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'Mick' Answers More Questions

‘Mick’ answers questions about non-performing rose bushes, pear trees, and marigolds, when to move lilacs; fairy rings on lawns; and ensuring a gardenia will bloom indoors!
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

September 4, 2005

Above a typical example of Fairy Ring on a home lawn. Below, my two min pins, Winston (foreground) and Tigger, in my Toronto greenhouse, 1985. Author photos.

Carl Kemp of Bowmanville, Ontario wrote over two weeks ago: “I'm very disappointed this year with my roses. First, I lost several over the winter (did everything to protect them last fall the same as any other year). I replaced most of them with new plants this spring, had good blooms in early summer, but hardly any more since then, up 'till now at least. Some new plants are starting to bud out once more, but I'm going to end up with several weeks of no flowers at all on most plants.

“Also, my pear trees are way behind this year as well. Does the late spring and extremely hot summer have anything to do with it? We're very fortunate to have a very good well on the property, and I've tried to water all plants every other day. Even the marigold blooms are sparse right now, with lots of new buds coming. The plants are very healthy, but I usually have lots of blooms all summer long! Hope you have time to respond. Thanks a lot.”

It seems to me that Carl’s problems may of several sources. First, keep in mind that last winter was a very hard one on rose bushes generally, in eastern Canada.

He should not forget that not all rose bushes are ever-blooming. A large flush of bloom in June, followed by a period of little bloom is not unusual. How much and what fertilizer was used, as well as how the bushes were pruned following that first flush in June will definitely affect the re-blooming capability, as will the specific cultivars you have growing. The mere fact that they are new bushes will mean that in their first year the amount of bloom will be limited.

I cannot comment on the amount of watering you are doing. If you are in pure sand that is likely too little; if it is heavy clay, it is entirely possible that it is too much. With all of the heat you have had, a mulch over the soil in the rose beds (such as cocoa bean shells) would have been a good idea to keep the soil cooler.

What about the pear trees? No idea, I need more info. By any chance are they trees that produce better every other year, than annually? The fact that the marigolds are starting to re-bud now, would indicate to me the plants definitely suffered from too much soil heat. Again, a mulch would have helped. What about fertilizer, I hope you didn’t apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to the roses and marigolds.

Sorry I cannot be of more help, at least not without much more information.

Kathy Burns, also of southern Ontario, wrote two weeks ago, “First I want to let you know that my hubby and I were listening to your AM740 show one Saturday morning at the end of June and heard you talking to Alan Brookes of A. A. Waters & Brookes. We had experienced great difficulty getting someone to come and install an in-ground sprinkler system for us so as soon as the program ended I called him, a few days later he came to see us and in the 3rd week of July the system went in. It is a God send and the plants and lawn are doing much better. Thank you for the contact, it worked great for us.

“Now, we have some lilac trees that my son is going to remove and transplant at his house come the fall. I have tried very hard to find information on the internet for doing this right and have not been able to come up with anything. Any info that could help, a link or whatever would be so much appreciated. Many thanks for all that you and your show contribute.”

A question with an easy answer! Regardless of what you may hear or read, the single best time for transplanting lilacs is late fall; i.e. just before freeze-up, which in Kathy’s area is likely mid November, or even later. They can be moved totally bare root and should be replanted immediately so the roots do not dry out. If they can be dug then but not planted immediately, I would dig them in (i.e. heal in) and then cover with leaves to prevent the soil from freezing solid, then they can be re-planted in the new location as soon as possible.

From Lloydminster, Alberta, Gerri Pickett asked a familiar question: “Please tell me what the product name is called and where I can pick some up at to get rid of an awful lot of fairy rings in my back yard.”

Well Gerri, I wish it was that simple! Over a decade ago I could have recommended a chemical for application to the area that would have helped, but the banning of various chemicals over the years lead to the position we’re in now where there is nothing that will really help in eliminating fairy rings. A new fungicide, Prostar, may be an answer, but it is not yet available, and certainly not to the general public. The rings are initially caused by decaying organic matter in the soil beneath the grass, and digging down over the entire area, and removing whatever is left of the tree roots, as well as most of the old soil (which contains the mycelium of the fungus) to a depth of 30 cm (1’) is one possibility, but it is hardly worth the effort.

Since one of the problems connected with the rings is the appearance of dead or brown grass, caused by the mycelium rendering the soil almost impervious to water, aerating those areas, and then irrigating, possibly following the application of a wetting agent or surficant (such as Primer), or even a soap solution may well help. In fact, that type of treatment carried out before any signs of brown grass may well be helpful.

You should also consider increasing the application of nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn which will help mask the rings. As far as any mushrooms are concerned, again not much to recommend, except constant cutting the lawn, along with knocking them out with a rake.

Finally, my min-pin friend Marg Bauer from Perth Ontario wrote, asking: “I have a question please, I am trying to get my gardenia to bloom, can you recommend what feed I should give. Thanks.”

First Marg, your note caused me to check your Website, and I learned that the President of The Canadian Miniature Pinscher Club, Diane Bailey, is located in nearby Qualicum Beach, here on Vancouver Island. An interesting coincidence!

Gardenias, in your climate, need good humidity, especially over the winter. If you have had the plant outside for the summer (in a semi-shaded location), you should leave it there now that the nights are cooler, but be sure if there is a frost warning, to bring it in immediately. The cool nights should aid bud set. Once inside, keep it in a cool sunny location with good humidity. Some folks even throw a plastic bag over such plants. As to fertilizer, an acid fertilizer for rhododendrons and azaleas, used at half strength is the ideal about every three weeks. After a number of years in the same pot, it is sometimes necessary to leach out any build-up of soluble salts from the fertilizers. I would do that in the spring.

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