Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

November/December 2017 California Bountiful magazine

As a California Bountiful reader, you have the opportunity to get your seasonal gardening questions answered by gardening expert Pat Rubin. Here are a few questions from our readers.

I just bought an old craftsman-style house. In the front is a really large camellia planted almost against the house. It is over 50 years old and blooms each year, but there is a lot of dead wood and it is so close to the house that it is rubbing the siding. The blooms don't last longthey get brown and mushy and fall off almost as soon as they bloom. Should I cut it back?

Unfortunately, there are times a plant cannot and should not be saved. I think you have answered your own question. Knowing that it is too close to the foundation will mean nothing but trouble in the future. It sounds like it has fallen victim to the petal blight that strikes so many old camellias, and I doubt cutting it back will solve any of those issues. It is time to take it out and put in something that pleases you. I expect you will be surprised at how much more light comes into the house once this plant is gone. I suggest you stay away from camellias in this area. Try gardenias or sweet box (Sarcococca) for an evergreen hedge or planting.

What bulbs can I plant that neither the gophers nor the deer will bother? I planted three dozen tulips last year, and two came up.

Ah, the joys of living amongst Mother Nature! The only solution for problems with gophers is to plant things in a raised bed with hardware cloth (a fine-meshed wire product) on the bottom that the gophers cannot get into. I know gardeners who plant their tulip bulbs in hardware cloth-lined holes. That is a lot of work. I say: If you want tulips, plant them in pots.

While gophers don't bother muscari or lilies, deer sometimes nip at the flowers. So as far as what to plant that the varmints will not bother, daffodils top the list. Deer, squirrels and gophers leave them alone. Daffodils are easy to grow and multiply each year with no effort on your part. They are cheerful and beautiful, and there are varieties that bloom from February to May. 

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