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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Root weevils, Rhododendrons--Diseases and pests, Gaultheria shallon

Last year I had a big problem with weevils in my salal, rhododendrons and a few other shrubs. I am not sure if they returned after putting down beneficial nematodes last fall.


Weevils are tough! You are on the right track with beneficial nematodes. It might take a few seasons to make a difference. Here is a link to information by entomologist Art Antonelli of Washington State University about controlling weevils, especially on Rhododendron. Here is another article from Thurston County Hazardous Waste.

Date 2017-04-14
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Vaccinium parvifolium, Shepherdia canadensis, Sambucus cerulea, Rubus leucodermis, Rosa gymnocarpa, Amelanchier alnifolia, Rosa nutkana, Oemleria cerasiformis, Berberis nervosa, Berberis aquifolium, Malus fusca, Prunus virginiana demissa, Prunus emarginata, Quercus garryana, Corylus cornuta, Crataegus douglasii, Rhamnus purshiana, Vaccinium ovatum, Vaccinium ovatum, Umbellularia californica, Rubus spectabilis, Gardening to attract birds, Attracting wildlife, Rosaceae (Rose Family), Gaultheria shallon

I am planning a garden in Seattle and my highest priority is to attract birds. Do you have a list of plants I can use as a reference?


This is a more difficult question than one might imagine. According to Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, "almost 300 species of birds are native to the Pacific Northwest. Many of them could call your yard home for at least part of the year, depending on what you provide for them. So it depends on what species of birds you want to attract and what environments they need."
Source: Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, by Russell Link (University of Washington Press, 1999, p. 48).
There is a lot of good advice on planning your garden with birds (and other creatures) in mind.

Washington Native Plant Society has a resource page devoted to native plants for wildlife.

The Miller Library has a booklist featuring titles on attracting wildlife to the garden: Information Resources for Gardening with Wildlife.

Another good source for this information is Native Plants of the Northwest, by Wallace W. Hansen. Scroll down to Wallys Wildlife Habitat Recommendations.
Following is an annotated list of plants that attract birds for western Washington: the oaks, chinquapin, Oregon myrtle, western hazelnut, cascara, and all trees in the Rose family (hawthorn, bitter cherry, chokecherry and Pacific crabapple). Native shrubs include: serviceberry, salal, all Oregon grapes, Indian plum, bittercherry, roses, blackcap, thimbleberry, salmonberry, Pacific blackberry, red and blue elderberries, russet buffaloberry, mountain ash, snowberry, and all huckleberries.

Seattle Audubon's book and online resource, Audubon at Home in Seattle: Gardening for Life has a chapter on designing a garden to attract birds, and it includes a plant list.

Date 2017-04-22
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Glyceria, Muhlenbergia, Holodiscus discolor, Elymus mollis, Symphoricarpos albus, Rosa nutkana, Vaccinium ovatum, Mahonia aquifolium, Festuca, Seaside gardening, Gaultheria shallon

Do you have some suggestions for hardy, lower growing plants that would do well near the water? Our house is on the south side of Whidbey Island. The main plantings will be behind the house, thus roughly 75-100 yards from the shore. This part of the yard has early morning sun and then some shade in the afternoon. And, since we have a large yard at home we are working toward very low maintenance at the beach.


The following plants are mentioned in April Pettinger's book, Native Plants in the Coastal Garden (Whitecap, 2002):


Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)
Gaultheria shallon (Salal)
Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry)
Rosa nutkana (Nootka rose)
Holodiscus discolor (Oceanspray)
Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry)
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon grape)


Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue)
Festuca idahoensis spp. roemeri (Roemer's fescue)
Leymus mollis or Elymus mollis (Dunegrass)
Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)
Festuca rubra (Red fescue)
Glyceria grandis (Reed mannagrass)
Muhlenbergia glomerata (Marsh muhly)

There are many other ideas in this book, which I highly recommend.

