Eight Varying Questions From Previous Years That Are Still Appropriate For This Year!
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

April 13, 2014

Above, the “horrible weed” is a perennial I happen to like: Toad Lily or Tricyrtis hirta; the next three shots are of the back garden of an old neighbour/friend from Nesbitt Drive in Toronto, when he had raccoons tearing up his back lawn every night in the fall. They were coming to dig up the white grubs that were eating the roots of his lawn; next is a typical package of Wilson’s GrubOut that contains Sevin (or Carbaryl) which will kill the grubs if applied in early spring or late summer, but for residents of provinces similar to Ontario, must be obtained from the U.S.; in response to Christine Allard’s question, this is apparently the product she used, which is not recommended to be mixed with soils being used to grow edible plants; and a shot of typical damage caused to a rose bush; followed by one of the rose chafers themselves. Below, Doktor Doom House and Garden Insecticide is a “still available” solution for rose chafers and other insect problems; our Wollemi Pine in its indoor pot photographed out on our waterside lawn; three shots about squirrels, including a pix of one of the famous white squirrels found almost exclusively in an around Exeter, Ontario and packages of “Squirrel Away” one of the few products that will get rid of your squirrel problem without hurting them; bentgrass is a common nuisance in home lawns and is hard to kill, here is what it looks like; and finally the photo of the “tree” submitted by Mircea Lupu from Bucharest, Romania is preceded by a shot of mine of the same shrub (not as close-up) taken a few years ago at Victoria’s Horticultural Centre of the Pacific (also known as Glendale Gardens).
Author photos.


This past Monday, I travelled by BC Ferries to Horseshoe Bay (again, same route as previous Thursday—see last week’s article). From there I drove the 45 kilometres north to Squamish. The purpose of my trip was a talk to the Squamish Gardeners club. From a list of topics that I suggested to them, they chose one that I had never given before. It was entitled “Question People Like You Ask Me—and My Responses”. I went through a long list of e-mailed questions from the last six or more years and chose 22 that I thought covered a broad spectrum of types of queries I’ve answered. For this week here, I thought I would select eight of those 22 and repeat them here because I am almost certain that I’ll be getting the same or similar ones sometime this month or next!

First, from John Kool in Hamilton Ontario: “Do you know someone who can help me identify this horrible weed that has been haunting me for several years? It comes up every spring all over the garden. I have tried everything to get rid of it to no avail. The roots are quite deep (about 8 to 12 inches) and are like large octopus tentacles. None of my neighbours have this weed. Thank you in advance...I enjoy your site. Cheers”

Well, this was a very easy one! I grow this plant, Toad Lily (Tricyrtis hirta), in my garden, and have always liked to have some. They bloom in the late summer and fall when most other perennials have finished flowering. Some may consider it a weed, but I do not. If it spreads too far, I simply pull out the young seedlings in the summer. When I told John this, he wrote back to say that considering what I had said, he would keep them, and try to admire them!

Second, Chris G. Brampton: Just read your article on grub control, and agree whole-heartedly with what you stated about the use of nematodes. We have been faithfully using the nematodes approach for the past three years and our lawn has gone from bad, to disaster! It is May 7th and I am not sure if it is too late in the season to use CIL's Grubout with Sevin. The racoons and skunks are having a feast every night; if we do not do something soon, at this rate we will have little lawn left to worry about. Your perspective would be much appreciated. Regards.”

Probably in most years, May 7 [when he wrote that year] might be a bit too late to apply GrubOut with Sevin in order to kill June bug larvae, but this seems to be a very slow spring this year so you could well be fine if you get it on soon. The main problem will be finding it as it is not now sold in Ontario. That means obtaining the product, or its equivalent from another jurisdiction (Buffalo NY, for instance). The law prohibiting its use is a provincial one so there is usually no problem bringing the product over the border. The product is still perfectly acceptable in the eyes of federal authorities.

