Q: I wanted to share with you photos of my cotoneaster hedge which was successfully rejuvenated after severe rabbit injury this past winter. — Dave Stark, West Fargo.
A: Thanks much for a great before-and-after example of how a cotoneaster hedge can recover beautifully with drastic pruning. When Dave and I discussed the recommended procedure of cutting everything back to 6 inches above ground level, I asked Dave to take before-and-after photos.
He shared his story: “The cotoneaster hedge was planted nearly 40 years ago, is 120 feet long, and I’ve kept it maintained at about 6 feet high.
“This past winter, the rabbits gnawed main branches, wherever the snow allowed them access. By spring the hedge was ruined, with bark stripped off many branches. Following the recommended advice, the hedge was completely cut down to 4 to 6 inches above ground on April 20. I’ll admit I was nervous at first.
“By June 20 the hedge has grown back beautifully, as shown by the photo. I appreciate the time you took and the advice you gave. This really worked well. “
Thanks, Dave, for helping others to be more confident in following this successful procedure.
Q: What is the low-growing, yellow-flowering plant that grows in round patches that I see all over town on boulevards, vacant lots and some yards? — Sam N., West Fargo.
A: The bright yellow flowers belong to the plant called birdsfoot trefoil. The cloverlike plant is a legume with a sprawling growth pattern that can reach up to 2 feet long. It’s a winter-hardy perennial and persists easily in dry areas with its long taproot going deep into the soil.
Some people find birdsfoot trefoil attractive, others find it a nuisance. It was originally introduced into the region as possible livestock forage. It spread from both its seeds and root system. Because of its ability to persist even under adverse conditions, it can overwhelm other plants or lawngrass.
Q: I have a south exposure front yard with plenty of sun. I’ve planted a weeping birch three times, and three times it’s died. I’m done with that variety. What would you suggest as a good tree instead? — Harwood, N.D.
A: In nature, birch trees are found in cool Northern forests where the soil is slightly acidic. We find paper birches naturally in North Dakota’s Turtle Mountains and the Pembina Gorge, for example. In the forest, a layer of leaf litter protects birch roots from grass competition and keeps the soil cool and moist.
A birch in the city, however, may live under much different conditions. Beautifully landscaped yards with well-manicured lawns are a harsh climate for a birch tree.
Your location of Harwood shares similar heavy clay alkaline soil as Fargo, which is the opposite of the lighter, less compacted soil preferred by birch. Stressed birches become susceptible to insects and other maladies. An alternative to the weeping birch is a great idea.
If some type of birch is still desired, North Dakota State University developed several that are more tolerant of regional conditions. Included are Dakota Pinnacle birch and Prairie Dream birch.
Instead of birch, you might consider Ohio Buckeye, which is a wonderful shade tree, winter-hardy for our region and well-adapted to our soil. Its fall color is brilliant orange. It's also generally free of ongoing insect and disease problems.
Locally owned garden centers carry named varieties of Ohio Buckeye, and three of the best are Autumn Splendor, Prairie Torch and LavaBurst. The latter two were developed at North Dakota State University.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.