Dear Garden Problem Lady

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Artemisia (common name is ‘Wormwood’)

I need annuals for color in my perennial garden – but I don’t like orange – so please don’t suggest Nasturtiums.

Zinnias come in all colors, even, weirdly, blue. Cosmos and Cleome come in white and pinks from pale to dark. Lacy Ortaya is a slightly lower, whiter flower than Queen Anne’s Lace. For shade, Torenia is a lovely blue. Then – drum roll please – Nasturtiums – which bloom brightly from now to late fall, and now come in very pale yellow AND absolutely stunning reds. As you probably already know, you can also eat the entire Nasturtium plant – from its tender peppery leaves similar to watercress, to its milder, sweet flowers. Even the seeds, though hot and fragrant, are edible too.

My tall zinnia seedlings are coming along nicely, but their brilliant colors are not going to stand out well against our hideous fence. They need some sort of tall backdrop plant – but what?

Have you considered Artemisia (common name is ‘Wormwood’)? Treasured for its silver gray-green leaves, the tallest of many Artemisias is called “Artemisia ‘Silver King’. It grows taller than a yard. Plant several somewhat closer together than the one-yard-apart recommended, to form a backdrop. Consider a soil barrier, though, for unwanted spread by rhizomes and/or self-seeding.

We have a sunny stone wall with holes and cracks. I’d love to see something tiny, but interesting, dripping out of these – but what?

Have you tried the brilliant succulent Portulaca? It’s low, has neon colors and clings.

My neighbor sprays Roundup over patio cracks. She claims that Roundup is not harmful to the environment – only to the foliage and roots of weeds. The EPA this year announced that Roundup does not cause cancer, contrary to its previous ruling. Has something changed for this herbicide?

Not Roundup’s chemistry. Nor its worldwide use. The patent expired in 2000, so other products now contain its active ingredient, glyphosate. When used as intended, to kill weeds by spraying directly on their leaves and nowhere else, Roundup is not harmful to humans, animals, soil or as runoff. However, it does kill fish, and is highly toxic if ingested or touches sensitive tissue such as eyes. Monsanto, the originator of Roundup, lost lawsuits over claims that it caused cancers. What have changed are Roundup’s ownership, now the super-wealthy German corporation, Bayer – and the attitude of the EPA, now under President Trump. Bayer is currently impeded by COVID-19 in its ongoing attempt to appeal some lawsuits. The home gardener might consider two safe, simple home remedies instead: cover weeds with either salt, or a strong solution of three parts vinegar to one part water. Weeds should wilt or die, and come out easily by hand.

Meetings of the Capitol Hill Garden Club have been postponed until further notice. See capitolhillgardenclub.org.