Climbing vines secrete cement to allow them to stick to the wall

August 21, 2009|By JEFF RUGG / Creators Syndicate

Q: I have a question about the problems caused by vines. If a vine is growing up a brick wall, will it damage the mortar or the brick itself in anyway? Will the vine suck too much moisture out of the mortar causing it to crack? Will a vine make a crack in a brick wall larger? Would the typical brick house allow for this expansion?

A: Vines that climb walls secrete cement that allows them to stick to the surface. They don't take any moisture out of the wall.

Boston ivy and Virginia creeper are two common vines on Ivy League college walls, and I don't think they harm the bricks or mortar. You could use a trellis of wires in front of the wall for vines that twist around rather than stick to surfaces. The wires can be lowered out of the way in the future, if maintenance needs to be done to the wall.


These vines protect walls from the heat of the sun and from too much moisture. Vines of all kinds are opportunistic and will send shoots into narrow cracks and crevasses. As the vine expands in diameter, the crack may become wider if the surfaces allow.

Q: There was a recent column titled "Taking care of turf grass" wherein you mentioned applying a thin layer of compost to the lawn each spring.

I have used compost to mix with soil when planting, and it is has a very wet and almost claylike consistency. Perhaps this is because the bags are stored.

I am wondering if compost can be applied to a lawn with a drop spreader? My spreader has a wide range of adjustment and "bars" inside the hopper that spin with the wheels to break up clumpy fertilizer.

A: A huge variety of textures and components are in bagged compost. Try out several and mix them together for your other plantings, and figure out which one has the consistency to go through your spreader. You might get a better texture for the spreader by using the mixed compost. Or you can hand spread some of the drier, fluffier kinds. Even if it is not spread evenly, it will still help the lawn.

Q: A year ago, I took a cutting from a miniature Korean lilac bush and stuck it in the ground. It took root and grew quite profusely, I might add. But this year it has come back in a funny way. First, this spring it bloomed nicely but with no leaves. Now, the flowers are gone and the leaves are starting to come out, although they are quite small.

I guess my question would be, is this a normal procedure for a cutting, or what is going on?

A: It would have helped if you had removed the flower buds last year. The cutting used almost all the energy stored in the stem to produce roots and then the flowers. Any seed production is also consuming nutrients. The plant was just barely able to survive and has sent out the biggest leaves possible. Hopefully, the leaves will produce enough food that can be stored in the stem to allow it to survive this winter. If there are any seeds remaining, cut them off now, and if it tries to bloom next spring, cut off the flowers as soon as the buds are noticed. After it has a full year of growth with normal leaves, you can allow it to bloom.

Q: We hope you can help us with a mysterious ailment to our sugar maple tree. The tree is about 30 years old and is beautiful, especially in the fall. About a month ago, we noticed the leaves developing green, half-inch high, needlelike spikes. The spikes eventually turned brown and died. Nothing has emerged from the spikes. Therefore, we do not think it is insect related. The tree looks healthy otherwise and branches are not dying. This has never happened before, and we hope you can help us solve the mystery.

A: I think your maple tree has maple spindle galls, which are caused by a tiny mite. They are harmless, but they can be unsightly. A mite spends the winter on the tree trunk hidden in cracks under the bark. As the leaf expands in the spring, the mite begins feeding, which causes a small blister. The mite moves into the blister and secretes chemicals that cause the leaf to create the gall. They reproduce asexually for a while, and then in midsummer, the galls dry up and the mites move out to the tree trunk.

Since they do no significant damage, controls are unnecessary.

Q: I have exotic lilies in my garden. They grow 4 feet to 5 feet tall and have beautiful yellow, scented flowers every year. They are about 4 years old. I want to move their location, but I don't know what time of year to move them. I do not want to damage them. Is there a good time to move them, and if so, how should it be done?

A: Wait until the leaves on the stems turn yellow and die. At that time, you can dig them up and replant them. Or if there are small baby bulbs, you can move them to other new places. Different lilies bloom in the spring, summer and fall, so the digging date depends on the time when the lily dies back to the ground.

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