Fireblight Can Kill Pyracantha

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Sidnam has written garden articles and features for The Times since 1975

QUESTION: We had a lovely pyracantha bush in our front yard. Over a period of several months the leaves turned brown and it looked as if they had actually been scorched, and the plant died. We miss its beautiful berries but are hesitant to plant another pyracantha. What do you think happened to our plant?

ANSWER: It sounds as if your pyracantha was the victim of fireblight, a disease that produces the symptoms you have described. If you want to replace your pyracantha, I suggest you select a variety that is resistant to fireblight. Mohave and Red Elf are two varieties that are fireblight-resistant.

Move Papaya Pots to Shelter on Cold Nights

Q: I have managed to sprout several papaya seedlings that are now six months old and growing in individual pots on the patio. Any suggestions on their care? I’m becoming anxious about the upcoming cooler weather.


A: Since the plants are growing satisfactorily now, continue your regular watering routine. Feed the plants with slow-release fertilizer tablets. The plants are quite frost-sensitive, but since you are growing them in pots, simply move the pots to shelter when freezing nights are expected. You didn’t say how large the pots are, but if they are small, you will eventually have to transplant the plants to large containers or plant them in the yard.

Mission Fig Should Be Pruned in Winter

Q: We have an 11-year-old Mission fig tree that is rapidly taking over our yard. How and when do we prune it?

A: A fig tree is one of the easiest trees to prune. It can be pruned heavily and it will usually come back strong. Prune only in the winter when the tree is in its dormant stage (when the branches are bare). First thin out dead wood; then prune the tree to the shape you desire. Keep in mind that the Mission fig bears fruit on branches that are a year or more old, so if you prune the tree radically, you will lose a good deal of fruit production.

Cuttings Best Way to Start Manzanita

Q: We would like to plant manzanita by our mountain cabin. I have heard it does not transplant well. It has been suggested that we gather seeds and plant them, but so far this has not worked. Do you have any suggestions?

A: While it is true that it is sometimes difficult to transplant large plants, manzanita is usually propagated from cuttings, and it is generally not difficult to transplant young plants grown in small containers. Make the transplant in early spring or late autumn.

Gardener Seeks Way to Cure Olive Problem

Q: You recently answered a question about how to cure olives from a home olive tree. My problem is how to eliminate the olives. The trees on our property are a wonderful, much needed, source of shade--but what a mess the olives create. Can you be of help?


A: There are several products that will cure the problem. These products are designed to prevent the fruit from setting. Your local nursery personnel can help you select the best of these products for your particular needs.

Calamondin Orange Pretty but Fruit Sour

Q: A neighbor has a very pretty, small orange tree that is usually loaded with fruit. She told me it is a Calamondin orange, and that while it is a pretty tree, she doesn’t like the fruit. Can you tell me anything about this tree?

A: The Calamondin orange is a highly decorative tree that is usually grown for its ornamental value rather than its fruit. It has beautiful deep green foliage and is a prolific producer of small, orange fruit. While the fruit is edible, it is quite sour and is usually used for preserves.

Fruitless Pumpkin Fed or Watered Too Much

Q: Each year my pumpkin plants grow profusely, bloom, but fail to set a single pumpkin. What can I do to correct this?

A: It sounds as if you are overwatering or overfeeding the plants--OR BOTH. When overfed or overwatered, pumpkin plants tend to grow a lot of foliage and not set much fruit. In most garden soils, a deep watering once a week is sufficient. If you added a vegetable fertilizer to the soil at planting time, don’t fertilize again during the growing period.

California Pepper Tree Pretty but a Problem

Q: I absolutely adore California pepper trees. I have a huge front lawn area and would love to plant one of these trees as a centerpiece. My neighbor says a California pepper is not a practical lawn tree. Is he correct?


A: Yes. While the California pepper is certainly a beautiful tree, it does not belong in a lawn for several reasons: It is subject to root rot disease when overwatered, its root system grows huge and can disturb a foundation, and it can be a fire hazard when planted too close to a home.