Dear Garden Problem Lady

Robustus Pink Foxtail Lily

Where might I find bulbs for Bluebells this late?

Try googling “Mertensia” or “Bluebells” or “Virginia Bluebells” or “Spanish Bluebells”. You can plant the small white bulbs up until frost arrives.

How do I plant and care for a Foxtail Lily?

Foxtail Lily—Latin name Eremurus—at 9 feet tall and decidedly phallic in shape—can be literally stunning in the right place. They come in white and a beautiful apricot pink.  Late fall is the right time to plant their fleshy, finger-like bulbs, which should be spread out like a hand, in a circle, with the crown part only a few inches beneath the soil, in the middle. The soil beneath the bulb should be about 8 inches deep of rich compost mixed with manure and a bit of bone meal.

My wife says Alliums smell like onions. True?

No. Their flowers do not smell like onions (although the foliage and bulbs may). The odor of Allium flowers, which is undetectable to humans, repels not humans, but aphids. For this reason, rose lovers plant Alliums close to their roses. Alliums also deter underground pests such as slugs, as well as the grubs that become Japanese beetles. So, their large round purple and pink and white blooms make Alliums triply prized in the garden. In addition, Alliums attract butterflies.

Our beautiful Honeysuckle vines are a tangled mess. Only two years old, they reach above the fence, close to utility wires. Worse, the stems below are all bare. How should I approach pruning them, and when? 

The good news is your vine is vigorous and happy. But the time to prune after first blooms fade has long passed. The best way to prune — but not until winter when the entire plant will be dormant — is to cut all the stems back to about a foot from the ground. They will grow back quickly in 2023, but will not bloom until 2024! All next`year you can keep them in check. Another way—less tidy, and probably less good for the plant, again, wait until winter to do it—would be to cut back many stems inside the tangled mess. Next spring, some of those lower bare stems might sprout new leaves, but that’s a gamble. From July on, after blooms begin to fade keep the vines well cut back. Remember to keep vines thinned so sun and air can reach the stems below.

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are free and open to all. The Wednesday, November 9 meeting is at 6 pm at the NE Public Library. Kristin Sampson, the Wonderful Plantswoman at Frager’s Hardware, will describe A Day in the Life of a Garden Center Manager.

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Send them to the Problem Lady c/o the Editor, Hill Garden News. Your problems might even prove instructive to others and help them feel superior to you.  Complete anonymity is assured.