Question and Answer
Q. We need your expert help concerning our Stanley plum tree. We
planted the tree four years ago. The catalog said it is self-pollinating.
One year we had two plums. Another year we had none. This year, I found
10 on the ground. All were green and small. What is wrong? The closest
other tree is an old persimmon, and it is always loaded with fruit. Do
we need fertilizer? If yes, what kind? Did we plant the tree too deep?
-- Theresa Gilstrap, Orleans, Ohio
A. At four years of age, your tree is not expected to produce a
full crop, so the number of fruits produced is not surprising. The fruit
drop can occur for several reasons. Many fruit crops did not do well this
year because of late frosts and heavy rains. These are less-than-desirable
conditions for pollination.
An insect called plum curculio could also cause the immature fruit drop.
If it happens again, inspect the fallen fruit for black, crescent-shaped
Stanley plums are self-fruitful but the more pollen the better! If space
allows, you might choose to plant another nearby.
Keep the plant healthy by applying 1 pound of a 12-12-12 fertilizer (or
equivalent) for each year of tree age or each inch of trunk diameter,
up to a maximum application of 8 to 12 pounds per tree. Apply in early
spring. Where trees are making adequate growth and fruiting regularly,
no fertilizer application may be required.
Q. We have an old patch of Redchief strawberries, which we have
been babying for years. We do get lots of catalogs but cannot find one
that sells Redchiefs. Can you find someplace that sells them? -- Robert
Trump, Plymouth, Ind.
A. Redchief is the old, standard variety for the commercial grower,
and it is still considered a good, all-around berry. The Indiana Berry
& Plant Co. reports its hardiness and resistance to Red Stele makes
it a consistent producer of medium to large, firm fruit that is excellent
for freezing. Although it is still widely planted, it has been steadily
replaced by Honeoye and Jewel for commercial planting.
Redchief is available from Mellinger’s at http://www.mellingers.com
or 1-800-321-7444 and also from the Indiana Berry & Plant Co. at 1-800-295-2226
Q. My hydrangea bush almost tripled in size this summer. I cut
some of the top back as it was covering some of the lower flowers. They
are beautiful colors of green, pink and blue. I want to keep this plant
healthy. It's almost 4 feet tall. How do I thin it, and is there any way
to divide it into smaller sections, like a hosta? -- Joe Holmquest, Winamac,
A. Your hydrangea looks beautiful in the photograph you sent. While
it appears healthy now, hydrangeas are heavy feeders, so watch for yellowing
leaves during the summer, indicating a need for fertilizer.
Hydrangeas do not lend themselves to division like hostas. Instead, they
are most often propagated by cuttings. To do this, take a 5- to 6-inch
cutting, preferably from a branch that did not flower this year. Remove
the lower leaves of the bottom two leaf nodes. Dip the ends of the cuttings
in rooting hormone, and insert into damp vermiculite or sterile medium.
Water them well, and allow to drain. The soil should be moist but not
soggy. Cover them with plastic but keep the plastic from touching the
leaves by adding stakes. Place the cuttings in bright light but avoid
direct sun. Do not overwater. When roots form in 2-3 weeks, transplant
the cuttings into potting soil, and keep them indoors until spring.
Q. I have seen many hydrangeas blooming abundantly in Plymouth.
These bushes have mophead blue or pink flowers that are like my 'Nikko
Blue' hydrangeas. What type of hydrangeas are these, and do you know where
I could purchase them? I understand hydrangeas bloom on previous year's
wood and that our zone is really too cold for hydrangeas. So what's the
deal with these bushes? -- Lynn Beauchamp, Plymouth, Ind.
A. The bigleaf hydrangea, H. macrophylla, is the plant with huge
flower clusters whose color can be pink or blue, depending on the soil
pH (blue flowers in acidic soil, pink flowers in alkaline soil). Southern
Indiana gardeners have had some luck with this plant, but, unfortunately
for most Indiana gardeners, this particular species does not flower reliably
in our area. It normally blooms on previous year's growth, and, because
it breaks dormancy very early, its flower buds are most often killed in
USDA hardiness zone 5. The vegetative buds often survive, or new shoots
sprout from the roots if killed back to the ground, forming a tidy, little
foliage plant, but, alas, no blooms.
Your 'Nikko Blue' hydrangea is a cultivar of the mophead or lacecaps
that you're seeing. Larger blooms can be encouraged by fertilizing regularly,
providing full morning sun and removing some of the flowers when they
emerge, thereby putting more energy into the production of the remaining
There is plenty of information available online at http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com
or in an article by Purdue Extension Consumer Horticulturist Rosie Lerner
Growers are working on a reliably blooming cultivar for Indiana. A new
cultivar called 'Endless Summer' originates from a planting in Minnesota,
which appears to bloom reliably and repeatedly on current season's growth.
'Endless Summer' is scheduled for release in spring 2004 by Bailey's Nurseries
in Minnesota and may be worth the wait.