Do Gardenias Like Diluted Vinegar?

Gardenia Love by ClaraDon

TheGardenLady received this question from Mable.

I was told to dilute vinegar in water and use that on gardenia’s with yellowing leaves. Do you agree?

Gardenias by Jim-AR

Gardenias love acidic soil. If they are indoors, gardenias should be planted in an acidic soil that has a pH level of 4.5 to 5.5. If growing outdoors, have the soil tested before planting the gardenia to see that it has the right pH.  See here.

Gardenias can have a host of problems. They are difficult plants to raise, especially when indoors. They suffer from a number of problems, yellow leaves just being one of the problems. Of three common things that can cause yellowing leaves is improper watering, too low light and the plants needing acid fertilizer.

Overwatering can cause the leaves to yellow.

The gardenia plant should be fertilized monthly between April and November with an acid fertilizer especially if you are using well or tap water. Some people recommend using distilled water because it is not alkaline.  See here.

It is fine to use diluted vinegar on your gardenias. The Vinegar Institute recommends using diluted vinegar on gardenias (also azaleas and rhododendrons) in hard water areas at a rate of 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of tap water (see here). The vinegar will help to release iron in the soil.

On Garden web, a reader has suggested another  solution to get iron into your plant that she says has been proven successful for her plant.

The African Marula Tree

Here is a video in French that TheGardenLady thought was cute.

This is a video from a French documentary about a certain type of tree in Africa. TheGardenLady is not sure if the video is real and she believes that it is the African Marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea).  It’s also known as the Elephant Tree or the Marriage Tree.

Once a year, the African Marula Tree produces a very juicy fruit that contains a large percentage of alcohol. Because there is a shortage of water, as soon as the fruit is ripe, animals, big and small, belly up to the bar.

A 4th-grade student at the Lycee Francais de Chicago who goes by the name of Monkey Muesé translated the French for TheGardenLady. 

Selva means jungle forest.

“At the beginning of the season, the fruits are delicious but hard to get. You have to be really strong or very old (clever elephant). But after some weeks, the ripe fruits fall, so the animals come and eat them. But the fruit is very alcoholic and goes to their heads. So they all leave drunk.”

Despite the cuteness of the video, there’s no reason to believe that it represents what is true.  According to National Geographic News, there’s no evidence to support the view that elephants get drunk off of the fruit these trees.  Apparently, elephants’ biology makes them teetotallers.

Garden Landscaping for Beginners – Part II

This is TheGardenLady’s second post about basic garden landscaping.  If you’re interested in reading part I on basic garden landscaping click here.

When you’re doing your landscaping you will certainly want to check out the best nurseries in your area. Visit public and private gardens especially ones in your area to see what they grow and what you like. You can get into private gardens during Garden Conservancy Open Days.  See here. Find out what these gardeners recommend for planting in your area.  You can ask them if they had problems with the plants you are considering. Gardeners love to share their knowledge.

Clematis Vines Garden Landscape Arbor by Andrew’s Reclaimed Home…

Decide on plants that you might want to see growing in your garden. Do you want low maintenance plants or don’t you mind pampering plants?  Ask questions about the plants. One gardener might have a vine that you adore – so ask him if it gives him any problem, like the root sending out suckers ten feet from the planting that you might have to hack out someday.

Continue reading “Garden Landscaping for Beginners – Part II”

Garden Landscaping for Beginners – Part 1

Garden Landscaping by rainbow_landscaping

Because TheGardenLady has been asked about landscaping and/or choosing a good landscaper, TheGardenLady thought this would make an interesting column.

Below are a few suggestions for anyone who is interested in landscaping one’s property. There are many outstanding female landscapers as well as male landscapers. (The word “he” was used most of the time in this post just to make the writing of this column easier.)

