| Beverly Shaw
Question and Answer
Q. I used to have many kinds
of peonies with excellent large blooms. But they no longer have many
blooms, and the foliage seems to have some kind of disease. I am almost
ready to kill them off. What can I do, or should I destroy them? -- Diane
H. Jungels, Rensselaer, Ind.
A. Cladosporium leaf blotch
of peony, also known as red spot or measles, is a common disease
in Indiana. Look for distinct, reddish-purple spots that appear on upper
leaf surfaces and on stems during early stages of disease development.
Eventually, these spots coalesce to form large, irregular, glossy, dark-purple
leaf blotches on the upper surface of leaves. The blotches appear light
brown or brownish-gray on the lower leaf surface. The merging of spots
on stems produces long, reddish-brown streaks.
Although there are fungicides registered
for control, none are totally effective at disease suppression. In addition,
accurate timing of applications early in the season and the need for thorough
coverage and repeated applications make the use of fungicides rather expensive
and time consuming for the average homeowner. The best control involves
removal of diseased tissue, particularly at the end of the growing season.
Stems should be cut at ground level, and the plant material destroyed.
The lack of blooms could be related to another issue. Peonies will not
bloom if they are planted to deeply. Yours were obviously planted at a
depth that made them happy earlier. Over the years, you may have mulched
regularly, mowed grass clippings in their direction or added compost or
soil over the crown of the plant. Pull back any material over the crown
so that the uppermost buds (eyes) are 1-2 inches below the soil level.
If the plants have settled, which will make them lower than the surrounding
grade, lift the plants up during the dormant season and reset them at
the proper depth.
Other possibilities for a lack of flowers include excess nitrogen fertilizer,
which encourages foliage growth at the expense of flower production, or
insufficient sunlight. Peonies require at least a half-day of full sun.
Q. I have a question concerning a very timely problem.
The deer have been stripping off the branches and bark of small Norway
spruce trees and other trees, particularly my small, scented Linden tree.
I know that Pruning Seal is not recommended any more after pruning; however,
could it possibly help cover up these open wounds? Sometimes, the bark
is missing in 1- to 2-foot-long sections, or even all the way around the
tree. I am sure I am not the only one with this problem. Your answer could
be very helpful. -- Alfred Meckel, Bright, Ind.
A. White tail deer can cause damage by stripping bark
or eating branches. You can tell their damage from that of a rabbit or
other rodent by the edges of the damaged area. Deer do not have front
incisors and leave a ragged, torn edge, while rabbits and other rodents
leave a clean edge. Also, the damage inflicted by deer is often too far
from the ground to incriminate any other animal.
Seals and paints are no longer recommended on tree wounds. They trap
moisture against the bark, providing an ideal breeding ground for some
insects and diseases. If the wound has any chance of healing, it will
form a layer of callus tissue. It cannot do so if a sealing product is
For the future, use plastic tree wrap or woven-wire cylinders to protect
young trees from deer and rabbits. Four-foot woven-wire cylinders can
also keep deer from rubbing tree trunks with their antlers.
Q. For two years, my yellow rose bush bloomed yellow
as it was supposed to do. However, this year, the blooms are red. Do you
know why this happened? -- Loretta Neidigh, Bloomington, Ind.
A. You are probably seeing flowers coming up from the
rootstock. Many roses are grafted onto a rootstock that provides strength,
adaptability and more to the plant above. The top portion of the plant
is chosen for the aesthetics of the flower and foliage, among other things.
A variety of problems can cause the top to die; chief among them is winter
damage, but that leaves new shoots coming up from the roots, which could
have flowers of a different color. It's also possible the top portion
of the plant is still alive, but shoots from the roots are often more
vigorous and may have outgrown the top.
Often, the foliage itself looks different. Inspect it this spring to
see if you can identify any shoots coming from the root or below the graft
union, as well as a different sort of foliage. Prune out the offending