Dear Problem Lady – November 2017


Will store-bought potted mums survive if I plant them in the garden now?
Alas, probably not. These beautiful potted chrysanthemums have been grown for their perfect blooms right now, and are actually in decline, without the root strength they would need to carry them through cold weather. In order to survive in the garden they need to have been planted there through the spring and summer as young plants. 

How best prepare potted ferns to return them inside?
First give them a blast of water from a hose to get rid of insects and slugs. Prune off all dead or over-long fronds. To further assure the departure of unwanted creepy crawlies you might even immerse the pot itself in water for ten minutes or so. Then put them in a window that gives some but not a lot of sun and keep them moderately watered until spring.

When is the best time to plant Crocosmia bulbs?
Not now — in the spring. Crocosmia “corms” – they’re not actually bulbs, but that difference is immaterial — prefer slightly acidic, rich, lightly moist yet well-drained soil. These tall iris-like plants need full sun. Plant them in groups of no fewer than about ten for best effect, at a depth of 3 to 5 inches, and about 6 to 8 inches apart.

Freezing killed our Kanjiro Camellia tree three winters ago. It is a Sasanqua – i.e. an autumn bloomer. We had it cut down. The arborist said it might try to live again, and it has. In 2017 this stunning dark pink Kanjiro consists of eleven vertical suckers, the tallest being ten feet tall! They are covered with bursting buds. But it’s not a shapely tree any more. Can we prune the vertical suckers somehow into a more rounded shape?
After it blooms, you could try to encourage a more rounded overall shape by removing some vertical shoots and encouraging the more lateral ones, if any. This winter do erect a wind barrier if temperatures plunge.

Should we tie two old (20 years and counting) Japonica Camellia trees to make them straight? They have bent severely towards the sun.
Make sure you tie them to something strong. Most important: the rope or coated wire you use must never cut into the tree trunks. Baffle the trunks with some soft but tough material, from an old tire perhaps.


On Tuesday, November 14, at the next public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club Landscape Designer Cheryl Corson will discuss Cooperative Balance with Trees and Other Living Beings in successful small gardens, and answer questions. Place: NE Public Library, corner Maryland Ave. NE & 7th St. NE. Meetings start at 7 pm with refreshments, and are free and open to all. Membership details: