Q&A: giant Himalayan lilies, Dahlia-chewers and honeysuckle
Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, answers readers questions about Cardiocrinum giganteum, bugs eating Dahlia blossoms and where to plant fragrant honeysuckle.
Special to The Seattle Times
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Q: After waiting for 5 years, my Cardiocrinum giganteum finally bloomed, and it was magnificent. Do they always die after blooming?
A: There are few, if any, plants more impressive than the giant Himalayan lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum. The flower stalks typically reach over 10 feet tall and are adorned with as many as 20 strikingly beautiful, wonderfully fragrant, white, red-throated pendulous trumpet blooms. Unfortunately, Cardiocrinums indeed die after blooming.
All is not lost, however. The mother plant usually forms several offsets in the form of underground bulbs. You can leave them where they lie and a new clump of the giant lilies will form where the old plant died, or you can dig the bulbs in the fall and replant them in a bright shady location in well-drained soil amended with compost. Plant them at the same depth as you found them.
You'll need to be patient though. It'll take another four or five years before the offsets will bloom again.
Q: What is chewing the petals off my Dahlia blossoms?
A: Go out with your flashlight at night, and I can almost guarantee you that you'll find out that earwigs are the culprits. These troublemakers love to chew on flowers. They tatter rose blooms and they've been known to devastate Dahlia flowers overnight.
Earwigs are notoriously difficult to squish, but there is a trick you can use to catch them. Make a trap out of a standard-sized plastic water bottle by removing the lid and cutting the top third off where it thins at the neck.
Place a blop (a teaspoon) of canned fish-flavored cat food in the bottom of the bottle. Then invert the part you cut off and stick it back into the top of the bottle so that it's aiming downward into the bottle like a funnel. Tape the inverted top to secure it in the bottle. Finally tape a string to the top so you can hang the trap on your plant.
Canned fish-flavored cat food has the same effect on earwigs that a Brussels sprouts casserole has on me. It drives them crazy with desire. The little devils can't resist the midnight snack and will enter the trap, only to discover they can't find their way back out. By the way, I hope you like cats ... you'll be making plenty of new kitty friends.
Q: I planted a fragrant honeysuckle on the south side of a chain-link fence. It gets covered with powdery mildew and aphids every summer. Is there a way to prevent this?
A: Honeysuckle vines (Lonicera) make wonderful additions to the garden, offering a long season of attractive, intoxicatingly fragrant flowers that hummingbirds can't resist.
I suspect the location where your honeysuckle vine is growing is the problem.
Honeysuckle vines are not drought tolerant, and if they're planted in a hot, dry location they're often plagued with powdery mildew and aphids. Although the vines need to grow in full-sun to bloom prolifically, the roots prefer a shady location in well-drained soil.
Provide shade to the roots by planting low growing shrubs that will grow up in front of the vines to shade the roots. Next spring, rake and remove any fallen leaves that might be infested with powdery mildew fungus. Apply a layer of mulch over the roots, water regularly and blast off any emerging aphid colonies with a powerful blast of the hose. Your fragrant honeysuckle vines should remain pest free all season long.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.
About In the Garden
Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.