Dear Garden Problem Lady


I’ve seen Japonica Camellias higher than 10 feet. We adore Camellias — but we need smaller plants.

October is still a perfect time to shop for Camellias. It’s confusing to navigate among Camellia types. Both will grow tall without pruning. Sasanquas bloom first, from late autumn into winter. Japonicas are generally larger and bloom from early to late spring. Remember: both types need afternoon shade, and both types also have cold-tolerant varieties. Careful pruning just after blooming can keep both types under control. In general, Sasanqua Camellias are smaller, and their flowers more delicate. The late and great William Ackerman of the U.S. National Arboretum bred 50 cold tolerant varieties, of both types, with names like Winter’s Beauty, Winter’s Charm, and Polar Ice. Yuletide is red. Kanjiro is fuschia pink. Big garden centers have lovely choices. Pictured here is Ackerman’s Winter’s Waterlily. It is fall-winter blooming and cold-tolerant.

When is the very best time to plant Hollyhock seeds outdoors to have them bloom in the spring of 2023?

For 2023 bloom, plant between May and October anytime up to just before the last frost. If you wait until next early spring they will not bloom until 2024. Hollyhocks seeds germinate well this late. Hollyhocks have long taproots, so avoid needing to transplant seedlings next spring. Plant now, in partial shade—shallowly—just a quarter of an inch below the soil; then still in 2022 space seedlings a good two feet apart.

We planted some gorgeous tall zinnias from seed in 2022, and now we wonder how to gather and save their seeds safely so we can enjoy them again next spring.

Open-pollinated varieties produce seed true to type if they are allowed to cross-pollinate only with other plants of the same variety. If they cross with other varieties of the same species, their seed will not come true. Seeds of Hybrid varieties were produced from the crossing of two different inbred lines. First let a few of your prettiest flowers dry on their stalk while still in the garden, until they’re dark brown and dry to the touch. Cut the seed heads off and dry further on a plate or small tray, turning the heads as they lie. Then gently shake or pick seeds out by hand. Allow seeds to dry further a few days, before storing in a labelled paper bag or envelope. Place the seed envelope in a lidded glass jar and store it in a cool, dry closet or cupboard until 2023 planting season.

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are free and open to all. On Saturday, October 15, at 9:45 am, the club will visit the National Arboretum for a presentation on the Washington Youth Garden. Visit the club website or  contact for more information.

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