It's fun to get mail from readers. Do their questions ever stump me? You bet they do, and that's when my vast library of garden books, magazines and newsletters is used. Some of the books are old. A dog-eared copy "All About Weeds" is often my go-to when stumped answering a weed question.
The book was my grandfather's, passed on to me from my mother. Weeds don't change much. Nor do they die out. Each decade adds new invaders to our gardens; they've hopped a ship or plane with tropical plants from other countries.
And they just love South Carolina.
Such a weed popped up in a planting of impatiens on the balcony of June Eggert, who lives in The Seabrook on Hilton Head Island.
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Pink and blue tiny flowers adorn the plant. I'd not seen it before and was not able to find any description or illustration in a weed or wildflower book. Flash forward to weeks later: Along the border of my perennial garden, the mystery plant appeared ... and appeared ... and appeared. It spreads like a weed, so I've got that much identified.
Also there's fun in getting two readers together.
Question. I am a retired florist and a third-generation greenhouse brat. I worked with plants and have always loved landscaping. I never went beyond the floristry end, as I had eight sons to care for. My question is, I have two crown of thorns plants that have done wonderfully outside and in our porch in the winter months. Can I put them outside? Also, I have a bird of paradise that we did plant outside and cover on cold nights. Can I do the same with the crown of thorns?
Janet Eck, Sun City Hilton Head
Answer from reader Sue Cook: Several years ago my husband purchased a bird of paradise plant in Florida. He kept it in a pot, and it never seemed to flower, so last year he put it in the ground. It is flowering there with huge, magnificent blooms.
Answer from me: Seems like, what with our milder winters, that our tropical plants can survive winters without being covered. I have crown of thorns and bird of paradise growing outdoors and doing fine. I have one that is 20 or so years old. I cover it overnight when the prediction is for temperatures to drop below 32 degrees.
Q. I have a sago palm that we planted when we built our town house in South Beach 15 yeas ago. The palm has never had any problems except for an occasional case of scale. Nothing has changed in its care, but suddenly the newer leaves are spotted with yellow and beginning to turn brown. I remember a column you did several years ago about a man who was an expert of sago diseases and was wondering if you could put me in touch with him.
A. I can and I will. Tom Kurtz is an expert and always happy to help a sick sago. Reach him at 843-422-1637.
Q. In a recent column you mentioned planting the "familiar native plants and some we've not seen here for many years." Where do we find these plants?
Robin Carrier of Beaufort
A. Spring Island twice-a-year sale; Woodlanders in Aiken; Daniel Payne in Coosaw Island; and Ned Rahm in Beaufort.
Q. Armadillos have invaded our gardens on Hilton Head Island. How did they get here?
Several Master Gardeners doing time at the Town Xeriscape Garden
A. It's a mystery; do you think they can swim?
Should your garden be so afflicted, here's a recipe for Armadillo Spray: Mix 16 ounces of ammonia with 4 ounces of Murphy's Oil soap. Fill your garden sprayer halfway with water; then add the mixture. Spray on ground and plants.