Doug’s mailbag: Southern flower, planting peas, lily of the valley and more

Posted on: May 12, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening 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: Southern flower

Joanie: My daughter lives in Fort Mill, South Carolina. These were already planted in her yard when they bought their house. She has no idea what they are. They are beautiful and I hope you can help identify them.

Doug: Those are camellias, one of the most beautiful shrubs in the south. They are almost impossible to grow up here. There are some varieties that are bred for cold weather, but I’ve never known anyone to be able to grow them successfully in our climate.

Question 2: Planting peas

Sherri: Can I still plant pea seeds now? Also can I do this in pots/containers?

Doug: It’s a little late for peas actually. They can’t stand hot weather and would be maturing in early summer. Think about planting them in early August for a fall harvest. Containers will work fine for them.

Question 3: Lily of the valley

Janet: I thought you might be able to tell me why my lily of the valley patch is mostly leaves this year. I haven’t kept notes, but I think this has happened some other springs. Once in awhile I get myself in gear to use Holly-tone on it and all the acid-loving shrubs we have. I haven’t done that for a few years and certainly didn’t last spring. Do you think that might explain it? I grew up with vigorous lily of the valley beds nearby and don’t have a sense anything was done to keep them flourishing. Goutweed has mixed itself in with my lilies of the valley, and I have been lazy about getting it out.

Any recommendations? I picked enough for a fragrant bouquet to carry around and sniff, but I had hoped for many times more flowers.

Doug: In most cases, lily of the valley is happy just about anywhere, but if they are not blooming, the plants need something they are not getting. If you’re up for it, try to remove as much of the goutweed as possible and I would use Flowertone, applying it now around the plants.

If it’s a big patch, I would also get in there and do some dividing, moving some of the plants into a new bed improved with compost. Those newly moved plants in better soil should bloom for you.

Question 4: Weeping cherry tree

Ruth Ann: I have a weeping cherry tree that has roots above ground that are sprouting. Can I cut out that portion of root (little finger size) or just snip off leaves?

Doug: Those are called suckers and should just be trimmed down to the level of the roots. Don’t disturb the roots themselves. This is very common in many trees and nothing to worry about.

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”