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Questions & Answers
Shrubs


This page contains questions (edited) we have received from our viewers along with our responses.  
We thought you might find this information helpful.       

Q:

   Hi. I would like to plant along a south facing brick wall (garage).    The area gets very hot during the summer and is sun exposed almost all day. Originally, I planted ivy, which burned out within weeks. Now I am thinking of a forsythia hedge, but know very little about gardening. What types of suggestions do you have? I am open to all ideas. Thanks!  A. M., Northglenn, 3/16/12

A:
   If you want to use ivy, Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) grows in the sun, while English ivy needs a shady spot. Forsythia can make a nice hedge and does best in full sun. For a list of other plants you could use for a hedge and some tips, please see www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07208.html.
 
Q:

   I recently bought a house near downtown Denver and I have a nice backyard I would love to work in.  I would like to grow bamboo. I like the look and need some privacy from the neighbors window. Would you recommend a book, article, magazine etc I should read before starting on this project?  Thanks!  E., Denver, 2/15/12

A:    For an article on growing bamboo in the Denver area please see www.denverzoo.org/animals/bamboo.asp. The Denver Zoo has grown it successfully for some time.
 
Q:

   Our home faces north.  We just removed three HUGE juniper bushes from just in front of our home's front windows.  I'm wondering what type of hedge/ shrub/ bush you would recommend planting there?  I would like it to provide a small amount of privacy, but they only need to be a few feet tall.  I would prefer a flowering and/ or edible plant, but that's not a requirement.  Thanks for your time.  S., Longmont, 1/29/12

A:
   Some medium sized (4 - 6 feet) flowering shrubs include Pee Gee Hydrangea, Dwarf Korean Lilac, Miss Kim Lilac, Butterfly Bush and Compact American Cranberry. Shorter flowering shrubs also are available, but wouldn't provide any privacy.
 
Q:

   I have some wintergem boxwood with some winter burn. What is the best thing I can do to minimize the damage and salvage the shrubs?  B. K., Pueblo, 1/12/12

A:    To limit winter burn on boxwoods water them frequently when weather allows and place mulch at the base of the plants. Also, spraying them with Wilt-Pruf will help protect them.
 
Q:

   I am wondering if holly grows in Colorado - I am a native of CO and can't say I've ever seen it here in CO.   I would love to plant a holly bush if possible  - please tell me what it requires.  B., Thornton, 12/6/11

A:    Due to our soil and weather, most varieties of holly do not perform well in Colorado, which explains why you don't see it very often. Very few evergreen plants, other than conifers, thrive in winter here. There are a few kinds of hollies that do okay. 'Blue Boy' and 'Blue Prince' are male cultivars that can be used with the female cultivars 'Blue Girl' and 'Blue Princess.' The male plants do not produce berries, but you need one of them in order to have berries on the female plants (one male can pollinate up to six females.) Another variety, 'Berrie-Magic,' does not need a male cultivar.
 
Q:

   I have an Oregon Grape Holly that I don't know how to care for in the winter. Do I need to water it and if so, how often? It seems to come close to dying at the end of the winter but then perks up in the spring and continues growing through summer and fall.  J. Z., 11/14/11

A:
   Oregon Grape Holly should be watered at least once or twice a month in winter. Water in the morning on days when the temperature will be above 40 degrees and there is no snow on the ground. Water more often if we have little snow. It is common for the few plants that retain their leaves in winter in Colorado to look pretty shabby when spring arrives, but as you've noted, they bounce back.
 
Q:

   My back yard faces west.  Can I grow American Bittersweet?  Does it require a lot of sun or shade and how much water?  S., Littleton, 9/25/11

A:
     American Bittersweet grows best in full sun. It prefers to be on the dry side. Water it thoroughly and then let the soil dry out before watering again.
 
Q:

   We have a west facing home and we recently planted a large Manhattan Euonymus in the front yard.  It gets a lot of sun. I was told they are very tough.  I am worried about it.   Everything I have read says water regularly - what is regularly?  The woman at the store where we bought it said when it is first planted water it a lot.  We did, and have scaled it back to a couple of times a week.  But the tops of the shrub are turning yellow/brown - it is still mostly green but it seems like it is dry on top.  Most things I am reading say too much water.  I am very new at planting and we didn't do much to our soil before throwing it in the ground.  Do I need to add some fertilizer or something to my soil?  We put in potting soil around it initially but nothing else.  Should I add something to my water (Miracle Gro??)?  Thank you.  K. B., Denver, 7/12/11

A:
   Do not fertilize the Manhattan Euonymus. Fertilizer encourages growth, and the roots of newly planted plants have difficulty providing enough moisture for the foliage that is already there. It is probably still struggling to establish its roots. Allow the soil to dry out until it is just barely damp before watering again. Constantly soggy soil can kill plants because it eliminates air pockets. Really soak the soil when you do water.
 
Q:

   I was given a beautiful Hydrangea plant for Easter.  It has 4 very large full blooms and I was wondering if I can divide the blooms and plant them outside in pots.  Thank you for your help.  S. P., Baudette, MN; 4/30/11

A:
   Hydrangeas can be divided, but it is best to do it in fall when the plant is ready to go dormant.
 
 
Q:

   I'm looking for a shrub that will do well in a full shade/very light, dappled sun part of the garden.  Height about 2.5 - 3.5 feet. Any suggestions would be welcome.  F., Colorado Springs, 3/19/11

A:
   Some shrubs that do well in shade and stay small include these:
      Littleleaf Boxwood 'Wintergreen' (Buxus microphylla 'Wintergreen')
      'Emerald 'n Gold' Euonymus or 'Green Lane' Euonymus
      Compact Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium)
 
Q:

   When is the best time to plant columnar buckthorn - fall or spring?  E. C., Littleton, 10/26/10

A:
   Spring is the best time to plant trees and shrubs like columnar buckthorn.  Fall is the second best time.
 
Q:

   We have a southwest facing porch. It is concrete. We have a burning bush in front of it and it does well with the intense heat. Would a miniature butterfly bush do as well? It gets lots of sun and heat. Thank you.  J. C., Northglenn, 8/7/10

A:
   A butterfly bush needs full sun to perform well, so it should do fine by the porch.  The plant tends to die back in winter.  Cut it back to the ground in spring to promote new growth.  Water it well in hot summer weather.
 
Q:    Can you tell me the best time to prune dogwood bushes and how severe the pruning should be? Thanks!!  D. D., Loveland, 6/18/10
A:
   You can prune off 1/4 to 1/3 of the red twig dogwood stems to ground level annually.  A good time to prune shrubs that don't flower is winter when they have no leaves.
 
Q:

   What is the best time and method for pruning an old lilac bush? I'm guessing mine is about 50 years old. Thanks!  K. G., Denver, 4/9/10

A:
   The best time to prune a lilac is right after it flowers in spring.  Cut back one third of the plant's old stems to the ground to rejuvenate the plant.
 
Q:

   I just bought two boxwood hedges and was told by a friend that they wouldn't last the year. I'm east of Colorado Springs by about 20-25 miles on the Eastern Plains. Do these two shrubs have a chance?  M., Colorado Springs, 3/30 10

A:
   Boxwood plants struggle in Colorado's climate, but you do find them growing successfully on occasion.  They do best with some protection from drying winds, especially in winter.
 
Q:

   I'm looking for an evergreen bush that would be able to cover the pilings on my deck.  It would get afternoon sun shaded by pines.  J., Franktown, 3/11/10

A:
   Due to the climate, there are very few evergreen shrubs that can be used in Colorado landscapes.  The few that are available tend to look shabby during winter, with discolored leaves.  Junipers and low growing conifers such as Mugo Pine would probably work best.
 
Q:

   Hi, I have a very small backyard that is mostly shaded but does get some sun.  I would like to plant some kind of tall/vine with flowers that will survive.  I love bougainvilleas but am sure they wouldn't live through the winter.  Are there any good perennial options?  Would I be better off getting annuals?  Which? Thanks!  H. T., Highlands Ranch, 2/28/10

A:
   You are correct that bougainvilleas will not survive Colorado's cold winters.  Vines to consider for a part- shade site include Clematis 'Nelly Moser" and Honeysuckles.
 
Q:    I'm interested in planting some grasses for shrubs.  Any ideas on what will be best for our climate?  G. H., Aurora, 2/2/10
A:
   For information on ornamental grasses please see www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07232.html.
 
Q:    Should an Emerald Gaiety Euonymus lose it's leaves in the winter?  I live in Woodland Park where it is difficult to garden. Any suggestions for perennials at this altitude?  C. O., Woodland Park, 11/23/08
A:
   At higher altitudes Emerald Gaiety Euonymus often loses most of its leaves in winter.  In warmer climates it is evergreen. 
   For a list of perennials that perform well at higher altitudes please see www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07406.html.  You might like to check out a website for people who garden in the mountains: www.coopext.colostate.edu/gilpin/MG.shtml.
 
Q:    Help - my beautiful lilac bush on the side of my house has shriveled up and is almost 100% dead. What could have caused this all of a sudden this summer? Also, will a drastic pruning help?  D. P., Centennial, 8/30/08
A:    Check to see if the lilac was getting too much or too little water.  Either could cause the symptoms you described.  I'm also concerned that the lilac may have been attacked by lilac/ash borers.  This common pest tunnels into the bark disrupting the flow of water and sap.  You can try drastic pruning. 
 
Q:    Hello! I was wondering if I can prune back my forsythias now that it is June.  I missed my chance in early spring. Will I kill the bush or will it promote new growth?   Thanks for your help.  R., Brick, NJ; 6/2/08
A:
   Forsythia should be pruned right after it finishes blooming.  It will not kill the shrub to prune it now, but it may have fewer blooms next spring.  Cut back a few of the older canes at soil level to promote growth of new shoots.
 
Q:    Can the Blue Point juniper handle a west wall exposure & NW wind, center about 3 feet from stucco wall? If not what is a good alternative, about six feet in diameter and 9-12 feet high?  J. N., Fort Collins, 5/28/08
A:    Blue Point Juniper is supposed to be tolerant of heat and wind and it prefers full sun.  It should handle the west wall exposure well.
 
Q:    I have a small space between my home and my neighbor's fence line where I would like to plant a small tree or large shrub. The space is only 4 1/2 feet but it is beside a large window which I would like to enhance my view from. Can you please recommend something so that my view will no longer be of the side of my neighbor's home but instead of something beautiful? C. H., Littleton, 5/13/08
A:
   Nannyberry Viburnum is a nice shrub for narrow areas.  It flowers in spring and has bright red leaves in fall.  Columnar Buckthorn would also work.  If you want an evergreen as a year-round screen, you can plant an upright juniper if the area gets sun.  If the area is shady Emerald/Smaragd Arborvitae would be an option.
 
Q:    I have a full-sun front garden- south-facing. I'm looking at a Julia Jane Boxwood. I wanted something that doesn't attract wasps, as I am very allergic to them. Is Julia Jane Boxwood a good choice for south-facing (full-sun) environments, and, what is best to plant along side it as a second compliment?  R. C., Littleton, 1/1/08
A:
   Julia Jane Boxwood in not a good choice for a south-facing environment.  In Colorado broadleaf evergreens such as boxwoods need protection from wind and winter sun.  Therefore, planting them in a south-facing or west-facing location is not recommended.  Julia Jane Boxwood should be planted in a location that has part shade or shade.
   These are some other shrubs you might consider:
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) -- Several cultivars such as 'Crimson Pygmy' grow 18 - 24" tall, while others such as 'Rose Glow' grow 4 - 6' tall.
Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus 'Compactus') -- grows 4 - 6' tall and has beautiful fall color (red).
 
Q:    Should I prune silver lace vine in the fall?  J. B., Santa Fe, NM; 11/11/07
 
A:
   Prune silver lace vine in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.
 
Q:    I have recently purchased a house that has been sparsely landscaped with shrubs.  The landscape is covered with small rocks and underneath the rocks is some sort of landscape paper/material.  I plan to get married in the yard next September and hope to add some low maintenance plants to add a lot of color.  How should I approach this?  Can I dig up the rocks and pull up the paper material, add my plants and put the paper material and rocks around the plants to prevent weeds?  I love to work in the yard but have never done any gardening other than potted plants.  Can you help?  S. M., Littleton, 10/11/07
A:
   You do not need to pull up the landscape fabric and rocks to plant the area.  Instead, decide where you want a plant to be planted.  Push the rocks aside and make an x-shaped slit in the landscape fabric.  This will allow you to fold back the fabric so you can dig a hole for the plant.  Be sure to amend the soil with compost when planting.  After planting the plant you can trim the landscape fabric so it lays flat and replace the rocks around the plant.  For additional color at your wedding I suggest that you plant several containers with flowers to place in groups around the yard.
 
