Q: Have you ever seen a Mammoth sunflower stalk with more than one flower on it? This one has eleven different blooms! Virginia Stephens, email
A: The ‘Mammoth’ variety of sunflowers have been bred to have one big flower on top and nothing else down the stalk. But sometimes pollen from a multiflowered sunflower gets into the sunflower field. Flowers that receive this “foreign” pollen produce seeds that make plants with multiple flowers. It is interesting to note that even though we call the large thing on top of the stalk a “flower,” it is actually composed of hundreds of small flowers. That’s why you see so many insects there. Even the things we call sunflower “petals” are not actual flower petals but are technically ray flowers.
Q: This past February we purchased 400 bulbs that were on sale at a big box store. They were stored in two open cardboard boxes in our living room and planted in early April. Only half of the Dutch iris bulbs sprouted, but no blooms. None of the 165 crocosmia bulbs sprouted. All 30 rain lily bulbs sprouted and there were four blooms. What do you think will happen next year? John Bonomo, Cherokee County
A: My local home store begins selling fall bulbs each year in late August. If the bulbs you bought in February had been at your store for five months, all sorts of bad things could have happened to them. They could have dried out or been heated beyond the point they were able to sprout. They might have been exposed to pesticides. Once they were purchased, they should have been kept at temperatures below 50 degrees, not in the dry heat of your living room. My prediction is that you’ll get a few iris flowers next year, but not many. The crocosmia bulbs are dead. Rain lilies are pretty tough, and they might all survive and bloom next year. We all become better gardeners by making mistakes. You are well on your way to becoming a better gardener!
Q: How do I rid my porch and my yard of these ugly lubber grasshoppers? They eat my tomato vines and crawl everywhere! Emily Cook, Harris County
A: You need a time machine! The big yellow/orange/black adult lubber grasshoppers are not very susceptible to any insecticide. But in late spring, after the eggs hatch in March or April, the young ones are pretty easy to kill. They are easy to spot because there are usually lots of them in an area. The bodies are black with a yellow stripe going from head to tail. They love daylily leaves. Landscape insecticides that contain carbaryl, permethrin, or bifenthrin are effective then. For organic control, a well-aimed shoe sole is 100% effective, however the sound of their insect bodies being crushed is horrifying. Even though the clumsy, flightless adults are easy to catch and handle, don’t do it. They make a loud hissing noise and exude a stinky liquid. If your time machine is in the shop for repairs right now, you’ll just have to wait until next spring to spot and kill the young ones then.
Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.