Date 2016-12-30
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Fungal diseases of plants, Huckleberries, Gaultheria shallon

We have 5 acres that are covered in 50-year-old fir and cedar forest, with lots of salal and evergreen huckleberry. The huckleberries have what looks like mummy berries that I have seen in photographs of blueberries before. They have a dry grey peeling that feels like old garlic skin with a very hard brown inside. There doesn't appear to be any problem with the foliage. These bushes are naturally growing, and are all over through the property. Mulching and cultivation would be nearly impossible on this scale, and I'd really prefer not to spray if possible. Can you suggest a safe method of control that would be possible on this large scale? Or is this something that nature will take care of on its own? Or do we even need to worry about it since we don't harvest the berries? I can live with a few shriveled berries. I just don't want it to spread wildly or kill off half of our underbrush.


If mummy berry is what you are seeing (and it does sound like it), it is caused by a fungus which overwinters in the fallen berries, so anything you can do to collect them might help. The following, from Ohio State University Extension, describes the life cycle of this fungal problem.

The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control by Barbara Ellis (Rodale, 1996) recommends removing the berries and in spring, cultivating around the bushes to bury any fallen mummies, or adding mulch to cover fungal spores.

Beyond the good hygiene of removing the fallen fruit, there may be a chance that wettable sulfur spray might help, as described in this information from McGill University. Excerpt:

"Clean cultivation can reduce the incidence of mummy berry disease. This practice destroys the fallen mummified fruit, which harbors the inoculum for the next season's infection. Wettable sulfur sprays have also been effective in reducing mummy berry infection. In New Jersey, researchers used three sprays roughly one week apart with the first spray timed for leaf emergence in the spring."

However, I found Ohio State University contradicting this information, indicating that organic fungicides such as sulfur and copper were ineffective against mummy berry.

Here is additional information from National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Excerpt:

This fungus overwinters in mummified berries that have fallen to the ground. Sod or moss directly under the plant will contribute to spore production. To control this fungus, remove infested fruit ("mummies") from the plant, rake and burn mummified berries, or cover the fallen berries with at least two inches of mulch. Cultivation during moist spring weather will destroy the spore-forming bodies. Strategies that lead to early pollination of newly open flowers may be useful in managing mummy berry disease in the field, since studies show that newly opened flowers are the most susceptible to infection and that fruit disease incidence is reduced if pollination occurs at least one day before infection.(Ngugi et al., 2002)

The fungus survives the winter on dead twigs and in organic matter in the soil. The disease is more severe when excessive nitrogen has been used, where air circulation is poor, or when frost has injured blossoms. Varieties possessing tight fruit clusters are particularly susceptible to this disease. Remove dead berries, debris, and mulch from infected plants during the winter and compost or destroy it. Replace with new mulch, and do not place mulch against the trunk of the plant.

I'm afraid there is not an easy solution for such a large expanse of huckleberries. Then again, if you are not concerned about harvesting the fruit, then you can probably just let it be. Since the fungus seems to be a problem primarily for plants in the blueberry family, I do not imagine it will harm other plants on your property.

Date 2017-04-14
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Sarcococca, Plant cuttings, Salvia, Lavandula, Propagation, Rhododendron, Gaultheria shallon, Penstemon, Holly, Cistus, Ceanothus

Make new plants by taking softwood cuttings. Cuttings Through the Year, a booklet published by the Arboretum Foundation(available for sale at the Washington Park Arboretum gift shop) suggests which plants to propagate month by month and how to do it. A few September plants include: Rock Rose, Salal, Lavender, Holly, Penstemon, evergreen azaleas, Sweet box, Salvia, California Lilac and many others.

For a tutorial on taking softwood cuttings go online to a Fine Gardening article complete with clear color photos: www.finegardening.com/propagate-your-shrubs-softwood-cuttings

Date: 2006-10-23
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August 01 2017 12:36:01