Remove peony seedpods to neaten plants

Q: I have successfully transplanted some fragrant peonies from Kentucky. After the bloom drops, the cluster of seedpods remains. Should those pods be pruned? — Rebecca Pell, Fayette County

A: Since no new flowers are expected after springtime, peony seedpods don't interfere with subsequent blooming. But they do detract from the plant's summer beauty so most folks remove them when noticed. There's no need to remove any foliage before it turns brown in November. At that point you can prune common peony back to the ground. Note: If you have a tree peony, do not prune it to the ground: leave the brown structural twigs in place. Tip: Since I don't want to step on my peony clumps in winter, I cut the tops of old plastic pots to make 1" wide rims and put them around dormant plants to make them more noticeable.

Q: I have a fescue lawn that constantly yields small sweetgum saplings from a tree that was cut down five years ago. What is the best method to insure that I kill each sapling? — Randy Harrison, Gwinnett County

A: Honestly, the best way is the simple way: Clip or mow the leafy sprouts regularly, thereby starving the sweetgum root pieces that still have life after the main tree was cut down. If you consistently remove leaves, I guarantee the sprouts will gradually stop emerging.

Q: Do you have any advice on the best soil composition for a bonsai tree indoors? — Kristin Jones, email

A: Several "tree-like" indoor plants can be trained to have the classic bonsai look. Jade plant, ficus and Norfolk Island pine are prime candidates. As such, they don't need anything more complicated than commercial potting soil. But one factor to keep in mind is that your plants will be growing in the same container for several years. As time passes, the soil will become compacted and resistant to water passing freely through it. Make a note on your calendar to repot your indoor bonsai with new soil every couple of years.

Q: Every year I have a nest of yellow jackets in my yard. Last Sunday, I found the newest nest (i.e. I got stung three times). Is there anything I can do so that yellow jackets will not be attracted to my yard? — Michael Morrow, email

A: I myself "discovered" a nest last week but only suffered two stings. The entrance was in a shaded pine island I was walking across. Nothing can be done to repel yellow jackets. It's just a matter of being very observant in places where they might make a nest. I have information about their habits, plus several trap designs, at