Tanya asks: What is causing some of the leaves on my tomato plants to curl? Otherwise, they appear healthy.
Answer: It may be a sucking insect that can create foliage distortion. Examine the undersides of the curled leaves and look for aphids that are attracted to your tomato plant. If that is the case, wash off the offending insects with a strong spray of water.
High winds and low humidity can also cause tomato leaves and stems to die back and then twist and curl. Hot dry weather causes this symptom known as physiological leaf roll.
Bill asks: I was given a citrus called ‘Flying Dragon’. It seems to be somewhat of an oddity.
Answer: ‘Flying Dragon’, Citrus trifoliata or Poncirus trifoliata, is indeed somewhat of an oddity because of its contorted stem and its long curved thorns. This deciduous plant is small, only reaching a height of 6 feet tall and the leaves are divided into three leaflets, unlike other familiar citrus.
Flying Dragon fruit is edible and very sour, leading to anoter common name, Chinese bitter orange. For more sweetness the rind is often candied or used as a marmalade jam. This is an attractive and fragrant specimen for your garden, but it would be wise to position it where its curved thorns won’t pose a hazard. I think you will enjoy the ‘Flying Dragon.’ It certainly is a conversation piece. It should do well in our area because it is known to be very cold hardy.
Terry asks: What is the flat succulent weed that has cropped up in my gravel pathways, raised vegetable bed, and throughout the garden? I have never seen so much of it in previous years.
Answer: It is called purslane or wild portulaca. Our erratic weather has been perfect for its germination. It thrives in moist conditions and withstands heat and drought as you have witnessed in your own garden this especially warm season. Purslane appears very succulent and a single plant produces 50,000 seeds. It can also multiply by stem pieces that root easily. Remove plants before flowering and seed production begins. Purslane leaves and stems are edible and you can find them for sale in some supermarkets. Additionally, I suspect that landscape blowers are contributing to the dispersal of the 50,000 seeds.
Linda asks: What is an easy ground cover for deep shade?
Answer: A favorite that is not particular about soil, and will be happy with some added soil amendments is Lamium maculatum (dead nettle) ‘Beacon Silver.’ It is especially attractive since it is covered in pink flowers that bloom spring through mid-summer. As an added bonus the groundcover lights up dark shady areas and is the perfect understory plant for ferns, camellias, coral bells, just to name a few. Do not confuse this beauty with Lamiastrum galeobdolen, also sometimes known as yellow archangel. It is attractive, with its yellow bloom with variegated leaves. Unfortunately, it is extremely invasive and will take over your shady area crowding desirable plants.
John asks: What has happened to my geraniums and my fresh patch of petunias? They have very suddenly lost their bright blooms and appear chewed.
Answer: What you have described is the first visible sign of the “dreaded” budworm. They are vigorous eaters and will discourage you from growing geraniums and petunias in the future. Help is in sight however. Begin now using the natural biological pesticide named BT, Bacillus thuringiensis, on a regular basis. It can be sprayed every five days, follow the application directions on the container. This won’t hurt you, your pets, or other beneficial insects in your garden.