Dear Problem Lady


Right now in the midst of a winter thaw, my garden sprouted countless shoots of Autumn Clematis. I used to have a crush on this airy vine with its masses of fragrant, tiny white flowers in September. Silly me. Now that its roots have networked throughout the backyard, can I get rid of it?
Digging up the shoot and severing as much of the root system as you can will work only temporarily. Hard pruning actually rejuvenates this hardy clematis. Try using the weed-killer Roundup, but it will not work until the true growing season begins. In spring, cut off the stem at ground level and paint the remaining cut stem with full strength Roundup.

We have an underground watering system, because of which the garden thrives without much labor. But this winter the pipes have unaccountably come to the surface of the soil. What is happening, and how can we fix it?
Perhaps your pipes where not installed deep enough to start with, and need to be re-installed when the weather warms up. Or maybe frozen ground has heaved them up. It could be that buried pipes need to be held down by some hardware during installation. Notwithstanding its flaw, your best plan is to try to ignore the problem of unsightly piping until someone can dig down and see what happened. 

Can I keep my gorgeous Amaryllis plant alive to bloom again next Christmas?
Yes of course. Right now, just cut back those fat flower stalks at their base, leaving the leaves, and keep it slightly watered as it sits in a sunny window. When spring arrives you can put it outside in your garden in a sunny place, keep it well-watered and well fed with bloom and root-enhancing supplements all summer. It likes to be pot bound. Bring it in when the weather cools. Then let it go dormant in a dark cool garage or basement. About 7 weeks before the time you wish it to bloom, bring it back upstairs. In a sunny window, begin to water sparingly when the first green shoot appears. Voila! 

Hell is what this winter has brought to my broad-leafed evergreens — Pieris, and Camellias. Deep-freeze. Thaw. Then sleet. What fresh hell will February bring?
We gardeners must learn not either to blame ourselves for these tragedies – or, harder – not to take too much credit for our brilliant successes.


Robert Johnson, Landscape Architect, Oehme Van Sweden, will discuss water features for the small urban garden at the next public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club on February 13, 2018 at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. NE & 7th St. NE. Meetings start at 7 pm and are free and open to all. Membership details: