Q: I've noticed a lot of potted Norfolk Pines being sold in the chain stores decorated for Christmas, and I see many of them carried outside without covering. Is it OK to do that? I thought they were supposed to be covered. - Lynn Anders, Alexandria, Minn.
Q: My bird-of-paradise plant is 25 years old and began blooming three years ago. A new flower recently started opening, as seen in the photo.—Laura Schumacker, Fullerton, N.D.
Did you hear about the gardener who was so cheap, instead of buying his date flowers, he bought her seeds? Using the evergreens in our home landscape for centerpieces isn't just about getting Christmas decorations on the cheap; it's a fun art to learn.
Q: Our corn plant recently produced the flower stalk in the photo. It's a sappy mess, but oddly attractive and fragrant. I had no idea they could flower. Does this mean it's root bound and needs to be repotted? — Carol Cwiak, West Fargo
Q: This fall, for the second year in a row, I've brought my sweet potato vines indoors, and just like last winter they now have some very strange white stuff growing on several leaves. Do you have any idea what this is? - David Jondahl, Fargo.
Therapists might agree that an all-out, no-holds-barred blind pursuit of perfection might be considered unhealthy. Except in the pursuit of the perfect Christmas tree. Then it's OK. Most of us have our own mental picture of tree perfection, and the search for the Holy Grail of Christmas trees leads some people to choose artificial, while others enjoy real. Statistics easily show where the preference lies: Of American households that decorate Christmas trees, 81 percent of trees are artificial, while 19 percent are real. Here are fun facts about Christmas trees:
Q: In digging up my dahlias this fall for wintering, I found they grew into large clumps of bulbs almost as big as a soccer ball. Do I break them apart for storage, or leave them as they are? I usually pack them in sand for the winter. - Roger Christianson, Fargo. A: Dahlias are best separated in the fall before storage, cutting the stem apart so each tuberous root has at least one bud, or "eye," located where the stem meets the tuber-like structure. If clumps are broken apart without cutting, the tuberous roots often end up without an eye.
FARGO — Martha Stewart's Christmas gift list once again includes items "perfect for the gardener on your holiday list." Topping the list is a pair of gold-plated earrings in the shape of large, dangling string beans for $125. I'll try not to look disappointed, but what I really want is a new pruner instead. It's fun to give Christmas gifts that you'd enjoy receiving yourself. Most gardeners would appreciate unique gifts that are sturdy and useful. In past years, my suggestions for gardeners have focused on things found locally.
FARGO — Mother Nature didn't make houseplants. Even the Bible doesn't mention creation of indoor plants. God never said on the sixth day "Let there be houseplants." No, all houseplants originated outdoors, native somewhere in the world before humans decided they'd look nice indoors. Many plants of tropical or desert origin have adapted well to sharing living space with humans. But just because they're nestled comfortably indoors doesn't mean houseplants are immune from attacks by insects and diseases. Here are some guidelines for keeping houseplants pest-free:
Q: I don't have a question, but had an experience with a tomato plant I thought might be of interest. I'm a long-time gardener, and this year in late May I bought one six-inch tomato plant from Kmart. The Bonnie Plants label said early maturing, but I had no idea it would yield so many — 357 good eating-size tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes)! This was such an unusual plant, I just wanted to share the story. — Nancy Otto, Moorhead