Third, Cristine Allard, Lethbridge, Alberta: “I've been reading conflicting advice with regard to using potting soil that has water-retaining crystals in it. Seems to be OK for ornamentals, but NOT to be used for anything edible. Can you please advise why? Unfortunately I potted everything for my deck in this kind of potting mix, and now I'm concerned that my strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, etc. may be contaminated in some way. I did mix the bagged mixture with some composted steer manure and triple mix of peat, compost and humus, so it's not 100% the original Pro-Mix for containers.”

This question is bit like asking why one should not eat any other chemical. The ‘crystals’ that attract and hold water in these types of soils are quite simply chemicals. Most folks would not want to eat them. Having said that, eating vegetables grown in a soil that has had ‘crystals’ applied to it is likely not going to do any harm. I would suggest not to worry, but do not put it on soil where you are going to grow veggies in subsequent years.

Fourth, Janet P., Toronto: “We have these ugly insects all over our rose plants, Even if I shake the buds before I bring them in the house, the insects stay with the flowers and then crawl out all over everything indoors. What are they, and how do I get rid of them?”

The delightful characters you have eating the foliage and flowers of your roses (and invading your home when you bring in even the tightest of buds) are rose chafers, and old pest of roses. They may easily be killed with various insecticides such as Doktor Doom House and Garden Insecticide Spray. Regular spraying is necessary but they will be controlled. Also, if you happen to have any old insecticide around from “the old days” (e.g. Malathion) you could use that but don’t tell anyone!

Fifth, Henry Quon, Vancouver: “Re: the Wollemi Pine I am interested in purchasing a specimen of this rare and very ancient plant. If I can't make it out to Parksville, is there any other way I can obtain one? I currently reside in Vancouver. About two years ago, I visited Drumheller, AB to visit the Royal Tyrell dino museum because I have always had a life-long interest and fascination with dinosaurs. This botanical find is probably the next best thing to finding a living dinosaur and is something that would make an excellent conversation piece. Cheers.”

I suggest you call Brian Minter at Minter Gardens; that is where I got my lovely specimen, which we treat as a houseplant, although it should survive well outside here. We just like it indoors!

Sixth, Kathy W.: “Do you have any suggestions of how to get rid of squirrels that are digging up my new garden? I'd be grateful of some ideas.”

The one product that I and others have used very successfully is ‘Squirrel Away” which is a powder that is actually harmless to both birds (they love it) and squirrels, but it does send them away.

Seventh, Diane, Hamilton, Ont.: “I am getting in my lawn a type of grass that is growing in patches and it looks like something has laid on it, and flatted it down; it seems to be bent over and I don’t think that the lawn mower is cutting much off of the top. The grass in these patches seems to be a lighter in colour of green. I looked up bent grass but I don’t think that is what I have. I have also sprayed it with Ortho weed control that does not kill the grass but nothing seems to happen to it. My lawn is very thick and is fertilized 5 times thru the year from a Lawn Co. Do you have any idea as to what this would be? Thanks.”

Your problem grass is indeed bentgrass [there are many varying types], which though valued on golf course greens, is nothing but a weed in home lawns. It is possible to control it using a 2,4-D product which you will have to obtain as mentioned earlier, in another jurisdiction. In order to control bentgrass using 2,4-D you will have to apply it three or four times, about a week apart—perhaps even more. Have faith, it will work!

And, finally eighth, Mircea Lupu from Bucharest, Romania: “I am Mircea from Romania. I live in Bucharest. I hope you are fine and everything is ok. I have a question for you—yesterday in the evening I was taking a stroll in a park and I saw a nice tree with lots of red pods hanging from branches. I don't know what kind of tree is that. I am sending you in the attachment a picture taken by me. Can you help me please? Thanks.”

As near as I can tell, the shrub you saw, and have photographed, is Pernettya mucronata, now re-named: Gaultheria mucronata. Now, I emphasize this is a shrub, that grows only 1.5 metre high (and spread), so it can hardly be called a tree. But from your photo, we cannot think of what else it could be. I think your question was from the most distant point of any I have answered!

More of these next week.

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row