Fun feature: Ask-a-GardenerBy Melody Rose (melody)
January 8, 2011
Alex05 asks: Our gardener is suggesting that we go ahead and plant trees & shrubs (Giant Arboritivae 6 ft tall, hydrangea, forsythia, green leaf maple, crape myrtle, knockout roses, spirea). I'm concerned that the ground is too cold and the plants will not do well. Would it be better to plant in the spring? Warranties don't always work out so I would like to take the most prudent road.
Your advice is greatly appreciated.
Carrielamont answers: As long as the ground is not frozen, it is actually better to plant these plants now than in the spring. The ground SEEMS cold to you on the surface, but deep underneath, it has a whole Virginia summer's worth of warmth stored for your plants' roots to access. Your forsythia may not bloom as much this spring as if you plant one in February that is actually blooming, but the roots of the plant, the health of the plant, will lead to a stronger bloom in subsequent seasons. There is a Dave's Garden article that explains some of this:
Guy_Walters asks:Hi, I have a jade plant here that is leaning and growing long and thin. I need tips on how to take care of it and I want to get it back into standing up and being fuller (not so thin and stretched out).
Carrielamont answers: Dear Ben,
I'd say your jade plant (Crassula ovata) looks pretty healthy, judging by the bright green tips on the branches. Those are the parts that are actively growing. With your jade plant, it sounds like you want to drastically change its shape. You are going to want to do this a little bit at a time. Either with scissors, pruning shears or just by breaking them off (jade is usually crisp enough that it will break), you need to prune back the unruly parts of your plant to reshape it. Do this very gradually, taking off no more than a quarter or less of each branch at a time.
Meanwhile, you should do two other things. 1. Pot up all the cuttings you prune off - they may reach perfect shape and size before the 'mother plant' does. 2. Make sure you are treating your jade properly - lots of light, not too much water, as one reader commented "give it conditions just like Southern California." Is there a chance it could be stretching to get to the light? Make sure to keep all your light-sensitive indoor plants rotated so they don't lean too much to one side.
Finally, I like the asymmetrical, off-center look, but that's just me.
editor's note: we moved a copy of guy_Walters jade plant image to this area to better assist in obtaining answers to the question. The image is his.
Limpert asks: Hi, can anyone tell me what plant this is?
Sallyg answers: I can tell because I have had one, and that is a pretty distinctive looking plant. It's Dracaena 'Janet Craig Compacta' . It's said to be a low light tolerant, slow growing tropical. Read comments about it in Plantfiles at this link.
This might be a good time to mention that Dave's Garden has its own semi-impromptu but skillful group of volunteer plant detectives. ID requests are welcomed at this forum.
For best results please post focused pictures of leaves and flowers if present. Some identifications may require pictures of the entire plant, or of detail such as close-ups of stems, tree trunks, buds or fruit. Volunteer ID answers are also welcome! There are no botany snobs in that forum, simply a friendly group with varying skill levels who all had to start somewhere and want to keep up their know-how, go further, or help others learn. Drop by sometime, many of us find plant guessing entertaining and educational.
BossMareNY6a asks:Hi! In rearranging my perennial garden I came across lots of 1/2"-1" brown bulbs with a yellowish/green foliage "curl" (about 1" long) emerging from the top, in the area where I had planted Forget-Me-Nots this spring. However, my garden is very old and I'm often finding wayward crocus/tulips/unknowns from my, and the previous owner(s), gardening. I can't find much info on FMNs other than "they're perennial and often self-sow", but not much info on if they form bulbs/corms in the winter. This is my first winter-cycle with FMNs, and after they died back this spring, I assumed I had inadvertently killed them by poor site selection.
Any advice? I'll take a picture if my description leads advisors to think it may be something else that only a visual inspection can i.d.
Carrielamont answers: Hi Kerry,
Most likely what you've found is more "wayward crocus/unknowns." There are lots of little bulbs besides crocus: grape hyacinth, snowdrops, glory-of-the-snow. etc. I hope you were able to put them back so you'll have a lovely surprise in the spring!
Forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides) are sold either as seeds or occasionally as plants; no matter what the seller says, in your climate and mine, they act like a perennial only because they self-sow so happily, but it's not the same plant, sorry. The seeds do need light to germinate. The reason I know this (besides that it says it on the package) is that in the fall, we CAREFULLY planted a row of "perennial" forget-me-nots with daffodils. In the spring they were stunning, and I do recommend the color scheme. However in the summer, when the daffodil foliage had ripened and died, we CAREFULLY laid down a layer of mulch. The only forget-me-nots we've seen since then have been sort of hither and yon in the yard in sunny spots. I am quite sure it was the mulch that was their undoing. Impossibly blue, forget-me-nots are also available in pink and white but tend to revert to blue after a generation or so of self-seeding.
An important note about Myosotis scorpioides: these adorable and charming blue flowers are prohibited in Massachusetts and banned in Connecticut, so please check before planting them. Even if they are being sold--irresponsibly--please check before you plant.
Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here. Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you.