By: Pat Raven PhD and Julie Hess:
- HONEYSUCKLE SWEEP FOR HEALTHY HABITATS – The success of Honeysuckle Sweep Week, a cooperative effort of the many BiodiverseCity St. Louis partners, made an impressive difference! Bush Honeysuckle removal teams in half a dozen local parks and schools removed more than 35,000 square feet of this nasty invasive plant. Bush honeysuckle leafs out before most woody plants, making it easy for novice gardeners to identify and remove.
Join this community effort by eradicating bush honeysuckle on your own property, as it’s very dangerous to the environment. Bush honeysuckle secretes slow-acting poisons that reduce the vigor of trees above them and prevent wildflower seedlings or other desirable plants from growing under them. Controlling this woody plant everywhere also will help reduce cover for overabundant deer, prevent the associated increase in tick-borne diseases and remove a poor-quality food attractive to, but not nutritious for, migratory birds. Do your bit for biodiversity by getting rid of every bush! Even one overlooked plant can reseed an entire neighborhood, so educate and organize your neighbors to join the effort.
To see more of what bush honeysuckle looks like and learn more about why it is so destructive to the environment, click on this link:
Sweeping out dried leaves and pruning perennials’ dead stems will create a clean bed ready for mulching. Take particular care to identify and remove poorly performing plants. Did you have a problem with powdery mildew last year or aster yellows? Getting rid of old, infected foliage will help prevent an outbreak from continuing. As annoying as these diseases are, though, the real threat to our gardens’ health involves bush honeysuckle. Here are tips on managing some common garden problems.
Viruses, Phytoplasmas, Insects and Fungal Infections. For perennials showing signs of disease last year, cull sick plants before growing season starts. Echinaceas have been hit particularly hard recently by both viral and phytoplasma problems. Aster yellows (a common phytoplasma) and eriophyid mites both cause malformed flower petals and cones. Replace sick clumps with plants not in the aster family, perhaps phlox or veronicas, so new plants aren’t infected by residual leaf litter or insect reservoirs. Viral infections have been quite common for hostas and cannas. Discolored streaks in leaves and flowers can indicate viral infection. Good sanitation practices are essential for a healthy garden. No cure exists for aster yellows or most viral diseases, so dig out and destroy affected plants. Soak tools in a bleach solution after use, before drying and oiling surfaces to prevent the spread of unpleasant agents.
Check for Reversions. One co-author of this column has had three clumps of the spoon-flowered selection of Rudbeckia ‘Henry Eilers’ spontaneously revert to the wild, large, flat-petaled form. She will remove them, not because they’re unattractive, but because the restored vigor means they’ll outgrow the space. Variegated shrubs and perennials also may undergo reversion, or “sporting,” and experience a genetic change in vigor and appearance. Roses, Japanese maples, citrus trees, apple trees, camellias and variegated shrubs are most commonly affected. Be observant in your garden and prune branches with undesirable traits. If patches of green leaves occur in the middle of your golden-variegated shrub, they’ll typically grow faster because they have more chloroplasts generating food and swamp the original colored-leaf form.
“Astor Yellows” disease has infected this echinacea plant.