Plant gardenia from florist in April

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Q: My husband's grandmother passed away and we were given a gardenia. Can I plant the gardenia in winter? Ashley Frasca, Woodstock

A: Most florists' gardenias are selections of the common Southern gardenia, Gardenia jasminoides. In all likelihood, yours was grown in a greenhouse and would be severely damaged by winter cold. In April, find a sunny spot where you often walk past and plant the gardenia there.

Q: I have a house that faces due west. The front cooks in the summer due to the track of the sun and no trees in my front yard. What's a fast-growing shade tree? Neil Klotzer, Acworth

A: I lean heavily toward maples for fast growth and good summer screening. Red maple and sugar maple are excellent. Also consider yellow buckeye, river birch and green ash. I have more lists of fast-growing trees at

Q: My lawn service applied lime on my bermuda lawn both in October and last month. They applied 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Will having a second treatment done so close to the first one harm my lawn? Bryan Henderson, email

A: Good news! Ten pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet won't likely hurt your grass. A typical recommendation is 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. On the other hand, the paltry amount that was applied probably won't help anything either. Ask your company for a copy of the soil test they used to calculate the liming rate. If they didn't do a soil test, find out why not.

Q: Are there organic weed preventers you would suggest rather than dumping chemicals on the ground? Emily Martin, email

A: I'd love to find a non-chemical weed preventer but there simply doesn't seem to be an effective one for our part of the world. Corn gluten meal is sold as a pre-emergent but it is marginally effective under Georgia conditions. The best weed control is a thick and healthy lawn. In addition, mowing regularly, at the right height, and fertilizing properly helps deter weeds.

Q: I am trying, with no luck, to find seed for "rooster potatoes." I found these delicious little gems at a big-box grocery and they are wonderful. The ones I bought don't seem to want to sprout. Nancy Hood, email

A: Rooster potato is a brand name initially sold in England but now introduced at Walmart. It has red skin and, some say, a distinctive taste. I believe it to be just a selection of red-skinned potato, not one that has a variety name attached. The store-bought potatoes have probably been sprayed with a chemical to prevent green sprouts in storage. If you can ever get one to sprout, though, you can use its offspring to grow rooster potatoes in your own garden each year. Plant golf ball-sized spuds in a sunny bed now and watch for sprouts in a few weeks. If none emerge, you haven't lost much. If sprouts come forth, follow care directions at

Q: What's the best time to fertilize hydrangeas, azaleas, peonies, etc.? Ginger Bradshaw, email

A: In general, the best time to fertilize is when a plant begins to grow vigorously, usually in spring. A typical recommendation is one tablespoon of 10-10-10 per foot of plant height in March, May and July.

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