Answers to your garden questions

It’s the start of winter, but garden questions keep coming!
Remember, you may e-mail me questions at: [email protected] Or you
can mail garden questions in care of this newspaper. For a faster,
personal response, please include a self-addressed, stamped
envelope.
It’s the start of winter, but garden questions keep coming! Remember, you may e-mail me questions at: [email protected] Or you can mail garden questions in care of this newspaper. For a faster, personal response, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

Q: In walking the neighborhood during the recent holidays, I noticed some berried plants with lots of clusters of orange-red berries. I was tempted to return with my clippers to enjoy a couple stems indoors, but was a good girl. What type of plants are these?

– D.M., Morgan Hill,

via e-mail.

A: Well, I hope Santa rewarded you for being a good girl and not clipping a neighbor’s berried plants! I’m pretty sure you ran into what is a pretty common plant in these parts – specifically, pyracantha.

These are widely grown for their huge clusters of orange-red berries during the winter time. Birds may sometimes fly erratically after eating too many of the berries, which seem to lead to some sort of alcoholic-reaction.

Pyracanthas are also known as firethorn because all plants have some nasty thorns. Plants are fast-growing with habits from upright to sprawling. They are often used as barriers in place of fences because their thorns are so nasty.

Other berried plants you might consider include: nandina (heavenly bamboo), mahonia (Oregon grape) and hollies. The latter are very slow growing, but there is a self-pollinating variety known as “San Gabriel.” Self-pollinating means it will bear red berries without planting two different varieties.

Q: How do I care for the poinsettia given to me this Christmas? It’s still looking good, but I know it will start to go downhill pretty soon. Is there a way to keep it growing for the holidays next year? Any suggestions?

– W.P., Gilroy, via e-mail.

A: For the price, poinsettias truly are among the bargain plants of all time. I bought a wonderful, full, six-inch-potted variety for under $3 this year! Poinsettias will continue to bloom well past Valentine’s Day if you re-pot them into a slightly larger container, keep them well watered, and keep them away from direct heat sources.

Oh, also keep them indoors. I’ve seen many a poinsettia die overnight when unknowing people set them outdoors on the front porch during the holidays.

Unfortunately, it is a difficult and laborious process of getting them to bloom again. One must give them total darkness for up to 18 hours a day starting a couple months in advance to get them to bloom again.

Again, for what wholesale growers have to go through to get them to bloom, poinsettias are great bargains during the holiday season.

Q: I took a close look at my grapy ivy houseplant the other day and noticed little white furry creatures clustered on the leaf stems. What are they?

– B.H, Gilroy, via e-mail.

A: They are mealybugs – sucking insects that cause stunted growth and frequently are fatal to houseplants. You can remove them by dipping a Q-tip in alcohol and daubing them. You can also use a chemical spray or insecticidal soap available at garden centers.

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