Ask the Gardener: Hellebore, moles, hyacinth and more

Posted on: January 20, 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.

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


Question 1: Hellebore protection

Mike: With the recent warm weather, I’m starting to see more flowers on my hellebore. (I can’t remember the exact name of this one.) Do I need to worry about protecting it from deer?

Doug: That’s Helleborus niger or the Winter Rose. A hellebore is actually happy to bloom in the winter, but it’s going crazy with the warm start to the winter. It’s normal to be blooming right now, and it’s deer resistant. Deer will eat anything though; if you’re worried, spray your hellebore with Bobbex (available here), and it will be fine.

Question 2: Moles

Denise: We have a huge problem with moles. Our yard has raised tunneling over every inch with numerous holes. We’ve never had a problem so bad in 32 years! We have a puppy so any products used would have to be safe for her. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Doug: I’ve got a great organic control for you. Mole Scram (available here) is safe for the environment and will repel the moles. A band of the granular product is applied the first day to create a barrier. Then the next day another band is applied, which moves the moles farther away. It uses castor oil and garlic as the main ingredient, two things moles can’t stand.

Denise: Thank you so much! I see the moles aren’t Italian like me … I run toward garlic!

Question 3: Hyacinth sprouts

Christine: I have a hyacinth outside in its pot from last year that never made it into my garden. It has very noticeable green sprouts coming out of the dirt. I was leaning toward bringing it in and just hoping for the best. If it blooms a little early, yay for how my house will smell. Can I still plant it in my flower bed if I do that? Crazy weather!

Doug: I would be tempted to bring it inside and force it into bloom. I think that would work. One other way to deal with it would be to put it in a protected space outdoors, somewhere near the house and hope for the best. Or sink the pot into the soil before it freezes solid.

If it blooms indoors, it won’t bloom again until next spring. A lot of times after they are forced through, they don’t do as well. If it was me, I’d hope for indoor blooms (and smells) and then get it out in the ground when possible, depending on when the soil freezes.

Question 4: Peace lily

Dottie: Could you please tell me why the leaves on my peace lily are turning yellow and will not produce any blooms? I was watering it with filtered (salt softened) well water. I have since stopped and am using bottled spring water. It’s only watered when leaves just started to wilt. Could the well water be the problem? It’s also in a room with low light.

Doug: All that salt can be an issue. The watering sounds perfect; that’s how I treat mine. The plant does best with moist soil, but on the dry side. Push a finger into the dirt and see if it’s wet or dry. Once you figure that out, the plant will thrive and bloom when it’s ready. The flowers are dependent on watering and the light levels. I haven’t had blooms in a year; my plant doesn’t get enough light. But I’m not worried, I like the plant and it actually helps clean the air.

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