The Capitol Hill Garden Club presents

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Can you suggest a reliable perennial that blooms a long time and is not very tall? We like the color blue!

You might consider perennial geraniums, often called “cranesbills”. Pictured is the popular “Johnson’s Blue” geranium. It hugs the ground at a height of 12 to 15 inches high, with sky-blue flowers and a long bloom season from late spring to mid summer. It likes full sun or a bit of shade. In our very hot summers it might stop blooming but if you cut it back with garden shears to about half its height it will bloom lightly again when heat dies down.

Our stunning flowering quince is coming to the end of its bloom. Does it need any particular care now?

An easy to grow shrub, flowering quince can get scraggly. Cut back old branches and any suckers and feed it – now, and just this once, every year — with a slow-release fertilizer like Hollytone because it likes a slightly acidic soil.

We received a beautiful orchid on a curvy stem as a gift. Its blooms have mostly dropped off. Does it need anything?

Repotting is all your orchid probably needs. It is probably the very common and beautiful Phalaenopsis type. In nature, orchids grow literally on trees, their roots preferring air, humidity and the openness of bark. Commercially planted orchids often die in their pots from getting waterlogged.

You can buy simple planting materials cheaply at a garden store – bark pieces, moistened sphagnum moss, pebbles –even kits with ready-mixed planting materials. Your pot of plastic or clay should have plenty of drainage holes.

Taking care not to damage its thick green basal leaves, hold the stem and gently remove your orchid from its pot. Then delicately untangle its roots from all the old moss and bark around them. Discard all planting materials, even wash the roots gently in lukewarm water.

Roots are thin filaments, covered by a fleshy outer casing that should be firm to the touch, and either white or green in color. With clean scissors, cut off any root parts that are soft or mushy – they are dead.

Choose a pot of similar size. Line the bottom with pebbles or pieces of Styrofoam. Gently fold the roots into the pot, and delicately push the mixture of moss and bark over the roots using your fingers until the moss and bark are evenly distributed all through and around the roots.

Do not water for a week. Then use a scant one-half cup of water every ten days.   

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