Are gardenias a good choice?

QUESTION:

We have moved to B.C. from Newfoundland, into a very small townhouse with a little area in front of our dining-room window.

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I would like to plant two gardenias and a rose bush there and some low, colourful bushes in front to outline the bed itself. Would they grow well together, and is now a good time to plant them?

Can you plant cuttings from an outside rose bush? If watered regularly, would they take root and grow?

- Beverly Warford, Ladner

ANSWER:

Yes, Beverley, this is a good time to plant most things.

A rose bush would be quite rugged and would fit well into your garden bed, but the hardiness of gardenias may be unpredictable here. The Kleims Hardy gardenia is said to have survived down to about 10 C. The Summer Snow gardenia is said to be zone 6 hardy (Ladner is somewhat warmer than that, probably 7B).

But every few years we have had a brutal winter here in B.C., where borderline-but-usually-hardy plants have perished. So they can be a gamble.

A long-flowering perennial to outline your bed might include the ornamental sage Purple Rain, or the white or pink-flowered Musk Mallow (Malva moschata).

Yes, Beverley, roses can be grown from cuttings, and, if watered regularly, some will grow. Chances are not all will grow, so take two or three times as many cuttings as you'll need. August or September are the best months to do this because the rose stems have become somewhat mature by then.

QUESTION:

Last year I planted hollyhocks, and the stem and leaves were covered with rust. Also, my pretty pink mallow, which had been fine the last two years, also became covered in rust.

This year both plants have rust again. Should I discard them?

Is rust an airborne disease or is it an infection?

- Heidi, Port Coquitlam

ANSWER:

The rust releases spores that over-winter in the ground and reinfest new growth as it comes through. But yes, the spores can also float through the air. Rust is the reason why fewer gardeners grow hollyhocks these days. But some varieties are said to be rust-resistant. The Antwerp Mixed seed variety is said to be very rust resistant.

But any hollyhocks can usually escape rust for most of their first year - and early-flowering varieties are now being developed. Fiesta Time, Spring Celebrity Mix and Summer Carnival are all said to be first-year flowerers when started early from seed.

Yes, you should garbage the rust-infested hollyhocks. Don't compost them, and don't plant hollyhocks or mallows in the rust-prone spot for several years. I don't think the mallow would have got rust had it not been near the hollyhocks.

You may be able to save the mallow. Cut back and garbage every bit of new growth, wash all the soil off the roots then wash the roots again in 10 per cent bleach solution.

Replant the mallow where rust has never been a problem.

Got a question about gardening? Anne Marrison welcomes questions sent to amarrison@shaw.ca.

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