Q: I'm having problems with a gardenia tree. We kept it in a planter, and it appeared to be doing all right in the summer. Then some leaves began to turn dark and fall off, along with some blossoms. I also saw what looked like white mold on some of the wood.
What's more popular than televised sports, shopping, playing golf or watching movies? Gardening, of course. Vegetable gardening, flower-growing, lawncare, tending backyard fruit crops, caring for houseplants and enjoying a home's landscape engage more people worldwide than any other hobby, pastime or pursuit.
Q: I have a large jade plant that sits outside during summer and early fall and indoors the rest of the year. It has developed some holes in leaves near the bottom; they look like they might be from something boring through them. Could you offer an opinion?—Margaret Dahl, Battle Lake, Minn. A: Jade plants aren't overly insect prone. Sometimes they'll attract white cottony mealybugs, but those are easily noticed. Many leaf problems with jade plants can be traced to moisture troubles.
Remember when teachers told us tests were wonderful learning opportunities and quizzes were valuable ways to assess our knowledge? Most students didn't seem to enjoy exams quite as much as teachers enjoyed giving them. Compared to questions about supply-side economics or Newton's laws of physics, gardening quizzes are fun and refreshing. Don't bother cheating by looking up previously published quizzes; today's questions are fresh and can be answered in a few words. Oh, and keep your eyes on your own paper. Questions
Q: When is the best time to prune trees? Does it matter what type of tree is pruned when? Our landscape company told us that winter is best because the trees are dormant. Would this be correct? We were always under the assumption that fall would be the best time. — Jennifer Lindemann, Fargo. A: The best time to prune deciduous (leafy) trees and shrubs is in late winter or very early spring, after the coldest part of winter has passed but while the trees are dormant (before they leaf out).
During a recent grocery shopping trip, I paused near the baked goods. My wife, Mary, gently took me by the arm, suggested I take a few deep breaths and keep walking until the temptation subsided. It wasn't the chocolate eclairs. No, it was the houseplant display adjacent to the bakery department. There was an African violet with two-tone flowers in a color we don't have that was whispering, "You need me." Thankfully, Mary reminded me that we already have 14 other violets that might get jealous if an attractive young newcomer were added.
Q: I picked an African violet leaf and put it in water to start a new plant. It's been in water for three weeks and still no roots. Should I start with another leaf? — Ray Brown, Enderlin, N.D.
They were the only link many of us in small towns and on farms had with the outside gardening world. We were excited when they arrived in the January mailbox. They made midwinter seem not so bad and spring not so far away. Seed catalogs still have the same effect. We think about how fun it will be to grow the new and improved vegetables. The colorful pictures of flowers give us hope that our flowerbeds will look as nice. We circle the varieties that catch our eye and add them to our wish list.
How could Bambi and Thumper do this? Masquerading behind Disney cuteness are two ruthless plant-devouring, bark-chewing, fruit tree-munching menaces. Maybe it's age, but I've lost my affinity for cute critters. I'm a soon-to-be crotchety 60-year-old, who'll probably be yelling at the neighborhood kids to stay off my lawn. I'm teasing about the kids, but not the rabbits and deer that can cause great damage during winter. Because perennials, trees and shrubs are dormant, we can be lulled into believing all is quiet on the snow-covered front.
Q: I'm replacing many of the light bulbs in our home with the newer, energy-efficient LED bulbs that appear to be replacing old, ordinary bulbs and fluorescent lights. Can LED bulbs be used to start seedlings indoors and to grow plants? — Dan Frankheiser, Alexandria, Minn. A: Shopping for light bulbs used to be so easy. Browsing the light bulb shelves now is a major task. Like you, we're also switching to LED bulbs, because for example a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb uses only about 6 watts, which greatly reduces the electric bill.