Darrell Blackwelder: Beautiful spring weather brings in gardening questions

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 22, 2023

Many are working outdoors in our beautiful spring weather as both cultivated and natural wildflowers are in bloom. Retail garden shops and outlets are bustling with those choosing to take advantage of their time and weather. Below are questions posed to me as I was wondering though one of our local garden shops.

Question: There is the small tree with unusually interesting white blooms that are particularly showy covered with the large, airy panicles of very thin white flowers. Can you tell me what type of tree this could be?

Answer: The small tree or shrub is a white fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) or also known as Old-man’s-beard. It is in full bloom now across the county. The small tree will survive light shade but actually does best in sunny locations in the landscape. This is a native tree that we should try to use more often in our landscapes. For more information, go to https://union.ces.ncsu.edu/2022/04/white-fringe-tree/

Question: When is the best time to mow my daffodil foliage? They have bloomed out and starting to look bad.

Answer: Leave the foliage intact as long as possible. The foliage eventually turns brown and then it can be removed without damage to the bulbs. It is important to leave the foliage as long as possible as it provides a source of food to produce next year’s flower.

Question: I have some Encore azaleas and they are in full bloom and look great. However, I have a few that need a slight trim. I’m a little confused on when I should prune them since they bloom again in the fall. When is the best time to prune these plants?

Answer: Encore type azaleas grow very dense and dwarf so little pruning may be necessary. However, light pruning can also stimulate new growth. Encore type azaleas need to be pruned immediately after spring flowering for maximum fall bud set. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/rhododendron-encore/ for more detailed information on Encore azaleas.

Question: Can I use ground cloth to control weeds around may shrub beds? I have a lot of weeds during the early spring and I need to find a way to control them.

Answer: Using ground cloth is one of those maybe answers. Some locations ground cloth is fine for a few years controlling weeds. Other locations with Bermuda grass and other weeds it can be a nightmare. It works well under ornamental pebbles and stones. I suggest a preemergence herbicide in fall and spring to control weeds. Perennial weeds such as bermuda grass is very difficult.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.