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Archive
Here's the Vast and Cavernous Archive of Enquiry that the Doyenne has already answered. Good clean fun for the whole family.

This week's questions:

  • Phormium in Arkansas
  • Herbs 101
  • Pruning 101
  • Mondo Grass
  • Cape Cod Recommendations
  • Ladybugs
  • Pussy Willow
  • Sounds Like Gophers
  • A Couple of Vines

    Phormium in Arkansas

    Dear Doyenne,

    I recently moved back to Little Rock Arkansas after a 3-year stint in Portland, Oregon. I know that is where you live and garden, so I hope that you can help me in my search.

    I would like to add a couple of varieties of phormium to the potted garden I am putting together on my patio. I am aware that they will not winter over here in Arkansas where we have very cold and sometimes icy winters. However that is no reason not to sell the plant here! I have yet to find a mail order source, or even one that I can afford on the internet. Have you any suggestions or sources for this lovely plant? I did not know how good I had it in Portland (from a horticultural perspective)!

    Thanks for your time.

    Sylvia

    Sylvia,
    Not a day goes by that I don't remind myself how good I've got it here. So many phormiums, so little time! As for sources,
    Forestfarm sells gallons of phormium for about $15. Another less immediately gratifying option would be growing them from seed (Thompson & Morgan). Also, while you certainly you can't get the foliage color range, don't rule out ornamental grasses. Miscanthus has been bred to do just about anything and there are some interesting Panicum -- hardy, disease free, and easy care.

    Enjoy, KL

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    *****

    Herbs 101

    Dear Doyenne,
    I have some interests in gardening and I often have difficulty finding information about specific plants that would help me determine the suitability of them in my landscape, especially native plants. If you can provide some ideas for searching the Internet it would help.

    I think I would like to try to do more with herbs but that's a totally unknown area for me (mashed potatoes, steak, and green beans, thanks). I am looking for information on suitability for growing in my garden (weather, care, pests, etc) as well as how some of them might be used in my diet.

    Thank you,
    E.C., Dallas, TX

    E.C,
    A good place for information on the native plants of your area is the
    Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Click on native plants and then on the specifics. Photos of the individual plants aren't up yet, but will be soon. For herbs, key in the word and you'll find a great list of them. A good book on growing herbs for cooking is the Herbal Epicure by Carole Ottesen, who also wrote a wonderful book on natives, The Native Plant Primer.

    Go get hooked! KL

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    *****

    Pruning 101

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in St. Louis and work at the Missouri Botanical Garden as a volunteer. I also have private clients. Could you recommend a good basic book on pruning shrubs?

    Thanks, Susan

    Hi Susan,
    You work at the Missouri Botanical Garden and you're coming to me for advice? Wow, that's flattering. Here are three books: Pruning by Christopher Brickell, published in cooperation with the RHS in Britain (out of print but not out of sight); Pruning Made Easy by Lewis Hill, a very good beginner's book that will take you well into the arcana of pruning; and The Pruning Book by Lee Reich.

    Be prepared to thin, remove, delete, minize and reduce, since More Pruning, Less Shrub is the bottom line when it comes to healthy, well-shaped plants.

    Best, KL

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    *****

    Mondo Grass

    Dear Doyenne,
    I heard you on the Diane Rehm show, and she mentioned that her lawn is a type of grass that is super low maintenance, but I have not heard the name before. What variety is that? Will it grow where I live -- in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. Most of my neighbors have Bermuda or St. Augustine -- both require too much care, and my Bermuda will not stay out of my herb garden!

    Thank you for your help, Tammi

    Tammi,
    Diane and I were talking about mondo grass. The dwarf forms, Ophiopogon japonicus 'Kyoto' or 'Nana' can be a wonderful lawn substitute for Zone 7 (maybe 6) and under, but they're only for non-foot traffic areas. The best way to plant it is to -- very gently -- break apart the clumps that you buy and plant the rooted pieces. You can expect good, solid coverage in about 3 years if you keep the area mulched and weeded. Once established this ground cover is tough, evergreen, and no mow, reaching only about 2-3 inches tall. A bonus is the appearance of lapis-lazuli colored berries in early summer.

