February 9, 2008

GARDENING Q&A: Prune Scotch Broom Right After It Blooms

By Richard Nunnally, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.

Feb. 9--Prune Scotch broom right after it blooms Q:Please provide me with information on the proper fertilization and pruning for what I call Scotch broom. I don't know the proper name for it. Our bushes are about 5 feet high and 4 feet across. The blooms on this bush are a rusty orange and run the entire length of the stem. My fear is that a heavy snow will break the stem.

Answer: Scotch broom, or Cytisus scoparius, is a good example of a plant people either love or hate. In many areas, it is considered a noxious weed, but several commercial nurseries in Virginia sell named varieties that offer wonderful seasonal color in the landscape.

This plant is a legume that has the ability to fix its own nitrogen. Consequently, it normally does well without additional fertilizer. However, I did find a couple of references that suggested feeding it with Hollytone in the early spring, just before it starts to make its new growth.

Scotch broom should be pruned immediately after it finishes blooming. In fact, several references I checked suggested mowing it off with the lawn mower to stimulate thick new growth for the following season.

. . .

Q:In the fall of 2004, I purchased five 'Forest Pansy' redbud trees. By the next year, two of them were showing signs of distress. Last year, I was told by the Virginia Tech Extension Service that they were victims of bot canker. I was told I really couldn't do anything for them except water the trees well, which I was already doing. I am afraid I am going to lose all of the trees, because it appears to be spreading fast. Is there anything I can do to bring these trees back to good health?

Answer: I'm usually pretty quick to refer tree issues to an arborist. However, there are no good chemical controls for bot canker. This is a severely damaging fungus that attacks a number of trees and shrubs. It most often follows a drought season. The primary recommendation is to "minimize water loss," which is why you were directed to keep the tree well watered.

However, the Pest Management Guide from Virginia Tech suggests you should remove extensively infected trees. Unfortunately, it is one of the few diseases that affect redbud. Consulting an arborist is a good practice. However, I'm not sure there is anything else one can do.

Send questions to Richard Nunnally in care of the Flair Department, Richmond Times-Dispatch, P.O. Box 85333, Richmond, VA 23293 or by e-mail to .


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