Gardenias can be grown from seed

Colorful gardenia seed pods are distinct from the darker green foliage. WALTER REEVES

Colorful gardenia seed pods are distinct from the darker green foliage. WALTER REEVES

Q: Can I start gardenia bushes by planting seed pods?Patricia Falk, email

A: Gardenia seed pods are easy to spot in winter because they are typically bright orange or red. Each one contains several small seeds. You can try germinating them indoors in the winter if you have a sunny windowsill. Open a pod to remove the seeds and plant them a quarter-inch deep in an 8-inch pot filled with seed-starting mix. Thoroughly moisten the soil and let it drain completely. Cover the pot with a plastic bag and put it in the window. It may take four to eight weeks before anything happens; typically only half of the seeds will sprout. If you do get a few seedlings, keep them indoors until the weather warms up in spring. Gradually move them from indoors to full shade to light shade outdoors. Fertilize lightly a couple of times in summer. In fall the sprouts can be planted in their permanent landscape spot.

Q: What can I put down under a backyard tree where my dog runs. It's a mud pit now.Marlee Fischer, Seattle

A: It's terribly hard to get plants to grow in shade when they are under constant assault by a dog running around. I think large pine chips would make the most sense for you. You'll have to spread fresh ones regularly because the dog will mash them into the ground wherever they are applied. If you buy a few extra bags and store them in an unused backyard corner, that's not such a terrible job. Pea gravel could also work. Look for bagged gravel having an average size around a half inch in diameter.

Q: My curly sedge was curly for the first year but now the stems are straight as a stick! Anything I can do to make it curl up again?Jeani Bazan, email

A: My guess is that yours has reverted back to the straight-stem form of its parents. The curly stems are slightly weaker in their growth habit than the straight stems so the straight stems have come to dominate your clump. If it has any curly stems now, you can remove the straight ones and hope the plant fills in with new curly stems. If you can only find straight stems, remove them all and wait to see what happens in summer.

Q: We had two enormous oaks in our front yard taken out and several mature azalea, ligustrum, mahonia, and elaeagnus shrubs were damaged. Most are coming back from the roots. Will the new growth produce good-looking shrubs eventually?Boyd Leake, email

A: I think you will be surprised how fast the shrubs will regrow. Their big root systems are poised to encourage prolific sprouts when conditions are right. There will not be much regrowth in winter but watch out next spring. You may need to do a bit of corrective pruning then to establish an attractive plant structure.

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