Spring has sprung and gardeners are digging in. Got questions as you carry on? Get answers from Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and Master Gardeners reply to queries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to the OSU Extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What’s yours?
What’s turning cherry blossoms brown?
Q: My “Rainier” cherry tree had a wonderful bloom this year, then all the blossoms turned brown and there were very few cherries. It’s the second year in a row now. What is causing this? Should I be concerned? – Douglas County
A: If it was cool and wet during bloom it is difficult for the bees to pollinate the flowers. Since “Rainier” cherry needs another variety to supply pollen, the bees may not have done their job. Another possible problem, although less likely, is the cool, wet weather allowed a fungus to hit the flowers and cause them to turn brown and fall. I am assuming that you do have another cherry tree near to allow the cross pollination. “Bing,” “Royal Anne,” and “Stella” provide good pollen for “Rainier.” – Steve Renquist, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Can I grow apple trees near rhododendrons?
Q: We are on the Oregon coast surrounded by natural rhododendrons on our property. We recently purchased three columnar apple trees and have a sunny and wind-protected spot to grow them. Would it be a problem being surrounded by so many rhodies? I am curious about roots and pollination. – Lane County
A: It sounds like your sunny and wind protected spot would be perfect for your apple trees. I am not aware of any way rhodies would cause them a problem, except possibly by root competition if the rhodies are very large and well established. If you clear a reasonable area for the trees, though, they should be able to establish well, since rhodies are very shallow rooted.
As to pollination, I am not sure what your concern is. Wind protection is important, since pollinators find it difficult to fly in too much wind. Apple blossoms are attractive to many pollinators, actually more so than rhododendrons, so they should be a favorite.
The moderate coastal temperatures can be a problem, so choosing varieties that don’t require very cold winter weather to ripen is important (these are called low-chill types). The columnar apples are rather new, so there is not a lot of information on their performance.
This Extension publication, Growing Fruit Trees and Nuts, has great information on growing apples. Try to give them the best soil conditions you can, to improve their performance. Also, I suggest checking with your local Extension office. They may have more resources for coastal apple growing. — Signe Danler, OSU Extension horticulturist
What’s causing damage to jasmine vine?
Q: I have a large jasmine vine that climbs a trellis on the chimney of my southeast Portland bungalow (south facing). The vine has always been vigorous with profuse leaves and blooms and no issues – until this year. This spring I noticed a problem that has continued to spread. The leaves will start to wither on a given branch, starting at the end, and eventually (rather rapidly) dry up and die all the way back. I have noticed some red leaves with spots that may or may not be the start of the problem on a particular branch. I have cut out all of the dead branches in hopes of containing the problem. Otherwise the plant seems very healthy, with lots of new growth. I would appreciate any insight as to what is happening and what can be done about it. – Multnomah County
A: Your jasmine certainly appears it has done very well, better than many I’ve seen.
The scattered character of the damage could be from mechanical disturbance, such as an animal clambering through/among the stems (possibly a cat or squirrels?). Or perhaps a human weeding among the crowded stems, or a kid looking for his ball.
A similar thought is an animal chewing at the base. One client finally caught a vole in the act. (A mouse trap took care of the problem.)
Even though jasmine is marginally adapted to our climate, this does not look like cold damage.
I assume the vine is planted in the ground. If not, a rootbound condition can lead to decline. – Jean Natter, OSU Extension Master Gardener
Can I revive my viburnums?
Q: I have 14 David viburnums in my landscape and all of them look like the one in the attached photo. They are not in locations where root rot would be an issue. Can you tell me what’s wrong with them and if I can do anything to revive them? – Marion County
A: The grayed, and somewhat white, areas on the leaves indicate a long-term water shortage. Those areas will never become healthy.
Many trees and shrubs in our region have been adversely affected by recent consecutive years of low rainfall. This is especially true for woody landscape plants that are not watered during the dry months.
Consider watering the shrubs once a month during our dry summers. Moisten the soil a depth of 8 inches with each irrigation.
Mulch helps the shrubs by slowing surface evaporation. The coarse materials in this bed are a wise choice for woody plants. Maintain them at a depth of at least 3 inches. – Jean Natter, OSU Extension Master Gardener
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