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Japanese Pieris: Made For The Shade

by: Shelly Nold

FINDING PLANTS THAT WILL GROW in the shade can be a challenge. Add in a request for a flowering evergreen, and the challenge becomes even more difficult. Pieris japonica, the Japanese pieris, is an excellent evergreen flowering shrub for the partly shady or shady garden.

PIERIS IS QUITE COMMON and readily available. The trick is planting it in the right location. Like an azalea, it prefers slightly acidic, moist, but well-drained soil rich in organic matter. It does not do well in heavy clay or heavily compacted soils. I have had great success when planting pieris in established garden spaces, and less than favorable results in new garden sites or after recent construction, even in amended soils.

PIERIS CAN GROW 6 to 10 feet tall and can be as wide as tall when mature. There are many varieties available, such as Mountain Fire, Temple Bells, Valley Fire, and Valley Rose. All are excellent choices; the ultimate height is dependent on the variety and growing conditions.

THE EVERGREEN FOLIAGE is a shiny dark green but tends to be reddish to bronze as new growth begins. The leaves are oblong, about 2 to 3 inches long, and the petiole is often red, adding to its year-round beauty.

SMALL WHITE BELL-SHAPED FLOWERS can cover the plant, which are slightly fragrant 3- to 6-inch-long panicles. Flowering can begin in late March or early April and continues for three to four weeks, a long blooming period in comparison to most flowering shrubs, making pieris a welcome addition to the spring shade garden.

Shelly Nold is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.


ASK THE GARDENER

by: Angie McManus

I have planted three grapevines and can�t get one to live: what am I doing wrong?

Grapes have been grown in Kentucky since before Prohibition, both commercially and in the backyard garden. You want to make sure you are purchasing your plants from a reputable nursery or garden center. Just as important, you want to grow varieties that will do well in Kentucky.

As with all plant material, if we do not give them ideal conditions to grow in we are making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Grapevines should be planted in full sun with good air circulation. This means the vines require a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily.

The most common problem with grapes grown in Kentucky is black rot, a fungus that causes infected berries to shrivel up and look more like raisins than grapes. It can be controlled by good sanitation and possibly a spraying program. Black rot will overwinter, so good sanitation practices are vital for keeping insects and disease problems under control. Remove and dispose of all infected grapes still on the vine as well as the ones that have fallen. Keep the area around your vines free of all plant debris.

The most important step in eliminating the problem is to have it identified, so you should take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for examination.


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