Q&A: Questions about shrubs and trees

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

High humidity and afternoon showers create the perfect environment for a multitude of problems for home gardeners. While some are having difficulty with insects and diseases, others seem to be avoiding normal early summer problems. Count your blessings as insects and diseases ebb and flow during the growing season. Below are a few questions I’ve received over the past few days.

Question: There is a small evergreen shrub at one of my friends’ home that has blooms very similar to a dogwood. They are much smaller and are blooming now. Can you tell me what the name of this shrub?

Answer: The plant you referring to is an evergreen dogwood tree, Cornus Angustana ‘Elsbry’ Empress of China. The small tree can produce up to 150 creamy white blooms per branch in late spring. The small tree can reach a height of 12-15 and has survived very well for several years. Go to https://jcra.ncsu.edu/horticulture/our-plants/results-by-name-serial-number.php?serial=110926 for more detailed information.

Question: We have crape myrtles that have new suckers emerging from the base of the tree. Is now a good time to prune them out? Is there any way to keep them from coming back?

Answer: The new growth or water sprouts can be pruned out from around the tree now. Be sure to prune them as close to the trunk as possible and do not leave a stub. If you leave a stub, the water sprouts will quickly reappear.

Question: Along roads in Rowan County the embankments, thickets, marshes and byways are dotted with large, white blooms of elderberry shrubs. What is the name of this late spring bloomer?

Answer: It’s an elderberry shrub which is native to the Piedmont. It is a deciduous shrub with showy spectacular blooms, very similar to viburnum and Queen Anne’s Lace.  Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a member of the honeysuckle family and grows in almost any type of soil.

These showy roadside shrubs will soon be laden with dark berries. Historically, pioneers utilized this shiny black fruit as a remedy for rheumatism and flu symptoms. Elderberry fruits and blooms have become very popular and are now grown commercially for teas, gummies, jams, jellies, syrups and wines. The elderberry is also a popular fruit in European countries used in pastries, pies, jams and juices.

Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/sambucus-canadensis/ for more detailed information about this interesting native plant.

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.