Q:    My forsythia bush is growing tall and I like them bushier.  When do I prune it back?  M. H., Waldorf, MD; 9/19/07
A:
   Prune forsythia right after it blooms in spring.  In summer you can trim the top of the shrub if it gets too tall.  This will also encourage fullness.
 
Q:    We live in Niwot and have a Rose-of-Sharon that we planted two years ago. It has grown some, but flowered less than 10 flowers last year, only four so far this year. What are the special tips for this shrub?  V. S., Niwot, 8/7/07
A:    Rose-of-Sharon prefers full sun.  It should be watered regularly, but not over-watered.  It doesn't like soggy soil.  Place mulch around the plant to help retain moisture and cool the soil in summer.  Fertilize the plant in spring.  Avoid fertilizers high in nitrogen that stimulate leaf growth but limit flower production.
 
Q:    When is the best time to plant a lilac bush and a hydrangea? Can you plant them in July?  J., Aurora, 7/7/07
 
A:     The best time to plant shrubs such as lilacs and hydrangeas is spring.  The second best time to plant them is fall.  Avoid planting in summer when it is hot.  In summer plants need plenty of water due to the heat.  Because a plant's roots are disturbed/damaged in the planting process, it is difficult for the roots to supply sufficient moisture to the plant and it is likely to die.
 
Q:    At the end of last summer I planted a row of Cheyenne Privets (five), and at the end two Lodense Privets.  A few months later I trimmed the Cheyenne Privet across the top, leaving about 1.5 feet of bush.  They are really doing good right now, but I want to make sure they don't get leggy and that they form a dense hedge. When do I need to trim them again? I was "thinking" in the fall, but I don't know if I should do it after they are dormant or not.  M. W., Littleton, 6/5/07
A:    To promote dense growth of the hedge, you should prune the hedge lightly now, in summer and in early fall.  Shearing encourages new growth and should be done frequently when the plants are young.  You can trim the hedge less often once it is mature.  The top of the plant should be a bit narrower than the base.  This allows sunlight to reach the base.  If the top is wider than the base it will have few, if any, leaves.  You can fertilize the shrubs in spring.  Be sure to follow label instructions.  Avoid fertilizing when the weather is hot.  Do not fertilize in late summer.  Plants need to harden-off in preparation for winter.
 
Q:    I am about to remove a large bed of lavender.  This bed gets too much water from the sprinkler and the lavender
has rotted.  The area gets full sun from one o'clock the rest of the day.  Could you suggest a flowering plant or shrub that would give color in the summer?  This bed is in front of the house so I would love to have color!  Thank you.  J. G., Superior, 3/28/07
A:
   There are two flowering shrubs that do well in moist soil that might do well in the flower bed:
       Potentilla (Potentilla fruticosa) -- also called Cinquefoil
       Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda)
There are many varieties of both of these plants, offering a choice of flower color.
   If you want to create a perennial bed, the following plants tolerate moist soil:
New England Aster, Gayfeather, Lupine, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Pincushion Flower, Goldenrod, and Spike Speedwell. 
 
Q:    Hello, I have a Rose Tree of China and was wondering if there are any special needs for this shrub?  It is planted in full sun and gets some wind in the winter months.  I live in Canon City.  Thank you, L. W., Canon City, 12/24/06
A:     The Rose Tree of China (Prunus triloba) prefers full sun.  Water it regularly.  Because of the windy location, it is especially important to water it once a month in winter if there has been little snow.  Water early in the day when the ground isn't frozen.  Spread a 2" layer of mulch over the soil.
 
Q:    Help. We live in Southern Ontario and have 2 new vines: Silver Lace Vine and Trumpet Vine. What is their care for the winter?  I'm getting conflicting reports re: pruning to the ground.  G. F., Hamilton, ON; 11/6/06
A:    Prune Trumpet Vine to about the desired height in spring.  It blooms on new growth.  Silver Lace Vine should be pruned almost to ground level in early spring.  It flowers on new wood.  Place a thick layer of mulch around the plants for winter protection.  Trumpet Vine is not as hardy as Silver Lace Vine, and you are more likely to lose it.
 
Q:    I need to know when is the best time to trim Burning Bushes.  M. S., Brighton, MI; 10/26/06
 
A:
    The best time to trim Burning Bushes is late winter or early spring just before they leaf out.
 
Q:    Is it all right to prune lilac bushes in late November in zone 5?  C. L., Imperial, PA; 11/27/06
A:    Lilacs form the buds for the next year's flowers soon after they cease blooming.  Therefore, they should be pruned right after they bloom.  If you prune them in fall, winter or early spring you will have few flowers.
 
Q:    How do I know when to trim back shrubs and trees?  I live in Peyton, CO, and am not as up to date with tree and shrub types in my garden.  Thank you.  J. M., Peyton, 9/30/06
A:
    Most deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves) are usually pruned in late winter or early spring before they leaf out.  Maple, birch and walnut trees tend to ooze sap if pruned when dormant, so they are usually pruned in spring after they leaf out.  Avoid pruning in late summer.  Evergreen trees can be pruned anytime when needed.
    Flowering shrubs such as lilacs generally are pruned as soon as they finish blooming.  Non-flowering shrubs are pruned in late winter or early spring.  Avoid pruning them in late summer. 
 
Q:    I have a 5 ft holly that I want to transplant to my neighbors yard.  When is the best time to transplant it?  I don't know what kind of root system it has.  Can you enlighten me on what to expect as far as depth, size, and mass of root ball.  Any other advice as to choosing and preparing the new site would be greatly appreciated.  I will probably hire a tree company to move it.  J. R., Boulder, 9/25/06
A:
    Early spring is the best time to transplant the holly.  Do not transplant it in fall or winter.  Because a holly does not drop its leaves it could dry out too much due to its damaged root system and then die.
    The root system will be shallow with most feeder roots in the top 12 - 18" of soil.  The roots extend over a wide area, in the holly's case about 5 ft. in each direction.  It will be impossible to dig up all of the root system!
    Before digging up the holly select a site for it on the north or east side of the house where it will be in the shade or partial shade.  Dig a large hole.  Mix compost into the soil that will be used to fill the hole.
 
Q:    I live in Thornton.  I have some hydrangeas that I planted this summer.  They are doing fairly well, but I need to know if I need to prune them for winter or in the spring.  I have read conflicting information.  So for my climate, what is the best answer?  Also, do I need to cover their bases with more mulch for the winter?  T. T., Thornton, 8/25/06
A:    The best time to prune hydrangeas is in late winter or early spring before they leaf out.  Add a thick layer of mulch after the ground freezes this winter.  This will help keep the temperature of the soil more even and protect the plants from pushing up out of the soil during freeze/thaw cycles.
 
Q:    Hi there, Could you please tell me when and how far back I can trim my purpleleaf sand cherry bush?...........thank you.  J. C., Welland, Canada; 7/18/06
A:
    You can trim the purpleleaf sandcherry in late winter, spring and summer.  Trim off no more than one third of the shrub at a time.
 
Q:    I am planning to plant some shrubs on our foundation line in our mostly shady front yard in Colorado Springs.  I am looking for an evergreen shrub that does well in shade and grows approx. 2-4 feet high.  I liked the look of boxwoods at the nurseries - would this be a good choice, or can you recommend a similar alternative?  Thanks, R., Colorado Springs, 6/16/06
A:
    Boxwoods like a protected location, so they may do fine along your foundation.  Other broadleaf evergreen options include Compact Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium 'Compacta') and some cultivars of Euonymus.
 
Q:    I purchased a Burning Bush (Euonymus alata) for shade and nature purposes for my cat's pen.  I wanted to see if it is safe to put in his pen. B. M., Melfa, VA; 6/9/06
A:
    According to the ASPCA's list of plants that are toxic to pets, Euonymus alatus is poisonous. 
    For information on poisonous plants and non-poisonous plants for pets, please see the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website at http://www.aspca.org/.  Click on Pet Care.  Click on Animal Poison Control Center.  Click on Toxic Plants (scroll down below the letters of the alphabet - those links aren't working).  Also, you may want to see the list of non-toxic plants.
 
Q:    We are considering planting some dwarf burning bushes on either side of our front door -- there are about 4 square feet of space on each side, and the door is south-facing.  Two questions -- would this shrub be a good choice for such a spot?  Also, are the berries poisonous for children and/or pets.  Thanks for any information you send.  D. A., Weston, WY; 5/2/06
A:
    While Burning Bush is well-suited to the site you described, I recommend that you not use it if you have children and pets.  The leaves and berries are poisonous to people and pets.
 
Q:    I am from Florida.  I just moved here 10 months ago and bought a house in Dacono. I want to create a garden in my back and front yards but I have no idea of what kinds of plants will do well in this climate. I was hoping that there are some plants/bushes that are green here year round, or at least fairly full. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks for your help.  D. S., Dacono, 3/29/06
A:
    Having moved here from Florida, you have probably found winter gardens here less than attractive.  In order to have something green year round you should include conifers in your yard.  Austrian pine, pinyon pine, 'Bakeri' blue spruce and 'Fat Albert' blue spruce are popular trees.  Many junipers of every size are readily available for use as shrubs and groundcovers.  Mugo pine is a nice shrub and comes in many sizes.
    There are very few broadleaf evergreens available.  Euonymus and Grape Holly (Mahonia) are available as groundcovers and shrubs.
    Ornamental grasses have become very popular here because they provide winter interest.
 
Q:   I live in Pueblo West, Colorado. The ground is hard.  It is windy and there's not much water.  I am looking for a fast growing vine to plant along a chain link fence.  Any ideas?  Thanks. K. M., Pueblo West, 3/27/06
A:
   Silver Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii) is a very fast grower that tolerates dry conditions once it is established.  It has white flowers in late summer that cover the vine.
    Other options include American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) which is known for its bright colored berries in fall and Honeysuckle (Lonicera).
 
Q:    We want to cover a western facing old-brick garage wall with vine.  The wall, although watered underneath, gets very hot and dry during the summer.  Three part question: (1) when is the best time to plant vine, (2) what would be the most appropriate vine to plant on this wall, and (3) do I need to cover the whole wall with lattice in order to cover the whole wall with vine?  J. B., Denver, 3/12/06
A:
   The best time to plant the vine is spring.  Avoid planting in hot summer weather.  Whether a lattice is needed depends upon the vine you select.  Some vines attach themselves to walls and need no support.  Others require a lattice for support.  Because vines come in all sizes, the amount of lattice required depends on the expected size of the vine at maturity.
    Englemann Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia var. engelmannii) is a popular vine.  It has tendrils that cling to bricks so you don't need a lattice.  It has nice fall color and berries that persist into winter.
    Common Hops (Humulus lupulus) is a rapid growing vine that you might consider.  It requires a sturdy lattice.  It can reach a height of 40 feet.
    Honeysuckle (Lonicera) is another possible choice.  It reaches a height of 30' and also requires a sturdy lattice.  Some kinds have fragrant flowers.
 
Q:    Can you recommend either bushes or trees that could serve as a wind break?  It would have to like moist conditions as the runoff from my grass collects in this area.  I would plant several to serve as a windbreak but also to provide privacy.  I would like something that gets at least 8 ft on up tall.  I've been looking at trees such as hybrid willow, lombardy poplars and bushes such as coyote willows. Please suggest something.  M. S., Westminster, 2/28/06
A:    Most plants require good drainage, greatly limiting your choices for a windbreak.  American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) and Golden Elder (S. canadensis 'Aurea') are shrubs that grow 8 - 12' high and wide and prefer wet conditions.  Willows also like wet soil.  Several types of willow shrubs grow 15 - 20' tall and 10 - 12' wide: Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), Goat Willow (S. caprea) and Blue Stem Willow (S. irrorata).  Willow trees have a tendency to become brittle, so they would not be a good choice in a high-wind area. 
 
Q:    Can I extend the growing season of a Manhattan Euonymus by bringing it indoors for the winter?  If I bring a recently purchased plant in January indoors will it be that much larger for spring planting?  K., Longmont, 1/19/06
A:    The Manhattan Euonymus will grow slightly during winter if it is indoors -- and probably more than if it were outdoors in cold temperatures.  Don't expect it to grow very much during just a few months.
 