    Enjoy, KL

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    *****

    Cape Cod Recommendations

    Dear Doyenne,
    Friends of ours are moving to Cape Cod, and in the mistaken belief that I know what I am talking about have asked me for advice on wnat to plant. I suggested Rosa Rugosa, especially Austrian Copper and Father Hugos (I love the way they look) goldenrod and american plum, beautiful though short, flowering season and great branch formations. Are these wrong? What is right?

    We live in Michigan (zone 5) and I think Cape Cod should be milder.


    Not So Mistaken,
    It sounds to me like your advice was right on the money. Rugosa roses do well on Cape Cod and are a striking feature on Martha's Vinyard and Nantucket. American beach plum (Prunus maritima) is one of the joys of summer on the Cape and there is a goldenrod for every occasion. The Seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) is one of many good choices; check out
    Niche Catalog for a dazzling array.

    Best, KL

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    *****

    Ladybugs

    Dear Doyenne,
    How do I get rid of Ladybugs? I live in Walterville, Oregon. Rural. I did nothing when they landed on the fir trees, 2 years ago, but when they invaded the house , I called the exterminators. They said they could sign me up for a year-long contract for $400. I decided to vacuum them instead but they smell so bad and there were so many of them, millions, I gave up and switched to Sevin. After two years of spraying and going through 3 quarts of Sevin, they are back. Our neighbor's infestation is even worse. We don't use chemicals in our garden but don't have pests other than slugs and never see the ladybugs in the garden just on and in the house. I have a quart of Chlordane but I dislike the smell of that more than the ladybugs. Is there an answer?

    Thanks, Jim

    Jim,
    Your problem's not unique. Infestations of Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis) are on the rise. There's an interesting article presenting some solutions from the U of Kentucky website (
    Asian Lady Beetle Infestations). In the short term, stop using pesticides! As you've learned (the hard way), it doesn't do any good. So, start reading.

    Here's to the good bugs, KL

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    *****

    Pussy Willow

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in a suburb on the southeast side of Denver, CO. There were two stalks of pussy willow in a bouquet of flowers I recently received. I left the willow in the water (a clear glasss vase) and it has started to leaf out and to grow roots. My question is, how long (many, dense) should the roots be before planting in the yard? Also, what type of soil preparation should I do before planting. We have poor soil with some clay mixed in.

    Thank you, Therese

    Therese,
    Willows are water hogs, so clay's not bad as long as you're committed to watering through summer. I wouldn't do anything in particular with the soil. Regarding when to plant it: It's not important how long the roots are, just that you plant the willow AFTER all danger of frost or freezing is over. Should take off nicely.

    Best, KL

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    *****

    Sounds Like Gophers

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in Birmingham, Alabama, a sloping side yard with a few hardwoods and ivy ground cover. I planted 20 Eleagnus to buffer between houses and over past two years have lost 15-17 of them. They die or fall over and when I pull them up they have very little if any root remaining. This is also happening to lilies that I have in this location but not to daffodils that have been there for many years. Of course I see squirrels and chipmunks and have used mole and gopher repellant but nothing helps. It was mentioned that this sounded like a bug or insect problem but was that was the extent of that information. Any advice?

    Lee

    Lee,
    Does sound like gophers. Next time you plant anything, consider putting a chicken wire cage around the rootball (twice the rootball's size). That will slow down if not deter all nibbling and give the plant a leg up.

    Best, KL

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    *****

    A Couple of Vines

    Dear Doyenne,
    I live in Northern Colorado where gardening can be challenging. I would like to find an interesting climbing flowering vine that would harmonize nicely with Cosmos, purple Coneflower and Russian Purple Sage. The trick is that it will have to be planted near some pavement and roadbase, so I don't think a Clematis would work. I've thought of Trumpetvine and Honeysuckle, but I already have them and want something new and different.

    Thanks, Lauren

    Lauren,
    Couple of vine ideas include the silver lace vine, Polygonum aubertii; golden hops, Humulus lupulus 'Aureus'; or annual vines such as Cup and Saucer vine, Cobaea scandens and the 'Flying Saucer' cultivar of morning glory (I repeat, annual; not to worry).

    Enjoy, KL

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