Dear Garden Problem Lady


Our garden is very sunny – until the street trees get their leaves.  Then it is a true shade garden. My husband says this is an ideal situation, but I think it’s a nightmare. None of the perennials I adore – Peonies, Poppies, Roses, Iris – to say nothing of drought-tolerant sun-lovers such as Butterfly weed and Black-eyed susan – can thrive there. Rather than complain, he thinks I should just brick over the area and plant impatiens in pots. Is he right?

No – unless bricking it over will ease your workload and stop the bickering. Instead, why not get a grip by going with the sunlight you have – and then the shade. Plant early spring bulbs like crocus and bluebells, then primroses, columbine, forget-me-nots – which will bloom and disappear as the big trees leaf out. Then your garden will be ready for big time, late-winter blooming Hellebores, Solomon’s seal, and the stunning show of Camellias, Azaleas and Rhododendron. In any empty places you can stick the odd Impatiens, Adjuratum, Wild ginger – lots of shade plants — if you desire.

I fear our cement bird-bath will crack if we put water in it over the winter – but how can we leave water out for the birds?

You are so right. Birds need water all winter. There are many birdbaths with heaters inside them available to buy – or you can simply fill your birdbath with water when the weather reliably won’t freeze it. Or put out shallow bowls of water with a stone inside, for perching. Keeping the birdbath clean is important – dirty water spreads avian illness.

How should I store my hoses in winter?

Make certain they contain no water. Otherwise the water will freeze and it’s sayonara hose.

How long will my Amaryllis bulb take to bloom? It has one shoot two inches long today, November 13.

Six to eight weeks – with luck by Christmas week. Speed up the process by watering with warm (not hot) water, and placing the potted bulb in a warm place, such as on a heating pad or radiator top, in your sunniest window.

Affordable gifts, where are they?  The catalogues feature gadgets and flowers for humongous sums.  Plus mailing.  Ideas please.

Gardeners love eating, have you noticed? Bake something. Find a fun used book, or a magazine subscription. Recent seeds from your garden. Clogs. A box of 100 thin plastic or vinyl disposable gloves, good for planting and lots more. Forget anything you yourself would not want – such as a potholder.

The next public meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club occurs on January 14, 2020 at 7 pm at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. & 7th St. NE. Meetings start with refreshments, and are free and open to all. Membership and Program Topic details are at

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Your problem might prove instructive to others, and help them feel superior to you. Send them to the Problem Lady c/o [email protected] Complete anonymity is assured.