While visiting an arboretum, I saw a cherry tree with red, peeling bark. I am going by my memory but I think the scientific name was Prunus macki or something close to this. Are they easy to grow?
-- B. P. of Belleville
A. There are actually two cherry species that I know of that have great looking peeling bark. The one you saw is the Prunus maackii. This species can grow up to 35 to 45 feet tall. The bark peels similarly to a birch tree except that the color of the bark can range from shiny red to brownish yellow to cinnamon brown. You need to see the tree before choosing one so you can have the desired color of peeling bark. Not all of these trees have the bright color. Some specimens have large amounts of exfoliating bark and others do not peel back much of the bark at all.
Also, 2- to 3-inch spikes of white flowers bloom in early to mid-May. It does have the common name of Amur chokecherry, which means birds will try to feed on the red-to-black maturing fruits. That can lead to small trees popping up wherever the soil is disturbed by cultivation when these seeds land in it.
Another cherry tree, Prunus serrula, can grow to 20 to 30 feet tall. This tree has a glistening bark surface that is a red-brown, mahogany in color. The flowers on this tree also appear in early to mid-May. They are larger than 1/2 of an inch and appear in groups of two or three. This tree is a little harder to find in nurseries but makes a tree of great beauty especially during the winter months.
How do you prune rosemary? I want to use it for cooking.
-- G. S. of Collinsville
A. You can safely remove about 4 inches off each stem about every seven days when the plant is actively growing. But do not put too much stress on the plant by removing more than 25 percent of the stems at one time. With European folklore, you can tell who is the head of the family by looking for a rosemary plant in the garden area. If there is a rosemary plant, the woman is the head of the family. And the larger that the plant, the more dominant the woman.
What can you tell about plant called "heavenly bamboo?" Does it spread like other bamboos?
-- M. D. of Maryville
Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not even related to the bamboo family. It's in the barberry plant family. This plant transplants very easy from container-grown material. It is very adaptable to any soil or exposure. This plant can grow in full sun or in extreme shade. New leaves are copper to purplish-red, becoming more blue-green with age. They have a reddish tint during winter. You will need to thin out the older stems each year and head back older canes to produce a dense plant. They can spread by rhizomes, very similar to bamboo.
Do it now
FLOWER SEEDS: Sow your seeds of geraniums, pansies, begonias and petunias now.
BULBS: If you planted any spring- flowering bulbs last fall, you can start the warmup period to get them blooming.
CUTTINGS: Take cuttings from rosemary and thyme now.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.