Chinese photinia, abelias thrive better here

Q:  Heat stress the last two years killed or damaged my red-tip photinias. I know they aren't a good choice, but they came with the house. What are good replacements, all things considered, including size, drought, heat and disease?  R.D., Carrollton

A:  Take a look at the various hollies, viburnums and abelias. Another alternative is the parent plant of the red tips, the Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata). It is prettier and much less problematic, although it can be hard to locate one to buy.

Q:  I have rose rosette disease and I want to follow one of your three recipes for the spray treatment. I have been unable to find BioWash. I found one online source, but it is $99 per gallon. I only need a tiny amount to make the treatment.C.T., Plano

A:  I think the recommended program will work well with this product omitted. It's just that it works better with it in the mix. Any liquid dish detergent can be substituted and should give acceptable results.

Q:  We have boxelder bugs, and this year they seem worse than before. They are in our house daily.
G.J., Dallas

:A:  The usual organic pesticides will work but it's easier to just vacuum them with a shop-vac or a household vacuum cleaner. They stink if you smash them.

Q:  I planted four 10-gallon 'Robin' Holly bushes three years ago. All were approximately 4 feet high and had red berries. We planted in a bed of compost, shale and bagged landscape mix. The following winter, the cedar waxwings ate all the berries. Since then, the plants have not produced any new berries and the growth rate has been extremely slow (about one foot since 2009), but the plants are very healthy. I fertilized with Hy Yield Copperas, Fertilome Tree & Shrub and finally tried a seaweed solution per nursery recommendations. None of these suggestions has resulted in greater growth or berry production.
R.S., Sherman

A:  I don't recommend those products you mention. Make sure the trunk flares are exposed and apply Garrett Juice Plus and dry molasses; the plants should do much better.

Q: I am building a home on the waterfront at Lake Granbury. I plan to install a conventional septic system. The property has mature, healthy red oaks, bald cypress trees and one bur oak. The septic system's lateral lines will be as close as 8 feet to the trunks. How much risk to the trees is the septic installation? G.R., Keller

A:  Cutting through tree roots near the trunks, as with ditches such as this, does much damage. If the lines can't be moved out to at least the drip line of the trees, the ditches should be dug with an Air Spade. With this technique, the roots are left intact and the lines can be run under the roots. The septic system contractor probably is not going to like having the trees that close to the lines.

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