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Ask Gardening123 - May 2001

by Gardening123 Staff

Each month Gardening123 will publish questions from users here in the “Ask Gardening123” section and answer them. These questions can pertain to gardening or they can be technical questions about the site. If you have a question you would like answered please email it to

I am removing three cryptomeria beside my home. Though they are lovely, they will grow too large and compete with trees that we have planted to get some shade on our house. The front of the house faces south and gets very full sun. We live in North Atlanta, zone 7.

I am interested in replacing these crypto's with dwarf Alberta spruces or Fat Albert spruces. I am looking for an evergreen with a conical shape that tops out under 18 feet--or grows so slowly that they will never be my problem. Are these two shrubs/trees tough enough to survive in a full sun front yard in Atlanta? In about two years, they will be in semi-shade. If these aren't a smart choice, any suggestions?

Also, I am agonizing over selecting trees to be placed on the other side of the house from the above discussed spruces. This area is on the South west side of the house and also gets some pretty hard sun. I am thinking about an Acer palmatum, such as "Hogyoku" or "Osakasuki". However, I wonder if they can take the heat of summer. I was also considering Black Haw Viburnum. A hawthorn would be pretty, but the thorns won't do (kids!). Anyway, I need something highly ornamental with year-round interest--spring being the relatively least important of the four seasons. Suggestions and guidance would be appreciated.


If you like Cryptomeria, the tall varieties now in your garden could easily be kept small for many years if they are simply sheared once or twice annually, or you might replace them with one of the several dwarf Cryptomeria forms such as 'Lobbi Nana', which reaches just 4' tall. These are excellent shade-tolerant conifers, so they should have no trouble as your shade trees mature.

Neither the 'Fat Albert' spruce nor the dwarf Alberta spruce will perform well in shade (and they don't particularly like Atlanta's sultry summers, either), so they would be poor performers in the long run. Japanese maples need shady situations sheltered from strong wind to look their best, so they would not be a good choice for a sunny southwestern exposure.

The Japanese crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia fauri) would be a good candidate for four-season interest, with attractive cinnamon red bark, white summer flowers, and reddish fall color. The blackhaw viburnum you mentioned would also be excellent, with white spring flowers, glossy green summer foliage, blue fall berries, and burnished red foliage in autumn. Japanese persimmon, with Glossy green summer leaves, rich red fall color, and attractive orange fruits that hang on into winter might be another choice.


Years ago, my grandmother had lilies in her garden that we called Easter lilies. These lilies multiplied, and after she died my mother and her sister picked about 100 flowers and placed them in church on Easter Sunday. Their fragrance was spectacular, and I have wanted to grow some of the same ever since. However, that was near Niagara Falls, NY, and we now live in Virginia, just north of the Tennessee border in zone 7. I have been told those lilies are actually Regal lilies, but I would like some verification of that, and also some help in growing them in this climate.


Yes, I'm sure the hardy "Easter Lilies" must have been flowers of Lilium regale, the Regal lily, which often has a bit of yellow in the throat and pink tinges on the exterior of the white trumpeting flowers to distiguish it from a true Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum, which is tender to hard frost.

Regal lilies are fairly easy to grow and are a famous introduction of the plant collector Ernest H. "Chinese" Wilson, who brought them to the U.S. from a remote caynon in Sichuan, China, around 1910. By the 1930's they had become popular garden flowers. In nature these plants grow on rich soils over dolomitic limestones similar to those seen in many parts of Appalachia, such as southwest Virginia, so you should have no trouble growing them, so long as they are given at least a half day of sun. (If, by chance, you garden on very acid soils, the kinds that support rhododendrons or mountain laurels, you should add some agricultural lime to the soil around the lilies.)

The scale-covered bulbs may be planted in early spring and nurseries generally offer both a pure white and the traditional pink-tinged strain of L.regale, although in the strong sun and warmth of the South, even this often pales to near white. The Aurelian hybrid lilies are similar and derive from crosses of near allies of L. regale; they may be had in several good colors like 'Pink Perfection' and the apricot 'African Queen'. For the most part, however, the Aurelians lack the sweet scent of the true Regal lily. If it's fragrance you want, go for the traditional form: a classic combination planting set before white picket fences and climbing red roses.


I have a red twig shrubby dogwood - a dwarf variety ("Halo", I believe). I heard recently that the red color is more vibrant on new growth, and therefore, I should prune the shrub to its base in late spring for maximum effect next winter. My question is: Is this too severe? The plant has been in the ground since October '99 and is about 2 ft. tall (I have never pruned it). It is sprouting out so beautifully now (with variegated leaves) that I hate to cut it back. If I do prune it back, how far (the source I read said to the base)?


Red Twig Dogwood can be pruned by cutting back all stems to 6 inches during dormancy, usually from late winter to early spring. When the shrub is mature, prune one third of the oldest stems back to the base. Dead, diseased, and damaged growth should be removed as soon as it is observed. If the plant is only two feet tall you might want to wait until it gets a little more size on it before you prune. I would at least let it get 3-4 feet before doing a lot of heavy pruning, unless the tree starts to loose its red-coloring before then.


How do you pronounce this - Houttuynia cordata, Chameleon Plant?


The scientific name of Chameleon Plant is pronounced: hoo-tie' nee-a kor-dah' ta.


I just bought a Fatsia japonica (Japanese Fatsia). Do you have any info on it?


Japanese Fatsia can reach heights of 6-10' and spread out 6-10' feet wide. It's really only hardy to zone 7b and even then a hard winter may kill it. Fatsia is used as a house plant in the North. For it to survive in the South, it needs to be planted in almost total shade. Partial will work, but the more shade the plant can get the better off it will be. It is tolerant of clay soil, but prefers moist, acidic, highly organic soil. It should be planted close to a will or some other solid structure. Heavy wind and sun exposure will damage it greatly. Fatsia is also tollerant of poluttion so it works well in heavily populated areas.



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