Chemicals don’t make trumpetvine flower

Q: Please let me know how to get my trumpet vine to flower. Robert Schmitz, email

A: Blooming is affected by the age of the trumpetvine, available sunshine and the orientation of the stems. Young vines are less likely to bloom because they are producing non-blooming juvenile growth as the roots become established. Trumpetvine requires full sunshine to perform best. If the vine is climbing vertically, it is less likely to bloom than when proceeding horizontally. No fertilizer or chemical will “make” a plant flower. You just have to make it happy in its environment.

Q: We recently removed a very large pine tree. The remaining stump is very large. I have heard that you can use old tree stumps as planters. Could I plant a Nellie Stevens Holly inside the stump? James Page, email

A: I can’t envision a stump large enough to contain enough soil to make a big ‘Nellie Stevens’ holly happy. The interior of the stump would need to be at least six feet in diameter. If you set your sights smaller, any number of shrubs, perennials or annuals could be grown in the hollow stump. Consider Encore azalea, Purple Diamond loropetalum, coneflower, Shasta daisy or nasturtium. The pine wood will deteriorate in a few years but you could have a very attractive container in the meantime.

Q: I was thinking about planting lemon grass to help ward off mosquitoes. Will it grow north of Atlanta? Paul Greer, Dawsonville

A: Lemon grass is not usually winter hardy in Atlanta, much less Dawsonville. You might have success growing it against a stone wall that holds wintertime heat. That said, lemon grass is not effective as a landscape mosquito repellent. The leaves do contain a repellent oil but you’d have to smash the stems and smear the juice on your body to get any mosquito-deterring effect. I prefer commercial products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or picaridin.

Q: There are black bees chasing me away from my fig tree. It is loaded with figs but I can’t pick them! Laurie Beier, email

A: I picked figs for two weeks this summer with wasps, bees and yellowjackets buzzing happily around me. I’ve found that when food is involved, insects don’t have the attack response they do when defending their colony. When picking figs, I shake nearby branches and the insects fly away to another sweet treat nearby. I’m not saying that you’ll never get stung, only that I never have. I don’t know of a way to deter the insects otherwise.

Q: I have an aggressive weed in my lawn that I believe is yellow flowering wood sorrel. Can you suggest what I can use to kill the weed without harming my fescue? Randy Harrison, Gwinnett County

A: Yellow woodsorrel, sometimes called yellow clover, is tough to control. It arises from a taproot each year and scatters copious seeds during its blooming season. In fescue you could use products containing triclopyr (Bonide Chickweed, Clover & Oxalis Killer, Weed B Gon Chickweed, Clover and Oxalis Killer, etc). These cannot be used on bermuda or centipede lawns. A non-chemical option is to nurture the fescue precisely to get dense growth that chokes out the woodsorrel.

Q: We recently had a large water oak removed due to an infestation of ambrosia beetles. Is there a risk of infection to nearby trees from the ground stump sawdust? Douglas Guthrie, Gwinnett County

A: There is no harm from the sawdust. The stump-grinding process definitely ground the ambrosia beetles and their larvae to smithereens.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.