Dear Garden Problem Lady – August 2017


All my flowers are tightly planted together to crowd out weeds and weeding. That works except for always the same darned little thing that looks a bit like clover, or shamrocks, with a tiny yellow flower. I’ve been failing to get rid of it all my life! What can I do?
Could this ubiquitous pest, so hard to get rid of, be Oxalis? Yes! You can easily pull Oxalis, it is shallow, but you will rarely get the entire, wide-ranging root, of which any fragment will produce a new plant. Any stem fragment, seed, or tiny bulbil in its leaf axils will root. Some gardeners just give up and resort to a strong chemical herbicide.

How should I be dealing with Asiatic lilies after all their blooms are gone? They are a bit messy, but I’m afraid to deadhead them in case that harms their bulbs.
You are partly correct about the importance of letting remaining leaves feed the bulbs. But an Asiatic lily is busy creating seedpods now, and these you don’t want. Redirect the plant’s energy to the bulb sooner by cutting off the entire top part of the stalk, all the way down to just below where the lowest leaves or petal stalks join the stem. These remaining bottom leaves will soak up enough sun to feed the bulb.

I know foxgloves are biennials. If I cut down this year’s flower stalks, do they come back in two years? In the meantime, where do next year’s foxgloves come from? Must I buy more?
If you let some of this year’s foxgloves go to seed, the seeds will germinate either this fall or next spring, and there are your foxgloves for 2018. But since one plant throws off seeds by the hundreds, you can still tidy up by deadheading the other plants now, down to basal leaves. Some of these plants might winter over and bloom again and seed again. Either way, you won’t need to buy more plants.

My neighbor ordered ladybugs to fend aphids off her roses, instead of using insecticide. Will they take? Is there such a thing as too many ladybugs?
Aphids suck the juice from plant leaves, leaving them puckered and lifeless. Ladybugs eat many aphids every day. If there aren’t enough aphids for a ladybug to eat, she flies away. Never too many ladybugs, only too few.

The next public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club occurs on Sept. 12 at the Northeast Public Library, corner of Maryland Avenue and Seventh Street NE. Meetings start at 7 p.m. and are free and open to all. Membership details: