Lenten rose invasiveness is doubtful

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: The Lenten roses in my backyard have become invasive! How do I get rid of some of them? Rita Pelot, Marietta

A: I recognize that you may have more plants than you expected but I wouldn’t call them “invasive.” Lenten rose is pollinated by insects. They find the blooms irresistible since they are oftentimes the only flowers open in winter. Lenten rose readily sets seed and the seeds germinate easily. You will often see a patch of small plants under a mature Lenten rose. These little plants do not move away by themselves, so they can’t be invasive. Over several years, you may have a patch of Lenten rose plants where there was once only one or two but I wouldn’t call that “invasive.” It’s easy to control excess plants. Just tell your friends they can have the seedlings and to bring a trowel and a plastic bag. I think you’ll soon be at peace with your “invaders.”

Q: Over the past several years, I occasionally find a branch of one of my dwarf English boxwoods chewed off and lying on the ground beside it. I think the culprits are squirrels. For several years, I have been carrying out a relocation program for the squirrels, but it hasn’t seemed to work. Robert Shuler, Atlanta

A: I think you are right, it sounds like squirrels are the culprit. But there’s not much you can do to repel them. There are no odors that offend them, and visual repellents would be more irritating to you than to them. Trapping and relocation doesn’t work because there’s always another one to replace the one you take away. I don’t have a solution for your problem unless you want to get a dog.

Q: We have a big American beech that has developed a large opening between two big roots. I think it may have been dug by an armadillo. My husband thinks this is a rotting tree, not created by a critter. He wants to fill the area with concrete. Advice? Margot Beebe, Fayetteville

A: I think it was caused by a damaged root rotting back into the trunk. Once rot gets started in a tree, the initial infection slowly grows larger. As it grows, it might be used for shelter by wildlife, like chipmunks or rabbits or even an armadillo if it becomes large enough. Your husband may be right about what caused the rot, but I wouldn’t fill the hole with concrete. Things like concrete, expanding foam or tar trap moisture and exacerbate rot. Instead, fill it with a ball of 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth. This will let natural humidity in but keep critters out.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.