Q: We have moved from the east coast of Newfoundland into a small townhouse in the Lower Mainland with a little area in front of our dining room window. I want to plant two gardenias and a rose bush there and some low colourful bushes in front to outline the bed itself. Would they grow well together and is now a good time to plant them? Also, can you plant cuttings from an outside rose bush? If watered regularly, would they take root and grow?
Beverly Warford, Ladner
A: Yes, Beverly, this is a good time to plant most things. A rose bush would be rugged and would fit well into your garden bed, but the hardiness of gardenias may be unpredictable here. The Kleims Hardy gardenia is said to have survived down to about 10 Celsius. The Summer Snow gardenia is said to be zone 6 hardy. (Ladner is somewhat warmer than that, probably 7b.)
But every few years we have had a brutal winter in B.C. where borderline-but-usually-hardy plants have perished. So they can be a gamble.
A long-flowering perennial to outline your bed might include the ornamental sage Purple Rain, or the white or pink-flowered Musk Mallow (Malva moschata) or perhaps the filagree-leaf Coreopsis verticillata, which has bright yellow or pale yellow flowers over a long period. This coreopsis is drought-resistant. The blue-flowered nepetas also make a long, significant splash of colour.
As for roses, they can be grown from cuttings and if watered regularly, some will grow. Chances are not all will grow so take two or three times as many cuttings as you'll need.
August or September are the best months to do this because the rose stems have become somewhat mature by then. You're unlikely to see any growth until next spring and the cuttings should stay in place for at least two years before you try to move them.
Q: Last year I planted hollyhocks and the stem and leaves were covered with rust. My pretty pink mallow that had been fine the last two years also became covered in rust. This year both plants have rust again. Should I discard them? Is rust an airborne disease or is it an infection like a virus?
Heidi, Port Coquitlam
A: The rust releases spores that overwinter in the ground and reinfest new growth as it comes through. But yes, the spores can also float through the air.
Rust is the reason why fewer gardeners grow hollyhocks these days. But some varieties are said to be rust-resistant. The Antwerp Mixed seed variety is said to be very rust resistant.
But any hollyhocks can usually escape rust for most of their first year-and early-flowering varieties are now being developed. Fiesta Time, Spring Celebrity Mi' and Summer Carnival are all said to be first-year flowerers when started early from seed.
You should garbage the rust-infested hollyhocks. Don't compost them and don't plant hollyhocks or mallows in the rust-prone spot for several years.
I don't think the mallow would have got rust had it not been near the hollyhocks. You may be able to save it. Cut back and garbage every bit of new growth, wash all the soil off the roots then wash the roots again in 10 per cent bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Replant the mallow where rust has never been a problem.
Q: I have some snow peas from last year's harvest and I started to soak them in mid-February and they are beginning to sprout. Should I put them in potting soil until they develop leaves or leave them in the water until I can plant outside in the garden. When should I plant them outside?
Ay-Hwa, Port Coquitlam
A: You should plant them outside right away because peas sprout best in cool conditions. Don't leave them in water. They'll grow briefly and then rot. Eventually they'll rot sprouted or unsprouted.
The length of time a seed can be left in water varies for different species.
Vegetable seeds should never be soaked for more than 48 hours and for pea and bean seeds, 24 hours is plenty. Many gardeners prefer 12 hours. But some shrub and tree seeds can be left for several days.
Seeds that have sprouted and are left in water will grow for a short time then die. If seed is soaked too long the plants can have problems adapting to soil. This also can happen to cuttings sprouted in water.
But soakings can benefit driedout bulbs and tubers (snowdrops and anemones are likely candidates). These can be encouraged to sprout if they're soaked in water for a few hours and immediately planted.
Send your garden questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.