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Not Even a Novice!

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  • Not Even a Novice!

    Hello everyone!

    I've been browsing the site and think you are just the people to help me. As my subject line indicates, I'm not even a novice, so please be patient. This will be a huge post, but I promise not to be as wordy in the future.

    My husband and I have purchased an old homeplace. We are remodeling the house and I'm in awe of the plant life. However, I know next to nothing about gardening and want to restore this much neglected yard back to it's former glory. We purchased the house late last spring and had no idea what would be blooming this time of year.

    Here are my basics - and the problems with them. There is an old fence row that is planted with everything - and has been neglected for years. It's grown up and weedy and I don't know where to start. Here's what I know I have so far:

    I have three flowering quice - two pink and a white - the pink are completely enrobed with honeysuckle. Help?

    I have two Japanese magnolias (didn't see these bloom last year) with lots of dead wood in them. How and when do I clean this out?

    There is a Rose of Sharon that has not yet bloomed this year - and I'm actually afraid it's growing in with one of my Japanese magnolias - in and amongst the dead wood, so I'm afraid to get too brutal with my trimming just yet.

    I have a wisteria in the midst of these - don't know what to do with it. It's sending runners everywhere. I have another wisteria that is in a tree form, so it won't hurt me to lose this one if I need to for the sake of everything else.

    I have a crepe myrtle in this fence row - and tons of other ones everywhere on the place. Prune or not? I know it's too late this year, but I could use some advice anyway. They still have the seed pods from last year. They are deep pink, white, a beautiful lavender. What can I do to make these thrive? They are mostly tree-like - some taller than others. The lavender is still in the short bushy stage - don't know if it's stunted or just a young do you tell?

    I also have an unidentifiable white blooming plant. It is short and bushy - with thin viney-branches covered in tiny white blooms - about the size of a pencil eraser. The blooms resemble babys-breath from floral arrangements, but I'm not sure if this is the same thing. Evidentally it spreads like wildfire - it's growing wild down an old driveway.

    I have forsythia - one plant in the yard that's not doing well - and lots of wild plants down the same drive as above. Any advice for these?

    I also have another unidentifable bush - I have one at my current home my husband planted years ago, but has no idea what it is. It also grows on short and bushy on thin branches. It has pink blossoms - resembling tiny chrysanthemums about the size of a quarter. We've tried to kill it for years, but it's hardier than we thought! Not that we didn't like it, it's just in a bad place. I want to keep the other one, but don't know what it is! Help!

    I also have tons of daffodils, irises, and day-lillies. I have irises and daffodils that need to be moved - and I remember the day-lillies from last summer, but couldn't tell you where they are right now!

    Whew! Anyone up to tackling this monstrosity? This is what my face looks like most of the time :shock: . I know I have a real treasure here - well established plants that are obviously hardy - I want to restore them as best I can and do no damage.

    I've never used a forum like this - so I may need some advice on posting, etc. I can provide digital pictures if it will help identify and sort my problems out...although it isn't my fault the place looks like it does, I'm almost ashamed to show anyone. However, I suppose "before" pictures would be a good thing...right?

    For extra information, I'm in south Arkansas - zone 8. I'm also in a rural area with abundant wildlife - we've seen deer, racoon, and rabbits - among other things in the yard. It's also a haven for birds - I can't wait to get some houses up. I've seen hummingbirds - 8 at a time on my feeder last year, as well as bluebirds, tufted-titmouses, and chickadees. You name it, we have it.

    I look forward to any and all advice you can give me. I need to know what I have and when to work on it - and what to do to it when it's time! I need a gardening mentor...any volunteers? Thanks in advance!


  • #2
    Hi Holly.
    In a few years, if you really get interested in gardening, you will no longer be an almost novice! You will be an expert!

    I started knowing very little and now I know a lot! :lol:

    If you want to use the plants you have now, I would suggest rototilling a spot and dividing the plants and transplanting them.

