Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reader's Garden Questions Answered

The summer night is like a perfection of thought. ~Wallace Stevens

I hope your week is going well. We finally got some good rain here, which we needed. Our lawn is actually crunchy when we walk on it! Today I have some great reader's questions with answers.

When the plumes die off astilbe, do you leave them on the plant till spring, or trim the dead plumes off when they are thru flowering? Then in the spring, do you cut the whole plant to the ground? ~Ginny

After the first bloom you can cut just the flowers off and this will encourage them to bloom again. Many people recommend leaving the blooms to go to seed for the birds in the winter. I think you could do this with the second blooms, and cut the first bloom. They make a neat looking winter landscape plant too with the seed heads left on. Any dead foliage can be cut in the spring.

I planted my first butterfly bush this spring. It was growing beautifully, now in the last few weeks it is turning yellow in stem of the leaf.I have giving it plant food 2 time this season, it is in full sun, mulch is around the plant, and the plant looks ready to bloom, but I think leaves will be dead before that. Any advice would be appreciated. ~Hummingbirdcole.

It could be spider mites, and if so, try spraying the leaves, especially the underside, with a soap spray. Catherine, the Herb Lady, had shared her spray method and I put it here:

Also, make sure it's getting water, but not TOO much-- you don't want it wet all the time, but don't let it get bone dry either. I wouldn't feed it any more this season, just try the spray.

I noticed "pod" things on the flower stock of my bearded iris after it was done blooming. Can these be used to propagate the plant? If so, how? ~Betty

Yes, those are seed pods, and they can be used to grow more iris. When they are starting to turn brown on top, and if you pinch them with your fingers they crack instead of give, then you can harvest them. You don't want to do it too soon, or they won't be ripe enough, but if you wait til the pods split they will be gone into the soil and the wind. The seeds are tiny, and you can do a few different things with them. Either plant them in the soil, pots, or if you want a lot of them, use flats. Use good potting soil and plant about 3/4 inch deep in all cases. Outside they need to planted before winter in the fall. They will germinate the next spring. If you want to try them in pots in the spring then transfer them, that's okay too. Store the seeds in paper envelopes. I didn't notice seeing how long it takes for new plants to grow, but I think as with daylilies, it could be a couple of years.

Speaking of daylilies, you can do the same thing with the pods on your plants too. Many people refrigerate these for 3 or 4 weeks then plant the seeds a 1/4 inch deep in pots or flats. If you chill them the germination time could be as soon as a week, or 3-4 weeks without chilling. You can plant them directly in the garden too. The seedlings can be transplanted into the garden when they are about 6 inches tall. Harden them off first by giving them a few hours of sun a day, then increasing the time as the days go by.

Depending on what variety of lily or iris you started with, the seeds may end being a completely different color. But, it's a fun experiment and one to get the kids involved in!

Learn to make your own pesto!


  1. great page! I think I'm going to like it here and learn a lot. Since I'm new to blogging, please come by my page and say "hi" ~Kat

  2. Funny how you need rain. We've had little less since April. Looking a lot better since the start of August tho.



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