Dear Garden Problem Lady


It’s November, already. How late can one still plant spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils?

Until the ground has frozen solid. But best before that – say soon after the first frost.

Please remind me which are bulbs – if any – that squirrels won’t dig up?

Daffodils, for sure. In addition, squirrels do not like the taste of Snowdrop bulbs, or Grape Hyacinth, Fritillaria, Alliums or Scilla. All these except Alliums bloom early in spring and are ephemeral – their leaves disappear until the following spring.

I realize that Tulips are sometimes called “annuals” in DC, because they can’t survive our boiling hot summers the way they thrive up north. But I want to plant them anyway every fall. How can I stop squirrels from digging them up?

Use Hardware cloth (pictured) – which is a fine steel mesh that you can easily cut with wire-cutters or strong scissors. Plant your tulip bulbs a good six inches or more deep, not in a straight line, but a clump, bulbs each about 5 to 6 inches apart. Then cover with soil, and place the steel mesh overtop, securing it with stakes or rocks. Mask the top with leaves or mulch. Remove the hardware cloth before any shoots appear in spring.

Last year I made a huge mistake. I planted my beautiful Leucojum bulbs (Summer Snowflakes) much too close to my longstanding Alliums – in fact I forgot the Alliums were there. So springtime was grand central station – a terrible mess, and the Leucojums got overwhelmed. This fall, with great difficulty, and much gentleness, I have dug up all the Leucojum bulbs. I will plant them in a much better place. But these bulbs, which all have grown fatter, and have a big spray of roots out the bottom, also have grown shoots out the top – six-inch long white shoots that are quite green on top. I don’t know why, in early November, they think it’s time to come up. What should I do?

Just plant them. Cover them up with nice rich soil, covering the green tops. The cold weather is going to discourage their further growth until spring.

Remember all the acorns last fall? Baby oak trees now swamp me. However many I try to eradicate, more are still coming up. Ideas?

Nothing magic. Soften the earth by watering the seedling well, to make sure you get the (by now) long taproot. Use either the classic, single- pronged weeder, or the two-pronged so-called Jekyll weeder – favorite of British gardening guru Gertrude Jekyll.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club continues to hold meetings, virtually only, on the second Tuesday of each month. All are welcome. See for directions.