Q&A About Watson, The IHuman Supercomputer

Q. For the past two years my astilbe plants have had plenty of leaves and have also produced tall flower stems. These stems have many buds on them but they don’t open. The buds look brown all spring and summer. Some are planted under a Styrax japonica and others are planted in shady areas in my backyard. They are watered three times a week with our watering system. The ground usually stays evenly moist. If you think they are getting too much shade, can they be transplanted? — P. Johnston, Chesapeake 

A. Sounds like you are doing the right things with your astilbe. They prefer some shade, preferably morning sun/afternoon shade. Not a hot spot. But, if your area is total shade, this could certainly be an issue. They do not like to be too dry, but it sounds like you have been keeping them adequately watered. What about fertilizing them? They are heavy feeders. Unless you believe sunlight is an issue, try fertilizing them with a 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer in the early spring to see if that works. They can be moved in either the spring or fall. Not sure how established yours are, but they may need dividing every 3 to 4 years. Plan on feeding this spring, and if that fails, move the them to another spot in the fall. 

Q. What is the correct procedure and time for pruning a magnolia tree? I purchased it as a 3-foot sapling some 35 years ago. It is now approximately 60 feet tall and just about as wide. The branches close to the ground make it impossible to walk under. — D.K. Thompson, Norfolk. 

A. I am going to assume this is Magnolia grandiflora. In general, magnolias do not like to be severely pruned, as this sounds to be what would be the case with your grand old tree. They are slow to heal and tend to bleed. Thus, it would have been better to limb-up when it was much younger, to avoid making large cuts that are potentially slow to heal. But this is hindsight, so if you are determined to have this done, I’d plan for summer. I can imagine that these might be quite large limbs, so I’d contact an arborist to do this work for you. Someone with experience and the proper equipment and technique can handle these large limbs and make correct pruning cuts that have the best chance for healing properly.

and one more thing ...

We were lucky to dodge the snow and ice last weekend. However, last Saturday my favorite meteorologist in Richmond was predicting a blizzard for this weekend. So this morning, I’m remembering 36 years ago, this very same weekend in January, that produced the two coldest days on record in Hampton Roads, 3 and -3 degrees. Go back a good bit in the record books to Thursday, Jan. 19, 1893, when 9.3 inches of snow set the all-time record for January. What is it about Jan. 19-21? Records are meant to be broken, but my fingers are crossed that we don’t come anywhere close this weekend.

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Source : https://pilotonline.com/life/home/lawn-garden/article_e69e739a-1841-11e9-99b0-7f9e473d3295.html

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