Ask the gardening expert

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After visiting British Columbia recently I was struck with the site of so many oak trees there are on the mainland and on Vancouver Island. I was told they are called Oregon White Oak. I've seen a few in Oregon, but nothing like in B.C., so why are they named for Oregon? I would like to grow a few in my yard, they are a handsome tree, I have not had good luck locating one so far, could you tell me where I might find one?

Oregon white oak, or "Quercus garryana," is an attractive deciduous hardwood tree native to Oregon, found as far north as British Columbia and as far south as Southern California.

Oregon and Washington at onetime also had huge oak forests, but over the years they have dwindled down in the great need for lumber, in building towns, homes, furniture, and firewood.

These trees are medium to slow growing hardwoods that seem able to withstand both lengthy flooding and drought, and are most common on sites that are either too exposed or too dry for other tree species.

I personally would like to see this fine tree better appreciated, and sought after by homeowners along with other native species that are becoming more scarce in the Northwest. I have seldom seen a white oak offered in a mainstream landscape nursery, in the past I had ask for one, the nurseryman tell me there is not call for them because they grow too slow, not enough reward for the homeowner, they tell me. Nowadays however I have seen them in native plant nurseries. There is a fine native plant nursery just south of Woodland, named 'Nothing But NW Natives' The owner Kali Robson should have one or can get her hands on one for you. The nursery is open only by appointment only, the website is Robson Botanical Consultants & Nothing But Northwest Natives.

The Oregon white oak's scientific name, Quercus garryana, was chosen to honor the deputy governor of the Hudson Bay Co., Nickolas Garry. In the early 1800's the Hudson Bay Co. served as a center of the fur trade in the vicinity of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Garry was known for his tactful and diplomatic fur trade dealings with both whites and Natives alike.

The reason it's common name is Oregon white Oak is probably that when families came across the prairies and landed in Oregon; they found it a fine area to homestead due in big part to abundancy of all important water and trees.

I am sure they placed great value on the huge oak tree stands that existed then. The growing population arrived in central Oregon and spread north and south from their arrival point. I'm sure they were grateful for the abundance of oak trees they found whether they settled north or south of Oregon.

Last summer we noticed a huge paper wasp nest hanging between bedroom windows, this was very upsetting to us and we used a spray that shot a long distance. It took several nights, but it was finally empty. We heard that they are territorial and won't build a nest near a hive even if it's vacant, is that true, if so should I leave the empty nest hanging there?

I think it would be best to leave the empty nest there, I think you are no longer in danger, as long as your family has window screening, and does nothing to provoke any wasps that may be left in the nest. From what I've read paper wasps are beneficial insects, they tend to nest in close proximity to people, which of course could be putting us at risk for stings. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove a nest, also recommend you hire a professional who would probably work at night to help eliminate some of the risk of being too close, and running into an accident. Some species of wasp construct the small open-celled paper nests while other type wasp create the huge round nests we often see suspended from eaves or porch ceilings. Most species in North America belong to the genus Polistes. Paper wasps do serve an important ecological purpose as predators of other insects. They collect caterpillars, beetle larvae, and other insect prey to feed their young. Each year the queen needs to build a new nest which she does by masticating wood fibers into a pliable pulp. By summer, the paper nest can be quite large reaching a width of 8 to 12 inches. In fall, freezing temperatures will kill all but the queen, who seeks shelter and hibernates for the winter. The nest degrades over winter and is rarely reused the next year. Before you do anything to get rid of paper wasps around your home, ask yourself if you can tolerate their presence and leave them alone. Paper wasps help keep hungry caterpillars and other plant pests in check, benefiting your landscape and garden. If a paper wasp nest is located on your property but away from high use areas, consider leaving them alone. While they do sting, they only do so in response to a threat. Humans and paper wasps can often coexist peacefully.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.