Ask The Gardener: Tree location, dying daffodils, plant ID and more

Posted on: June 13, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Tree location

Vic: I’ve observed a disastrous situation on a road in the Seven Fields area. Last month, 50+ trees in the grass strip between the sidewalk and road were cut down. I’m wondering if the prevalent volcano mulching contributed to the problem? On one occasion, as I was driving down that street, I stopped to speak to a resident who was working on his front lawn. During our discussion, he stated that the trees were removed due to the fact that roots were lifting the sidewalks, creating a walking hazard.

Is it possible that if the trees had been mulched properly, the roots would have gone deeper into the ground, eliminating the impact on the sidewalk? My concern is that the remaining trees on that road will meet a similar fate in the future!

Doug: Those plantings are sad in many ways. The volcano mulch is disastrous for trees, and they have chosen the wrong type of trees to plant so close to a sidewalk. Always apply mulch to look like a doughnut — not a volcano — and it should never touch the trunk of the tree. When trees have volcano mulch they often times send feeder roots out into the mulch, which is not healthy for the tree, and bark can rot when mulch is surrounding the trunk.

I doubt if the volcano mulching would cause the sidewalk problem. Those trees would send their roots out anyway. It’s sad to see those trees cut down, but they were the wrong choice for a street tree so close to the sidewalk. It’s critical for city planners to chose the right trees for the location, and I’m assuming more trees will be removed as they are all close to the sidewalk.

Question 2: Dying daffodils

Wendy: What do you do with the leftover daffodil sprouts that by now are looking pretty sad? Do you cut them down? I’d like to clean up how they look and plant new things around them that will bloom now.

Doug: I let them wither away on their own, but at this point if they are brown and laying on the ground, it’s fine to remove them.

Question 3: Plant ID

Tracy: Doug, do you have any idea what this is?

Doug: Yes, that’s a cool plant called verbascum. Sometimes we see weedy cultivars growing wild, but that one looks like it came from the nursery. It likes sun and well-drained soil, and there are lots of cultivars to choose from. It’s pretty much indestructible.

Question 4: Mountain laurel

Mary Ellen: I just had a neighbor ask me if I knew where to get mountain laurel to purchase. Any ideas?

Doug: Most good nurseries will have it. Our native mountain laurel is beautiful, but there are lots of cultivars, too. I’ve fallen for ‘Nipmuck.’

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”