GARDENING BY RONELLA: Good news and bad for gardening
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
May 22, 2013 | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since I am unable to go to nurseries to gather information to pass on to my readers, I have gathered some news from our local garden center. My friend, Bob, is a veritable fountain of news to pass on, some good news and some bad news.

First, the good news: if you have found that the wonder rose, the Knockout, has a habit of growing and growing until it is just too tall, I have some information about a new Knockout called Drift Rose. It has all the attributes of the great Knockout but it is just shorter. It blooms all summer, has few problems, etc. just like the original Knockout. I am sure rose fanciers will welcome this beauty to their gardens.

Now, for some bad news: if you love to grow impatiens, I would like to suggest that you forego growing them this year. They are carrying a really bad form of mildew called “Downey Mildew” and so far, there is not a spray that will kill this form of mildew. It is so bad that it will stay in the soil from 10 to 20 years. Bob tells me that he is not going to carry impatiens at this time. I checked and found that most nurseries are not selling this old favorite this year.

I understand that this year is a bad year for some of our old enemies, mites, black spot and the white fly. There is a spray now and it is called “Rose Rx Drench. It is mixed with water, put into a sprinkler can and is used to drench the ground all around the affected area. A quart will treat up to 16 roses.

It seems that fleas and ticks are going to be a big problem this year and as we all know, the small deer tick is a very dangerous insect. There are many sprays for use on skin and clothing when going into a grassy or weedy area or even in woods. There is also a treatment for fleas and ticks that is called Ortho Bug-Be-Gone, which is certainly worth checking out.

The rainy spring seems to bring out mildew and nothing is so discouraging as finding those spring blooming shrubs, such as spirea and azaleas, covered with mildew. Ortho, good old Ortho, makes a good antifungal spray, which is mixed with water and put in a pump sprayer. Sometimes, I have resorted to trimming off most of the affected spots. You might also consider trimming some of the branches so air can circulate throughout the shrub.

One note of caution is that the stems or leaves of a plant that has black spot should never be put on the compost pile. It will live on and on and on. Any affected areas must be burned.

I also have read recently about the mulches that are dyed in colors that suit anyone. I always preferred cypress and it has a new look worth checking out.

I am always reminded of the two bales of pine needles I bought in Georgia to use as mulch in my Kentucky gardens. After the nurseryman had put them in the trunk, he said, “Be careful when you cut the strings to open the bales because sometimes a rattlesnake may get baled along with the needles”. Now, I had carefully moved things around in the trunk for those bales, which I knew my husband wouldn’t like being in the trunk. All the way home, I was a wreck thinking of the “maybe rattlesnake” and also thinking of how my husband would rave and rant when we got home with the bales of pine needles. My husband was not with me when I went to that nursery and he never let me forget it.

Tomato plants will often drop their blossoms when the nights are cool or extremely hot in early spring. This is a “tomato crisis” and the cure is simple. Spray the clusters of blooms with Blossom Set. While you are treating your tomato plants, put about a tablespoon of Epsom Salts around the stems every two or three weeks. That will make the bottom leaves of your tomato plants nice and green and also keeps the plants bearing for a longer period. In fact, Epsom Salts is good for any perennials, including roses. I always bought the very large box, which I found in the garden centers.

One problem, which often comes up in spring, concerns those large pots of plants or shrubs. The dirt is often very dry around the root system even though the topsoil may be damp. I especially noticed this dry root ball in chrysanthemums. The answer to that problem is simple. Lay a hose with a drip of water on the soil of the pot and let it run for an hour or so.

The very best suggestion that I can give to my readers of this column is to take a day off from gardening this week and take a tour of all nurseries or garden centers in your area. There are so many new and exciting plants and many new colors of the old favorites. Also, never hesitate to ask questions.

Thanks for the calls and questions. Please feel free t call me at 270-522-3632.
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