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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

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What to Grow in Hot, Reflected Sunlight

We live in a mobile home and are having a real problem finding a plant that will grow on the south side of the unit. The white aluminum surface, which reflects hot sunlight, is just too severe for most plants. We have unsuccessfully tried Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and Viburnums. However, the Junipers seem to be just fine. Can you suggest any plants that will survive in this spot that will flower too?

Yes, there are several that will tolerate the reflection quite nicely. One of my favorites is Stranvaesia, it flowers in the spring, has berries in late summer and fall, and has evergreen foliage. Choisya ternata, Mexican Orange, also seems do well in such locations. It has white spring, fragrant flowers, and medium bright green evergreen foliage. Berberis; Escallonia; Firethorn; Osmanthus and Abelia are other possible choices.

Pruning Peonies

My peonies are doing exceptionally well this spring. I have one old plant that has over two dozen flower buds. Should I pick-off some of these buds? My neighbor says there are too many buds for the plant and it will weaken the plant if I don't pick off some of the buds?

You mention that it is an old plant, so I don't see any reason why you cannot let them all develop into flowers. One of the first jobs I ever had in the horticultural field was with a firm that grew Peonies, Shasta Daisies and Iris. They always let all the buds on the mature plants bloom-out, and it never affected the plants the next year. About the only time peony buds are pinched, is if there are two or three on the same stem. Then it is done so that the terminal (top flower) develops into the largest possible bloom.

Starting Lilacs from Cuttings

I have a beautiful double lavender Lilac that my brother wants a start of, for his garden. When is the best time to take cuttings and how do I do it?

Probably the best way to get a start of the plant for him is to simply give him a root sucker growth. That's how many of the professionals start their new plants. If you want to try cuttings, take them in July or August. Take the cuttings from new mature growth. The cutting should be only about six to ten inches long. Remove all the bottom leaves, dip the cutting in a rooting hormone like 'Rootone' and start them in sand or a combination of 50% sand and 50% peat moss. There is no need to start the cuttings indoors, simply place them directly into the garden.

Pruning Damaged Rhododendrons

About three of my Rhododendrons still don't look very good. The plants froze-back during the winter, the leaves turned brown, the buds did not open properly and now the new growth is coming further down the branches. So I have pruned them back to the new growth and wonder if they should be fed too?

Yes, they should be fertilized with a 'Rhododendron' or 'Evergreen' type fertilizer. Apply it according to label instructions, being certain to water-in thoroughly after application. You did the right thing by cutting back to the new growth, there is no need to leave the dead branches on the plant. Besides, the plant should look a lot better, after pruning.

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