Q:    I just moved into a new house, and want to add fragrance to the lawn.  I love honeysuckle, but was wondering of other vines, shrubs, etc.  Also I want to find an indoor fruit tree.  I heard / saw ornamental bananas.  Is this feasible for Aurora, CO?  Thanks.  N., Aurora, 12/31/05
A:
The following are some fragrant plants you might consider.
Shrubs:
    Carol Mackie Daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie') - part shade
    Somerset Daphne (Daphne x burkwoodii 'Somerset') - part shade
    Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) - sun
    Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) - sun, small shrub 
    Spirea - several types available, sun or partial shade, variety of sizes
    Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) - sun, medium size
    Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) - sun or part shade, medium size
Groundcovers:
    Thyme (Thymus) - sun or part shade
    Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum) - shade, part shade, can be invasive
 Perennials:
    Lavender, some Irises, Daylilies
Roses -- select them when they are in bloom to be sure the plant is fragrant
 
You can grow ornamental bananas indoors if you can provide the right growing conditions.  Citrus trees, such as lemons, oranges, and limes, are popular indoors.  All require a warm, bright sunny location.
 
Q:    I have 2 questions.  I am looking for evergreens shrubs that grow in a dry and sunny site that can be maintained at 4 feet or under.  What are the 3 most popular?  I am looking for deciduous shrubs with fragrance for a moist and shady site.  What are the 3 most popular?  I would like both sides of my house to look good.  One side is dry and sunny and the other is moist and shady.  Thanks for your help.  K; Arvada; 12/10/05
A:
    There are several kinds of Junipers that would do well in a dry, sunny site and stay under 4 feet high.  'Armstrong' and 'Old Gold' grow 3 - 4' tall.  'Broadmoor' and 'Skandia' grow about 2' tall.  Some dwarf Mugo Pines such as 'Mops' and 'Slowmound' grow 3 - 4' tall and also do well in dry, sunny sites. 
    Fragrant deciduous shrubs for moist, shady sites are limited.  If the site isn't too heavily shaded a Daphne would be a good choice.  'Carol Mackie,' Burkwood, 'Somerset' and 'Ruby Glow' are options.
 
Q:    I live in Australia and stumbled across your site in search of an answer to my question regarding Juniper Skyrocket conifers.  I have recently planted two rows of these conifers on either side of my front garden.  The row that gets only morning sun is growing at a fantastic rate and the plants all look extremely healthy. However,  the plants on the other side which get the full brunt of the afternoon sun (and the heat from the fence they are planted against) are all drying out and looking very anemic. I thought that this, the sun and heat, would have to be the simple explanation for this, however, two of the conifers out of the row of sever seem ok and are not discolored to the extent that the others are. Is the sun and heat the probable cause, and is there anything I can do to save them?  Thank you.  M. O.; Adelaide, South Australia; 12/1/05
A:    Junipers usually tolerate sun and heat well.  You might check on the amount of water they are getting.  Too much or too little water can lead to problems.  Also, junipers require good drainage.  Be sure the soil isn't staying constantly wet.  Pest such as mites can affect junipers.  Spray the plants with a strong jet of water to help control any pests.
 
Q:    We took a chance and recently planted 3 emerald green arborvitae trees in large pots on our deck.  The deck is on the second floor and faces west, giving the trees plenty of direct sunlight.  I was wondering if you could offer some advice on how often and how much to water the trees to promote as long a life as possible for them?  Thank you for your help.  C. F., Denver, 10/25/05
A:     Plants in containers require frequent watering because they tend to dry out rapidly.  Emerald Green Arborvitae prefers regular watering.  Soak the plants thoroughly and let the pots dry out until the soil is only slightly damp before re-watering.  Hopefully the pots have drainage holes.  Arborvitaes prefer well-drained soil.  Be sure to water the pots in winter.  In Colorado evergreens tend to dry out in winter unless they are watered regularly.
 
Q:    I live in North metro Denver and have a South-facing planting bed that is up against a brick wall.  The soil there is not very good (very hard and dry), and it gets full sun from mid-morning until late afternoon.  It is completely barren except for some Four O'Clocks that don't even require watering (they come back each year).  I'd like to have a flowering vine climb a trellis on the brick wall and some small flowering shrubs and annuals.  I think small lilac bushes might work, but am a novice gardener, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  D., Westminster, 11/24/05
A:
    The first thing you should do before planting the bed is improve the soil.  Buy some bags of compost and spread it over the bed about two inches high.  Then mix it into the soil.  Also, plan how you will provide water to the area.  All plants require regular watering the first year they are planted, even though they may require little watering once established. 
    Some flowering vines that like sun and survive in slightly dry conditions include Clematis, some varieties of Honeysuckle and Trumpet Vine.  Shrub Roses, Dwarf Lilacs and Blue Mist Spirea are flowering shrubs to consider.  There are many annuals that perform well in sunny, dry sites.  Marigold, Verbena, Zinnia, Cosmos, Lantana and Petunia are good choices.
 
Q:    I live in Colorado Springs, CO, and would like to know when would be the best time to trim down some of our bushes and trim some our trees in our back yard.  I don't want to harm them with winter around the corner. Thanks for any help that you might be able to give me. R. R. D., Colorado Springs, 10/15/05
A:    Fall is not a good time to prune trees and shrubs.  Pruning stimulates new growth that could be damaged by winter weather.  Early spring, just before leaves open, is a good time to prune.
 
Q:    We have a row of Manhattan Euonymus in front of our picture window.  They have gotten too tall and we were wondering if we can prune them drastically or if that will kill them.  Thanks for your help.  B. K., Salina, KS; 7/16/05
A:    Generally, it is best to remove no more than one third of a plant when pruning. 
 
Q:     I have two red twig dogwoods and two yellow twig dogwoods that are in a shady area.  This spring they had some problems with aphids, but I haven't seen any pests on them lately.  The lower leaves are turning completely yellow and falling off.  There is also no color to the branches.  They are pretty much just green.  Just wondering if you have an idea as to what might be going on with them.  Thanks!  J., Denver, 7/6/05
A:     For good color, the red twig and yellow twig dogwoods should get plenty of sun.  The shady location will affect the amount of color the stems have.  Some of the older, dull colored stems should be cut off at ground level every year or two to promote new, more colorful growth.  The lower leaves turning yellow and dropping off may be a sign of over-watering.  Hose off the plants with a strong jet of water to knock off any hidden pests.
 
Q:     I wanted to know how to move my lilac bushes to another location.  Does it have to be in fall or can I do it in summer?  They have been in their old location for about 5 years, and am worried if I moved them that they might die. Thank you for your time.  F., Peyton, 5/30/05
A:     Summer is not a good time to transplant shrubs.  Because much of the root system is lost or damaged in the process, the plants have difficulty absorbing sufficient water in hot weather.  Fall or spring are better times.  Dig up as much of the rootball as possible when you move the plants.  You may want to mix some compost with the soil that you'll fill the hole with.  Build up a basin with excess soil around the plant and water it immediately.  Keep the soil slightly moist at first and gradually reduce watering.
 
Q:    Hello, I have a lilac bush that I just love.  They're my favorite.  This summer it bloomed no flowers, and the tip or the whole leaf looks like they have been burnt.  What happened to my lilac bush? I am in zone 4.  My lilac bush on the other side of the yard looks great -- lots of blooms coming.  S., Little Falls, MN; 5/12/05
A:
   One of the main reasons lilacs fail to bloom is that they have been pruned at the wrong time.  They should be pruned right after they finish blooming.  If plants are pruned later in summer, during winter, or before they bloom in spring the flower buds get cut off.  Too much fertilizer that is high in nitrogen and not enough sunlight also affect bloom.
    The burnt leaves could be caused by too much fertilizer, high levels of salt in the soil (for example, from de-icers), frost damage or bacterial blight.
 
Q:    I have a small concrete pond in my back yard. It was installed by the previous owner who did not think about the work that goes into maintaining a pond.  I was told that you could plant bamboo in a structure like this.  First, does bamboo grow outside in Colorado?  Second, will a small pond like that make a good planter for bamboo?  R. W., Arvada, 5/9/05
A:     For information on types of bamboo that are hardy in Colorado and how to grow them, please see www.denverzoo.org/animalsplants/bamboo.htm.  I don't know if your small concrete pond is a suitable container for growing them.  It would depend on the depth and width of the pond and the type of bamboo selected.  If you want a low maintenance, reliable plant, there are better choices than bamboo. 
 
Q:    I purchased several evergreen shrubs almost three years ago.  I believe them to be Japanese yews, though I'm not sure.  I did not receive care instructions with them.  They are now turning brown.  I need to know if there is something I can do to bring them back.  You should know that I have them planted in containers.  Any help you can give me would be much appreciated. Thanking you in advance, J. D., Newport, AR; 2/8/05
A:     If the plants were doing well until recently you might want to see if anything in their environment has changed.  Are they getting more sunlight or less than previously?  Are they getting enough water -- or possibly too little or too much?  Is drainage in the containers good?  Evergreens don't like soggy soil.  Have they outgrown their containers?  If the plants are root bound they will perform poorly.  Has the weather been unusually cold?  Inspect the plants for pests such as scale.  Winter browning is common for yews.  In spring you can trim off brown areas to encourage new, green growth.
 
Q:    I live in West Virginia.  Last spring I planted four yews.  I think they are Taxus cuspidata.  One and only one has about 1/3 of its leaves turning brown.  Can you tell me what might be going on?  Thanks.  O. A., Eleanor, WV; 1/16/05
A:   Yews like plenty of moisture but require good drainage.  You might check to see if water is collecting around the affected plant.  Or, the browning may be due to insufficient moisture.  Provide water when the ground isn't frozen.  Bright sunlight can also cause damage in winter.  You can prune off damaged sections in spring and hopefully the plant will green up.

Q:    I live outside of Durango at an altitude of 7600 feet.  I am looking for one or two shrubs or perennials about 3-5 feet high and 3 feet wide to plant in a hot, dry southern location at the entrance to my house.  They will be planted right next to my house and will need to be able to tolerate snow dumps from the metal roof and endure freeze/thaw cycles.  I would prefer something that flowers most of the summer and if possible could also give some winter interest.  The plants' height restrictions are due to windows which are 3.5 feet off the ground. 

Some suggestions that I have received include 'abbottswood' potentilla, apache plume, cotoneaster, and guara.  (The planting bed is about 7.5 feet by 6.5 feet and I'd like to plant a total of 5-6 perennials or small shrubs in this area as well.) 

What do you think about these suggestions?  Any thoughts or concerns with these suggestions?  Do you know if the potentilla and apache plume can take the beating of snow dumps?  Which potentilla would you recommend?  From the reading I've done 'abbottswood' seems like it might be too small. Any other recommendations or suggestions?  By the way, I'm not a big fan of junipers.

Thank you very much for any assistance you are able to give me.
K. W., Durango, 10/27/04
A:
    The Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa) shrub is a good choice for hot, dry, sunny locations and grows 3 - 5' high.  It flowers in summer and has attractive seed plumes that provide fall and winter interest.  It needs good drainage.  I don't know whether it tolerates snow dumps.
    Potentilla shrubs grow 2 - 4' high.  (Abbotswood grows to 3' high.  Jackman grows 3 - 4' high.)  They bloom all summer.  Potentillas tolerate hot, dry, sunny sites.  If branches are damaged by snow dumps just cut them off at ground level or just below the break.  Pruning in late winter or early spring keeps bushes looking attractive.
    Cotoneaster shrubs come in many sizes -- some too short and others too tall for your site.  Cranberry Cotoneaster (C. apiculatus) grows 2 - 3' tall.  This shrub has flowers in spring and berries in fall and winter.  It has good fall color.  I don't know how well it tolerates snow dumps.
    Guara is a perennial that grows 2 - 3' high.  It flowers in summer and fall.  It has a deep tap root that helps it tolerate drought.  It likes full sun.  It would withstand snow dumps but would provide no winter interest.  There are several perennials, such as Yarrow and Purple Coneflower, that could do well in a hot, dry, sunny site, but they tend to provide no winter interest because they die back. This feature, however, does allow them to survive snow dumps.  Also, few are 3 - 5' tall.  It will take awhile for whatever you plant to fill in.  You can take advantage of that time to plant some smaller perennials, annuals or bulbs in the beds to make them look less bare and to provide color.

Q:    I need to cut my Potentilla shrub (Gold Drop) back because it is looking scraggly.  I live in Zone 5.  Should I wait for a frost and then cut it back severely before the snow comes.  My other choice would be to cut it back in early spring, but we are in Florida until April, so I think that would be too late.  I forgot to mention that I just moved it to a new spot last week, so that might also be a contributing factor when deciding when to cut it back.  It really looked very brown and scraggly before I moved it.  M. Z., Elma, NY; 9/30/04
A:     The best time to prune back Potentilla is in late winter or early spring.  April isn't too late.  If it is really scraggly you can prune it back almost to the ground.

Q:    We recently moved to Westminster, Colorado, and want to plant a few True Dwarf Boxwoods in our front yard.  What is the best season to plant them and what type of care do they need.  Thank you.  M. R., Westminster, 9/24/04
A:     Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla) is a broad-leaved evergreen.  Therefore, the best time to plant it is spring.  Avoid planting it in fall because plants will not have a well established root system by winter and winter weather can dry them out too much.  This plant grows best in partial shade.  The plants may require winter protection and will need to be watered at least once a month in winter on days when the ground isn't frozen.

