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Q & A cotoneaster, mulch, tulips, crown imperials
by Jerry Filipski
by Jerry Filipski

email: jfilipski@yahoo.com

Gerald (Jerry) Filipski is the gardening columnist for the Edmonton Journal, a position he has enjoyed as a freelance writer for the past 12 years. Jerry also writes for Canadian Gardening, the new Alberta Gardener as well as for the lifestyle magazine of P&O ferries. Jerry also does numerous public speaking engagements including some major gardening conferences and workshops as well as question and answer sessions for Wal-Mart and Rona.


March 29, 2009


Q.- When is the best time to fertilize tulips and what type of fertilizer should I be using?

A.- During and immediately following flowering is the best time to give your tulips a feeding. Chose a complete commercial fertilizer with a lower nitrogen content such as 10-30-10. Apply at the rate of
6 lbs/1000 sq.ft. of soil. Water the fertilizer in immediately after applying it. Do not use fresh manures.

Q.- I've been admiring the crown imperials for some time now. I'd like to try them in my garden this year. Are they difficult to grow?
They look so exotic.

A.- Unfortunately, members of this genus (Fritillaria) are at best described as variable in their performance in the garden. Sometimes they do well and at other times they fail miserably. If you are intent on giving them a try you will need to plant the bulb in deep rich soil in the early fall. They prefer semi-shade as well. Although the plant can be spectacular the bulb and the plant itself give off rather offensive odors.

Q.- I potted up some plants last fall using garden soil and brought them indoors. I noticed when repotting the plants that there were several earthworms in the soil. Will earthworms feed on the roots of the plants?

A.- No they won't. The main problem earthworms in pots can cause is clogging up the drainage holes. You could water the pots with a solution of limewater to get rid of them but you should save them if you can for adding to your beds or garden.

Q.- I've been admiring 2 shrubs that my neighbour has in his backyard. I've asked him and he doesn't know what they are so I'm hoping you can help. During the growing season the leaves are dark green and almost like a holly, in fact this was the only tidbit I could glean from my neighbour, that it might be some type of holly.

During the fall and winter they are covered in masses of bright red berries that stay on the branches well into the winter and after the leaves have dropped. I didn't think holly grew here. Is it possible that it is a holly?

A.- It sounds very much like Ilex verticillata or Winterberry or Michigan Holly. Hollys do grow here, in fact there are 3 varieties reliable for our climate if given some winter protection. The winterberry is a deciduous holly. Male and female shrubs need to be planted in proximity to each other in order to produce berries.

They are one of the most dazzling shots of colour in our winter landscape when fully loaded with berries and their foliage is very attractive during the spring and summer.

Q.- I mulched my perennial border last fall to protect the plants during the winter. Is it too early to be removing this protective mulch?

A.- As the soil thaws and evening temperatures climb you can clean up your perennial beds by removing tops and cleaning up leaves and so on. Be careful not to remove the protective mulch too early. If you do the warming of the soil will entice young shoots that may be harmed by spring frosts. Ideally, early May is the best time to remove mulch from perennial beds.

Q.- Can I prune my cotoneaster hedge now? I'd like to straighten it up a bit as it began growing a little crooked last year.

A.- Now is a good time to correct any growth problems with hedges. By doing it now the new spring growth will hide any cut ends. Prune the plants into the desired shape using either hedge clippers or for more established hedging plants you may need to use loppers for the wider branches that the clippers can't handle.

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