Fall is the perfect time to plant shrubbery and trees. They improve your yard in many ways.
Q. I live in a brick house on the corner of two busy cut through streets. On the south-facing side of my house and yard, I want to plant some evergreen trees or shrubbery for privacy and noise reduction. Could you recommend some of either? Leyland cypress and white pine are not my choice. J.M., Lynchburg
A. Evergreens with needles instead of broad leaves do the best job of reducing traffic noise and many options are available. Trees to consider are Norway spruce, Japanese cedar (cryptomeria), Atlas cedar and natives such as Eastern red cedar and Virginia pine. Two arborvitae trees are also worth considering: Emerald Green and the taller Green Giant. Mixing shrubbery with the trees will help control noise near the ground, and large, vigorous Chinese junipers such as Hetzi, Sea Green and Pfitzeriana are good choices. Golden yellow Japanese false cypress shrubs will provide contrast with the blue, gray and green of the other plants. To direct road noise up and away from your home, it is best to plant shorter shrubs near the road and taller ones toward your yard.
Q. My 15 full grown Leyland cypress trees planted 10 feet apart provide a wind barrier for my yard. They are so gorgeous and have provided homes and shelter for many birds. This year, something has caused a rust coloring of branches, starting on the interior. My internet search identified three main diseases for Leylands: root rot, canker and blight. Could you suggest someone I might call to diagnose my trees? P.L., Lynchburg
A. You could call a tree care worker certified by the International Society of Arboriculture. They are likely to have training in tree disease diagnosis and treatment, and many certified arborists operate in the Lynchburg area. Browning of interior branchlets is probably normal as Leyland cypress ages.
Q. Can you tell me the name of the plant in my attached photo? I’ve had it for a long time and it bloomed once with little white flowers. I also would like to know some information about it. M.T., Lynchburg
A. Your houseplant looks like a member of the spider wort family called basket plant and Callisia fragrans. Its leaves resemble those of a dracaena and its old name was Tradescantia dracaenoides. Baby plants grow on its long runners, which are attractive hanging over the edge of a pot or basket. This native of Mexico has waxy white flowers with the fragrance of hyacinths.
Q. My Christmas cactus continues to develop new growth, but it will not bloom. I have had it for several years. What am I doing wrong? B.M., Lynchburg
A. Perhaps temperature has not been meeting your plant’s needs. Exposure to cool temperatures from 50 to 60 degrees will make Christmas cactus form flower buds. Flowering does not occur when temperatures are above 70 degrees, the normal temperature in most homes.