Q:    I have a narrow (a bit less than a foot) spot where I would like to plant something that grows tall and thick, to act as a screen to hide an ugly fence and a neighbor's annoying security light. I would like something that will grow at least 7 ft tall, if not more. The spot is very dry and sunny as well. What would you recommend planting in this difficult spot?  Thanks for your time. S. P., Fort Collins, 9/13/04 
A:    There are very few plants that would act as a screen year-round.  Most lose their leaves in winter.  One plant I can think of that is evergreen, columnar, not too broad, and likes sun and dryness is Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum).  There are several cultivars of this tree and unfortunately many of them would be too large.  A small cultivar is 'Medora.'  Another choice might be a columnar Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris 'Fastigiata').  It would be best to wait until spring to plant an evergreen.

Q:    Hello, I was wondering what type of hedges do the best in Colorado Springs.  I would like a hearty evergreen that would also act like a type of fence to the neighbor's crazy kids.  Thorns preferred....Just kidding.  V., Colorado Springs, 9/13/04
A:
   Unfortunately, there are few evergreen plants that can be used for hedges in Colorado.  Most shrubs lose their leaves in winter.  Some deciduous plants that can be used for a hedge include
      Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa)
      Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus)
      Cheyenne Privet (Ligustrum vulgare 'Cheyenne')
      New Mexico Privet (Forestiera neomexicana)
   For an informal mid-sized evergreen hedge you could use Tammy Savin Juniper (Juniperus sabina 'Tamariscifolia').

Q:   What is the best time for transplanting trumpet vine?  C. B., Boulder, 8/4/04
A:     Early spring and early fall are the best times to do transplanting.  Avoid transplanting in the summer when hot weather stresses plants whose root system has been disturbed or damaged by transplanting.  The roots just can't absorb enough water to support the plant well.

Q:    I have a trumpet vine that is growing vigorously and appears very healthy.  Yet, it does not bloom.  It is in average moist soil that drains well on a wall facing south.  Do you have any ideas why it does not have flowers?  I live in hardiness zone 6a.  J. K., Fraser, MI; 7/29/04
A:    Average moist soil and a sunny site meet two of the growing requirements of Trumpet Vines.  This plant should receive little or no fertilizer.  Too much nitrogen fertilizer results in the growth of lots of leaves but limits flower production.  Also, flowers are produced on new growth, so the shrub should be pruned in spring.

Q:    I've got a couple of Euonymus (think they're Manhattan variety) in the front of my house (North facing), get ~3 hrs of direct sun during the summer, then shade rest of the time.  I put them in at the recommendation of the nursery as an evergreen shrub that would do well under those conditions.   This is their 3rd summer in that location.   One is doing pretty well (actually the one with the least sun) and the other is kinda stunted.  Both get identical watering from a drip system.  They have some yellowish leaves, but there is some new growth.  I have not pruned or fertilized them, except for a slow release fertilizer at planting.
    Any ideas to give the puny one the legs that the other has before they get too out of balance?   If fertilizing is an option, what type/composition of fertilizer do the Euonymus prefer?  R. H., Centennial, 7/18/04
A:    To encourage the stunted Euonymus plant to grow better you might provide additional water by adding an extra drip emitter on it.  Because it gets more sunlight, it may dry out faster.  To keep the shrubs about the same size you can prune the larger one back a bit.  If you want to fertilize them you can use a general purpose fertilizer like Miracle Gro.

Q:    I have skyrocket junipers which have grown so tall that they have begun to bend at the top despite being staked.  Can the tops be cut off without damaging the evergreens?  If they can, what will the new growth pattern be --  straight or will it branch?  C. R., Denver, 7/6/04
A:     The best method for pruning junipers is to thin out some of the branches.  Cut back individual branches to an upward growing side branch. (Avoid shearing junipers.)  New growth comes only from the growing tips, so do not prune branches all the way back to wood that has no needles or you will have bare spots.  Topping the junipers will cause them to branch out from the top, altering their natural form.

Q:    Thank you for putting this site together.  It has been very helpful.  I wanted to ask if Engleman Ivy is poisonous.  I'm trying to decide whether I should plant it in our back yard, where our small children play.  C. Q., Boulder, 80301
A:   While most lists that I found of poisonous plants did not include Engleman Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), I did find it on one list.  The Southeast Child Safety Institute, sponsored by Children's Hospital in Alabama, includes it on their list.  The berries are poisonous.  I suggest that you not plant it if you have small children.

Q:    What are the best growing conditions for lilacs? Can they grow near rhody's and azaleas?  Many thanks.  G. G., Boulder, 5/9/04
A:   Lilacs require very different growing conditions than rhododendrons and azaleas.  Lilacs need full sun (but tolerate partial shade), while rhododendrons and azaleas prefer a shady spot.  Lilacs require little water once established and are prone to disease when over-watered. Rhododendrons and azaleas prefer moist, rich soil.  Select a spot that has good air circulation for lilacs to help avoid diseases.

Q:    I live in Colorado Springs and have 6 lilac bushes.  At the base of these I planted strawberries.  Do they compliment each other or will the strawberries hurt the lilacs?  D., Colorado Springs, 4/28/04
A:   The strawberries shouldn't hurt the lilacs.  For good fruit production, the strawberries need eight hours of full sun daily.  Hopefully the lilacs won't shade them too much.  My other concern regards watering.  Once established, lilacs prefer to be on the dry side.  Too much moisture can lead to disease problems.  Strawberries prefer moist soil.

Q:    I was on the Internet searching for a site that could tell me how to take care of our new Forsythia bush.  We've seen them sickly and we've seen them flourishing.  We'd like ours to be flourishing.  Any recommendations?  Thanks.  J. B., Brentwood, NH; 4/20/04
A:    Forsythia shrubs should be planted in full sun.  They prefer regular watering while becoming established and moderate watering after they're established.  One of the keys to keeping a forsythia looking attractive is to prune it.  Every two or three years you should cut back one third of the oldest branches to the ground.  This will encourage the shrub to produce new, healthy shoots.  Prune the shrub in spring after it flowers.

Q:    I would like information regarding Lilacs -- Preston hybrids vs. French hybrids for drought and disease tolerance.  Thank you.  A. G., Denver, 3/22/04
A:    Both Preston hybrids and French hybrids are drought tolerant.  Lilacs thrive in dry conditions.  Once they are established (allow one year) they need only about 1/2 inch of water per week.  Preston hybrids were developed in Canada specifically for prairie conditions.  Therefore, they are drought tolerant and extra hardy.  However, they are not as fragrant as other lilacs.  They are considered to be disease resistant.  When planting lilacs be sure to select a sunny location.  Don't crowd plants.  They have fewer problems with disease when there is good air circulation.

Q:    At our church, the lawn is all grass... expensive to water and time-consuming to maintain.  We would like to take all or most of it out and replace it with a rock/stone garden with xeric plants.  My question is, "What xeric plants (flowering/non-flowering) can we use that will stay green through the winter?"  We are in Utah County at 4,500 feet elevation. There is occasional snow, but it doesn't stay for more than a week.  So we don't want anything that dies back in winter that'll leave unattractive bare spots or brown stubs. Our lows average in the mid 20's. Average highs in summer are high 90s.  Thanks for any information you can provide!  B. P., Orem, UT; 3/14/04
A:
   Finding cold-hardy plants that stay green through winter is a challenge.  One choice is the Creeping Junipers (Juniperus horizontalis), which are very xeric when established.  Popular varieties include 'Bar Harbor,' 'Blue Chip,' 'Hughes,' and 'Wiltoni'/'Blue Rug.'  Savin Junipers (Juniperus sabina) such as 'Broadmoor' and 'Buffalo', are slightly taller plants that would work well. 
    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) has beautiful flowers in early spring and stays an attractive green mat the rest of the year.  Shear it after it flowers to keep the plant compact.  Another good groundcover is Creeping Grape Holly (Mahonia repens), which does best with a bit of shade.  Where you have a partially shady area such as under a tree, use Periwinkle (Vinca minor), a really attractive groundcover that gets blue flowers in spring.
    Some of the hardy yuccas would provide vertical interest: Adam's Needle (Y. filamentosa), Banana (Y. baccata) and Soapweed (Y. glauca).
    A popular trend is the use of ornamental grasses, ranging in height from 2' - 12.'  They turn straw colored in late fall and are very attractive throughout winter.  Cut them back in late winter.  Consider using Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), Dwarf Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and Hardy Pampas Grass (Saccharum ravennae).
    All plants, including xeric ones, need regular watering while they are becoming established -- a year for shrubs and groundcovers named above.  You can reduce watering the second year.

Q:    I would like to ask if we can grow pussy willows at 10,200 feet on the east side of the divide in the South Park area?  Do the wildlife like to eat the plant?  I have several branches from my tree in Lakewood, in water here now.  Would like to plant soon.  Do I just stick them in the ground as I did in Lakewood & would they grow?  I understand they require lots of water & wonder if they have to have this water after they are established?  L. G., Como, 3/13/04
A:     There are several types of pussy willows.  Some types are hardy at high altitudes.  Because of the short growing season at 10,000 feet, it would be better to start the cuttings in pots to establish a root system and then plant them.  When you take them to the mountains, harden off the plants over a period of several days by putting them outside for increasingly longer hours.  Willows prefer moist soil.  Try to plant them by a pond, stream or low area that collects run off, if possible.  I suspect deer may like to eat them.

Q:    Can I trim my snowball bush now?  E. C., Whitesburg, KY; 2/22/04
A:    It would be better to wait to prune the snowball bush after it has bloomed in spring.  If you prune it now you are likely to have few flowers this year.

Q:    I have a skyrocket juniper that has started fading to a brown from the inside of the tree out and from the bottom up.  Do you know what might be causing this?  I would really appreciate any advice you can offer.  B. P., Dallas, TX; 2/15/04 
A:      The pattern of browning you described is often associated with over-watering and/or poor drainage of the soil.  Established junipers prefer to be on the dry side.  Also, shearing junipers can cause the inner foliage to turn brown.

Q:    I have a 3 year old Hall's Honeysuckle.  The Honeysuckle is really woody at the top and the trellis it is growing on is falling apart.  I would like to prune it down and replace the trellis.  I am in Colorado Springs.  When would be the best time to do this, if at all?  T. A., Colorado springs, 2/14/04 
A:    You can prune the honeysuckle in spring.  Select some of the older stems and cut them off at ground level to promote the growth of new stems.  You can also prune off the top of remaining stems by about one third of their length.  Pruning annually will encourage healthy growth and better flower production. 

Q:   I've got property just to the east of Rifle Falls Park at 8,000 feet. It is a mix of aspen, lodgepole pine and small meadows in the few flat areas. I would like to plant some mast trees that would be producing by the time I retire (10 years at the soonest). I would also be interested in any other hardy producing plants that would be appropriate for that altitude.  M. L., Castle Rock, 1/17/04
A:
  The following are some fruit producing plants that are hardy to an 8000 ft. elevation.  As one might expect, the list is short.  The higher the elevation, the fewer the number of plants that can be grown successfully. 
        Red Raspberries (Rubus idaeus) -- 'Boyne' cultivar
        Red Currants (Ribes sativum) -- 'Red Lake' and 'Wilder' cultivars
        Gooseberries (Ribes grossularia) -- 'Pixwell' and 'Welcome' cultivars
        Jostaberries (Ribes nidigrolaria)
 

Q:   I need help so badly.  On the north side of the house the concrete foundation is looking very ugly where it connects with the brick. This is under some arched living room windows. I am going to have two scraggly bushes taken out (evergreens) and want to plant something different -- probably evergreen type again...something that hides the concrete ( up to 15 inches above the ground), does not get too tall and stays green all year.  It needs to be low maintenance, but I want it to look good. Can you recommend something that is not the run of the mill type bush ? I live in Lakewood.  B. M., Lakewood, 12/4/03
A:
  Unfortunately, there are few small shrubs, other than junipers, that stay green all year in Colorado.  Junipers require sun to look their best, which means they aren't well suited for the north side of a house.  The following plants are small, stay green year round and do well in part shade.  Perhaps one of them will suit your needs.
    Korean Boxwood (Buxus microphylla, var. koreana)
    Creeping Grape Holly (Mahonia repens)
    Wintercreeper (Euonymus) -- the following types stay low
        E. fortunei 'Emerald Gaity'
        E. f. 'Emerald 'n Gold'
        Purple-leaf Wintercreeper (E. f. 'Coloratus')

Q:    If I trim my red-twig dogwood right now will I kill it?  What is the best way to make it smaller?  I've heard cutting the root ball around the edges is the best way to slim it down.  Please help.  Can I trim back my butterfly bushes now or will I hurt them?  T. R., Englewood, 10/22/03
A:
   Fall is not a good time to prune deciduous shrubs such as red-twig dogwood.  The plant is going into dormancy.  Pruning will disrupt this process by encouraging new growth that could be damaged in winter.  Wait until late winter or early spring to prune the red-twig dogwood.  At that time you should cut off one third of the older canes at ground level.  The older canes will lack the bright red color of younger canes.
  You should also wait until late winter or early spring to trim back the butterfly bush.  Cut back all of its canes to just a few inches above ground level.

