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Lawn & Garden

Ask Dayle

6/12/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Dayle Davis

Q: I planted some peonies last summer. This year, I’ve realized that I don’t like the spot one of them is in. When is a good time to transplant it?

A: Early fall is the best time to plant, transplant and divide peonies, but early in spring as soon as the soil is workable will work, too. When transplanting, remember that peonies love sunny locations and well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. To plant, prepare an area about 3 feet in diameter. Dig a hole large enough to accommodate the roots and work aged organic matter into the bottom of the hole. Situate the peony in the prepared hole so that the small, red-colored buds, commonly known as eyes, are 1 to no more than 2 inches below the soil’s surface. Note that the location of the eye in the soil is very important. Backfill and water well. Sometimes peonies pout when they are moved, so blooms may hold off for a year or two following transplanting.


Q: The tall ferns in my garden are starting to spread. I really like them, but how do I hold them back from overtaking other plants?

A: We all have that certain plant that we love but also love to hate in our gardens. It presents well and lasts long but rudely elbows less assertive plants aside. For exuberant fern growth, I simply take a sharp garden knife or pruning saw and cut through the knobby fern stub that pokes from the surface of the soil. Toss the fern fronds on the compost pile and toss the stub in the trash. This rough treatment seems to curtail any further fern grown from the knob but does not prevent the plant from sending out new roots.

If it is a young fern and a knob has not yet established, I grasp the fern firmly at its base where it exits the ground and pull steady and hard. Usually that will bring up fern and trailing root. I pull on the root until I trace it back to a spot in the garden where fern growth is desirable and then trim it off.

This is a task to be on top of every year, especially in mid-spring. Be a bit ruthless when you do it and things will shape up quickly for the summer. Once the fern realizes you will cut it no slack (pun intended), it tends to behave for the rest of the year.


Q: In one of your articles this spring you said you lost your roses but were going to wait before digging them out.  Did any grow back?

A: Thanks so much for asking. I pruned each rose last month, then scratched organic fertilizer into the soil around the base of the plant. The winter damage was so severe that all the roses had to be pruned back completely to their bud unions. (The bud union is the place where the bud is inserted into the bark of the rootstock plant. In Zone 5, the knob is usually buried an inch or two under the soil. Over time it begins to resemble a woody knob.) I am thrilled to report that every rose but one has produced new long, healthy canes. ‘New Dawn’ actually produced three new canes nearly 12 inches long overnight! The remaining rose is growing new canes, but they are smaller and are growing at a much slower rate. This rose is also the one whose bud union was not buried under the soil but sat at soil level — an oversight that will be rectified this month. Hopefully, gardeners in our readership area did not give up on their roses and are now experiencing similar results. Please be sure to let me know.


Q: Two of my large ash trees are starting to get holes in their trunks. Would this have to do with the insect you wrote about that was killing trees? What should I do next? I’m wondering if it is worth treating them or just cutting them down.

A: The emerald ash borer is wreaking havoc on Ohio’s ash trees with more than 12 million trees lost since the insect was first detected. Holes in tree trunks can be caused by a variety of reasons, including emerald ash borer. Below, I have listed a factsheet about emerald ash borer symptoms that may help you determine what is causing the damage to your trees. But trees don’t grow back overnight, so I urge you to contact a reputable arborist or tree care specialist before cutting down your trees. A tree expert can help determine the problem and recommend the best course of action.

For more information, call The Ohio State University Summit County Extension Hotline Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon at 330-928-4769, ext. 3, and request Fact Sheet HYG-2049-05, “Emerald Ash Borer Diagnostic Check-Off List.”

Please note fact sheets are sent out free; there is a fee for bulletins. Many bulletins are available online at ohioline.osu.edu and can be printed from home or accessed at the public library.


Dayle Davis is a freelance writer and avid perennial gardener with a B.A. in communications and course work in botany, geology and wildflowers. Davis is a master gardener emeritus under The Ohio State University’s Horticultural Extension. Readers can send in questions regarding lawn and garden issues, which could be featured in a future edition, as well as about the OSU Master Gardener program. Questions can be emailed to kcollins@akron.com, faxed to 330-665-9590 or sent to Leader Publications, 3075 Smith Road, Suite 204, Akron, OH 44333. Please do not send any leaves, seeds or other organic material. Inquiries about area garden clubs or groups should be sent directly to the particular organization in question.

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