Posts tagged tree

Good vs. Evil: Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles

Asian lady beetle

Asian lady beetle - a good bug (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Their names are similar and they’re from the same region of the world, so I can see why some people are still confused about Asian lady beetles and Japanese beetles.  But when it comes down to it, there’s really no comparison. The bug pictured here – the reddish/orange lady beetle, is a beneficial insect. It feeds on aphids and other plant pests and doesn’t destroy anything, though I realize some people resent their intrusion in homes in the fall. On the other hand, the copper-colored Japanese beetle, a recent foreign invader in Iowa, is known to devour at least 300 plants, including hollyhocks, roses, raspberries, linden trees and grapes. If you see your leaves turning to lace, the likely culprit is the Japanese beetle.  Japanese beetles have no known predators here, other than me. So feel free to get rid of as many as you can. As mentioned previously, the most environmentally friendly method is to knock them into a bucket of soapy water when they’re sluggish – early evening seems to be the best time. If you have other suggestions – maybe from our East Coast readers and others who have learned to cope with Japanese beetles – please add your comments below.

Japanese beetles (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Japanese beetles - not a good bug, or just plain evil? (photo/Cindy Hadish)

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Answers to your questions and what about those tiny worms??

Cyndi Lee asked the following: I have found a large trail of what at first looked like sawdust, but upon closer examination are very tiny worm like things. They are falling from the large tree I have which overhangs our deck. Any idea what these are? They are very tiny and are falling in clumps. They are a pale yellow in color.

 If you know what the worms might be, please leave a reply below.

 Linn County Master Gardeners have answered some of the other questions you’ve been asking:

 Q: We have a small vine-like weed that is taking over the gardens and flower beds. they are small leafed the stems are strong and grow upon the plants and choke them off. I pull them constantly but they continue to grow back. Is there anything that I can spray them with without killing off the flowers and garden plants? I would appreciate your input.

ANSWER: Cut and paint cut end with undiluted Round Up.  Use a small foam brush.

 Q: I found a large worm on my mom’s apple trees and what to know if they are good worm or bad. where can I take then to find out? I can take them to Ames but where in Ames?????

ANSWER: Bring sample to Linn County Extension Office, 3279 7th Ave., Marion.  We’ll try to identify it here, or give info to ISU.

 Q: I am in need of help to get rid of the seedlings from my pear tree. I need to know when and how to manage them as I have a flowerbed under my tree. I did not put these in but inherited them from the previous owner. They are a nightmare to deal with. Thank you for your help.

ANSWER: They will need to be pulled out.

 Q: I have a beautiful Walnut tree but it has been sprouting branches near its bottom and just does not look right. Can I prune them now ? If so what angle? And should I put something on the exposed ends? Some of the branches are approx. an inch in diameter. I surely don’t want to harm my tree!

ANSWER: The tree is under stress for some reason.  Prune now.  Do not paint anything on wound.  It will heal itself.

 Linn County Master Gardeners also answer questions on Iowa State University extension’s horticulture hotline at (319) 447-0647.

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“Screaming for attention” Chinese chestnut

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut (photo, Brucemore)

   Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore estate in Cedar Rapids, shares the following about an amazing tree on the Brucemore grounds:

     It’s time.  It’s blooming.  Brucemore’s Chinese chestnut is screaming for attention.  The first clue that the flowers on this magnificent specimen are present is the unmistakable aroma mingling through the landscape; earthy and spicy.  This perfume emanates from the chestnut’s canopy, which is covered in clusters of long chenille like tendrils resembling skinny hairy

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

Chinese chestnut in bloom (photo, Brucemore)

fingers or spidery legs.  Approximately 50 foot tall and 50 foot wide, this low branching, wide spreading habitat makes it a great shade tree and, purportedly, an ideal climbing tree, though I do ask that you don’t climb our trees when visiting.

     The chestnut worth noting is standing among younger chestnut specimens. Due to this particular tree’s location in the area of the first orchard as well as its apparent age, estimated from the trunk diameter, height and spread of the tree, this is likely one of the oldest Chinese chestnuts in Iowa, if not the nation. Chinese chestnuts were introduced to the United States by seed in 1903. The original Douglas orchard, planted circa 1909, was in this location.  This was also the location of the Sinclair orchard, the estate’s first family.

    With consideration given to these facts and estimates by tree experts over the years, I feel confident about the age assumption and willingly share the information.  I encourage all to visit and view this majestic specimen, especially during the time of year when the Chinese chestnut drapes its branches in pungent, blooming finery.

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Disaster recovery and digging trees

   Marion-based Trees Forever is accepting applications for two programs: “Recover, Replant & Restore,” which funds planting projects for flooded neighborhoods or other disaster-affected areas, and, in partnership with Alliant Energy, “We Dig Your District,” a tree-planting program.  

