Documents: Hot Horticulture Issues:

Bougainvillea, Grass Seed & Bing cherries.

Keeping Bougainvillea over the winter in Canada; sowing grass seed in northern Saskatchewan; and diseases of Bing cherries.
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 20, 2009

Above, our ‘Barbara Dobbins’ hardy water lily produced two more blooms this week as seen here beside the porcelain tugboat on which our frog likes to sit. Author photo. Below, two small shots of Botrytis rot on cherries, and one of the similar Brown rot; photos courtesy British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

This week, three questions rolled in but I am unsure that I can answer any more than one of them satisfactorily! First, came Yvonne, from St. Catharines Ontario: “I finally purchased the most magnificent Bougainvillea plants, which are now in full bloom in pots outside. Can I dig then in the ground and will they over winter outside here? I am thinking that maybe they have to stay inside for the winter. Problem being we are snowbirds. Thank you for reading my note. You are my hero.”

Unfortunately Yvonne, Bougainvillea shrubs/vines are not even hardy outdoors here on Vancouver Island. You should likely dig and pot them now, and then leave them outside for another couple of weeks and just before bringing them in, spray them with a good insecticide such as Doktor Doom’s House & Garden Insecticide. Be sure to spray not only the tops and bottoms of the leaves but the various stems as well.

Now, what to do since you are snowbirds! This is the most difficult part. As I see it, you have two options; first have someone come in about twice per week to check the house, and water the Bougainvillea as necessary; and second, place the plants in a fairly bright room and use some type of siphon system or wick-watering to keep them moist throughout your absence.

Regarding having someone check your home, are you not at least theoretically, required to have someone check the house at least every three days for your insurance to cover if there should be any problem? If that is the case, it should not be difficult to have that person check the plants and water where necessary--perhaps only once per week.

As to the siphon systems and wick-watering, these are available from some garden centres, and most horticultural suppliers such as Rittenhouse ( ) and Lee Valley Tools ( ). Basic versions are relatively inexpensive ($24) to more sophisticated battery-operated units which run from $100 to $120.

I have used these over the years, and I would suggest that you have it set up and running for at least three weeks be-fore you depart, so that you can make whatever adjustments may be needed. You do not want to over-water plants that are in or going into dormancy, and that certainly applies to Bougainvillea.

Last Saturday Terry Wozniak, from Saskatchewan wrote to Donna with the following question: “We are looking for information on fall planting of lawns in Saskatchewan. And information on when is the best time to plant, and what species of grass seed are recommended. We live at the lake (North Shore of Fishing Lake - East of Wadena).” [This is east of Saskatoon, just past half way to Yorkton.]

You would be best to obtain information locally, say from Dutch Growers Garden Centre (operated by the vanDuy-vendyk family--I knew Harry well 40+ years ago!), or Lakeshore Garden Centre operated by the Krahn family with whom I have been involved slightly more recently. Ordinarily now would be the time to sow grass seed, but local ad-vice is always best--particularly as regards types of grass, and specific cultivars.

Finally, again last Saturday, Janice Higgins wrote to Donna. I believe Janice is located in Newfoundland, but I have no idea where, and that can be very important in a province that has a wide variety of climate zones. Here was her question, “Do you know how I can rid my Bing cherry tree of Cherry fruit rot? The tree has bountiful fruit, but it rots on the limb. What do I spray it with and when? It's been like this for three seasons. The tree is about 12 yrs old.”

I definitely need more information to answer this one. There are at least three diseases of cherry trees that could be identified as “Cherry fruit rot.” The first would be Botrytis rot, the second Brown rot, which very much resembles the Botrytis. The final possibility is a disease that gets on the wood of the trees, and not on the fruit. It is known as Black knot disease.

The control of the first two mentioned here is similar, but now with the use of pesticides being severely curtailed, it could be almost impossible to obtain what is needed. The old fungicide Captan would appear to be your best bet, but you might have to travel to the U.S. to obtain it! If you know someone who happens to have some old Benlate (Benomyl) sitting around, that could work reasonably well also. Another route would be to attempt to obtain Captan or one of the other commercial-use fungicides (used by fruit growers) [e.g.: Rovral, Pristine, Lance, Elevate] from a farm dealer you might know! Application of whatever fungicide you use should likely be every week to ten days from petal drop to fruit maturity. Additional work would include removing some of the branches to open up the tree so air circulates better. And, any pruning of damaged fruit or branches should be placed in garbage, or burned during the winter to prevent the spread of spores of the disease.

I’ll not go into the control of Black knot disease because I think what you have is one of the two diseases mentioned above.

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