Make sure you know your property or do what is called a site analysis.  Know where North, South, East and West are on your property. This is important because some plants prefer to get morning or evening sun and light. And when you plant, you want plants that will be happiest in a location. You want roses? They want sun, sun, sun; but some varieties will take just 5 hours of sun.  So if you write down notes to yourself telling exactly how much sun a spot gets, this will be very helpful in your planning. Know existing conditions on your property such as hills, or areas of elevation and if you have good or bad drainage. You may want to try to eliminate the problem or work with it.

Know the Temperature Zone in your area. Even within one state, there might be different Temperature Zones. Plants that grow in the Northern part of the United States might be unhappy in the South and vice versa and some plants might grow in a broad range of climates. A clematis that grows in Zone 9 or 10 won’t live outdoors in the winter in Zone 6. Or you might want a cactus garden, but if you live in NJ, it is trickier to plant cactus than it would be in Arizona. Yet there are some cactus that will survive in NJ, even in NJ winters. So be sure to check your temperature zone and be sure that when you buy plants, you buy plants that will survive and thrive in your area.  See here.

Most people want plants that are easy to raise in your area, but if you like a challenge like Wayne Daniels in California who raises tulips where they usually don’t grow (see here) you have to know the needs of the plants in order to accommodate them in your area.

Have your soil tested.  I cannot stress the importance of soil testing. And I really recommend using your local Master Gardening chapter or your local extension office. When you get it tested, get different areas where you want to plant different things tested in separate tests. For example, if you want a vegetable garden, test that area separately from an area that you might want to plant lawn. The tests will then send you back information for what to amend the exact amount for that need. Though the tests might cost a few more dollars than a soil kit you can buy in a store, you will get a thorough readout of what you have and what you need to amend your soil. And visiting the Master Gardeners with your questions and or problems is FREE. They will even explain your soil test results if you want – for FREE.

Examine your property and note what conditions there are. Note existing conditions on your property like hills, or bogs or areas of elevation and if you have good or bad drainage. Do you have walls blocking the sun or making a micro climate that might be hotter than the rest of your property? Are there trees?  If so what types of trees are on your property?  Few plants will thrive under nut trees and if you want perennials under the nut trees, be sure you get those plants that will live near a nut tree. You will also note, by the size of the trees or how large they can grow, how expansive a root mass it has or will get.

Locate wet or dry sites on your property to know what will live – for example land near a blacktop driveway or roadway may give off too much heat for some plants and might also be salted to remove snow – plants cannot tolerate excessive salt. And you would need different types of plants for under your rain spout.

Know your site boundaries and where the house is located on your property. When you are designing your landscaping, consider the views from both inside your house looking out as well as how the plants will look outside your house. You might even want to consider your neighbor’s house when you plant.  Do you want your neighbor to see your beautiful plants from his house? Or do you want to make a hedge so you and your neighbor can’t see each other’s house?

Check your soil consistency. You want soil that is friable, not compacted or if you live in a sandy area, you want to know what can grow in that type of soil. You can always amend the soil with the compost TheGardenLady knows you are saving.

7 Easy to Care for Flowering Shrubs

Hibiscus syriacus, “Rose of Sharon” by ConanTheLibrarian

TheGardenLady was asked to recommend some less commonly known flowering shrubs that are easy to care for and will create a hedge or shrub border between two houses in temperature zone 6. “Easy care: to TheGardenLady means that the shrubs are pretty much pest free including pesty deer as well as needing little maintenance after planting. Nothing is completely pest free, deer will try tasting anything and when starving will eat just about anything. And one may have to prune dead or broken branches even if you aren’t interested in shaping the hedge. Though there are other shrubs, here are 7 of TheGardenLady’s favorites that grow fairly quickly, fairly densely and easily.

Bottlebrush Buckeye by Calendar Garden

Aesculus parviflora Bottlebrush Buckeye is a deciduous shrub that will grow 9 to 12 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide -you may get away with planting just one plant. It likes sun to part shade in zones 5 -8. It likes Acidic, well-drained organic soil . This is a deciduous shrub with interesting flowers. It has received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal award.

