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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:

  • Flowering Vines For Colorado
  • Life Under The Black Walnut
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Camellia Woes
  • Stressed-Out Azalea
  • Between-Building View
  • Magnolias For Upstate NY
  • Tropicana Rose Sprout
  • Roses In The Shade

    Flowering Vines For Colorado

    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,
    I take it we're talking dry and sunny, in which case, here are a couple of vine ideas: the silver lace vine, Polygonum aubertii; golden hops, Humulus lupulus 'Aureus' (admittedly, not a flowering vine, but oh, what foliage); the perennial pea vine, Lathyrus latifolius; 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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    *****

    Life Under The Black Walnut

    Dear Doyenne,
    Are there any plants out there that thrive or that at least are not semi-miserable living under black walnut trees? We wanted to put in a shrub and flower border along our property line, which falls directly under a neighboring walnut tree. We already have some not-so-happy looking lilacs under it, which are also probably not thriving due to the mid-Atlantic climate. What do we do?

    Thanks,
    Elizabeth, in Maryland

    Elizabeth,
    I am all too familiar with this problem from my days in the D.C. area and suggest you forget anything ericaceous (rhodies, azaleas, leucothoe, pieris, etc). Otherwise, the black walnut bad rap is more likely due to it's sucking all available moisture out of the soil rather than creating a toxic environment. So plant shade-tolerant shrubs and perennials (get that lilac out into the sun!) and put down drip irrigation.

    Hope this helps, KL

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    *****

    Eastern Redbud

    Dear Doyenne,
    What I want to ask you about is an Eastern Redbud that I was given and what I need to know to plant it successfully here in Lander, Wyoming; if that is even possible. I have a variety of exposures that I can place it in; from the glacial enviorns of the North-facing front yard, to that almost arid sun of the South-facing back yard and lots of in-between. I look forward to hearing what you might have to say about the little plant (about 16" high) that I have on my back porch in a 2 gallon bucket just waiting to stretch out its feet.

    Juan

    Juan,
    Go ahead and try planting it on the East side of your property, assuming it will get protection from wind, heat, or any extremes. A tree canopy would be ideal since this is an understory plant, happiest in the woods.

    Best of luck, KL

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    *****

    Camellia Woes

    Dear Doyenne,
    I have planted a camellias in a spot at the edge of my garage and it has blooms on it but they never open. I have replaced the camellias tree once and its leaves look a little sick. What could be the problem? I've amended the soil.

    Thanks, Emery

    Emery,
    If the camellia's planted next to a garage, and very possibly near a concrete pad, the problem may be that your soil is too alkaline. Camellias must have acidic soil to grow and flower properly. You might want to move it away from all that concrete into a more hospitable location that is neither too dry nor too wet, with an organic mulch to keep the roots cool (just don't mulch right up to the trunk). As for that now-empty spot by the garage, consider lilac or daphne.

    Good luck! KL

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    *****

    Stressed-Out Azalea

    Dear Doyenne,
    My husband mowed my azalea, he thought it was a weed, I forgave him. Now it won't bloom, is it damaged for good, or is there a remedy?

    Thanks,
    Connie in Ohio


    Connie,
    The best remedy is time. Let the azalea just grow for several seasons before you give up. It's been through a rather traumatic experience and you can't blame it for being a little shy to bloom. The recovery can be speeded up with a little mulch around the base and a dose of acid fertilizer in May. And be sure to mark that plant with orange construction tape next time The Husband gets out the mower.

    Best, KL

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    *****

    Between-Building View

    Dear Doyenne,
    We just moved to Washington, DC, into a lovely little apartment on the first floor of building that is about eight feet away from the building next door. Our apartment is on the front corner of the building, so our bathroom window "looks out" -- if you can say that about such a dismal prospect -- onto this barren, darkish space between the buildings. Rather ugly, but we don't have the luxury of covering up the window, since it's one of our few sources of natural (if indirect) light.

    So we were thinking: maybe we could enrich the scrubby soil that's out there and plant something -- anything -- that will live with about one hour of direct light each day and indirect light the rest of the day. With a little greenery, the brick wall we face wouldn't look nearly so prisonlike. We don't even really need it to be gorgeous, just green will do -- though I wouldn't mind a blossom or two if any can be had.

