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Clematis, blueberries raise questions

QUESTION: Last summer someone cut down my clematis leaving two bare vines a foot long, but it is now growing up my stairwell again. Two months ago, new shoots emerged.


Last summer someone cut down my clematis leaving two bare vines a foot long, but it is now growing up my stairwell again. Two months ago, new shoots emerged.

They looked healthy until recently, but now some of the leaves have dried up and turned brown. I water it regularly but I think not too much.

I am afraid it might be dying. It has not bloomed. Can you provide any advice?

- Shirley Whiteside, New Westminster


Clematis need a lot of moisture. It might help if you could organize a steadier supply of water.

Could you get hold of two or three big, plastic soft-drink bottles, punch a few small holes in the bottom and stand them around your clematis. If you keep them filled with water, this would drain out slowly and steadily.

The bottles should be refilled every day.

Also, if you can acquire some grass clippings or bark mulch, you could mulch all around the clematis and base of the bottles so that they don't fall over when they're empty. The mulch will also prevent evaporation.

One problem with conventional watering in hot weather is that moisture sometimes runs away from the intended area. Steady, slow watering would tend to soak down into the soil close to the clematis.

People with grass clippings are often happy to donate a bag or two to a fellow gardener - especially in places where it costs money to have clippings picked up and taken away.

Many clematis bloom on stems formed the previous year.

Since your new stems are only two months old, the wood is new and may not bloom this year at all. But next year, you should have a good show of flowers.


I have a blueberry plant that isn't doing well at all. What is the pH for blueberries?

- Loretta S., by email


Blueberries can handle acid soil as low as 4 pH but anything up to 5.5 pH should be fine. If you mulch the soil around your blueberry with a mix of peat and garden soil or peat and compost, the peat would increase acidity.

I don't suggest simply spreading peat around your blueberry bush because once peat dries out it's almost impossible to wet again.

Also, don't dig in the peat. Blueberries are shallow-rooted, and since your bush isn't doing well, the last thing it needs is more disturbance.

Another thing: blueberries are self-fertile, but pollination is much better if you have another bush (or two) of a kind that is compatible with the variety you have.

Blueberries are divided into early, mid-season or late-flowering. Compatible bushes flower at the same time as each other.


All my oriental lilies are deformed: petals twisted and curled up. Should they be destroyed?

- Ken McCracken, by email


Yes, they should be. The symptoms are those of a viral infection. Viral problems can be spread by aphids. I wonder if your lilies suffered an aphid attack? Viruses are very likely to spread to other lilies.

The infected ones should be garbaged (not composted) and any other lilies in your garden should be carefully watched in case they develop a similar problem.

It would be best to avoid growing lilies in that spot for a couple of years.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her by email, [email protected].