I have a shaded area behind my porch where I planted some Holly ferns and Autumn ferns three years ago. I am very pleased with the way they have grown, but I want to trim out the old dead fronds. When is a good time to do that? L. Wolfe, HHI
Now is the perfect time to rid these evergreen ferns of dead and broken fronds. This is definitely a “hands and knees” operation and must be done patiently. Work from the outside towards the center of each clump with a pair of sharp scissors or hand pruners. Trace each frond to its base and make your cut close to the soil line. You will probably notice that fuzzy gray-green fiddleheads (the new growth) are already in the process of growing. Unfortunately, they break very easily. Removing the old and avoiding the new might remind you of the dexterity required when playing Pick Up Sticks as a youngster.
We have a path about thirty-five feet long lined with large pavers that curves from the garage around to the service yard on the side of our house. The area on the outside of the path is covered with pine straw. My wife and I want to add some shrubs there to make it more attractive. We are thinking of a border that would be maybe five feet wide and have some color. The path receives sun until 10 a.m. and is lightly shaded the rest of the day. Any suggestions? Doug M., Bluffton
Consider two stalwart shrubs for the conditions you describe: Sasanqua camellias or azaleas. Sasanquas are available in either an upright or a mounding, dwarf form. Upright selections can grow 10 to 12 feet high and wide and might overpower the path area. Mounding types grow only 2 to 5 feet tall and wide at maturity and can be kept to a desired height with selective pruning. Sasanquas bloom from autumn into winter and colors range from cherry-red to rose to shell pink to white.
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Azaleas should also perform well along your path, if you prefer color in the spring. Avoid the Southern Indica variety, however. They are vigorous, upright growers, often reaching heights of 8 to 10 feet or more and will create a wall along the path that might seem oppressive. Kurume azaleas are compact plants that develop as much spread as height. Flowers are small but quite numerous, often masking the foliage. The Encore series of azaleas bloom twice a year, in the spring and again in late summer or fall and have become very popular in recent years. Kurume and the Encore series can easily be kept at low heights. There are now many varieties available in a wide range of colors.
Figure on needing seven shrubs, whether you use Sasanquas, azaleas or both. Stagger the plants a bit so as to avoid the straight rows that one most often sees in vegetable gardens. Until your plants gain some size, consider interplanting them with Mona Lavender or Pentas. Both plants will bloom from early spring until winter, at which time, you might replace them with dependable favorites such as pansies and snapdragons. Thus, you can provide an attractive border and always have color along the path.
I bought three red-flowered Anthuriums last year in pots to provide indoor color, but they are now top heavy and leaning over. I really want to keep them. Can they be rejuvenated? L. Ramirez, HHI
Examine the stems closely and you will notice that small roots appear below the lower leaves. Make a cut about an inch lower and place the cuttings in a jar of water for a month or more to develop more substantial roots. Anthurium should be planted in containers only slightly larger than their root system and prefer a coarse, well-draining mixture. Use equal parts perlite, peat moss, and pine bark, or combine three parts of potting mix with one part of a coarse material such as orchid bark. Do not fill the pot more than halfway with soil to allow for lengthening of stems in the future. As that occurs, add new soil for stability. This will prolong the period before you need to rejuvenate them once more.
Frank Edgerton is a Hilton Head Island resident, garden consultant and plantsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.