    Ketzel, I plead, I plead! I used to live on a whole lush, irrepressible acre in Charlottesville, VA, and I'm dying here! What soil/s can we put down, and what can we plant?

    Thanks for your consideration,
    Danielle and Eric

    Danielle and Eric,
    Not to panic! You'd be surprised by what will thrive in such a dreary space, especially if you amend the heck out of the soil. How about lacecap hydrangeas with a little bit of ivy behind it to cloak the wall? (Get permission to do this of course.) Or some nice big Ostrich ferns mixed with smaller evergreen Christmas ferns, provided they get water. Mix in a few hostas and columbines and you could simulate a woodland. For a larger shrub, try Aucuba japonica, a boring but workhorse evergreen, and for a tenacious groundcover, use epimedium (it's semi-deciduous but the yellow spring flowers will cheer you right up). Just for fun, you could plant Elephant Ears as an annual; the place will feel positively tropical. See what fun you can have?

    Enjoy, KL

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    *****

    Magnolias For Upstate NY

    Dear Doyenne,
    Can I grow any magnolias in Upstate NY. I'll be moving to East Durham (just south of Albany) from Summerville SC. I'd like to plant a Magnolia when I get there.

    Thanks,
    CL

    CL,
    You'll need to check with some local gardeners to confirm what the zone for East Durham is, but FYI, the two hardiest native magnolias, the big leaf or cucumber tree (Magnolia macrophylla) and the umbrella magnolia (M. tripetela) are hardy in Zone 5. Since every property has its own microclimates, you may have a very protected place somewhere in your yard where you can cheat the climate a little -- an East or South facing wall, protected from the wind, where you might be able to espalier the bullbay magnolia or its smaller cultivar, 'Little Gem.' I know that Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk has great success with 'Edith Bogue', and I suspect East Durham and the Boston area have similar winter lows.

    Enjoy the move, KL

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    *****

    Tropicana Rose Sprout

    Dear Doyenne,
    This is not so much a problem as a matter of curiosity. I have had a Jackson and Perkins Tropicana hybrid tea rose in my garden for about ten years. Every year, in a very miserly fashion, it has provided me with about 5-6 roses, off and on, during the summer. Late last year, when I still had not seen the classic Tropicana bloom, I noticed this rather relaxed, curvaceous cane coming off the root stock of the plant. Before the summer was over, it was galavanting all over the railing of the deck behind it, with multiple offshoots and multiple, multiple deep rose floribunda type flowers. This continued for the remainder of the summer and, with spring here in Raleigh, NC, its fully leafed out and showing every sign of a good crop of buds again - not to mention still growing. I assume that one of the roses that was crossed to create the Tropicana has taken over - or the plant has mutated in some way. (The only other rose anywhere near the Tropicana has been a Jackson and Perkins Don Giovanni/Don Juan.) Do you have any insight? I'd love to know the parentage of the Tropicana to determine if that identifies the splendiforous climber I now have.

    Thanks!!

    Linda

    Linda,
    Actually, what happened had nothing at all to do with crosses or mutations. Your 'Tropicana' was grafted onto an old rambling wild rose with a much more vigorous root system. The graft union must have been weak and the climbing rose just took things into its own hands (thorns?) Delighted it all had a happy ending.

    Best, KL

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    Roses In The Shade

    Dear Doyenne,
    When the camellias are in bloom October through March I feel like Alice in Wonderland. The bushes are huge, the flowers spectacular, and the Queen of Hearts should any minute come around the corner (flamingo golf club in hand) yelling "Off With Her Head"!

    I took a class on camellias at Leu Gardens when planning to move crowded bushes at my house. I have downsized to a condominium, and have a very small space to plant (after dark) and I do have a question. Will a climbing rose thrive under the live oak partial shade as the azaleas and camellias do?

    Sincerely,
    Jean

    Jean,
    Roses require a lot more sun than azaleas and camellias. However, there are some very good climbing roses that will take dappled shade. The real drawback is that they might not bloom as profusely. Try 'Climbing Iceberg' or 'Madame Gregoire Staechelin' or 'Abraham Darby.' I've even seen 'Cecile Brunner' grown in part shade. Make sure to give the rose the best soil that you can and plenty of water to compete with the roots of the trees.

    Good luck! KL

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