Dear Garden Problem Lady

Kanjiro Sasanqua Camellia

I’m still in my seventies, but gardening now hurts my hands. I want to sit in the garden and enjoy it but cannot do the work of keeping it up. Suggestions?.

You can motivate yourself as you begin the process of changing your garden to something you can still enjoy. List all the things you cannot do, and then figure out how you can still have a garden without having to leave it. Pay for all the help you can afford. Slowly work to reduce the garden size. Replace any and all lawns with interesting groundcover plants. Instead of flower beds, plant flowers together in grouped pots. Possibly increase shade by planting trees and shrubs. Massed shade plantings are stunningly beautiful and take less water. Planners always recommend native plants because they tolerate drought, but you have to like natives. Do take heart. So many gardeners share your plight that now you can find lots of advice. The best book I’ve found is by a prize-winning gardener named Sidney Eddison (Timber Press, 2010). It is called Gardening for a Lifetime, How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older.

Friends gave us a small kitchen compost pail for Christmas. We have no clue what to put in it.

Your own kitchen scraps can make the best garden fertilizer ever. Yes, put in vegetable leftovers, egg shells, cereal, leftover pasta, and more. NEVER add meat, raw eggs, feces – and more. (Find composting rules online.) Then what? Your pail must be emptied outside, either to your own compost heap; or to a “brown bin” that’s collected by your city. Some American cities do have “brown bins” for useable pre-compost. As yet DC does not. Starting your own outdoor compost heap will take space and many months to ripen, but doing the research and work will reward you with rich, black, light and airy compost for your garden.

Is March too late for me to prune my November-December blooming Kanjiro Camellia?
Almost – January would have been preferable. As you know, Kanjiro belongs to the Sasanqua family of Japanese camellias. Sasanquas bloom much earlier than spring-blooming Japonica Camellias, and are prized because of their cold hardiness and the dense profusion of their beautiful flowers – all over the bush or tree. Cut away dead and crossing branches, shape the plant to the height you need, but delay a harder pruning until next year, just after these thrilling Kanjiro Sasanquas stop blooming.

The Capitol Hill Garden Club welcomes members and visitors to its meetings without charge. The next meeting is on Tuesday March 14, 2023 at 7:15 pm at the Northeast Library, 7th St. and Maryland Ave NE. Mark Harbold of Full Circle Plant Care Company will explain ‘Green Gardening’.

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.