 

   Here are details on both programs:

 

   Trees Forever is accepting applications for disaster recovery assistance and funding through its Recover, Replant & Restore Program.  The goals of the program are to help neighborhoods and communities plan, implement and fund planting projects that will rebuild hope and community spirit in some of the most devastated areas of Iowa.

 

   Iowa communities that were directly impacted by the storms or floods of 2008 are eligible to apply.  Examples of projects that will be considered include neighborhood tree plantings, park or trail recovery or planting projects, waterway recovery or plantings, school ground plantings, downtown business district landscaping, assessing and caring for storm-damaged trees, etc.

 

   Through the Recover, Replant & Restore program, Trees Forever staff will provide assistance with damage assessment, project planning, plant material selection, planting design, volunteer organizing, and tree care or cleanup projects.  In addition, cash grants of up to $2,000 are available to help purchase trees and other plant materials.

 

   “We recognize that many communities affected by last year’s disasters are still in the basic recovery process,” notes Karen Brook, Trees Forever program manager.  “Our goal right now is to provide whatever assistance we can to communities and neighborhoods… to give them some hope for a brighter, greener future.”

 

   Applications for the first round of assistance from the Recover, Replant & Restore program must be submitted by February 27, 2009.  To apply, interested communities or groups should contact Karen Brook at 800-369-1269 ext. 14 or e-mail kbrook@treesforever.org.  A Trees Forever field coordinator will be assigned to assist each applicant with completing a simple nomination form.  Communities or projects accepted for the program will be announced in early March, 2009.

 

    Trees Forever established the Campaign to Recover, Replant & Restore to raise money to assist communities that were affected by the natural disasters of 2008.  Thanks to a major gift from Van Meter Industrial and others donations from across the state, Trees Forever is now able to start assisting these communities.  Anyone interested in more information about the campaign, or wishing to donate to this fund, can contact Mark Signs at 800-369-1269, extension #20, or log on to www.TreesForever.org

 

 

 

   We Dig Your District

 

   Would you like to see more trees planted in your favorite neighborhood park? Do you know of a school playground, nursing home, non-profit, public library, sports complex, cemetery, or trail that could benefit from a few well-placed trees? If so, let your ideas be known.  Site nominations for the We Dig Your District program in Cedar Rapids are due February 25, 2009.

 

Alliant Energy and Trees Forever are once again offering We Dig Your District, a partnership program to plant trees in each of the five Cedar Rapids City Council Districts to demonstrate how trees improve energy efficiency and contribute to a healthier and more beautiful community. And, we need your help!

 Get into the energy efficiency groove and submit suggestions for the 2009 We Dig Your District tree-planting locations.

 To submit a suggestion, tell us the following in 300 words or less.

1. Your name, address, telephone number and e-mail address (optional)

2. The community location where you would like to see trees planted (The location must be within Alliant Energy’s electric service territory in Cedar Rapids.)

3. Why your location should be selected; what makes it special and how trees would make a difference at this site.  Suggestion(s) must be submitted by February 25, 2009 to receive consideration. Submissions can be made online at www.alliantenergy.com/wedigyourdistrict  or via mail to Alliant Energy, Community Relations, Attn: We Dig Your District, 200 First Street SE, PO Box 351, Cedar Rapids, IA 52406-0351.

 

 

 

Suggestions will be reviewed based on their potential to improve energy efficiency, enhance the environment and meet a community need. The review committee will include representatives from Alliant Energy and Trees Forever, with input from local city council members.

 

Selections will include one site within each of the five Cedar Rapids City Council Districts. Planting sites will be announced in March 2009. The 2008 We Dig Your District planting sites included Arthur Elementary School, Cleveland Elementary School, Regis Middle School, Redmond Park and Wilderness Estates Park. Planting at Ushers Ferry was postponed due to the summer flooding.

 

For more information, contact Karen Brook, Trees Forever field coordinator at 373-0650 ext. 14 or email kbrook@treesforever.org

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Frightful weather?

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

           

It’s a debatable issue:  is the weather outside really frightful today?  Or, is it all in your perspective?  I was out and about this morning but arrived home in time to sit here at my computer plunking away for this week’s blog and watch the beautiful huge flakes of snow wafting to the ground. There’s just something mesmerizing about an Iowa snowfall.   Right now, right outside a kitchen window, a Cardinal is perched in a lilac bush sheltered in a blanket of white. What a sight!