Rose of Sharon hibiscus by heart in hawaii

Hibiscus syriacus Rose of Sharon cultivars (Be sure to ask for the noninvasive types ). These deciduous shrubs grow in zones 5 to 9 in full sun. They grow to 10 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. They like almost any soil but prefer neutral to alkaline soil, sun and heat. These bloom late in the summer. Some of the selections that might not be so invasive are ‘Aphrodite”(dark pink), ‘Diana’ (pure white and a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society award winner) , ‘Helene’ ( white with a red “eye” ), ‘Minerva’ (lavender with a red “eye”) and ‘ Blue Satin’ which is a “proven winner.”  See here.

Japanese Andromeda / Pieris japonica by carsten de

Pieris japonica Japanese Pieris will grow to 12 feet and up to 8 feet wide. It will grow in zones 5 -7 and will take full sun in the North and part shade in the warmer zones. They like well-drained organic, acidic soil. This is an evergreen shrub with up to 6 inch long panicles of what looks like lily of the valley flowers. Flowers can be either white or pink. You can get more compact sized shrubs.

Continue reading “7 Easy to Care for Flowering Shrubs”

Daffodil Advice

Eyes on the Sun by Handcanons

TheGardenLady received this question from Fran.

I was given some daffodils at my garden club meeting this week.  They had bloomed already and there were just bulbs with green leaves on them. I live in zone 8 in Florida and was told that I could grow daffodils in Florida. I was not aware of this. Is this true and how did this lady grow them here in Florida?

Daffodils are grown throughout most of the US.  And Florida is no exception. There is an American daffodil society and there are regional daffodil societies including a Florida daffodil society.  See here.

Since you received the plant from someone who grew them in your area, that bulb should grow for you and re-flower. In one of the popular catalogs that sells bulbs from Holland it seems that all their daffodil bulbs are guaranteed to bloom in zones 3 through 8.  And if you go online or go to your garden stores, there are even daffodils that will bloom for those who live in warmer zones.

Continue reading “Daffodil Advice”

Letting Go of Dying Marigolds

Lifeless by Rodrigo Neves

On Monday, TheGardenLady wrote a post that answered a question from a Cassie about getting marigolds to bloom.  Here’s a follow-up question from Cassie.

So should I just throw away the pathetic looking stems and the root ball?

Cassie, I would not waste any more of your precious time on the pathetic looking stems and root ball of your dying or dead marigold. TheGardenLady would let your marigold plant go to plant heaven where all beloved plants, I hope, some day end up. Don’t just throw away the pathetic looking plant but add it to your compost pile so that it can become rich compost material that will help in creating great new soil to help grow the new beautiful plants you will now plant. Go to a local garden store where they sell marigold plants or buy a seed packet of marigold seeds and start anew. It will be much more of a rewarding experience starting over with new plants or seeds. It is relatively cheap to buy marigold plants. You will be much more assured of success with the new plantings whereas trying to nurse a pathetic looking plant back to health can be very frustrating. With rarer or more expensive plants it might be more of a worthwhile challenge to doctor them. But even the best gardeners would not work so hard to rescue a marigold unless it was a very, very rare marigold.

Pruning the Butterfly Bush

Red Admiral Butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on Buddleia (Buddleja davidii) by Steve Greaves

TheGardenLady received this question from Jocelyn.

I have just returned to the Vineyard after being away for 6 months. My butterfly bush has already sprouted leaves. Is it too late to do a deep pruning? If it’s not too late, how low can I go? Thanks. Looking forward to “spending” Saturday mornings with you on the radio…hope you had a great winter.

There are those who like to keep their Buddleia or butterfly bushes in their natural state and do not prune them. So if you missed the pruning season, you don’t have to worry. Usually Buddleia davidii, the more common buddleia, is pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. When your forsythia and daffodils are blooming they tell you that it is a good time to prune your buddleia davidii. So I think you are not too late if this is the type of butterfly bush you have. Also, TheGardenLady does not know whether this season on the Vineyard has been unseasonably warm and your daffodils and forsythia have finished blooming.  See here.

