Ms. Grow-It-All

Q: We have an Indian hawthorn that produces beautiful clumps of pink flowers, but it is a very thin/spindly plant with growth only at the tips and lots of bare branches. No one seems to be able to answer one question: Is it ok to prune an Indian Hawthorne back as I do with other shrubs, which have responded by growing gorgeously thick? We’re just a little outside of Leon County up here in Bainbridge, Ga.

A: Yes, you can prune an Indian hawthorn if it needs it. A member of the Rose family, Indian hawthorn rarely needs pruning when healthy and properly sited. Leaves and flowers are clustered on the tips of branches, but the plant should appear full.

Although it will grow in partial or high shade, it does best in full sun. It sounds as though your plant might not get enough sun where it is. Plants tend to be more compact and more full if grown in sunny locations.

Go ahead and cut it back once it has finished blooming. You can either prune it, cutting back individual branches, or you can shear it.

However, be aware that Indian hawthorn can sometimes be infected with fire blight, which causes twig dieback. Just in case there is fire blight present, dip your pruners in a 10 percent bleach solution after each cut to avoid spreading it, and then bag and dispose of the cuttings. Better to be safe than sorry.

Q: Does your advice about waiting to fertilize lawns until the soil has warmed also pertain to sod? I had new sod put down about 3-4 weeks ago and while it does have some green shoots they comprise only about 25-30 percent of the lawn. My lawn looks brown compared to neighboring lawns.

A: Yes, it does. The soil is no warmer for freshly laid sod than for an existing lawn. New sod needs to “peg down” and get roots into the soil to establish itself. It’s more important that you water your soil frequently for the first few weeks than to fertilize it.


Basil and oregano are great additions to the garden and to the kitchen, and there are multiple varieties of each herb to try.

Greek oregano is the most common for cooking, but you can also try Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican oregano. Greek oregano is perennial in our area (USDA zone 8b) but the other three are tropical and must be brought indoors to survive winter. Or, you can treat them as annuals and replant every spring.

Basil offers even more options. Sweet basil is the standard for cooking, and a variety called Genovese has larger leaves and intense flavor. In addition, try Lemon basil, with a citrusy scent as the name implies, and Spicy Globe basil. Red Rubin basil and Dark Opal basil bring color to the garden and are great in herbal vinegars. All of these are annuals but most will re-seed.

Another variety, African Blue basil, is larger than the others with coarser leaves, and it isn’t as good for cooking, but it’s a great addition to the garden. It’s purple-blue flower spikes attract pollinators, and it’s a perennial that can last several years.

So broaden your herbal palate and palette.
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Wait to remove cold-damage from plants

February 26, 2014

With the warm weather we’ve had in Tallahassee and the Big Bend the past few days, it’s tempting to get outside and start trimming the foliage damage from the freezes we’ve had this winter. But don’t do it just yet. Those brown, dead fronds and leaves actually help protect the crown of the plant from […]

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Two great garden events this weekend

May 2, 2013

Gardeners have two special events in the region this weekend: the Apalachicola Home and Garden Symposium and Tour on Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4, and the Tallahassee Area Rose Society tour of rose gardens on Sunday afternoon, May 5. Admission costs vary to the different events in Apalachicola, including the Friday luncheon featuring […]

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Going all ‘Darth Vader’ on the squirrels

November 13, 2012

Squirrels are cute little critters, scampering about the yard, chasing each other, gathering acorns and other nuts to stash them for the winter. They’re also destructive little devils, digging up the bulbs you carefully planted, poking holes in your lawn, chewing the wooden trim on your porch. A big part of the problem is over-development, […]

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First cold snap arrives; protect tender plants

October 29, 2012

The first cold spell of fall has arrived in the Tallahassee/Big Bend/Eastern Florida Panhandle region, and while it is not expected to freeze, the low temperatures forecast for tonight (37 degrees F., according to WFSU-FM) could damage tender plants left unprotected outdoors. If you have potted Christmas cacti that you’ve left outdoors since March, which […]

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Don’t forget to water your garden

October 12, 2012

Temperatures have dropped — it’s downright pleasant getting out into the garden these days — so your plants are not as stressed by heat as they were during the “dog days” of summer. But they still need water. Your plants won’t speak as loudly when they ask for water as they did during hotter weather […]

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Get your fall garden going

September 25, 2012

One of the great things about gardening in the Deep South is the ability to grow things pretty much year-round. In Zone 8b, particularly here in the Florida Panhandle, October is the time to plant what are considered cool-weather crops. For those of us who moved here from climes farther north, these may be crops […]

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Searching for mosquito-breeders

September 17, 2012

Take a few minutes to walk around your yard, looking for things that hold water and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes; empty any that you find and turn them over so they won’t fill up again. Saucers under potted plants, children’s toys, even fallen magnolia leaves can hold enough water to create a problem. […]

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Welcome to my blog!

September 16, 2012

Hello, and welcome to my gardening blog. According to Southern Living magazine, gardening is the No. 1 hobby in the United States. With a temperate climate and abundant rainfall most years, the southeastern United States is a great place to practice this hobby. I’m a certified Advanced Master Gardener with the University of Florida Institute of Food and […]

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