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Are Sunflower Leaves and Petals Toxic?


“Are the petals and leaves of garden sunflower blooms toxic to eat?” Question from Caroline from Evansville, Indiana
Answer: Stick to the seeds when it comes to eating sunflowers. The flowers and leaf and stem hairs contain a mixed bag of chemicals called sesquiterpene lactones that commonly cause bad reactions in humans–both on the skin or if ingested. In fact, they commonly cause dermal allergies, […]

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Evergreens for Shade and Clay


“What are some good smaller evergreens for areas that are a little shady and have clay soil? I’m in zone 6 Thanks!” Question from Erin of Kirkwood, Missouri
Answer: Whenever someone asks about evergreens for partial shade, I always turn to one of my favorite coniferous evergreens, Siberian cypress (Microbiota decussata, shown above). It only grows to a maximum of 2 feet high but slowly […]

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Best Soil for Roses


“What is the best combination of soil/amendments when building a rose garden flower bed?” Question from Nancy of Denton, Texas
Answer: It’s an excellent question. A great part of successful rose growing is getting the soil right. The best soil for roses should have a good balance of porosity and water-holding ability in addition to a slightly acid pH between 6.5 to 7. Basically, roses […]

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Easy Flowers for New Gardeners


“I’m a first time [flower] gardener… do you have any pointers for me?” Question from Desiree of Vanceboro, North Carolina
Answer: What flowers you plant will depend on your garden’s light, soil, and whether you want to grow in containers or in-ground beds. Either way, the best advice for new flower gardeners is to stick with tried-and-true, easy-to-grow flowering annuals (live one year) and perennials (live […]

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Garden Preparation for Northern Gardeners


“What needs to be done in the garden to prep for winter? Only in Wyoming for two years, and I have container gardened because I didn’t have land.” Question from Susan of Basin, Wyoming
Answer: Garden and container garden prep for winter depends on what you are growing, but there are a few steps you will want to follow, especially in really cold-winter climates like […]

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How to Grow Dahlias Down South


“How do u get dahlias to grow?  I just get two scrawny limbs that never a bloom.” Question from April of Dresden, Tennessee
Answer: That must be frustrating! Southern gardeners often struggle with dahlias, unless they live in mountainous areas where summers are cooler. This is because most dahlias grow best under milder growing conditions and melt in high summer heat. Thankfully, there are select […]

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Planting Under Fir Trees

The western bleeding heart is one of several plants that will grow well beneath firs.
“What can I grow under several fir trees? Question from Karen of Portland, Oregon
Answer: Do you have Douglas firs on your property? (I love Doug firs!) Either way, I would recommend going with beautiful native understory plants from your region that can take the soil acidity, needle drop, and moist/dry conditions […]

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Planting Lavender in Wisconsin


“When is the best time to plant Lavender in southeastern Wisconsin?” Question by Janet of Elkhorn, Wisconsin.
Answer: There are several lavenders that will survive winters in USDA Hardiness Zone 5, which is your local hardiness zone. The hardiest lavender for your climate is English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). I suggest the varieties ‘Munstead’, which is quite compact, and ‘Hidcote’, a taller variety with deep lavender-blue […]

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Misbehaving Hens and Chicks?


“I planted hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.) in the front planter against my house last year. It gets a lot of sun, and I have had portulaca flowers there too, because nothing seemed to grow there. The three hens and chicks are thriving, however they are growing strangely. They are growing vertically. They didn’t grow like that last year. Obviously there is something wrong?” –Question […]

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Can You Identify this Spring Flower? Geranium maculatum Identification


“I found this flower growing under a tree in my yard this spring. Can you tell me what it is?” -Question from Laura in Reading, Pennsylvania
ANSWER: Hi Laura, Lucky you! You have a beautiful spotted geranium (Geranium maculatum) in your yard. This is not a weed! It’s a lovely native woodland perennial that can be found growing across eastern North America. It blooms in […]

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