    Sometimes it is easier to MOVE a plant then to weed the area around it!

    You are SO LUCKY to have wisteria vines.
    In N. Indiana, they take many years to grow!
    They are SO BEAUTIFUL with the lavender flowers hanging down on them!

    You can get books at the library, nice expensive books, that will give you suggestions for your area/ your zone.
    Good Luck.(You might even try burning the fence row, if it has dead grass.)
    Sincerely, Janie


    • #3
      Hi Holly,
      Well, after reading your 'book', I decided to get a piece of apple pie and some coffee and see if I can help. :D First, congratulations on your new home!! Sounds like a real gardeners treasure and nightmare for a novice, but you can get through this. Do keep in mind that you don't have to do it all at once. Those plants held on before you came to rescue them. So, get a cup of coffee and get ready for a whole bunch of links. :)

      I agree with Janie about going to the library to get some books on gardening. Many have encyclopedias in the back of them that may help you to id some of what you have. Feel free to post pictures. The 'before' and 'after' pics would be a great idea. It will help you to see what you've accomplished over time and you will definitely be proud and pleased. There is another book that you should find helpful and might want to consider purchasing for yourself. It's called 'The Well Tended Perennial Garden' by Traci Disabato-Aust and Steven M. Sill.

      You can research plants by name at but it's best to use the botanical or Latin name as you will get more information that way. If you don't have the botanical name, try searching with the common one and when you get the botanical name, search again with that. You can also click on 'Images' and often get pictures as well. Here's a bunch of sites you will want to keep for reference. I have my bookmarks (favorites) broken down into categories like:
      Garden - Bulbs
      Garden - Directories
      Garden - Pruning
      Garden - Shrubs
      Garden - Trees

      the pink [quince] are completely enrobed with honeysuckle. Help?
      I suspect that the honeysuckle is the Japanese or Hall's honeysuckle that has escaped and become an invasive pest in the environment, if you find it's fragrant with white blooms that turn cream as they age. The best way I know of to get rid of it is to either dig it up or kill it with something like RoundUp. Now, I will tell you that I have lived in this house for 15 years and this is the ONLY time I have used the stuff as I don't believe in using chemicals. But I had to get rid of trumpet vine - Campsis radicans. Here's what you do so you won't kill other plants nearby or poison the environment. Cut down as much of the vine as possible, leaving some vine about 18" long. Use the concentrate and put about an inch in a clear plastic container that has a tight fitting lid like you would get potato salad in from the deli. Cut a slit in the lid and insert the ends of the vines into the concentrate. Leave for 48 hours. When removing the vines from the concentrate, cut the vine close to the lid and take the container to a place where you can remove the vines from the lid without splashing on any precious plants. Discard the vines in the trash. This must be done in the spring or early summer when the vines are in active growth. In the fall or next year you should be able to dig out most of the roots. Repeat this procedure as needed. You can reuse the concentrate if needed if there are lots of vines and few containers. It has been 2 years since I have done this and no site of the trumpet vine!

      ...two Japanese magnolias...with lots of dead wood in them. How and when do I clean this out?
      Dead wood can be pruned at any time. The general rules for pruning flowering shrubs and trees:

      If it blooms spring to mid summer - prune within 2 weeks of the finish of bloom.
      If it blooms in late summer or fall, prune in the spring. That way you won't be losing any flowers or pruning off next years buds which begin to form. Here's a site to save for pruning techniques.

      ...Rose of Sharon that has not yet bloomed this year... I'm afraid to get too brutal with my trimming just yet.
      Rose of Sharon is a relative of hibiscus and leafs out late in spring and blooms in late summer. I suspect that if you have one on a neglected property, you probably have several. They tend to seed around and often don't come true from seed. If you don't like or want it, dig it up. If you need to prune it, prune it now.

