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Vine identified, how to protect junipers and more

Don Kinzler identifies this vine as Virginia creeper, whose botanical name is Parthenocissus quinquefolia. Special to Forum News Service

Q: Could you please identify this vining plant that grows on our chain-link fence? It is very invasive, as it originally started two doors down and over the years eventually made its way across our neighbor's fence and onto ours. We all know to cut it back as needed. Are the berries edible? It has lovely fall color when conditions are right, but not this year. — Denice Heiser, West Fargo.

A: The vine is Virginia creeper, whose botanical name is Parthenocissus quinquefolia. It’s a vigorous, winter-hardy perennial vine that makes a great cover for a wire fence, but is best pruned yearly to keep it in bounds. The berries contain compounds considered toxic to humans, so should never be eaten. Birds, however, love the berries and drop seeds, which further spreads the plant. Virginia creeper’s autumn color is brilliant scarlet-orange, beautiful as you mentioned.

Q: We had two Medora Junipers planted in early October. Will this fall’s harsh weather be hard on them? Should we do anything to protect them? — Judy Vanyo.

A: Medora Juniper is a wonderfully winter-hardy columnar evergreen shrub for the Upper Midwest, and it can easily handle this fall’s less-than-ideal weather. Medora Juniper has been a reliable, rugged evergreen since it was named in 1954, when it originated near the Badlands of western North Dakota.The blue-green foliage is dense, requires little shearing to maintain its compact shape, and is highly resistant to winterburn. It can reach a height of 12 to 15 feet with a diameter of 3 to 4 feet. No protection is needed for Medora Juniper’s zone 3 hardiness, although all evergreen should be watered well in fall if soil is dry.

Q: I cannot answer my son’s question regarding why he has a “real” larger apple growing on his Tina crab tree. There are no other apple trees growing on our farm. Can you explain this? — Marilyn Ginsburg, Renville County, Minn.

A: Tina Crabapple is a very dwarf miniature ornamental crab that only grows to around 6 or 8 feet high. Its pink flower buds open to white blossoms followed by tiny red fruit, and the tree’s small size makes it ideal for landscaping in small spaces. Its hardiness is listed as zone 4.To create a nicely shaped dwarf tree, the cultivar is grafted onto a 3- to 4-foot “standard.” So the upper round branches are Tina, and the straight-trunked standard on which Tina is attached can be various rootstocks. If a sprout along the non-Tina trunk happens to elongate into a branch, it could develop a flower bud followed by an apple fruit. This fruit wouldn’t be the tiny fruit of Tina, but instead would be the fruit type of the trunk rootstock, which could be a larger-fruited type.Examine the branch from which the large apple grew. Chances are the branch can be traced back to a point below the original graft union. You mentioned no other apple trees growing on the farm. Even if there were, pollen from those apples would have no effect on the size of an apple, only the genetic makeup of the seed inside the apple.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.