Dear Garden Problem Lady


Everywhere on Capitol Hill I notice masses of red berries on Nandina bushes, getting a little redder every week. For what reason might our own Nandina have no berries at all?

If your Nandina plant itself looks vigorous, it probably just needed more sun to make it flower during the late spring. Nandinas will tolerate some shade, but to make the beautiful berries in proliferation they must have a goodly amount of sun. Of course some dwarf Nandinas are sterile. They have nice red leaves, but no berries, so check the variety of your plant.

May I share a small discovery with readers?  Online you can find great prices for used books on gardening. I recently bought a beautiful glossy one on planning small gardens for $6.00, and another that originally cost $19 for $2. Can you suggest other holiday gift ideas?

• Anything you made yourself is good. Something to eat that came from the garden, perhaps. Something you baked, or a poem you wrote for the recipient. A pot pourri or dried lavender sachet. Or a wreath you made for the table or door. Even mistletoe, if you can find some.

I have very little time, either to read what you say, or to follow it – but quickly, how does one prepare the garden for winter? 

Clear out obvious debris. Protect any tender plants with an insulating layer of dry leaves. Spread a three-inch layer of light mulch around the rest.

• A box or tin containing your fudge, shortbreads, icebox cookies, or favorite jam, jelly, preserves or spread, with the recipe and instructions to go with.

• Think of gardening or kitchen implements off the beaten path – a cherry pitter, say – apple-corer – lemon or lime squeezer – little holders for each end of the cob for serving corn on the cob. Your guesses are better than mine.

• SEEDS can cheer up a gardener friend. Seeds from an annual flower of 2023 that your neighbor admired might be just the gift to brighten his Christmas dreams.

• Certain articles of clothing – clogs to slip into for getting into the garden fast; disposable plastic gloves, or heavy pigskin or cowhide work gloves, an apron with many pockets or a sun-screening baseball cap.

• A flattering photograph of your friend’s front door, or of a prized possession of his, or of the man himself.

• Or a subscription to Fine Gardening.

In December the Capitol Hill Garden Club is having a members-only greens workshop. For information about joining the club and future programs, go to

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