It's best to buy mums that have many buds but few flowers

THE BALTIMORE SUN

I am planning to purchase my fall mums in mid-September. Is that a good time to buy, and do you have any suggestions for selecting and planting mums?

Yes, mid-September is a very good time to purchase mums. Local garden centers generally have an excellent selection of plants. Unless you are planting for an occasion and need immediate color, I would purchase plants that have an abundance of buds but only a few open flowers. When mums are purchased in full flower, they quickly bloom themselves out and do not provide color in late fall.

Also, keep in mind that mums grow fast and need to be divided every two years. If you purchase large plants this year, they will need to be divided next spring, whereas smaller plants can remain in the ground for an additional year without division. Mums prefer sunny locations and should be planted in well-drained soil that has been supplemented with organic matter.

Several months ago, you recommended privet and burning bush as being good hedge plants to enclose a back yard. These are both considered invasive plants. Why would you recommend them?

Privet and burning bush are dense plants that tolerate shearing and make excellent hedges. They have been used for that purpose for many years; however, I should not have recommended them. These plants and a number of other common landscape plants are now included on some invasive plant lists. During recent walks along the Gunpowder Falls in Baltimore County, I have noticed Japanese barberry and Japanese spirea growing in many spots along the waterway. In some of our efforts to beautify the urban and suburban landscape we have unknowingly contaminated the native landscape. Now we know better.

If you are planting a hedge and would like to try a noninvasive native plant, you can plant inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), or red or black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia or melanocarpa). These plant suggestions come from an excellent publication, "Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas." It is available through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at this Web site: www.nps.gov/plants/ alien/plantinvaders.htm

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site www.hgic. umd.edu.

Checklist

1. Tall fescue grass seed is very large and contains fewer seeds per pound than some other grasses. Use 6-8 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet for seeding bare areas.

2. It is too early for fall planting, but early fall is a great time to begin preparing soil for planting. Garden beds are best turned over when the soil is slightly moist.

3. Control insect pests and disease by removing infested plants from the garden. Most pests overwinter on the remains of plants they have damaged.

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