Question #1

ImageCATZLADY asks: I had a lovely black cat I named Campion who is now gone. I would like to plant a flower for him. I know there is the rose campion but it doesn't fit. Are there any others? Or ... is there a company or companies that let you name a flower they are creating or who would like suggestions as to names? Thanks,Sheila.

carrielamont answers: Hi Sheila, You can use our terrific PlantFiles feature to search for plants by name. If you want a red plant, for instance, you can stick "red" in one of the search fields, or if you want one native to Texas you can put Texas " in the "common name" field or texenis in the species field and the plants with "Texas" somewhere in their names should come up. ("Texensis" is how botanists spell "Texan.") But most of the ones with 'texensis' as part of their botanical name also have "Texas" as part of their common name, eg Texas bluebonnets, Lupinus texensis.

This is just the type of search you want. Rose campion, or the species Silene coronaria comes in the color rose, or deep pink, but there are other cultivars of Rose campion that are noted to be white or alba, blush pink ('Angel's Blush') or purple ('Purple Prince'). If none of those will suit, there are also other plants related to rose campion that are other kinds of campion, like Sea Campion or Starry Campion. The Silene and Lychnis group are often referred to as "catch fly," which is definitely something I've seen cats attempt--to catch a fly, that is, All the plants that are currently named "campion" are in one of those two groups.

As to your other question, new plants are named all the time. Particularly in genera like coleus (which throw off sports or variations frequently) or daylilies (which are easy to hybridize), the list of plants with names is growing longer and longer. In order to register your new dahlia, iris or rose cultivar, you would need to contact the professional society related to that type of plant. Here is the list of plants that came up when I put in "campion."

Melody adds: The lovely image above is the variegated sea campion. It has a totally different look than the rose campion. So there should be a form and color available that would suit your needs within the genus.

The image is courtesy of member 'growin'.

Question #2

ImageLadybuglady31 asks : "Hi all! I've started my petunia seeds and they already have 4 true leaves, so I've been potting them up into larger cups cause right now they're just in the little peat pellets. My question is, I gave them some fish fert at 1/4 strength so far. Do I water with this with every watering? Or just once a month or something? I've only done petunias once. And to be honest, this is the first time I've ever got into feeding plants. (probably my biggest problem with my lack of green thumb., lol). So feeding is kinda new to me. "

adinamiti answers: "You should fertilize your petunia seedlings ( and any other flowering plant) once a week, starting March. Make sure you read the instructions on the fertilizer bottle and use it according to those instructions. Liquid fertilizer is easy to use, but you need to water your plants first with regular water and after a few hours water with the mixture of water and the proper amount of fertilizer. They usually advice you to use the bottle lid to measure how much fertilizer you can add in a specific amount of water. When fertilize use the normal amount of liquid you are using for normal watering, according to the size of the pot. Don't overwater! I usually water in the evening and fertilize the next morning. Petunias are easy to grow, but they do better outside in the garden. Only you need to check the temperatures and plant them outside when it's over 50F during the night, usually in May."

Question #3

ImageSteveinFL asks: I want to build off the ground planters (not raised planters) but a 3 ft x 3ft or so 12-18 "deep planter where the soil level will be at a 3 ft height and the planter is on legs. These are for veggies only and I'm in zone 9B in Florida. I could easily use 4 x 4 legs and 2 x 12 lumber, but I feel that will be tough to get home from my local Lowes, very heavy and overkill. I found a product used for home building called Hardiesoffet, it's a concrete product, 1/4" thick, waterproof, bug proof, fireproof and rot proof...has anyone tried such a product for a planter. It does have some silica and other chemicals but I cannot find out if they will leach our or if they will be safe for planters. I thought a 2x4 frame covered in this product would be ideal.

If not, can I use 3/4 inch lumber for the sides of such a planter or must it be 1 1/2 as in a 2 by. I plan to use 2 by planks for a sturdy bottom. I found such planters online, made of cedar that snap together, which received some good reviews, but cost almost $200 each. Since I am a bit handy I want to build them myself and save some money. Any recommendations anyone can give would be helpful.

Melody answers: I researched the HardieSoffit and couldn't find any information as to whether it was safe for food crops. I'm sure it is something that the company hasn't considered. However, I'm quite familiar with elevated planters and can give you several tips on them. The Gronomics company sent Terry and myself a couple of them a few seasons ago and we did a whole summer's worth of articles on our experiences. The floor and sides are probably 3/4" and resemble decking, so it isn't necessary to use the 2x lumber for the floor either. You can see how they are constructed by checking out the link to the articles. The 4x4 posts were slotted and we just slipped the side pieces in the grooves. They are Western Red Cedar and I've seen no degardation in my units in the time that I've had them. One is natural and the other had been treated with Tung Oil. (safe, organic product) Don't use treated lumber for your planters. Even though they've discontinued using the dangerous compounds, they're still chemically treated. According to the Washington state Department of Agriculture, no pressure treated wood is allowed in contact with the soil, to retain an organic certification. Constructing your own planters shouldn't be a problem, but the materials you use should be well researched before purchasing them. (many plastic flowerpots aren't made with food-grade plastics either, and folks use them every day without a clue) If you have access to redwood or cedar, those would be my reccomendations.

Question #4

Imageveeneck asks: I live in zone 10a, Los Angeles, and I have a large backyard with mature trees, which create a big, flat area that is always in shade, and a partially shady slope. I have just cleared the area and I'm on the hunt for plants that will grow in the shade. I was in Home Depot today and I found two sets of bulbs, one of them is Astilbe, and the other is called "Lily, Tiger Orange." These are Home Depot-packaged bulbs and unfortunately the latin names are nowhere on the packaging.I am wondering if I should take these back to the store. When I looked them up neither is listed for zone 10. I am wondering why they can't grow here, perhaps the summers are too hot? Anyway I am looking for some advice as to whether I should plant these and see what happens, or take them back to the store and do my homework first next time. Any advice appreciated.

