In the gar­den

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - JANET CAR­SON

QI bought some red, yel­low and or­ange bell pep­pers, but ev­ery­thing so far has turned out green. Do I need to leave them on longer be­fore pick­ing them or what?

AAll pep­pers will start out green and as they ma­ture they will turn yel­low, or­ange or red. It often seems to take for­ever for the first pep­pers to start turn­ing, but they will. Even the tra­di­tional green pep­pers will turn red if left on the plant long enough.

QI had a very nice batch of mint that was very healthy and fra­grant. Then I came home one day from work and many of the leaves were miss­ing. From mag­nif­i­cent to mis­er­able in 24 hours!

I saw black “droppings” on some of the re­main­ing leaves. A few days later I saw a hum­ming­bird fly­ing around near my mint. Do you think the hum­ming­bird is the cul­prit?

AWow! I think you have an im­pres­sive case of cater­pil­lar dam­age. The “hum­ming­bird” you saw was prob­a­bly a hum­ming­bird moth or sphinx moth. They closely re­sem­ble a hum­ming­bird, but they lay eggs from which horn­worm cater­pil­lars

emerge. They are vo­ra­cious eaters and one of the largest cater­pil­lars we have in the gar­den. The tomato horn­worm is one of the most com­mon of th­ese pests, but there are sev­eral species. I have never known them to like mint, and most herbs usu­ally are pretty care-free, but from the num­ber of droppings you have, I would say you had a fam­ily of cater­pil­lars. They tend to hide them­selves very well on the un­der­sides of the leaves or stems, but if you look closely when they are feed­ing, you should be able to find them. Once they are large, they are hard to kill, but pick­ing them off and squish­ing them will work. I would clean up the plants, cut­ting them back. Since it is mint, it will be back in no time. Mon­i­tor the plants care­fully as there can be more than one gen­er­a­tion of the horn­worm or sphinx moths per year.

Q

I bought a bougainvil­lea in full bloom from Kroger in the spring. The blooms lasted a while and then fell off. Now all I have is a lot of fo­liage and no buds. I re­pot­ted it and have fed it. It gets af­ter­noon sun.

A

I sus­pect you have given it too much care. If you moved it into a much larger con­tainer, it is busily grow­ing and putting on new roots. This can often in­ter­fere with flowering. Ig­nore it a bit — let it get a bit dry, don’t fer­til­ize. Let things slow down. Hope­fully it will be­gin to bloom. Don’t take it too far and kill the plant with ne­glect, but they often bloom bet­ter in a smaller con­tainer.

Q

I have two “End­less Sum­mer” (I think that is the name) re-bloom­ing hy­drangeas. They are 4 to 5 years old. They have al­ways been cov­ered in blooms even af­ter they had been frozen back to the ground. They are fully grown and very healthy look­ing ex­cept they have no flow­ers. Doesn’t even look like any are even start­ing. What could be the prob­lem? They were blue the first year or so, but are now pink. What is the eas­i­est way to turn them blue again?

A

For most gar­den­ers in the cen­tral and south­ern parts of the state it has been a spec­tac­u­lar year for the big leaf hy­drangeas. Those of you in the north­ern tier who got the late cold snap (and snow in some cases) in March did have some dam­age, and there­fore few flow­ers. It would have lim­ited the first blooms,

but the re-bloom­ing types like “End­less Sum­mer” should be in bloom or at least be­gin­ning to bloom now. Make sure you are not fer­til­iz­ing too much as you can en­cour­age too much fo­liage growth at the ex­pense of flow­ers. Also check the amount of shade they get. Even though big leaf hy­drangeas won’t do well in full af­ter­noon sun, they do need some sun­light in the morn­ing or fil­tered light through the day to set flow­ers. If your trees are get­ting larger and pro­duc­ing more shade, that could be a prob­lem. The blue color is a re­sult of an acidic soil pH, while pink comes when soil is more al­ka­line. Wet­table sul­fur or alu­minum sul­fate used as your fer­til­izer can help to get them bluer, but again, use cau­tion as to how often you are fer­til­iz­ing.

DEAR READ­ERS: I have had sev­eral read­ers write in af­ter a re­cent col­umn about the pesky gnats. Many re­ported us­ing a con­coc­tion of vanilla ex­tract. Some just rub it on out of the bot­tle, while oth­ers mix it with wa­ter in a 1:4 ra­tio in a spray bot­tle. They re­port no gnats and they smell good as well.

Spe­cial to the Demo­crat-Gazette/ RON WOLFE

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