Ask the gardening expert



I used to like the red hedges that grow so big along the back of my dad's place, but they are just a monster to work with. He called it Photinia fraseri and he said he liked them when they were small, but he wished someone would have told him how large they become before he bought 80 of them.

Photinia is the most beautiful large shrub. Many people like your dad have packed them in their yard and now regret it. They can still see their gorgeous red new growth, but those leaves are 15 feet or more up there. Some folks have even said they hate the plant. That's too bad. I'm guessing folks may not like to hear me say that there is nothing wrong with the plant. It's always a good idea to read the tags, they offer important information for the gardener, like how tall and wide, exposure sun or shade, etc.

This is a huge plant by nature. Photinia davidiana x fraseri is a member of the rose family and can grow 15 feet tall and wide. They are used as a large hedge in parks, along highways and estate planting, and other locations where there is plenty of room for them to reach their natural size. I've seen them creatively pruned into a lovely tree. In my opinion they should not be planted as a hedge in the average-sized home lot; there are many lovely shrubs that will work for you.

Hint: hedge-type plants that are inexpensive in a garden shop or nursery should be a sign to you that they frequently are the type that grow fast/huge! Photinia, laurel, Holly's Thuja, viburnums, to name a few.

When any plant is heavily used (overplanted) as Photinia fraseri was in the 1970s and '80s they become susceptible to diseases such as black spot of Photinia.

I'm noticing the heavy use of Leyland cypress around the area.

So far I've not heard of a problem, but I wonder how long that will last.

It's been so dry this spring so far. I see that some of my perennials are beginning to bloom. I have not fertilized them so far this spring. Would this be a good time use a liquid fertilizer, then the plants get both. Good idea?

No, not a good idea. I agree they need both, but not together.

I think you should water the garden -- unless you have a naturally wet spot in the garden -- water everything because it is probably dry. This is what I would do: Water today. Look the next morning to see if all the plants got a nice watering, hit the ones you missed. After all have moisture at the roots, then fertilize. Something to remember: don't put fertilize on a plant that has dry roots.

Our new condo is lovely and we even have a yard in back. It's very shady in a few spots and lighter shade other places. The Realtor suggested fern.

I like fern but world like something else too. Any suggestions?

It sounds as if there's lots of great possibilities. Why don't you invite a landscape professional to come and give you their idea? Pay for an hour or so of their time, them talking, and you making notes on a clipboard. I think it would be well worth the money.

But you ask me for a list of plants that would grow here in Southwest Washington. A few small trees, and shrubs; rhododendron/azaleas; a few other evergreens are aucuba, cypress, holly, pieris, a few deciduous trees, and shrubs too, maple, magnolias, flowering shrubs. This is only a few, and to name some perennials, primroses, hellborn, astilbe, hostas, bleeding heart. The list can go on and on. Ask at your favorite nursery, they often have just what you need, both the landscape consultant, and certainly all the plants.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to