Melody answers: I think you should be fine. Both are rated to zone 9b and as long as they aren't in blistering sun, I believe they should do well for you. I live in Kentucky, and we have some extreme temperature swings. Summer temperatures are regularly over 90 degrees and sometimes triple digits. Winters can dip below zero. Plants that thrive in full sun in Oregon, need shade through the hottest part of the day here. Since you are planning on using these plants as part of a shade garden, chances are, they'll thrive. I would pay close attention to their water needs until they are established, because drought stress and high heat will hurt them. Next year, they should be tough enough to be treated like any other plant in your garden.

Thanks to member 'growin' for his lovely astilbe image.

Question #5

ImageRipshingirl asks: I've read the Sarah Bernhardt peony will need a "winter chill experience" in order to bloom in zone 9 and that that can be achieved by placing a block of ice over the plant in winter. How many weeks/days should this be done, or should I just wait and plant it in the southern Appalachian mountains in May?

Sallyg answers: Peonies have a reputation of blooming poorly if they are too warm during winter. Gorge Top Gardens says that about 200 hours of chilling are needed to ensure good peony bloom for most cultivars. They also say, though, that 'Sarah Bernhardt' is less needy of chill, and a good choice for warmer gardens. The lower end of the chilling-hours scale is 100 chill-hours. You might try to ice the planting area for five days straight to simulate that. In addition, be sure the eyes of the peony are planted just at soil level, not two inches deep as is done in northern zones. And site the peony in a colder microclimate of your yard, if you can. You can plant your peony in May if you wish. Fall is a preferred time to move peonies. Again, set the eyes just below soil level, as deep planting can prevent desired chilling. They may not bloom in the year of a spring move but should recover the following year. Erv Evans, writing for North Carolina State University, echoes that care advice, and adds the cultivars Baroness Schroeder (white), Felix Crousse (red), Festiva Maxima (white double with a crimson center), Felix Supreme (raspberry), Mons. Jules Elie (medium pink double), and Teresa (pink), as good choices for warmer gardens. And there are reports of successful peony bloom in warm zones, with many cultivars. I can't verify those. Shallow planting, choosing older cultivars such as those named above, choosing early blooming selections, and planting in the coolest spot you have are all advisable for peony culture in frost-free zones.

Thanks to member 'Joan' for this lovely Sarah Bernhardt image

Question #6

Imagehanamilani asks: Hi, this is my african violet. As you see it has flowers on it and it generally looks good, but I see the old leaves are getting kind of gray and loose. Please let me know how I can help the poor plant?

critterologist answers: Hana, that's not a "poor plant," it looks beautiful! Older African violet leaves are simply that -- old. You can help the appearance and health of the plant by periodically removing a row (or three) of the outermost leaves, leaving at least 3 or 4 rows, or circles of leaves, counting out from the center of the plant. Older leaves will eventually wither on their own, but once they start looking bad they're really not contributing to the plant any more, so they may as well come off. Gently wiggling the leaf from side to side will generally snap it cleanly away from the central stem. I think it's easiest to "groom" a plant when it's a little on the dry side. The crisp leaf stems on a freshly watered plant are more likely to break away as you're working on them -- and it's not always the leaf you want to remove that breaks off. Over time, as you continue to groom your plant like this, you'll notice a "trunk" developing between the crown of leaves and the surface of the potting mix. That means it's time (or past time) to repot! When you repot, whether into the same pot with fresh mix or into a larger pot, just set the plant low enough that the bare part of the stem will be covered by potting mix.

For some additional tips on growing African violets, see "AV 101: Getting Started with Your New Plant" You'll also find a lot of information and enthusiasm in DG's African Violets & Gesneriads forum. As with a lot of DG's forums, you can participate in the discussion threads there only if you subscribe, but non-subscribers can still see the thread subjects and first posts, to get a feel for what they'd find by subscribing. The 2 month subscription makes it even easier to check things out before subscribing for a full year. For me, it's been the best money I spend on my garden every year. Hana, I hope you'll decide to subscribe and jump into the activity on the AV forum.

Image courtesy of 'hanamilani'

Question #7

Imagechrism_ asks: What can I do about tulips planted in pots that have sprouted long, lanky yellow leaves in March? The pot is in unheated garage. We're in zone 6, New York state. Tulips are 'White bunch' & Negrita. Flowers are not expected until late April. I had this happen a long time ago, 8 years. I knew it was due too warm temps in basement, but can't recall what I did about it.

critterologist answers: Tulip bulbs that are planted outside sometimes put up leaves long before flowers appear. Some of my tulips sprouted leaves last October and just stayed green through all kinds of winter weather. Those leaves just grow when they want to grow. Your tulips have lanky yellow leaves because they're putting up leaves without sunshine. My suggestion would be to simply move your pots of bulbs outside. Let the rain water them, let the sun turn the leaves green, and they should bloom right on
schedule. Since those yellow leaves haven't seen the sun, move them outside in "stages," in a spot close to the house and protected from wind. Just like you'd do if you were hardening off seedlings, put them out for half a day in a protected spot, then put them out for a full day but still bring them back inside the garage at night, then finally let them just stayoutside until they put up buds. If you've potted them up because you want early blooms inside the house, an alternative would be go ahead and move them inside by a sunny window, maybe give them a half-strength dose of liquid fertilizer when they start to green up.

Thanks to member 'GardenGuyKin' for his lovely tulip image.

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

Images shared with members' permission are noted. All others are my own.