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ID of mystery plant, hydrangea bouquet, fall watering trees and shrubs

Gardening columnist Don Kinzler takes questions from readers, including whether cutting blooms from Bobo hydrangeas for a bouquet will harm the plant.

October 1, 2022 - Plant ID - Delicata squash turns out to be watermelon.jpg
A reader asks gardening columnist to identify the plant in this picture. She explains her neighbor thinks it's Delicata squash, but it turns out it's watermelon.
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Q: Could you please tell me what type of plant is in the photo? My neighbor planted seeds for Delicata squash, but this doesn't look like the photos on the package. Are these edible? – Tammy L.

A: We naturally expect a packet of seeds to produce what’s labeled and pictured, but sometimes we get a surprise, especially if it’s something we haven’t grown before and are unfamiliar with its appearance.

The fruits in the photo are watermelon. The deeply lobed leaves to the left of the fruits might not be familiar if a gardener hasn’t grown watermelons before. I do notice different leaves in the lower left of the photo, which appear to be either pumpkin or squash.

How did seed labeled Delicata squash turn out to be watermelon? Human error is always possible at the facility where various types of seed are packaged. Watermelon seed was likely inadvertently placed in the wrong packet. Luckily, mislabeled seed isn’t a common occurrence.

I’m not certain whether the watermelon are ripe or not, but the larger ones might be. The curly tendrils close to the point of attachment appear to be brown and dry, and the melons appear to have lost their unripe glossiness. It does look, however, that many of the vines collapsed prematurely, likely from disease or insects, which can prevent the melons from reaching full size and ripeness.

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It will be interesting for your neighbor to slice into the larger melons, and I’m hoping they’ll find them sweet and juicy.

Q: I have two Bobo hydrangeas and was wondering if I cut some of the blooms for a bouquet if that will cause damage. Will the branches left this fall sprout buds in the spring, or will all new growth sprout from the ground? – Connie B.

A: You can certainly cut flowers of Bobo Hydrangea for bouquets without harming the shrub. Bobo is a cultivar of panicle-type hydrangeas, having pyramidal-shaped flower clusters.

These panicle-type hydrangeas act like what I call "normal" shrubs, leafing out from existing branches each spring, like most shrubs. The other commonly grown hydrangea class is the arborescens, or Annabelle type of hydrangea, having large round white flower clusters. The arborescens types die back to near ground level each winter.

Q: Is now a good time to water trees to get them ready for winter? I know we've had OK precipitation for most of the year, so I’m wondering how long I should set the hose on them? Should it be an hour, or half-an-hour? – Deb H.

A: Early October is a good time to water trees and shrubs, especially those planted within the past three or four years, whose root systems aren't as developed, and also evergreens. Even though the rain this summer was OK, many areas are a little on the dry side this fall, as the region hasn’t received a widespread soaking rain that’s common in September.

The length of time to let the hose run over the root zone depends on how forceful the water flow is, and how large the plants are. Trees that are three or four years old might benefit from a half-hour soak with the hose at half strength or less, to allow the water to soak in slowly.

Shrubs benefit from at least several five-gallon buckets of water. Trees and shrubs can be soaked now, and again in a couple of weeks if we don't get an inch of rain or more rain in the meantime. As long as the water soaks away, there’s little danger of overwatering, since this fall has been on the dry side.

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More gardening columns from Don Kinzler
In this week's Fielding Questions, Don Kinzler offers advice for caring for a weeping fig, tips for thinning apples, and tells readers it's not too late to wrap trees to prevent sunscald damage.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu . Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu.
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