Q:    I live in Atlanta, GA, and have a pussy willow that I planted last year.  It was doing so well this year, but was planted too close to the house and had to be moved.  Once moved, the leaves began to dry up.  What should I do?  Should I prune it or leave it alone?  L. M., Atlanta, GA; 10/4/03
A:    The pussy willow probably went into transplant shock, a common occurrence when plants are transplanted.  Moving a plant damages delicate roots, making it difficult for the root system to provide sufficient water to the canopy.  Therefore, pruning back the plant lightly is recommended.  Also, be sure to water it more frequently until the roots have recovered.

Q:    At our new home, there are three very large lilac bushes.  Do lilac bushes require pruning?  If so, what is the right time of year to do this and what's the correct way to prune them?  S. D., Longmont, 10/1/03
A:    Lilac plants that are older can begin to thin out and look shabby. To rejuvenate them cut off some of the older canes at ground level.  This will stimulate the growth of new canes. This task is usually done in spring right after the plants finish blooming.

Q:    I have many potentilla gold drop shrubs. They have almost finished flowering for the season.  They look as if they need pruning. When should I do this?  Now or in the spring?  Is there information available that would help me so that I will know how to prune them?  I hope you can help me.  Thank you.  B. M., Williamsville, NY, 9/21/03
A:    To keep potentillas looking tidy you can prune them annually by removing 1/3 of the older stems.  Or, if the plants are in poor shape you can prune them more drastically by cutting them back to the ground.  Prune the plants in late winter or early spring.

Q:    Two years ago, I planted an Engelmann's ivy vine, which is facing south so gets lots of sun.  My vine is still only about 4 ft high, when they say it should grow to at least 20 ft or more.  I keep it watered well and have fed it Miracle Gro, but it is not doing much of anything.  Last year I cut it back to the ground and was wondering if I should leave it on the arbor this winter.  I live in about a zone 2 or 3 area.  Thank you.  L. H., Weyburn, Saskatchewan; 9/7/03
A:    You should leave the Engelmann's ivy vine on the arbor this winter. Prune it in early spring or summer only if it begins to get out of control.  The area where you live may get a bit cold in the winter for it.  It is rated for warm areas of USDA hardiness zone 3 through zone 9.  You should put a thick layer of mulch over the base of the plant once the ground freezes in the fall.  This plant prefers moist, well-drained soil and does best in full sun.  Hopefully, it will perform better next year.

Q:    I have several plants I would like to transplant to other sites in my garden.  They include roses, spirea, Russian sage & asters.  Do I need to wait until spring or can I transplant some in the fall?  I have heard you can transplant 8 weeks before the last frost - when is that?  Fact or fiction?  Any tips on transplanting would be much appreciated.  Thanks for your time and advice. S., Lafayette, 8/22/03
A:    Early spring is the best time to transplant shrubs and fall-blooming herbaceous perennials such as asters.  For detailed information on transplanting, please visit the Planttalk Colorado website at www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk.  Click on #1700 "Trees, Shrubs & Vines."  Scroll down and click on #1717 "Transplanting trees & shrubs."  
       The Denver Rose Society recommends that roses be transplanted in early spring, no later than the middle of April.  Water the rose the day before you move it.  Cut the canes back as you would when doing annual rose pruning.  After planting the rose, cover the rose bush with burlap, bark mulch or evergreen boughs to help it retain moisture.  This cover can be removed when the rose bush begins to leaf out. 
       Keep all transplants moist, but don't drown them.  Too much water will kill them.  You don't have to worry about frost dates if the plants are hardy.  (The ones you mentioned are hardy.)  Along the Front Range the last frost date is around Mother's Day.  The first frost date is the first week of October.

Q:    What large shrub can I plant for privacy that is in a moist location?  M. S., Westminster, 8/2/03
A:    American Elder (Sambucus canadensis) likes water.  It grows 8 - 12' tall and as wide.  For leaves that are slightly yellowish, consider Golden Elder (S. canadensis 'Aurea.')  Members of the Willow (Salix) family are also a good choice for wet areas.  They grow 15 - 20' high and spread 10 - 12' wide.  Pussy Willow (S. discolor), Goat Willow (S. caprea), and Blue Stem Willow (S. irrorata) are suggested varieties.

Q:    I am having problems with one of our Manhattan Euonymus bushes. The leaves turn yellow & the bushes look thin instead of full in the summer.  It gets better in the winter, which leads me to believe it's a pest problem. But pesticides are not working.  There are web like patches, but the leaves are not being eaten.  This is only affecting one out of three bushes in my yard.  What can I do to save it?  B. L. Antioch, TN; 7/30/03
A:    The plant damage to the Euonymus may be due to the two-spotted spider mite.  Premature leaf drop, bronze-colored or yellow leaves, and webbing are typical symptoms.  This pest has developed a high level of resistance to mite-controlling chemicals, which is why the pesticides aren't working very well.  This tiny mite pierces plant cells and feeds on the sap, which explains why the leaves do not appear to be eaten.  They are semi-dormant in winter.  Warm temperatures and low humidity increase outbreaks.
       To control them, hose off the plant with a strong jet of water.  Keep the plant well watered.  Dry conditions promote problems.  Alternate the use of various miticides to deal with their pesticide resistance.

Q:    We have blue rug creeping juniper in a bed between a bike path and driveway.  A number of them were browsed by deer last fall, but seemed to be recovering this spring.  However, recently more and more of them have begun to yellow on the tip ends.  They have received water above what rain has been received.  The heavy clay soil was amended with well aged cow manure prior to planting.  Before we lose them, what could be causing this problem?  C. L., Littleton, 6/30/03
A:    The damage to the tips of the junipers may be due to watering problems or disease.  Junipers should be watered deeply.  Do not water them too often.  Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  If they are established plants they can be watered once or twice a week.  There are some steps you can take to control diseases, such as juniper tip blight, that cause tips to die.  Water early in the morning, not in the evening or during the night, so the needles dry off quickly in the sun.  IF possible, use a drip system, not sprinklers that spray water..  Warm weather plus moisture will promote disease.  Prune off dead tips.  Chemical treatment shouldn't be necessary.

Q:    I live in Durango and would like a recommendation on a vine-type plant to grow up a lattice covering my utility meters.  The meters are on the north side of my house, so the plant will need to like shade and, because we live in Durango, be drought-tolerant.  Also, can you recommend another groundcover or other plants for this same side of my house.  I have planted some vinca already and it is doing well, but would like some variety.  Thank you!  L. N., Durango, 6/17/03
A:    Finding drought-tolerant plants was no problem.  Finding plants that do well in the shade was a challenge!  The following vines are drought-tolerant and perform well in part shade.
       Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
       Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
       Hop Vine (Humulus lupulus) -- not as xeric as the others
       Hall's Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica 'Hall's')
       Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
       Silver Lace Vine (Polygonum aubertii)
The following groundcovers are xeric and do well in shade:
       Carpathian Harebell (Campanula carpatica)
       Sweet Woodruff (Galium odoratum)
       Hall's Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica 'Hall's')
       Creeping Grape Holly (Mahonia repens)
The following shrubs are xeric and do well in part shade:
       Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) -- prefers sun, but tolerates shade
       Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
       Cotoneaster
       Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyi)
       Three-leaf Sumac (Rhus trilobata)
       Silver Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea)

Q:    I live in southern Wisconsin and my red barberry is looking sickly.  The new branches are turning white and the other branches just don't have the nice red color like when I first planted it.  Any suggestions?  L., Rio, WI; 6/14/03
A:    To maintain the best color the barberry plant needs full sun.  Avoid over-watering it.  Older plants can begin to look shabby.  You can spruce them up by cutting some of the older canes off at ground level.  This will encourage the growth of new shoots which will have more color.

Q:    I have two fastigiata yews that are turning brown.  They are planted near our house facing south.  I live in a plain area with clay soil.  How should I care for these shrubs?  D.,Omaha, NE; 5/30/03
A:    Yews require full or partial shade (no afternoon sun).  A south-facing location is going to cause them to burn.  Also, be sure they receive plenty of water.  They prefer moisture.

Q:   Hi,  I live up in Divide, Colorado.  It is about an hour west of Colo. Springs.  I think I am in zone 4.  I have been trying to grow lilac bushes for a few years.  One finally took off after 6 years.  The other five I planted about 3 years ago don't seem to be doing very well.  Is there anything you can suggest to help getting at least some leaves on the bushes?  I am starting to use Miracle Gro once a week and trying to keep the deer away.  Thank you.  
P. S.  I am also going to try and plant a butterfly bush for the butterflies.  Any suggestions?  C., Divide, 5/21/03
A:    Lilacs may take a while to become established -- up to three years.  They need about six hours of full sun daily.  Avoid over-watering them.  They need good drainage and are drought tolerant when established.  I believe you should cut back on the weekly use of Miracle Gro.  Over-fertilization can be harmful to plants.  You might try using a deer repellent spray to deter deer from feeding on the plants.  Because deer are especially attracted to new leaves, you will need to reapply it frequently while new foliage emerges.
       Several attractive cultivars of butterfly bush are available.  Expect much of the bush to die back in winter.  You should prune it to about twelve inches tall in spring.

Q:    We recently bought a home in Boulder.  A six foot wooden fence borders the south-facing back yard.  Along the fence, there is a row of ten lilacs.  They are roughly 8' tall and very gangly.  I'd say the bottom 4-5' are just limbs - no leaves or blooms.  Last fall, I had them pruned to try the "3-year lilac replenishment" approach and this Spring, they look even worse.  I'm thinking of taking them out.
   Any ideas for a 6-10' bush that can handle both north and south-facing conditions?  With the fence, the bushes would face north to begin with.  As they grow (hopefully!), they'd get sun from the south.  M. M., Boulder, 5/19/03
A:    It appears you need shrubs that tolerate sun and partial shade.  The following are some possible choices.
       Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
       Ninebark (Physocarpus)
       Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucidus)
       Arnold Red Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica 'Arnold Red')
       Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
You should improve the soil by adding compost before planting new shrubs.

Q:    I live in Evanston, Wyoming, and or elevation is about 7000 feet.  I would like to know of any vines that would grow here. Thank you.  J. H., Evanston, Wyoming; 4/25/03
A:    These are the only vines I found that would be suited to your altitude:
       Hop Vine (Humulus americanus) -- deciduous, sun or part shade
       Matrimonyvine (Lycium halimifolium) -- deciduous, sun, invasive, not recommended in shrub borders
       Englemann Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia 'Englemann') -- deciduous, sun or part shade, also called Englemann Ivy.

Q:    We purchased a home that has mature chokecherry bushes that have never been pruned. They are probably 8 feet tall and very much out of control. How much can we cut them back and when should we do it?  Will they live if we cut them completely back to the ground?  The same thing is true of the Nanking Cherry bushes -- when can we trim these and how much at one time??  Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks.  J. R., Powell WY; 3/16/03
A:    As a general rule, you should prune off no more than one third of a plant annually.  Late winter or early spring just before the plant's leaves open up is a good time to prune most shrubs.  Lilacs and other blooming shrubs are pruned later in spring right after they have bloomed.

Q:    We have 5 barrels in our front yard.  They get full sun. We would like to put some cactus in them. Can you tell us which cactus would do the best and survive the winter?  P. R., Widefield, 3/14/03
A:    It appears that you live in USDA hardiness zone 5.  Therefore, you should try to select plants that are suited to zone 5 or lower so that they are likely to survive cold weather in winter.  In addition to cactus, there are many nice succulents (hardy Living Stone, hardy Ice Plant, etc.) that you might like to put in the barrels.  The soil used should be a commercial cactus mix, if possible.  It is essential that the soil is fast draining.
       Some types of cacti you might like to consider include these:
Bailey's Lace Cactus (Echinocereus reichenbachii v. baileyi)
Claret Cup Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus triglochidiatus)
Royal Gorge Spiney Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus coccineus)
Lee's Dwarf Snowball (Escobaria leei)
Mammillaria vivipara
Prickly Pear Cactus varieties (Opuntia) - check on size and hardiness
       A good source of information on cacti and succulents as well a place to order them is High Country Gardens in Santa Fe, N. M.  Please see their website www.highcountrygardens.com.  An event you might like to attend is the upcoming Colorado Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale which will be held on March 29 - 30 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Denver Botanic Gardens.  Experienced growers can provide information and a wide variety of plants.