      I have a wisteria in the midst of these
      If you would like to keep the wisteria and it has a small trunk and root system, you can try and transplant it. Wisteria is extremely vigorous and needs to be pruned twice a year. It may be a seedling from the tree form, also called a standard. Here's a couple of sites that will give you lots of info and help you to make your decision. Keep in mind that you may have to edit to save plants that you prefer.

      I have a crepe myrtle in this fence row - and tons of other ones everywhere on the place. Prune or not? I know it's too late this year...
      Actually, it's not too late, but you don't want to 'top' these trees for many reasons. Take a look here.

      The lavender [crepe myrtle] is still in the short bushy stage - don't know if it's stunted or just a young do you tell?
      There are different varieties, but if you'd like to keep it as a shrub, now is the time to move it, if it needs to be moved, and lightly prune. This site will tell you how to care for and prune.

      ...unidentifiable white blooming plant. It is short and bushy... The blooms resemble babys-breath...
      Sounds like Spiraea thunbergi - Spiraea 'baby's breath'. Take a look here to see if that is what you have. It tells you how to prune it to bring it back.

      I have forsythia - one plant in the yard that's not doing well
      Forsythia likes full sun, and like your Spiraea (if that is what it is), needs to be pruned by cutting the oldest and largest stems flush with the ground. It looks best if the branches are allowed to cascade. This site shows how to prune shrubs that grow wider by suckers. Lilacs grow that way too.,333020,00.htm

      ...lots of wild plants down the same drive as above. Any advice for these?
      Not sure what you mean here. What type of advice are you looking for?

      ...another unidentifiable bush...grows...short and bushy on thin branches. It has pink blossoms - resembling tiny chrysanthemums about the size of a quarter.
      Not sure of this, but the flowering almond comes to mind. Is this it? If not, can you post a picture?

      I have irises and daffodils that need to be moved - and I remember the day-lillies from last summer, but couldn't tell you where they are right now!
      You can move the daffodils now if you'd like. I know that it isn't recommended while in bud or bloom, but while they are in bloom you will know which colors you have and be able to put them where you want them. You'll also have less risk of forgetting where they are in the fall and piercing them when you dig if there isn't any foilage. Iris are best dug and transplanted after bloom in late summer. Take a look at the bulb guides at the site above for for info on the daffs or here.

      These sites have all kinds of info on iris.

      You did great with the info you gave, especially the zone and state. You might want to add that to your profile so we will all know everytime you post a question and you won't have to remember to tell us each time. Take a look at the left of this post and you will see my state and zone under my name where it says 'Location'.

      Guess I'm a "mentor" now! :roll: Hope this has all been helpful. I finished the pie and coffee quite a while ago, but it was fun.


      • #4
        I agree with everything Newt wrote EXCEPT I love Halls Honeysuckle!

        I have a huge vine growing up the TV antenna that I planted from a little start nearly 38 years ago.
        I have taken starts and planted them along our roadside fence and they are green and lovely and the FRAGRANCE is fantastic!

        I agree they can be invasive, like in a woods, but not along a fence or trelis...

        I taught my granddaughter how to pull out the stamen slowly and a drop of sweet nectar comes out that she can taste on her tongue.

        I don't think there is any more fragrant flower (maybe lily of the valley) here in N. Indiana...Roses are fragrant but I prefer the sweet honeysuckle.
        Sincerely, Janie


        • #5
          Hi Janie,
          The invasiveness of the Hall's or Japanese honeysuckle comes from the berries that the birds eat. The birds' droppings spread the seeds all over and the honeysuckle will sprout and cover everything in it's path. That creates a monoculture where nothing else can grow and there is a lack of biodiversity. This creates problems for wildlife, as so many plants that animals other than the bees and hummingbirds need, won't be able to find food.

          If you are growing it along a fence or up a trellis and removing all the berries, then it won't become invasive in the environment.

          In these pictures the entire hillside is covered with the honeysuckle, choking out all other plants.

          Impenetrable masses of plants

          You might also find this site interesting, especially the section titled "Invasive Plants: Understanding The Problem".



