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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 17, 2011

From: Pittsburgh, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Non-native and/or hybridized shrubs in Pittsburg PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted 2 boulevard cypress pom pom trees last year in my front yard in the clay conditioned soil. We dug the tree holds according to the planting instruction and filled some sand in the bottom for drainage. First few months the tree had a little growth but in the beginning of this year, the tree turned half brown. Is there any hope to resurrect the trees such as replant them in a well drained soil? In addition two out of three Dwarf Alberta Spruce Spiral Topiary trees completely turned brown. What type of evergreen shrubs will survive in the poor drained soil? Thanks

ANSWER:

Whoa! Before we can try to find the answer to your question, we have to figure out what the true botanical names are for the plants you are asking about. The names you have given are commercial trade names, representing either possible hybrids or plants that have been bred by selection of certain traits, such as dwarf size, for specific purposes. Insects and diseases, however, are not interested in commercial names but in whether or not they can live off a partiular plant.

We found this ad with a picture of the Chamaecyparis pisifera, referred to as a False cypress. This species was also on a list from Klupenger's described as a "grafted conifer," which complicates matters, as we don't know what root stock received this graft and how it affects the health of the entire tree. The Genus Chamaecyparis, the Falsecypress. The Gymnosperm Database Chamaecyparis

This article from Ohio State University states that this tree is native to Japan, which makes diagnosis even more difficult, because the specialty of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow natively. Hopefully, you will find some clues to what is wrong with your falsecypress from the above references.

Then, on to the Dwarf Alberta Spruce Spiral Topiary (whew!).  Picea glauca (White spruce) is apparently the tree referred to, and is indeed native to Pennsylvania. We were able to get more information on this plant, including the fact that it does not like alkaline soil, does best in full sun, and the side toward shade or wall will lose needles over time. Spider mites, specifically the Spruce Spider Mite seem to be the worst pest of this plant and tends to be worse when the plant is in shade. From our webpage on this plant:

"Soil Description: Moist loam or alluvium, though tolerant of many soil types.
Conditions Comments: White spruce is susceptible to trunk and root rot, salt spray, spruce bagworm, and other insect pests. It is, however, one of the most tolerant spruces for wind, heat, cold, drought, and crowding, and is the most amenable native spruce for eastern landscape use. Best in full sun. Becomes stunted in sub-alpine zones."

Here are more informational sites on this plant:

Colorado State University Extension Spider Mites. Penn State University. Spruce Spider Mite Fact Sheet. evergreengardenworks.com Spider Mites! Pictures of Pinus glauca from Google.

 

 

 

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