Q:    We live in southern Idaho in a climate similar to Denver's.  We have red twig dogwoods that need to be trimmed away from a fence.  Several articles I've read suggest trimming back 1/3 of the oldest branches, but don't say how close to the ground.  Can you help?  P. L., Nampa, ID; 3/2/03
A:    You should trim the stems of the red twig dogwoods at ground level.  The oldest branches will have less of the red color that makes this plant so popular.

Q:    What kind of trees, shrubs and evergreens will grow in alkali soil and plains conditions?  B. S., Sugar City, 2/24/03
A:    Coming up with a list of plants that can grow in alkali soil and plains conditions was a challenge.  In doing research, I found that "alkali" is sometimes used to refer to soils that are high in soluble salts, and at other times it is used to mean alkaline, having a high pH.  Therefore, I have noted whether a plant was specifically listed as salt-tolerant and/or tolerates alkaline soil (high pH).  Probably, your soil is both.  Plains conditions frequently mean limited rainfall, so I only listed plants that need a low amount of water (xeric).  It appears you live in USDA hardiness zone 5.  Therefore, you should select plants such as these that are hardy in zones 5 and lower.

Trees:
Goldenrain Tree (Koelreuteria paniculata): salt-tolerant
Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa): tolerates alkaline soil
Japanese Pagoda Tree (Sophora japonica): salt-tolerant, tolerates alkaline soil
Chinese or Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila): salt-tolerant, brittle -- keep away from structures 

Shrubs:
Leadplant (Amorpha canescens): tolerates alkaline soil
Saltbush (Atriplex canescens): salt-tolerant; This is a Zone 6 plant, but may be worth trying if your soil is especially high in salt.
Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus): salt-tolerant
Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides): salt-tolerant
Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa): tolerates alkaline soil
Silver Buffaloberry (Shepherdia argentea): salt-tolerant, tolerates alkaline soil

Evergreens:
Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis): salt-tolerant
Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum): tolerates alkaline soil

   I did find an article on a CSU Cooperative Extension website that you may find helpful.  Please go to www.coopext.colostate.edu/TRA.  Scroll down to "Horticulture" and click on "soils information."  Scroll down the list of articles to "Salt Tolerance of Various Temperate Zone Ornamental Plants" by CSU Horticulture Extension Agent Curtis E. Swift.  While this article was written for people living in the western part of Colorado, you might be able to use some of the plants listed provided they are suited to Zone 5.

Q:   We are purchasing a cabin that has mature chokecherry bushes.  The problem is they have to be taken out. Is there any way to transplant them this winter.  They are around 8'x 8'.  I wonder about cutting them back and digging around the root, using a tractor to lift and move them.  They are planted about 3' from the foundation of the cabin.  Will the roots be too big and possibly cause damage to the foundation of the cabin?  Thank you.  A. W., Broken Bow, NE; 1/17/03
A:   Roots tend to extend to a width that is at least twice the height of a plant.  Therefore, there is a chance that they are growing beneath the foundation, especially if it is fairly shallow.  If I were in your situation, I would not risk damaging the foundation.  You might consider potting some cuttings from the bushes and then plant them in the yard after they have rooted.

Q:   I have 10 dipladenia plants which I am trying to winterize indoors. Should I cut them back?  How many times during the winter months.  I live in Buffalo, NY.  Currently, they are in the basement near windows and under an overhead light.  How often do I water them?  Should I fertilize?  They were beautiful this summer and would like to put them outdoors in the spring.  Thanks!  M. S., Buffalo, NY; 11/14/02
A:   You are in luck.  Dipladenia plants (sometimes called Mandevilla) can be grown as houseplants, so you should be able to over-winter them indoors.
       1) Keep the plants bushy by pinching off the tips of shoots.  Plants may be kept about 3 feet high or even shorter by pinching.
       2) Dipladenias prefer indirect or curtain-filtered bright sunlight.  Depending on how much light they get through the window, you may want to continue using the light bulb.
       3) They like warm temperatures (70 degrees F. or higher) during the day and cooler temperatures (60 - 65 degrees F.) at night.
       4) Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings, then water them well.  They like ample water, but do not allow plants to sit in water that has drained out.
       5) Allow the plants to rest during winter, then in early spring begin to fertilize them lightly every two weeks.  Continue to fertilize them throughout the growing season.  Use a fertilizer intended for flowering plants.  Be careful not to over-fertilize them, or they are likely to produce fewer flowers.
       6) The plants are frost tender, so do not put them outdoors until the danger of frost is past.  Then, put them outside for just a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time outside over a two week period.
       You should be able to enjoy the plants for several seasons.  Good luck.

Q:   Could you please tell me the most effective way to remove yucca from around my house?  I live in southeast Denver, CO and want to remove several dense clusters of what I think are soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca).  One cluster contains about 60 to 70 plants in a tight group that is about 8 ft  in diameter and 3 to 4 ft tall.  I've heard that yucca roots can reach 30 ft underground or more, and will sometimes grow back ten years after being removed.  I want to install a pavestone patio in their place.  What do you suggest?  S. A., Denver, 10/16/02
A:   You might try spraying or applying Roundup (glyphosate) to the plants.  Be careful not to let the spray get on plants you want to keep, as it will kill them too.  This herbicide should kill off the entire plant, including the roots.   Repeat applications may be necessary.  After the plants die you will need to dig them up and dispose of them.

Q:   I've ordered 5 Rose of Sharon's and was wondering if it was safe to plant them this Fall or should I wait until Spring?  A. B., Colorado Springs, 9/1/02
A:   Rose of Sharon plants may be planted in early fall.  If you already have the plants, I suggest that you plant them as soon as possible.  It is common for Rose of Sharon plants to die back to ground level in winter, but they should produce new shoots in spring.  They are slow to leaf out in spring, so don't be alarmed by a lack of growth in early spring.  After planting them, be sure to place a layer of mulch under the plants and keep the soil evenly moist for about a month while the roots begin to establish.

Q:   I have a seven year old wisteria vine, that was blooming when I bought it, but has never bloomed since.  I keep it watered and it faces to the south.  I don't know what type of fertilizer it needs.  I've tried Miracle-Gro, hoping to see it bloom again, with no results, other than foliage growth.  Please tell me what to do.  We live in southern Colorado at 7000 ft.  Thank you for your assistance.  D. W., 8/19/02
A:   Wisterias like full sun, so the south-facing site was a good choice.  When watering, be sure to soak the root zone deeply and thoroughly.  Avoid frequent, shallow applications of water.  Wisterias generally do not need fertilizer.  Too much nitrogen can prevent bloom.  Therefore, I suggest that you stop fertilizing the plant.  Be careful how and when you prune the plant.  Buds form during the summer, and you don't want to unknowingly cut them off.  Wisterias are easy to establish, but can be difficult to get to bloom.  The problem you are having is a common one with this plant.

Q:   I was wondering what is the best time of year to transplant evergreen hedges and lilac bushes?  J. L., Colorado Springs, 8/6/02
A:   Evergreens should be transplanted in early spring.  Transplant the lilac bushes in early spring before the leaves appear.  It is a good idea to water the plants thoroughly the day before you transplant them.  Keep them well watered until they become established.  Check the soil before watering.  You want to keep it moist, not soggy.

Q:   My holly bush needs to be rejuvenated - it is sprawling and has some yellowing leaves.  How should I fertilize it and/or prune it?  P. R., Boulder, 8/ 24/02
A:   Now (late August) is not a good time to fertilize or prune the holly bush.  Fertilization and pruning would stimulate new growth that could readily be damaged by cold weather this fall and winter.  When evergreen shrubs are involved, spring is a better time for these tasks.  Do the leaves that have turned yellow have green veins?  If so, the plant may be lacking sufficient iron.  Chelated iron can be applied at this time of year.  Yellowing leaves (without green veins) can be caused by watering problems -- either too little or too much.  When you prune the plant, shape it up by removing no more than one third of the stems.

Q:   We live on a down-slope and get a lot of run-off from our neighbor's sprinklers.  What tree or bush can we plant (in water-soaked areas of our lawn) to drink up all this sitting water??  L. W., Colorado Springs, 7/2/02
A:   Trees and shrubs that are members of the willow (Salix) family do well in wet areas.  Also, several types of Iris, such as Siberian Iris, Japanese Iris and Iris setosa, will do well.  If you get lots of water draining into your yard, you may need to consider installing a drain at the property line to divert the water away from the lawn.

Q:   Hi!  I planted 3 Hibiscus syriacus (Rose of Sharon) plants in my yard in late May. The problem is, they are wilting every day from mid-afternoon until the sun goes down.  The Western Garden Book says they should have full sun so I planted them in the south part of my yard where they get full sun all day long. Since my soil is clay, I added lots of amendment: "Clay Buster" and Cotton Boll. I water them deeply every other day.  Do you know why are they wilting?  Thanks tons.  A., Fort Collins, 6/26/02
A:   There are several possible causes for the Rose of Sharon plants to wilt.  The root system, which was disturbed and damaged during planting, probably hasn't recovered yet.  Once the roots become established the plants should be okay.  Wilting is problematic: it can be a sign of too much water or a sign of too little water.  You may be over-watering the plants if you water deeply every other day.  This plant doesn't like wet areas and needs good drainage.  They do like full sun and heat, so your site isn't the problem.

Q:   Do you know if the Primrose Lilac (yellow) grows well here, and if it is available to buy in the Denver area?  S. K., Denver, 6/6/02
A:  I don't know if Primrose Lilac is available at Denver garden centers.  You might try calling several of the larger ones to see if they have it.  It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 2 - 8, so it should do well in the Denver area.  It is probably available through mail order or Internet sales.

Q:   I hope you might help me.  I just plant a hibiscus from a gallon container.  It was full of blooms and looked very healthy when I planted it.  Now the leaves are turning yellow and dropping off from the bottom up.  Do you have any ideas before it's too late.  C. Y., Centennial, 6/3/02
A:   You may be over-watering the hibiscus.  Yellowing leaves from the bottom up or from the inner part to the outer part of a plant can be a sign of too much water.  The plant is probably experiencing transplant shock as well.  The high temperatures we had recently may have contributed to the problem.  On hot days you may want to mist the plant lightly with the hose while it gets established.  Keep the soil slightly moist but not soggy.

Q:  Hello, are there any very small trees or shrubs that could survive year round in a container on my  partial-shade, covered patio? And do you have any suggestions for the same type of thing, that could easily be moved indoors for the winter season?  K. S., Greeley, 6/2/02
A:   It is extremely difficult to over-winter trees and shrubs planted in containers here.  The soil and root ball will freeze, preventing the plant from absorbing water.  Our drying winds compound the problem.  The freeze/thaw cycles in spring are also quite damaging.  I encourage you to invest in plants that can be used outdoors while the weather is nice, and then be moved indoors.
  I have a few suggestions regarding moving the plants indoors.  Before bringing the plants inside, hose them off to remove dust and pests.  Remove any dead leaves, flowers or other debris from the top of the soil or on the plant.  Choose a spot in the house that has bright light (a western or southern exposure).  You may want to keep a lamp on in the evening for a few hours to provide additional light for the plants.  Water the plants as needed, being careful not to over-water.
  Some plants to consider include Azalea, Bougainvillea, dwarf citrus trees, Ficus trees, Geraniums, Hibiscus, Hydrangea, as well as many others.  If the plants have been kept indoors at the garden center, you may need to put them outside for only a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time spent outdoors.

Q:   I have a Thuja Occidentalis Emerald Spiral.  When we moved into our home I pruned it severely.  After the winter, it has turned brown, but does have some green on it.  I just put on some root stimulator, but wondered if there is anything else I can do to bring it back to health?  R. S., Draper, UT; 5/31/02
A: The severe pruning may have stressed the plant too much.  Did you water it during winter?  Evergreens tend to dry out excessively in winter unless watered occasionally.  Keep the plant well watered and keep your fingers crossed!

