From the Directors Desk: Q & A With Fred Breglia

By Fred Breglia

Over the years, I have met many peo­ple at Lan­dis Arbore­tum, from locals stop­ping by to walk their dog to tourists pass­ing through the area. 

Teach­ers, artists, arborists, gar­den­ers, lawyers, musi­cians, fam­i­lies — all sorts of peo­ple. Con­ver­sa­tions typ­i­cal­ly begin with ques­tions about plants, and the fol­low­ing are a few of the most fre­quent­ly asked ques­tions from my 25 years at the Arboretum. 

Q) I have lichen grow­ing on my trees, is it going to kill it?

A) No, lichen will not harm your tree. It is actu­al­ly a sym­bi­ot­ic rela­tion­ship between two organ­isms, a fun­gus and an alga. The fun­gus grows on the tree and col­lects mois­ture and min­er­als from the atmos­phere, and the algae make food through pho­to­syn­the­sis. Togeth­er they pro­vide what they need to exist. The tree bark is sim­ply the site of growth but not a source of food. Some­times stressed trees have more lichen on them because they have few­er leaves, so more sun­light is shin­ing on the tree, allow­ing the lichen more oppor­tu­ni­ty to grow.

Q) Are moles eat­ing my plants and grass?

A) This is a great ques­tion, and the answer is no. Moles are car­niv­o­rous ani­mals that feast on worms, grubs and insects, not plants. The cul­prits are like­ly voles, which are her­bi­vores and only eat plants. Both live in holes under­ground, which is prob­a­bly why moles and voles get con­fused with each oth­er. Moles typ­i­cal­ly tun­nel while search­ing for food and leave mounds through the grass, but there will be no vis­i­ble hole. Voles, too, have a hole, but no mound or tun­nels. Voles can also dam­age trees and shrubs by girdling the base of the trunk and roots. The best con­trol for voles is to use a repel­lent prod­uct and tree pro­tec­tion wraps around your plants, espe­cial­ly in the win­ter.

Q) How do I stop deer and oth­er ani­mals from eat­ing my plants?

A) For larg­er game like deer, tall durable fences work real­ly well. If fenc­ing is not an option, you can make and apply a Deer Be Gone’ prod­uct to put around the plants. The prod­uct is made by mix­ing rot­ted raw eggs, minced gar­lic, cayenne pep­per, lemon juice, and water in a blender, then sprayed direct­ly on the plants or around the perime­ter of the gar­den bed.

Q) My lilacs look healthy, but aren’t flow­er­ing, what can be done?

A) There are a few rea­sons why this hap­pens. First, lilacs can grow in both sun and shade, but require sun to flower well. If your lilac has been shad­ed out over time, con­sid­er mov­ing the plant to a sun­nier loca­tion or remov­ing near­by branch­es to allow more light into the area. A sec­ond rea­son this occurs is because of prun­ing at the wrong time. Lilacs bloom on the pre­vi­ous season’s wood, so the only time to prune them with­out remov­ing the next year’s flower buds is imme­di­ate­ly after they bloom. Prun­ing at any oth­er time of the year will remove flower buds.

Q) Why are my crabap­ple tree leaves falling off in the mid­dle of sum­mer? is my tree dying?

A) Most like­ly the cul­prit is fun­gus. Apple scab and cedar apple rust are two types of com­mon fun­gi found on apple trees in our area that can cause pre­ma­ture leaf drop. Years with more rain make these issues more notice­able. Some years, the entire tree can be bare by mid-August, but do not wor­ry: the tree will regrow leaves the fol­low­ing year. These are not life-threat­en­ing fun­gi, but it is best to remove the leaves from the prop­er­ty, which can great­ly reduce the amount of inocu­lum in future years. If done annu­al­ly, it can make a great dif­fer­ence after a while.

Fall 2021

Volume 39 , Number 3

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