Butterfly Bush – White Bouquet by donsutherland1

“Shrubs that bloom after spring usually do so from buds which are formed on shoots that grow the same spring. These shrubs should be pruned in later winter to promote vigorous shoot growth in spring.” The butterfly bush is a shrub that blooms on current season’s growth. TheGardenLady likes to prune her buddleia so that she can dead head the flowers easily when they die to encourage more blooming.

Butterfly Bush HDR 2 by Julianne Photography

The buddleia is a hardy plant so late pruning won’t kill the plant, but it might not have as many flowers. If you feel that you must prune but your plant has started sending out new growh, try not to prune the new growth which is where the blooms emerge but prune out some of the older stems.  See here.

PS You are confusing two garden ladies. This GardenLady does not talk on the radio.

Getting Marigolds to Bloom Again

Slowly… by Dialed-in!

TheGardenLady received this question from Cassie.

I recieved some  marigolds from a friend. They were orange and did not seem to be as big or sturdy as usual marigolds are. They bloomed well until it got too cold out.  I kept saving the flowers for the seed pods, and they grew very well, but they did not do too well during the Fall and Winter; so now I just have what looks like 3 long, thin sticks coming out of the ground.  Is there anything I can do so they will bloom again?

Marigolds are a hot weather flowering plant. They only do well in the Fall and Winter if you live in a zone like Mexico. If you live in an area that has cold or freezing Falls and Winters, your marigold plants will die. Then you will have to replant marigold seeds or the plants in your garden when the weather is warm enough next late spring. If you had taken the plants into your house to try to overwinter them, you would need a warm house with loads of sunshine shining on the marigolds. Without the ideal conditions indoors your marigold plants will look long and leggy and not very nice if they live. Most houses are not sunny enough to grow marigolds well indoors. You really need a warm greenhouse to grow them properly.

On a cold morning in October by joeke pieters

When the weather is warm enough – which means no more frost in your area – you should buy more seeds or marigold plants. If you buy a packet of seeds, you can start them indoors about six to eight weeks before the frost is estimated to be out of the ground in your area and then plant the seedlings outdoors after the last frost. Frost will kill marigolds. Or you can wait and plant Marigold seeds directly in the soil when the ground is warm enough. Generally the seed packet will tell you the best time to sow the seeds outdoors in your area. If you want to buy marigold plants, they are sold in plastic containers.  Your local nursery will sell them when it is time to plant them outdoors in the late spring or early summer.

TheGardenLady thinks you should toss the pathetic looking stems that remain of your friend’s marigolds. Of course, if you have some reason to want to save them- because your friend gave them to you- you can always try to salvage them. Provided the stems are not dead, when the weather is really warm you can stick what is left of your Marigold plant in the soil in your garden in a sunny location. If those pathetic plants live, you will be lucky, and if they die, you can tell your friend you tried. But it seems like a waste of time when marigolds are really one of the least expensive flowering plants to buy.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens Hosts 5th Annual “Bulb and Wildflower Day” – April 10

Italian Arum – 20070804-vs-7131 by Made in Madeira

Carolyn of Carolyn’s Shade Gardens says that her unusual bulbs and wildflowers seem to peak between her first two open houses, so she is scheduling her fifth annual “bulb and wildflower day”. Anyone who is interested in purchasing the plants listed below is invited to stop by without an appointment on Saturday, April 10, from 9 to 3 pm, rain or shine (checks and cash only).

If you can’t come Saturday, feel free to schedule an appointment at to stop by during the preceding week (daylight hours April 5 through 9) or Sunday, April 11.

Continue reading “Carolyn’s Shade Gardens Hosts 5th Annual “Bulb and Wildflower Day” – April 10″