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Vines may vex, but not all are harmful

There seem to be an awful lot of vines on the trees in our area. We're having a community meeting to discuss it. What should we do about them?

High levels of carbon dioxide benefit some plants more than others, and vines are big beneficiaries. However, you need to identify which vines you have. Natives such as Virginia creeper and poison ivy usually don't harm trees, having evolved together. Invasive vines such as oriental bittersweet and English ivy, on the other hand, are highly damaging because they smother and weigh down trees — as well as other plants. For techniques to remove invasive vines, call us or refer to the fact sheets on the Weeds Gone Wild website.

I noticed some shiny brown "brains" glommed onto branches of a wild cedar tree. They're about 11/2 inches and hard as plastic. What on earth are they?

Those galls are the dormant stage of cedar apple rust fungi. (Cedar is a misnomer actually. The Eastern red cedar, Juniperous virginiana, is a native juniper.) The rust fungi splits its yearly life cycle between two host plants: cedar and apple. On the cedar, it is not a problem. On the apple, it is a major disease. In spring, the gall transforms into a gelatinous orange mass with sea anemone-like tentacles that emit spores, which infect apple leaves and fruit. Multiple fungicide sprays are required to combat it. If orchard apple trees are nearby, you may want to remove that tree. For home orchardists, we recommend apple trees that are rust resistant.

Is it possible to grow carnivorous plants outdoors in Maryland? Can you direct me to a resource to learn more?

Some carnivorous plants survive outdoors, such as our native pitcher plants and sundews. They grow best in the unique environment of a bog garden, where soil is waterlogged and acidic. Check out this link from Penn State: extension.psu.edu/montgomery/programs/master-gardener/the-learning-gardens/the-water-garden

Plant of the WeekCamellia 'Lady Clare'

Camellia Japonica 'Lady Clare'

Flowers in the snow? Yes! Camellias add an element of surprise to the winter garden with colorful blossoms in hues ranging from light pink to crimson and white. These large, attractive shrubs have lustrous, dark, evergreen leaves and a pyramid shape. Camellias are cold-hardy when sited in a protected location, on the north side of the house. Some begin flowering in fall while others wait until winter. "Lady Clare" blooms mid-late season with large dark pink flowers and offers above-average cold hardiness. These shrubs are happiest when planted in moist, well-drained acidic soil amended with organic matter. — Shelley McNeal

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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