Homegrown, Sept. 3, 2011

I have a blue spruce tree that’s about 4½ feet tall. My big forsythia bush is spreading out and crowding it. Can I transplant it to another spot in my yard? When would be a good time to do this, if it’s possible?

— Thanks, Janet

The best time to transplant a woody plant like your spruce is mid-to-late March next year. You could transplant later this fall after the deciduous plants have dropped their leaves, but I don’t like that as well as spring. Winter can be a stressful time for plants and sometimes adding the additional stress of transplanting can push the plant over the edge. Let the plant get through the winter first and then do the transplanting before it breaks bud next year. So if you have the luxury of time, wait.

Whenever we talk about transplanting, we’re talking about odds. Doing everything right at just the right time doesn’t guarantee success; it just gives you the best chance of success. Conversely, you can do everything wrong and be successful, it’s just that your chances of success are less than if you had done it right. Here’s how I would recommend doing it:

The first thing you want to do is to dig the hole in your yard where the tree is going to go. Have the hole ready so that the plant is out of the ground as little time as possible. Next, you want to dig as large of a soil ball around the plant as you can handle (remember you’ll have to pick up that bad boy and carry it over to the new hole!). I would guess that for the tree you have, you will need a rootball that’s 18 inches to 20 inches in diameter. That’s going to be pretty heavy, but remember that the bigger the rootball, the better you chances of success will be.

It’s important to keep the rootball intact, don’t let it crack or break apart. It’s helpful to wrap the soil ball with burlap or an old sheet to help support it. You might even want to further support it by wrapping some chicken wire or wire fencing around the ball to help hold it together. Get it planted in the new hole and water it in well. After that initial watering has soaked in, give it a second soaking with a solution of Fertilome Root Stimulator. It has a rooting hormone in it that helps stimulate the formation of new roots and that’s the name of the game at that point.

I have found a plant that I need to have identified. I think it is some kind of sedum, but whatever it is I am apparently having a reaction to it. Please help!

— April

Thanks for the photo. The plant you have is called Myrtle Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites). Your reaction to it is pretty common. The milky sap can cause burning and itching. Some people are sensitive enough to have problems if they just handle the plant. The plant is considered a noxious weed here in Colorado and if this was in my yard, I’d eradicate it (not that you probably need any encouragement from me).

Looking for a good ground cover for the garden (sun/partial shade), to go in between flagstone path. Irish moss has the look I want. Any suggestions on the moss or another good ground cover for this climate?

— Sheryl

Irish Moss is great between stepping stones but it likes a good amount of shade. If the area gets shade pretty much all afternoon, it should work fine. I’ve seen Irish Moss growing in the sun, but the more sun it gets, the “iffier” it becomes. It may survive, but not thrive like you’d want. Other possibilities are Wooly Thyme, Creeping Potentilla and some of the creeping Veronicas.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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