Q:    Will ferns do well on the east side of the house in Denver?  How do I take care of them?  D. W., Northglenn, 4/21/02
A:    Ferns should be planted in soil that has been heavily amended with compost.  Keep the soil moist and cool.  A layer of mulch will help retain moisture and keep the soil cool.  Select a site that has full or partial shade.  The north and east sides of a house are suitable locations provided the ferns are placed where they will receive little direct sun and wind.   
   The following varieties are perennial ferns that die back during winter and produce new fronds in spring.
       Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum aleuticum)    
       Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
       Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)
       Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
       Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora)

Q:   We have lived in southeast Aurora for about 22 years and I have not had success with the planting/nurturing of honeysuckle.  Any suggestions would be very welcome!  Thanks. S. W., Aurora, 4/18/02
A:   When planting honeysuckles select a site that has full sun or partial shade.  Vine-types will tolerate more shade.  These plants prefer well-drained soil that has been amended with compost.  Unamended heavy clay soil will be a problem for them.  Honeysuckles like moisture while their roots get established but need less water once they are established.  Avoid over-watering, which can kill the plants.  Use mulch to retain soil moisture.  When needed, prune vines in spring after they bloom.  When plants are a few years old begin to cut back some of the older stems to the ground each year to encourage new growth.  A common pest is Honeysuckle Aphid.  Inspect plants frequently and treat promptly when pests are found.
   Be sure to select one of the varieties suitable for Colorado.  There are basically two types, shrub and vine.
Shrub varieties for Colorado:
      Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) 'Arnold Red'
       Zabel or Blueleaf Honeysuckle (Lonicera korolkowii floribunda) 'Blue Velvet'  Note: needs little to moderate water.
       Bearberry or Twinberry Honeysuckle (Lonicera involucrata)
       Lilac or Tiny Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera syringantha)
       Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) 'Rem Red'
Vine varieties for Colorado:
       Hall's Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) 'Halliana'  Note: can be used as a ground cover; may need severe pruning to keep it in control, tolerates poor drainage.
       Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
       'Goldflame' or 'Pink Lemonade' Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrotti)
       Scarlet Trumpet, Brown's or 'Dropmore Scarlet' Honeysuckle (Lonicera x brownii)
   I hope these pointers will help you have more success with honeysuckles.  Good luck.

Q:    The north side of my yard gets mostly shade.  I would like to know if there are any plants or vegetables that I can plant that will grow in Colorado's climate with mostly shade.  I will appreciate any help you can give as I am not normally a gardener.  Thank you.  T. S., Federal Heights, 4/13/02
A:    There are a number of plants that perform well in shade.  I will list a few examples for several categories.

Groundcovers:  Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Purpleleaf Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei 'Colorata')

Annuals:  Impatiens, Wax Begonia, Pansy, Viola

Perennials:  Hosta, Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) - poisonous, Japanese Anemone, Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis), False Spirea (Astilbe chinensis), Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum, Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Shrubs:  Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis), Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'), Yew (Taxus), Grape Holly (Mahonia), Holly (Ilex x meserveae), Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle')

   Be sure to amend the soil with compost before planting.  Also, avoid over-planting the area by checking plant labels to see how large the plant will be at maturity.  You can use annuals to fill in empty spaces while permanent plants are growing to full size.

Q:    We planted some six foot tall grass last summer.  Should we cut back all the dried grass this spring?  S. B., Denver, 4/8/02
A:    March and April are a good time to cut back ornamental grasses.  They provide wonderful winter interest in the garden, but should be cut back fairly close to the ground before new growth appears.

Q:    I would like to find a bush that I can grow into a hedge between my house and my neighbor's.  I would like it to grow at least 6 feet tall and not more than 3 or 4 feet wide.  The total length of the hedge will be about 50 or 60 feet.  I don't mind doing an occasional trimming like 3 or 4 times each year, but I don't think I could take care of a high maintenance hedge.
   I would like a deciduous bush as I'm not a fan of evergreen (i.e. pine).  I would prefer something that grows somewhat quickly and is appropriate for our soil and dry climate.  I also don't want anything with thorns.
  Am I asking too much?  Does anyone have any suggestions of what I should try?  D. L., Denver, 4/5/02
A:    You might consider these shrubs for use as a hedge:
       Compact Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea 'Isanti'): 4 - 8' tall
       Lodense Privet (Ligustrum vulgare 'Lodense'): 4 - 8' tall
       Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica): 4 - 8' tall

Q:    I have just moved into my first home and need some suggestions for my east-facing front door area.  There is a huge Maple in the front yard so it is mostly shaded.  I have a bed (on the left side of the front door) about 20 feet long, against the house, with nothing in it.  I want to use some evergreen bushes, i.e., Boxwood, maybe some Hosta to create a little interest.  Will they work?  Are they fast growing?  Would something else work better?  I have a juniper on the right side of my door that I am not too jazzed about.  I would also like to have a tallish (15 feet) evergreen next to the door to create height, but not too wide.  Any suggestions?  Thanks for your time.  C. V., Denver, 3/30/02
A:   Some evergreen bushes that like shade include Euonymus (several types and sizes are available), Grape Holly (Mahonia), Holly (Ilex x meserveae) and Boxwood (Buxus).  Hostas like shade but will die back to the ground in winter.  These plants are not fast growing, so you may want to fill in empty spaces with annuals that like partial shade such as Begonia (Begonia semperflorens), Impatiens, Lobelia, Pansy, Viola and Torenia (Torenia fournieri).  A Columnar Blue Spruce (Picea pungens glauca) might work by the door.

Q:    I have a space of about 15' x 15' in front of our house that we're looking to add some color to.  Unfortunately, because of the way the house and garage are situated and because we face north, it gets little sunlight.  Currently, we have some ground cover that does well, but we'd really like to add some plants, bushes, and a smaller tree to add color.
   Will a Japanese maple do well in that area?  Also, what plants and bushes would do well and add some color?
   As for my back yard, it gets plenty of sunlight, plus a lot of water from the house behind us.  In fact, we've had to replace a few bushes because we were getting too much water.  What plants or bushes do you recommend for that type of area with lots of sunlight and lots of water?  S. L., Aurora, 3/29/02
A:   Some shrubs that tolerate shade include Boxwood (Buxus), Yew (Taxus), Grape Holly (Mahonia), and true Holly (Ilex x meserveae).  Flowers to consider include Monkshood (Aconitum), Bleeding Heart (Dicentra), Columbine (Aquilegia), Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium), and Primrose (Primula).  Japanese Maple will grow in partial shade and may work unless the soil has too much salt.  You might also consider a Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca 'Conica') for this area.
   Some perennials that like lots of sunlight and lots of water are Iris (types such as Japanese or Siberian, etc.), New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum), Globeflower (Trollius europeus).  Some shrubs that like sun and moisture include several Willows such as Dwarf Arctic Willow (Salix purpurea 'Nana'), Blue Stem Willow (Salix irrorata), Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa') and American Elder (Sambucus canadensis). 

Q:    In Y2000, I purchased 2 Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca "Conica") from a local nursery. I planted each tree in a large 1-inch thick foam pot located in a semi-sunny and wind-sheltered location in my fenced patio. Trees were watered regularly when top-soil seemed dry and fertilized 2x yearly with appropriate evergreen fertilizer. In the first year, one tree browned-out and died, first dropping its needles from near the trunk progressing out to the branch tips. This year, the second tree is following the same brown-out pattern. Thinking perhaps there was an unseen pest on the trees, they were sprayed twice yearly with insecticidal soap solution.
   Why am I losing these expensive trees even though they have received constant attention and care?
   As a substitute for dwarf Alberta Spruce, are there any potted specimens of upright juniper or yew which might be acceptable patio applications (8 ft. maximum height)? Thank you.  C. H., Lafayette, 3/3/02

Follow-up question:
   On Mar. 16, you were kind enough to give me some valuable suggestions regarding my project to grow upright junipers in pots. Thank you for your inputs.
   As an alternative to small upright junipers in pots, what do you think about growing the following in pots:
       Emerald Green Arborvitae, Thuja occidentalis "Smaragd'
I would appreciate your thoughts on this species. Thanks. 3/20/02
A:   Growing trees and shrubs in containers is not easy in Colorado.  The biggest challenge is to provide the right amount of water.  If the plant is over-watered it will die, so good drainage is essential.  The pots should have drain holes.  If the pots ever dried out completely, that may have caused the plants to die, even if they showed no symptoms immediately and were later watered well.  A soil moisture meter like the ones used for houseplants would be helpful for determining when to water the containers.  Unfortunately, even when watered properly, evergreen trees and shrubs such as Alberta Spruce tend to dry out in Colorado's excessively dry climate due to loss of moisture through the needles. The root system can't replace the lost moisture fast enough.  In winter it helps to spray evergreen plants with Wilt-pruf to prevent moisture loss.
   Another problem with plants in containers is temperature.  In summer the soil is likely to heat up excessively and in winter it is likely to get too cold.  Because pots often don't provide enough insulation, the plants are at risk.  The larger the pot, the better the chance for survival.  One source I consulted recommended pots with a minimum depth of two feet and a minimum diameter of 24 - 30 inches. 
   Unless you actually see signs that a pest is present, I suggest that you avoid using pesticides -- even milder ones like insecticidal soap.  Some plants are sensitive to pesticides.  Instead, spray the tree with a strong jet of water.
   Plants in containers do require more fertilization than those planted in the ground.  The frequent watering that container plants require leaches, or washes out, the minerals in the soil.  Diluted solutions applied more frequently would reduce the chance for fertilizer burn and keep soil mineral levels more consistent.
   There are a few upright junipers you might consider for your containers:  Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis) 'Blue Point,' Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) 'Medora' and Rocky Mountain Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum) 'Gray Gleam.'  Yews aren't the best choice for containers here.  They tend to be finicky.  I wish you luck.

Response to follow-up question:
   Arborvitae, like yew and Dwarf Alberta Spruce, is a risk.  All require afternoon shade, protection from the wind, and winter protection.  Instead of upright junipers you might like a dwarf pine:
       Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) 'Nana' or 'Fastigiata'
       Tanyosho Pine (Pinus densiflora) 'Umbraculifera'
       Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) -- several cultivars are available
These plants will tolerate sun and heat, and they require less water than arborvitae, yew and Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

Q:    I am having problems with our Euonymus Manhattan bushes. The leaves are turning yellow & the bushes look thin instead of full.  A neighbor said we should fertilize but I don't know if we should this time of year & I don't know if it would burn the bushes or not. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!  D. B., Florence, 3/2/02
A:    The loss of leaves and yellowing of leaves is probably winter damage.  Manhattan Euonymus may lose its leaves or suffer leaf damage at 0 degrees F.  Do not fertilize the bushes now.  Fertilization will encourage new growth that would be highly susceptible to damage from cold weather.  The bushes should leaf out again in spring when the weather warms up. 

Q:   I live in the Green Mountain area of Lakewood.  I would like some advice in selecting a hedge for my back yard.  I need something that will grow in full sun, that will grow pretty quickly, and will grow to a height of about 6 feet.  I am hoping to replace a fence with these hedges.  Do you have any suggestions?  M. J., Lakewood, 2/14/02
A:    If you want a hedge that doesn't lose its leaves in winter, you might consider Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium) which grows to 5 - 6' tall or a Juniper.  Some deciduous plants that can be used as hedges include:
   Barberry (Berberis) 4 - 6' tall; Note: it has thorns
   Compact Redtwig Dogwood (Cornus sericea "Isanti') 5 - 6' tall
   European Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster integerrimus) 4 - 6' tall
   Hedge Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lucida) 6 - 10' tall
   Lodense Privet (Ligustrum vulgare 'Lodense') 4 - 5' tall

Q:    I have two questions,  1) I have a blue (Nikko) hydrangea that is hardy for zone 5.  I planted this hydrangea three years ago, but it hasn't bloomed yet, any ideas?  2)  I have a porcelain berry vine growing for years. It seems to be thriving, but it has not bloomed either.  I've fertilized both plants with Miracle Grow but still no blooms.  Both plants are in a protected spot with some sun (I live in Boulder).  P. F., Boulder, 12/10/01
A:    Be sure to protect the hydrangea from frost.  Spring frosts may be killing the buds.  Plant blankets, or covers, that protect plants from frost are available at garden centers.  These plants prefer well-drained, loamy, acidic soil (a rarity in Colorado), that has been heavily amended with peat and other organic matter.  Plants generally will not perform well when planted in an unfavorable growing environment.  Keep the roots moist (not soggy).  Place a layer of mulch over the root area to protect the roots in winter and to retain moisture in summer.  How and when the plant has been pruned will also affect blooming.  Limit the amount of nitrogen fertilizer the plant receives.  Too much nitrogen can result in a lush, leafy plant that produces few flowers.   
   Porcelain Berry Vine needs heat to bloom and preferably should be planted facing the south or west.  It blooms on new growth, so be sure to thin and cut back the stems during winter.  Remove any suckers.  This plant can be slow to get established and bloom.

