Don’t Fence Your Tree Boxes


My healthy indoor Clivia plant has not bloomed since we moved across the street.  I swear I have put them in identical light and temperature conditions as before, but they just won’t bloom. It has been five years, now. Help!

Check to see whether one of the following essential requirements is missing. Clivias need to be pot-bound. They must not be over-watered— nor can they be allowed to dry out! You should fertilize once a month as well—a balanced fertilizer—all 3 numbers the same. To bloom they require a 12-to-14-week rest period in late fall in a cooler-than-usual place—15 degrees cooler than that of their normal spot. 40’F. is not too cool. During this time withhold water and fertilizer. Give plants just enough to keep their leaves hydrated, perhaps with a moist sponge. Following their rest period, gradually resume normal watering and feeding. You should see flower buds in a month or so. 

Both tree boxes in front of our house are an unsightly mess. What can I plant in them despite their compacted soil and tree roots? Do wrought iron fences damage trees? 

Contrary to much practice, tree boxes should not be fenced. Yes, the sharp corner posts of iron fencing are sure to damage tree roots. Small low ground covers are okay around the base of a mature tree with established roots – but not a new tree. Ground covers take every bit of surface water a new tree needs. If your trees’ roots have entirely filled their tree boxes, sprinkle no more than three inches of mulch at any spots where soil exists, aiming to stop weeds, hold moisture in, and make the box look neater. If stones cover the tree roots, remove them and any weeds, and mulch where possible.

My next door neighbor grows a vigorous vine with big, white, heavenly-scented, star-shaped flowers in early spring. It is now climbing over most of her wooden fence, and up her brick house. Are there any downsides of my adding it to our garden?

This is Clematis armandii Snowdrift. It likes moist yet well-drained soil in a sheltered, sunny site, out of the way of cold, drying winds. Like all early flowering clematis, it falls into Pruning Group One. To curtail its size, you cut it back right after flowering, if desired. Imitation shows your neighbor you admire this lovely vine.

Mulching tip for roses: It is important to feed your rose before mulching. Mulch in early April, immediately after the first feed. If by autumn the mulch layer has disappeared, a second application may be beneficial before winter. 

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are free and open to all. Please contact the website to find your invitation, location and topic for the meeting on Tuesday April 12, 2022.

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