The young bronze/red foliage of red tip photinia can be very attractive. (Walter Reeves)

Red tip photinia rarely seen in landscapes

Q: I was recently in a nursery looking for a red tip photinia to plant along a fence. They advised me that they hadn’t carried them in years. Is this true? — Willis Dobbs, Atlanta

A: It is true that red tip photinia is rarely sold in nurseries now. The reason is that, 40 years ago, photinia was planted by the millions in the metro Atlanta area. Homeowners sheared them in winter so the striking red new growth would emerge in spring. But, it turned out that the new growth was extremely susceptible to a deadly leaf spot. When the fungus infected a shrub, it was very difficult to control and it spread throughout any photinias that were planted nearby. Nurseries got tired of replacing the shrub, so they stopped selling them. There are other shrubs, like holly and arborvitae, that are better screening plants and that are not so disease-susceptible.

Q: Are any of the ferns I see growing in landscapes edible? — Brad Johanson, Atlanta

A: One is, the rest are not. A few local gardeners grow ostrich fern, Matteuccia struthiopteris, in wet places in their landscapes. The fiddleheads (emerging fronds) that appear from a rounded clump each spring can be snapped off when small and then sauteed or boiled. Some compare the taste to asparagus. All other ferns, including our native Christmas fern, are best left untasted.

Q: I found a small Japanese maple tree growing near a bigger one, so I dug it up and planted it in a pot. Now it is 2 feet tall. Should I leave it in the pot indoors for a while? — Bill Dischinger, email

A: I think the maple would be much happier if you kept it outside. You can either plant it now in a permanent spot or make a holding bed to keep it until you decide where to put it.

Q: My Norfolk Island pine has grown to over 10 feet tall. It’s too tall to easily fit inside. Can I cut off a few feet at the top to make it fit? — P.G. Randall, email

A: Yes, you can cut off the top of the tree with no harm. Over time, a new sprout may emerge from the trunk where you made the cut, but that will be easy to remove as well.

Q: I have heard that you can’t plant tomatoes in the same place year after year. But, we have the perfect place in our yard to grow them, and have planted them in the same place repeatedly. Pickings have become slim. Can we rejuvenate the soil? — Bonnie Stanford, Walton County

A: The main reason for moving tomatoes from one area to another is that diseases and insects can build up if they are planted in the same spot year after year. But, if your tomato plants seem insect- and disease-free, you can repeatedly use the same place. It’s a good idea to dig the bed deeply each spring. Add some organic matter to the soil each year and fertilize appropriately. The tomatoes should perform just fine.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook fan page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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