"Would laurel leaves and cypress droppings have a use as weed retardants on driveways or rocky boulevards? I've got truckloads of these two products every single year.
"Would this use also apply to pine needles and cones?"
Carlyne Clark, Vancouver
Your idea of the cypress leaves, laurel leaves, pine needles and pine cones as a weed retardant for certain areas is really quite workable, though acid-loving weeds could eventually break through.
Cypress leaves and pine needles could be used on paths, because they decompose into a smooth, matt surface.
Cypress branches wouldn't be suitable unless they were shredded into very small chunks.
The pine cones and laurel leaves wouldn't work well for any place with a lot of foot traffic. But spread thickly, they could be a weed retardant among acid-loving plants.
I have seen fir cones used as a long-lasting mulch in shrub borders. Pine cones should perform equally well.
"I have a pot of acidan-thera looking as though each stem has potential to bloom - but no sign to date. I now have the pot inside. I planted the corms late - in July."
Judith MacDonald, Vancouver
I wonder if your acidan-thera bulbs were newly bought or if they were saved from a previous year.
The newly bought ones really should bloom, ultimately, since bulb flowers reside in embryo form within each bulb - and these baby flowers begin forming after the previous year's blooms.
The only things which might hold your acidanthera plants back are chilly nights between a curtain and window glass, and possibly a lack of sunlight.
Usually a heat source under a windowsill makes it a very problematic spot for plants, but in this case ambient warmth might help replace the warmth of sunlight which most likely will be sadly lacking this winter. Acidanthera really does like a warm spot.
If the acidanthera's bulbs have been saved from a previous year, I have to admit that, the one time I saved them, they didn't perform for me, either.
At the time, I blamed overly chilly storage conditions.
"What should I do with my infected calendula that looks like it's been sprayed with black ash?"
Kimie takusagawa, via email
This sounds like an infection of black aphids.
Since calendula is an annual which will only over-winter in frost-free areas (and we're predicted to have a hard winter this year), the best thing is to dispose of it immediately before it infects nearby plants.
Don't compost it.
Next year, it would be best to plant any other calendulas in different area.
"When is the best time to prune blueberry bushes, and can I be fairly ruthless?"
Donna Buxton, via email
January or early February is the best time for pruning blueberries.
How ruthless you should be will depend on the age of your blueberry bushes.
For the first three years after planting, growers usually prune out only weak shoots and any wide-ranging branches.
That includes low-growing branches that either touch the ground or are about to do so.
After that, you can keep pruning out unshapely branches and weak shoots, but now you add to your pruning list any really old canes.
But don't prune more than one third of a bush each year.
Extremely ruthless pruning has been known to kill shrubs.
Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via email@example.com
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