            Speaking of birds, what will you do with your live tree after the Holidays?   How about, after removing the ornaments (especially the tinsel) propping the tree in your perennial garden?  It will add winter interest as well as shelter for birds that enjoy feeding on the seeds of coneflower, rudbeckia and liatris.  Or use it as mulch by pruning the branches and covering perennial and bulb gardens.  I’ll bet your neighbors would volunteer to let you take their trees, too. 

            Have you observed what wildlife visits your garden?  Their antics can be quite entertaining.  Note which plants helped bring them into the landscape. 

            Brush snow off shrubs and evergreens as the heavy wet stuff will cause breakage and damage. Prune only broken/damaged branches now.  

            Most importantly, investigate environmentally friendly methods of removing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways.  Calcium Chloride is more expensive, but it is easier on your plants. Watch for new plant-friendly products entering the market. 

            And, if you haven’t found the perfect gift for a gardener friend, think about a journal, plant labels, hand pruners, flower scissors, a harvest basket (my second favorite choice), a gift certificate to a favorite garden center, or (my first choice!), a load of well seasoned manure, delivered. Yes! You read correctly!  It will be an inexpensive gift and certain to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. 

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Ghost of Christmas Past

Deb Engmark, head gardener at the historic Brucemore mansion in Cedar Rapids, wrote the following about decorations of Christmases past:

 

The Christmas tree, the holly wreath, the sprig of mistletoe, and the Christmas bells were the four most “distinctive Christmas decorations” noted in a December 1907 issue of The Garden Magazine.  Stumbling upon this publication the day after the staff and volunteers completed holiday decorating at Brucemore allowed for some interesting comparisons between the times.

Balsam was recommended as the best variety of tree when decorating for Christmas and the best way to adorn it was not to overload it.  Pyramidal trees with short lustrous green needles striped with silver underneath were also popular in 1907 because they “give the impression of a recent light frost.” The month-long holiday season at Brucemore makes these natural, heavy-shedding, historic trees impractical for the mansion, and the temptation to over-adorn is irresistible in such a grand home.  I am not sure any of the staff has the ability to practice the “less is more theory” during the holiday season.

Holly was referred to as the most important decorative Christmas material, the most desirable was English holly with as many berries as possible. The most distinctive way of using holly was in the form of wreaths; the best wreaths were those faced with berries on both sides, “so that when they were hung in the window they would give pleasure to those passing by as well as the family indoors.”

As for the beloved holiday mistletoe tradition, in 1907 it was thought that “because it is not pretty in itself, one sprig of mistletoe is enough for most people.” This is a statement as true today as it was over 100 years ago.

The final “distinctive Christmas decoration” of 1907, the Christmas bells, are absent from the décor of 2008.  The traditional sleigh bells that we appreciate for their own magical sound were not the bells that the magazine referenced. In 1907, “Those big red bells of tissue paper that fold up like a stocking have now become almost a national institution.”  Who knew?

            Families in 1907 were concerned with their holiday budgets much like families in 2008.  According to the article, “The cheapest way to decorate is to collect native material, especially branches of evergreens.”  However, they urge the reader, “not to take any evergreens that do not belong to you without the owner’s approval. It is a gross violation of the Christmas spirit to cut down cultivated conifers on other people’s grounds.” 

            I encourage you to look to nature when decorating this holiday season.  Go forth and use your imagination and homegrown ornaments.  If you are questioned about your holiday aesthetic, cite deep American cultural traditions.  This method allows for creativity until the seed and plant catalogs start to arrive.  I too urge you to remember the Christmas spirit when collecting your greenery.

From the Big house at Brucemore may all comfort and cheer be yours this holiday season! 

 

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Eco-debate: real vs. fake

  Throw another log in the annual debate about which is better for the environment: an artificial tree or a real Christmas tree. Living Christmas trees are also an option in Iowa.

   Linn County Master Gardener Gene Frye has some experience in that arena. Frye’s wife was given a potted 2-foot-tall white spruce one year that they used for their Christmas tree.

   After the season, Frye kept the potted tree in his basement, keeping it semi-watered. Once the weather warms, the trees can be kept outdoors in their pots. More watering is necessary when they are outdoors.

   Frye said the tree was used for Christmas for a couple years until he planted it outside. Now the spruce is about 30 feet tall.

   If you want to keep the tree in its pot from year to year, Frye suggested bringing it indoors for the winter. Because conifers don’t go completely dormant, they could dehydrate if left outdoors in a small pot with frozen soil.

   Frye advocated finding a large spot to plant the tree when you are ready to transplant it. Early spring is the best time to transplant conifers in Iowa. For fall planting, late August through September is the best time to transplant conifers.

 

   Find more on the real vs. fake Christmas tree debate, as well as eco-friendly holiday tips in the Sunday, Dec. 14 issue of The Gazette.

 

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