Gardening Daily Tips July 29

Friday July 29, 2011

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Today’s Featured Plant
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

Read the full profile of this plant at

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Q&A: Hanging Basket for Hot Sun

Question: I have tried growing annuals in hanging baskets in my back yard, but every year they dry up very badly from the hot sun. It is all sun back there. Could you please tell me what would be the proper flower to grow in this location. The afternoon til evening sun hits the yard all daylong. I try to keep them watered but they still dry up and die for me.

Answer: A hanging basket in full hot afternoon sun is a real challenge. As you have discovered, they dry out quickly, especially as the summer goes on and the weather gets warmer combined with the fact that the plants have grown larger and thus increased their need for water as a result. Many gardeners find it necessary to water twice a day without fail under these conditions. There are several steps you can take to try to make the situation better. One is to increase the pot size to accommodate the larger plants, one is to rotate several pots with newer more vigorous plants to take the place of the stressed ones, another is to use a more water retentive soil mix and to consider adding one of the new water retentive polymers to it. Double potting can also help to insulate the plant roots from the heat. Finally, plant selection can make a difference. Someplants for hot sun might include flowering annual vinca, portulaca, verbena, pentas, and nasturtiums as well as the small black eyes Susan vine (Thunbergia) or perhaps the new decorative potato and sweet potato vines make attractive baskets. Herbs can also make attractive foliage plants, so you might consider the trailing forms of thyme or perhaps fragrant herbs such as curry plant for a less tradtional touch.

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Q&A: Preserving Herbs in Oil

Question: I have a basil plant and I want to store the leaves I harvest in oil in a bottle to give as gifts. Does it matter what kind of oil I use?

Answer: Although this method of preservation has been used in the past, it is no longer considered a safe method of preserving herbs. Instead, you might consider using a good quality vinegar (stuff the jar with basil, add vinegar to cover, strain before use) or drying the basil and other herbs and creating homemade herb mixes.

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Q&A: Rose Canker

Question: This year two of my hybrid tea roses have dark, wrinkled markings on some of the stems, and those stems are dying. There’s also a purple ring around the stems at the bud union. What’s wrong?

Answer: It sounds like a type of rose canker. Many types of fungi cause canker on roses. Although widespread in our area, canker is rarely a serious disease. The fungus enters older rose stems through pruning cuts and wounds in the bark. Once the plant is infected, the bark turns yellow, wrinkles, splits and eventually dies. The purple ring around the stem is often a sign of the infection. If only a few branches are affected and the damage doesn’t reach the bud union, prune out the diseased stems a few inches below the last sign of infection and destroy them. Disinfect your pruners with a 1% bleach solution between cuttings to avoid spreading the disease. If all the branches are infected or if the infection goes below the bud union, remove and destroy the rosebush and plant. Canker isn’t very contagious, so it’s not likely to infect any healthy roses growing nearby. There aren’t any resistant rose varieties, but you can reduce the risk of your roses getting canker by avoiding physical damage to the stems, making clean pruning cuts and planting in a well drained, sunny location.

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Tip: Make Berry Vinegars

Berries are wonderful in desserts, but they also add great flavor to vinegars. Berry vinegars brighten salads and make wonderful gifts, too. To make, place 3 cups clean, dry raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries in a large glass or ceramic bowl. In a saucepan, heat 4 cups white wine vinegar and one-half cup sugar, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the berries, cover, and let sit for two days. Strain and pour into bottles. Store in a cool, dark place.

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Tip: Remove Stakes from Trees and Shrubs

If you stake new trees and shrubs at planting time, remove the stakes after one growing season. The plants will develop a stronger root system and you’ll eliminate the risk of the ties damaging the bark.

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