          • #6
            Hi Newt.
            I wonder if this plant is more invasive in warmer climates?

            I will read the site you printed later today as I don't have time this forenoon.

            In my area, (zone 5) I have been growing this vine for 35 years and have not seen one more plant in any woods, NONE at all and I roam through many woods.

            Actually, I only know of two other gardeners that have this vine and they planted it.

            And there is absolutely NONE along the roadsides so it just must grow differently in warmer climates.

            I just think it might be invasive in the warmer climates ,like Kudzu that takes over wooded areas? (We don't have Kudzu, thank God!)

            Around here the most invasive woods plants are Purple Loosestrife especially in wet areas and "Sweet Rocket" or "Hesperis"....Both are beautiful and fragrant in the evening with different shades of purple but it crowds out the natural flora.
            Sincerely, Janie


            • #7
              Hi Janie,
              As far as I know it is invasive wherever it grows in the US, but I'm soooo happy to hear that you don't see it growing wild where you are.

              I got curious, as I grew up in New York state and it also has zone 5, so I did a search and it is listed there as an invasive. I also did a search for Indiana at Google, and both the vine and the bush variety are listed on the top 10 list there.
              Indiana + invasive




              • #8
                Hi Newt.
                I have been doing some 'honeysuckle' study and I stand corrected!

                My honeysuckle is not Hall's honeysuckle but Japanese honeysuckle; scientic name: Lonicera japonica)

                "Japanese Honeysuckle is the most common and familiar woody vine in the Durham, NC area. The flowers are attractive and very fragrant, but the vine is extremely invasive in warmer climates. The flowers, which turn from white to yellow as they age, first appear in early May and continue intermittently through fall. They are popular nectar sources for bees, butterflies (note the Silver-spotted Skipper at left), and humans. The black fruits are eaten by birds, which spread the seeds everywhere.

                The evergreen leaves can be confused with those of the much less common native semi-evergreen vine Trumpet Honeysuckle, but are usually broader, a more yellow green, hairier, and less glaucous beneath.
                Japanese Honeysuckle, native to China and Japan, is an invasive weed problem throughout the warmer parts of the world, from Fiji to New Zealand to Hawaii. "


                • #9
                  Hi Janie,
                  Only one more point. Hall's honeysuckle is a variety of Japanese honeysuckle. Lonicera japonica halliana.




                  • #10
                    First HollyAnn, I hope you don't mind that your 'thread' got side-tracted into a learning discussion about Honeysuckle!

                    I know I learned a lot and have appreciated all of Newts knowledge and sites where to read more.

                    Newt, I left you a message there at the top.
                    I wish I had a way to display a picture of me by my honeysuckle vine that has been growing for over 35 years.

                    The more I read, the more I see that it is a real aggressive tangling vine in the east & south especially...It started out as a pretty and fragrant ornamental; it now threatens to strangle entire forests in the east.

                    Fortunately for my area, it is not aggressive! (More so in S. Indiana yet not like the eastern states.)

                    I just love the fragrance and my dream came true, when it grew tall enough to scent my bedroom through the upstairs window!

                    Does anyone know how they make the honeysuckle oil?
                    Where these fields are?
                    Sincerely, Janie :lol:


                    • #11
                      So happy to hear that you now know what a pest this can be. I noticed you posted on another post that you were willing to give away cuttings. That is why I wanted you to know all about it so you won't be sharing it with those in another region of the country who might not know about it. The one you have sounds lovely.

                      Holly, I too apologize for hijacking your post! Please forgive!



                      • #12
                        Hi HollyAnn,

                        I'm new also, I was checking to see what to do with the pods that the Chinese Wisteria grow, and if I can replant the seeds.

                        Which you can, but they take along time to grow.

                        *Wisteria*is a beautiful vine plant, I have on a trelis at my summer home, I found this link to take care of it.

                        Congratulations on your new home.

                        *and good luck!