Ask the Gardener: Bug hotels, knockout roses and lime bushes

Posted on: January 27, 2020 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Bug hotels

John: Santa bought me an insect hotel. It’s pretty bland looking. I’m wondering if I should paint it to overcome its blandness and to use a polyurethane on its roof and walls to protect the boards? And when should I put it in the garden? Early spring?

Doug: What a great gift! There’s no problem with painting bug hotels; use a water-based, not oil-based paint. The paint will be enough to protect the house from the elements. An outer coating of polyurethane should be OK, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

The house can be put out anytime. Insects will start nesting as soon as things warm up. Put it in a south-facing spot near nectar sources and about five feet off the ground. I think you’ll be surprised how fast it will fill up with the good bugs.

Question 2: Knockout roses

Doug J.: I had wonderful luck with the knockout roses this past year and left the last flower blooms on the rose plant. Should I be cutting them off at this time or perhaps it doesn’t matter.

Doug O.: Knockout roses are pretty foolproof. As a general rule, it’s better to remove spent flowers. When that deadheading is done, it encourages the plant to put on more blooms. If it’s the very end of the season, with no chance of getting new flowers, it’s OK to leave them on there. I would trim them off when the weather warms up in the spring, maybe in late March.

Question 3: Lime bush

Lauren: Can I cut the thorns off my 1-year-old lime bush?

Doug: It’s fine to prune off the thorns. It won’t hurt the tree and now the thorns won’t hurt you!

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