Questions - Mushrooms, Geraniums & Pelargoniums, Wisteria & Hibiscus

Again, the old mushroom in the lawn question—there is nothing you can do; availability of unusual gera-niums and pelargoniums; getting Wisteria to bloom in zone 5; and who sells the exotic Hibiscus cultivars?
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

June 5, 2011

Above: two shots of mushrooms growing in grass alongside a road here in Parksville; and these tricolour-leaved geraniums (correctly, Pelargonium) are all old varieties over a hundred years old, and it is doubtful whether any are still in existence; however, near counterparts such as ‘Mr. Henry Cox’ with yellow, green and red leaves is one of the best. Below: Montréal ex-Mayor and ex-Botanical Garden director, Pierre Bourque, shows off a Wisteria in bloom in the Jardin botanique de Montréal; and two shots of my ‘Sun Shower’ Hibiscus in bloom here in Parksville. Author photos, except the Tricolour-leaved Pelargonium shot comes from Frances Perry’s book Grown for their leaves published in England in 1979.

Though there have not been as many questions coming in this year, as in previous years, I note there are three here pending, one gong back as far as May 14.

That one from May 14 came in from Susan Stambler in Toronto’s Beaches area, and she has a very common problem, about which there is little really that can be done. Here is what she said.

“A few years ago we had a large tree removed by the city because it was losing its branches. We ground down the root of the very large tree to about eight inches below surface and then removed all the lawn and replaced it with new soil and re-seeded it for a new lawn. Two years later I removed part of the lawn because we were having problems with lots of mushrooms. The part of the lawn which was removed was replaced with a perennial garden. I now have mushrooms growing up through the perennials and now in the lawn also. I keep digging them up so that the spores do not spread etc. I cannot take the site of these mushrooms which are destroying the look of the perennial garden and my nice lawn. How can I get rid of these mushrooms which are so plentiful that I probably could supply my local grocer with them–if they were edible.

“Looking for some advice!”

Unfortunately Susan, I am not able to offer you any advice that would be at all satisfactory to you. From what you have said it appears that you realize that it is the spores that spread the mushrooms, and perhaps you know that the mushrooms themselves are only the part of the iceberg that is seen atop the water. Below ground, is the real body of the culprits, the mycelia. I have known folks who have this problem where they know their lawn had previously been the site of an apple orchard, and the lawn was covered with mushrooms. Their answer was to take up the lawn and excavate all the soil--and mycelia--to a depth of 45 to 60 cm (18 – 24”). New soil was then brought in and the lawn replanted.

The results of such extreme actions have been mixed. I know some who have done this and within three or four years had the mushrooms return in the lawn; while still others seemed not to have a further problem. Likely the difference was the specific type of mushroom(s) that were in the soil. If you wish to learn more about this entire subject, I suggest you go to . There, Michael Kuo explains almost everything you would want to know about mushrooms in a very simple fashion. He also includes 20 colour photos of some of the most common mushrooms which are likely to invade your garden (or your house!).

Elsewhere on the Web, and in some not so accurate gardening books you will read about other so-called methods of control, such as watering in baking soda into the areas in the lawn where they grow. Basically, these ideas are just that, and there is absolutely no evidence of success from any of them.

Sorry Susan, they are something you are just going to have to learn to live with!

It would seem that this week is not a good one for being able to give those with garden queries reasonably positive answers! Here’s another from a week later than the one above, this one from Patricia in the Montréal area. “My name is Patricia, I emailed Tom Dawson, and I told him, that I am interested in finding a nursery that sells all different kind of geraniums. Like the specialties, the fancy leaf, the scented leaf and the novelty geraniums or the Pelargoniums--the Rose Bud and Happy Thought and so on.

“Do you know where I might find these, geraniums, I live in Montréal and I would like to know are there any nurseries in Canada that sell them? Thank you.”

If you had asked me this question a decade or two ago, I could definitely have helped you. Unfortunately since that time many of the growers have changed. For example, though not exactly close to you, Mason House Gar-dens (formerly Mason Hogue Gardens) in Uxbridge, Ontario, east of Toronto, were major suppliers of a large list of these and may still be. However, owners Marjorie, and her son Jeff, have recently announced that they are no longer doing mail order sales. Their presence on the Web is quite lacking at the moment but you could call her at 905-649-3532.

In the past, I also regularly visited a number of nurseries who specialized in the type of plants you are looking for—such as Kartuz Greenhouses, who were at that time located in Wilmington, Massachusetts, but back in the 80s, moved to Vista, California, which is a suburb of San Diego. I visited there only once soon after Mike Kartuz moved and he still had a great collection of indoor plants.

The other angle you might wish to pursue is growing some of these plants from seeds, many of which are obtainable from Thomson & Morgan, in New Jersey, or at their newer Oakville, Ontario address. T&M is the best-known English seed company.

A final suggestion is for you to consult the various specialist nurseries and garden centres in your own area, as well as making inquiries through the local horticultural societies in your area.

This past Monday, I received this inquiry, via Donna Dawson, from Patricia Parry, in Aurora, Ontario. “I live in Aurora Ontario and I have been nursing a Wisteria for over 20 years. Each year I get one bloom…that’s it!! I bought another small wisteria with several blooms on it two years ago, again no blooms this year. Any advice other than maybe using it for firewood?”

Having Wisteria bloom in southern Ontario climates is not easy! Having said that, my old friend Pierre Bourque, when he was director of the City of Montréal Parks (including the Botanical Garden), was able to show me one doing quite well at their Jardin botanique de Montréal. Part of the secret is obtaining the hardiest cultivars (such as Wisteria floribunda ‘Lawrence’), and then going with a well-planned pruning regimen. As far as the latter is concerned, I would suggest contacting my friend Laura Grant in Toronto who helped me get my huge plant pruned in Toronto over a decade ago. If you e-mail me, I shall send you her address.

Finally, just this past Friday morning, Donna sent me the following enquiry from Joyce Ciccini. “I am writing to you from southern Ontario. My sister -in-law lives in Centreville Nova Scotia, they are on the mountain over-looking the Annapolis Valley. I am trying to purchase an orange Hibiscus for her birthday. In Ontario they bloom almost daily. This is the tropical plant, we bring them in for the winter. We are zone 6a. I called Blomidon and they only have the perennial Rose of Sharon. I have been trying to find a phone number for Frail's and have failed. Do you have any suggestions, these are the only two places I have been while visiting Nova Scotia.”

Well thank you Joyce for getting me a question I may actually be able to answer in a reasonable way! As you will see in the photos that are included with this article, I have a Hibiscus ‘Sun Shower’ that I obtained from an Ontario garden centre, about 15 years ago. It definitely is exotic, but we have managed to keep it all these years, including the trip across Canada in March 2002. It is outside from about now until mid-September here, and then in our Great Room, right at the north-facing windows for the rest of the year. It does not bloom when it is indoors, although I know some people are able to have that happen, likely due to the variation between cultivars and the amount of sun the plants receive while indoors.

Since the garden centre from which I obtained this purchased a small supply from the grower in Florida, you should be able to get a retail outlet in Nova Scotia to do the same. The grower is Exotic Hibiscus in La Belle, Florida. Their Website is at: . From the home page, if you scroll down to “Best in Show” and click on that, you’ll see ‘Sun Shower’ alphabetically listed.

Good Luck Joyce!

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