'Gold Standard' and 'Key Lime Pie' and ta-da 'Janet' - not named for moi) told me that the problem with diatomaceous earth was moisture. Let it get damp at all and the critters can pass over it on the water surface, like a car hydroplaning on a newly wet pavement. So she said don't put it on the ground. She swore by loading it into a shaker can and shaking it down into the plant's crown, making sure the D.E. got onto the stems the slugs would have to crawl on. (To get up to the hostas; she did have lots of hosta seedlings out in the beds but also a lot of big hostas that were munch-targets).
Also, she used traps. In her case, cardboard sheets in the bed, and 2x4 wood at the edges. Every day (daytime, while the sun shined and the slugs were hiding) she'd flip those over and kill the slugs hiding there. So the overall slug population was reduced through vigilance.
She was a wonder,the things she knew!

#673 Remember 2012's frosted, wilted Japanese Maples?

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 15 May 2012 - 10:37 PM

We made this the lead article in our What's Up #179, and we'll report again -- we're watching a number of maples for when new growth is apparent, and we'll prune as needed. We expect to see the trees push out new growth in another week or two (3-4 weeks after the loss).

Trees that lost all their foliage may push out new growth from under the bark, sooner than those that lost only some leaves.

How strongly they come back depends on the tree's prior condition, site, and type.

Everything's a guess but we have high hopes for many of these trees.

We do hope people who read our newsletter will tell others with Japanese maples hit by the cold, to wait and see... We've heard of a number of Japanese maples that have been pulled out as dead -- including large, well-established trees that are exactly the ones most likely to be able to come back!

#612 favorite tomato varieties

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 29 April 2012 - 07:35 AM

Brava, someone else who is not deterred by the "unsafe to drink from garden hose" warnings on new hoses!
(we tried to address this issue seriously in a past newsletter...)

I'm having a heck of a time going through the Seed Savers Exchange to pick 3 or 4 heirloom types. SO many cool varieties and each one with a personal history ("...sent to the U.S. from the former Czechoslovakia by Milan Sodomka..." ""...grown since the early 1900's by Lithuanian immigrants in Sheboygan, Wisconsin...") Because I want to grow several and have limited space I'll have seed left over; it's good to be in touch with so many others so I can foist extra seed on those I see when I'm in gardens working, or doing talks!

#599 Ninebark and powdery mildew

Posted by Janet Macunovich on 28 April 2012 - 08:02 PM

Ah. Are they running dry, then? Stressed plants get mildew -- for instance, bee balm is more prone to mildew when it's grown dry.

Interesting article with a University of Connecticut evaluation of various ninebarks for mildew resistance, at http://www.amerinurs...ticle-7868.aspx -- note that Summer Wine is pretty good but plain old, been-around- forevere' Nanus' is a virtual star.

Also notes there about you-didn't-suspect-this-is-what-mildew-can-do fungal deformities.

As for treating mildew-prone plants:
Milk and water I haven't heard of, but Cornell University Extension did quite a lot with baking soda and water years back; found it fairly effective, although it had to be re-applied after rains and in general applied more often than over-the-counter fungicides (which are formulated with sticking agents in the mix). MY daughter an I used it on roses and phlox and tried to be scientific about it -- it was helpful against mildew and black spot but no way was it armor-all, or a cure.

The garlic oils, oil soap sprays (we've used Murphy's oil soap, 1T in about half-gallon of water) and even canola oil, have shown as much effect in mildew prevention. (None of the fungicides or home formulae are curatives, just preventives.) Also the anti-dessicants form effective fungus-protection barriers -- products such as Wilt Pruf and Moistur-in.

But just to say: Organic is a slippery term. How natural is it for a plant to have a milk bath, or for stems and soil to be doused with sodium bicarb or oil? All organic tenets say to first make sure you have done everything you can to correct the culture -- the light, air, water, soil -- before doing these things with topicals.