WITCH HAZEL BRANCHES HAVE BEEN USED AS DIVINING RODS .
Q On a guided walk in very mature woods, our guide, a very knowledgeable leader, showed us rare and unusual specimens. Near the end of our walk he pointed out a small tree or a shrub. However, I didn’t catch the name of it. It was in bloom three weeks ago and had yellow wrinkled petals. — Corrine, Windsor
A The only shrub or tree in bloom around that time is the beautiful witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana). It is an under-story small tree or large shrub found in dry to moist hardwood forests.
Witch hazel branches have been used as divining rods for finding water. Its leaves and bark have medicinal properties and are used in many products.
It often has several trunks in a clump, which can grow up to five metres (16 feet) high. The leaves are alternate and each is toothed or lobed and are seven to 14 centimetres (three to six inches) long, usually with an irregular base.
There are usually five to seven veins on each leaf and the leaves are sometimes hairy, especially when young. The leaves turn yellow in fall.
The flowers, which appear in autumn after the leaves have fallen, are yellow, with four long, crinkly petals. A site to behold.
The seed capsules, which often appear alongside the flowers, split open and expel two to four small black seeds when ripe, also discharging with enough force to propel them a few metres from the parent plant.
This is a must-have shrub or tree for any home garden to add fall colour and beauty to the landscape.
Q I have an infestation of black and white worms that are hatching in webs on the leaves of my amaryllis, which I brought in from outside. There are lots of droppings and the worms are eating the bulbs of the amaryllis. What are they and how do I get rid of them? — Angela, Chatham
A Warm inside temperatures have caused those nasty caterpillars to hatch from eggs that were on the leaves. It is a caterpillar not seen that often but is commonly know as the amaryllis caterpillar or crinum bug.
These caterpillars lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves and cover them with a mass of a pale-brown, hair-like material.
They do indeed eat the leaves of the plants and then burrow into and eat out the bulbs as well.
This species of caterpillar not only does damage to the amaryllis hippeastrum but also to the clivia, swamp lily (Crinum pedunculatum) and spider lily (Hymenocallis littoralis).
The best method of control is hand picking the bugs, then washing the plant with lemonscented soap, five to six drops to a litre of water, and wash all leaf surfaces. Next, use one part bleach to nine parts water as a dip for the bulbs. You may have to repeat this several times.
Q I just put several daffodils under an evergreen tree that we have in the front yard. The branches had been taken off up to six feet off the ground (this was done by the previous owners). My husband is concerned that the flowers won’t do well because of the acidity of the needles. Do I need to re-
plant them to another spot? —
A You don’t need to worry about your daffodil plantings. We have never known daffodils to be bothered by the effects of needle drop.
Q I’ve been doing this for awhile and it seems to improve garden water retention. What do you think of using used kitty litter (without the solids) in my garden? — Marg, Ruscom
A The kitty litter that you mix in with the soil actually breaks down into compost. So that is really what you are doing, composting your soil. Compost assists in water retention. Just be a little careful though, and don’t put too much of it around any single plant. What can happen if you do that is that any of the following in their raw form, litter, saw dust; grass clippings etc., draw a lot of nitrogen from the soil. Compiled by Master Gardeners
Alan & Karen Batke. Send a question to the master gardener hotline, 519-561-6328, or email to essexwindsor@mastergarden