Q: Can you identify this shrub? It has reddish fernlike leaves in the spring followed by white flowers that fade to brown. Unfortunately, it sure spreads. — Audrey Johnson.
A: The shrub is called Ural False Spirea, also known as Ashleaf Spirea, and the botanical name is Sorbaria sorbifolia. Its autumn colors are rich tones of red, copper and gold. It does spread by suckers, so it forms a thicket if left unchecked. It’s especially useful for filling an area if you don’t mind keeping it contained. It would be nice if the shrub’s tag indicated its suckering habit.
Q: I’ve noticed shrubs can sometimes send out individual branches that have stems and leaves much bigger than all the others, and I call them “branches on steroids.” Some branches come from the base but most are shoots off other branches that have normal leaves on them. They get very tall in a short time and don’t look like they belong on the same plant with the “normal” branches. I usually just prune them off, but was wondering what causes this? — Lori Keller, Barney, N.D.
A: I like your “branches on steroids” term and might borrow that for future use.
Young growth on shrubs, usually current growth that hasn’t been through a winter, is called juvenile growth. Extremely vigorous juvenile shoots sometimes burst forth out of the base of a shrub, or at the junction of another stem. There’s an old saying that applies to both plants and humans: “Youth is spent growing up, old age is spent filling out.” Just like an over-energetic human youth, some juvenile plant shoots act similarly. What triggers this rapid-fire growth? Sometimes it’s pruning or regrowth after rabbit injury. Sometimes it’s just nature.
Q: I have a bleeding heart that is about 25 years old and was huge and beautiful this year. After the terrible windstorm in June, many branches were damaged, and I’m never sure of the proper time to trim back the plant. Should I leave it as is and let the plant do its normal cycle, or can I trim it now? It is very straggly! — Marlene Sprenger, Borup, Minn.
A: Although the bleeding heart doesn’t look the best, it’s important to leave the foliage and branches intact if they are still green. After blooming, the foliage of the bleeding heart plant continues to feed the root system, storing up energy and nutrition for the following spring’s growth. Gradually, stems and leaves turn yellow and eventually to dry brown, when stalks can be cut back to about 2 inches above ground level. If stems are removed too early, the storage of reserves is reduced, and next year’s growth and flowering could be diminished.
We're headed into the heart of food preservation season. If you are an experienced canner or first-timer, make sure you are using up-to-date, reliable information to preserve your produce. From canning to fermenting to dehydration, North Dakota State University has the latest information at their food preservation site, https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/food-preservation. Or, contact the NDSU Extension Cass County office at 701-241-5700. — Rita Ussatis, Extension Agent, Family and Community Wellness.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at email@example.com or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.