Slime flux, also called wetwood, infects many shade trees such as oaks and maples. This bacteria or yeast fungus enters tree wounds to live off nutrients in its sap. Sap is forced out of the wound by pressure from the organisms' gasses. Sometimes this escaping gas produces a "whistle" -- to the surprise of passers-by. When fresh, slime flux may have an alcohol odor and leave black streaks on the bark. It doesn't hurt trees, and there is no treatment. Declining trees should be inspected by a certified arborist.
I have a beautiful climbing mandevilla vine in a container on my deck. I realize it is a tropical plant, but is there any way I can winterize it to come back next year?
Mandevilla must have a protected place to overwinter. First, prune away most of the current year's growth. This makes its size more convenient, and next year it will bloom on new growth anyway, so this does not reduce flowering. Place indoors in bright, not direct, light and give minimum water and no fertilizer. Set on pebbles in a water-filled tray to provide humidity. Alternatively, it can simply be placed in a heated garage and watered periodically to prevent it from completely drying out. Repot next spring into a container one size larger.
Remove and destroy the bags of bagworms where possible to prevent the overwintering eggs inside from hatching in the spring.
Consider planting a groundcover in your yard where turf is weak.
Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the week
Feather Reed Grass 'Karl Foerster'(Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster')
2001 Perennial Plant of the Year, 'Karl Foerster' is an ornamental grass that provides three generous seasons of interest. Sturdy green blades emerge early from winter dormancy, growing 4 to 5 feet tall. Inflorescences (flower stalks) shoot up higher, feathery and purplish, moving gracefully in a breeze. By August, they become narrow and tan. Effective as single specimens or in masses, 'Karl Foerster' grows best in well-drained, moist soil but adapts to heavier clay soils and drier sites. Plant in sun to prevent inflorescences from flopping. Cut the clump back to about 6 inches in late winter or early spring before new growth.