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Garden docs: How to tell the difference between a dawn redwood and a bald cypress

HARRY R. WRITES: What is the difference between the dawn redwood and bald cypress? A neighbor has two trees that looked like our coastal redwood trees, but according to the neighbor, they are really dawn redwood. He said he planted them because his soil does not drain well in that particular location.

The dawn redwood tree is botanically known as Metasequoia glyptostroboides. Its needles are opposite on the stems (an easy way to identify it). It’s a fast grower and can reach a height of 70 to 120 feet and a width of 25 feet. People confuse it with the bald cypress which is also deciduous. It thrives in sunny locations that receive at least six hours of sun daily and tolerates moist soils and some poor drainage. However, it is adaptable to different types of soil and some drought conditions. A magnificent specimen can be seen in Juilliard Park off Santa Rosa Avenue, in Santa Rosa.

The bald cypress is botanically known as Taxodium distichum, and its needles are alternate on the stems (another easy identification tool). Its growth rate is moderately slow and it can reach a mature height of 40 to 50 feet. If planted in a location that gets full sun and good drainage, the tree will put on faster growth. In autumn, it begins to lose leaves (needles) and becomes completely deciduous. New needles that are white underneath appear in spring. The bald cypress is versatile and can be grown in drier states but won’t have “knees.” These are outgrowths of the tree root systems when the trees grow in southern swamps.

Jeremy, a fourth grader, writes: Why are fallen coast redwood trees allowed to remain on the forest ground?

Jeremy, thank you for your question. Following is a quote from Save The Redwoods League: A natural coast redwood forest is a perfect recycling system. The soil, like that in any high-rainfall climate, contains few nutrients. Most of the substance necessary for life is in the trees themselves, living and dead, and in the other plants and animals of the forest. If trees are removed from the forest floor and not allowed to decay naturally, many nutrients are lost from the cycle.

I hope this answers your question, and do have a fun discussion with your parents on the question and answer.

Debbie asks: Is it too late to plant gladiolus? I have some bulbs that were leftovers from a plant sale. They appear to be in good shape with no signs of rot. Any other advice would be appreciated.

You can certainly give it a try. Planting in the month of June should be acceptable even though the bloom time will be a little later in the summer. The time from planting the corm to bloom is approximately 100 days.

Gladiolus is a corm that resembles a bulb; the roots appear from a basal plate underneath the corm bulb.

The pointed end at the top of the corm will have a bud or two, and that is where the new growth begins. Depending on the size and type of the corm, plant as deep as the corm is thick across the bulge. This usually means planting to a depth of 4 to 6 inches.

Also, depending on your soil type, plant deeper in sandy soil and less deep in heavier soil. Allow space for the corms to grow. Again, depending on the corm size and type, allow 4 to 6 inches between gladiolus corms.

Choose a sunny location, dig the hole and thoroughly incorporate organic matter plus a small amount of bone meal into the bottom of the hole. Water immediately and start to water regularly once new leaves appear.

Donna F. writes: How far apart should I plant cleome seeds? My garden pal gave me an abundance of seeds and hoped I would plant the seeds in an available 3-by-8-foot raised bed. She said they are a fantastic bee attractant.

Try planting the seeds 14 inches apart and in a zigzag or triangular spacing that will be much more pleasing to the eye than planting in a straight line or a rectangular grid pattern. If you were to plant in any other space in the garden, use the same spacing and planting patterns. Cleome is often used in informal garden designs, naturalized and habitat gardens. It is commonly called a spider flower and is covered with masses of spiderlike blooms on top of tall, leggy growth and leaves. Seeds can be purchased in shades of pink and white. It thrives in sun or part shade and low water. It does well in leaner soil and seems to reseed in rocky areas. No deadheading is required for a tidy garden and repeated blooms.

Your garden buddy shared a garden treasure with you. Yes, cleome attracts masses of bees in addition to butterflies, hummingbirds and even bats! The bloom takes place from June to the first frost, under ideal conditions.

Cleome does self-seed from year to year and some gardeners feel it can become pesky. However, all it takes is removing the seedpods before they burst, drying them in a paper bag, removing the dried seeds from the pods and storing the seeds in a sealed glass container for the following year’s plantings.

Dana Lozano and Gwen Kilchherr are garden consultants. Send your gardening questions to The Garden Doctors, at pdgardendoctor@gmail.com. The Garden Doctors can answer questions only through their column, which appears twice a month in the newspaper and online at pressdemocrat. com.

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