Mahonia flowers provide food for pollinators but the pointed leaves deter close examination. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Several shrubs can be considered for security

Q: We would like to incorporate security landscaping around the windows of our new home. What plants would you recommend? Mike McFadden, email

A: Several come to mind. Roses would certainly be high on the list but Chinese holly, barberry and mahonia would be equally deterrent. Before using them, consider the pruning job you’ll need to do each year. None of these are small shrubs. Their size can be controlled with regular pruning but plan on wearing protective gear when you do it.

Q: I have a large organic garden and would like to plant rhubarb. Any advice? Lynne Bauman, Roswell

A: Rhubarb won’t be as perennially hardy here as it is up North but you can grow it in the South for a couple of years successfully. The roots should be planted in the coolest yet sunniest site in your garden. Rhubarb prefers full sun but will grow better and survive longer in Atlanta in partial shade (lightly-filtered sun all day or protection from hot afternoon sun). Try planting on the eastern side of your home where the sun will hit the plants during the morning but the earth will stay cool. I’d look online for rhubarb plant sources. I don’t think you’ll find many superior selections locally.

Q: We just finished digging an area for a perennial garden. We filled the area with a mix of garden soil and organic mushroom mix. Is there anything else we should do before planting? Noryne Russo, email

A: Sounds like you’ll have lots of flowers this year! Consider submitting a soil sample to your local Extension office (800-ASKUGA1) to determine if the soil needs lime or other nutrients. I have soil testing details at

Q: I have a mostly shaded hillside and would like to grow moss. Which kind should I use? Marc Maseman, email

A: There are hundreds of species of moss and probably dozens of them are growing right now near your hillside. Generally speaking, if you provide the right environment, moss will come quickly. Moss likes shade, clay soil, and consistent moisture. Consider clearing four or five 10-foot diameter areas down to the clay soil layer and installing a water hose permanently nearby. Keep them watered during dry periods and consider transferring spots of moss from other parts of your property to the clearings. Blow tree leaves off occasionally and moss should establish within a year.

Q: I’ve dug up violet rhizomes and now have a 5-gallon bucketful that I want to compost but I want to prevent them from growing in there. Any ideas? Theresa Patterson, Gwinnett County

A: I would not put them on a compost pile without first putting them through a kitchen blender … but I don’t think that’s a practical answer. If you don’t want violets in your landscape, don’t put the roots in the compost pile. Put then in the garbage and get rid of them completely.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.