Walter Reeves: Apple trees need pollinator

Q: Last fall we purchased a dwarf ‘Fuji’ and a ‘Red Delicious’ apple tree. We knew they normally bloom at the same time to produce fruit. This spring, the dwarf ‘Fuji’ bloomed in early spring and the other didn’t bloom until the ‘Fuji’ had dropped its flowers. Could the mild winter have caused confusion with the trees? -- Peter Trione, Alpharetta

A: I think it's very likely that weather was a factor in bloom times. Publications from both the University of Georgia and Washington State University state that 'Fuji' and 'Red Delicious' pollinate each other. You could always plant a 'Dolgo' crabapple in a corner of your yard and prune it to keep it small but flowering each year. It would provide pollen for both trees.

Q: I have a bird that likes to build mud nests on my porch. It is a very messy builder and slings mud four feet away all over our storm door. They always build on a tiny ledge above the porch columns. -- Marshall Prater, email

A: Undoubtedly you have barn swallows. Once they have chosen a nesting spot, almost nothing will deter them. Rubber snakes, pie pans and plastic owls don't work. About the best you can do is install chicken wire over the ledge and hope they get discouraged.

Q: I've heard you mention that you are not a huge fan of Leyland cypress and that you recommend another tree instead. Can you tell me the tree and why you prefer it? -- Steve Rowland, email

A: Leyland cypress has its place in landscapes, but it has problems. It often becomes too big for a site, it suffers from disease if not watered in summer, and it's so ubiquitous that I find it boring. I most often recommend Japanese cryptomeria or 'Green Giant' arborvitae as substitutes. 'Emerald Green' arborvitae is a smaller evergreen plant. Eastern redcedar comes in various shapes and sizes you might find useful. For variation in leaf texture, consider 'Nellie Stevens' holly, 'Foster' holly or Carolina cherrylaurel.

Q: I have had a climbing hydrangea for four years. What do I need to do to make it flower? -- Ron Shankle, email

A: Elizabeth Dean at Wilkerson Mill Gardens ( says climbing hydrangea is notoriously slow to flower. She suggests putting it on a trellis and removing branch tips that exceed the trellis shape. This seems to stimulate flowering. She recommends Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris 'Skyland Giant' for its early flowering and large lacecap blooms.

Q: I have unlimited access to bone ash from incinerated poultry. Does it have the same mineral ratios as the store-bought version? -- Lena Hall, email

A: Bone ash would not have the same nutrients as the bone meal you buy at garden centers. Bone ash is primarily calcium phosphate, with a nutrient ratio of 0-20-0. Bone meal has a fertilizer analysis of 4 percent to 6 percent nitrogen and 12 percent to 16 percent phosphorus, such as 4-12-0. Either material could be used in a garden to correct a low phosphorus situation. Go to for details on testing your soil.

Listen to Walter Reeves on Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. For more garden tips, visit his website,, or join his Facebook fan page at