Mimic grove look by planting trees irregularly

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Q: I was looking into adding some more plantings and was interested in going with some shoestring acacias. Many sources recommend going for the “grove” effect with this species, by planting several individual trees fairly close to one another. Any insight on how exactly to best achieve this?

A: Planting as a grove just means to plant them close enough together so that the canopies mesh. Generally speaking, on trees that have a rounded canopy, this would be at distances less than half their mature height. Planting them too close will result in dieback of limbs due to mutual shading.

I would use 15-gallon plants and space them in irregular distances and use an odd number of plants. Plant the shoestring acacia from 12-18 feet apart if you want the grove effect. Try not to plant them in a straight line and/or the same distance apart or it will ruin the natural effect. Natural groves are never in straight lines and trees are never the same distance apart.

They will catch up in size so varying the size at the beginning won’t make much difference later in their lives. Look for plants that have different shapes in the container. This should give you trees that are less similar in shape later in their life and add to the natural look.

Q: I have a large ornamental purple leaf plum in my backyard and for the past two years since my wife and I moved to Vegas I have made some great plum preserves from the tree’s small fruit that many think is inedible. It’s not so! Around the first week of June they are ripe and, although it is a bit time consuming to pit the large cherry-sized fruit, the results are tasty. I’ve given samples to some of our neighbors and they have been amazed as to how good the preserves taste — quite tart but delicious.

A: Yes, I am aware that you can eat them and make plum preserves but I hesitate telling the public since they might get confused and plant them for that purpose. They simply don’t put out much fruit.

Perhaps I can share your success with the public so they can take advantage of it. Try using the fruit to infuse vodka, along with some sugar of course, and let it sit for about six months.

Q: I have three roses in a bed and one has a problem. The leaves are discolored with some sort of striping and squiggly lines on them. I have sent you some pictures.

A: This appears to be rose mosaic virus. Newsletter subscribers will see your picture. This virus is common in garden roses and leaves a distinct pattern in the leaves that is fairly easy to diagnose.

There is no cure for rose mosaic virus. It most likely came with the rose when it was bought from the supplier. This is the only way it is known to be transmitted. It is not transmitted from plant to plant and will not spread in the yard to other plants or roses.

Roses infected usually do not perform as well, have less vigor, produce fewer flowers and are more susceptible to other problems. It is best to replace it.

Bob Morris is an associate professor with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Direct gardening questions to the master gardener hot line at 257-5555 or contact Morris by e-mail at

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