Q:    I purchased a house last year and the burning bush in front has gotten out of hand, blocking windows and the mail box.  When and how far back should I trim it?  K. S., Beech Grove, IN; 10/30/01
A:    Pruning stimulates growth; therefore, it is best to prune non-flowering deciduous shrubs in late winter. Because the shrub has gotten too big for the area it's growing in, you may want to use two types of pruning cuts -- thinning and heading.  Thin shrubs by removing entire stems, cutting them off at the base of the plant or at the parent branch or trunk from which they are growing. Remove no more than one third of the shrub's stems.  Heading removes only part of a stem.  Heading cuts should be made at a 45 degree angle just above a leaf bud.  Keep in mind that this type of cut will result in many new shoots growing out from the point where the stem was cut. Therefore, cut the stems short enough so that they have room to grow without being too big again right away.  

Q:    I have three potted dwarf hydrangeas that were planted in pots this spring.  I am wondering if I should bring them indoors or at least in the garage to spend the winter.  Last year, I had some that I left out in their pots and they did not survive the winter.  K. C., Fort Collins, 9/30/01
A:   The hardiness of hydrangeas varies by type.  Based on your previous experience with potted hydrangeas, it appears you should bring them indoors.  Be sure to rinse off the plants and the pots thoroughly to get rid of any pests prior to bringing them inside.  Try to place them in a cool spot away from heating ducts.  

Q:    I am originally from central Illinois.  One of the things I loved to do in the fall back in Illinois was look for bittersweet to pick and display as a dried arrangement or sometimes used to decorate a wreath.  I love the bright red berries. Does bittersweet grow in the San Juan Mountain area?  I live in Telluride.  I've been looking for it but so far have not found any.  Thanks for your help.  G. M., Telluride, 10/8/01
A:   American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) does grow in Colorado.  It grows in USDA hardiness zones 3, 4, 5 and 6, so it does grow in your area.  Keep looking for it!

Q:   About 4 weeks ago, I planted some Korean Dwarf Lilacs in my backyard. Since then, one looks like it's dying and the others are 1/2 dying, 1/2 healthy. The now dead leaves shriveled up but didn't have any discoloration or parasites prior to folding up. Any idea what the problem may be?  Is the plant dead with no chance to revive? P. M., Aurora, 9/9/01
A:    Poor watering practices are the main reason new plants have difficulty surviving in our yards.  Providing too much or too little water, or watering too frequently or not often enough can be the culprit.  The symptoms of these problems are quite similar, making it hard to know if the plant is getting insufficient water or needs more!  Because lilacs prefer well-drained soil, I tend to suspect they may be getting too much water.
   At this time of year it is often difficult to determine if a recently planted shrub is dead or just dormant.  I suggest that you wait until spring to see if it leafs out.  You can replace it then, if necessary.

Q:   I am trying to find a variety of hedge that will work well in Colorado Springs.  I'm looking for something that is evergreen, will grow quickly and thick to start with, but not grow much once it is about 5 feet high. S. L., Colorado Springs, 8/10/01
A:   A number of plants can be used for hedges in Colorado, but few are evergreen. Two that grow to about the size you want are 'Winter Gem' Boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica 'Winter Gem')  and Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium).  Be sure that the boxwood is suitable for your USDA hardiness zone. It is supposed to be hardy to -10 degrees F.

Q:    With the freeze/snowfall we had last week, many of my trees and shrubs have dead leaves.  My locust tree had just leafed out and all its leaves are brown.  Many of my rose and lilac bushes have either brown or wilted leaves.  Should I prune back where leaves are crispy?  What are the chances the shrubs will recover? C. G., Littleton, 5/23/01
A:    Established hardy trees and shrubs often recover from a late spring frost. Wait to see if damaged branches leaf out again rather than pruning them off immediately.  If after a couple of weeks the damaged branches show no sign of re-leafing, prune them off.

Q:    Can you please give me a list of shrubs, perennials and groundcovers that will do well in the front of my house where there is absolutely no sun? Thank you.  N. B., Denver, 4/30/01
A:    Some shrubs for shade include Annabelle Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'), Grape Holly (Mahonia), Holly (Ilex x meserveae) and Pyracantha.
   Some perennials that do well in dense shade include Hosta, Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis), Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), and Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
   Sweet Woodruff (Galium odorata) and Bishop's Weed (Aegopodium podagraria 'variegatum' are nice groundcovers for shady spots, but can be quite aggressive.  You might also uses some hardy ferns in this area.

Q:   I moved into a house two years ago with overgrown bushes on the south side of the house and overgrown lilac bushes on the east and west.  I'd like to cut them back.  When should I prune them? Thanks for your help.  N. P. M., Boulder, 2/20/01
A:   If you want flowers this year, prune the lilac bushes right after they finish blooming.  If flower production was poor last year, you may want to go ahead and thin out some of the older canes at ground level in late winter. Generally, you should remove no more than 1/3 of the canes per year. The other shrubs can be pruned in late March or April.

Q:    I have a hillside that needs weed removal.  I would like to plant shrubs and perennials in the spring.  Is there something I can put on the ground now to kill the weeds?  The hill gets full sun all day.  Approximate size is 70 x 80.  I would like to plant low maintenance shrubs, perennials, ground cover, trees.  Any suggestions?  I live in Rock Creek.  Thanks.  C. A., Superior, 1/18/01
A:    To kill weeds on the hillside I suggest that you use glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup or Kleenup, prior to planting the area.  Be forewarned, this product doesn't distinguish between good plants and bad plants (weeds).  It will kill both.  Clear the area with a rake after the weeds have died.  The glyphosate won't affect the new shrubs and perennials you plant there later this spring.
   Runoff of water is a concern on slopes.  You may want to use a drip system to water this area.
   Some plant suggestions:
     1) Junipers work well on sunny slopes.  They are low maintenance and evergreen.  A combination of low-growing, spreading varieties and taller shrub varieties would be attractive. Junipers come in varying shades of green: purplish, yellow-tinged, bluish, etc.  Try to incorporate several types.
     2) Trees such as pinyon pine, bristlecone pine, and gambel oak should work well.  Like junipers, they don't require much water once established.
     3) Ornamental grasses are growing in popularity.  Their texture and height would add a nice contrast.  Be sure to select ones that like dry conditions and sun.
     4) Some perennials to include are yarrow, echinacea (purple coneflower), blanket flower, lupine, bee balm and penstemon.
     5) You'll want to use annuals to fill in bare spots at first.  Marigolds, zinnias and sweet alyssum are good choices for a sunny location.

Q:    I have a sage plant.  It is getting old and real big.  Part of it is looking bad like it is dead.  Can I cut it back so it will have new growth and if I can when is a good time?  Do I cut it all the way to the ground or how?  L. B., Landrum, SC; 1/16/01
A:    Here are two possible remedies to choose from to rejuvenate the sage plant.
1)  Cut back your sage plant this spring to about 6-8" tall.  Hopefully, it will leaf out nicely in the springtime and will have no further problems.  2)  Some sage plants are perennials that need to be divided periodically.  If yours is several years old, it may need to be divided.  Prune the branches back to about 4" in autumn or early spring when the plant is dormant.  Dig up the plant, remove the sickly section of the plant (including that section's roots) and replant the part of the plant that is healthy.

Q:    I am planning my landscaping for my front and back yards.  I have limited space and budget.  I want to choose three trees, all small, and some small to mid size bushes.  Do you have any recommendations of things that will give great spring and fall color?  Fall color is especially important to me.  My front yard is a slope, any suggestions?  A. L. , Denver, 10/23/00 
A:    Below are some suggestions of trees, shrubs and groundcovers that will provide color in spring and/or fall. I included groundcovers since you mentioned that your front yard is a slope.

SMALL TREES
Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum): white flowers in spring, red berries, fall color
Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn (Crataegus crusgalli inermis): same traits as above but without the thorns
Flowering Crabapple (Malus): Be sure to get a variety resistant to fire blight, for example
'Radiant' -- deep pink blossoms, bright red fruit
'Coralburst' -- double rose pink blossoms, reddish orange fruit
'Profusion' -- purplish pink blossoms, red fruit
Tatarian Maple (Acer tataricum): fall color
Flame Amur Maple (Acer ginnala 'Flame'): fall color

SHRUBS
Spring color:
Spirea -- many varieties such as Spirea x vanhouttei 'Snowwhite' or Spirea x bumalda 'Froebelii'.
Small-growing rosebushes such as 'Bonica', 'The Fairy'
Fall color:
Compact American Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum 'Compactum') -- 4-6' tall, white flowers in spring, red fruit, orange-red leaves in fall
Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alata 'Compactus') -- 4-6' tall, scarlet red leaves in fall if grown in a sunny spot

GROUND COVERS FOR SHADY AREAS
Periwinkle (Vinca minor) -- blue flowers in spring, retains leaves in winter
Kinnikinick -- flowers, small red fruit, leaves turn reddish in winter

GROUND COVERS FOR SUNNY AREAS
Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) -- flowers in early spring
Creeping Potentilla (Potentilla neumanniana) -- yellow flowers in summer, red fall color
Stonecrop (Sedum) -- flowers, succulent-type leaves, seed heads in winter

Q:    I have an Alleghany Viburnum now into its 2nd summer.  It is about 4-5' tall, with lush leaves.  Last spring ('99) it did not bloom, and never fruited.  This year, after a mild winter, I cut it back in February.  Again, it did not bloom, and will not fruit.  It had lots of new growth.  I only fed it once with bone meal in May.  So, does it bloom on old or new wood? L.C., Boulder, 8/21/00
A:
   Alleghany Viburnums should be pruned lightly in May or June, right after the plant flowers.  Only minor pruning should be necessary to keep plants in shape.  Pruning at the wrong time of the year cuts off buds.
    For best results, this plant should be grown in full sun, although it tolerates partial shade.  It requires medium soil moisture. Too much nitrogen will result in lush leaves and few flowers.

Q:    I have a lilac bush that hasn't bloomed for the last two years.  It gets lots of sun and looks very healthy.  S. J., Evergreen, 8/21/00
A:
   There are several factors that could cause lilacs not to bloom.  Have the bushes been pruned?  If lilacs need pruning it must be done immediately after they flower.  Next year's buds will be cut off if you prune them anytime between summer and the following spring.
    Are the bushes located in a lawn or other area that receives applications of nitrogen fertilizer?  Too much nitrogen causes flowering plants to produce leaves instead of flowers.  To promote bloom, fertilize the bushes early next spring with a fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus.   
    Are the plants' needs being met?  Lilacs prefer alkaline soil.  They like water but require good drainage.  Lilacs should receive several hours of full sun each day.  Good air circulation prevents mildew.

Q:    I need help with finding plants that do well out here.  We just moved from Indiana and had quite a bit of shade.  Now all I have is full sun and lots of it!  Thanks for your help.  Any suggestions would be great.  A. M., Golden, 5/23/00  
A:
    Many shrubs that require full sun are readily available at local garden centers.  You should be able to find exactly what you need for your sunny yard with little trouble.  My first recommendation is that you amend the soil in your borders with organic matter such as compost or aged manure prior to planting.  Improving the soil is an essential first step to planting a garden in Colorado.
    Some tall background shrubs you might consider are these:
        Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)
        Butterfly Bush (Buddleia alternifolia) -- pink or lavender flowers
        Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) -- attractive red stems during winter
        Lilac (Syringa) -- several varieties do well here
        Mockorange (Philadelphus) -- pretty flowers
        Cheyenne Privet (Ligustrum vulgare 'Cheyenne')
        Viburnum -- many varieties are available
    Medium-sized shrubs for sunny areas include the following:
        Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus 'compactus') --brilliant red fall color
        Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) -- smaller plant than the one named in the list above
        Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri)
        Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena) -- attractive bronze color
        Compact American Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum 'Compactum') -- fall color
        Compact European Cranberry (Viburnum opulus 'Compactum') -- fall color
        Western Sand Cherry (Prunus besseyi) -- attractive flowers, fall color
        Vanhoutte Spirea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) -- masses of flowers, fall color
    Popular small-sized shrubs include the following:
        Crimson Pygmy Barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea 'Crimson Pygmy')
        Lodense Privet (Ligustrum vulgare 'Lodense')
        Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) -- covered with lavender flowers
        Dark Knight Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight') --  dark purple flowers
        Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda) -- several varieties are available; color of flowers  and foliage varies
        Spirea (Spiraea x japonica) -- several varieties have pretty flowers
  You may also want to consider ornamental grasses such as these:
        Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
        Elijah Blue Fescue (Festuca 'Elijah Blue')
    Every garden needs evergreens for winter interest and to anchor the garden visually:
        Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo) -- sizes vary
        Old Gold Juniper (Juniperus chinensis 'Old Gold') -- yellow tips are nice contrast to dark green shrubs
        Broadmoor Juniper (Juniperus sabina 'Broadmoor') -- dense, bluish foliage
    Many other junipers are suitable, but be forewarned that some junipers become huge and create major problems due to their size.  Before buying plants be sure to check the plant labels so see what size the mature plant will be.
    For a list of perennials that do well in sunny locations please see our Question and Answer page on flowers. 

 
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