Dear Garden Problem Lady


I’ve killed another tree peony. I gave it good soil, lots of sun, and water. It lived three years, but this year no blooms at all. I cut the suckers that came from below its graft. What might have been the problem?

Maybe you did everything right. These expensive shrub-like perennials are supposed to be hardy and not temperamental. They can take time, but usually produce a few blooms after two years. Use a rich, neutral pH soil between 5.5 and 6.5 (see chart), and excellent drainage. Over-watering is the only no-no. Fill a deep bed with lots of composted manure and peat moss, and use fertilizers in the 5-10-5 range (emphasizing phosphorus). They are considered sun-lovers, but in our baking summers some dappled shade might work better. You were exactly correct in cutting the suckers. Tree peonies are so beautiful, do try again with another. October is the best season to plant.

When will the mosquitoes go away in my garden?
Not anytime soon. As you know, mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, so get rid of any. Mosquitoes perish when temperatures fall consistently below 50’F.

Thousands of last year’s acorns are still turning into little oak trees all over our yard. Ideas?
Weed each one out by hand, dear. Soften the earth by watering the seedling well, to make sure you get the (by now) long taproot. Use the classic, single-pronged weeder, or the two-pronged so-called Jekyll weeder – favorite of British Gardening guru Gertrude Jekyll.

You wrote in June that the EPA calls the weed killer Roundup safe. So why did Bayer, its corporate owner, set aside billions to settle lawsuits by people who claim their cancer was caused by Roundup?

In 2019 three different American juries found Roundup did cause cancer. Apparently juries were moved by victims and doubted scientific studies. Monsanto, the former owner of Roundup, lost million-dollar verdicts. Plaintiffs multiplied. Monsanto sold Roundup, which remains the best commercial herbicide worldwide. Bayer bought it, perhaps failing to understand how devastating American jury trials might still be. Bayer’s stock plummeted. But Bayer would not agree to settle with the by then tens of thousands of plaintiffs. Along came COVID 19. American courts closed. No more jury trials – perhaps for a long time. Dying cancer sufferers feared no soon recompense. Lawyers feared no pay. Their side relented first. They reached a settlement with Bayer for much less than the 20 to 30 billion they first demanded. Bayer, continuing to call Roundup safe, has budgeted around $10 billion for Roundup settlements.

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are currently happening – virtually. Meetings are free and open to all at You will and enlightening gardening lore and ideas.

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